The Assistant Village Idiot had this to say:

There is a current strain of Christianity which is a magic-words Gospel, a gross oversimplification of Anabaptist teachings. Just say the magic words, and you’re saved forever. At one level, I like to think that God will take any poor excuse or technicality to bring us Home, but magic words theology flies in the face of some verses of Scripture. People make a declaration and are saved, but the ones we hear about seem to have continued on in action as well. The Prodigal Son actually did come home, after all, rather than being magically transported at his death to his father’s arms.

I attend a Church in which the Pastor is caught-up in this form of theology. Every Sunday we hear that we must be able to remember, a date, a time, and a place, where we accepted Christ. I don’t: I can’t. The reason is I was a young child, 9 or 10 as I recall, memories from that long ago era are hazy at best.

I have gone along with this non-biblical religiosity most of my life, telling, when asked, that I was “born again” as a child – omitting date, time and place. Now I believe differently. I believe the fact the Bible teaches we are dead in trespasses and sins so I, like the Reformers, have a difficult time figuring out how I could have possibly done anything spiritual-wise without first having been made alive (again in the spiritual sense) by God’s Holy Spirit. Dead people do not respond well to the Bible and it’s message of good news.

I believe salvation is first an activity on God’s part. It is He who “wills,” to do whatever He wants. If we respond to Him (that’s where our supposed free will kicks in) we begin a life-long process. God gives us a different kind of heart (Ez 36) and it is through this new heart that I was able to respond. Since I am not a theologian I can only relate what I feel (experience) and what I read from the Bible. In my case, over my life, I have tried things that were mistakes (meatanoia is the Greek and it is also the word we translate sin) but I have never been able to escape that inner tug on my conscience, soul, or mind, pulling me always back to Him.

Am I saved? Of course. Who says? God does. Logically, I say to myself, “if God can’t save me without my participation I might as well go get drunk, because I probably wouldn’t trust a God like that anyway.” I accept this state of affairs because life the other way – again experience verifies – is not pleasant.

The Bible says my acceptance of this arrangement is faith. Did (Do) I have  anything to do with it? Yes and no. He tugs, I respond. These activities happen simultaneously so I can’t say which comes first other than what I have eluded to above. Adam and Eve were told they, and we by extension, were dead-meat. Later God says he puts a new heart in those he “calls,” so I can only say God has done it. I don’t remember when He performed heart surgery on me, but I know I did not choose to be born again. As a matter of fact I still  wrestle with the idea because there are things I want to do which I won’t do because…. And, then there are things I do which I don’t want to do because…. Sounds like the Apostle Paul doesn’t it?

Then there is this from Jesus himself in Matthew 19:

(25) When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

(26) Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

A commenter on the “Idiot’s” post today had this to say:

[…] Fast forward to Concord Christian a decade or more later. Tim used to come home and say how Mr. Lester had a successful summer at the Christian Summer Camp he was at. He used to have a specific number of “souls” he had brought to Christ that summer. All I could think was that he was like the old fashioned gun slinger who kept notches in his gun belt to keep track of the number of people he has taken down. I always had this picture of Mr. Lester “praying the prayer” with someone, getting up and going in search of his next project. And when his teaching method with Tim seemed to be to conform Tim to his interpretation of the gospel and not to entertain Tim’s thoughts on the subject, I was overwhelmed with his lack of spiritual depth.[…]

Me too! My post began with a quote from the Assistant Village Idiot in which he stated “the ones we hear about seem to have continued on in action as well.”  It is this statement that triggered this long post. I am one who has “continued on.” Not on my own, of course, but in response to the “tug” I mentioned above.

In my Church are folks who apparently delight in their spirituality by “testifying” how they won the cable guy, “I can’t remember his name” they say, or “I won the pizza delivery guy to the Lord.” We are told he “doesn’t know his name either.” Then we have the evangelists who make an appearance from time to time telling how “they wins souls” at the gas pump, in the Quik Shop and at Wal-Mart. All these “born again” people remain nameless and unseen, however. They do not attend our Church our membership is in decline. We placate ourselves however, with the platitude that we have “planted,” and someone else will “harvest,” what we have “sown.”

Barna, I think it was Barna, did sample research after some Billy Graham Crusades several years ago. Hundreds of people “walked the aisle,” claimed to be “born again,” but the local Churches didn’t see these folks. After one Crusade in California the membership increase in the local churches was 16 as I recall. (Don’t rag on me here. I couldn’t find the link, so I am quoting from a faulty memory).

I don’t know why I wrote this other than the “Magic-word,” gospel just has not been setting well with me lately. As a matter of fact I cringe when I hear, “if you can’t remember a date, a time, and a place….”

Funny (as in coincidental) that the “Assistant,” should write about this subject today. Then again, maybe not. God’s ways are mysterious. 

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