Blinded By The Bright

Bill Bright's Campus Crusade For Christ is a multifaceted Christian ministry. His "Four Spiritual Laws" tract has been given to over 4 billion people and over 5 billion people have viewed his "Jesus" film. The Billy graham Evangelistic association and numerous other church and Para-church organizations have used his materials,

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

Bright counseled people who were unsure of their salvation to trust that they were saved because the Bible said so. While acknowledging the workings of the Holy Spirit and a visible change in a person's behavior as possible signs of salvation, he said these indicators were not necessary. By counseling anxious sinners to not doubt their salvation, he pre-empted the process of soul-searching, which is the Holy Spirit's way of bringing people to repentance.

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 membership. 6 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 to them.)

"If you have never prayed to receive Christ, or have never combined your prayers with faith and believed that He will come into your life as He promised," ( Notice the litmus test of believing that Jesus will come into your life instead of faith in the sacrifice of Christ and all that entails. See the chapter, What Does It Mean To Believe On Jesus? )

"pray the following prayer from your heart for the last time." (Notice the tacit acknowledgment in the words "for the last time," that people pray "salvation prayers" over and over again because they don't "feel" saved. At least here's the understanding that if a person truly gets saved, they don't need to pray a salvation prayer a second time. But the fact remains that most people who say "salvation prayers" feel the need to "get saved " numerous times until they finally experience power over sin and the workings of the Holy Spirit.)

"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?)

"....and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be." I
f you have prayed this prayer in faith, you can be sure, regardless of whether or not you had an emotional experience, that Jesus Christ has come into your life and that you have eternal life." (Notice the absolute guarantee of immediate salvation, completely ignoring the possibility that the seeker wasn't illuminated of the Holy Spirit, or that it wasn't God's will to save them at that time. If John Wesley had prayed this prayer, would he have avoided his tortuous struggle of faith? If so, no doubt the Methodist movement never would have happened. Also, to assure someone they're saved even though they have no power over sin and experienced no workings of the Holy Spirit is contrary to the teachings of the entire New Testament. This comes from modern psychology, not the Bible.)

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." Matt 6:24

" 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 15:19

" 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.

After much soul searching, I came to the conclusion that the Parable of the Seed was correct after all. As long as I believed the modern evangelism tenet that if someone received the seed, they were born again, the parable didn't make sense. After all, " They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away." Luke 8:13 is very clear. People will receive the word with joy and then fall away. They couldn't have been saved according to the Biblical definition. Dave Hunt, author of The Seduction of Christianity said unless someone is willing to be changed by Scripture, he will not be able to understand it. When I finally realized that not everyone who says a formula "salvation prayer" is saved, the parable made sense. After much wrestling with the truth of scripture versus the tenets of modern evangelism, I realized " let God be true, but every man a liar" Rom 3:4

1 Pg 78, The Way Of The Master, Ray Comfort
2 False Comfort To Sinners
3 "When people talk about conversion as a progressive work, they show that they know just as much about regeneration or conversion as Nicodemus did." False Comfort To Sinners
4 The Four Spiritual Laws, Bill Bright
5 An Humble Inquiry into the Rules of the Word of God, concerning the Qualifications requisite to a Complete Standing and Full Communion in the Visible Church of God, Jonathan Edwards
6 Closing The Evangelical Back Door, Win and Charles Arn, Leadership Magazine, Spring, 1984
7 Pg 237, The Woks Of Johnathan Edwards, 1979

Go To The Chapter, My Road To Emmaus

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