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What is Antinomianism?

by Peter Ditzel

The title page from a book by the English Puritan, Anthony Burgess, intended to vindicate the moral law from the “errours” of “especially” the Antinomians.

Antinomianism comes from the Greek anti, “against,” and nomos, “law.” Literally, it means “against law.” It is used to refer to a doctrine that centers on the belief that grace frees a Christian from the law. Detailed definitions differ. Yet, when a theologian labels someone an antinomian, he or she almost always intends it negatively or pejoratively. Antinomian is a dirty word in theological circles. But do those who fit some of the most common definitions of antinomian really deserve such scorn? Is what these definitions describe truly unbiblical? In this article, I want to discuss the most common definitions of antinomianism and compare them with the Bible. I also want to reveal their origin. Could it be that many of us sovereign grace, New Covenant believers fit the definitions of antinomian and don’t even realize it? Would that be a bad thing?

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Q. Why does James say, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only”? (James 2:24). This seems to directly contradict Paul’s teaching that we are justified by faith.

A. In James 2:21, James says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” But Paul, in Romans 4:1-5 says,

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

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