Back in the fall, before the election, in the aftermath of the sex scandal that hit the news regarding the evangelical pastor in Colorado, I framed that matter within the context of a heresy that has been running rampant in the evangelical church over the last decade or more, and which I described as the definitive Christian heresy of our day. I said I would go into it more later. Well, “later” is rather vague, and today qualifies as “later.”
This heresy is the heresy of “Antinomianism.”
The problem for me as I thought about writing on this subject on several occasions, is that Antinomianism is complicated. It has many forms. And, to make things more interesting it has wedded itself to a modern cheap version of good old fashioned Gnosticism. Add to that the fact that theologically “liberal” mainline chuches are almost all inherently antinomian, and one ends up in a complicated mess.
So I just decided, rather than developing some definitive outline, that I would just start writing and get to it all some how and some way.
Antinomianism has an etymological definition of sorts. It also has a particular definition within the stream of Protestant theology. And, it has kind of on-the-ground practical meaning. These all are related but different.
Etymologically of course the word just means “against-law” or “anti-law.” But because the word “law” itself is so terribly complicated, having so many different meanings (natural law, the moral law, the Old Testament “law” or Torah, the principle of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps in order to make God happy, etc.), I find even the word “law” not helpful in a contemporary context.
The basic idea of antinomianism is this: a Christian is not required to be obedient to the commands of Christ and the apostles to be “saved.” Put another way, obedience is not a necessary part of Christian salvation. Put yet another way, one can be “declared righteous” without the need of “becoming righteous.”
In the Evangelical subculture and world view, that is, as it has been perverted and twisted by various forces of late, this means that there is a mindset regarding “knowing God,” “going to heaven,” and “being saved” that excludes the necessity of personal transformation. It involves a twisted and unbiblical view of God’s grace and its purpose and goal, and it creates a lingo maybe best articulated in various Nashville country songs that touch on Christian spirituality. It is amazingly parallel to declining standards in many other areas of our culture, such as in education, and as in cultural mores regarding sex and sexuality.
And lastly, for this first installment, it has devastated our own community, yes, the Evangelical community of Greensboro, and the possible greater positive impact such a community could have had on the city at large. It has been undermining many churches, ripping apart families, ruining pastorates, and rendering the collective witness of our Evangelical churches close to nil. It has undermined the ability of the Christian church to have any credible say in the important community-wide debates of the day. It has given permission to thousands upon thousands of Christians to be ignorant of their own Bibles and Christian theology in general, land azy as to understanding of the philosophical and cultural movements that impact Christianity. It has made Evangelicals as narcissistic and situational as the surrounding culture, and thoughtlessly accommodating of Christianized Madison avenue fads fed to them in Christian bookstores. This has all rendered the Protestant Christian church progressively more impotent and irrelevant.
And sadly, most sadly perhaps, it has left thousands upon thousands of people thinking they are Christians when they are not, and more thousands upon thousands of Christians without (paradoxically) deep assurance and power of witness.
There are so many subtle and complex nuances to this that it will take me many writings to bang it out as best as I can. I hope someone will throw questions my way as I go along, and I will do my best to answer them as I go.
All for today.