Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Major Problems with Checklist Evangelism

The problems I have with checklist evangelism:

1) Insisting that doctrine be a conscious and necessary object and/or content to saving faith, rather than Jesus Christ. One must initial each spot of the checklist evangelists essential doctrines.
A) And each of these doctrines has to be fully undertood to the evangelist's satisfaction
B) Supplementary doctrine may rise to the position of essential saving content in order to inform a full understanding of the 3 essential doctrines.
C) These too (the supplementary doctrines) would out of necessity need to be fully understood, defined, which could lead to further qualifications, clarifications, defintions, etc., which makes it an endless regress and slippery slope.

2) It provides a gospel invitation that cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. What they give is technically inaccurate, and if the hearer asks where in the Bible says such a thing, they could not go to any single passages, but must play scripture hop-scotch.
A) It uses unbiblical phraseology and wording in its gospel invitations. Nowhere do we find in the Bible a passage that enjoins men to believe in all 3 of their essential 'gospel' doctrines -- atonement (cross, or death of Christ for sin), the deity of Christ, and the resurrection -- that has the explicit, stated result consisting of eternal life, justification, or eternal salvation.

3) Its invitations invite confusion.
A) The two-step: one must believe the facts, but believing the facts won't save you, you must furthermore TRUST the facts, or appropriate them personally. This implies some ethereal, ambiguous, and confusing second condition and act, whereby the hearer must, by an act of the will, decide to trust the essential doctrines for his salvation. Can someone decide to trust the gospel acts for salvation and still not be persuaded that they have eternal life by simply taking Jesus at His word? Of course. This leaves room for uncertainty as a response to the invitation. If one doubts, he just simply has to choose to trust. But doubt precludes faith. He may think he is saved (he told the evangelist that he trusted in Christ's work) as the evangelist told him he is now saved, but in reality, he remains unsaved, having not exercised faith, but has merely a "pie in the sky" hope based upon a decision to "trust". This type of invitation usually includes the sitting in the chair illustration, or the story of Blondin, the famous Niagra Falls tightrope walker.
B) Decisionism: this has been explained a little bit in A. When we tell someone in our invitation that they must "decide" to believe (whether or not it is the checklist or Christ's promise) we invite confusion. One can only "decide" to believe that which he has not been persuaded of. And in this case it is not belief, but merely a disposition toward the truth at best (that by definition would include doubt which precludes faith) and rank unbelief and doubt with a mere glimmer of 'hope' at worst. In either case, when one is strongly disposed toward something or only slightly disposed, the result is the same: unbelief, a lack of being convinced, unpersuaded.
C) Often times, in conjunction with decisionism, the final call in the checklist evangelism's invitation is a plea to pray a prayer. Larry Moyer and other FG people ought to know better than this. The sinner's prayer could be thought of as the magik words that bring eternal life. One can pray things that they do not understand! Understanding greatly facilitates saving faith. It is difficult to believe a proposition that you do not understand on a mental plane. You, of course can believe things that you do not fully understand. The Trinity is one case. But there is plenty of evidence to persuade one of it. What I am talking about is when one does not know the MEANING of a proposition. If you do not understand what a proposition MEANS it will be impossible to believe that proposition in the meaning that was intended with it. If one prays a prayer, uncertain of the meaning of his words, therefore unpersuaded, he could have a false assurance and will still be in his lost state.

4) Checklist evangelism un-awaringly rob the believer of the foundation of his assurance. A true beleiver will have assurance when he first believes. But if later he loses his assurance, where in the Bible will he go to in order to find the objective basis for certain assurance? No passage says, "Amen, Amen I say to you, Believe that Jesus is God, died for your sins, and rose again from the dead and you have everlasting life." How can he verify he is saved by a simple appeal to scripture, when none matches up with his evangelistic experience?

5) Checklist evangelism ends up having two different ways for children and adults to be saved or it will disqualify youths from being saved. Christ's promise is simple. My daughter understands it and believes it. But ask her to articulate substitutionary atonement, or how Jesus can be both God and God's Son at the same time, she will be speechless. Some may relegate her to hell, saying she doesn't know enough to be saved, or hasn't understood enough. But I say that is hog-wash. I have also met people in the course of my discussions of this doctrine, who say that God does not require children to understand so much, but requires adults to understand the full measure. This of course cannot be maintained by any scriptural appeal.

6) In all of this, checklist evangelism seeks to invalidate the simple exercise of faith that does in fact bring eternal life. They just can't get themselves to consider one saved who is in any degree ignorant of orthodox doctrine.


Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I agree. These are big problems.

July 27, 2007 12:09 AM  
Anonymous GlennW said...


I have read through you post and, while I cannot say that I agree with "checklist evangelism" as you have stated it, I do believe that you consider my approach to evangelism to be one of checklist evangelism. In light of that, I would like to make some comments.

First, your eternal-life-only approach to evangelism is predicated upon the idea that the Gospel of John contains the definitive presentation of the Gospel and that it supersedes any other presentation of the Gospel found anywhere else in the Bible. You often use John 20:30-31 to support this contention:

JN 20:30 Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book:
JN 20:31 but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name.
American Standard Translation

I have read this part of the Gospel of John and it does not seem that the entire Gospel of John is in view in verse 31. I did some checking and sure enough, I am not the only one who has come to this conclusion:

[Begin First Quote]

Commentaries can make half-truths sound like the whole truth. These things (John 20:31) does not refer to the whole Gospel, but only to its neuter-plural antecedent signs.

30And truly Jesus did many other SIGNS [NEUTER PLURAL] in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but THESE [SIGNS (NEUTER PLURAL)] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

John Niemelä
CTS Journal, Volume 6 No. 3, p. 37

[End First Quote]

[Begin Second Quote]

When John articulated his purpose for writing the Gospel he states: “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). To what does the “these” refer? This near demonstrative finds its antecedent in the plural noun of verse 30, “signs.” John clearly states that He has written of Jesus miracles for the express purpose of bringing people to a salvific knowledge of Jesus, so that they can believe that (pisteuw eis) Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Robert Dean, Jr.
CTS Journal, Volume 7 No. 1, p. 39

[End Second Quote]

Also, per your interpretation of the Gospel of John, the emphasis of his Gospel should be on believing that Christ provides eternal life results in salvation (imputed righteousness). However, this does not seem to be the case:

[Begin Third Quote]
It is our contention that John affirms both of the following propositions:

• Everyone who has eternal life believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and
• everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, has eternal life.

Most evangelicals recognize that John 20:31 affirms the former statement, but many may question the second. The question is: Does the Apostle John accept the second? Absolutely! 1 John 5:1a affirms it also:

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

Dr. John Niemelä
CTS Journal Volume 7 No. 3, p. 11

[End Third Quote]

I also have a hard time interpreting John 6:66-69 in terms of the eternal-life-only Gospel:

JN 6:66 Upon this many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
JN 6:67 Jesus said therefore unto the twelve, Would ye also go away?
JN 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
JN 6:69 And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God.
American Standard Translation

It would certainly appear that Peter was affirming that he (and the saved disciples) has eternal life because Christ is the Holy One of God. In other words he believed in Christ's deity and eternal life was the result. Do we need to add another check to your list?

This series of posts has also made me think about Abraham and his salvation. If you read from Genesis 12 through Genesis 15:6 (where it is stated that Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness) there is no mention of eternal life. There is a list of a lot of things that Abram did believe (he believed a lot), why did the author of Genesis leave out Abram's belief in eternal life if that is what he needed to be credited with righteousness? Sure, this is an argument from silence but I do not believe that the author (under the ministry of the Holy Spirit) would have left out such an important detail.

[Begin Fourth Quote]

How did Abraham obtain righteousness? Genesis 15:6 says God credited him with righteousness through his faith. Faith in what? … What God had promised him – land, seed, and an eventual destiny of blessing to the world! Abraham trusted God’s Word that God would provide him a seed and a place. The promised progeny would miraculously be provided from Isaac to Christ. In principle he believed in Christ although he knew far less than we who live later in the history of revelation.

Charles Clough
Section 3, pp. 35-36

[End Fourth Quote]

Please do not get me wrong, I do believe that if a person believes that Christ will provide them with eternal life that they are indeed saved. However, I also believe that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, has eternal life. This is not a situation where I am claiming a person must believe both (proposition x and proposition y), I am claiming that a person can believe either (proposition x or proposition y) and be saved.

Also, stringing a series of doctrinal truths that some of us are willing to include in a Gospel presentation and claiming that some would say that an unbeliever must understand and believe all of these truths in their entirety is something I have seen no one claim (other than you). Also, you also have a checklist but it is a checklist with one item in it. You are claiming virtue by the shortness of your list.

Just so you know, I am going to cross post this response at Rose's posting titled How I Feel About Things since I believe it pertains to that posting as well.

Glenn W.

July 28, 2007 3:54 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Hey Glenn,

I am having a bit of a hard time following you. Could you break it down into bite sized and clearer peices?

I truly would love to respond to your comments.

I find a few things I can comment on though. You write:

Also, per your interpretation of the Gospel of John, the emphasis of his Gospel should be on believing that Christ provides eternal life results in salvation (imputed righteousness).
First off, salvation in the gospel of John is not imputed righteousness, nor is eternal life imputed righteousness.

Furthermore, the emphasis IS just as you deny. It is believing that Christ provides eternal life. Thus every evangelistic verse in the whole of the gospel, (including Jn 20:31 properly understood).

Believing that Jesus is the Christ is short-hand for John for the belief that Jesus proviedes eternal life to the believer in Him. (John 11:25-27). This is the specific sense that John has imported into "Christ" that makes beleif that Jesus is the Christ soteric.


July 29, 2007 6:40 PM  
Blogger Jeremy Myers said...


There is a bit of a discussion on my blog about what Jesus means when He says "believe in Me" and what it means to "believe in His name."

I seem to remember reading a post you did about this issue a while back, but couldn't find it...

If my memory is correct, and you did post something about this, would you mind copy/pasting it over into my blog for the people who have questions about it?

This is the link where they are talking about this some.


Jeremy Myers

July 30, 2007 12:12 PM  
Anonymous GlennW said...


I was trying to say several things basically in this order:

1) John 20:30-31 is not claiming that the entire Gospel of John is written so that the unbeliever will believe. Instead, it is claiming that the sign passages (Christ's miracles) were written for that purpose. I do not see where John is making the claim that the entire Gospel is intended specifically for evangelism or that the Gospel has precedence over other scripture.

2) When looking through the Gospel of John I saw a lot of doctrines covered (many of them on your checklist - I won't claim it as mine). I quoted the John 6:66-69 passage because it does mention eternal life and I am certain that it would be a passage that you would emphasize as supporting your position. However, I just cannot make it say that salvation is by believing that Christ provides eternal-life. Christ does have the words of eternal life but this passage just does not say that "Christ has the words of eternal life and those words are eternal life".

3) I brought in Abraham and his salvation because you seem to be claiming that we are saved by believing the same thing that the Old Testament saints did, progressive revelation is not an issue. However, I do not believe that Abraham was saved by believing that God would provide him with eternal life. Genesis does not say that Abraham believed that while it does list many promises to Abraham that he did believe. If he did believe that God would provide him with eternal life why not mention it in Genesis? Why not emphasize such a critical idea? What Genesis does emhasize is Abraham's faith (trust) in God which I think is very interesting.

4) When you construct your checklist you are stringing together things which I may include in a Gospel presentation. You then say that a "checklist evangelist" claims that each of these items must be correctly understood and believed by the unbeliever in order to be saved. Of course this is silly and you are doing it to emphasize your point. No one strings together the doctrines in your list with "and" conditional statements. However, I will claim that if someone believes that Jesus Christ provides eternal life (your preferred Gospel message) or (notice the "or" conditional) "everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, has eternal life" (second bullet point from the third quote) is also saved.

5) Imputed righteousness is inseperable from eternal life. If you are saved you have imputed righteousness and likewise if you do not have imputed righteousness you are not saved. Abraham was saved when he was imputed God's perfect righteousness (really Christ's righteousness even though he did not know of Christ) whether or not the Gospel of John discusses the issue. Please do not jump to the conclusion that I am claiming that Abraham had to understand this imputation in order to be saved because I am not. I am claiming that when Abraham was imputed righteousness that he was saved whether or not he understood what just happened.

I have been away for a few days on business travel so it took me a while to get back to you.

Glenn W.

August 01, 2007 7:57 AM  
Blogger Lou Martuneac said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 01, 2007 10:51 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...


Your comment has nothing to do with this thread. It was merely a advertisement for your blog. I would be happy to discuss with you the contents of this post. Please comment as to its content.


August 02, 2007 8:04 AM  

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