The Enduring Appeal of Antinomianism

The Gospel Coalition | 7/21/2019 | Justin Dillehay
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The last few years have seen a resurgence of popular-level books dealing with antinomianism, that pernicious crop of tares that seem to spring up wherever Reformed Christianity blooms. In 2013 we saw the release of Mark Jones’s Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest?. Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters appeared in 2016.

Whitney Gamble’s new book, Christ and the Law: Antinomianism at the Westminster Assembly, isn’t intended for a popular audience, as it’s an abridgment of her doctoral thesis. But those interested in getting a better handle on the depth and breadth of antinomianism will find in this book a much-needed resource. According to the foreword by Carl Trueman, her new book makes a “signal contribution” to historical discussion of antinomianism and the Westminster Assembly (x). Gamble—associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California—fielded a few questions.

Christians - Word - Antinomianism - Something - Law

When Christians hear the word “antinomianism,” they usually think it has something to do with being “against the law.” But you claim that “English antinomianism . . . was more complex and multifaceted” (1). How so? What were the broader issues in this debate?

Yes, “antinomianism” broken down means “anti” (against) and “nomos” (law), so that’s a fair thought. And questions relating to the law, and more specifically the Ten Commandments, were definitely a part of the antinomian controversy in 1640s England. But those questions came in the context of a wider theological debate. At the time, the Church of England was entrenched in controversies between theologians who were Reformed and those who followed the teachings of Jacobus Arminius. If you think the theological debates we have in the States on these issues are passionate, well, in England the tension was so high that the nation erupted into civil war.

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