How Bare Faith
Relates to the Heresy of
John Locke wrote in his The Reasonableness Of Christianity a few minimum requirements for Christian salvation that would be termed "bare faith" by later ministers who departed from the orthodoxy.
Locke's "bare faith" requirements: "This was the great proposition that was then controverted, concerning Jesus of Nazareth, " Whether he " was the Messiah or no ? " And the assent to that was that which distinguished believers from unbelievers".
This was at a time when ALL orthodox Christian ministers believed that only God can save someone by regeneration. While there were competing theories of what constituted regeneration, ALL agreed that it was by a sovereign act of God called saving grace. All orthodox Christian ministers at the time he wrote The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695) that supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit, and a fundamental change of nature was involved. Locke maintained that every individual has within him the abilities necessary to comprehend his duty and to achieve salvation. This belief is Pelagian*, and unfortunately, has been embraced by many ministers that call themselves evangelical".
In the 1700's, Presbyterian ministers were taught the psychological basis of salvation in Scottish Common Sense Realism. Many left the Presbyterian Church and became Sandemanians. This was the "age of reason", when most university educated "Christians" were deists, the same way most university educated "Christians" today are evolutionists. Many "Christians" in the 1700's that no longer believed God works supernaturally, restricted His activity with the "verbal restrictive" theory
Many who believed the "verbal restrictive" theory believed God knows everything ahead of time not because he "tweaks" the present, but knows every contingency in an unbroken chain of human decisions. This was the belief of Sandemanians and many Scottish Common Sense Realists. That is how a "bare faith" minister could also be a hyper-Cavinist. The Sandemanian looks to the casual observer like an Arminian, but unlike an Arminian, he believes that everyone who is baptized was merely following the unbroken chain God knew would exist before time began. In other words, Sandemanians are not saved because they decided to be baptized, rather, they are saved because God saved them (before time began), and their baptism is the seal of that salvation. As you can see, free will, as understood by Armininians, is not involved.
Robert Sandeman used Locke's basic point to fashion a "bare faith" theology based on the predetermined state of all men. Sandeman was what some would call a hyper-Calvinist. His idea was since regeneration is entirely an act of the sovereign God, there is nothing needed from man to prove anything. Sandeman is who the Congregationalists and Presbyterians blamed for the "bare faith" heresy after the First Great Awakening. Sandeman is who the Baptist blamed for the "bare faith" heresy after the Second Great Awakening.
And when Alexander Campbell was converting thousands of Baptist with his "Restoration" theology based on "bare faith", Sandeman was who the Baptists blamed as the originator of the heresy. Campbell explained his "bare faith" version of the heresy as "Faith is the belief of testimony. Where testimony begins, faith begins; and where testimony ends, faith ends." This was the inexorable connection of saving faith to belief of Scripture, without the need of Biblical evidence of salvation in the change of character of the sinner to saint. When Campbell baptized a sinner, he told the sinner he was made a saint by virtue of his "bare faith". Campbell said the Holy Spirit does nothing apart from the written Word, so conversion is entirely a matter of moral persuasion. Campbell, like Locke, admitted after justifying "bare faith" in 99.999% of his writings, admits that unless there is some indication that the person has changed, his "bare faith" was not "saving faith".
The basis of salvation of the New Light Calvinists at the time the Sandemanian heresy was spreading in America was in no way similar to the salvation theory of Sandemanians. For a complete explanation of the basis of the New Light Calvinist decision for Christ, please read Samuel Hopkins.
*A person who believes in the theological doctrine of Pelagius, especially its denial of the doctrines of original sin and predestination, and defense of innate human goodness and free will.