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What is easy believism?

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Easy believism is a somewhat derogatory term used against the idea that salvation is by faith alone to the extent that those who trust in Christ are under no obligation to live transformed lives. Easy believism is not just holding to sola fide (“faith alone”). Rather, easy believism is a rejection of any degree of repentance or change as a necessary aspect of saving faith.

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 you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV). Faith, given as a gift by God, is what saves us. Ephesians 2:10, then, in contradistinction to easy believism, tells of the results of that salvation: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV). Rather than being saved by some act of our own wills, we are saved by the hand of God Almighty, by His will and for His purposes. We are His servants, and from the moment of salvation, we embark on a journey of pre-ordained good works that are the evidence of, and result of, that salvation. If there is never any evidence of growth and good works, there is good reason to doubt that salvation ever took place.

The problem with easy believism is that, in its desire to defend salvation by faith alone (a vitally needed effort), it severs the biblical ties between faith and repentance and between faith and the results of salvation.

Repentance is a change of mind from an embrace of sin and a rejection of Christ to a rejection of sin and an embrace of Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; 3:18). Repentance is not a work that earns salvation. Repentance, just like faith, is something that God grants to those He has drawn to salvation (Acts 11:18). Repentance and belief/trust are the two ingredients of biblical saving faith.

Faith in Christ, according to the Bible, has an impact on the lives of those who believe. Second Corinthians 5:17 declares, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The idea that the new creation could permanently look exactly like the old creation is foreign to the Bible. How could the creation be new if it is the same as the old? How could the old have passed away if it is still entirely in control? How could the new have come if there is absolutely no evidence of it? When people come to faith in Christ, they progressively go from producing the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19–21) to the Holy Spirit producing in them His fruit (Galatians 5:22–23).

The teaching of God’s Word, discipleship by another believer, regular Christian fellowship, and many other factors have a tremendous impact on how much fruit a believer produces. To say that salvation results in change is not to say that the change always happens automatically or easily or quickly. No, of course, discipleship plays a huge role in spiritual growth and maturity. At the same time, a new creation necessitates change. It is impossible for the life of a believer to continually resemble the life of an unbeliever.

Again, the goal of many of those accused of teaching easy believism is a good one. Salvation by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone must be defended. As with many doctrines of the Christian faith, though, biblical truths can be overemphasized to unbiblical extremes. The idea that God instills a desire to turn from sin and follow Christ in those He is drawing to salvation does not contradict salvation by faith alone. The idea that salvation results in a transformed life that will produce fruit does not contradict salvation by faith alone.

Salvation is “easy” in the sense that God does all the work and simply calls on us to receive the salvation He has provided (John 1:12; 3:16; Acts 16:31). Believing unto salvation is “easy” in that there is not a long or complicated series of actions to perform before salvation will be granted. Believing is not easy in that it is not possible unless God does a work in our hearts (John 6:44). Salvation is not easy in the sense that it has a powerful and progressive impact, utterly transforming the lives of those who receive it.

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This page last updated: March 25, 2024