Strive for…the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. ~ Hebrews 12:14
This list has been published in a few blogs, notably by Kevin DeYoung at The Gospel Coalition. But it is worth another publishing. Mark Jones brought the list to our attention with his important book Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest. Below is a set of propositions that the New England Synod of Elders (1637), responding to the Antinomian controversy, considered “unsafe.”
1. To say we are justified by faith is an unsafe speech; we must say we are justified by Christ.
2. To evidence justification by sanctification or graces savours of Rome.
3. If I be holy, I am never the better accepted by God; if I be unholy, I am never the worse.
4. If Christ will let me sin, let him look to it; upon his honour be it.
5. Here is a great stir about graces and looking to hearts; but give me Christ; I seek not for graces, but for Christ. . . .I seek not for sanctification, but for Christ; tell me not of meditation and duties, but tell me of Christ.
6. I may know I am Christ’s, not because I do crucify the lusts of the flesh, but because I do not crucify them, but believe in Christ that crucified my lusts for me.
7. If Christ be my sanctification, what need I look to anything in myself, to evidence my justification.
“These statements,” according to Mark Jones, “get to the heart of the issues involved in the antinomian debates during the 1630s in New England—and indeed in England.”
If you believe any of these, you might be an Antinomian.
I submit that antinomianism is rife in today’s Reformed Christianity. Barbara Duguid has written what is perhaps the most explicit expression of modern antinomianism. Her popular book Extravagant Grace has recommendations from Tullian Tchividjian, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Michael Horton, and, surprisingly, Carl R. Trueman.
Tchividjian said the following concerning the book:
Thank you, thank you for writing such a great book! The way many Christians think about sanctification is, well, not very sanctified. In fact, it’s downright narcissistic. We think way too much about how we’re doing, if we’re growing, whether we’re doing it right or not. We spend too much time brooding over our failures and reflecting on our successes. What I’ve discovered is that the more I focus on my need to get better, the worse I actually get. I become self-absorbed which is the exact opposite of how the Bible describes what it means to be sanctified. This is why I was shouting ‘yes, yes’ again and again as I read Barbara’s excellent book. Mining the treasures of John Newton’s letters, Barbara writes, ‘God thinks that you will actually come to know and love him better as a desperate and weak sinner in continual need of grace than you would as a triumphant Christian warrior who wins each and every battle against sin.’ Amen! Over and over again Barbara reminds us that spiritual growth is realizing how utterly dependent we are on Christ’s cross and mercy. It’s not arriving at some point where we need Jesus less and less because we’re getting better and better. I cannot commend this book enough. We need more and more books like this which remind us that the focus of the Christian faith is not the life of the Christian, but Christ.