Wednesday 13 November 2013

Antinomianism is Rife Today

Antinomianism means to be against the law (nomos is law in Greek and "anti" is against). The definition is: Those who are antinomian, believe that as Christians, that they are released from the obligation of observing the moral law due to God's grace in the gospel. As you read this definition you will realise that this is probably the majority view in the Western church at the moment. But, it is not a biblical view, even though the majority may hold to such a view.

I am currently reading the Minutes of the Westminster Assembly and I am struck by the pastoral concern of the Westminster divines regarding this ancient heresy, antinomianism. Perhaps you are reading this blog and you hold to such a definition of the law of God and I would then urge you to rethink your position.

As reformed presbyterians, or indeed any form of reformed doctrine holders, we do not hold to a low view of the law of God. As G. I. Williamson explains in his commentary on Chapter 19 (Of the Law of God) of the Westminster Confession of Faith, "the law of God is central to the message of the Bible". Therefore, to fail to understand the role of the law for the church today is to miss a central thread of the whole Bible. This post is not handling the implications of anti-nomianism, but I am simply sounding a warning that it is a wrong teaching which is replete today.

Listen to Paul in Romans 7:22 "For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being". Does this describe your attitude to the law of God? Listen to the Westminster Confession of Faith 19:5: "the moral law does forever bind all … neither does Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation".

This blog is a personal spiritual hobby of mine; my desire is to simply write bite-sized posts to "fan the flames" of thinking towards a reformed pattern for doctrine, the church, worship and church government. I hope this has been a helpful post.


Craig said...

In the U.S., antinomianism is rampant in Reformed churches.

Pastor/authors reduce the Scriptures to "God's two words" (Law/Gospel).

Lip-service is paid to the third use of the Law, but practically-speaking, it's use is reduced to little more than guilt-inducing prep work for the gospel. A mere sensation of guilt is a far cry from repentance and faith.

But even on this point, such men do not really speak of the Law and apply it specifically. If they did, they would be useful in exposing guilt.

Kevin Bidwell said...


From the beginning, when I was asked to write a chapter on the Trinity, one of my foremost thoughts was that this would present a great opportunity to get people to grow in their understanding of the Trinity. This is what had happened to me over recent years.

The Western church urgently needs this recovery for the Trinity and Tim Keller's writings have provided one such platform for Trinitarian discussion. In reading your review of my chapter ( it is clear to me that you have been forced to consider Trinitarian issues which you had not done so before.

If we get the Trinity wrong, then other theological lines will also be wrong. Thank you for taking the time to expose the unbiblical metaphor of the "divine dance". I hope that this metaphor will be removed quickly from theology proper and to be deemed as theologically toxic.

In need of grace,

Kevin B

Kevin Bidwell said...


In specific response to your comment on "Anti-nomianism", the advertised slogan "law and gospel" is more Lutheran than Reformed in my view.

One of the ministers in our presbytery, Ian Hamilton, says that we should think of grace-law-gospel. The law is a friend of the church, just as is the gospel a friend. The law is the enemy of the unregenerate, just like the gospel is and enemy of the unregenerate for those who reject it.

This is an area which requires much more to be written about. My aim in my blog is to give bite-size pieces to stimulate people's thinking for much further and deeper lines of research and reading.

In Christ,

Kevin Bidwell

Craig said...

Thank you for the response. I agree that the division (Law/Gospel) is more reflective of Lutheranism than being Reformed. Indeed, it is grace, law, gospel. It must be, but those tending to antinomianism seem to think that when God gave the Law, after delivering His people, that it was not gracious. Apparently it was bondage to bondage.

One of our elders was teaching a group of men recently, and he pointed out something obvious that I had known, but hadn't connected before:

The Law's character reflects God's. How can we say the Law is an enemy if we've been reconciled to God? It must be that we're also reconciled to the Law.

Framing it that way was incredibly helpful to me because it helps the believer see how he is to relate to the Law.