Theological opinions are hard to change. Once they have set in, they are usually there to stay. The theological glue that makes ideas stick early in your studies is, for better or worse, rock solid. It must be that same stuff they use on your teeth. I have one fake tooth glued to the root of the old tooth. I can’t believe that sucker is still holding. Strong stuff.

Ironically, I am in the business of changing theological opinions. Well, that is not entirely accurate. Sometimes – a lot of times – it is just solidifying opinions, rather than changing them. However, I don’t change my own opinions too much. In terms of my basic theological confession, I am pretty much the same person I was twenty years ago. I can still sign the same confessions (even though some of them cause me to raise an eyebrow or two).  I am still Protestant, Evangelical, Calvinist, dispensationalist. I believe in inerrancy, I hold to a pre-tribulational view of the end times, and I believe in dunking rather than sprinkling. I am a complementarian, a traducianist, and a memorialist with regard to the Lord’s supper. Heck, I even believe in a young earth! The point is that I rarely change my positions. Life is just more comfortable that way.

Don’t get me wrong. I have actually tried to change some of these opinions. I really want to change some of these opinions. What I mean is that many times, I find the view that I don’t hold to be more palatable or, for lack of a better word, more likable than the one I do. For example, I really want to be a charismatic. I desire so deeply to believe in and experience that miraculous divine intervention the way that charismatics do. I salivate as I look at their worship, hope, and engagement with God. However, though I have studied, argued, prayed, talked to the right people, and prayed some more, I am still not a charismatic (and doubt I will ever be).

The funny thing is that I know I am wrong about so much. When I stand before God, I expect to be surprised at how many of the things I taught, preached on, blogged about, wrote books about, and shouted from mountain tops were wrong. Obviously, I don’t know which ones these are or I would change them now. However, for the most part, I don’t think I will be in too much trouble. The best I can do is believe that those things I will be wrong about were sincere. In other words, I believe that the things I might end up being wrong about are difficult issues that “could go either way.”

Therefore, with so much of my theology, while I still hold to particular positions, I try my best to figure out what things I should hold on to loosely and which I should hold on to tightly. For those of you who know me, you have probably guessed that the things I hold on to most tightly are those of the consensus fidelium – those things that Christians of all time and in all places have believed.

There are some things that I have changed my views on. Most recently, I have changed my view on the Crusades. I no longer see them as a black eye to Christianity. Also, I became a Calvinist (after all, who starts out as a Calvinist?!). But, most of the things I change on are not too dramatic. Normally, once I have studied something somewhat extensively, the view I come to is the view I stay with. With the Crusades, this is the first time I have really studied them. It was the same thing with my Calvinism back in 1995. I had not really studied it before then.

Of course I have nuanced my views quite a bit. I no longer believe that all Catholics are going to hell, that those who speak in tongues are demon possessed, that one cannot be a Christian evolutionist, or that a believer has to be right on all theological issues. This is a big change in a lot of ways, but it does not represent any particular theological issue I have changed on.

But I need to be ready and have the courage to change. In 2009, New Testament scholar Tomas Schreiner changed his opinion about the millennium. He went from being an amillennialist to a premellennialist. This change was very instructive to me. Not because he changed to my position, but because he changed at all. Surely, it took a scholar such as Schreiner a lot of courage to change. How did that glue break? I don’t know. But I glad it did just for the sake of what the change represents. I can think of many other changes that are visible. J. P. Moreland and Sam Storms both changed from being ardent cessationists (umm . . . they did not believe in modern day prophets or the gift of tongues) to being charismatics. Scot McKnight changed from being a complementarian to an egalitarian (which is very common these days). More dramatically, Francis Beckwith changed from being a Protestant to a Catholic.

We all need to be ready and have the courage to change. Now I know, I know . . . we all like stability. We like this virtue in ourselves and in others. “Flip-flopping” is not a good thing in any area, especially theology. So I am not talking about changing every two to three years just for the sake of change. If you are like that, I don’t think I could follow you. I would not trust you. I need you to be stable. However, as fearful as it may be, we need to be ready to change our positions when that change is truly warranted. We need to have the ability to break that glue, let go of that rope, and submit our emotional attachment to a position to what is true, not what is comfortable.

I have tried to do so with regard to the charismatic issue. It was easy for me to change on my view of the Crusades. Most Christians actually like it and are intrigued. They don’t have much emotional or intellectual investment on the issue. They are willing to follow me there, so I won’t lose any friends. However, were I to become a charismatic, I think I would lose some friends. Invites to speak at certain places I love would cease to come. Fellowship with others would not be so sweet. I can think of one person that I would not even be able to look in the eye if I changed my position. Therefore, I have relinquished my concern for these things. So what? Who do I follow? The Lord or the acceptance of man? At least this is how I do my best to think. So, when it comes to the charismatic issue, I don’t think my fear of man is dictating the lack of change.

But I don’t want my desire to become charismatic to dictate things either. Just because I want to see the hand of God in a more evident way should not make me theologically mobile. My emotional desire does not have a vote in truth, so I need to be careful.

However, (just thinking out loud here), I often wonder if my desire to become charismatic is influenced by didactics. In other words, maybe I want to change in some significant area just to say I have. Isn’t that a crazy spin? I teach about change, integrity, and following the Lord rather than people, yet I have not changed in any significant area. Maybe I want to change for the purpose of legitimacy. After all, being a “convert” has a certain feeling of authenticity.

Obviously, there are a lot of reasons for my journey to become charismatic not panning out. I believe these reasons warrant my current non-charismatic position. But (if you have made it this far), you probably know that this post is not really about my journey to become charismatic. It is about our ability, need, and desire (or lack thereof) to change theological positions. It is about how complicated changing really is. It is normally not as simple as having the right intel on the subject under scrutiny. There are a lot of nuances that factor in.

Are there any theological positions you have changed?

What were/are the road blocks for your to change your position?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    57 replies to "On My Journey to Become Charismatic"

    • Jay Altieri

      Change means the process of becoming different. Change is intrinsically vital to growth. Without change a plant is bonsaid, an animal remains an infant, water become stagnant. Theologically without change, we never grow. A Christian is not born knowing everything, we must acquire knowledge, usually this comes from listening/reading the commentaries and thoughts of others. We all need a teacher. For me the most productive teachers are those with which I think I might disagree. Listen humbly and maybe we can learn. As you learn you will repeatedly encounter clods of dirt that need to be broken up or roadblocks that need to be removed (eg: doctrines that were mistaken). Growth is a continual unending process of doctrinal change. For someone to refuse doctrine modification is stiff necked arrogance.

      Changing your mind is the intellectual equivalence of repentance. When someone repents, they have realized that their former behavior is wrong, and they do a 180turn. They change their behavior. Repentance without behavioral change is bogus. So to when we are confronted with bible verses, and theological principles that some of our teachings are incorrect and we learn a more perfect way, then changing your mind means doing a 180turn with your doctrine. Anything less is hypocritical stubbornness.
      We should embrace change as a growth indicator. We should not be afraid to be wrong, because it displays our humility and willingness to follow truth instead of following ourself. Of course, this must be balanced with Eph 4:14. My suggestion is to be like Gamaliel. Acceptively listen to new ideas and let them incubate. Time will tell, be patient, thoroughly study them out. If they are from God they will prove themselves.

    • Jay Altieri

      I have changed bunches over the years and look forward to learning and refining for the rest of my life. Although I am a slow learner, big changes take me years to accomplish. When I hear a new idea, I never accept it quickly. I must study and mull it over for a period. To be tossed about by every wind of doctrine is not maturity (Eph 4:14). But likewise, I don’t outright stubbornly reject new ideas. Stubbornness is a sign of pride. I allow them to incubate. If they are from God, then with study and time they will prove themselves. This was the advice of Gamaliel in Acts 5.

      Here are a few doctrine that I have changed over the years. They are mostly in the field of eschatology, since the gospel is eternal +rock hard for me:
      From Immortal soul to Conditional Immortality
      From eternal conscious torment to extinction of sin and death
      From wispy cloud dwelling glorified body to literal physical bodily resurrection
      From Dispensational separation of Church/Israel to Olive Tree single family of faith
      From PreTrib to HistPreMil
      From EuroCentric AntiChrist Beast to IslamCentric beast
      From Enoch+Elijah going to heaven to Jesus being firstborn from Dead (those guys died)
      From worldwide dominion of Antichrist to a regional caliphate in middle east
      From global flood to regional flood
      From literal 1 week creation to I have no clue
      From Jonah ‘living’ for 3 days in the fish to Jonah being a resurrection antetype of Christ.
      From apostle John being author of book called John to probably Lazarus
      From seals-trumps-vials being literal to being symbolic
      If anyone wants details on these thoughts, studies here:

    • Jay Altieri

      CMP uses a great word in the original blog. He said that he is “a traducianist.” Except for us theology nerds, nobody in the free world knows what that means. In the 3rd century Tertullian proposed that the soul of people was passed down from the parents, just like the body. He wrote in Latin and used the Latin verb ‘traducere’ meaning to lead across, transfer. His argument was that ensoulation of babies was inherited from the parents. So babies get their soul from mom and dad, just like their genes, it is an inherited characteristic. The opposite view (Thomas Aquinas) is that God creates a new soul every time a person is born (or conceived- timing varies). This opinion is called creationism (not to be confused with the 7days in Genesis). God creates a soul everytime somebody comes into the world. Believe it or not they had some serious fights in the church across the millennia over this.
      Oddly, I glean from both of these great traditions.
      I am a necro-traducianist and soterio-creationist. I agree that soul’s are passed down biologically through the parents, I agree that the soul (more accurately in Biblical lingo called spirit) is a real ontological being within the spiritual dimension, but I reject the idea that humans are alive without Christ. What is biologically passed down from generations is the LACK of a soul. I call this dead soul syndrome. Babies are born without a soul, for it is dead, nonexistent, turned to dust, all due to sin.
      The beauty of this theorem is that it gives ontological meaning to the new birth. When a person gets saved, the power of the HS makes a new creation. Our soul is literally reborn-not just hype for an emotional experience. The creation of a new soul doesn’t occur at conception or birth, it happens at the New Birth.

    • James-the-lesser

      There is no beauty in the so-called “theorem” at all. Ontologically, you can not have something you don’t have and the Scripture clearly teaches that God rested on the 7th day. Creation is over, otherwise his work would not be finished. Traducianism subsumes a tripartite being which by definition we call man. One’s soul can be dead to the Spirit but killing the soul destroys the soul and thus man, as in “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28) The spirit (that is the ontological foundation for existence itself) returns to the Father from whence it came once the soul ceases to exist, which incidentally the Scripture is clear on in that “only God has immortality.”thus, eternal life is a gift, not a prerogative. (1 Timothy 6:16) 🙂

    • Jay Altieri

      James, what makes you think that all creation activity has ceased? Yes God rested on the 7th day, but that doesn’t mean that he has been resting ever since. John 5:17 -God is actively working. He is not a God at rest. Much creative action continues, so Aquinan creationism is plausible. My point was that this freshly created spiritual nature comes into existence at salvation, not physical birth. Jesus speaks of a new birth. Paul speaks of a new creation. Peter speaks of being born again.

      I fully agree with you about destruction of the wicked. It doesn’t sound like we are too far apart, except I would say the wicked don’t have spirit at all. Part of the confusion on this topic is that in English our words are mixed up. “Soul” is commonly used in modern English to mean the immaterial spiritual nature. That should more correctly be called spirit (Gk-pneuma). In the bible “soul” (Hebrew nephesh; Gk psyche) means mind, personality, thoughts, being.

      In the traducian talk above, as to when the “soul” comes into existence, should more correctly be asking when the spirit (pneuma) comes into existence (from a tripartite perspective). The verse in Mat 10:28 uses psyche [mind being personhood], nothing about pneuma.

      Furthermore, I believe your comment that “traducianism subsumes a tripartite being” is incorrect. Tertullian who originally started this conversation was not tripartite. He was dipartite. Tertullian basically combined soul/spirit into one essence. In Latin he called it “anima.” It is that which animates us. Although I agree if you are proposing a 3fold nature to mankind, but it is possible to be traducianist and not tripartite.

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