Friday, October 1, 2010

Eternal Security & Easy Believism

Every few months I get a newsletter from the "Grace Evangelical Society."  I always read it and I am almost always repulsed and enraged by its sad excuse for biblical exposition and theology.  But it makes me think!

In the last GES newsletter, Bob Wilkin held forth on the superiority of his easy believism theology from the perspective that it contributes to a sense of security.  In that system, salvation is an instantaneous transaction in which God is bound by contract to save the person who has believed.  The focus of security is that moment in which the person prays the sinner's prayer.  The question is whether or not the person is, AT THAT MOMENT, believing the necessary truths about their sin and Jesus' work of salvation, and if they are genuinely sincere in that faith AT THAT MOMENT.  According to Wilkin, subsequent developments in the person's life have no bearing on the veracity of the person's profession of salvation or the person's ultimate security in Christ.

In that last newsletter, Wilkin claimed that preaching about the possibility of "false professions" makes people feel insecure - and is intended to make them insecure - about their salvation.  He celebrated the fact that in his home church everyone feels perfectly confident about his or her eternal destiny.  They believe there is no such thing as a false profession of faith as long as the basic content and the sincerity of the moment are not in question.

I have a few observations.
1) It seems to me that even if the "easy believism" system was biblical, you could always second guess yourself about the sincerity of your belief at some past moment.  Besides that, it is clear that in that system people are always wrangling about what truths must be included in saving faith.  For example, do you need to believe in the trinity, the virgin birth, and the resurrection to be saved?  Did you understand all of those things when you "believed?"

2) The biblical language about believer's faith is invariably about present tense - continuing action - faith.  Unbelievers are urged to believe in the future.  Believers do think about when they "first believed."  But once people believe, they are of the "household of faith" and they are "believers."  The believers are not people who believed once in the past.  The believers are people who started believing at some time in the past and are continuing in that faith today.

3) The Bible contains many instances where people in the churches are challenged to make sure that they are of the household of faith.  For example: (2 Corinthians 13:5)  Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.  Do you notice that the focus is not upon their previous profession of faith, but on their current faith?

4) The proper basis for security is not some previous point in life where we came to faith, but the fact that we are - in truth "in the faith" and trusting confidently in God to save us.  When we first came to faith we understood something of the Gospel of Grace and trusted God to save us.  As we have continued in the faith we have learned even more about the Gospel - and we have believed that too.  So the content of our faith continues and grows.

5) Faith is more than believing doctrinal content.  (James 2:14-26)  Saving faith is a commitment to the truth that shows up in our actions.  To believe that the bungee cords will keep you from falling to your death is not the same as believing in the efficacy of the bungee cords AND throwing yourself off the bridge.  Having saving faith in Jesus Christ (a continuing faith) keeps on showing up in the lives of believers. 
 (1 Thessalonians 1:6–10)  And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.
8 For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.
9 For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
 6) A believer's confidence is strengthened by the evidence of his conversion that shows up in his life.  There is the fruit of the Spirit.  There is the love of the brethren.  Contrary to Wilkin's assertions, the teaching of what he calls "Lordship Salvation" brings encouragement to people who are genuinely saved.  They know they are trusting God and they see evidence in their lives that God is at work - conforming them into the image of Christ.
 (1 John 3:18–19)  My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.  And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.
According to the Bible, faith in Jesus as Savior cannot be separated from the way it works out in the person's life.
(1 John 5:1–5) Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 
7) The most serious problem I have with Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society is that he is giving a sense of security to people who should not be secure.  The fact that someone once prayed the sinner's prayer in deep sincerity will NOT SAVE THEM.  That past event is not what the Bible describes as saving faith. 

People are being encouraged to be confident in their eternal security because of a past event in spite of the fact that they show no evidence of God's work in their hearts and lives ever since.  This sense of security in their present lives is not going to be of any consolation when they face God.  The persons who are teaching this are doing such people a grave disservice. 


Bobbi said...

Makes me think of Linus...who very SINCERELY believed in the Great Pumpkin!

Pastor D said...

Actually, Linus at least acted on his sincere belief in the Great Pumpkin by sitting up all night in the pumpkin patch instead of going trick or treating. He had the right kind of faith - but in the wrong thing.

The easy-believism folks are sure you are saved if you just sincerely believe at some past point in time, even if you never act on that supposed belief.

Poor Linus.