The Repentance Factor

The Repentance Factor

"Easy/Vain Believism" or "Repentance Skipism"

Easy Believism is a somewhat derogatory term that is commonly used to describe the salvation tactics of some in the Free Grace position. There are various definitions of the term but for the most part it refers to someone who only intellectually "believes" in Christ without actually knowing or receiving Him. It is a vain belief that falls short of salvation.

Some take issue with the terminology insisting faith in Christ IS easy and not difficult, and that is true. Believing on Christ for eternal salvation is very simple and easy, but that is only after a person's heart has been prepared by reproof, conviction, the Lord's drawing, and repentance to truly believe. Until these things occur, no one wants to believe and if they do, they believe in vain.

The charge of "Easy-Believism" came about in the mid 20th century concerning some evangelists who held the "change of mind" view (or faith integrated view) of repentance and preached a "regretless," "sorrowless," and "turnless" repentance. As soon as certain scholars or theologians started this replacing or redefining of repentance, the more traditional believers took notice and exposed what they considered a serious error. 

The "change of mind" view was heavily promoted by Presbyterian pastor, and later Dallas Theological Seminary founder, Lewis Sperry Chafer. Chafer taught that repentance was not a prerequisite or separate requirement for salvation but "is included in believing and could not be separated from it." Others picked up on Chafer's belief and promoted it among evangelists (John Walvoord, J. Dwight Pentecost, Merrill Unger, Howard Hendricks, Haddon Robinson, Zane Hodges, Charles Ryrie, etc.) Baptist ministers such as Jack Hyles (and nearly all who follow him) and Curtis Hudson, also jumped on the bandwagon and began preaching a salvation message without a meaningful repentance or a repentance hidden inside of faith. The gospel message soon became "Believe on Jesus if you want to go to heaven" with just a passing mention of the lost person's sins and need to turn from them towards God in their heart.

"Three Points and a Prayer"

By not preaching any substantive repentance the gospel message promoted by many of the Free Gracers is not much more than "Three points and a prayer." All the subject had to do was agree to the points and consent to a short prayer, and they were declared saved. There was no conviction of sin, no real conception of Christ dying in their place, and no comprehension of trusting Christ alone. It was just "Repeat after me...." This kind of "evangelistic salesmanship" led to many thousands of "converts" a year (with a large part children), but very few real conversions. Such a shallow and petty approach is a sham and a con. Basically all they hear is "If you want to go to heaven, bow your head and ask Jesus into your heart...."

The missing element in all this is, of course, repentance. Repentance is negative and these easy-believists only want to emphasize the positive, that is why they start off with "Do you want to go to heaven?" The gospel is not about heaven. The gospel, faith, or belief are not mentioned together with heaven in the Scriptures in a salvation context and this approach is never used by anyone in the Bible. The proper emphasis of the gospel is lost in this method. The purpose of the gospel is not primarily to get someone to heaven; it is to deal with that person's sins! "Christ died for our sins"! Believers go to heaven because their sins have been redeemed and that is where Christ is. It is just a part of the natural course of being saved like having a glorified body, not a goal in itself.

Eternally dealing with sin is the ultimate end of the gospel, and the Lord demands that all acknowledge their sin through repentance before He will accept any person's faith. That is why in the book of Acts the apostles preached on righteousness and judgment for sin, not about heaven. Before anyone can be saved he must understand that he is lost and his sins keep him separated from God. Then he must turn from these sins in his heart in repentance. Once a person has gotten this far salvation is very easy. The problem with Easy-Believism is it doesn't get the sinner to this point. It actually bypasses it altogether. That is why its "converts" believe in Jesus in vain.   

Back in 1937 Harry Ironside had some choice words for those who preach a gospel without repentance,

“Shallow preaching that does not grapple with the terrible fact of man’s sinfulness and guilt, calling on ‘all men everywhere to repent,’ results in shallow conversions; and so we have a myriad of glib-tongued professors today who give no evidence of regeneration whatever. Prating of salvation by grace, they manifest no grace in their lives. Loudly declaring they are justified by faith alone, they fail to remember that ‘faith without works is dead’; and that justification by works before men is not to be ignored as though it were in contradiction to justification by faith before God."

Ironside "hit the nail on the head" and he is not a Lordship Salvationist by anyone's definition.

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