A friend told me recently that although she grew up in a Christian environment and went to church since she was little, listened to the sermons, sang the songs, attended the bible classes and even considered going into ministry, she just never believed it. She still doesn’t believe it, but her story has caused me to contemplate the nature of conversion. You can have all the facts about Christianity, but unless a person is “born again” (as the bible calls it) they will never believe it.

I’ve been reading a book by Donald Miller called Searching for God Knows What. It’s been a pretty good read and one of the things he talks a lot about is the misnomer that becoming a Christian is a mere cerebral exercise where a person checks off a few key beliefs that they agree with. I thought I would just share a brief excerpt from this book as food for thought today…

We believe a person will gain access to heaven because he is knowledgeable about theology, because he can win at a game of religious trivia. And we may believe a person will find heaven because she is very spiritual and lights incense and candles and takes bubble baths and reads books that speak of centering her inner self; and some of us believe a person is a Christian because he believes five ideas that Jesus communicated here and there in Scripture, though never completely at one time and in one place; and some people believe they are Christians because they do good things and associate themselves with some kind of Christian morality; and some people believe they are Christians because they are Americans. If any of these models are true, people who read the Bible before we systematically broke it down, and, for that matter, people who believed in Jesus before the printing press or before the birth of Western civilization, are at an extreme disadvantage. It makes you wonder if we have fashioned a gospel around our culture and technology and social economy rather than around the person of Christ.

It doesn’t make a great deal of sense that a person who went to Bible college should have a better shot at heaven than a person who didn’t, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense either that somebody sentimental and spiritual has greater access. I think it is more safe and more beautiful and more true to believe that when a person dies he will go and be with God because, on earth, he had come to know Him, that he had a relational encounter with God not unlike meeting a friend or a lover or having a father or taking a bride, and that in order to engage God he gave up everything, repented and changed his life, as this sort of extreme sacrifice is what is required if true love is to grow. We would expect nothing less in a marriage; why should we accept anything less in becoming unified with Christ?

In fact, I have to tell you, I believe the Bible is screaming this idea and is completely silent on any other, including our formulas and bullet points. It seems, rather, that Christ’s parables, Christ’s words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, were designed to bypass the memorization of ideas and cause us to wrestle with a certain need to cling to Him. In other words, a poetic presentation of the gospel of Jesus is more accurate than a set of steps.