I am reading a book on universal salvation by Kalen Fristad, a United Methodist minister. It hasn’t started well. Here is a bad quote on the definition of belief:
Salvation is what this book is all about. I believe salvation is best defined in the words of Jesus where he says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”(John 3:16).
Believing in Christ involves two things: 1) Humbly admitting our shortcomings and sins to God and repenting of them. 2) Making a commitment to faithfully serve Christ (God) allowing God to transform us so we may become more like God in our love and faithfulness (Destined for Salvation, p. 8).
Fristad’s definition of faith is a perfect example of back-loading the gospel, i.e., redefining faith to include doing good works.
Watch out for this.
It happens all the time.
Instead of openly teaching that we are saved by faith plus works, a pastor or theologian will include doing good works in the definition of faith itself.
Whether intentionally, or unintentionally, Fristad has radically changed the condition of salvation from faith alone, to faith plus works. On his view, John 3:16 means something like,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who humbly admits their sins, and repents of them, and commits to serve God faithfully, and who allows God to transform them, may not perish but may have eternal life.”
But that’s not what believing means. That’s not what the context demands, or what the Greek verb means.
Of course, Christians should be humble. They should admit their sins, repent of their sins, and commit to faithfully serving God. They should do all those things.
Those things may come before faith or may follow faith, but they are not the definition of faith. Doing those things is not what it means to believe.
And even more importantly, those are not the conditions for having eternal life. There is only one condition: to believe. To believe means to be persuaded that some proposition is true. In John 3:16, it means being persuaded that Jesus’ promise of eternal life is true. If you believe it is, then you have eternal life.
Wayne Brindle recently wrote an article for us examining the lexical definition of believing. You can find it here.