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.”
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?