My theology has changed in many areas, from my understanding of creation to my view of the end times. But I would say that the biggest change has been my theology of conversion.
I grew up in a mainline church that understood conversion as being the moment that one is baptized as a baby. In my 20s I joined an evangelical church that emphasized a moment of conversion that normally included a sinner’s prayer and often an altar call.
For quite a while I held strongly to the idea of a dramatic conversion. It might not include an altar call but there should be a recognizable moment one one moves from being a non-Christian to becoming a Christian. It was either an audible prayer or at least in internal acknowledgment that Jesus was now Lord.
A number of things challenged me on this. One was discovering how recent the idea of a sinner’s prayer is in church history. It emerged out of the revivalism of the great awakenings. For most of church history, that just wasn’t part of the experience.
The other problem was that I got to know other Christians who never had a moment of conversion. Not only could they not identify a day, they couldn’t even identify a year. Personal faith was a gradual process and yet there was spiritual fruit in their life and obvious evidence of a vibrant faith.
So what is my view of conversion now?
I see people as coming to Christ by either the Damascus Road or the Emmaus Road. The Damascus Road is a sudden conversion such as experienced by the Apostle Paul. There is an identifiable moment for the individual. The Emmaus Road is a gradual journey of discovering who Jesus is. Both means are valid ways to become Christians and we should not judge those different from us.