Left unchecked, experience is the most powerful source of belief in our lives. As the old saying goes, “You can’t argue with someone’s personal experience.” This is true in a limited yet real sense. Once someone has a personal experience, it becomes personal and it is very hard to take it away or argue against it.

I had a guy at the Credo House last year who told me his story. He was a college professor. He grew up as a Christian, but after he went to the university, he began to lose his faith. By the time he was a professor at the university, Christianity was nothing more than a naive folk religion with no basis in fact and very little, if any, evidence to be believed. He spent the majority of his career as an atheist, never giving God a second thought. However, things changed when he turned sixty. What changed? He died. At least this is how he tells the story. He had a heart attack and died. While dead, his experience changed his beliefs.  He experienced what is called a NDE (near-death experience). As he described it to me, his view of the afterlife persuaded him that his beliefs about God and Christianity were wrong. God was indeed real and Christ was indeed God. Now he is a committed Christian and a changed professor. I cringed a bit when I heard this story. In fact, there was a part of me that wanted to talk him out of founding his beliefs on the volatility of personal experience.

I believe that my back was (at least temporarily) healed by God. It was a supernatural event. It was direct intervention. It was a very personal experience. It would be hard for any of you to argue against, because you are not me and you do not share my experience. All you have is my word. You can either believe that I am lying, that I am self-deceived, or that God really did heal my back. I think those are the only three options. I lean toward the last, but am open to the first two. But I don’t think you have much of a chance at changing my leanings here. Remember, this is personal.

However, this particular “happening” holds no apologetic or evidential value in my life concerning the truth of Christianity. It may be an act of God’s mercy, but it is not evidence of his existence. At least not to me. As I pour cement into the foundation of my faith, there is only one label on the cement bag. No, it is not NDEs. No, it is not healed backs. No, it is not miracles that I have seen here and there. No, it is not any personal experience. Written on the bag is this: “Jesus Christ rose from the dead.” That is where most of my defense of my faith starts and ends. If Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true. If he did not, it is false, no matter how many back stories or NDEs I have in my back pocket.

You see, though this back story of mine is very personal, I also realize that stories like it are a dime a dozen. There are lots of “back stories” out there, ranging from healed backs to NDEs to cancer disappearing to UFO encounters. Once we begin to allow our own subjective experience to mix with the cement in the foundation of our faith, the door is open for “back stories” everywhere to have legitimacy. The problem is when these “back stories” conflict and contradict. Yes, one person may die and see Christ, but are we willing to take into account all the others who have died and seen seventy virgins or Joseph Smith? Are we willing to pour the bag of cement of the guy who was healed of cancer through prayer to Allah? All one has to do is study Near Death Experiences to see that, while fascinating, these cannot provide apologetic value to our case for Christianity, even if our own NDE is very personal.

I am not saying we discount personal experiences. I am not saying they do not serve our faith. What I am saying is that we need to be very careful about assigning apologetic value (value in defending our faith) to these types of things. The best they can do is provide illustrative value of a worldview already confirmed. This is why I hold on to my back being healed. It is an illustration of God’s healing mercy to me. But my worldview is already confirmed through the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, my back being healed does not, in any way, provide evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity.

(Behind the pulpit statement): Do not make personal experience the test of your faith. If my back was truly healed by God, it is the first time that this has ever happened. It may be the last. But most of the time, people don’t have healed backs, NDEs, or miracles. I am not trying to take away your personal experience, but the foundation of Christianity is not built on such subjective things. It is built upon the public and historic life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Purify your foundation and see to it that his resurrection is your only rock. Then just decorate your house with your experiences. I will do the same. Deal?

By the way, here is a good place to start in pouring your foundation.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    42 replies to "Why My Back Healing Does Not Prove Christianity True"

    • I would myself not put down a near death experience, if it was within the Christian mystical experience. I have seen this in a few persons in military combat myself. And too, just the experience of some Christians in the mystery of death & dying. This is one of the weak areas of modern Evangelical Christianity, the lack in the interior life of the Christian. I am one that is convinced that in reality St. Paul was a great Christian mystic and spiritual man, though he also lived in that place of deep and sometimes painful existential faith in the so-called dark night of the soul, no doubt in his “sufferings”, whatever they were.

      *It is here btw, that I would admit to the belief in the so-called prayer-language of tongues or glossolalia in the life of the believer or Christian. Yes, I have this myself, but I am not a classic charismatic, having admitted that I am a cessationist, toward the so-called “sign-gifts” of the Spirit. And no doubt glossolalia or “tongues” can be psychological, and perhaps psychophysical. It is definitely mental besides spiritual, (1 Cor. 14: 2). But, I don’t see personal glossolalia in the so-called prayer-closet, as a sign-gift myself.

      And yes, I admit to hiding this, and going thru times of not using it. But, it is a real “gift” of God, for the interior life of the Christian! This is my belief and faith experience anyway.

    • Josh B

      How should we reconcile what you’ve said with the sharing of our personal testimonies? The conversion experience is miraculous, personal, and non-reproducible for the empirical scientismist, but nevertheless how else can we say, “God saved me. This is what he can do for you?”

    • Ed Babinski

      If belief in a particular miracle (the resurrection) is a requirement for eternal salvation then how does one make sure one has enough belief it happened, i.e., as much as today’s resurrection apologists with their attempted proofs that the resurrection took place? Even C. S. Lewis admitted about six years before he died, “I envy you not having to think any more about Christian apologetics. My correspondents force the subject on me again and again. It is very wearing, and not v. good for one’s own faith. A Christian doctrine never seems less real to me than when I have just (even if successfully) been defending it. It is particularly tormenting when those who were converted by my books begin to relapse and raise new difficulties.” C. S. Lewis to Mary Van Deusen, June 18, 1956

    • Ed Babinski

      If a story changes over time as well as grows more elaborate over time, like stories of Jesus’ after-death appearances, then one at least potentially wonders how firm the ground was on which the story stood to begin with. Protestants have composed books in which they dissect Catholic miracle stories starting with those of the Church Fathers and later Catholic writers but those same Protestants rarely if ever employ the same questioning approach when it comes to tales of Jesus’ resurrection. I suspect that not all the stories in the NT concerning Jesus’ appearances, empty tomb, and ascension into heaven are true. Of the three I tend to doubt the story of the bodily ascension into heaven the most. I doubt the empty tomb story next, since it is a simple story in the earliest Gospel, like a Hellenistic bodily translation story. And I doubt the appearance stories the least, but some of them I doubt more than others. And I tend to think that even if Jesus’ followers retreated to Galilee after Jesus’ death and just one or two of them claimed Jesus’ “appeared” to them in some way (1 Cor.), then others might also make such claims, or have appearances attributed to them as well. The story of an appearance to over 500 brethren in 1 Cor. is too vague to say anything about. Even in our day there was a crowd of 5,000 in Africa who claim Jesus appeared to them. And some crowds of Catholics claim that the sun appeared to come down out of heaven.

    • Craig Bennett

      It would seem to me that what you have said is not supported by the Biblical witness.

      The NT is full of experiential happenings that pointed to Christ being the promised Messiah, which was the tipping point for their belief.

      They experienced Christ calming the waves, healing the sick, Peter experienced the miracle of walking on water, the Samaritians experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Cornelious and his family experienced the baptism of the Spirit, with the speaking in tongues which caused Peter to say..we have to baptise them.

      Being born again is an experiential experience. Think of the thousands of Muslims who are coming to faith because Christ visits them in dreams…is their faith not real?

    • C Michael Patton

      Craig. You ate right. But those stories are not subjective. Like the resurrection, they were public. However I only believe those stories because of the historicity of the resurrection. That would apply to Ed’s comments as well but a bit modified.

      There has to be some substantial value to the happening that says “so what?”. The resurrection contains all of these.

    • TDC

      But Michael, most Christians do not believe based on the evidence for the Resurrection. Many Christians don’t even know there is evidence for it.

      Even William Lane Craig says that the basis of faith is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, rather than evidence for Christianity. He has to, or else he would essentially be saying that Christians who are ignorant or lack access to the evidence for the resurrection are not justified (epistemically) in believing in Christianity.

      Is personal experience a possible basis for faith or not? If not, is the Christian who knows nothing of the evidence but had a powerful experience of God NOT epistemically warranted in his belief?

    • Craig Bennett

      Michael, I agree that its not the basis for your faith, it is however part of the continuing process of experiencing the continual salvation of the Lord.

      I’m speaking within the framework of the 5 tenses of salvation, in that we were saved, were being saved, are saved, are being saved and will be saved.

      When we look at the Scriptural context and tenses of salvation, every experience of God is part of the salvation plan and the focus of our faith in the God of the now.

    • Ed,

      If you are doubting the canonical Scripture concerning the Resurrection, the Bodily Ascension, etc. , then you are moving toward unbelief! And God used the Jewish-Hellenistic of a St. Paul…Gal. 4:4-7!

    • I agree with Craig’s “continuing process” of the Salvation of the Lord, “past, present & future”.. all with and in the Sovereign Grace of God “Himself”! Grace flows from the Personhood of God Triune.

    • C Michael Patton


      You are right and just because, as I may be arguing, people have the right faith for the wrong reasons does not mean that their faith is not real, it just means that there faith has little warrant. And Craig is a unique case when he argues for the burning in the bosom. There is also the presuppositions list approach which attempts to make the Christian faith properly basic. I actually agree to some extent with this but it provides little apologetic force when we are in the foxholes of doubt and disallutionment.

      God went through a lot to make his witness public and “incarnational”. I think it is only right for our warrant to be incarnational as well.

    • mbaker


      I wholeheartedly agree that experiences, personal or otherwise, do not trump the essentials doctrines of the Christian faith, not ever, and no matter how convincing.
      They are about testimony about how God has worked, or is working, in our lives.

      However, I don’t believe the inner or outer witness of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives should be set apart from our theology either, which after all is based upon the unseen, and therefore, some would argue is subjective upon our personal belief itself.

      The point should be that the witness of our faith is on going in our inner man, regarding how life deals with us personally as well. Some are chosen to be healed, some or not. Still the Holy Spirit continues to give to us whatever personal comfort and support (or lessons) for that matter that God thinks we need, one way or another. Doesn’t matter how educated, or not, we are either, because life is going to happen for better or worse, but it doesn’t change the essentials. So you are absolutely correct there.

      While, arguably, there are extremes on both sides, my bottom line is that one should not be at the expense of the other.

    • Amen there Michael! We stand upon a faith that has become Incarnational, and is still Incarnational – in the Person of Christ above and on the Throne of Grace & Glory! And even the “pilgrim” Church is somehow “incarnate” itself, though of course in great personal weakness, as it moves and lives in and thru this fallen world. WE all live just like a Paul did, we walk by faith and not by sight! But sometimes we can “touch” this great God in His acts of self-manifestation, what HE essentially is and does, in His grace & glory…”the Father of glory”! God is both “transcendent” and “immanent”, because of Christ! Wow!

    • Damien

      “Purify your foundation and see to it that his resurrection is your only rock. Then just decorate your house with your experiences.”


    • jonathan

      I think if the miracle is pointing to Jesus then it helps to witness that He is alive.

      In places like africa, when the missionary comes to a Muslim village, and the missionary askes for all their deaf to come forward, and they do….and all are healed……then that has provided a huge “in-road” for that village to accept Jesus Christ as their messiah. An apologetic symposium with the best scholars in the world may not be the best approach.

      I think whatever it takes, as long as its biblical and a genuine work of God…..it will bear fruit….and glorify God…..and will be warrented.

      But really arent signs for unbelievers?

      Me and my wife are so rejoicing with you over the healing of your back. That had to be very painful, and it demonstrates that God is compassionate.

      But its not the miracle itself that is what “helps” to reveal His reality. There are witch doctors who perform miracles, and the false prophet will perform lying signs and wonders…….

      I think the healing helps to strengthen the living witness of the Living Christ……but of course it alone does not sustain…..because its “unto” the gospel of who He is.

    • Richard Worden Wilson

      Michael, et. al.,
      I think, and perhaps most everyone would agree, that your back healing does NOT prove Christianity true.
      But then why would anyone want to prove “christianity” true? Wouldn’t Jesus and the Gospel that proclaims him be better served if what we sought to “prove” was that he was indeed the Messiah of Yahweh, the Savior of the the world, in whom we have forgiveness of sins and through whom we receive the promised Holy Spirit and eternal life? I know you include all this in your faith and witness, but I’m wondering why you are camping out on Jesus’ resurrection as the _sine qua non_ of all the rest. “Proof” of “christianity,” really? Who cares about “christianity” when Christ is all?

      I need to back up a bit and share my own experience. I was encountered by God in Christ through a classic religious experiential dream, paralyzed in a _religious tremendom_ of life transforming proportions. However, and fortunately for me, the very dream experience directed me to seek truth fore-mostly through the Christian Bible. So, my healing experience pointed me in the direction I think you are wanting to point people: toward the awesome witness of the Apostles and first believers to what God had done in and through Christ, and not least of all witnessed to through what God did in the resurrection of Jesus following his death. Hallelujah, God triumphed over death in that incredible yet credibly documented event!
      Oops, 1000 character limit. I’m going to try…

    • Richard Worden Wilson

      Not trying to promote myself, just Christ, hopefully, and prayerfully. So, to continue:

      So, when you say “but my worldview is already confirmed through the resurrection of Christ” you are also second-handedly reflecting on others’ experiences, right? Or are you first-handedly referring to your experience of “believing” their experiences? It was not the resurrection of Christ that confirmed your worldview, but your experience of the witness to that resurrection that confirmed your faith. Right? Hope I’m not being too simplistic or obtuse here.

      I think there is a point to be made beyond this as well. I accept the witness of the scriptures regarding the resurrection of Jesus and to the faith that the God who justifies the ungodly (like myself) will resurrect those who believe and whom he finds faithful. Still, it is not just the resurrection of Christ that provides confirmation for faith in Israel’s God.

    • Richard Worden Wilson

      There were faithful believers before Christ’s resurrection, and there is a whole millenium-plus history of experiences that all provides confirmation for what we believers ought to find as compelling evidence for whatever “worldview” brings us into a saving and life-transforming relationship with Christ. There is also a whole Gospel record of what God did in and through Jesus the Messiah that also provides essential witness to the whole matrix of truths we proclaim as the Gospel–it is not just the resurrection of Jesus but healings and teachings and commands, etc.

      Now to the point. If you actually think that your “back being healed does not, in any way, provide evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity” then I am left wondering why you seem to think all evidence must be outside yourself, as if Christ weren’t present within you and your experience. So, is your experience of the evidence of the resurrection really irrelevant?

    • Richard Worden Wilson

      This really is just one comment, honestly, and as nice as I can be (I might as well just Twitter otherwise!)

      Is the evidence just hard fact out there somewhere, or does spiritual experience and the internal witness of the Holy Spirit mean more than you are acknowledging in this post?

      These are, ISTM, the often unexamined questions of much of Evangelical christianity (but not usually yours Michael!).
      All the best to all in Christ.

    • C Michael Patton


      Good thoughts. I think I agree with mich of what you are saying. Also the word “prove” is not always good. I might distinguish between the assurance that we have and the warrant for that assurance. While I don’t disagree that the Holy Spirit provides warrant without any external “proofs” I think he works in and with the incarnational testimony that is public and within the reach of examination.

      If I were to turn this around and say that it was my mother that was healed, it would not be so subjective. In that case I believe that it would carry some compelling reasons for others to look to God. However, even then, there is not a definite message tied to it other than that she was healed and God did it. With the resurrection, there is a definite message that demands our repentance and faith in Christ as Lord.

      Hope that makes sense.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      “I think, therefore I am.” (Descartes)

      “My experiences, therefore it is.” (To be trademarked by Truth Unites… and Divides)

    • TU&D,

      So a philosopher eh? My first degree (BA) was from a Catholic College in Philosophy (many years ago now). Back in my time, Existential philosophy was the “bag”. But Plato and Aristotle and the Aristotelian logic still comes close for me!

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Fr. Robert (Anglican),

      Just a clever attempt at a joke.


      Dear CMP,

      What do you think would be a very helpful delineation between “Personal Experience” and “Eyewitness Testimony”?

      Obviously, there’s a good deal of overlap, but what would help to not conflate the two?

      Thanks in advance.

      Addendum. Suppose in real life you were the eyewitness to something akin to the movies Men in Black or the Green Lantern. You tell someone who doesn’t believe you. You say “I saw it!” Your wife tells you that you’re having a hallucinating experience. What to do?

    • Steve Martin

      When Jesus walked the earth, he healed a very small number of people compared to all there that needed healing.

      And all those who were healed, eventually died.

      Can He heal us from our ailments? Sure. But most of us are not…and all of us will ride in the back of the hearse, sooner or later.


      But our Lord loves fresh dirt! He loves to pull people out of the grave!

      Now that is REAL HEALING.

    • GoldCityDance

      But didn’t the Apostle Paul come to believe in the Lord mostly because of a personal experience? I’m sure during his persecution of the followers of the Way, the early Christians testified to Paul that they saw the risen Christ and that He is indeed the messiah. Yet Paul was not moved at all and was instead zealous at bringing the early church to “swift justice”.

      Ultimately Paul only changed his mind after he encountered Jesus supernaturally. It was that experience which was the tipping point for him.

      I’m sure there is a middle way somewhere here. Perhaps BOTH personal experience and the evidence that Christ did rise from the dead are important. And depending on the person coming to Christ, God may emphasize one over the other. For example, it’s pretty clear to me that personal experience is more appealing and convincing for most women.

    • Steve Martin

      The apostle Paul was chosen by God.

      God knocked him off his horse, onto his keester and said, “Your mine. End of discussion.”

    • C Michael Patton

      What we must all understand is that the personal stories in the Bible do not happen in a evidential or historic vacuum. They all find their ultimate grounding in the redemptive and historic acts of God. So much so that Paul, though he had a dramatic “Damascus Road” experience, ultimately says the same thing as what I have said here: if Christ has not been raise our faith is worthless.

      Again, decorate your house with subjective experience, but don’t lay your foundation with it.

    • Amen to both statements: Steve & Michael! As much as I an concerned about the mystical and interior aspect of the Christian life, it simply must stand upon both the presupposition and evidence of Holy Scripture. My experience of and in Christ simply must be biblical! And God does choose and redeem His people! To quote one of John Frame’s triads: Election, effectual calling, individual soteriology.

    • Steve Martin

      “Again, decorate your house with subjective experience, but don’t lay your foundation with it.”

      I like that one!

      And…we can never be sure about our experieces, because even the devil is capable of showing up as an angel of light.


    • @Steve: Thankfully when we come to faith “In Christ’, it is a true spiritual reality: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Rom. 8: 14-16, etc.) Thank God for the witness of the Spirit! Herein is also the assurance of our salvation in faith. And also a sweet Trinitarian witness and reality!

    • Steve Martin

      Amen, Father Robert!


    • Ken Blatchford

      This indeed is the Lord’s doing. All honor and praise to Jesus Christ our Savior and Healer!. Glory to God!

    • C Michael Patton

      FYI. Today is one of those day when my back pain is back. I suppose these type of days make me more unsure about this. But I will try to remember the mountain/hill thing. 🙂

    • @Michael: Sorry to hear that, I have my daily back pain too, and do minimal med’s. I have even said screw-it and have gone parachuting sometimes (on optimal weather days of course), but my wife gets a bit upset, so I don’t do that anymore. 😉 For myself, I am convinced that this is part of my own personal “suffering”, and ‘cross to bear’. And for sure I am very old school about being a man, so I don’t like to admit to the down-side. But I am still learning to be a disciple – after over 40 years as a Christian. So lock & load mate (metaphorical) and fire down range, just keep mov’in! 🙂 Best, In Christ!

    • Craig Bennett

      Jesus once said to someone he healed, make sure you do not sin again, otherwise your condition will return.

      I’m wondering Michael, if the return of your back pain could be a warning that you haven’t truly praised God and thanked him for healing you.

    • John Metz

      Once again I apologize for coming in late.

      What if we make a distinction between normal Christian experience, miraculous experience, and questionable experience (not to mention outright false things).

      It should be our daily experience to receive light from the Word, nourishment from Bible Reading and prayer, refreshment from the Spirit, the leading of the Spirit. strengthening, etc. These are all regular, daily experiences of our daily living. They are personal and experiential and should not lead to anything against the scripture. They are also vital to our daily living as Christians.

      Miraculous experiences, like your back, are not normative but are indeed personal and may be very genuine. These type of experiences are more questionable than the normative experiences. I posted earlier on another subject about a young preacher who told me that the miraculous experiences he had witnessed did not have the lasting effect of strengthening the faith of the miraculously healed over the long haul.

      I tend to question most NDE’s because many of the stories contain things contrary to the scripture. This is not to negate the positive, personal effect on some who have these experiences. All such experiences are subjective and therefore subject to interpretation, embellishment, pre-conceived ideas, etc.

      You are right in stating that experiences do not have validity in the apologetic field.

      Thanks for the post and glad that your back is better

    • @Craig: That’s just aweful teaching mate, sorry! It is just this kind of stuff that sets the whole charismatic element back. We simply must be always “theological” and biblical. And that ain’t it!

    • Craig Bennett

      Hi Robert.

      My comment was more to do with Michaels reconstructing the issue of his back being healed.

      It seems to me that he is kind of saying in his post, It’s sort of like, you know what, the Lord might of healed my back. I’m not sure if he did or not. But so what if he did.

      Now I may be reading him wrong, and if I am, I deeply apologise. But it seems to me that in reading the scriptures, those whom the Lord healed, went about rejoicing and telling every one, look what the Lord did for me.

      As the former blind man said to his questioners, I was once blind, but now I see.

    • Again Craig: These kind of things are subjective for us, and not within the preview of the Canon of Scripture. And certainly God is not healing as He did when Christ was here, and the Apostles, also.

      Btw, the last quote has also to do with the spiritual healing of sin and darkness, which Christ wrought for us on the Cross in the Gospel. But now, there is no physical healing in the blanket of the Atonement!

    • mbaker

      I think sometimes we Christians think healing on this earth is, or should be, permanent, It isn’t, because we all still die, and yet seem to be terribly shocked by that, so we shouldn’t expect or teach a gospel that promotes that as proof, otherwise otherwise we may wind up questioning our faith when we are afflicted. Permanent healing and restoration only takes place in heaven. Christ was the ultimate example of that. He could heal supernaturally yet His own eternal healing only took place in heaven as, as ours will. He preached that.

    • A big Amen there @mbaker! The reality of the death of the body still reigns because of sin. (Rom. 6:21 / 1 Cor. 15:54-56, etc.)

    • Stuart

      Makes me think of John 4:42-They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.