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reports, reviews, thoughts, news (and fun) posted by Gary Ware

The Gospel, Antinomianism and Legalism

2 Comments

Michael Bird was the first to link to this article by Jason Hood on the Christianity Today website: CT – “Heresy is Heresy, Not the Litmus Test of Gospel Preaching”.
The basic thesis is that the notion popularised by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, that faithful preaching of the Gospel should draw a charge of antinomianism and that preachers should welcome that charge as a sign of their orthodoxy, is fallacious and that Paul in Romans does not anticipate that the Gospel would bring and charge of antinomianism.
The article has drawn some responses.
Dane Ortlund at The Gospel Coalition: “The Radical Gospel – Defiant and Free”;
Tullian Tchvidjian: “Two Ways to Realize Radical Obedience”
Michael Horton adds a response: The Fear Of Antinomianism, both to Hood’s original post and also to a very long post by Frank Turk on a similar theme.
Scott Clark refers to all of these with added commentary on the reformed confessional standards which seem to respond to the essence of Hood’s and Turk’s charges.
Hood responds to some of these counterpoints at The Gospel Coalition: We Who Have The Spirit Have The Power To Change.
Turk responds to Clark here.

Such are the varied strands of US evangelicalism, reformed and Arminian, that I can’t be certain that the issues central to this debate are active in Australia, particularly in Presbyterianism.
I’d always taken Lloyd-Jones’ position to be tenable in the duty bound and legalistic culture in which he lived. The idea that salvation is not initiated, consummated or continued by human effort naturally sounds like antinomianism. The concern is that people from a duty bound background will conceive of a relationship with God in terms of their efforts.
In the age in which we live, where the emphasis is much more on individuals not being bound by anything much more than the dictates of their emotions, the same Gospel, which contends that we are saved by grace alone, but that saving grace doesn’t come to us alone, and saved people always demonstrate their love for Jesus by keeping His commandments sounds like a form of legalism.
Most of the preaching I’ve ever heard has differentiated between justification, which is God’s work of declaring us righteous on the basis of Christ’s redemptive work imputed to us and sanctification whereby we are renewed in the whole person after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
In other words, proclamation which calls on people to respond to Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

2 thoughts on “The Gospel, Antinomianism and Legalism

  1. A good summary, Gary, thanks. Controversies like this make me question the worthwhileness of parachurch groups like the Gospel Coalition; and they also make me thankful to be within a confessional church where we can benefit from the work that previous generations have done to think some of these complicated questions through. The article by Tullian Tchvidjian that you link to does a good job of explaining what the Reformed confessional tradition has to say about this. Without such grounding, our freelance pietist friends may find themselves Young Wrestless and Wesleyan before they know it.

  2. Pingback: Does Grace Undermine Goodness? (via John McLean and the Pulse) | mgpcpastor’s blog

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