Were you there when you were converted?

Thankfully I’ve been in circles within which obtaining a job in a church or ministry has not depended on my ability to identify the year, month, day, and hour of my conversion. Nor have I been turned away from a job that would have required me to have been baptized after having made “a decision for Christ.”

Yes, of course, many (equally snarky) people point to the crucifixion of Jesus, or to his resurrection, as the moment of their salvation. But I now have one more snotty answer if anyone should ask me to give a precise account of the moment I got born again: “Bro, I wasn’t even there.”

What makes us think that there were sufficient reasons for us to be born again? What makes us think that our decision had anything to do with our spiritual birth? It didn’t even have anything to do with our natural birth.

Jean-Luc Marion:

“Birth is no less incomprehensible [than death]. … It was an event that in some sense the whole world witnessed except for me. In short, the event that saw me show up remains an event I never attended.”

To get born requires the decision of others, of parents and particularly of a mother. Any “I” that could decide on anything of consequence was not even around.

Ironically, if we are going to take “being born again” as seriously as Jesus and Nicodemus took it, we are going to have to relinquish the right to choose, the ability to decide, the prerogative to pass judgment.

The seriousness of the new birth as a doctrine and as a spiritual necessity requires the theological rigor to conceive of my spiritual genesis as an event that can’t depend on me, because I was not alive to give myself life.

“Where were you when the world was made?” may as well be the same question as “Where were you when you were converted?” The answer to both is, I wasn’t.

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