Today I was shopping for granola and two things happened that made me think. First, I was in the checkout line and I saw a girl of around 10-12 in front of me with her dad. This made me grieve when I saw the tremendous amount of horrible magazines, filth and vituperation in that checkout line. To me it was a metaphor of how this young, innocent girl is going to spend the rest of her life being assaulted by societal norms regarding sex, bodily appearance, etc, and how her identity will be under a constant stream of attacks for decades to come.
The second thing I saw was several of the cashiers were elderly, and in particular there was an older woman who was the cashier in my checkout line. She had a very morose attitude; very quick and efficient, but humorless. This also made me sad. Firstly, this woman shouldn't have to work at that age. She should be a respected elder in the community. Secondly, she was also a metaphor to me, a metaphor about how all of the assaults on identity that I mention above slowly suck the life out of people over the years and decades. That attitude of hardness and bitterness is the result of a life of darkness. (Not to say that this is all true of the woman I saw, like I said it was just a metaphor; I don't know what her life is like.)
I was thinking about all this when I was walking home, and it struck me so powerfully that I believe there is an underlying falsity in contemporary evangelical dialectic. I don't know if I will be able to express this as clearly as I believe it, but I will try.
I do not believe that eternal destiny depends on a single decision. I am absolutely horrified whenever I hear some organization say how many "decisions for Christ" they had last year, for more reasons than I can now enumerate. My biggest objection (and most relevant to this discourse) is that I just do not believe you can summarize someone's faith or walk with God in a single decision. To say that whether somebody is going to heaven (eternity with God) or hell (eternity without God) simply based on a single decision reduces peoples' entire lives into mere statistics, which is contemptible to me.
I have come to believe more and more that there is an incredible complexity and depth to each person and that how people relate to God, whether positively or negatively, is the cumulative result of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of interactions throughout their roughly 30,000 days of life on earth. I believe that whether someone ultimately goes to heaven or to hell, that their will and desire is tried a thousand times. Jesus speaks of the broad path leading to destruction and the narrow path leading to life, and I believe that these paths speak of consistent, repeated lifestyles. C.S. Lewis calls the last scene of Dr. Faustus "stage fire": hollow theatrics with minimal basis in reality. He speaks instead of persistent sensual habits that shroud the eyes and year after year build patterns of darkness that flood the soul. By the time you are on the threshold of total destruction, on your deathbed, God would still accept repentance even then, but man would not offer it. Their whole life up until that point had already spoken, and would not be revoked.
Every person has a story. Every person has a history. Nobody is shallow. God does not look at a single point in your life to decide who you are, he sees the whole picture of who you were and who you have become through that process.