Before I begin this fifth part of the review of William Fay’s book, Share Jesus without Fear, I do feel the need to forewarn you that what follows is quite critical, but not without reason. The sixth chapter, entitled “Bring to Decision,” presents what I consider to be seriously flawed, unbiblical teachings that all Christians who read this book should be made aware of. Since theology always informs and drives practice, it is imperative that we discern the theology underlying Fay’s approach to evangelism. If the theology behind it is questionable, then the method itself is probably questionable, too.

The sixth chapter starts with a story recounting an experience the author had, in which he allegedly led someone to Christ. After asking the man a few quick questions, the author led him in a sinner’s prayer, immediately after which, the author tells us:

Glen looked up from his prayer. His eyes glistened with joy. “It’s all true,” he confessed for the first time. “I believe!” I asked, “Glen, where’s Jesus?”
He grinned. “In my heart.”

Anecdotes like this one abound among evangelical Christians. There’s a reason why: They are stories of conversions. As believers who have crossed over from death to life, we are understandably thrilled by such glowing tales of people who become new creatures in Christ. The danger, though, is that our love of such stories could lead us to embrace them wholeheartedly as though they were gospel truth. Unfortunately, much of evangelicalism has become a religion of anecdotes rather than one based on an objective text. The reformers’ rallying cry of sola scriptura! has been replaced by personal experience and anecdotes. Although we pay lip service to the idea that scripture alone is our canon, or measuring rod, for determining truth, our heavy, postmodern emphasis on personal stories shows all too clearly that touching anecdotes have become our measuring rod.

Aside from the lack of biblical support, though, there is something else troubling about this introductory tale: the assurance given to the alleged new believer in Christ. Although the New Testament clearly teaches that we are saved through faith, it never teaches that a mere prayer is a basis for assurance of salvation. This kind of groundless assurance, however, is precisely what Fay aims at in this story when he asks the man where Jesus is now. When the man responds, “In my heart,” Fay gives tacit approval to this answer by not commenting on it further. This is dangerous. Not only is it the Holy Spirit’s domain to give assurance, but also assurance comes to us on the grounds of the lives we live. Biblical assurance of salvation is linked inseparably to the holiness lived out in our daily walk with Christ. The epistles of 1 John and 2 Peter bring this out all too clearly. In the first chapter of 2 Peter, the apostle admonishes his readers:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-11, ESV, emphasis added)

Notice that Peter tells his readers to make their calling and election sure. Why? The following words tell us: “for [because] if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For [because] in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The point is obvious: Practicing these qualities in an increasing manner (verse eight) is the grounds of assurance that we are truly heaven-bound. It is not the grounds of salvation but rather the grounds of assurance of salvation. Holiness proves our divine calling, but when unholiness abounds our calling is in serious question. The basis of our assurance of salvation is the fruit of our lives, not the opinion of another Christian or a single prayer we uttered at some time in the past.

The fatal flaw of this chapter is Fay’s theology of decisional regeneration. As Fay writes, “Wouldn’t it be awful if you showed someone God’s love but did not give him the choice to receive it? … We need to offer others a choice” (pp. 60 and 61). What Jesus and the apostle Paul taught, though, came in the form of an imperative rather than in the offering of a choice:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15, ESV)

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31, ESV)

On p. 60 he writes:

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus didn’t force the crippled man to receive restoration? As a matter of fact, Jesus never forced his healing or love on anyone. So it takes more than hearing the gospel to become born again. It comes down to making a choice about what you have heard.

What he says about Jesus here is essentially true, but it is not all that the gospel accounts tell us. What about the demon-possessed men out of whom he drove unclean spirits? Did they ask Christ for help? Aside from that, this text makes it clear that, to Fay, being born again depends primarily on our choice rather than God’s. According to a quote included by the author approvingly on p. 59, “Although God’s mighty enough, he’ll never break through the wall [the human heart]. He will enter only if invited in.” Fay continues: “God is a gentleman; he never forces us to love or to serve him.”

This is a half-truth that has become so popular it has practically taken the same place as scripture in many Christians’ hearts. The problem is that, like all half-truths, it is at risk of being a whole lie. Although I can agree that God does not force people to love or serve him, it is false to say that God does not enter a person’s heart unless he is invited to do so. One of the most important characteristics of agape love is that the one loving gives the object of love what he or she needs regardless of whether he or she wants it. This is probably no clearer than on Calvary, where the Lord Jesus, after being rejected by all (even his own disciples scattered and fled) continues undeterred with his work of redemption for lost sinners. Divine love is not deterred by the desires of its objects. Sadly, then, the author’s view of God is quite small because it envisions God as a limited Creator whose hands are tied by the choices of his creation. This is not at all how scripture portrays God. On the contrary, it teaches:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13, ESV)


Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18, ESV)

It is the will of God, not man, that brings about salvation in people.

The big problem with decisional regeneration is that it is man-centered rather than God-centered. The doctrine focuses on man’s ability to choose and relegates God’s sovereign choice to a secondary place. Thus Fay gives the natural man far too much credit. What scripture says about the lost, though, is the opposite:

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8, ESV)

The unregenerate person’s ability to obey God—including the divine commands to believe and repent—simply does not exist. It will never exist until God regenerates him. If, as Fay maintains, a person becomes born again only when “the answer yes comes from a person’s heart” (p. 65), nobody would ever come to Christ in saving faith because apart from the grace of God all we ever say to God is “no.”

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, theology drives practice. Whether we realize it or not, the manner in which we present the gospel to the lost will always be informed and determined by the doctrines we believe.

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About the Author

The author of this blog, Jeremy (Jehanne), is a Catholic who strives to think God's thoughts after Him and obey Christ's exhortation to take up the cross daily and follow Him on the way to Golgotha. He likes reading theology, evangelizing, and, of course, writing.