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AN EXAMINATION OF JONATHAN EDWARDS TREATISE CONCERNING RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS AND ITS APPLICABILITY TO PREVALENT NOTIONS OF CONVERSION METHODOLOGY

Several popular evangelists of our century have been the proponent of a number of tactics that are supposed to be beneficial towards the goal of mass evangelism. It is argued that as Christians we are obligated to see as many people as possible come to Christ by our efforts. We have certainly been commissioned by our Lord with the goal of making disciples. So, mass evangelism seems, to some, to be a desirable effort. Of particular concern in this examination is the popular use of that scheme which is commonly known as the Sinner’s Prayer. In order to provide a fresh perspective regarding the debate of this method we will be examining a classic work of Christian literature by the eminent pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards. In our Analysis of his work, Religious Affections, we will explore and derive on opinion of this issue using principles provided to us by Edwards. It is hoped that we will see that Jonathan Edwards’ thesis in Religious Affections illuminates so much of what is wrong in modern approaches to conversion, specifically in the methodological use of the Sinner’s Prayer. A Brief Analysis of Religious Affections Religious Affections served as Edwards’s final exposition on the issues set forth in both Distinguishing Marks and Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival, namely those issues pertaining to the proper discernment of God’s apparent work among subjects of both corporate and personal revival. In the previous two efforts, it was clear that Edward’s had a defensive critique of the revivals in North Hampton in mind as his primary goal, yet, in undertaking the writing of Religious Affections, Edwards sought to answer a more ubiquitous and vital question. He clarifies this in the introduction saying, “What I aim at now, is to show the


nature and signs of the gracious operations of God's Spirit, by which they are to be distinguished from all things whatsoever, that the minds of men are the subjects of, which are not of a saving nature.”1 In other words, here Edward’s is not primarily concerned with unpacking the theological implications of the Great Awakening as much as he is attempting to get to the universal heart of genuine Christian experience. This is what makes Religious Affections the masterful classic that it has become. Analyzing Part One Edwards begins his examination by exploring the nature of the affections as well as the vital role that affections play in genuine Christian experience. It is here that Edwards, through reason and scripture, demonstrates that, “True religion, in great part, consists in Holy Affections.”2 This proposition is extrapolated from his exegesis of 1 Peter 1:8, wherein Edwards explains that, although the subjects of Peter’s comment were suffering and put under a great deal of difficulty, the authenticity of their religion was nevertheless displayed in their affections towards Christ; this included their love to Christ and their joy in Christ. Edwards notes the unique character of this joy both in how it arose in them, namely, by faith and the quality of that joy as being “unspeakable and full of glory.”

Section One

1

Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Bath, Great Britain: Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 235. 2

Ibid., 236.


In support of his thesis Edwards goes on to explore what he means when he speaks of affections. His determination is that “the affections are no other than the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.”3 Edward’s unpacks this idea by showing that the human soul has both the faculties of understanding and the will. It is in the exercises of the will that Edwards believes the affections rest. What is important to note here is that Edwards intends to show that emotions are the motivating component of the will. As an aside, those who are fluent with Edwards will find a great similarity between his reasoning here and those expressed in Freedom of the Will. Section Two Here Edwards intends on defending his supposition that the affections are an integral part of true religion. To begin, Edwards believes that the reality of this supposition is obvious given the implications of section one, wherein he outlines the nature of the affections. He remarks, “Who will deny that true religion consists in a great measure, in vigorous and lively actings of the inclination and will of the soul, or the fervent exercises of the heart?”4 Nevertheless, he continues and notes that scripture pervasively speaks of true religion in terms of affections, and this is most evident in the biblical emphasis on love as the chief affection and source of all others. He also notes numerous examples of biblical figures who displayed the veracity of their religion through hearty affections. Notable figures include David, the apostles Paul and John, and most certainly the radiant virtue displayed in the holy affections of Christ himself. Edwards also takes notice of the glorious and purified expressions of affection as present in the worship of the angels in heaven, who are enthralled with affection towards God 3

Ibid., 237.

4

Ibid.


day and night. Next, Edwards supposes that it is evident that true religion consists in affections simply because of the nature of all the ordinances and commands which are prescribed in the exercise of genuine religion. This is especially the case in things such as prayer, singing praises, communion, baptism, and preaching. These five ordinances have a great tendency to raise and inflame the affections and it should be considered as no surprise that one’s genuine exercise of them does much to fuel holy affection. Finally, Edwards shows that the thing most often seen in scripture as the worst of all conditions is that of deadness or hardness of heart. In this he supposes that hardness of heart is none other than a heart left unaffected, or a heart that is devoid of affection. Thus the contrapositive of this should make it plain that a pleasing and gracious position would consist in an emphatic degree of holy and genuine affection in religion. Implications Edwards concludes part one with three implications that stem from accepting his thesis. First, if one sees that true religion consists in holy affections, then this implies that those who regard all religious affection as inconsequential are in a great position of error. Second, there is an implication that any appropriate means that have a tendency to move the affections should be made use of in the performance of religion. Finally, Edwards shows that the hardest implication of this truth is that if one lacks affection in the great things of religion they should fear that it is likely they have very little true religion. Analyzing Part Two Having established and defended the primacy of affections in genuine Christian experience, Edwards’ raises an important cautionary supposition regarding affections themselves as a determiner of genuine Christian experience. As noted before, one of the implications of his thesis was that it would be erroneous to esteem all affection towards religion as irrelevant.


Likewise, it would be fallacious to assume that any and all affection in the things of religion are themselves a sure sign of genuine affection. Regarding this Edwards says, “We ought not to approve of all, as though everyone that was religiously affected had true grace.”5 To demonstrate the substance of this, Edwards addresses twelve signs or conditions which can accompany affections. The conditions he addresses are as follows: intensity or degree of emotion, physical reactions from high emotions, speaking about the things of religion with fluency and enthusiasm, spontaneous emotion, affection attendant to spontaneously recollected verses of scripture, emotions which seem to carry an appearance of love, the experiencing of an assortment of coordinating emotions, the experiencing of joy and comfort in any particular order following a religious experience, emotions motivating one to fervently perform a multitude of religious activities, verbal expressions of praise and adoration, a basic assurance regarding the genuineness of one’s Christian experience, and finally, the ability to please and inspire other Christians by one’s own affection in religion. Although these conditions can accompany affections, they are not themselves be definite indicators of genuine Christian affection. Therefore, these non sequiturs show that, while affections constitute a substantial portion of the genuine Christian experience, it would be false to accept a Christian experience as authentic merely on the basis of affections and their attendant circumstances. Analyzing Part Three Having shown the importance of affections as well as their non-determinative nature, Edwards moves on in part three to establish the appropriate criteria that should be used in esteeming the genuineness of ones affections. His concern in this section is to demonstrate that certain divine mechanisms are indispensable components of genuine affection. Though Edwards

5

Ibid., 245.


separates out these twelve quantifiers, there is an obvious interrelation between each, and in many ways they each point to one overarching principle, namely that genuine Christian experience is originated by and cultivated by the actual workings of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is genuine because God is its source. Those who have genuine affection are truly and actually the subjects of grace, and it can be said of these only that they have been born of the Holy Spirit. In this case it is worth noting that Edwards has not introduced a new theological concept here, rather he has brought fresh light to a long standing doctrine of what is commonly known as Regeneration. Thus, Edwards has shown in part three that genuine affection towards God can only be present in a subject, whose very nature has been illuminated, regenerated, and infused with the very affections in question. Therefore, it is important to note that genuine Christian experience is wholly dependent on conversion produced by the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit. Modern Attitudes and Methods Regarding Conversion If genuine affection is really a question of genuine conversion then it falls to us to examine our current conduct regarding conversion and thus determine if we are evangelizing in such a way that encourages genuine Christian experience rather than confounding it. Unfortunately, it seems that a number of popular trends fall into the latter category, and they have resulted in grave error in the way churches esteem genuine Christian experience. The following is an example of one of the most popular iterations of the Sinner’s Prayer. It can be found online at the end of a series of webpages titled Peace with God authored by The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association: Lord Jesus Christ, I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. I ask your forgiveness and now turn from everything which I know is wrong. Thank you for dying on


the cross for me to set me free from my sins. Please come into my life and fill me with your Holy Spirit and be with me forever. Thank you Lord Jesus, Amen.6 The website is designed to guide the viewer through four slides that outline a basic presentation of the gospel. At any time the reader has to option to click on a “pray now” icon and jump to the last page. What is important to note in this example is that the reader is prescribed a concise and systematized prayer as the necessary response to the gospel message. Thus, the prayer is the means by which the reader can be reconciled to God and thus obtain the benefits of a genuine Christian experience. There is even a final button to click regarding whether or not one has prayed this prayer. By clicking this, the reader is brought to a final page that congratulates them for making this decision and encourages them to provide follow up contact information. In this case, the prayer is an easy method by which sinners can be quickly instructed in all of the ways to properly respond to the gospel. It should also be said that this is the common application of the Sinner’s Prayer throughout most of evangelicalism. The history of this method is difficult to trace, however, Paul Chitwood provides some insightful background in his dissertation regarding the subject. Chitwood declares, “My studies have revealed no occurrence of the Sinner's Prayer before the twentieth century.”7 Regarding the biblical basis for this method he remarks: The gospel writers never suggest that repeating the words of a prayer was a part of coming to faith. Becoming a follower of Jesus was a matter of the will once the heart had experienced conversion through belief. Reciting a spoken prayer was not a necessary part of the process.8

6

“But Have Eternal Life,” Peace With God, http://peacewithgod.jesus.net/but-haveeternal-life/ (accessed November 09, 2012). 7

Paul Harrison Chitwood, "The Sinner’s Prayer: An Historical and Theological Analysis" (Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2001), 4. 8

Ibid., 17.


Chitwood goes on to trace the roots of the method back to revival methodology arising out of The Second Great Awakening.9 For the purposes of this examination what is important to note here is that the use of the Sinner’s Prayer is a relatively new development. Reason for Addressing This Method As noted earlier, regardless of its infancy, this method has gained considerable usage within a number of evangelical bodies. However, of particular concern is its usage within America’s largest denomination, The Southern Baptist Convention. Just recently the SBC affirmed a resolution supporting the use of the Sinner’s Prayer in evangelistic efforts. 10 This resolution was drafted to answer a growing concern among some in the convention that the use of the prayer is problematic. Pastor David Platt echoed this sentiment when speaking at a recent leadership conference: Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament? Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrase, 'accept Jesus into your heart' or 'invite Christ into your life'? It's not the gospel we see being preached, it's modern evangelism built on sinking sand. And it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls.11 In spite of the SBC resolution regarding the Sinner’s Prayer, opinions like those of Pastor Platt show that this issue is far from settled. The growing concern over the use of this methodology gives us good reason to examine to what degree this method is helping or distorting Biblical evangelism. Theological Issues Therein

9

Ibid., 25-26.

10

Ted Olsen, “Southern Baptists Debate the Sinner's Prayer,” Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/baptists-sinners-prayer.html (accessed November 09, 2012). 11

Ibid.


Before moving on we should make note of some of the theological issues in question in this debate. Many of those involved in the debate recognize that this is not simply a question of method. Chitwood asserts that the sinner's prayer “represents an approach to evangelism that heavily emphasizes human sovereignty and has very little regard for divine sovereignty, even bordering it times on sacramentalism.”12 This is seen even in the case of the recently adopted SBC resolution. The resolution was first put forth by pastor Eric Hankins and included language that was meant as a direct repudiation of Calvinist sentiments like Chitwood’s. Therefore, many see that the heart of this debate lies not in methodology but in theology. As such, the essential theological question in the use of the Sinner’s Prayer is whether or not conversion is should be considered a synergistic process or a monergistic process. In other words, does the process of regeneration lie squarely in the jurisdiction of the Holy Spirit, or is man a necessary cooperator in the regenerative process. Seeing the Issue through Edwards’ Eyes As we previously noted, part one of Religious Affections focused on outlining the nature of the affections as well as their importance in the exercise of religion. Here I believe several things are worth noting. First, it is important that we grasp Edwards following point: Such is man's nature, that he is very inactive, any otherwise than he is influenced by some affection, either love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, or some other. These affections we see to be the springs that set men agoing, in all of the affairs of life, and engage them in all their pursuits…13 What's fundamental about this supposition is that we recognize that the determining factor in motivating any person towards acting, or responding, with a particular end in mind, is correspondent to the degree to which a person is affected to that end. This will be important 12

Chitwood, Sinner’s Prayer, 109.

13

Edwards, vol. 1 Works, 238.


going forward because it lays the groundwork for how we are to understand what it is that motivates any particular individual towards union with, and faith in Christ. This is further clarified in Edwards’ next point: Nothing is more manifest in fact, then that the things of religion take hold of men's souls, no further than they affect them… There are many that often hear the glorious perfections of God…I say, they often hear these things and yet remain as they were before, with no sensible alteration in them either in part or practice, because they are not affected with what they hear; and ever will be so till they are affected.−I am bold to assert, that there never was any considerable change wrought in the mind or conversation of any person, by anything of a religious nature, that ever he read, heard or saw, that had not his affections moved...and never was one humbled, and brought to the foot of God, nor was ever one induced to fly for refuge unto Christ, while his heart remained unaffected… And in a word, there never was anything considerable brought to pass in the heart or life of any man living, by the things of religion, that had not his heart deeply affected by those things.14 Considering this, it is clear that, for Edwards, when we speak of those who have experienced genuine conversion, we must see that the motivating component, of their being moved into faith with Christ, lies first in their being affected by God towards Christ. In other words, is impossible to speak of those who have professed faith in Christ, apart from understanding that, preceding their faith in Christ, such a subject was necessarily moved or affected deeply in his heart towards divine things. Thus, faith in Christ is consequent to the degree in which affection towards Christ has taken hold of a man's soul. The important principle here in relation to the issue in question is that we begin to understand what is happening in the soul of any subject we seek to lead in faith to Christ. Prior to a discussion of methodology we must acknowledge that those who we desire to see express faith in Christ will not do so unless they have first been inwardly inclined or affected towards such faith. Thus we might ask whether the use of something like the Sinner’s Prayer takes this idea into account. When we prescribe a systematized prayer as the expected response to our gospel message, are we showing any concern for whether or not this subject has 14

Ibid.


first been affected and inclined towards uniting themselves to Christ, or are we simply concerned with coaxing our subjects into acquiescing to the message? Chitwood points out the reality of this in examining the response of those subjects of the Apostle Peter’s pentecostal sermon: They believed, but they also felt. More than a time to give intellectual assent to the message of the gospel and affirm that assent by repeating the words of the Sinner's Prayer, the time of decision is to be a time when the gospel is felt, a time when the Holy Spirit convicts, deep emotions are stirred, and a deep, life-changing commitment is made.15 Therefore, it can be said that one of the major problems with the Sinner's Prayer methodology is its emphasis on the intellectual assent of the subject to the neglect of a genuinely affected decision. Thus in many ways, the use of such a method runs the risk of inadvertently treating affections as “having nothing solid or substantial in them.” This again being one of the implications Edwards derives in part one. Of course those who make use of the Sinner’s prayer might object this this criticism and remind us that they are always sure to tell the reciter, “If you prayed the prayer, and you really meant it, then congratulations, you’re saved!” Invariably, the reciter affirms their sincerity. But who would doubt that in some form of fashion they did intent on praying the prayer, it’s likely that they really do want all those benefits of gospel. Nevertheless, should we honestly affirm the authenticity of one’s affection to Christ by their simple avowal of such a bland caveat? Do we not run the risk of accepting a shallow affirmation as substantial in character? Chitwood remarks, “We have made the process so simple that few may refuse it. In so doing, we may fail the test of granting hears sufficient freedom to reject the gospel.”16 Chitwood is spot on in is assertion. The Sinner’s Prayer method simplifies the whole process to an unhealthy degree.

15 16

Chitwood, Sinner’s Prayer, 125. Ibid., 121.


Another important issue that must be noted here is that one of the most disastrous aspects in the making use of the Sinner’s Prayer is that we have been robbing our subjects of an authentic response to the gospel. By systematizing our expectations, we are usurping any genuine feelings of response that might be expressed by them towards God. We aren’t concerned with an authentic response, wherein we might see the genuine outpouring of an affected heart unto God. Rather, we are so worried that our subjects exercise all the notable sentiments that we doctrinally expect, that we have provided them with a prefabricated and stale reaction. There is nothing more important to our witnessing efforts than that we allow an authentic response to gospel! Such was the case when Richard Wurmbrand witnessed to one of his Russian captors: I read to him the Sermon on the Mount and the parables of Jesus. After hearing them, he danced around the room in rapturous joy proclaiming, “What a wonderful beauty! How could I live without knowing this Christ!” It was the first time that I saw someone so joyful in Christ. Then I made a mistake. I read to him the passion and the crucifixion on Christ, without having prepared him for this. He had not expected it and, when he heard how Christ was beaten, how He was crucified and that in the end He died, he fell into an armchair and began to weep bitterly. He had believed in a Savior and now his Savior was dead! I looked at him and was ashamed. I had called myself a Christian, a pastor, and a teacher of others, but I had never shared the suffering of Christ as this Russian officer now shared them…Then I read to him the story of the resurrection and watched his expression change. He had not known that his Savior arose from the tomb. When he heard this wonderful news, he beat his knees and swore – using very dirty, but very “holy” profanity. This was his crude manner of speech. Again he rejoiced, shouting for joy. ”He is alive! He is alive!” He danced around the room once more, overwhelmed with happiness! I said to him, “Let us pray!” He did not know how to pray. He did not know our “holy” phrases. He fell on his knees together with me and his words of prayer were: “Oh God, what a fine chap you are! If I were You and You were me, I would never have forgiven You of Your sins. But You are really a very nice chap! I love You with all of my heart.” I think that all the angels in heaven stopped what they were doing to listen to this sublime prayer from a Russian officer. The man had been won for Christ!17 We would do well to place more importance on allowing our subjects to exercise their affection to Christ like this solider did. Regardless of whether or not we make use of the Sinner’s Prayer methodology it is vital that we see Edward’s principle here and that we are acknowledging the 17

Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, 30th Anniversary Edition (Living Sacrafice Book Company, 1998)


need for our subjects to be genuinely inclined towards Christ. Edwards reverberates this sentiment when he says, “It is to be feared that some have gone too far towards directing the Spirit of the Lord, and marking out his footsteps for him, and limiting him to certain steps and methods.”18 While we have demonstrated the error in neglecting the substantial role that the affections play in the subjects of our evangelistic endeavors, we must be careful that we do not esteem affection in and of itself as a definite sign that that one has been the recipient of God’s gracious action. In regards to the issue in question, we should note that one of the mistakes that can be made by those who employ the Sinner’s Prayer method is that they allow affection itself to be a sign that a subject is ready to exercise genuine faith in Christ. Thus, the appearance of affectedness is often the basis for who is ready to be prescribed the Sinner’s Prayer. Edwards’ assertions in part two show us how important it is that we exercise caution when seeing our subjects as genuinely affected. A person can be affected very much about our gospel presentation and yet lack affection sourced in the working of the Spirit. This is not to say that we should not encourage response to our message from those who are in a state of great affection. However, the error often attended with in using the Sinner’s Prayer is that the subject is given a baseless assurance regarding their experience. We often examine their mere willingness of recite the prayer as a certain sign that one has secured salvation. In consequence the subject bases their assurance on the whole experience in general and the prayer specifically. So then, if we recognize the importance of allowing authentic response to the gospel, yet we are cautious that not all affection in response to the gospel is of a saving nature where does that leave us? As we saw in the summary, Edwards was concerned with a particular type of

18

Edwards, vol. 1 Works,


affection as the substance of the genuine Christian experience. This should lead us to the question of how this affection arises in the soul. That is to say that if faith is consequent to a man being graciously affected, or inclined, to Christ, by what process does this particular inclination occur? The substance of this answer lays in part three, wherein we previously noted that the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit is the distinguishing factor in whether or not one has been imparted with a vivified inclination towards Christ. This is the most important issue in question when dealing with the Sinner’s Prayer. The fundamental debate here is whether or not a recited prayer is effective in saving our subject. For Edwards’, and all those who see the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit as the active means of salvation, the prayer itself can never be given any substantial primacy. Even when we encourage our subjects to exercise authentic faith and repentance, we must always be aware that the authenticity of such exercise lies in the foregoing actions of the Holy Spirit in illuminating and affected their heart towards the gospel. Holy affections are not heat without light; but evermore arise from the information of the understanding, some spiritual instruction that the mind receives, some light or actual knowledge. The child of God is graciously affected, because he sees and understands something more of divine things than he did before, more of God or Christ, and of the glorious things exhibited in the gospel; he has some clearer and better view than he had before, when he was not affected At this point, I would like to unpack this idea by briefly exploring a sermon by Edwards, which bears great harmony with this issue. The title of the sermon is A Divine and Supernatural Light, and in it Edwards defends and expounds the primacy of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the process of providing the light of the gospel. Edwards starts the sermon by discriminating between what this divine illumination entails. First, it is important that we understand that divine light is not a process whereby the Spirit is merely assisting natural principles. Further, Edwards’ notes that illumination is does not consist in our subjects being


generally affected by the truths of religion. This alone should disqualify us from believing that the Spirit’s illumination consists in assisting the prescription of a prayer to the subject. In contrast Edwards says that divine illumination causing genuine affection to Christ comes from “a true sense of the divine excellency of the things revealed in the word of God, and a conviction of the truth and reality of them thence arising.”19 We must expound his meaning here in order to catch its subtlety. Edwards’ use of the term sense is extremely important. What he means is not just a notional grasp of the gospel but a cordial apprehension of it. One senses the amiableness of it by the Spirit illuminating its beauty. He goes on to explain that illumination removes prejudices against the truth of the gospel and gives the subject a direct view of the ontological superiority of the truth of these things. His principle here is this: Such a conviction of the truth of religion as this, arising, these ways, from a sense of the divine excellency of them, is that true spiritual conviction that there is in saving faith. And this original of it, is that by which it is most essentially distinguished from that common assent, which unregenerate men are capable of.20 These are striking words for our topic because they show us that there is a fundamental difference between the one who is merely moved to assent to a prayer and one who is moved in their affection by the sweet beauty of the gospel as the Spirit has shown it to them. All of this is to say that the danger of those who make use of the Sinner’s Prayer is that the display a disregard for the role that the Spirit plays in originating this process. Many do so purposefully because they are well aware of their disagreement with Edwards on this point. They see salvation is a synergistic process whereby it is not until one recites and assents to the ideas of the prayer that they are granted the ability to see divine things as they are. A contract is 19

Jonathan Edwards “A Divine and Supernatural Light, Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God, Shown to Be Both Scriptural and Rational Doctrine,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/e/edwards/sermons/supernatural_light.html (accessed November 09, 2012). 20

Ibid.


established in which if such subjects perform these necessary particulars, and then on the basis of such action, Jesus is formally granted access to the subject’s heart to change it therein. As we have seen this is fundamentally different from what Edwards supposes. For Edwards, there is no asking of Jesus into one’s heart. The Spirit moves with resounding force into the subject of its thunderous grace and the heart is changed to see the beauty of the gospel and from this the subject takes hold of Christ and unites to Him as a consequence to this sight. This is how we should understand Jesus’ words in John three, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind [Spirit] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Conclusion As we have seen there is much about the use of the Sinner’s Prayer that falls in opposition to how Edwards viewed the process of conversion. Bill Leonard remarks: The process of getting saved in America has changed considerably since Jonathan Edwards placed sinners in the hands of an angry God. Indeed without realizing it, later revivalists created techniques which reversed that process. For many conversionists, God now sits in the hands of sinners who, if not angry, are certainly demanding.21 Leonard’s quip, will humorous points out precisely what is so dangerous about the way we treat the process of conversion. When we place the preeminent substance of conversion on the decision to recite and asset to the information of the gospel, we lose the heart of the genuine Christian experience. We will close with the following words from noted Edwardian scholar Dr. John Gerstner. These words are Gerstner’s attempt to show how he believes Edwards would write a Sinner’s Prayer:

21

Bill Leonard. “Salvation and sawdust: the rise and fall of Baptist conversion liturgy.” Baptist History and Heritage 45, no. 3 (June1, 2010): 6-22. ALTASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed November 2,2012)


Dear God, whom I hate with all my being precisely because you hate and threaten me with hell, I hate this punishment perhaps even more than I hate you. Or, maybe I should say that I love my comfort even more than I hate you. For that reason I am asking a favor of you. I want you to make me love you, whom I hate even when I ask this and even more because I have to ask this. I am being frank with you because I know it is no use to be otherwise. You know even better than I how much I hate you and that I love only myself. It is no use for me to pretend to be sincere. I most certainly do not love you and do not want to love you. I hate the thought of loving you but that is what I’m asking because I love myself. If you can answer this ‘prayer’ I guess the gift of gratitude will come with it and then I will be able to do what I would not think of doing now—thank you for making me love you whom I hate. Amen.22

22

Dr. John Gerstner, “The Seeker’s Prayer,” A Puritain's Mind, http://www.apuritansmind.com/puritan-evangelism/the-seekers-prayer-by-dr-johngerstner/ (accessed November 10, 2012).


Bibliography “But Have Eternal Life.” Peace With God. http://peacewithgod.jesus.net/but-have-eternal-life/ (accessed November 09, 2012). Chitwood, Paul Harrison. "The Sinner’s Prayer: An Historical and Theological Analysis." Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2001. Edwards, Jonathan. Vol. 1 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Bath, Great Britain: Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. Gerstner, Dr. John. “The Seeker’s Prayer.” A Puritain's Mind. http://www.apuritansmind.com/puritan-evangelism/the-seekers-prayer-by-dr-johngerstner/ (accessed November 10, 2012). Leonard, Bill. “Salvation and Sawdust: the rise and fall of Baptist conversion liturgy.” Baptist History and Heritage 45, no. 3 (June1, 2010): 6-22. ALTASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed November 2, 2012) Olsen, Ted. “Southern Baptists Debate the Sinner's Prayer,” Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/baptists-sinners-prayer.html (accessed November 09, 2012.) Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortured for Christ, 30th Anniversary Edition. Living Sacrafice Book Company, 1998.


Edwardsian View of Conversion