Walk the Aisle from christianitytoday.com

Walk the Aisle | Christian History

Story Behind
Walk the Aisle
Popularized by frontier camp meetings and Charles Finney’s “anxious bench,” the altar call became an evangelistic staple of American churches.
Douglas A. Sweeney and Mark C. Rogers

Walk the Aisle

The pastor closes his sermon: “The Holy Spirit bids you come. The congregation, praying, hoping, expectant, bids you come. On the first note of the first stanza, come down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles. May angels attend you. May the Holy Spirit of God encourage you. May the presence of Jesus walk by your side as you come, while we stand and while we sing.” And come they do. Week after week, in churches all across the America—and other parts of the world—scenes like this play out at the end of thousands of sermons. The congregation stands and sings “Just As I Am” or “Come Just as You Are.” Sinners walk the aisle and pray for salvation.

This common evangelistic method, known as the altar call or the public invitation, has not always been around. Successful evangelists such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley never gave an altar call. In fact, they did not even know what it was. They invited their hearers passionately to come to Christ by faith and regularly counseled anxious sinners after their services. But they did not call sinners to make a public, physical response after evangelistic appeals. So where did the altar call come from? When did it begin?

The Heresy that Wouldn’t Die – Christian History

The Heresy that Wouldn’t Die – Christian History

The Heresy that Wouldn’t Die
Though Gnostic sects faded in the early church, Gnostic ideas have had a long shelf life.
by Philip Jenkins
from Issue 96: The Gnostics Hunger for Secret Knowledge

This world is not my home. As it stands, that statement reflects the views of a great many orthodox Christians, but a Gnostic would take it much further. From a Gnostic perspective, the material world is not just fallen but an utterly flawed creation, beyond redemption. God—or at least, the good, true God—certainly does not work in history. Escape is only available to the small minority who know, who recognize the need for liberation, which lies within. Wisdom, Sophia, is for the spiritual, the elite, and distinguishes them from the gullible herd of humans mired in the material, the victims of cosmic deception. They will remain asleep, while the true Gnostic is awakened.

Gnosticism has never gone away, however much some modern scholars lament the suppression of its hidden gospels in the late Roman Empire. The main themes survived, for instance, in the Jewish tradition of Kabbalah, which explains how the world was created through the fracturing of the vessels into which the divine goodness was poured. In addition to seeking their own mystic ascent to God, believers also pledge themselves to achieving tikkun olam, the restoration of the broken world.

Within Christendom too, the fact that Christian states officially suppressed heresy just drove these ideas beyond the frontiers, into regions like Mesopotamia and Armenia. Gnostic and dualist ideas thrived across large parts of Asia in movements like the Paulicians and the Manichaeans, who taught the children of light how to liberate themselves from the evil god of this world.

Occasionally, these ideas were reimported into Europe, most famously in the Cathar or Albigensian movement, which was suppressed by a near-genocidal crusade in 13th-century France. The Cathars followed the old Gnostic ideas faithfully, offering full salvation to the “perfect” who absolutely renounced the world. These old-new movements relied chiefly on the Christian gospels, interpreting the parables in their own distinctive way. Like the early Gnostics, though, they also wrote their own scriptures, such as the Book of John the Evangelist. (“Then did the Contriver of Evil devise in his mind to make Paradise, and he brought the man and woman into it.”)

Living in a Christian-ruled society, later Gnostics defined themselves against the church and its doctrines, which provided a foil for the truly spiritual. The Cathars rejected the Roman Catholic Church as, literally, the synagogue of Satan. Catholics followed the deluded God who had created the abomination of the world in which we live and whose bloody misdeeds are chronicled in the Old Testament. Ordinary Catholic believers were the sheep, in the sense of being docile, ignorant, and uncomprehending.

Roots Matter – Christian History

Good article from Darrell Bock. Interesting idea. I would like to do/see more research on this topic.

Roots Matter – Christian History

Roots Matter
Defending the faith in today’s cultural climate means not only knowing our Bible but also knowing our history.
by Darrell L. Bock
from Issue 96: The Gnostics Hunger for Secret Knowledge
It used to be that when I taught class and came to Gnosticism, eyes glazed over and clock-watching began. Mentioning Gnostics in church just never happened. The digital age of niche TV and “History Channel” documentaries has changed all that. The Gnostics are making prime time appearances and have agents. I get questions about them constantly.

We are now in a period when it is not enough to know only about the Bible. The apologetics of the past is no longer adequate. Today’s questions involve not only how the Bible came to be, but even if there was originally such a thing as orthodoxy. It is a crucial question. Christians need to know a lot more about the second century. Roots matter, especially in the founding of a movement.

One question often raised is how there could be “orthodoxy” when there was no functioning New Testament until sometime between the late second and the fourth century. Doesn’t this mean that Christianity could and did go in all directions until the canon nailed down doctrine? The claim is that our history is distorted because winners write the history. My reply is that in this case the winners deserved to win, because their faith had a theological rootedness that the Gnostics’ did not.

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