Beseech sinners to ask the Lord to enable them to believe or just to believe?

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by Pergamum, Nov 13, 2014.

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  1. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior


    Of course I agree that one may merely mentally assent to the gospel. This is why I said that we look not only at doctrine and life but ask about repentance and faith. We want to know not only whether one assents, but whether one trusts in Christ and Him alone. I've been saying this all along so you can't seriously question me on this. My objection is not to Joseph Alleine's seeking to press faith and repentance on his hearer in every proper way.

    Rather, my objection, dear brother is to what you continue to say: On what basis do you assume that there are myriads with right doctrine and life but fall short of truly knowing Christ? And your answer must be, as it has consistently throughout these posts, not simply the theoretical "well one may have nothing but mental assent" but "clearly there are many religious professors who are not possessors of Christ because they do not have the requisite religious experience." I am not denying the reality of or even the need for religious experience. I am denying that one must have a certain experience: so much conviction before true conversion, for example.

    I ask all the time in my preaching "Have you ever truly hoped in Christ?" and the like. This is not the point. The point is that you identify whether or not one has done that with a particular sort of thing: sufifcient conviction before conversion and the like. You may think that you are doing what Edwards and Alleine are doing but I would say that you are not. I have no trouble inquiring, and think that good preaching should, as to whether or not one has truly trusted in Christ and Him alone. I do have a problem with concluding that many have false assurance because they've not undergone what is requisite to true assurance: a pre-conversion conviction of sin that becomes the touchstone for true conversion and thus the warrant of true assurance. It's one thing to say that deficient life and doctrine and no testimony to faith and repentance prompts one to question the assurance of others. It's another thing altogether to question the assurance of others based on their lack of pre-conversion conviction. That's simply unwarranted and uncharitable. Sorry to be so blunt, but I see no way around that.

    I think that if you don't get what I am saying by now, I probably need simply to stop here and commit all these matters to prayer and perhaps take it up again, if that appears wise and useful, in the future.

  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks Dr Strange for the comments. I am still struggling through your answers. I am struggling to figure out exactly where those points are in which we differ:

    You wrote:
    I think that is the point....or at least part of the point. Such a question hearkens back to a past experience. When we examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith, this question is one that we normally ask of ourselves (a question based upon a past experience), even if the more important questions are, "Do I now presently savingly believe and repent RIGHT NOW...and what are my present fruits?"

    I am not sure what you are arguing against, but I have set up no normative model of what the sinner must experience. I have set up no normative route that this "narrative of grace" must follow. But normally, a Christian does have a story to tell. And that story seems to include some level of awareness of being a sinner (and sometimes a period of conviction prior to deliverance). Sometimes this period of conviction is longer for some than for others (and the person often testifies that they were not yet saved/converted during this particular stretch of time, such that many would refer to such a person as an "awakened sinners"). Do you accept the category of "awakened sinner" or is this a point at which we differ?

    I only assert that it is normal for the sinner to experience something (usually some level of awareness and/or conviction of sins and/or a thankfulness to God for the work of Christ) such that there is, in fact, an experiential component to their conversion. Some people not yet converted come under conviction of sin and are known as "awakened sinners" or "inquirers" or even "seekers". I agree that these should not to sit idly in that condition and should be told to believe and repent. Yet I see nothing wrong in counseling these awakened sinners to "pray that God would enable them to believe and repent" if they feel that they cannot do so. If the sinners WANTS to believe and repent, then he CAN do so. I also see no reason why we need to argue that these are already regenerate because of this conviction of sin, for many possess conviction of sin who do not ever possess conversion.

    My OP asked the question of whether we ought to beseech sinners to believe and repent or should we beseech sinners to pray that the Lord would enable them to believe and repent. And it seems that the answer that Alleine gives in his book Alarm to the Unconverted is to do both, for he states, "beg the Lord to give you saving conversion" even as he beseeches the reader to believe and come to Christ. It appears that the immediate call to believe and repent is often better. Yet, I still have not found sufficient reason to see the second option (to also beseech sinners to pray the Lord to give them such an ability) as sinful or wrong. We have examples of the Puritans doing that very thing. Dr. Don Kistler gave the excellent Thomas Goodwin quote, "If you can't go to God WITH a right heart, then go to God FOR one." Therefore, I do not see anything wrong with praying to God for a new heart.

    You have already stated in a previous post:
    . I fully agree.

    Therefore, I am not all too clear where it is that we differ. Do you think that I am demanding that one MUST have had a period of conviction of a certain length before they can claim to be a Christian? I have not said as much, for each person's testimony often varies greatly.

    Please note that I have never used the phrase "crisis conversion." Only you have used this phrasing, "crisis conversion." I also do not believe that one must come to a crisis to be converted. If you are objecting to me because you believe that I am advocating this, then you have no need to object, I do not advocate this position of "crisis conversion."

    So, where are the points that we are disagreeing on? How do I misrepresent Edwards and Alleine? I did link the sermon of Edwards' that shows Edwards' belief that "God makes men sensible of their miseries before he reveals His mercy and love?" What do you think of that sermon?

    The Apostle Paul was writing to a church in Second Corinthians 13:5 when he said, "
    . Was Paul being uncharitable when he wrote this to the church body at Corinth? And how are preachers in our day to handle this text?

    Would you agree that most Puritans placed an importance on conviction of sin prior to conversion? I have searched through my previous posts and I don't recall ever making a certain level of conviction mandatory. I only believe that some level of awareness of sin and even some level of knowing that one is a sinner and guilty of sin is a normative experience for believers prior to conversion. Do you agree with that?

    A Puritan's Mind » Conviction and Conversion – by Dr. William S. Plumer

  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Dr. Strange and all:

    I am rereading some of Thomas Hooker's writings. Reading this at the same time as I am reading through this book: Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God's Way of Leading Sinners to Christ: Joel R. Beeke, Paul M. Smalley: 9781601782342: Books

    This book "Prepared by Grace, For Grace." is simply a wonderful book.

    Reading these two books together makes me more aware of the dangers that Dr Strange may be alluding to. Thomas Hooker seemed to have had 8-steps of preparation that sinners pass through prior to conversion. Rather than possible ways in which the Spirit might work, Hooker seemed to phrase it in such a way as to expect that every sinner WOULD pass through these steps prior to conversion and that this was THE WAY in which the Spirit worked. Thus, pastorally, in order to check the spiritual state of those sitting under your preaching, inquiring into what experiences a sinner might have already experienced along this path would indicate where they were along the path towards conversion.

    Jonathan Edwards rejected these teachings, leaving it to divine mystery how the Spirit sometimes worked in sinners to convert them, "Therefore there is a danger that the church will become defined by outward conformity to a learned formula of experiences instead of the inward reality of broken-hearted trust in Christ."

    A real gem of a book and a good antidote to anything Thomas Hooker wrote about the Spirit's preparation of sinners for salvation.
  4. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    When an awaiting on marks of grace and inward inspection trump fruit of the spirit and righteous works are we placing 'experience' & 'self' over God's glory & praise? Shouldn't the growth be simultaneously internal AND external .....

    Should awakened sinners not even crawl through that gait and lunge toward Christ..... I say 'yes!'

    We will disappoint ourselves but we must press on and never lose sight of what He has done not what we have done (either sin or good work) we will be compelled to press on in what we cannot deny
  5. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I've found Paul Helm's book "The Beginnings" (BoT) good on the elements of true conversion - conviction, faith and repentance. He talks about them as different "strands" in conversion, to avoid the idea e.g. that one should have months, weeks or days of conviction before faith comes to have genuine conversion, or other forms of preparationism.

    Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
  6. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    I fear there is a danger of waiting on that 'one experience'

    What does scripture say regarding that one conversion experience.... I hear more of the good fight of faith & spiritual warfare not about sinners waiting on the outside for that 'one experience' prior to entering the battle as sinners living for Christ - nobody chooses this way. It's a way they can't deny. A way they've been lost to find.
  7. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    thanks! I will look for that!
  8. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes! Edwards is right!
  9. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    And around & around the circle you will go - did I have enough conviction ? Was I repentant enough? Why am I still a sinner? We could be literally stuck in a miserable and me-oriented state for years. That is not what Paul is advocating but that's what too many 'experiential' preachers do as a form of control & conformity
  10. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't agree with the concept of awakened but not yet converted sinners - how may we be regenerated yet not converted? What is the biblical warrant for such a concept? Conviction should not yield confusion or discouragement - only further dependency aND YET dependency is an act of FAITH
  11. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    'Come to Christ' is Never Bad counsel- Never!
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Awakened does not mean regenerated. Yes, I would also have trouble with a "regenerated but not yet converted sinner." Edwards and others put forth a position that God draws a sinner and that a sinner is awakened to his sinfulness and some begin to seek. This awakened state is not yet a saved state. Many of those awakened do not appear changed for good, but many only gain a temporary interest in the gospel.
  13. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm not sure one can have conviction of sin prior to being regenerated - is there scripture warrant for that? Sorry if u already posted it, God Bless!
  14. Ben_Ives

    Ben_Ives Puritan Board Freshman

    Jesus Christ who is our great example, said to Peter that He would make him a, 'fisher of men'.

    Fishing is an art form, it takes skill. Some bait is more suitable than others. When someone catches a fish next to you and you're not getting any bites, I would ask, what type of bait you are using.

    I would have thought anything at all to get people to consider accepting Christ, including praying for their own salvation is appropriate.

    We are dealing with lost souls when preaching the gospel, not graduates from a Bible College, so I'm sure it doesn't really matter honestly.
  15. Ben_Ives

    Ben_Ives Puritan Board Freshman

    Pharoh had conviction of sin, and even repented but was never regenerated. A false faith can carry someone a long distance, even to the place of being a preacher who isn't converted.

    Note the following, and note that Christ said, I NEVER knew you. They were not saved and lost, they were never regenerated

  16. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    I meant conviction of sin as part of repentance / embracing Christ - that's the context of this topic / discussion - not seeing where your example or your cited verses apply - conviction of sin unrelated to Jesus would make the thread pointless I would imagine?
  17. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    Judas had conviction of sin - but no Jesus. Can u have conviction of sin without Jesus? Sure.... But I'm not sure that's the scenario being presented here.....
  18. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    I think the reason there are so many carnal Christians is because there is a skipping over the conviction of sin entirely - but as soon as its evident or expressed how do we rightly discourage ? If a person knows they are a sinner and are not being prompted but voluntarily identify as such ....
  19. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Carnal Christians? :think:
  20. Ben_Ives

    Ben_Ives Puritan Board Freshman

    A person who has never heard the gospel, or heard of God's law (eg a tribesman in Africa) can still feel conviction of sin, because of his conscience. [Romans 1]

    The woman who came to the Lord weeping and wiping His feet with her tears, was already regenerated to prompt her conscience to cry with repentance at the Lords feet. She was already regenerated and already justified. Christ then proceeded to inform her that her sins had been forgiven, thus declaring her justified (a recognition of her condition).

    Same as Abraham, was he justified in circumcision or un-circumcision ?

    Romans 4:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

    Abraham was justified by his faith prior to travelling up the mountainside to sacrifice Isaac, what he did was evidence of his justification, and then the Lord declared him to be justified. There is a distinction between actual justification and declared justification. Actual justification is the actual state of a person, declared justification is actual justification that is declared and shown to be true.

    Paul and James were speaking of different things when discussing justification. There is only 1 true justification, but 2 ways in which it can be expressed and communicated. There is no contradiction between Paul and James, when Paul says saved by faith not works lest any man should boast, he is referring to actual justification - and what he says is absolutely true (of course). James however was discussing declared justification.

    Without actual justification, there can be no declared justification, but James was saying that a truly justified person will be manifested to be justified, will be declared justified, and be seen to be justified by their works. Thus faith without works is dead. As a person with a profession of faith that is constantly proven to be a profession only, and the same person when put under trials will be evidenced to be seen not to be faithful to the Lord.

    It is not in the time of trial that this person loses their salvation, or has their salvation (in actual terms) put to the test, so that if they are able to produce works they are saved, because of their works - that would be a confliction of what Paul teaches. It is that a person can be declared righteous - as Abraham was, and as the weeping lady at Christ's feet was, once it is evidenced that they are indeed justified.
  21. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    But that's not the main issue being discussed here.... With this conviction a sorry for sin and a response to the gospel when presented is evident - true conviction of sin is rooted in sorrow for sin & repentance
  22. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    unregenerate professors of the faith
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