Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why is God Not a Factor in Conversion?


            The role that psychology plays in understanding the conversion experience is a quest that has not yet been fully realized, though the process began in the late nineteenth century (Scroggs & Douglas). The ways Psychology has studied the phenomena of conversation varies quite a lot depending on the goal of the researcher. There seems to be four basic approaches, the first of which is called the psychoanalytic approach in which assumes conversion is caused by extreme emotion, shaped by the way a person feels, either hatred or ambivalent feelings towards parents (usually the father figure). The second approach, the behaviorist or experimental approach looks at environmental reasons for conversion. The third approach is called the humanistic/trans-personal view where the person converts as a way of achieving self-fulfillment and actualization. Rambo and Bauman (1967) remark that all of these views taken by themselves come to the conclusion that conversion is a matter of psychopathology and that a fourth view, known as social or holistic, better explains conversion by synthesizing the best qualities of the other three views.
            These views help illuminate a multiplicity of factors that contribute to conversion; but not a lot has been done to advocate God’s involvement in the process. The first thing that must be realized, about the professionals and their approaches, to understanding conversion is that they and we, are subject to our own world views and personal experience (Author included).Why is the world in such a hurry to look at every factor that causes conversion except the most important one; the possibility that God himself influences conversion? Any attempt to see a super natural cause for conversation seems to be ignored by “science” and I think it’s because if it were true, the phenomenon cannot be re-created, manipulated, or controlled.  Anyone who claims to take a scientific approach has a responsibility to examine the spiritual causes and reasons for conversion by first exploring the crazy idea that God may exist. Otherwise, how can psychological and scientific inquirers claim to be objective if they are willing to examine all the possibilities but one—the God factor—that perhaps conversion is real and based on a real God? We have to decide if humans are spiritual and physical beings before looking at any super-natural claims. There are studies, that examine scientific data that supports a dualistic view of humanity (material and immaterial) through the subject of Near Death Experiences (NDE). I believe NDE studies make the spiritual realm not just theoretical, but factual, backed by supportive data. The point is, if the spiritual realm has data supporting its existence, is a God caused conversion that far off? Or are we to except that God cannot be involved because he does not exist? I believe God is involved in the conversion experience and I think evidence in the NDE supports this idea.
            This brings me back to ideology, worldview, and presuppositions. It would seem that we can only get as far as our experience can take us. Causes of conversion can only be understood to the degree in which we have already experienced or not experienced conversion. One could analyze the conversion of others, but until they themselves experience it, conversion may always be viewed as psycho-pathological, possibly even a diagnosable disease. The conversion experience is happening all over the world, and whether it is caused by emotional, environmental, cultural, a growth producing desire for self realization, God instigated, and/or a collection of all of these things, the validity of the experience is the point of it all. I think it’s our job to ask ourselves if the experience of conversion is true. I challenge you reader to do some digging, look at NDE, and examine your worldview to see if your view of humanity can allow for a material/immaterial duality of being as a possibility. Perhaps you will discover truth behind the experiences of others and their descriptions of conversation. I believe as a Christian (my presupposition) conversion to Christ can happen through the written testimony found in the Bible or the preaching of the risen Christ. Some places in the world, people are experiencing what they describe as Christ himself appearing to them, challenging them to follow Him. I know that’s out there, but what if their testimony is true?



  1. I've never really looked into the psychological theories behind Christian conversion, but the constructs presented here are kind of interesting. Instead of throwing out all of these notions of conversion, it may be beneficial to take a look at them. This reminds me of the blind men and the elephant - not getting the full picture of the elephant but what they are examining could lead to more information about specifics that the seeing man could not normally get. Examining these theories does require an understanding of ones own faith, so that when these semi-reductionistic theories are examined one can properly see where (and if) they fit in with the Christian conversion experience. Christians understand that God is involved, but scientific theories can discount that and then they are left with people who convert to a religion and they try and explain that psychologically. I just think it'd be interesting to see if they have come up with any correlation's of conversions and common themes of behavior.

  2. I agree that any concept, conversions included, can be much better understood as a whole by anyone that has experienced it instead of simply studying about it. I also agree with Jason's comment that those who study conversion are at least getting a glimpse of what it means, though they may not fully understand it. I am curious to know if conversion to Evangelical Christianity is lumped in with conversion to other religions. It could impact those that are researching and make it easier to simplify conversion down to nothing more than a science. I think that God is ultimately the one behind each of the four types of conversion when it is true conversion. Hopefully Christians will continue to contribute to research that is published on the topic and can share insight that others might overlook, such as God's involvement in conversion.


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