warning against" easy believism"

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Daryl Bales

Puritan Board Freshman
What are some of the views regarding preaching against modern day evangelism,often called "easy believism"? Many reformed preachers who are strong proponents of election,preach heavily against" repeat this prayer after me" type of preaching.One such preacher, is Paul Washer(who I highly agree with) is A reformed Baptist, who I know believes in election.
I guess my question is, how does this type of preaching, and election,coincide?
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
From what I've seen (sitting under the preaching of three excellent reformed guys) people don't necessarily set out to preach "against" another approach to Christianity, although it might be discussed in detail in a class. Instead, as the preachers work their way through books of the Bible, when a text addresses a problem in the church at large, it is examined via scripture. Often poor teaching is addressed as a pastoral concern to consider the possibility that someone in the flock might have been misled. We are often asked if we are trusting in anything outside of Christ and instructed to place our faith in Him alone -- a warning that I will never tire of hearing.
 

moral necessity

Puritan Board Junior
In my opinion, we have to be careful with the phrase "easy believism", because belief isn't easy. It's impossible. Nothing is harder for the flesh than to leave behind all of our works, and to trust alone in Christ's work. We always want to put something else in the mix, so that we have something other than Christ's promise to rest our hope on. We want a work to prop us up, or to prepare us to be accepted by him. But grace will not allow that. Grace demands that no action or precondition is present on the part of the sinner. We must turn away from all of that, and trust alone in Christ and his promise to save us. The gospel is as simple as that, as placing one's entire confidence in the finished work of Christ alone to count for them before the Father. He welcomes us while we are ungodly, and while we are his enemies. We do not have to clean ourselves up before we come. We simply come as we are. The false gospel of "bare assent", however, has nothing to do with placing one's confidence in the work of Christ alone, because "assenting" to the facts has nothing at all to do with placing your entire confidence in those facts to count for you. One can easily believe that Christ died for people's sins, but, it is impossible for you to place your confidence in that work of his, and stand before the Father in that alone, unless you are born again. It is impossible for you to trust in and wear only his garments of righteousness before the father instead of your own. A great work has to be done to you first before you are able to do that.

The other side of the coin has to be cautioned against also, yet very carefully. Out of a passion for godly living, the gospel is ammended to precondition one's belief, so that they must commit to turning away from thier sinful ways before Christ can accept them. This is not accurate either, in my opinion, for it doesn't save believers. It saves ammenders...those who commit to ammending their behavior. And this opens up the door to an inward focus, rather than an outward focus, for coming to Christ. Faith is then redirected to look on the degree or sincerity of one's ammendment, and less on Christ. Confidence becomes divided, and assurance is weakened. It's sort of ironic, but the good works that are meant to be ensured by frontloading the gospel with commitments, are what become lost or watered down into a hollow representation of godliness. Good works then come about because they are conditioned, and through much straining and striving. But, if the gospel is left alone for whosoever believes, good works come about from love with no strings attached, out of a passionate gratitude for what Christ has done. The one is "guilt, gratitude, grace". The other is "guilt, grace, gratitude".

So, I disagree with a the "gospel for assenters", and I also disagree with the "gospel for ammenders", (to use my phrases). I think the "gospel for believers" is entirely different. If I stick to "guilt, grace, grattitude", I don't stray far from it.

Blessings!
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
In my opinion, we have to be careful with the phrase "easy believism", because belief isn't easy. It's impossible. Nothing is harder for the flesh than to leave behind all of our works, and to trust alone in Christ's work. We always want to put something else in the mix, so that we have something other than Christ's promise to rest our hope on. We want a work to prop us up, or to prepare us to be accepted by him. But grace will not allow that. Grace demands that no action or precondition is present on the part of the sinner. We must turn away from all of that, and trust alone in Christ and his promise to save us. The gospel is as simple as that, as placing one's entire confidence in the finished work of Christ alone to count for them before the Father. He welcomes us while we are ungodly, and while we are his enemies. We do not have to clean ourselves up before we come. We simply come as we are. The false gospel of "bare assent", however, has nothing to do with placing one's confidence in the work of Christ alone, because "assenting" to the facts has nothing at all to do with placing your entire confidence in those facts to count for you. One can easily believe that Christ died for people's sins, but, it is impossible for you to place your confidence in that work of his, and stand before the Father in that alone, unless you are born again. It is impossible for you to trust in and wear only his garments of righteousness before the father instead of your own. A great work has to be done to you first before you are able to do that.

The other side of the coin has to be cautioned against also, yet very carefully. Out of a passion for godly living, the gospel is ammended to precondition one's belief, so that they must commit to turning away from thier sinful ways before Christ can accept them. This is not accurate either, in my opinion, for it doesn't save believers. It saves ammenders...those who commit to ammending their behavior. And this opens up the door to an inward focus, rather than an outward focus, for coming to Christ. Faith is then redirected to look on the degree or sincerity of one's ammendment, and less on Christ. Confidence becomes divided, and assurance is weakened. It's sort of ironic, but the good works that are meant to be ensured by frontloading the gospel with commitments, are what become lost or watered down into a hollow representation of godliness. Good works then come about because they are conditioned, and through much straining and striving. But, if the gospel is left alone for whosoever believes, good works come about from love with no strings attached, out of a passionate gratitude for what Christ has done. The one is "guilt, gratitude, grace". The other is "guilt, grace, gratitude".

So, I disagree with a the "gospel for assenters", and I also disagree with the "gospel for ammenders", (to use my phrases). I think the "gospel for believers" is entirely different. If I stick to "guilt, grace, grattitude", I don't stray far from it.

Blessings!

I very much agree. It's good to read this.

I'd say it's good that the "easy," just-believe-without-repentance teaching is ably disputed by preachers like Washer. It needs to be. But, we must be on guard that it doesn't lead to an equally troublesome error. This error is that by rightly including repentance, people essentially put their faith in their repentance instead of in Christ. So I've observed two things happening when young people in the church are given large doses of Washer.

1. Some who were falsely relying on a not-really-repentant prayer of faith that they once said have been woken up to their need for true repentance and faith. This is good.

2. Some who were true, young, still tender believers have misunderstood and had their assurance destroyed by the thought that they have to get their sin under control first or they're not a Christian. Other unbelievers have come to the false understanding that exercising faith means trying hard to behave and succeeding. This is bad.

We need to be exceedingly careful, when opposing one error, to guard against our hearers slipping into the other.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I think the problem with easy believism stems from an underlying semi-pelagian notion of faith to begin with. It's funny that I was thinking about this just this morning as I'm listening to Piper's TULIP presentation (don't know where I downloaded it from).

We often forget that differing theologies define what it is to believe. Not only do they define belief differently in terms of where that belief comes from but also the "value" that is assigned to belief.

Arminianism, in one sense, was "respectable" even if it was poisonous because it was consistent. The Arminians argued that all receive a kick start from God to enable them to believe (prevenient grace) and then each individual would autonomously add faith to that equation to "activate" salvation. Consequently, if someone woke up one day and decided they don't believe the Gospel any more then that belief could be autonomously rejected just as easily as it was autonomously received.

This takes some reflection on what it means to be saved. Think about this. Why did Christ even come to Earth and die on a Cross? Was it in order that He could accomplish a portion of salvation and then our faith is added as a quality to that work to complete something in such a way that God now forgives our great sins and sees us as righteous?

In other words, do you see the equation here? Christ's death and resurrection PLUS our faith EQUALS God seeins us as righteous and forgiving all our sins. Faith takes on the quality of a very powerful merit before God and that's how it operates in a Semi-Pelagian schema. In other words, faith is a work because it is what God ultimately looks to as the way in which people are seen to have fulfilled His holy demands.

What we have in some corners is a mashup of Arminianism and the idea of God saving to the uttermost where people say that if you just believe once then it can never be lost again. Walk that aisle, say that prayer, add your faith to Christ's work and it creates an equation so powerful that God will never go back on it. Leave that Church, steal from your neighbor, kill other men, or any other number of things (short of smoking, drinking, dancing, and card playing) and you're saved forever.

That just doesn't sit well with some people who can read the Scriptures and see that there is some expectation that faith is going to create some sort of holiness in the individual. Thus, one semi-pelagian who treats faith as a work has a problem with another semi-pelagian who sees faith as a work and says: "There's not enough merit in that schema. Your faith isn't strong enough to save because if it was then it you would also be holy."

A pox on both houses. Faith is not a work. Faith is not added to Christ's atoning sacrifice. The *only* ground for the sinner to stand on before a Holy God is Christ's righteousness as he stands in vital union with Him. God does not look at the quality of our faith to justify us. Rather, He makes alive, we believe, and our faith is a clinging to Christ and is the instrument by which Christ becomes ours. We are in Him and Christ is the sole ground of our holiness.

Understanding this further, because we are united to Him we are abiding in the Vine and that produces fruit. In one sense, the weakest of any faith generated by God is strong to save because of the strength of the Savior. The trick to understanding this is to stop viewing faith as something man-generated and something that, because it is man-generated, God treats as merit. Our merit and our sanctification and ultimate glorification begin, continue, and end in Christ alone.
 

captivewill

Puritan Board Freshman
The problem of "easy" versus "impossible" belief is the verification of either one. Clearly there is such a thing as false belief. Believing in believing would be a dangerous example of such a thing.
It is the OBEDIENCE of faith that clarifies true faith and comtrasts it with false faith.
Justification cannot be seperated from sanctification. True faith or belief produces the results as per James and I John while false faith does not.
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
One thing I'd like to interject: The error with some preaching is not the content. The error is the anticipated response to the sermon. Finney-like response invitations, even after a solid sermon, may short circuit a person's proper response to the Holy Spirit. Going forward to shake the preachers hand, cry on a bench in front of everyone or sign a pledge card, gains no one a proper assurance of salvation. I believe that the proper "invitation" at the end of preaching (in almost any situation) should be to this drift: " If anyone has a question about anything I said, feel free to ask me ". This can clear up a multitude of misunderstandings and potential problems.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
The problem of "easy" versus "impossible" belief is the verification of either one. Clearly there is such a thing as false belief. Believing in believing would be a dangerous example of such a thing.
It is the OBEDIENCE of faith that clarifies true faith and comtrasts it with false faith.

Yes. Let's just remember that it can also be difficult to verify true obedience.

As you say, obedience is a test of true faith. But faith is equally a test of true obedience. A person may look obedient and godly but actually be operating out of self-interest rather than out of gratitude that springs from faith in Christ. The obedience God requires is always a response to his grace, never a look-how-good-I-am obedience. Edwards dealt with this is Affections.

I mention this because it's easy, as we rightly react against belief-without-obedience, to end up with an I'm-proving-myself sort of obedience that's equally wrong.

---------- Post added at 10:06 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:57 AM ----------

One thing I'd like to interject: Finney-like response invitations, even after a solid sermon, may short circuit a person's proper response to the Holy Spirit.

Oh, don't get me started! I've had to battle too many times with people who wanted me to add one of those invitations to the end of a talk so that the Spirit could work. I've become quite practiced at explaining why I won't do that precisely because I am depending on the Spirit, but many times they still think I'm nuts. Well said, my friend.
 

MMasztal

Puritan Board Sophomore
This is a providential thread. I just came out of a faculty meeting where we were discussing what topics we were going to cover in out weekly chapel. One teacher, a non-seminary trained, Pentacostal youth pastor who is heading the chapel program said "we can save more souls" by changing our current chapel practice and that "if the Spirit comes we need to let things happen." :wow:

Myself and a PCA elder are the only reformed teachers in my school.
 

captivewill

Puritan Board Freshman
This is a providential thread. I just came out of a faculty meeting where we were discussing what topics we were going to cover in out weekly chapel. One teacher, a non-seminary trained, Pentacostal youth pastor who is heading the chapel program said "we can save more souls" by changing our current chapel practice and that "if the Spirit comes we need to let things happen." :wow:

Myself and a PCA elder are the only reformed teachers in my school.

I feel for you ! We must stand firm on the fact that sanctification and holiness are developed as God tells people who now love Him and who Have peace with Him being justified by faith(Romans 5 :1) what He wants them to do and what He wants them to stop doing. Obedience..the obedience of faith is how the Holy Spirit moves justified people onward in sanctification toward glory.
God Bless you as you stand firm for THE faith once and for all time delivered to the saints..there is ONE Lord, ONE faith and ONE baptism etc.
 

captivewill

Puritan Board Freshman
In my opinion, we have to be careful with the phrase "easy believism", because belief isn't easy. It's impossible. Nothing is harder for the flesh than to leave behind all of our works, and to trust alone in Christ's work. We always want to put something else in the mix, so that we have something other than Christ's promise to rest our hope on. We want a work to prop us up, or to prepare us to be accepted by him. But grace will not allow that. Grace demands that no action or precondition is present on the part of the sinner. We must turn away from all of that, and trust alone in Christ and his promise to save us. The gospel is as simple as that, as placing one's entire confidence in the finished work of Christ alone to count for them before the Father. He welcomes us while we are ungodly, and while we are his enemies. We do not have to clean ourselves up before we come. We simply come as we are. The false gospel of "bare assent", however, has nothing to do with placing one's confidence in the work of Christ alone, because "assenting" to the facts has nothing at all to do with placing your entire confidence in those facts to count for you. One can easily believe that Christ died for people's sins, but, it is impossible for you to place your confidence in that work of his, and stand before the Father in that alone, unless you are born again. It is impossible for you to trust in and wear only his garments of righteousness before the father instead of your own. A great work has to be done to you first before you are able to do that.

The other side of the coin has to be cautioned against also, yet very carefully. Out of a passion for godly living, the gospel is ammended to precondition one's belief, so that they must commit to turning away from thier sinful ways before Christ can accept them. This is not accurate either, in my opinion, for it doesn't save believers. It saves ammenders...those who commit to ammending their behavior. And this opens up the door to an inward focus, rather than an outward focus, for coming to Christ. Faith is then redirected to look on the degree or sincerity of one's ammendment, and less on Christ. Confidence becomes divided, and assurance is weakened. It's sort of ironic, but the good works that are meant to be ensured by frontloading the gospel with commitments, are what become lost or watered down into a hollow representation of godliness. Good works then come about because they are conditioned, and through much straining and striving. But, if the gospel is left alone for whosoever believes, good works come about from love with no strings attached, out of a passionate gratitude for what Christ has done. The one is "guilt, gratitude, grace". The other is "guilt, grace, gratitude".

So, I disagree with a the "gospel for assenters", and I also disagree with the "gospel for ammenders", (to use my phrases). I think the "gospel for believers" is entirely different. If I stick to "guilt, grace, grattitude", I don't stray far from it.

Blessings!

I very much agree. It's good to read this.

I'd say it's good that the "easy," just-believe-without-repentance teaching is ably disputed by preachers like Washer. It needs to be. But, we must be on guard that it doesn't lead to an equally troublesome error. This error is that by rightly including repentance, people essentially put their faith in their repentance instead of in Christ. So I've observed two things happening when young people in the church are given large doses of Washer.

1. Some who were falsely relying on a not-really-repentant prayer of faith that they once said have been woken up to their need for true repentance and faith. This is good.

2. Some who were true, young, still tender believers have misunderstood and had their assurance destroyed by the thought that they have to get their sin under control first or they're not a Christian. Other unbelievers have come to the false understanding that exercising faith means trying hard to behave and succeeding. This is bad.

We need to be exceedingly careful, when opposing one error, to guard against our hearers slipping into the other.

Much of this is a strict matter of TIMING not of occurance. We do NOT have to get our sin under control in order to become a Christian...and furthermore we CANNOT get our sin under control. BUT after we are born again we CAN and we DO get our sin under control by the powerful grace of God. NOT perfectly and never completely as long as we reside in mortal bodies which oppose holiness...YET sin is no longer master and our deliverance is substantially installed and progressing as we by the same same faith by which we received the gospel now continue to BELIEVE the continuing words of our Master Christ..and thus the obedience of faith which follows but cannot precede the belief of faith.
"Ammending" does not and cannot cause salvation..but salvation can and always does cause "amending."
 
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