Does Cognitive Dissonance Theory Explain Christianity?

Dec 29, 2022 | Blog Essays, New posts

Does Cognitive Dissonance Theory Explain Christianity?

 

A Challenge for Christians:

Matthew Hartke has published a very interesting sceptical account of Christian belief based on Cognitive Dissonance Theory[1]. It is well-written, with significant detail, and admirably clear. Hartke argues that Cognitive Dissonance Theory (CDT) explains why early Christian eschatology “developed in some of the strange and surprising ways that it did”. In particular, he argues that followers of Jesus clung to their belief that he is the promised Messiah despite (apparent) non-fulfilment of Messianic  expectations in “real life” and that CDT explains this “strange” anomaly “more than anything else”. Thus, it is a sceptical argument about persistent belief in Jesus, and is contrary to the Christian claim that Jesus’ true identity is confirmed by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit and prophecy.

Hartke concentrates on providing a positive account of his case, rather than discussing potential objections. As a Catholic Christian convert I present a critique and counter-arguments, hopefully in a similar respectful spirit towards the truth.

 

Hartke’s Argument:

Hartke argues that post-crucifixion, followers of Jesus were faced with apparent failed prophecy because the traditional Messianic expectations were (it is claimed) unfulfilled.[2] Hartke quotes N. T. Wright to express those traditional expectations:

  • “That the power and domination of paganism had been broken
  • That YHWH had already returned to Zion
  • That the covenant had been renewed
  • And Israel’s sins forgiven
  • That the long-awaited ‘new exodus’ had happened?…That the exile was really over?”

Given their strong commitment to Jesus as the promised Messiah, Hartke argues that this caused cognitive dissonance amongst the believers. But Instead of discarding their belief, they doubled down on it, revising the original prophecies by manipulating interpretation of scripture to fit their belief in Jesus. Hartke says this led them to split the eschatological expectation into two parts:

  1. Claimed fulfilment now, of “spiritual intangible things” – invisible, not testable, only in the hearts of followers, amounting to “1%” of the total prophetic promise; and
  2. The unfulfilled greater part of things traditionally associated with the kingdom, which would be external, measurable, amounting to “99%” of the total prophetic promise.

Hartke claims that this creates a “strange” situation in the New Testament in which the climax of history is talked of in the past tense, but that the things prophesied are not yet apparent in “real life”. Instead they are only apparent in the “hearts of believers” implying an untestable, merely subjective claim. He argues that this makes the Christian claim of Messianic fulfilment “suspicious” “convenient” “ad hoc” unfalsifiable, and thus not credible.

Hartke goes on to argue that the above observations are better explained by Cognitive Dissonance Theory (CDT) rather than Divinely fulfilled prophecy. He says that according to CDT:

the more they commit themselves to that belief, the harder they will work to protect that belief from dissonance or try to reduce existing dissonance without abandoning that belief.

In support of his case Hartke refers to, “dozens upon dozens of messianic and apocalyptic movements” who decrease cognitive dissonance from unfulfilled prophecies by “reinterpreting their prophecies” in a ”process of spiritualization” that transforms the original prophetic content from external, tangible and testable fulfillments, to untestable internal ones. Hartke uses the aptly named “Great Disappointment” of the Protestant Millerite movement, 1844, to illustrate his case.

For clarity, I have drawn out what seem to be the key claims supporting Hartke’s sceptical argument:

1. The relevant prophecies were not fulfilled ( in an exterior, measurable way). This led to cognitive dissonance amongst the disciples given their earlier commitment to Jesus

2. The disciples “spiritualized” the prophecies by an unwarranted re-interpretation of them, in order to resolve the dissonance

3. The prophecies that were fulfilled amounted to only 1% of the whole, leaving 99% unfulfilled

4. The “spiritualized” part that is claimed to be fulfilled does not differ significantly from experience in other traditions

5. (1)-(4) together are better explained by CDT than by Jesus really being the promised Messiah.

I shall return to these shortly, but first let me note my agreement with Hartke.

 

What I Don’t Dispute:

As a psychiatrist who has witnessed countless delusions in people with mental illness, often extremely bizarre, held fixedly despite evidence to the contrary, I am well aware of the human potential to cling to belief beyond evidence. I also accept that personally involving supernatural belief concepts are especially powerful in this respect, in fact in 2004 I wrote a thesis on this topic in relation to delusions in schizophrenia.[3] Even in the absence of frank mental illness, I accept that humans often cling to false beliefs because of existentially emotive factors.

I also believe Cognitive Dissonance Theory is a respectable theory that helps to explain aspects of belief formation and maintenance. Further, I agree that CDT has relevance in the domain of religious belief formation, even within Christianity, although I would add that it is simply one process among many.

I accept that reinterpretation of prophecy often occurs in religious movements, following apparent failed fulfilment, and that CDT may explain why adherents don’t discard their belief in some instances. My own window into this phenomenon was through reading Anthony Storr’s wonderful book Feet of Clay – A Study of Gurus. [4] It is thus very plausible to me that CDT is relevant to explaining what happened in the “Great Disappointment” of the Millerite movement in 1844, which Hartke refers to.

So, with all this agreement, what exactly do I dispute? Am I simply trying to protect my own favoured Catholic Christianity from a similar sceptical treatment, because of personal involvement in it?

 

Conversion in the Holy Spirit – Missing from Hartke’s Account:

Hartke’s thesis is not confined to the 19th century Millerite group – a group considered heretical by the Catholic Church[5]. Instead, Hartke argues that the founders of the early Church, including apostles, also engaged in unwarranted prophecy re-interpretation in order to save their belief in Jesus as the Messiah. He implies that those disciples – at some cognitive level – perceived Jesus to have failed to fulfil prophecy, and that confirmation of his Messianic identity was missing (dissonance). Thus they had to re-interpret prophecy in an unwarranted, “spiritualized” way, in order to protect their prior belief commitment.

The issue at stake here is not only whether Jesus fulfilled this or that particular prophecy expectation – though that is important – but whether the disciples had sufficient confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah. That is sufficient confirmation to believe it and proclaim it, risking severe persecution and death.

The Catholic Church teaches that rational conviction, confirming faith, comes via the interplay of inner and outer factors, both the “interior help of the Holy Spirit” and “exterior proofs…especially miracles and prophecies”. It is this co-ordinated coherence which is key. It is not all exterior.[6]

For Hartke to maintain his thesis however, not only does he present a partial view of the relevant prophecies, but he completely diminishes that vital interior aspect, the interior witness, known to Christians as the Holy Spirit[7].

No doubt Hartke is sceptical that such a Spirit even exists. However, as shared evidence we have 2000 years of witness reports since Pentecost: of specific phenomenology, as foretold; of transformed lives; of holy Saints; and of a Church that has been extended and renewed in her mission over and over, especially by these particular witnesses of the Holy Spirit. Examine, for example, the legacies of Saints Anthony Abbott, Benedict of Nursia, Francis of Assisi, Bernard of Clairvaux, Ignatius of Loyola – each of great importance in the Church’s mission. Note their conversion stories, and the role of the Holy Spirit. Note the fruits that have flourished through their witness for hundreds of years. Cognitive dissonance theory seems very weak at explaining all this, even if coupled with other cognitive theories.

Thus, the central phenomenon that Hartke omits from his account is “Conversion in the Holy Spirit” that prototypical Christian Spiritual conversion promised by Jesus as a re-birth from above to those who love him, and who are obedient to his commands.[8]

To the extent that Hartke does refer to this phenomenon it is diminished so as to become insignificant in his account. He refers to the “1%” of “spiritual intangible things” of an unwarranted “spiritualized” prophecy message, and that this spiritual witness is “phenomenologically indistinguishable from the subjective claims of countless other religious movements”. This is in contrast to the “99%” that he says remains unfulfilled.

 

Significance of the Interior Witness:

This interior witness is absolutely key to confirmation of Jesus’ identity. Jesus is emphatic about it:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you…the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14:15–17, 26)

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. (John 15:26)

The Holy Spirit thus has a key epistemological role in confirming Jesus’ true identity. It is this confirmation which is key. The New Testament witnesses give clues as to how the Holy Spirit achieves this, by: teaching (Luke 12:12, John 6:45; 14:21; 14;26), testifying (John 15:26, Acts 20:22-23), reminding (John 14:26), declaring (John 16:13), telling and prompting (John 10:27, Acts 10:19), imparting knowledge and wisdom (John 17:3; Ephesians 1:17-18; Colossians 2:2; 2 Peter 1:3), and revealing the Father’s action (Matthew 11:27; Luke 2:25-27; 10:21). By becoming aware of this inner-outer co-ordination with intentional direction, the disciples are led to “full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5–6).

Such things are not spoken of in much detail in the academic literature on the evidential role of religious experience, however they are central to the process of Conversion in the Holy Spirit and discipleship calling. It is by such things that God leads the receptive person to discern that what is happening is not merely subjective, but has a transcendent, objective cause.

Sr. Gill Goulding, writing on discipleship calling, highlights how profound this leading into truth can be:

The process of knowing…is primarily God’s act of disclosing or unveiling objective content to the thought of the receptive human person who then awakens to knowing in wonder and amazement (pg. 118)…This love is the divine dynamic operative within human reality calling to relationship and for the believing Christian this relationship is an interaction with the divine life of the Trinity. (pg. 119)[12]

The Book of the Acts of the Apostles is full of hints of the Holy Spirit’s interactive action amongst the early disciples, co-ordinating inner and outer events and decisions to assist with their understanding and mission. It may be tempting to dismiss all that as pre-scientific primitive thought. However, this is not simply of the past, but is occurring today, and has been a constant witness throughout Christian history, especially on the path of discipleship.

The Prophet Isaiah was clear that with the Spiritual out-pouring of the new covenant, followers would be guided along “paths they have not known” (Isaiah 42:16) and “be taught by the Lord” (Isaiah 54:13). Jesus repeats these very words to his disciples, preparing them to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost:

It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. (John 6:45)

 

‘Doubting’ Thomas – Probing and Testing

Fr Donald Haggerty is a Catholic priest and spiritual director for a Catholic religious order. Drawing on his long experience of hearing conversions in the Holy Spirit, Fr Haggerty has written one of the most insightful books on the topic. Here, Fr Haggerty uses the famous example  of “Doubting” Thomas, to explain that the interactive probing and testing that Jesus invited Thomas into is repeated over and over in conversions today[9]:

The summons by Jesus to Saint Thomas the Apostle after the Resurrection to place his finger in the nail marks and his hand in his side is repeated again in conversions. Our Lord wants this probing, this sustained gaze and inquiry…

Doubting Thomas (detail) by Guercino (1591-1666)

So, regarding confirmation of Jesus’ true identity, the interior witness of the Holy Spirit conveys not only subjective certitude through its transformative power, but also confirmation to the critical reasoning mind through intentional leading, prompting and revealing. There is no need to rely upon mere feelings, ineffable intuitions and other purely subjective phenomena. The Holy Spirit reveals his objective reality by particular, intentional disclosures. This is well known to those whose vocation it is to listen carefully to conversions and callings.

Let me now return to the topic of prophecy and whether there was a need for the early disciples to engage in any spurious prophecy re-interpretation.

 

Prophecy – A New Covenant of the Spirit

Conversion in the Holy Spirit, the interior witness, and the probing and testing of being taught by the Lord are all phenomenon foretold as part of the New Covenant promise made several centuries before Jesus:

I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31, 33–34)

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28)

I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord. (Jeremiah 24:7)

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; & I will remove from your body the heart of stone & give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, & make you follow my statutes & be careful to observe my ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:26–27)

The giving of this new Spirit which transforms hearts, allowing communion and knowledge of God, and complete forgiveness of sins is inseparable from the promised Messiah-Saviour:

I have put my spirit upon him [Messiah-Saviour]; he will bring forth justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1)…I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6)…This is my covenant with them, says the Lord: my Spirit that is upon you [Messiah-Saviour] (Isaiah 59:21)

It is also inseparable from the promise to be a light to pagan nations globally:

I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6).

This is to fulfil the earlier promise to Abraham, that he will be “the ancestor of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:4), and his “offspring” “as numerous as the stars of heaven” (Genesis 22:17), and that through them “all the nations of the earth gain blessing” (Genesis 22:18). These promises are all one movement progressing from the very first pages of Genesis as the universal plan of salvation, to conquer evil (Genesis 3:15) to “circumcise” hearts in order to know and love God, and so gain eternal life (Deuteronomy 30:6).

This is the heart of the eschatological promise, not simply for geographical Israel, but for New Israel – all spiritual descendants of Abraham. To repeat, it is a promise of

  • Inner, spiritual transformation of the heart;
  • Complete forgiveness of sins;
  • Permanent restoration of communion with God
  • Personal, intimate, knowledge of God;
  • Formation into a new People of God;
  • All this Inaugurated by a Spirit-anointed Messiah-Saviour figure;

So has this really been fulfilled, or is it being fulfilled now?

Fulfilment at Pentecost and Ever Since:

Post-resurrection, Jesus specifically instructed his disciples to be ready for the promised Spirit:

I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)…you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:5, 8)

And according to witnesses, this happened on the day known as Pentecost (33AD):

Divided tongues, as of fire,appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability(Acts 2:1–4)

Pentecost (detail) by Jean Restout II (1692–1768)

The Acts of the Apostles and New Testament letters then testify to the operations of this power among them: teaching, testifying, reminding, declaring, telling, prompting, imparting knowledge and wisdom, revealing the Father’s action, and giving full conviction (see Significance of the Interior Witness for scripture references.)

Of course, many people dismiss the earliest written witness reports, assuming them to be untrustworthy, as if the early Christians were hallucinating, deluded or decided to make it all up.

Against this highly sceptical view, however, we have 2000 years of consistent witness to the Holy Spirit happening now, globally, and in every century since Pentecost with the same core phenomenology. This core phenomenology matches what was prophesied hundreds of years before Jesus, and matches what happened at Pentecost. Here are just three examples:

I myself was held in bonds by the innumerable errors of my previous life…But after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of my former life was washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, was infused into my reconciled heart… a second birth restored me to a new man. Then, in a wondrous manner every doubt began to fade…. I clearly understood that what had first lived within me, enslaved by the vices of the flesh, was earthly and that what, instead, the Holy Spirit had wrought within me was divine and heavenly. (St. Cyprian 3rd Century, Bishop of Carthage)

Day by day the blessed father Francis was being filled with the consolation and the grace of the Holy Spirit ….He recalled in the bitterness of his soul the years he spent badly, frequently repeating this phrase: “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Gradually, an indescribable joy and tremendous sweetness began to well up deep in his heart. He began to lose himself; his feelings were pressed together; and that darkness disappeared which fear of sin had gathered in his heart. Certainty of the forgiveness of all his sins poured in, and the assurance of being revived in grace was given to him. Then he was caught up above himself and totally engulfed in light and, with his inmost soul opened wide, he clearly saw the future. As that sweetness and light withdrew, renewed in spirit, he now seemed to be changed into another man. (St. Francis of Assisi 12-13th Century, Founder of the Franciscan Order)

Heaven was opened and a fiery light of exceeding brilliance came and permeated my whole brain, and inflamed my whole heart and my whole breast, not like a burning but like a warming flame, as the sun warms anything its rays touch. And immediately I knew the meaning of the exposition of the Scriptures. (St. Hildegard of Bingen 11th-12th Century Monastery Abbess, writer, composer, philosopher)

A close examination of the spiritual conversions of many of the most influential promoters of the Gospel (i.e the saints) reveal a familiar pattern:

  • Light – visible and invisible, descending upon the person
  • Re-birth – new creation, new heart, new Spirit
  • Victory over sin – complete forgiveness, release from chains, aversion to sin
  • Joy & Peace – inexpressible, unsurpassed in value
  • Revelation – veil lifted, eyes opened to the Kingdom
  • Presence of God within – indwelling Spirit, helper, guide
  • Ability – love, virtue, chastity, prayer, worship, understanding of scripture

This same pattern occurs whether or not the person has been en-cultured into Christian knowledge. This is illustrated abundantly in a PhD study of conversions in India by Joshua Iyadurai:[10]

Converts in my study were shocked and perplexed in experiencing Jesus as the divine-human encounter, as it was contrary to their religious belief (pg. 155)…Converts describe the divine-human encounter as an experience of the truth (pg. 161)…they were not Christians trained to recognise the presence of Jesus. The divine-human encounter was a surprise gift from God and they instantly identified the divine with Jesus (pg. 167)…They feel that all their former years were wasted for not knowing Jesus earlier (pg. 180)

Two of Iyadurai’s many examples were Sania and Avarind. Sania, from a Muslim family had a vision of Jesus whilst studying engineering. “I did not have any doubt…I just knew it was Jesus. She fell to her knees in prayer and became aware of her impurity due to the “brightness around me”. Avarind, a Hindu college professor, was transformed suddenly after praying to Jesus: “I felt as if I were born in a different kingdom” and his faith became unshakeable”. Jesus was at the centre of these conversions in some way or other, not any figure from their own tradition, and in many cases the sudden transformation was initiated by mystical light, as at Pentecost.

So many more examples could be given, and there is much more to say. However, let me return to Hartke’s key claims.

 

Concluding Comments:

1. The relevant prophecies were not fulfilled ( in an exterior, measurable way). This led to cognitive dissonance amongst the disciples given their earlier commitment to Jesus:

I have made the case that the central part of the Messianic-Salvation promise of a heart-transforming Spiritual out-pouring (light from above, dwells within, releases from and forgives sins, empowers to know and love God) is indeed being fulfilled and that this began as foretold at Pentecost. I have given several examples from across history and from non-Christian cultures. I have emphasised the fullness of such conversions is associated with outstanding discipleship (E.g. Sts Francis, Ignatius, Bernard, Benedict, Augustine, Hildegard).

It is important to note that Messianic expectations were diverse and complex in Judaism around the time just prior to Jesus with many different motifs. While many expected an external, material manifestation of key prophecy fulfilment (e.g. a military and political triumph), it was also apparent, pre-Jesus, that the Messianic prophecies pointed towards something far more mysterious: something pre-existing, eternal, universal and Divine. The Essenes community, for example, expected a heavenly Messiah, who would bring a heavenly Kingdom – in keeping with 2000 years of testimony.

Regarding the prophecy expectations noted by N.T. Wright (who does not doubt Jesus is the Messiah): it is apparent that paganism has been much broken, with 2.3 billion Christians now in the world and growing. The New Covenant Spiritual out-pouring has begun and is ongoing. There is clearly more to come. Sins are forgiven and YHWH (God) has returned to those who obey Jesus (end of exile). Such conversions are experienced as a “new exodus” – a radical rupture from a worldly life to a spiritual life.

2. The disciples “spiritualised” the prophecies by an unwarranted re-interpretation of them, in order to resolve the dissonance

It should be clear that there was no need for the disciples to engage in any unwarranted spiritual re-interpretation, as the prophecies were about the coming Spirit at the very core, with interior transformation, new ability to be open to Divine knowledge and relationship at the heart of this promise.

3. The prophecies that were fulfilled amounted to only 1% of the whole, leaving 99% unfulfilled.

With the heart-transforming spiritual conversions across 20 centuries, and in practically every culture globally (“all nations”), leading to a new people of God, now numbering some 2.3 billion “as numerous as the stars of heaven” (Genesis 22:17), it is clearly not true to say that the fulfilled aspect that is observable amounts to only”1%” of the Messianic promise.

We must acknowledge however, that the work is not complete. Increasing numbers of people of Jewish descent now recognise Jesus as the true Messiah. We must have great sensitivity around this topic, but it is a noteworthy fact. There is clearly more to come, as Jesus also promised.

4. The “spiritualised” part that is claimed to be fulfilled does not differ significantly from experience in other traditions

The claim that Christian spiritual conversion and life in the Spirit is not significantly different from religious experience in other traditions is often made but never well-evidenced. When I ask for examples people usually go very quiet, or give examples which are not at all analogous in significance. That is not at all to say that religious experience in other traditions cannot be authentic, but simply to say that there is something utterly unique about Conversion in the Holy Spirit through Jesus in phenomenology, prophetic foretelling and global significance.

Do people receive sudden profound experiential forgiveness of sins, heart transformation, and new ability to know and love God in other traditions, forming a new people of God globally because of this. Was this, or something analogous, clearly foretold in those traditions?

5. (1)-(4) together are better explained by Cognitive Dissonance Theory, than Jesus really being the promised Messiah.

Thus, I must disagree with Hartke on the basis of this abundant evidence, merely sketched out here. Cognitive Dissonance Theory does not explain early Christianity. What explains early Christianity, and its persistence, is the interior witness of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit gives a glimpse of the Kingdom, and recipients are left in no doubt who is upon the throne, whether the recipient be from a Christian background or not. Far deeper than merely a feeling or sensory-perceptual experience, the Spirit has knowledge-giving ability, leading the person intentionally to confirm the transcendent source. This is the “hidden treasure” (`Matthew 13:44) that disciples proclaim so that all may receive it. Apart from the interior aspects, the Spirit has abundant effects exteriorly through the Church and the lives of the Saints. It is not merely for “mystics” but for all who obey Jesus, especially on the path of committed discipleship.[11]

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. (John 16:13)

+++

Thank you for taking the time to read this overly long and hastily written blog. Whatever your own beliefs or religion, may you be blessed in 2023 and in your lifelong seeking of Truth.

Andrew +

 

Notes & References:

[1] Hartke, Matthew (2022) An Unshakable Kingdom: How Cognitive Dissonance Explains Christianity – published online 21st Nov 2022.

https://mlHartke.wordpress.com/author/mattHartke/

[2] In particular the prophecies of Isaiah 40-66, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah.

[3] Parker, Andrew (2004) Folk Metaphysics and Delusional Beliefs in Schizophrenia

https://www.academia.edu/91750910/Folk_Metaphysics_and_Delusional_Beliefs_in_Schizophrenia_2004_

[4] Storr, Anthony (1996) Feet of Clay – A Study of Gurus. Harper Collins.

[5] The Millerites followed the teachings of William Miller, a Baptist Minister (1782-1849) who predicted that Jesus’ second coming would be in the 1840s. However, the Catholic Church is clear, basing Her view on Jesus’ words in scripture, that the time of the second coming cannot be known:

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36)

[6] First Vatican Council (1870) Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith – Dei Filius

[7] See Gospel of John, chapter 14.

AND:

https://catholicstrength.com/tag/the-theological-principle-of-the-indwelling-of-god-within-the-soul/

[8] An eight year dialogue between the Catholic and Pentecostal Churches studied the phenomenonology of Christian conversion across Christian history, and came to this summary description from witness accounts:

It is through the reception of this gift or grace from God that God reveals Himself in a personal and life­ transforming way to the believer. The result is that the believer is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and becomes aware in a new and powerful way, of the presence of the risen and glorified Christ (cf. Jn 16:14). This encounter enables the believer to become a stronger witness for Christ (Acts 1:8) and to experience a deeper dimension of prayer and worship (1 Cor 12-14).

http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/dialoghi/sezione-occidentale/pentecostali/dialogo/documenti-di-dialogo/testo-del-documento-in-inglese1.html

[9] Father Donald Haggerty (2017) Conversion: Spiritual Insights into an Essential Encounter with God, Ignatius Press

[10] Joshua Iyadurai (2015) Transformative Religious Experience: A Phenomenological Understanding of Religious Conversion, Pickwick Publications.

[11] Fr Haggerty again:

At the heart of every conversion is an encounter with the mystery of God himself. We come to know that God is utterly personal and real in his mystery, with eyes of a secret penetration cast upon our soul. In a unique way for each person, he enters within our life to invite us to fix our gaze in the direction of his approach. If we allow ourselves to be drawn and step closer a brief unmasking may take place. We know him indisputably as our Lord and our God. All our prior reflection about God may seem at that hour unfocused and superficial, a chasing after shadows. For we perceive now the he possesses an exquisite personal quality beyond any previous idea we may have had. The certainty of faith of his presence in near proximity to our soul leads quite spontaneously to the prostration of our spirit before him. Every dramatic discovery of God in a conversion provokes us to our knees, ready now to pray from a deeper layer of soul, drawn to prayer often for the first time in our life.

Father Donald Haggerty (2017) Conversion: Spiritual Insights into an Essential Encounter with God, Ignatius Press

[12]Sr. Gill Goulding (22013) The Irreducible Particularity of Christ – Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theology of vocation, In: The Disciples’ Call: Theologies of Vocation from Scripture to the Present Day (Jamison 2013)

by Andrew JR Parker

Grateful to Christ. Proclaiming the Word of God.

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