Sent: Saturday, May 22, 2004 4:59 PM

We wish to once again emphasize that we did not "start the war" over the issue of "public invitations" -- or, as some are wont to call them, "Altar Calls." The "antis" fired the first shots.

Our own attention was only drawn to the subject simply because the materials published and/or put on the Internet so frequently have attempted to enlist C. H. Spurgeon -- whose works we are privileged by God's providence to publish -- as an opponent of public invitations. For example, one writer alleges that "Charles Spurgeon often warned against the invitation system, even in his public preaching to the lost."

We have expressed our opinion about that claim, and have offered a $100 reward for anyone who can substantiate it. That offer now appears on our website at the following URL:


At that same link you will find an article entitled,
C. H. Spurgeon & the "PUBLIC INVITATION SYSTEM" -- DID HE OPPOSE IT'S USE? and my recent article in regard to Mr. Murray's booklet.

I believe we have sufficiently demonstrated in recent articles that it is not justifiable to attach the name of "Spurgeon" to the extremes which are set forth by the likes of Iain Murray, Ernest Reisinger, Fred Zaspel, Erroll Hulse, Jim Ehrhard, Darryl Erkel, G. I. Williamson, Carey Hardy, and other brethren of like thinking. We certainly have no objection whatsoever to these brethren having scruples on this or any other matter, but we do find it offensive when any of them make the effort to appropriate Spurgeon in their column.

During the course of writing recent articles on this issue, I have, however, come to the conclusion that there are conceivably more potential dangers involved in anti-invitationalism than merely the misuse of Spurgeon and the misrepresentation of his practices. Therefore, I want to state my opinion with regard to what I perceive as being possibly detrimental effects from the taking a strong anti-public invitation position.

1.  The Danger of Incurable Division.

I recall in reading Baptist history that Benjamin Keach, in the 1600s, introduced singing in his church. A preached named Isaac Marlow was so disturbed by the "innovation" that he published an item against singing, and Keach published a reply to Marlow. Singing prevailed but not without heated controversy and distasteful division.

John Rippon, the successor of Dr. John Gill, compiled and introduced the first Baptist Hymnal. Again, there was controversy and division. William Carey and Andrew Fuller introduced innovative means of implementing foreign missions; again, controversy and division. The same occurred later during the time of Luther Rice. "Hardshell" Baptists stomped on the "innovations" promoted by Rice with both feet. They split off and called themselves the "Old School" or "Primitive Baptists," priding themselves on being opposed to "missionaries" and also instrumental music.

Speaking of instrumental music, In the 19th century, some in the "reformation movement" led by Alexander Campbell -- who at one time was affiliated with the Redstone Baptist Association -- introduced a melodeon into church services at Midway, Kentucky in 1859. This issue about mechanical instruments of music eventually led to the cleavage of the movement into the Disciples of Christ (pro-instrument) and the Churches of Christ (anti-instrument).

I have known of churches and preachers split on such things as women's head coverings, offering plates, communion cups, wine or grape juice in the Lord's Supper, mission boards -- pro and con, Sunday schools -- pro and con, church kitchens -- pro and con, and other alleged "innovations."

Now here comes the anti-public invitation brethren with their hobbyhorse. Don't we have enough of greater significance and importance than to promote another potentially divisive issue?

2. The Danger of "Canonizing" Another Method Which Has No More Biblical Precedent than Other Methods.

It has been shown how that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones used the "office system" as opposed to the "public invitation system." The invitation system is alleged to be "without biblical precedent," but what of the "office system"? Does it have biblical precedent?

I think it is the Hardshells and maybe some others who use the "opening the doors of the church" method to invite those who wish to somehow make known their faith and interest in church membership. Where is there such a precedent in Scripture?

If one opposes the public invitation system as being "without precedent in Scripture," is he able to give "book, chapter, and verse" for the method he favors?

3. The Danger of Promoting Pharisaism.

The Pharisees were great for making laws where God had not made laws, especially in what they were against. They had multitudinous logical arguments about matters which were not distinctly legislated in Scripture, and they imposed their own conclusions upon those issues. If John or Jesus or Paul did not follow the "spin" of the Pharisees, then they were accused of transgression.

Jesus said, "Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" (Matthew 23:13).

He said they "strained at a gnat, and swallowed a camel" (Matthew 23:24). That reminds me of the anti-public invitation brethren who "strain" at public invitations and swallow the camel of the "pre-faith new birth" theory taught by the likes of Berkhof, Sproul, and Murray.

If there is indeed a LAW that establishes a particular method, where is it found? If there is no such law, then why be like the Pharisees and make one? Is there not a danger of doing this on the part of the anti-public invitation brethren?

4. The Danger of Denying Scriptural Liberty.

There are a number of things believed and practiced, even by the anti-invitation brethren, which are simply matters of Christian liberty, as taught in Acts 15:28, 29, Romans 14, and elsewhere.

For example, as a matter of liberty (not by commandment) some of the brethren have formed the Founders Ministries. But can one not inquire, "Where is there a scriptural precedent for the creation of the Founders Ministries, which is an extra-scriptural, post-apostolic organization, said to be formed to 'promote both doctrine and devotion expressed in the Doctrines of Grace,' with a 'Chairman of the Board,' and a Board composed of nine men. Where is this incorporated organization commissioned by the Lord or in Holy Scripture? Who was authorized by precedent in Scripture to select these board members and the Chairman of the Board?"

And may not one ask why is this organization presuming to do the work that the Lord commissioned His own churches to do? If Peter and Paul did not use the public invitation system, did either Peter or Paul head up such an organization such as the Founders?

If they charge that public invitations are wrong and select Charles Finney as the innovator, who was the innovator who instigated the Founders? Brother Reisinger?

Do you see the contradiction here? These very brethren are committed to oppose public invitations on the grounds that there is no scriptural precedent for them, but where can they can show precedent for the Founders organization, officers, and purpose?

If they have the liberty to incorporate such a body, have such a purpose, and select such a board, where is my liberty to practice a public invitation without having them apply their "touch not, taste not, handle not" law against public invitations? Are they not encroaching upon my liberty?

5. They Danger of Creating a Sect.

Sects and cults generally get started by some influential man and his followers who have placed emphasis upon certain distinguishing peccadilloes and peculiarities regarding doctrine and practice. Usually, they write a "manual" of some sort -- which of course is denied as constituting an authoritative "binding creed." Of course, what they deny in word they nevertheless find a way to put into practice. I could cite example after example of the historical record of such sects and cults. Campbellites, Mormons, Hardshells, and others got started that way.

Are not some of the anti-invitation brethren inviting and encouraging this same type of drift?

The Founders, for instance, have published something on the order of a manual, "Worship The Regulative Principle and the Biblical Principle of Accommodation," which is defined to be "a must-read for those seeking to bring reformation to the worship of the local church." 

I have neither read nor seen the manual (or whatever it is), but I am told by those who have that it more or less "tells the church the right doctrine to believe and how to do things in worship the right way."  Well, if it lives up to that billing, who would dare question it? It is of the same reputation as the "Christian System" production of Mr. Campbell in the 1800s.

And, pray tell, who are the "authorities" who deem themselves qualified to compose such a manual of faith and practice which allegedly "masterfully defines, explains, and defends the Reformed principle of worship -- the regulative principle. Moreover, the principle is not left in the realm of theory"?

Why, the two "Masters in Israel" who are more than mere "theorists" are the authors, Brothers Ernest Reisinger and D. Matthew Allen. Of course, it is no doubt endorsed and sanctioned by all the friends of the Founders Ministries.

Is there any danger that such a manual of the "Reformed" faith and order could eventually become another "Christian System," like unto that manual of doctrine and practice composed by Alexander Campbell? Or, another "Doctrines and Covenant" and "Pearl of Great Price" by Joseph Smith? Or, another "Old Landmarkism" authored by J. R. Graves, the father of "Landmarkism"?  Or, another "Manuscript Evidence" by Peter Ruckman to establish "King James Onlyism"? Who knows -- stranger things happened.

One wonders, what ever happened to our dear old Baptist Confession? Is it not sufficient for the day of evil in which we live? How have we survived in the past without the masterful "Regulative Principle" manual? Has it been brought to the Kingdom for such a time as this?

Now, ALL I AM SAYING IS THIS: Some brethren want to put the yoke of bondage of anti-public invitationalism upon others, but they themselves are engaged in practices and organizations for which they have no scriptural precedent. They exercise their liberty in the practice of their own devices but they censure others who use their liberty in the practice of giving a public invitation.

Is this inconsistency not an attribute common to sects and the cults?

So much for now. -- Bob L. Ross

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