Dluxe's World

Friday, March 3

The Soul Winners

I've been blessed, I think, with a couple friends who really like to think through their faith. This is a ton of fun, of course, until we run up on those ancient debates in the church and find ourselves stuck between viewpoints. It's still fun, but the risk of heresy is greatly increased. And we know there are people with stones ready to swoop in!

Kidding about the stones part, actually.

Anyway, over lunch the other day we backed into the topic of evangelism. If we are good Calvini... *cough* I mean, Reformed theologians, how do we personally resolve the long-standing tension between election/irresitible grace and getting people to 'choose Christ'.

I pondered over this last night. Again, there is that refers to me as 'Pastor' - nor should there be - so please don't go stretching this into dogma. Just some thoughts (now slightly edited) to spur some discussion.

Note that I'm using 'evangelism' here to mean an active presentation of the Gospel to a listener...

First, evangelism in any context should be firmly grounded in the Scripture. The Bible also calls us to evangelize. I could cite verses for that hand-over-fist, but I don't think these are points of much contention for most of us.

We don't know the mind of God... We don't know who He has or hasn't chosen. As a result, we should spread the message of the gospel to 'all nations' having confidence that the Holy Spirit will move in those people God is drawing. Some staunch Reform people say this is the great freedom of Reformed Evangelism - "It's not about you [your skills, your words, your testimony, your presentation]!" While I think that's true, I don't think that's in any way exclusive to Calvinism. Most biblical Christians, I think, would acknowledge that God uses whatever we bring, even empowering us with more when it's needed.

So, what do we say when we witness? I think that the difference between an Ariminian/semi-Pelegian presentation of the Good News and a Calvinistic one would not really differ all that much. Since people are familiar with the Romans Road, we'll use that as a framework.

Starting with Romans 1:18-21 ... This would seem to be a Calvinistic slant. It establishes first the moral inability of man to approach God and our open rebellion against him. God makes the first move towards people who are saved because we/they are naturally running away from God. I don't know that you hammer this, at all, but rather use it to simply state that we are infinitely distant from God's standard.

Romans 3:23 (the normal starting verse) serves as a good summary statement, in that context. Then onto Romans 6:23. We're on the 'standard flight plan', here.

I'd probably expand the traditional Romans 5:8 to include vv6-8, and perhaps v10. By doing so, we highlight the idea that we are 'weak', rebellious and emphasize that God took the initiative to reconcile us to Himself through the Cross.

Here comes one of the main differences, IMNSHO. First, try to think of "non-Reformed" sinner's prayer. Something like: "Lord Jesus, I ask you to come into my life. I choose you as Lord of my life today and ask that...etc. Amen".

Now read Romans 10:9-10. Reading those verses now where I am in my faith, I would emphasize a different point than the norm. Namely that Jesus is Lord of our lives, like it or not. The question is whether we will acknowledge His rightful place and choose to follow and obey.

God has revealed his love for us through Christ's death. He could've left us condemned for missing the wonders of Romans 1, but he didn't! What grace!

Then here would be another Calvin-esque thrust: Romans 12:1-2. It's worth emphasizing that truly embracing the Gospel (and a sign that your salvation is 'real') is the change that our life manifests. So, an unbeliever should understand that by acknowledging Christ as Lord you are stating that you are willing/prepared to leave behind your previous, sinful life. That isn't to say that we don't still sin! But if we simply go on living the same life we've always led then we're not really living under Christ's lordship!

I'm sure there'd be questions. Obviously, you should be seeking to present an honest picture of the gospel of grace for the person. I can't help but acknowledge that, while not needing to be 'intellectual', it must be conceded that a Reformed gospel depends on thoughts/convictions (as well as the emotional responses).

So, in contrast to the prayer above, a prayer like this might be better: "Lord, I acknowledge that I am sinner. I believe that Jesus was your Son, God in flesh, and that He came to earth to die for my sins. I acknowledge Him as Lord of my life and ask that you'd help me to live for you through Christ. Thank you for revealing yourself to me and for your grace... Amen"

The difference an emphasis on embracing/acknowledging Christ rather than 'making a decision for Him'. The more I think about it, the more subtle that difference really is... But I think it is important.

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  • Love your revision of the prayer, Bri. It does seem to more accurately reflect the truth of the matter. And it is much more respectful of God ... a pretty important facet!

    By Blogger PatL, at 11:06 PM, March 05, 2006  

  • I'd like to discuss some of differences between evangelism as practiced in the camps you mention. The essential difference is what the Gospel, as Good News, addresses and solves.

    By Blogger coramdeo, at 3:28 PM, March 07, 2006  

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