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Food for thought: ‘When was Peter Converted?’

From Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed:
. . . . Number counting groups might like the first sign of life in Peter [when he’s introduced to Jesus], confession-oriented theologians hear “I am a sinner” and smile ever so slightly, while creedal Christians stand up at Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ. Surely the charismatics finally find a brother when Peter is flooded from above with the Holy Spirit’s fire, and the socially active churches are unenthusiastically satisfied when Peter finally embraces the multicultural acceptance of Gentiles! Only utopians wait until the end of someon’s life to make a ruling. But this is humor—perhaps.

No one doubts that Peter is converted, but we may not be sure when the “moment” occurs, when he gets his birth certificate. And therein lies the mystery of conversion. Conversion is more than just an event; it is a process. Like wisdom, it takes a lifetime. Conversion is a lifelong series of gentle (or noisy) nods of the soul. The question of when someone is converted is much less important than that they are converting.

Some Christians are like the apostle Paul and know the date and time of their conversion. They tell a story of a “big moment” . . . . For most Christians, conversion is more like the evening soft-shoe dance of summer shadows across the lawn. It’s hard to see, but the shadow is moving, and at some point we see that it has, in fact, covered the lawn. Conversion, for these, is a series of gentle nods of the soul—from childhood through adulthood. There is no reason to think Paul’s is the definitive model.

Peter’s story is not Paul’s, and Peter is as welcome to the table . . . as anyone.
Note: [brackets] are mine; italics/emphasis is McKnight's; the text [minus the brackets] is a direct quote taken from Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others (Parcaclete Press, Brewster MA, 2004). Also, visit the Jesus Creed blog.

(Image: Los Cardinalos - GT at


Mirtika said…
I was raised Christian--as in baptized as baby, went to Catholic School, got confirmed, went to Mass every Sunday, observed holy days, etc. But while the exact day and time and all is lost to my poor memory, I know the moment I got saved. I remember where I was and how I was sitting and who the person was who said the thing that turned the key. I was 15. The whole world shifted and I knew my soul was saved. Period. And I have held that total assurance since that day 31 years ago.

I suppose because I knew the moment I truly believed--not just knew the catechism or the worlds--but actually called on the name of the Lord believing utterly that He'd answered--saving me and infilling me with the Holy Spirit.

Others' experiences, I cannot know. Only my own and what they say. But I figure there must come the moment of utter realization, no matter how gently or raucous. the moment of "Oh, yes, I see. You really ARE the Savior and you really have forgiven me all and you really will never leave me." It stops being creed and becomes one's life.