Saturday, June 30, 2007

the black button

This video makes me think about how we use cognitive decision making in religious endeavors (I mean: making the mental decision the most important part of our faith).

The reality is that we are rarely faced with momentous decisions like the variety that this video suggests.
The 'snap' theory (the idea that people just one day snap and do terrible horrible things) is not supported at all in any field of study.
People make big - life changing - decisions all the time but they are rarely if ever made 'right-out-of-the-blue'. Whether it's deciding to get married, buy a car, change jobs, or lose weight - all these decisions are made with a truck load of background support. It's the same way with sin. We are never faced with these monumental temptations that overwhelm us into commiting these horrible things.
What is interesting is how we pressure (maybe this is especially in the past) people into deciding to follow Christ (accept the plan of salvation). If we realize that a momentous decision requires so much support in order to make. How can we actually think that a one time response at an alter call or other similar occasion is really meaningful in the grand scheme of things?
I think that changes how we approach these 'talks' or sermons. I think we need to remember to challenge people to consider the opportunity to make a decision but be careful not to make it so trite that we think an entire life can be magically reversed with one simple prayer or raising of a hand...


jerlight said...

Thought provoking... I am not a fan of the trite, altar call, walk the aisle experience if it stands alone. However, I don't think we can negate the valid salvation experiences of so many who responded to an altar call of some sort. I also think that we can't view those "instant, one time" decisions outside of the process (the people making those instantaneous decisions are doing so based on the experiences, relationships, information, etc. they have acquired in their past). I think we err when we think that there's been no spiritual preperation taking place before this seemingly snap decision. Perhaps it's not so much that they snap but that something finally clicks into place.

Outgoing... said...

i hear you jer
and you're right - and my comments really don't account for that.
And to be honest I have used 'alter' calls in my 'ministry' because i believe that humans are built around decision making experiences. This also does not come through in my comments here.
I guess what I would hope is that for every momentous decision made in the throws of passion that we can teach the importance of making equally significant decisions daily that honor our desire to follow Christ.
I think the frustration that I feel in this area stems from how I see us using these alter call experiences as end point of a salvation journey instead of the precursor to an authentic commitment borne out in the lives of individuals. And that is saying nothing about the emotional manipulation that often accompanies these sorts of 'calls'.
to me its sorta like getting a new car. To me the big talk and response thing is like going to the show room and having a saleperson help you select the right car for you to drive. You can get convinced to buy a car but you still can't drive it. Driving that car requires alot of less glamorous and emotionally charged decisions - going to the bank, signing the documents, negotiating price, warranty, buying insurance, and even buying your first tank of gas. Keeping that car on the road means you have to make alot of decisions every time you climb behind the wheel. And in my view the 'decision' about which car to drive sorta loses importance in the long run compared to the other more mundane decisions that have to accompany that first one.
After we have purchased a vehicle or two we soon are jaded to the 'big' decision and focus more on asking about gas mileage, accident history, whether its been smoked in - you know the things that matter 6 months dow the road. I think it would be better if we apprached becoming a Christian more like that. It would be better if we talked about the pratical commitment of following Christ daily - instead of making it about getting saved.

jerlight said...

i'm reading your mail! i agree completely.

roverT said...

I couldn't agree more, Dale! We emphasize the decision so much (which is a significant decision) but we don't emphasize what the decision means, daily, in practical ways. Whenever I have done those "altar" calls lately I try to emphasize that part of it as much as possible, but how do you do that in a way that makes sense to someone who has not "bought a car" before? Is it just education or is experience necessary? Can you experience without making the decision?

Outgoing... said...

right jer
I thought I could smell some E-Free fingers in my mailbox - hehe!
I think there is alot of tension that we need to hold in this. And as 'purveyors of the Gospel' we would do well to take that tension seriously...
You know Trev good question...
I wonder if we need to start thinking about 'the decision' as being a whole lot later in the process than we have considered it till now. Almost like a there should be a preparatory time period that perhaps culminates in some sort of symbolic act (er uhm baptism). Help people understand the full ramifications of following Christ by getting them to start following before they join the club - kinda thing. I don't know what do you think?