Antinomianism: Too Far or Not Far Enough?

by Ethan Moore on January 29, 2014 · 78 comments

I’m a new-comer to the discussion of antinomianism.  I’ve seen folks confidently toss the word around, the heptasyllabic term rolling off their fingertips and on to the digital page.  Finally, disgusted with my own ignorance, I determined to ascend from the pit of theological cognitive stupidity in search of greater intellectual challenges.

In short, I looked it up on Wikipedia.  I also read an article on narcissism in dogs.

As I understand the concept, antinomianism essentially claims freedom from all law, moral or otherwise, as an aspect of Christian living, justification, and sanctification.  “We’ve been saved,” comes the cry, “and have been declared righteous and sin-free!  We’ve freedom from the Law through Christ! Can I get an ‘Amen’?”

As far as I can tell, the biggest moments in the history of this concept centered on a period of time during Martin Luther’s life and during the late 17th century in the United States.  More recently, articles have popped up (see this) decrying a move towards what would essentially be an extreme position in regards to justification by faith alone.  At least, if I’ve understood things correctly.

Understood from a theological perspective, it would seem that antinomianism goes too far.  That is, it interprets justification by faith to be both the beginning and the end of the salvation and sanctification process.  Heck, it would actually seem to refute the notion of “process” altogether.  I’ll allow the trained, thoughtful theologians in the group to tease out the full meaning of all of this, but my overall point remains: theologically speaking, antinomianists seem to go too far.

To be completely blunt, though, it turns out I’ve been shaking my head at antinomianism without ever realizing it.  Every time I open my Facebook page, there is it.  Really.

My news feed abounds with comments from friends and classmates extolling the glorious wonders of Christ, God, the Bible, prayer, holiness, Jesus, and angels.  Jesus is implored to take the wheel and various promises are routinely named and claimed.  Philippians 4:13 comes up frequently as do verses about loving people.  The only catch is that some of the folks who post these notions follow them with photos, language, and ideas that strike me as antithetical to their expressions of religious fervor.

I don’t want to call anyone out, so I’ll leave specific examples aside.  It is sufficient to say that “God will bless you…” does not match well with the profanity-laced tirades, the insistence on the rightness of their sexual proclivities, the drunken photos, and the hateful attitudes they display with nonchalance.

I used to think they were a bit like I’ve been in the past: Christian, but not yet realizing the depth of commitment God required of me.  I figured they were just struggling to mature in their faith, step by step, and the personal testimony part of their lives was just lagging behind.  I had it wrong, I believe.  They are, effectively, antinomianist in their views without being able to blame it on a different theological perspective.

A few theories…

1.  The culture of tolerance in the US has been extended to apply to God.  As Martin Luther put it, our thoughts of God are far too human.  Never is that more obvious when we expect Him to extend to us the same, “Different strokes for different folks” philosophy we apply to ourselves.  Even between denominations we usually have a your-way/my-way approach that can tend to reduce to “Whatever works for ya, man!”

2.  Salvation-by-identification comes into play at times, especially when talking with adherents to non-evangelical faith traditions.  In many predominantly Catholic cultures and peoples, mere identification as a “good Catholic” is causally equated with salvation.  A good Muslim obeys the Koran to certain degree, but it is his strong identification with Islam that provides the greatest security for paradise.  When a convert comes over to Christianity, too often their past assumptions come along for the ride.  “Hey,” the thinking goes, “I understand now I’m a Christian evangelical, and no longer a _______.  I’ve identified with the proper faith and true church.  That’s it, right?”  The result is both a lack of realization that they’ve not gone far enough and an emotional resistance to being told they’re wrong.

3.  Cultural Christianity blinds people to the fact that coming from a so-called Christian nation or godly family does nothing for personal salvation.  They see themselves as Christian not because of personal conviction but due to the fact that they live in a Christian environment.  This is a form of salvation-by-identification, but it differs in that identifiers often make conscious choices for their identification.  Cultural Christians simply assume their salvation.

4. Postmodernism is a rather obvious boogeyman, but I think we would be wrong to eliminate it as a cause for antinomianism.  Specifically, the tendency to assume that there is no metanarrative collides with a belief in the existence of God.  The philosophically-syncretic result is a retention of a belief in the Creator God without applying the narrative that results; you know, sanctification and faith displayed by works and fleeing “evil.”

5.  Over-reliance on the inner witness of the Spirit is not something most would consider, but it is something I believe that exists.  Instead of careful study of Spirit-inspired words and attentive listening to those who teach it, Christians sit back and say, “Global Christendom is a mighty people, a nation of priests!  Priesthood of the believer!  The Spirit guides us into all understanding!”  Effectively, they end up being people who follow whatever their untrained hearts and uneducated minds feel is good.  Book learning and Bible study?  No thanks.

The result in each case is, effectively, adherence to an antinomianist position.  The cause, though, is not a careful yet flawed perusal of the theology of justification by faith; that would be going too far down a particular pathway. No, these philosophical or cultural antinomiansts exist because they’ve not gone far enough.  That is, they’ve entered the kingdom or crossed the threshold or whatever metaphor you prefer and they’ve stopped right there.  They have chosen some aspect of themselves or their faith or their thinking and have used it to justify going no further down any path of Christian thinking.

This is by no means a comprehensive listing, nor even the expression of an expert who has been researching the matter for months and years.  More than anything, this is a first approximation for me.  I expect I’ve been wrong at some point in this, and I appreciate those who point out my errors.

1 Dave Miller January 29, 2014 at 1:44 pm

When I grow up, I want to be as good a writer as Jeremy Parks.

2 Mike Leake January 29, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Jeremy,
I think you’ve got some really good thoughts here. There is certainly a difference between a philosophical antinomianism and one by practice. I also think that you’ve made a very solid point that for some the problem is not that they take grace too far–it’s that they haven’t taken it far enough. Grace not only forgives it also transforms.

Two side notes. 1. An adherent to antinomianism is an antinomian and not an antinomianist.
2. A great resource for this discussion is Antinomianism by Mark Jones. It’s a very helpful book. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GM3WQZ6/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00GM3WQZ6&linkCode=as2&tag=borrligh-20

3 Jeremy Parks January 29, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Thanks for the correction, as well as the reference. Brighter minds are always welcome to offer clarity to my posts.

Iron sharpens iron…or in this case, iron sharpens low-grade aluminum-talc alloy.

4 Adam G. in NC January 29, 2014 at 2:28 pm

My opinion is that this is a result of generations of negligence regarding the Doctrine of Regeneration (whether before or after faith) and following that up with an aversion to church discipline enabling it to flourish.

I grew up in church as well as most of my friends. We all didnt go to the same Southern Baptist church, but we were all exactly as you described the “unnamed” facebookers. That was me for a good chunk of my life. Being “born-again” had no meaning other than cliche. Repentance was just saying “Yes, I’m a sinner…isn’t everyone?”. I didnt even hear the word “regeneration” until after I had truly been saved by grace and put myself under some good, godly teachers. It blew my mind.

5 Bob Cleveland January 29, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Let’s say the Antinomians can make a scriptural case for their position. I would then make the following case:
A) Jesus said that He came that we might have life, and more abundantly.
B) Just as we parents do, Jesus wants us to want what He gives us,
C) John 1:12 says when we receive Him, we get the RIGHT to BECOME children of God.
D) I want to be a child of God, and I want an abundant life. The only way I know of, to assure myself I have them, is to do all I can to do what He said in His Book, that will bring abundant life. In other words, obey both His commands and His teaching.
E) I conclude that, if Antinomianism produces a disobedient life, then it’s another punishment God has provided … like health & wealth and prosperity preachers … for those who will not endure sound teaching, but prefer false preachers to tickle itching ears.

6 Ed B January 29, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Over the past few days as I was preparing material for a men’s study I will lead tonight revolving around making a solemn commitment to be a disciple of Christ, I was thinking about the contrast that a commitment to discipleship has with what I considered the “semi-antinomianism” that stealthily influences many of us good Baptists. Then today I received an email notification about Jeremy Park’s article titled “Antinomianism: To Far or Not Far Enough”.

I will be passing out copies of this blog post tonight (with full credit given). I think it compliments what I intend to cover this evening in our study.

Thanks for posting this.

7 Bill Mac January 29, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Wow, you guys must run in different circles than I do. I have really only seen the accusation of antinomianism leveled at two groups of people: moderationists and non-sabbatarians (particularly new covenant theology adherents).

8 Mike January 29, 2014 at 3:42 pm

As Jeremy mentioned, if you are on facebook with fellow church members, you most likely have seen plenty of antinomianism.

9 Mike January 29, 2014 at 3:47 pm

…and as a SBC prodigal back from a non-denom sojourn, I can tell you it is rampant in those churches who require very little (except resources) from their members. In fact, many have dropped the “member” nomenclature altogether.

10 Bart Barber January 29, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I’ve seen some public hand-wringing that Tullian Tch…Cht…Chiv…that pastor related to Billy Graham is advocating antinomianism. I’ve heard a lot more concern about that in private in his case.

11 Mike Leake January 29, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Bart,
I think there is a different temptation to antinomianism in Reformed circles than there is in non-Reformed circles. In the non-Reformed circles I think you see easy-believism quickly morph into antinomianism. In Reformed circles its a much different monster b/c it can be so gospely sounding. I think it’ll be a pretty big discussion in 2014 especially in the TGC/T4G crowd. My prayer is that what comes out of this is a renewed emphasis and exploration of our union with Christ.

12 Mike Leake January 29, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Just to be clear, my comment could sound as if I’m equating “non-Reformed” with easy-believism. I’m not. I think it’s a particular temptation that is more likely to the non-Reformed but I know several that are not Reformed that abhor easy-believism.

13 Bart Barber January 29, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Jim Spivey used to teach in Church History the different pathways by which both Calvinism and Arminianism can be taken to Universalism (by way of antinomianism).

14 Mike Leake January 29, 2014 at 4:57 pm

That’s interesting. I could see how that is the case.

15 Dave Miller January 29, 2014 at 5:06 pm

gospely-sounding antinomianism. That’s an interesting idea.

16 Jeremy Parks January 29, 2014 at 6:19 pm

I hesitated to write this simply because I knew that Barber guy (Mr.? Dr.? Senor? Inmate?) frequented this site. According to Dave, B.B. is a bit passionate about antinomianism and, presumably, could think/talk/write rings around me on the subject. (“You call this a refutation of antinomianism? Pah! I spit on your blog post, you cheesy lot of second-hand electric donkey-bottom biters!”)

Thanks for being nice, guys.

17 Bart Barber January 29, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Whenever I write or speak, the product is lengthy enough to put rings around the equator.

18 Jeremy Parks January 29, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Funny you should say that…the equator is a 30 minute drive from my house.

19 Greg Harvey January 29, 2014 at 8:07 pm

So: did you see Bart on his last pass or not?

20 Adam G. in NC January 29, 2014 at 5:37 pm

I think a lot of this can be attributed to the late influence of the White Horse Inn crowd. It has injected a lot of Lutheran views of sanctification into the reformed camp. It’s even reflected in its name http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Horse_Tavern,_Cambridge

That said, they still have a lot of good stuff to offer, even though I would more align myself with the likes of Kevin DeYoung on this issue.

21 Les Prouty January 29, 2014 at 5:56 pm

FYI, right at 3 years ago Michael Horton wrote on this very thing in respons to criticism by some that the WHI folks are antinomian. The link is here and is very relevant to this discussion. http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2011/01/27/the-fear-of-antinomianism/

His article also has a link to that Tullian “can’t pronounce or type his last name” fellow.

22 John Wylie January 29, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Les,

I say the same thing about Tullian…LOL

23 Les Prouty January 29, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Yes John, he makes it difficult for us to cite him.

BTW, I’ve now gone over and read his post as well as Horton’s post I linked to above. I don’t really understand how anyone can accuse them of being antinomians. Dane Ortland’s post is next (linked from Tullian’s).

24 Bart Barber January 29, 2014 at 6:15 pm

I think that they answer the charge about antinomianism well, but I certainly understand why people have accused them of being antinomians. They give this perfectly good, helpful, and correct answer once seriously charged with being antinomians, but such a clear denunciation of antinomianism is harder to find in their day-to-day teaching. That matters, because it is possible for those who are not antinomians to make antinomians of others. Horton himself seems to acknowledge that WHI has some followers who have gone down that track.

Another thing that causes them to receive this criticism, I think, is the severity of the criticism that they levy the other direction. A legalist is someone who believes that you can be saved by following the law. I’d be in favor of a rule by which all of us are much more careful about the way we use the word “antinomian,” so long as it is accompanied by a much more careful use of the word “legalist.”

25 Les Prouty January 29, 2014 at 6:24 pm

Bart, I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you when I ask…but what in their day to day teaching lends itself to them opening themselves up to the criticism? I’ve read a lot of Horton over the years and others associated with him. I haven’t seen it so I’d be appreciative if some of these things are pointed out specifically.

I also appreciate the quote he has by MLJ. I think MLJ was right.

Last, might it be that some look at specific behaviors of Horton and others associated with him and even other Reformed folks and thus assume antinomianism? Things like alcohol use, cigars, watching certain movies? And then conclude antinomian?

Last last, as for legalism, are you saying that Horton says a legalist is someone who thinks one can be saved by following the law? And accuses others of that?

Thanks brother for your helpful comments.

26 Tarheel January 29, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Here’s the full quote from MLJ…it’s a goodie.

“It is true that where sin abounded grace has much more abounded; well then, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound yet further?” The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel than this, that some people might misunderstand it and mis-interpret it that it really amounts to this: that because you are saved by grace alone, it does not really matter at all what you do, you can go on sinning all you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching of the gospel does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel.

Let me show you what I mean. If a man preaches justification by works, no one would ever raise the question. If he says, “If you want to go to heaven, you must stop committing sins, live a life filled with good works, and keep this up regularly and constantly until the end, then you will be a Christian and go to heaven when you die.” Obviously, no one will accuse a man who preached like this of saying, “Let us continue in sin that grace may abound.” But every preacher who preached the gospel has been accused of this! They have all been accused of “antinomianism.” I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you really are preaching the salvation that is proclaimed in the New Testament to the ungodly, the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are the enemies of God. There is a kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.”

27 Bart Barber January 29, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Les,

Consider, for example, Tchividjian’s book “One-Way Love.” You don’t even have to go much further than the blurb: “Tchividjian convincingly shows that Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.”

Well, with all due respect, Christianity most certainly is about people getting better, and the gospel does a whole lot more than to teach us to cope with our failure to be good. Sanctification is about victory over sin, not a coping mechanism for the ongoing victory of sin in our lives. And when speaking to people who accuse him of antinomianism, Tchividjian agrees that Christianity is precisely about that. He says that we all agree that Christianity is about people’s getting better, we just disagree as to how to make that happen in the best way. He’d fall under less criticism if he would say as much to the people to whom he is marketing his book.

I do ask your apology for the confusion I generated with my comment about legalism. I should write more clearly, and I’ll try: Legalism actually IS the belief that a person is saved through works. This is what the New Testament condemns. Tchividjian (and a whole lot of other people) seem most often to use the word to mean something along of the lines of “any system of belief that calls out as sin something that I think ought not to be called out as sin,” or, to attempt greater brevity, “people stricter than I am.”

Now, I readily and enthusiastically admit that sometimes “antinomianism” is used simply to mean “people less strict than I am.” That’s a wrongful use of the term. And yes, I think that specific behaviors are sometimes in mind when these kinds of recriminations emerge from the barrel of somebody’s rhetorical gun. I call upon all to use the term with precision and grace. Reciprocity in that regard from those who like to wage war against “legalism” would be a welcome development.

28 Bart Barber January 29, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Tarheel,

The problem with MLJ’s statement is simply this: It takes into account not at all who is making the accusation of antinomianism. It treats the accusation in and of itself, no matter the source, as a vindication of one’s preaching. This is not only error; it is foolishness.

Paul was receiving this accusation from people who disagreed with him about basic gospel truths and who wanted to require adherence to the Old Testament law from New Testament Christians. MLJ’s statement seems to leave no room for the person who actually IS an antinomian to receive a good “God forbid” from a modern-day Paul. When a gospel-loving New Testament preacher says that you are preaching antinomianism, one ought not to presume immediately that this is a badge of honor to wear proudly. If fellow gospel-loving New Testament preachers do not criticize your preaching as being antinomian, that is no cause to worry, but is probably cause for joy.

29 Tarheel January 29, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Bart,

I took his statement as offering encouragement to gospel preachers falsely accused of antinomianism.

He uneqivocally speaks of those being misunderstood.

30 Ryan Abernathy January 29, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Bart-

I largely agree with where you are going on your definition of antinomianism, but I would like to ask you a question about your critique of the Tullian quote. The quote says “…good people getting better…” I saw in your response that you said “…most certainly about people getting better…” but you left out the word “good.”

I think that’s an important distinction. If the Gospel is just about “good people” getting better, then we really don’t need the Gospel, we need self improvement and Jesus is a good example to aspire to. But if the Gospel is for “bad people” who cannot be good, and I realize the word “coping” there is not the best word, then does that not change the discussion?

I’m wondering why you left out the “good” in your response, was that intentional or unintentional?

Thanks for being willing to interact. I always learn something when you write and respond. Thanks for ministering to all of us on Voices in that way.

31 Tarheel January 29, 2014 at 7:33 pm

I heard Johnny Mac summarize this MLJ quote by saying something like…

If youve never been accused of antinomianism then you might not be preaching biblical grace, and if you’ve never been accused of legalism you ight not be preaching enough law.

In other words, I think Jones and Mac are saying that as we preach the gospel we walk a line between law and grace…and, quite frankly it seems pretty clear that Paul also struggled in communicating the right balance. He took great strides at revealing both guilt under the law, and the grace God bestows.

32 Tarheel January 29, 2014 at 7:36 pm

…and was misunderstood on both fronts.

33 Bart Barber January 29, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Ryan,

I left out the “good” from the quote and the response because, obviously, the gospel is not about good people’s becoming better. It is also, however, not about bad people’s coping with their failure to be good. Tchividjian presents a false dichotomy between Pelagianism and something that is certainly highly vulnerable to the charge of antinomianism. And that is precisely the problem.

I left out the “good” because (a) I didn’t want to take the time to get into all of that, and (b) I also did not wish to choose either of the horns of the false dilemma presented by this thesis. I chose instead simply to skirt over the first option that he presented and focus upon the weakness of the alternative that he presented. The problem is that the gospel is indeed, in some sense, about BAD people getting better (not on their own, but not against their will either), but this is an option that he has excluded from our consideration. I wanted to include the “getting better” part of the first half of the quote because that’s the language that is missing from the last half that belongs there.

Make sense?

34 Bart Barber January 29, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Tarheel, I absolutely believe that’s what MLJ meant to say. That’s just not precisely what the quote says, and it certainly isn’t the way that it is used by people today. The effect and usefulness of the quote is simply as a pithy way to refuse to consider any accusation of antinomianism before seriously evaluating it.

35 Bart Barber January 29, 2014 at 10:15 pm

I like MacArthur’s quote far better.

36 Tarheel January 29, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Me too, actually Bart.

I wish I knew in hitch of his radio broadcasts he sad it…lol

I just heard him say it, and it stuck.

37 Tarheel January 29, 2014 at 10:43 pm

*on which of his radio broadcasts he said it.

38 Les Prouty January 29, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Bart,

Sorry for my delay. Been a busy late afternoon and evening.

On Tullian and MLJ, I appreciate that you found a quote to deal with. But I think you’re arguing with something you admit he doesn’t advocate. The blurb is just that…a blurb.

Of course we all agree that the gospel is not about good people getting better. But it is at least about bad people coping with their ongoing sin struggles. We all have them. Some more than others at different times.

I think that’s what he is talking about and makes clear in his post at TGC.

“To say, however, that the law has no power to change us in no way reduces its ongoing role in the life of the Christian. We just have to understand the precise role that it plays for us today: the law serves us by making us thankful for Jesus when we break it and serves us by showing how to love God and others. Only the gospel empowers us to keep the law. And when we fail to keep it, the gospel comforts by reminding us that God’s infinite approval does not depend on our keeping of the law, but Christ’s keeping of the law on our behalf. The gospel serves the Christian every day and in every way by reminding us that God’s love for us does not get bigger when we obey or smaller when we disobey. And guess what? This makes me want to obey him more, not less!” Tullian

Anyway, thank you for your insights brother.

39 Adam G. in NC January 29, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Yes, they do give a good defense, and I wouldnt go as far as calling them antinomians, but their teaching can lend itself to it. You hear it a lot regarding the subject of “pleasing God”. I think I remember someone saying it gives lip-service to the Law’s third use, but leaves no real practical room for it’s use.
I’m not sure modern Lutheran teaching even acknowledges the Third use of the Law. You hear a kind of reductionist view of “Law vs. Gospel”.

40 Adam G. in NC January 29, 2014 at 6:38 pm

…and Martin Lloyd-Jones was right regarding preaching our justification, but I dont think he meant our sanctification should relish in the charge of lawlessness.

41 joan January 29, 2014 at 4:23 pm

First, I want to state I am not using my real name. We are in process of leaving a reformed church that has taken “justification by faith” to the nth degree of moral corruption.

We have returned to the SBC, where we first learned “there is no justification without regeneration” decades ago. I pray it is still taught!

Thank you for a posting that fed our hearts today!

42 dr. james willingham January 29, 2014 at 6:06 pm

You folks ever hear of theological manipulation. Obviously, if one looks at the Bible closely, one will find that there are correctives built into biblical theology. I think a clear illustration of such is evident in the case of David and his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah the Hittite. Dr. R.G. Lee had a famous sermon, “Payday Someday,” encompassing the idea that the sinner will pay someday. My effort along the same lines was on an idea that clearly shows that Antinomianism does not work. My sermon was titled, “Payday – Today.” The Dean of Southern Baptist Evangelists, Dr. E.J. Daniels, published it in his magazine, Christ For the World Messenger back in the Fall of 1964, and he also published it in a book of my sermons, A Dynamic Gospel For a Dynamic Age (Orlando, Fla.: Christ For The World Publishers, 1965). David got away with adultery and murder, and he was enjoying the fruits of his antinomian lifestyle, a new son that he really loved. Yes, he got away with it or so it seemed. Then came Nathan the prophet to tell a little story, and then he said, “You are the man.” But before Nathan found him guilty, David declared the penalty, “the man…shall surely die: and he shall restore the lamb fourfold.”(II Sam.12:5,6). While David did not die, he wound up wishing he had died (remember Absalom and the cry, “Would God I had died for thee.”(II Sam.18:33). And it seems that he did, indeed, restore fourfold for the adultery and the murder. Four sons were immoral (counting Solomon and his 700 wives and 300 concubines). Four people died: the child of the union of David and Bathsheba (though God in His greater plan made the next child, Solomon, an ancestor of the Savior along with Bathsheba and David). Three of David’s sons were murdered. He paid and paid and paid and paid for the rest of his life. That message tells us that Antinomianism is an open door to disaster; it will not stand up to close examination in biblical light.

Thank you for your timely reminder about one of the most miserable paths to take as a believer. David would definitely approve of a negative response to such a practice. After all, he was a living example of what can happen to believers who try to go that route: Payday – Today. One pays in this life, and he or she pays and pays and pays and pays.

43 dr. james willingham January 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm

What I meant to say about theological manipulation is that there are those who have crept in unawares as the Bible says as well as those who have arisen within our camp who go to extremes, sometimes on purpose. Their purpose is to push the edges of the envelope. People will recoil from such extremes, not realizing that they might be heading in another direction just as disastrous. Outside forces can plan a method of infiltration and have as their goal to force a group away from some theological position to another. Any study of eschatology will eventually lead to the discovery that someone had the aim of getting Rome off of the hook of being the Antichrist, a charge that had been leveled at that institution for centuries (beginning with the Waldensians and reaching its height during and shortly after the Reformation). Now, for the most part, we do not even consider that organization to be the Antichrist. While I am not willing to lay the charge fully at their feet again, I am saying they pulled some slick tricks to get off the hook and get others focused on looking for an individual Antichrist.

There is also the desire of certain groups intent on blunting the effect of the First and Second Great Awakenings and the launching of the modern missionary movement, an intention that, I think, sought to do it by driving Baptists as well as other denominations off of their Sovereign Grace theology in order to subvert the whole process, a result well nigh accomplished in the 20th century. The groups or group are those who, in their own estimation and to some degree in reality, do run the whole world and who are on the verge of revealing their final success by creating a one world government, reducing the world’s population to a half billion (you really didn’t think the Guidestones in Georgia were a joke did you?), and securing to themselves and their posterity all of their wealth plus the whole earth, which they think they own. However, the stone cut out of the mountain without human hands will hold them in derision as it smites at the feet of the old image and crushing its head in the process (mixed metaphors from various scriptural references as you all know). The enemy is coming in like a flood, and the lord will raise up a standard against him, a counter flood, a greater flood, one that will fill the earth with His knowledge and glory as the waters that cover the sea.

Like the poor lady in life who had never had enough of any thing said, when her friends took her to see the Ocean for the first time and she looked at it in wonder, “Well, this is the first time I have every seen anything where there was more than enough of.” The Bible speaks of sin abounding and grace superabounding (to the point of overwhelming sin?)(Roms.5:20), and it speaks of sin reigning unto death and grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal life (Roms.5:21). That idea of grace reigning in the greatest way is the idea of Sovereign Grace which will trump Antinomianism any day of the week.

44 Jim Hedrick January 30, 2014 at 5:17 pm

How sweet your message is. Grace is the victory. Shine Jesus Shine. Salvation is the gift of a liberal generous grace giving sovereign. God Almighty is His name. Getting back to grace is the path of of the righteous in the 21st century.

45 Chad Chauvin January 29, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Jeremiah declared, “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My Law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” It’s repeated in Hebrews 8. What is this Law that God places into the hearts of all who are in the New Covenant (believers)?

How one answers this question generally determines their understanding of what God requires of Christians who are “under grace and not under Law”, and ultimately the nature of the Gospel itself (exactly what Law did Jesus fulfill to appease God’s wrath). This a component of Law and Gospel theology.

There has been a renewed interest in the Reformed view of sotereology (Calvinism), but there has been a slower recovery of the historical Reformed position on the relationship between the Law and the Gospel as expressed in documents such as the 1689 LBC (and other reformed confessions). This view is that God has expressed His eternal, moral Law by way of the 10 Commandments, first seen at creation and codified on Mt. Sinai. There is no other Law that the Jeremiah or Hebrew readers would have understood this to refer to. However, this is left out by the New Calvinists. Not having a clear, concise definition and understanding of what God requires in sanctification (The Decalogue) inevitably leads to not being able to clearly articulate what is sin and what is not in the eyes of God.

46 Jeff January 30, 2014 at 9:25 am

Christians are under a NEW COVENANT. The old covenant has been brought to an end (2 Corinthians 3:7,11,13.14). The new covenant is “not like the covenant” that God made with Israel at Mount Sinai (Jeremiah 31:32). Christians are not under the Mosaic law. We “are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). “Now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6). “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:19). We are not under the law of Moses, but under the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21, Galatians 6:2). The law was only from Moses until Christ, but now that Christ has come, we are no longer under the law (Galatians 3:24-25). Christ is the end of the law” (Romans 10:4). “The law and prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached” (Luke 16:16). When there is a change in the priesthood, there is also a changed of the law the law (Hebrews 7:12). We are no longer to seek to “do” the law (Romans 10:5, Galatians 3:10,5:3). The Mosaic law is still authoritative Scripture for Christians, but its authority is not the direct and immediate authority of a covenant we are under, but rather the law of Moses pointed forward as a type to the teaching of Christ, so that He “fulfilled” the law (Matthew 5:17).

Christians should not want to go back under the law of Moses. “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). The law of Moses came into increase the trespass (Romans 5:20, Galatians 3:19), and it leads to greater sinning and death (Romans 7:7-12). Instead of focusing on the law, we should focus on Christ and depend on the Spirit. The righteousness that the law of Moses pointed forward to is “fulfilled” in us (Romans 8:4,13:8,10; Galatians 5:14) as we are transformed through faith in Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

In the new covenant era inaugurated by Christ’s death, the focus is on fulfilling the law through love. The Great Commandment in the law is to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-39). “On these two commandments depend all the law and prophets” (22:40). “The one who loves has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). All the commandments “are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (13:10, Galatians 5:14). The Pharisees focused on keeping rules so much that they denied mercy and condemned the guiltless (Matthew 12:7) and ended up caring for animals more on the Sabbath than people who needed healing (Matthew 12:11-12). The focus in the new covenant moves away from the keeping of rules and focuses on love. This is not to deny that the new covenant contains commandments, for there are many commandments in the new covenant. Love needs to be guided by the commandments, and love does not violate the commandments (1 John 5:2-3). But there is no true keeping of the commandments without love. Love must guide and empower our interpretation and application of every commandment, and love must be the goal of our keeping of commandments.

47 Dee Stover January 31, 2014 at 11:49 am

The word there for law is Torah. Is the Torah written on our hearts? This is quoted in Hebrews. This makes it valid for us now. What is Torah? Jesus is not the end of Torah he is the goal toward which Torah points. Torah was our schoolmaster who held our hand. We can now walk without handholding but we must recall the principles Torah teaches and make loving merciful decisions in harmony with Torah…because Jesus said all the Torah and prophets hinge or hang on lovong God and neighbors. ..so how do we show love to God and neighbors? But to walk in harmony with Torah rather than rebelliously announce ‘i am not under law!’ Liberty, not license. Grace is not against Torah, but in harmony with Torah…as adults who can make gracious decisions in implementing it. Under law and works of law were euphemisms for Talmudic observance, not Torah. I can run a red light with no camera or anyone around…but i choose to obey because i am an adult who exercises my liberty to obey…and exercising patience.

48 Dee Stover January 31, 2014 at 11:51 am

And sometimes we see more in scripture when we obey things. Learning by doing has skyrocketed my understanding of scripture.

49 Jeff January 31, 2014 at 1:10 pm

“But to walk in harmony with Torah rather than rebelliously announce ‘i am not under law!’” How is it rebellious to say “I am not under the law”? We “are NOT UNDER LAW but under grace” (Romans 6:14). “Now we are RELEASED FROM THE LAW, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6). “If you are led by the Spirit, you are NOT UNDER THE LAW” (Galatians 5:19). “NOT BEING MYSELF UNDER THE LAW” (1 Corinthians 9:20). Was Paul rebellious?

50 Dee Stover January 31, 2014 at 1:53 pm

I dont mean to say we are under law…i mean when i choose to do something from scripture i feel is important for me to do, not putting it on others, there is always a grace-izer ready to bash me over the head with ‘are you under the law?’

51 Dee Stover January 31, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Plus under law means under Talmud. The Judaizers were pushing traditions of men for salvation as opposed to grace. Check your context of these verses and it will always point to tradition rather than Torah.

52 John Wylie January 31, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Sorry Dee, but under Law clearly means under Torah. And the Judaizers were pushing circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses for Salvation.

53 Dave Miller January 31, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Dee, a solid study of Galatians would do wonders as a theological corrective for you.

54 Dee Stover January 31, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Judaizers were pushing ritual Talmudic circumcision for salvation which is NOT commanded in Torah for salvation. Do you think Jews today obey Torah or do they obey Talmud? They choose Talmud over Torah now and back then. Paul did not break Torah by having Titus stay uncircumcised. If you knew Torah you woukd know that.

55 Jeff January 31, 2014 at 2:47 pm

It looks like that as a “New Covenant Theology” guy, I am finding some common ground with Dispensationalists like John Wylie and Dave Miller against somebody who is advocating a form of “Messianic Judaism” or “Hebrew Roots” theology. Of course, I originally was writing against Chad Cauvin, who was advocating 1689 Baptist Covenant Theology.

56 John Wylie January 31, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Jeff,

I think there is a little bit of a shift happening is dispensationalism today that I think is very beneficial. Our understanding of the New Covenant, the nowness aspect of the Kingdom, and the believer’s relationship to the law are all areas where dispensationalists are making vast improvement. What Dee fails to understand that the Gentiles Paul was preaching had no orientation whatsoever to the O.T. law and dealt with them by going back to our common creation by one God and not referencing the O.T.

57 Jeff January 30, 2014 at 5:25 pm

A Christian is tempted to sin. He really wants to do it, but he knows it’s wrong. He faces a dilemma because he can’t satisfy both his appetite and his conscience. He might indulge his appetite, telling himself: “I might as well enjoy this sin because I am already made righteous in Christ and there is no condemnation for me. I’m free to do as I want because I am under grace and not law.” Classic antinomianism, right? Or, he might cater to conscience by telling himself: “I can’t do this. It would make God love me less, and it would take away from the bank of merit my good deeds have been building.” Classic legalism.

I don’t know of many evangelicals who adopt either approach. Rather, the disagreement seems to be over the extent to which we emphasize freedom or effort as motivations to lead holy lives. Those who are accused of antinomianism tend to emphasize grace and freedom, rather than effort or determination, as the forces that motivate us to find our satisfaction in Christ rather than sin. Those who are accused of legalism tend to emphasize the continuing validity of effort in overcoming sin as an outworking of God’s grace.

There are evangelicals all over the spectrum between these two approaches, and I find a tug-of-war between them in my own life. I feel guilty for feeling guilty, and I feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough. The battle against sin (and the struggle to understand the battle) makes me yearn even more for Heaven, where we will be free from sin’s very presence..

58 Christiane January 30, 2014 at 9:52 pm

“This thought should keep us humble:
We are sinners, but we do not know how great. He alone knows Who died for our sins. ”

(John Henry Newman)

59 Adam G. in NC January 31, 2014 at 1:23 am

“I might as well enjoy this sin because I am already made righteous in Christ and there is no condemnation for me. I’m free to do as I want because I am under grace and not law.” Classic antinomianism, right? Or, he might cater to conscience by telling himself: “I can’t do this. It would make God love me less, and it would take away from the bank of merit my good deeds have been building.” Classic legalism.

I would say both of these extreme views are rampant in evangelicalism. It may not be prevalent in your church or the circles you run in, but I can say, as someone who has been on both sides of this fence, that they are everywhere. When I was a struggling young Christian, I had both of these used many times by well-meaning “evangelical” friends who wished to counsel me.

C’mon out to the highways and the hedges where “looking like the world” and “perfect church attendance” is a way of life.

60 Jeff January 31, 2014 at 9:39 am

I agree that both antinomianism and legalism are alive and well. I was thinking of the more narrow discussion among evangelical pastors and authors over the roles grace and law play in a Christian’s sanctification. My point was that “antinomian” and “legalist” are often used incorrectly to label someone who holds a different view of those roles. To use some guys mentioned above as examples, Tullian Tchividjian isn’t an antinomian, and Kevin DeYoung isn’t a legalist, even though they hold different views on the precise role of “good works” in a Christian’s life.

61 Adam G. in NC January 31, 2014 at 11:11 am

Yep. You’re correct. To 95% of “evangelical” America, this is “inside baseball”. They couldnt define either one…and probably wouldnt lose much sleep over it.

62 Dee Stover January 31, 2014 at 11:56 am

We truly have no definition of sin without Torah. John defines sin as transgression of Torah. But we have grace. Just because you will love ypur kids no matter what…you still know they must obey you to learn how to live. When adults they still hear your voice in their heads…written on their hearts…right? It draws them to do the right thing …hopefully.

63 Dee Stover January 31, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Dave I did a word by word study of Galatians in Greek and Paul clearly was saying Torah does not and never did teach circumcision for salvation. He was clearly proTorah and pro grace, anti Talmud and anti tradition of men.

The trouble with understanding this is that there are serious misconceptions about new testament passages people think are about Torah when if they knew what Torah was commanding and not commanding it would be obvious as it is to me they are about Talmud or another kind of ritual not in Torah.

64 Dee Stover January 31, 2014 at 2:45 pm

And Jeff , Paul in Romans is using different kinds of law, not just Torah for examples. If you know Torah it becomes a bit more clear how he is using this for arguments sake. Trouble is he is thinking or writing in Hebrew, then to Greek and English it all gets garbled in translation. But he is discussing law as a generic term through much of this, but ultimately he talks of three kinds of law before all is said. He is basically saying we cannot serve two laws…one must die to one to serve the other.

65 Jeff January 31, 2014 at 2:49 pm

There is no evidence that the New Testament was first written in Hebrew. NONE. Paul was a Hellenistic Jew who would have been thinking, speaking, and writing in Greek his whole life. This idea that the New Testament was first written in Hebrew is one of the really bad ideas that the Hebrew Roots or Messianic Jewish movement has been spreading.

66 Dee Stover January 31, 2014 at 3:02 pm

If you study Torah you think in Hebraisms. He studied under Gamaliel. He was arguing like a rabbi argues. No question. So to understand him you have to get into his head and think like Paul rather than your New Testament professor.

Dave, why is there a misquote of Deut. 27:26 in Gal 3:10? And ancient Jewish sages say this does not mean breaking a single command curses you, only if you reject the entirety of Torah.

67 Dale Pugh January 31, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Paul was, as an educated Jew AND Roman citizen, likely fluent in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. As a native of Tarsus and an emigrant Jew, Greek, not Hebrew would have been his first language. Hebrew would have been the language of his religion. Aramaic would have been a common language of his travels around Jewish Judea, but Hellenistic Jews, prominent in Jerusalem, would have preferred Greek. The business language he used as a “tanner” would have been koine’ Greek. Latin was the language of Rome, but Greek was the lingua franca of the Roman empire at large.
There is no evidence to support the assertion that Paul wrote first in Hebrew and then struggled to get the idea across in Greek. None. Zero. Nada. I know that none of this will convince you, but you really need to delve into the Greco-Roman backgrounds of the New Testament and recognize that the language, mindset, and lifestyles of the New Testament had changed significantly from the “Torah” times of the Old Testament.

68 Jeff January 31, 2014 at 10:23 pm

It should also be noted that most NT quotes of OT were from the LXX – not from the Hebrew text.

69 Christiane January 31, 2014 at 5:28 pm

from 1 Timothy 1, these words of St. Paul to Timothy:

“18 This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you,
that by them you fight the good fight,
19keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected
and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.”

our conscience helps keep us on course away the rocks until we are in safe harbor . . . it guides us in this troubled world, by the grace of God

70 Ken Hamrick January 31, 2014 at 9:06 am

Antinomianism grows out of the nominalism that has pretty much taken over the Evangelical Church since the end of the 19th century—so thoroughly that most don’t even recognize the name. Nominalism drives the realism out of our theology. Realism finds justice to be dependent upon reality, such that God cannot merely recategorize sinners as justified or the innocent as sinners. Realism contends that God is always true, and truth always corresponds to reality, and reality is always independent of any thoughts regarding it—even the thoughts of God. Therefore, realism resulted in the doctrine of original sin being justly grounded in a real, substantial, immaterial union of the moral (thus, accountable) nature of all men in Adam. Realism also logically requires that justification be grounded in the same kind of real, substantial, immaterial union of the moral nature of the sinner and Christ—and we do find Luther at times equating justification with union with Christ. However, nominalism’s popularity and influence grew over the centuries, resulting in “federal headship,” and eventually a full capitulation to the idea that God’s justice is not bound to reality, and God method is to simply recategorize men as He sees fit, into the categories of sinner or righteous. Of course, the theologians have sharpened this system to where all the jots and tittles are taken care of; but the insidious fruit of this system is take the focus of one’s faith off of the saving fact of Christ in you and put it onto Christ as Intercessor at the right hand of the Father in heaven—to take the emphasis off of the transforming presence of Christ in the believer and instead emphasize a salvation that needs only the nominalistic “imputation” in the courtroom of heaven. In other words, in this nominalistic federal gospel, I’m saved merely because God in heaven slammed His gavel down and declared me righteous—regardless of what my heart or life is like. But in reality, God imputes only what is true in reality. God imputes the righteousness of Christ only to those in whom He puts the Spirit of Christ in spiritual union, identifying the two as one man based on the substantial union of the two within reality and not merely within God’s mind. Therefore, the focus of the believer’s faith should be on the fact of Christ within—if the believer himself can find no evidence that Christ is indeed in him (no transformation), then there is no reason to trust that one has indeed been saved. We are not saved by a far away imputation, but by an intimate, real, substantial indwelling of Christ Himself—the imputation is the natural result of God accounting things as they really are.

71 Adam G. in NC January 31, 2014 at 11:28 am

This may be true for a certain few of those who consider federal headship, but not for most.

Nominalism isnt exclusive to the concept of imputed righteousness…methodism, roman catholicism all have their share of nominalists…possibly moreso. But hey, everyone’s got their favorite horse to whip.

72 Ken Hamrick February 1, 2014 at 10:15 am

Anyone who considers himself “declared righteous” in a way that does not require Christ within him has considered federal headship, whether realizing it or not. Yes, nominalism is in many places, but that doesn’t lessen the effect—and its less like a horse than a cancer to be driven out by teaching the truth. Christ is not merely an Intercessor in heaven, so that God’s focus is somewhere “up there.” Christ is the Intercessor within, standing in us on earth and reaching to the court of heaven. If it where not for Christ in us here, there could be no Intercession—the “imputation” would be thrown out on objection of the accuser, who—like N.T. Wright—would object that righteousness is not a substance, object or gas that can be passed across the courtroom. But—praise God!—the Holy Spirit can indeed be passed across the court room and indwell the defendant, and bring a just right and title to all that Christ accomplished, by so uniting sinner and Savior in substantial reality that the two rightly become one in the eyes of Justice.

73 Jeff February 1, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Wow, somebody is advocating the views of the 16th century Lutheran Andreas Osiander.

74 Ken Hamrick February 1, 2014 at 2:12 pm

No, Jeff, Osiander’s view was that sinners need only the righteousness of Christ’s divine nature, making His human nature irrelevant. I’m advocating that we need Christ’s human righteousness in order to be saved. What every sinner lacks in order to qualify for heaven is a human life lived in complete righteousness from cradle to grave, and the human experience of enduring the complete wrath of God due his sin. Christ as a man (who also happened to be God) gained both of these human experiences, and thereby secured the power to redeem any sinner who becomes spiritually joined to Him through the Holy Spirit. Of course, God will only join to Christ those who come by faith. But when the Spirit of the Son is sent into the sinner’s heart, he becomes one with him in identity, and the sinner gains a title to all of Christ’s human experiences—the sinner now owns all of Christ’s human past just as if it were his own past. This is possible because Christ is both God and man: His divine nature enables Him to indwell in His entirety each believer; and the indivisibility of His human and divine natures makes the union with Christ a union with all that He inseparably is, both divinity and humanity. Therefore, unlike Osiander’s view, the incarnation and human righteousness of Christ are necessary for salvation.

75 Tarheel January 31, 2014 at 11:27 am

Someone said earlier in this comment stream;

“Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling guilty and sometimes I feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough.”

I think this is spot on, and if we are honest its true for all of us who seek to find the right balance between grace and law, so to speak.

There is within all of us tendencies to justify our sins by misapplying the grace of God to somehow excuse ourselves before God and others (antinomianism) , and to think we must perform to make our selves presentable to God and others (legalism). Even if we do not project these attitudes onto others…we all struggle with them within ourselves.

There is an ongoing tension here in the life of a believer. Paul addresses this tension succinctly in Romans 7. Peter dealt with legalism too…remember when Paul got in his face? This is also why God through the pens of His authors went to great lengths to dispel the validity both incorrect attitudes.

I think often people look at this matter as an EITHER/OR (at least sometimes seeming to, perhaps unintentionally, the exclusion of the other) when in actuality we are talking about a BOTH/AND. Scripture teaches that we are rest comfortably and peacefully in the grace of God knowing that grace is completely sufficient and we are totally forgiven, AND to walk in good works, being holy as He is holy, and not sinning so that grace may abound.

I love the way Paul finished out Romans 7 where he takes head on this tension and finally exclaims;

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

76 Jeff January 31, 2014 at 11:42 am

Exactly. Even as a Blue Devil fan, I can say, “Amen, Tarheel!”

77 Tarheel January 31, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Wow…you admit to being a fan of the devil so openly?!

The horror. ;-)

78 Adam G. in NC January 31, 2014 at 11:40 am

I think your comment#31 summed up Paul’s writings very well. We forget that the way is narrow, with ditches both deep and wide.

Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has a good word as well…

“14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
2Peter 3:14-18

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