Should Ministers Still Extend “Decisional Invitations?”

September 28, 2015

Dr. Braxton Hunter | Professor of Apologetics
Trinity Theological Seminary, Newburgh, IN

**This article was previously posted by Dr. Braxton Hunter on his website www.braxtonhunter.com and is used by permission.

Dr. Hunter is: former president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE), professor of apologetics at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana

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WARNING: Typically I use a good deal of humor in these blogs, but on this occasion I want to warn you that this will be a heavy, direct and controversial discussion.

Poll the average baptist church congregation (and a number of other denominations) on the subject of when and where each member became a Christian and you will hear a myriad of answers. Nevertheless, one which will repeatedly surface usually sounds something like this, “As the preacher delivered the message, I was convicted. I realized my sin and at the invitation I was one of the first down the aisle. I committed my life to Christ and repented in prayer to God.”  This invitation, as it has come to be known, holds a special place in the hearts of many believers in that it was the moment at which they embraced Christianity and truly became followers of Christ. It does not hold a special place for them because of anything about the physical aspects of the event (walking down an aisle, praying a prayer or getting baptized), rather it was the time at which they stood face to face with the reality of their sin, Christ’s sacrifice and their need for Him, then repented. Has it been abused? Absolutely! There have been many throughout the past several decades who have preached easy believism, made the church altar itself out to be something venerated and Holy and even used the invitation for monetary gains. Yet, the question is, “Should we throw the baby out with the bath-water?” In what follows I am going to give a brief defense of the invitation. If you find these words in opposition to your own point of view, you should know that I say none of this with a spirit of anger or sarcasm. On the contrary, I am happy to discuss it with you via email if you would like.

A biblical case for the invitation

In 1 Corinthians 14:24 and 25, just after Paul discusses the dangers related to speaking in tongues in the congregation, he mentions, But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.” This sounds as though it is a decisional moment wherein an individual who is in one instance described as an “unbeliever” is the next moment proclaiming the existence of the Christian God. It further sounds as though Paul sees this as a desired regular event. One might criticize this interpretation by mentioning that some of the apostolic gifts have past away, but the use of such gifts is precisely what Paul had just finished asking them to limit in the midst of a service. Acts 8:36-38 describes the meeting between Philip and the eunuch at which time the eunuch had a decisional moment of conversion. I fail to see a clear difference between the eunuch’s salvation after hearing the message of Christ and the salvation of an individual in the midst of a congregation and inside of a church building.  Moreover, in passages such as Matt. 4:19 we read of Jesus extending an invitation to those who heard His message. Further discussion could be had of passages such as the Pentecost event. As I have made this very brief biblical case, I must add one caveat before we move on. If you adhere to reformed theology and thus you reject my use of the term “decisional,” I invite you to find common ground with me in that from the human perspective we experience our conversion as though it were a decision whether or not you agree that it in fact is. I believe that if you can accept that, then you should not have a problem with the above statements.

A philosophical case for the invitation

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) formulated a quadralemma argument in favor of belief which is somewhat problematic in the eyes of many today. What has come to be known as “Pascal’s wager” is simply an argument that if you are unsure on whether or not to believe in God, it is safer to err on the side of caution and just believe. It is referred to as a quadrilemma because it states four possibilities,

1) If God does not exist and I do believe in him then I will have lost nothing,

2) If God does not exist and I do not believe in him I have likewise lost nothing,

3) If God does exist and I do believe in him I have gained everything,

4) If God does exist and I do not believe in him I have lost everything.

The point of the argument is that it’s safer to believe than it is not to believe. Problems arise for Pascal when one considers that there are a variety of alleged gods, and thus one who is unsure can never be certain he is erring on the side of caution. Also, belief “just in case” doesn’t seem to be the kind of belief that scripture calls for. Why do I being the wager up then?

An argument similar to that of Pascal’s could be used to make a case for the decisional invitation, which I do not believe makes the mistakes that Pascal’s wager does. Perhaps instead of Pascal’s wager we could go with “Braxton’s best bet.” Of course, I don’t see it as a bet at all. Simply put, my argument would claim that if the preacher wants to be sure he is honoring God’s command in reaching out to the lost, it is safer for him to err on the side of caution and extend the decisional invitation. A note needs to be made in order for you to best see how this argument works. The loudest voice in opposition to decisional evangelism (which by the way is their phraseology, not mine) is coming from those who hold to reformed theological positions. For such individuals (many of whom I have the highest respect for) the reason decisional evangelism is wrong, is because it somehow limits the sovereignty of God by allowing man a part in his own salvation. Paul Washer claimed, at a conference for “The Way of the Master” that the danger of decisional evangelism is that an individual may falsely believe he was saved because he made a decision for Christ and then years later when someone tries to reach out to him he will reject the message because he believes he is already saved based on his decision. But how can this be? If grace is truly irresistible and choice is not a determining factor, then I cannot see how Washer’s claim that the individual may reject the message based on a prior decision can be valid. Such grace would, necessarily be, irresistible no matter what the individual’s former church experiences were. So decisional evangelism does not threaten the salvation of anyone. Thus, a quadrilemma argument in favor of it could be stated as follows:

1. If decisional evangelism doesn’t work and the preacher doesn’t extend it, the church will have lost nothing

2. If decisional evangelism doesn’t work and the preacher does extend it, the church will have lost nothing

3. If decisional evangelism does work and the preacher does extend it, the church will havehonored God

4. If decisional evangelism does work and the preacher doesn’t extend it, the church will not have honored God (in this respect)

To put this in plain language, if grace is irresistible in the sense that reformed theology holds, then decisional evangelism will not hinder salvation (and unless a critic wants to maintain that it is not possible for God to save anyone in the midst of a decisional invitation, it may even be used of God). At most, it will be a waist of time and energy. On the other hand, if decisional evangelism does work, and we don’t do it we are not doing everything we could to reach the lost. Which is safer? As my father often put it, “I would rather have God tell me I tried too hard to reach the lost than to have Him say I didn’t try hard enough.”

The hard part for anyone skeptical of this argument is that unless you are %100 certain that you are interpreting scripture properly (meaning you know that decisional evangelism is unbiblical without a doubt), then you are in danger of erring on the wrong side.

A common sense case for decisional evangelism

Having taken a brief look at the biblical data and the possible philosophical implications, let’s take a step back and look at it through the lenses of common sense. Many individuals on both sides of this debate claim that they were born again in the midst of an evangelistic service when they responded at an invitation. Are we really prepared to tell them that they didn’t get saved at that point, but some other? This strikes me as absurd and it is also the essence of unbiblical judgementalism. Moreover, I have known hundreds of individuals who became believers at evangelistic events and went on to be ardent, passionate, changed servants of God. If the concern here is that we might get false converts then it should be mentioned that such a possibility is always present no matter how the church conducts itself. One might say that we end up with a large number of non-Christians in church pews who really never were saved. This is a possibility, nevertheless, were would we want such individuals, but under the strong preaching of God’s word regularly?

In order to be justified in passionately preaching against what some have termed “decisional evangelism” one must be able to overcome, not one, but both of the above mentioned arguments and in some cases question the testimonies of thousands.

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dennis geouge

I have only 2 questions: When did the invitation system as used in the Baptist church begin and who started using this method in church history?

    Braxton Hunter

    Dennis, I don’t know if the invitations in scripture were formalized in the manner that some are in churches today, but they were certainly given in some respect. When Jesus preached he publicly invited people to follow him. Also, I don’t think on the day of pentacost Peter said, “Now for those of you who are interested in salvation, we have a room adjacent to the lobby with a kurig coffee maker and some brochures that explain things for you.” Instead the impression is that it was big and public.

    Nevertheless, the real question is, which aspect of the quadrilemma argument are you troubled by? If there is something in the article that is wrong, I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

    I often hear the invitation criticized on the basis of who its modern progenitors were, or because of the supposed lack of a clear example of it in church history. This has always surprised me. At best this would be arguing from silence and at worst a guilt by association argument (with respect to Finney, for example).

    I’m not saying this is what you have in mind, Dennis, but I thought I’d use the opportunity to clear the air.

      Braxton Hunter

      Day of Pentecost (auto correct is an abomination)

        norm

        So true about spell-check.
        It misses “alter” call, but oh how theologically true to our Lord’s words that error is!

Bob Williford

I agree. From what I have observed over the course of nearly 50 years of ministry is that ‘personal’ face to face evangelism has become almost non-existent. For this reason we are not seeing the response in our churches and another is that many pastors are not preaching and teaching about the reality of Hell from the pulpit. People are no longer have a fear of God, either, because of these two things. Political Correctness in our culture may be to blame, too…..Jesus is Lord.

Les

A couple of thoughts.

1. I think it would be helpful if you clearly define what you mean by the “invitation.” You said at the beginning, ““As the preacher delivered the message, I was convicted. I realized my sin and at the invitation I was one of the first down the aisle. I committed my life to Christ and repented in prayer to God.” In this hypothetical example, when did he actually cross over from death to life? Before stepping into the aisle? Or after going down front and there receiving some assistance and then praying the prayer?

The reason I am asking is that whether or not a preacher should give an invitation should not even be an issue. Every time a preacher preaches people should be invited/urged, etc. to repent and turn to Christ. Iain Murray said, “Wherever preaching has ceased to require an individual response and wherever hearers are left with the impression that there is no divine command requiring their repentance and faith, true Christianity has withered away.” I agree with Murray.

For some, though, the question is, given that we all agree that sinners should be invited/urged etc. to repent and come to Christ, should a “come forward” type of invitation be given. Is it necessary to be true to the teaching and practice of the scriptures?

2. I think your “biblical case” is not really a case, with all due respect. This statement, “I fail to see a clear difference between the eunuch’s salvation after hearing the message of Christ and the salvation of an individual in the midst of a congregation and inside of a church building.” Who would disagree that an individual could get saved in the midst of congregation? No one I hope.

So again, what is the biblical case trying to make? That individuals can get saved in a church meeting? No one would disagree with that. Or, that preachers should have people come forward at an invitation? That one you can’t find in scripture.

3. You write, “In my own book, Blinding Lights, in a chapter on work’s based salvation, I assert that it is not the praying of a prayer, nor the walking of an aisle that somehow merits salvation. Rather, the moment that the individual, wherever they may be, recognizes their need to be born again and repents [I would clarify that I believe that the repenting is because he/she has been born again], they are immediately a child of God before they even move toward an aisle or open their lips to speak a prayer.” I agree. So then, why the “come forward by stepping out and walking the aisle?

4. You said, “If election is determined by God, and grace irresistible, then how could anything that happened in that person’s past church experience cause them to miss out on grace when they truly are drawn upon by the Spirit.” Nothing can cause one of God’s elect to miss out on the grace of God.

Summary question that would be helpful is back at my #1.

Thanks Braxton, God bless.

    Braxton Hunter

    Les,

    1. One might be saved in either place. I suspect that many repent and believe before making move at the public invitation, and some repent and believe after receiving some further explanation during the invitation.

    You conclude, “. . . should a ‘come forward’ type of invitation be given. Is it necessary to be true to the teaching and practice of the scriptures?” Not necessarily. I’m not saying that it necessarily is. I would refer you to the quadrilemma in the article I gave for why I think it is erring on the side of caution to have one.

    2. You argue, “So again, what is the biblical case trying to make? That individuals can get saved in a church meeting? No one would disagree with that. Or, that preachers should have people come forward at an invitation? That one you can’t find in scripture.” Just push it forward a step. They can also get saved during an invitation. Just last night I saw individuals do just that in Wadesboro, NC, the week before in Laurens, SC, the week before in Parsons, TN and the week before in Evansville, IN. During services where no invitation is given, there are less or no public salvation decisions. I’m not saying my anecdotal experience is a slam-dunk for it, I’m just saying that if you push your reasoning forward a step you would (I assume) admit that some people can be saved during an invitation too.

    3. You quote me and add your own comments, “Rather, the moment that the individual, wherever they may be, recognizes their need to be born again and repents [I would clarify that I believe that the repenting is because he/she has been born again], they are immediately a child of God before they even move toward an aisle or open their lips to speak a prayer.” I agree. So then, why the ‘come forward by stepping out and walking the aisle?'” Your comments in brackets reflect your view of the ordo salutis. It’s probably no surprise that I don’t share your view. The reason I urge people to come forward is two-fold. First, some don’t repent before making a physical move to discuss it with the pastor or get further clarification. Some may still not understand. We all try to be as clear as possible, I hope, but there are many who still need direct, specific explanations. Second, I think it is important to make such a decision public.

    4. You respond, “Nothing could cause one of God’s elect to miss out on grace.” Great! You’re making my point. If Calvinists are concerned that someone might mistakenly think they are saved, because they “prayed a prayer” or something – and then not truly repent later, they should stop worrying about it. There is literally no possible harm that can come from a decisional invitation if one thinks about it from a consistent Calvinist perspective. Those who will be graced will be graced, those who won’t . . . won’t and the decisional invitation makes absolutely no difference. Conversely, if Calvinism is false, the decisional invitation can be quite helpful. Thus, the article.

      Les Prouty

      Braxton,

      1. We agree that one can be saved in other case. Sitting in the pew and not walking the aisle or saved and then walking the aisle or walking the aisle and then being converted.

      2. “Just push it forward a step. They can also get saved during an invitation.” of course they can. As I said, “That individuals can get saved in a church meeting? No one would disagree with that.”

      3. “First, some don’t repent before making a physical move to discuss it with the pastor or get further clarification. Some may still not understand. We all try to be as clear as possible, I hope, but there are many who still need direct, specific explanations. Second, I think it is important to make such a decision public.” Yes our order is different.

      And those who do not use the “come down the aisle while music is being played” method but rather urge those who want further clarification or counsel to see a pastor later can and do get that clarification without the “aisle” method. And…in churches such as mine where we do not give an appeal to walk the aisle, a public profession is indeed made at a later time for those who have made a POF.

      4. “Great! You’re making my point. If Calvinists are concerned that someone might mistakenly think they are saved, because they “prayed a prayer” or something – and then not truly repent later, they should stop worrying about it.”

      I agree. Any Calvinist who frames their concerns abut the “walk the aisle” invitation methodology around an idea that it may cause an elect person to miss heaven doesn’t understand Reformed theology.

      Last, I mean no disrespect when I refer to what you advocate as the “come down the aisle while music is being played” method. The reason I asked for more clarification on the term “decisional invitation” is because I hear Reformed folks who do not follow your method urging a decision in their invitation. But they don’t ask people to come forward. I have seen so many discussions on this where the terminology is interchanged between “invitation” and “altar call” and misunderstanding ensues. Most people who do not use the altar call still give an invitation (such as Edwards did in his most famous sermon) but do not all on people to “walk the aisle.” But those of us who do that are often said to not be giving invitations.

      Thanks brother.

    Andy

    A few more responses:

    LES: “should a “come forward” type of invitation be given. Is it necessary to be true to the teaching and practice of the scriptures?”
    –> I would say the answer to this should be, even by proponents of a “come forward” invitation: NO, it is not necessary to be in obedience to Scripture. Otherwise we have only been in obedience for the last 200 years. BUT, neither can it be said that doing such an invitation is FORBIDDEN by scripture. (alas, les, I’m sorry, I have examined the regulative principle, and found it wanting :-(

    Dr. HUNTER: “they are immediately a child of God before they even move toward an aisle or open their lips to speak a prayer.”

    I would love to hear you expound on this, specifically clarifying the purpose of the public call to come forward. This article seems to imply that the purpose is the salvation of souls…but perhaps there is another purpose you have in mind?

      Les Prouty

      Andy,

      “BUT, neither can it be said that doing such an invitation is FORBIDDEN by scripture. (alas, les, I’m sorry, I have examined the regulative principle, and found it wanting.”

      I agree that such an invitation advocated here is not expressly forbidden. And the RPW is not undermined by this at all. It would be in the category of free form prayers or prewritten prayers in worship. Or, baptizing by immersion or pouring. Either is permitted.

      Blessings brother.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Les,

    I am not sure your inquiry. Are you saying there is no “Biblical case” for an “invitation” (which you agree with there being one anyway) generally, or there is no biblical case for the particular methodology at the end of a sermon in worship service?

    If it is the former, then I don’t see the problem. If it is the latter, I don’t see the problem there either. We can walk into any church and talk about format and whether or not “its in the Bible.” That isn’t even the issue as far as I am concerned. Our worship services in 21st Century America have little resemblance to what is “in the Bible.”

    The real issue is whether or not the practice is consistent with or contradictory to Scripture. I’d say it is certainly consistent (though the “form” or “format” may be different…but so?).

    As far as stepping out into the aisle and coming forward, I think that is the heart of any concern so far as I can tell. Is it necessary? Of course not, and it was never argued it was so. However, what’s the problem with this though? I mean, even that is consistent with an immediate demonstration of the principle found in Matthew 10:32, which is in the context of public ministry and confession.

    As Dr. Hunter has said, “In order to be justified in passionately preaching against what some have termed “decisional evangelism” one must be able to overcome, not one, but both of the above mentioned arguments and in some cases question the testimonies of thousands.”

    That’s the goalpost. Aside from the Murray reference (who wrote what seemed like a long-winded non-sequitur of a book against this sort of thing) which you may or may not take on board in whole or part, it is unclear as to what your couple of thoughts on this is actually regarding.

    Blessings my friend.

      Les Prouty

      Johnathan,

      “I am not sure your inquiry. Are you saying there is no “Biblical case” for an “invitation” (which you agree with there being one anyway) generally, or there is no biblical case for the particular methodology at the end of a sermon in worship service?”

      No I am not saying there is no biblical case for an invitation. I tried (apparently in a less than clear way) that invitations are good and right and biblical. At first I was appealing to clarity of the wording. See my reply to Braxton above.

      “If it is the former, then I don’t see the problem. If it is the latter, I don’t see the problem there either. We can walk into any church and talk about format and whether or not “its in the Bible.” That isn’t even the issue as far as I am concerned. Our worship services in 21st Century America have little resemblance to what is “in the Bible.”” I agree.

      “The real issue is whether or not the practice is consistent with or contradictory to Scripture. I’d say it is certainly consistent (though the “form” or “format” may be different…but so?).”

      As I said to Andy, I do not think it is forbidden. I just do not see the need for it (stepping out into the aisle and coming forward). I do agree with Murray and share his concerns largely.

      Now allow me to ask back to you and others. If I preach week in and week out, and as part of my sermon I call people to repentance and faith and urge them to turn to Christ and place their faith in Him, but I do not give an invitation where I call on them to step into the aisle and come forward, but rather urge them to talk to one of our elders if they think they have indeed repented and believed, what is wrong with that method? What problems or issues do you see with that? Is my method for calling sinners to faith lacking? Why?

      Thanks brother.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        ” I do not think it is forbidden”

        Agreed. In fact, it is Biblical. ;)

        “If I preach week in and week out, and as part of my sermon I call people to repentance and faith and urge them to turn to Christ and place their faith in Him, but I do not give an invitation where I call on them to step into the aisle and come forward, but rather urge them to talk to one of our elders if they think they have indeed repented and believed, what is wrong with that method?”

        Nothing.

        “What problems or issues do you see with that?”

        None.

        “Is my method for calling sinners to faith lacking?”

        No.

        The thing is though, I don’t see any Traditionalists griping about any methods, including yours. I see plenty of Calvinists nonsensically griping about methods. It would be silly to gripe about your methods described above, just as it is silly for Murray, Washer, Platt, irrational internet Calvinists, and others to gripe about methods. I don’t see Traditionalists or Arminians griping about Evangelism Explosion just because a Presbyterian got it going.

        We don’t live in a vacuum where articles like Braxton’s above come out of nowhere. A lot of Calvinists make silly claims about evangelistic methods. Braxton respectfully responds to them.

        But, you’re good Les. Keep preaching to sinners.

        Les Prouty

        Johnathan,

        You said, “” I do not think it is forbidden”

        Agreed. In fact, it is Biblical. ;)”

        I do agree with the smiley face. But I beg to differ that an invitation where one is called to come forward such as the nature of modern altar calls is biblical. I haven’t found it yet. There may be one I haven’t seen and I will stand to be corrected if one is brought forth. BTW Braxton’s biblical case above is nowhere near like the modern (last 200 or so years since it was invented) altar call.

        Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I do not think there is either an example of such one or a command of such one. But I also do not think it is inherently wrong either. It is just a method, one which I see far too many pitfalls to employ. And as I have said already, invitations (not altar calls) to call for sinners to repent and believe ARE biblical and should always be employed.

        Blessings brother.

          Johnathan Pritchett

          “But I beg to differ that an invitation where one is called to come forward such as the nature of modern altar calls is biblical.”

          Why? An alter call is just one way of doing an invitation, which we are agreed is Biblical. So, where is the problem?

          Singing a hymn from the 1800’s is one way of singing in worship. Expository preaching is one way of preaching. Nether expository sermons nor 19th century hymns are in the Bible. They can still be Biblical, or abused, or whatever in whatever modern mode or format.

          The problem is with your reasoning and argumentation, as it was with Anyabwile and whoever he was quoting below.

          Les Prouty

          “An alter call is just one way of doing an invitation, which we are agreed is Biblical. So, where is the problem?”

          No, the specific form of an invitation called the altar cll is not biblical. You cannot point to it. I’m only pressing the point because some of the AC advocates say it is biblical…that is, that form is in get bible. No big deal though. We also use lapel mics and pews too. Both can also be abused…being too cool and sleeping on the pew. :)

            Johnathan Pritchett

            I am one of those advocates.

            Again, you keep erring in your reasoning.

            How is it not biblical? Invitations are biblical, and the alter call is a way to do the biblical invitation.

            How do you define “alter call?” How do you define “biblical?”

            Maybe this is our problem. I define “alter call” as the invitation at the end of the sermon. In this manifestation, it is where people are invited to step forward (mode). I define “biblical” as being based in biblical principles. I do not define biblical as necessarily a “1 to 1 exact correspondence with a narrative, instruction, or exact duplicate or some passage in Scripture (and neither does anyone else).

            So, how is this “mode” not biblical?

Andy

1. Historically, it is my understanding that it began in the 2nd great awakening by men like Charles Finney. The earlier Edwards, Whitefield, and Wesley did not call for public physical responses, though they regularly counseled repentant sinners after the service was over….But perhaps a historical expert can correct me.

2. There is nothing special about the call for publicly walking an aisle…niether is there anything inherantly wrong with it. I grew up in a church in which there WAS strongly encouraged invitation, with a pastor who would extend it a few stanzas regularly…and yet 48-50 sundays a year, nobody would come. So it’s not a magic bullet that will suddenly increase our conversions.

3. I believe Bob has his finger on some of the deeper problems. Whether or not to call for a public response at the end of a worship service, on the grand scale of things, is not most church’s most pressing problem. This is not to say Dr. Hunter should not address the issue. It is always helpful to examine our practices.

norm

Historically, I think we can trace the public invitation to our Lord (and additional scriptures), who invited all who were troubled and heavy laden to come unto him for rest. If Jesus did it publicly, then he is the model, mere human exemplars and discussion notwithstanding. I think the theological discussion begins with our Lord’s words.

Dr. Alan Streett is perhaps the one who most impacted my spiritual life as I enrolled in almost every class he taught at Criswell College, my alma mater. Then president Dr. Paige Patterson hired Streett based on his dissertation, from which Dr. Street published the book, “The Effective Invitation.” Convinced of the biblical validity of the public and intentional invitation, Street wrote the book. I highly recommend it. So does this guy: “There is no preacher on the earth but will be blessed by these pages” —W. A. Criswell.
Order the book. http://amzn.to/1KOg7pp

Braxton Hunter

Thanks, Andy! You make some good points to bounce off of.

1. If men like Edwards, Whitefield and Wesley regularly counseled sinners after the service, it seems reasonable to let them know during the service that such counseling was available and encourage them to come to the front of the assembly before the service was over to ensure they received that counseling . . . sounds like the invitation.

2. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to point out that I don’t view the invitation as a silver bullet. I view it as a safeguard, last effort, urgent exhortation etc.

3. I agree. I would add, I enjoy the debates that the discussion over God’s providence and human freedom evoke, but with the SBCs recorded baptisms and church membership in decline, I think bickering over evangelism methods that pose absolutely no threat (and philosophically cannot pose a threat if Calvinism is true) and may be helpful, is silly.

David R. Brumbelow

Dr. Hunter,
Very good defense of the public invitation.

I can say, along with many, many others, that I was saved during a public invitation.

May pastors and churches continue to use the public invitation to invite and persuade people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
David R. Brumbelow

Dennis Lee Dabney

Paul Washer has adequately described the grip liberalism has on the Church here in this great nation. I took my tent down and pulled up the stakes from the 2nd largest Baptist convention in world due to much of what Paul outlined. In no way is he describing where I currently serve nor the circle of influence I now find myself in. However he has accessed where I’ve been.

Preach!

    Andy

    I can’t tell, are you agreeing with Dr. Hunter, or disagreeing?

Debbie Kaufman

Ouch Norman. That’s a pretty poor interpretation of that scripture. One does not have to walk down an aisle in order to come to Christ and give Him their burden. That is not what this passage is saying.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Ouch Debbie. That’s pretty poor reading comprehension of his post. One does not have to have a 1 to 1 correspondence to the exact setting of Scriptures to base principles, examples, and analogs to them.

    “One does not have to walk down an aisle in order to come to Christ and give Him their burden. That is not what this passage is saying.”

    That is not what Norm was saying.

    norm

    Yes, Debbie, that is correct. There were no church aisles when Jesus uttered those invitational words. This is the futility of arguing from our context and trying to force-fit it upon select verses from the NT era. My point was that Jesus was giving a public invitation to come to him. A modern public invitation is not necessary for the lost to come to Christ. That could be done in the quiet of one’s closet, on the subway, in a restaurant, wherever. But neither should the public invitations be precluded based on modern interpretations or objections when Jesus set the example by publicly calling people unto himself.
    Thx for the back-up, J-Man!

Les Prouty

Thabiti Anyabwile quoted another pastor on reasons why he does not have “altar calls.”

“So, why don’t we practice “altar calls”? I don’t think the pastor who practices an “invitation” at the end of a sermon is in sin, but he may not be acting wisely either. This list of reasons, compiled by Pastor Ryan Kelly of Desert Springs Church, is a pretty good summation of some of my thinking (HT: Z).

1. The altar call is simply and completely absent from the pages of the N.T.

2. The altar call is historically absent until the 19th century, and its use at that time (via Charles Finney) was directly based upon bad theology and a man-centered, manipulative methodology.

3. The altar call very easily confuses the physical act of “coming forward” with the spiritual act of “coming to Christ.” These two can happen simultaneously, but too often people believe that coming to Christ is going forward (and vice-versa).

4. The altar call can easily deceive people about the reality of their spiritual state and the biblical basis for assurance. The Bible never offers us assurance on the ground that we “went forward.”

5. The altar call partially replaces baptism as the means of public profession of faith.

6. The altar call can mislead us to think that salvation (or any official response to God’s Word) happens primarily on Sundays, only at the end of the service, and only “up front.”

7. The altar call can confuse people regarding “sacred” things and “sacred” places, as the name “altar call” suggests.

8. The altar call is not sensitive to our cautious and relational age where most people come to faith over a period of time and often with the interaction of a good friend.

9. The altar call is often seen as “the most important part of the service”, and this de-emphasizes the truly more important parts of corporate worship which God has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing).

10. God is glorified to powerfully bless the things He has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing), not the things we have invented. We should always be leery of adding to God’s prescriptions for His corporate worship.”

He goes on to say, “Further, the need to be pastorally careful and sensitive with the souls of men needing to repent and believe couldn’t be more urgent. So, anything that obscures the reality of God the Holy Spirit’s work in conversion and the necessity of repentance and faith must be regarded–at best–a practice with potential to undermine the very work we’re giving our lives to.”
http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2011/04/29/what-about-altar-calls/

    Johnathan Pritchett

    “1. The altar call is simply and completely absent from the pages of the N.T.”

    So are expository sermons…so what? Also, infant baptism is simply and completely absent as well. Are you against that?!?! ;)

    “2. The altar call is historically absent until the 19th century, and its use at that time (via Charles Finney) was directly based upon bad theology and a man-centered, manipulative methodology.”

    Apparently, this person has never read Finney, who was concerned with false conversions and even wrote about it. Value judgments about his theological views on anthropology aside, he was hardly man-centered and manipulative.

    “3. The altar call very easily confuses the physical act of ‘coming forward’ with the spiritual act of ‘coming to Christ.’ These two can happen simultaneously, but too often people believe that coming to Christ is going forward (and vice-versa).”

    Not anywhere close to being as confusing as people who think infant baptism makes them covenant members and people who were splashed as babies thinking they are “saved.” In infant baptism denominations, many do actually equate this with their salvation. Certainly more than people equate “coming forward” with “coming to Christ.” Many nominal PCA folks out there think they are saved because they got splashed as an infant.

    I’d say that is more probable than people confusing “coming forward” with “coming to Christ.” At least those “coming forward” are “coming forward” to “come to Christ” and I’d say almost everyone makes both the distinction, and the connection, if that is how they came to Christ.When I “came forward,” I WAS actually coming to Christ…the “coming forward” bit was just the procedure for those wanting to come to Christ, as the complainer recognizes anyway.

    “4. The altar call can easily deceive people about the reality of their spiritual state and the biblical basis for assurance. The Bible never offers us assurance on the ground that we ‘went forward.’”

    And, again, the same could be said for infant baptism.

    “5. The altar call partially replaces baptism as the means of public profession of faith.”

    “Baptized” babies make zero public profession of faith. ;) See what I am doing here? Except, infant baptism is a bigger theological issue than “alter calls,” which is merely methodological.

    Coming forward is a public profession of faith. Believers-Baptism is a public profession of faith. Saying “I’m a Christian” on Facebook is a public profession of faith. What is this “public profession of faith” business being a “baptism-only” thing in the mind of this complainer? I don’t find that in the Bible…sounds extra-biblical…which is fine, except when the complaint is made hypocritically as in this case.

    “6. The altar call can mislead us to think that salvation (or any official response to God’s Word) happens primarily on Sundays, only at the end of the service, and only ‘up front.'”

    In the real world, infant baptism actually has mislead people to think that they receive salvation by water, and with zero profession of faith to boot in this case. I bet in the history of the church, more people have been misled by infant baptism in this regard than an alter call. Even if we are arguing in anecdotal fashion, it is certainly far more probable in the history of the Church that infant baptism has caused more misleading with respect to mode and manner and occasion than something the complainer himself dates to the 19th century in the West.

    “7. The altar call can confuse people regarding ‘sacred’ things and ‘sacred’ places, as the name “altar call” suggests.”

    Some could argue that infant baptism is actually worse in matters of confusion, since it is called “Baptism.” But objection 7 is absolutely silly for any thinking person. Come on…

    “8. The altar call is not sensitive to our cautious and relational age where most people come to faith over a period of time and often with the interaction of a good friend.”

    This is a non-objection, and reveals a desperate need for the author to reach ten objections. Next…

    “9. The altar call is often seen as ‘the most important part of the service’, and this de-emphasizes the truly more important parts of corporate worship which God has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing).”

    In what world? I’d say MOST ALL people think the music or sermon are the most important parts of corporate worship.

    “10. God is glorified to powerfully bless the things He has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing), not the things we have invented. We should always be leery of adding to God’s prescriptions for His corporate worship”

    But are “alter calls” or “invitations” (and the former really is just the latter…I don’t quite get the hair-splitting people are making here) actually “additions” in that sense, or just a part of the “preaching?” It seems to me no more an “addition” to preaching than bowing heads and closing eyes is an “addition” to prayer.

    Turns out these ten objections fall completely flat and are unconvincing. Moreover, they suffer from either generic banality, or can be applied to actual matters of theology far more important…like splashing babies with water and calling it baptism.

      Les Prouty

      Johnathan,

      I’ll copy and paste your post and respond in ALL CAPS (EXCEPT MY PRIOR COMMENTS I REPOST HERE)

      “1. The altar call is simply and completely absent from the pages of the N.T.”

      So are expository sermons…so what? Also, infant baptism is simply and completely absent as well. Are you against that?!?! ;) AND AS I SAID EARLIER, “But I also do not think it is inherently wrong either. It is just a method, one which I see far too many pitfalls to employ.”

      “2. The altar call is historically absent until the 19th century, and its use at that time (via Charles Finney) was directly based upon bad theology and a man-centered, manipulative methodology.”

      Apparently, this person has never read Finney, who was concerned with false conversions and even wrote about it. Value judgments about his theological views on anthropology aside, he was hardly man-centered and manipulative. I SUSPECT HE HAS. AND PLENT OF OTHER SCHOLARS HAVE READ FINNEY AND FOUND HIS VIEWS HERETICAL. AND THAT HE WASN’T MAN CENTERED? THAT WOULD BE FUNNY IF THE MATTER WERE NOT SO SERIOUS.

      “3. The altar call very easily confuses the physical act of ‘coming forward’ with the spiritual act of ‘coming to Christ.’ These two can happen simultaneously, but too often people believe that coming to Christ is going forward (and vice-versa).”

      Not anywhere close to being as confusing as people who think infant baptism makes them covenant members and people who were splashed as babies thinking they are “saved.” In infant baptism denominations, many do actually equate this with their salvation. Certainly more than people equate “coming forward” with “coming to Christ.” Many nominal PCA folks out there think they are saved because they got splashed as an infant. SO WHO BROUGHT UP INFANT BAPTISM? YOU. CAN YOU PROVE THAT MORE THAN COMMENT? I DOUBT IT. MANY NOMINAL (MILLIONS GIVEN THE LARGER NUMBER OF MEMBERS WHO CANNOT BE FOUND ?) SBC THINK THEY ARE SAVED BECAUSE THEY WENT FORWARD DURING AN ALTAR CALL.

      I’d say that is more probable than people confusing “coming forward” with “coming to Christ.” At least those “coming forward” are “coming forward” to “come to Christ” and I’d say almost everyone makes both the distinction, and the connection, if that is how they came to Christ.When I “came forward,” I WAS actually coming to Christ…the “coming forward” bit was just the procedure for those wanting to come to Christ, as the complainer recognizes anyway. YOU WOULD SAY THAT? CONJECTURE. BUT ANYWAY YOUR COMMENTS HERE ARE LIKE ADMITTING , “WELL YES THERE ARE PROBLEMS WITH FALSE CONVERSIONS AND CONFUSION WITH ALTAR CALLS BUT THERE ARE OTHER CONFUSIONS OUT THERE TOO. SO…” NOT VERY PERSUASIVE.

      “4. The altar call can easily deceive people about the reality of their spiritual state and the biblical basis for assurance. The Bible never offers us assurance on the ground that we ‘went forward.’”

      And, again, the same could be said for infant baptism. “YOU TOO!!” ARGUMENT.

      “5. The altar call partially replaces baptism as the means of public profession of faith.”

      “Baptized” babies make zero public profession of faith. ;) See what I am doing here? Except, infant baptism is a bigger theological issue than “alter calls,” which is merely methodological. BY DEFINITION THEY MAKE NO POF, TILL LATER. MORE “YOU TOO!! ARGUMENT.

      Coming forward is a public profession of faith. Believers-Baptism is a public profession of faith. Saying “I’m a Christian” on Facebook is a public profession of faith. What is this “public profession of faith” business being a “baptism-only” thing in the mind of this complainer? I don’t find that in the Bible…sounds extra-biblical…which is fine, except when the complaint is made hypocritically as in this case. IS THE COMPLAINER A PAEDOBAPTIST?

      “6. The altar call can mislead us to think that salvation (or any official response to God’s Word) happens primarily on Sundays, only at the end of the service, and only ‘up front.’”

      In the real world, infant baptism actually has mislead people to think that they receive salvation by water, and with zero profession of faith to boot in this case. I bet in the history of the church, more people have been misled by infant baptism in this regard than an alter call. Even if we are arguing in anecdotal fashion, it is certainly far more probable in the history of the Church that infant baptism has caused more misleading with respect to mode and manner and occasion than something the complainer himself dates to the 19th century in the West. MORE FAULTY COMPARISONS TRYING TO DEFLECT THE CRITICISMS. BET? MAYBE YOU’RE RIGHT SINCE PAEDOBAPTISM HAS ALWAYS EXISTED AND ALTAR CALLS ARE A RECENT PHENOMENON (200 YEARS?)

      “7. The altar call can confuse people regarding ‘sacred’ things and ‘sacred’ places, as the name “altar call” suggests.”

      Some could argue that infant baptism is actually worse in matters of confusion, since it is called “Baptism.” But objection 7 is absolutely silly for any thinking person. Come on…MORE FAULTY COMPARISONS TO DEFLECT.

      “8. The altar call is not sensitive to our cautious and relational age where most people come to faith over a period of time and often with the interaction of a good friend.”

      This is a non-objection, and reveals a desperate need for the author to reach ten objections. Next…NEXT IT IS.

      “9. The altar call is often seen as ‘the most important part of the service’, and this de-emphasizes the truly more important parts of corporate worship which God has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing).”

      In what world? I’d say MOST ALL people think the music or sermon are the most important parts of corporate worship. WELL AT LEAST MUSIC AND SERMONS ARE BIBLICALLY PRESCRIBED. BUT HEY, TRY DOING AWAY WITH THE ALTAR CALL AND SEE HOW WELL THAT GOES AND YOU WILL FIND OUT HOW IMPORTANT IT IS DEEMED.

      “10. God is glorified to powerfully bless the things He has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing), not the things we have invented. We should always be leery of adding to God’s prescriptions for His corporate worship”

      But are “alter calls” or “invitations” (and the former really is just the latter…I don’t quite get the hair-splitting people are making here) actually “additions” in that sense, or just a part of the “preaching?” It seems to me no more an “addition” to preaching than bowing heads and closing eyes is an “addition” to prayer. ALTAR CALLS MAY BE INVITATIONS, BUT NOT NECESSARILY. WHILE BOWING AND CLOSING MAY BE A GOOD THING, IT IS NOT PRESCRIBED IN SCRIPTURE. ACTUALLY MANY EXAMPLES OF JUST THE OPPOSITE.

      Turns out these ten objections fall completely flat and are unconvincing. Moreover, they suffer from either generic banality, or can be applied to actual matters of theology far more important…like splashing babies with water and calling it baptism. NOT QUITE FLAT YET BROTHER. BUT AGAIN, WHERE DOES BAPTISM FIT IN TO THIS DISCUSSION OTHER THAN TRYING TO SAY, “YOU TOO!!.” TO DEFLECT.

      BLESSINGS BROTHER.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        “SO WHO BROUGHT UP INFANT BAPTISM? YOU. CAN YOU PROVE THAT MORE THAN COMMENT? I DOUBT IT. MANY NOMINAL (MILLIONS GIVEN THE LARGER NUMBER OF MEMBERS WHO CANNOT BE FOUND ?) SBC THINK THEY ARE SAVED BECAUSE THEY WENT FORWARD DURING AN ALTAR CALL.”

        I brought up infant baptism to demonstrate the flaw of your argument. One would think that was obvious.

        But, can you prove your assertion besides comment? No. Again, as I said later, “Even if we are arguing in anecdotal fashion…”

        “YOU WOULD SAY THAT? CONJECTURE. BUT ANYWAY YOUR COMMENTS HERE ARE LIKE ADMITTING , “WELL YES THERE ARE PROBLEMS WITH FALSE CONVERSIONS AND CONFUSION WITH ALTAR CALLS BUT THERE ARE OTHER CONFUSIONS OUT THERE TOO. SO…” NOT VERY PERSUASIVE.”

        Exactly. You got it! As I said, “Also, infant baptism is simply and completely absent as well. Are you against that?!?! ;)” Rush calls it demonstrating the absurdity with the absurd. In this case, the arguments against alter calls. Or, Proverbs 26:5 if you will. But I don’t think you a fool, just mistaken.

        “YOU TOO!!” ARGUMENT”

        Yes. Pressed in good service, I must say. It demonstrates the inherent problems with the original complaints with alter calls.

        “BY DEFINITION THEY MAKE NO POF, TILL LATER. MORE “YOU TOO!! ARGUMENT.”

        Again, you are correct. It is intended to be such. That’s my whole point. Bad arguments are bad.

        “IS THE COMPLAINER A PAEDOBAPTIST?”

        I don’t care if he is or isn’t. I don’t think Anyabwile is though. That isn’t the point.

        “MORE FAULTY COMPARISONS TRYING TO DEFLECT THE CRITICISMS.”

        That it was intentionally tu quo que does not make the comparison faulty at all. You need to back that one up. The comparison is certainly valid, and the charge of it being faulty must be demonstrated, as that is a separate issue.

        BET? MAYBE YOU’RE RIGHT SINCE PAEDOBAPTISM HAS ALWAYS EXISTED AND ALTAR CALLS ARE A RECENT PHENOMENON (200 YEARS?)

        Even anecdotally, I am fine taking that bet, because as you recognize, paedo-baptism has had longer to give false impression of salvation and false assurance. Plus, you got Roman Catholicism to help you out in the infant baptism category. You want to argue against the centuries long history of RCC nominalism and false assurances? Sorry, on this count and category, that practice and the results of it is also yours to grok with.

        “MORE FAULTY COMPARISONS TO DEFLECT”

        Bare assertion. You have to prove the comparison is faulty. I think I have demonstrated that infant baptism is actually a more serious issue. Baptism is theological, invitations in whatever form are only parallels.

        “WELL AT LEAST MUSIC AND SERMONS ARE BIBLICALLY PRESCRIBED. BUT HEY, TRY DOING AWAY WITH THE ALTAR CALL AND SEE HOW WELL THAT GOES AND YOU WILL FIND OUT HOW IMPORTANT IT IS DEEMED.”

        This isn’t a response, but a concession with an meaningless quip.

        “ALTAR CALLS MAY BE INVITATIONS, BUT NOT NECESSARILY.”

        How not? What else are alter calls?

        “WHILE BOWING AND CLOSING MAY BE A GOOD THING, IT IS NOT PRESCRIBED IN SCRIPTURE”

        Exactly. You seem to be coming around to thinking rightly on these things prescribed, exemplified, etc.and variegated forms of how such things are expressed.

        “ACTUALLY MANY EXAMPLES OF JUST THE OPPOSITE.”

        Now this is curious. Opposite of what? Not sure what this one means.

        “NOT QUITE FLAT YET BROTHER.”

        Perhaps not, but flatter enough to demonstrate the arguments against “alter calls” have very little purchase.

        “BUT AGAIN, WHERE DOES BAPTISM FIT IN TO THIS DISCUSSION OTHER THAN TRYING TO SAY, ‘YOU TOO!!.” TO DEFLECT.'”

        Well, we still have to debate the issue of why you think the comparison is faulty. But infant baptism served exactly that purpose. To demonstrate how horribly bad the arguments against alter calls are, and why such arguments don’t work.Unless you become a credo-Baptist, and demonstrate why the comparison of alter calls and infant baptism is faulty (remember, you made the “nowhere in the Bible” assertion first in your agreement with Anyabwile’s mystery pastor, so unless you have that passage where it says an infant got baptized…), neither you, nor Murray, nor Anyabwile and his pastor buddy have any valid complaint against alter calls we should take seriously.

        Blessings,
        JP

          Johnathan Pritchett

          CORRECTION: You also made a “not in the Bible” kind of argument earlier (opening the door to infant baptism comparison and my tu quo que usage) in this statement from before: “But I beg to differ that an invitation where one is called to come forward such as the nature of modern altar calls is biblical. I haven’t found it yet. There may be one I haven’t seen and I will stand to be corrected if one is brought forth.”

      Lydia

      “Apparently, this person has never read Finney, who was concerned with false conversions and even wrote about it. Value judgments about his theological views on anthropology aside, he was hardly man-centered and manipulative.”

      Well, if being “man centered” includes universal equality in education, abolition, educating blacks and women at Oberlin then I think “man centered” was a good thing when it came to Finney. :o)

      Better than the Calvinists who were supposedly not “man centered” who taught that God determined chattel slavery so they could disciple them. It might actually be a God pleasing thing to care about your fellow man and put actions to it. (wink).

      rhutchin

      Les wrote, ‘“1. The altar call is simply and completely absent from the pages of the N.T.,” to which Pritchett responded, “So are expository sermons…so what? Also, infant baptism is simply and completely absent as well. Are you against that?!?! ;)”

      Pritchett, by this statement, concedes the point to Les. Christians have their traditions and the “altar call” is one of them.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        That wasn’t the point at all.

        The point is not “traditions,” the point is the expression of Biblical principles manifested in various ways that do not necessarily have a 1 to 1 correspondence, but are nonetheless “Biblical.” The assertion has been that invitational alter calls are not Biblical, and my assertion is that it certainly is Biblical.

        The red herring of infant baptism though is a separate category, because it is actually a far more serious issue than alter calls being a valid Biblical manifestation of invitations and expository style preaching being a valid Biblical manifestation of preaching.

        Les Prouty

        My quick and likely last comment for the day. Big dinner happening tonight a few days before the wedding of one of my daughters (poured upon as a child but still professing faith in Jesus!)

        “The assertion has been that invitational alter calls are not Biblical, and my assertion is that it certainly is Biblical.”

        Maybe a better understanding of what I mean when I say it is not biblical. I mean that altar calls are neither expressly commanded nor are there examples of such in the NT. It is also true that sprinkling & pouring are neither expressly commanded nor are there examples of such in the NT. But that holds true for immersion as well. But maybe we can have a baptism discussion another day.

        Again, I am not arguing that altar calls are UNBIBLICAL (that they would be sinful in practice). I was simply pointing out that they are neither expressly commanded nor are there examples of such in the NT. That’s all. And as I have said over and over, they CAN be practiced. I just don’t think they are the best way of seeking to be faithful in inviting sinners to Christ.

        I’m not railing against altar calls. I simply came on here with a few comments and clarifications for Braxton. Then I simply pointed out the error of your statement that altar calls are biblical. One more…if by biblical all you mean is that they are permitted, then yes they are biblical. if by biblical you mean you can point to an altar call in the NT, then I think you are wrong. For further clarity, here is what I have said somewhere above:

        “Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I do not think there is either an example of such one or a command of such one. But I also do not think it is inherently wrong either. It is just a method, one which I see far too many pitfalls to employ. And as I have said already, invitations (not altar calls) to call for sinners to repent and believe ARE biblical and should always be employed.”

        With that, much to do. Have fun and God bless.

          Andy

          Did you just say there is no biblical examples of immersion?

          Johnathan Pritchett

          “Big dinner happening tonight a few days before the wedding of one of my daughters (poured upon as a child but still professing faith in Jesus!)”

          Congrats! Or perhaps, congrats? :)

          “Maybe a better understanding of what I mean when I say it is not biblical. I mean that altar calls are neither expressly commanded nor are there examples of such in the NT.”

          I suspected this was our problem all along…My thing is that there are examples of “invitations” in Scripture, and as such, regardless of their mode or manifestation, invitations are biblical (and alter calls are one mode of invitation).

          “It is also true that sprinkling & pouring are neither expressly commanded nor are there examples of such in the NT. But that holds true for immersion as well. But maybe we can have a baptism discussion another day.”

          Those are interesting discussions for me. Unlike other Baptists, and despite what you may have made of my use of infant baptism earlier, I am not at all hung up on it in the least. I have defended it is a debate against a credo-Baptist as a mock assignment. I won by the way. Even though I personally reject it (I didn’t convince myself), I don’t make it a thing at all.My only points here are that I don’t think something has to be commanded or have 1 to 1 correspondence to this or that passage to be considered “Biblical,” and the discussion of Baptism is probably far more important than how invitations are manifested since that is a theological, not methodological matter.

          “One more…if by biblical all you mean is that they are permitted, then yes they are biblical. if by biblical you mean you can point to an altar call in the NT, then I think you are wrong. ”

          My definition above fits neither of those options. :)

          Les Prouty

          Dinner was fantastic. Now just tired.

          “Did you just say there is no biblical examples of immersion?”

          Yes I did say that.

      Les Prouty

      Johnathan: “I’d say that is more probable than people confusing “coming forward” with “coming to Christ.” At least those “coming forward” are “coming forward” to “come to Christ” and I’d say almost everyone makes both the distinction, and the connection, if that is how they came to Christ.When I “came forward,” I WAS actually coming to Christ…the “coming forward” bit was just the procedure for those wanting to come to Christ, as the complainer recognizes anyway.”

      Jeremy: “There is a tremendous backlash in the church today as a result of the Invitation System. It has been a long time since Charles Finney and D. L. Moody practiced it but we can see the impact of their methods in our churches today. Consider the following statistics.

      In November of 1970, a number of churches in Fort Worth, Texas secured 30,000 decisions. Six moths later, the follow-up committee only found 30 who still held to any form of the Christian faith.40

      In September of 1977, Eternity Magazine gave the results of an evangelistic crusade in which the Invitation System was employed. 4,106 decisions were claimed to have been made for Jesus Christ. Shortly afterwards, several churches who sponsored the event followed up with those claims and found that only 125 of them had joined a local church. The rest could not be accounted for. To do the math, out of 4,106 decisions for Christ, 3,981 of them were not bearing any Biblical fruit that the churches could find.41 That means that only three percent of the new converts were actually living like new converts.42

      In 1991 a major Christian denomination in the United States, reported that they had obtained 294,784 decisions for Jesus Christ that year. In March of 1993, the denomination’s magazine, American Horizon reported that after two years of intense follow-up, the denomination could only account for 1,400 of those decisions. They could not find the others in a church in their own denomination or in a church in any denomination. Only five percent of their new converts were living like new converts two years of their conversion.43

      In 1995, another leading denomination in the U.S. reported that they had secured 384,057 decisions but retained only 22,983 in their respective churches. They could not account for 361,074 conversions.” http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-is-wrong-with-the-invitation-system-2/

        Johnathan Pritchett

        “In November of 1970, a number of churches in Fort Worth, Texas secured 30,000 decisions. Six moths later, the follow-up committee only found 30 who still held to any form of the Christian faith.”

        How many did they not find?

        “To do the math, out of 4,106 decisions for Christ, 3,981 of them were not bearing any Biblical fruit that the churches could find.”

        How many did they not find?

        ” That means that only three percent of the new converts were actually living like new converts”

        Does not follow from those findings at all. This is an assumption.

        And so on…

        These are all statements and (probably biased) assumptions of what could not be accounted for. It says absolutely nothing about the Biblical validity or invalidity of alter calls.

        At best, it says something about huge crusade events. Though I guess some data (if handled properly) is better than no data.

        Lord knows how many conversions through personal evangelism were either valid compared to those that were not. The point is, it is irrelevant to the discussion, just as these numbers are irrelevant to the discussion.

        The first point is whether or not alter calls have Biblical validity. Some say yes, others have given extremely poor arguments to say no (as the analogies of prayer methods, preaching methods, and yes, baptism methods demonstrat).

        The second point is whether or not it is okay to do them, and everyone here agrees it is okay.

      norm

      “This is a non-objection, and reveals a desperate need for the author to reach ten objections. Next…”

      You are toooo much, J-Man.

      As well as you defend Dr. Hunter’s and your own position, and I am glad you do, I just don’t get what all the hubbub is about. What has happened with this particular post is exactly what I thought would happen when I read it early on the morning it was posted. So much verbiage, but almost totally to the ignorance that Jesus publicly invited people to follow him. Detractors of the public invitation want to raise all sorts of objections (primarily based on their Calvinistic notions rather than biblical convictions). Would one such person please object to Jesus inviting people publicly to follow him? If Jesus did it, then I think it is not optional for us as his followers; we must do as he did. But instead, some want to raise strawman arguments and cite alleged abuses. Pish-tosh! All of that is diversion from the facts and obfuscation of the public invitation’s validity. And, BTW, saying the public invitation is not in the NT is a denial of what Jesus said. Jesus did it. So, that’s all I need to know.

    Lydia

    “2. The altar call is historically absent until the 19th century, and its use at that time (via Charles Finney) was directly based upon bad theology and a man-centered, manipulative methodology.”

    For most of church history any sort of invitation was not needed. You were either Catholic or Protestant–as in whatever the political lords were—- OR, you were fleeing for your life. OR, you were punished. So one tended to spout whatever they were taught about God to save their life. If they dissented, they paid a high price. It would be hard to know who is elect in that environment. :o)

    So, if we are going to take the historical view, it seems strange to leave out pertinent facts that informed behavior.

      Les Prouty

      “For most of church history any sort of invitation was not needed.”

      Except it was in fact used…an invitation that is, not altar calls.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        Odd you would reply in this manner since you already conceded to me above that alter calls are invitations (though saying “not necessarily so” without any meaningful explanation of how they “not necessarily so”)

Dennis Lee Dabney

Has it been abused? Absolutely! There have been many throughout the past several decades who have preached easy believism, made the church altar itself out to be something venerated and Holy and even used the invitation for monetary gains. Yet, the question is, “Should we throw the baby out with the bath-water?”

If the above statement is true, and I believe it is, there are many more lost soul than we supposed.

I side with both Washer and Hunter. Paul’s message isn’t exclusive to him, I’ve been saying the same thing years before our conference stopped inviting me back. Before the Lord took me out to the woodshed I was sort after to provide the teaching and preaching for our local convention consisting of men’s retreat, primarily pastors, conference workshops, preaching opportunity, not a few. At that time I wasn’t even a pastor. However my stock went south when I made the same observations public.

Someone had to have enough courage to point out the obvious.

Listen, some would walk the aisle Sunday and never come back. Others who did come back, getting them to complete new members classes and many of them went MIA.

Yes, I agree with Washer, the problem was the gospel was not preached! At that time I taught new members orientation. I saw the look on their faces when asked, “what its like to be saved”? Many replied same old same. Not in Christ is it same old same! At that time I could do nothing about it. So you know what happened God did something about me.

I agree with Braxton as well and I believe we are on the same page. Those who venture to walk the aisle, I refer to it as walking the “Green Mile”, must have the gospel ringing in their ears.

Preach!

    Johnathan Pritchett

    I cut Washer some, but not too much, slack on this. I cut none of his parrots like Platt and others ANY slack whatsoever. I think they are being cartoonishly buffoonish in talking about this stuff. Making needless noise.

    Back in the day, Washer, I believe, was not trying to make hay over nothing. I think he was genuinely concerned over Evangelical nominalism.

    Sadly, his rant against methodology was misguided, and a much-needed conversation about nominalism and discipleship was exchanged for a not-needed conversation on methods, especially with the overblown hyperbole and howl-at-the-moon warnings of the dangers and other such nonsense (much of which is repeated here in this thread) that came about because of his misguided targets.

    When Washer’s parrots like Platt dredge this up every now and then (with all the Washer rhetoric but none of the real concern I do believe Washer had), it goes to the same pattern. Once again, a real GROWN FOLK conversation about nominalism and discipleship gets placed on the back-burner by childish Reformed rants about methodology, exaggerated claims about souls that no one could possibly know, and useless ad hominem attacks against a long-dead Presbyterian.

Bill Mac

I think the bottom line is that Gospel invitations and altar calls are not the same thing. The former is scriptural and the latter is not. The latter is a method and like all methods can be used well or badly. Using altar calls or not using them should not make the proponents feel superior to those who disagree.

I am certain that most of the altar calls I have been through have not been high pressure, manipulative affairs, but unfortunately those are the ones that stand out in my mind, with itinerant revivalists being the most egregious offenders.

I understand the objections to the altar call and agree with some of them, but they can be done well and I’m sure are being done well in a lot of churches.

    Jim P

    Bill, your note is balanced about the topic. Manipulation has no place in anything to do with the work of God. Sadly this is not the case. On the topic of the Gospel I feel this is relevant: If the Gospel is proclaimed ‘accurately’ (emphasis accurate) then scripture presents one of three responses,
    1 Cor. 1:22,23. If none of those responses is present, then the proclaimer either doesn’t know the gospel themselves or worse, there is manipulation going.

      Scott Shaver

      Invitations optional and Evangelists suspect according Bill and Jim.

      These may be the perspectives of the new SBC but these certainly are not the perspectives of historical “Southern Baptists”. You guys live in the north?

    Johnathan Pritchett

    “I think the bottom line is that Gospel invitations and altar calls are not the same thing. The former is scriptural and the latter is not.”

    Bill, come on…

    Again, the latter is one way to do the former. Nothing more, and nothing less. It is no different than saying expository preaching is one way of “Scriptural” preaching…despite the fact no one in the Bible ever actually did it that way.

    And unless several men want to stand and read Torah in Hebrew for several hours, translate on the fly and explain it, Nehemiah 8 doesn’t help the expository preacher case.

    On the other hand, if people say they are applying a principle or two found in Scripture, which makes it “Scriptural,” when they preach expository sermons, then they would not only be correct, but they would also have no valid objection against the alter call being one way to do a “Scriptural” invitation even if it has no 1 to 1 correspondence in Scripture the way an expository sermon has no 1 to 1 correspondence in Scripture.

    “I understand the objections to the altar call and agree with some of them”

    I can’t understand them at all. Especially since they are all bad objections. And I mean, and hopefully have demonstrated on various posts here, they are very, very bad objections.

    I understand an argument against manipulators, but that isn’t the same thing with the alter call being the problem anymore than a murderer being the same thing as firearms being the problem.

    You are trying to make an invalid distinction just like Les is between “invitation” and “alter call” when in reality the latter is one way to do the former. I know you, like Les, don’t “condemn” them or whatever, but you make the same error he does in trying to make an invalid distinction.

    The expository sermon is one way to illustrate the problem with this line of reasoning. It is worse for Les though since he is Presbyterian, and there are a total of zero babies recorded in Scripture being baptized. Even paedo-Baptists can try to make arguments by analogy and principles from Scripture (like circumcision in the OT for example) and so forth…but then, that again, has Les using a form of reasoning that he himself would use when it suits him with respect to infant baptism that he rejects with respect to invitational “alter calls.” Whoops. Same problem with Expository preaching, closing eyes and bowing heads in prayer, singing modern hymns from the last 200 years or so, etc., etc.

    Don’t make the same mistakes in reasoning.

      Randy Seiver

      There is nothing inherently wrong with inviting people to walk to the front of a building to confess faith in Christ. The problem has come from the jargon the pastor or evangelist uses when he invites people to do so. If he says something like “We invite you to come forward and be saved,” there is a problem. I cannot count then number of people who have said to me over the years, “I know he/she is a Christian because I saw them get saved” or “I went forward to be saved.” Where do you think they got these erroneous ideas? It was from the unguarded language of sincere and well-meaning pastors. If you are going to invite people to inquire further or to confess faith in Christ publicly, why not do what C.H. Spurgeon did and invite them to come to your study on Monday evening?

rhutchin

Dr. Hunter writes, “Problems arise for Pascal when one considers that there are a variety of alleged gods, and thus one who is unsure can never be certain he is erring on the side of caution,” and “If you adhere to reformed theology and thus you reject my use of the term “decisional,” I invite you to find common ground with me in that from the human perspective we experience our conversion as though it were a decision whether or not you agree that it in fact is.”

With regard to Pascal, Dr. Hunter has succumbed to an atheist argument as if the atheists have raised a problem. Pascal showed that the reasonable person would believe in God. By postulating “many” gods one excludes atheism – changing the issue from believing in God to which god to believe. That is not a problem for Pascal’s argument as it assumes Pascal’s conclusion – that one has decided to believe God and now must decide, which God.

The importance of Pascal’s argument is that it shows that there is no real decision to make. Reasonable people believe in God. The question is, “Why would a person not believe in God?” This is the question Calvinism addresses. The answer leads to TULIP beginning with the “T” – people who reject God/Christ do not think rationally – their minds have been corrupted by sin. People lost the ability to think rationally (the ability to exercise Libertarian Free Will) when Adam sinned. It is only when God restores that Libertarian Free Will that people are again able to think rationally and then, naturally believe God.

What then do we do with the “invitation”? Is the invitation “decisional” or “declarative.” The Calvinist says that the invitation is “declarative” and a person declares that which he has already come to believe. If there is an decision involved, it is not a decision to believe God, but a decision whether to declare it at that time.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    What is it with you and Debbie on this thread? Dr. Hunter hasn’t “succumbed” to anything. He merely appropriated a manner of argumentation for different purposes.

    “This is the question Calvinism addresses. The answer leads to TULIP beginning with the “T” – people who reject God/Christ do not think rationally – their minds have been corrupted by sin.”

    Depends on the Calvinism. Technically, not Dort’s “Calvinism.” Dort begins with “U,” not “T.” But that is neither here nor there for this conversation.

    However, thinking “rationally” is not the same as the ability of exercising “Libertarian free will.” Even irrational people can do that. You are making a categorical error here.

    “What then do we do with the “invitation”? Is the invitation ‘decisional’ or ‘declarative.'”

    Once again, Calvinism creates a man-made, reductionist either/or to replace a Biblical both/and. During any form or method of “invitation,” it is an invitation to make a decision. Now, Calvinists may differ than others on how the decision comes to be made, and that’s fine and a different topic for another day, but it is still categorically a decision to trust as much as it is a decision to declare that trust. In the “soteriological sense” trust/faith/loyalty/belief is a verb. It is an action. Post-conversion trust is the same thing. rhutchin, you and I are deciding to trust in Jesus every day even now. Again, how these every day decisions are made can be hashed out just as conversion can be hashed out, but they are, at bottom, categorically speaking, decisions.

      rhutchin

      Pritchett writes, “Dr. Hunter hasn’t “succumbed” to anything. He merely appropriated a manner of argumentation for different purposes.”

      Dr. Hunter wrote, “Problems arise for Pascal when one considers that there are a variety of alleged gods, …” Hunter did not personally determine that problems exist with Pascal’s argument – he got it from the atheists. He frames this as a real issue, thus Dr. Hunter has succumbed to an atheist argument not realizing that this is not an argument against Pascal.

      Pritchett writes, “…thinking “rationally” is not the same as the ability of exercising “Libertarian free will.” Even irrational people can do that. You are making a categorical error here.”

      Only a categorical error if there is a category available to generate the error. This means that we need a definition for “Libertarian Free will” thereby establishing a category. I have a definition for LFW. I’m betting that you don’t. So, you now need to devise a definition for LFW that you can use to create the categorical error. You also need to devise a definition that allows irrational people to exercise LFW. That should be interesting. So, what fine definition of LFW have you constructed to support your claims?

      Pritchett writes, “…Calvinism creates a man-made, reductionist either/or to replace a Biblical both/and. …”

      Calvinists did not invent the “alter call.” Thus, they did not seek to replace anything. Who taught you this stuff?

      Pritchett writes, “During any form or method of “invitation,” it is an invitation to make a decision.”

      As contrived by those who invented the idea of “invitation” to make a “decision.” It’s purpose is to exalt man and to degrade the work of God in salvation (Calvinism denies a “decision” needing to be made by man).

      Pritchett writes, “…you and I are deciding to trust in Jesus every day even now.”

      Hopefully not. The decision to “trust” Jesus is no more than one realizing that he “believes” Jesus. To believe is to trust; either one believes and trusts or one does not believe and does not trust. You are confusing this with one’s ability to exercise belief/trust in Christ on a daily basis. This would be related to putting on the full armor of God, among other things, which one does because he believes/trusts but not always very well.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        We already had categories established by you: Rationality and will. ;)

        As for definitions for those categories…In extreme brevity, rationality pertains to faculties of reason, and will pertains to capacity to perform a volitional act. Irrational people can perform a volitional act, even irrational ones.

        “As contrived by those who invented the idea of “invitation” to make a “decision.” It’s purpose is to exalt man and to degrade the work of God in salvation (Calvinism denies a “decision” needing to be made by man).”

        First sentence = bogus strawman. Second sentence is false. Many Calvinists understand that one makes a decision for Christ with a conscious act of the will. They just differ with others how such decisions come about (regardless of the method which presents the person with the need to make a decision, be it alter call, personal evangelism, quietly praying at the end of even during the sermon, or however and whenever it occurs). .

        “Calvinists did not invent the ‘alter call.’ Thus, they did not seek to replace anything. Who taught you this stuff?”

        The alter call was not in view to the statement I made. Poor reading again. The both/and is the decision to trust Christ and the decision to declare such trust publicly. That is the referent.

        “Hopefully not. The decision to “trust” Jesus is no more than one realizing that he “believes” Jesus. To believe is to trust; either one believes and trusts or one does not believe and does not trust. You are confusing this with one’s ability to exercise belief/trust in Christ on a daily basis. ”

        Not at all. Belief/faith/trust is always active action, not merely passive realization. Another both/and you turn into an either/or. I hope you have decided to continue to trust Jesus today. Some people decide not to on certain days. Calvin discusses this in his Hebrews commentary somewhere.

        Merely realizing you do entails a decision to that you do so, or at the very least, continue to do so, and certainly a decision that you have done so. Faith in Christ is not merely contemplative. No confusion on this end…on your end though…that’s a different story.

          Johnathan Pritchett

          Rhutchin,

          Since you did assert it, please provide any lexical and biblical evidence you have that faith is understood to be nothing more than merely the passive, introspective realization of an internally observed phenomena with respect to Jesus.

          Historically, even in the best of Reformed traditions, fath is understood, whether at conversion or subsequent to it, to be an active, conscious decision of the will to believe/trust/have faith in/be loyal to Jesus. The Reformed distinctive being that how one has come to make that conscious act (and even the subsequent acts to continually do so) is because of regeneration prior to doing so as a result of the new nature having created the desire to make that active, conscious decision to trust Jesus as opposed to not doing so.

          This is not a denial that one can’t internally observe the phenomena that one does so (has faith in Jesus) It is, however, a denial that faith is MERELY doing so and a denial that the biblical and lexical data support your contention that experiential faith in Christ is only so.

          Biblically speaking, faith is a word like “dance,” not a word like “eyebrow.”

            rhutchin

            Pritchett writes, “Since you did assert it, please provide any lexical and biblical evidence you have that faith is understood to be nothing more than merely the passive, introspective realization of an internally observed phenomena with respect to Jesus.”

            I maintain that faith is active. People are not born with faith – Paul says, “not everyone has faith” in reference to wicked and evil men – the unsaved. (2 Thessalonians 3:2) Faith is a gift from God, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” Despite the confusion on this verse, Paul cannot be saying that either grace or salvation is a gift as that is already understood – his point must be that the entire process involving grace, salvation and including faith is a gift. Of course, what other source of faith do we have other than God and how would God convey faith to anyone other than as a gift – can a person earn faith? God gives a person faith and that faith is then the active force in bringing the person to salvation – faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. By “comes” we understand that many people physically hear the gospel preached but only those whose hearts have been prepared to receive the word find an active faith welling up within them such that they give praise to God for His providence in saving them – there is no decision to be made; only the declaration of God’s goodness.

              Johnathan Pritchett

              Now you seem to be misunderstanding what active/passive means in grammar.

              “…find an active faith welling up within them …”

              Right, so faith for you is essentially, and merely passive, introspective observance of an internal phenomena (even if it is “active” in a different sense), If one merely finds oneself believing something, then this is passive. If one exercises something, then this is active. To exercise something, or do something like repent and place loyalty/trust/belief/faith (better to just say pisteuo) is active. To exercise/do requires a decision to do so. This is not merely a passive discovery of one doing so and then subsequently (actively) declaring oneself to have discovered himself having so.

              Of course, no one argues people are born with faith. So no relevance to this whatsoever to the discussion of active or passive.

              Per Ephesians 2:8-9. I agree, faith is a gift, as is grace and salvation. The issue is what are you reading into the passage about “grace,” “faith,” and “gift” that leads you to Calvinism and the idea that faith is some kind of passively observed phenomena one finds within oneself.

              “there is no decision to be made”

              Of course there is a decision to be made. To trust in Christ entails a decision made to trust in Christ. Faith, again, is a word like dance, not a word like eyebrow or necktie.

              Again, I need to see your evidence. Otherwise, you could essentially be inventing a lexicon, and thus a Bible filled with words defined from your private lexicon, all by yourself and for yourself, and calling it God’s word.

              Here is the deal. In the Ancient Mediterranean, “grace” is a word pertaining to the patron/client reciprocity system which is a socio-economic arrangement. When a benefaction is extended (like salvation) by a patron, the reciprocal action is to place one’s loyalty and trust in the patron upon receiving the benefaction (or whatever other additional conditions a patron, divine or otherwise, attaches to receiving the benefaction). This is an economic arrangement that differs from employment, where wages are earned for works done. The patron doesn’t give the client the trust the client has for the patron. The client makes the decision to place loyalty in the patron based upon the conditions and social customs of patronage. That the whole arrangement operates in this fashion as opposed to works (and/or other conditions) is itself a gift (i.e. not employment, not other conditions other pagan gods extending “grace” condition as reciprocity like performing well in battle, scaling the mountain, slaying the beast, recovering the artifact, etc. etc.).

              If this isn’t what you are talking about, you are not talking about anything in Ephesians that Paul is talking about with respect to words like “grace,” “faith,” “gift,” etc.in its own cultural milieu and on its own 1st century terms. Hence, you otherwise have a personal lexicon to invent a Bible that means something for yourself.

          rhutchin

          pritchett writres, “We already had categories established by you: Rationality and will. ;)
          As for definitions for those categories…In extreme brevity, rationality pertains to faculties of reason, and will pertains to capacity to perform a volitional act. Irrational people can perform a volitional act, even irrational ones.”

          Why did you stop when you were doing well?? Can you now add the concept of “free”? Remember that you wrote, “thinking “rationally” is not the same as the ability of exercising “Libertarian free will.” If one who is not “free” in the LFW sense but still can act rationally, then what is Libertarian Free Will in your philosophy – rational and free? In addition, do you hold that a decision for Christ is merely a rational decision or not just rational but a decision of a Libertarian Free Will?

          I wrote, “As contrived by those who invented the idea of “invitation” to make a “decision,” and Pritchett responded, “First sentence = bogus strawman.” A conclusion crying out for an explanation. Remember, you said, “During any form or method of “invitation,” it is an invitation to make a decision.” An invitation may require that a person make a decision or make a declaration (and maybe there are other responses). To arbitrarily limit an invitation to a “decision” is contrived (an invention) – unless you have an argument that necessitates that it be limited in this manner. Without cause, you cry out, “bogus strawman.” That is the response of a weak position and you may actually understand the weakness of your position – in arbitrarily limiting an invitation to a decision and excluding any other response.

          I wrote, “It’s purpose is to exalt man and to degrade the work of God in salvation (Calvinism denies a “decision” needing to be made by man),” and Pritchett responded, “Second sentence is false.” Again, a conclusion that cries out for explanation. You make a feeble attempt writing, “Many Calvinists understand that one makes a decision for Christ with a conscious act of the will.” Is this correct? I maintain that you do not understand Calvinism and this is evidence of this. Calvinists do not attach the concept of “decision” to but “declaration” to the act of the will. You do not understand God’s providence and the importance the Calvinist attaches to providence to bring them to Christ. There is no decision to be made – one merely declares that which God has done – God saved me. Whomever taught you Calvinism, did you a disservice.

          Pritceett writes, “The alter call was not in view to the statement I made. Poor reading again. The both/and is the decision to trust Christ and the decision to declare such trust publicly. That is the referent.”

          Many people would identify “the decision to declare such trust publicly,” with an altar call (or like action). You don’t. I think you are just being obstructionist (in the absence of sound arguments).

          You are confused on the belief/trust issue. Neither one is passive. Both are active – an active belief manifests as active trust. To say that one decides to “continue” to trust is to say that one can “continue” to believe. Can we conclude – when you write, ” I hope you have decided to continue to trust Jesus today,” – that you believe a person can give up his salvation or decide not to believe anymore?

            Johnathan Pritchett

            ““It’s purpose is to exalt man and to degrade the work of God in salvation”

            My explanation you ask for is that you are smearing the intent and purpose of many of good folks God uses to bring people to himself through this method when you don’t have the standing to make this claim. You should repent. I mean, to even suggest that men like Dr. Hunter are contriving alter calls to exalt man and degrade the work of God in salvation is the kind of total rubbish I won’t tolerate, even if SBC Today will.

            I didn’t say that no one can come forward in an invitation for anything other than a decision, but that they CAN come forward to both decide to trust Christ and decide to make it public. Not casing your invented rabbit trails. The discussion were having is about invitations in the context of inviting someone TO COME TO CHRIST. That is what we are talking about. An invitation to come to Christ (in any format, method, or setting) is an invitation to make a decision for Christ, and it includes the decision to make the declaration that one is doing so at the same time.

            Then, there is the old “you don’t understand Calvinism” garbage.

            “Since personal faith in Christ must involve an actual decision of the will…” Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology p. 717

            “This decision, or change of will for Christ is imperative.” Greg Forster, The Joy of Calvinism p. 102

            “…do appreciate the importance of a decision for Christ.” L.S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, p. 224

            And my laziness kicks in now. But I guess these Calvinists don’t understand Calvinism either. What, with using the forbidden word and all…Good grief.

            Where is your data for your understanding of faith in the biblical sense?

            “If one who is not “free” in the LFW sense but still can act rationally, then what is Libertarian Free Will in your philosophy – rational and free? ”

            Evidence of your invention tendencies, or poor reading abilities, or both. No need to respond since I said the exact opposite. I said people can make free acts without being rational. I.e. Make irrational free will choices.

            My extremely brief definition of LWF is this – The capacity to make a choice between multiple available options, undetermined by external forces or parties.

            “You are confused on the belief/trust issue. Neither one is passive. Both are active”

            Incredible… I am the one who said it was active to you…you were arguing it was essentially a passive, internal recognition of a state of affairs about oneself with respect to Christ. Now you are telling me I am confused and it isn’t passive when I said the exact opposite!

            This is total rubbish.

            Frankly, I am tired of your nonsense. This kind of intentional misrepresentation of others, inventing arguments your opponents never made, claiming they say the opposite of what they do say (especially incredible when everyone can see this if they read the dialog) and so forth has worn out its welcome for me.

    Braxton Hunter

    I’m at an evangelism conference today where we have been seeing many people saved during unbiblical invitations (lol) so I can only make this brief reply.

    If this sounds arrogant you’ll have to forgive m, but I’m quite well aware of how atheists respond to Pascal’s wager. The wager (as we have it without commentary) leaves one with the dilemma of whether to err on the side of caution or not. This is not the kind of faith God wants. it is a just in case sort of faith. What you are referring to is likely the fallacious atheist claim that because there are many gods , none of them can be real. I reject that claim.

    You can say too much about what Pascal was thinking with the wager. It is in the pensees and it is only fragmentary.

    Nevertheless, I merely referenced the argument so folks would have reference to another quadrilemma. Folks around here seem to miss the point with great regularity.

    Blessings to all.

      rhutchin

      The atheists took Pascal’s Wager and imagined a host of problems – one of which is the many gods objection. That objection amounts to a deflection from Pascal’s argument in the absence of a true counterargument to Pascal. When you wrote, “Problems arise for Pascal when one considers that there are a variety of alleged gods, …,” it sounded like you were actually agreeing with the atheists that there is a problem if one considers a variety of gods. If not, then let’s chalk your statement up to poor writing unless you have independently determined that a problem really exists. You don’t really get into this, but if you really see the many gods objection as having some validity, I would be interested in your take on it. I see the objection as an effort to confuse the issue and avoid having to face Pascal’s argument.

      As limited as the Pensees are, Pascal’s point seems clear – a rational person would choose to believe in God (the importance of this is that LFW necessarily has a rational person making a rational decision). Pascal did not address the validity of such belief (for salvation); he merely noted that rational people making rational decisions would always choose to believe in God (or some god).

        Johnathan Pritchett

        rhutchin,

        You are a master at arguing against points others never made and acting as if they did.

        I think you are the one who has a problem arguing with people’s actual points and creating ways to not deal with them by focusing on invented points they never made.

        Be that as it may, I for one (and can’t speak to Dr. Hunter’s view on the matter) see the atheist objection as valid with reapect to the many-gods problem. Here are two reasons.

        1. Any God or god selected for belief may be the wrong object in light of multiple options. This effectively negates the consequential thrust the argument banks on. It is not a deflection at all. It points out the the consequential thrust isn’t averted, but rather compounded.

        2. Similarly to first reason, many gods to choose from renders the argument moot because belief in the wrong God or god (or even gods) offers a no more rational choice than to not put belief in any one of them.

        Dr. Hunter rightly rejects te assertion that if most Gods or gods are false then all must be false. But that is irrelevant to reason 2 given the Wager as a stand alone argument.

        Only reframing the argument with respect to the God of Christianity PLUS other arguments contending for that God as the valid option does the Wager have purchase. Which is why apologists reframe the wager in terms of the importance of investigating the truth claims of Christianity with rigor because of the potential consequences.

        Anyway…

        Braxton Hunter

        Rhutchins, let me see if I can make more clear what I’m saying (not that it is the point of my article).

        I do not affirm that the multiplicity of religions or supposed gods means that one of those religions and one of those Gods is undiscoverable. What I do affirm is that taken at face value (I.e. not bringing further apologetic supplements to the wager – like theistic arguments) we are asked to err on the side of caution and choose belief because eternal conscious torment is on the line. The problem is that one cannot err on the side of caution even if they wanted to do so. Remember, the wager has no extra steps that would include arguments that demonstrate the truth of the Christian God. We are only able (on the basis of the argument) to make a determination based on cost benefit analysis. The problem is that there are other “gods” that threaten eternal conscious torment that vye for existence too. Therefore, one cannot err on the side of caution because on the basis of only the wager (and no supplementary apologetics) he doesn’t know which possibly damning god is real.

        This, by the way, does not mean, “well at least now he’s a theist instead of an atheist” either. Nor would that matter.

        Again, though, none of this has the slightest to do with the point of my article, but you tempted me to respond at this late hour by supposing I mispoke/wrote poorly. I had to respond.

          rhutchin

          Dr. Hunter writes, “Therefore, one cannot err on the side of caution because on the basis of only the wager (and no supplementary apologetics) he doesn’t know which possibly damning god is real. ”

          Did you mean “…can err…” rather than “…cannot err…”? One can err on the side of caution – in choosing to believe God on the basis of the Wager – because the Wager doesn’t tell him which possibly damning god is real. ”

          The wager is basically a cost/benefit analysis. Pascal’s point seems to be that a rational person would always choose to believe in God if all the information he has is that he is subject to eternal torment from God. One would not choose to ignore “God” even if he did not believe that God existed. The followup action would be to search for God and it is here that the many gods problem comes about – it does not come up in the initial decision.

          This has been a side issue discussion, but we shouldn’t see you making this mistake in the future. Don’t buy into the atheist propaganda.

          This whole problem came up because you wrote, “Problems arise for Pascal when one considers that there are a variety of alleged gods, and thus one who is unsure can never be certain he is erring on the side of caution.” You should not have written “…for Pascal…” To add that phrase says that you have read the arguments made by atheists in response to the Wager and you actually have bought into the many gods argument – maybe without realizing it. You needed an editor to mark through that sentence and bring you back to your senses.

            Braxton Hunter

            Rhutchin,

            I am astonished at your lack of humility. You and I have always had direct, but cordial exchanges, yet this is off the reservation. Frankly, I should not reply, but I will.

            You said, ——-“Did you mean “…can err…” rather than “…cannot err…”? One can err on the side of caution – in choosing to believe God on the basis of the Wager – because the Wager doesn’t tell him which possibly damning god is real. ” —– No, I did not mean “can” err. I meant what I said. One “cannot,” on the basis of the Wager, err on the side of caution for the reasons that I outlined. The ability to err on the side of caution implies that you are aware of where the caution is. Thus, your insulting suggestion that I get a better editor (or whatever) is out of place.

            I am not falling prey to the many gods objection. It is simply true that without supplementary apologetic argumentation (i.e. on the basis of the Wager itself), one canNOT err on the side of caution with respect to damnation, because ……..on the basis of the Wager only ……. one cannot know which of the possibly damning gods is real. This is not that confusing. Have atheists pointed this out? Yes. They’re right to point it out. If, on the other hand, there was only one possibly existing God no the table (i.e. the Christian God) the Wager would work perfectly well in the way Pascal probably meant it (even though “just in case faith” is not the kind of faith we should have).

            Further thoughts: If Pascal’s cultural context was such that if people were inclined to believe in God at all, it would be only the Christian God, then the Wager would work in the way he likely intended it.

            Also, you finally help yourself to the way learned apologists on this subject do indeed use the Wager. The Wager can be used to prompt the question, “Because of what is on the line, shouldn’t I make a concerted effort to investigate world religions to determine whether there is one true God who serves as a just judge?” That is a perfectly fine way of thinking about the Wager, but it is not what the Wager gives you. It is for precisely this reason that most professional Christian apologists admit that there are valid criticisms of Pascal’s Wager that cannot be avoided or adequately answered …… on the basis of the argument alone. But those same professional apologists do recognize that one can tweek the Wager to entice skeptics to look into the very supplementary apologetic material that is ……. absent from the Wager itself.

            I’m not confused – I haven’t fallen prey to some atheist trap. I understand the debate about Pascal’s Wager quite well. You’re free to disagree with me, but it strikes me as lacking something important in Christian dialogue and scholarly discussions for you to layer insult on insult simply because we disagree.

            Your demand that I need to come back to my senses is offensive and not representative of the sort of language I would expect from you. Perhaps I was wrong. If one is well read on the subject, one will see that this is a simple observation that is almost always made when the Wager comes up.

            Lastly, you keep making claims about the Wager that go further than what we have from Pascal. What we have is fragmentary. Perhaps, Pascal would have said some of the very things you and I have referenced in order to make the applications Christian apologists make now. He didn’t. All we have is what we have.

volfan007

Preaching the Gospel and NOT giving an invitation to respond is like a man out fishing, and he never reels in the fish.

My daughter got saved at an altar call type of invitation….truly saved.

When we preach the Gospel, then we should plead with people to get saved….right then….right there….at that moment…and then, be ready to LEAD them to Jesus. We don’t need to just leave people standing there, wondering what to do.

David

    Les Prouty

    David,

    “Preaching the Gospel and NOT giving an invitation to respond is like a man out fishing, and he never reels in the fish.”

    Amen brother!! I was saved at a second altar call.

    “When we preach the Gospel, then we should plead with people to get saved….right then….right there….at that moment…and then, be ready to LEAD them to Jesus. We don’t need to just leave people standing there, wondering what to do.”

    Agreed brother. If they need more conversation about the gospel, we should absolutely give them that conversation. If they become Christians while just sitting there, that is praiseworthy as well.

    Blessings brother.

Lydia

The YRR who took over my former church have “broken calls” after the sermon. Week after week, you are to come and be broken at the altar. There is no new creation or born again. Only broken and broken, broken. And week after week, it is the same SBTS student types going up to be broken. Where is the power of the Holy Spirit? Where is the resurrection? It is a culture of death.

I do have a question for the Calvinists. Is it a “decision” to remain perpetually “broken”? :o)

    Scott Shaver

    Lydia asks “Is it a decision to remain perpetually broken?”

    Don’t know Lydia but that’s probably a question they need to address in the upcoming revision of the BFM. Might have to also make some changes in the missionary language of existing.

    As of today, Albert Mohler is calling for a new SBC that is COMPREHENSIVELY CONFESSIONAL as opposed to ANECDOTALLY CONFESSIONAL.

    Tighten down the screws and squeeze that extra cooperation and missionary zest/dollars out through Mohler-devised doctrinal conformity.

    Will get right on that :0

    rhutchin

    A person does not decide to be broken; a person is broken through the conviction of their sin by the Holy Spirit.

      Lydia

      “A person does not decide to be broken; a person is broken through the conviction of their sin by the Holy Spirit.”

      Being continually broken is not a perpetual form of Holiness. it is a culture of death and paralyzing. Teens commit suicide over this stuff. But it is easier to control/direct folks who are perpetually “broken” with no hope of renewed life here and now. They never mature spiritually to help others. They are always looking for something to be broken over so they can be pious and go up to the altar to show everyone. This is NOT the Good News of the resurrection.

Andy

I ran into this in the early 2000’s as I was finishing up college. At our Christian college, they occasionally had student-led chapels, and as I was leaving, the new student chaplain who was a few years younger than me would basically “mope” (I can’t think of any other word for it) durring his “sermons.” He would be walking around on the platform with his head down and shoulders slumped saying things like, “I’m just so aware of how sinful I am, I can’t measure up to what God wants me to be, and I’m broken over the apathy among our student body…I don’t even feel qualified to be up here preaching…I’m a faker…” and so on… And this was not just one time, it was his regular mindset/manner of addressing the student body. It seemed he was depressed…which he may have been…but he was not encouraging us with the joy of the Gospel.

I don’t know if calvinism had anything to do with this young man or not…but I’ve seen similar trends elsewhere among college-age students…It often goes along with what I might call “meandering songs”: Songs with minimal melody and no forward-moving momentum that just meander and say phrases about how much we need God. A service filled with such songs does not lead one to joyful hope in God.

In both cases, it seems they have stopped half-way through the gospel: “Your sin separates you from God……….”

HOWEVER, I am not willing to lay the blame for this on a soterological view. For most deficiencies in piety, one can easily find examples on both sides of the soteriological spectrum…One could easily imagine a Nazarene expressing such things in fear for their own salvation.

So you answer you question. IF a church is teaching its people that perpetual despair of their sin is the prefered human state, they are missing the good news. I don’t think this is, in general, what most Calvinists teach.
HOWEVER, perpetual humility before a holy God, Perpetual gratitude in his salvation, perpetual reliance on him as your only source of strength, and even a perpetual recognition that you are not yet perfected, and still have the ability to fall in to sin….all these seem biblical and right. And for those times when we ARE broken, we have the promise that God will not despise us. May we follow God’s example and not despise those among us who are broken, but rather respond with help and hope.

And to address another part of your paragraph: I do not believe it is “a culture of death” simply to recognize the need for regular repentance and confession of sin.

    Lydia

    “And to address another part of your paragraph: I do not believe it is “a culture of death” simply to recognize the need for regular repentance and confession of sin.”

    You are “reframing” Andy. Not nice. Mature believers recognize their need for repentance continually because they Abide in Christ. They do not wallow in being “broken”. And yes, wallowing in being broken is definitely a “culture of death”. Suffering brings wisdom but insisting one has to suffer all the time to know Christ is ridiculous. These are people who deep down hate justice for others.

      Andy

      Lydia,

      It’s not a matter of not being nice. “Reframing” is simply trying to clarity what someone means…as in, “are you saying this (option a), or this (option b)…
      In this case, reframing is necessary because you have taken a VERY biblical term “BROKEN” and made it out to be a bad thing, so we must determine what you mean by it: Here’s what I see:

      -“Being broken” = Not necessarily a bad thing, provided it leads to repentance and renewed hope in Christ. (Sorrow that leads to repentance)
      -“Wallowing in being broken” = I agree it’s a bad thing. it means someone is not looking to Christ in hope and faith, they are inward focused.

      But, perhaps it goes deeper…Are you saying that a true Christian will no longer struggle with their own sin, and somehow reach a state in which they don’t sin anymore? …That a biblical Christian will NOT EVER be broken over his own sin, except for his initial conversion? If so, that is not a calvinism issue.

        Lydia

        “But, perhaps it goes deeper…Are you saying that a true Christian will no longer struggle with their own sin, and somehow reach a state in which they don’t sin anymore? ”

        That depends on what you view as sin. And I doubt we agree on that since I don’t buy into imputed guilt. A maturing Christian might struggle with issues but never harm anyone. So, how would you know? I would prefer that believers focus on their opportunities to reflect Christ. To use all the gifts He has given us to cure cancer, improve life for others, really love others in action and truth, seek justice and beauty, etc. What a difference if we would teach our kids this instead of a life of sin sniffing and allegiance to the guru on stage!

          Andy

          LYDIA: “That depends on what you view as sin. And I doubt we agree on that since I don’t buy into imputed guilt.”

          ANDY: I don’t think the discussion of imputed guilt matters much to the discussion of “do Christians sin?” Sin = disobeying God. Not complicated.

          LYDIA: “A maturing Christian might struggle with issues but never harm anyone. So, how would you know?”

          ANDY: I might not know, but if they are seeking to obey scripture, they will obey the command to confess our sins to one another, so SOMEBODY would know.

          LYDIA: “I would prefer that believers focus on their opportunities to reflect Christ. To use all the gifts He has given us to cure cancer, improve life for others, really love others in action and truth, seek justice and beauty, etc. What a difference if we would teach our kids this…”

          ANDY: I would also prefer we had only to focus on active positive obedience in positive ways, but many of Christ’s commands are about negative things to avoid, or stop doing. Both are important. A man might be feeding the poor every day and also looking at seedy websites every night. He SHOULD address that; while also seeking to help others. It’s both.

          LYDIA: “…instead of a life of sin sniffing…

          ANDY: What you call sin-sniffing, scripture calls “examining yourself”.

          LYDIA: “…and allegiance to the guru on stage!”

          ANDY: This a separate issue, there are people following stage gurus in every corner of church life, regardless of one’s views on any other issue.

            Lydia

            “ANDY: I might not know, but if they are seeking to obey scripture, they will obey the command to confess our sins to one another, so SOMEBODY would know. ”

            The Catholics understood it the same way which is why you went to confession and kept count of whatever it is they consider sinful. Shall we discuss how many angels dance on a pin head next? So I had a bad thought yesterday that was taken captive BUT to obey scripture I must find someone to confess it to. Or, did the indwelling Holy Spirit help me deal with it?

            “ANDY: I would also prefer we had only to focus on active positive obedience in positive ways, but many of Christ’s commands are about negative things to avoid, or stop doing. Both are important. A man might be feeding the poor every day and also looking at seedy websites every night. He SHOULD address that; while also seeking to help others. It’s both. ”

            Sounds like folks not seeking spiritual maturity to me. But when we keep teaching them to depend on human mediators (ala 9 Marks) and sin sniff all the time (CJ) then what we expect? A bunch of milk drinking followers. And I think it is the “follower” of the guru part that is so important here.

            “ANDY: What you call sin-sniffing, scripture calls “examining yourself”. ”

            Are you allowed or mature enough to “examine yourself” or do you need to find a spiritual guru to do it for you? I am confused by your answers. And besides, how can a totally depraved unable person “examine” themselves? I don’t get it.

              Andy

              LYDIA: The Catholics understood it the same way which is why you went to confession and kept count of whatever it is they consider sinful. Shall we discuss how many angels dance on a pin head next? So I had a bad thought yesterday that was taken captive BUT to obey scripture I must find someone to confess it to. Or, did the indwelling Holy Spirit help me deal with it?

              ANDY: You have dismissed other’s view of this scripture, but have not offered an alternative that deals with what the text actually says. Angels dancing on a pin head doesn’t affect our lives with God now. Seeking help, or giving help to a brother/sister who is seeking to put away sin and put on righteousness DOES matter, everyday to millions of Christians. Some people’s bad thoughts repeat themselves and turn into bitterness, anger, and lust, which manifest themselves in harsh words, violence, and immoral actions… If I am stewing in anger privately toward someone, I should go talk to them, seek to reconcile, and if they are a Christian, ask them to help me refocus on the mercy that Christ has shown me, so I can show mercy to others.

              LYDIA: Sounds like folks not seeking spiritual maturity to me. But when we keep teaching them to depend on human mediators (ala 9 Marks) and sin sniff all the time (CJ) then what we expect? A bunch of milk drinking followers. And I think it is the “follower” of the guru part that is so important here.

              ANDY: That’s the question, if a believer repeatedly gives in to a certain sin, what should he/she do that will help him/her mature? Seek help, or keep it secret and keep trying on his own? I would be at a loss to find many examples of Christians seeking spiritual maturity all by themselves in the NT. Paul talks alot about “saints” plural…individual “saint”…not so much.

              LYDIA: Are you allowed or mature enough to “examine yourself” or do you need to find a spiritual guru to do it for you? I am confused by your answers. And besides, how can a totally depraved unable person “examine” themselves? I don’t get it.

              ANDY: False dichotomy. We are commanded to examine ourselves, and to confess our sins to one another. If my answers are confusing, it is only because I am tell you what scriptures say. “Total depravity” is not a biblical term, so I’m not sure how that fits.
              ALSO…I cannot see how what you are describing fits with they way scripture talks about how believers are to relate to one another: ***Confessing, forgiving, admonishing, rebuking, reprooving, sharpening one another,
              AND FINALLY: I see we have moved away from the original discussion of brokenness, whether a christian should have sorrow over their own sin or not. Scripture seems to say that if the sorrow moves one toward repentance and renewed hope and joy in Christ, then it is a godly sorrow. “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

                Lydia

                “You have dismissed other’s view of this scripture, but have not offered an alternative that deals with what the text actually says. ”

                Are you speaking of 2 Corinthians 13? You did not give me a reference.

                “Seeking help, or giving help to a brother/sister who is seeking to put away sin and put on righteousness DOES matter, everyday to millions of Christians. Some people’s bad thoughts repeat themselves and turn into bitterness, anger, and lust, which manifest themselves in harsh words, violence, and immoral actions… If I am stewing in anger privately toward someone, I should go talk to them, seek to reconcile, and if they are a Christian, ask them to help me refocus on the mercy that Christ has shown me, so I can show mercy to others.”

                So Andy, As a long time believer you know to go and talk to the person, right? Or, did someone have to tell you that?

                What we are discussing are degrees. If someone is watching child porn while claiming to be a missionary (yes, his wife should be able to annul the marriage) I think there are much larger and deeper problems…salvic problems, in fact. You see, I am so mean that I actually do not believe that Born Again Christians molest children.

                There is a huge difference between harming others and struggling with every day basic issues that harm no one but yourself. And yes, seeking help is a good thing. But at some point in time maturing means you abide in Christ, have the Holy Spirit who convicts and guides. I am constantly amazed, saddened and down right disappointed in how much the Holy Spirit has been replaced by gurus, care leaders, pastors, etc. When can we teach people to eat meat?

                Shall I trot out my clobber verses on that score? Beware how much sin sniffing, staying broken all the time Puritanism has crept into SBC ranks. It has become to the point, people are proud of their sin because it makes them pious to be perpetual sinners. They think it makes God look really big. But it really makes Jesus Christ look like a failure.

                  Andy

                  James 5:16…sorry I forgot to include that.

                  2. Cor. 13 is the examine yourself passage…

                Lydia

                “ALSO…I cannot see how what you are describing fits with they way scripture talks about how believers are to relate to one another: ***Confessing, forgiving, admonishing, rebuking, reprooving, sharpening one another,”

                That comes out of a real love relationship in Christ. Not some YRR with a 9 Marx book looking to be in charge.

                This started with the “broken altar calls” I mentioned. People who are long time Christians do not need to live in perpetual brokenness. They do not need to constantly look for things to be broken over. If everyone is always broken, how can they help others over come? Oops, I forgot. The guy with the 9 Marx book can help.

    Randy Seiver

    Andy,

    I would be considered a Calvinist by many, and I certainly don’t focus only on the “your sin separates you from God”…… aspect of the biblical message. My focus is on the “let us come boldly to the throne of grace” aspect of the message because “we have a Great Priest who has passed through the visible heavens, Jesus the Son of God.”

Max

Thank you Dr. Hunter for the biblical, philosophical and common sense justifications you provide for decisional evangelism. Considering the expanding influence of those in SBC ranks who question and resist this long-held evangelistic practice of the denomination, it appears that millions of Southern Baptists who exercised their free will by invitation (deciding by faith to believe the Gospel message and accept Christ) now have another decision confronting them.

Dennis Lee Dabney

Washer and Platt will not fair so bad in Church history in view of the greatest nation on the planet pulpits which were compromised as Braxton indicated by attempting to “clean ” fish before the fish were actually “caught”. As this country go the way of all proud nations before us have gone, many men who stand in these pulpits are not free of the blood of many lost souls within their reach.

Calvinism aside, someone amongst us must “Cry aloud, and spare not, lift thy voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins”, from the Pulpits to door!

If the Lord tarry much longer, Christianity in this land will have the same leadership over them that Israel had at His first coming described in Matthews gospel.

Preach!

Randy Seiver

Let’s all be honest. The reason to get them down the aisle is so you can count them and report them to the association. C.G. Finney was aware that the “Anxious Seat” was a replacement of Baptism in the days of the apostles. Baptism is the biblical expression of union with Christ thorough faith.

    Braxton Hunter

    Randy Seiver,

    That is certainly true of some, but you are painting with far too broad a brush. In my 10 years of full-time evangelism, I have never reported numbers (with the exception of one or two unusually incredible instances – to the glory of God). I also served as the President of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists and can assure you that there are many who do not fit that description. The same goes for the hundreds of pastors I have worked with.

    Blessings,
    Braxton

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