Monday, December 1, 2008

Guthrie: Conversion not one-size-fits-all

Recently I started reading The Christian's Great Interest, by Scottish puritan William Guthrie (1620–1669). In it Guthrie attempts to answer two questions:

  1. How shall a man know if he has a true and special interest in Christ (if he is a genuine, or 'saved' Christian)?; and
  2. What shall they do who want (lack) the marks of a true and saving interest in Christ?
Here I just want to call attention to Guthrie's treatment of conversion, which I believe helpfully moderates some unbiblical extremes to which evangelicals drift in our day.

To get right to the point, Guthrie observes that, in Scripture and in reality, God converts different people in different ways: some quickly and some slowly; some very early on in life, and some later–even during their last moments. Some must be softened by the preaching of the law, which leads them to Christ as a tutor (Gal. 3:24); while others can be won to Christ in a short time, without such lengthy preparation.

I think that if granted, his argument corrects those who hold that conversion is only valid when
  • it occurs at a discernible moment in time; or
  • it occurs very slowly; or
  • it is preceded by great inner turmoil and conviction.
To be fair, Guthrie does say that "men are ordinarily prepared for Christ by the work of the Law"–but this is not absolutely necessary.

Thus, I would conclude, the Lord could use a "Four Spiritual Laws" tract (or a Chick Tract), an altar call, or an entire childhood of Sunday school lessons in a Presbyterian church (or all of the above!) to draw a soul effectually to Himself.

We could discuss what we believe the best means of facilitating conversion are, but that will have to be another post on another day ...

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