Author Topic: Conversion - event or process?  (Read 3906 times)

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revtonynewnham

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Conversion - event or process?
« on: June 30, 2011, 10:08:33 AM »
Hi

This arose from something I said to a friend recently - and we thought it perhaps has a wider application.

There's an underlying assumption among many evangelical Christians that you are "saved" at a definite, identifiable moment in time - like St. Paul's encounter with the risen Christ on the Emmaus road..  I'm finding more and more that that isn't necessarily the case, and is probably much rarer outside of evangelical circles.

Research shows that, for most people, conversion is a gradual process over a period of time, and requiring several "exposures" to the gospel message.  And indeed, the Christian life is (or should be) a process of ever-deepening faith (with the inevitable glitches along the way because we're only human!)

Every Blessing

Tony

Barry Williams

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Re: Conversion - event or process?
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2011, 12:54:40 PM »
I have always felt slightly uncomfortable at the notion of 'knowing' that one is 'saved'. 

Apart from the lack of scriptural foundation in the way the phrase is interpreted by many of what is loosely called the 'evangelical' tradition, it seems to ignore that fact that all faith implies at least the possibility of doubt.  The exercise of faith "without which no man can please God" - Letter to the Hebrews Chapter 11 verse 16), is surely the ultimate act of personal will, not a divine intervention.  It comes, seemingly, from a personal realisation rather than as a lightening bolt at a Billy Graham Rally or similar event.

The Greek, μετάνοια, (metanoia) implies change, repentence.  Nowhere is it stated in Holy Scripture to be a sudden event.  Tony refers to St Paul.  He, (St Paul, not Tony,) is, in my view, a doubtful character, self contradictory and dubious, almost trying to found a new religion.  (I have heard it referred to as 'Paulianity.)

Those who have sudden 'conversion' experiences, seem to be especially keen on a type of service (and music), whereas the maturing soul needs something more substantail.  One hears, only rarely, of 'conversions' at Cathedral Evensong, even though the Holy Spirit has used that service (as well as The Book of Common Prayer, the King James Bible and hymns with 'thee' and 'thou' in them,) as a vehicle for evangelisation for many centuries.

I am suspicious of the 'sudden conversion', as I am of Glossolalia, (γλωσσολαλία,) which is widely interpreted as being a purely Christian phenomenon and called 'speaking in tongues'.  That has appeared in many religions, including quite a few that pre-date Christianity and is far more likely to indicate religious excitement than some visitation from on high.  I fear that the 'sudden conversion' similarly indicates a state of religious excitement.  Hopefully,such temporary states mature into a strong faith.

Barry Williams


Brian Daniels

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Re: Conversion - event or process?
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2011, 01:09:31 PM »
I had a colleague who was a self confessed atheist. He was not so dogmatic as to deny the existence of a supreme being ie a god of some sort or other.
What he did say though was his 'impression' of his 'god' was a business like supremo who ran the globe like a business ruthlessly and without sentiment. That is, he did not subscribe to the notion of a loving Father. Looking around us ,and what is happening in and out of the Church I have to have to say that many could be forgiven for empathising with this view point.

Now for my heresy trial.............

Brian Daniels

David Pinnegar

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Re: Conversion - event or process?
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2011, 01:22:12 PM »
Dear Tony and Barry

Thanks for starting off this thread - I suspect it's very useful and it's a pleasure to have the insight of one who knows their greek - which as a physicist, passed me by.

I know that a friend on this forum has difficulties with his faith possibly as a result of disappointment in not seeing divine intervention through his life and Tony's seeding of this thread may lead to further exploration of that. For my part, I have come to similar doubts about Paul and similarly speaking in tongues, which are not the miracle of actual known language comprehensible to anyone else but are, to my way of understanding, a process of mass hysteria not dissimilar to the American "healing" churches about which the BBC did an exposť not long ago.

On a constructive note, whilst it is heretical to say so, I am uncomfortable with a lot of the slant of our biblical texts handed down as approved by the Council of Nicea which was much more about the perpetuation of the bureaucracy and rule of the vestiges of the Roman Empire than it was about Jesus' teachings. For me the versions of fragments of St John's Gospel and other teachings as translated by Edmond Bordeau Szekely http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gospel-Essenes-Edmond-Szekely/dp/0852071353/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1309435547&sr=8-1 and http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gospel-Peace-Jesus-Christ/dp/0852071035/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1309435547&sr=8-2 read much more naturally as a matter of common sense and as plain as daylight than any texts with which we are ordinarily familiar. They make it so much easier to believe in Jesus as the great teacher and give a view of god, heaven and eternity which may be arrived at after thought rather than that which we are conventionally given to understand.

Brian - I think your friend's view has a lot of merit so thanks for your heresy! It may, however, be only a partial view. A friend of the lady for whom I was piano untuning yesterday mentioned to me that her 20 year old daughter is currently recovering from heroin addiction. What many young people lack nowadays is a sense of the life direction and without doubt a view of a perspective of the force that we call God is often helpful in that.

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar, BSc ARCS

Barry Williams

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Re: Conversion - event or process?
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2011, 02:04:42 PM »
I cannot put from my mind a brilliant talk given by the late (Reverend Lord) Donald Soper many years ago.  He said:  "God is love.  Nothing more, nothing less." 

He referred to the First letter of John Chapter three, though I cannot remember the exact quotation.  (Tony may be able to help here.)

Albert Schweitzer took a similar view.  His wonderful book, 'The Quest For The Historical Jesus' shows how difficult to ascertain facts about the founder's life.  The best advertisement for Christianity is the way Christians live their lives.  Do unto others as you would be done by - which philosophers call 'The Golden Rule'.

Barry Williams

revtonynewnham

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Re: Conversion - event or process?
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2011, 02:28:47 PM »
Hi

I'm not so sure that St Paul is as far off the mark as some would think.

One thing that I found helpful in considering the Christian life, conversion, etc is that it's at the same time an event and a process.  We are sanctified at the moment we come into faith - regardless of if that's a "crisis" event or a long sequence of events - but, as we all know only too well, no-one is perfect, therefore no-one is perfectly sanctified - it is (or should be) an ongoing process throughout our life on earth.

I know may people who have come to faith as an "Emmaus road" type of event, or at an evangelistic rally - but in most cases, this is the culmination of an ongoing process of exposure to the gospel message and to Christians, if not to the church.  Then, those who have "stuck" are the ones who have gone on from that conversion experience to become disciples, rather than just converts.  The "great commission" at the end of Matthew's gospel says "go ... and make disciples"  That implies some understanding of our faith - and a commitment to follow Jesus example of life.

Every Blessing

Tony

David Pinnegar

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Re: Conversion - event or process?
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2011, 02:50:56 PM »
Hi!

There are difficult concepts which abound.

As a physicist, increasingly I look at life within a substrate of space-time with an awareness of Einstien's General Relativity in which mass is a distortion of spacetime. From the Big Bang everything has developed according to the word, the laws, of matter - gravitation, weak and strong electromagnetic forces and the laws of conversion of mass to energy and energy to mass. The operation of God becomes a matrix in which living things have to obey the laws as do any natural processes, for instance, and gravitation equates with love. The matrix is a constantly changing network of interconnected forces, relationships, circumstances  and masses. It is the substrate for our relationships between people and our relationship within our environment. The Gospel teachings show us better how to be part of that matrix in which all events have a knock-on effect in other areas beyond our sight and in other dimensions similarly. They show us how to work the matrix and work for the light, the collective of people who understand and not for the darkness inhabited by people who don't understand.

It is in this way that the concept of God ceases to be a personality and becomes a mechanism by which things work and without which things work less well or not at all. . .

There is the expression that God helps those that help themselves - this is an expression of the truth that we have to actively work with the mechanism in order to get the mechanism to work. This often leads me to respond to what I can call no more than "hunches" to do things, which then put me in a position where I'm enabled to do something else, to bump into the relevant people at the relevant time, or to say something to someone who needs me to say something - to network and multiply the chances of being in the right place at the right time for the purpose of doing something useful. And when one does this, one finds that there is a something that one appears to be being required to do.

To anyone therefore finding that their spiritual life is not leading them in the most productive directions, I might say from experience it's because one is not doing enough adventurously and listening enough to be made use of in the right place at the right time as part of the matrix.

I apologise for a very clumsy description here - but we are talking of the most abstract of concepts here.

Best wishes

David P
« Last Edit: June 30, 2011, 03:29:54 PM by David Pinnegar »
David Pinnegar, BSc ARCS

David Pinnegar

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Re: Conversion - event or process?
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2011, 02:21:01 PM »
Hi!

I remarked earlier that those who might not be finding a great deal of fulfillment out of their spiritual life might simply be not allowing the spiritual work to be working enough through their lives.

It occurred to me this morning whilst listening to a talk about the Mission Aviation Fellowship www.maf-uk.org that this question originally posted by Tony about a conversion or a gradualisation of faith may be a product of a deeper function of even having no faith at all.

In green and pleasant lands in which there are jobs and supermarkets and central heating and an endless distraction of ever increasing material toys and comforts, it's very easy to be insulated from the real world. In the position of middle class comfortability it's possibly easy to think that life simply goes on and exists and exists without beginning nor end, creation nor purpose. It's easy to think that life can exist without an idea of God, and as such we see humans with no more "knowing" than that demonstrated by the animal realm.

The extent and realisation to which the spiritual realm can break through the barrier of comfort can only be a dawning gradualisation.

But to those who have found that that comfort does not square the circle, that concentration on the material life only has one end in material death, and that one's former unknowing life therefore is death, those fortunate enough to find this with a breakdown have to rebuild life anew and in a manner that is a new new start from new beginnings and only faith leads forward. It's so much easier to forward the machinery of life if one reads the instruction book - to which I referred in the posting about Life being like a Potato Sorter.

Certainly those who decide to assist with the machinery of the organisation, those who maintain the machinery of the engines of planes and those who fly for MAF have all decided to do something adventurous to allow their faith to work through their lives.

Best wishes

David P
« Last Edit: July 10, 2011, 02:32:37 PM by David Pinnegar »
David Pinnegar, BSc ARCS

 


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