Religious Dogma

How do Christians become Christians?

One blogger I regularly read is Bruce Gerenscer who writes the blog The Way Forward.  Bruce is a former evangelical preacher. His posts are often commentary written from his unique perspective revisiting his former Christian doctrines from an atheist point of view.  My personal opinion of Bruce’s blog is that it offers very insightful reading for those struggling with the realization that their faith in the Christian religion is waning. I think that Bruce, as a former pastor, has credibility in his understanding of the bible and the doctrines of Christianity that I find lacking among the numerous atheists attacking the bible and the Christian religion with little more to offer than the expression of temperamental emotions. I respect what he has to say.

Recently Bruce published a post, What Christians THINK They Know About Atheists. He makes a statement that I find interesting:

He writes, “Imagine if atheists said “I don’t believe you became a Christian for intellectual reasons. You didn’t become a Christian because of the gospel message. There was some psychological or emotional reason.”

English: Christian Bible, rosary, and crucifix.

English: Christian Bible, rosary, and crucifix. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His statement is written in the context of defending his position as a former Christian now atheist, and specifically in response to the often accusation from Christians that he was never a “true Christian”, but the words caught my attention.  Has someone ever become a Christian just from reading the bible?

The people that I know who became passionately committed Christians have indeed done so for emotional or psychological reasons, not from an intellectual position. They didn’t read the bible and say, “I’m going to become a Christian”, instead they embraced Christianity because of a life crisis such as a near fatal illness or injury or because of some manner of stress and emotional pain occurring in their life; or, they “accepted Jesus into their hearts” during a highly emotional experience surrounded by other Christians, usually their family and members of the church.

I wonder how likely it may be that anyone just reading the bible would commit to Christianity because of the gospel message in the text alone. I think they could read the stories about Jesus and think of him as inspiring, and his message to be a relevant moral teaching, but I don’t think that is what causes them to become Christians. I think it takes the emotional impact of hope and promise of ‘all things become possible’ being offered by other Christians as a life-changing truth that causes them to enter into the fold.

My own story is that I was born with the destiny to become a Christian, meaning that my family are all Christians and the Christian religion was as much a part of my family culture as the annual family reunion, the obligation to attend weddings and funerals, or the expectation to acknowledge births and graduations. We were Christians and the unifying thread of following Jesus ran throughout our family fabric. There was no alternative for me to be anything other than a Christian.

There came a moment when instead of being a nominal Christian by virtue of family culture I became a committed Christian. It occurred in a church during a highly emotionally charged prayer meeting. The air was thick with heart felt desire for Jesus. Around me people were shouting and crying. I felt the impact of the emotional charge around me, started crying and before long I was at the altar surrounded by others praying, weeping and encouraging me to follow my heart and accept the gift of salivation. Even if I had not been emotionally vulnerable at the time, I don’t think I would have had the courage to simply stand up and say, “Wait a minute. Let me think about this.” Once I was led to the altar it was a done deal.

When I think about how Christians become Christians it seems to me that, based on my experience and the experiences of others that I have observed or been informed of, emotion is always the root cause. I find difficulty reasoning how it could be any other way.

Can someone become a Christian just by reading the bible…without the influence of other Christians or an emotional cause?

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16 thoughts on “How do Christians become Christians?

  1. Nice post. Unlikely that Christians become Christians after reading the Bible. For one thing, the Bible is pretty confusing to most people. By far, most Christians I know became Christians through cultural indoctrination (the same as any other religion).

    • Agreed. My introduction to Christianity was via my family culture, an indoctrination of sorts. I wrote of that moment when I became more consciously involved in the practice of the religion because I wonder now had I not have been young (I think I was around 15) and emotionally vulnerable at the time if I would have become invested in the religion (given my history of questioning the dictates of doctrines.)

      As a side note, I have noticed that you have some atheists now frequenting your blog. I am impressed with your firm but courteous responses to a jab here and there. I have observed that when someone like yourself responds from a base of knowledge the commentary stays much more civil, if it continues at all. Just wanted to tip my hat to you in that regard.

  2. I recently posted my conversion story and it supports this post. While it was emotional it was also objective and real. Great post. Food for thought!

    • I read your story and found it touching. You start the post with a scripture that has greatly influenced my spiritual journey. I find now that it is about the willingness to keep seeking and knocking on the door. Congratulations on the positive changes that are occurring in your life, and I hope that you remain as joyful in the Spirit as you are now.

  3. As I feel like the Bible was one of the main things leading me away from my Christian heritage, I doubt it.

    Another question Ive wondered though is if very “committed” Christians are more at risk for various factors of losing their faith than complacent ones.

    • My push mainly came from vast and varying doctrines based on the bible, more so that the bible itself. But once I actually read it and realized that it was man’s religious story and not the voice of God, I would say that it also played a role.

      I have the thought, as you mention, that the level of indoctrination and commitment do play a role in how severe the break from spirituality becomes. For me, I was not “passionately committed” for very long, only a year or so at most before the doubts and skeptical regard of doctrines eventually pushed me back out into complacency. By that time I was a young adult and not so easily persuaded by others any longer. I had the gut conviction that whatever spirituality I remained faithful to would not be the adopted opinion of anyone else.

      • Thanks for stopping by and adding your comment. I agree and think committed Christians usually are subject to strict doctrines that make them feel unworthy over a long period of time, and when the break in faith happens, it shatters like glass into far to many pieces to ever resemble what it once was. At least that is the way it seems to me. I was only briefly committed and I somehow managed to hold onto a sense of spirituality, but for those who feel they have been “duped” for a significant portion of their lives it is often the factor that causes a lasting break from any desire toward the spiritual.

  4. What you said in your post about becoming Christian because of an emotional experience was exactly the way it happened for me. I think if I had grown up in a part of the world where Islam or Hinduism or whatever else were the main religion, I would have become that.

  5. I don’t know HOW she became a Christian, but I think you will recall reading several comments on my blog from a person who simply couldn’t get away from quoting scripture to defend her beliefs. The bible may not have been her initial deciding factor, but it certainly took over her life once she “found Christ.”

  6. Just come across this posting. I became a Christian as a result of reading – after years of reading the Plain Truth (from WWCG) I read the Bible – specifically it was the book of Revelation that convinced me God existed and that was what I wanted. From there I read other books including an autobiography of someone who became ‘born again’ and decided that is what I had been looking for. Sorry, no emotional experience, no fiery preacher and no-one leading me through the sinners prayer! But it was real.

    • There are always contradictions and exceptions to the norm. In my experience, most I’ve known committed to Christianity because of some emotional factor. In reading your comment I wondered if there was an emotional longing that influenced a rational choice. I don’t mean that to be derogatory in any means. I think we all have that emotional longing that we try to fill whether by good experiences or toxic relationships, addictions, compulsions, obsessions, etc.
      I am curious as to why the book of Revelation was what convinced you. What was it about that text that made God real to you?

  7. You didn’t direct your question about the book of Revelation to me but I hope you won’t mind if I comment.

    If I were to pinpoint the reason I began my journey into Christianity, I would have to say it was the FEAR generated by this ominous book. All that stuff about wars, famines, earthquakes, poisoned waters, fiery hail, rivers of blood … Yikes!

    So in one sense, I guess you could say I became a Christian by “reading the bible.” Yet in another way, there was also an emotional incentive (fear).

    Then one day, as you wrote, my break in faith shattered “like glass into far to many pieces to ever resemble what it once was.” And I couldn’t be happier.

    • Hello Nan. I am glad you commented. I can understand now how the fear from reading Revelation would play a role. The book was just so awful and off-putting to me that I avoided it and I suppose I was thinking that many others would have chosen to ignore it as well. It didn’t seem like something that would attract someone to the faith, but now I can understand that connection when thinking about the factor of fear contributing to it. Thanks!

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