by Matt Slick
"Easy believism" is a derogatory label used by some people to describe one or two different "ways" of becoming a Christian. First is the notion that nothing more is necessary for salvation than an intellectual acknowledgment of God's work on the cross, accompanied by a verbal appeal to be saved. This "formula for salvation" is often coupled with the accusation that it is then okay to go out and live a sinful life without any good works since a person has said "The Sinner's Prayer" and is now saved no matter what. Second, the other sense in which the term is used is when describing the idea of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, where no works are necessary to obtain salvation.
In the sense of the first definition we say that "easy believism" is false. In the sense of the second definition we say that "easy believism" is true. Let's elaborate.
First of all, salvation is not merely an intellectual assent and verbal declaration of Christ as savior. Even the demons believe that God exists (James 2:19). Our faith in God is not ascentia; that is, mere intellectual acknowledgment. Instead it is fiducia, a faithful trust. The first sense has no heart, no commitment to God, and is ultimately without God. Therefore, it is an empty belief, has no power, does not change the person (2 Cor. 5:17; John 3:3), and bears no godly fruit (Gal. 5:22). When we are truly saved, we want to follow Christ (John 10:27-28). That is why 1 John 2:4 says, "The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." Obviously, Christians are called to obey Christ, not live in in sin. Rom. 6:1-2, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" So, in this sense of "easy believism," we would agree that it is false since it negates the need of repentance and holiness (1 Peter 1:16).
Salvation is easy
Second, salvation is indeed easy. All we have to do is believe and be saved. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and no works are necessary either to obtain or maintain salvation. That is not to say that good works and repentance from sin don't exist in the Christian life, but they exist because we are saved, not in order to become saved. Let's take a look at scripture.
- Luke 18:13-14, "But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
- Acts 16:31, "and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.”"
- Romans 3:28, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law."
- Romans 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness."
- Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
- Galatians 2:16, "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified."
- Philippians 3:9, "and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith."
Is it easy to believe and be saved? Well...yes, it is. But this is true belief, not false belief.
Is easy believism a license to sin?
No, being saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and that without works, is not a license to sin. Quite the contrary. In true biblical salvation there is also the necessary experience of regeneration that goes along with salvation. Regeneration is the work of God where he changes the person from being enslaved to sin to serving God, from being dead in his sins to alive in Christ, from not being indwelt by God to being indwelt by God. This is what it means to be born again (John 3:3) and to be a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
So, when people accuse Christians who affirm that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as a license to go out and sin, they are misrepresenting the position and bearing false witness against it. Furthermore, they are ignoring the fact that true Christians are also regenerate which motivates them to stop sinning, to war against their sin, and to honor God.