Please don’t convert to my religion.
One of the hardest things to explain is the perverted trap of Western mental habits enshrined in how language is used. I’m not the first person to notice the huge difference; I learned this from folks who know way more than I about linguistics and philosophy. I’ve been blessed with a rich education. I admit to using their information differently than they do, but the odd thing is that escaping the prison of Western Civilization is entirely possible with the use of Western scholarship. All it takes is a sense of calling from a higher plane for the clues to take on meaning.
Western linguistic process attempts to confine you. Language is presumed to contain information, and you are constrained from taking liberties with the significance of the words. Any creativity must be narrowly confined: “Words mean things.” That becomes a veiled threat of punishment if you step outside some imaginary boundary; you’ll be punished by those who claim to have a vested interest in keeping things as they are — with them in power. At the very least, you will be marginalized in various ways if you don’t conform.
The people who wrote the Bible would reject that frame of reference. If you think the Law of Moses was strict, it’s because you don’t understand it from a Hebrew mindset. Western scholars will tell you that Hebrew language, as a member of a class of Semitic tongues, was structured to use words not as containers, but as signposts. Semitic languages were indicative, not descriptive. They did not confine your thoughts, but introduced ideas for contemplation. In English I’ll ask you to take a moment to consider what kind of difference that represents in how we handle our existence as humans on this earth.
Instead of seizing control for the sake of efficiency toward some imaginary common good, I’m inviting you to explore something for your own sake. I’m perfectly willing for the results in your head to take entirely alien directions. That’s because I have trust in something far bigger than myself, and by extension, trust in something far bigger than my reason and logic. The moral burden of leadership is to let you wander while I provide some measure of protection as you browse whatever catches your fancy — shepherding. Follow me on your own accord to green pastures and still waters. My power over you is largely the power to rescue if you trust me voluntarily. The goal is to rescue and set you back on your own feet, not to bridle you and drag you around. This is genuine free range, not a feedlot experience.
At sheering time you stand before God, not me. I’m just His servant feeding His sheep.
A common element shared by cults is breaking you down through some crisis experience and reshaping you into their preferred image. Most evangelical church activities are aimed at creating some level of internal crisis. It’s the psychology of conversion, where you are made helpless so you can be controlled. That’s what I was taught to do in evangelism training back when I hung out with Southern Baptists. It looks really sweet and gentle, but underlying the presumed patience is the hard-coded image that at some point it will hit you all at once and your current existence will shatter. They cannot imagine a spiritual birth without it; there absolutely most be that moment in space-time you can stake out as the reference point of your spiritual identity. “When/where were you saved?”
While that kind of psychological crisis is common enough in human experience, I see nothing in Scripture that demands you pass through that checkpoint. Rather, I suspect you will pass through several of them because that’s how we are wired. Why should one be more meaningful than another? Aren’t all of them miracle blessings from God? The Spirit of God is not confined to time-space reference points. The importance is the change in your consciousness, not the events that accompany them. Where are your convictions right now? Westerners are obsessed with this universe and assume that time and space are cosmic absolutes, whereas divine revelation flatly states God is not bound by them. The people who wrote the Bible cultivated a sense of time and space as more like a prison for fallen souls.
I honestly believe it was a huge linguistic and doctrinal error to translate Jesus’ comments to Nicodemas (John 3) using the term “born-again” when “spirit-born” does more to capture what Jesus meant. It was Nicodemas who missed the point by suggesting Jesus meant “born anew from your mother’s womb,” so why shouldn’t we prefer what Jesus was trying to say? If Nicodemas was going to make sense of all the miracles Jesus performed in the context of what He taught, then the old scholar would have to step away from the Hellenizing intellectual influences of the past three centuries and return to the ancient Hebrew mystical understanding of things. The truth was not in this realm where stuff was happening, but in a higher realm where the Power was that made this world and these events. If He is not present in your soul, you can’t hope to grasp any part of His work. Your dead spirit has to rise with His life. How could anyone presume to control how that plays out in your soul?
I offer my religion as an example, not a straight-jacket.