Non-lordship salvation is a neutral term for easy believism, the "popular slogan for the view that one simply has to believe in order to be saved and that there is no corresponding need for a committed life of Christian discipleship."^[1]^ The result is that the idea of personal sanctification is divorced from justification, and discipleship is seen as a path that some Christians follow, but not others. The term carnal Christian is used to describe such a supposed Christian, who once made a "decision" but has not continued in discipleship. Names applied to this doctrine by opponents include no-lordship and cheap grace as it suggests that "accepting Jesus" does not involve any further commitments. Proponents of this view, on the other hand, prefer the term the "free grace" to describe their position. Easy-believism is also said to overemphasize the doctrine of assurance of salvation at the expense of personal authenticity.

Those who hold to the Free-grace position are generally Arminian in theology, although classical Arminianism does not adhere to this. By contrast, Reformed Christians generally hold to what is termed Lordship salvation. However, among adherents of each view one will find there are differences of language and emphasis.

According to Phillip Johnson:

"These days, support for the no-lordship gospel is mostly confined to a small but prolific group of speakers and writers. Dallas is still the geographical hub of their movement. The Grace Evangelical Society has published their journal since 1988. In fact, for the past 15 years or so, GES has almost singlehandedly kept the drumbeat alive for the no-lordship position."^[2]^ John MacArthur notes that, "Apparently, no-lordship doctrine no longer dominates Dallas Seminary the way it once did, but controversy over the issue is by no means dead."^[3]^

Distinctions between Reformed theology and easy believism

As a foreword, it is important to understand how language is used. Both sides in the debate accept that it may be that the use of language is causing misunderstandings. The word necessary is contested with particular bitterness. For instance, the (Reformed) claim "repentance is a necessary condition of salvation" is simply stating that "everyone who is being saved repents". The misunderstanding could arise in that "repentance is a necessary condition of salvation" could be thought to mean "repentance causes someone to be saved". The necessariness of repentance arises in that it always follows regeneration, and always accompanies salvation.

Faith and repentance

At the level of the understanding of faith and repentance, there are distinct differences between the "free grace" and "lordship" views.

"Free grace" advocates suggest that faith is a one-time decision, a mental assent to the bare facts about Christ.^[4]^ In so doing, the "free grace" view sounds very much like Sandemanianism, a rationalist approach to faith which was arose in eighteenth-century Scotland. The Reformed insist that faith is a continued, lively trust in the promises of God. Furthermore, adherents to the "free grace" position claim that Scripture's teaching is that faith is not a gift of God ^[5]^ but is the responsibility of unregenerate man. By contrast, Reformed Christians believe that faith is the free gift of God, worked in the heart by the agency of the Holy Spirit (Heidelberg Catechism 21). In short, the Reformed position is that faith is not a decision, but an attitude; not a work, but a gift.

Repentance, likewise, is frequently defined in the "free grace" position as a simple change of mind as regards the things of God. In this mode, it sustains its similarities with Sandemanianism. Other advocates say repentance is an "internal resolve to turn from one's sins" ([1]), but that it is not an inevitable consequence of regeneration. By contrast, the lordship view recognises that repentance is an about-turn involving the whole person, flowing out of regeneration and true faith; and that since repentance can never be complete and perfect, it is continual. To Reformed Christians, repentance is not an event, but a way of life (95 Theses 1).

Sanctification and obedience

Advocates of "free grace" suggest that while people can be saved who are not obedient, they cannot please God or grow in the Christian life ([2]). Those who are obedient, though, will please God and grow. They draw a distinction between entering the kingdom and inheriting it, so that someone can enter the kingdom and yet not inherit it, so that they forego privileges and rewards in the eternal state. The presentation of the "free grace" position on this matter is akin to a strict works principle: we work, and God rewards.

Reformed Christians, however, believe something markedly different. They start from the position that good works are God's gift to believers; therefore, a Christian cannot point to those works in order to feel confident in himself, nor can he feel pride at how well he has done. In any good done, the Reformed acknowledge that "we are unworthy servants, who have only done our duty". Furthermore, they also confess that not only our persons, but also our works are presented in Christ, since apart from him, those works are tainted with that sinfulness which seeks always to work for merit. Therefore, the rewards which God promises for good works are simply the addition of grace to grace. On the question of the kingdom, entry and inheritance are seen as the same concept, since one who has entered the kingdom is made a true child of God, and all true children of God inherit the kingdom. Finally, obedience and good works are not optional, but are the inevitable fruit of true faith in Christ.

Perseverance and assurance

The "free grace" position on the perseverance of the saints is a rigorously-applied version of the tag "once saved, always saved". They teach that by once believing that Jesus is able to save, a person is eternally secure, so that someone who claims such a faith, and later places his trust in something other than Jesus, will nonetheless be saved from sin and death and hell, on the basis of this one-time "faith". [3] Assurance is then thought to be total certainty, since those who have an intellectual persuasion of the truth of the gospel but are not personally committed to the Saviour will be saved. The only source of assurance is a positive response to the question "do you believe, or have you ever believed, that Jesus Christ is able to save sinners?" Such faith, of course, is thought in the "free grace" paradigm to have its origin in the individual and not with God.

The Reformed view, however, is different. On the matter of the security of the believer, Reformed theologians teach that the believer is not only secure eternally, but also temporally; that is to say, that although believers may have times of difficulty and doubt, yet they will be kept by God's power and strength so that difficulty will not overwhelm them, nor will doubt destroy their faith. Therefore, it is not possible for someone who truly trusts in Jesus for their salvation then to turn away from him and place their trust in something else, nor to forsake following him and choose to live the way they want to. In such a person, the Reformed Christian would say, true faith had never been worked to start with; that although such an individual demonstrated external signs of conversion, they did not place their whole trust in Jesus.

When it comes to assurance, the distinction is slightly more subtle. Since the "free grace" advocate has already made obedience an optional extra for the Christian, he denies that the doubter is able to look at his pattern of living in any sense and simply bases assurance in the doubter's faith. The Reformed position on assurance, however, stems from the corresponding understanding of obedience and works as being among God's gifts to the believer. Consequently, assurance comes from a number of sources: the promises of God, particularly as evidenced in the sacraments; the actions of God, as seen in Christ on the cross; and the work of God in the life of the believer, including faith, repentance and obedience. The doubter is then directed to look to Christ in word, sacrament and internal witness.

Departures from classical Arminianism

Both classical Arminianism and Calvinism held to the necessity of endurance. Easy believism, on the other hand, rejects the notion that perseverance (continuing in the faith) is necessary.

Notes

Donald K. McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, 85. http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2006/10/aftermath.html "A 15-Year Retrospective on the Lordship Controversy", by John MacArthur. Accessed October 16, 2008. Link Bob Wilken, Beware of Confusion about Faith, Journal of Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 2005, pdf. Gregory Sapaugh, Is Faith a gift?, Journal of Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 1994.

Resources

Favorable

Critical

See also

External links

  • Sandemanianism from Wikipedia; a very similar eighteenth-century belief, which spread from Scotland to England and the United States.

Favorable

Grace in Focus, a journal from the Grace Evangelical Society for the layman.

Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (JGES), a more technical journal from the Grace Evangelical Society.

Critical