Antinomianism and Reformed Theology

Dr. Mark Jones returns to Christ the Center to revive seventeenth-century wisdom about antinomianism from his forthcoming book Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest?. Antinomian thinking is rooted in a weak view of the person of Christ and leads to reducing sanctification to justification. Dr. Jones addresses Martin Luther’s relationship to antinomianism, the relationship between theology and practice, and the necessity of good works for salvation.

Dr. Mark Jones is the minister of Faith Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is also Research Associate in the Faculty of Theology at University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Mark’s Ph.D. is from Leiden Universiteit (Oct. 2009) and his doctoral dissertation was entitled, “Why Heaven Kissed Earth: The Christology of the Puritan Reformed Orthodox theologian, Thomas Goodwin (1600–1680).” Dr. Jones has spoken on Christ the Center 249 and 218.


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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program and learn how to subscribe.

22 Responses

  1. Tim Alleman

    I thoroughly enjoyed this topic and discussion. I applaud Mark Jones’ courage and gentleness in addressing this very important issue. I hope it will help local pastors and congregations maintain the biblical pattern of sound doctrine and avoid the antinomian tendencies so prevalent today.

  2. E. Burns

    “Siding with the Marrow men is overly simplistic.” Hmmmm …. I wish this was unpacked more.

    While i appreciate the willingness to talk about this so complicated topic, frankly I think Dr. Jones and some of the hosts mischaracterize many themselves. But the don’t call them out by name for the most part. Seems clear who it is to me however. This all sounds much like the dismissals of Horton and Westminster California types as just ‘ Lutheran / Antinomians’ that has been attempted in the past.

    On the contrary, I think those folks get it right and are in fact more in line with that middle (Biblical) way which avoids legalism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other.

    Here are some resources on this topic at these 2 links


  3. Interesting program. There certainly are some antinomian tendencies at work in certain parts of the Reformed and Lutheran world. However, Jones goes too far I think in calling good works “the way to life,” necessary for salvation, and a condition of one’s entrance into heaven. This seems to introduce a second justification based in some sense on works. I responded to Jones’ book on this program:


  4. CM


    Great episode. The first thing I thought of when I listened to this podcast was that perhaps at some point in the remote past, there was a kernel of truth buried deep down in the Catholic distinction between congruent and condign grace. Or maybe the the concepts are correct except that Catholics apply those categories to justification in stead of keeping them under the rubric of sanctification. I’m still trying to parse this one.

    1. There is nothing meritorious about good works, whether in present or future justification. The good works of the believer never merit salvation, even though they are the “way to life.” In other words, there is nothing meritorious about good works produced as a result of sanctification. Jones never said they were meritorious, nor does the Bible teach them as such.

      1. CM

        Right, right, of course. Im just saying that I wonder if somewhere down the line the doctrine of merit was a perversion of a proper understanding of rewards. God rewards the fruit of His grace in the lives of His people (I think you had a show on that didnt you? The 5 views on rewards book, no?)

  5. GK

    Following is the publisher’s definition of Antinomianism: One who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation. —Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.

    Is anyone in the reformed world today arguing that “the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation?” If so, can you please post that leader’s name and statements. Wouldn’t it be better to leave the term “Antinomianism” out of this reformed debate since there really aren’t any Antinomians among us in the conservative reformed church?

    1. wallace

      I humbly submit that there are indeed Antimonians among us. You asked for their names: the leading A-man is Reverand Tullian Tchividgian (sp?) from Florida.

      1. GK

        Below is a link to a 4 part interview on Tillian Tchividjian’s blog with Mike Horton. Although Horton is answering the questions, I think it is fair to say that they are on the same page. I think this will bring some clarity to Tillian’s position on the importance of the law. You may try argue that Tillian isn’t consistent with his own views, but I just don’t see how you can say he is an Antinomian.


  6. This WAS a tightrope walk to be sure and the tension and subsequent relief among the participants was flowing through my headphones in several spots. Actually it always has been a tightrope walk. “Balance” is a word I really hate in most cases because it’s usually a polite synonym for “compromise” . I am also reticent when I hear somebody trying to make the case that everybody in all the sides of a debate have some good points because that usually means they’re afraid of offending and alienating anybody.

    However. All that said, in this particular arena, “balance” (properly defined) isn’t the worst word to use AND everybody DOES have some good points. Tullian included. I don’t have time to write it out at the moment, but I actually think that in this fairly rare case the truth lies in the synchronized best offered by all the serious players.

    Did I really just say that? Yep, looks like I did. I do not find this to be the case almost ever, but I believe that when doing the grueling work of sorting the relation of personal performance to propitiatory position the truth is built with stones donated from different builders, which without each other have a wall that is either too low of too weak,

    1. I have not Hermonta, but it appears maybe I should. By “balance” in this case I don’t mean the same as middle ground btw. Man I wish this site had notifications. I had no idea you said this until just now.

  7. I made a very similar comment (about Dr. Jones’ remarks) on another blog.

    “The Lord sanctifies and justifies.” (that’s in the Bible somewhere – google it)

    “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” (Romans – I believe)

    You tell me where in those verses it says that we need to help Him?

    Actually, the Lord does it ALL…not because of our help…but in spite of it.

  8. The accusation made above in one of the comments regarding Rev. Tullian Tchividjian is out of line. I’m surprised that Reformed Forum is allowing it to stand. Pastor Tulllian is a minister in good standing in the PCA. This bare accusation is akin to a charge of heresy and the proper forum for such a thing would be the church courts, not a responsibly run reformed internet forum. As it stands it appears to be a possible violation of the ninth commandment. This discussion on antinomianism is an important one. But it is undermined if it is allowed to become a forum for personal accusations and possible witch-hunts.

    1. Mark B.

      Jack, it’s not really a bare accusation if it’s taken in conjunction with the episode and especially Dr. Jones’s book. Rev. Tchividjian is documented in both according to his published materials. I suspect that part of the misunderstanding over the criticisms is a very narrow “dictionary definition” of antinomianism. Dr. Jones adds clarity to this discussion by giving us a more accurate historical understanding of the label.

      1. Mark, nowhere in the interview does Mark Jones accuse Tullian of being an antinomian. I think he is careful to raise his serious concerns based on his reading of the Tullian book mentioned and on his understanding of the deficiencies therein.

        Yes, Jones gives a more nuanced definition of antinomianism. Yet in his discussion of Tullian he basically focuses only on the minimizing or outright ignoring of the law in the Christian’s life rather than those nuances. So I will stand by my concern that the comment above referred to by me is an unfair accusation.

        Historically antinomianism is an heretical charge. The Marrow of Divinity was condemned in Scotland as antinomian. It was a church action. And by the way, it was an unfortunate and wrong decision. If there are accusations to be made they should be made via the church courts and not asserted as fact by commenters on a blog that respects the Presbyterian polity.


  9. Martin Spadaro

    I am sorry to say, I found this discussion very disturbing. At no point was there any attempt to define ‘good works’ as anything other than Mosaic observation. It is obviously assumed that good works can only mean observance of the Law. Is that the way the Apostle Paul understood ‘good works’. Even James did not understand it that way. When asked to define to define Antinomianism, Dr. Jones made no attempt to define it, and he simply waffled around on its many expressions, particularly as a hermeneutic. Does he believe that antinomians believe that they are saved and therefore can live as they please, or are they primarily in submission to Christ?
    The upshot of Dr Jones’ hypothesis is that we need works to be saved, and all sensible Reformed people, when understood correctly, attest to this.
    The argument for attaining greater favour with God based on our better law-keeping was breathtaking in its anti-Pauline pronouncements. Is it any wonder that the PCA is becoming the spawning ground for every neo-nomian cult. No challenge was made to the nonsense that faith and law together are the instruments of salvation.
    Is there anybody left in the PCA who understands Justification by Faith alone and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as our only hope. Has Norman Shepherd succeeded in his leavening the whole lump? If there are, I hope you will raise your voices against this betrayal of the Reformation.

  10. It is disingenuous to claim that because Tullian was not named until then, that Jones was not accusing him of being an antinomian. Repeating the phrases “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does” and Jesus + Nothing = Everything”, it was clear that the accusation was against Tullian, personally.

  11. On this article on Antinomianism.

    Let’s consider what is the Etymological root source of the word Antinomian. It’s a term used by Jesus in the Epistles as a heinous sin. (Matthew. 7: 23) “I never knew you; depart from me you that work‚ (Greek Strong # 458) ANTINOMIAN.”

    Now allow us to peel off the theological bark and shine the spot light on this ancient dogma to learn the bare truth of what Antinomianism is in the Greek Epistles (Strong # 458, 459, 560, Antanomia.) Yet, what does this term in the Bible really signify to be Greek Strong # 458, 459, 560, Antanomia i.e. Anomia, meaning Antinomian i.e. Antinomianism. As Jesus and others who spoke concerning Antinomianism again in the Epistles all were in relation to a public rebuke of sinful wickedness.
    Just look at one verse (Matthew. 7: 21-23) Who are those that find themselves expelled by Jesus.? ? ? Who are these people? ? ? The Antinomians being talked about here that call Jesus “Lord” and even do good works in His name.

    They expect to inherit eternal salvation, nevertheless find themselves expelled by Jesus from salvation.

    The Greek term in (Strong # 458, 459, 560, Antanomia.) used a singular “A” prefix letter to abbreviate for “no,” “not,” “without” or “ANTI.” “A” prefix letter attached to a Greek word gives the word a negative meaning, same as “A” prefix letter attached to English words as Amoral, Atheist, etc. The disposition exhibit in the meaning of this word is that those who consider themselves as antinomian are against the Lawgiver IE they are the anarchists of God’s Law. The Scriptural Law is the (Greek Strong’s # 3551 NOMOS.) Antinomianism is antithetical to the Lawgiver’s scriptural sovereignty.

    (Lev. 4:2) express this reprimanded sin as “Against the Commandments of God.” or Anti-commandments. The Torah (Hebrew Strong’s # 8451) signify the scriptural Law, is interchangeable with the (Greek Strong’s # 3551 NOMOS) and the Greek term “Nomos” is the word used by the ancient translators of the Septuagint to translate the Biblical Torah (Hebrew Strong’s # 8451) to the Greek Bible. As used in (Hosea. 8: 1) “They transgressed My covenant and transgressed against My law [Torah.]” As Hosea expression Against God’s “Torah,” is coined in the Greek by the word Antinomian.

    “Antinomian” has been alternative form of expression for over two millennia meaning against the scripture Lawgiver and His Law. It’s from the term in the Epistles {Greek Strong # 458, 459, 460, Antanomia i.e. Anomia.} As cited in (Heb. 1: 9) “Love righteousness and hate (G Strong # 458) ANTINOMIAN.”


  12. On this article on Antinomianism.

    The etymological development of the term Antinomian is the antonym to the Greek word Nomos [Strong’s Greek # 355] meaning Law, which in the Septuagint Greek Bible is appropriate for the Hebrew term Torah [Strong’s # H8451,] signifying God’s scriptural laws. Its Hebrew equivalent in the OT writings is the word Torah. The word Antinomian is translated Against Law, or lawlessness in the NT. This term in the NT is often used in ecclesiastical literature to indicate a context of heresy, apostasy, sacrilege, heretical doctrine or heretic and Martin Luther also called Antinomians “false brethren” – in short, one who is lawless, or against the God’s Law. The use of the word Lawless (Antinomian) or (Anomos) in the NT specifically indicates iniquity, transgressor, sinful, one who lives apart from the God’s Law.
    [A book that provided an extensive list of these reference books on this subject matter and reach the same agreement that the word Antinomianism derived from Anomian definition, it is appropriately name “ANTINOMIANISM.” By Mark Jones.]

    Being against the God’s Law or Lawless can mean different things to differ people in a theological context. The best focus is to discover its original meaning and the clearest biblical understanding. No biblical writing can be divorced from a Hebraic understanding. The Christian writings define all scripture as God-breathed and useful for correction, etc., which includes the complete OT writings. In referring to Law, the NT understanding was that of the Hebrew writers and majority audience of the first century.

    Some Christian interpretation of the word Antinomian lawless is that it indicates a breach of general morality…a breach of a “moral law.” But a serious search of this word God’s Law / Torah in the OT provides clear proof that there was a specific Law being referred to, namely the Instruction given to the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. In every way, the OT refers to God’s Law as eternal, good, easy, accessible, and life-giving. The setting of the NT gospels was the Jewish world in which there was no other understanding of this term. It was a corporate document between God and Israel national constitution and also a personal moral law for every individual.

    Any interpretation of the term Nomos [Strong’s Greek # 355] meaning Law, in the NT must be informed by its context in the first century Jewish world and its writers. Any conclusions drawn outside of this context are not exegesis, (the original understanding in the context of the original writers and audience), but eisegesis, (applying a later culture’s understanding outside of its original context). Removing our biblical approach away from the writings’ original meaning and context alters our understanding away from the authenticity of scriptural authority and creates a foreigner belief structure. The clarity of scripture is important as our sole guide, for the Bible teaches not to add to or subtract from any word of God’s Instruction which a command which specifically refers to God’s Law. Any creed that purports to add to or subtract from the veracity of the consistent biblical instruction is in violation of the scriptures.
    [Recommended reading on this subject matter is the book “Restoring Abrahamic Faith” by Professor James D. Tabor.]

    The idea of a moral code apart from an understandable written scriptural Instruction / Torah / God’s Law is not biblical. The terms of the Law and its specifics frame God’s definition of what morality is to Him, not to any other authority. Within it, He names the rights guaranteed to those who enter into its terms. Rights, such as things we have come to think of as inalienable rights today, are defined clearly in the Law of God so there is no room for abrogation or their dismissal. The scriptural inalienable rights of freedom of chose, equality, the right to bear arms. equal justice, freedom from oppression, freedom of expression, listen to God’s instructions on creating a limited government system. limited taxation, the inalienable right to your own land, the creed to resist tyranny. The God’s Law guarantees its participants their rights. To have no Law other than one that is not clearly defined is to allow for morality to be defined individually by each person according to only their understanding. In this way, it embraces the original rebellion of the evil generation that was destroyed in the Flood in Noah’s day because of opting to do “what was right in their own eyes.” To not define Law in the terms He already gave is to take away our own rights guaranteed by Him and His clear instruction of how to morally be in right standing.
    [Recommended viewing on this subject matter is the DVD film “The Isaiah 9: 10 Judgment.”]

    Clearly stated in the text is that His Instruction is not a perverse moral code that cannot be participated in by flawed mortals, but is required to be a relationship issuing from the heart…His and ours…joined with instruction in the path of His morality. (insert verses about with all your heart mind and soul, about their not being too difficult, what is right and what is good). His law is never to be abused but is to be understood in the twin expression of What is Right and What is Good.

    Humans recognize the necessity for national laws. Without them, societies would descend into chaos and anarchy and be preyed upon by tyrants. The hearts of the citizens have to preserve a desire to have an upright society, or the laws will be changed over time because heart and action are divided from each other. The rule of law is central to the protection of a population from injustice and being manipulated by the unscrupulous. But the hearts of the people have to value law as God intented, or it will eventually reflect the compromises and not preserve its original intent and function.
    [Recommended reading on this subject matter is the book “YHWH exists” by Jodel Onstott.]

    God states that his Law is eternal. The terms are eternal, and hearts that joined with His intention of a protective relationship and a People who reflect His priorities are the center of His Law. The beauty of God’s Law is its function as a national covenant and an individual one. It is the framework of a relationship and a lifestyle of people participating with God in this agreement. It frames protective and ennobling parameters rather than being misunderstood to be a monolith of legalistic dictates. Explore what scripture says about itself first, before applying external interpretations.
    [Recommended reading on this subject matter is a 12 page narrative on the web name “Anti Judaism” by distinguish author David Hulme. On http://www.centuryone.com]


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