Movie Review: Blue Ruin

Director:  Jeremy Saulnier

Writer:  Jeremy Saulnier

Actors: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, and Eve Plumb

Plot synopsis:  A beach bum living out of his car and scavenging food and money out of garbage cans is brought into the police department  where he learns that  the man who killed his parents is being let out of prison.  He travels across country to the prison and after the man is released follows him to a club where he stabs him to death.  Only to find out that the man’s relatives have decided to take the law into their own hands kill him and his only living relatives: his sister and her two kids.

This is a sparse stripped down thriller that makes the most out of its minimalistic cast.  It is quiet and intense with the soft-spoken Macon Blair bringing forth an excellent performance as Dwight who has taken upon him the burden of revenge not realizing that revenge begets revenge until it is too late for everyone.  Also this has elements of a Shakespearean revenge tragedy such as Macbeth or Titus Andronicus  where the end culminates in the maximum display of violence.

The grim aspects of this film may turn some people off and the violence is a deterrent to anyone under sixteen.  Plus this isn’t a teen slasher film this is a thinking person’s film and proves the point that vengeance should really belong to God.

I give this film four stars out of five.




Q. 111. What does the preface of the Lord’s Prayer teach us?

A. The preface of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” teaches us to draw near to God, with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us, and that we should pray with and for others.

 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name. Matthew 6:9

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  Luke 11:13

 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  Romans 8:15

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.  Acts 12:5

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 1Timothy 2:1-3


Saturday for the Defense

I meant to start this series last Saturday, however that didn’t happen so putting my best foot forward here we go.

Every so often friends and relatives send me things mainly, in my opinion,  to irritate me because they know I am a Christian and they are not so they try to undermine my belief in the Bible.  The problem is typically they send me things that have been refuted multiple times.  When I point this out to them they typically respond with “That is just Christian hyperbole”.  When I point out that the persons who have refuted the statements are in fact PhD in their field they’ll claim that they are biased because they are Christian.    They are blind to their own presuppositions thinking that they are neutral when in fact they have a world view and perceive things through it.  Which is true of everyone including me.

So I was sent this list which was originally found here:  10 Theories About Who Really Wrote The Bible by Larry Jimenez

An ordinary Christian and a biblical scholar look at the Bible in tremendously different ways. The average churchgoer knows nothing of the textual problems beneath the familiar words. Bible scholars, however, consider the book a human artifact like any other. They have made it their life’s work to decode and deconstruct it from that perspective.

From studying the texts themselves, Bible scholars have come up with many theories on who actually wrote the scriptures. These theories provide serious challenges to traditional assumptions on Bible authorship.

10. Moses Did Not Write The Pentateuch

Jews and Christians widely believe that Moses wrote the first five books in the Bible. Beginning with some medieval rabbis, however, doubts about this claim have been raised. As an obvious starting point, Moses could not have written Deuteronomy 34:5–10, which speaks about his death. But this glaring inconsistency is just the beginning.

The books contain anachronisms that Moses could not have written. Genesis 36, for example, lists Edomite kings who lived long after Moses died. The Philistines are mentioned in Genesis, yet they did not arrive in Canaan until 1200 B.C., after the time of Moses.

Genesis 12:6 implies that the author was writing after the Canaanites had been driven out of the region, something that didn’t happen until the time of Moses’s successor Joshua. Similarly, a clue in Genesis 36:31 suggests that the text was written when Israel was already a monarchy. Genesis 24 mentions domesticated camels, but camels were not domesticated until much later. The caravan trade in Genesis 37:25 only flourished in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.

An early explanation for these textual anomalies was that Moses wrote the core of the Pentateuch, but later editors, such as Ezra, made additions. But in 1670, the philosopher Baruch Spinoza first proposed that Moses did not pen any of these books at all. It was common practice in the ancient Near East to attribute a work to an ancestral hero, or even a god, to legitimize its message and contents. That is probably what happened here.

9  The Documentary Hypothesis

In the 19th century, scholars began to discover more inconsistencies and anomalies in the Bible, and its compositional history appeared more complex than anyone had previously thought. In 1886, the German historian Julius Wellhausen proposed that the Hexateuch (the Pentateuch plus Joshua) was a composite of four distinct documents by different authors. These documents were labeled J (Jahwist), E (Elohist), D (Deuteronomist), and P (Priestly), and each has its own theology and agenda.

This theory explains overlapping or repetitive stories (“doublets”) such as the two accounts of Creation and the two accounts of the Flood—Genesis 7:17 describes a 40-day flood, while Genesis 8:3 describes one lasting 150 days. It is believed that later editors stitched together the multiple sources into one narrative, sometimes intertwining two versions of a single story and neglecting to iron out the seams, as can be seen in the Flood narrative.

The J source calls God “Yahveh,” or “Jahveh” in German, hence the designation “J.” It pictures God in anthropomorphic terms, appearing to people like Abraham face-to-face. E calls the deity “Elohim,” who shows Himself indirectly, as in dreams. D is the source for Deuteronomy as well as the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It defines God as having no form that anyone can see at all. P is cultic in its character and is obsessed with genealogies and lists.

More recently, the idea of four separate, complete, and coherent documents has come under question, but the composite character of the Pentateuch remains the commonly accepted view.

8.  Deuteronomy Originated As Royal Propaganda
Deuteronomy means “Second Law.” It is theorized that the book was produced during the time of King Josiah in the seventh century to promulgate new laws strengthening the priesthood and creating a more exclusive religion for Judah.

The new set of laws reinterprets the old law given at Sinai in light of new political and social realities. Its language presupposes an audience living in established cities and towns with a central Temple. The legislation for a central sanctuary supersedes the earlier law in Exodus 20:24, suggesting that Deuteronomy was written long after Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness.

In 1805, W.M.L. De Wette theorized that the “Book of the Law” discovered in the Temple in Josiah’s reign was in fact Deuteronomy. Proponents of this view think that the document was deliberately planted to be conveniently discovered. The commands in Deuteronomy are identical to the reforms implemented by Josiah, and so the book may have been written by royal propagandists to give divine sanction to the king’s actions.

There is also evidence that Deuteronomy is a composite work, written in different time periods. The book found in the Temple was the main part. Individual passages, however, suggest that the Babylonian Exile of the sixth century B.C. had already happened. These passages may have been added at a later date.

7.  Daniel Is ‘Prophecy-After-The-Fact’

The Book of Daniel is often paired with the Book of Revelation as providing the road map of future end-time events. Many alleged prophecies in Daniel were fulfilled, but is that because Daniel was a divinely inspired seer?

Critical scholars see a more mundane explanation. Daniel might actually be a Jew from the Hellenistic period, not a person from the Babylonian court. His so-called prophecies were made ex eventu, or after the fact, so that he could pass himself off as a genuine seer.

The book itself betrays more than one author. Chapters 1–6 were written in Aramaic, while chapters 7–12 are in Hebrew. Daniel makes many historical errors when talking about the Babylonian period, the time in which he supposedly lived. For example, he claims that Belshazzar was the son of Nebuchadnezzar, but the Nabonidus Cylinder found in Ur names Nabonidus as Belshazzar’s actual father. Also, Belshazzar was a crown prince but never a king, contrary to Daniel’s claim. In Daniel 5:30, Daniel writes that a certain Darius the Mede conquered Babylon. It was actually Cyrus the Great, a Persian and not a Mede, who overthrew Babylon.

On the other hand, Daniel writes about events of the Hellenistic era with extreme accuracy. Chapter 11, presented as prophecy, is on the mark in every detail. This leads to the conclusion that Daniel was witness to these events but not to those of the Babylonian period, on which he is vague and unfamiliar.

Scholars thus place the writings of Daniel at around 167–164 B.C., during the persecution of the Jews by Syrian tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes. The book was meant as inspirational fiction to encourage the Jews in their time of trial. Daniel did take a shot at making a real prophecy, predicting the death of Antiochus in the Holy Land. This genuine prophecy turned out to be wrong. Antiochus actually died in Persia in 164 B.C.

6.  The Gospels Are Not Eyewitness Accounts

The four canonical gospels in the New Testament are anonymous. The names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not attached to them until the second century.

Whoever the original evangelists were, they never claimed they were reporting actual events they themselves saw. The gospels function more like religious advertisements than biographies of Jesus in that they are theologically motivated. Each presents a particular interpretation of Jesus in which Jesus serves as a spokesperson for an evangelist’s theological position.

In Matthew, the most Jewish of the Gospels, we hear Jesus proclaim the continuing validity of the Torah. In the gentile-oriented John, Jesus Himself breaks the Sabbath. Mark presents a Jesus who is in agony and distress before His death; the Johannine Jesus, by contrast, is calm and in total control.

Some scholars have proposed that the Gospels were written as midrash, a Jewish interpretative technique that reworks old scriptural narratives into new forms—a “remake,” as Hollywood would style it. Thus, Jesus’s 40-day sojourn in the desert parallels Moses’s 40 years of exile in Midian. When Jesus comes out of the desert announcing the Kingdom of God, that was taken from Moses returning from exile and proclaiming Israel’s coming liberation from slavery. The call of the Twelve Disciples was inspired by Elijah’s call of Elisha. And so on it goes—the gospels were constructed from bits and pieces of old stories but with new cast members and a new stage.

5.  Matthew and Luke Plagiarized Mark

The majority of New Testament scholars agree that Mark’s gospel was written first out of all four gospels. It is short, was written in poor Greek, and contains geographical and other errors.

Rather than being independent accounts of the life of Jesus, the gospels of Matthew and Luke can be shown to have borrowed heavily from Mark, in some instances even copying him almost verbatim. Matthew uses about 607 of Mark’s 661 verses; Luke incorporates 360.

To their credit, Matthew and Luke improved on Mark’s original text. They corrected grammar, style, accuracy, and theology.

For example, Mark 5:1 erroneously calls the eastern edge of the Sea of Galilee the country of the Gerasenes, which is actually more than 50 kilometers (30 mi) away. Matthew 8:28 substitutes the more plausible Gadara, a spa only 12 kilometers (8 mi) from the lake. In Mark 7:19, Jesus “declares all foods clean,” something the Torah-observant Matthew apparently disagreed with, since he didn’t copy the statement in his parallel account.

Mark wrongly attributes a quote from Malachi to Isaiah; Matthew 3:3 corrects this mistake. Mark’s more primitive Christology allows Jesus to be called “Lord” only once, and not by a Jew. In the more developed Christology of Matthew, “Lord” is used 19 times, and in Luke, it’s used 16 times.

4.  The Lost Gospel Q

Matthew and Luke share common material not found in Mark. Scholars suspect they had a document, now lost, as their source for these sayings, which they call “Q” (from the German Quelle, or source). We can reconstruct Q by noting the commonalities between Matthew and Luke. Q must have included such biblical gems as the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer.

Verbal agreements between Matthew and Luke suggest the non-Markan material must have been taken from a written, not oral, source. Matthew and Luke could not have copied from each other because each has stories that contradict the other (e.g., the Birth Narrative and the Resurrection).

Q is largely a collection of sayings, not a narrative. Matthew and Luke put the sayings in a narrative context, and they used different styles. For example, Matthew incorporated the Beatitudes into Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, while Luke chose to break up the same sermon and scatter it throughout his story.

The recovery of Q led researchers to a strange conclusion. Since Q does not contain any Passion story, whoever first wrote the document must have regarded Jesus as a teacher of wisdom and nothing more. Jesus’s death held no salvific significance for that writer.

3.  Simon Magus and Saint Paul Were The Same Person

While some of this article’s theories have been accepted by mainstream critical scholars, others venture into more speculative scenarios.

One of these concerns Simon Magus. Church fathers condemned him as the originator of Gnostic heresy, with its hostility to the God of the Jews and the Torah. So it may come as a shock that Paul, the foremost Christian apostle and author of much of our New Testament, might actually be the same person as Simon.

It is difficult to obtain a consistent train of thought from Paul’s epistles. The writings are rambling and disjointed with conflicting theologies. Did Paul uphold the Law or didn’t he? Did he allow women to participate in church or didn’t he? Did he seek approval for his gospel from men or didn’t he? Scholars such as Herman Detering and Robert Price propose the radical view that the Pauline letters have been interpolated into and reworked by later scribes to erase or tone down its Gnostic concepts. This made it more palatable to the infant proto-orthodox Roman Church. The unadulterated original letters, it is suggested, must be the work of Simon Magus or one of his followers.

Parallels exist between Simon and Paul. Simon was notorious for his encounter with the apostle Peter. In Galatians 2:11–14, Paul and Peter are at odds with each other. Simon was called the “Father of Heresies”; Paul was called the “Apostle of the Heretics.” Simon claimed to be someone great, saying “the small shall become great.” The Latin name “Paul” means “small.” The Jewish historian Josephus tells of a magician who may have been Simon whom he calls “Atomus” or “indivisible,” i.e., “small.”

If the identification of Paul with Simon is correct, a large part of the New Testament was founded on the works of an arch-heretic.

2.  The Pastoral Epistles Are Forgeries

The letters to Timothy and Titus differ from the writing style and theological focus of the genuine epistles of Paul. This suggests that the Pastorals were actually the work of a forger trying to ride on the coattails of Paul’s authority. Most scholars, not wanting to call the Pastorals “forgeries,” label them “pseudepigrapha” instead, which amounts to the same thing.

Of the 848 words (excluding proper names) found in the Pastorals, 306 were never used in the rest of the Pauline epistles. The vocabulary of the Pastorals is more like the language of popular Hellenistic philosophy than the language of Paul. The literary style also betrays the forger. While Paul uses dynamic and emotional Greek, the Pastorals are serene and meditative. Finally, the letters focus on issues of more concern to an emerging second-century Catholicism than to a first-century Paul, such as church organization and the preservation of tradition. In writing the Pastorals, the emergent Church transformed Paul from a Gnostic “Apostle of the Heretics” to a defender of proto-orthodoxy.

Professor David Trobisch has a suspect in mind for the forgery: Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna. Trobisch says that Polycarp virtually signs his name in II Timothy 4: “The cloak that I left at Troas, with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, especially the parchments.” The name Carpus, unlike the others in this chapter, never appears in Acts or the earlier letters of Paul. Here, Carpus is said to have Paul’s “cloak”; that is, he had taken on Paul’s mantle. He also had Paul’s writing materials. A later verse mentions a fellow named Crescens, and though he never appears anywhere else in the canonical epistles, a Crescens is mentioned in the Epistle of Polycarp.

1.  John Did Not Write Revelation

The traditional view that Jesus’s disciple John wrote the Book of Revelation was questioned as early as the third century. Christian writer Dionysus of Alexandria, using the critical methods still employed by modern scholars, spotted the difference between the elegant Greek of John’s gospel and the crudely ungrammatical prose of Revelation. The works could not have been written by the same person.

Dionysus noted that the John of Revelation identifies himself in the work, while the John of the gospel does not. He argued that the two men simply shared the same name.

Contemporary scholars have added their own insights into the problem. It is now theorized that the real author was a Jew who opposed the Pauline version of Christianity, with its Gentile elements and Torah-free salvation. The author calls a Pauline church in Smyrna a “synagogue of Satan” and a female leader of another in Thyatira “Jezebel.” In short, he was not someone we would call Christian today.

In fact, Revelation might have been originally written even before Christianity. References to Jesus Christ would then have been inserted only later to Christianize the document. These are mostly clustered around chapters 1 and 22, with just a scattering elsewhere. Surprisingly, these verses can be removed without disturbing the structure and flow of the surrounding verses, keeping the meaning and sense of the text intact. This suggests that the original Book of Revelation had nothing at all to do with Jesus.


So over the next following Saturdays I will be examining these ten statements and pointing out their presuppositions and errors stay tuned.

Two Wills of God?

It’s God’s will for EVERYONE to be saved, is it not? Absolutely. He requires all men in all times and all places to repent and believe the gospel (John 3:18), and thus to be saved from His wrath.

But of course, not everyone believes the gospel, and most of humanity is not saved. Does this mean that God’s will is thwarted by men? How can it be His will for everyone to be saved, yet also His will for so many to perish? Does He have “two wills” that conflict with each other? Not at all. Here is why:

Both the righteous and the wicked exist for God’s glory: The righteous to the praise of His mercy and love; and the wicked to the glory of His holiness and justice. BOTH glorify their Creator!

But the question of whether God truly “wants” every person to be saved or not is like the plan of God itself:

this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men… (Acts 2:23)

On one hand, murder is not God’s will! He says, “You shall not kill!” It is not His moral will that anyone should be murdered. And yet even before He created the world He had planned the murder of His only begotten Son, and it occurred exactly as God had determined and planned ages before the fact. His will was not thwarted, but rather carried out “by the hands of godless men,” for a fantastic display of God’s mercy towards undeserving sinners like me!

So while murder is “against God’s will,” we also see that the murder of His Son was God’s will. Is there a conflict between His “moral will” and His “decreative will?” On the surface it looks like it, but His decree – before creation – that the Son would be murdered to purchase a people for Himself from the fallen race of Adam, was in fact, God’s will.

Two “wills” of God?

No. One standard of morality, and one plan to redeem a people. The standard is holiness! The one single attribute of God that is repeated three times by the heavenly beings, in Isaiah and Revelation, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty…” – we never see “Loving, loving, loving” or “merciful, merciful, merciful,” but always, in both Testaments, “Holy, holy, holy.” His “moral will” is His standard. It requires perfection, purity, absolute righteousness from all living beings, period. The plan was and is to have rebellious, fallen men to demonstrate the awesomeness of God’s holiness and purity in the treatment they shall receive at His hands, whether He shows them mercy by granting them repentance and faith, or whether He shows them justice in the everlasting lake of fire.

So is it His “will” for everyone to be saved? That is the standard He holds all men to. He requires faith in Christ of all men (John 3:18). But His plan was to demonstrate BOTH His justice AND His love. The wicked demonstrate His justice, and the redeemed His mercy and love. There is no contradiction between God’s standard and His plan. They are consistent both with who He is and with how He has revealed Himself in His written word.

Earworm Wednesday: The Hummingbirds ~I Feel Fine (Beatles Cover)

For some reason today I got into a discussion about Beatles songs.  Now as far as I’m concerned Revolver is the best album for the Beatles.  Not to say I don’t like some of their later work but those are the songs I think of when I am thinking about the Beatles.  However, this isn’t from Revolver, this song was released as a single and popped into my head as I was on the way back from work.  So here is the Hummingbirds and I Feel Fine.

Movie Review: I Saw The Devil (2010)

Director:   Kim Jee-woon

Writer:  Hoon-jung Park (screenplay)

Stars:  Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, In-seo Kim

Plot Summary:

When a serial killer (Min-sik Choi) kills the fiance of a government agent (Byung-hun Lee)  he crosses the line between good and evil  in order to find his fiance’s killer and make him suffer for what he has done.

What would you do if your love, your reason for breathing in the morning was taken from you?  Horribly. What if you had the means at your disposal to track him, but not only track him but once you find him make him your prey.    This is what happens when a cannibalistic serial killer finds the fiancé of a government (it doesn’t say what his actual job is but it is implied that he is something like secret service or Korean CIA)  agent kills her and the baby she was carrying and then chops her into pieces.  To eat.  What you have here is a Korean version of Red Dragon/Hannibal with a twist.  The agent who is tracking the has his own agenda and it isn’t bringing him in.  No he is going to find him hurt him, fix him up let him run a bit, find him again and hurt him some more, and repeat.  You see Byung-hun Lee slowly loose whatever good he had in his soul as each times he finds his fiancé’s killer and inflects a little more damage until he can handle no more as he cries when his last trap kills Min-sik Choi who remains unrepentant and defiant to the end.

This is a violent film, and I’ve watched it twice and both times that level of violence still makes me feel uncomfortable as there are no cut away scenes you see everything.  Yet part of what draws me to this film is the different type of violence both characters are violent: one is by nature and one is by training.  But as the film goes on what does that training do to someone to be this violent, this revenge motivated?  Because at any point in time he could have just turned over the killer to the police, and in fact his refusal to do so results in other murders, rapes, by the serial killer because it is in the nature of the serial killer to do such things.  But what does it say about the hunter?  Why does he allow this to happen, perhaps it is in his nature too.

If you liked No country for Old Men, Manhunter, Silence of the Lambs, or Red Dragon you may like this movie but at the same time this isn’t for the squeamish and definitely not for any children at all.  Lastly this is in Korean with subtitles.

I’m going to give this three stars out of five I would have given it more but I can’t the violence level makes me reduce this by at least one star.


Q. 110. What rule has God given for our direction in prayer?

A. The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer, but the special rule of direction is that prayer, which Christ taught His disciples, commonly called the Lord’s Prayer.

Matthew 6:9-13
9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

2Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Frenetic Friday

Rising up from the murk shuffling into the light it is Frenetic Friday!

First here is a little news from New Zealand meet Travis McIntosh and Matt McCormick.

They’re getting married and believe me they have a group of people up in arms.  They are calling the marriage and insult and that it trivialized what people have fought for.  Oh, did a I forget to mention that they were heterosexual friends and they are doing this to win a contest?  Yes this has Gay rights groups up in arms.  They are saying that this isn’t what they worked for this isn’t “equality”.  I have a question though if this is about “equality” and allowing who ever wants to marry then why should they care?  Shouldn’t they celebrate this?  Of course it is interesting to see the shoe on the other foot isn’t it?  On a side note Mr. McIntosh said that he thinks the marriage will last about two years.

You know I don’t like Bill Maher I really don’t but when he gets it right, he gets it right.  Here he is with Charlie Rose talking about Islam’s illiberal beliefs.  But the most important thing is where he shows Rose that comparing Islam to Christianity is the same as comparing apples to oranges.

So did you hear about the Arkansas State University football team that put crosses on their helmets to honor two people who died one a former equipment manager and the other a former player that had been gunned down.  Well that didn’t last a Jonesboro attorney said that violated the constitution because you know a cross decal on a football means that the university is promoting Christianity.  But the players were given an out they could modify the decals to look like plus signs.  Because you know promoting math is okay.  Read about it here.

And this just in, well not just in, but it seems that the Jack the Ripper murders may have been finally solved.  Yes modern forensic science has found DNA on the shawl of a victim of the Ripper that points to one of the five possible suspects.  It appears that a polish immigrant by the name of Aaron Kosminski was Jack the Ripper.  Read more about it here.

And that is it for tonight, good night see you next week.


The Invitation: Why Altar Calls Are Offensive

Not that long ago, I would have refused to join any church that did not give an invitation during some point in every service, for people to respond to the gospel by going forward or raising their hands to publicly receive Christ as their Savior. I considered the use of an evangelistic invitation (or “altar call” as it is often called) to be a mandatory mark of any true gospel church. I still remember being shocked to learn that many evangelical churches refuse to offer an invitation, despite being strongly evangelical and gospel centered. I could not imagine why any true Bible believing church would not do it, and concluded for years that such churches must be either “liberal” or steeped so deeply in tradition that they had come to place evangelism lower than it belongs on their list of priorities.

A crisis of faith later forced me to re-examine everything I had been taught in churches all my life. Determined to believe only the Bible and nothing else; and to practice only what the Bible commands and nothing else, I put aside any belief and doctrine – no matter how precious – that I couldn’t find in the Bible. But it meant more than just being able to quote a chapter and verse here and there to “prove” a doctrine. I needed desperately to know what the Bible teaches as a whole, and what my duty to God really is according to His word – all of it – not just scattered verses to be quoted in support of some dogma.


This fresh look at the Bible led me, for the most part, almost right back to where I started. But there are exceptions that I certainly did not anticipate. One of the most poignant for me is a surprising sense of indignation at altar calls, since for so long I considered them a vital characteristic of any true church! I was frankly surprised and even frightened by my own new disdain toward altar calls. Yet I remained determined to be true only to the Bible and not bound by the traditions of men – and altar calls fit into the latter category! Still, I needed to discover why altar calls, once so precious to me, now became such a stumbling block. Had I backslidden? Had I lost my salvation? How could I be offended by something as wholesome as a gospel invitation?

A Truer Version of God

I had thrown out a lot of baggage that I couldn’t find in the Bible. But one of the things I had gained from it was a new sense of who God really is. I no longer could see Him, to put it as Michael Horton does in his wonderful book, Putting Amazing Back into Grace,  as “a frustrated deity who paces heaven’s floors wringing his hands and hoping that people on earth will ‘let him have his way.’” No, He is Lord! He is the sovereign Ruler of the universe who stands in no need of human love and companionship nor derives any glory from them. Rather it is His own eternal glory that is manifested in, by, to, and upon them (Job 22:2-3). Altar calls all too frequently depict the Lord Jesus as somehow “needy” or lonely, standing outside “the door of your heart” longing to be allowed in. But this is a reversal of the true picture! We are the needy, lonely ones standing outside and longing to be let in! And the human heart is not some warm, cozy place that the Holy One should desire to dwell there, either. The Bible says the human heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).” Even laying aside the Bible’s clear teaching about God’s sovereignty in election, that image of Christ “knocking at the door of your heart” is patently offensive all by itself, since it reverses the positions of sinner and Savior! Adding the further amazing truth of divine election, the picture becomes even more absurd. Where is the sense of the sinner’s impending doom before the righteous Judge? Why are sinners expected to feel sorry for “poor Jesus,” knocking at the door of their hearts, when they are the ones in grave peril?

Grace and Works for Salvation?

Another aspect of every gospel invitation is an open, public declaration of one’s faith. Even in those “every head bowed and every eye closed; no one looking around… yes, I see that hand” scenarios, an open declaration of faith is urged:

“Jesus said, ‘everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33),’ ” the evangelist warns. “The bible says that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10:9-10).”

But there is a major theological problem with how the evangelist has interpreted these verses. He has just added a new requirement to salvation which Christ did not appoint! Here is how:

The whole of Scripture makes it quite plain that salvation is and has always been by faith alone. Rebirth, repentance, saving faith, and conversion are all the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s heart, resulting in confession and action.

Confessing Christ before men is certainly a mark of the true Christian. One who has truly been born from above cannot help but share his or her faith. It is a defining characteristic of a Christian. But it is not a prerequisite action required of an unregenerate person as in order to become a Christian. Indeed, it is not even possible for a non-Christian to make any saving profession of faith at all (1 Cor. 12:3). Only a truly reborn Christian can say, “Jesus is Lord” by the Spirit.

And if salvation is the result of a “saving decision” born in the heart and will of the hearer in his seat, why then, are they told, “Come forward to receive Christ”?! Going forward is not a necessary requirement unto salvation prescribed by Scripture. Yet it is added to Scripture by well-meaning preachers as though it was the commandment of God. Public confession and actions which reflect the work of Christ already in the believers’ heart are definitely marks of that person’s having been converted. But they are not commanded in Scripture as in order to obtain conversion!

But that’s not the worst of it.

Suppose someone goes forward because he was told that doing so meant that he had accepted Christ and had been accepted by Him. Yet in his heart he remains unconverted. Having obeyed the outward action, he may suppose that he is now saved. Walking down the aisle or not walking down it makes no difference to a person who has been truly born from Above. But to a person who was not awakened and given life and faith to believe the gospel, going forward may cause him to believe he is saved. By tying salvation to an outward act instead of God-breathed saving faith, the preacher adds a new prerequisite to the gospel. It is often impossible for a new convert – genuinely reborn or not – to tell the difference between carnal hope and saving faith. The new birth is from Above, not from within. Regardless of what a person who goes forward in the church service feels like, only time and obedience will distinguish between true conversion and human religion. Adding this extrabiblical requirement to the invitation is nothing less than a perversion of the Gospel of salvation by faith alone, through grace alone, and in Christ alone. Compelled to remain true to the Bible alone, I have been forced to abandon my former love for the altar call – and I have been further motivated to preach the gospel as Christ did, with nothing added.