Somewhat funny, on more than one occasion, perhaps half a dozen now, I have been judged and found guilty of being a “liberal antinomian” something that became rather clear to me after reading, “I hate IB, she is a liberal antinomian.” Or as Pedat said in a previous thread, “IB IS a liberal antinomian,” apparently a No Good, Very Bad Thing, indeed.
I think there can be no misunderstanding here, IB has obviously been found guilty of being a “liberal antinomian.” The amusing problem being, I haven’t got a clue about what either of these words even mean! It can be rather challenging trying to answer charges, even false charges, when the words you are responding to have no meaning.
I know what a liberal is, or rather I thought I did, but the world has taken all our labels and definitions and kind of thrust them into a boiling pot of soup, where they have been so overcooked they are now like veggies that are no longer recognizable. Are you speaking of classic liberalism? Progressive? Left of center? Wait, where has the middle gone?? Oh good grief, I cannot even seem to find the center anymore!
So I suspect that I really am not liberal because I tend to have a fondness for individual rights and small government, however the way things are going in the world, we could suffer a slight polar tilt and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if I suddenly discovered I was actually a unicorn. If Donald Trump can call himself a Christian while clearly stating he doesn’t believe in the need for the cross, and Bruce Jenner can call himself a woman without having the necessary plumbing, it seems like I should also have the right to become a unicorn.
So forget labels, we now live in a world that has rendered them darn near useless.
“Antinomianism” however, is an interesting word. It means, “In Christianity, an antinomian is one who takes the principle of salvation by faith and divine grace to the point of asserting that the saved are not bound to follow the Law of Moses.”
Well now, that is nearly as confusing as the term liberal! Are Christians still bound by the Law of Moses or are we all running around wearing mixed fibers, eating shellfish and bacon, and having a whooping good time? If we are all still bound by the Law of Moses, some of you are going to be in a great deal of trouble. Just saying.
I spent some time researching this and frankly, I am just as confused by the term “Antinomianism” as I was before I even began. Than I came across this: “The distinction between antinomian and other Christian views on moral law is that antinomians believe that obedience to the law is motivated by an internal principle flowing from belief rather than from any external compulsion.”
Bingo. In that context, I am a bit of an antinomian, as in I believe the law should be written on the tablets of our hearts, an internal thing that reflects the grace we have been given, the relationship with Him that we have.
Along with being accused of being a liberal antinomian, it seems as if I am also a milk-fed babe in faith, an accusation I take great delight in. I myself frequently like to say “I was born again just this morning,” as a way of honoring God who has so often surprised me, compelled me to declare, “Lord, I never even knew you!” How great Thou art! How little I know of your ways. How charming it is to be surprised by You.
Speaking of babes however, I am reminded that babes often do need some external controls over their behavior, “the law” so to speak, on account of the fact that they do not have much wisdom or experience. So babes (and some adult lunkheads too,) must have some kind of external compulsion applied so they will learn to obey the law. Love, positive role models, rewards for good behavior, whatever we can do to help them begin to internalize “the law” as a principle.
Make no mistake about this however, that is a temporary season, that is the milk that we feed babes in the hope that obedience will become a desired thing, an internal control that is pleasing to them, because it is pleasing to God. For example, we don’t want kids obeying us as parents out of fear, we want them obeying us when no one is looking, when they have no fear of getting caught. We want their internal values to take hold and govern their behavior. We don’t want adults so morally crippled they are now perpetually dependant on external compulsion to control their internal morality.
Why? Well look about the world we live in. “The law” can be an ever evolving and changing thing. Morality too, can be very complex, and is growing more and more complex each day. Medical ethics can be downright intricate as we move into new realms of both morality and immorality, involving life and death and who owns the intellectual property rights to our very DNA.
An antinomian however, is a perjorative term often used to describe those who take justification by faith alone to a whole new extreme, to one outside the context of the reformed theology that suggests, “We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone.” In plain speak I suspect a modern day antinomian would be a part of something like the emerging church or someone who runs around saying “there are many paths to the Father, Buddha, Islam, Godessess….”
So, I am going to have to reject all 3 criticisms. I am not actually a liberal, nor an antinomian, nor even a mlk fed babe brand new in faith, although I rather like that last one. I do stand with James on this who says in 2:8-9, “You do well when you obey the Holy Writings which say, “You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 9 But if you look on one man as more important than another, you are sinning. And the Law says you are sinning.”
James is really quite wonderful and I encourage people to read the entire 2nd chapter, but some other high lights are, “If you obey all the Laws but one, you are as guilty as the one who has broken them all.” And, “Anyone who shows no loving-kindness will have no loving-kindness shown to him when he is told he is guilty. But if you show loving-kindness, God will show loving-kindness to you when you are told you are guilty.”
It’s a complex thing, the interplay between grace and the law, and it is a discussion that has been going on within Christianity since forever. My personal belief is that the two are somewhat entwined, that the law reminds us of how much we need grace and mercy. The fabulous thing about God however, is that He always meets us right were we are, not where we ought to be.