Monday, January 09, 2006


Alastair has "Some Remarks On Conversion Testimonies," and I certainly resonate with his concerns regarding the focus of the typical Evangelical testimony:

If our understanding of conversion is focused on Christ’s entering into our lives, rather than vice versa, we will be inclined to tell our conversion stories in a way that differs from the way that we would tell our stories if the focus were upon our entering into Christ’s life. If conversion is about entering into a bigger story than our own — becoming part of the life of Christ in the Church — the retelling of our own personal stories in terms of the great narrative of redemption will become a central task in our recounting of our conversions.

I have often struggled with something that Alastair describes in his post, namely the plight of a person born into a Christian family and raised in the church. If such a person continues to grow steadily in the faith from infancy (although far from perfectly), what exactly is his "testimony"? In college, for example, I felt quite a pressure to craft a conversion story, and honestly, it was very difficult to match my own faith experiences with those of my baptistically-minded friends. Instead of a single, pivotal conversion event, my religious history consisted of a pattern of mostly-steady growth, accompanied by minor crises of faith and subsequent reaffirmations. Not very exciting. Thankfully, in recent years, I've come to appreciate just how great a blessing it is for me not to have a dramatic conversion story, because it attests to my parents' faithfulness in raising me in the church. As Doug Wilson has said, "Glory to God for boring testimonies!"

I do think personal testimonies can play quite an important role in the life of the church. A few months back, I listened to a great lecture by Bryan Chapell (Covenant Seminary) on "Worship as Gospel Re-Presentation", in which he included a survey of liturgical forms used within the Protestant tradition, starting with Luther and Calvin. Although he emphasized the importance of many elements common to these traditions (singing, corporate prayer, scripture readings, etc), he also suggested that Christians investigate how corporate worship might be enriched by the use of other elements, such as the personal testimony, which could be used as a vehicle to retell the Gospel story. Chapell did not develop this thought much further in his lecture, and Alastair's comments are particularly useful here. There should not be a Procrustean approach to such testimonies, nor should they focus formulaically around our own individual histories, as they intersect with Christ. Instead, each Christian has a unique story that becomes grafted into the much larger story of Jesus Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment