Conversion: examples

Below are three key examples of conversion experience that you will need to accompany RE1c.

C.S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898. He taught English Literature at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, but is best known for writing ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, the most famous of which is ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’.

After being brought up in a Christian family, Lewis became an atheist at the age of 15. However, as an adult, he slowly re-embraced Christianity, influenced by arguments with his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien and by the book The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton. He fought greatly up to the moment of his conversion, noting that he was brought into Christianity like a prodigal, “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.”

He described his last struggle in Surprised by Joy:

“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen [College, Cambridge], 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. “

 

Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy was a 19th century Russian author wrote two of the most famous novels of all time, ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’.

In A Confession (1879), Leo Tolstoy tells of his gradual conversion to Christianity. Having become a successful writer, Tolstoy went through years of depression, feeling that “life is meaningless, vain and evil . . . it is better not to live.”

“I would say to myself, ‘Well fine, so you will be more famous than Gogol, Pushkin, Shakespeare, Moliere, more famous than all the writers in the world, and so what?’

 And I had absolutely no answer . . . [I] removed a rope from my room where I undressed every night alone, lest I hang myself from the beam between the cupboards; and I gave up taking a rifle with me on hunting trips so as not to be tempted to end my life”.

He searched for an answer to the question “Why do I live?” in science and in philosophy, but found none. His depression deepened until he discovered that “To know God and to live are one and the same thing. God is life.” His new found faith gave his life meaning and ended his depression; “as soon as I recognised that there is a force with power over me I immediately felt the possibility of life.”

Saul

Saul of Tarsus was an influential Jewish rabbi who was involved in the arresting, persecuting and execution of Christians not long after the time of Jesus. His conversion to Christianity results in his name change to Paul. As Paul, he founded churches across the Eastern Mediterranean area, wrote the majority of the New Testament of the Bible and remains one of the most influential Christians of all time.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went tothe high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision,“Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

Acts 9

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