To put it in plain language (and too long of a sentence): Can those who say that they’re Christians but don’t act like they’re Christians because they haven’t changed for the better, or care to do good things–like praying and reading the Bible, and outward things like doing good things for other people–go to heaven? The common term for these people would be Carnal Christians.
2. not spiritual; merely human; temporal; worldly: a man of secular, rather carnal, leanings. [I thought you weren’t supposed to put the word in the definition.]
In theological terms, it would be an unregenerate Christian. Since generate means to bring into existence or to create, regeneration can be a way of saying to be born again or born from above or born spiritually through the Holy Spirit. (John 3:3, 7)
For those who are familiar, I’m not going to go into the Lordship Salvation and Free Grace debate. That will bring out all kinds of people out of the woodwork that I don’t want to deal with. Comments on that will be rejected.
All I am writing about are people who have no desire whatsoever to change, but because they prayed a prayer of salvation, or raised their hand or came forward for an altar call think that’s it. They don’t care to do anything else or make any kind of change (repent). Some people who have done these things do in fact become born again. But many think they are and really aren’t. That’s where a fatal mistake can be made with faulty types of evangelism and leading people to believe that this is the end of the story when it comes to being a Christian. It can also lead to all kinds of disappointment and disillusionment.
In addition to not going to heaven, they are missing out on the greatest component of eternal life–knowing God. One of the most amazing verses in the Bible to me is John 17:3 “This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.”
As he was preparing for the Lord to approach His ministry, John the Baptist said, “Do those things that prove you have turned to God and have changed the way you think and act” found in Matthew 3:8. Those things do not save us or cause God to favor us more than others. They are evidence that we are saved in the first place.
John then says in verse 10, “The ax is now ready to cut the roots of the trees. Any tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into a fire.”
Jesus says in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me Lord but don’t do what I tell you?” Joel B. Green comments on this verse:
They might be eager to be the recipients of his gracious ministry, but only those who also embrace and internalize his message to the point that it has begun to generate such practices as those outlined in his sermon [Luke 6:17-49] might be genuine in addressing Jesus with the words, “Lord, Lord.”
To those who only say Lord, Lord and do nothing, Jesus says–similar to John–“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who does what my Father in heaven wants” found in Matthew 7:21.
So, I don’t believe a Carnal Christian is really a Christian. However, we don’t know most people well enough to be able to judge this. Sometimes it may be obvious at the moment, but they have struggles and everyday lives and hearts that we don’t know. This is written as a warning for individuals, for those who have loved ones whose lives and actions are well known and also for those who may mislead others, and may have been mislead by being taught faulty evangelism schemes. Since Finney, there have been all sorts of goofy evangelism practices (a whole different story–Paul preached the Gospel and trusted the Holy Spirit to save–1 Corinthians 2:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). There is no reason for us to think we can point out who is and isn’t a real Christian. That’s a job for Someone else.