Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Six Ways People Convert

When people make a major life decisions, like becoming Christian or converting to Catholicism or getting married or becoming a priest or whatever, they tend to follow some interesting paths in arriving at these choices. I was thinking of a few major kinds.
  1. Zapped by God. The classic example here is St Paul on the road to Damascus. He get gets a big bright light and the voice of Jesus. We often think God should do that more both with us and with our loved ones who seem like they are on the road to destruction. The fact is it is rare. It is also overrated. No matter how amazing the event we do have the capacity to question it. Paul talks about being faithful to the vision he was given. Like he had his moments where he asked whether he could have imagined it. We have an amazing capacity for skepticism. 
  2. Logical Proof. This one is also very rare. Many people say they need logical proof but few people claim they arrived at an absolute logical proof. I came close with my conversion to Catholicism. I think of Lee Strobel's conversion story. Many people have found the arguments to be logically quite strong but very few would say it amounted to an undeniable proof. In fact, a reasonably simple, absolute proof would would mean the matter was not one of faith. 
  3. Leap of Faith. This is much more common. You follow the logic to the point of due diligence You contemplate the evidence. You take your time to get emotionally ready. Then you just choose it. Certainly most people do this for getting married or having a child or for changing careers. Becoming a Christian is often like that. Both scary and exciting at the same time.  Often people need a push to make the final leap. 
  4. Drifting. This is typical of people who were raised in a faith without much opposition. They end up embracing it but they don't really understand how they got there. I was that way with the reformed faith. I got it from my family, my church, my school and most of my family's social circle. It was just everywhere. There are a lot of Catholics there too. Often people converted this way have a problem with spiritual sloth. They lack an energy and enthusiasm that someone who has chosen a faith against their culture would have.
  5. You Just Know. You hear this a lot too. A bit like #1 but there is no supernatural event involved. God is talking to your heart. We like this because we want to be certain. The trouble is this method is pretty error prone. The Mormons have mastered the technique of generating this burning in you bosom feeling. They use it to prevent people from doing a logical sanity check of the Mormon faith. They know they will fail it because Mormonism is an historical religion that runs counter to the historical data. 
  6. Denial. This is when a person declares that unless I get zapped or unless I see logical proof I won't believe it. Except they do believe. They just don't want to act on their belief. Then they realize the game they are playing. Often there is an emotional prejudice against believing that gets broken down somehow. 
Humans are strange creatures. Rational and yet emotional. Freely choosing yet drawn by God.I love these stories after they happen. They can be quite maddening when you or someone you are talking to is in the middle of it. The stakes are so high. There is no simple formula.

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