Friday, March 18, 2011

Triablogue Topical Index

We've sometimes put together posts that link to some representative material we've written over the years on a particular topic. What's below is a list of such posts. The list could be updated or expanded in the future. You may want to check back on it from time to time.

To find material on more specific topics within these posts, you can use the Ctrl F feature on your keyboard. (Press F while the Ctrl key is held down.) For example, the afterlife post linked below covers Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, universalism, and many other related issues. To find material on a specific subject within that page, press Ctrl F and search for the relevant term. The title of each post will be followed (in parentheses) by a few examples of the subjects covered.

Steve Hays' Topical Index (book reviews, a list of recommended Biblical commentaries, some of his fictional work, etc.)

The Historical Roots Of The Reformation And Evangelicalism (church infallibility, apostolic succession, sola scriptura, etc.)

Christmas Apologetics (the virgin birth, Jesus' birthplace, Luke's census, etc.)

Easter Apologetics (the empty tomb, the hallucination theory, dwindling probabilities, etc.)

Early Christian Moral Standards And Practice (honesty, abortion, polygamy, etc.)

The Reliability Of The New Testament Text (pre-manuscript evidence for the text, the ending of Mark, whether we need inerrant copies of the originals, etc.)

Evidence For Modern Miracles (whether extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, cessationism, resources on modern paranormal research, etc.)

A Christian View Of Prayer (prayer to the dead, whether it's acceptable to pray to the Holy Spirit, what evidence we should expect for answered prayer, etc.)

The Evidence Of Biblical Prophecy (the dating of Daniel, why some prophecies aren't more specific, whether the New Testament is wrong about Old Testament passages like Isaiah 7:14 and Hosea 11:1, etc.)

The Afterlife (annihilationism, Limbo, near-death experiences, etc.)

The Canon Of Scripture (the Apocrypha, Jude's use of material from 1 Enoch, Biblical authorship, etc.)

What Early Non-Christians Said About Christianity (Jesus' existence, His miracles, what the early Christians believed about the veneration of images, etc.)

Baptism In The Bible And Church History (baptismal justification, infant baptism, baptism for the dead, etc.)

The Eucharist In The Bible And Church History (John 6, the eucharistic beliefs of the church fathers, paedocommunion, etc.)

The Relatives Of Jesus In The Bible And Church History (the genealogies of Jesus, the assumption of Mary, whether James was an unbeliever when the risen Jesus supposedly appeared to him, etc.)

The Death Of The Apostles (whether any of the apostles renounced the faith later in life, whether they died as martyrs, how they died, etc.)


  1. Has anyone at Triablogue written on the subject of how to respond to the lowbrow-Evangelical notion that you must “invite Jesus into your heart” in order to become a Christian? According to Christ and the Apostles, as recorded in Scripture, one must repent and have faith in Christ in order to become a Christian, and I have a pretty good idea of how to make a biblical case for this view, but how can one argue biblically that one does not become a Christian by “inviting Jesus into your heart,” i.e., by saying something like the sinner’s prayer?

    This is for me no longer a theoretical question. For reasons I would prefer not to elucidate here, I am in the middle of such an environment, with a 7-year old son who will soon need biblical guidance on just this issue.

    Thanks for any advice you can give.

  2. Alan,

    I don't remember any Triablogue post about that subject in particular. But I'll comment on it.

    If you're having a discussion with somebody on this issue, it would be sufficient to cite the absence of any mention of justification through a sinner's prayer in scripture. That absence is enough reason to not believe in the concept.

    You could also point out that faith isn't equivalent to saying a prayer. There's no reason to assume that a sinner's prayer is being included in any passage that mentions faith. Rather, the prayer is a work being added to faith.

    You could cite passages that refer to justification as something received through a means in the heart (Acts 15:7-9, Romans 10:10). Concerning Romans 10 and some issues related to it, see my post here.

    A good illustration to use would be Cornelius in Acts 10:44-46. Apparently, he doesn't say any prayer outwardly. And Peter goes on to say that Cornelius was justified through faith in his heart (Acts 15:7-9). He doesn't refer to a sinner's prayer in the heart, but to faith in the heart. Other passages, like Mark 2:5, are similar. The focus is on faith, not a sinner's prayer.

    However, I doubt that most people who emphasize a sinner's prayer would deny what I'm saying here. I suspect that many people are careless in how they approach the issue. They don't intend to deny that people are justified as soon as they believe, prior to any prayer that results from that faith. But saying a prayer is helpful in some ways, and they're accustomed to framing the issue in the context of saying a sinner's prayer, so they put it in those terms. I wouldn't assume that everybody who speaks that way intends to say that a sinner's prayer is necessary. If there are any people who believe it's necessary, I suspect they're a tiny minority.

  3. Jason,

    Thanks for your response. As you have pointed out, the Bible shows people justified by faith, not by a prayer asking Jesus to “come into their life.” Forcefully pointing this out should suffice when speaking to someone who respects the Bible as the highest authority.

    You say that probably most people who speak of the necessity of saying a sinner’s prayer are being careless. I think it’s more than carelessness. It has become a widespread Evangelical practice for the pastor or evangelist to try to induce people to say something like “Dear Jesus, I admit that I’m a sinner in need of a Savior. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Please come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. In Your Name, Amen!” And it is also a common practice for Evangelicals to reckon people as having become Christians at the moment they say the prayer. It appears to me that a good percentage of Evangelicalism really believes that this is how you get unbelievers to become Christians, or at least this is how you “seal the deal.”

    There isn’t any Evangelical creed or catechism saying that a “sinner’s prayer” is what completes the process of saving sinners. But as you know, most Evangelicals don’t follow creeds. They follow fads, and this is a very deeply-ingrained one. That’s why I asked for help: since it is for Evangelicals a confirmed habit and way of thinking, they stick to it strongly.

  4. Alan Robuck wrote:

    "You say that probably most people who speak of the necessity of saying a sinner’s prayer are being careless."

    No, I wasn't addressing people who "speak of the necessity of saying a sinner's prayer". Somebody can place a lot of emphasis on a sinner's prayer without believing that it's a necessity.

    You say that "most Evangelicals don’t follow creeds", but Evangelical churches often have a statement of faith and express their beliefs in other ways you haven't mentioned, such as in which individuals and groups they associate with. The widespread use of a sinner's prayer is accompanied by widespread statements of faith that affirm justification through faith alone, citations of Ephesians 2:8-9 and similar Biblical passages when discussing justification, use of material by authors and other sources who haven't put so much emphasis on a sinner's prayer, etc. You have to make a judgment based on the entirety of the evidence, not just the more negative elements of it that you've mentioned.

    If you ask a knowledgeable Catholic whether a person would be justified if he had faith prior to baptism, he'll deny that the person is justified before being baptized. If you ask a knowledgeable Evangelical whether a person would be justified if he had faith prior to saying a sinner's prayer, I doubt that more than a tiny minority, if any, would say that the person isn't justified until the time of the prayer. I think you could find some more ignorant individuals who would say that a person isn't justified until the prayer, but they're probably wrong about a lot of other things as well. They may take a reference to the necessity of sanctification as an affirmation that we're justified through works, for example. A lot of people misunderstand things, don't think in much depth, and don't make much of an effort to be consistent. There's a difference between a layman in a church who's ignorant in that manner and a pastor of that church who often makes use of a sinner's prayer, but also does other things that suggest he believes in justification through faith alone.

    I agree that the concept of a sinner's prayer is emphasized too much in Evangelicalism. It's often presented in a misleading way, and it's probably misunderstood by some people. But it's accompanied by many other things that counter such misconceptions.