Antinomianism is not hostility to gnomes, and it's not fear of people from Nome, Alaska. Antinomianism is lawlessness, believing and teaching an obligation-free version of Christianity. In certain quarters of the evangelical world, being accused of antinomianism is increasingly considered to be a symptom of a healthy ministry. This belief has a long pedigree; no less an authority than Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed there was "no better test" of gospel fidelity than the accusation of antinomianism.
One can hear variations on this theme in a variety of places, particularly among younger preachers who self-identify as Reformed. In his new book Surprised by Grace, Tullian Tchividjian borrows from Lloyd-Jones in exhorting preachers to use the antinomian accusation as a self-assessment tool for ministerial fidelity. I've heard it used as a litmus test for pastoral search committees and as a rule of thumb for young pastors convinced that the ministerial task does not include the instruction of God's people in law or righteousness. While the precise wording varies, the common denominator is that accusations of antinomianism are an important barometer useful for determining whether the atmosphere of one's ministry is adequately pressurized by grace.
An accusation of theological heresy cannot be considered a fool-proof test of fidelity. Subjective human responses are rarely a correct measuring stick for faithfulness. I've also seen charges of heresy levied at other times, for instance, when studying the humanity of Jesus with laity who had been trained to see Jesus more or less exclusively in divine terms. However, I am not comfortable saying that a good test of my Christology is that I am accused of Arianism or Docetism.
Moreover, proffering ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 63+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more