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date: 12 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines issues and themes in the history of Christian conversion through the lens of a single twentieth-century evangelical conversion narrative—that of the author’s father. It analyzes this narrative by examining historical factors (the immediate, proximate, and distant context), autobiographical reconstruction, the psychological theory of William James, and the sociological categories of type (tradition transition, institutional transition, affiliation, intensification, and deconversion) and motif (intellectual, mystical, experimental, affectional, revivalist, and coercive). It argues that while conversion, as word and concept and as process and event, is central to Christianity, it manifests itself in multiform ways over time and place. The complexity of the phenomenon requires attention to semantics (definitions and explanations of conversion), history (the social, political, cultural, and theological context), and a range of theoretical models and methodological approaches.

Keywords: Christianity, conversion, conversion motifs, conversion types, autobiography

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