Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Eccentricities of Evangelicalism: the Invitation (2)

The invitation system has achieved almost sacred status in a certain corner of evangelicalism. To those in this corner, being mainly traditionally conservative Baptist churches, to not give an invitation is to not present the gospel and also to prevent people from being saved. This latter effect is what is often most stridently argued and also most heavily flawed. Such thinking stems from an ironclad belief that salvation depends on the actions of men. Not in the sense that works save a person, but in the sense that an outward step must be taken that reflects what is inwardly occurring.

If that last sentence seems a little fuzzy logically, that's because it is. The same people who rail against works-righteousness are those who require an act of man for salvation. Now, don't get me wrong. Conservative evangelicals who teach this don't actually think that what a person does merits their salvation. But they do end up requiring that a certain deed--that of praying a prayer--take place in order for someone to be assured of salvation. In other words, the prayer in which one prays for salvation is built into the mechanism of grace. A convicted sinner will automatically respond in a prayer of confession. To not do so means that salvation has not occurred. Proponents of this viewpoint base their view in Romans 10:9, which teaches that confession of one's salvation must occur for one to be saved.

The exegetical (referring to the passage's core meaning) problem with this line of thinking is that confession is not defined in Romans 10. It could mean confession to God in a prayer, or it could mean confession to God in one's heart. It could mean simply telling other people that one is a Christian. It could mean lots of things, and it need not only mean praying a prayer at the end of a church service. In fact, in the Bible, people most often respond to the news of salvation with baptism. This is the biblical way of affirming and declaring one's faith to the world. Many in the evangelical world have erroneously exalted a prayer or a walk down an aisle and seen these actions as indicative (and almost perfectly so) of salvation. But the Bible knows baptism as the response of a faith-filled heart. Historically, you didn't walk an aisle to show your faith, and you didn't meet with a prayer counselor. You walked to the water, entered it in joyful faith, and walked out of it having declared to heaven and to earth your trust in Jesus. The church today needs to be "baptized" in baptism and to leave its own inventions behind.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good. For some reason when opening your page since New Year's it would open to the courtship/dating blog. Missed most of this, so only read a few past posts.

One other thought about confessing here. Our word for confess is a indicative present passive. I am suggesting that to limit the thought of the confession even to baptism might be more limiting that the text is suggesting.

I wonder if one's confession must be on going, kind of like seen in: NAU Matthew 10:32 "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.

Peter denied Christ 3 times, instead of confessing him.

Anyway, glad to see you have been thinking and writing. I was beginning to think you had dropped out of the world.


5:10 AM  

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