Saturday, December 31, 2022

Emotional manipulation

I found that “'Finney with a Twist': Elder Jacob Knapp and the Origins of Baptist Revivalism" explained the origin of practices I experienced in "revival meetings" over many years: repeated exhortations to commit, come forward, and accept salvation — the "altar call." The implication here, I think, is that such practices aren't entirely consistent with "believer's baptism." Knapp explained “The Utility of Anxious-Seats":
... He explains how at multiple points in the service he would give an invitation for the members of the audience to take their seats in the pews at the front of the room dubbed “the anxious bench” or “the anxious seat.” For Knapp, this was the key to a successful revival. First, it challenged the sinner to take a stand. Second, it required a public committal, making it nearly impossible for the sinner to backtrack once he had taken the first step. As Knapp writes, “It is more dishonorable and more mortifying to go back than it is to go forward.” Hence, “The more obstacles that can be put in the way of receding the better. … All the barriers that can be put in the way of the anxious, to prevent their going back, should be piled up behind them.” Third, it was a convenient way of making a public acknowledgement of our need of Christ. Fourth, the effect of seeing others go forward encouraged others to follow. “Thus,” Knapp writes, “one can be the means of bringing others to a right decision by the force of example.” Fifth, by this means, ministers were able to immediately ascertain the success of their labors. All this and more can be accomplished by admonishing sinners to take specially designated seats in the front.

At the conclusion of the service, those seated in the “anxious seats,” would follow Knapp to an “inquiry meeting,” sometimes called the “anxious room.” (Knapp’s critics called them the “finishing-off-room.”) At this meeting, Knapp focused less on giving “instructions to the anxious” and more on urging an “immediate decision—an instantaneous repentance, and faith in the Lord Jesus.” He writes, “I get all on their knees, and set them to crying to God (both saints and sinners), till he sends down salvation.”

Not unlike Finney, for Knapp the “anxious room” was a place to urge sinners to immediately profess faith in Christ. Whereas “thirty-five or forty years ago,” Knapp wrote, “Baptists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists would tell inquirers to go home, read their Bibles, reflect upon their condition, look within, dig deep, and be not deceived,” Finney had introduced a more effective technique. As Knapp reflected, such “methods of introspection” often failed to result in conversion. Instead, Knapp called for “an immediate surrender of their hearts to God” and insisted on “the exercise of faith and repentance on the spot” as a matter of obedience. ....

There’s no question that revivalism is alive and well in Baptist churches today. .... Knapp’s adaptation of and expansion upon Finney’s “new measures” had lasting implications on the religious life and practices of Baptists in America.

Pastors need to understand that a change occurred among American Baptists in the nineteenth century, one that continues apace to this day. This change has shaped our intuitions about conversion, membership, baptism, and what it means to practice regenerate church membership. We live in a world infused with revivalistic intuitions and institutional practices that unintentionally undermine what it even means to be a Baptist church. .... (I am responsible for the bold emphases above, JS)
Caleb Morell, “'Finney with a Twist': Elder Jacob Knapp and the Origins of Baptist Revivalism," 9Marks, June 14, 2022.

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