Five Ways To Create An Antinomian

Antinomian: derived from the Greek anti (against) and nomos (law); against the law.  

How does one become an antinomian?  What characteristics and assumptions are needed to go down the path of lawlessness?    

Below, I propose 5 Scenarios - 5 Theses - that foster antinomianism.  For the sake of clarity, I have also listed simple explanations for each of these scenarios.   

Without further ado, they are:  

1) Rejecting the Law
In 1996, the rocker, Sheryl Crow, sang, "If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad."  While there are disputes about the exact meaning of her lyrics, this pithy phrase captures the idea of personal freedom; that is to say, the lyrics from her song summarize the idea that people have the absolute right to pursue whatever makes themselves happy, regardless of what anyone else says or commands.  What this means is that doing whatever makes oneself happy - despite God's morally good Law - is the undisguised spirit of antinomianism.  Consequently, if God's Law is rejected, sin will be celebrated and mankind will end up being unrestricted to the point that the Apostle Pauls says: "their god is their belly and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things." (See Philippians 3:19) 

- Scenario 1: Rejecting the Law, fosters and is Antinomianism. 

2) Abusing the Gospel
After hearing the freeing message of the Gospel, individuals may conclude, "We can continue in sin so that grace may abound!"  And they could also say, "We can sin because we are not under the law but under grace!"  The problem with this rationalization is that this is not the voice of the New Man in Christ but the voice of the Old Adam. In other words, with this kind of rationalization, the problem is not with grace or too much grace but with the damn Old Adam manipulating grace to his hellish endeavors to break the Law without blowback.  

Considering this, we must keep in mind what the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 2:17, “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!” In this verse, the Apostle Paul shows us that it is not a fair conclusion to link lawlessness to the freeing message of the Gospel. To put it in another way, the proper effect of the Gospel of Jesus (i.e. justification by faith alone) does not grant a license to sin or lead us to lawlessness. The Gospel is not and cannot be held responsible for antinomianism. For if antinomianism did come about by the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, then that would make Jesus Christ a promoter, supporter, and distributor of sin! In other words, Paul is declaring, “God Forbid this rationalization!” So, what does this mean? It means that if antinomianism (i.e., a license to sin) is present in a person's life, this perverted freedom can be traced back to something else other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, namely our Old Adam, who is abusing the Gospel to break the Law. 

Scenario 2: Abusing the Gospel to break the Law, fosters Antinomianism.

3) Allocating the Law to the Civil Government
In the 1500s, there was a theologian named Johann Agricola.  Johann, in a dispute with other theologians of the time, insisted that the Law belonged in the Civil Government and not in the preaching of the Church.  While it is true that the State rules by the Law and sword, we must never forget that there is a theological use of the Law as well.  In other words, the Law is not only meant to keep peace and good order for society through the civil government, but it is also intended to show people their sins and drive them in repentance to the forgiveness of sins in Jesus.  Indeed, to exclude the Law from the church's preaching eliminates the theological office of the Law and goes the way of antinomianism within the church. 

- Scenario 3: Allocating the Law to the State and only preaching the Gospel in the Church, fosters Antinomianism.  

4) Assuming Christians are Perfectly Renewed
Who can forget the famous rant of the Charismatic author and speaker, Joyce Meyer, when she once said, "I am not poor. I am not miserable, and I am not a sinner. That is a lie from the pit of hell. That is what I were and if I still was then Jesus died in vain. I'm going to tell you something folks. I didn't stop sinning until I finally got it through my thick head I wasn't a sinner anymore."  Unfortunately, people, like Joyce, sometimes assume that we Christians are perfectly renewed through the indwelling of the Spirit in this life.  This assumption of perfect renewal results in the rationale that there is no longer a need for the Law in the life of the Christian.  In other words, if a person is free from sin, they have no need for the Law and no need for prodding.  However, since Christians in this life are not perfectly renewed - since they still have the Old Adam at work within them - they daily need the Law's instruction, admonition, its warnings, and threats. (See The Formula of Concord VI: 6-8)  Stated again, to assume that we are perfectly renewed as Christians, results in denying the fact that we are simultaneously sinner and saint, and to deny that we still have the Old Adam, leads to a denial of the need for the Law in the life of the Christian.  We need the Law because we are not perfectly renewed in this life - the Old Adam still hangs around our neck until death.         

- Scenario 4: Assuming Christians are perfectly renewed (no longer sinners) and not in need of the Law as Sinner/Saint Christians, fosters Antinomianism.  

5) Stripping the Law of Its Accusatory Voice
In the movie, Pirates of the Carribean, when the character Miss Turner demands that the pirates take her to shore according to the pirate's code.  The pirate, Barbossa, responds, "The code is more what you'd call 'guidelines. . . . Welcome aboard the Black Pearl Miss Turner!'"  While this is somewhat a humorous line in the movie, the point being made is that the pirate's code is not as authoritative as Miss Turner had thought or wished.  Therefore, since the pirate's code was more like guidelines, it really was not a pirate's code at all, but a code in name only.  The same can be said about God's Law.  When God's Law is stripped of its accusatory voice (i.e., when it is emasculated of its threats, and its demands of perfect righteousness are muted), then it is nothing more than mere guidelines.  And if the Law is nothing more than simple malleable guidelines, then it ceases to be the Law.  Certainly the Law instructs and curbs; however, it always accuses or it is not really the Law.  Indeed, all Scripture and all the Church cries out that the Law cannot be fulfilled and it can never be satisfied, thus it always accuses. (See The Apology of the Augsburg Confession III:45)  What this means is that antinomianism emerges when the Law is used in such a way that it no longer accuses.  Antinomianism emerges when the primary use of the Law revealing original sin is diminished or eliminated. (See The Smalcald Articles III:II4)  

- Scenario 5: Stripping the Law of is accusatory voice fosters Antinomianism.

"We know that the law is good if one uses it properly."
    1 Timothy 1:8

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