Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels

Article excerpt

Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels by Scot McKnight Westminster John Knox, Louisville, 2002. 214 pp. $18.95. ISBN 0-664-22514-4.

EFFECTIVELY INTEGRATING biblical and sociological studies with classical and contemporary biographies, McKnight provides a balanced and wide-ranging analysis of Christian conversion. While firmly rooted in his evangelical tradition, McKnight takes pains to appreciate the rich and varied process of "turning to Jesus" in the gospels and subsequent Christian history, including authentic experiences of (1) lifelong socialization into the believing community, (2) participation in established liturgical initiation rites, and (3) individual decisions of repentance and faith.

Building on Lewis Rambo's delineation of typical "stages" of conversion and Gauri Viswanathan's emphasis on conversion as a form of socio-political dissent, McKnight more specifically unpacks the dynamics of Christian conversion in six "dimensions": context, crisis, quest, encounter, commitment, and consequence. Applying this grid to the gospel portraits of Jesus' followers (converts), McKnight discovers less focus on traumatic turnaround (a la Paul's Damascus Road ordeal) and stark religious reorientation (from non-believer to believer) than is often assumed. …