But why not in bulk?

Someone gave me a copy of the Heidelberg Catechism published in 1902 by the Reformed Church in America. In addition to a translation of the catechism itself, the book provides some counsel to confirmands, including advice not to despair if they cannot point to a moment of conversion.

The book urges the reader to understand their intentional, sincere, and intelligent taking of the confirmation as a change of heart and true conversion.

This change is not sudden, but runs through years. You have not had any wonderful religious experiences such as you hear about in others; but the Holy Ghost has done much in you in a very quiet way. …

It is the growth of years (Mark 4:26-28) and therefore all the more reliable. You cannot tell when you learned to walk, talk, think and work. You do not know when you learned to love your earthly father, much less the heavenly.

This is the Reformed doctrine of “getting religion.” We get religion, not in bulk but little by little. Just as we get natural life and strength, so spiritual life and strength, day by day.

The appeal to intelligent conversion and reliable faith strike me as quite fitting for the Reformed church as I know it today. And I hear many arguments like the above today in the church.

But it rings hollow to me. It sounds like trying to talk people into assurance they don’t experience first hand.

What do you think?


2 thoughts on “But why not in bulk?

  1. I’m that way, I can’t say for certain when I turned. But I felt a tugging on my heart over a couple of years, and finally became totally disgusted with my sins.
    When after many years I walked into a Methodist church it was a very big deal for me. A very big step. But a gradual one.

    1. I suppose that is why assurance is more important than experience of a dramatic moment of conversion. It matters less that you can point to a moment of conversion than you are resting in the assurance that you have turned.

      I also wonder if stepping into that church was not your moment. A lot built up to it, but you had to cross that threshold at some point. One moment you were outside. The next you were inside.

      I don’t know. I am certain that we can over think this kind of stuff.

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