Maybe Calvinism isn’t the Problem

So I have heard the giant debate about Calvinism, how it’s the issue in the SBC and how wrong Calvinists are.  Blah blah blah.  I don’t want to re-hash all of it, because I really think it’s not the issue.  I think the number one issue facing us today is the number of members we have in our church that are not saved, because we have made it too easy.

We as Southern Baptists have been so concerned about saying a prayer and getting Baptized that we have created a whole group of pew sitters that have no life change.  They have nothing in their lives that even begins to look like faith in Christ, apart from attending a service on Sunday morning.  I can’t judge the heart, but I spot a dead tree.  It’s one thing to judge fruit (which we should be doing anyway), but it’s another thing to pretend like there is fruit on a tree, when the tree is clearly dead.

We have pleaded with people to come forward, coerced them, guilted them and persuaded them, said a prayer with them and then rejoiced.  Days, months and years later, there is no life change, no real commitment to Christ and no evidence in the person’s life.  We say things like “we can’t judge a person’s heart” when it’s pretty clear that we can.  Bible teaches that we will know a tree by it’s fruit.  No fruit?  Dead tree.

Jesus laid out the expectations very clearly, take up our cross, follow Him.  We are to die to self and live for Christ.  It never says that pew sitting is the requirement.  In our need for salvation and our lack of solid theology, we have just let anyone join the church without showing any fruit in their lives.  These people teach Sunday School, serve in leadership capacities, vote in business meetings and yet lack the one piece of evidence that the Bible teaches we should have.

Wide the road that leads to destruction and many will find it.  Narrow is the road that leads to Salvation and few find it.  We live in the richest country in the world, and it’s easier for the camel to pass through the eye of needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Many will say to Jesus “Lord, Lord” but will not enter the Heaven.  Maybe we are far too concerned about ‘predestination’ or ‘election’ and not worried about the people who “made a choice” yet will spend eternity weeping.

Comments

  1. says

    In this case, Calvinism certainly isn’t the problem.

    The problem is that the pastor declares a standard for being a believer, specifies the evidence necessary to demonstrate the standard, and pronounces judgement on those in whom he cannot find his evidence and who, therefore, fail to meet his standard.

    Is there not the possibility that the pastor himself is immature and lack the ability to make such judgments? I’d confess to being in such a state at times. Glad I had enough sense not to try and empty the church of all those who didn’t meet my standards.

    When pastors start the bombastic talk about all the lost people in our churches and how we would be better off without them, I get a little nervous.

      • Lydia says

        “William, am I right in assuming the “Pastor” is me, and you think it’s ok for Christians to have no fruit in their lives?”

        Dan, I see a slight problem here even though I agree with you in principle. For example: I can assure you that Driscoll and I do not define the fruitsof the spirit such as “love” (and others) the same way. Yet, as a pastor with very little accountability, he would be the arbiter of the definition in his venue.

        I agree with William. And I would add we have lists in both 1 Corin 5 and in Galatians of issues to discipline over.

        We can look at 1 Corin 5 and see a list Paul made of things of we should separate over.

  2. John says

    After spending years as a member in many different SBC chueches, I am inclined to agree with you. While we can never be sure of anyone’s relationship with the Lord, it is hard to believe someone is a believer yet there is no change in their life or no love for God or the church. It is usually easier to become a member of the local Baptist church than it is to join any other organization. It takes about 5 minutes of your time and everyone claps at the end. You can’t even get a cellphone that fast (and there’s no clapping for you at the end).

    With that being said, I believe very strongly in the power of the Word (I am one of those people that believe that we need more scripture reading in worship). Only God can open hearts, and He does it through the preaching of the Word about Jesus. I am one of those people who was convinced of my own salvation until I was converted, and that happened over 10 years after I was baptised and a member of the church. And only because I was sitting in that pew hearing the Word week after week until God took the scales from my eyes.

  3. says

    Here is one of the things I really fail to understand regarding the issue of Calvinism and its application in church life, as spoken to in your first paragraph. If there is ONE thing that calvinism establishes is the fact that it is virtually impossible to see “the number of members we have in our church that are not saved, because we have made it too easy.”

    As I see it, your whole presentation of easy believism blah, blah, blah really holds little water for Calvinists because all men are totally depraved to begin with, so bad preaching is not going to make them any more depraved… and should have absolutely no effect on God’s efficacious calling on the heart of the unregenerate individual.

    I have seen this argument raised by a number of Calvinist preachers (not sayin your are one) blaming unregenerate church membership on non-Calvinist churches that are not presenting the “true gospel message” as presented in the DOG. This idea of the “true gospel is Calvinism” is really irritating. I spoke to the issue of this in a response to “The Gospel Project” that is about to be released by Lifeway this summer.

    It is as if this whole argument says, “The only thing that frustrates God’s salvific work are ineffective presentations of the gospel.” Somehow, I find that difficult to associate with what I believe Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace to posit.

    I do agree with your assessment, apart from its association with Calvinism. The real problem as I see it is in discipling. Here is why I say what I do. I believe that salvation is based on believing that God is everything He says He is and God will do everything He says He will do, which is based on Hebrews 11:6b.

    When we talk to someone about becoming a Christian, what do we do… we explain the gospel to the best of our ability and lead the individual in understanding his sin nature, his lost condition and his need to repent, turning by faith from his own efforts to earn salvation to Christ who has accomplished it on his bahalf.

    The individual responds, one way or the other. If he affirmes his need for Christ and calls out to God for forgiveness, As I see it, I can only encourage him to believe the promises in the Word of God that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

    Now… just because he is “new-born” I can no more send him out into the world by himself than I can take a 2 week old, give him $100K and say… “Good Luck!” That is why I believe Jesus in the Great Commission told us to make disciples! Conversion is an important part of that BUT there is still so much more. This speaks to the thrust of the post and it is something we ALL must be involved in to the best of our ability.

    And please her me… I do understand that is what we all are seeking to do to the best of our ability. The irritation for me is the implication that non-Calvinist theology is the problem.

    Grateful to be in His Grip!

    ><>”

    • Bill Mac says

      The irritation for me is the implication that non-Calvinist theology is the problem.

      I’d like to hear Dan say that this is what he meant. It seems to me that you have made this more about Calvinism than he did.

      The opposite of easy believism is not Calvinism.

      • says

        Bill…

        I said that I was NOT saying Dan was not making this association AND I clearly said “I have heard this argument made by Calvinists” and even NOW there is this whole issue of Calvinism being “The Gospel” so I do believe my comments are in line with the original post.

        ><>”

      • says

        Correct Bill, I think Calvinist and Non-Calvinists both lead people to faith, I believe that often we are preaching two sides of the same coin. You can refer back to my post on Woven Theology, to see my whole view. I don’t think our theology is the issue. I don’t believe that people are saved until they are lost. What I mean is, until we are broken of sin, until we are convicted by the Holy Spirit, we do not come to genuine repentance. If you want to argue that’s predestination, if you want to argue that it’s free will, whatever that’s not the issue. The issue is that we preach a little sin issue that needs a little forgiveness from a little savior. That is my issue, people who say they follow Jesus but have no brokenness from sin. No fruit, same lifestyle as before they “said the prayer”. THAT is my issue.

        • says

          I would be interested in looking at your “Woven Theology”. I certainly agree with your statement concerning the impossibility of being saved until one is lost. I also have argued what I believe your statement to be… that people who have no sense of lostness are probably not saved. To me it is impossible for anyone to know the joy of salvation without knowing the emptiness of lostness. I will also agree with that assertion as being a “motivating factor in walking with the Lord” and without that real convition there is no motivation to walk with the Lord.

          In this sense, you are correct in saying that being a Calvinist or not is certainly not a factor.

          ><>”

  4. Christiane says

    Galatians 5:22-23

    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
    Against such things there is no law. ”

    “Days, months and years later, there is no life change, no real commitment to Christ and no evidence in the person’s life”

    From ‘My Grandfather’s Blessings’, a story:
    “Once he brought me a little paper cup. I looked inside it expecting something special. It was full of dirt. I was not allowed to play with dirt. Disappointed, I told him this. He smiled at me fondly. Turning, he picked up the little teapot from my doll’s tea set and took me to the kitchen where he filled it with water. Back in the nursery, he put the little cup on the window sill and handed me the teapot. “If you promise to put some water in the cup every day, something may happen,” he told me.

    At the time, I was four years old and my nursery was on the sixth floor of an apartment building in Manhattan. This whole thing made no sense to me at all. I looked at him dubiously. He nodded with encouragement. “Every day, Neshume-le,” he told me.

    And so I promised. At first, curious to see what would happen, I did not mind doing this. But as the days went by and nothing changed, it got harder and harder to remember to water the cup. After a week, I asked my grandfather if it was time to stop yet. Shaking his head no, he said “Every day, Neshume-le.” The second week was even harder and I became resentful of my promise to water the cup. When my grandfather came again, I tried to give it back to him but he refused to take it, saying simply, “Every day, Neshume-le.” By the third week, I began to forget to water the cup. Often I would remember only after I had been put to bed and would have to get out of bed and water it in the dark. But I did not miss a single day. And one morning, there were two little green leaves that had not been there the night before.

    I was completely astonished. Day by day they got bigger. I could not wait to tell my grandfather, certain that he would be as surprised as I was. But of course he was not. Carefully he explained to me that life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places. I was delighted. “And all it needs is water, Grandpa?”
    I asked him. Gently he touched me on the top of my head. “No, Neshume-le,” he said. “All it needs is your faithfulness.”

    (Rachel Remen)

  5. says

    Some have made salvation too easy.

    On the other hand, some have made salvation too difficult and complicated.

    I’m still, however, for the simple Roman Road Plan of Salvation (Romans 3:23; 6:23: 5:8; 10:9-10,13).
    David R. Brumbelow

  6. Bruce H says

    Great post. It seems that once a person is saved they are “assimilated” quickly into Sunday School or some group. If we look a little deeper into our relations within the church today we will find that a majority has this imaginary shield around them. Close but not too close is the appearance. We talk weather, football, churchy quilt making and youth fund raisers. We try to recruit choir members, care group leaders, ushers, and nursery works. There is a form to fill out for each one, too. Maybe we just need to get closer. I think discipleship works for both parties involved. That would mean that I am telling someone that Jesus can do for you what he has done for me. That is very convicting when we place ourselves in that position. Let Christ build His church on that method and you won’t have the problems with the doctrines that are polarized. You basically purge as you go. The purging will not necessarily be based upon doctrine, but true salvation. Jesus even had many that never walked with Him again. That is true commitment that we in the SBC seek but seem to fear.

    • John says

      A good insight to the traditional SS. I never knock classes where the Bible is being taught, but my wife and I have been in a class for over 3 years now and we don’t know the members any more now than the first week we were there. We’ve tried having socials, a ladies Bible study and share group, etc., but just can never get through to a real caring community. This seems to be pretty typical, mainly because people seem to come and go to the class so some are fearful of sharing deep concerns because of unfamiliar faces. Or maybe they like to keep up the ‘all is well’ facade so people won’t look down on or pity them. I’m old enough now that I just want authentic fellowship where people can show their warts. I know some never will, and others will judge or pity, but I’m pretty much past that point. I just want to be able to share and grow in Jesus and His body of believers.

      • says

        “I’m old enough now that I just want authentic fellowship where people can show their warts. I know some never will, and others will judge or pity, but I’m pretty much past that point. I just want to be able to share and grow in Jesus and His body of believers.”

        This encouraged my soul. Thanks, John!

  7. Dan says

    Amen. The 16-million-member number is a joke. Millions of those are lost people to whom we are providing false assurance of salvation.

    • Christiane says

      Not if they are trusting Our Lord Himself.
      I don’t know your Church format experience, so I cannot say for sure, but if the Gospels are read from out loud, seeds are planted in the minds of those who hear.

      Nothing is wasted when this happens.

  8. says

    Perhaps it is more the point of the article that there is too much “easy-membership” than that there is too much easy-believism (though there is that, too). A Calvinist preacher can set membership expectations too low, just as an Arminian can.

    It’s notable — and commendable — that Bruce uses the term “purge” in this regard, since that is a concept now anathema in the typical SBC church. But “purge” we should, as Paul told the Corinthians, “purge the evil person from your misdt (1Co5:13, ESV).

    This is not a source of glee for those purging, but of warning not to be purged.

  9. John Daly says

    Authentic community can most certainly reveal itself when there is shared persecution. Sadly, we as Believers do little to warrant persecution and as such we go through life at a superficial level with one another.

    • Bruce H says

      Persecution certainly reduces our pleasure options and seems to cause the true believer to gravitate toward the level where Jesus is. Our Lord’s first teaching point was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and the last was, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”. Each received the Kingdom of Heaven. May we be ready for such a time as this.

      Great point.

  10. says

    The problem is always the ‘other guy’.

    It never lies with me and how I am living out my Christian life.

    In our little congregation, we don’t use God’s law to make us better (that can’t happen anyway – “when the law came in, sin increased.”) but rather we use God’s law to expose our sinfulness and need of a real Savior (not a life-coach).

    So, we all know that we are not ‘up to it’…but then Christ Jesus and His forgiveness of sins is proclaimed (the gospel) -Romans 1:16. And that Word can go to work on people and create faith. Create believers.

    Who is really ‘in’, and who is ‘not in’, is not for us to worry about…but that will be Jesus’ call on the last Day, or whenever it is that He will judge any particular person.

    We have done things this way for 50 years in our congregation and other churches have been doing this for hundreds, if not a thousand years, or more.

  11. says

    The real problem could well be that we are wanting in the prayer department. Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt (Works.II. Banner of Truth, p253 or 283) was written to promote and enlist believers in various denominations to unite in pray for the spread of the Gospel in foreign lands. As the materials provided in the Banner of Truth edition indicate, the tract inspired people like William Carey and others to join in prayer meetings to that effect. This was circa 1785. Some 7 years later, approximately, Carey was on his way to India with the help of the first Baptist missionary who had already spent nearly 7 years there, one some called a hyper-cavinist, Dr. John Thomas, who would go out of his mind on the upside in a frenzy of joy over winning the first convert, Krishna Pal, whom Carey would baptize and others would say was Carey’s convert. Those prayer meetings (one was in America, the famous Haystack meetings of Judson, Rice, et.al.) preceeded the launching of the Great Century of Missions. We need to have similar organized prayer meetings for a Third Great Awakening, where the nearly 100 prophecies/promises listed by Edwards are pleaded in behalf of every soul upon the earth. I began praying for such a visitation in the Fall of ’73. When I began, I hardly knew what I was doing. I was simply desiring what had happened in the Sandy Creek Assn. circa 1801 and in the American Colonies, circa 1740, and the launching of the Mission effort circa 1812-1820. As time passed, and I began to understand what I had learned, I came to realize that the Great Awakenings and the Launching of the Great Century of Missions involved the Sovereign Grace Theology as the doctrinal view that transformed Protestantism from a contentious, combative, and conflicted Gospel Recovery effort into an outgoing, we will win you with persuasion only effort (a truly major change that might yet affect old Rome, if they could get over being the big cheese on the block). The verses Edwards cited can be pleaded in prayer for such a visitation to begin, to reach every soul on efffort, and to continue for a 1000 generations (I Chron.16:15), anywhere from 20,000-100,000 years (depending on how lengthened human life might become due to improved conditions), and perhaps millions of planets throughout the universe. How about it folks? How about an organized prayer effort devoted to praying for the spreading of the Gospel in all lands and among all peoples everywhere without exception, pleading for Heaven to come down to earth (Isa.45:8), God’s will to be done here under these circumstances (a greater glory to His name, perhaps, than the same being done in heaven where everything is favorable to the same). for the stone to become the grea mountain that fills the whole earth, the glory and knowledge of God to fill the whole earth like the waters cover the sea. God forbid that we should sin in failing to plan and pursue such a prayer venture in this generation.

  12. says

    Friends,

    Salvation is of the Lord…

    Therefore in the truest since one cannot make Salvation to easy… or two difficult. What we are talking about here are “Professions of Faith”… which are not in and off themselves evidence of salvation.

    God is not limited by any degree imaginable in the Salvation of souls by religious hurdles that one may place in the way of those seeking Salvation. And by the same token God is not assisted by any degree imaginable in the Salvation of souls by shallow, emotional, pleas for sinners to just ask Jesus into their hearts. (And for the record, I have been guilty of both of these at one point or another in my ministry.)

    We need to be very clear that a “Profession of Faith” (while it may accompany Salvation) most certainly does not equate Salvation.

    For…

    “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out demons? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:21-23)

    Grace for the Journey,

  13. Karen in OK says

    I would urge you, Dan, to come alongside individually some of the people that you only see on Sunday mornings and who you don’t think bear any fruit.
    Years ago, just as an example, my grandmother only occasionally went to Sunday morning church. She was taking care of my 89-year-old great-grandmother. She got to come to church occasionally when another family member willingly or otherwise took turns on Sunday morning.
    How would any other church member have been able to look at her and decide whether she had any fruit or not?
    I believe this kind of thing happens all the time in many different scenarios.
    Try to go alongside during the week some of the people you are concerned about as having no fruit. At least some of the time, you will be amazed at the sacrificial lives they actually live for Christ. Other times it may be your best opportunity to truly lead unbelievers to Christ.
    Think of Richard Baxter long ago and how he regularly met in the homes of his church’s members to inquire after the state of their souls.

    • says

      That is the point of my entire post is that we abandon people who are lost in their sin to stay that way because we are afraid to love people enough to be honest. Instead, we say dumb things like “I’m not a fruit inspector”, when the bible is very clear that we will know believers by fruit, and we need to support and spurn others on. I don’t condemn the people I work with, but I am honest with them, and I don’t mind pointing out where they are worshiping the idol of self, the idol of pleasure and of sin. I have said many times “if you are incapable of acting like a Christian, chances are you probably aren’t”. I don’t do it to be mean, i do it to walk with people and love them enough and care about their soul. I don’t want people to hear “depart from me” because I was too afraid of being a “fruit inspector”.

      All that, and I still call myself a Calvinist. Hmmmm.

  14. says

    Greg,

    I think your comment speaks to the comment that I made earlier… because I do believe our walk with God has everything to do with our experience of conversion from Him. My first comment was in response to Dan’s statement regarding our pleading “with people to come forward, coerced them, guilted them and persuaded them, said a prayer with them and then rejoiced.”

    All this is a perverted picture of the gospel and that is a subject being touted today and needs to be.

    I understand and agree that a profession of faith does not equate to a salvation experience, but what do you see as a solution for determining which has taken place when an individual comes to you? That is certainly a very valid question to pose here.

    ><>”

    • Bill Mac says

      Bob: I think the difference is between a person truly coming to you, and that person having been dragged to the altar. I pray the practice isn’t widespread, but you and I and everyone else have been around long enough to see coercion from the pulpit. When my father was a young man the preacher would literally go and stand beside him during the altar call, urging him to go forward, telling him it might be his last chance. This kind of thing is done, in many cases, with the best of intentions and a concern for souls, but it produces the kind of fruit(lessness) that Dan is talking about.

      If someone truly, and without coercion, responds to the invitation to come to Christ, makes a valid profession, and then it turns out not to have been genuine, well there’s nothing really to be done. But I have, and I’m sure you have, stood through many an (seemingly) eternal altar call, with every emotional trick in the book thrown at us, trying to garner a response. I don’t do it. You probably don’t do it. But it is done. How widespread I don’t know, but I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think that kind of thing hasn’t contributed greatly to the 11 million members we seem to have misplaced.

      I’ve been in Mexico on a mission trip where the preacher simply was not going to end until someone came forward. I think it finally wrapped up when some people in the front lapsed into a coma and fell forward.

  15. says

    I agree that there is more manipulation in invitations than may belong. I have said, “this could well be your last opportunity to repent and come to Christ” and have been in a situation or two where it was just that. In a sense this also follows my point earlier where I see this argument raised by Calvinists… (again i am just talking out loud here… ) but for Calvinists to pursue this whole argument does not make sense to me… talking against the effectiveness of even using public invitations and manipulating people to come forward. I argue the music we use can do the same thing…

    It is I think as has been discussed… true conversion shows up in people’s hearts… and I am not so convinced that effective or even ineffective methods hinder the work of conviction in a person’s heart and that is a MUST for conversion to take place in my mind.

    A person can be preached to and go through a long protracted invitation that you or I might balk at… and Jesus can save him just as easily as not! Fortunately for us all, God is able to transcend our feeble methods and He does what only He can do and for that I know we are all grateful!

    ><>”

    • Bill Mac says

      and I am not so convinced that effective or even ineffective methods hinder the work of conviction in a person’s heart and that is a MUST for conversion to take place in my mind.

      I agree with you. I’m not concerned about anything we do hindering the work of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of those being saved. I’m concerned about convincing the lost that they are saved and selling it to the church. I’m concerned that preachers (regardless of soteriology) are taking what they are called to do (preach the Gospel) and adding to it what is only God’s to do (convict the sinner).

      So I don’t think we are hindering people from being saved, but we do hinder the work of the church if we lade it down with unsaved members.

  16. says

    Bob,

    Full disclosure here… I am an “Evangelical Calvinist”; and as such I practice personal evangelism and I give invitations each Sunday Morning at the close of the services seeking sinners to make a profession of faith in Christ. I respectively disagree with those Calvinist who have stopped giving invitations… I understand why they have done so, but I disagree.

    As far as a solution for determining what has taken place when an individual makes a profession of faith… First, we need to stop referring to a profession of faith (or a baptism for that matter) as Salvation. We should rejoice and celebrate each and every profession of faith! But, we should never refer to a profession of faith as Salvation… how dare we do so when we have no evidence upon which to make such a claim? Second, the only evidence of genuine salvation is faithfulness that endures a lifetime.

    (1-John 2:19) tell us… “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

    However, even knowing this we are still confronted with those who remain in fellowship with the church and are in truth “not of us”… Of these Jesus said:

    “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”

    So it is that I do not think we have the ability, or the authority, to say that a profession of faith is anything more than just that… “A Profession of Faith”. Again, rejoice and celebrate each and every Profession of Faith… But do not pretend to know more about the hidden work of God in the Salvation of Souls than He has reveled.

    Grace for the Journey,

    • says

      Greg,

      You wrote, “how dare we do so when we have no evidence upon which to make such a claim? Second, the only evidence of genuine salvation is faithfulness that endures a lifetime.”

      Let me ask you a question, given your own statement, are you a Christian or has that yet to be determined? James makes the following statement, “11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:11-13

      One or two things HAS to be true… either the Holy Spirit dwells in a person’s heart or He does not. If He does, then that person is eternally saved; if the Holy Spirit is NOT there he is presently lost. I say presently because that person may be saved tomorrow, next week or 10 years from now.

      I do not see the church as a santuary of saints but a hospital for sinners… and just because someone is not saved today, (whether I believe in unconditional election or not, which for the record I do not) who is to say that this guy who “thinks he is saved” will not be saved in the future if we love him and continue to preach to him.

      We are called to be fruit inspectors but God is the One who does the pruning as well as the saving. Our job is to keep on discipling and a BIG part of discipling is showing them Christ and preaching Jesus to them.

      I read a comment recently that someone wrote that he prayed that the people in church that next Sunday were spirit filled and that the hypocrites stayed home. (Something like that.)

      I wrote back and said… I hope the hypocrites do come! We catch em and God cleans em. That is where my passion lies.

      ><>”

      • says

        Bob,

        You said “I do not see the church as a santuary of saints but a hospital for sinners…” That is a great statement!!! …and one with which I agree 100%

        You ask me “are you a Christian or has that yet to be determined?” Yes, Brother, I am a Christian and I have no doubts about my personal salvation at all. But I do know from personal experience that one may make a false profession of faith and maintain an outward expression of faith (however thin) without any inward change (regeneration) for many years.

        I agree that we must be fruit inspectors… but I would caution that (as Karen on OK says) we must be very discerning, and careful, in doing so. As the Apostle Paul says… none of us have arrived, nor have we been made perfect. But we all press toward the mark…

        I must say that I agree with you in saying “I hope the hypocrites do come.” for I was once Chief among them…

        Grace for the Journey,

        • says

          I heard this proverb growing up as well (church is a hospital for sinners), but in the context of this discussion I don’t think it’s biblically accurate. The Church is the body of regenerated believers, not as-yet-unconverted masses. Sure, the regenerate aren’t perfect (sin-less), but Scripture does call them ‘saints’.

          ‘Churches’ — the visual gathering of believers for worship — should be an ‘emergency room’ for unregenerate sinners, but the post is about receiving those in dire need of aid without being concerned that the cure results in change.

          • says

            Rob,

            Perhaps it is just semantics… but I think the proverb of (church is a hospital for sinners), is very much biblically accurate.

            The Church (Visible) is made up entirely of sinners… Some redeemed, some not. But all sinners. The issue being discussed (as I understand it) is the problem of proclaiming, and giving false assurance unto, those who are not redeemed as Saints (Saved) upon a mere “Profession of Faith”.

  17. says

    And Bob, I will also add, possibly opening a can of worms, that it was Calvinists that brought this problem to the conversation. It wasn’t discussed nor was it a thought among evangelicals before Calvinists began writing and talking about it.

    • says

      Debbie,

      I take it from your comment that “this problem” is something that should not be openly addressed?

      By the way I like “Gummy Worms”…

      Grace for the Journey,

    • Dave Miller says

      Debbie, that is not completely true. Yes, there were Calvinists promoting the issue for a long time, but there were some non-Calvinists involved as well. I believe that Bart Barber and Malcolm Yarnell did some work on this issue in the Texas Convention.

      It was when the Calvinist effort and the Non-C effort joined together and came to a resolution that both could support that the effort gained steam.

      Hmmm…If we worked together instead of saying “my side is better than your side” maybe we would accomplish a lot. Naahh. That couldn’t be it.

      • says

        Dave: Let me jog your memory a little. I am grateful that Bart and Malcolm climbed on board, very grateful. But….it was Tom Ascol that started the issue and began the work in the Southern Baptist Convention. It was later that Malcolm and Bart climbed on board, and that was after the resolution Tom tried to get passed failed two years in a row.

        • cb scott says

          Debbie is right. Tom did try to get the motion open to discussion early on to no avail. Yet, it did take a “group effort to get it on moving.”

          Lydia is no doubt right also. This has been issue debated long before the open communication of the internet.

          Actually, there is a long story with a few twists and turns behind how the motion finally came to life before the whole convention.

      • Dave Miller says

        My memory is just fine, except when my keys or phone are misplaced.

        Yes, Tom Ascol brought the failed resolution to the convention. He did not start the conversation. My dad was talking about this when I was a little kid. Vance Havner and others have been addressing the problem of unregenerate church membership for years. The fact that Tom Ascol made the resolution first is true.

        But this is hardly a Calvinist issue and your attempt to make is one is misguided.

    • Lydia says

      “And Bob, I will also add, possibly opening a can of worms, that it was Calvinists that brought this problem to the conversation. It wasn’t discussed nor was it a thought among evangelicals before Calvinists began writing and talking about it.”

      Oh, it was discussed and thought about quite a bit in my neck of the woods. Just not by any bloggers (because there were no blogs) or celebrity Christians.

      • says

        Lydia: It was never brought before the Convention until Tom Ascol did it several times before. It was never discussed in any non-Calvinist article I ever read, but it was among Calvinists dating back to Augustine actually. :)

          • cb scott says

            Debbie,

            I would venture to guess that the history of the motion dates back even before you were in the SBC.

            I remember Dr. J.S. Bell speaking to the issue in a Church Admin. class as far back as ’75.

          • says

            No, cb, that can’t be right because proof, by definition is something from the first page of a Google search. If it can’t be Googled, then it ain’t so!!!!!

            (/sarcasm) :-)

        • Dave Miller says

          I can tell you that Vance Havner was addressing the issue back in the 70s. Billy Graham.

          The issue was addressed long before Al Gore created the internets.

          • volfan007 says

            Debbie and all,

            I also heard this talked about and preached about for years by peopel who were not Calvinists…long before Ascol brought it up at the SBC. In fact, I preached on this very thing often, long before I ever heard of Tom Ascol.

            Now, can I point out an article on it….no. I heard it preached from many different people…including me.

            David

          • cb scott says

            Vol,

            I would venture to say you heard Dr. Gray Allison speak to this issue in chapel and elsewhere at Mid-American.

        • Lydia says

          Debbie, I did not realize that bringing it before the convention was the standard you meant. You made a blanket statement:

          “And Bob, I will also add, possibly opening a can of worms, that it was Calvinists that brought this problem to the conversation. It wasn’t discussed nor was it a thought among evangelicals before Calvinists began writing and talking about it.”

          I cannot prove you wrong because I cannot give you people’s conversations, church meetings or sermons before the internet.

          If you had mentioned the convention resolution being the standard for the discussion in the first place, I would have agreed with you. Although I do not believe a resolution will save unsaved people sitting in pews. Nor do I think it will disciple them or discipline them, either.

          But it has been a big concern for many years in my neck of the woods.

          • volfan007 says

            CB,

            You are correct. And, I heard it even before Seminary. But, I heard, many, many, many good and great things at Mid America Baptist Seminary. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there…if only I hadnt been so wiped out from working 2 part time jobs, being married and my wife having 2 babies, studying, going to class, and being active in my church…..lol.

            David

  18. Bill Mac says

    I will say this: It is possible that our “unsaved” members are serving on committees, teaching classes, etc. But frankly I doubt that is a big problem. If we have “unsaved” members that are, against all reason, faithful church members, then they are at least in the place where we can do them the most good. It is those who are “saved” and then disappear that is our biggest problem.

    • says

      Bill,

      I have witnessed a very good Sunday School Teacher get saved after years of teaching in the Local Church… In a word it was… AWESOME! Truly God is long suffering toward us…

      I agree… “It is those who are “saved” and then disappear that is our biggest problem.”

      That is why I keep saying that we need to stop referring to a “Profession of Faith” as Salvation.

      Grace for the Journey,

  19. Greg Buchanan says

    …what do you see as a solution for determining which has taken place when an individual comes to you?

    I’d like to thank Bob for the floater; and now, I’m going to call the ball in deep left-center over the bleachers.

    The one and only answer valid answer for this DISCIPLESHIP!

    I don’t mean assigning new members or “new believers” to a SS class and that’s it. I mean they are entered into an intentional discipleship program with committed guides who are as interested in their own growth as that of the “new believers.” A class wherein the basic Christian disciplines ( daily reading, prayer, bible study, giving, service) are taught, modeled, and conducted together and where doctrines and theology including biblical support/derivation are taught. The goal is to help mold life-long disciples who can and will make life-long disciples.

    Through such a process, those who don’t really belong will either (hopefully) have the scales fall from their eyes or (regrettably) they will leave saying this (the beliefs, not the class) isn’t what they agreed to about Jesus.

    To answer the obvious question: no, I do not preside over, teach, or participate in what I just described. But I would very much like to get it started at the church where I am the interim worship pastor.

    • Greg Buchanan says

      I’d like to thank Bob for the floater; and now, I’m going to call the ball in deep left-center over the bleachers.

      Bob, this was not meant to poke fun at you, I had put fake html tags up, but they were not posted. it should look like this:

      [{(tongue-in-cheek)}]I’d like to thank Bob for the floater; and now, I’m going to call the ball in deep left-center over the bleachers. [{(/tongue-in-cheek)}]

      I don’t think your question is funny, nor do I want to seem dismissive of you… it was an HTML error. It just goes to show my limited knowledge of all things web-page related.

  20. Dave Miller says

    For the record, Dan said the problem is NOT Calvinism, so let’s not let Calvinism be a point of conflict here. Let’s leave the Calvinism discussion to another thread.

  21. says

    The truth of the matter is this:

    If any of us were followed around by a camera crew 24/7, (and our thoughts could be read, as well), many could come up with the verdict that we aren’t really Christians after all.

    St. Paul says as much in Romans 7.

    We need a Savior and we have a Savior who died for the ungodly.

    That happens to be me…and you.

  22. says

    Thought I had a second comment above but, alas, no.

    Dan: Yes, you da pastor, and no, I don’t think no fruit is OK.

    You said you could spot dead trees and that it was pretty clear we could judge other’s hearts. I’m all ears. Tell me how you do it. What exactly are the standards, specify the evidence that must be shown…and how you would know enough to pronounce judgment.

    • Frank says

      William,

      I just preached through 3John. I think that answers your question, at least in a large part.

      The Elder, John, speaks pretty harshly in regard to Diotrephes. When describing Diotrephes’ actions, John uses the word, poneros (v10, same word as “Evil One” in Lord’s Prayer). When John speaks of his behavior as evil (v11) he uses the word root, kakos.

      I believe the application is this: bad behavior is indicative of an evil heart. We are reluctant to use such strong language, but apparently John was not so timid.

      Bad behavior is indicative of an evil heart. We cannot monitor one’s heart, but we can point out one’s behavior and suggest there may be a “heart problem.”

      Of course, I think we should speak more boldly, but never as if we are omniscient. Perhaps if we took a more biblical position on people’s bad behavior we could help them (if indeed they are believers) match their walk to their talk.

      If we continue to lower the spiritual bar in churches even a gnat will be able to get over it. I say: raise people to the bar instead lowering the bar to the people (for historical reference to this principle see, Bill Clinton and modern standards for an American president).

      • says

        Frank, love the book of 3 John.

        The problem as described centered on fruitless, pseudo- believers who were ‘dead trees.’ We understand that no one who lives in him practices sin. I was just asking how one qualifies for being that fabled fruit inspector.

        It was the specificity that struck me.

        • Frank says

          William,

          On one hand, I too am struck by any attempt on specificity. On the other hand, maybe we aren’t seeing the forest for the trees.

          If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then maybe it is a duck. It could be a chicken impersonating a duck, but this would not make the duck behavior any less duck-like.

          I’m convinced we are too permissive, not too legalistic in these matters. I do share your concern that we do not become like the Pharisees. We cannot unequivocally say whether someone is saved or not simply by behavior.

          But, since behavior is all we can evaluate it, we should evaluate it critically according to Scripture.

          Again, I get what you are saying about going too far.

          • says

            William,
            I don’t even know how to respond to be honest. People who claim to be Christians, but show no love, have no peace, no patience, no kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness or self control. The issue here is either you have no contact with people aside from 1 hour on Sunday, or you don’t expect them to live up to the commands in the New Testament. I tell people, if they can’t act like a Christian, they probably aren’t. How can we ignore scripture so blatantly? Paul said to kick one man out of the church for his sin. Another couple fell down dead because of their sinful heart. James is full of how we know faith, and 2 Peter tells us how to make our calling and election sure. It’s in there William, it’s all over the New Testament.

  23. says

    However many members we have, in truth, I’m reminded of the old saw that 80% of the work (and giving) is done by 20% of the people, and the other 20% is done by the rest. Lately I’ve heard it stated it’s really more like an 85/15 split.

    I have no doubt that’s close, so my real question is what about the members who don’t vote in a business meeting, teach a class, or any of the other work in the church? Particularly in light of the biblical fact that all believers (check 1 Corinthians 12) are given one or more Spiritual gifts, for the common good.

    Too easy? False assurance? Non-discipleship? Lack of church discipline?

    I know of no other answer. And we wonder why God’s not sending us more people.

      • Frank says

        Some weeks, I think it is 100% . . . but that is usually a Monday morning evaluation.

        I actually pastor a what I consider a “great” church, but I think it is because of the quality of the 10%, not because there is a higher ratio.

        Church discipline (expectations for church members) I believe is THE critical issue of the day.

  24. Lydia says

    “Lydia: It was never brought before the Convention until Tom Ascol did it several times before. It was never discussed in any non-Calvinist article I ever read, but it was among Calvinists dating back to Augustine actually. ”

    I remember reading Luther (cannot remember the source but most likely a bio) saying and I paraphrase loosely the thought: that he dreamed of a true church along side the state church made up of true believers.

    I always thought that was interesting considering he supported the church/state model. At least it was honest.

    There are probably many non Calvinist articles neither you or I have ever had the opportunity to read. :o)

    • says

      There are probably many non Calvinist articles neither you or I have ever had the opportunity to read

      Now Lydia, that’s because you haven’t been trained in how to do research and had your skills honed at a junior college. You use whatever comes up on the first page of a Google search. If it’s not there, you don’t need to know it. :-) (Man, they REALLY need a sarcasm font)

        • volfan007 says

          Debbie,

          Not everyone writes and publishes what they preach. I heard many, many, many sermons about lost, Church members; and how they need to be saved. I HEARD them. I did not read it. Although, Dr. J. Vernon McGee talks about this very thing in his commentaries more than just a little bit.

          David

          PS. I also preached about it….long before I ever heard of blogging. And, I’m not a writer.

  25. says

    Well for it having been supposedly talked about for years, it is interesting that it took 3 years for the resolution to pass after having been defeated for 2 years.

    • cb scott says

      Debbie,

      It is interesting that it took three years to pass, but it did. Of course, as with anything SBC, there is a backstory. Part of that backstory had to do with the wording of the motion. There were other issues, but it did take three years as you have stated.

      It took three years to get a sanctity of human life lesson placed in our Sunday School curriculum also, but that is another story.

      I guess Southern Baptists are just slow sometimes.

  26. says

    Our Lord was very clear. What He demands of a person is literally IMPOSSIBLE. Mark 10. cf the rich young ruler. Note: Not just hard, difficult, complicated, etc., but downright impossible. And some people try to make out that Jesus never used paradoxes. When believers find out that the theology of Sovereign Grace is nothing but impossibilities, paradoxes, absurdities, foolishness, and that that is the theology of the Great Awakenings and of the Launching of the Great Century of Missions, and that that is what we must have with the appreciation for how it really works (an awful humbling effect) and we began to pray to that end, the day for the conversion of the whole earth will be about upon us.

  27. reformedsteve says

    Somewhere along the way we decided that making disciples ended with baptizing folks. And so I think (for what it’s worth), the problem is we think the Great Commission ends with baptism. Compound that with teachings that do not challenge the convert and you get babies sucking on spiritual milk. Over and over Scripture tells believers to grow in grace and peace, but saddly we don’t. Repentance is a one time act in the minds of many. The need for a Savior is only at the altar call. The cross is large and heavy in the mind on Sunday, but has no weight throughtout the rest of the week. This is the problem and be you a calvinist or not you see it and you hate it and you know it shouldn’t be so.

    God called me to ministry by breaking my heart. He gave me a love for the Church and then He showed me the health of His Bride. She is so stained by worldiness and it makes me weep. Yet, her Groom is on His way. He will once for all redeem her. This is why I labor and why I care. Not because of Calvin or Luther, but because of Christ. So, let those who are calvinists be calvinists and those who are not be non-calvinists, but let us together be the Church, because it’s really the only label that matters.

    • says

      Can you elaborate on what you mean when you say “Somewhere along the way we decided that making disciples ended with baptizing folks.”

      Who do you see as being guilty of that? If it is true, I wholeheartedly agree: that would be a major problem.

      ><>”

      • reformedsteve says

        Brother Bob,

        I was saying that we tend to baptize people and leave them to figure stuff out. Yet, we claim to be a Great Comission Church because we as baptists put a heavy emphasis on baptizing to the neglect of discipling.

        As to your question of who, I got someone in mind, but because I don’t want to start a flame war I’m keeping it to myself.

  28. Bruce H says

    In Matthew 25:31ff it talks about the separation of the sheep and goats before judgment. The sheep were rewarded for their good works but didn’t realize that they had done them. The goats were condemned eternally for their good works and wondered why they were not rewarded for them. I know we are encouraged to do good works in scripture. I would rather believe that my focus would be best served with my eyes on Jesus and out of that relationship my works would be more natural to the point of not having to think about my actions so much. I struggle with setting up structured Care Groups and such for people to do a work recognized in scripture. That is how we as SBC have done it for so long and now the generation that began that process keeps trying to revive it. Many churches are now checkmated because of this. Whatever we do next must follow a better plan that is more faith based. One of the tops on my list would be that the church be the financial example to its people. No debt!

    • says

      Bruce H – you’re far too opinionated with Scripture references as well and as such, you won’t have an easy time here at all. These people do have barrells of “axe handles” if you back them in a corner .

      • Bruce H says

        Thanks for your input, Jack. I think I can back up my opinions with scripture. I don’t mind sparking the irons from time to time or admitting I am wrong. It keeps me humble and sometimes the correction I receive keeps me on track whether it was given for that purpose or not. If you see something that may require additional comment for clarification feel free to point it out to me. If they have “axe handles” waiting me or you, we are equipped with something more than a mere axe handle can get through. We have the armor of God as long as our answers or statements correspond with God’s word. Ephesians 6:11-17

Trackbacks

  1. […] Tonight the kids and I read James 2.  The first half of the chapter was basically about prejudice and how man’s tendency is to treat the rich better.  The second half of the chapter was faith or works.  We really liked verse 26 – For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.  It made me think about this article about trees producing no fruit. […]