Sunday, October 26, 2008

History of the Altar Call

Christian History features a brief article by Doug Sweeney and Mark Rogers on the history of the altar call.

A brief excerpt:
This common evangelistic method, known as the altar call or the public invitation, has not always been around. Successful evangelists such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley never gave an altar call. In fact, they did not even know what it was. They invited their hearers passionately to come to Christ by faith and regularly counseled anxious sinners after their services. But they did not call sinners to make a public, physical response after evangelistic appeals. So where did the altar call come from? When did it begin?

HT: JT who also links to this post from Andy Naselli listing some resources on the altar call.

1 comment:

christopher said...

i agree that the modern (manipulative) use of the altar call is partly responsible for many false professions of faith. i grew up in that tradition. However, i fear that many modern Calvinists have overreacted to its use in particular, and revivalism in general. (Even Spurgeon invited anxious souls to the "inquiry room" after his meetings where they could be more personally pressed to put their faith in Christ. And i believe Lloyd-Jones had a similar practice.)

As a result of this overreaction,i think the strong pleading, wooing and passionate entreaties that used to characterize the Calvinistic preachers of the past (Puritans, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, etc.) is sadly missing from much of today's Calvinist evangelistic preaching. i think this is because many modern Calvinists are not persuaded that God really wants all of their hearers to believe on Christ and be saved. This brand of Calvinism allows the (unknown) decreed will of God to diminish the revealed will of God in the gospel, such that our gospel offers are far too weak and insincere.