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In the realm of Christian theology, different faith traditions and denominations utilize distinct terminology to signify key events in the conversion process of non-believers. Examples of such terms I'm aware of include the new birth or born-again experience, which emphasizes a transformative experience in accepting Jesus Christ, and receiving the light of faith, highlighting the illumination that comes through faith, in contrast to the light of reason that everyone has access to, including non-believers. Less formally, I've even heard expressions such as 'having an aha moment'.

What other terms or phrases do various Christian traditions employ to express unique aspects of the conversion journey for those who were previously non-believers? I'm particularly interested in learning about both commonalities and differences in the terminology employed by different faith traditions in Christianity.

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    I think this is too broad. The Bible uses at least a dozen terms, let alone everything else Christians have come up with since.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 13 at 23:31
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    @curiousdannii Broad or not, this is a good question for purposes of documentation. Being able to synchronize and truly communicate among believers and between believers and non-believers is certainly a worthwhile effort. While it is true that we could continue eking out synonyms from the Scriptural text and our own experiences, it is sufficiently narrow as to be able to be answered objectively using common terms, many of which have been used for generations.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Jan 13 at 23:57

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The Ordo Salutis (latin for Order of Salvation) describes the steps for Protestants. (Catholics and Eastern Orthodox think about these things in a different way.) The list and the ordering of items varies by denomination. Here is the list shown on Wikipedia:

Calvinist:

  • Predestination
  • Election
  • Calling
  • Regeneration
  • Faith
  • Repentance
  • Justification
  • Adoption
  • Sanctification
  • Perseverance
  • Glorification

Amyraldian:

  • Predestination
  • Election
  • Calling
  • Faith
  • Regeneration
  • Repentance
  • Justification
  • Adoption
  • Sanctification
  • Perseverance
  • Glorification

Arminian/Wesleyan:

  • Foreknowledge
  • Calling
  • Repentance
  • Faith
  • Election
  • Justification
  • Regeneration
  • Adoption
  • Sanctification
  • Preservation
  • Glorification

Lutheran

  • Calling
  • Illumination
  • Repentance
  • Regeneration
  • Justification
  • Mystical Union
  • Sanctification
  • Conservation
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  • What are the exact definitions of these various terms, according to these denominations? Many of the terms you list do not apply to the question being posted. Wikipedia itself can show that.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jan 23 at 3:51
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What terminology do Christians use to describe specific events and experiences in the process of conversion of non-believers?

Regardless of what Christian denomination’s terminology is use, many of these various definitions will be employed by many denominations depending on circumstances and as well as exterior and interior situations that are taken place at the time of conversion.

For example, many denominations have employed the phrase of a Damascus Road Conversion, which refers to a profound, often sudden, spiritual conversion akin to what St. Paul had along the road to Damascus.

A Damascus Road Conversion refers to a profound, often sudden, spiritual transformation akin to the Apostle Paul's experience in the Christian Bible. It's a moment of clarity that changes one's beliefs and life direction. Have you ever encountered a pivotal moment that reshaped your entire perspective? Join us as we explore these life-altering experiences and their lasting impact. - What is a Damascus Road Conversion?

Regeneration and conversion are two sides of the same coin, not only for Catholics and Orthodox but also for Protestants.

Theologically speaking, regeneration and conversion are two sides of the same coin. Regeneration is God’s sovereign activity by the Holy Spirit in the soul of one who is spiritually dead in sin. Regeneration is the implantation of new life in the soul. Regeneration gives the gifts of repentance and faith. On the other side of the coin, conversion is the response of the one who is regenerated. Esteemed British pastor D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: “Conversion is the first exercise of the new nature in ceasing from old forms of life and starting a new life. It is the first action of the regenerate soul in moving from something to something.” Regeneration precedes and produces conversion. There is a cause-and-effect relationship between these two. Regeneration is the cause, and conversion is the effect. Put another way, regeneration is the root and conversion is the fruit. - What Is True Conversion?

A Catholic definition of regeneration is as follows:

Regeneration

A term applied to the sacrament of baptism, following the words of Christ that no one can enter heaven who has not been reborn of water and the Holy Spirit. It implies that as there are two kinds of life, natural and supernatural, so there must be two kinds of generation, one as a human being at conception and the other as a child of God at baptism.

Baptismal regeneration is the name given to doctrines held by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican churches, and other Protestant denominations which maintain that salvation is intimately linked to the act of baptism, without necessarily holding that salvation is impossible apart from it.

The term Turning toward God is used to describe one’s conversion and repentance by the Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Transformation of one’s soul is a lifelong conversion process that ends only when we encounter God as he is.

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"I gave my life to God/Christ" is a common one I hear from people in nondenominational settings. "Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior" is a common and specifically phrased Evangelical invitation that often has a particular meaning, often involving reciting a prayer. "Got saved" is common among Pentecostals, some Baptists, and Evangelicals. "Put on Christ" is one I hear across Christian traditions. There are many more in a long tail of various phrases.

I think for the most part they are more common than uncommon, in that many faith traditions will at least understand what you are trying to say, and I cannot think of a specific threshold of Scriptural or pseudo-Scriptural phrases beyond which one would not be understood generally in Christian community so long as it conveys the same general meaning (it is phrased quite variously within Scripture, and Christians generally feel at liberty to draw upon Scripture to express themselves).

"I received a witness/testimony" is what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often say about the Book of Mormon and other evidences of the Restoration of the Gospel. I also hear "I gave away my sins" and "I took up my cross" on occasion, but more commonly the details of specific conversion experiences or a testimony are given in place of a specific catchprase, other than declaring that they "were baptized" and "became a member of the church". Specific Scriptural accounts are not uncommonly referenced in testimony meetings and in other venues for a point of reference in communicating one's conversion. I have heard some say "I had a Road to Emmaus experience", or "I had an Alma the Younger experience", followed by an explanation of what transpired and the testimony and/or change of personal nature that it instilled. "I have received a mighty change in my heart" and "I have no more disposition to do evil" are ones I have repeatedly heard. "Baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost" is not uncommon. "I am sealed Christ's" is one I have heard on a few occasions. "I feel to sing the song of redeeming love" is one I heard in a heartfelt testimony recently. Some phrases are common, usually centering on testimony, baptism, or becoming a member of the church, but the variety here precludes characterizing the whole using common catchphrases alone.

If one were to open the Scriptures more fully, we would and do find dozens and even hundreds more ways of giving expression to our conversion, all of them in some way delivering a testimony and expressing gratitude for our Savior by casting away our sins and taking His name upon ourselves.

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In the old-time Holiness Pentecostal movement this moment of conversion is termed the "baptism of the Holy Ghost". It is also referred to as "praying through" and this also can signify a renewal experience. Also, one may experience "revelation" but this term usually means a special supernatural understanding given by God after initial conversion. The "experience" of the Baptism in the Holy Ghost is signified by speaking in tongues or glossolalia and is not an experience of the enlightenment of the intellect but, rather, a phenomenon accompanying the decent of the Holy Spirit within. This also shows that the repentance of the individual has been thorough and acceptable to God. The person experiences great joy and love along with a sense of being washed clean and unburdened by sin. Most often this follows by a 360 degree change of a person's life. This same spiritual encounter is experienced by both Catholics and Protestants and is most often referred to as "Renewal" among Catholics. It is not so widely seen in the Eastern Churches, however, one can find in the ancient writings what may allude to this experience, especially in writers like St Isaac the Syrian, St Symeon the New Theologian and St Seraphim of Sarov. The latter refers to "the acquisition of the Holy Spirit" and describes the feeling of "enlightenment" as warmth and light accompanied by tears that wash the soul clean. Many ancient writers of whom I have mentioned refer to the divine experience of "Theoria". It is truly beyond the mere understanding of God by the intellect but an actual encounter with the Holy Spirit as the Enlightened. The same qualities of light, forgiveness, joy, humility, love, etc., accompany all of these Christian experiences that have been encountered in every age since Pentecost and in every land.

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  • "This same spiritual encounter is experienced by both Catholics and Protestants and is most often referred to as "Renewal" among Catholics." Been a Life long Catholic and never heard this terminology in the sense you are describing as such in Catholic circles.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jan 13 at 22:35
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    Commented Jan 14 at 4:28
  • Some examples of The Charismatic Renewal Movement can be found among The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, John Michael Talbot and the Monastery of the Little Portion, International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, Fraternities of Fransican Charismatic Communities and others. These are all under pontificql blessing as I understand. In many parishes across the U.S. there are such prayer communities.
    – Endellion
    Commented Jan 22 at 18:47

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