Sent: Tuesday, May 04, 2004 2:19 PM

In a message dated 5/3/2004 4:15:13 PM Central Daylight Time, a brother writes:

OK, Bob, I can't keep quiet any longer.  I do wish you would back off on
Fred Zaspel.  He is a very fine man of God, and smarter than you and me
put together (and that is taking into consideration your high IQ!).  Fred
is not against inviting sinners to Christ such as the Primitive or
Hardshell Baptists are; he is simply against the "Invitation System,"
much the same as Ian Murry in his booklet of the same name.  I can't
believe that you would really be a proponent of the invitation system
championed by such men as Charles Finney and Billy Graham.

Fred is not a hardshell; he is a warmly evangelical Sovereign Grace
Baptist.  I really think you're barking up the wrong tree, Bob.

Thanks for considering this,

>> [Signed]

I do not have the faintest notion of who coined the expression, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."  But he certainly "hit the nail on the head" [another expression of unknown origin, at least unknown to me].

I, of all people, who apparently has a tendency, it seems, to ofttimes "tread where angels fear to tread" [yet another "cliche" by some sage of the past], have had to "take my licks" over these many years of trying to "give the devil his due" on some issues of a controversial nature. I like to think that at my age and with my "track record," I have to some degree "earned my spurs."

Well, so much for filling up space with "old saws."

Criticism of my offerings is always welcome.

I frequently find some very helpful information provided by critics who offer specific criticisms. I especially like the type of criticism which is specific, in fact, very specific. By that I mean, the critic is kind enough to "name" the particular offense or error which I have made rather than simply being so generic that I really do not know what he is criticizing. In such cases, I simply have to surmise that he perhaps does not like my "attitude." This is a common charge when my articles happens to conflict with the views of the critic who is writing. He opts for the target which seems to be most vulnerable -- namely, my "attitude."

Citing my "attitude" is a very reliable scapegoat for any given circumstance, especially when it comes to my own case; I seem to have the "gift of abrasiveness" or "acerbity" in the style in which I sometimes write, especially if I am writing on a controversial issue. I learned a long time ago that it is useless to attempt to "defend" myself in this regard; so, rather than being humble and self-denying about my "gift," I decided to simply accept the fact that I do have such a "gift" and will have to live with it. So I often facetiously say that "I have a reputation to protect," so I do not bother trying to stifle that "gift."

Oliver Comwell had a big wart right on the tip of his nose. An artist is said to have painted a portrait of Cromwell and omitted the wart. When Cromwell saw the finished work, he ordered that the wart be painted in its proper place; it would not be Cromwell without the wart. I feel much the same way with regard to my writing; if I removed the "wart," it would not be me. It would not really express how I feel about a particular matter.

Now -- in regard to the email from the brother whose comment I have quoted above:

It would have been far more appreciated had he specified wherein I have erred as a matter of fact. I understand very well how he feels when one whom he may admire has had been the object of criticism and refutation, but demonstrating his high regard for Brother Zaspel as a man so intelligent that he exceeds both the critic and myself in knowledge does not help me understand wherein I have erred. Could he not have specified the particular error?

What did I write that was inaccurate? I have certainly been known to make errors, and to have corrected them. I wrote an entire book admitting my errors on "Landmarkism," which I once held early in my early church associations, and so it would not be out-of-character for me to see and admit other errors.

As for what the brother did say, let me at least clarify the following:

(1) "Fred is not against inviting sinners to Christ such as the Primitive or Hardshell Baptists are . . ."

I did not make that allegation of him; rather, I did say that his "pre-faith regeneration" theory -- which appeared to me to be what he teaches -- is the same basic view held by the Hardshells. Is that the case or no? Does he teach that men are regenerated BEFORE they have faith created in them by the Word and Spirt and simultaneously believe? If so, then he is a basically a "Hardshell" on that point of teaching, just as I said of James White, R. C. Sproul, and any others who accept Louis Berkhof's theory.

(2) "I can't believe that you would really be a proponent of the invitation system
championed by such men as Charles Finney and Billy Graham."

I share with Fred tje fact that we were both converted during an invitation at the close of a service where the Gospel was preached. We at least have that much in common, and it may be that my present critic was likewise converted on such an occasion. In my association with Calvinists, I find that many of them were saved during, or at least in conjunction with, the use of a public invitation.

As for "defending" any particular system, I have no recollection of doing that. I have defended and do defend any and all systems or methods by which sinners are presented with the Gospel of Christ and are strongly urged to immediately respond openly in acceptance of that message. It is the Gospel truth, blessed by the unseen Spirit, which is the converting power (John 3:1-7), not the method or system. With the heart a sinner believes on Christ and with the mouth he makes confession (Romans 10:9, 10).

I am sure that if Brother Fred preaches the Gospel of Christ, he himself has some method or system by which he affords the sinner the opportunity to publicly confess his faith. If he does not use the type of invitation or "altar call" method which was used when he made such a confession at the age of six, he nevertheless no doubt has some system or method by which the sinner who believes in his heart is encouraged, instructed, and invited to confess that faith with his mouth.

(3) As for Finney and Graham, if it is allowed that these and other such ministers and evangelists preach the Gospel, then whatever method they use to invite believing sinners to confess Christ is as much warranted by Scripture as Brother Fred's method of hearing confessions. The fact is, the Scripture does not ordain a particular method as the "one and only" valid scenario to accommodate a person's making a public confession. Nor does it forbid certain methods.

Zaccheus, for example, was up a tree and hastily came down to receive Christ joyfully (Luke 19:6). I do not think this ic designed to establish a "precedent" to be followed as a standard method, whereby hearers would get up into trees and from there descend to receive Christ.

The dying thief was hanging on a cross when he finally made a public confession of Christ. That does not appear to be designed as a system of public confession for all others.

Paul, on the road to Damascus, fell to the ground and there made a confession of faith in Christ as Lord, but no one considers it essential that others must fall to the ground when making a confession.

Lydia heard the Word and confessed faith on a Jewish Sabbath day, by a river side, "where prayer was wont to be made" (Acts 16:14). The Philippian jailer heard the Gospel in a prison, and confessed Christ. The Ethiopian heard the Word sitting in his chariot, and confessed faith. These are not offered in Scriptures as "approved methods" or "systems," but they reveal that one may confess Christ in any given circumstance that is practical and affords the sinner the opportunity. The only "condition" is that the Gospel is preached, the sinner believes it in his heart, and he confesses that faith. Why make a hobbyhorse for or against some particular method or system?

Mr. Spurgeon said of Mr. Moody's method, "I believe that it is a great help in bringing people to decision when Mr. Moody asks those to stand up who wish to be prayed for.   Anything that tends to separate you from the ungodly around you, is good for you." (MTP, 1897, page 516).

We stand with Mr. Spurgeon in his attitude -- any method which tends to appeal to and arouse the sinner to separate from the ungodly, forsake his sinful ways, and respond to Christ for salvation is approved by us. "Somewhere or other, declare yourself to be on the Lord's side," Spurgeon said. We of course would disapprove any method which would  encourage or justify the sinner to delay, postpone, "put off," procrastinate, excuse himself, avoid, evade, reject, turn away, or otherwise not respond to the Gospel. Every time the Gospel is heard, the hearer is responsible to accept it and confess Christ.

We also cannot endorse any other method which incorporates a way of salvation for the sinner other than by simply believing in Jesus Christ; such, for example, as inviting parents to bring forward their babies to be baptized to regenerate them -- or, adults to come forward to be baptized to be saved -- or, "praying through" to be saved -- or, simply going thru some other prescribed "form" to be saved. Simply repeating a prescribed prayer, signing a card, or fulfilling some such request or requirement may have a use, but such should not replace believing in Christ and confessing that faith. 

As Spurgeon says, "I should think there is no condition of gentleness, or of obscurity, or of poverty, or of sorrow, which should prevent anybody from making an open confession of allegiance to God when faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has been exercised.

If that is your experience, my dear friend, then whoever you may be, you will find an opportunity, SOMEWHERE OR OTHER, of declaring that you are on the Lord’s side.   I am glad that all candidates for membership in our church make their confession of faith at our church-meetings.  I have been told that such an ordeal must keep a great many from joining us; yet I notice that, where there is no such ordeal, they often have very few members, but here are we with five thousand six hundred, or thereabouts, in church-fellowship, and very seldom, if ever, finding anybody kept back by having to make an OPEN CONFESSION of faith in Christ. 

"It does the man, the woman, the boy, or the girl, whoever it is, so much good for once, at least, to say right out straight, “I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am not ashamed of it,” that I do not think we shall ever deviate from our custom.  I have also noticed that, when people have once confessed Christ before men, they are very apt to do it again somewhere else; and they thus acquire a kind of boldness and outspokenness upon religious matters, and a holy courage as followers of Christ, which more than make up for any self-denial and trembling which the effort may have cost them" (MTP, Volume 46, 1900 page 289).

I'm sure Spurgeon would never have taught that his "custom" about confessions being made "at our church meetings" was the essential practice, but that was his preferred method. He did not claim that this was the "one and only" God-ordained method.

And Spurgeon did not make his theological views the measuring rod or gauge of whether or not a profession of faith is valid. During the "Downgrade Controversy," he made his attidude rather clear, that he did not reject Christians with differing theological views if they held the "foundation truths which belong not exclusively to this party or that."

Certain antagonists have tried to represent the Down-Grade controversy as a revival of the old feud between Calvinists and Arminians. It is nothing of the kind. Many evangelical Arminians are as earnestly on our side as men can be. We do not conceal our own Calvinism in the least; but this conflict is for truths which are common to all believers. This is no battle over words, but it deals with the eternal verities—those foundation truths which belong not exclusively to this party or to that. It is of no use attempting to drag this red herring across our path" (The Sword and the Trowel, December, 1887)

Now, in conclusion, if the brother has specific errors which I have made which he can call to my attention, he is welcome to write again. I will not quarrel, however, about other generic matters, unspecified offenses, or any such thing. If he simply has a distaste for what I have written, or has a differing view on invitations, he is welcome to it; we all perhaps have some degree of differences of this sort; but if I have indeed committed an error of fact, then I wish to know it and will happily correct it. -- Bob L. Ross

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