The Altar Call, Pastor Kings, and Baptist Absolution
1. The altar call gives credibility to the pastor king. Many Baptist churches appoint people to go forward to prime a response from the rest of the congregation.
2. The pastor king often stays atop the altar as people come forward and kneel. Dissemination of God’s will by proxy and the actual worship of a man is a very fine line. If God has truly spoken through His word, and NOT the man, perhaps the pastor king should stand somewhere else. People kneeling at the foot of an altar with a man standing on top of it may say more than we would like to think.
3. Inviting unsaved people to church for the sake of evangelizing them speaks to the notion that pastor kings can evangelize and present the gospel better than the saints, and that they have some kind of anointing that the saints don’t have. The call for salvation at the end of every Baptist service has always perplexed me from the first day I was a Christian. Though Reformed pastor kings criticize altar calls, they are guilty of the same overemphasis on the gospel for the already-saved in different ways and more comprehensively. Baptists merely deemphasize sanctification; the Reformed reject it all together. And though they refer to “progressive sanctification,” it is really progressive justification.
4. Salvation by altar call. Future assurance of salvation is staked on the altar call event, and not our born again colaboring participation in a changed life. Here again, the Reformed need not criticize; their assurance is based on revisiting our salvation “afresh” over and over again until we feel saved. This is the same thing as the Baptist altar call for “rededication.” Both are the same: assurance by resalvation. The Baptist just like to celebrate it formally.
5. Altar calls replace counseling and discipleship. Got sin? Addicted to porn? Homosexual tendencies? Never fear, the altar call is near. Go forward and confess your sins at the altar, and all of last week’s sins will be forgiven. Altar calls replace discipleship, counseling, and the messy business of laboring in the word for God’s solutions to the deep problems of life. Catholic absolution is at hand. The Reformed protest: “I beg your pardon, we do counsel!” No you don’t. Reformed counseling is based on making salvation bigger, not change in the believer. Baptists relegate sanctification to insignificant when compared to the gospel—the Reformed say that the two are the same thing.
6. Hence, whether Baptist or Reformed, we need the pastor kings to guide us through the dark maze of sanctification via absolution at the altar or “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”