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Apr 26, 2008

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Strider

Ed said that he agreed that one year does not make a trend but that he had other evidence that he was going to post later. I agree with you that declaring a verdict now is a bit premature. The truth is that the numbers are bad, we are likely declining, but we need to correctly identify the problem. We need to repent of the things that need to be repented of and cry out to King Jesus to again take His rightful place in our lives and the life of His Church. So, yes I want to see this debated and discussed much more before we declare that it is all the CR's fault, or blogger's fault, or whatever else.

bill

We have to be very careful with statistics. As we have seen already they can be interpreted to any advantage. Any group who wishes to seek change in the SBC can use this story to support it. Any group who wishes to maintain the status quo can use this story for support.

I personally think that the SBC is tied at the hip to the Republican Party, to our disadvantage. I think the SBC is obsessed with alcohol prohibition to the point of absurdity. I also think Finney-esqe theology and non-biblical language in our evangelism is a big problem. But are these responsible for the decline? It would be unwise and unwarranted to say so.

I do think the suggestion that we are getting more responsible about membership is a little silly. Look how well that idea has been received at the last two conventions.

I'm not saying there isn't a problem, just that it might not be a new problem. Nothing grows forever. This might just be a cycle. So by all means argue for change or argue for the status quo, but you can't really use these numbers for support. Better to argue them simply on their merits.

selahV

Hello Bill, You said that you "also think Finney-esqe theology and non-biblical language in our evangelism is a big problem."

Please help me understand what you mean. What is Finney-esqe theology? What non-biblical language is being used? Thanks, selahV

bill

selahV: Sure. Finney emphasized converts at any cost. Long manipulative invitations. Emotional manipulation. That's what I'm talking about.

As to language: Ask Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior. Ask Jesus into your heart, etc. One caveat, those phrases might be ok within the context of a more biblically solid Gospel presentation, but much of the time they are not. They are not biblical without a large amount of explanation. Better, IMO, to stick with believe, repent, confess.

Tom Bryant

It seems that there could be any number of reasons for the decline.

Our church contributed to that decline. We have been going thru the process of culling out names from the membership of people who are either dead, gone from our area and/or have no interest in returning to the church. This meant that we dropped our membership almost 50%.

Dave Miller

SelahV,

The Finney criticism is most forcefully argued in a book called Revival and Revivalism. It compares the Calvinist leanings of the Revivals of the 1700's (Edwards, etc) with the revivalistic techniques promoted by Finney, which were deemed to be more manipulative. Good book - a little slanted toward the Calvinist viewpoint, but makes some good points.

I think everyone is trying to use these statistics to buttress their viewpoint.

However, I think we need to take an honest look at them. What do they mean? I don't know.

But ignoring them and whistling Dixie is probably not the best idea.

peter

Strider,

Thanks. I agree with you about the discussion that needs to take place. The question though, it seems to me, should be "Is the SBC declining?" I frankly don't know.

The stats thus far cannot prove we are; instead they only suggest we may be. I am open to that, once we digest the statistics.

Pertaining to the stats, my skepticism here in not new. I have not been a particular advocate of our "studies".

What may very well be worst of all, in my view, pertaining to the scenario at Lifeway, has not yet been discussed as I know about:

the one who brought us the sad situation is also the one who brought us sure solution.

Stetzer, who I am confident is a capable statistician, is both pollster and prophet. That's like the guys in the lab doing my blood work at night and then slicing me open on the operating table the next day.

Let me show you what I mean.

The Evangelical Church has listened to pollster, George Barna, virtually my entire ministry.

I first read his "Frog in a Kettle" in my first Church as a young pastor after ordering it from those stacks of 50 Index Cards we used get in the mail at the Church.

Nothing wrong in polling in and of itself. And, I'm sure we learned a lot about ourselves from his ceaseless crunching of numbers among Church folk.

Somewhere, however, Barna morphed from pollster to prophet and we started listening to him as an authoritative voice about what the Church ought to do and ought to be.

I awakened to this as I was reading one of his many books I have in my library. It was, of course, about Leadership, Leadership, Leadership, what he's preached for two decades till finally throwing up his hands in disgust "Nobody will listen to me!".

In that book, he was pontificating about the uselessness of seminary education where men are taught Greek, Hebrew, theology, etc to basically teach and preach. He mentioned that those guys are needed in the Church but not as the Senior Pastor.

The one non-negotiable he said was necessary for a Senior Pastor was leadership. That was it. Everything else is bells and whistles.

My mind immediately raced toward the qualifications Paul gave to Timothy where, of course, the gift of leadership is absent but the gift of teaching beams brightly enough to bust one eyeballs.

Upon closing his book, I closed my eyes, and said something like

"Dear God, I repent of listening to the wrong authority and I refresh my commitment to listen to You as my sole authority."

I have read Barna since but I have not again read him as a prophet but for what he is--a pollster.

And, I mean no disrespect to Stetzer. However, I prefer he do just the lab work, deliver the results and let others determine the diagnosis. In the future, this would perhaps save us from ourselves!

Sorry, Strider. I didn't mean to grandstand. But no one has yet to address this to my knowledge. And I thought today was a good day to say such.

Grace. With that, I am...

Peter

peter

Bill,

Just a quick point: the view that SBs are sold out to the Republican Party is not as airtight an argument as it was 10yrs or so ago. While that liaison is still conventional wisdom, it is seriously questioned now.

A perfect example, by the way, in the virtue of waiting on more complete numbers and "studies" to bake really good in the oven before serving...

With that, I am...

Peter

selahV

Bill...thanks, I've read some of Finney's techniques and while I don't agree with the longevity of invitations, I do agree with invitations--just not badgering, brow-beating and guilt-tripping. I agree with your semantics also. Hence the Southern Baptist VBS emphasis year after year to the ABC's of "Admit, Believe, Confess". selahV

selahV

Dave, As I understand it that is why my reformed brothers fault the invitation and altar call today. I wonder, when folks were "added to the church" in NT times, how do you suppose they counted them? How were they added, i.e. method? selahV

volfan007

selah,

there were three thousand in one day! and, people were daily being saved and baptised! sounds like someone invited someone else to repent and believe to me.

also, when the philippian jailor asked paul what must he do to be saved....in response to paul and God's working....paul didnt tell him to think on it for a long time....read the book of romans....and perhaps the Lord will choose you. paul told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. the whole household got saved that nite. then, they all got baptised. sounds like paul used invitations!


selah, i had a famous, dortian calvinist as a professor in seminary. he shared about a witnessing experience he had. the man wanted to get saved. but, instead of inviting the man to put his faith in Jesus at that moment...as paul and phillip would have done....he told the man to go home and read the entire book of romans, and perhaps the Lord would regenerate him. i'm not kidding. can you believe it?

so, while i agree with you and some others in here that some of finney's techniques, and the techniques of his followers, may be extreme; still, i believe in invitations just as you do, selah. and, i want to add, i'm very careful with children when they come forward. boy, i've seen too many vbs's where very emotional, brow beating appeals have been made by some well meaning pastor who didnt know better, and the little kiddies would come flooding forward. i fear that many of them were not truly saved...but coming out of emotionalism, or because their friends were coming. i try my best to make sure that people understand...especially children.

david

Byroniac

David:

Eph 1:4 (NIV) says, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love"

There's not a Reformed theologian I know of which would say, "perhaps the Lord will choose you." God's choice has already been made. God did the choosing, and I believe all He chose will repent and believe. Regardless, no one can be saved who does not repent and believe.

Having said that, based on your description of the situation with your seminary professor, I have to agree with you. I think you are exactly right. If the man's desire to be saved was genuine (though we cannot see into people's hearts and ever know for sure), then the Holy Spirit was already working on his heart. I'm sure the professor meant well, though, but I think the thing to do then would be to have a serious discussion about true repentance and faith in Christ, and an honest query as to readiness to repent and believe. Then, if the man was sincere, that could have been a genuine conversion experience to truly be rejoiced in.

bill

When I give an invitation I try to make sure people know that it is an invitation to come to Christ, not to the front. I frankly could care less if they come to the front. In fact, my big issue is that many so closely tie coming to Christ to coming to the altar that it almost becomes a work. If someone is seeking, I would MUCH rather they come to see me after the service, than during the final hymn. If they wish to present themselves for membership, then I will ask them to come to the front.

David: What your prof did is not consistent with Calvinism. Anyone, Calvinist or Arminian, who pulled something like that needs a firm but loving smack upside the head.

peter

David,

I enjoy the examples you offer.

Sometimes I think the Lord puts them irresistibly in your head, knowing you'll irresistibly tell it, allowing it irresistibly to draw out of our Calvinist brothers an irresistibly Calvinist explanation that we NonCalvinists will irresistibly counter.

Now more seriously, the Professor--in the consistent Calvinist's eyes--could not not do what God intended him to do. He did as the desires in his heart led him infallibly to do. He is means to the ends of revealing those whom God has already infallibly chosen as much as is the Gospel itself. The Prof. could not not do precisely as God desired if the man was elect.

Therefore, whether he told the man any further truths about Christ or whether he told him to go home, get drunk and watch a Clint Eastwood movie is irrelevant. God elected the man or God did not elect the man. And nothing--not anything, zilch, zero--could overturn that. Who is this Prof that he could overturn God's election?

I'm often curious precisely why our Calvinist brothers are so sensitive about bad invitations. No amount of manipulation of the non-elect will get them in and no amount of stupid, asinine dumb tactics will keep God's elect out. They are elect. What then is the problem with Finney? Indeed what is the problem with masses at open air crusades "professing" Christ.

The Elect cannot not be saved. The Elect cannot not get the truth. The Elect cannot not be born again even if the preaching is entirely screwed up. The Holy Spirit will make the truth known simply through the reading of the word no matter what the preacher says it says or how erroneous his exegesis might be. The truth will come through.

So, the ones at the Crusade who are elect will come and those who come who are not elect it does not matter. Some might say, "yes, but they are deceived thinking they are saved." So? If they are deceived and elect, the Holy Spirit will make it right. If they are deceived and not elect, what could we do about it? What could you or I do about it?

If they are non-elect, their end is a devil's boat floating in the lake of fire. That is their end.

Better to just move on and wish them a happy life...for now...

Grace, David. With that, I am...

Peter

Dave Miller

Selah,

I lean calvinist, but I think some of the periphery issues raised by Calvinists are kind of silly.

On Pentecost, Peter preached the gospel, then "exhorted them with many words to save themselves from this corrupt generation." He instructed them to believe.

I don't care if you give a traditional invitation, but you should invite people to respond and explain to them how to respond.

It is not our job to determine if someone is elect. It is our job to explain and invite. From that point on, it is completely in the hands of God.

bill

Peter: Your caricature of Calvinists explains your rush to defend Mr.Gaines.

peter

Bill,

I did not know I "rush[ed]" to defend Dr. Gaines. If I recall correctly, there were at least three other links to Dr. Ascol's post before I put a ping on it myself. Check for yourself at the end of the post at Founders.

That makes four posts singing another song on Dr. Gaines than my puny little solo here. Indeed, I am not 100% positive about this, but to my knowledge, I was the sole voice who actually posted about it that questioned Dr. Ascol's post. Rush? Nah. I don't think I'll let that one slide so easily.

Secondly, Bill, even granting I did "rush to defend" as you assert, the question is not timing, the question is truthfulness and fairness.

To date, not one complaint has been seriously offered--unless I missed it--that I was unfair or untruthful to Dr. Ascol's post. If I was, produce it. If I was not, what does it matter when I posted it if it was not skewed or unfair?

Finally, my Brother Bill, to suggest someone caricatures a position is much easier to assert than demonstrate. I suggest demonstration rather than assertion.

While I concede I was "messing around" a bit with my brother David who always seems to strike flint rock when Calvinists are present--some, by the way, too often just miss the absolute humor David makes while getting his point on the table, a virtue more of us need--there really is significant parallel in my little diatribe:

--The Elect cannot not be saved; indeed it is absolutely impossible for the Elect to not be saved

--The Elect cannot not receive the gift of faith; indeed it is impossible for the Elect not to receive the gift of faith

--The Elect cannot not inwardly receive and understand the Gospel (excluding babies and mentally challenged); indeed it is absolutely impossible for the Elect to not inwardly receive and understand the Gospel

--The Elect absolutely cannot be kept in darkness and cannot not come to the Light; indeed it is absolutely impossible to keep the Elect from the Light

--The Elect cannot not miss the means to bring them to Christ; indeed it is absolutely impossible for the Elect to be kept from the means to bring them to Christ

--The Elect cannot not enter Heaven to live in eternal bliss as they were chosen to be there before they were created and before they personally sinned; indeed, it is absolutely impossible for the Elect to not enter Heaven

On the other hand,

--The Non-Elect cannot be saved; indeed it is absolutely impossible for the Non-Elect to be saved

--The Non-Elect cannot receive the gift of faith; indeed it is impossible for the Non-Elect to receive the gift of faith

--The Non-Elect cannot inwardly receive and understand the Gospel (excluding babies and mentally challenged); indeed it is absolutely impossible for the Non-Elect to receive and understand the Gospel

--The Non-Elect absolutely must be kept in darkness and cannot come to the Light; indeed it is absolutely impossible for the Non-Elect to embrace the Light

--The Non-Elect must miss the means to bring them to Christ; indeed it is absolutely impossible for the Non-Elect to accept the means to bring them to Christ because there are no means to bring them

--The Non-Elect cannot not go to Hell to live in eternal torment as they were chosen to be damned before they were created and before they personlly sinned; indeed it is impossible for the Non-Elect to not burn in Hell for all eternity

So, Bill: which one of the above is an absolute caricature of Calvinism?

Grace. With that, I am...

Peter

volfan007

peter,

you are spot on. that's why i have trouble with some of the extreme, aggresive five pointers making such a big deal out of the the new stats that our bro. ed gives to us. i mean, if we're not baptising more, or baptising less, then it must mean that God has chosen for it to be this way.

david

volfan007

peter,

btw, i irresistibly felt compelled to write this response to you. i couldnt help it. it just had to be....like something, or someone, took over my will.

david :)

Timotheos

Awww, Peter, why'd you have to go and make lurking so difficult with such a post as this? You are the consummate, incorrigible troller! :^)

Invitations as they are commonly practiced today (and in the recent past, beginning with the so-called "new measures" of Charles Finney, et al) are both absent from, and completely incidental to, the New Testament because men like Paul knew, and actually believed, that the gospel per se was the power of God unto salvation.

Though I suspect David's little anecdote of that dortian dreamer prof was either journalistically trimmed down or purposely under-reported for effect (granted my suspicions may be completely unwarranted), the man to whom he was giving witness was much better served by the prof's advice than the almost certain temptation for the "new measure" man to lead him in a little prayer - even if the encouragement is to pray "from his heart to God's heart" as some sort of reassurance of the sincerity of lips moving by proxy. The implicit lack of confidence in the power of the gospel to save in such situations is, in my view, frightening and not a little shameful.

Look, here's the truth - if we have to put words of repentance into the mouths of our supposed converts, then in the end, that's all they will be - our converts. If, on the other hand, Christ crucified has been clearly portrayed to them, and the Holy Spirit is active in convicting and calling them, then repentance and confession will form of its own accord on their very own lips, from a heart that is being quickened by the gospel and the Christ of the gospel. Anything else falls under the anathema of the great apostle.

Peace.


Morris Brooks

I guess I have a little different take on the news. Should we not be considering the fact that maybe the Lord is pruning the SBC in accordance with John 15:2? Why does He prune? So that the vine will bear more fruit.

There were some positives also in the news that was released: new church starts are up, and missions giving is up. Also, our seminaries seem to be in the best shape, as a whole, than they have ever been, and people are talking about the issues, not nicely all the time, but talking. There also seems to be an awareness growing in the SBC that there is a large evangelical arena out there and we should be part of it and influencing it, without giving up being Southern Baptist.

Personally, I hope the Lord uses this to get the SBC to focus on the real enemy and stop shooting each other. We need to be attacking the domain of darkness, not each other. There is much more I want to say in this vein, but it is late and I need to get some sleep to be prepared for the service tomorrow., but I will close with this..."If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." This strikes at the heart of so much that is going on in the SBC right now.

Morris

Morris

volfan007

timotheus,

the story i told about the dortian calvinist prof. was exactly true. he shared this in our testimonial time at seminary.

i'm glad that paul was the one talking to the philippian jailor that nite, and not some others who would have told him to go to some mourner's bench...read the book of romans....and then see if the Lord had truly chosen him, or not. the same could be said for the ethiopian eunuch. thank God that phillip knew what it meant to lead someone to Christ.

david

volfan007

btw, i'm glad that this prof. and other extreme, aggresive calvinists at least point people to Christ. in that, i rejoice. i mean, at least they are pointing people to the cross. that's a good thing.

david

Dave Miller

David, I don't know exactly what the prof said, or if you misinterpreted him.

I lean Calvinist (not 5 point, but..) and have been around calvinists all my life. In fact, on my blog, I have been critical of my own camp, the calvinists, in my reaction to this decline in numbers.

But, even if you interpreted what he said accurately, what you cannot do is say that what he wrote is indicative of what calvinists believe. If he said that (and I have my doubts you heard him accurately) it was an abberation.

That is NOT what calvinists believe.

Timotheos

David,

I'm sorry, my friend, but I think I know who your famous prof is, and I am having a difficult time believing your little anecdote. I have a friend who married into the prof's family - perhaps the prof will remember the story if I get a chance to ask him.

David, how do you see Philip leading the Ethiopian to Christ? What do you believe Philip said and did, and what did the eunuch say and do? How about the Philippian jailer? How did Paul and Silas lead him to Christ?

Grace.

peter

Timotheos,

This lament, my brother, over "new measures" has got to be the laugh of the 21st Century Church. Why can't we get some new jokes from you guys who study the Calvinistic Puritans?
Almost a century and a half ago, and some of are still whipping up on the New York lawyer turned evangelist.

Nine of ten Pastors who do invitations today probably never read Finney, or if they went to seminary, he was a mere footnote in their history class.

And, know my Timotheos, I agree wholeheartedly with you about the intrinsic power of the Gospel. No disagreement there whatsoever. Our parting ways would be your insistence that a person geniunely seeking salvation or experiencing geniune repentance needs no help. Tell that to the thousands at Pentecost when, after Peter's preaching and their insides sliced by the Gospel's razor--"cut to the heart" (v.37) and Peter's instruction--"'Repent & be baptized". Need no help? Or Saul awaiting his instructions to "arise, be baptized and call of the Lord"?

To insist that we should not instruct as we are called upon from whom we evangelize or, in your words, "if we have to put words of repentance into the mouths of our supposed converts" arguing that the witness, then "falls under the anathema of the great apostle" is just about as evangelisticly frigid as ever I've encountered.

Before I forget, Timotheos, your swipe at David was really beyond your normal composure. You've commented a lot here and David and we've all sparred heavily at times. No need to hurl a grenade that David doctored the story just so he could log on and tell a whopper. Nor is Dave Miller's doubt that Volfan heard it accurately fare any better in my view.

Grace. With that, I am...

Peter

volfan007

tim and dave,

i'm just repeating what i heard him say during chapel testimony time. you can believe it, or not...but i know what i heard. but, let me also add that i've heard other dortian calvinists share similar stories of their witnessing experiences. now, dont get me wrong. i do believe that people ought to understand what they're doing, and we should be careful to make sure that they completely understand. but, as peter shared above....the apostle peter shared the gospel and told those people to repent....and, the ethiopian eunuch was not told to wait and see....he got saved right there on the road and was baptised. also, the philippian jailor and his whole household must have responded to the appeal from paul to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved..." paul certainly gave an invitation to him, and to his whole house.


so, i guess when i gave an invitation this morning for people to respond to the call of God and repent and put thier faith in Jesus...i was in good company....peter, paul, and phillip. they were singing some good music that i also try to sing.

besides, tim and dave, as peter has pointed out...why do you five point guys sweat out bad invitations..what does it matter? the elect are gonna be saved even if they have no preacher, no invitation, the worse gospel presentation, or no gospel presentation. the elect will get saved, and the non elect will not get saved....no matter what. it's gonna happen. so, why all the fuss about whether an invitation is bad, or not????

david

bill

This is why it is difficult to have a constructive conversation. We try to point out a problem in modern SBC churches and we immediately get told that Calvinists can't complain about invitations because our theology makes it irrelevant. If you would try to temper your disdain for Calvinism for just a moment you might see that emotionally manipulative invitations can present problems for churches no matter what their soteriology is. Is anyone arguing for doing away with invitations? The hard core high pressure invitations produce unsaved "converts". Does anyone want to dispute that? How much more difficult is it to lead the local body when the tares outnumber the wheat? Is anyone happy, no matter their soteriology, that a large percentage of their membership might not be saved?

You say that it doesn't matter if the unsaved may have been led to believe that they are saved. Do you think anyone really believes that? If a church uses high pressure tactics to produce responses, and then assures those people they are now saved, then they have lied to them. Should any church be happy with that? I know many, many people who are concerned with our system of invitations who aren't Calvinists.
People who haven't heard of Finney may nonetheless be inheritors of his legacy. Most every revival service I've been to in my almost 30 years in the SBC is evidence enough of that.

David: I don't know who your prof is, or doubt your story. My point is that his response to the seeker is ridiculous, wrong, sinful, outrageous, take your pick. His response has nothing to do with Calvinism and I can't think of a single Calvinist who wouldn't denounce his approach.

volfan007

bill,

i'm calvinistic in my theology, and i dont like brow beating, high pressure techniques invitations, either. but, bill, whether you know it, or not...there seems to be a brand of calvinists out there who dont believe in invitations. or else, it doesnt sound like it. maybe some of you fellas can help me understand it better. because, it sure sounds to me like some aggresive calvinists are scared that they are gonna lead someone who is not elect to the Lord.

bill, i dont hate dortian calvinists. if i sound that way, i dont mean to. because i dont hate them. i dont agree with them. and, i dont appreciate the way that some of the aggresive calvinists split churches and cause people to be led into extremes. but, i dont hate them. some of my best friends are dortian calvinists, and some of my friends are even aggresive, extreme calvinists. i love them in the Lord, and i appreciate all the good that they do for the kingdom of God.

but, i will speak out against the extremes of thier views. and, for some to reject good, sound invitations...just because of the overzealousness of some finney-ish types.....well, i have to say something.

david

Dave Miller

There are many calvinists who reject invitations (I give one every week). However, they do not do it for the reasons you say.

They believe that it is a post-biblical addition to Christian worship that is often given to emotional manipulation.

peter

Dear Bill,

To whom are you directing your words? Personally, I haven't a clue.

With that, I am...

Peter

bill

Calvinists go through what I've heard called the "cage phase" where they want to convert everyone they know. After that stage passes (and perhaps it never does, for some) then you may not be able to identify the average Calvinist from his or her non-calvinist brethren. Calvinists tend to be less tolerant of extreme types of evangelist and are cautious with invitations. I don't have a problem with invitations per se, although I don't miss them when I'm in a service without them. As I said, a Gospel presentation should always present the invitation that Christ gives, to come to Him. But that doesn't have to take the form of 4 verses of Just As I Am at the end of the service.

Timotheos

Peter (and David),

Forgive me if I have stooped beneath my normal composure (me? normal composure?) in suggesting that David may have spoken "evangelistically" in his report of the good dortian prof. It was just incredulity on my part that such a thing really happens, particularly as regards the man in question. And you will, I hope, forgive me for the thought that aggressive nonCalvinists might selectively edit such an anecdote in order to make their case more palpable. No doubt such a thought is beneath me. So, would you have me understand, Peter, that my mild mannered swipe was somehow out-of-bounds in the not infrequently swipe-filled verbiage of certain nonCalvinists here? You are one hard Blogmeister, man! :^) Now, if David's recounting actually is the whole story, I can only shake my head in bewilderment and concur with Bill's disgust.

I could laugh with you at the joke of the 21st century church, Peter, if I wasn't so busy lamenting - and if it was funny. The fact (if, in fact, it is a fact) that "nine of ten pastors" don't know why they do what they do, and have not bothered to question the underlying theology of what they do in the "invitation," is more than lamentable. It might rather be laughable bordering on the insane. But of course, what's the harm, right? If they're in, they're in, so why begrudge a little help at the "altar." (speaking of laughable..."altar?" really?).

Now Peter, allow me to fall back on a tried and true tactic practiced regularly here and protest this statement of yours: "Our parting ways would be your insistence that a person geniunely [sic] seeking salvation or experiencing geniune [sic] repentance needs no help." My protest is simply this: I neither inferred, nor stated, directly or indirectly, such a thing. My objections are many with regard to modern invitations and putting "sinners prayers" in the mouth of another, but helping others understand the gospel and trust in Christ is assuredly not one of them. I think you would stretch beyond recognition the examples you cite of Peter and Saul as being in someway analogous to the practices of many churches today. So please, Peter, do not insist that such is what I have insisted...I insist.

Finally, my brother, I know the power of the gospel - I know it personally, intimately, fearfully, warmly and affectionately. I know the power of the Spirit to engender heart-rending repentance and heart-born confession. These graces were born in me as I was alone before the One with whom I had to do. To insinuate such work of the Spirit - work which is His alone - to be evangelistically frigid is just...well, disappointing. Though the implication is clear to me, I will refuse to believe it of you, Peter. Surely you have enough confidence in the triune God than to believe anything else. We are agreed that help by way of exhortation, prayer, instruction, empathy, compassion and persuasion is our joy and duty, and ought to be given freely and often as possible. But in the end, we trust in, and bow to, the power of the gospel to save, and we have no confidence in the flesh in any of its forms, modern or ancient.

Grace and peace.

Timotheos

peter

Bill,

Again, I'd ask to whom you addressing your comments? You wrote your incisive comment charging a "disdain for Calvinism". Now you move on in another direction.

With that, I am...

Peter

peter

Timotheos,

Two things. First, I feel a backhanded slap pertaining to my word "frigid". If my pain is but illusion, ignore this. If not, please, please, please offer a bit of literary laxity--dare under heaven I even use such a word as "laxity" for what images it brings up!!

Unless I am mistaken, the only possible evil that could be imagined with "frigid" is its secondary meaning associated with particular gender issues. Why that must be taken as what my words implied rather than three prior meanings in the dictionary, I cannot tell. My Calvinist brothers' sensitivity level is increasing to the boiling point, I fear.

Secondly, you write:

"Our parting ways would be your insistence that a person geniunely [sic] seeking salvation or experiencing geniune [sic] repentance needs no help." My protest is simply this: I neither inferred, nor stated, directly or indirectly, such a thing."

And then you correct the record with:

"My objections are many with regard to modern invitations and putting "sinners prayers" in the mouth of another..."

O.K. Now let's look at what you wrote and see if "[you] neither inferred, nor stated, directly or indirectly, such a thing" applies.

My comment was in direct response to the words you wrote immediately after your satirical comment about "lead[ing] him in a little prayer..."from his heart to God's heart", moving lips and all:

"...if we have to put words of repentance into the mouths of our supposed converts, then in the end, that's all they will be - our converts. If...[after clear Gospel presentation]...and the Holy Spirit is active in convicting and calling them, THEN REPENTANCE AND CONFESSION WILL FORM OF ITS OWN ACCORD ON THEIR VERY OWN LIPS FROM A HEART THAT IS BEING QUICKENED BY THE GOSPEL AND THE CHRIST OF THE GOSPEL." (caps mine)

So, neither inferred, nor stated, directly or indirectly? I do not know about you, my Timotheos, but the words in caps, seem to let the air out of that tire.

You just need a good night's sleep, my friend. Have a nightcap and hit the bed.

Grace. With that, I am...

Peter

Timotheos

Thanks for the points of clarity, Peter. Now a few points of my own if I may.

If there are multiple meanings of a word, the choice of which significantly effects ones intended meaning, then someone like me might need a bit of qualification. I took frigid to mean simply cold or chilly, with no sexual overtones at all. Maybe the misunderstanding is all mine, as I took your words to mean that leaving one in the hands of the Spirit when it comes to repentance, confession and faith is (from your perspective) a frigid failure on the part of the evangelizer. Again, if we have given the "help" we are called to give, and able to give in evangelizing, then my contention was, and still is, that the Spirit is up to His tasks without our help in the least. Repentance, conviction, confession and faith are not transferable conditions from one person to another, so I cannot - and should not - pray a prayer of repentance for you, and I should not put in your mouth that which does not arise, as a work of the Spirit, from your heart. In any event, for a person to repeat after another a prayer to be saved suffers from lack of biblical support, and in my view, has more spiritual danger associated with it than good. "God be merciful to me a sinner" is sufficient, but it must arise from the heart of the confessor and not another.

My comments about leading in a little prayer were not intended to be satirical - a well known pastor from my hometown uses those exact words when he leads people to pray after him to be saved. It is much more of a "magical formula" approach than a biblical one. He goes on to assure people that if they were sincere in the prayer that he put on their lips, then they are saved and bound for heaven. This is, in my view, exceedingly dangerous, presumptuous and grievous.

Thank you for the encouragement to get a good night's rest. I did. Though my comments and tone were not driven by a lack of rest, such is always good advice. As we all know, written words of this kind are so susceptible to misunderstanding, particularly in tone and intention. I was not boiling over or sleep deprived, nor am I trying to inflict pain backhandedly or front. My convictions on these issues are certainly not incidental, and so, like you, I write from the heart, and for what I hope is the glory of our Lord and His gospel. Sorry for communicating poorly and too readily misunderstanding - the fault is mostly my own, I'm sure.

Peace.

bill

Peter: That particular comment was directed at you and David. You have stated that what I discern as disdain was really just "fun" so I moved on, although not particularly in another direction, since I've been talking about invitations pretty much this whole comment stream.

peter

Bill,

Fair enough. Thanks for the clarity, my brother.

Timotheos,

Later...

With that, I am...

Peter

deputy chadwick

Pistol Peter,

The following comments address your post:

A one-eyed monkey with half a brain can see that the SBC is on the decline!

Your denial about the slow gradual death of the SBC (as we know it) reminds me of a hospice patient planning next year’s vacation! :D

Have you attended your local Baptist Associational Meeting? The attendance ratio in my association of 65+ to 35- (age group) is 30 to 1. Also my association is about to file Chapter 13. If things keep going the way they are going, the local Baptist association will be nonexistent in another 10 years.

Have you attended your recent State Convention? Again the ratio in SC for the above age group is 30 to 1, again. If things keep going the way they are going, the state convention will be nonexistent in another 20 years.

Pistol Peter, please wake up and smell the coffee and stop looking at the SBC through those “rose-colored glasses” given to you by the Denominational Machine!

The Deputy

peter lumpkins

Deputy Chadwick,

Thanks. No, the former comments do not address my post. What the comments addressed were a series of personal anecdotes that are interesting--not to mention funny--but do not deal, to my knowledge with one word I actually penned there.

Sorry, Deputy. I do not think I'll let you arrest me today. With that, I am...

Peter

John Wallace

I have met Ed Stetzer and read some of his writings. I believe that Ed's analysis must be taken seriously because he travels the country and communicates extensively with pastors and church planters. He has been a church planter/pastor himself. He is not just analyzing raw data from an ivory tower. His conclusions, to be fair, are based on experience, not merely assumptions.

peter lumpkins

Thanks John for your words.

With that, I am...

Peter

deputy chadwick

Pistol Pete,

You stated:
“Thanks. No, the former comments do not address my post.”

Who hath bewitched you, Pistol Pete?

Your thesis of the post:
Ed’s verdict of the SBC’s decline is a Kangaroo Trial! Ed is “wrong-headed” and the SBC is HUNKY-DORY!

The deputy’s verdict for your thesis:
You, Pistol Pete, are out of touch with the SBC Real World! :D

Your failure to see the dire condition of the SBC reminds me of when the news reporters asked President Bush if he knew that gas prices were approaching the four dollar per gallon mark. His reply: “That is the first I’ve heard!”

Pistol Pete, pleeeeaaassseee, get out of your house some: attend your local Baptist association meeting; attend your next state convention! These associations and state conventions make up the SBC.

The deputy’s prescription for Pistol Pete:
Stop being a “whip-boy” and “yes-man” for the “Machine,” just because they “don’t like Ed” and are failing to acknowledge the truth that the SBC is, in all reality, on a decline!

the deputy

volfan007

deputy,

i took peter's post to mean that he does not agree with mr. ed's conclusions, or really, the reasons for the troubles we're in. nobody knows the sooorrroowww.

i think that peter and all the rest of us chickens(baptist identity crowd) would agree that there are problems. we just dont agree with mr. ed's analysis of the troubles. mr. ed makes some observations about what has caused the sky to start falling that seem very short sighted.

and, deputy, maybe the troubles are not as bad as some make them out to be. the point is....give us the data. and then, let's look at the reasons for the troubles. let's all think on it, and see what might really be the diagnosis.

peter, i hope that i have not put words into your mouth that tasted bad to your pallet. and, i certainly hesitate to answer for you, cuz you're so good at answering for yourself.


i shot the sheriff, but i did not shoot the deputy.

david

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