Thursday, September 03, 2020

"Former Psychopath Dr. David Wood Shares His Astounding Transformation Into Christian Apologist"

Just my own summary:

1. David Wood goes into some depth about his testimony or conversion with Eric Metaxas. It starts at approximately 32:30 with Wood meeting another inmate named Randy who was a Christian. Wood saw Randy always sitting in his bunk reading his Bible. Randy wouldn't do anything the other inmates were doing.

2. One day Wood told Randy he was only reading the Bible because Randy was born in the US. If Randy had been born in China, then he'd be Buddhist. If India, Hindu. If Saudi Arabia, Muslim. Wood also told Randy "people like you believe whatever you're told to believe". Wood had the same idea of Christianity that he had of objective morality - that it's just a false belief that people are told by others, which they accept, because they don't know how to think for themselves. I guess Wood's idea is that Randy is a sheep. Like everyone else. Except for Wood himself.

3. However, Randy was the first Christian to put up a fight against Wood and argue back against Wood. Randy challenged Wood. The most "annoying" thing for Wood was that Randy would constantly question everything Wood himself believed: "Where did you get your idea then?" And Wood couldn't respond to Randy. Other than with silence.

4. Wood disliked this because Wood thought he was the smartest and most advanced person, humanity 2.0, but he couldn't beat a Christian who was "dumb enough to turn himself in for 21 felonies".

5. Wood couldn't beat Randy in argument so he would look for other ways to beat Randy. Such as telling people Randy is homosexual. Also, saying "nasty things" about Randy's 12 year old sister. Likewise Wood started fasting whenever Randy would fast. And Wood started studying the Bible only to beat Randy and show Randy he's wrong.

6. At the same time, Wood started realizing that he himself held beliefs that aren't true or that are contradictory:

a. Life is a random coincidence. Yet Wood noticed if the bricks in his cell were designed, then why aren't animals and nature itself designed because they are far more intricate than bricks?

b. Wood had thought Christianity started because Jesus' disciples just made things up to keep the whole Jesus movement going. Randy gave Wood Foxe's Book of Martyrs. After reading it, Wood realized it wouldn't make sense to die for a lie. Yet the disciples died such horrific deaths.

c. Life is purposeless and meaningless. It doesn't matter if we live our lives doing good to others or sadistically torturing and killing others. The universe doesn't care one way or another. However, Wood thought he was the next advanced stage of human evolution. He was humanity 2.0. He was the culmination of a "cosmic plan". Yet he realized these two beliefs don't go together. They're contradictory or at least in tension. If we're just a "clump of cells", then how can there be a "cosmic plan" to develop the "best" or "most advanced" human being? Who or what came up with a "cosmic plan"? It's not as if evolution is goal-directed.

d. There is no objective morality. Wood asked himself what business he had thinking he's the "best" simply because he didn't "feel any emotions"? Wood realized if there was in fact an objective moral standard, then he's violated it. In fact, he's the absolute worst person, he has no emotions as a psychopath, he tried to bludgeon his father to death, etc.

So Wood realized if Christianity is true, then he is "really, really messed up", and that there was no way he was getting himself out of his "messed up" life on his own. He couldn't change himself. So Wood went from thinking he was the best specimen of humanity to thinking he was the worst person in the world. For example, Wood says there are starving people in the world, but at least they could think straight, whereas Wood spent all his time thinking about torturing people. He had a list of people he'd torture going as far back as kindergarten.

7. In addition, Wood concluded that it had to be "Jesus or nothing":

a. Wood realized all the other paths he had explored were wrong paths. There were no other serious options on the table.

b. Wood wondered if the resurrection of Jesus really happened. The best case for a miracle in history would be the resurrection of Jesus. No other miracle claim comes close.

c. Furthermore, Wood realized Jesus is clearly better than Wood by any standard anyone wants to use. Yet according to Wood's worldview there was no way an ancient Jewish rabbi could be better than him. Wood was supposed to be humanity 2.0.

d. Wood asked himself, who has the ability to take "really messed up people" and "change them into something else"? Not Muhammad. Not Buddha. Only Jesus.

8. Wood reached a decision point. A watershed moment. He still didn't believe Christianity is true. Rather it was more like "if I'm wrong, then I need to know this".

Wood recalled he had once been brutally beaten by seven guys, including the guys kicking his head repeatedly like a "soccer ball". Nevertheless he emerged more or less fine the next day. However, Wood said this didn't feel like he would be fine the next day. In fact, he just kept feeling worse and worse each day.

Wood remembered that he once saw a storm and, though he never believed in God, let alone prayed to God, for some reason he told God that if God wanted to make him believe in God, then God would have to "come down and beat him senseless". Now Wood realized he was experiencing "the ultimate beatdown".

9. At the same time, Wood still wasn't sure Christianity was true. But he thought he had nothing to lose. If he prayed to God, but nothing changed, then he'd be back in the same position. Nothing would be lost. However, Wood had everything to gain if Christianity is true. Perhaps this was Wood's own "Pascal's wager".

10. Wood's conversion occurred in 1996 when he was 20 years old. He bowed down in his bunk and prayed:

God, I don't know if I'm going to believe in you tomorrow, but I believe in you right now. If you can do anything with me, you're welcome to it.

Then Wood said:

And I went through a kind of sinner's prayer that came with this Bible study series that I was going through. I sat up from that prayer and the entire world looked different. It looked like I was in a different place. Like everything had somehow changed colors or something like that...You hear people talk about feeling a weight lifted off them or something like that. Mine was a little different. I felt like, when I sat up from that prayer, I felt like I had been physically brawling my entire life. If you can imagine some little kid tossed into a fight pit where all he does is fight his entire life until he doesn't know anything other than just nonstop endless brawling his entire life. Then all of a sudden it just stopped. And he was just sitting there, not fighting. That was what it felt like. It felt like I had been in endless fighting, and violence, and war, and all of a sudden it just stopped in a heartbeat. There was just calm.

11. Shortly before his conversion, the prison had wanted to send Wood to a mental health hospital, because Wood had been fasting, rapidly dropped too much weight, and seemed to them to be on the verge of dying. However, after Wood's conversion, he started eating again and became "normal". The prison didn't end up sending him to the mental hospital, though they did send him to another prison with mental health facilities.

12. Wood says his delusional thoughts instantly disappeared. However, he said years later he started to have delusional thoughts again. He realized the delusional thoughts came during times when he didn't take time to pray and read the Bible. Such as when he felt too busy. At these times, he would begin to have delusional thoughts like people were conspiring against him, even though they were clearly untrue thoughts. His Christian friends like Nabeel Qureshi would even notice it. Nabeel would ask Wood how his prayer life and Bible reading was, Wood would reply not good right now, then Nabeel would reply: "Yeah, I know, because you're acting weird!" So it made Wood realize God didn't "cure" him of his delusional thoughts, but God is "sustaining" him in them, and he'd better stay in prayer and the word.

13. As far as the psychopathy, Wood still considers himself a psychopath, because in general he doesn't have emotional reactions to things like people dying including family members dying. He doesn't "feel" anything. (An exception is a touching story about Wood having emotions in the wake of Nabeel's death here.) But he doesn't have violent tendencies anymore. No more thoughts of torturing or otherwise hurting others.

14. Wood said other Christians would have a "Billy Graham crusade" mindset where they'd witness to a non-Christian once, but if the non-Christian didn't accept the gospel right away, then it would be on them, and the Christian would move onto the next person. However, Wood said he spent so much time with Nabeel, year after year, because Wood knew how hardened he himself had been to the gospel, and how it can take years for a person to work through and wrestle with Christian claims.

15. This is especially so for many Muslims. Wood says it took Nabeel 4 years to become a Christian. It can take Muslims a long time to become Christians, because they know leaving Islam may mean their families disown them and it may even be a death sentence for them. However, in Wood's experience, when Muslims do become Christians, then they became utterly and amazingly passionate for Christ. Perhaps the same thing can be said for psychopaths.


  1. Nabeel Qureshi made some of the same points about evangelism and apologetics:

    "What I needed was something that would not let me get away with my biases. I needed something that would mercilessly loop my bad arguments before my eyes, again and again and again, until I could avoid them no longer. I needed a friend, an intelligent, uncompromising, non-Muslim friend who would be willing to challenge me." (Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2014], 117)

    Elsewhere in the book, Qureshi writes about how he and his Muslim father responded to a play at a church service he (Qureshi) was invited to by a Christian classmate in high school (94-98). It's a devastating example of how non-Christians, even ones coming from a worldview as weak as Islam, are unimpressed by so many of Christianity's modern evangelistic efforts. Qureshi and his father laughed at the play and found it "silly", "trying to play on people's fears and emotions", etc. (95)

    He also found that Christians didn't know much about Islam or Muhammad:

    "Regarding Muhammad, Westerners rarely knew anything. I could say whatever I wanted about him and others would believe me. Of course, I did not try to deceive anyone, but it was not hard to make a case for Muhammad to the average Christian, simply because of their ignorance." (84)

  2. My main problem with Wood is not this. It's bigger.

    He doesn't understand the necessity of justification by faith alone. So if someone leaves Islam and goes to Roman Catholicism, he wouldn't care. In fact, there's a whole slew of apologists I have a problem with this.

    What this shows to me is the weakness of this type of apologetics. There's a very real danger of being more anti-Islam than pro-gospel. I'm not saying Wood is anti-gospel though. But it can cause the emphasis to be off.

    So if you prove to a Muslim there religion is bad or false? OK.

    1. 1. Of course, I don't agree with everything Wood does in terms of apologetics. But I see value in a lot of what he does in terms of apologetics.

      2. Ideally I think Wood does want to see people come out of their false worldview and come to Christ.

      3. Wood strikes me as the type of person who plays the long game. If a person leaves Islam to become an atheist, then I think Wood would be willing to work with this person to bring them from atheism to Christ.

      4. Apologetically I'm a presuppositionalist. As such, I'd disagree with (say) classical apologetics. Nevertheless, I don't think that means classical apologetics is utterly useless or somesuch. For instance, it's possible a classical apologist like William Lane Craig could lead (say) an atheist to generic theism but fail to bring them to the biblical God. Suppose the atheist becomes a Christian deist rather than a biblical Christian. Certainly I'd wish to see the atheist become a biblical Christian, and certainly there are major issues with Christian deism, and certainly one could debate whether atheism or Christian deism is worse than the other, but I could likewise see some good in them turning away from atheism and/or turning to Christian deism, even though I'd strongly wish they were biblical Christians.