«Antinomianism: A Modern Heresy, Summarized and Refuted by William D. Pratney Last Updated 07-02-2012 (British Calendar System) Taken and Adapted from ...»
A Modern Heresy, Summarized and Refuted
by William D. Pratney
Last Updated 07-02-2012 (British Calendar System)
Taken and Adapted from John Fletcher's "5 Checks to Antinomianism"
with historical comments from Rev. Robert Adam, M. A. 1823,
Walter Farquhar Hook, D.D., Vicar of Leeds, 1859,
and Rev. J. B. Marsden, M.A., 1856
"What doth it proﬁt, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can
faith save him?" James 2:14 KJV Preface This article is an attempt to summarize and refute antinomianism for modern readers, largely using adapted or re-presented portions of Fletchers refutation, "Five Checks to Antinomianism" which originally appeared as a series of letters, and may be found in the four volume set, "The Works of the Reverend John Fletcher, Late Vicar of Madeley, 1835."
John Fletcher, contemporary to John Wesley–founder of the Methodists–calls Antinomians "the modern Gnostics." He says, "Once we were in immediate danger of splitting [as a ship] upon [the rock of] 'works without faith:' now we are threatened with destruction from faith 'without works.' May the merciful Keeper of Israel save us from both..." (4A) Robert Adam said, "I am not aware that any party of professing Christians ever called themselves Antinomians: the name was given them by Luther, as a term of reproach.
They are also sometimes called Soliﬁdians, a term compounded of two Latin words; solus, 'alone,' and ﬁdes, 'faith;' because they seem to carry the doctrine of faith without works, to such lengths as to separate practical holiness from Christian faith, and injure, if not wholly destroy, every obligation to moral obedience."
"The Soliﬁdian, or Antinomian heresy, which asserts, that nothing is required in man's salvation but faith in Christ, and which took its rise from a misunderstanding and perversion of some passages of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, was one of the ﬁrst that disturbed the Christian Church; insomuch that St. Augustin says*, that not only the Epistle of St James, but likewise those of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude, were written to guard the faithful against its pernicious inﬂuences. And so many have been the heresies since the Apostolic age, in the composition of which this opinion has been a prime ingredient, that there perhaps has never yet been a time wherein the state of the Christian church was such as not to require her ministers to urge the doctrine of St. James, that 'faith without works is dead,' or to warn their people against 'turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.'" (1) Fletcher's refutation of antinomianism cuts against modern emergences of Judaizing, while systematically delivering blow after blow to the doctrine of "a ﬁnished salvation," which appears to stem from certain aspects of Calvinism, particularly the doctrines known as "the perseverance of the saints," "unconditional election," "and "irresistible grace."
A realization of how much antinomianism has inﬁltrated and affected the theology of the current generation of the Church, will allow the reader to understand just how far we've strayed in our doctrine from the teachings of the scriptures, especially that of Christ and His apostles, not to mention the early Church.
Fletcher says, "Suppose our salvation be ﬁnished, it follows, Christ has done all, and we are to do nothing.
Obedience and good works are no more necessary in order to it than cutting and carrying stones are necessary to the completing of Westminster bridge. We are as perfect in Christ, as completely blameless and holy in the midst of all our sins, as ever we shall be in glory. In a word, if salvation be ﬁnished, well ordered in all things and sure, our sins cannot take any thing from it, nor our righteousness have any thing to do with it. The little ﬂock of the elect shall be saved, nay, are fully saved now, do what they please; and the multitudes of the reprobates shall be damned, do what they can." (4B) Introducing Antinomianism Dr. Walter Farquhar Hook said, "The Antinomians derive their name from ἀντί [anti], against, νόμος [nomos], law, their distinguishing tenet being, that the law is not a rule of life to believers under the gospel. The founder of the Antinomian heresy was John Agricola, a Saxon divine, a contemporary, a country-man, and at ﬁrst a disciple, of Luther. He was of restless temper, and wrote against Melancthon; and having obtained a professorship at Wittemberg, he ﬁrst taught Antinomianism there, about the year 1535. The Papists, in their disputes with the Protestants of that day, carried the merit of good works to an extravagant length; and this induced some of their opponents, as is too often the case, to run into the opposite extreme." "...Luther...ﬁrst styled him [Agricola] and his followers Antinomians..." (2) The Antinomian delusion makes void the law of God through a speculative and barren "faith."
In John Wesley's day it was referred to as "free grace."
The Antinomian error, under pretence of exalting Christ's ﬁnished work on the cross, speaks contemptuously of obedience to God's commandments, and, failing to clearly deﬁne "The Law," presumes to make it void through a faith that does not work by love. Its boastful proclamation is, "We have nothing to do with the law!" Fletcher says, "As there is but a step between high Arminianism and self-righteousness, so there is but one between high Calvinism and Antinomianism. I charge you to shun both, especially the latter." (4C) Walter Farquhar Hook again, "The supporters of the Popish doctrines deducing a considerable portion of the arguments on which they rested their defense from the doctrines of the old law, Agricola, in the height of his zeal for reformation, was encouraged by the success of his master, Luther, to attack the very foundation of their arguments, and to deny that any part of the Old Testament was intended as a rule of faith or practice to the disciples of Christ.
He is said to have taught that the law ought not to be proposed to the people as a rule of manners, nor used in the Church as a means of instruction; and, of course, that repentance is not to be preached from the Decalogue, but only from the gospel; that the gospel alone is to be inculcated and explained, both in the churches and the schools of learning; and that good works do not promote our salvation, nor evil works hinder it.
Some of his followers in England, in the seventeenth century, are said to have expressly maintained, that as the elect can not fall from grace, nor forfeit the Divine favour, the wicked actions they commit are not really sinful, nor are they to be considered as instances of their violation of the Divine law; and that, consequently, they have no occasion either to confess their sins, or to seek renewed forgiveness." (2) "The other principal doctrines which at present  bear the appellation of Antinomian,
are said to be as follow:
1. That justiﬁcation by faith is no more than a manifestation to us of what was done before we had a being.
2. That men ought not to doubt of their faith, or question whether they believe in Christ.
3. That by God's laying our iniquities upon Christ, and our being imputed righteous through him, he became as completely sinful as we, and we as completely righteous as Christ.
4. That believers need not fear either their own sins or the sins of others, since neither can do them any injury.
5. That the new covenant is not made properly with us, but with Christ for us; and that this covenant is all of it a promise, having no conditions for us to perform; for faith, repentance, and obedience, are not conditions on our part, but on Christ's; and that he repented, believed, and obeyed for us.
6. That sanctiﬁcation is not a proper evidence of justiﬁcation–that our righteousness is nothing but the imputation of the righteousness of Christ–that a believer has no holiness in himself, but in Christ only; and that the very moment he is justiﬁed, he is wholly sanctiﬁed, and he is neither more nor less holy from that hour to the day of his death.
Justiﬁcation by a faith not necessarily productive of good works, and righteousness imputed to such a faith, are the doctrines by which the members of this denomination are chieﬂy distinguished." (2) "...according to Dr. Williams, Dr. Crisp [a major 17th Century proponent of Antinomianism]'s scheme is brieﬂy this: '...that on the cross all the sins of the elect were transferred to Christ, and ceased ever after to be their sins: that at the ﬁrst moment of conception a title to all those decreed blessings is personally applied to the elect, and they are invested actually therein. Hence the elect have nothing to do, in order to an interest in any of those blessings, nor ought they to intend the least good to themselves in what they do: sin can do them no harm because it is none of theirs; nor can God afﬂict them for any sin." (2) Extracted propositions from Dr. Crisp's writings (originally presented by Fletcher) may be seen later on in this article under the heading, Antinomian Crispianity.
Deﬁning Antinomianism Antinomianism is any kind of doctrinal or practical opposition to God's law, which is the perfect rule of right, and the moral picture of the God of love, drawn in miniature by our Lord in these two exquisite precepts, "Thou shalt love God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself." (See Luke 10:27) "The word Antinomianism is derived from two Greek words, anti and nomos, which signify 'against the law' and the word 'legal' [is derived] from the Latin legalis, which means 'agreeable to the law.'" "The legality contended for in these letters* is not a stumbling at Christ, and a going about to establish our own righteousness by faithless works: this sin, which the Scripture calls unbelief, I would no more countenance than murder." (4D) *See Preface Describing the Opposite of Antinomianism to Better Shed Light on What it is "As 'the law is good, if a man use it lawfully,' so legality is excellent, if it be evangelical. The external respect shown by Pharisees to the law is but feigned and hypocritical legality.
Pharisees are no more truly legal, than Antinomians are truly evangelical. 'Had ye believed Moses,' says Jesus to people of that stamp, 'ye would have believed me:' but in your hearts you hate his law as much as you do my Gospel." (4E) "The evangelical legality I want to see all in love with, is a cleaving to Christ by faith which works righteousness; a 'following him as he went about doing good;' and a showing by St, James' works that we have St. Paul's faith." (4E) "We see no less Gospel in the preface of the ten commandments, 'I am the Lord thy God,' etc, than we do legality in the middle of our Lord's sermon on the mount, 'I say, Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery in his heart.' Nevertheless, the latter 'has in all things the preeminence' over the former. For if 'the law,' shortly prefaced by the Gospel, 'came by Moses;' grace, the gracious, the full display of the Gospel, and truth, the true explanation and fulﬁlling of the law, 'came by Jesus Christ.'" (4E) What Antinomianism Does It gives false security to present sinners.
It allows people to call Christ "Lord! Lord!" without departing from iniquity.
It allows those "who walk after the ﬂesh" to (falsely) believe that there is no condemnation to them on account of their profession of faith, void of the works beﬁtting it.
It gives those under pretense of a faith that's actually feigned, false security and assurance of salvation.
Instead of producing a true, and righteous change in it's professors' hearts, it only adds fuel to the ﬁre of their self-conceit, bitterness to their bad tempers, and allows the licentiousness in their worldly lives to continue unchallenged.
It says, Sin is taken care of. You need not change, repent, confess nor cry out to God for mercy. Your present and future sins have already been forgiven, cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
It removes personal responsibility from those who profess the name of Christ, and places the responsibility that God gives back on Him instead.
It (falsely) grants automatic forgiveness of sins not yet committed to those who have been accepted of Christ, (falsely) nullifying all personal responsibility to confess and repent of those sins once they have been committed, and for one to do their ﬁrst works again.
It teaches that true believers can never fall morally or make shipwreck of their faith.
It covers all it's professors' present and future sins not repented of with a false blanket of security under the guise of being viewed by God as "in Christ," pretending to nullify all need for present and future repentance, confession of sins, and practical obedience to God.
It allows those who profess it to put Him Who bought them to an open shame with the present and continuing sin in their lives.
It boasts imputed righteousness, while maintaining the allowance of practical unrighteousness in those who profess it.
It says, Your only part is to believe. Christ has done all the work. You need not act, but rest in your belief.
Practically, it denies the Lord, by nullifying obedience to Him.
It grants that those who confess Christ need never labor spiritually in any way, nor in practical ways obey Him, other than merely "believing."
It says, Christ has taken your judgment. You will not be judged for your sins.
It denies that we will each give an account to God for the words which we have spoken, and for the works which we have done.
It ridicules the idea, and allows for the neglect of, keeping God's commandments.
It removes from the minds of those who hold to it, the responsibility of working out their own salvation with fear and trembling.
The "faith" of Antinomianism:
- engages the head, and not the heart
- works by malice and not by love (in actuality, it doesn't work at all)
- allows for disobedience to God and excuses the conscience from guilt
- rather than purifying the heart from sin, allows for the acceptance of it!
Antinomian delusions have carried many a soul down the channels of vice, and into the lake that burns with ﬁre and brimstone. (4F)
True faith (on the other hand):
- engages the heart
- works by love
- disallows disobedience to God; displays itself in obedience to God