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The blog has been pretty busy today, so it is about time for me to jump and in and give my two cents worth.
First, I believe that question, which is innocent in itself, assumes what I will call at this point a judicial sense of conversion. That is, there is a point in time when God says “OK, you’re trust is genuine, you can be brought across the line, and the verdict is ‘forgiven’.” Such a judicial sense of salvation is thoroughly Pauline and jumps right at us from the Reformation on. There are some today who want to say that justification is corporate and about “who is the people of God,” and I do “own shares” in that New Perspective [which also is bedevilled by definition problems — who counts?], but I can’t accept anything less than a fully individual perception that includes a coroporate dimension. But enough of that.
Still, apart from the New Perspective issue, I do think too often we do frame conversion questions exclusively in terms of justification and the judicial sense. It is a dimension of the issue.
Second, conversion is just as prominently and perhaps even more so a relational issue. In fact, I’m willing to say that the relational is primary: it is about God’s embrace of us and our embracing God back.
Third, which means we have to convert the question: I like to think of it this way. Peter began a relationship with Jesus in John 1 (actually, it was outside Jerusalem and probably down by the Jordan) and that relationship grew. Peter’s “conversion” is an ongoing growth in his relationship of loving Jesus, and at each stage when he learned something new he was challenged (as we see in John 6) to continue and deepen that relationship or abandon and go back.
So, when was Peter converted means “when did Peter begin a relationship with Jesus?” I’d say probably at John 1 but perhaps not until Luke 5. The issue is that he continued to love Jesus and it was that love that was jeopardized in Mark 14 and which needed to be rectified in John 21.
If I’m forced into the “judicial” sense and am asked exactly when Peter crossed the line into God’s favor, I would have to say that I don’t know and I don’t think it matters all that much. (Well, it matters but not in what I am discussing.)
And it should be said that an over-emphasis on the judicial dimension retards the relationship (turning into status) and creates the need to make perserverance an additional doctrine rather than one inherent to the status.
It will do us some real good to begin thinking of conversion the way we think of love. We don’t “fall” in love with someone and then say, “Well, now I’ve got the love thing accomplished.” We know that love is something that begins (it kind of unfolds) and then continues or it is not love at all.