by David Sisler

Would it bother you if you did not know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Of course you do know that a few hundred years ago scholars debated that worthy question and others. One of my personal favorites is: Did Adam have a belly button? But that question did not receive much coverage, so, back to the dancing angels.

It is easy to laugh at such questions which were debated during the Middle Ages, at the risk of death -- that was the punishment for heresy in those days. There are, however, several supplementary questions which, I feel, need to be answered before we can correctly determine the number of dancing angels.

Do angels dance to the rhythm of today's raucous beat or do they do it cheek-to-cheek?

Is the count made when the angels are standing on one foot or on two?

If the angels use their wings for balance, is it cheating?

Do angels really enjoy dancing, or standing, on the heads of pins? But of course, such a debate would be impossible today because OSHA would have passed the Angel Safety Law, limiting the number of dancers, requiring safety helmets and glasses, and mandating that the pin be inspected twice a year for structural defects.

We would never espouse something so pointless, something so silly, something that would risk holding our entire belief system up to ridicule. Or so you would think.

In an article entitled, "Scriptural Evaluation of Salvation Invitations" an fundamentalist parachurch group has listed eleven erroneous, wrong, and otherwise (they say) scripturally incorrect ways of asking someone to make a lifetime commitment to Jesus Christ. Fortunately, they do point out four proper ways of asking.

From a strict Biblical interpretation, they are right -- maybe. Some of the phrases we use when we ask an individual to "accept the Lord Jesus as his or her own personal Savior" (a term they identify as being biblically correct -- BC, are you ready for that!) may not be good exegesis of Scripture. But is that really the point? All right angels, terpsichore, here we come.

Just so you can spend more time worrying about how to ask than actually asking, here are some wrong ways to talk to people about the finished work of Calvary.

"Will you give your heart to Christ?" This invitation is wrong, they say, because it involves exertion on the part of the seeker, and salvation is a free gift. It cannot be earned by any human effort.

"Will you surrender your life to Christ?" Surrender implies giving, and salvation is received, well, by receiving, they say. It is okay to ask for surrender once you've gotten started, but it is not the right way to start.

"Will you confess your sins and ask the Lord to forgive you?" A few nits were picked to label this one wrong. The unsaved person is not asked to confess his sins, because he could not remember all of them, but to recognize that he is a sinner and to recognize that he cannot atone for his own misdeeds and transgressions. This query is based, incorrectly they say, on 1 John 1:9 -- "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." That, they say, is not a salvation verse. You could have fooled me!

Labeled as one of the most "misleading" and "vague" invitations is the oft asked, "Will you make your commitment for Christ tonight?" Commitment is work, you see, and it is by grace through faith, not through work, and not of our own initiative that we are saved.

"Just believe now and allow Jesus to touch you" is wrong because it appeals to your emotions. It reminds me of the old joke, about the old fellow from the downtown Chapel of the Chandelier Swingers who wandered into the uptown First Church of the Stuffed Shirt, enjoyed the sermon and hollered, "Praise the Lord!" An usher went to him and said, "Sir, you can't praise the Lord in our church!"

Being born again (if that is not BC, argue with Jesus) is ultimately an intellectual response to a legitimate offer of salvation. But how can you completely discount the role of emotion when you are talking about the choice of going to hell for all eternity or of living in heaven for all eternity? You may wish to discount my entreaty on behalf of the emotional argument, however. I cried during the Pepsi commercial when the young fellow hired a sky-writing pilot to inscribe in the clouds, "Marry me, Sue."

Just so I won't leave you wondering how you might close the appeal, it is BC to say, "You can be saved right now by believing that Christ died for your sins." You can even implore, "Right now, believe that Christ paid the price in full for your sins."

Maybe you are not a believer. You've enjoyed this shot in the nose of Christians. Fair enough. But will you accept the Lord Jesus as your own personal Savior? The question is biblically correct, and your answer will count for eternity.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 7/13/96

Copyright 1996 by David Sisler

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