Apr 092018
 

Evangelism

It was a Sunday morning in 1984.  We had just finished celebrating the Eucharist at my college in the north of England.  As was the custom, several of us had retired to the Senior Common Room to have a sherry before lunch.  The news of the day was that in the nearby coastal city of Sunderland, Billy Graham was coming to hold a rally.  We started talking about the concept of evangelism, what it meant, and what some of us thought was wrong with Graham’s methodology and strategy. 

Yet, all of us also felt very keenly the need for a new awakening of faith within the lives of many nominal Christians as well as outreach to those who had rejected Christianity altogether.  At the Eucharist  that morning the preacher had been a Fellow of the college, the former Archbishop of Canterbury +Michael Ramsey.  Bishop Michael had often been identified with the Catholic and intellectual wings of the Anglican Church.  In the course of our conversation, one of the young men sitting in the Senior Common room, a visiting priest from a struggling urban parish, suddenly blurted out, “You know, the problem is I haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up.  I mean, on some days I’d like to grow up and be Michael Ramsey and on other days I think I would like to be Billy Graham.”  At that moment we were suddenly aware of a presence in the doorway.  A large head with fluffy white hair on the sides and large over-arching eyebrows, leaned in and said, “It’s quite alright. I sometimes have the same problem myself.”  It was, of course, Bishop Michael himself.

We know that we are called to the task of evangelism.  Many of us, however, are somewhat conflicted about the task to which we are called.  While we appreciate the warmth and fervor of some evangelicals, many of us don’t want to be considered Bible-thumping fundamentalists akin to some televangelists of recent decades.  Certain of us care about our catholic and sacramental identity and tradition. Yet others of us wish to maintain a faith that has some degree of intellectual integrity. So, how are we to combine all of these diverse elements into the proclamation of a Gospel that will change people’s lives?

Firstly, however, we probably need to admit that we’re not doing a very good job when it comes to evangelism, but we do try.

The Anglican Communion declared the 1990s the “Decade of Evangelism” and immediately saw a numerical decline that has continued to this day, losing some 30% of membership.

On the other end of the scale, the Southern Baptist Convention, faced with declining numbers over the past decade, in 2017 established an Evangelism Task Force. We hope their experience will be better than that of the Anglicans.

Certain Confessional Lutherans, faced with similar declining numbers, in 2017 launched  “The Every One His Witness” evangelism program.

Even the Roman Catholic Church declared a “Year of Faith and the New Evangelization” as the ancient faith retreats from Europe and millions abandon the Catholic Church in the Americas.

I hope, wish and pray that any or all of these programs and proclamations may bear fruit in due time… but, I have my doubts.

What we look for is a real awakening of faith. I would like to suggest, however, that such an awakening in our time must supersede old-fashioned evangelism, with its palpable emotionalism, its intellectual obscurantism, its puritanical rules, political leanings and its frequent and unfortunate self-righteousness.  Moreover, I think it also must go much deeper than any mere sacerdotal kind of catholicism that places so much stress on the proper regard of order and outward forms that it misses the need for a change of heart. Finally, I think that such an awakening in our day must give due regard, but not be much bowled over by, the insights of intellectuals and academics who, after all, talk mostly to their own kind and share little of their wide world of learning with the person in the pew.

In other words, I have the feeling that God might have for us an awakening and a form of evangelism which includes us “growing up” to be both Billy Graham and +Michael Ramsey, not one or the other.  What I mean by this is that we must somehow have within the message we share the warm enthusiasm of evangelicals, the genuine sacramental life of catholic Christians, with its steady emphasis on forgiveness and grace, and at the same time have an intellectual honesty and a social passion without which many people, quite rightly I think, will not listen to us.

If we could combine these elements in our message of the good news of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I believe we would give to the Holy Spirit a wider, as well as a deeper, channel through which to work via the Church of our time. Each of us, however, has a part to play in the presentation of this ageless message, for each of us must, as the Apostles did, first find Christ in our midst, changing our lives. Each of us will, like the Apostles, surely recognize our unworthiness to carry this message. Yet, each of us must, like the Apostles, become “fishers of men”, going forth from our daily preoccupations to make a difference in the world in which we live. We can make no greater difference than simply to share Christ – not a sectarian Christ of evangelicals, or Anglo-Catholics, or intellectuals, or of our particular tribe, but the living Christ, the Christ who reigns over all creation, who comes to warm our hearts, bring order to our lives and who renews our minds. 

I have the feeling that the real issue of evangelism has less to do with a program and more to do with us.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project 

  146 Responses to “Evangelism: Dr. Duane Arnold, PhD”

  1. good read, but one that makes me a bit sad… because we, even those called to shepherd us sheep, won’t all be empowered by God to have the impact of the two men mentioned (isn’t the contrast between the two interesting) …
    a little girl once gave my husband a refrigerator magnet motto that said, “enjoy Christ” … then let Him do His work

    or so it seems to me today 🙂

  2. Duane – SBC appointed a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force around 2009 or so.
    We have continued in decline.

  3. Em

    In the fifties, +Michael Ramsey did not really like Graham and Graham wasn’t sure about Ramsey. Later in life, the two became fast friends…

  4. Josh

    It makes me wonder if all programmed “evangelism” doesn’t actually result in decline. Either that, or by the time the programs are launched, it may already be too late.

  5. “or by the time the programs are launched, it may already be too late.”

    I think that is it. We are trying to bottle the Holy Spirit. He moves as He wills. Impossible to program.

  6. Duane,

    “What I mean by this is that we must somehow have within the message we share the warm enthusiasm of evangelicals, the genuine sacramental life of catholic Christians, with its steady emphasis on forgiveness and grace, and at the same time have an intellectual honesty and a social passion without which many people, quite rightly I think, will not listen to us.”

    Let me begin by saying that I both agree with your suggestion, but also think it would be a God-honoring message.

    However, let me speak also to the challenges that this message faces:

    Conservative confessionals within my tradition, brand this type of message “church growth,” whether accurate or not, and would like, if given the chance, to expel this expression from the synod. There are churches taking your suggestion to heart, and I’m rooting for those who can maintain our confession while adopting “the warm enthusiasm of evangelicals,” but it is not without much controversy and the consternation of the more traditionalist wing.

    On the other hand, conservative evangelicals typically have a theology which is so totally opposed to the marks of the sacramental life that in their case I can’t even imagine your suggestion being taken seriously, much less acted upon. Many of them will point to their numbers (here I’m speaking primarily of the non-denominational entrepreneurs) as proof that they need no changes and are doing everything just right in accordance with the will of God. Evangelical churches who have declining membership are more likely to look to the non-denominational model for renewal than to something more sacramental.

  7. Jean

    It will be the churches that get the combination “right” that are our only real hope for the future – at least in my opinion. There are some evangelicals moving toward a more sacramental expression, but they are few. There are some catholic Christians that want a warmer sense of evangelism, but they are few. All of us play at the “edge” of intellectual discourse, but few of us take it as seriously as we should (again, my opinion). Part of the problem is that we’re still fighting yesterday’s battles, while the future slips away from us…

  8. Duane, good word as usual.

    As an evangelical who has never been “sacramental”, at least in viewing The Lord’s Supper or baptism or other items as sacraments as opposed to ordinances, I have never seen the necessity to be sacramental or liturgical, etc. However, I do definitely see value in being sacramental and/or liturgical, including how it can help to avoid some of the unhealthy excesses in evangelicalism.

    As you already expressed in some form, finding a balance that incorporates the good aspects of these differing approaches/viewpoints/sects/etc., while rejecting the not so good in each is key. Easier said than done.

  9. #8 Kevin

    “Easier said than done.”

    Yes, indeed… but I think we have to try!

  10. I think the sacramental / ordinance bridge is too far to cross, but we can work together for the Gospel on opposite sides of that bridge.

  11. #10 Josh

    Would always be willing to work with you!

  12. Duane,
    “It will be the churches that get the combination “right” that are our only real hope for the future – at least in my opinion.”

    I hope that the ‘hope’ for the future of the church does not rely on us getting it right or figuring out a right combination. If so, then the gates of hell will definitely prevail.

    The getting it right is found in the parable of the sower – Jesus gets it right.

    One thing I do note when people are trying to figure it out is that Josh McDowell type apologetics has been and is a killer to evangelism.

  13. MLD – I thought you enjoyed apologetics? Is there something specific about Mcdowell? Would you separate him from Geisler?

  14. #12

    While God does his part, we have to do ours in response… a basic difference in our theology which is no longer profitable to discuss…

  15. Duane,

    It sounds to me like you’re advocating for some type of ‘ancient-future’ church, ala
    the late Bob Webber?

  16. #6

    I don’t see how what the Roman Catholics and others are doing as “church growth.” They’re talking about evangelization. Last time I checked, that’s what
    our Lord commissioned us to be committed to.

    To me, church growth means all other aspects of church life must bow to the desire
    for new blood.

    From what I’ve observed, at the least the RCC isn’t changing everything to accomodate
    possible converts. I don’t know about other denoms.

    I think the ideal is some type of ‘ancient-future’ combination. A reactionary desire
    for some type of ‘pure and wholesome’ past is one error, the other is to change the
    message to accomodate newbies.

    At least, that’s how I see it.

  17. #15 Bob

    Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes…

  18. #16 Bob

    I think your observation is correct. We’re not called to curate a museum, nor are we called to be “trendier than thou”… there is a middle way.

  19. Josh – I am more of a presuppositionalist vs evidence based.

  20. Jean

    Indeed, it’s across the board….

  21. Josh @ 10 wrote “I think the sacramental / ordinance bridge is too far to cross, but we can work together for the Gospel on opposite sides of that bridge.”

    ______________________________________________________________________
    As far as in denominational churches, yes I think its unrealistic but some independent churches actually strikes this balance pretty nicely. Independent churches can some times get a bad rap on this site; however, independent churches also have a unique ability to not divide on this issue in particular.

  22. How could there be a balance between sacraments and ordinances?!? The two are completely different things.

  23. I agree with Josh – sacraments are what God delivers to us. An ordinance is what we deliver to God.

  24. I agree with both MLD and Josh, but in fairness to Duane, he never advocated for striking a balance between the sacraments and ordinances.

    His proposal was this:

    “What I mean by this is that we must somehow have within the message we share the warm enthusiasm of evangelicals, the genuine sacramental life of catholic Christians, with its steady emphasis on forgiveness and grace, and at the same time have an intellectual honesty and a social passion without which many people, quite rightly I think, will not listen to us.”

    This is not a balancing, but a complementary sharing of strengths from two expressions.

    The sacrament/ordinance dichotomy arises from the evangelical who does not recognize in Duane’s proposal the strength of sacramental theology.

    Thus, they will not worship with us.

  25. “How could there be a balance between sacraments and ordinances?!? The two are completely different things.”

    Josh,

    This blog actually strikes a nice balance between ordinances/sacraments but you make my point that in denominational structures or affiliated organizations this can not be achieved. I can only speak from my own experience in my own church where there is definitely a variety of opinions on the ordinances/sacrament theology. We deliberately choose not to divide over this issue.

  26. BTW ,there are numerous non-denoms that have interest in “sacramental life”. I think one of the things that catholic Christians who have a sacramental life can do is to share that life with those who are looking. In sharing, I do not necessarily mean the promoting of our own particular sect or tribe. I mean the patient sharing of the common roots of the Church in a courteous and generous manner, by which others might discover that sacramental life for themselves. Not all will, but some might…

  27. Below is a sample of the confession of faith for our elders and pastors. What is interesting is that members are not required to hold to this confession. So the confession says we are sacramental in theology but in practice most members are more aligned with being evangelical. In addition some of our Sunday school curriculum speaks of ordinances and not sacraments and sometimes we will have a lively discussion about that.

    “….

    There are two sacraments, established by Christ. These are baptism and Holy Communion (Lord’s Supper).

    Our church accepts both infant baptism and believer’s baptism. We let parents decide whether to baptize their infants. We accept three modes of baptism: sprinkling, pouring (effusion), and immersion. Those who
    were baptized as infants should be Confirmed upon a creditable confession of faith.

  28. “The sacrament/ordinance dichotomy arises from the evangelical who does not recognize in Duane’s proposal the strength of sacramental theology.

    Thus, they will not worship with us.”

    Jean, the issue doesn’t rise solely from the evangelical not embracing the strengths of the sacramental view. It also arises from the overly dogmatic denominations that are fundamentalist in their own way in particular with their own doctrine of baptismal regeneration that eventually causes unnecessary confusion.

  29. sacrament vs. ordinance…. putting aside the various lists of requirements and theologies of the worshippers, i think they are two sides of the same coin
    the contortions we go to in order to hone our correct doctrines…. sigh… but then theology is not my calling 🙂

  30. While I disagree with MLD and Jean’s take on the ordinances, they are correct that we are talking about two very different things. A church that allows baby baptism would have to be sacramentalist. Believer’s baptism requires a profession of faith before baptism, and the baby is unable to profess. Like MLD said, they see it as something God does for them, even the unknowing baby. Many of whom grow up, see believer’s baptism in Scripture and seek to baptize again (i.e. re-baptized, or anabaptist)

    But, this blog shows that we can cooperate from across that bridge.

    MLD @19 – So you think evidential apologetics kills evangelism? Why is that?

  31. I will stick with my agreement with MLD and Josh up at #23 and 24.

    These are not two sides of the same coin. Neither are they “plug and play” options or ala carte menu options for churches or parishioners to select from.

    Sacrament vs. ordinance is as essential and basic to one’s Christianity as anything else.

    The question is this: Does man ascend to God in obedience for justification? Or does God condescend to man in 100% grace with justification?

  32. “The question is this: Does man ascend to God in obedience for justification? Or does God condescend to man in 100% grace with justification?”

    I disagree that this is the question, as I believe that is 100% God’s grace, also. The difference is whether or not one believes that the justification is accomplished in the sacrament, or whether the bread, wine, and baptism are symbols of what God has already accomplished.

  33. Josh, the sacraments are how God delivers to us what he accomplished on the cross. I know the Beach Boys once sang about how that is delivered in evangelicalism when they sang Good Vibrations.

    God always uses physical means to deliver his grace. What physical means do you accept?

  34. Josh – evidential apologetics convince only the already convinced. Have you ever know anyone who comes to faith because you laid out that Luke hit all the historical and geographical ‘facts’ correctly?

    Evidential apologetics are based on the philosophy that if one is given enough information they will eventually become saved.

  35. There are simply the two views of Baptism and the Eucharist… I think we’ve covered this ground before… often… continually… exhaustively…

  36. @34 – Read my last sentence of 33 again. At least we agree on what it is that we disagree upon. 🙂

    @35 – I don’t know. Never studied the effects of such, and not too interested in apologetic evangelism myself. I think seeing how the events line up historically, particularly the resurrection, is pretty convincing. Now, whether God would use that to work on a sinner’s heart or not is up to him.

  37. Duane,
    “There are simply the two views of Baptism and the Eucharist…:” That is simply too simple of a reply.

    The discussion is not about what you think is happening in the baptism or the supper, but the WHY. This only manifests larger differences in whole theologies. It is as I have pointed out several times, the reformed and the Lutherans have very different views of the real presence and it is not just ‘opinion’ but a wide gap in Christology.

    Or so I think 🙂

  38. #38

    As I said above… “I think we’ve covered this ground before… often… continually… exhaustively…”

  39. #39 – sorry to see you bowing out of the conversation… but you brought up the sacraments.

  40. Josh @ 31,

    Our church does both. Believers baptism and infant baptism. I know its hard to get your head around this. But most of the members will not baptize their infants because they believe exactly like you do; however the pastors and elders at least for now are held to the confession that is more sacramental and allow for parents to choose to baptize their infants. I did this with my daughter. Since our church is congregation-ally governed I supposed this could change in the future but for now this is how things work for us. Again this would probably only happen in an independent church. Hopefully we are adopting the best of the two different theological camps.

  41. It is very simple – grace comes down (to man from God) and faith is the response that returns to God from man – if.you’re vibrating or think the other guy is vibration dependent, you’re delusional

    Spin this all you wish – God is in charge of processing His sheep and He doesn’t need our bread or our wine or our water to do so … It is finished! The cross is our propitiation and the resurrection is our affirmation – we come to the waters of baptism to confess and we come to the communion table to remember…

  42. I know most evangelicals will disagreee with this, but they actually do have a sacrament. It’s the request for salvation made in the form of the Sinner’s Prayer. If you Google “Sinner’s Prayer,” Wikapedia has Billy Graham’s version. SBC.net also has it’s version.

  43. @ 42 – Where is the like button?

    @43 – Incorrect.

  44. #43

    I’m not sure I see “‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.” (Augustine)

  45. Well as Josh brought up earlier and as Em seems to have confessed in her 42 – there is no way to build a bridge over this gap.
    Can we do go works together in the name of Christ? yes. Can we work on clean water projects in the 3rd world together? Yes – – can we worship together????

    Back on topic – If only Elijah had been a little more open minded towards what the prophets of Baal we thinking, a bridge could have been built so we could then evangelize them. 🙂

  46. “Back on topic – If only Elijah had been a little more open minded towards what the prophets of Baal we thinking, a bridge could have been built so we could then evangelize them. 🙂”

    Completely uncalled for in this context… as we all know.

  47. MLD, I can testify that I go to a church where we worship together. It can be done and it has been done. There is no need to keep saying “no way” to bridge the gap.

  48. It also was not “back on topic”. At all. 🙂 Ole’ MLD…

  49. Josh – wasn’t the article for each to become a little more Graham and a little more Ramsey? Compromise for the sake of evangelism?

  50. #49 Josh

    Yes, some things never change…

  51. MLD – Which one, Graham or Ramsey, are you comparing to the Prophets of Baal?!? 🙂

  52. I don’t look at it as compromise like somehow we are to give up our convictions but rather its being more understanding and gracious towards those that don’t hold exactly to our rigid fundamentalism. Now I think most Baptists, Presbyterian and maybe even some Anglicans would fit in at home with our church but MLD might be right, Lutherans might have problems. We can’t please everyone and glad the Lutherans have their own enclave.

  53. Josh, it’s not a matter if it is Graham or Ramsey – in fact it is neither. Compromise is the headliner.

  54. Compromise between brothers.

  55. Duane,

    I would agree that the prayer of a Christian and confessing the ecumenical creeds are outward signs of an invisible grace, but the Sinner’s Prayer is by definition not promoted in that manner. I anticipate that you know that, though.

    If you ask a typical evangelical Christian the question: Are you born again or when were you born again (they like that question and ask it of others), they will, if they remember, say something like: On such and such a date (or when I was such and such an age), at such and such a place, I surrendered my life to Jesus or accepted Jesus as my savior. They mark their conversion at the point of their prayer, as in effect a sacred sign.

    I’m not mocking or condemning, but I think we can be honest about our different traditions. This is not even controversial to those who adhere to it.

  56. #54

    “Compromise”… your interpretation. Not mentioned in the article…

  57. Steve, when your pastor baptized a baby is it into salvation or just a covenental act?

    To be clear, my church baptized both infants and grown people.

  58. Jean – Many people do use some sort of “sinner’s prayer” in evangelism. No doubt.

    It is not a sacrament. Not like a sacrament…it’s just not. It may be a tool for some. A point of reference for others. But not a sacrament.

  59. “Steve, when your pastor baptized a baby is it into salvation or just a covenental act?”

    MLD is right, and this is a big, big difference. Someone trying to do both does disservice to both the sacramental and ordinance view.

  60. Jean

    I think the description of certain experiences are difficult to describe and we all look for terms that help us in describing those experiences to others –
    Augustine hearing the child’s voice saying “take and read”…
    Luther in the forest or later in the tower…
    John Wesley’s “strangely warmed heart”…
    They all are trying to put something into words that is a personal experience. I’m willing to look behind the words describing the experience and recognize the commonality of the experience.

  61. Duane@61 – Good word.

  62. Jean – There has actually been a lot of discussion about sinner’s prayer in the SBC . Some saying get rid of it, some affirming. Here is a pretty balanced resolution that was passed in 2012:
    http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/1221/an-affirmation-of-a-sinners-prayer-as-a-biblical-expression-of-repentance-and-faith

    (Now, you should know that a resolution is not binding, but I agree with this one as I would guess most Southern Baptists do.)

  63. Duane,

    I would never condemn anyone who said they had become a Christian through a Sinner’s Prayer or even argue with them about it’s efficacy (outside of a Bible Study environment).

    However, if I heard one of them expressing doubts about their salvation in any way, shape or form, I might say to them:

    “Before you asked Jesus into your heart, he was already there! You don’t need to ask again; just believe in His Word, because His word will never pass away. And He has said: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Therefore, you are a son, in whom He is well pleased.”

  64. Jean @ 64 – I would say something very similar!

  65. #46 – MLD, i would not want to declare anything that could erode your confidence in the sufficiency of God to work out salvation in you… I do not identify with the prophets of Baal, nor does God place me there…

    I appreciate Michael’s display of grace to those of us who are not sacrament dependent…
    Let us be clear, tho, that the written words of God understood by the working of God the Holy Spirit are what feeds my soul, not vibrations as you mentioned above … evidently ceremonies supplement the soul’s food for many here ? It is not that simple? Well, may we all dwell in the house of the Lord forever, feasting at His table, nonetheless – God keep

    I was interrupted for a time… so i don’t know the direction this thread has taken… I pray it hasn’t gone downhill. 😳

  66. FWIW – i would say that the sinner’s prayer is, like the communion table, just as powerful and efficacious as the heart of the person involved is prepared to receive

  67. Em @46,
    Regardless of our differences I am pleased to see that you do confess and depend upon the God’s use of physical means to deliver grace and forgiveness.

  68. Josh # 65,

    Thanks Josh.

  69. “MLD is right, and this is a big, big difference. Someone trying to do both does disservice to both the sacramental and ordinance view.”
    ______________________________________________________________________
    Josh, MLD is coming from his Lutheran understanding which is not the only way to understand sacramental theology. I go to a sacramental/evangelical church but we explicitly deny the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. There is the rub and the confusion that this doctrine causes.

  70. Steve,

    You’re a nice guy, so please don’t take this the wrong way, but sacramental theology is not about lifting some solemn or elegant practices out of the ancient church and adopting them in the 21st century to create a reverent worship environment.

    If a church that explicitly denies the doctrine of baptismal regeneration truly understood what sacramental theology is, then they wouldn’t deny it. What MLD and I have tried to make abundantly clear over the course of many threads, with little success, is that (1) God is the regenerator, (2) more precisely it is the Holy Spirit who vivifies the person dead in their sins, (3) He vivifies only through the Word, (4) this grace is delivered through specified means in the Bible, (5) in the New Testament, the means of grace that God has chosen is Baptism, and (6) Baptism is God’s Word spoken over water, applied to a person, according to the command and promises of Christ our Lord.

    If Baptism does not regenerate, then it’s not a sacrament, plain an simple.

  71. Just to say, Jean’s view is his own and does not represent all catholic Christians in this matter.

    All is not “plain and simple”.

  72. Steve, I gotta admit, that’s confusing. But all good. We all learn and grow.

  73. #71
    An interesting read as most of us evangelicals can say amen to #s 1, 2, 3 to the extent the word Is the word, 4 & 5 a matter of interpretation of just what is “specified” and, alas, we come to #6
    We, well me anyway, do understand what you say sacramental theology is and where you think you find it defined in God’s words….
    So the problem does not lie in your ability to make your convictions clear, rather our divergence of revelations received perhaps? … Perhaps not…. God knows

  74. Steve,
    “…but we explicitly deny the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.”

    So at your church, what is the difference between a baptized baby and an not baptized baby?

  75. MLD,

    no different than the difference between a baptized adult and an non baptized adult. We subscribe to the sign theory. The sacraments are a sign more real than a symbol but not the same as what the sign points to.

  76. Steve,
    Thanks for the clarification. So let me ask this – if there is no difference between the baptized and the not baptized where is there conflict in your church that you have learned to live with together? It seems that all have agreed that it is a personal choice but in the end does not matter.

    Are your baby baptisms any different than baby dedications where the babies get wet?

    I know that the Presbyterian type reformed churches see baby baptism in the same light you have described but in their cases they do see it making a difference and do require it of all babies coming through the churches.

    Good conversation.

  77. My Grandsons were baptized in the Dutch Reformed Church as babies. I saw the videos of the ceremonies. Nothing at all like a baptism, just a baby dedication with water and a lot of joking around. It was charming in its own way, I suppose, but not remotely sacramental.

  78. MLD,

    I didn’t say there was no difference between baptized and unbaptized. My point was there was not too much different between adult and infant baptisms. And yes, baby baptisms are different than baby dedications. We do both. Babies that are baptized will need to go thru a confirmation process and make a confession of faith to become full members of the church but will not need to get baptized again. Babies that were dedicated will need to get baptized as adults to become full members of church where a confession is made.

  79. Steve, let me ask the question this way – beside being wet, has the baptized baby received anything that the not baptized baby does not have? Is there any difference in their ‘spiritual’ relationship to God?
    Also, would it upset the kumbaya atmosphere if the parents of baptized babies then declared as scripture states “baptism saves” and therefore declare their children as saved?

  80. MLD,

    Of course, this is exactly why I choose to have my daughter baptized. My own baptism as an infant has meaning to me and I didn’t want to deny this gift to my daughter either. Regarding the spiritual relationship I certainly think the sacrament can help ones faith but doesn’t guarantee it. It can help with our assurance. And yes it probably would upset the kumbaya if I declared my baptized daughter saved and anther unbaptized infant kid as unsaved. When my daughter is old enough to express her faith herself I will let her choose these words. The baptism is not for my assurance of her salvation, its for hers. At least that is my thinking at this point.

  81. Maybe some have the wrong evangel. The good news in my opinion is not about man’s changed heart but rather understanding the change in God’s. He took over the job of saving the world. In some sense your “church” is irrelevant. What matters is what we do as the Church. What would happen if we developed relationships with those outside the body and influenced them by our actual love for them? We might see a NeT. style revival?

  82. “The good news in my opinion is not about man’s changed heart but rather understanding the change in God’s. He took over the job of saving the world.”

    Huh? God’s heart changed? Yeah, you’ll have to explain that one further.

    “developed relationships with those outside the body”

    This has been the goal of Christian I’ve known for the last 20+ years. So far, no NT revival. Maybe the results truly are up to God?

  83. “He took over the job of saving the world.” – yes – in Genesis 3

    ““developed relationships with those outside the body” – This must have been left out of the “go and make disciples…”

  84. God’s heart has not changed.

    If one dwells on the “Wrath of God” version of the atonement, I guess one would see God’s attitude towards individuals as wrathful and He changes His mind and decides to love you.

    Doesn’t this make God petulant? Adam and Eve commit one sin, egged on by a genius, and God’s attitude towards humanity is that of wrath? Even though He tells us not to have this attitude ourselves when relating to those who have wronged us?

  85. Xenia,

    Those are excellent questions I’m wrestling with myself…

  86. At the risk of repeating myself…

    “Yet, each of us must, like the Apostles, become “fishers of men”, going forth from our daily preoccupations to make a difference in the world in which we live. We can make no greater difference than simply to share Christ – not a sectarian Christ of evangelicals, or Anglo-Catholics, or intellectuals, or of our particular tribe, but the living Christ, the Christ who reigns over all creation, who comes to warm our hearts, bring order to our lives and who renews our minds.”

    It may sound simplistic, but it seems if we spent more time actually sharing the Good News rather than arguing about methods and means, we might be better off.

  87. I’m in a terribly contrarian mood but this morning I’d trade “revival’ for “renewal” in the existing catholic church…

  88. I just tell people the latest date of the rapture – that should get their attention.

    btw – it’s Monday the 23rd if you want to borrow my witnessing tool. 🙂

  89. Michael, this is the question that caused me a lot of stress. Every Sunday, be it at a Baptist church or a Calvary Chapel or on the local evangelical radio station, the Wrath of God version of the Atonement was explained, And it never made a lick of sense to me, ever. Each Sunday when the pastor would say he was going to explain what Christ accomplished on the Cross I would literally sit on the edge of my seat and think maybe THIS time it would make sense but it never did.

    God created Adam and Eve, knowing they would sin.
    In some versions, they were predestined to sin.
    As a result, He maintains a simmering, seething wrathful attitude towards all mankind.
    Only the death, some say punishment, of His Son will appease His wrath.
    This is because God cannot look upon sin and cannot see us without Christ’s covering.
    Well then, God is STILL not seeing us because He’s seeing Christ instead instead of us.
    So how can we say God loves us as individual people when He can only bear to look at us if we are covered up with Christ?
    Yet this same God expects us to forgive unceasingly while He held/holds a colossal grudge.

    There is a much better view of the Atonement, one where Christ is not a victim of the Father’s wrath but is actually a super-hero Who comes down to earth and defeats death.

  90. Xenia,

    Part of the Anglican tradition is an emphasis on what Christ accomplished in the Incarnation as much as what He accomplished on the cross.

    What are the implications of God taking on human flesh?

    Perhaps redemption is accomplished through all the acts of God seen as a whole from the Incarnation to the Ascension…

    Because it’s a pretty radical change from the theology I’ve studied for the last thirty years, I’m still asking questions…but boy, do I have a lot of questions…

  91. Xenia,

    I would agree that phrases, such as, “understanding the change in God’s [heart]”, are not accurate. However, we should clarify that a change between God and man did and does take place.

    First there is this: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

    Second there is this: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”.

    So there is God’s wrath against unrighteousness, which is propitiated through faith in Christ. Or to put it another way, through faith in Christ God reconciles us to himself.

    So, there is wrath, and their is a change in our standing with God through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, who is the propitiation for our sins.

    Outside of Christ, wrath remains on mankind.

  92. If you do away with Penal Substitutionary Atonement, you’ll have to be one of those people that doesn’t give much weight to Paul.

  93. Josh,

    I wouldn’t do away with it…but see it as one facet of a multi sided diamond…

  94. Xenia – “Every Sunday, be it at a Baptist church or a Calvary Chapel or on the local evangelical radio station, the Wrath of God version of the Atonement was explained,”

    I can’t believe that you heard about Jesus on the cross every Sunday and left those churches. One of the reasons I left was you rarely heard about Jesus on the cross for you. Heard mostly what I had to do for Jesus with a smattering of lessons such as David numbering his troops.

  95. MLD, I have always said that my ex-CC pastor talked about Christ all the time. He was a very serious pastor, not a frivolous man. He never taught self-improvement or striving to please God sermons. His explanation of Christianity didn’t really make sense to me, though.

    Since I’m talking about my old CC pastor, I’d like to share a recent incident with you all. When I first came to PhxP, I was like a newly divorced woman- I could only speak harshly about my old husband. I said some harsh things about my old pastor. This began to bother me, especially when answering my priest’s questions during Confession. So I found his email address and apologized. The letter I receive back from him was the most loving, gracious thing I have ever read. He said he deserved everything I said about him and more. So I have nothing bad to say about my old CC pastor and his preaching except that it’s Protestant and I am no longer a Protestant. So here’ my confession to you all, since some of you were here to read the harsh things I wrote way back in the day: Please forgive me for my gossip and critical attitude towards my old pastor, who I believe is truly a man of God if there ever was one.

  96. If anyone here is interested, just type “Orthodoxy” and “Penal Substitutionary Atonement” in Google and you will have plenty of reading material.

  97. Wow, Xenia. What wonderful words about your old pastor.

    Re: Atonement, would you say you hold the Christus Victor theory?

  98. Yes, Christus Victor, for the most part.

  99. Missed your 97 – Googled and see that the Orthodox seem to hold to a form of Christus Victor. (Though I see some say it is incomplete.)

  100. We spend a lot of time here on the PhxP talking about how we were abused by our old pastors and our old churches. I myself feel like I was the abuser more often than not and I have been trying to round up the people I hurt and make amends. And God is very cooperative in my efforts, let me tell you!

    Over 40 years ago, the pastor at my Baptist church abruptly decided to move to another town. His reasons were…. well, never mind about that. Anyway, he and I had a screaming conversation. And that’s the last time I ever spoke with him. For 40 years I wanted to make things right but I could never find him. (He seems to have gone underground for a while.)

    So this spring I’m taking this Beowulf class and there’s ten of us in a section. (This is conducted online.) And one of my classmates turns out to be his son. After 40 years of feeling miserable about this subject, God gives me a way to reconcile.

    That’s our God! He’s all about reconciling people!

  101. Well, – not having read all the comments yet – concerning the wrath of God – it is directed, out of His holy character, toward Satan – Lucifer. It is about the most terrifying aspect of this fallen angel’s rebellion.
    God is jealous of His own character and the universe can rest in this reassuring fact. Out of it will come cleansing, a new heavens and a new earth (even if we differ on the exact scenario, it is fact).
    All sorrows and pain are the fruit of Satan’s rebellion. The resolution of this rebellion is the work, including wrath, of a holy (absolutely perfect) God. What we loosely toss around and question regarding the wrath of God may be way above our ability to fully grasp. I cannot even get my mind around God’s holiness. 😊

    Yet our hope and our security is in the love of God as displayed in Christ Jesus and that sustains me, at least.

  102. Xenia – I apologize that I don’t have time to read the links (I am working on packing up for a 12 hr drive tomorrow to Napa to see my almost 8 month old grandson who I have seen only once – well, I guess I will say hi to his parents also) — but are you saying that God’s wrath against sin was not poured out on Jesus at the crucifixion? If not and Jesus’ role was to swoop down as you say as a super hero – why did Jesus struggle with such a plan?

    I guess I need to brush up on my atonement theories. 🙂

  103. Scripturally, I can’t get around PSA.

    Maybe this is another of those things, like eschatology, that once seen, you can’t unsee.

    The parts of PSA are that the atonement is:

    1. A sacrifice
    2. Vicarious
    3. Propitiatory
    4. involved with reconciliation.

    It seems that propitiation is the sticking point for some? The idea that Jesus had to appease the wrath of God? Is that the issue?

  104. Josh, we hardly ever have doctrinal sermons on the mechanics of the Atonement. It’s not even a big topic in Orthodox books. At Pascha (Easter) we sing the Paschal Torparion (hymn) over and over and this pretty much sums up our view:

    Christ is risen from the dead,
    Trampling down death by death,
    And upon those in the tombs
    Bestowing life!

    So by His death death was destroyed.

    Here’s different congregations/choirs singing it in their own languages:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vofvMRYCg_c

  105. @105 – Yeah, and that’s not outside of anything I would believe either.

  106. Josh, yep, all Christians would believe that, I think.

  107. Michael

    Gustaf Aulen’s book on Christus Victor is superb (a Lutheran bishop in the Church of Sweden, by the way). In the 1890s, after the rejection by Rome of Anglican Orders, many Anglicans increasingly looked at EO theology. It really culminated in Michael Ramsey, whose Atonement theology incorporated both Eastern and Western models and sought to find the middle place between them. Incarnational theology has also merged with a more narrative approach to Scripture, especially with regard to the Gospels. For my part, I think it is the best of both worlds…

  108. MLD, that’s ok, enjoy your grandson. 🙂

    You can read all about it when you have time.

  109. https://medium.com/@BrazenChurch/why-did-jesus-die-it-wasn-t-to-appease-god-s-wrath-8f61df31e277

    I don’t know the author of this piece and I don’t know that I would agree with all he writes but this is a pretty good explanation.

  110. “he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

    “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

    We should also observe that Jesus laid down His life for us willingly; no one took it from Him.

    Thank you Lord Jean!

  111. You can (and should, of course) believe everything Christ and St. Paul say w/o following the Penal Sub theory of the Atonement.

    It’s the “Penal” that’s the problem, not the Substitution.

  112. The only issue I have with the Christus Victor is that the cross (and I assume we speak of the cross as the atonement) is during Jesus’ stage of humility. (it is finished)

    I can understand Christ as victor at his resurrection when he enters his stage of exaltation and ‘descends into hell’ to take his victory lap.

    But hey, how many angels can dance on a pin head began as a theological construct to explain something.

  113. #110 Xenia

    The article is a fair presentation. My only quibble would be his (over) simplification of Anselm. Anselm was a bit more nuanced…

  114. Romans 3:25 would seem to say that Christ’s death was penal in nature. Along with a ton of other passages, but that one is pretty strong.

  115. Josh,

    I’d place that verse in the context of an explanation of the OT sacrificial system finding its fulfillment in Christ… It does not mitigate against other views of the Atonement, at least in my opinion.

  116. “OT sacrificial system finding its fulfillment in Christ”

    Absolutely! OF course, that is Penal in nature. I know I won’t convince anyone of that, and not sue that I care to try. It’s just something I can’t unsee no matter how hard I try. I see PSA from Genesis – Revelation.

    I don’t see most of the other theories as heretical, really. I’d probably say incomplete.

  117. http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/2278/on-the-necessity-of-penal-substitutionary-atonement

    Ah, there was a resolution on it just last year 🙂 I’m such a baptist.

    For the record, some of this language is too strong. I would have voted against the resolution, as-is.

  118. Penal is most explicit here:

    “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,”

  119. #119

    The verse could equally be applied to a more Incarnational driven view… Just saying….

  120. Apparently, any reading is possible where the reader assigns the meaning.

  121. and this is why we have Mormons and JWs – all heresies come directly from the Bible.

  122. Let’s not do that.

    That is an example of how NOT to disagree well.

  123. I assume you have read “Christus Victor”….

    No, it is simply easier to assign anything outside your sect to “false teaching” or heresies or Mormons or JWs.

  124. I picked a bad day to introduce such a contentious topic. I’m in and out, doing this and that, and don’t have the time to write something meaningful other than to tell you all how I “feel” and I know that’s not good enough for this kind of discussion.

    And this is how I feel. Under the PSA teaching, Christianity made no sense to me whatsoever. I was told it *was* the Gospel and I was always stuck thinking “Here I am, a Christian, and I can’t make heads or tails out of the Gospel message.” It was the main reason I never really attempted to evangelize my non-Christian relatives. If it didn’t make sense to me, why would I expect it to make sense to them?

    Now, Christianity makes sense, for which I am extremely grateful.

  125. “I assume you have read “Christus Victor””

    I have in substantial detail. I think it is Scriptural and complementary with Vicarious Satisfaction.

  126. There is no need to be contentious.
    It can be an opportunity to learn.
    I will put contentious comments in the spam filter.

    I find it hard to base the Gospel on a doctrine that didn’t develop until the 11th century…it has a place,but not the whole place…

  127. I don’t think “develop” is the correct word, but otherwise, all good.

  128. I think if I had been taught the Christus Victor model all my life, with a little PSA thrown in, I would have accepted it. I would have considered the PSA part to be a mystery that I didn’t understand but I understood the CV part and would have been content. But until my conversion to EO, it was all PSA all the time with no hint of anything else.

    I agree w/ Michael that the Incarnational aspect of the Atonement is extremely important, in a way that I had never been taught before.

    Now you might say I am relying too heavily on my feelings and my own determination of what makes sense but it does matter to me that I have an understanding of what Christ did on the Cross so that I can have a proper appreciation and gratitude..

  129. Josh,

    What word would you use?

  130. #126 Jean

    I think that is what was being said…

  131. Codified

  132. “I find it hard to base the Gospel on a doctrine that didn’t develop until the 11th century…it has a place,but not the whole place…”

    Michael,

    I would too. But what you were taught was incorrect. I have quoted the Fathers below:

    “If Phinees, when he waxed zealous and slew the evil-doer, staved the wrath of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a ransom, put away the wrath which is against mankind?…Further; if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer far away, did not much rather the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, deliver us from our sins? The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; and shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save?…Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also…These things the Saviour endured, and made peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven, and things in earth. For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness. Christ took our sins in His body on the tree, that we by His death might die to sin, and live unto righteousness.” –St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XIII

    “And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down on Himself the apportioned curse, being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our souls? And so the oracle says in our person: “By his stripes we were healed,” and “The Lord delivered him for our sins,” with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings, He can say, “I said, Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.” – Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, X.1

    “And so the human race was lying under a just condemnation, and all men were the children of wrath. Of which wrath it is written: “All our days are passed away in Your wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told.” Of which wrath also Job says: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” Of which wrath also the Lord Jesus says: “He that believes in the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.” He does not say it will come, but it “abides on him.” For every man is born with it; wherefore the apostle says: “We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Now, as men were lying under this wrath by reason of their original sin, and as this original sin was the more heavy and deadly in proportion to the number and magnitude of the actual sins which were added to it, there was need for a Mediator, that is, for a reconciler, who, by the offering of one sacrifice, of which all the sacrifices of the law and the prophets were types, should take away this wrath. Wherefore the apostle says: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Now when God is said to be angry, we do not attribute to Him such a disturbed feeling as exists in the mind of an angry man; but we call His just displeasure against sin by the name “anger,” a word transferred by analogy from human emotions. But our being reconciled to God through a Mediator, and receiving the Holy Spirit, so that we who were enemies are made sons (“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God”): this is the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. – St. Augustine, Enchiridion 33

    “A sacrifice was needed to reconcile the Father on high with us and to sanctify us, since we had been soiled by fellowship with the evil one. There had to be a sacrifice which both cleansed and was clean, and a purified, sinless priest…. God overturned the devil through suffering and His Flesh which He offered as a sacrifice to God the Father, as a pure and altogether holy victim – how great is His gift! – and reconciled God to the human race…Since He gave His Blood, which was sinless and therefore guiltless, as a ransom for us who were liable to punishment because of our sins, He redeemed us from our guilt. He forgave us our sins, tore up the record of them on the Cross and delivered us from the devil’s tyranny.” –St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 16, 21, 24, 31

  133. “But what you were taught was incorrect.”

    I learned from Dr. J.I. Packer who wrote the forward to John Owen’s “Death of Death in the Death of Christ” which is the Reformed mountaintop in terms of PSA.

    The forward is better than the book.

    If you’d like the systematic theology courses he taught I’d be glad to forward them to you.

    Just a thought…you might also look at the word “ransom”…

  134. The context of my comment was on the 11th century bit. That is demonstrably false.

  135. Jean,

    Various doctrines are found in nascent form in the Fathers and history.

    They develop…they don’t sprout in full bloom.

    PSA is one aspect of the atonement…which was not “codified” until Anselm…your quotes are in the context of the “ransom theory” and “Christus Victor” which your quoted would have held…

  136. Speaking only for myself, I don’t like terms, such as “codified” and “theory” when speaking of the meaning of the cross. Moreover, I cannot argue against reader response hermeneutics.

    Thank you for allowing me to quote from Scripture and the early church. I deserve nothing more.

  137. If we believe what is recored, we know that
    There is an unseen (by us) creation and we can ponder its beginning, if we wish…
    The word is God (that is a packed declaration, to say the least)
    We can ponder the sequencing of Satan’s fall and earth’s creation and man’s appearance on the planet
    We can wonder why man, who walked and talked with God was fooled by Satan’s sales pitch (i suspect it had more to do with pride than ignorance)
    God knew exactly how the scenario would play out and He knew what He’d set in motion with our creation
    It seems clear logic that the incarnation, the crucifixion and the victory involves a substitutionary atonement (penal? of course) as a part of that victory….
    God could have simply locked Lucifer and his rebels in hell and announced “it is finished” … So?
    So i conclude that there is far more to God’s holiness and to our creation than we can grasp from here.. There is a limit to our ability to fine tune our understandinh. We are corrupted. We are waiting for eternity, for God to complete our understanding.

    Just read the Book and follow its instructions as best you can hear the Holy Spirit …. For heaven’s sake! 😇

  138. #133

    Proof texting the Fathers is similar to proof texting Scripture… it fails to capture the truth or grandeur of the whole…

    Just my experience.

  139. “Proof texting the Fathers is similar to proof texting Scripture… it fails to capture the truth or grandeur of the whole…
    Just my experience.”

    Mine too, Duane. And I endeavor not to miss the truth and grandeur. And I said above that vicarious satisfaction and Christus Victor are complementary.

    I have no idea why people do not see in the atonement penal and substitutionary elements within the truth and grandeur of the whole.

  140. Jean

    I’m not sure that anyone has said that…

  141. @136 – Thanks Michael, of course the new word made someone else mad 🙂

    My reasoning for the words –

    It’s true, PSA wasn’t really put into words in full form before Anselm. However, to say it was developed then, sounds like it was made-up then, and I don’t think so. I see it full formed in Scripture. I can make a complete case for PSA without referencing anything except Scripture.
    That’s why I said codified. Anselm took what was already there and arranged it into a specific form. I also admit to really liking Anselm.

    By the way, I got into a twitter fight with James White today. He called me a SJW 🙂

  142. Josh,

    White is Reformed fundamentalism mixed with politics…I don’t even bother to read him anymore.

    I would call you someone concerned about biblical ethics…

  143. Yeah, I’ve been off him for a while. He’s just not very nice. Today he was commenting on the SBC race stuff and being very dismissive of one of our black pastors, I questioned him and he didn’t like it one bit 🙂

    But back on topic, I understand where Jean is coming from. It is hard to imagine NOT seeing PSA, but the other ideas I’ve heard here sound good too, if not the full picture, even.

  144. I was once part of a chatroom dominated by people who were members of White’s Sunday School class in Arizona I think it was. Whoo boy, what a bunch.

  145. Josh,

    I’d wear an “SJW” taunt from White with pride! Way to go.

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