Recently I read a, well, interesting post on the questionable practice of pastors doing altar calls at the end of church services. As long as I can remember, as a Baptist, that almost every single church service has ended in an altar call or an invitation to respond to the Good News. Even when I identified as a 4 point Calvinist, this practice I never really questioned this ritual.
One of the “dangers” critics say that Altar Calls can cause an “easy beliefism,” that a person believes in Jesus after the invite, but then goes on with their life living unsaved. And the other scarecrow I often read or hear about is the manipulation of human emotions. I am very well aware of the latter. Once at a Christian rock concert, I saw people’s feelings being misused as this huge guilt moment without any talk of hope, sanctification or resurrection. I was a little distraught and let my friends know how I felt.
However, myself being familiar with conservative Reformed concern-trolling about human emotion, there is another way of looking at emotions and manipulation. What about people who argue from the standpoint of fear about people’s emotions getting out of control? From Jonathan Edwards to Reformed cessationists like John MacArthur, the cases against revival-oriented/ Charismatic Christian traditions depend on this very fear of human emotion, something that is natural, something that is neutral in Scripture. David is praised for his passionate worship. Anger is only condemned if persons let it control them. God Himself cries with Mary and Martha. This denial of human subjectivity by feigning “objectivity,” “freedom from bias” is just another way of policing people’s various expressions of worship.
The term “biblical”when it used, as I have argued before really just means that a teaching or practice aligns with that person’s and her community’s INTERPRETATION of Scripture. As for myself, I could easily argue that my own affinity for the Nicene and Chalcedon Creeds are not strictly “biblical” just as any other tradition. With a tradition that regularly dismisses the implications of Jesus’ teaching ministry, his calls for repentance [inviitations], for example, it’s no wonder that members of the conservative Reformed tradition find the notion of an altar call disagreeable.