Two Doctrines That Helped
Effective Evangelism


The beneficial influence of the Calvinist doctrine of pre-faith "regeneration"

Since Billy Sunday, respect for the invisible work of God in the (pre-faith) penitent has been largely ignored. Before 1910, evangelists of the Calvinist persuasion used methods which worked in concert with the doctrine of pre-faith regeneration, but now most Calvinists ignore this perspective and choose instead to proclaim almost universal salvation for all who come to the alter. (Please be aware that both "monergistic" (God applies irresistible grace to man) and "synergistic" (man allows God to change him) regeneration are equally de-emphasized by modern evangelism)

This doctrine of pre-faith regeneration was the main reason most clergy were so against the public preaching (outside the walls of a church building) of Whitefield, Wesley, and all subsequent evangelists up until Finney. Although they were wrong to fault public preaching, the very thing they feared has come to pass. Confusion is epidemic in modern Christianity. Over 60% of Americans say they are Christian because they have "said a prayer that is still significant to them today." According to the latest polling data on what Americans believe, less than 10% could be called Christian in the Biblical sense.

For Calvinists, the understanding of pre-faith regeneration guided the alter call, making it an appeal for further inquiry into the condition of the penitent rather than the conclusion of a contract. (In fact, modern evangelists see the alter call and the repeating of a salvation prayer the way the early church saw water baptism.) Today, salvation is looked at not as a process initiated and guided by God, but rather an event that takes place when one says a salvation prayer, regardless of the sovereignty of God.

This, of course, is Heresy. But it is the normal practice of the vast majority of evangelical churches in America.

Have you ever heard a modern evangelist caution a penitent that he should never say a salvation prayer unless he personally knows what God expects of him? For the Calvinist, this would be a call for self-examination, (2 Cor 13:5) to see if Christ had illuminated the penitent enough to make a public profession of faith. (In fact, evangelists before Billy Sunday never led someone in a salvation prayer for the obvious reason that if a person had to be led by an evangelist, then the Holy Spirit had not illuminated the penitent enough for them to say their own prayer from the heart. In fact, if God has done His work, the penitent could not be constrained from saying a salvation prayer since his entire being would cry "hosanna!")

Before 1910, the Calvinist evangelist saw the workings of God with the penitent as a courtship of Christ with his bride. God woos the bride, tells her He loves her and explains all the things He's going to do for her if she yields completely. As the bride yields, God imparts deep spiritual truths, revealing sin for what it is. As the bride yields further, God finally cleanses her of all sin, making the public profession of faith (the marriage ceremony) only a reflection of the salvation that had already been accomplished.

Calvinists used to see the public profession of faith, "if you confess with your mouth Jesus {as} Lord," as an obvious result of having already believed "in your heart that God raised Him from the dead…" Now the understanding of the sequence of salvation is all muddled. If you were to ask the typical Southern Baptist when they were saved, they would say it was when they went to the alter and repeated a salvation prayer.

The Calvinist evangelist before Billy Sunday acted as God's best man, (2 Cor 11:2) extolling the virtues of the Bridegroom to the bride, explaining the virtues of marriage to the Holy God, explaining to the bride that she must be submitted in all things to her spiritual husband. He understood the personal and delicate love relationship between the betrothed and Christ, and heeded the Bridegroom's admonition, "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the hinds of the field, that you will not arouse or awaken {my} love, until she pleases." (Song Of Solomon 2:7)

This beautiful romance can be pre-empted and even destroyed by the course intervention of a meddler. For the modern evangelist to present salvation as a "one size fits all" faith product is an offense to Him who is LOVE. It denigrates the courtship of God with His beloved, and cheapens salvation to the place where it ceases to be effective in the vast majority of people who go to the alter.

When the Gospel is marketed with emotionalism and shallow clichés that are designed solely to get people to say a meaningless salvation prayer, the modern evangelist could best be compared to salesman who secures mail-order brides for God. God doesn't want fake marriages. In fact, the 70% of lost Americans that think they have a relationship with God were duped by ignorant salesmen who unwittingly got them to sign their name to a meaningless marriage certificate.

The awful truth (see chapter on The Awful truth) is that if God doesn't regenerate the penitent, he is not saved, regardless of how many salvation prayers he says.

The beneficial influence of the Arminian doctrine of pre-faith "awakening"

The Arminian doctrine of pre-faith awakening is just as essential to effective evangelism for the Arminians as the Calvinist doctrine of pre-faith regeneration is for the Calvinists. You probably know that Whitefield and Wesley were equally devoted to God but they were on opposite sides of the pre-faith issue. But who can say that Wesley was any less effective an evangelist than Whitefield. (I suspect even Calvin would have admitted that Wesley impacted the world for Christ.) If you examine the two pre-faith doctrines, you will find that their beneficial effect on evangelism is identical.

Both Whitefield and Wesley had pre-faith experiences that helped them understand the salvation process and their understanding of the pre-faith workings of God became an integral part of their methods of evangelism. Like Luther before them, the pre-faith illumination of the two men drove them to seek God's complete salvation. In the case of Whitefield, he was illumined by the Holy Spirit sufficiently to attempt to serve God with his whole being (as much as was possible before regeneration.)

All the time he fasted and did good works, he knew he wasn't saved. Then, one day he shared the Gospel with a pitiful creature of the lowest class in Ramsgate prison, she accepted the savior unreservedly. He despaired that even with his constant fasting and good works, God had not chosen to save him. But the fishwife, who fairly glowed with the radiance of God Himself, received salvation like a little child - totally trusting and abandoning her fate to her spiritual husband.

Wesley was in a similar pitiful state. He met with Whitefield in the pre-dawn hours seeking God's face in what became known as 'The Holy Club." They fasted and prayed that God would "break through" with His salvation. ( There is not a prominent evangelist today who wouldn't have accept these lost men unreservedly as brothers - how shallow and superficial is our Christianity.) Wesley went to the colonies to work among the native Americans. After 3 years he came back an utter failure. He said in the hull of the boat on it's way back to England,

"I went to America to convert the Indians; but O! who shall convert me?" 11

Whitefield and Wesley experienced with Luther what every man must experience for himself. The Holy Spirit's illumination of sin, the schoolmaster of the Law, and the sorrow that leads to repentance. And in these steps of divine intervention, all three recognized the sovereignty of God as an integral part of the salvation process. These most beloved men of God could not force His hand. God knew the exact moment to save them for the maximum benefit to His Kingdom and the prosperity of the Saints. (Praise be His name!)

But what of the descendants of these pillars of the faith? How hath the mighty fallen! We have abandoned the Old Time Gospel for the sake of numbers. Either through ignorance or Devilish intent, modern evangelism has produced a nation where 70% seem headed for Hell and don't even know it.

Home Page