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Turning to God: Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary, and Supernatural Paperback – April 12, 2012
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About the Author
David F. Wells is Distinguished Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has eighteen books to his credit, including God the Evangelist: How the Holy Spirit Works to Bring Men and Women to Faith.
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Wells defines conversion as “turning to Christ from unfaithfulness and sin to receive God’s grace” (p. 42), and “Conversion” denotes a transformation from self-dedication to dedication to God (p. 27). He rejects the popular notion that one can turn to Christ as Savior but reject Him as Lord as having no basis in the New Testament (p. 23). The assurance of salvation comes through the Holy Spirit’s confirmation of our faith and a changed life (pp. 43, 176-177). Since the role of repentance is much debated today Wells devotes considerable time to its study. He examines the key words (pp. 33-34), traces its meaning through both the Old (pp. 31-33, 38-41) and the New Testament (pp. 33-38), and concludes that repentance from sin a necessary component of saving faith (p. 72). He writes, “Evangelical repentance is turning from sin, now recognized as ruinous, to a new life of following Christ in righteousness, now embraced as the only hope of life” (p. 72).
Recognizing that the experience of conversion differs among individuals Wells surveys various groups. He begins with “insiders,” unbelievers who already have a solid understanding of the gospel or at least a biblical foundation (pp. 53-68). These would include religious people such as Paul (pp. 57-64), and children brought up in a Christian home or church (pp. 64-68). Several types of “outsiders” are also discussed including Muslims (pp. 113-124), Hindus and Buddhists (pp. 129-138), Western secularists (pp. 140-158), and Marxists (pp. 152-158). Stumbling blocks for each of these groups and how to present the gospel to them are helpfully provided.
Turning to God is readable, insightful, challenging and biblical. It would be valuable for anyone desiring a thorough, yet not overwhelming, study of conversion of the unbeliever to Christ.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel
Wells provides examples of conversion in Scripture, a biblical theology of conversion, with careful attention to the Greek and Hebrew terms used. He show the difference between what he calls "insider and outsider" conversions, viz. from within a Christian setting/culture, and the contrasting unique hurdles individuals from various major world religions face in embracing teachings in opposition to their dogma and culture. He also devotes a chapter to what he calls "materialistic outsiders", explaining the secular position, which is largely the position of Europe and (to a lesser degree) North America, where people find meaning--not in God--but in self. He provides examples of differing perspectives from church history, particularly regarding whether the individual can contribute anything to his/her salvation. Wells disputes the view that certain types of people tend to convert to religious belief--social/psychological profiling--and the casual conversion or "easy-believism" promulgated by some evangelicals.
I think this is an outstanding, much-needed book for anyone in Christian work. In full disclosure, I am a minister in Dr. Well's denomination (the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference) and occasionally chat with him at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.