Conversion In A Free Market Religious Economy

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

There has been a rapid decline in denominational “name-brand loyalty” which allows people raised in one kind of religious tradition to move to another according to Timothy P. Weber of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Professor Weber raises a very interesting point in an Introduction to The Confessions of St. Augustine (Thomas Nelson, 1994). In this introduction he says that “People are now consumers about religion in much the same way that they are consumers about everything else. “Switching’ occurs because a new congregation or religious group better meets a person’s spiritual needs, not necessarily because he or she has undergone a radical change of life.”

In this world where personal accountability is on the decline as well as the willingness to admit personal wrongdoing (Tiger Woods ring a bell?), conversions hardly seem necessary.

Professor Weber continues that conversion means a “significant change in life’s direction, the trading of one set of ultimate allegiances for another.” This is clear by what Jesus was saying in John 3 (ye must be born again) and 2 Cor 5:17 (…he is a new creation; old things have passed away…) From this biblical perspective, Weber continues, “a conversion is more than a change in personal preference; it is a change of identity.” 

When confession is merely to explain why there is nothing wrong with their behavior or why they should not be held accountable for it; questioning that person’s salvation does come to mind. When seen from that point of view Weber explains that “it is safe to say that real conversions are relatively rare; and when they do occur, people take notice.”

Read Augustine’s confessions; he blames no one for his life of sin. Though he often felt powerless to change his behavior, he felt personally responsible.


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