There is a major error and mischaracterization of Christianity that rears its head again and again among the nations and plurality of religions; namely the idea that people can force or persuade a conversion to Christianity.
I recently read a very honest article in the Nepali Times (a country my family has visited multiple times, is very dear to us, and my wife actually was raised in) stressing the rise of Christianity of Nepal and its implications regarding the “secular” debate as the country works to draft its new constitution, which is in itself a complicated ordeal and not my intention in this article.
What I do want to discuss is the mischaracterization of Christianity and the error of using a misguided stereotype in the discussions involving it. It has of course been attacked for 2000 years and the mention of “manipulative conversions” as the author accurately depicts it, is not a new practice. However, it is a fraudulent practice. Not only should false teachings in the name of Christianity be “denounced by all secularists” but they should also be done so by Christians themselves!
1. Manipulative Conversions
Simply put, manipulative conversions are anti-biblical. Its abusive practice in the past by no means leads to it being true. The Bible instead teaches that there are none who naturally seek after God (Romans 3:11). Everyone is born with a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5), they suppress the implanted truth they know about God, and create idols to suit themselves (Romans 1:18; 23, 25). The Bible says we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). In this state, apart from the sovereign work of God, no one wishes or desires to “convert.” Whatever it is that one is offered as a bribe or a gift in return for his or her conversion by no means constitutes a true conversion to Christianity. Such a practice should be denounced by all Christians. Therefore, a true conversion of any person to Christianity, given that the person is dead in their sins and has no intention of seeking God, only comes by way of a sovereign act of God. Immediately after Paul tells us of us being dead in our sins he adds this:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ….. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9).
Note the “But God….!” God intervenes, not someone’s manipulation. It is by faith we are saved………yet, that very faith is a gift given by God. Therefore, any attempts to manipulate people into a conversion by means of material wealth or decadent promises will lead to a false conversion and should be “denounced by all secularists” and especially by Christians themselves.
2. Good News Will Spread
As for the “extreme proselyting” mentioned by the writer, the word Gospel simply means good news and it happens to be so good, it cannot be contained. God the Father sent his Son to pay the debt in full for the sins of those repent and put their faith in him alone as their Lord and Savior:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21)
Unless we have lived a perfect life, according to His standard, what will we do with our sins? How will we stand before a holy God? All other religions say we have works to do. It leaves us uncertain and guilt-ridden, continually seeking to do better. Christianity is the only religion where the work is done. The debt has been paid. Because of God’s great love, he sent his son who lived a perfect and sinless life in thought, word and deed, to die in our place….to take our sin in exchange for his righteousness. That is good news. No one would resist such a promise. He tells us to go forth to all nations proclaiming the good news. How can one not do so???
The Bible says that miracles will accompany the proclamation of the good news of the Gospel, however, such events only happen according to God’s will and timing, not at our demand and especially not for a financial gain. The faith healing movement along the lines of Benny Hinn, Peter Popoff, etc. has done much more to hurt Christianity than to help it. In addition, the biblical warrant for miracles is in no way supposed to “take advantage of the lack of education and progress of medicine and science” as the article states. Physicians are a means used by God to heal and should not be undercut in the name of those who claim to be “healers.” Actually, and Biblically, there is no “gift of healing” given to specific people for all time, as the phrase in the Bible is in the plural and lacking the definite article, hence gifts of healings, and God uses people to heal according to his sovereign will, not the whims of men.
4. Capitalism and Competition
Given that the author refers to other religions being in competition, leaves one room to doubt their validity, especially as some of them claim exclusivity (and I realize Hinduism does not). A God would be the (or a) highest being and therefore should be able to handle him or herself. Christianty is one religion that claims exclusivity. There is one God and one Law. There is only one way to God and that is through Christ. The earth is his and all that is in it (Psalm 24:1). It then follows that everything we have is sovereignly distributed to us by Him. We are to be stewards of what he has put us in charge of and for someone to forcefully take that away would be theft and a violation of the 8th commandment. We are told throughout the Bible that wealth comes mainly and honestly through hard work, saving, entrepreneurship. We are also told that the love of money is the root of all evil and that riches can be a very dangerous thing. The Bible cover to cover teaches free market capitalism. The misuse of funds is another discussion that must be had, but the fact that Capitalism creates wealth (not socialism), and that Christianity therefore has a big influence should by no means be able to discredit another religion, unless that religion be ruled by man and not its own gods or god.
In closing, there are abuses within every religion. Even the Hindus have recently attempted the conversion of Christians and Muslims by way of money and especially targeting the poor who would most benefit by such an act. But as said above, true Christianity, the “new birth” of an individual comes only by way of a sovereign work of God, it cannot and should not be performed by way of manipulation. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Christians in Nepal should also be against anyone using means of manipulation for conversions. It is not out there categorically as a marketed religion or a competitor or a means to a wealthy life. It is instead directed and sustained by the very hand of God. If there is a fear of the growth of Christianity, and there is in turn evidence of a true growth, let it be known it is the work of God, not of those who manipulate and abuse.