Dever on Election and Evangelism

Tim Brister —  October 15, 2007 — 6 Comments

In the conclusion of his book, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, Mark Dever addresses the charge that those who believe in unconditional election will not be fruitful in sharing the gospel.  He writes (emphasis original):

“Sometimes the charge is leveled, ‘If you’re a believer in election, you won’t evangelize.’  But haven’t many of the greatest evangelists in the history of the Christian church believed that salvation is by God’s election?  Has that dulled the evangelistic zeal of a Whitefield or an Edwards, of a Carey or a Judson, of a Spurgeon or a Lloyd-Jones, of a D. James Kennedy or an R.C. Sproul. [sic]

My concern is the opposite: if you don’t believe that the gospel is the good news of God’s action–the Father electing, the Son dying, the Spirit drawing–that conversion is only our response to God’s giving us the grace-gifts of repentance and faith, and that evangelism is our simple, faithful, prayerful telling of this good news, then you will actually damage the evangelistic mission of the church by making false converts.  If you think that the gospel is all about what we can do, that the practice of it is optional, and that conversion is simply something that anyone can do at any time, then I’m concerned that you’ll think of evangelism as nothing more than a sales job where the prospect is to be won over to sign on the dotted line by praying a prayer, followed by an assurance that he is the proud owner of salvation” (110).

I was encouraged to see that Johnny Hunt has heartily encouraged “the theological truths” of this book in his endorsement.  Hunt writes,

“Few men have the heart and scholarship to speak so scripturally to the subject of evangelism as my friend Mark Dever.  We will all be better evangelists having read and reflected on the theological truths of this great book.”

– Johnny Hunt, pastor, First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia

Change of heart maybe?

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  • http://www.hereiblog.com johnMark

    Timmy,

    I didn’t even catch Hunt’s endorsement. I just went and looked at my copy though. Wow!
    I wonder what Hunt would say about what you’ve pointed out?

    There is also a Methodist who endorsed the book. Whitefield or Wesley? :)

    Mark

  • http://classicalarminianism.blogspot.com billy

    “If you think that the gospel is all about what we can do, that the practice of it is optional, and that conversion is simply something that anyone can do at any time . . .” I thank God that classical Arminianism teaches no such thing. But I do lament the fact that many believe Arminianism teaches such nonsense–once again confusing Pelagianism with Arminianism.

    And I, for the most part, agree with Dever.

    Billy

  • http://stephennewell.wordpress.com Stephen Newell

    I thank God that classical Arminianism teaches no such thing.

    It doesn’t teach that “conversion is simply something that anyone can do at any time?” Doesn’t everyone have “prevenient grace” or whatever the term is? Doesn’t everyone still have to “cooperate” with that grace? It may not be Pelagianism — and in many ways it isn’t — but you still have the position that salvation amounts to nothing more than the will cooperating with the grace received. And that cooperation is not instantaneous with the reception of that grace. It can happen “at any time,” and usually it is thought of as happening during some sort of evangelistic moment.

  • http://classicalarminianism.blogspot.com Billy Birch

    No, it cannot happen at any time. The Holy Spirit must be active in the sinner’s heart. But, you are right; we do not hold to monergism. Guilty. By “prevenient grace,” however, we mean that it is the means by which one may respond to God’s grace; it is not regeneration, but an “opening up” of the heart.

    I am fully aware of our differences. God bless.

    Billy

  • qbaileys

    We must be regenerated before we can respond to God’s call upon our lives. Our response cannot happen unless the Holy Spirit does that regenerating work in our hearts. ..if that does not happen then how will a sinfully blind man going to respond to an awesome God? We cannot and will not seek out God without this regeneration in our heart. 100% God and zero man….when God has planned the day of our responding to the call we are drawn or as the greek actually discribes it as “dragged” to the Father…not swayed or pursuaded. This begins with our hearts being regenerated then we will say a resounding “Yes” to salvation in Jesus Christ. This point is very well backed by the scriptures. A person elected by our heavenly Father will not escape God’s calling nor will the elect want to resist that calling because of our regenerated heart.
    Great post.
    scott

  • Thomas Twitchell

    There is often a confusion when the term Pelagianism is thrown around in reference to Arminianism. Classically the two are distinct schools. However, they share certain components. As the DoG are commonly called Calvinism because they share much in common, when in reality the too are distinct, so too the swing terms when speaking of doctrines of works are either Pelagianism or Arminianism. In any case, we do muddy the waters by interchanging terms that are not technically true to their origin. But, it is a distraction that many throw up when the issues are being discussed. It shouldn’t be an issue if one pays attention to the context of the discussion. The great divide is not the terms, but the doctrines of Grace versus the doctrine of salvation by works of the law. Works of the law are, bottom line, anything that man must do to be justified. It is faith versus works, and that not of ourselves it is the free gift of God. We reject any sense in which man is involved in the creative work of regeneration, whether in a Pelagian sense, or a Semi-Pelagian sense. Creation is the sole work of God without any counsel of the creation. No cooperation, no synergism, for God alone is creator and he knows no other god.