Thursday, July 16, 2009

Evaluating the Results of Decisional Evangelism versus Faith Evangelism, Conclusion

In this fifth and last installment I will endeavor to conclude the examination of the competing evangelistic approaches by highlighting the comparisons we have noted; summarizing the effect the competing approaches have had on the church; and calling for a more academic study and comparative analysis.

Decisional evangelism and faith evangelism differ more in their approach and emphasis than their content, however, decisional evangelism often attempts to evoke a response from the consumer of the Gospel message in the form of an intellectual decision affirming the truth of the Gospel.  Faith evangelism, on the other hand, is more concerned with the communication of every element of the Gospel message and leaving the response up to God often looking for more of a change in behavior or heart than a change of mind.  This is not to say that one is superior to the other, that is the basis of a different treatment.  What I have attempted to do is to highlight the different results of the approaches.

The first consequent effect is the eternal salvation of the respondent to the competing messages.  I noted, and suspect that each school of thought agrees, that salvation is by faith and faith alone.  Decisional evangelism attempts to mark that faith by memorializing it in a decision.  Faith evangelism leaves the marking of faith up to action and change in the life of the purportedly new believer.  In any case, whether one makes a decision or not is not determinative of their salvation, rather whether they have faith or not is.

The second consequent effect following from the competing sales pitches touches upon the sanctification of the purported new believer.  I now use the term purported because of lately we have seen many false converts to the Christian faith similar to how much of the world was of the Catholic faith prior to the Reformation.  It seems as though one can almost be a Christian if one is born in America.  Sanctification, however, is unique to those whom God has chosen.

I noted the competing approaches to sanctification flowing from the competing gospel messages.  Indeed, this point was recently underlined at my home church where a Godly minister preached about the possibility that one could be saved and yet never have any part of her life change, she would be simply carnal.  While those who teach faith evangelism would readily admit the possibility of a believer acting carnal for a time, they would reject whole-heartedly the concept, abhorrent to their hearts, that a believer would never realize any sanctification in their lives.  For the faith evangelist sees sanctification as a process that God is in control of, as God acting on us.  Indeed, we do agree with, cooperate with, submit ourselves to this process.  Indeed, the faith evangelist argues, we can hamper this process, frustrate this process, slow this process, but in the end we are the objects of this process not the authors.

Decisional evangelists see salvation and beginning with God and ending with our decision.  In their doctrine, we are both the object and subject.  We are the object first and foremost in that Christ died for us while we were still yet sinners.  We are the subject in that we have to “do something” as my Pastor recently preached.  The something which we must do varied upon the messenger, such as receive, accept, pray, make a decision, repent or join the church and be baptized.  This view of the sinner as cooperating with God in salvation, something theologians call synergistic salvation, permeates into their doctrine of sanctification.

Put more shortly, the decisional evangelist and those who believe they are Christians because they did something, believe they are sanctified principally because they did something.  They are first and foremost the subjects and only secondarily the objects of sanctification.  Thus, it is entirely possible for someone to be a Christian and have absolutely no fruit apparent in their lives at all, other than the claim that they once did something to become a Christian.

Even more importantly, however, the decisional evangelist treats his brothers and sisters in Christ much differently.  This is the singular more distinctive consequence of decisional evangelism as against faith evangelism.  The decisional evangelist is so convinced of their ability to effect their own hearts, and accordingly through wiley argument and persuasive messages, stories and music the hearts of others, that they will sacrifice nothing to the end that they pour all of their energy and import into the evangelism of those whom God has called them out from among.

Put more succinctly, the decisional evangelist loves the world more than he loves his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Next we looked at the consequences of decisional evangelism opposed to faith evangelism in the realm of worship and glorification of Jesus Christ and God the Father.  We noted how any attention to our part in the process of salvation detracts from and reduces in quality, kind and glory that work of God in our salvation.  We also noted that a delusion of the Gospel message, changing the Gospel message, distorting the Gospel message can never glorify God.  Consequently, no one who fails to present the truth of the Gospel as revealed in God’s Word can be said to worship God in truth and deed.  And we noted that to worship God is to give all worth to him but to give worth to a decision, indeed to make it the sine qua non of salvation is to give worth to man instead.  Decisional evangelism’s great failing is that it lifts man’s purported free will above God’s election, predestination, calling and saving work. 

Finally we examined the different approaches to the Church and to living among the brothers and sisters in Christ.  We saw the different views of carnality and so-called second blessings.  It became apparent that discipleship was sorely lacking and that in the decisional evangelism church, discipleship was reduced to the same kind of carnal means whereby the convert was drawn in.  We saw how the emphasis on obedience was markedly different among the competing messages.  And we noted how disparate the message of forgiveness is today within church buildings in America and how this might arise from our soteriology. 
I do not, for a moment, expect complete agreement with my observations.  First, they are simply that, observations.  I have not conducted any methodic surveys among the various evangelists or churches.  There has been no formal analysis of the life styles of congregations from the competing views.  Consequently, I expect there to be disagreement and my prayer is that people with different observations will make them known to me.  In the light of Solus Christus et Soli Deo gloria, this work cannot glorify God and Christ unless there be truth in it, permeating it, filling it as a sponge is filled with water to overflowing.  I have no interest in perpetrating a fraud and therefore welcome any competing observations, whether supportable or not, to the end that God’s Church is edified, God himself is glorified, Christ is put above all.

To that end, I call on my Christian brothers and sisters in academics, particularly the sociological and ecclesiological studies to come to my assistance in denying or affirming the veracity of the claims I have made herein.  I call on Pastors and Elders to note the severity of the consequences I have drawn out.  This is not merely a case of “we can agree to disagree” but a case that effects the very ability of a man to worship and glorify God, to love his brethren, and to be sanctified from sin.  This is not an issue on the periphery of our lives, but rather, the central and determinative issue which affects the quality of the so-called church in America and its efficacy, its honor and its purity.  We have allowed the Devil a strong foot-hold in our front pews in the name of reaching the lost and expect there to be little to no consequence.  I am calling on all Christians everywhere who read or hear of this to wake up.  Arise oh sleeper from your slumber.  As the Pope once reproached a Godly man, there is a fox in the vineyard, yet this time it is competing Ideologies, Theologies, Christologies, and Soteriologies that are so different from one another that we can hardly be said to have the same religion.

If, however, I am mistaken and have polluted the minds of readers with exaggerated claims and observations, then rebuke me kindly but forcefully as a brother.  For to stumble into error through faulty thinking and meditation is neither my gain nor yours.  As the writer of Hebrews calls us to exhort each other today, I echo that calling to everyone who might read this – exhort me by affirmation or by contradiction or by encouragement or by education.  But do not ignore this most important of discussions – the implications of these competing messages. 

Years ago I was challenged by one who loved me much then, to explain why it matters.  She asked me to account for my passion for how a person becomes saved.  She questioned whether it matters in the long run which doctrine is taught.  She inferred that both churches love God, both are filled with Christians, both are good people.  Is it not then, a small matter, a decisive matter unworthy of Godly men?  Are we not called to put away endless genealogies and legal technicalities?  Are we not called to be at peace with all men, so much that it depends on you?  This small work is my attempt to answer those questions.

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