Sunday 14 July 2013

What worries me most about literary converts to Christianity (such as myself)


When someone becomes a Christian under the influence of an evangelist or a missionary, then the matter of 'what next?' is easily settled - the convert usually joins the specific church or denomination of the evangelist or missionary.

But what of those who, like myself, are converted by reading (and prayer) without any specific link to a church or denomination?

That is what worries me.


Because I think it quite likely that the next step - joining a specific church/ denomination - seems quite likely to deconvert the new Christian.

So my worry is that an ignorant and fragile new Christian - a real Christian but ill-informed and with only a tenuous grasp of faith - will choose to attend then join a 'liberal-Christian' church (i.e. almost all of the currently existing churches self-described as 'Christian') - which is to say they will end-up at an anti-Christian church preaching the modern Leftist religion of kindness, equality, diversity and self-loathing.


IF that new convert goes to the average 'Christian' church under the impression that what he will find there is Christianity, and that he (as a new convert) should learn and submit to this teaching - then pretty soon the new convert will have stopped being a Christian (except for the use of some subverted terminology) and will find himself engaged in this-worldly Leftist politics-by-another-name.

And that is what most worries me about literary converts to Christianity.



ConantheContrarian said...

I became a Christian by reading the Bible. Then I started watching televangelists. Yes, I know that sounds dangerous, but I learned a lot. From there I found a church that taught the Bible conservatively, or as Francis Schaeffer might have described it as an orthodox Protestant church.

Bruce Charlton said...

Interesting - it can be hard to find Orthodox Protestant churches, although they are around (that's the kind of church I go to).

ConantheContrarian said...

I currently attend an Evangelical Free church. It is quite conservative biblically, and the congregation is quite large. It is not considered Mainline in the US.

Anonymous said...

I am probably projecting too much of my own conversion process into this, but the kind of person who converts himself through reading these days would also be the one most acutely aware of the desperate state of modern Christian churches. Seeing as the only literature that converts, both the poetic and the intellectual kind, is entirely the product of an earlier age. If you are converted by modern texts, then you are most certainly converted to something, but not to Christianity in any meaningful sense of the word.

Donald said...

The intellectual converts (those converted by books, arguments, then prayer, etc.) I know (including myself) are rabidly (Mere Christian) orthodox and would only with extreme frustration suffer a leftist church (here I mean an actual specific congregation, pastor, etc.).

I think what you do if you join the RCC (technically I joined the UGCC)is you see it as an archipelago church - with islands and fortresses amongst a sea of worldly confusion and evil - and you make for one of those islands and attach yourself to it. I guess you could make the same argument for all churches that you must be very choosey.

tgj said...

Having just recently bumped into Eastern Orthodox people for the first time, my semi-worry about literary people is that they will fall into massive spiritual delusion just trying to get through the door.

For example I have this idea that...

Of course the solution is to realize that it's in your own head, and just choose not to look at it. Also try a little more practice, a little more manual labor, and a little less reading, and a lot less contemplation and or reverie. Idle hands are the devil's workshop.

My 2p

Bruce Charlton said...

stephen c has left a comment on your post :

"I think God really, really cares about people who are "literary" converts because He knows that they have not had the good fortune of having a fellow human in their lives who converted them in the much more comfortable person-to-person mode. In addition to the problem you mentioned, I think a great danger for "literary" converts is the fact that most of their pre-conversion friends are good with words so the new converts are subjected, more than most, to well-crafted verbal criticism that is intended to wound and discourage. This is an important issue, because in some generations, including ours, the majority of Communist, ... and Western-style-liberal-edifice converts will need (in the words of a public prayer made in my Northern Virginia church today on behalf of potential ... converts) "dreams, personal witness, literature, or the internet" to first really hear about Jesus. Two of these four qualify as "literary converts." "

sykes.1 said...

You should read John C. Wright's detailed discussion of why he chose Roman Catholicism:

Bruce Charlton said...

@s.1 - I have already read it - what was the relevant point?

sykes.1 said...

Sorry, I didn't pick up on that in your commentary.

The most fundamental point in my opinion are the self-contradictory Protestant positions on the Bible.

First, if anyone can understand the meaning of the Bible (sola scriptura) then why are there some 30,000 identifiable Protestant sects? Obviously, either the Bible cannot be understood by everyone or it is not infallible. Of course, the Bible is hard to understand. It has two contradictory versions of Creation, two contradictory versions of the Flood and four contradictory versions of Jesus life, meaning and teachings.

Second, there is the Bible itself. Many Protestants seem to assume that it appeared miraculously. But in fact, it was assembled by the Catholic Church out of existing materials, largely by Jerome. The Catholic Church chose what books to include, the sequence of books and the authoritative text for each book. Beginning with Luther and continuing until today, Protestants have been jettisoning those parts of the Bible they find objectionable. The result is that many modern denominations (one thinks especially of the Anglican/Episcopalian Church) are essentially unBiblical.

I find Wright's arguments to be sufficient for a Christian to become Catholic. Personally, I am agnostic and not even a Christian. But the logic of your journey seems likely to propel you into the arms of the Catholic Church.

ajb said...

"Many Protestants seem to assume that it appeared miraculously. But in fact, it was assembled by the Catholic Church out of existing materials, largely by Jerome."

Are these contradictory?

Bruce Charlton said...

@s.1 - I certainly regard the RCC as a valid church, in principle - although severely corrupted with Liberalism as evidenced by the severely low birth rate among Catholics. (I also regard the Orthodox Curch as valid, and the conservative Protestants, and the LDS - this list is not exhaustive).

Indeed, the modern RCC seems almost unable to influence the observable behaviour of its laity (and priests and religious) - so things are not good.

From what I have seem of mainstream RCC churches, I would find it difficult to tolerate the liberalism and liturgical chaos - but I suppose I could manage, if necessary, if I restricted myself to short masses.

But the main problem is that my heart does not warm to the RCC - I have studied it a lot over many years, and it just does not draw me.

One problem is universal celibacy among priests which emerged after the Great Schism - I think this has had a gradual but corrosive de-masculinizing effect, now becoming very obvious. In a nutshell, I think celibacy generally entails asceticism - and non-ascetic but celibate priests are a bad combination.

If a branch of the Anglican Ordinariate emerged nearby I would be drawn to that because of the Anglican liturgy which I love (assuming they used the traditional liturgy based on the Book of Common Prayer...) and the (mostly) married priests.

I think your criticism of the insufficiency of scripture is valid, but in fact it is a bit of a straw man. If you read someone such as JI Packer or John Stott or Martyn Lloyd Jones, you will see that there is a lot more to it than you say. It is more a matter of saying that the material in scripture is sufficient for salvation (in the sense that other accretions are not necessary) and that all aspects of the church should conform to scripture.

I don't think any thoughtful Protestants would believe that anyone would typically get everything they needed purely from reading the Bible, on their own. Indeed serious Protestants are very keen on careful teaching sermons with plenty of explanation, context, exposition - and put a strong emphasis on Biblical study groups.

I agree that the Reformed churches have been extremely fissile - and that is a disadvantage in many ways - but in other ways it enables the laity to escape from bad pastors and ministers, and enables rapid regeneration by a kind of natural selection among denominations.

It's a big question! But I think that real Christians should try to regard the variety of denominations in as positive a way as we can - since there is nothing we can do about it, we must make the best of it.