Fear is a powerful motivator. We’ve grown used to it being used in politics to argue for (or against) certain economic, immigration, or military proposals. We sometimes don’t recognize its misuse in the church. This week, the fear of antinomianism (which means the rejection of God’s Law as a standard of righteous action required of God’s covenant people) has been raised. There have been genuine antinomians in church history. There are many today, who set aside God’s law as the standard for God’s righteous judgment, usually substituting their own prescriptions. However, accusations have been raised over the last few days that target people who are decidedly not antinomian. In a recent Christianity Today article by Jason Hood, the antinomian charge was directed at contemporary Reformed preachers and writers. Elsewhere, the White Horse Inn was rebuked for encouraging this false teaching.
There’s no point in responding to accusations point by point. Anyone who subscribes Lutheran or Reformed confessions is conscience-bound to repudiate antinomianism as a perversion of biblical teaching. We do not deny the abiding role of God’s moral law in exposing our sin (first use) and guiding us in grateful and godly living (third use). So if Reformation Christianity is “antinomian” (the perennial charge from Roman Catholic and Arminian quarters), then it would help if critics would let us know the new definition.
The conventional wisdom in many Christian circles is that “we need to find the right balance between law and grace, so that we don’t fall into legalism or license.” Although this counsel has a long history, its most recent expression was urged in Jason Hood’s article. The author expresses concern that too many Reformed Christians today are encouraging antinomianism—or at least reveling in the charge. The author especially criticizes appeals to the point made by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (on the basis of Romans 6:1) that if we aren’t accused of antinomianism, we haven’t preached the gospel properly. In that verse, Paul asks the rhetorical question that he assumes his treatment of the gospel thus far will provoke: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” The author of this article points out that Paul immediately answers in the strongest possible terms, “By no means!” Yet his article implies that those of us who invoke Lloyd-Jones’ point might answer otherwise.
This misunderstanding can be cleared up easily by looking at what Lloyd-Jones goes on to say in that Romans commentary. It could also be cleared up by looking at the sharp denunciations of antinomianism in the Lutheran Book of Concord and the Reformed (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort) and Presbyterian standards (Westminster Confession and Catechisms), as well as the Savoy (Congregationalist) and the London Baptist confessions. With Paul, we answer without hesitation,