Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Luther, Calvin, Graham and the Evolution of the Sinner's Prayer

It seems that nearly every evangelical in America embraces some form of the so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” as God’s primary salvation portal. How did Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists and Methodists et al come to the same theological conclusion despite past bitterness between them? The answer takes us back to the very dawn of the Reformation when, despite their best intentions, Martin Luther and John Calvin pragmatically reacted to Roman Catholic theology instead of “searching the Scriptures daily.” Those decisions made by the Reformers 500 years ago “wag to dog” today in regards to how most Protestants view matters of salvation.

Turn on any religious radio station today and you will hear nearly every preacher advocate some form of the “sinner’s prayer” for their listeners salvation. The prayer is as varied as every personality advocating it’s use. No two preachers use the same prayer. The content of the “sinner’s prayer” is never the same. The same “sinner’s prayer” will put you in the Methodist Church as will put you in the Baptist Church as will put you into the Lutheran Church as will put you in the Presbyterian Church, etc., etc.

Not only will one not find the “sinner’s prayer” anywhere in Scripture, the “sinner’s prayer” didn’t exist anywhere until rather recently. In fact, it did not become “mainstream” until the 1950’s when the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association embraced Dr. Bill Bright’s pamphlet entitled The Four Spiritual Laws. Bright articulated fragmented bits and pieces of earlier teachings of Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday and others. One theory galvanized Bright’s theories in regard to God’s plan of salvation.

That theory, articulated by both Luther and Calvin, says that since the Roman Catholic tradition relies on “works of man” and since baptism is a “work of man,” then baptism cannot possibly be included in God’s plan of salvation! The problem here is the fact that no one has ever proven that baptism is, in fact, a work of man. “IF” it was, the theory would hold water. (No pun intended!) However, the Scripture teaches that baptism is NOT a work of man, it IS a work of God! Paul states this clearly in Colossians 2:11-12 when baptism is noted as being a work or an operation of God. Man has absolutely nothing to do with it!

Proponents of the “sinner’s prayer” salvation experience use a number of “proof texts” to prop up the misplaced theological conclusions of Luther, Calvin, Moody, Sunday, Bright and Graham. We will examine the 5 most popular of these texts during our gospel meeting at the Archdale church of Christ this coming Lord’s Day through next Tuesday evening. Join us at 2525 Archdale Drive, Charlotte, NC Sunday at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., and 6 p.m. and Monday and Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.

Most importantly, we will also examine God’s true plan of salvation that includes water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins resulting in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the addition of one’s name to the church of Christ.

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