TURNING: Reflections on the Experience of Conversion by Emilie Griffin

TURNING: Reflections on the Experience of Conversion

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A sensitive, informal little study by, of all people, an advertising executive. Griffin is also a highly literate person, and on her own path to conversion (from Christian Science to churchlessness to Anglicanism to Catholicism) she followed a rather bookish group of believers: C. S. Lewis, Bede Griffiths, Thomas Merton, and Avery Dulles, among others. While this hardly makes for a dramatic story (and Griffin writes guardedly about her private life anyway), she describes the process of conversion--hers and her models'--with honesty and acumen. As she sees it, the experience breaks down into four stages: desire (a state of restless, often unfocused longing, akin to Lewis' Sehnsucht), dialectic (where one rationally thrashes out one's objections to faith), struggle (the effort of the will when the intellect has gone as far as it can), and finally surrender to God. Griffin disagrees with William James' classic treatment of conversion at several points, particularly over the blissful sense of peace and integration which he, but not she, finds in the aftermath of ""letting go."" Even now, she insists, her doubts and problems remain. On the whole Griffin's account is quite believable, but it leaves two large questions unanswered: a) why she became a Catholic (her brief rhapsody on the ""beauty of the Body of Christ"" shining through the Church's many blemishes is vague and unconvincing); and b) how, exactly, conversion changed her everyday life (after some hesitation Griffin decides to stay on Madison Avenue, observing only that Christians ""must"" strive for success, like everyone else). Distinctly unheroic, but a mature, articulate sort of Christianity.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1980
Publisher: Doubleday