The image of conversion to Christ as a one-time experience dominates contemporary culture, but for evangelical Gordon Smith this 'punctiliar' model fails to encompass an experience that often unfolds over time and takes varied forms. In Beginning Well
, he describes the Christian life as an ongoing process by which we become 'what we were created to be--fully human, transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.' We see this process at work in the conversion stories of Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola, John Wesley, and Dorothy Day, then explore models from evangelical history and the New Testament. The second half of the book uses the writings of C. S. Lewis, Chesterton, Tolstoy, and others to establish the hallmarks of conversion--benchmarks against which new converts and 'second-generation' Christians alike can gauge their spiritual growth and maturity. Transforming Conversion
functions almost as a sequel to Beginning Well, tracing conversion as experienced in the early Church (including monastic models), the Reformation, and even in multi-cultural contexts such as Muslim conversions to Christianity. Smith's insightful biblical exegesis draws extensively upon Ephesians and Acts--and further demonstrates that salvation and conversion did not become synonymous until the modern revivalist movement. The final chapters explore the importance of situating conversion within a communal, rather than a narrowly individualistic, context that includes sacraments (baptism, confession) and 'a compelling theology of sainthood' to guide the mature Christian life.
An Eighth Day View:
This volume offers much-needed theological reflection on the phenomenon of conversion and transformation. Gordon Smith provides a robust evaluation that covers the broad range of thinking about conversion across Christian traditions and addresses global contexts. Smith contends that both in the church and in discussions about contemporary mission, the language of conversion inherited from revivalism is inadequate in helping to navigate the questions that shape how we do church, how we approach faith formation, how evangelism is integrated into congregational life, and how we witness to the faith in non-Christian environments. We must rethink the nature of the church in light of how people actually come to faith in Christ. After drawing on ancient and pre-revivalist wisdom on conversion, Smith delineates the contours of conversion and Christian initiation for today's church. He concludes by discussing the art of spiritual autobiography and what it means to be a congregation.