By: Thomas F. Booher
I am not sure if you are aware, but people are having a harder and harder time defining you. I suppose I am an evangelical, insofar as I believe that we need to proclaim the gospel to everyone. The first sentence in Wikipedia defines you (us?) as "a world-wide Protestant movement maintaining that the essence of the gospel consists in the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ's atonement." That definition is a large umbrella housing many different denominations, and gospels. Roman Catholics believe that salvation is by faith in Christ's atonement. A Mormon like Glenn Beck can call himself an evangelical with this definition. Yet Catholics and Mormons both believe that good works are needed for salvation in addition to faith in Christ. So evangelicalism, you are not defined by the true gospel. Absent is the truth that we are saved by faith alone through Christ's atoning work in life, death, and resurrection alone.
By the way, that definition was taken from a dictionary in 1978. This isn't something brand new.
Before you think I am only talking about those wannabe evangelicals, you know, the Rob Bells of the world, think again. I am talking about the thousands of you Christian schools and churches that follow the Billy Graham model of evangelism. You guys believe the church started with Billy Graham. You think, consciously or not, that getting "decisions" for Christ is the only way evangelism can, and should, be done.
Then, you popishly declare hundreds, even thousands, of people saved on the spot.
Many churches just had VBS. I saw different posts saying things like, "praise the Lord, 58 children just got saved at VBS, God is so good." Really? Did you receive a vision from on high that informed you that these children were in fact saved? How do you know they are saved? They made a decision for Christ, they said a prayer?
Oh, that's right, I forgot in the book 1 Billy Graham, chapter 3, verse 16, that that is how God has ordained we know when someone is saved or not. If a kid murmurs the right words, and writes the moment down in their Bibles, then you can assure them and declare to others that these kids are in fact born again. Saved. Signed, sealed, and delivered.
But where are they two weeks later? A few months later? A few years? This isn't just for kids at VBS. Evangelicalism, you do this stuff all the time. And frankly, I think you are largely at fault for the present state of evangelicalism. You reduced the gospel, and assurance of salvation, to saying a few lines. Because of this, you have distorted the gospel. And woe to anyone who does that (see Gal. 1:9).
I heard that Billy Graham once said that if even 10 percent of those who made a profession of faith in Christ were actually saved, he would be happy. Evangelicals, do you believe this? Because you largely follow his model of evangelism, with a few modern tweaks. Yet it's still a common denominator format. You are, even more than Billy, trying to play the Holy Spirit. With your mood music (whether it's a thousand lines of Just As I Am or some modern worship anthem) preparing the hearts for others to receive Christ, with the emotional pleas of your traveling speakers, you have really gotten this thing down to a science. You are bold enough to start counting your chickens before they hatch. But I doubt anything can hatch because you have reduced the gospel to some vague faith in Christ who somehow, someway, has paid for your sins, provided you pray the right words, or make a strong enough commitment to Christ.
And this Christ desperately wants you to choose Him, because He can't choose you. How dare He violate your free will? Christ is just looking for a few good men, and women, to pick Him. Because He needs you, and He shudders at the thought of anyone going to hell. It's ghastly to Him. But hey, if you don't pick Him, you're gonna burn you little devils! Especially if you drink beer and smoke. Am I hitting pretty close to home evangelicalism?
This kind of message is why you are splintering. It's why Rob Bells exist. It's why Fred Phelps's exist. You are schizophrenic on the question of hell itself. God hates it, but then He will send you there. He just wants a few people to choose Him because He can't violate their free will, but once you choose Him, you're stuck with Him. You just have to trust in Christ and say a prayer (that's it, we swear), but if you don't hold up your end of the bargain when you muttered those lines that you were "committing yourself wholly to Christ," then you aren't saved, and you need to get re-saved, or at least rededicate your life to Christ, which we evangelicals aren't sure if that means you were just a carnal Christian (you know, that rare-though-not-really rare breed of believer that loves sin, hates righteousness, yet somehow has been born again and just hasn't quite yet placed Christ on the throne of his heart by his or her powerful free will) or really weren't saved in the first place.
Now that fuzzing of the gospel has let all kinds of cults and sects and apostate bodies under the broad evangelical umbrella. If you want to emphasize your need to dedicate yourself to Christ in order to be saved, then become a Roman Catholic, or just fail to realize you have gone farther than Billy Graham now and have started preaching a works-salvation based gospel. Become semi-pelagian, or full pelagian, saying we don't even need God's prevenient grace (whatever that is, we evangelicals don't have time for big words like that when lost souls are still out there) since our wills can magically bring us from being dead in trespasses and sins to being alive in Christ (but wait, isn't that what God does? see Eph. 2:1-10). Start preaching, like Rob Bell, that the reason Peter began sinking in the water wasn't because Peter lost faith in Christ, but because Peter lost faith in himself!
Dear evangelicalism, I know I am speaking boldly and freely to you, but these things need to be said. And they are being said by others, thankfully, but you aren't listening. You still think you are in power, that America is God's country, that the true war needed to be won is in politics and military might rather than in the underdog message of the true gospel which is the power of God to save. That's right, the gospel, when applied by the Holy Spirit to the dead hearts of unbelievers, makes alive (Rom. 1:16-17) . You don't make alive. God does. And God decides when He will, and when He will not, for His glory (Rom. 9:6-24).
I know that's shocking to you evangelicalism, and it was shocking to me just several years ago. God's chief concern isn't saving as many people as He can, but everyone whom He wills, He will save, because He can. God's chief concern is glorifying Himself, and He planned the Fall to bring Himself glory; it wasn't an accident of man's free will, it was the great mystery that God predetermined that man would freely choose to rebel against Him, so that He could make Christ preeminent over all things (Col. 1:15-18). It's a beautiful, glorious, all-encompassing message. It is the story of history, which is His glory story. It is simply the gospel in all its splendor and fullness, but I am afraid you have forgotten that evangelicalism. You have made man the measure, man the center, and God now exists to make men happy and holy. You have made God needy and man sovereign, when it is God who is sovereign and man who is needy and wicked. Until you straighten that out evangelicalism, this nation will suffer, and the Christian faith here will continue to splinter until it is unrecognizable, having become largely absorbed into the pagan culture around it.
Dear evangelicalism, repent! Repent of your ways of evangelizing, recover the true gospel, and preach it. Get on board with God's program, not yours. Let the Holy Spirit convert sinners, and realize that no man can convert himself, for no one does good. Oh and for you seeker sensitive types, nobody seeks God (Rom. 3:9-18).
So let God do the seeking. He will save as many as He wills. But if we keep falsely inflating the numbers in our church rolls, if we keep filling the church with unbelievers who think they are saved because we declared them to be saved, when in reality they do not even understand the gospel, we can only keep expecting false conversions. We can only keep expecting many to "fall away." We can expect no more than Billy Graham expected, 10 percent or less.
Dear evangelicalism, I leave you with this question: How can your soul live with the fact that 90 percent or more of whom you assure are saved, actually are not saved? And if even 10 percent are saved, it is only because the true gospel is actually being preached, which in many of your quarters, evangelicalism, I doubt. So will you change evangelicalism? Will you return to the true gospel? Will you accept that God loves Himself more than He loves us, and that is why He is so good and we aren't?