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?