“Antinomian” is a term used to characterize a general belief that grace has set Christians above any obligations to obey moral laws. Etymologically, “Antinomian” means “against the law.” Antinomianism is the belief that the Gospel represents a new Covenant that abrogates Mosaic law. Conventional—I am tempted to say “authoritative”—sources for antinomian belief include Paul, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin.
According to Paul:
While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged by the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the spirit. (Romans 7: 5-6)
For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. A man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:28)
I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died…. (Romans 7:9)
. . . I see in my members another law at war with the law in my mind and making me captive to the law of sin…. (Romans 7:22)
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. All things are lawful unto me . . . (1.Corinthians 6:11-12)
. . . a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ . . . by works of the law shall no one be justified. (Galatians 2:16).
For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. (Galatians 2:19)
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us . . . (Galatians 3:13)
. . . God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago.... (2.Tim 1:8-9)
Collectively, these and similar passages in scripture produced remarkably liberalizing effects in the minds of Protestants who, studying translations in their native tongues, read and interpreted these passages as they saw fit. As orthodox Protestant teaching emphasized a direct hermeneutic experience unencumbered by priestly intercession, even the counsel of informed interpreters was powerless to mitigate the anarchic conclusions that such passages clearly foster.
The above is taken from "'A' is for Antinomian: Theology and Politics in The Scarlet Letter, my Afterword to the International Authors edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's esteemed novel. Please click the cover image to view the Amazon sales page:
|Lucas Cranach the Elder, Allegory of Law and Grace (1530)|