We must never allow church history in general or any part of church history in particular to exercise a divine authority over our faith. Nevertheless, there are some persons and events of church history that are so close to the core of what historical Christianity is that to deny their legitimacy seems close to denying the faith. One such event might be the conversion of Luther via his understanding of justification by faith alone. Another such event is the conversion of Augustine. We may well say, “If Augustine was not a Christian, and if his conversion was not true conversion, then whose conversion is?” Thus, we may well ask, indeed, we must ask, What lessons about true conversion can we learn from Augustine’s conversion?
Our First Lesson: The Importance of the Use of Means in Conversion
There is a debate in some Reformed circles over views of conversion which emphasize the importance of nurture in conversion and views which emphasize that conversion is a sudden event which often takes place without previous preparation in the context of revival. Now without getting deeply involved in that debate, it is clear that the use of means were vitally important to Augustine’s conversion.
The Means of Prayer—Monica
There may be no famous instance in the history of Christianity of the importance of parental nurture, but especially of parental prayers than the example of Monica. From this we learn that persevering prayer which never gives up on praying for the object of one’s concern is a mighty means in the conversion of sinners. We should never give up on the possibility of God answering our prayers in the conversion of our loved ones.
The Means of Preaching—Ambrose
The instruction from Ambrose which Augustine received in the years immediately preceding his conversion, and especially His preaching, is a strong encouragement to
bring our children faithfully, and others as we can persuade them, under the faithful ministry of the Word of God. It is plain that through the preaching of Ambrose Augustine experienced both an increasingly clear understanding of the truthfulness of the Christian religion and an increasingly deep conviction of sin. These things plainly led to (were the means of) his conversion.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.