More Than The Sinner’s Prayer

If potential converts (children or adults) are so unfamiliar with basic Bible doctrine that they can understand nothing more than “asking Jesus into their heart,” they probably should wait to make a commitment, until they understand the gravity of sin, and Christ’s offer of forgiveness. Of course, Christians should never make the gospel more complex than it needs to be, but we don’t want to make it trite, either. Read More»

Thomas Kidd | “’Ask Jesus into Your Heart’: A History of the Sinner’s Prayer” | March 11, 2014 (HT: Kim Riddlebarger)


Heidelberg Reformation Association
1637 E. Valley Parkway #391
Escondido CA 92027
The HRA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. For some time I have been suspicious of how rigorous the standards are when my session evaluates a profession of faith. We have had numerous children younger than 10 years old who have been admitted as communing members. I know it makes the parents happy. It makes our session happy because we have hard numbers to prove our church is “growing”. We have political factions who are happy to see another communing member with full voting rights who will vote on important congregational matters as their parents instruct them. What I wonder is whether the protection of the child is taken into account in light of Paul’s admonitions to those who partake of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.

  2. Where did Jesus ever ask people to raise their hand or to come forward to ask Jesus into their heart?

  3. Then on the flip side, there are the pietists who have some preconceived ideas of what “conversion/regeneration” should look like in a child and keep them from admission to the table while waiting on their “experience”. If that ain’t exasperating I don’t know what is.

  4. The statements in the article and the various comments reinforces my belief in paedobaptism followed by proper catechizing (with children in attendance during worship in the interim), which is then finished by examination by elders and a confirmation in front of the congregation. And, yes, after all of this some will undoubtedly fall away (I never cared much for that expression “back slidden”), after which some may return to faithfulness and others may not. To me, this underscores what Scripture says Matt 22:14 regarding both calling and Rom. 8:30 about predestination. Our congregation’s jr. high pastor once told me that once the kids graduate from high school nearly 80% of them are never seen again.

  5. Always, always remember the grace of God. How magnificent it is, how boundless, how free.

    Last Saturday marked 50 years since I became a Christian (at 24.) At the time I had no idea whatsoever I was doing. All I knew was that my life was a train wreck and that I was at the end of my rope. And that the world’s only perfect church (that is a sincere, not an ironic statement), Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, was the place where I could find Jesus–and whatever that meant, which I emphasize I had no idea back on that Sunday evening in 1973.

    But God was and is gracious. He was and is faithful. He has brought me along through a truly abundant life these past 50 years. ALL praise to Him. And bring people into the kingdom, whether they have any idea what they are doing or not (as I did not in 1973.)

  6. I don’t like to throw stones at an author I don’t know well for making a historical error in his citations, but it must be done in this case.

    The article by Dr. Thomas Kidd includes this paragraph: “But it was just as common for pastors of that era to use the phrase to describe a Christian act of devotion. Thomas Boston, a Scottish Calvinist pastor, encouraged Christians taking communion to receive ‘Christ into their hearts.’ Benjamin Colman, the leading evangelical pastor in Boston in the early eighteenth century, wrote explicitly that Christians should ‘receive Christ into their hearts, and hold him forth in their lives.'”

    To put Thomas Boston and Benjamin Colman into the same category, or to claim that Colman was “the leading evangelical pastor in Boston in the early eighteenth century” is seriously problematic. They meant very different things despite using similar words.

    Colman pastored the Brattle Street Church. It was explicitly organized as a liberal church, not a conservative church, and it was organized as part of a controversy with the older Reformed leaders of New England.

    This isn’t in dispute. To cite only one example: “Benjamin Colman (1673-1747), the first pastor of the Brattle Street Church in Boston, is widely known among students of New England history and literature as a liberal and accomplished preacher. His more than chilly reception by the Mathers after his ordination by Presbyterians in England… and his middle-of-the-road attitude toward the Whitefield revival — all these are familiar matters.” [Citation: Theodore Hornberger, “Benjamin Colman and the Enlightenment,” The New England Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Jun., 1939)]

    I’m citing that journal reference for two reasons:

    1. It is true that Colman became a well-known and well-regarded preacher, and his opponents accused him of using pulpit skills and eloquent oratory to cover up his watering down of historic New England doctrine. If the author had merely said Colman was “the leading popular preacher in Boston” and drawn a parallel to modern preacher-centered megachurches, he might have had a point.

    2. But if the term “evangelical” is to have any historical or doctrinal content at all, in the context of the early 1700s, there is just no way to call someone “the leading evangelical pastor in Boston in the early eighteenth century” who was (at best) lukewarm toward the First Great Awakening and Whitefield. It can, however, be said that Colman, by the standards of the Boston clergy, was a moderate in not totally rejecting the First Great Awakening. His role in keeping the Boston ministers from presenting a unified front against Edwards, Whitefield, et al, is not insignificant.

    I’m also quite aware that Brattle Street Church evolved over the years from its initial radicalism to the point that it was regarded as culturally conservative in the late 1700s. That didn’t mean it was doctrinally conservative, and the church sided with the anti-Trinitarian party in the theological controversies of the early 1800s and became Unitarian.

    With respect to Dr. Kidd, who is a seminary professor at a well-known Baptist seminary and is a recognized expert on Whitefield, I realize the history of Reformed Congregationalism is largely unknown among modern conservative Calvinists. Mistakes about what Congregationalists did and did not believe are common. I try not to get too upset when Reformed people repeat things they have been taught that simply are not true, and which can easily be challenged by citing the historic Reformed Congregational confessions and church order.

    But calling the founding pastor of the Brattle Street Church the “leading evangelical pastor” of Boston makes as much sense as claiming that Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church is the “leading conservative Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.” Brattle Street in Boston of the 1700s, like Eastern Avenue in Grand Rapids today, was known all over its denomination for “pushing the envelope” on denominational controversies. In fact, Brattle Street was founded to downgrade Calvinist orthodoxy. At least with Eastern Avenue, its roots were standard Dutch Reformed orthodoxy, though it has been a very different church for close to a century now. (And yes, I do know that Rev. Hoekesma’s predecessor at Eastern Avenue was quite liberal by early 1900s CRC standards — Eastern Avenue’s current role as a leading liberal church does have roots in its pre-Hoeksema history.)

    I cite the Eastern Avenue CRC parallel for a reason. Much like Eastern Avenue today, Brattle Street in its day was filled with important denominational leaders with considerable power and influence. But to say that its pastor was the leading evangelical church of its day in Boston is either false on its face, or involves a redefinition of the word “evangelical” to mean “megachurch pastor known for attracting large audiences with his preaching.”

    The only way that makes sense is if we want to contrast “evangelical” with “Calvinist orthodoxy.” I don’t think that’s what Dr. Kidd meant, but there are people in the history of Congregational scholarship who would have say things like that. Perhaps Dr. Kidd was picking up such descriptions from writers of the 1800s who regarded Calvinism as inherently opposed to evangelistic preaching.

    Sadly, I’m afraid this may be an example of people who don’t know Congregational history in detail who are making serious errors to which those who know New England’s Reformed heritage would say, “What on earth?” I hate to say that about a man with a doctoral degree, but Brattle Street’s history is not unknown, and this really is a serious error.

Comments are closed.