How the Belief In Scripture Test (BIST)
Relates to the
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration
After the Civil War, some fourth generation New Light Calvinists and most fifth generation New Light Calvinists started to promote the bare faith approach inherent in the Belief In Scripture Test (BIST) in the Inquiry Room as evidence of saving faith with de facto regeneration. The BIST replaced the BEST (Biblical Evidence of Salvation Test) for a number of reasons having to do with the unpopularity of examining seekers for evidence of regeneration in the Gilded Age when even salvation was seen as working by mechanical laws and rules (as apposed to Biblical laws and rules of holiness and relationship with a holy God who HAD NEVER BEFORE forgiven someone without making them holy). Three hundred years of Evangelical theology and practice based on the Biblical view that when God saves man, he instantly changes his character was gradually abandoned after the Civil War. The evidence of the instant change of character was called "religious affections" in the First Great Awakening, "disinterested benevolence" in the Second Great Awakening and an abstract version of "disinterested benevolence" in the Third Great Awakening (just before the Civil War). But now looking for evidence seemed embarrassing, as if God was not as definite as his Word (which after the Civil War was starting to be seen as a collection of salvation formulas), so the abstract version of disinterested benevolence was gradual replaced by bare faith belief in scriptures - hence the BIST method. This eliminated the need of supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the evidence of a supernaturally changed heart was rendered superfluous.
Incidentally, for students of evangelical history, the evolution of disinterested benevolence from experiential to legal (theologians use the word "forensic") is the reason there has not been a Fourth, Fifth or Sixth Great Awakening. It's been over 150 years since the last Great Awakening, while Great Awakenings happened every 50 years before then. After the Civil War, disinterested benevolence became mental assent to the abstract idea of God's decrees without regard for the actual decrees which are inexorably tied to a belief (actually, belief is not the right word, acceptance of a PERSONAL REVELATION FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT) of predetermination as the way things work (see Hopkins for an explanation of the New Light Calvinist decision for Christ). Predetermination (as a theological basis for explaining salvation) had become so odious to Calvinists (including Old Light Calvinists, many whom became Deists or Universalists) that salvation was no longer associated with predetermination, which of course, was the ENTIRE BASIS OF A SUCESSFUL NEW LIGHT CALVINIST DECISION FOR CHRIST. The New Light Calvinist decision for Christ without revelation understanding of predetermination was an empty shell of its former self - the empty space was filled with abstract disinterested benevolence, which is bare faith belief in salvation scriptures without revelation from the Holy Spirit. The Arminians had nothing to do with this evolutionary process. That is why it was fifth generation New Light Calvinists that Spurgeon fought in the Downgrade, not Arminians. The Arminians continued their six month probation period for seekers that made a decision for Christ and did not associate acceptance of salvation scriptures with "saving faith" with de facto regeneration.
Modern follow-up studies show that less than 10% of people who make decisions for Christ are regenerated and filled with the Holy Spirit. And yet 100% are told that they are saved and despite all Biblical evidence to the contrary, they are told to not doubt their salvation. IT IS OBVIOUS WHY THERE HAVE BEEN NO GREAT AWAKENINGS SINCE THE CIVIL WAR - GOD HAS ALLOWED OUR THEOLOGY TO EVOLVE TO THE POINT WE NO LONGER REQUIRE REGENERATION AND THE INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The First and Second Great Awakening (and to a lesser extent, the Third Great Awakening) questioned the salvation of church members that were not born again. The "ye must be born again" "altar calls" of ministers before the Civil War were ALWAYS EXPERIENCIAL, NOT LEGAL AS IT IS TODAY. THE FOUNDATIONAL MEANING OF "EVANGELICAL SALVATION " WAS ALWAYS EXPERIENCIAL BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR. BUT TODAY, "EVANGELICAL SALVATION" IS NO DIFFERENT FROM THE IMPLICIT FAITH SALVATION OF NOMINAL CHRISTIANITY OR THE "BARE FAITH" CHRISTIANITY OF THE CAMPBELLITES . As long as "born again" meant regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, a Great Awakening was possible. Today, because a majority of evangelical ministers promote decisional regeneration, another Great Awakening is impossible. The Pentecostal Movement and Charismatic Renewal Movement did not question the validity of decisional regeneration, but only offered a holiness addition to decisional regeneration. As long as decisional regeneration is not challenged by a majority of Evangelicals, no Great Awakening can happen. If God convicts a majority of Evangelical ministers that decisional regeneration is heresy, the inevitable result, by the grace of God, will probably be called a "Great Awakening".
Before the Civil War, seekers who came to the Inquiry Room were treated like hardened criminals in need of sound advice. Even the most delicate young people were told that their unregenerate hearts made them evil and they were headed to hell. Ministers thought of themselves as doctors being led of the Holy Spirit to cure the source of sin and not just treat the symptoms. After the Civil War, seekers who came to the Inquiry Room were treated was more like wayward children than hardened criminals. You could call it the feminization of evangelism. The cultural influence of science, socialism and psychology made ministers into sympathetic mothers that overlooked the faults of their children who had lost their way. Before the Civil War, sinners were morally depraved enemies of God. After the Civil War, sinners were just confused children that needed to believe that God loved them.
The American Civil War has a definite affect on the Christian worldview of Americans. Over a million Christians died fighting each other saying “God is on our side”. The people left standing had to accept the fact that God works in mysterious ways. Evangelical ministers were less confident in their judging the motives of the heart in the Inquiry Room. The condition of the heart became less an issue than illumination of the understanding. It was as if ministers no longer cared to diagnose the heart and just wanted to give out salvation scriptures like pills that mask the symptoms.
Before the Civil War, the purpose of the inquiry room was to help seekers who professed common faith in Christ become possessors of saving faith in Christ by supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But after the Civil War, the purpose of the inquiry room was to help seekers become professors of common faith and hope it was saving faith. Common faith was given by having seekers acknowledge scriptures as true. This is how the faith in salvation scriptures gradually replaced faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the focus of faith. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ had been inexorably linked to regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But after the Civil War, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was no longer linked to regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. All that was required was belief in scriptures that explained Christ and salvation.
Before the Civil War, Protestant denominations competed with each other. After the Civil War, Protestant denominations had to compete with science, socialism and psychology. Liberalism and worldliness became more popular and evangelism had to adapt to the times. The change happened in the same way a performance of Hamlet might change. If the reaction to the way an actor said “to be or not to be, that is the question” was favorable, the actor would use the same inflection the next night. In fact, every aspect of the play would evolve over a period of time to get the best response from the audience. When D. L. Moody started emphasizing the Love of God as the reason for coming to the Inquiry Room, the numbers increased. When seekers were asked to repeat salvation scriptures, they were more likely to believe they were saved. This was the age of unprecedented human advances in every way, so it was only natural that evangelism should also advance, and if it meant giving up an unpopular view of salvation by regeneration, so be it. This was how gradually saving faith replaced regeneration as the goal of the inquiry room
A confidence based on the effectiveness of salvation scriptures slowly developed, which was in reality a confidence in human nature that will grab onto whatever is handy as the focus of faith. Ministers before the Civil War had warned that seekers would use any device to avoid repentance and submission to God. After the Civil War, ministers were more likely to offer sympathy and a scripture than tell the seeker to repent and stop playing games with God.
The downgrade of theology at the end of the nineteenth century saw evangelicals struggling to hold back the overwhelming influence of science, socialism and psychology by promoting a version of John Locke’s reasonable Christianity – Locke did not believe in original sin and moral depravity and promoted a salvation that did not involve supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Locke knew he was going against more than 1600 years of orthodoxy when he wrote in The reasonableness of Christianity. “it will be objected by some, that to believe only that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, is but an historical, and not a justifying, or saving faith”.
Since 1700, Locke’s reasonable Christianity was promoted by the faithless, the worldly ministers, the liberal theologians, the universalists and even the deists. But in the 1830’s Alexander Campbell used a version of Locke’s implicit faith to lure Baptists away from orthodoxy into what he called his restoration church, or Disciples of Christ. He promoted implicit faith just like the Catholics when he said baptism was a sign of saving faith and denied the need of supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is tragic that the same denominations that called Campbellism a heresy before the Civil War, gradually adopted a simpler version of it without the need of baptism after the Civil War.
Downgrade salvation was scientific because it conformed to Locke’s empirical standards. The majority of books written for workers in the Inquiry Room resisted the bare faith approach, calling it a "mere empirical" method. That method, which I call the BIST (Belief In Scripture Test) method promoted the Enlightenment view of God as at least as reasonable as man. Therefore, when He said in His word, "repent and have faith", it must be what the common man calls repent and have faith.
Downgrade salvation is empirical, that is to say, if a person believes a salvation scripture, that is considered saving faith. No change of heart, no emotions, no feelings, no religious affections needed or wanted.
By 1875, enthusiasm overcame accuracy, conversion was confused with the willingness to obey ministers, saving faith was confused with believing salvation scriptures. If a seeker was willing to do what they thought Christ asked of them to do, or if a seeker had faith that Christ died for their sins, they could be counted as a “convert”. Of course, when you removed the Person of Christ from the transaction, you are left with an unsaved person who despite his profession had an unregenerate heart and no indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This was not a problem unless the seeker stopped seeking God because he was given the impression by a destructive Inquiry Room worker that he was now saved. Often, at meetings where seats were “sold out”, special tickets were given to recent converts who when asked to acknowledge their presence, declined to do so. So you see, after the Civil War, the machine mentality, the empiric method of making converts slowly evolved into a “don’t ask, don’t tell” system of false conversion.
There is much dishonesty in offering salvation to a person unless salvation is presented as regeneration. Willingness in itself is not saving faith. Willingness to stand up or raise the hand or go forward in an altar call or going to an Inquiry Room are nothing in themselves. Unless the minister clearly tells the seeker that regeneration is the goal, he will naturally assumes that doing that thing is somehow a test of saving faith. The Protestant seeker will think he is saved because he has implicit faith for the same reason the Catholic seeker thinks he is saved because he has implicit faith.
Here is an example of the BIST method used by an ungifted worker in one of Moody's Inquiry Rooms. Has Moody read this letter to The Christian Magazine in 1875 (page 113), he probably would have barred this man from ever working in his Inquiry Room again.
"IN THE INQUIRY ROOM, BIRMINGHAM.
Dear sir, - It was my high and happy privilige to lead many to the feet of Jesus, and get them to look off unto Him, and amongt them these. The first evening I was there I went with my Bible under my arm into the gallery, and there at the end of the row of chairs sat a young man who, from his respectable appearance, evidently moved in good society. He looked dejected and anxious. I took my seat by his side, and looking into his face, said-
"Well, friend, are you saved?"