The altar call was an important part of revivalism. Historian Ian Murray argues that this device reflects the theology where man does something and comes to the Lord, as opposed to the Lord having grace and saving a sinner. Murray believes this to be wrong.
Conversion is a collaborative event that involves the actions of both God and the person. God is the One who calls a sinner to Himself, and without His call no one can be saved, altar call or not (John 6:44). However, the person also has responsibility: he needs to admit that he is a sinner, ask forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and turn away from his sins (Ezekiel 18:30-32). The person’s actions are more visible in an altar call, but for the conversion to be real God has to act in the person’s soul.
Thus, an altar call can be a legitimate part of revivalism. Although the action itself does not save, God’s call and the sinner’s reaction are visually portrayed in it, and those do save.
How about you? What is your opinion on the altar call?