A contemporary evangelical account of conversion.
Peace, Richard Vernon.
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In the midst of the renewed interest in conversion within ecclesiastical circles as well as in the field of the psychology of religion, this dissertation proposes that a fresh examination of the biblical materials concerning conversion will shed light on the question of the nature of conversion. The approach to this issue is textual in orientation and inductive in methodology as perceived in an evangelical paradigm. Two experiences are examined, both drawn from the New Testament: that of St. Paul on the Damascus road and that of the twelve apostles during their years with Jesus. It is argued that although what happens to the Twelve is quite different experientially from what happened to Paul, nevertheless what both experienced was conversion in the New Testament sense. However, despite the frequent recourse to biblical materials, this dissertation is primarily a work of evangelical theology and pastoral psychology, not of critical New Testament studies. In the Preface, the problem is defined and set in the context of ecclesiastical and psychological discussions, the approach to the issue is defined, and the methodology delineated. In the Introduction there is a lexical summary of the various Greek words found in the New Testament related to conversion. In Part I the experience of St. Paul on the Damascus road is the focus of the examination. It is demonstrated that at its core this experience has three pans to it: repentance, faith, and discipleship. The experience is launched by the new insight Paul has into himself and into God's will and plan (repentance); it is centered in his encounter with and turning to the resurrected Jesus (faith); and it is confirmed by his acceptance and living out of the commission he is given to bear the good news of Jesus to the nations (discipleship). In Part II the experience of the Twelve is examined. In chapter four it is argued from the literary structure of the Gospel of Mark that conversion is a central theme of the Gospel. An original outline of the Gospel is developed which reflects the six part movement of the Twelve in their unfolding understanding of who Jesus is. In chapter five the case is argued in detail for Mark having structured his Gospel around an unfolding view of Jesus on the part of the disciples. And in chapter six the case is argued in detail that Mark has consciously used the components of conversion (the same ones that are seen in the conversion of St. Paul) as sub themes within his six units.