Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest
By Mark Jones
Believers are “not under law,” in that keeping the law does not grant them any right to eternal life. Nonetheless, the law is the “way to life” in this respect: For those saved by grace, keeping the law leads to the possession of eternal life. Antinomians disagree; for them, the law is only a way to death.
Like the scholastic theologians he admires, Presbyterian minister Mark Jones depends heavily on making distinctions, and one can find many arguments dependent on fine distinctions in Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest (P&R Publishing, 2013). Jones holds a Ph.D. in historical theology, and though this work aims at a popular audience, it is utterly unafraid to dive deep into Scripture and the work of Reformation-era intellectual giants.
Another distinction: God’s love for His people has two aspects. It is always a love of benevolence, but only sometimes a love of complacency. That is, God benevolently wills good for His people at all times. But when they sin, His complacency or pleasure in them is diminished: David’s adultery “displeased the LORD” (2 Samuel 11:27), and therefore lawbreaking by Christians has real consequences for their walks with God. Similarly, Jones argues, the law is not absolutely opposed to the gospel. Rather, the gospel (like the law) includes threatening for those who do not obey its commands of repentance and faith.
Jones parses slogans like “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does” and shows how they can quickly be perverted by antinomian understandings: “Christ requires our good works … out of a necessity that has principally in view his glory as the Mediator who comes to see the fullness of his work as the church is conformed to his image.” Such a focus on Christ’s glory motivating godly living can never be misplaced.
Culture Shock: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Divisive Issues
By Chip Ingram
A quick read and a welcomed bit of clear thinking, Culture Shock (Baker Books, 2014) delivers what the subtitle promises: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Divisive Issues. The author, Chip Ingram, knows about culture shock. He pastored in a conservative small town in Texas. Then he moved to Santa Cruz, Calif., where the University of California, Berkeley, is regarded as comparatively right wing.
In both places, Ingram learned to confront an ambient culture with the truths of God’s Word. His method of analysis is clearly driven by his experience talking to all kinds of people. He first identifies background assumptions and shows how, in terms of those background assumptions, the thinking of (say) homosexual activists makes sense. Then he calmly dismantles those assumptions with a combination of Scripture and science.
Predictably, 60 percent of the issues Ingram covers are sex-related: sexuality in general, homosexuality, and abortion. The other two—environmentalism and the relationship between religion and politics—are every bit as contested. He presents non-negotiable principles that Christians ought to know—things like, “Homosexual behavior is a moral issue in which something ‘wrong’ (like stealing or lying) is being promoted as something right,” and, “The unborn are living human beings, loved by God and deserving, though defenseless, of our respect and protection.”
Ingram presents these conclusions peacefully, with apologies for the un-loving behavior of many Christians—but he still presents them. He also argues that the role of the church is not as a politically activist organization, but as a disciple-making organism. So “let the church be the church” by praying for government leaders—and don’t expect the government to make society righteous. God makes people righteous and thus makes nations righteous. And He does so by using His Word and His pastors to inform His people about the truth they need to know.