Paul's conversion and its impact on his theology have been studied extensively. Yet little has been done to relate this to Paul's attitude towards the conversion of others, or to perspectives on conversion held by converts in the churches Paul founded. Soteriology is often considered in isolation from the practical issues of how conversion was expected to take place and the nature of its expected consequences.
This book addresses these issues, taking account of recent developments in conversion studies in the social sciences and other disciplines. Stephen Chester first reviews these developments and assesses the potential value of sociologist Anthony Gidden's general social theory of structuration. He then utilizes this to explore Paul's perspectives on conversion in relation to both Gentile and Jewish converts. He also explores the Corinthians' perspectives on conversion in the context of Graeco-Roman religious and social life. Here emerges a fascinating account of perspectives on conversion in the crucial formative years of early Christianity.
“Perspectives on Conversion in Paul’s Theology and the Corinthian Church” (Page iii)
“καλέω the only verb used by Paul which refers directly to conversion in a majority of cases” (Page 60)
“certainty.166 This is a competence possessed solely by God.” (Page 197)
“Paul does not consider that his preaching ability played any part in the Corinthians’ conversion, instead conceiving of himself as simply a channel for the power of God reaching out to them. Again, the emphasis is firmly on divine initiative. The Corinthians are in Christ entirely ἐξ αὐτοῦ (of him, 1:30), not because of Paul. The counter-cultural pattern of God’s calling activity (1:26–29) is precisely ὅπως μὴ καυχήσεται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ (so that no-one might boast before God, 1:29).” (Page 83)
“‘an experience rooted in both self and society. It involves a personally acknowledged transformation of self and a socially recognised display of change.’” (Page 13)
Stephen J. Chester is academic dean and professor of New Testament at North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, the seminary of the Evangelical Covenant Church. He appreciates North Park as a context where “the life of the mind, the goal of practical ministry, and the need for a deep devotional life are held together as equal values.” Dr. Chester is from the UK and came to North Park in 2006, having previously served on the faculty of International Christian College, Glasgow. He is ordained in the Church of Scotland, and is the author of Conversion at Corinth: Perspectives on Conversion in Paul’s Theology and the Corinthian Church and one of the coauthors of Perspectives on our Struggle with Sin: Three Views of Romans 7. He has become deeply interested in the history of Pauline interpretation and is currently writing Righteousness in Christ: Paul, the Reformers, and the New Perspective (forthcoming).
Dr. Chester’s ministry commitments and experiences have largely been in urban contexts. He is married to Betsy, a kindergarten teacher, and they have two adult sons, Iain and Mark. They are members of Immanuel Evangelical Covenant Church, a multiethnic church in a diverse neighborhood. Stephen enjoys his family, watching and refereeing soccer, and pitching in Chicago softball.