Have a scriptural question? Write to Ben Witherington III at columnists@staff.Beliefnet.com.

In this column, Ben Witherington answers questions about the Bible and:

  • Conversion experiences
  • Interracial dating
  • Jesus' genealogy
  • Second marriage
  • Proverbs' "immoral woman"
  • The 12 tribes
  • Extramarital sex
  • The End Times

    Is it actually said that every believer must have a conversion experience, that is, something that really happened to bring about repentance? In my own case, I don't have any, other that I grew up hearing and loving the way of Christ and have never had any unnatural experience. It's been two years now since I formally gave my life and apart from God's intervention in many cases of my life nothing of note has really happened to me. What do you think is my problem? I am not convinced that I am a child of God though people who know me think otherwise.

    You seem to have been misled by someone who suggested you had to have some particular kind of experience to be a born-again Christian. This is not true. There are as many different ways to come to Christ as there are believers.

    Consider, for example, the story of C.S. Lewis' conversion, in his book "Surprised by Joy." He says that he had no joyful experience or mountaintop experience or anything like that. Rather for him it was just a matter of giving in, and accepting that God had set him apart. He added, "I became the most reluctant convert in all of Christendom." Yet, as his writings show, he was one of the most profoundly Christian ones.

    If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as 1 Cor. 12 makes clear, no one can truly and earnestly do that unless they are indeed saved, as this requires already having the work of the Holy Spirit within you. The fact of your conversion should not be mistaken for some particular kind of experiential response to the work of God in your life.

    I have been working at my new job for about 5 months now. I have become really close with one of the men I work with, who is black. He is everything I have been looking for in a man, and he feels the same way towards me. I would like to start dating him, but my parents strongly disagree with interracial dating. They believe the Bible says it's wrong. --Ginger

    The New Testament is perfectly clear on this issue. There can be no problems with interracial dating and marriage, since, as Galatians 3.28 says, "in Christ there is no Jew or gentile, but rather all are one in him."

    Matthew's gospel opens with a list of "begats" tracing Joseph's lineage back through David to Abraham. How is this relevant, considering that the Holy Ghost is the father of Jesus? Why do they not give us Mary's lineage? -Margot

    The genealogy in Matthew 1 is a royal genealogy, and as such it has several features of such ancient genealogies. For one thing, it is schematized and does not include all the generations. For another, it reflects the Jewish practice that if a man adopted a son, then he was entitled to his stepfather's genealogy, even though he wasn't physically his offspring. In the case of Jesus, this meant when Joseph accept him as his son he was entitled to Joseph's genealogy. The author does not give us Mary's genealogy because we are dealing with a patriarchal Jewish culture, where the father's genealogy is all-important.

    My husband and I have been together for 11 1/2 years, we've been married for 6 1/2. We have 2 beautiful children. My husband has recently been born again and now thinks our marriage is a sin. He was married before, his wife left him, they did try to get back together and that didn't work. All that happen 16 years ago. Because he was married before, does God honor my marriage ? (This is my first marriage.) Are we living in sin? -- Timber

    Your question is a complex one, and it involves several components. In 1 Cor. 7, Paul advises a Christian person not to divorce their non-Christian spouse because that spouse might indeed be sanctified by the believing partner, and the children of such a marriage are called holy. In other words, Paul hardly suggests that a Christian married to a non-Christian is in any danger of being defiled or living in sin simply because he has a non-believing spouse. If you are also a Christian, but have not had a Christian marriage ceremony, it might allay your husband's fears if you had a service of consecration of your marriage celebrated by a minister.