chapter  4
Conversion
Pages 26

Classical Pentecostalism, as a subset of Protestant Christianity, has adopted some central Protestant themes, although it has to be noted that the wider Charismatic tradition embraces other forms of Christianity (Cartledge, 2006a). It is intimately connected to Evangelical revivalist Christianity of the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. As part of this association it is inevitable that there is an emphasis on the concept of conversion and the imperative to engage in the work of evangelism. Early British Pentecostalism understood the work of conversion to be bound to the action of Jesus as Saviour (Cartledge, 2008a). The proclamation of the gospel and the expectation that individuals would experience regeneration, respond by committing their lives to Christ, be baptised and walk the way of discipleship is strongly held. In the revivalist tradition the expectation that individuals would have dramatic encounters with God and thus be ‘turned around’ dominates popular discourse. Therefore, conversion is regarded as metanoia, or convertere (Romain, 2000: 17; Flinn, 1999: 51-52), a turning away from the old life of sin to a new life of righteousness in fellowship with God and other Christians. Some traditions would understand conversion as a process rather than as sudden and dramatic (Kreider, 1999: 21-32). Indeed, there is a continuing debate in the literature about whether conversion should be regarded as sudden or gradual (Gillespie, 1991: 12-20), also based on the different Platonic-Augustinian (crisis) and AristotelianThomist (process) traditions (Flinn, 1999: 54-55).