I became a Christian when I was thirty-eight years old. Up until the moment of my sudden conversion I had no interest whatsoever in Christianity, and never had. I thought its doctrine moronic, its adherents willfully delusional, its role in history contemptible. I'd as soon have become a traveling circus geek as a Christian.
Then God thought I should change my mind about that. So he slammed me to my knees, and spoke in my ear. And in a single moment the truth was fully imprinted upon me that the historical story of Christ is true---that God, out of his love for people, decided to take human form, come to earth, say and do the things that Christ said and did, and then, having made his Big Point (which, for the record, is Everything is Okay), return from whence he came.
The feeling of learning that the story of God-as-Christ is true had much in common with the feeling of learning that, say, Jimmy Carter was the first American president born in a hospital, or that Mt. Everest is 29,029 feet. These are remarkable things, yes. But what they are mostly are facts. And facts exist independently of my or anyone else's knowledge of them. Being composed primarily of gas means that, technically speaking, Jupiter has no surface. That fact was true before I knew it, and would remain true if I never learned it.
Upon the moment of my conversion I immediately quit crying (for I had been, as can happen when your life and conscious structure suddenly unravels.). I got up off my knees; I straightened my tie; I went back to work. (Of all places, my conversion happened in a supply closet at the law office where I worked as a photocopy/mail/fax guy. Thirteen years later, a stationery store still seems like a church to me.) Because what was there to really cry over, or feel dramatic about?
Jimmy Carter was the first president born in a hospital.
Everest is 29,029 feet high.
Jupiter has no surface.
God came to earth as Christ.
If I didn't return to my work area soon, I'd be in trouble with my supervisor.
The more things change, and all that.
At the time of my conversion I was ignorant about something that I still have trouble getting into my head. And that is the fact that saying a person is a Christian tells you no more about that person than does saying they're an American, or that they have brown hair. It tells you nothing about how that person lives or acts. It barely tells you what they believe. In my thirteen years now of knowing and working with Christians, I doubt I've ever met three with identical beliefs. Conservatives, liberals, evangelicals, Catholics, Calvinists, Methodists, Orthodox, Baptists, Presbyterians ... there are some four thousand Christian denominations.
Who goes to hell and why. Whether hell is real or metaphorical. When people should be baptized. The role of women in church and marriage. Homosexuality. Predestination. Sacraments. Abortion. The perpetual virginity of Mary. Trinitarians versus non-trinitarians. Creationism. Universalism. Biblical inerrancy.
If you know anything about Christianity, you know I could fill page after page with issues such as these, over which vast numbers of Christians always have and always will fervently disagree.
What happened to me in that supply closet at my job seemed like the simplest, most easily understood thing in the world. That's one of the things about it that most affected me.
How naive I was then! And when it comes to God and Christ how naive I resolutely remain---which, again, is a subject for another day. For now, I want to talk about why it might be that God, whom I assume is fully capable of communicating to humans precisely what he wants and means, chose to reveal of himself just enough to deeply inspire people, but not so much that they would actually agree upon the beliefs inspired by that inspiration. So that's what I'll get into next time (since this post has grown so long). Your own thoughts and ideas on this matter welcomed, as always.
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