This thesis explores the reasons for religious change to Pentecostal Christianity in urban Java during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It investigates the conversion trend to Pentecostal forms of Christianity that has taken place in recent decades in the cities of Java. Why some of Java’s Muslim urbanites, particularly young traditionalist Javanese Muslims of lower and middle class status, have converted to this ecstatic expression of Christianity since 1980 is the focus of this study.
The thesis considers the utility of current social science theories that emphasise social, cultural, political and selected religious factors, to understanding this conversion trend in urban Muslim Java. Socio-political factors, particularly political and social crises, rapid urbanisation, and state support for monotheistic religions; and selected religious factors, mainly delimited religious pluralism and reaction to Islamic extremism, produced a climate in urban Java conducive to conversion to this indigenous, moderately strict, this-worldly focussed and modern Christian movement.
While this thesis demonstrates the utility of current social science explanations, it argues that these explanations, which rely solely on socio-political and some religious factors external to the converts, do not fully explain why some of the Muslim inhabitants of the cities of Java have converted to Pentecostal Christianity over other religions, and over other forms of Christianity. I argue that existing social science theory be extended to be more inclusive of specialised aspects of the Pentecostal movement. These specific characteristics are considered under the schema of ‘religious experiences and movement specificities’ (REMS), and are particularly concerned with the role of Pentecostal worldview, religious experiences, community and institutional aspects in conversion. This thesis demonstrates the value of an integrated approach to the scientific study of the reasons for religious conversion, one that considers the contribution of external socio-political forces and inner subjective religious experiences, personal faith aspects and specificities of movements.