Some people have had dramatic religious conversions. In fact, my three favorite Christian thinkers outside of the biblical authors—St. Augustine, Blaise Pascal, and C. S. Lewis—all experienced amazing life-changing conversions to Christianity. But there is one person whose conversion to the Christian faith changed the world forever. That individual said that his spiritual transformation was due to encountering the resurrected Jesus Christ.

So far in this series on evidences for the resurrection we have examined four confirmatory aspects to buttress the truth of Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection (see part 1part 2, and part 3). In this article we’ll briefly explore how Christianity’s greatest convert adds one more powerful reason to affirm the resurrection.

5. The Greatest Religious Conversion Ever
Saul of Tarsus was a respected, first-century Hebrew scholar of the Torah (the Law), a member of the Jewish party of the Pharisees, and a Roman citizen (Acts 21:37–22:3). Fervent in his devotion to God and in his intent to protect ancient Judaism from what he perceived as false and heretical teaching, he became the central adversary of the primitive Christian church. Saul expressed his impassioned hostility toward Christians by having them arrested and inciting physical persecution and execution of believers, including Stephen (Acts 7:54–8:3Galatians 1:13–14). Traveling on the road to Damascus to further persecute the church (ca. AD 31–33), Saul underwent an extraordinary life-changing experience. According to his claim, Saul saw and spoke with the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9:1–3022:5–13). Following his dramatic conversion to the movement he once hated, he took on the Gentile name “Paul” and became the greatest advocate of the newfound Christian faith. After Jesus Christ himself, many scholars view the apostle Paul as the second most important figure in the history of Christianity. Paul went on to become the faith’s greatest missionary, theologian, and apologist as well as the inspired author of 13 New Testament books.

What caused Paul’s conversion—arguably the greatest religious conversion ever? To understand the true impact of this conversion, let’s consider what may be the modern equivalent of Paul’s first-century conversion to Christianity. Imagine the British prime minister and statesman Winston Churchill becoming a member of the Nazi party. Or American president Ronald Reagan embracing Soviet communism. Or German Führer Adolf Hitler converting to the religion of Judaism. Whatever equivalent one rightly accepts, Paul’s conversion to Christianity was an absolutely astounding event.

But how is this extraordinary change of allegiance to be explained? According to Paul himself, the incredible transformation of one of Western civilization’s most influential religious leaders and thinkers was due to the appearance of the resurrected Christ. The conversion of the apostle Paul, not to mention his life and accomplishments, seems truly inexplicable apart from the fact of the resurrection.

It seems the only thing that could have possibly changed Saul’s incredibly negative opinion about primitive Christianity was for him to encounter its leader, Jesus of Nazareth, raised from the dead.

Reflections: Your Turn

Have you ever known someone who has had a genuinely dramatic conversion to Christianity? What struck you about it? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Subjects: Jesus Christ, Resurrection

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About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.



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