Sinner's Prayer not Biblical Evangelical Admits


Finally an Evangelical who has the guts to admit the Sinner’s Prayer is not the Biblical way for salvation and pretty much calls out the evangelical tradition on this simplistic form of justification as being err unbiblical. Isn’t that what Catholics have been saying to our seperated brethren oh these many years?

Jesus and the Sinner’s Prayer
What Jesus says doesn’t match what we usually say.
David P. Gushee

Is it permissible to reopen the question of salvation? If we do, how will Jesus’ teachings stand up to our inherited traditions?

These questions came to me acutely not long ago. I was getting ready to preach. As the worship leader was finishing the music set, he offered some unscripted theological reflections. He said something like: “The only thing required of us is to believe that Jesus’ blood saves us. Nothing more. It’s nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

In my Baptist context, we’ve heard these thoughts a thousand times. The problem was that I had in my pocket a message in which Jesus himself had a very different answer to the question of salvation.
The Big Question

In reading through Luke, I had discovered that twice (10:25, 18:18) Jesus is asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

In the first passage, Jesus turns the question back on the lawyer who asks it. The lawyer replies with the Old Testament commands to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself (cf. Mt. 22:34-40). Jesus affirms his answer: “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” The lawyer then tries to narrow the meaning of neighbor. So Jesus tells the unforgettable parable of the compassionate Samaritan, who proved to be a neighbor to a bleeding roadside victim.

In Luke 18, Jesus responds to the same question, this time from the man we know as the rich young ruler, by quoting the second table of the Decalogue, forbidding adultery, murder, theft, and false witness, and mandating honor towards parents. His questioner says that he has kept these commandments, and Jesus proceeds to call on him to “sell all … and distribute to the poor.” Jesus assures him, “You will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The “extremely rich” ruler won’t do this, and Jesus goes on to teach his disciples about how hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.

Trying to be an honest expositor of the texts in front of me, I told the chapel students that morning that on the two occasions in Luke when Jesus was asked about the criteria for admission to eternity, he offered a fourfold answer: love God with all that you are, love your neighbor (like the Samaritan loved his neighbor), do God’s will by obeying his moral commands, and be willing, if he asks, to drop everything and leave it behind in order to follow him.

I concluded by suggesting that the contrast between how Jesus answers this question and how we usually do is stark and awfully inconvenient.
Getting Radical

In my Baptist tradition, especially, we direct people to “invite Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior,” an act undertaken using a formula called the “sinner’s prayer.” Or we simply say, “Believe in Jesus, and you will be saved.”

But Jesus never taught easy believism. Whether he was telling the rich young ruler to sell all and follow him or telling a miracle-hungry crowd near Capernaum that to do the work of God was, yes, to believe on him (John 6:28-29), he called people to abandon their own agenda and trust him radically. Radical trust calls for both belief and action.

I suggest that we tend to confuse the beginning of the faith journey with its entirety. Yes, believe in Jesus—that’s the first step. Yes, invite Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior. Then, empowered by God’s grace, embark on the journey of discipleship, in which you seek to love God with every fiber of your being, to love your neighbor as yourself, to live out God’s moral will, and to follow Jesus where he leads you, whatever the cost.

If Jesus is to be believed, inheriting eternal life involves a comprehensive divine assessment at every step along our journey, not just at its inception.

Mediocrity and hypocrisy characterize the lives of many avowed Christians, at least in part because of our default answer to the salvation question. Anyone can, and most Americans do, “believe” in Jesus rather than some alternative savior. Anyone can, and many Americans sometimes do, say a prayer asking Jesus to save them. But not many embark on a life fully devoted to the love of God, the love of neighbor, the moral practice of God’s will, and radical, costly discipleship.

If it comes down to a choice between our habitual, ingrained ways of talking about salvation and what Jesus himself said when asked the question, I know what I must choose.


Well said. :amen:


I used to be a Baptist/fundamentalist Chrstian, and this issue always nagged at me. What I heard from the pulpit about “saying the sinner’s prayer” and simply “believing in Jesus” didn’t square with what I read in the Bible. I discovered that the teaching of the Catholic Church was the Biblical one.


In all my years of being a Baptist, I have never had a pastor that gave an altar call or told people to say the sinners prayer.
They could say the sinner prayer a thousand times, just as you could be baptized a thousand times and never really be saved.

It is by God,s grace that the elect are saved througth the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart of the sinner when the sinner hears the Word of God

born a sinner,born again a Baptist


So as I understand it, you are saying that one never really knows if they are saved.



So, are you saying that only “the elect” are the one’s to obtain Salvation ?

If this is accurate of your theology, what defines a person as “elect”, and how does one get to be a member of “the elect” ?


I feel it necessary to append here that the Catholic Church teaches unequivocably that it is ONLY through God’s grace that ANYONE is saved…it is NOT something we can earn or merit (just trying to avoid going down that road)…I’m just trying to understand EXACTLY what you are trying to tell us Allischalmers


This is one of the reasons I left the Baptist denom. Sometimes I would go with my parents back to their church and listen as an observer. One day a visiting preacher gave the sermon. My notes and reaction is below:

Sermon Notes - 2-April-2006, [church deleted] - Bro. Rick [deleted]

“Real Christianity” - Mark 5:1-20

Vs. 1-5 : A Self-destructive lifestyle

Man in tombs is leading a self-destructive lifestyle. He’s running naked in the tombs and couldn’t be controlled. America: 85% Christian, yet alcoholism, divorce, pornography are all too common. We are living a self-destructive lifestyle. Most self-destructive thing is to have religion, i.e., ticking off religious duties to please God (Matthew 7)

Vs. 6-16: [Have] a life changing encounter
with Jesus Christ. Walking down the aisle, baptism, etc. we don’t need it, that’s just religion.

Legion-Roman military concept, about 6000.

(Me: Bro Rick refers to Baptism as “getting dunked in the tub”! Sacriledge!)

Vs. 17-20 [In “Real Christianity” there’ll be] enduring life evidence

Go forth and tell what good God has done. There’ll be a new life, endures thru all eternity. Change your life. The evidence is obedience. Worship is surrendering control to Jesus Christ.

You can reject Jesus like the people did when the demons went into the pigs. If you do, he’ll leave. “Go home to thy friends and tell them.”

I thought this was a sacrilegious sermon. Jesus and the apostle’s put a great emphasis on baptism. How can a minister diminish it to merely “getting dunked in the tub”? And this was a classic Baptist sermon which I feel illustrates that there is no assurance of salvation in Baptist theology, quite contrary to their claims. Here’s why:

the evidence for Christianity is our obedience. Bro Rick said that one can appear to be a faithful Christian, being active in the Church, without actually being a Christian. If anyone turns from Christ, they were never saved to begin with. So this means that we can go our whole life serving God, but we’re not really a Christian. We never know if we really are one, because we don’t know if we will ever commit a grave sin and revolt against Christ. Even should we die, this is no guarantee, since we merely “ran out of time” to commit a serious enough sin to annul the label of “Christian.”



Compare this to the Catholic system. First, in one sense, there are no “ex-Catholics” only “Former Catholics.” That means that anyone who is baptized Catholic is always Catholic and can return to the Church at any time. However, when we sin and do not repent, we stop being a practicing Catholic (or Christian). This is not to say that we never were a practicing Catholic, but we have surrendered the label by severing our ties with God. That is, we have divorced ourselves from God, but we can always return.

So let’s compare this to the marriage model. I’m going to get rather Platonic here. Marriage is permanent, and it is also a model of the Church. Think of Christ’s relationship with the Church as the pure form of marriage. What we think of as marriage on Earth is a shadow of true marriage. The earthly union reflects true marriage, but it is imperfect because it is not true marriage. And so, there can be unions that appear to be marriage that really aren’t. When a man and a woman come together and appear to become married but actually are not, they can have this marriage annulled. This means they were never actually married. This is the Baptist system of soteriology. To commit a grave sin is like receiving a declaration of nullification of a marriage. In the way the man-woman union, which looked like marriage, never took place, the man-God union, which looked like salvation, never took place.

There is another opportunity to dissolve a man-woman union: divorce. To divorce means to separate. It is a formal “going of separate ways.” When a man and woman divorce, it is their shadowy, earthly union that has broken, but the actual marriage bond still exists. Therefore they can always return to one another should they so desire. In the Catholic system of soteriology, when we sin, we hand God divorce papers. We “go our separate way” from God. The actual bond between us and God still exists, but it is severed. We can always return, but until we do, we will neither walk nor live with God. (In the same way, a divorced couple does not live together, but may always return to each other.)

Is there scriptural evidence for this? Of course, just look at Hosea. When Israel abandoned God, she divorced herself from Him and God accepted it, but always welcomed her back. Israel stopped being God’s people in the same way a husband and wife stop being husband and wife, but this does not mean that Israel was NEVER God’s people, as it would have been if their relationship was simply annulled.

All this being said, Baptists have no genuine assurance of salvation in their theology. Catholics do. We have a moral assurance in that we God will be faithful to His promise to welcome us back, and we know we have the means of forgiveness and returning to Him when we do sin. We have an assurance that if we confess all our sins to the best of our ability with a contrite heart, when the priest pronounces the words of absolution, we are actually fully forgiven. Furthermore, when we sin mortally, we know we have no assurance of salvation and we rely upon the mercy of God, especially as long as we remain unrepentant. Once we repent, we again have assurance, as long as we are contrite and intend to confess our sins sacramentally.


In all my 55 years as a Baptist, I never had a pastor who did not complete the church service without an altar call and an invitation to say the sinner’s prayer. Most of them would even throw in an occasional altar call at a funeral. I’m sure they wanted to include them in marriage ceremonies.LOL!! I guess I don’t understand what Allis Chalmers is trying to say, or he must be something other than a Southern Baptist.
By the way, the original article is the most succint and well written argument for my own belief in the errors of the Baptist Church. I just could not square the Baptist theology on salvation and OSAS with what I read in my Bible.
By the way, I will be confirmed in the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter Vigil along with my wife. Praise be to God!!!


Not only was I brought up Baptist but I grew up in the land of Baptists, the America South. :slight_smile: I often heard alter calls and about the sinner’s prayers.

In fact my neighbor had problems with one of her church’s pastors because he was insisting that the sinner’s prayer had to be said a certain way. I’m uncertain of the exact details, just that he was very hung up on the wording.


When God saves someone He does not keep it a secret, they will know.
Have you ever read in the Bible where Jesus talks about the potter making some vessels of honor and some of dishonor. Do you think that He was talking about the elect and those that are not the elect.
I believe that God has chosen some people to salvation and not others and I am not going to ask why. I fully trust that whatever God does is just and right.

Born a sinner born again Baptist


Congratulations to you and yours sir ! :amen: and :blessyou:


I am not a Southern Baptist or a free will Baptist just a regular Baptist

Born a sinner Born Again by God a Baptist


Nice sidestep. Funny thing is everyone I’ve ever talked to who said the sinners prayer believes that they are saved. Yet you say that some are not (even if they say it 1000 times) but you also say that the saved will know it. Which is it? You can’t have it both ways.



Being raised Baptist(attending all the different divisions of them) I was told that a person is saved if they pray the “prayer of salvation” or sinners prayer, they are saved ONLY if they mean every word they say.

Many people that feel they should, or sometimes they are forced by peer pressure, to go up and pray the prayer may not mean every word.

Thinking that saying one prayer that tells God you believe in Him and love him gives you a one way ticket to Heaven makes no sense to me. For me, that prayer is only the beginning of the great journey He has for us. That prayer is the first step in letting God into our lives to use and bless us, not the only and last we need. Being brought up this way, I often wondered why I never felt close to God. Then I realized, I had shut myself off to Him doing anymore in my life. I thought I didn’t have to do anything else to ensure I was in Hid graces, therefore I was lazy and didn’t need to be motivated to do anymore. Now that I know what He really teaches, I have such blessings and a better spiritual life than I ever thought possible.


I think that salvation is something that is something that a person should constantly be working on. We need to rededicate ourselves to Jesus every single day. Some moments we will feel extremely spiritual and close to our Lord and at other moments we can go through dry periods.(much like marriage.)

What I am trying to say is that it isn’t something that happens just once.

What annoys me, is that by saying that a person can’t loose their salvation then you must judge that individual’ s heart. Something we don’t have the ability to do. How do you know that a person that says the sinners’ prayer and falls away was only doing so because of peer pressure? this might be true of children but I doubt of adults. Most people who attend church as adults are already seeking some answers to life’s questions, so I don’t think that this holds true for them.


Oh I agree, there’s no way we can know anyone’s heart.

When I mentioned the peer pressure I was thinking of children/teens. Sorry, I should have stated that


Can someone tell me what the words are to the sinners prayer ? Are they taken from the Bible like the Hail Mary? Are they just made up ? Because we don’t want to repeat the same words Prayers] or that would be repititious.



I was raised a Southern Baptist. I’m the son of a Baptist Pastor, I was an ordained Deacon of the SBC, At different times and places I was a Sunday School teacher, Head of Outreach, Head of the Bus Ministry I also went to a Baptist seminary. I have also visited and been a member of many congregations. I have never seen either an SBC or Independant Baptist (which make up the vast majority of Baptists) service end without an alter call (unless the Church was VERY liberal). The sinner’s prayer was basic procedure if anyone came up to be saved. Beyond that as a Southern Baptist I would have been deeply offended to have been to a service that did not have an alter call.

The General Baptist Church is different though. They don’t do alter calls. They have a “mouner’s bench” and have to “pray their way through”. They sometimes also “invite” people in the congregation to come up and be saved. I believe the Missionary Baptists also do some of the same.

I’m not sure about Primitive Baptists or Free Wills.

Which type of Baptist church do you belong to?

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