The Psychology Of Conversion -- By: Edward G. Lane

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 071:283 (Jul 1914)
Article: The Psychology Of Conversion
Author: Edward G. Lane

The Psychology Of Conversion

Edward G. Lane

In our day when all phenomena are subjected to the most searching scientific investigation, it is not strange that the scientists have turned their attention to the phenomena of religious experience. Modern scientific psychology is, therefore, delving into the depths of religious experiences, and, as many think, is “destined to render great service to Christianity when it thinks its problems through a little more thoroughly.” On the other hand, there is grave apprehension on the part of others, due to the fact that among a certain class of representative psychologists there has been a disposition to so explain the phenomena as to reduce it to a natural, normal, necessary experience which takes place in every life, independent of any divine operation; thus eliminating all need of external aid in the way of the presentation of the objective facts of the gospel, or the subjective work of the Holy Spirit. That there is ground for this apprehension cannot be doubted when the statements of some of the representative psychologists of the day are considered.

Before examining the scientific psychological explanation of conversion, it will help us if we get their definition of conversion. The term “conversion” has a broader meaning with the psychologist than it has with the theologian. To be exact, the psychology of conversion has to do only with the act of

turning from sin to Christ. It is unbiblical to use the word “conversion “in the sense of salvation, regeneration, etc. In the doctrinal use of the word, conversion is: (1) The act of a sinner in turning from his sin to Christ; (2) The act of a backsliding saint in turning from his backsliding again to Christ. The term is not used in this limited sense by psychologists. “To be converted, to be regenerated, to receive grace, to experience religion, to gain an assurance, are so many phrases which denote the process, gradual or sudden, by which a self hitherto divided, and consciously wrong inferior and unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right superior and happy in consequence of its firmer hold upon religious realities. This at heart is what conversion signifies in general, whether or not we believe that a direct divine operation is needed to bring such a moral change about.” This definition of the subject by Professor James gives a clear conception of what the psychology of conversion is: i.e., the process which the mind goes through in the experience of the spiritual change. The term “conversion “is used in this paper with this broader meaning.

From the above definition it will be seen that, if there is what may be called a psychology of conversion consistent with the teachin...

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