God has given us another powerful cultural moment for truth in a most unlikely conversion to Christianity. The other moment I’m referring to happened a few years back in the most unlikely conversion to Christianity of Kanye West. In this case actor Shia LaBeouf has become a Christian of the Catholic variety. If you haven’t seen this discussion with Bishop Barron, it’s well worth the time.
A few years back I started listening to testimonies, and it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done. The creative ways God uses to save his people from their sin is endlessly fascinating to me, and yet more evidence that he is real, and that Christianity is true. Human psychology alone can’t explain it, only God in Christ can.
I was raised Catholic, but when I was 18 became a “born-again” Christian and rejected my Catholic upbringing. For several years in my ignorant youth, I was virulently anti-Catholic, then over time I began to learn about serious Catholics I respected and my attitude toward Catholicism changed. I led my younger cousin to Christ, who had also been a nominal Catholic, but years later he went back to his Catholicism. He tried to convince me that Rome was the true church, but while open to listening to him, his arguments were never persuasive. However, I know God works through the Catholic church and Christians who embrace it, and this troubled young man is a beautiful example of it.
As I’ve grown older in life and my faith, I’ve realized that God works through people who I may think have the “wrong” theology. In doing this, I don’t think they are any less wrong than I think I’m right, but it just matters less to me than it used to. A passage in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has become more meaningful to me as I realize how little I really know. In chapter 8 Paul writes:
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 If anyone thinks he knows something he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.
There is a lot to unpack here, but Paul gives us a perfect perspective on our knowing, in philosophical terms epistemology. This can be a deep and complex conversation and has taken much time and argument in modern philosophy (from Descartes in the 17th century to today), but put simply we can know things. Verse two is not a call to skepticism, that we can’t know, but a call for epistemological humility. True knowledge is possible, but our knowing is always limited because we are finite creatures. And most importantly, our knowing is not the important part of the equation, but God knowing us. We tend to get that very backward.
So, as a convinced Reformed Christian, aka Calvinist, I can still appreciate this discussion between a new Catholic Christian, and a very knowledgeable Catholic Bishop. God’s sovereign power and amazing creativity in bringing his people to himself, i.e., saving them from their sins (redemption applied he accomplished on the cross), never ceases to amaze me. I think Calvin and his followers got it right, that God’s sovereignty applies to his grace as it does to every other part of his character. When you hear Shia LaBeouf’s conversion story I think you’ll agree.