Friday, February 29, 2008

"The Most Dejected Convert in All of England"

I must admit that many of the questions that seem to bother Christians don't seem to phase me. Questions of science, history, the Bible and even evil have never bothered me, even if the answer doesn't accord with my conservative Christian origins. But the one question I asked myself was what conversion meant if we were only converting because of the promise of heaven and the threat of hell? Wouldn't this suggest that Christians decide to convert from the motivation of pure expedience? One might go so far as to say that Christians convert because they are selfish. I took the view that perhaps Christians don't really love God, but that rather they love what God is offering them, which is no real love at all. The act of giving one's life to Christ would then be viewed as a cynical type of opportunism than in a truly enlightened spiritual insight. In response to this allegation, C.S. Lewis makes an absolutely amazing and unpredictable response. C.S. Lewis wrote some great stuff, but the account of his conversion has to be among his greatest. This is an extract from his autobiography:

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.

The answer to my accusation to startling - what's your point? So Christian conversion might be selfish and cynical and opportunistic. Perhaps it may not be joyous or dignified. The point is not how we come to God. Rather, the point is that we come to God. I think about the story of the prodigal son and reflect upon the reason that he came back. He only came back because he had spent all of his inheritance and had no other option than to return to his father. Most likely, if the son had invested his inheritance wisely in the first century equivalent of the sharemarket he would never have gone back to his father and most likely would have felt quite justified in his own behaviour. But the point is, he made bad choices and ended up with no choice other than to return home. We too have made bad choices and as such, it is not surprising that we would return to God because it is the only real choice we have left. But in God's grace he can redeem even the desperate act of self-preservation.

No comments: