Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Reformation Study Bible: Antinomianism

Yes, I know the ESV Study Bible is all the rage now. But anyway, here is the ESV Reformation Study Bible's note on Antinomianism (p. 1831).


Antinomianism means "opposed to law." Antinomian views are those denying that God's law in Scripture should directly control the Christian's life.

Dualistic antinomianism appeared early in the Gnostic heresies, like those opposed by Peter and Jude (2 Pet. 2; Jude 4-19). The Gnostics taught that salvation was for the soul only, making bodily behavior irrelevant both to God's interest and to the soul's health. The conclusion was that one may behave riotously and it will not matter

A "spiritual" antinomianism puts such trust in the Holy Spirit's inward prompting as to deny any need to be taught by the law how to live. Freedom from the law as a way of salvation is assumed to bring with it freedom from the law as a guide to conduct. In the first 150 years of the Reformation era this kind of antinomianism was common. The Corinthian church may have been in the grip of this error, since Paul warns them that a truly spiritual person acknowledges the authority of God's Word (1 Cor. 14:37; cf. 7:40).

Another kind of antinomianism begins from the point that God does not see the sin in believers, because they are in Christ, who kept the law for them. From this they draw the false conclusion that their behavior makes no difference, provided they keep on believing. But 1 John. 1:8-2:1 and 3:4-10 point in a different direction. It is not possible to be in Christ and at the same time embrace sin as a way of life.

Some dispensationalists have held that since Christians live under a dispensation of grace, not law, keeping the moral law is at no stage necessary for them. Rom. 3:31 and 1 Cor. 6:9-11 clearly show, however, that keeping the law is a continuing obligation for Christians.

It is sometimes said that the motive and intention of "love" is the only law God requires of Christians. The commands of the Decalogue and other ethical parts of Scripture, although they are ascribed to God directly, are regarded as no more than guidelines that love may at any time disregard. But Rom. 13:8-10 teaches that specific commands reveal what true love it. The law of God exposes the counterfeit love that will not accepts its responsibility towards God and neighbor.

The moral law revealed in the Decalogue and expounded in other parts of the Bible is an expression of God's righteousness, given to be a code of practice for God's people in every age. The law is not opposed to the love and goodness of God, but shows what it is in action. The Spirit gives Christians the power to observe the law, making us more and more like Christ, the archetypal observer of the law (Matt. 5:17)


As it can be seen, Antinomianism does not necessarily include the teaching that Christians can keep on sinning. In fact, the very term itself (anti-: against; nomon: law) any teaching that removes the law from the Christian life. Definition 2 (spiritual antinomianism) and 4 (hyper-Dispensational cheap grace antinomianism) are probably the ones to focus on. Joseph Prince is not a type 1 or 3 antinomian, but he is most certainly a type 2 and 4 antinomian. In his book Destined to Reign, Prince denies being an antinomian but he only considers the type 3 version, not the others of which he is blatantly guilty of.

10 comments:

Joel Tay said...

Good post on "Josephian Antinomianism".


Phil Johnson writes defines antinomianism as:

- Anyone who believes that Christians are not obliged to obey any part of the Law of Moses qua Law-of-Moses

- Anyone who believes that Christians are not obliged to obey the moral division of the Law of Moses qua Law-of-Moses

- Anyone who believes that Christians are not obliged to obey the commands of Christ and the apostles

- Anyone who believes that Christians are not obliged to obey any law

- Anyone who sets the leading of the Holy Spirit in opposition to obedience to any rule or law, whatever the source or location

- Anyone who sets grace in opposition to obedience to any written word of God

PuritanReformed said...

Joel:

actually, I am not too sure of the first two. Are we really obligated to obey any part of the Law of Moses or the moral division of the Law of Moses QUA Law of Moses? I thought it was more of qua Law of Christ?

Joel Tay said...

lol. You can feedback to Phil Johnson. You have a point. I was just copying what he wrote

PuritanReformed said...

Joel:

I see. I'll think about it; I think Phil is rather busy though... haha

PuritanReformed said...

Plus, Phil does not like to change his articles. I can still remember the fiasco involving Dr. James White and the false allegations of hyper-Calvinism thrown at him by the Neo-Amyraldian schismatic Tony Byrne utilizing Phil's "Primer on Hyper-Calvinism".

eekpil said...

I think the point should not be endeavoring to put Pastor Joseph Prince into a box, or trying to give him a label.

Correct me if I am mistaken, but the "antinomian" label betrays a rather disparaging view of the man and his teachings.

Would it not appear more objective and more helpful to use simple, straight-forward language(instead of theological terms) to describe the man and his teachings? Words that are more neutral.

I would have described the man and his teaching as with some of the words as set out below:

1.law-free (cf law-less);
2.care-free (cf care-less);
3.shame-free (cf shameless);
4.guilt-free (cf guilt-less)
5.God-reliant (cf self-reliant);
6.Christ-centred (cf man-centered);
7.Person to behold (cf princples to follow)

Just to elaborate a little more:
To encourage someone to live a law-free and care-free life does not equate to encourage the person to break the law and live irresponsibly.

By God's grace, I endeavor to live a law-free and care-free. I do not deliberately try to learn about and obey all of God's and of the laws of the land (fact is: I know very little of the legal system and the various laws that govern my life in Singapore).

In that sense, I live a law-free life - guided not by my mastering of the intricate details of all the laws and of my attempt to comply with them, but by the inner motivation to be a good man, a considerate person, a responsible citizen.

I endeavor to live a care-free life because I am convicted by the truths preached in the church to cast my cares to Him Who cares for me. But I do not become lazy and ignore the need to plan ahead (yes, I believe it is difficult to, but totally possible, with the right beliefs and by the grace of God, to plan ahead without worrying about the future).

So, there you have it. Personally, I would not use the term "antinomian" which carries the negative connotation of "lawlessness" (living licentiously and breaking the law), but would describe Pastor Joseph Prince a preacher of law-free-ness.

PuritanReformed said...

eekpil:

Theological terms exist for a reason, and they are formulated through the trials of the Church.

>I would have described the man and his teaching as with some of the words as set out below:
1.law-free (cf law-less);
2.care-free (cf care-less);
3.shame-free (cf shameless);
4.guilt-free (cf guilt-less)
5.God-reliant (cf self-reliant);
6.Christ-centred (cf man-centered);
7.Person to behold (cf princples to follow)

Law-free = Law is not required. You can spin it however you want, but if there is no Law, then there is no way Prince can say anything is wrong. Why should Prince denounce homosexuality as a sin for example, since there is no law?

And Prince is not Christ-centered. If he is, he would stop preaching a message of me, me, me - blessings for ME, health for ME, wealth for ME ad infinitum ad nauseum. Sure, Prince preaches Jesus - as a tool to get all your blessings in life.

>In that sense, I live a law-free life - guided not by my mastering of the intricate details of all the laws and of my attempt to comply with them, but by the inner motivation to be a good man, a considerate person, a responsible citizen

So you are living a life based on what you personally think makes a good person, instead of what the Bible says is a godly lifestyle?

In conclusion, you have not addressed any of the issues. In fact, judging from the obnoxious behavior of NCC-ers I have seen and heard, I can say that the fruit sure confirms the charge. Never in my life have I seen "believers" so focused in persuing health and wealth (the lust of the flesh) and claiming God's name in so doing.

eekpil said...

I agree with you that theological terms exist for a reason, and they are formulated through the trials of the Church.

Nevertheless, I believe that it is not edifying to apply theological labels (negative ones, mind you) to others, just because those people subscribe to or adopt a different theological stance or approach to preaching than you.

You may have good personal reasons to insist that "Law-free = Law is not required".

I take a different view from you though. Not saying that you are wrong and I am right. Just that our views on the matter differs.

To me, "Law-free" does not mean the "Law is not required". Personally, to be law-free simply means I do not live my life always conscious of the necessity to obey and comply with the law. and constantly fearing that otherwise, I would suffer the undesirable consequences.

Using the example of the laws of Singapore: I do not try to live my life in Singapore trying to obey and comply with every single law of the land. I just grasp the principle (or if you may, the spirit) behind the laws and live my life as best as I could.

e.g. I fully understand and embrace the principle (spirit) behind the law against speeding is for the protection of lives and properties. Therefore, I do not speed. Not because I know exactly the wordings of those laws, and not because I fear the penalty, but because I understand and respect the value of lives and properties.

Similarly, I do not deliberately try to obey the ten commandments. I just understand and embrace the truth that God is love, and He loves people. And because of that understanding and conviction, I DO NOT WANT to have idols in my life, i HAVE NO DESIRE to steal or murder.

I do not live conscious of the NEED TO KEEP God's Law and in FEAR of the consequences of breaking God's Law.

I live under a consciousness of God's goodness and loving-kindness, and therefore lead a life with the DESIRE TO RESPOND by loving Him and the people He placed in my life in truth and love.

With due respect, I do not see myself as trying to "spin it" however I want. I sincerely believe what I have written, even if you were to choose to doubt my intentions.

Noone is saying that there is no Law. I do not (and from what I understand, NCC does not) claim that there is no moral law. I do not (and from what I know, NCC does not)assume that there is no laws of the land governing life in Singapore.

I am(and from what I know, NCC is) saying that we do not need to our lives consciously trying to keep those moral laws and or the laws in Singapore.

I hope you see and understand the subtle difference between "claiming that there is no law", and "leading a life that is not law-conscious".

NCC and Pastor Joseph Prince know and acknowledge that God's law exist, that is why we are firm on our stance that homosexuality is a sin.

However, we do not preach the Law to condemn the homosexuals and cause them to run away from God, fearing His judgment.

We preach God's grace and forgiveness to them, trusting that when they hear and see God as He is - a loving God and a Savior who died for them to give them the abundant life, they will understand and embrace godly relationships, and therefore leave the ungodly ones.

I do not know why, but I do not challenge your conclusion that "Pastor Prince is always preaching a message of me, me, me - blessings for ME, health for ME, wealth for ME". You are entitled to you own view. And I respect that.

My conclusion, after attending the church for more than 8 full years, however, is totally opposite from yours - that Pastor Prince is always preaching about Christ, Christ, Christ - blessings from Christ, health from Christ, wealth from Christ.

I do not insist that you have to agree with my conclusion.

The way I see it, Pastor Prince preaches Jesus - as a Good and Glorious God who always loves and blesses.

No, I do not claim to be living a life based on what I personally think makes a good person. And I do not deliberately, by my own will and self-efforts, try to conform to the principles of godly living.

I live conscious of God greatness and goodness, I talk with Him and I read the His Word. And I see Jesus living the godly life, and I WANT TO and I am thankful I GET TO allow Him to live that godly life in and through me.

I pray that those NCC-ers who offended you with their obnoxious behavior, will get a greater revelation the Gracious Lord Jesus, and be transformed into His image more and more, from glory to glory.

You may disagree with me, but I see the verse "be Holy as He is holy" as a promise from God (rather than a command), and I want that promise to be fulfilled in the lives of those "obnoxious: people, so that they may be glorious testimonies that point people and attract them to Jesus and His grace, instead of stumbling blocks that cause people to have form a negative opinion of what grace is all about.

We differ again in our views pertaining to peoples' pursuit for health and wealth.

Contrary to your observation, I see again and again, people from all over the world, regardless of whether they are atheist, Christians or adherents of other beliefs or atheist, constantly and relentlessly desiring for and doing their best to get health and wealth, for themselves and the ones they love.

Personally, I don't see a desire to be healthy and wealthy as sinful lusts. I see it as human's inborn inclination, a mechanism built in the brain to ensure the human race to multiply and be fruitful on the Earth. The way I see it, it is only when people value and pursue those earthly needs and desires above God and His Will and Plan for them (to be loved by God, and in response, to love God and other human beings), that those needs and desires become sinful lusts.

How interesting that we may be hearing and seeing the same things, but arrive at total different conclusions. :-)

In conclusion, I would just say that you and I perceive and interpret things very differently, in our own unique ways.

Bro, I see that you have a passion for godly things and you have an analytical mind. May God continue to bless you, so that you may, through your analysis and sharing, cause more people to see our Lord Jesus in all His wisdom, glory, beauty, righteousness and decide to be embraced by, and in response, embrace Him back.

PuritanReformed said...

eekpil:

you are certainly entitled to your view, but I don't think you have produced enough evidence to convince me otherwise about Prince's message. Until I have done my review of Prince's book Destined to Reign, adieu.

eekpil said...

Frankly, I feel no absolutely no compulsion at all to convince you of, or to convert you over to, my point of view.

I believe in honest exchanges of ideas. I believe people can disagree without being disagreeable. I believe people can be totally convinced of their own views and therefore debate passionately about certain issues, yet still remain gracious, respectful and gentlemanly toward each other.

I believe, when the parties involved are willing to do so, genuine communication will help to promote mutual understanding, growth and maturity.

I share what I shared not to assert my views or to win any argument, but with the intention to encourage, to build up, to help.

I shared and am sharing thoughts and that I sincerely believe have been useful and helpful to my appreciation of God and His truths, and my enjoyment of this life God has so graciously gifted me with; and which I reckon could possibly be* useful and helpful to others.

*NOT will definitely be - I don't claim to be superior to others in terms of my perspective, my knowledge, my understanding and my philosophy.

Just like I am at liberty to consider your views and endeavor to understand them (and you), you may choose to consider or to ignore the things I've shared with you. Trust the Holy Spirit of wisdom to guide you in discerning the things that have been shared.

Stay rested and blessed in Christ's love for you. Shalom.