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Are Conversions Going Out of Date

Are Conversions Going Out of Date

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE

BY GEORGE ALBERT COE, Ph. D.



The mission of the church is to bring the
whole worid to Christ. In a broad sense, this
may be called converting the worid. That it
is an undertaking of great magnitude is too
obvious to have escaped the attention of any;
but its complexity has been to a considerable
extent overlooked. There are at least four
clearly distinguishable duties included under
the single notion of converting the world.

BY GEORGE ALBERT COE, Ph. D.



The mission of the church is to bring the
whole worid to Christ. In a broad sense, this
may be called converting the worid. That it
is an undertaking of great magnitude is too
obvious to have escaped the attention of any;
but its complexity has been to a considerable
extent overlooked. There are at least four
clearly distinguishable duties included under
the single notion of converting the world.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Apr 07, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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ARE COVERSIOS GOIG OUT OF DATE?BY GEORGE ALBERT COE, Ph. D. The mission of the church is to bring the whole worid to Christ. In a broad sense, this may be called converting the worid. That it is an undertaking of great magnitude is too obvious to have escaped the attention of any; but its complexity has been to a considerable extent overlooked. There are at least four clearly distinguishable duties included under the single notion of converting the world. First, heathen or non-Christian peoples must be made Christian; second, non-Christian per- sons in Christian communities must be led to Christ; third, children bom in Christian com- munities must be kept for Christ, and pre- vented from becoming hostile or indifferent; fourth. Christian believers must be built up in the faith and in the application of Christian principle to all parts of individual and social life. 255 256 RELIGIO OF A MATURE MID How the Meanings and Methods of Conver- sion Shift. othing is easier than for workers in one subdivision of the field to suppose that their particular phase of the problem of converting
 
the world is universal, and that their particu- lar methods are adequate to the whole under- taking. The mission of which the church was first conscious was that of carrying the good news of the kingdom to non-Christian peoples. As these included the whole world, it was practically inevitable that a restricted notion of conversion should arise, and that it should seem to contain the whole meaning of the kingdom, in its relation to the world. Primi- tive evangelism had to be addressed to adults, and they had to be first informed of some- thing as yet imheard of, and then persuaded to acceptance. The earliest catechisms were intended for the information of such persons as were desirous of turning from heathenism or Judaism and receiving Christian baptism. But these catechisms came presently to be employed also for preparing the children of the church for baptism. A device arising in one field of work was thus extended to another ARE COVERSIOS DYIG OUT? 257 field in which the requirements were very different — as different as a child is from an adult, as different as the atmosphere of a Christian home is from that of a heathen home in which the name of Christ has not been heard. Similar stretchings of methods from an original place in which they may have been highly effective to others in which they are not so clearly needed have been common enough. One of them, in particular, has a close relation to the life of all the Protestant denominations, and especially to the non-
 
ritualistic free churches. Where state and church are one, there is practically no such thing as recruiting the church membership, and comparatively little recognition of a line which separates the members of Christ's spiritual kingdom from outsiders. In ritual- istic free churches, again, the membership is recruited chiefly by means of a catechumen's class, or similar agencies. From this point the remaining Protestant churches shade away from confirmation based upon catechetical instruction to the requirement of a distinct personal experience of conversion as a con- dition of membership. 258 RELIGIO OF A MATURE MID In churches that tend in the latter direc- tion, it is easy to discern a certain narrowing of historical terms to fit the experiences and the methods of a special group of workers. An "evangelist," for example, is here under- stood to be one who conducts the very special type of religious service called revival meet- ing, while "evangelism" has come to be synon)rmous with holding revivals. "Revival of religion' ' itself has ceased to have its natural meaning, which is exceedingly broad, and has been restricted to such religious awakenings as express themselves in the particular manner here cultivated. "Conversion," in turn, has acquired, not only in revival churches, but also, to a considerable extent, in popular speech, the connotation of certain internal, emotional experiences. In the absence of explanation as to one's exact meaning one is always likely to be understood to mean by con- version the specific revival type of religious

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