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Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest

P & R Publishing / 2013 / Paperback

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Product Description

* Developed soon after the Reformation, the concept of antinomianism has a complex, controversial history. Placing key emphasis on Christology, Jones examines antinomian theology from historical, exegetical, and systematic perspectives to offer the most up-to-date study of the doctrine---and provide a corrective to trends in today's church that hold that faith alone is necessary for salvation. 192 pages, softcover from P&R.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 190
Vendor: P & R Publishing
Publication Date: 2013
Dimensions: 9 X 6 (inches)
ISBN: 1596388153
ISBN-13: 9781596388154
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

an·ti·no·mi·an noun [an-ti-ˈnō-mē-ən] 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 Hotly debated since the sixteenth century in the Reformed theological tradition, and still a burning issue today, antinomianism has a long and complicated story. This book is the first to examine antinomianism from a historical, exegetical, and systematic perspective. More than that, in it Mark Jones offers a key—a robust Reformed Christology with a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit—and chapter by chapter uses it to unlock nine questions raised by the debates.

Author Bio

Mark Jones (PhD, Leiden University) is Senior Minister at Faith Vancouver Presbyterian Church (PCA) and Research Associate at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He has written and edited several books and most recently coauthored A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life.

Editorial Reviews

“The problem of antinomianism is a hardy perennial for the church. There is a mischievous movement afoot at the moment whose soaring rhetoric about grace is matched by an equally casual presumption on the same. Mark Jones’ book is thus to be welcomed: it is biblically grounded, historically sensitive and above all timely. In addition, through his careful attention to the role of Christ in scripture and in historical Reformed confessional treatments of sanctification, Jones provides a significant supplement to other recent books pleading for a biblical emphasis on personal piety.”
“Law and Gospel issues continue to be center-stage in our time, as they have in the past. The much cited adage, ‘he who can distinguish law and gospel is a theologian’ has never been more appropriate than now, and on this count Mark Jones is a very fine theologian indeed. A carefully nuanced analysis of the Scylla of antinomianism and Charybdis of legalism from a masterful guide. Essential reading.”
“Mark Jones’s book is highly important. He makes clear that being Reformed is much more than just being Contra-Remonstrant. Thanks to his vast knowledge of historical theology, he ably shows the well-defined Reformed response against antinomianism, and the relevance of the theme for today.”
“We are living in a deeply encouraging day when the sovereignty of God’s grace is being rediscovered far and wide. But, as has happened in the past, when such times of biblical ressourcement have occurred, the error of Antinomianism has made its appearance. This new work by Mark Jones is thus a timely tract for the times. It is rich in scriptural argument, illustrations from church history, and vigorous application. May it have a wide reading and even wider heeding!”
“Mark Jones’ book offers a balanced treatment of the errors of antinomianism, not only as it surfaced among some seventeenth-century British and New England theologians, but also as it has resurfaced among some contemporary theologians. The strength of Jones’ case lies in his nuanced definition of the error of antinomianism. Though in the popular imagination antinomianism is often simply identified with a denial of the positive role of God’s moral law in the Christian life, Jones demonstrates that it includes a number of additional elementsⷕa belittling of Christ’s example of holiness as a pattern for the Christian life (imitatio Christi); a diminishment of the law of God as a true means of sanctification; an unbalanced conception of the relationship between law and gospel; a reluctance to acknowledge the biblical emphasis upon rewards as a legitimate motive for Christian obedience; and a failure to recognize the role of good works as a secondary ground for the believer’s assurance of salvation. However, the principal strength of Jones’ argument against antinomianism resides in his emphasis upon the fullness of Christ’s peron and saving work. Jones shows how a proper understanding of the work of Christ includes both the gospel benefits of free justification and progressive sanctification. In doing so, Jones nicely exposes one of the ironies of antinomianismⷕin the name of preserving the gospel, antinomianism typically truncates it.”
“What does a seventeenth century theological controversy have to do with Christian living in the twenty-first century? Everything. With the acumen of an historian and the heart of a pastor, Mark Jones deftly guides readers through one of the most tangled and most important set of issues facing the Reformed church. If you want to preach the gospel with greater biblical clarity, or learn how better to apply the gospel to your daily life, pick up this book and begin reading.”
Church history records that the doctrinal pendulum often swings from one dangerous extreme to the other. This present day is no exception. The legalistic abuses of recent decades are now being replaced with a hyper-grace license to sin. Sad to say, portions of the Reformed community have given shelter to this new Antinomianism, claiming that personal obedience to the Law of Christ is merely optional. Often trendy with “the young, restless, and Reformed,” this toxic message is poisonous to the soul. In this excellent work, Mark Jones exercises considerable skill in exposing the fatal flaws of this anti-law, cheap-grace easy-believism. Throughout these pages, you will find the theological clarity needed to reject the twisted errors of legalism and license and embrace a true, grace-inspired, Spirit-empowered obedience to the Scripture.

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  1. Louisville, KY
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Best Contemporary Evaluation of Antinomianism
    May 30, 2014
    Coleman M Ford
    Louisville, KY
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    What is the relationship between the law and gospel? How do Christians relate to the declarations given to God's people on Mount Sinai and reemphasized throughout Scripture? If saved and sustained by grace, what need does a believer in Christ have for moral striving? These questions have been continually raised from the New Testament to the present day, and Mark Jones provides a helpful lens for focusing modern day discussion. By centering on the reformation and its Puritan forebears, Jones seeks to aid readers in identifying the theological anomaly known as antinomianism (anti - against; nomos - law). He states his goal clearly in the preface, "This is not a book on holiness or sanctification per se, but by analyzing and critiquing antinomianism, this work will provide readers with a theological framework within which to approach the Scriptures and make sense of passages that sometimes are explained away in the most ingenious ways." (xv).

    In nine succinct chapters, Jones walks through the historical and theological issues related to the issues of antinomianism. Establishing his historical framework in chapter one Jones asserts that antinomianism is ultimately a Christological error. Antinomians misunderstand the nature of Christ's work therefore misunderstand how to apply it to their lives. Taking a sweeping look from Luther to 18th-century Scottish Presbyterianism, Jones reveals the thorny issues surrounding antinomianism. At times it grows like a weed based on a lack of theological clarification. At other times it is firmly planted through a purposeful antinomian posturing. Zeal and rhetoric feed into debates and often make theological positions murky. Such is the case with antinomianism. From history, Jones moves to the theological categories of justification and sanctification and the nature of imputation. Does the holiness of Christ extend to the point of making our works invaluable? Does the imputation of Christ's righteousness eliminate the need for moral responsibility? Jones demonstrates that both sides of the debate promoted the need for holiness in the Christian life, however, the extent to which one understands the work of Christ and the ongoing work of the Spirit will color how one acknowledges responsibility in holy living.

    Jones leads readers through aspects of the law, the relationship of the law and gospel, and the historical and theological understanding regarding the necessity of good works. Jones's historical acumen is apparent throughout the text. He writes as one well versed in the Reformation and Puritan tradition and as an apt theologian connecting Scripture with larger theological topics. The most helpful segment of his discussion is found in chapter six regarding the nature of God's love. This indeed is a thorny issue capable of confusion, but Jones delicately smoothes the bumps as a potter to the clay. He states, "[To] speak only of God's benevolent love is dangerous, because it ignores the important truth that God loves and delights in goodness that is in his people, and also the fact that Christ, according to both natures, communes in love with his people, but to varying degrees." (95). God is indeed love, but his love is a transformative one. God's love is displayed in the justifying power of the cross just as much as in the chiseled stone of the ten commandments.

    Admitting to the thorny nature of antinomianism, Jones might have served readers better by not calling out contemporary Reformed pastor Tullian Tchividjian so explicitly on this issue. I say this not because I am not likewise concerned with the theological vagueness of Pastor Tchividjian, but because such a discussion deserves just that-a discussion. Some may not agree, but a footnote describing the necessity for clarity in Tchividjian's theology would seem more charitable to this reviewer. The issue is indeed a thorny one. Clarity is absolutely necessary, however grace is also a vital message. But then again so is holiness, but charity in this case warrants discretion. A call to debate might first begin with a call to fellowship around the table. That being said, I can't help but agree with Jones's conclusion and his overall balanced approach to this topic. Jones has served readers well with an insightful historical survey which connects with Scripture and theology in a pithy volume worthy of everyone's attention. Presuming upon grace and neglecting the good and right pursuit of holiness in the light of Christ's justifying work must be dealt with. Jones has done well to shine a light on this dark spot in Reformed theology with the hopes that readers would look to Christ who "is not only the pattern for our Christian life, but also the source of our Christian life." (129).
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