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Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Can I Get a Witness?

September 2, 2011|12:22 pm

There is a tradition among some African-American congregations for a speaker to seek affirmations when sharing a personal testimony or spiritual insight. As a way of inviting others to clap or shout “Amen,” the speaker will ask the question, “Can I get a witness?” It proves to be an effective means of allowing others to voice their agreement based on their own personal experience. What if this same question was asked by pastors before continuing to promote any of their questionable doctrines? What if they asked for a witness from among the authors of the Bible before they charged ahead toeing the "party-line" of their group?

Lutherans, Arminians, and Calvinists all have a few teachings where they are hard pressed to find even one passage of Scripture to support their “fringe” traditional interpretations. I call them “fringe” interpretations because most Christians outside of their particular group have no difficulty seeing that it is nothing more than a man-made idea that fits into a particular “system” of theology. There was a famous monk about 500 years ago who recognized that the traditions of men in his church were competing against the authority of Scripture itself. He decided to reject those teachings wherever he couldn’t find a witness among the biblical writers. That monk was Martin Luther, and so why don’t we start with those who use his name to identify their branch of Christianity.

Every Lutheran would be wise to recognize that many teenagers and adults who were baptized as infants are not born again and are not going to be born again by “remembering their baptism.” If we want people to be born again and to know it for sure, we need to point them back 2,000 years to a place that can actually save their soul; we need to point them back to the cross as we proclaim the message of repentance, faith, and the forgiveness of sins. If any group should know better, it should be the Lutherans. Martin Luther himself was baptized as an infant but wasn’t saved by God’s grace until many years later when he placed his faith in Christ alone for salvation.

Is there even one verse in the Bible that says every teenager or adult who was baptized as an infant is born again? There are over 31,000 verses in the Bible. Surely there must be at least one verse that says such a thing given how many Lutheran pastors regularly tell their hearers to “remember your baptism” in an attempt to assure them of their eternal salvation. Before pressing on with that traditional mantra, can I get a witness?

Every Arminian would be wise to recognize that he did not work the miracle of his own conversion. Billy Graham is often mentioned in the context of “decision theology.” In reality, Billy has always believed what he explained over 30 years ago in his book, “The Holy Spirit.” Graham wrote, “Only God – the One who created us – can recreate us…this spiritual regeneration is accomplished by the Holy Spirit…it comes because of the action of the Holy Spirit.” (pp. 74, 75) Inviting people to make a “decision for Christ” has often been done by preachers like Billy Graham who nevertheless realize that man does not actually have the power to convert himself. Every Arminian would benefit by embracing the explanation in Billy’s book about how spiritual conversion takes place. Is there even one verse in the Bible that says man has the power to convert his soul and move himself out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light? If so, can I get a witness?

Religion that is born of man is nothing more than a human decision. The new birth, on the other hand, is a miracle that can only be accomplished through the mighty working of the Holy Spirit. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12,13) Is there even one passage in the entire Bible that says man with his strength can work the miracle of the new birth? Can I get a witness?

Every Calvinist would be wise to recognize that God certainly would have told us in His Word if Jesus came to die only for believers. “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and it has many witnesses for every essential doctrine. Surely St. Paul or one of the other writers would have mentioned this fact if indeed Jesus came to die only for believers. Surely one of the Gospel authors would have made this teaching known to us. Instead, we find plenty of passages that tell us that Christ died for all sinners. Where is just one verse out of over 31,000 verses for this fringe interpretation that only fits into one specific system of theology? Before charging ahead with that spurious teaching, can I get a witness?

Obviously, Lutherans and Arminians and Calvinists can learn a lot from one another. We all like to think that we are 100 percent correct in our particular system of theology. In actuality, the only thing that is 100 percent correct is Scripture. Martin Luther would not have made progress without first becoming an open-minded Catholic. Today, we need more open-minded Christians on every branch of God’s tree. That is how the best fruit will be produced and how we will live out this prayer from Jesus: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11) Now there is a witness!

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb.
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