Blinded By The Bright
making the theology of Bill Bright (from the perspective
of population influenced) the single most influential presentation of
the Gospel in history.
Unlike most great evangelists, Bill Bright enjoyed being a "happy pagan." He didn't have the typical "struggles of faith" experienced by people raised in Christian homes. His salvation was preceded by just one year of earnest searching for truth. Since he had no remorse for sin, the Law couldn't be his schoolmaster. While most great men of God struggle with "repentance from dead works", Bright searched for purpose and meaning in life. Bright's salvation in 1945 was not so much an appeal for a clean conscience,(1 Peter 3:21) as an awareness of God's will for his life.
Bright elevated the Biblical principle of prosperity and peace with God above the message of repentance from sin as the primary motive for accepting Christ as savior. Without emphasizing Hell and the just requirement of the Law, Bright convinced his audience to accept the sacrifice of Jesus as the only way of receiving the blessings of God. This ultimately resulted in the American Evangelical Gospel being further stripped of the means to convict of real sin. ( As opposed to legal standing, or forensic "sin".) For more on this subject, please see Hell's Best Kept Secret.
Bright emphasized that mankind needs a savior for the sake of a legal exchange, not because sinners without Christ can't keep the Law. If one accepted Jesus as the legal requirement demanded by God, he reasoned, the need for a struggle of faith was eliminated, and avoiding Hell was a bonus. (The de-emphasis of Hell was a continuation of the evolution of modern theology. Many ministers are embarrassed by Hell, and the Biblical truth that God sends people there. Hell seems unjust to modern man because he isn't taught the just demands of the Law. To his credit, Bright admitted before he died that he was wrong to de-emphasize the reality of Hell.1)
Unfortunately, Bright ignored the Biblical truth of the Law as Schoolmaster and employed a modern psychological perspective, which ignored the need for true repentance in favor of a hopeful decision of the will. Like many modern theologians who interpret scripture from a psychological perspective, Bright equated faith with hope, and repentance with sorrow, and encouraging anxious sinners to say an ineffective salvation prayer. This, coupled with an ignorance of the inexorable link between repentance and faith, has contributed to the greatest crisis in evangelical history. Instead of cautioning the church to not give "False Comfort To Sinners" 2 as Finney had done, Bright taught that the saying of a salvation prayer assured them a place in Heaven.
Evidence Of Salvation No Longer Necessary
While Finney's taught that conversion instantly changed the man, 3 Bright told people not to worry if they didn't know if they were truly saved. That it was just a matter of "believing." He comforted the unsure by saying, "The promise of God's Word, The Bible- "not our feelings - is our authority."4 This is the same circular logic hyper- faith healers give for claiming a healing despite all physical evidence, and hyper -prosperity preachers use to claim untold material wealth by "faith."
This helped change the modern definition of what it means to be "evangelical." If Martin Luther were "saved" in a Campus Crusade For Christ meeting, there would never have been a Protestant Reformation. Fortunately, he learn from the schoolmaster of the law (Gal 3:24) in order to understand and appreciate salvation. God saw fit to bring him through a struggle of faith to perfect him as the instrument of the Protestant reformation.. His birth was not modern caesarian section for the convenience of an evangelist. Just as Jacob wrestling all night and prevailed, (Genesis 32:24) he had to go down a tortuous birth canal. But because his birth was glorious, and God used him to help us all.
Jonathan Edwards put it this way: "
Nothing deserves the name religion that falls short of a remarkable change
of disposition, created in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and showing itself
in unselfish love for the things of God and in a burning desire for Christian
conduct for all men." 5
As Charles Finney said, " The more I see how even good people deal with awakened sinners, the more I grieve at the endless lies they use to comfort their anxious friends. They dupe them out of salvation." 2
Bright explained the salvation process without allowing for the specific will of God for the individual. He ignored the need for people to have their own "struggle of faith." To Bright, there were no qualifications or caveats. Salvation was packaged and sold as a one-size-fits-all product.
To his credit, Bright explained salvation and the evidences of power over sin and the workings of the Holy Spirit in some of his books. But most people only read his tracts or saw the Jesus film. For billions of people, "getting saved" meant repeating a "salvation prayer" with sincerity. The following is the "salvation prayer" taken from one of the 4 billion tracts called "The Four Spiritual Laws."
Bill Bright's"Salvation Prayer"
"Have you ever received Jesus
Christ into your life by faith?" (Most
people who pray this type of prayer have only hope. Faith comes by the
illumination of the Holy Spirit in God's time. Also, statistics show that
people who exhibit the fruits of repentance experience an average of 5.7
different Christian influences before a commitment that results in church
The most logical explanation for this phenomenon is the Holy Spirit typically
doesn't enter people until they're able to understand what's happening
"Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank
you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and
receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins..."
( Most "salvation prayers" have the seeker say they're sorry
for their sins without mentioning repentance. Repentance is more than
being sorry for your sins. See the chapter, What
Does It Mean To Believe On Jesus?)
At this point, millions of people have repeated the prayer and put down the tract. But why don't they feel any different? They just asked God to take control of their life. Why hasn't anything changed? Bright tries to dispel their doubts by assuring them they're saved because "the promise of God's word." This circular logic has been used in every hyper-faith movement to convince people they're saved, healed and prosperous despite the obvious reality that nothing has changed. Modern psychology didn't invent this kind of mind over matter thinking, it just gave it cover. All the sins and deceptions of modern man seem justified by modern psychology, but the most destructive deception is convincing someone they're saved when they're not.
Jonathan Edwards commented on the equating of hope with faith over 200 years ago. Those who aren't saved, think it disastrous to enter into self examination since their "faith" is based solely on hope. If a person has nothing but hope to "prove" he's saved, then to question that hope would undo his entire position. (Identical to the hyper-faith message that a person who questions his healing, undoes his supposed healing, and a person who questions his prosperity, undoes his supposed prosperity.)
"Those who insist on a persons' living by faith, when they have no experience, and are in very bad frames, are every absurd in their notions of faith. What they mean by faith is, believing that they are in a good estate. Hence they count it a dreadful sin for them to doubt of their state, whatever frames they are in, and whatever wicked things they do, because it is the great and heinous sin of unbelief; and he is the best man, and puts most honor upon God, that maintains his hope of his good estate the most confidently and immovably, when he has the least light or experience.....If this be faith, the Pharisees had faith in an eminent degree; some of whom Christ teaches, committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost..." 7
Jesus Explains The Way Of Salvation
Jesus spoke of salvation as an all or nothing proposition. He warned people that family and friends would hate you, that persecution and tribulation awaited you, that you'd better think long and hard of the struggles ahead, and count the cost. He said consider if you have enough building materials before you started to build a building. See if you have a large enough army before you go off to war. You must be willing to sell everything you own and give it all to the poor, or buy the Pearl of great price, or buy that piece of land where eternal treasure is buried. He said only by loosing your life will you gain your soul; Only by carrying the cross on which you'll be crucified daily will you be worthy to receive salvation.
" If any man will come after
me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever
will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for
my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the
whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange
for his soul?" Matt 16:24-26
" No man can serve two masters:
for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold
to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
" If ye were of the world, the
world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have
chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." John
" Therefore we are buried with
him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the
dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness
of life." Rom 6:4
Compare the Bible description of salvation to that of modern evangelism. The modern "salvation prayer" reads more like the acceptance of an insurance policy than an acknowledgment of an utter and complete change of life from one to another. If you ask people who've said a formula "salvation prayer" why God should let them into heaven, they'll tell you what the tract says, "because I've accepted Jesus into my heart and life." If you ask the same person, the same question a year from now, most will have forgotten the reason.
I've dealt with countless people who've said a "salvation prayer" sometime in the past. Almost all couldn't tell you why God would let them into Heaven to save their souls. This is the scandal of modern evangelism.
Tares And The Parable Of The Seed
When I believed in the tenets
of modern evangelism, (that anyone who said a "salvation prayer"
with sincerity was saved,) I was unable to understand the Parable of the
Seed. I witnessed to groups of people and noticed that virtually all seemed
to understand the words of the Gospel. I would lead them in a formula
"salvation prayer" and think I had accomplished much. But then
I noticed over time that most of these people acted exactly the same as
before they said the prayer.
78, The Way Of The Master, Ray Comfort