Saturday, June 5, 2010

Are you a Theonomist, a Legalist, or an Antinomian?

In any given situation, one is either a theonomist, a legalist, or an antinomian. The theonomist says, "Do not add or take away from God's word" (see Deut. 4:2). The legalist says, "Add to God's word." The antinomian says, "Take away from God's word."

Of course, when the legalist adds to God’s law, he also takes away from it like the antinomian; for one cannot serve two law-systems at once.  And when the antinomian takes away from God’s law, in the place of God’s law he must add his own law, like the legalist.

And so the religious leaders that Christ indicted were simultaneously legalists and antinomians—they both made void God’s word and added man-made commandments:
“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat." He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, "What you would have gained from me is given to God," he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

"'This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15:1-9)
Legalism and antinomianism, in short, are two sides of the same coin. A.W. Pink writes the following about the similarities between Pharisees (legalists) and antinomians:
"It has been said that every unregenerate sinner has the heart of a Pharisee. This is true; and it is equally true that every unregenerate sinner has the heart of an Antinomian. This is the character which is expressly given to the carnal mind: it is "enmity against God"; and the proof of this is, that "it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7).

"Should we be surprised, then, if we find the underlying principles of Phariseeism and Antinomianism uniting in the same mind? Surely not. There is no more real opposition between these apparently opposing principles, than there is between enmity and pride. Many a slothful servant has hated his master and his service, and yet had he pride and presumption enough to demand his wages. Phariseeism and Antinomianism unite, like Herod and Pilate did, against the Truth."  (A.W. Pink, The Law and the Saint)
So, which of these groups best explains you?  Are you a theonomist, and strive (albeit imperfectly) to neither add nor take away from God's law?  Or, are you a legalist/antinomian, who in making void God's law for the traditions of men, worships God in vain?

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