A Response to The Oxford Handbook of Religious
Conversion from two Perspectives
Anne C. Spencer
Published online: 15 June 2016
Abstract This review considers the The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion (Rambo
and Farhadian 2014) from the perspective of Western counseling practice and its applicability
to Eastern religious traditions. The Handbook presents a nuanced approach to conversion that
emphasizes its complex and dynamic qualities, providing counselors/pastors with practical
perspectives to enhance their understanding of people in various stages of a conversion career.
By addressing non-Abrahamic traditions, The Handbook also looks at Bconversion^ from a
wider perspective, raising issues about whether it can legitimately be applied to traditions that
do not share Western religious assumptions (such as exclusivity) and religious identity. From
both perspectives, The Handbook challenges readers to expand their perspectives and rethink
their preconceived notions of religious conversion, especially those assumptions based on
Western Protestant interpretation of the story of Paul’s conversion.
I attained adulthood with a rather simplistic view of conversion based on the story I heard in
Sunday school of the conversion of Paul. And it is clear from The Oxford Handbook of
Religious Conversion (henceforth The Handbook) itself that I am not alone in having been
influenced by the Pauline conversion story. In fact, as shown in Table 1, 12 of the 33 chapters
include at least a passing reference to Paul; of these, 10 refer specifically to Paul’sconversion.
During my time studying The Handbook I found myself increasingly preoccupied with images
such as Rubens’s(1601) painting The Conversion of St. Paul and imagined it imposingly
casting both a light and a shadow over all discussions of conversion.
Pastoral Psychol (2018) 67:219–226
* Anne C. Spencer
Campus Ministries, The College of Idaho, 2112 Cleveland Blvd, Caldwell, ID 83605, USA
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016