Archive for the ‘Antinomianism’ Category

Philip Paul Bliss (Revised) and Wade Burleson

February 5, 2010

Wade Burleson says he welcomes the charge of antinomianism (link) which I trust he simply means rhetorically. Of more interest than his main point, however, is how converts a 19th century poem from an orthodox sense to a legalist sense:

I love the following song, written by Philip Paul Bliss in the mid-1800’s:

“Free from the law—oh, happy condition!
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.” (P. Bliss)

Our brothers who don’t understand our freedom might sing the following:

“Bound to the law-oh, everyone listen!
Jesus did die, but we’re on a mission;
Live by the law and try not to fall,
cause Christ did nothin for us at all.” (S. Baptist)

What is interesting is that I had previously heard the same technique applied to this poem to make antinomian:

“Free from the law—oh, happy condition!
I can sin as I please, and still have remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.” (Antinomian)

Neither legalism (which Wade ascribes to Southern Baptists) nor antinomianism is proper. We are freed from the law, yes. Yet it is still our duty to follow the law, and if we love God we will obey his most holy commandments.

-TurretinFan

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Antinomianism – The Other Side of the Island

September 14, 2009

If on one side of the island of Christianity there is the dangerous water of Legalism as taught not only by Rome but many others, there is also on the other side of the island the danger of Antinominianism. Mark Jones at Meet the Puritans provides a more complete explanation, including a quotation from the real Francis Turretin to assist the reader in distinguishing between Justification and the entirety of the New Covenant (link). Legalism suggests that men are justified by works, whereas Antinomianism has no use at all for the law in the life of a Christian. Both errors ought to be avoided.

Responding to Paul Hoffer on Morality and the Gospel

June 3, 2009

In response to anonymous comments on a previous post, Paul Hoffer wrote:

Dear Anonymous, the reason that Dr. Tiller’s murder was intrinsically wrong is because he was deprived of the chance of repenting of the evil that he had done on this earth and truly coming to know the saving grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ as opposed to merely going to church on Sundays. Since he is now a martyr for the abortion rights advocates, the evil that Dr. Tiller perpetrated gets to continue on.

Another thing that gave me pause was the fact that this man was killed within a Lutheran Church, so called, and dared to call himself a Christian. Obviously he was not familiar with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who was killed opposing the Nazis, who wrote about the difference between true grace that comes from Christ Jesus and that which deludes men in his book “The Cost of Discipleship.” He wrote:

[It] is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” pg. 30.

Cheap grace which appears to be preached at Tiller’s church is truly horrific because it justifies one’s sins without achieving the justification or sanctification of the sinner. Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, we all can decry the kind of Gospel that must be preached there.

I answer, going section by section:

“Dear Anonymous, the reason that Dr. Tiller’s murder was intrinsically wrong is because he was deprived of the chance of repenting of the evil that he had done on this earth and truly coming to know the saving grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ as opposed to merely going to church on Sundays.”

Uh … no. The reason that Dr. Tiller’s murder was intrinsically wrong is because men are created in God’s image and their lives cannot lawfully be intentionally ended by their fellow men without God’s authority.

Uzzah was killed instantly for his sin, without the chance to repent. Furthermore, in general, capital punishment is prescribed by God’s word as the appropriate punishment for numerous crimes (as I’ve laid out elsewhere). The issue is not the fact that death takes away the ability to repent, but that to lawfully kill another person intentionally, one must have divine warrant.

“Since he is now a martyr for the abortion rights advocates, the evil that Dr. Tiller perpetrated gets to continue on.”

He is treated as a martyr by some, to be sure. However, his death will actually discourage other young doctors from taking the path of becoming professional murderers. So, it’s really hard to guage whether his murder will have positive or negative consequences. Consequentialism, however, is a flawed ethic.

“Another thing that gave me pause was the fact that this man was killed within a Lutheran Church, so called, and dared to call himself a Christian.”

Many call themselves Christians who are not Christians.

“Obviously he was not familiar with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who was killed opposing the Nazis, who wrote about the difference between true grace that comes from Christ Jesus and that which deludes men in his book ‘The Cost of Discipleship.'”

I don’t have any way of knowing whether he was familiar with those writings or not. I assume this is just a bit of rhetorical flourish by Mr. Hoffer.

“[It] is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.”

I wonder whether Mr. Hoffer is willing to direct Bonheoffer’s cannon Rome-ward? How often are we reminded of the fact that church discipline in the Roman church is largely lacking!

“Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

The concept of “cheap grace” is one error into which one can fall. It is the error of the libertines. But there is an equally dangerous error: the error of grace cheapend by purchase. The error of legalism that supposes that one’s own works contribute to one’s justification in the sight of God, or that somehow one’s personal righteousness is the basis of or the maintenance of a right relationship before God. Mr. Hoffer is locked on one error, but has he forgotten the other?

“Cheap grace which appears to be preached at Tiller’s church is truly horrific because it justifies one’s sins without achieving the justification or sanctification of the sinner.”

An antinomian gospel purports to justify sinners, just as a legalist gospel purports to justify “righteous” folks. Both are serious errors, for justification is by faith alone – but a true faith is one that comes out of a love of Christ – one that will consequently be accompanied by fruits of that love of Christ. Mr. Hoffer seems to be good at straking the other ditch for its errors – but we invite him to come out of the opposite ditch and join us on the straight and narrow road provided by Christ.

“Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, we all can decry the kind of Gospel that must be preached there.”

Yes, both the legalist and the orthodox can decry the antinomian. Nevertheless, it would be a false ecuminism to suggest that because we both reject the false gospel of antinomianism (live as you please) we are of one mind.

-TurretinFan

The Old Testament Law – Tripartite Analysis

October 31, 2008

To provide some background for discussion of the law of God, it is important to understand the categories involved:

Categories

The law of God in the Old Testament is of three kinds:

1. Moral

Moral law, because it reflects the character of God, is enduring and immutable. It never was and it never will be permissible to worship any god but God, it never was and never will be permissible to worship God other ways than He ordains, it never was and never will be permissible to dishonor God’s name, it never was and never will be permissible to appropriate all seven days of the week for our work, it never was and never will be permissible to dishonor the authorities over us, to kill, to steal, to lie, to covet, and so forth. In short, it is always the case (for all history) that we must love the Lord our God wholeheartedly and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

2. Ceremonial

Under the Adamaic, Noahic, Abramic, Mosaic, and Solomonic administrations of the covenant of grace, the worship of God was manifested in certain outward ceremonies that were designed to point to Christ. Eminent among these ceremonies were the rite of animal sacrifice, the practice of tabernacle and later temple worship, and in some cases a specialized priesthood. These things all have been fulfilled in Christ, the one true and perfect sacrifice. He is our high priest and his sacrificial work is finished. Consequently there is no more sacrifice and no more priestly class among us. There were other associated ceremonies as well, such as dietary laws and laws related to physical cleanliness as a picture of spiritual cleanliness. All these ceremonial laws, being fulfilled in Christ, have been done away.

3. Civil / Judicial / Juridical

This third category of laws were the laws specific to the Mosaic administration of the nation of Israel. They are the laws by which the country was run. They are not binding on all humanity. Nevertheless, they are important as to their “general equity,” by which I mean that they show to us a just system of government. There are moral aspects of the civil law of Israel, and these moral aspects remain significant. There were circumstantial aspects, and these aspects necessarily vary under different circumstances. Finally, there were ceremonial aspects, and these aspects have been fulfilled or supplanted in the New Testament.

Errors Distinguished

There are four major (and numerous minor) errors that arise from holding to expired portions of the law (Judaizers and “Extreme” Theonomists) or to disposing of still-relevant portions of the law (“Extreme” Two-Kingdomists and “Extreme” Dispensationalists / Antinomians).

1. Judaiziers

Judaizers seek to impose part (or perhaps all) of the ceremonial law on Christians. Thus, for example, the Judaizers argue that it is necessary for Christians to be circumcised.

2. “Extreme” Theonomists

The term “theonomist” has a wide range of meanings. In some cases, folks who call themselves “theonomists” will insist that virtually all and every detail of the Mosaic law with respect to the Nation of Israel must be followed. The problem with this approach is that it overlooks the fact that the Mosaic law was tailored to two particular forms of government and accompanied a nation-state that has ceased to be.

3. “Extreme” Two-Kingdomists

I am using the term “extreme” here because I’m not sure all “two-kingdom” folks would say this description applies to them. In some cases, it appears that “two-kingdoms” folk treat the civil law of Israel as though it were entirely ceremonial. Thus, these folks say that the civil law is essentially done-away-with and consequently for instruction on how governments should be just, we must appeal exclusively to “natural law,” the light provided by God in general revelation.

4. “Extreme” Dispensationalists / Anti-Nominians

“Extreme” Dispensationalists and also Anti-Nominians take the view that all the laws of the Old Testament are done away with, including the moral law. This error arises from a failure to understand the nature of the moral law, and the relation of God to the law of God. God does not change, and consequently the definition of morality does not change.

Conclusion

The issue of God’s law is not a simple one to be handled carelessly or callously. We must be careful to observe to do all that God has commanded us, and yet we need to be careful not to bind men’s consciences beyond what the Word of God states. Excess in the first regard leads to legalism, excess in the second regard leads to antinomianism. There is one way to see the path to stay on it, without going either to the left or to the right: that one way is by careful attention to the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures.

-TurretinFan

Dining at Dover

January 24, 2008

Years ago, before the Chunnel, Dover England was known for its white, chalk cliffs. These rocks are very in calcium: in fact they are mostly calcium carbonate. Calcium is an important mineral for human life. Bones have a large calcium composition, and most doctors these days recommend calcium supplements to women, especially as the approach and pass menopause.

It would be absurd to seize on the fact of Calcium’s importance, to move to Dover and start dining on its cliff faces. Living off the land: literally! It wouldn’t just be absurd, it would be deadly. A person would die if he attempted to do such a thing.

We see a similar mistake in a recent post by “Orthodox,” who states: “White is effectively telling us that tradition ought to influence our interpretation of the text,” and then continues, “Great! But by how much, one might ask? Once given permission to employ this principle, he can hardly complain if we really employ it, can he?” (emphasis original) (source)

And of course, the answer is that we can complain if people abuse any good thing. Paul gave Timothy permission to drink alcohol:

1 Timothy 5:23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.

But that was not permission for Timothy to get really “medicated” whenever he wanted. Frankly, it would be absurd to suggest such a thing, and it would take a die-hard alcoholic to seek to justify his abuse by reference to that verse.

Even so, tradition has a place. Tradition is useful, and it is arrogant to ignore tradition. The Reformers have been noting this from the beginning of the Reformation. Orthodox mentions one part of the Dividing Line message (link to DL) that interested him, but he forgets to mention that Calvin (for example) frequently made reference to and relied on the teachings of the early church fathers.

“Orthodox” mockingly claims that if “ignoring the historical position of the church equals arrogance, then being a Reformed Baptist has got to be pretty high on the arrogance scale,” but his comment simply betrays his own ignorance of Reformed Baptists. It’s hardly the case that “Reformed Baptists” ignore church history. They may get some of it wrong, and they may have difficulty justifying their baptismal practices historically, but they don’t “ignore” history – at least none that I have met do.

“Orthodox” also asks: “why are they holding positions unknown in the history of the first 15 centuries of church?” (of which, “Orthodox” supposes that limited atonement is an example) Poor “Orthodox” – I really think he believes his own propaganda, and yet it is cruelly ironic, because he is demonstrating his ignorance of church history.

Limited atonement can be viewed, and I’ll not get into the full argument here (nor in the combox), as simply a more developed explanation of atonement as that provided by Anselm of Cantebury (1033-1109) and expanded upon by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). “Orthodox” may even be surprised to realize that the controversy over “limited atonement” actually post-dates Calvin (not because Calvin was a universalist as the Amyraldians would like to content), but simply because it was not a matter of debate. It became an issue when the universalist position became advocated by the Remonstrants.

Indeed, while limited atonement per se may not have been discussed previously, it was largely because of a lack of controversy. It is not as though Calvin or Luther cast of the shackles of universalism to rediscover the truth of limited atonement: instead, the Reformation more fully developed soteriological doctrines that were already known.

But that historical trivia is mostly an ironic aside. The bottom line is that whether or not the doctrine were merely a revival of a Scriptural doctrine, or a better explanation of an existing doctrine within Western Christianity, tradition is not the end of the matter. In the former case, if the Bible says it, we must believe it, and we must buck the contrary tradition, though not without caution. In the latter case, we must be sure to confirm that the doctrine is not just traditional but also Biblical.

In short, we must have a balanced diet. We must use our minds: we must search Scripture. On the other hand, we must do so with caution, aware of our own fallibility, and appreciative of the effort of theological giants that have gone before us. We must resist the urge to cast off the traditions of the elders in favor of anarchy and antinomianism. Tradition is good and useful, as part of healthy church life. But we’d be Dover diners to try to live by tradition rather than by the Word of God.

As Luther pointed out, relying on tradition alone ends most controversies: but does so by doctrinal stagnation. Deep mud doesn’t create a stir – in fact it, in a sense, stabilizes; but those mired therein are not better for the stability it provides. Don’t fall prey to Satan’s devices: do not cease to search Scripture.

May God give us wisdom as we do so,

-Turretinfan


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