Rethinking Conversion and How We Start Discipleship

Weekend Musings

“Could it be that in these two acts, repentance and baptism, we have the hub or locus of a Christian conversion?  Could it be that this is the twofold pivot on which the whole experience hangs, and by which the experience becomes a true and good beginning to the Christian life and ultimately to the experience of the transforming grace of God? The evangelical community recoils at this suggestion that it is both. Yet in our secular, post-Christian, postmodern, pluralist social context, we urgently need to reconsider what it means to speak of a Christian conversion.” (p. 119)

“If we are going to truly treat conversion seriously, as a deep turning that in turn establishes a person for growth toward the transformation of the whole person–then we need to embrace the biblical understanding of conversion that has, as its two benchmarks, the interior experience of repentant and the exterior experience of baptism. … Repentance is the heart of the matter, virtually equivalent to conversion: conversion, … is fundamentally a matter of a turning of the heart, a reorientation of the inner person toward Christ and toward the reign of Christ.’ (p. 120)

Ambrose of Milan (d. A.D. 397), and the man who had such a powerful influence on Augustine and on Augustine’s conversion “is said to have observed, there are two conversions for those who come into the church: ‘there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance.” (Cited on page 120 of Transforming Conversion, [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010])

5 thoughts on “Rethinking Conversion and How We Start Discipleship

  1. Is this a new book or is it “Beginning Well” retitled. I read BW while researching a paper on A Theology of Conversion and was deeply challenged by Smith. I have read a few other things by him and find him to be insightful.


  2. A slippery slope! Brother, of course you know this, many of the church fathers, including Augustine, were muddled up in the area of water baptism. (i.e. infant baptism) If we make water baptism ‘part of the conversion’ instead of seeing it as an ‘expression of the conversion,’ I see no way around embracing a false gospel at worst and/or creating great confusion at best.

    Any position in regards to baptism will domino through every doctrinal issue regarding salvation. (regeneration, Holy Spirit, faith, righteousness, etc.) Maybe I’m missing what Gordon Smith is attempting to say with just a small ‘sound bite.’ Anyway, interesting nonetheless…


    1. It would be if that was what he was saying, but he isn’t. I will try to follow up with other quotes during the week that will clarify that issue. Keep pressing forward for the gospel.


      1. That’s good to know. I look forward to the follow quotes brother! So now you are teasing me with another book to add to my reading collection. Well, at least I can hand a list of books to my wife when she asks what I want for Christmas. 🙂


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