Claims that one has converted to Christianity are almost always met with doubt from the non-Christian world. Sometimes, there is also skepticism from the Christian world. There are reasons for this skepticism, both good and bad. When the supposed convert is someone with a high profile, the scrutiny is amplified. Kanye West—who as of this writing, has indicated his conversion and begun promoting Christian music—is a recent example.
The book of Acts presents two “test cases” we should keep in mind when hearing news about someone’s purported salvation. Paul was an active enemy of the faith until his conversion (Acts 9:1–6), resulting in skepticism among believers (Acts 9:21, 26). Eventually, Paul’s actions proved his faith (2 Corinthians 11:23–30). Apollos was eloquent and passionate but imperfect in his doctrine, until more experienced believers gave him supportive guidance (Acts 18:24–28).
As believers, we are wise to be cautiously skeptical about spiritual claims (1 John 4:1). We ought to gauge what other people say and do against the Bible (1 Corinthians 4:6; Acts 17:11). At the same time, we’re not to be unfair or unkind, especially to those who are less spiritually mature (1 Peter 3:15–16). Christians are also not in any position to say, for certain, what is happening between another person and God (1 Samuel 16:7).
In short, the proper response to anyone’s supposed conversion is to say, “Praise God, and let’s hope it’s real!” So long as their words and actions represent someone sincerely seeking Christ, we ought to treat their claims with a charitable spirit. That does not mean pointing out every possible flaw or misstep as a sign of a false convert. Neither does it mean ignoring or brushing aside unbiblical statements or actions.
A cautious approach to claims of conversion is supported by clear principles laid out in the Bible:
• Coming to saving faith in Christ is inherently simple. A person doesn’t need to be an expert in theology to be saved (Luke 18:16). Salvation is possible for anyone, no matter how “unlikely” of a candidate he or she may be (1 Corinthians 6:9–11).
• A recent convert should not be thrust into a leadership role. First Timothy 3:6 explicitly warns against this: “He [a church leader] must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” A person being successful in life and/or in a leadership position before becoming a Christian does not qualify him/her for leadership in the Body of Christ. Spiritual growth and maturity take time.
• When a person claims to be a new convert, he needs discipleship and support (Acts 18:24–26). New believers don’t need nitpicky criticism or cynical dismissal (1 Thessalonians 2:11; 2 Timothy 2:24–25).
• Those young in the faith might say or support things that more mature believers would reject. This makes them spiritually immature—it does not automatically mean they are lost (Hebrews 5:14).
• False conversions are a real thing, so being hopeful and supportive does not mean being naïve (Matthew 7:21–23).
• Over time, a convert’s words, attitudes, and actions will either reflect saving faith, or they won’t (John 13:34–35; 14:15; 1 John 2:19). “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:20).
• As believers, we should celebrate positive attitudes toward Christ, even if it turns out the person expressing them has less-than-perfect motives (Philippians 1:15–18).
• Above all, Christians need to remember our calling to judge with right judgment (John 7:24). That starts by recognizing that only God knows exactly what happens in another person’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Whether or not someone is “truly saved” is not something we or anyone else can answer with certainty. Time will tell whether Kanye West’s claimed commitment to Christ is lasting or temporary. Time will tell whether a person’s claimed faith is secure and real or shallow and artificial. In that sense, Kanye West is no different than any other person who has ever lived. If he examines his own life, he will have the opportunity to see if he is truly “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Until or unless West turns against the faith or stubbornly endorses heresy, Christians should offer measured support. Our response to those who newly claim the name of Christ ought to be along the lines of “that’s wonderful, let’s learn and grow together,” not some version of “yeah, right.”