The Sinner’s Prayer is Making the Rounds

I am seeing more and more blogs discussing the sinner’s prayer these days. There is this saying in the Churches of Christ that says we are usually about 20 years behind what other churches are doing. In this instance it seems they are 200 years behind us! I kid when I say that because it is not about who is “ahead” or who is “behind” this is all about people seeking God and the truth from scripture.

Churches of Christ have been asking where this is in the Bible for a very long time. I am glad to see people are understanding the lack of biblical support for such a prayer as a means to salvation. Obviously the only means to salvation is Jesus Christ. The question still remains, what kind of response is God looking for. I think what is really happening here is that those who are rejecting the kind of thinking that the sinner’s prayer is the means to salvation would also reject baptism as the means to salvation, citing that we are saved by Christ not by prayer or by baptism. However, it is clear which response is supported by scripture, not as a means to salvation but as humble obedience to the directives God has repeated placed in front of us in the New Testament.

Here are some recent posts:

Frank Viola (excerpt from Pagan Christianity) – Rethinking the Sinner’s Prayer
Frank gives the background & history of the sinner’s prayer as well as what the New Testament actually says about conversion and baptism.

Scot McKnight –The Sinner’s Prayer: A  Bye-gone?
Scot talks about the recent Southern Baptist Convention discussion on the sinner’s prayer that was brought up  by remarks from David Platt. As always, Scot has some great content and so do the comments!

Christianity Today’s article on the discussion at the SBC by Ted Olsen

How could I ever leave out – This one is only for you serious exegetes.

Some similar remarks from David Platt.

David Platt: The Sinner’s Prayer is Superstitious and Unbiblical

A friend of mine just pointed me to this video from David Platt on the sinner’s prayer.

I have always had a problem with the sinners prayer. It is not that I have a problem with faith. It is not that I have a problem with responding to God through faith and even prayer (I can’t imagine turning my life over to Christ without prayer). What bothers me about the sinners prayer is that it offers up a different response to a very biblical question than the answer an inspired apostles gave to the question of convicted sinners, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Honestly, the sinners prayer ignores the response of the apostles to the question of those who asked in response to the Gospel, “What shall we do?” and replaces the answer with something that is abiblical.

So we have two different answers being offered in response to the what shall we do question. You have Peter’s answer, repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38) and you have pastor Steve or pastor Billy or sister Susie’s answer…pray this prayer. Who are you going to trust has a better answer to the same question? Sorry if that sounds snarky. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to well meaning people but it is entirely possible to be well meaning and still be wrong on this subject. I don’t mean to sound arrogant. I do want to be biblical.

The question of the 3000 in Acts 2:37 is the same question every single person asks who is convicted by the truth of the Gospel and the identity of Jesus as the Christ/Messiah…since these things are true, what response does God call me to? (Biblically…”what shall we do?”). I will go with Peter over any preacher or teacher today who has not personally been in Jesus’ inner circle, not personally inspired in their teaching by the Holy Spirit, and who has not written books recorded in the New Testament as Peter has. If you ask me what to do, let me point you to Peter, Jesus, and Paul rather than the opinions that are floating around today.

Thanks to Eric for pointing me toward the video.

Radical by David Platt

The more I heard about David Platt the more I wanted to read Radical. David has quite a story. He has been to some really interesting places and done some fascinating things. The biggest obstacle I faced to read this book is that it seems like he really, really wants you to know that he has quite a story, has been to some interesting places and done some fascinating things. That wouldn’t bother me so much except that the whole point of the book is to not be like that.

Radical starts like this,

‘”The youngest megachurch pastor in history.”
While I would dispute that claim, it was nonetheless the label given to me when I went to pastor a large, thriving church in the Deep South -the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama.”

That in and of itself wouldn’t seem to be a big deal except that it is relentless. I can’t help but think that his favorite pronoun must be “I”. On page 56 he uses “I” 14 times in two paragraphs. When you write, you are often at your best when you speak from your experience and about things you are passionate about. That is much of what this book does so that may account for a lot of it. Second, maybe I recognize it so much because it is something I struggle with even though I have far less to brag about than David Platt does. I don’t pastor a mega church. I haven’t written a best selling book and still pride is an issue at times. So before I get tough on this book I have to first examine the plank in my own eye.

There is meat in this book. The best point he makes in the book is deconstructing a self-centered 21st century American view of Christianity. He does an outstanding job of removing self from the center of it all and putting God back where he belongs. He points out that too many Christians come to worship to get something out of it, sing their songs, and get their egos stroked more than they come to put God in the center of it all. I think he is right. It is far from the radical call of Jesus and His claim on and purpose for our lives. Many of us struggle with that and it needs to be addressed. He does a masterful job of looking at the big picture of scripture and reminding us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought and instead think more highly of God than we do.

The other main point of the book is that we are too inward focused. That is true. According to Platt, most Christians are not all that interested in people overseas or mission efforts. He is probably right about that. It is reflected in most Church budgets where just a tiny percentage is devoted to overseas missions. It seems to me that Platt has probably had a series of negative experiences with those who don’t appreciate overseas missions to the extent that he does and has seen some heart issues with those who have opposed him or he has seen have complacent attitudes on those things he is most passionate about. Where Platt takes things to the extreme is his attitude that if you aren’t involved in overseas missions you must not be that serious about your faith. He says, “God has designed a radically global purpose for you life.” (p.83). Has he? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe God has a radical, local vision for my life to impact those right here. It doesn’t matter if God’s goal for my life is global or local. What matters is that I am trying to live for God wherever I find myself.

Last, Platt had a lot of insight about depending on God rather than on having the right strategies and plans. Too often we mimic a corporate business model for planning and organizing ministry with little emphasis given to dependence on God. That is something I wrestle with and I think it takes balance.  He said it like this on p. 60,

“It is the way of Christ. Instead of asserting ourselves, we crucify ourselves. Instead of imagining all the things we can accomplish, we ask God to do what only he can accomplish. Yes, we work, we plan, we organize, and we create, but we do it all while we fast, while we pray and while we constantly confess our need for the provision of God. Instead of dependence on ourselves, we express radically desperation for the power of his Spirit, and we trust that Jesus stands ready to give us everything we ask for so that he might make much of our Father in the world.”

Good stuff. I can’t really say that you should put this on your reading list. There are other books out there that accomplish some of the same things without all the distractions. One that I would recommend is Randy Harris’ “God Work”

Neo-Calvinism, Radical, and David Platt

A week or so ago a friend of mine asked if I could name one high profile young  (under 45) preachers who was not a neo-calvinist. The only one we could think of was Rob Bell. Can any of you think of any? I am going to read up on this a bit and may dive into that in some future posts.

That brings me to Radical by David Platt. I was introduced to this book at Gulf Coast Getaway. The point that was emphasized about this book at GCG was that we need to be more hungry for God’s Word and that we in the church have often compromised the Word for comfort and hearing things the way we want to hear them. So I thought I would have a listen to someone who seemed to have success in getting people hungry for God’s Word again.

I haven’t finished it yet but I can see the appeal of the book. It is about getting serious about our faith. It involves questioning our way of life. It lays out the need to live a more radical Christianity if we are serious about following Jesus. I bet you saw that radical part coming a mile away, right? Anyway, this book has Neo-Calvinist roots as well. You can find the points of Calvinism in its pages. Honestly, I think it distracted from what has otherwise been an engaging book.

My question for you is more about neo-Calvinism than it is about Radical or David Platt. Why do you think young people are drawn to Neo-Calvinism? Has it exploded in the last decade or have those presenting this view just gotten more dynamic and visible in their approach? More on Radical later because I do believe there are some good points in this book when it comes to our seriousness regarding the Word of God and our need to get back to textual study.