The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel. By Dean Inserra. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2019. 203 pp. Paper, $14.99.
I have often said and written that most Evangelicals need evangelizing. So, I agree in principle with Inserra. However, there is a major difference in how he and I identify an Evangelical who is unregenerate.
Inserra identifies unsaved Christians by their failure to live holy lives. The born-again person is self-sacrificing, obedient, and is continually surrendering and submitting to Christ (pp. 38-39). He differentiates between those who admire Jesus and those who are following Him (pp. 38-40). The cultural Christian, the unregenerate church goer, admires Jesus, but does not follow Him faithfully. The born-again Christian follows Christ. Inserra does not discuss how well one must follow Christ to be saved. That opens the door for an inability to be sure of one’s eternal destiny. If one bases his assurance on his lifestyle, then he is looking to himself and not to Christ alone for his salvation.
The Bible, by contrast, identifies the unsaved Christian as a person who identifies himself as a Christian both verbally and by going to church and yet who has never believed in Jesus for everlasting life that cannot be lost (cf. Matt 7:21-23; John 5:39-40; 6:28-29; Gal 1:8-9 [compare 5:4 re. the false teachers]). The issue is a lack of faith in Christ for the salvation He promises, not a lack of commitment, obedience, and perseverance.
Inserra goes so far as to say, “‘Do you want to go to heaven when you die?’” is the wrong question to ask (p. 109). Though he never explicitly tells us what the right question is, he is clear via his repeated calls for the need to follow Christ for a lifetime that the correct question is: Have you decided to follow Christ as His disciple for your lifetime? (pp. 110, 111, 112, 169, 170). He says, for example, “Faith in Christ is costly. Jesus wasn’t looking for crowds but rather a commitment” (p. 111). In the closing part of his chapter on “Making Decisions vs. Making Disciples” (pp. 105-117), Inserra writes, “Make a decision to obey or follow God with an awareness that choosing to do so might be costly” (p. 112). On the previous page he had said that “Faith in Christ is costly.” Why he now says that it might be costly is confusing. But the point is clear. In order to be a saved Christian, one must follow Christ for life.
When discussing false assurance (pp. 63-71), he favorably cites John Stott as saying that “nothing less than this [total commitment] will do” (p. 63). What is “total commitment”? Obviously, one’s commitment cannot be measured, partial or total. Inserra says that one’s commitment is seen in the fruit that a person produces (pp. 67-68). There is truth in that. But since commitment is not the condition of everlasting life or of assurance of everlasting life, Inserra is promoting a basis of assurance that can never produce assurance. In fact, his concluding chapter is entitled: “A Heart Check for Us All: How Do I know I’m Not a Cultural Christian?” (p. 187). He then proceeds to give a checklist that presumably can give us assurance by examining our lives to see if we have “A Life of Repentance” (pp. 188-89), if we are “Eternally Minded” (p. 189), if we believe “Sound Doctrine” (pp. 189-90), if we practice the “Spiritual Disciplines” (p. 190), if we practice “Generosity” (p. 190), if we have a “Heart for the Lost” (pp. 190-91), and if we have “Love for God and His Church” (p. 191).
That is the typical approach that Lordship Salvation people have to assurance. No one could ever be certain of his eternal destiny based on assurance by lifestyle analysis since none of us is perfect.
The way in which a false professor is identified is by what he believes, not by what he does. We are called believers, not behavers.
I do not recommend this book by Inserra for anyone wanting to know the truth. However, I do recommend it for pastors, elders, deacons, and Bible teachers who wish to be able to identify the confusion and error that is so prevalent in our pulpits, Bible colleges, and seminaries today.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society