After Martin Luther’s reformed movement in which he declared the deadly “works” instituted by the Roman Catholic church such actions as confession to a Priest, keeping all the sacraments, indulgences, purgatory and declaring Mary the Mother of Jesus as being divine that the Roman Catholic church and indeed “added” to the Truth of Jesus and Jesus alone saves and that a human can bring nothing to the table to earn or merit God’s indescribable Grace and Mercy.
The Reformed Church however, drifted in their theology and doctrine such as infant baptism and declared they were basically “in” as far as heaven goes. As well as some other rituals that are not based in being saved by Christ alone.
Years later the western American Church kept a more Biblical accuracy in Salvation being in and through Jesus alone. Not baptism, not church attendance (although it was expected, and people were shamed for not going to church.)
The biggest mistake that the Church of the 19th and 20th century made was what is called “Decisionism.” The fact that someone could walk down an aisle in church and pray the sinner’s “prayer” and that was it they were “IN” so to speak.
This preceded a huge non-effectual Salvation in that people did those “symbolic works”, but they missed out or did not allow their heart/life to be transformed by the Gospel of Jesus. They were NOT born again, and it caused a lot of guilt, shame and more than half of those were children and later completely rebelled and walked away from it all.
Decisionism happened to me. I am a Pastor’s daughter so at age 5 I felt conviction in my heart that I needed Jesus. I believed in who he was, yet the transformation did not take hold as it should. I just really didn’t understand yet the weight of sin and what it cost God the Father. It was quite a journey, but He was faithful through His Word and the Holy Spirit to finally break through to me that this regeneration was about breaking God’s heart and him giving me a new heart. It was about following Him and reading His Word because I wanted to. I wanted to know his voice and I wanted to have him call me his own and that is exactly what he did.