In his The Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression, early 20th century Baptist theologian E. Y. Mullins proposes that the strongest apologetic is one that “emphasizes the facts of history and of experience.” Experience is very important for Mullins, and one of the important ways we know the truth of Christianity.
He says that deductive reasoning from facts “objective to the mind” only yields probability, whereas, “for the Christian who recognizes the reality and meaning of his experience of God in Christ a new kind of knowledge of God arises. The ” proofs” are transferred from the world without to the world within. Thus direct knowledge of God arises” (7). He adds that though the deity of Christ is sometimes used apologetically, “Christ’s redeeming power in men,” greatly strengthens these arguments as well. “The Christian religion as a power in the soul, redeeming and transforming it, is its own best evidence.” The historical evidence, in other words, must be interpreted in light of experience. In fact, experience is the best way of establishing even the veracity of Scripture. If the Scripture is used as part of ones apologetic, the skeptics will only point to its errors. Mullins comments,
Christian apologists used to expend great energy and pains in answering all of these charges. Finally they came to see that the objector demanded more than faith required. We are not bound to prove in a way which compels assent that the Bible is the supreme authority for Christian faith. Such proof would not produce faith at all. It could only produce intellectual assent. The Christian’s acceptance of the Bible arises in another way. It comes to him in “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” It is the life in him which answers to the life the Scriptures reveal which convinces him (10).
“It is in the union and combination of the objective source and the subjective experience that certainty and assurance are found. He is no less interested in objective reality than his opponent. He is no less interested in inward assimilation of truth. But he finds both in the religion of Christ. He finds Jesus Christ to be for him the supreme revelation of God’s redeeming grace. He finds the Scriptures the authoritative source of his knowledge of that revelation. And then he finds in his own soul that working of God’s grace which enables him to know Christ and to understand the Scriptures. Thus the objective and subjective elements find a unity and harmony which is entirely satisfying.” (11).
Therefore “experience” is very important for Mullins’ apologetic. In fact, he purposefully lays out his apologetic for the existence of God with the arguments “from the inner life of the Christian” first, because “this is . . . the most convincing and satisfactory of proofs” (29). Later he will also define what he means by experience further, and discuss its relationship to Scripture and its importance for theology. But I cannot help but wonder if he is right. As Gregory of Nazianzus wrote, “faith is that which completes our argument” (Third Theological Oration, 21).