Those Antinomians Down Where I Live
There are many "new covenant" elders who would warn us to stay away from the "antinomian" in Luther and to read puritans like Baxter instead.
Thus they think that the old covenant was a "ministration of death" only
because of human inability, and that our hope in the new covenant is
that we now have the ability to do works of faith so that the "tenor" of
our living is obedience, so that we do not rely alone on the work of the
cross but see our salvation in the work in us.
These elders do of course claim to also rely on the cross. But the
cross and imputation of Christ's righteousness is not enough, they
inform us, no matter what Luther or Calvin thought: to be biblical,
these elders tell us, we must get our Christian life also into the
They do teach "forensic" justification: they say that God will look at
the "tenor" of our lives and then vindicate us or not, factoring in our
works of faith at the judgement according to works. Or so these elders
Speaking not as an elder of any kind, but as one devoted to Paul's
gospel, I would rather (and do!) fellowship with somebody who disagrees
with me about "new covenant theology" but who teaces justification by
the cross and NOT BY OUR WORKS OF FAITH.
Nobody will be justified by works at the judgement according to works.
Our works will be judged by our state of justification (either we are or
are not!) So we rejoice in ANOTHER BOOK, not in the books of works.
Jesus Himself was not vindicated by works but only in death and
resurrection. The difference these elders and me is the difference
between a theology of the cross and a theology of glory.
So two worries:
In the flexible and polite "evangelical" world, we are taught not to
teach "guilt by association". We are warned against the emotion and heat
of "protestant fundamentalism", against "slippery slop arugments". So it
does not matter that Sanders is a naturalist or that Dunn has a "flawed
Christology" or that Wright is a sacramentalist who denies indiivual
election... At least these fellows have shown us that Luther was wrong
when he so quickly equated Catholics with Jews!
Gal 1:6 some are turning to another gospel, which is not another
new perspective: yes, and those who do that are those who exclude others
for sake of narrow distinctions about justification (which is far from
the center of Paul's gospel anyway); those who turn to another gospel
perhaps have too much legalism or nationalism, but we still have the
same "supernaturalism" as Wesley and "evangelical catholics", because
despite their legalism their bottom line is Jesus Christ and the grace
of a changed life.
Gal 2:16 we know that a person is justified not by works of the law but
new perspective: not by works of law but by works of faith
Gal 2:21 if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for
new perspective: if you forget to give God credit for your works of
faith, Christ had died for nothing; but if you do not add to Christ's
death your grace-"enabled" works of faith, then Christ also died for
Romans 11:6 if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works,
otherwise grace would be no more grace
new perspective: if faith is by grace, then you can rely on works of
faith and not only on the cross. As long as you do not use the word
"merit", there is no danger.
the tapes of Thom Smith's Toronto lectures are available from Toronto
Seminary, 103 Girrard St, Toronto, Ca M5A 3T4
Copyright © 2000 by Mark McCulley. All rights reserved.