In recent days, the topic on conversion is up to the scene, since there was a big debate among the Evangelicals surrounding “the sinner’s prayer” and altar call, and the question is if these “tools” can make/help people to be Christians. The issue behind such question is, today’s many Evangelical churchgoers are lacking an experience of conversion, as if they have never been given a clear definition of conversion.
Richard Baxter (1615-1691), who was an English Puritan pastor, witnessed the Civil War, Cromwell’s Commonwealth, the Restoration, and the Great Ejection. In Baxter’s life, he had wrote many books, which influence the later generation, among them are Saints’ Everlasting Rest and the Reformed Pastor, which are two masterpieces of the Puritan spiritual writings. Baxter, as a pastor, he emphasized the true experience of conversion, which sees conversion as a process, which actively is “a work of the Spirit of Christ, by the doctrine of Christ, by which he effectually changeth men’s minds, and heart, and life from the creature to God in Christ”, and passively as man’s responsibility to the move of the Spirit. It means, that one cannot convert through just a “sinner’s prayer” at a periodic moment, rather, conversion is a process of changing of a man’s worldview and entire life. Conversion, then, means that one shall tear his/her old worldviews down, and destroy his/her old core-beliefs, and receive the mind-set of Christ, which is by the indwelling of the Spirit, one may have a new mind, which is the mind of Christ. By the change of one’s mind, his/her behavior shall always be changed, and start to seek to be holy in Jesus Christ by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For today’s evangelicals, this is what we have forgot and lack.
The Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Timothy K. Beougher, devotes himself in studying Baxter the Puritan’s view of conversion, in order to equip today’s Evangelicals to understand such significant process in Christian life, and the core principle of today’s evangelism. Richard Baxter and Conversion is a version of Beougher’s doctoral dissertation, under the supervision of J.I. Packer, who views this work as “an outstanding piece of work, of great pastoral relevance for our time.”
This reviewer sees this piece of work as an essential reading for both Christian pastors and churchgoers, since this book faithfully present the Puritan’s and biblical view of Christian conversion, which is barely taught today among the Evangelicals.