READY TO GIVE AN ANSWER (DECISION THEOLOGY)
Passages that will help you respond when people say…
These statements and others like them are examples of what is broadly termed “decision theology.” Decision theology is taught in many denominations. It is frequently encountered in Christian literature and in conversations with other Christians.
What can you do when decision theology comes up in conversation? Share what you believe about your own inability to accept Jesus and then invite your conversational counterpart to look at God’s Word with you. As starting points, you might consider the following passages and, with the Word, “be ready to give an answer.”
“You He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)
The first ten verses of Ephesians chapter two are the spiritual biography of a believer. The life-story begins in death: “[You] were dead in trespasses and sins.” There is no wiggle room to get around the reality of death in this passage. Paul is not merely using “death” as a symbol. God is not being figurative with these words. We all, from the beginning of our life, are spiritually dead.
No dead body can get up and walk. A dead body can’t invite life into itself nor can it make a decision to accept life, and neither can a dead soul. For a dead body or soul to live, there must be a resurrection accomplished by an outside source. Jesus was the life-giving source that raised the dead during His ministry. Likewise, only God can effect spiritual resurrection. “You He made alive.. . .”
Decision theology denies the effects of original sin. Additional passages that show our spiritual deadness and our utter inability to decide for Christ include Romans 8:6-7 and 1 Corinthians 12:3.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” (John 15:16)
Jesus Himself states matter-of-factly to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” Jesus was not speaking about His specific call to apostleship. Rather, He spoke of choosing and appointing all of His followers to bear fruit—the fruit which branches can bear only when connected to the Vine (John 15:1ff). Our spiritual death can only produce the works of the flesh (Ephesians 2:2-3, Galatians 5:19-21).
Paul’s biography of a believer in Ephesians chapter two reflects these words of Jesus. The believer begins in death, but God makes him alive by grace. The whole package of salvation—from death to life to the faith which lays hold of that life to the fruits of faith produced by the believer—is a gift of God, and none of it comes from ourselves.
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth.” (Psalm 115:1)
Human nature gravitates toward decision theology because it can’t let go of its fierce independence and desire for self-honor. The pride of human nature doesn’t like giving God all the credit and glory. This leads to inserting man’s will, man’s choice, man’s decision, man’s power into the plan of salvation. It’s possible for a sinner to insert himself into his view of salvation, but that doesn’t change the reality. The truth of genuine salvation is that it doesn’t spring from the sinner in any way.
Salvation is a pure gift of God’s undeserved love. The psalmist declares “not unto us . . . give glory.” Rather the glory is all the Lord’s “because of Your mercy, because of Your truth.”
Decision theology takes away honor from God and robs Him of His glory. Nothing that does so can be true.
Wayne Eichstadt is pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley, Washington.