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Thursday, October 18, 2007

ML-J, the Will & Altar Calls

I mentioned earlier, I plan to examine Martin Lloyd-Jones' thoughts on altar calls. His first two reasons dealt with the will. (ML-J's comments in black, mine in blue.)

1. It is wrong, surely, to put direct pressure on the will.
MLJ explains from Romans 6:17: In other words the obedience is not the result of direct pressure on the will, it is the result of an enlightened mind and softened heart. The altar call aims squarely at the will, instead of letting the sermon work through the mind, which will soften the heart, and together impact the will.

2. I argue that too much pressure on the will--there is inevitably an element of this in all preaching, but I say too much pressure--or too direct pressure, is dangerous, because in the end it may produce a condition in which what has determined the response of the man who 'comes forward' is not so much the Truth itself as, perhaps, the personality of the evangelist, or some vague general fear, or some other kind of psychological influence. MLJ provides an illustration of a pastor who became irratated because his altar call did not immediately follow his sermon, but had to endure 30 minutes of singing first. This preacher admitted his delayed altar call created lesser results.


  • At 6:17 AM, Blogger brother barabbas said…

    Define 'the will'.

    Paul says in Romans 10:10 with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Paul uses the Greek word kardia which the translators concluded to reference 'the heart', but by definition could it not also mean 'the mind' or 'the will'? If so, why must the will be detached from the salvation equation?

  • At 7:22 AM, Blogger Noel said…

    I was talking with Kelly last night about Charles Finney and alter calls. What is your perspective on alter calls?

  • At 8:40 AM, Blogger danny2 said…


    don't tell me what to do! i'll define 'the will' only if i want to. (indirect definition there.)

    actually, you're right, we create a trichotomy of body, mind and spirit that isn't found in the Scripture. often the mind is called to do that which the heart does, and vice versa. however, i do think the romans 6:17 reference lays it out perfectly. obedience from the heart that comes from the teaching you received. the teaching (instruction) must engage our mind, which then effects our heart (who we are) and causes us to act in obedience (our will). however, we should never reverse that order...trying to engage obedience from motivational tactics that don't first inform the mind.


    i don't have the book on me, but ML-J in essence said: "it shouldn't be a surprise that finney brought about the work of altar calls, for the practice largely came about through his armenian theology...however, other armenians, like wesley, did not employ this practice."

    my last post on altar calls (from a few days ago) probably begins to give you a hint about my view of the practice, but certainly by the time we finish this list, you'll see what i think.

  • At 9:05 AM, Blogger brother barabbas said…

    The whole altar call manipulating the will is a relatively new approach to me. Maybe it's because I've always used altar calls as a means to give opportunity for anyone who feels convicted to 'confess Christ before men' rather than to get them to affirm my ability as an evangelist.

  • At 9:17 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i'm not sure why i used quotation marks in the second to last paragraph, since it wasn't a quote, but a summary of his quote.

  • At 3:03 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    You guys are driving us English majors crazy with your Armenian alter calls. If I want to alter anything, I'm certainly not going to call someone from Armenia.

    Sorry...my will was overcome.

  • At 5:33 PM, Blogger brother barabbas said…

    please brad, at least differentiate the men from the boys....

  • At 1:29 PM, Blogger Daily Stuff said…

    Ok so i get the implications of theology present within the alter call as history is concerned... but i think basically somewhere along the line we (church culture) have equated coming forward with actual repentance... rather than the outworking of a repentant heart. You might say they're the same thing. I would suggest the slight nuance of a difference matters.

    In a way i think some parallels can be made to baptism (in that it does not save, yet is an outworking of an obedient heart) - people were used to baptism as a symbol of change in first century (for example the required washings for a gentile proselyte to "become" jewish).

    We would rarely permit someone to be baptized without first insuring he or she knows what it means and what it does not mean. I think what is needed is better articulation of . What an alter call is and is not.

    But on a more "off the cuff" comment I would say I take alter converts on a case by case basis... in the same way i take retreat Decisions, or throw a stick in the campfire decisions.... the walk seems to point to the heart condition in the long run.


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