17 October 2013

The Making of a Christian

According to TheBlaze.com, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson "says he became a Christian after Jesus appeared to him in a dream." This story may certainly capture the attention, but does it tell the Scriptural truth?

Apparently, Wilson discusses his Christian faith in a new video called "The Making of a Champion." The Blaze summarizes Wilson's story: "...the NFL player says his pinnacle moment came when he was 14 years old and Jesus Christ appeared to him in a dream and told him to learn more about the faith."

Wilson is quoted: "I had a dream one night I was at ... football camp ... my parents were supposed to pick me up on Sunday to go to church," he said. "I had a dream that my dad passed away and that Jesus came into the room and he was just knocking on my door saying, 'Hey you need to find out more about me.'"

The Blaze then says, "While Wilson's parents regularly took him to church, it was this dream that truly moved him to change his ways."

I do not disparage Wilson's Christian faith in any way - not at all! In fact, I rejoice that he is a Christian and is eager to bear witness to his Savior. However, the making of a Christian does not occur via dreams.

First, the reporting by The Blaze must be critiqued. The headline on The Blaze leads one to presume that Wilson had not been a Christian before the dream. However, the story reveals that Wilson had attended church - and presumably heard the Word of God, at least to some degree - prior to the dream. Why assume that he was not a Christian prior to the dream, even though he apparently had been a practicing Christian with his family?

In addition, "becoming a Christian" is quite a different thing from "learning more about" Jesus. As The Blaze reports, Wilson's dream of Jesus simply told him, "Hey you need to find out more about me." Everyone who already calls himself/herself a Christian needs - indeed, wants - to learn more about the Christian faith and more about Jesus Himself. That's normal for all who have already become Christians.

Second, the making of a Christian happens, not via dreams, but only by means of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. According to Romans 10:17, faith in Christ comes, not by dreams, but by the Word of God: "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."

The Lutheran Confessions explain and testify to this Scriptural truth quite clearly.
  • "God the Holy Spirit ... does not bring about conversion without means. For this purpose He uses the preaching and hearing of God's Word" (Formula of Concord, Epitome, III, 4).
  • "Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given. He works faith, when and where it pleases God, in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake" (Augsburg Confession, V, 2-3).
  • "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord,or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith" (Small Catechism, Creed, The Third Article).
Let's rejoice that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is a Christian who proudly confesses his Savior. But let's also keep it straight on what makes a Christian: not dreams that make headlines, but the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God proclaimed and given out in the Sacraments.

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