Reformed vs Southern Baptist: Altar calls

[This is the sixth article interacting with a series by Les Puryear — www.lesliepuryear.blogspot.com — regarding whether Southern Baptists can be Reformed]

Those who maintain that Southern Baptists cannot be Reformed utilize the latter’s caution about the use of “invitations”, “altar calls”, and the “sinner’s prayer” as proof positive. Good Southern Baptists, it is asserted, will do all of these, and more, in “leading a person to Christ.”

It is certainly true that we “persuade” men with the gospel, we “urge” men to be reconciled to God, and we make clear the urgency of the situation for those who hear the gospel, understand it, yet put off repentance and belief.

But this is not the same thing as concluding that the only way to persuade and urge men is to utilize the altar call. Nor is there any foundation for the assertion that a necessary and distinguishing feature of Southern Baptist practice is the invitation.

Reformed Baptists believe that the proclamation of the gospel IS the invitation, the expression of the good news IS the urgency: a preacher need not tack on to the end of his sermon non-biblical devices to CREATE them.

An additional problem with that view of Puryear and others is demonstrated in the description of the “sinner’s prayer”: ‘The use of a “sinner’s prayer” is a means to help guide the sinner to say what he wants to say to Jesus but doesn’t know how.’ Reformed Baptists would say to this that if a person does not know how to express repentance and belief, the gospel might not have been presented, and it might not be a good idea to admit to membership one who cannot express this basic work of Christ in his heart. Scripture tells us that when we “confess with our mouth” we will be saved, not that we will be saved when someone else confesses for us.

The worst example of straw-man argumentation and ad hominem attack, however, is this gem from Puryear:

‘If your church doesn’t want to invite people to Christ during a worship service then go ahead and call a reformed pastor to your church. But if you want for everyone to have an opportunity to come to Christ during all worship services, call a traditional Southern Baptist pastor.’

Again, if the proof of whether a church invites people to Christ is the use of an altar call, invitation, decision card or sinner’s prayer, then something is terribly wrong with the preaching and teaching ministry of that church. And equating ‘opportunity to come to Christ’ with man-made devices and ‘traditional’ services is an almost perfect example of the man-centered, gospel-weak, Spirit-impotent approach to evangelism that Reformed Baptists prefer to avoid.

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