Theology 101: Is Decision Theology Biblical?

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I used to attend Monday nights with Greg Laurie at Calvary Chapel when I was a kid. At the end of every service Greg used to invite people in the front to make a decision to accept Christ and become born-again after repeating a one minute “sinner’s prayer.”

This practice became more pompous at the yearly Harvest Crusades when after reciting the sinner’s prayer, fireworks went off and Greg would declare: “welcome to the family of God.

Is the personal decision to become born again unto eternal life grounded in the Bible? And is it ok to label a person born again after reciting the sinner’s prayer?

Billy Graham has been applying decision theology throughout his evangelistic career, and he famously declared that only 5% or less of those making a profession of faith at his crusades eventually make their way into the Body of Christ by joining a church.

It then follows that a huge number of people who make a decision to believe, make a profession that is NOT of faith. That is just the tip of a nefarious iceberg. These folks leave the crusade thinking they are saved and they continue to live unchanged lives. They are left with an empty decision, a profession, and a false declaration of salvation by a celebrity evangelist.

This problem invariably gets into the monergism vs synergism debate. Monergism holds to the supreme sovereignty of God in matters of salvation, and states that a human decision is not involved in becoming born again, while synergism claims that a human decision for salvation is necessary and synergistic with the work of the Holy Spirit.

But I argue that when it comes to conversion, philosophy can muddy the waters. Let us go to the Scriptures to highlight the fact that salvation belongs to God and it is the work of the Holy Spirit. The only thing that humans can do is abandon salvation.

First, a confession of true faith stems in the gift of faith given by God, NOT in a human decision:

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”

Second, this faith cannot be activated by a human decision because such an action is contrary to fallen human nature:

1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

It becomes clear that in order to make an authentic confession of faith one has to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit because the unregenerated natural man is not able to do this.

Even repentance is not the result of human decision but something that is granted by God:

Acts 11:18 “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.””

I need to stress that human participation in salvation is not robotic. But also, it is not a man initiated event by decisions and sinner’s prayers. It is the result of the quickening of the Holy Spirit.

An appropriate altar call should include the presentation of gospel facts and gospel terms followed by an invitation to repent and surrender to God. Decisions to become born again have no place in a biblical understanding of salvation. Neither do declarations of eternal salvation for those who make professions of faith.

Eternal Security is not Compatible with a Life of Sin… Even if Once “Saved”

I would like to thank my friend Ruben Birle who drew my attention to the teaching of dr. Charles Stanley on the issue of eternal security.  An internet search reveals that Stanley holds some degree of Arminian views in his soteriology (salvation theology), and was involved with the John 3:16 Conference, which was specifically against Reformation Theology.

In the video below he answers the question: “How can a person be saved, backslide into a life of sin, and still be saved for all eternity?”

My critique follows below.

I strongly believe in the eternal security of the saved, specifically the ones who have truly been born-again.  Salvation belongs to our God not to us, and God is the One Who completes His work toward our glorification, a process in which we fully participate.  The issue in this video comes down to whether the ones living in sin are saved or not.

The views expressed in this clip are not biblical because the entire discussion hinges on the term “life of sin.”  The term is present in the question and Stanley references it multiple times in the video.

It starts off with identifying the person who receives the gift of salvation but “lives pretty much like everyone else” (0:38).  He calls this backsliding, but it is much more serious.  These persons are not even saved because they have not experienced the new birth which is evident as that radical change in their life when they exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  So how can an unsaved person have eternal security?

Is it possible for a saved person then to live a “life of sin” since this is what the video is addressing?  This answer is a resounding no!  Therefore that person does not have eternal security.  They are lost until they experience the new birth made possible by the Holy Spirit (John 3).

The Bible is firm about any “saved” person who lives a “life of sin.”  These individuals are not saved.  Dr Stanley says that it is possible to experience salvation AND live a “life of sin” and just lose your reward, but not your salvation.  Wrong!  The biblical evidence against dr Stanley’s false teaching in insurmountable!

1 John 3:6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him… 

1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God

1 John 1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

Ephesians 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

2 John 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God

…and many, many more verses…

Despite what the Bible really teaches, Dr Stanley persists on the idea that one can be “saved,” then live a “life of sin” and still have eternal security, with the stipulation that he will lose his reward. This, my friends is false teaching!  Anyone who continues to live in sin has never been born again!