The Unfundamental Conversion
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On Travel and Changing Theological Beliefs

January 15th, 2013 | Posted by Lana Hope in Missions | Travel

In my first blog post, I wrote that my view of hell changed when I traveled and lived oversees. This is because where my friends, and friends of friends I may never speak to, will spend eternity is a very personal question. I’ll quote myself.

In short, most Christians in the US have no problem saying their babies they miscarried are going to heaven? Why? The Bible doesn’t say they are going to heaven (and the Bible doesn’t even say a baby has a soul at conception as far as that goes); its just personal, so people believe what they want because its personal. Well, in the same way, unreached people groups are personal to me. I think if every Christian had traveled and met people oversees who had never heard, most Christians would accept that God can save people after death too. But since most people haven’t traveled to third world countries, its easier for them just to slap the label “liberal” on me and continue to believe their fetus’ are in heaven but my friends are going to hell.

As I wrote in the blog post, I have been to the funeral of a person who had likely never heard of Jesus, and most of my local friends are Buddhists. So yes, its personal. But I made a pretty bold statement in saying that if most Christians had traveled to third world countries and met people who had never heard of Jesus that it would change their perspective. That’s why I found this post on A Life Overseas by Lisa McKay so fascinating.

Let me quote what Lisa McKay shares.

Most of my own belief changes have happened like this – incrementally. Here are 10 things I used to believe, six moves, 15 years, and another lifetime ago.

1. I knew a fair few of the “right” answers to life’s big questions.
2. That only people who said “The Sinners Prayer” and “accepted Jesus as their Lord and savior” would go to heaven.
3. That talking people into saying The Sinners Prayer was more important than talking with them.
4. That that which does not kill you makes you stronger.
5. That you only really ever have one home.
6. That living somewhere for three whole years would mean that you really understand a place and its people.
7. That staying put in your home culture was the easier, safer (and therefore always second-best) option.
8. That access to good hospitals isn’t really that important.
9. That the tougher, more remote, or dangerous the place that you lived, the more cool points you earned.
10. That cool points really mattered in the grand scheme of life.

Wow, incredible insight, and very similar to my journey. The author of the blog post then asks her readers this question:

What are some of your “this I used to believe” statements?
For those of you who live overseas, how has living cross-culturally changed your beliefs?

I found the responses familiar to my own journey. A few people responded and said they used to believe convincing someone to say a prayer was more important than understanding their world, their stories, their lives. Yes, I agree. This reminds me of a typical prayer time at my old church in Asia. “Lord, show us how to reach our neighbors for Christ. Lord show us a stranger we can share the gospel with this week,” some of my friends would pray. There is nothing wrong with wanting our friends to experience Jesus, but to state the obvious, we should want our neighbors as friends and companions regardless of whether or not they are interested in our religion. And we should also pray, “Lord show me the hungry on the road, so I can stop and help them.” I am not saying those friends at church never prayed that; I do think, for many overseas workers, the longer they live overseas, the more understanding they become.

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Locals would frequently tell me stories such as this one: “where was the missionary when my friend couldn’t afford to take her baby to the hospital?” Apparently, the local villagers got together, scrapped their last pennies, and ate nothing but noodles to send the baby to the hospital. Of course, the missionaries did not know. But suppose they had. The question then still remains, “do we give them money because the baby needs a doctor, or do we give them money so they might believe in our religion?” You can want the family to believe, but I don’t think giving so they believe is the best response.

As for me, I’m done with the eternal torturing perspective.

Moving along.

Finish the sentence. “This I used to believe…..”

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  • Great post, but one editing caveat: I think you meant to say “overseas,” not “oversees.”

  • I recently read a story about missionaries who arrived at a Native American village and asked to share the story of their God with the people. They were warmly welcomed and spent the next couple of hours giving the long version of the Christian faith story. When they were finished the elders said, “that was a good story. Now let us share our story with you.” The missionaries were irate that the people had not reconized the truth of their story and realized that whatever their old story was, it was no longer relevant. So they left, shaking the dust from their feet to find people who would be more receptive to their story.

    At one point in scripture Jesus comments that the people of the dark are better than the people of the light in dealing with their own kind. There does seem to be a tendency to think that the normal rules of human relationships don’t apply once the matter of religion is involved.

    • Wow good story

  • Thanks for continuing the conversation on your blog, Lana. Peace.

    • thanks for all YOU all do!

  • JW

    One thing that I think you need to pay attention to is how emotions can seduce a persons belief. The bible speaks of hell although people have different interpretations of hell. Should an emotional response to someone dying who has never heard of Jesus make hell null and void as a result? The bible says God is a God of love but one of justice. If a person has never heard of Jesus before they did then justice would reveal that they would have that opportunity after death. The Bible is not clear on this issue BUT watch out that you allow emotions to seduce the mind into basically saying what the serpent said to Eve ‘Hath God said…..?’ It is the first step in calling God a liar.

    • True, we must consider everything, not just what we want to be true. I agree. Yet mankind says that reason stands above emotion, and I am not sure I fully agree either. I agree that we cannot let our emotions control what we do in life (aka. if we are sad, do we just stay in bed?); in that sense I agree. but if something bothers me in the gut, then I also listen to my emotions, and ask why. Often time it leads to truth. That’s what started me out on this journey.

  • Thanks for picking up this conversation!

    • admin

      n/p. Love your personal blog too, btw.

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