The Hard Truth About Easy Believism: Part I

The Hard Truth About Easy Believism: Part I March 30, 2024

                                                                                                                    Photo by Binti Malu:/

Christian teachings that suggest grace and faith are the only requirements for eternal salvation have been labeled by some as easy believism, also associated with cheap grace, a term coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In his book, titled The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer defines cheap grace as “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Other critics of this teaching suggest that those who promote such doctrines, mislead people into believing that an insincere prayer, altar call, or another type of confession guarantees eternal life. In their view, teaching that salvation can be attained with no repentance, no change of lifestyle, and no turning from sin is absurd. Therefore, they negatively refer to it as “easy believism,” because the process is just way too easy. After all, we’re taught that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is, and if it sounds like the deal of the century, check the fine print since there’s gotta be more to it. 

Therefore, it can’t be that we need to simply believe in, or verbally acknowledge, the Almighty Creator without any other action on our part. Or can it? According to Scripture, what is correct? This two-part post will attempt to answer that question. 

The Biblical Meaning of “Believe”

We’ll start with the basics as usual. What is the biblical meaning of believe? The Hebrew Word normally translated in the Old Testament as believe is aman. It means “to be firm,”  “established,” “to support,” or “uphold,” and implies surety or certainty. Genesis 15:6 says that Abraham “believed (aman) the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 

In the New Testament, the Greek word often translated as believe and also faith is pisteuō with a predominant usage of “to trust”, “rely upon”, or “to be confident that something is, will be, or has been.” Yeshua told the people, “Believe (pisteuō) in God; believe (pisteuō) also in me” (Jn. 14:1). In this post, I’ll use the terms “faith,” “trust,” and “believe” interchangeably, only switching them for clarity.

But, pertaining to our discussion, a biblical understanding of belief, is confidence that the God of Abraham exists and is the one true Creator and sustainer of the universe and of life. When we accept and acknowledge this truth, we rely upon him alone as being able to meet all of our needs in this world and for forgiveness of our sins.  But, can this trust, or rather this faith alone, save us eternally? Let’s see what the Bible says about it.

Common Arguments Against Easy Believism

The main “scriptural” argument against easy believism is found in James 2:20: “Faith without works is dead.” It’s argued that the author clearly states that faith alone is not enough for eternal salvation and that works must be combined with faith for it to be effective. “Dead” faith can’t get you to heaven, as it is not a “real” or existing faith that can lead to a true and lasting relationship with God. 

A closer look at this letter’s background and context, however, reveals a different story. First, the author is clearly addressing fellow believers, those from the twelve tribes of Israel, scattered throughout the nations (James 1:1). He is not addressing those who believe in God for the first time, and are clueless as to how he rolls. Second, there is no reason to believe the “saving” he’s speaking of refers to eternal salvation. In a future post, I’ll explain why in fact, it has nothing to do with anyone’s salvation at all.

But unfortunately, when we hear the word “save,” we immediately think about deliverance from sin’s eternal consequences. Yet, the word save generally means “preserve” or “keep,” which could refer to the preservation of anyone or anything from anyone or anything. Easy believism, specifically refers to initial belief in God and eternal life, and since there’s no evidence that this passage refers to this, it’s irrelevant to the discussion. 

Other passages used to refute the doctrine include verses that mention being created in Christ to do good works (Ep. 2:10) and the one where Jesus says that if anyone comes after him, they need to pick up their cross and follow him (Matt. 16:24). These also do not refer to one coming to an initial belief in the Lord or eternal salvation. The first speaks of our responsibility after God’s justification, while the second is about discipleship after one repents and is forgiven. Next, we’ll answer a key question: Is salvation supposed to be hard?

Is Salvation Supposed to Be Hard? 

By preaching against easy belief, one implies that salvation is meant to be hard. So apparently, some believe securing salvation is something difficult to achieve. Let’s look at what Scripture teaches beginning our focus on the character of God.

“Yet even now,” says Adonai, “turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and lamenting.” Tear your heart, not your garments; and turn to Adonai your God. For he is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace, and willing to change his mind about disaster. (Joel 2:12-13 CJB)

Let the wicked person abandon his way and the evil person his thoughts; let him return to Adonai, and he will have mercy on him; let him return to our God, for he will freely forgive. (Is. 55:7 CJB).

Adonai, you are kind and forgiving, full of grace toward all who call on you. ( Psalm 86:5 CJB)

Adonai is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and great in grace. (Psalm 145:8 CJB)

Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’ (Ezk. 33:11 NIV)

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:13 NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare (2 Peter 3:9-10 NIV)

That doesn’t sound like a God who wants to make it difficult for people to come to him. It sounds more like the Lord is eager, willing, and ready to show mercy, grace, and forgiveness. But in order to make a thorough decision about easy believism, we’ll continue our investigation in part two, where we’ll discuss the claim that some preach salvation without repentance and answer the questions “How does belief lead to salvation? ” and “Are works irrelevant?”

About Miranda Turner
Miranda Turner is an author, blogger, and podcaster. In her writings, she discusses God, the Bible, and anything else related to glorifying the Lord. Find out more at You can read more about the author here.

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