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Salvation without Comprehension

April 27, 2011

This particular error has been called “easy-believism” by some. Some have characterized it as “1-2-3 pray after me” soul winning. Most often it is a kind of soul winning that is careful to present the bare facts of the gospel, does not deny any crucial doctrine of the gospel and is zealous to see many professions of faith. In its zeal, this kind of soul winning is quick to call one a Christian who has prayed the prayer. It may be after a quick sprint down the Romans Road or after zipping off one’s favorite gospel spiel. The end result is almost always the same. The acceptor has been impressed to pray a prayer without any understanding of the gospel, especially the realities of their sin or the work of Christ to save them. They may assent that they are a sinner and that Jesus died on the cross, but they are lacking any kind of conviction, repentance or genuine faith in Christ alone for their salvation. Often, that one expresses a desire to go to heaven or get their life straightened out. What is missing is a turning to God from false gods, false worship and false means of salvation.

I want to make a couple observations about the gospel that bear directly on the errors of this kind of evangelism. The gospel is a message to be proclaimed. It is a truth to communicate. It is not a product to sell or a case to be argued. We are ambassadors and stewards of that gospel truth. We are not the authors of it. We are not the wielders of it. We do not give power, ability or relevance to the gospel. The gospel is God’s message, backed by God’s power and applied to individual lives by God the Holy Spirit. From start to finish it is His. The task of the Christian is to communicate the message as accurately as possible. Passion, prayer, desire and zeal all are important in the communication of the gospel, but none of them are justifications for the slightest distortion of the message or the means of salvation.

This flimsy kind of soul winning implies that mere assent to a list of facts is necessary to be saved, despite clear Biblical statements to the contrary (James 2:19). It suggests that salvation is received merely by repeating a particular prayer. Worse still, it proclaims the gospel as nothing more than a means to get to heaven, escape eternal suffering or to have an improved life, with forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to the Father relegated to secondary points along the way. We should loudly denounce this when it comes in its more blatant forms from the prosperity gospel preachers, but we must also denounce it when it comes in the more subtle forms of bliss later and a better life now, all you have to do is say this prayer. Christ speaks plainly in this matter, the cost of discipleship is high and the one thinking of becoming a disciple must count the cost.

This distorted gospel must be separated from. Not because it’s proponents explicitly deny any core gospel doctrine. The opposite is true. They are generally the ones who would most vehemently stand for the fundamental doctrines. In fact, this particular problem seems to be most prevalent among fundamentalists. Yet, despite their absolutely fundamental stance on the facts of Biblical doctrine, in their practice they diminish the gospel message to be something other than what it is. I am not suggesting that one must proclaim Lordship salvation to be teaching a faithful doctrine. I am also not saying that one has to have a full grasp of the gospel to be saved, nor am I saying a child cannot be saved. However, the profession of a child who merely wants to walk on streets of gold and have a beautiful mansion after he dies is no more valid than the profession of an adult who is seeking a better life and eternal happiness. Don’t conclude from this that one must give a full theological dissertation every time one presents the gospel, or that the recipient has to be weeping and pleading to be saved. I am saying, those who diminish the gospel or resort to gimmicks and trickery to tally professions are purveyors of a perverted gospel. Though with their mouths they proclaim to hold to the truth of the gospel, with their actions they show that they do not. While attesting to truth, they preach that which is false. As a result, even though they have the title of fundamentalist, we must separate from them just as thoroughly as we would from a Bell or Warren.

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