Ideas don’t change people…

Trying to find intellectual ways of saying something I believe is rather simple (for an academic paper I am to deliver):

Ideas don’t change you, stories do.

Was reading an unpublished OT theology paper and the author mentioned the shift in approach to truth, from the Hebraic story to the Platonic “idea” or concept. Truth is best embodied in experience and yet we idolize systematizing truth.

How many of you turned to Christianity because of its great concepts or because someone convinced you of a truth by force of logic? How many because you had an experience that changed your perspective?


Filed under christian psychology, counseling science, Psychology

6 responses to “Ideas don’t change people…

  1. Jess

    Interesting post, Phil. My conversion experience is literally tied to story. I was reading a children’s novel that dealt with salvation when God “scooped me up.” So, my experience certainly confirms and bears out your theory.

    On the flip side, I suppose, would be those people you hear about from time to time who set out to prove their atheistic assumptions (or something similar) and ended up as believers.

    My unscientific conversations with folks would suggest, however, that many more are won over by story than by “force of logic,” as you put it.

    Good thoughts…

  2. Lightbearer


    Michael White would have definitely agreed with you 🙂

    I agree; conversion approaches that downplay rationality and focus on emotional connection, whether overly blunt like Kirk Cameron/Ray Comfort, or more subtle like C.S.Lewis, Alister McGrath, Albert Mohler, etc., seem to be the only approaches that are successful. Approaches that rely on a rational approach (Kent Hovind, Ken Hamm, etc.) tend to not only fail, but make Christians in general look ignorant.

  3. Phil, have you looked at Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson? I seem to remember that he writes a compelling case for the “narrative shape” of reality and how Scripture maps onto that.

  4. karenestelle

    We’ve been discussing this idea a lot lately as a youth staff since most of the curriculum etc. for youth right now is leaning heavily toward the experience / story type of teaching. While I totally see that, it’s also easy to go to the extreme of the experience becoming greater than the truth it is telling. In other words, if I haven’t experienced, it must not be true. I think that the experience has to be wrapped around a solid center of truth and shared in love as a story from our heart. The problem is many many Christians don’t have any real story to tell of what God has done in their life so they only have the logic of the truth to try to dryly throw at people in a pushy unloving way.

  5. Rachel, thanks for the reminder of that book. Skimmed, never read. Now its added to my list.

    Karen, good point. When I think of story/experience, my mind goes to John 4 and the woman at the well. Notice that Jesus uses experience to connect and open up. Even when she wants to get off on the topic of right/wrong places of worship, he sidesteps and she experiences being known (and not rejected) and goes and gets the village. Story leads to truth.

  6. Ron

    I started following Jesus 35 years ago because I was convinced by argument that he was right–and I wanted to be right (meaning, “correct”, unchallengeable, etc.).

    It took years for God to get around to overcoming my pride and arrogance. (He was gracious and kept me around all that time, I must say.)

    Now I, too, champion the “story”, and try to paint the big picture to encourage those who are weary:

    They have seen death and ultimate defeat
    And yet they would not in despair retreat
    But oft to victory have tuned the lyre
    And kindled hearts with legendary fire,
    Illuminating now and dark hath-been
    With light of sun as yet no man has seen.
    (J.R.R. Tolkien, Mythopoeia)

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