November 20, 2017

This is the Gospel?

Stone pool

No one in the Bible, when described in a judgment scene, is asked if they accepted, trusted, or embraced the soterian gospel. In other words, “Did you accept Jesus into your heart consciously?” or “Did you walk the aisle to receive Christ?” or “Did you accept that Christ was your righteousness?” No one.

Scot McKnight

• • •

Over at RedState, Leon H. Wolf is reporting that “James Dobson doesn’t want to be a sucker for Donald Trump anymore.”

This is a follow-up to an earlier piece Wolf wrote, called “Evangelical Leaders Continue to Prove that there’s a Sucker Born Every Minute,” in which he remarked,

You don’t have to be an exceptionally cynical person to believe that Trump is manifestly not a Christian, and is cynically using Christians for his electoral purposes; you just have to be a person with a brain and a passing familiarity with Christianity. Throughout the entirety of his public life he has made it abundantly clear that he has no interest in Christianity or anything it teaches, and his behavior on the campaign trail has done nothing but reinforce that.

Nevertheless, on the campaign trail he has suckered a good number of Evangelicals in spite of saying absurd things like, “I can’t tell you what my favorite Bible verse is because that’s too personal,” and “I’ve never felt the need to ask for God’s forgiveness,” and “Okay I’ll tell you what my favorite Bible verse is, it’s that part in Two Corinthians where the Bible says you’re supposed to take an eye for an eye.” Nothing about Trump’s persona, his platform, or his policy is even remotely Christian but he tells Evangelicals he is one of them and some of them feel content to throw aside their critical thinking skills altogether and believe him.

Apparently Dobson is now walking back his assertion about Trump’s “born again experience.” On top of that, Dobson revealed that the person who supposedly led Donald Trump to the Lord is noted prosperity gospel preacher Paula White, not exactly a credible source of information about theological matters. The whole thing is just plain embarrassing.

Why do I bring up this story? Let me say at the outset that I don’t really give a rat’s behind about the political angles here. It is just another crazy circus story from Big Top 2016 as far as I’m concerned.

What does bother me, though, is how the “gospel” of American evangelicalism is represented in this story.

Seriously, this is the gospel? Whether Dobson is retracting what he said about the Donald or not, I don’t hear him clarifying his understanding of the gospel he said Trump “accepted.” I don’t hear him suggesting he was misquoted or misunderstood about what he meant by someone being “born again.” The “gospel” he talked about was appallingly shallow and transactional.

Though I had a spiritual awakening as a teenager in a revivalistic Southern Baptist Church, walked the aisle, and “accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior,” and though at the time I thought that was the proper “procedure,” and though I continued to live and minister in a Christian culture for many years that emphasized “making a decision for Christ” and “leading others to Christ” by having them pray a prayer and “receive” Jesus, it never felt quite right to me. As though entering God’s Kingdom is like a simple transaction, like purchasing a ticket and reserving a seat on the train to glory. As though it has always been understood in biblical times and throughout church history that all a person has to do is bow his head and pray a simple prayer to be transformed and alter his entire earthly and eternal destiny.

In my view, Dobson sounded foolish not because he might have been gullible about Donald Trump, but a thousand times more because of the facile, superficial gospel message he represented in his statements. This is what Scot McKnight calls the “soterian” gospel in extremis. An individualistic, commercial transaction. Jesus paid the fee, I got the ticket. I get to go to heaven because I prayed a prayer. Jesus gets to forgive me and have me on his side.

In another post, I wrote about a much more robust message of good news that I believe to be more faithful to the biblical story:

The gospel is an announcement of a public event that has taken place, an event which has changed everything. It is not advice or instruction given to us, it is a proclamation that Jesus has become King, that God has taken charge of the world through the finished work of the Messiah. God has established his rule of justice and peace in the world. God’s enemies have been defeated and will not win the war. The resurrection, ascension, and outpouring of the Spirit means that the new era has been inaugurated. It’s a new day. The divine process of transforming the world has begun in earnest. The announcement of this gospel invites all who hear it to embrace the good news and become part of the transformation. “If anyone is in Christ — new creation!” (2Cor. 5:17, literal translation). The person herself becomes renewed, but even more than that, she becomes part of God’s new creation here and now, right in the midst of this present life. Through baptism she dies to the old creation and is “raised to walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

God has taken charge of the world. Everything has changed. The new world has begun in Christ, who has taken his throne.

Inviting people to participate in this good news is not about getting them to pray a prayer, walk an aisle, receive Jesus into their heart, or believe in a “plan of salvation.” It means inviting them to enter a new world, leaving behind the old one. It is about Jesus front and center, and changing one’s loyalty from Caesar to Christ. Using the image of new birth, it means entering a new family and beginning the process of growing up within that household. It’s akin to someone in our culture enlisting in military service. You walk through the gate and you are no longer your own. You no longer live in the civilian world. You better get ready for a new life.

These changes are profound and life-altering. That is why, in yet another post about the gospel, I explored the idea that church traditions have not taken the matter of conversion as lightly as today’s evangelicals do, as represented in the recent statements by James Dobson. In that article I argued that churches have traditionally presented a “structured gospel” — that is, a gospel that brings forgiveness and freedom to obey, which comes through ordered means that provide clarity for the life of faith through disciplined practices.

As an example, I considered the story of Saul, who became the Apostle Paul. Contrary to the common assumption that Paul’s life was transformed in a moment, the New Testament accounts describe a process of conversion.  On the Damascus Road, Jesus got Paul’s attention in a dramatic fashion, and introduced himself to him, yes. But then, before ever saying a word about forgiveness or salvation, the risen Lord sent him to the church. There, through such community practices as fasting, solitude, prayer, the laying on of hands, baptism, and public witness, Paul became a thoroughly converted, changed man. And then, if you read Paul’s own recollection in Galatians 1, after that he dropped out of sight, living in obscurity for three years before going to Jerusalem to meet with church leaders and present himself for ministry. N.T. Wright suggests that this may have been Paul’s “Elijah” period, when he was learning that zeal for the Law must be replaced by suffering for a crucified Messiah. A thorough conversion in the context of community, with means and a process.

And we have “the sinner’s prayer.” We have people like Paula White “leading Saul to Christ.” Please.

There are many ways in which I have come to see that contemporary evangelical faith is a cartoon faith — a flat, colorful, but ultimately childish caricature of what the Bible and church tradition have given us. There’s little humanity in it. Little depth. Little that resonates with the actual human experiences of struggling and growing and becoming mature human beings of faith, hope, and love together, planting seeds for a harvest of righteousness in the new creation.

Whatever James Dobson was talking about, it wasn’t the gospel.

Comments

  1. ‘The gospel is an announcement of a public event that has taken place, an event which has changed everything.’

    I’m gonna go on a stream of consciousness, to try and work this thought out.

    What exactly can that mean, ‘everything has changed’?

    Could it be about the development of an inner life – prayer, contemplation, inner peace? Could this event (which I assume is the ressurection) be the seed, which will grow into the new amazing life of God?

    Could it be that the entirety of Jesus’ teaching, life and ministry is the ‘good news?’ – a new way of being in the world – the rule of God in your heart, and then in your relationships, and then in the wider world?

    If any of this is true, what is exclusive about Jesus? Could there have been other teachers/prophets/visionaries who saw the possibility of a better life, sought that life through prayer, and brought back the light to their tribe or community?

    • Robert F says:

      Incarnation (being the God/Man), Cross, Resurrection, Lordship, his redemption of humanity and renewal of the world,Jesus’ special and unique relationship to the Father (the “only begotten Son of the Father”) and Holy Spirit, are some of what is exclusive about Jesus, no?

    • Could there have been other teachers/prophets/visionaries who saw the possibility of a better life, sought that life through prayer, and brought back the light to their tribe or community?

      Absolutely.

    • Dana Ames says:

      “…what is exclusive about Jesus? Could there have been other teachers/prophets/visionaries who saw the possibility of a better life, sought that life through prayer, and brought back the light to their tribe or community?”

      Sure. But that wasn’t the point of Jesus’ Incarnation, life, death, Resurrection, enthronement and sending of his Spirit. The disciples didn’t announce a possibility of a better life and enlightenment attained through prayer. No, the heart of what they announced was 1Cor 15; vss 3-5 constitute possibly the earliest form of a baptismal creed we have. McKnight points out that it is this passage that actually is “the gospel” – the good news. Read all of the sermons in Acts. When the preacher got to the climax – the Resurrection – the hearers either said “Tell us more!” or started a riot…

      Nobody else conquered death by entering into it and blasting it apart from the inside out. The Resurrection makes it possible for us to truly live – here and now – by demolishing the basis of our fear of death (not only physical death, but also everything that feels like death and engenders shame) so that we can, little by little as we turn to God and seek self-giving love, live the truly human life for which we were created.

      That’s very good news 🙂

      Dana

  2. Robert F says:

    Inviting people to participate in this good news is not about getting them to pray a prayer, walk an aisle, receive Jesus into their heart, or believe in a “plan of salvation.” It means inviting them to enter a new world, leaving behind the old one. It is about Jesus front and center, and changing one’s loyalty from Caesar to Christ. Using the image of new birth, it means entering a new family and beginning the process of growing up within that household. It’s akin to someone in our culture enlisting in military service. You walk through the gate and you are no longer your own. You no longer live in the civilian world. You better get ready for a new life.

    Ironically enough, and contrary to what I know your own position is on this, these are some of the reasons that resulted in Karl Barth ultimately taking a position of criticism of the Church’s tradition of paedobaptism. It’s not that he considered such baptisms invalid; he himself never sought “rebaptism” though he was baptized as an infant, and he did not have a sacramental view of baptism, so “validity” was not his concern. But he came to believe that infant baptism lacked precisely that participation of the baptized in changing her own loyalties from the old household, the household of Caesar, to the new one, the kingdom of God, of Christ; as a result, the rupture between the old and the new, the choice to be a disciple and to pick up one’s cross and follow Jesus, is lost to the Christian. The way Barth put it is that the Christian is robbed by infant baptism of an important and decisive aspect of Christian faith and discipleship: the choice to walk away from the old, and toward the new life. Without this decisive and conscious break, Christian faith is thought to be just part of the background culture that one inherits, along with everything else, and no real change is sought or found; hence, according to Barth, the de-Christianization of Europe.

    Not saying I agree with Barth, only that it’s interesting that he uses the same line of reasoning as you do, CM, but in support of an opposite understanding of how conversion, and initiation, should happen.

    • Robert F says:

      For Barth, public confession of throwing one’s lot in with Jesus Christ, and full, conscious participation in that confession, is the meaning of baptism. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a private conversion and/or baptism. Baptism is the public profession that one has decided to carry one’s own cross, as commanded by Christ, and to follow him to his Cross.

      The problem with the Trump/Dobson affair is that no public identification with Christ was ever made, no embrace of the personal cross or salvific cross was ever undertaken; it was a backroom affair, like a marriage without witnesses or promises. No there there. Naturally, it was reversed as quickly and easily and lightly as it was embraced. But I’ve seen infant baptisms, and the whole process leading up to Confirmation, when identification with Christ is thought to be publicly avowed by young people who were baptized as infants, treated as if they were just par for the course, just empty rituals that one has to get through without taking too seriously; it seems to me that this minimizes the importance and seriousness of Christian initiation no less than the Trump/Dobson affair.

      • For Barth, public confession of throwing one’s lot in with Jesus Christ, and full, conscious participation in that confession, is the meaning of baptism. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a private conversion and/or baptism.

        Filtering it through my own lens and life experiences…this is terrifying if accurate. Because that’s how the group gets you, reinforces you, changes you, educates you, etc. The group reinforces the individual into the mass movement.

        Saying you can’t have a private conversion…you will never be truly free.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > Saying you can’t have a private conversion…you will never be truly free.

          Terrifying, but true. Perhaps that is not the type of freedom intended.

          As many people throughout history have noted – a human being alone is less than a whole. Being alone does not recognize what we are.

          • StuartB says:

            A man chooses; a slave obeys.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            Within the concept of “choice” are innumerable compromises and constraints – including those of our own lack of imagination/creativity.

        • Danielle says:

          I see your point. But sociologically, historically, psychologically, is it possible to be “free” of other people? Inside a church or out?

          Although there’s a lot to life that might be individual and private, even lone wolves participate in the ecosystem and came from somewhere. Every practitioner has had teachers. Whatever we think we know, we got from someplace, and we perhaps added to it, and perhaps we then pass what we have to others.

          I’m not sure we can really talk about a salvation that doesn’t include “a church” by some definition (a community beyond ourselves, some result from God having acted in the world). Can I even be a “self” without other “selves?” If I could plod off into the woods, and really obtained something in many years of solitude, would it be right of me to stay there forever, or would I eventually be of a mind to come back? If the thing I were learning was love, could I stay away?

          The fact that our social nature, our inevitable interconnection, is the source of such terrible problems and suffering is evidence of its power. Surely that power is not always bad news?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > is it possible to be “free” of other people?

            No.

            > I’m not sure we can really talk about a salvation that doesn’t include “a church” by some definition

            Neither salvation or religion in general can realistically be discussed individually.

            > Can I even be a “self” without other “selves?

            No.

            > ….would it be right of me to stay there forever…

            It is demonstrable that it would not be healthy. Prolonged isolation’s correlation to mental illness indicates something essential about us.

            > The fact that our social nature, our inevitable interconnection, is the source of such
            > terrible problems and suffering is evidence of its power.

            This.

            > Surely that power is not always bad news?

            I rather enjoy running water, electric lights, sanitary sewers, and the ability to buy fruit in February..

        • Robert F says:

          StuartB, What Barth means is that there is no initiation into Christ that does not include, in some way, a public identification with the crucified and risen Jesus. The public dimension is before the non-confessing world as much as it is before the Church.

          For Barth, any suggestion of accepting the Church as a cult is out of the question, as his rejection of the Nazi-fied German Christian Church amply illustrates.

    • Robert F says:

      But then, baptism and conversion are not about “getting saved” for Barth; his theology starts with the trust that all human beings were redeemed by Christ on the cross. So there’s no anxiety about “getting people saved” in Barth; Christian initiation is for those who have chosen to embody the kingdom of God, that of Christ, in the midst of the world. They, along with everyone else, were redeemed once-for-all by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, quite apart from conversion, baptism and Christian initiation.

  3. I agree that evangelicals have long been taught and have shared an incomplete gospel. Really the focus has just been on, “How do I get saved?” and not on the totality of who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he will do. But one problem I’ve had when reading something like what you have written or what Scott Mcknight has written is the application of it. How do I share this with a person, and what in the long run does it change? If a person were to ask, “How do I become a Christian?” what am I supposed to say beyond, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” The appeal to the evangelical approach is that it is straight forward, easy to share and easy to understand. The downside is that it is too simplistic and often leads to a cheap grace and false assurance. The downside of your approach is that I just don’t know how to put it in to practice in actual evangelism. Do you know of any good resources that teach this? I’ve read Mcknight and didn’t get much help there. And lastly, the evangelical approach may be sort of a cartoon version, but if it weren’t for the evangelicals a whole lot less people would have come to Christ in the last century, and that includes the many who later decided to leave the evangelicals for something else.

    • It’s nothing that can be packaged, formulated, and made into a checklist. It involves getting to know people, befriending them, loving them in practical and genuine ways (IOW, you’re not just being nice to them to get them to a “point of sale”). It may take months, years, DECADES. It will be as different for you and your friends and acquaintances as it is more me and mine.

      If you want a resource for this, I *highly* recommend Jerram Barrs’ “Learning Evangelism from Jesus”.

      • It’s nothing that can be packaged, formulated, and made into a checklist.

        Driving by an evangelical church late last night, saw they had a sign that said “Alpha is Here!” And I started thinking of ways to repackage and formulate everything and sell it as a bundle to churches and just utterly make bank.

        I’m realizing that it’s not wrong to profit while helping other people. Whole industries are built on it. I’m ready for my cut.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > I’m realizing that it’s not wrong to profit while helping other people

          It is often how the helping is perpetuated.

    • I don’t see this as a problem. The church had ways of evangelizing and initiating converts long before revivalistic evangelicalism came along with its transactional methods. This is one area where evangelicalism’s ignorance of church history and tradition is most apparent.

      Here, for example, is a post talking about how Robert Webber tried to helped educate us about traditional forms of evangelism: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/robert-webber-on-the-theology-of-evangelism-in-the-early-church

    • Perhaps that’s why Jesus commissioned the CHURCH (not individuals) to ‘make disciples’ (not ‘do evangelism’). What we see in Acts is that commission working out. Specifically-called individuals (‘evangelists’ or ‘apostles’) plant churches. Those churches form a community and that community attracts others. As the others become part of that community they experience the presence, power, and grace of God and come to believe (though I have to admit that in a lot of churches today one doesn’t experience of much of those – perhaps that’s why we’re not gaining). The whole thing is a process, not a transaction, and it’s a process that God does, not us.

      There has been a fair amount of sociological research on religious conversion (e.g. Rodney Stark) and the key factor is what has been called ‘network theory’. This basically means that people become part of a faith community, and usually adopt its faith, through relationships – someone invites someone and so forth. That’s how it seems to have worked in the early church.

      I remember reading an article years ago in a Southern Baptist publication about why some conversions ‘stick’ and others don’t (which is a big deal among Southern Baptists because they are the epitome of ‘transactional evangelism’). This article reported a study done by the SBC to see why people left or stayed. What they found was that most (something like 3/4 – don’t remember the numbers) people who were still attending church five years after their conversion had attended a Sunday School class for 6 months before their conversion. Now the SBC totally missed the point of the data – they used it to push more personal evangelism in Sunday School classes. What it really showed is that network theory is the key – as people became part of the community and experienced God’s grace (there is a little of that in SBC churches, and a LOT of talk about it) they eventually came to believe and commit to Jesus.

      So, IMHO, the short answer is there is no answer, because that’s the wrong question. Simplistic formula methods lead to simplistic formula ‘conversions’; real ‘evangelism’ is something ‘we’ don’t do – it’s something God does in and through Christian community (again, IMHO).

    • BTW, I’m sure this subject had something to do with Scot McKnight becoming an Anglican.

      • Dana Ames says:

        Yes – and he was also already attracted to the Anglican liturgy since his PhD study days in England. He & Kris attended an Anglican church there, before the current issues became so divisive. Becoming Anglican was “on the back burner” for years.

        Dana

        • Scot and I had some correspondence around the time The King Jesus Gospel came out and I remember remarking to him, if your view is accurate, then Robert Webber was right.

          • Dana Ames says:

            Webber was right about a lot. His “Ancient Future Worship” was a very big stepping stone/launching pad on my path; I found, among other things, encouragement to get back behind the Reformation and read the pre-800 AD Church writings. I don’t know how I missed that prior IM post – I would surely have left a comment!

            Dana

    • The answer is the church. When someone asks “how do I become a Christian,” the answer is “believe in and confess Jesus as risen Lord, and be baptized.”

      Baptism is the doorway into the church, so for someone to believe the Gospel and want to become a Christian means they want to join the church. The totality of what Jesus is doing in the world is unintelligible unless it has a new society at its center. Simply having some vague experience of the heart that is counted as faith is not enough of a conversion. Nor even is intellectually understanding and acquiescing to the “sense” of the Gospel (oh yeah, I AM a sinner and I DO need to be saved, and Christ’s death is effective for that). There must be a “leading” to the church.

      That’s actually what guys like McKnight are getting at, though it took me awhile to see it. It cuts across most evangelicals’ understanding because it starts to sound all Catholic and stuff, and it locates salvation in a realm primarily outside of “the heart” and “personal relationship,” and everyone starts worrying about ‘works.’ but the movement must grow up at some point. this is the source of untold numbers of problems- Often there is virtually no ecclesiology going on in someone’s witness (and therefore in the conversion of the bearer.)

  4. James Dobson just might change his tune if the Donald offered him the vice-presidency.

    • Danielle says:

      Probably. The rhetoric is supposedly about principles, and it is always dripping with righteous indignation. But the New Christian Right has, since the beginning, been about political and cultural power, and they’ve long attached themselves to whomever appears to be a reliable alley.

      • Danielle says:

        *ally

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > long attached themselves to whomever appears to be a reliable ally

        That is the theory. Watching the last couple decades unfold … that may be what they are trying to do… but they are politically incompetent. From the outside Evangelicals look like chumps – they continue to follow while their priority issues never advance and frequently even get pushed back.

        How are those ‘critical’ battles over abortion and gay rights shaping up?

        There has even been some capture of PTB’s talking rather pointedly of using Evangelicals for their political ends. And still they slavishly follow.

        Perhaps they define “reliably” differently?

      • My enemy’s enemy is my friend?

    • Don’t give him any suggestions. He’s already too close to Cheyenne for me to be comfortable.

  5. Danielle says:

    *ally.

    (Autocorrect woes)

  6. Richard Hershberger says:

    Being a cradle Lutheran, I was quite mystified the first time someone asked me when I was saved. “About two thousand years ago” clearly was not the answer aimed for. The notion that one can identify a specific moment comes out of the First Great Awakening; or at least the notion that this is the normal (much less the only) model does. I won’t say that the transactional model of “pray the prayer and you’re in” is inherent in the revival conversion model, but it does seem to follow easily from it.

    As for Evangelicals and Trump: to be blunt, I have never seen any evidence that their candidate’s religion matters one whit. Oh, I suppose that they would prefer their candidate be an Evangelical Christian in good standing, but this preference won’t change the actual vote, and hasn’t since 1980. In the current election, Clinton is a lifelong actively practicing Methodist whose world view is informed thereby. What she isn’t is someone who stands on street corners praying, so her church activity is easy to overlook, if one is so inclined. Trump is, well, Trump. Do I expect anyone to change their vote based on the candidates’ religion? Not in the least.

    • Danielle says:

      To be blunt, they think they’re asking, “Is this person saved?” Despite their own theology teach the contrary, they also think this may correlate with individual trustworthiness.

      However, what they are usually discussing is identity politics: Is this person like us? Does this person speak in language we understand?

      In the end, the Good Person is the Person On Our Side.

      • Danielle says:

        Re-reading this, my first line makes it sound like I’m fencing back. Actually, I’m agreeing with you. Sorry if that was unclear, Richard.

    • Being a cradle Lutheran, I was quite mystified the first time someone asked me when I was saved.

      Can you expand on this? Does this mean that there are a subset of Lutherans who are essentially universalists? Or is it banking on an infant baptism or some form of election?

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        It is that we don’t emphasize–much less demand–the discrete Road-to-Damascus conversion experience. The stereotype Evangelical conversion story is about how he was mired in the depths of depravity before the Holy Spirit came and saved him, leading him to a life of middle class respectability (or, in the Prosperity Gospel version, the riches of Croesus). Lutherans typically don’t have these stories. We don’t reject their validity (Exhibit A: Tarsus, Paul of) but we are perfectly happy with something like my story: I was raised in the church, had my doubts in my teen years, but ended up back in the church with only modest, uninteresting depravity along the way, and with no Come-to-Jesus moment involved. Ask me for the date and time, and I have nothing to tell you.

        This more modest pattern was completely unremarkable in Protestantism before the First Great Awakening. The dramatic conversions sometimes occurred, but they were not normative for most Christians. Then with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield and that crowd holding revivals all over the place, a bunch of people starting having dramatic conversions. This included people who had been church members in good standing all along, many of whom concluded that they had not been real true Christians formerly. The implication was that those other members in good standing who could not claim similarly dramatic conversions probably weren’t real true Christians either. Wackiness ensued.

        Revivalism became standard through much of American Protestantism, and from there to modern Evangelicalism. This produced a crisis in American Lutheranism, which was largely an ethnic church of German and Scandinavian immigrants. Many found revivalism attractive, particularly as they assimilated into American culture. There was a movement for the American Lutheran church to largely drop the traditional liturgy, and not a little Lutheran theology, and jump on the bandwagon. This was a hot topic in the early 19th century. The decision was to stick with traditional Lutheranism. Many individuals converted to more American versions of Christianity. The modern American Lutheran churches, whether we are talking ELCA or LCMS or even WELS or those wacko mini-synods in the upper midwest, are the descendants of the church bodies that held out against this assimilation. For those who, like me, grew up within this tradition, the question “When were you saved?” is a weird non sequitur.

        As an aside, it is a non sequitur in the Bible as well. When we read of Lydia converting and being baptized,, her entire household is baptized with her. We might speculate that each member of her household had an individual dramatic conversion at the same time, but there is nothing in the text to indicate this. (One might also wonder if said household included any infants…)

        • StuartB says:

          her entire household is baptized with her

          I’ve always read that as forced conversion. The head of the household changes, so you change. Like Rome becoming entirely full of Christians over night. Means not much of anything beyond a label or political alliance. And there is always banishment or death if you refuse to convert.

          Thanks for the great reply tho!

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            I don’t quite equate a family conversion to a **national** one. Yeah, I think the national one is bogus. But a family one – I’m not quite so sure. Different times, different concepts of identity, different socioeconomic circumstances.

        • “It is that we don’t emphasize–much less demand–the discrete Road-to-Damascus conversion experience. The stereotype Evangelical conversion story is about how he was mired in the depths of depravity before the Holy Spirit came and saved him, leading him to a life of middle class respectability (or, in the Prosperity Gospel version, the riches of Croesus). Lutherans typically don’t have these stories. We don’t reject their validity (Exhibit A: Tarsus, Paul of) but we are perfectly happy with something like my story: I was raised in the church, had my doubts in my teen years, but ended up back in the church with only modest, uninteresting depravity along the way, and with no Come-to-Jesus moment involved. Ask me for the date and time, and I have nothing to tell you.”

          In his book, ‘The Deliverance of God’, Douglas Campbell (referring to work by Rodney Stark and others) argues that this is not the experience of MOST evangelical converts either – it is a script they are told fits their experience AFTER the fact. Most who did not grow up in churches (or those in revivalistic churches) actually come to faith via relationships (network theory) but are told ‘this is what really happened’ and so they repeat the story – we are all Paul on the road to Damascus (which in itself probably describes more of a prophetic calling than a conversion, as was pointed out long ago by Krister Stendahl).

    • “Do I expect anyone to change their vote based on the candidates’ religion? Not in the least.”

      Oh, I know people who absolutely would and do vote based on the candidate’s religion, especially if it isn’t Christian. Several Facebook friends (who BTW, live in the US) posted all sorts of dire warnings online after London voted in a Muslim as mayor. I know a number of Ted Cruz supporters who told me they were voting for him because of his religious views.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        The primaries are different. In the upcoming general election we have a lifelong practicing Christian and a non-practicing individual with only the thinnest pretense at worshiping anything other than himself and Mammon. How many people who normally vote Republican are going to instead vote Democratic this time based on the candidates’ religion? I’m sure there are some, but not many, and for those who do switch I suspect that Trump’s qualities apart from religion will weigh strongly in the decision.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          +1. This years election gives away the lie about religion affiliation being a critical value for votes. It is rather clear – finding voters who care deeply about the candidates religious identity is hard.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            This is not new: 1980 showed that. Any number of people will tell you about what a good Evangelical Reagan was, but this is strictly retcon. No one thought that at the time. Recall Nancy and the astrologer. More recently, Obama has much more plausible bona fides than McCain, who is a non-practicing cultural Episcopalian from back when Episcopalians were country club Republicans.

        • Suzanne says:

          I’d say you are correct! I kind of wonder why the Moral Majority folks even bother trying to keep up appearances any more.

      • Danielle says:

        I think the story changes when person’s affiliation is with a clear out-group. Real muslim mayors and imaginary muslim presidents are “game over” scenario.

        However, when it’s between:

        (1) “Saved and Baptized in My Group, the Real Christians;
        (2) Membership in a Christian group I think shares my morals, and some of my ideas;
        (3) Being willing to shake my hand and say vaguely religious things, and seems like a Good Person;

        It’s still pretty much a toss-up.

  7. Accepting Jesus into your heart is a modernistic, iconoclastic, dis enchanted and anti-incarnation phenomena. It is a part of “I think therefore I am” rationalistic Enlightenment

    • Christiane says:

      I once asked a ‘saved’ person what he knew about the Incarnation. He replied: ‘oh, it happened so Jesus would have a body to be crucified.’

      No orthodox sense of the Incarnation at all.

  8. Christiane says:

    The ‘transformation’ thing eludes extreme fundamentalism. Even small children can understand ‘transformation’ when described in the lovely children’s story of the Velveteen Rabbit:

    “Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
    ‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
    ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

    ‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

    ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” (Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit)

    Yeah, ‘transformation’ is too long a process when a fundamentalist can ‘say the words’ and bingo: they have ‘been saved’. And be ‘accepted’. And a member of ‘the Elect’. Without any realization that the REAL ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ was right there in the sacred Scriptures all along: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” And in their ignorance of the history of their faith, fundamentalists don’t know that the early Christians prayed:
    ‘Jesus Christ, Son, Savior, have mercy on us.” and that this was sometimes shortened to the symbol of a ‘fish’, because the initial Greek letters from that prayer formed that an acronym for ‘fish’,

    And even though these fundamentalist evangelicals who have no clue about the REAL ‘Sinner’s Prayer in Scripture, they still use the ‘fish’ sign on their cars for tribal I.D. . . . .

    How did it come to this ? That these ‘saved’ folks can now embrace Trumpland with little or no qualms?

    • The ‘transformation’ thing eludes extreme fundamentalism.

      Also transubstantiation. That bread can’t literally become human flesh. But people say it does. To deny otherwise is to deny miracles or something. /s

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        That’s not the doctrine of transubstantiation. The tricky thing about explaining transubstantiation is that it depends on Aristotelian metaphysics by way of Thomas of Aquinas. But here is the vastly oversimplified thumbnail version:

        How is a tree is a tree, and not a rock? After all, no two trees are identical, so on what basis do we look at the tree growing in our back yard and identify it as a tree rather than a rock or an elephant or a motorcycle?

        The Aristotelian/Thomist answer was that any object has a substance and an accidence. The substance is the underlying reality of what it is. A tree is a tree because that is its substance. It is not a rock or an elephant or a motorcycle because the substance of a rock or an elephant or a motorcycle is different from that of a tree.

        The accidence is the superficial attributes of the object, and this varies from object to object, even when the substance is the same. This is why two trees–even two oak trees–are not identical. It is also why you can have a bit of wood that looks like a rock, but isn’t. Their substances are different, even if their accidences are similar.

        The doctrine of transubstantiation says, as the name suggests, that in the eucharist the substances of the bread and wine are transformed into flesh and blood. The accidences, however, remain unchanged. So if you ran the elements through a chemical analysis, it would come back as bread and wine because it was analyzing the accidence, not the substance.

        Transubstantiation was made official doctrine at the Council of Trent. The idea had been floating around for a couple of centuries. Trent did a lot of doctrinal house cleaning, in response to the challenge of the Reformation. The irony is that by that time, European intellectuals had largely abandoned Thomism in favor of Nominalism. (If you want to know what that is, the Wikipedia article is good enough without being great, in the way that Wikipedia so often is.) Transubstantiation is pretty much meaningless gibberish outside the context of Thomist metaphysics, which is why every good Catholic knows that the elements undergo transubstantiation, without having a clue what that means. This produced hoots of derision at the time from the Protestant side, while Catholic intellectuals could only shrug and declare it a mystery of faith.

        This is pretty low on my list of Why I Am Not A Catholic, but it is on the list.

        • Christiane says:

          ‘Body of Christ’ says the server, holding up the host

          ‘AMEN’ replies the one who is being fed

          . . . . the wordy ‘explanation’ of HOW the Real Presence comes does NOT take precedence in the fore front of the minds of those who are approaching and receiving Eucharist, which is to them is a great mystery of faith.

          They simply acknowledge ‘the Body of Christ’ and they receive the mystery with thanksgiving.

          This is pretty high on my list of Why I Am A Catholic.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            Real Presence need not mean transubstantiation. Luther used the analogy of placing an iron in the fire, heating the iron but it is still an iron. Honestly, I think that the church’s mistake at Trent was trying to make a technical explanation of a mystery. It would have been better left mysterious. That at then making this technical explanation official non-optional doctrine. The have since arrived at the strategy of throwing the word “transubstantiation” around so everyone knows it, while never explaining it.

          • Christiane says:

            Hi RICHARD,
            ‘words’ get in the way . . . . . the Eastern Church doesn’t try to explain ‘mystery’, but the Western Church is pretty hung up on cerebral understanding . . . . does the Church’s use of words exceed the power of those words to explain mystery? A lot of people ask this question.

            I’m very fond of this expression: ‘si comprendo, non es Deus’
            but I still can find comfort in the Eucharist and my ‘Body of Christ’ ‘Amen’ affirmation is given without hesitation.

            I do believe that for many who need it, Our Lord comes to be ‘present’ in a way that we do not understand . . . . whether it is in the elements, or spiritually . . . we are not left bereft of all hope or help

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      How did it come to this ? That these ‘saved’ folks can now embrace Trumpland with little or no qualms?

      The Gospel of Culture War Without End, Amen.

      Once GOP Presidential hopefuls would make pilgrimage to BJU to receive The Anointing from the ManaGAWD.

      Now the MenaGAWD make pilgrimage to The Trump to deliver The Anointing.

      “Who is like unto The Trump? Who can stand against Him?”

  9. internetmonk is so educational! I had absolutely no idea that both Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about motorcycles.

  10. I accepted Christ as a 19 year old college student. And from the moment I prayed “the Prayer” the Holy Spirit began a work in me to transform my spirit into one that sought out the father and desired to live for Him. That process took a mere 12 hours! I awoke the next day praising God and being amazed that I could communicate with my Father in heaven, without guilt, without ceremony. I also began to see the world with new eyes, seeing the artifice of a world that produces a false front for reality while denying the reality of the spiritual world.

    No doctrine of mega church, parachurch Reformed church, Arminian church, or any OTHER kind of church, can take this away from me. Transactional? Sure, it WAS! I was guilty, I KNEW it, and I realized that Christ offered me what I NEEDED! I accepted and was changed!

    January 21, 1971 will ALWAYS be in my heart as the day that I became a Child of God. I cannot criticize any other person’s experience because God is not locked into our ideas of doctrine. I am through banging on “evangelicalism” because the other “side” has just as much baggage to criticize. I am saved, a Child of God. Halleluiah!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      You only know the date and not the Hour/Minute/Second?

      In my experience that would mark you as Not a REAL Christian.
      Year/Month/Day/Hour/Minute/Second was another weapon of Christianese one-upmanship.

      Yet another corollary of a Gospel of ONLY Personal Salvation.

  11. I may be woefully behind in the world-wide interweb, but a grad student in my church messaged me this video this morning….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q19qRUBj-ic

    Thanks for sharing this. I grew up in a mainline tradition, and was a covenant child…My parents “raised me in the way I should go”, so I never remember a time that I didn’t understand that Jesus was the Son of God, that He died on the cross for my sins, and that He did this out of His great love for me. Later on, when I gravitated toward an SBC body, I experienced at least some shaming, because I couldn’t pinpoint a day and time that I had prayed to receive Christ. The end result…I prayed the prayer every time opportunity presented, because you need to do it if you haven’t done it before, and then, despite the theology of eternal security, sometimes you “need to make sure”…those were the consistent lines I heard used in the SBC.

    One of my spiritual fathers, Fr. George Ivey, a great Anglican, told me several years ago that “For Baptists, salvation is a microwave experience; for Anglicans, it’s a crock pot.” I think he’s right. Damascus Road experiences and dramatic conversions are very real and very possible, but I think I’m a product of the Orthodox view of salvation…I was saved, I am being saved, I will be saved. The key component, no matter what your own experience has been, is trust…trusting that The Gospel is the truth, that Jesus loves you, and He gave His life for you. I love the way Brennan Manning frames it…there are two “A” words that comprise the core of The Gospel narrative…”Abba” and “Amen”. “Abba”…believing that God loves you as a Father, trusting that you are a part of the family of God, and He won’t abandon you…”Amen”…saying “yes” to truth of the historical narrative of Jesus, and the present reality of the Spirit working in your life. We “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. Yes, dramatic conversion is possible and happens, and I do at times offer an altar call for salvation, but I always remind the listeners that there are no magic words that save an individual…the key component to salvation is trusting God.

    I don’t know anyone who was saved because Ray Comfort convinced them of intelligent design with a banana, by the way.

  12. “I may be woefully behind in the world-wide interweb, but a grad student in my church messaged me this video this morning….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q19qRUBj-ic

    I don’t think they call that evangelism; I think they call that assault and battery.

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    As though entering God’s Kingdom is like a simple transaction, like purchasing a ticket and reserving a seat on the train to glory. As though it has always been understood in biblical times and throughout church history that all a person has to do is bow his head and pray a simple prayer to be transformed and alter his entire earthly and eternal destiny.

    Buy the Personal Fire Insurance Policy with the free complementary Rapture Boarding Pass.
    That’s All.

    The End State of a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.
    “It’s All Gonna Burn.”
    “Pull up the ladder — I’M Aboard!”