Friday, April 15, 2016

Quick review of 'Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart'

In Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart, J. D. Greear tackles the thorny problem of surface evangelism that gives false hope, or sometimes no hope at all. Greear tells us that "Placing an overemphasis on phrases like 'ask Jesus into your heart' gives assurance to some who shouldn't have it and keeps it from some who should."

There are a lot of good "one liners" in the books -- that is, sentences that easily stand alone to use as good quotes. Here are two:

  • "You didn't start to sin because you hung around the wrong crowd; you were the wrong crowd."
  • "The sinner's prayer is not a magic incantation or a recipe you follow to get a salvation cake."

I appreciate that the book tackles the often sacrosanct ideas of "asking Jesus into your heart" and "praying the sinner's prayer". At times Greear seems tentative in the matter, perhaps fearing to alienate a large Southern Baptist constituency (it is printed by Broadman & Holman, btw, and Greear is a rising star in the Convention). According to your viewpoint you may think J. D. Greear addressed the topic expertly (and tactfully) enough to gain the endorsement of Southern Baptist Calvinists and Traditionalists alike (see statements on unnumbered pages before the title page); or, that he deliberately compromised enough to do so. A "grace approach" should expect that he believes what he has written.

Though I agree with the premise, and broadly with much of what he has written, I found that book a little off-putting. Some of that I can dismiss as his style of communicating and our generational differences (one is the overuse of exaggeration to make points). But there were a few hurdles I couldn’t get over. Here are a few examples.  At times he seems to confuse security and assurance (p. 19), which are not the same thing. He named himself as the participant in a story that actually is someone else’s (this is discovered by comparing a footnote, pp. 31,124). Preachers do this all too often, and while possibly acceptable in some fields of discourse, should not be acceptable among ministers of the gospel. He loved what a particular old hymn said so much that he conflates two completely different hymns as one? The words of Edward Mote's "The Solid Rock" and Robert Lowry's "Nothing But the Blood" are not the same hymn. Some might pass this by as a minor mistake, but that just seems off to me (pp.36,124).

Ultimately the book is about assurance rather than just these "man-made" phrases, as the subtitle "How to Know for Sure You are Saved" tells the reader. It is 5.2 X 7.3 inches in size and 144 pages in length, so it is a fairly quick read and is not overpriced. One could do much worse than reading it, but for the overall topic (not just assurance) I recommend Salvation...When? by Conrad Murrell. Though the author is not as well-known as Greear and the book not readily available (a major sticking point), I think the reader would be better served finding and choosing it if he or she could own only own of the two.

* I think the popularity of a book like Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart is often driven by the "celebrity factor". This is the readers' fault rather than the author's.


Anonymous said...

Conrad Murrell's "Salvation When" can be found here and for free.

However, both Grace Church and the Bible camp are now defunct. While I used to attend, I haven't really have contact with them in about 10 years. The camp ended about a year and a half ago and I have no idea whether or not orders will be fulfilled. But since the books are free, there is nothing to lose by trying.

There are some messages there that are pertinent as well. In the end, he seemed to teach something akin to hypothetical universalism or universal propitiation, largely based on his understanding of 1 John 2:2. (At least one messages on that text is available.) I haven't read "Salvation When" in about 15 years, so I don't know whether or not there is any contradiction with what is found in that book.

Are you familiar with Norman F. Douty's "Did Christ Die Only for the Elect?" which I think was originally published under the title of "The Death Christ Died"?

R. L. Vaughn said...

onepilgrimsprogress, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Is Brother Murrell still living? I'm not familiar with Norman F. Douty's Did Christ Die Only for the Elect? What do you think of it? What is his answer?

Anonymous said...

Norman Douty (1899-1993) was sort of a 4 pointer, or maybe 4.5 in some sense. It has been about 5 years since I've read that book, so I can't quite summarize the distinctions he makes in as pithy a fashion as I could have a few years ago. He writes that his views are similar to W.G.T. Shedd's although he disagrees with some of Shedd's terminology. I think a lot of people don't realize that J.C. Ryle and some others were also "moderate Calvinists" who couldn't swallow the teaching of men like John Owen on limited atonement.

You may find the reviews of Douty's book on Amazon to be helpful, perhaps Tony Byrne's in particular.

I could have missed something, but the go to books from a moderate Calvinist standpoint appear to be Douty's (basically a covenantal Baptist and a historic premil) and the dispensationalist Robert Lightner's "The Death Christ Died." I haven't read Lightner's book but I've read other things he's written on the subject. Douty includes a lot of quotes from older writers, so that might be the best choice. But that could just be me.

Bro. Murrell is still living. I think he is in his mid-late 80s by now. I haven't had any contact with him or most of his associates in about 10 years, but my guess is that the ending of the Grace Bible Camp probably signals the close of his public ministry.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks for the information. I enjoyed some of the articles I found on your blog.