Friday, May 11, 2007

Antinomianism According to Andrew Fuller

In the late 1700’s, the Particular Baptist Andrew Fuller wrote a short tract against Antinomianism, entitled Antinomianism Contrasted with the Religion Taught and Exemplified in the Holy Scriptures. Fuller identified the antinomianism of hyper-Calvinism as being no less dangerous than the heresy of Socinianism, particularly because it borrowed the words of orthodox Christianity and promoted itself under the guise of consistent Calvinism.

In the introduction, Fuller said that the “distinguishing feature of this species of religion is selfishness,” since men are under no external obligation, and since the whole concern of the antinomian is “his own safety.” Fuller said that antinomianism offers security of salvation outside of Christ by giving direct assurance to sinners simply because they assent to propositions. Antinomianism's adherents often spoke of their past sins with no sorrow or remorse, but testified with a sense of pride, certain of God’s forgiveness. Antinomians thought of themselves as heaven’s favorites and of “all unfavourable events toward their adversaries as [God's] judgments for their conduct towards them, and, as it were, an avenging of their quarrels.”

Part one of the tract summarizes the system. Fuller said that antinomianism is “that which is contrary to law” and opposed to its binding authority. Therefore, it overturns the gospel, since without the law, there can be no need of redemptive grace and mercy. The two bases upon which antinomianism explains away responsibility to the law are: 1. the inability of man (in unregenerate antinomians) and 2. the liberty and privileges of the gospel (in those who consider themselves regenerate). Fuller countered the first ground with natural ability and the second ground with Scripture and the sovereign right of God to rule and require obedience of his subjects.

Part two explains how antinomianism perverted the gospel. It perverted election by turning it into a “source of pride, bitterness, slothfulness, and presumption” by leading men to blame God for their neglect of duty. It perverted the atonement too. Fuller said, “If [Christ’s] atonement be considered rather as a victory over the law than as honour done to it – if his enduring the curse be supposed to exonerate us from obeying the precepts – if, in consequence of his having laid down his life, we think more lightly of sin, and imagine [sin] to be a less dangerous evil . . . we are in possession of a scheme abhorrent to the gospel.” Antinomianism perverted justification by teaching that God not only treats us as if we were righteous, but that in justification we actually are righteous in ourselves such that neither God nor we can or should see the guilt of our sins and feel remorse for them. In such a doctrine of justification, there is no recognition of sin and there is no turning from it. It perverted the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints into presumption that gave men bold confidence of salvation even in the midst of their sinful living.

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