Salvation And End-Times Apostasy

(August 3, 2011- from David Cloud at Way of Life (

A fundamental reason why so many professing Christians are embracing the false god of end-times apostasy (e.g., the non-judgmental, no-obligations god of The Shack) is the absence of biblical salvation.

A genuine experience of salvation is foundational to spiritual protection, because it is impossible to understand the truth properly apart from the new birth.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Further, those who are not saved are still under the power of the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:1-2). It is only the truly regenerate individual who can claim the precious promise of 1 John 4:4, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

Yet confusion about salvation is rampant.

I began to understand this many decades ago when I sat in the office of the head of the Bible Society in Calcutta, India, and talked with him about salvation. I told him how I was converted at age 23, and then I asked, “How were you saved?” He sort of chuckled and said, “I’m a third generation Christian.”

According to Scripture, there is no such thing. Jesus said that each individual must be born again. I can’t go to heaven on the coattails of the faith of my parents or grandparents.

On that same trip to India I sat in the office of the head of the theological seminary at Serampore University. When I asked him how a person becomes a Christian he replied: “There are a number of ways. You can be born into a Christian home; you can be baptized; you can be catechized; you can have a conversion experience.”

A few years ago I attended Rick Warren’s church in California and as I was waiting for the service to begin I talked to the man sitting next to me. I asked if he was a member of the church, and he said yes. I then asked when he was born again, and he replied that he had always been a Christian.

Again, that is not possible.

Consider the Charismatic Movement

Consider the charismatic movement with its radical ecumenism. While there are saved people in the movement, there are countless people who are not saved. They have had an emotional mystical experience of some sort; they have prayed a prayer and been “baptized by the Spirit”; they have fallen down, spoken in tongues, danced, been captivated by powerful music. But they haven’t repented of their sin and put their complete trust in the once for all atonement of Jesus Christ. At the massive New Orleans ’87 conference, which had roughly 35,000 attendees, half of the people raised their hands one evening to indicate that they didn’t know for sure if they were saved, and this was after these same people had spent two or three days in enthusiastic charismatic worship.

At a press conference the next day, Dennis Costella of Foundation magazine asked why the conference didn’t address the matter of salvation plainly and publicly in order to clear up the obvious confusion. A Pentecostal leader replied, “We don’t have time for that.” The more honest answer would have been as follows:

“We are a mixed multitude and there is widespread confusion about salvation in our midst. This conference represents 40 different denominations, and we have different ideas about the gospel itself. Our Catholic brethren have one idea and our Lutheran brethren another and there are differences of opinion even among us Pentecostals. In the context of the ecumenical aspect of the charismatic movement, some believe baptism is necessary for salvation; some believe you can’t be saved without tongues; some believe baptism regenerates; some believe cooing infants can be saved; some believe salvation must be nurtured through sacraments; some believe you can lose your salvation; some believe salvation is a mere sinner’s prayer; some believe in ‘Four Spiritual Laws,’ etc. So it is impossible to be doctrinally precise on that or practically any other issue and still keep our unity. As you know, doctrine divides; love unites, and love is what really matters. We can’t judge someone else, you know.”

That is the situation that exists within the broad worldwide charismatic movement.

Consider the Emerging Church

There is the same problem in the emerging church. In my research into the emerging church I have been amazed at the widespread confusion about the issue of salvation itself.

In fact, Brian McLaren, one of the most prominent names in the movement, says:

“I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet. What does it mean to be ‘saved’? When I read the Bible, I don’t see it meaning, ‘I’m going to heaven after I die.’ Before modern evangelicalism nobody accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, or walked down an aisle, or said the sinner’s prayer. I don’t think the liberals have it right. But I don’t think we have it right either. None of us has arrived at orthodoxy” (“The Emergent Mystique,” Christianity Today, Nov. 2004, p. 40).

In fact, it is rare to find a clear biblical testimony of salvation in the writings of emerging church leaders.

Scot McKnight says that “conversion” can be through liturgy (referring to sacraments such as baptism), or through socialization (growing up in a Christian home), or through personal decisional faith in Christ (Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels).

This statement reflects a deep confusion about salvation.

Robert Webber, who grew up in a Baptist pastor’s home, argued that salvation does not have to be a dramatic conversion experience and admitted that he didn’t have such an experience. He said that repentance “can have a dramatic beginning or can come as a result of a process over time” (The Divine Embrace, p. 149). He saw salvation as a sacramental process that begins at baptism, and this is one reason why he left the Baptists and joined the Episcopalians and was also perfectly comfortable with Roman Catholicism.

Tony Campolo has a similar testimony. In Letters to a Young Evangelical Campolo described his own experience in the following words:

When I was a boy growing up in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in West Philadelphia, MY MOTHER, a convert to Evangelical Christianity from a Catholic Italian immigrant family, HOPED I WOULD HAVE ONE OF THOSE DRAMATIC ‘BORN-AGAIN’ EXPERIENCES. That was the way she had come into a personal relationship with Christ. She took me to hear one evangelist after another, praying that I would go to the altar and come away ‘converted.’ BUT IT NEVER WORKED FOR ME. I would go down the aisle as the people around me sang ‘the invitation hymn,’ but I just didn’t feel as if anything happened to me. For a while I despaired, wondering if I would ever get ‘saved.’ It took me quite some time to realize that entering into a personal relationship with Christ DOES NOT ALWAYS HAPPEN THAT WAY. …

In my case INTIMACY WITH CHRIST WAS DEVELOPED GRADUALLY OVER THE YEARS, primarily through what Catholic mystics call ‘centering prayer.’ Each morning, as soon as I wake up, I take time–sometimes as much as a half hour–to center myself on Jesus. I say his name over and over again to drive back the 101 things that begin to clutter up my mind the minute I open my eyes. Jesus is my mantra, as some would say. …

I LEARNED ABOUT THIS WAY OF HAVING A BORN-AGAIN EXPERIENCE FROM READING THE CATHOLIC MYSTICS, especially The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (Letters to a Young Evangelical, 2006, pp. 25, 26, 30).

This is very frightful testimony. Campolo does not have a biblical testimony of salvation. He plainly admits that he is not “born again” in the way that his mother was, through a biblical-style conversion. Instead, he describes his “intimacy with Christ” as something that has developed gradually through the practice of Catholic mysticism.

For one thing, this is to confuse the issue of salvation with that of spiritual growth. All of the conversions that are recorded in the New Testament are of the instantaneous, dramatic variety. We think of the woman at the well (John 4), Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), Paul (Acts 9), Cornelius (Acts 10), Lydia (Acts 16), and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16), to name a few. The Lord Jesus Christ said that salvation is a birth (John 3:3). That is not a gradual thing that happens throughout one’s life; it is an event!

Further, Catholic mysticism itself is deeply unscriptural. Jesus forbad repetitious prayers (Mat. 6:7). He taught us to pray in a verbal, conscious manner, talking with God as with a Father, addressing God the Father external to us, not searching for a mystical oneness with God in the center of our being through meditation (Mat. 6:9-13). The Catholic mystics did not have a biblical testimony of salvation. They trusted in Christ PLUS baptism and the other Catholic sacraments, which is a false gospel.

Jim Wallis, one of the most influential of emergents, defines “born again” as follows:

“Being born again was not meant to be a private religious experience that is hard to communicate … but rather the prerequisite for joining a new and very public movement – the Jesus and kingdom of God movement” (The Great Awakening, p. 60).

Wallis claims that salvation isn’t a personal religious experience, but that is exactly what it was in the case of the salvations recorded in the New Testament.

The book Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger contains the testimonies of about 50 emerging church leaders in Appendix A, and only a couple of them even come close to a biblical testimony. Some of them don’t mention a personal salvation testimony, merely saying that they grew up in some type of church.

And remember that these are emerging church LEADERS.

Ben Edson of Sanctus1 in Manchester, England, says:

“After a painful breakup with my girlfriend, I gave God another chance. I cried out to God at my point of need, and God met me in a profound and life-changing way” (p. 266).

Is salvation a matter of giving God a chance, of God meeting my needs and having a “profound” experience of some sort? Many people have life-changing experiences through psychology, 12-Step programs, New Age mysticism, and goddess worship.

Kester Brewin of Vaux in London, England, said:

“I can point to a Billy Graham rally in 1984 as a conversion, but that was really more of a moment of STRENGTHENING A FAITH THAT HAD ALWAYS been there” (Emerging Churches, 2005, p. 248).

Ephesians 2:1-2 says there is a time before salvation and a time after salvation. Before salvation we are dead in trespasses and sins and controlled by the devil. After salvation we have new life in Christ and belong to God. It is sometimes the case with a child who grows up in church that he does not remember the exact time that he put his faith in Christ, but true salvation is always a life-changing event and one should never say that he has always had faith.

David Cloud
(for the complete article, got to:    (


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4 responses to “Salvation And End-Times Apostasy

  1. To be honest, Manny, this is one of the reasons why I don’t like altar calls. Altar calls can give a false sense of salvation by putting too much emphasis on the external act of “coming forward” rather than the internal regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a little irritating to me for a pastor giving an altar call to act as if somehow God is impotent or deaf to anybody not at the front of the church.

    In addition, altar calls often play on people’s emotions and sensations in order to prod people into moving down the aisle, when in truth those people are simply making a spurious profession of faith based upon a feeling, rather than really receiving a posession of true saving faith. They are like the shallow ground in Jesus’ parable of the sower: emotionally engaged, but lacking any real root.

    The greatest evangelists of history-Wesley, Whitfield, and Edwards-didn’t need or use altar calls, yet they had abundant and lasting conversions. They knew that conversion was the work of God (yes, even Wesley believed this), and preached as such. We need that sort of a gospel again in churches. Not one that plays on man’s emotionally evoking techniques, but one based on the preaching of the Word, and preaching the gospel in particular.

  2. Manny:

    A missionary friend of mine had a saying that was so simple and yet so profound involving the Christian’s life style. He said: “God will not do what you can do and you cannot do what God can do.” The wise person will know the difference to when each apply to its particular situation.

    Example; Unlike many of the emergents, who are confused about salvation as your article points out, the wise sinner will know they can’t save them self because they can’t do what only God can do. By the same token God will not confess one’s sins for them because God can’t do what only they can do.

    Enterthevein made some valid points of error that might be found in some altar calls. However, I must respectfully disagree in general and believe that altar calls are important. The difference could be the motive of the one giving the altar call. Some pastors may feel that their message was a failure and is a reflection upon them if an altar call is given and no one comes; therefore, they use emotions or some other means of a guilt trip to get people to respond. If the altar call is given under the influence of the Holy Spirt, even if no one comes, the message, the altar call is valid and not a failure. Remember what the missionary said.

    Personally the night I got saved, i wished the pastor had given an altar call it would have given me the support I needed that night in giving my heart to the Lord. The next day i asked the pastor to pray with me for the reassurance I needed for what took place the night before. At the altar of our Church God gave me Matthew [28:20b] “Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” That was my confirmation, and you can imagine how thrilled I was when I actually read this passage for the first time in Matthew.

  3. Interesting that the two previous comments disagree, in part, about the need for or the effectiveness of altar calls. Yet both men are saved Christians. To me, it points out how God deals with each of us ‘in our own language and culture’ to reveal Himself to us and to bring us to a saving knowledge of Himself.

    Back on point: Several months ago, I asked the question “what is the central message or theme of the bible” on the Concerned Christians web/blog site. I was mildly suprised at the lack of succinct replies and curious about the wide sprectrum of ideas.

    What was I expecting? JESUS. His MESSAGE. From Genesis to Revelation.

    Yes, there is confusion enough to go around. The Gosple is a simple enough message for the average man or woman to understand and be saved. God so loved the world that He gave His own Son, that whoever would believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

    Simple. Powerful. Effective.

  4. I understand both comments as well- I think. My current pastor does not necessarily do an altar call in the traditional sense. Every single sermon he preaches- regardless of the topic- ends with a tie-in to the need for repentance from sin and the need for salvation. When he occasionally asks me to speak on something, he reminds me to make sure at the end, that I do the same thing. There are some Sundays where every single person in the church is probably born again, based on their testimony. Yet he always makes sure the message of repentance from sin is clarified at the end and the exhortation to come to repentance.
    Just the plain gospel presented at the end, and an exhortation to heed the Lord’s call if God has revealed the truth.

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