Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some General refelction on the NPTS symposium on Conversion

Well, I have had a few days to mull over the 8 sessions of the NPTS Symposium on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture. I have a few general observations.
Consensus seemed to be among all participants (presenters, respondents, and attendees, who spoke) that conversion is better understood as a process in which one continues to deepen what may have been in fact the first event of conversion. There was also consensus that conversion was difficult to define in satisfactory ways that covers all instances of what we may wish to call conversion. Also there seemed to be agreement though this was not thoroughly discussed, that there are a variety of types of conversion (Lewis Rambo, in his book on conversion identifies, I believe at least four general types of conversion.) Also, most seemed to feel the need to approach conversion with care: either because the desire to see people convert has caused pain, or because questioning conversion for participants was itself (at some point in beginning the investigation) an unsettling thing, and because of the knowledge of the power dynamics involved in conversion.

The symposium also wrestled with some issues that no one came to firm conclusions. There was at times expressed both by respondents and attendees who raised questions in response to each presentation, a concern for how one would relate the sociological and psychological definitions and presentation of conversion with the Christian theological claims about conversion to or into Christian faith. The issue and problem of the relationship of Conversion to baptism and salvation were also raised. Here then were concerns about what role did humanity play and what role does God play in conversion. Even Rambo admitted that the sociological and psychological the weight is upon conversion as a human act and attempts to understand it as such. Rambo though would not then assume that the theological questions are thus answered or dealt with, and he encouraged an interdisciplinary approach for both theologians and any other discipline looking at conversion, that does not deny the distinctive perspective of each discipline. I observed a sense that for some participants the practical theological and pastoral were not dealt with directly by presenters and respondents.