Steve Furtick used a bad sermon analogy, saying ‘God broke the Law for love’. Blogs have come out about it. At this point it is unclear to me if this is a case of sloppy sermonizing or bad theologizing (the two are not always the same). Let’s assume it’s the latter. At the very least let’s use this as an opportunity to clarify how we speak of the Law, since we are all capable to sloppy analogies.
For context, the two blogs I would recommend are from Jared Wilson and Tim Challies. Jared doubles down on the the problem of Antinomianism and how grace corrects this; Challies takes this same path and is especially good at the end where he points to the work of Sinclair Ferguson. Both will give you the lay of the land.
I won’t rehash those points. Instead, I want to explore our modern use of the language of Law, legalism, and Antinomianism. I think there is a helpful clarification on this issue, one at least that has shaped my language.
But let me start, too, by stating that I have no particular target in the following comments—or maybe the target is my younger self. I find this is a problem I first noticed in my own studies, then in my own writing, and finally in my own teaching. I am grateful for my teachers and colleagues who have helped me work through these thorny issues and corrected my own bad analogies.
HOW ANTINOMIANISM IS DESCRIBED TODAY
The basic jargon on the Law and legalism rests on the ‘3 Uses of the Law’ (which I describe here). Essentially, the Law first shows us our sin and points us to the Gospel (2nd Use). However, for some, the Law can be used post-conversion to stress the need for obedience (3rd Use). The problem is how to use the Law in two seemingly contradictory ways, one contrary to our nature and the other seemingly as honey in our mouths. Reformed and Lutheran perspectives have differed on this answer almost from the beginning.
The inverse of this problem is found in the term ‘Antinomianism’. This word can be equally confusing, as it is a catchall for a variety of issues, not all of them similar. Here are the ways I’ve seen the word Antinomianism used:
1) Antinomianism is described as being those who preach sex, drugs, and rock and roll—a neo-Corinthian, living in ‘chambering and wantonness’ (old KJV). In Furtick’s video, he says nothing like this. Rather he seems to teach a bad hermeneutic of the relationship of the Old and New covenants. But he does seem to speak against the Law in a way that preps the soil for Antinomian seeds: God broke the Law because it was a stupid set of rules. This first use of Antinomianism, then, is those who wish to still live as prodigals.