Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Systematic Theology

First Advisor

David Maxwell

Scripture References in this Resource

1 Corinthians 2:8–10; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; Ecclesiastes 2:4–5; Luke 7:48–49; Romans 6:5; Acts 16:14; Romans 1:20; Revelation 14:6, 7; Isaiah 64:5–8; Genesis 1:9, 24; John 1:14; Colossians 1:15–17; Genesis 1:26 ff; Romans 1:22–23; Habakkuk 11:1–2; Genesis 31:19; Romans 6:1–14; John 14:6b; Acts 4:12; Proverbs 46:10; Acts 22:10; James 2:19; 1 Corinthians 5:17


Zehnder, David, J. “A Theology of Religious Change.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2011. 218 pp.

This essay sets up a dialogue between the sociology and psychology of religious change (conversion’s human side) and conversion (theologically defined) to prove that empirical research into change experience, ideology as an attracting force to religion, and social networks’ influence on conversion does not threaten theology’s assertions but can help to clarify theology’s tasks in communicating to various audiences. Science helps theology through a correlational model of interaction developed in the study. The correlational method first asks of science: Why do people change religiously? Once science has clarified change’s psycho-social motivations, theology is prepared to ask what resources it has to communicate its tenets to people developing faith under those motivations.

The underlying principle is that theologians and church leaders must consider their audience if they are to communicate effectively. Using social science is one method to learn how theology becomes meaningful to audiences on several levels of analysis. Though very practical in spirit, the study is designed ultimately to provide a richer understanding of salvation than anything currently available and to inform the question that has continually puzzled theology: Why does a person comes to believe the gospel?

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.