The Inquiry Room
How To Know if You Are Born Again
There are two possible reasons why someone should want to read this book. 1) the most important reason - to find out from a Biblical perspective whether or not YOU are born again. If this is your only interest, please read only the chapters that start with the word THEOLOGY. 2) For those who just want to know the historical reasons why evangelicals today believe in the heresy called "decisional regeneration", please read only the chapters that start with the word HISTORY.
The Inquiry Room or The Enquiry Room as it was called in Great Britain, is the key to understanding what went wrong with evangelical theology and practice in the beginning of the twentieth century. If we can understand why Billy Sunday in 1914 stopped using The Inquiry Room and starting calling the people who came forward in his altar calls "converts", we can understand how the heresy of decisional regeneration became accepted as the default salvation paradigm.
Since The Graham Formula was published in 2005, I have been disappointed that very few evangelical leaders have been willing to deal with the epidemic of false conversions caused by equating the repeating of a salvation prayer with "saving faith". The few leaders that have called attention to the problem usually refer to Charles Finney as the culprit and ignore the fact that all New Light Calvinists (including Asahel Nettleton) after the First Great Awakening promoted some version of a "decision for Christ" followed by counselling to determine the seeker's true condition.
Some misguided critics go so far as to take Charles Spurgeon's words out of context, to promote the fantasy that Spurgeon didn't ask people to make a "decision for Christ", didn't counsel inquirers himself and didn't endorsed D. L. Moody and ministers of his own Baptist Association who used Inquiry Rooms and after-meetings. By recasting Spurgeon's cautionary remarks regarding trusting in Inquiry Rooms as idolatrous, these critics then condemn the proper use of inquiry rooms by describing them as a device to convince seekers to pray a sinner's prayer, something that didn't assume sacramental status until the Billy Graham crusades around 1950.
This anachronistic attack would be funny if it weren't part of the larger problem having to do with Calvinist - Arminian fueds - the inability to see a common solution. Decisional regeneration is not a Calvinist versus Arminian problem ... it is an orthodox versus heresy problem. Saying there would be no false conversions if ministers stopped asking people to make a "decision for Christ" is like saying there would be no divorces if ministers didn't recommend that people get married. The heresy is not asking them to commit to Christ and giving them spiritual counselling. The heresy is telling them they are saved because they repeated a salvation prayer.
Fortunately, original source documents are now available on the internet at www.christianebooks.com, so no reader who is willing to do a little research will remain ignorant of the truth that The Inquiry Room was an essential New Light Calvinist companion to the practice of asking inquirers to "make a decision for Christ". The tragedy of the disinformation campaign blaming Finney is the evolution of New Light Calvinist theology and the nineteenth century view of "making a decision for Christ" has been ignored. Blaming Finney for decisional regeneration is like blaming Hitler for racism. It focuses the attention on a single culprit, distracts the reader from looking at the real causes, and prevents useful discussion and consensus. All you have to do is say "Finney" and you draw a line in the sand based on bigotry and ignorance. Forty years of disinformation has done little more than make the people who use altar calls suspicious of people who call themselves "Calvinist". And the ironic thing is it was the New Light Calvinists that introduced the "decision for Christ" and the After-meeting and Inquiry Room. With God's help, once you learn what a "decision for Christ" meant before Billy Sunday, you will begin to understand the solution to the epidemic of false conversions.
Where is God in all this?
There is a natural tendency to get depressed when looking at the horrible results of decisional regeneration. According to the latest statistics, 80% of evangelical youth "fall away" when they go to college. The evangelical divorce rate is virtually identical to the general population. According to Southern Baptist publications, Billy Graham said only 20% of members of that denomination have experienced regeneration. These predictable results are only logical if you sow seeds of "grace" as a way of escaping judgment instead of the way of holiness. Evangelical salvation has been reduced to an abstract legal formula without reference to the reality of the moral self. In fact, "saving faith" is identified with repeating a salvation prayer after which nothing is expected except the continued reliance on the effectiveness of the prayer to keep one out of Hell. There is much reason to be depressed. But I think Paul Washer brings God back into the picture when he says that those who trust in their prayers instead of the Person of God for salvation are getting what they want ... the confidence to live a life of sin without fear of judgment.
Washer reminds us that God is on the throne and nothing happens that He does not cause or allow.
" False teachers are God's judgment on people who don't want God, but in the name of religion plan on getting everything their carnal heart desires. That's why ... (a false teacher) is raised up. Those people who sit under him are not victims of him, he is the judgment of God upon them because they want exactly what he wants, and it's not God"
Washer was repeating what the apostle Paul said to Timothy nearly 2,000 years ago. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Tim 4:3-4).
So what are we to do?
The knowledge that God is in control does not relieve us of the responsibility of proclaiming the gospel, but it gives us peace in the midst of a terrible storm. The downgrade of evangelical theology and practice has reached full fruit, and the fruit is obvious. Unfortunately, most identify the rotten fruit as a need for "discipleship", and recommend the application of pesticides and fertilizer to the fruit. Few recognize that the fruit is just like the tree it grew from. The tree of decisional regeneration is not the Tree of Life. The problem is not that the fruit needs more attention, the problem is this rotten fruit grew from a rotten tree ... the tree of materialistic humanism. No. the problem is not a few teachers of false grace. As Pogo said, "we have met the enemy and he is us". Until we recognize saving grace as coming from relationship with the Person of God and not the result of material causation, we will be attacking the wrong enemy. It's not just a matter of getting our doctrine right. It's a matter of returning to the Biblical understanding of regeneration as a supernatural change of nature and the union of God and man as one spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17) ... not an abstract acceptance of doctrine, but a life-changing experience. Hopefully this book will be a guide to understanding the causes of decisional regeneration and the solution which is knowing the Person of Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).
GO TO: Chapter 1 - Charles Finney - The Center of the Storm
TABLE OF CONTENTS