Friday, March 19, 2010

Eternal Justification and Antinomianism 

One of the main issues with eternal justification is the antinomianism to which it leads. Antinomianism means "lawlessness" or "anti-law" and it mainly will take the form that the believer should not or cannot strive to do good works after he has been converted. It teaches that the law has no role in the life of the believer at all.

This antinomianism is expressed explicitly both in personal and ecclesiastical contexts. It is expressed as a suspicion or outright rejection of personal piety. And as I said in the last post, the Predestinarian Network form of eternal justification denies the reality of the visible church, denies any real authority in the church and denies that the church, including the sacraments, is any real means of grace. This will follow for two reasons- first, because the church is an agent of change in the believer's life, and they deny the need for change. Conversion is simply becoming aware of our status as saints. Adam didn't change when he fell, believers don't change when they are saved, and therefore there is no need for means of grace in the believer's life. Secondly, because the eternal justification doctrine teaches that there are two human races essentially- one under the headship of Adam and always justified (from eternity!) and one under the headship of Satan and receiving no offer of the gospel and nothing but wrath- then the visible church has no true fellowship since the elect has nothing at all in common with the reprobate. Only a perfect church could be a true church, and there is no perfect church.

Many places in Scripture deal with the antinomian error. Romans 6 deals with it, saying the reason we should pursue righteousness is because this is the natural outcome of our changed state and condition, from one of death to one of life. Ephesians 5 also addresses it. Ephesians 2 shows us that we were dead in trespasses and sins, and were made alive by Christ. We were children of wrath _by nature_, but were changed in our nature to children of light. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells us to be imitators of Christ and to walk in love. Why? Verse 8- because our state has changed. Once we walked in darkness, but now we are in light. Darkness is frequently used in Scripture not just to indicate ignorance but also a state of wrath- the plagues on Egypt for example, echoed in places like Revelation 9 and 16, and Matthew 22:13 and 25:30. So we were in a state of alienation and wrath, but God transformed us, took us out of that state into a state of light.

Paul tells us that therefore we should act like it. He indicates that there were false teachers telling them something else- "Let no one deceive you with empty words." In particular, he tells us, fornicators, unclean persons, covetous people, idolators, will not inherit the kingdom of God, he says. Revelation 21:27 tells us that nothing sinful will ever dwell in the New Jerusalem. Christ came in order to change our state- to grant us forgiveness and then work righteousness in us so that we would be worthy of standing in His presence, not because of our own inherent righteousness but because of the righteousness which Christ has worked in us.

I believe that this error is what he is referring to in 2 Timothy 3:5- "having a form of godliness but denying its power." This perfectly describes this group. They talk in pious language constantly, but they deny the power of the gospel. They teach that the gospel changes only my legal state with God, instead of recognizing that in addition to that, it changes my actual state, my actual heart, so that I can hear the word of God AND DO IT.

Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:5 to "turn away" from such people. Don't be deceived, brothers and sisters. This is a poisonous doctrine wrapped in piety, that is presented particularly in a form that might be appealing to Reformed believers.

Don't be deceived. We were in a state of wrath, because of our rebellion. We were under condemnation, one with the whole race of humanity, until the Spirit of God worked faith in our hearts and gave us new life, new birth. The result is that we are justified, forgiven of sins, as a result of that faith which lays hold on God's promises. That new heart works new life in us, so that we can begin to put off the old man and put on the new, turning away from sin and learning to please God with our lives.

The Scriptures are full of warnings against those who just want forgiveness, they want expiation from their sins, but have no desire to please God with their lives. They may wrap it in pious talk of their depravity and humility. But the truth is, God calls us to please Him with our good works. He saved us for that purpose. If we are born again in Him, we will seek righteousness. Someone who does not believe it is possible for the believer to experience and live the righteousness of Christ to any degree at all is someone who does not know the work of the Spirit of God.

Adam was in a state of fellowship with God. And when he sinned, he was expelled from that fellowship, with an angel with a flaming sword barring his way back in. His relationship with God changed. He didn't just become newly aware of his condition. His condition changed. And Christ died to restore that condition, to give us new life. Eternal justification is a denial of the gospel, a denial of the faith. Be warned, and reject it. Do not become entangled over "useless wranglings" and disputes and arguments over words- 1 Tim 6:3-5. Reject them, and embrace the full counsel of God.

[UPDATE: Edited for clarity.]

Is this also known as what is sometimes call "hyper-Calvinism."
Rick Carducci
Yes, this is what people sometime call hyper-Calvinism. I avoid that term because it's vague, for one thing, and also because it's often leveled at people who are not hyper-anything, but just plain Calvinist.
"Someone who does not believe it is possible for the believer to experience and live the righteousness of Christ to any degree at all is someone who does not know the work of the Spirit of God."

You make a great point here. I've wondered at people who deny the need or possibility of overcoming sin in one's life. God has freed me from the bondage of sins that were destructive to myself and to my loved ones. The joy and delight one experiences when the chains come off is so empowering and faith affirming. Christ came to save me from my sins! How wonderful. He deals personally and intimately with me. One who denies the reality of this must never have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

It also makes me wonder at those who become apoplectic with rage when they hear an exhortation to leave off evil works and put on good works, as the Scripture exhorts us to constantly. Do they not feel the terrible toll their sin takes on themselves and those closest to them? My sin takes a huge toll on my relationships. It is cold comfort to a child who is daily told they must forgive their angry and abusive mother but never expect things to get better. We DO have a victorious Christian life promised to us, and our Savior is faithful to His promises!
It is not Calvinism at all but pagan fatalism; wolfish doctrine clothed in sheepish fuzz. It's true nature is antinomian and resistance to holiness.

Predestination is unto being conformed to the image of Christ, not a permission to wallow in our bondage to Adam.

The path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day.

Denial of progressive sanctification is just plain old fashioned godlessness.
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