Question: What is "Easy Believism"? |

TBC Staff

Question: I have heard the term “easy believism” and “carnal Christianity,” with the first applying to the way some people “come to Christ” and the second, I suspect, to apply to what they actually become when they respond to a false, “easy” gospel. Would you please comment?

Response: The best way to deal with these questions is to examine Paul’s testimony with respect to the Christians in the Greek city of Corinth. Paul spent more time in Corinth, evangelizing and teaching, than he did in any other place. That the church at Corinth was composed of genuine born-again Christians there can be no doubt. First of all, we have the testimony of the Lord himself, who, speaking to Paul in a vision told him to remain there for an extended period of time (it became 18 months), promised him special protection, and explained why: “For I have much people in this city” (Acts:18:9-11).

Second, we also have the testimony of Paul, who, in his epistles to the Corinthians, declares that the members of the church at Corinth are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and calls them saints. Never does he suggest that they are not true Christians, that they made a false decision, or as a result of their sin have fallen away and are now lost.

Yet at the time Paul wrote to them, in many ways the Corinthians were a disgrace to Christ. Likewise were the Galatians, of whom Paul wrote, “...I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…for I stand in doubt of you” (Galatians:4:19-20). Was their problem that they had made a false decision and were not Christians at all? Though Paul expresses his doubts, it seems to be for the purpose of shocking them and reasoning with them, for he certainly treats them as true Christians, though confused by the Judaizers of that era, concerning faith and works, and having little understanding of the power of the Holy Spirit to produce godliness.

Indeed, most of the epistles were written to correct errors that had already come into the early church, much of it doctrinal but also much of it involving all manner of fleshly (yes, carnal) conduct that was a reproach upon the Lord. Beware then of taking a simplistic approach to the failures of professing Christians today that explain it all in terms of unscriptural evangelistic methods (e.g., “easy believism”) and deny that they are saved at all on the basis of their carnality. True, a false gospel is in many instances being preached, and there are false methods that produce false converts who are a plague in the church. Yet we dare not deny that “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh” (Galatians:5:17). This is as true today as it was in the first century and will continue to be true of every Christian until the redemption of our bodies!

Nor do I encourage Christians to live fleshly lives by acknowledging that it is possible, but, like Paul, exhort them to turn from their carnality. Paul exhorts the Galatians, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” So it must be possible for a real Christian not to walk in the Spirit but in fact to fulfill the lust of the flesh, or Paul would not have needed to make such an exhortation—an exhortation that is just as applicable to us today. And what does Paul call those who, rather than walking in the Spirit, fulfill the lust of the flesh or walk according to the flesh (2 Corinthians:10:2)? He calls them carnal. And since he also acknowledges that they are Christians, they must therefore be that which many people today deny can even exist: that is, carnal Christians!

To what, then, does Paul attribute the Corinthians’ horrible condition? Was it poor evangelistic methods? No, Paul said that the problem with the Corinthians was that they were walking after the flesh instead of being led of the Spirit. Again, they were carnal Christians! “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal…. For ye are yet carnal…. Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians:3:1-4)

Now, the difficulty in understanding the above is that many people associate certain false beliefs with the idea that a Christian can be carnal. They call carnal Christians the product of something called “easy believism,” which is not true. Easy believism denies the Lordship of Christ—it makes Him Savior but not Lord, by teaching that He will save us from our sins but not become Lord of our lives and require anything in return, and it does not produce Christians at all.

Finally, if you respond to all this by saying, “The carnal Christian heresy denies that the Lordship of Christ is found in every true believer” I believe you are confused. I believe that a Christian is either led of the Spirit or the flesh, that he is either spiritual or carnal; but I do not deny that Christ must be Lord. Paul, who called the Corinthians carnal, did not deny the Lordship of Christ.

Therefore, earnestly fight the denial that Christ is Lord, but don’t confuse it with the biblical teaching that a Christian can be carnal!