Beginnings by Stephen Smallman

Discussion in 'General discussions' started by A.Joseph, Jan 13, 2019.

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  1. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Freshman

  2. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    Never heard of him or of the book but, poking around a little: he was born in 1940, so he'll be 79 this year, and he is (or was) associate pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in Glenside, PA.
  3. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I recommend it. The best thing about Beginnings is that it is a Reformed guy writing seriously about conversion, in a contemporary setting. In the evangelical world today, most thinking about conversion simply is not Reformed. Beginnings addresses that problem by emphasizing the Spirit's work and the means of grace. At the same time, in the Reformed world today the role that a pastor or teacher or friend might have in one's conversion is too often ignored. Beginnings also addresses that problem by showing how God uses people in the church in the conversion process.

    Steve includes some ideas I'm still chewing on, not sure I would apply the labels of effectual calling and new birth exactly the same way when thinking about the process leading up to conversion. But none of this gives me a significant concern; rather, it's thought-provoking.

    Steve uses an idea he calls "the spiritual midwife" to describe the role of other believers in conversion. Some readers might be put off because this is not a biblical term nor one with a great history in Reformed writing. But the ideas he draws from it seem biblical and Reformed to me. Certainly, in our time, filled as it is with decisionist ideas about how one person can lead another to Christ, we can use a Reformed understanding of what role the Spirit might be giving us in the lives of not-yet-believers.

    I don't like Beginnings quite as well as I like his other book on conversion, How Our Children Come to Faith. But maybe this is because How Our Children Come to Faith deals specifically with covenant children, which is a special interest of mine.

    Disclaimer: I know and like Steve. He has won my respect not only because he has written a number of PCA-commissioned resources, but because it seems to me that he is one of a handful of Presbyterian leaders in Glenside who has waded through the difficult controversies of the past decade-plus with exceptional compassion and aplomb.
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