Easy believism is a somewhat derogatory term used by opponents of the view that one needs only to believe in Jesus in order to be saved. From this they conclude that those who hold to sola fide (“faith alone”) teach that no corresponding need exists for a committed life of Christian discipleship as proof of salvation; however, that is not what sola fide means. True faith in Christ will always lead to a changed life. Another common usage of the term easy believism is in regards to those who believe they’re saved because they prayed a prayer—with no real conviction of sin and no real faith in Christ. Praying a prayer is easy—thus the term easy believism—but there is more to salvation than mouthing words.
Much of the debate over easy believism is unnecessary and is based on a misunderstanding of the Scriptures. The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The essence of this doctrine is found in Ephesians 2:8–9: “For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” So we see that faith, given as a gift by God, is what saves us. But the next verse tells of the results of that salvation: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Rather than being saved by some easy act of our own wills, we are saved by the hand of God Almighty, by His will and for His use. We are His servants, and from the moment of salvation by faith, we embark on a journey of pre-ordained good works that are the evidence of that salvation. If there is no evidence of growth and good works, we have reason to doubt that salvation ever truly took place. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20), and a dead faith is not a saving faith.
“Faith alone” does not mean that some believers follow Christ in a life of discipleship, while others do not. The concept of the “carnal Christian,” as a separate category of non-spiritual believer, is completely unscriptural. The idea of the carnal Christian says that a person may receive Christ as Savior during a religious experience but never manifest evidence of a changed life. This is a false and dangerous teaching in that it excuses various ungodly lifestyles: a man may be an unrepentant adulterer, liar, or thief, but he’s “saved” because he prayed a prayer as a child; he’s just a “carnal Christian.” The Bible nowhere supports the idea that a true Christian can remain carnal for an entire lifetime. Rather, God’s Word presents only two categories of people: Christians and non-Christians, believers and unbelievers, those who have bowed to the Lordship of Christ and those who have not (see John 3:36; Romans 6:17–18; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:18–24; Ephesians 2:1–5; 1 John 1:5–7; 2:3–4).
While the security of salvation is a biblical fact based upon the finished work of salvation by Christ, it is certainly true that some of those who seemed to have “made a decision” or “accepted Christ” may not genuinely be saved. As noted before, true salvation is not so much our accepting Christ as it is His accepting us. We are saved by the power of God for the purpose of God, and that purpose includes the works that give evidence of our conversion. Those who continue to walk according to the flesh are not believers (Romans 8:5–8). This is why Paul exhorts us to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). The “carnal” Christian who examines himself will soon see that he/she is not in the faith.
James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” The type of “belief” demons have can be compared to the intellectual assent made by those who “believe” in Jesus in the fact that He exists or that He was a good person. Many unbelievers say, “I believe in God” or “I believe in Jesus”; others say, “I prayed a prayer, and the preacher said I was saved.” But such prayers and such belief do not necessarily signal a change of heart. The problem is a misunderstanding of the word believe. With true salvation comes genuine repentance and real life change. Second Corinthians 5:17 says that those who are in Christ are a “new creation.” Is it possible that the new person Christ creates is one who continues to walk in the carnality of the flesh? No.
Salvation is certainly free, but, at the same time, it costs us everything. We are to die to ourselves as we change into the likeness of Christ. Where easy believism fails is its lack of recognition that a person with faith in Jesus will lead a progressively changed life. Salvation is a free gift from God to those who believe, but discipleship and obedience are the response that will no doubt occur when one truly comes to Christ in faith.