Thursday, December 17, 2009

John Flavel: Ten Errors of Antinomianism

John Flavel (1627-1691) was an English Presbyterian clergyman who wrote against 10 of the chief errors of Antinomianism. The term "Antinomianism" means "against the law" and refers to a theological error that diminishes or denies the necessity of faithful law-keeping among Christians. Flavel was partly motivated by a desire to separate Antinomianism from the true doctrine of free grace. Here are the 10 errors Flavel identified:

1. They make justification to be an immanent and eternal act of God and affirm that the elect were justified from eternity.

2. They claim that justifying faith is nothing more than being persuaded of one's previous justification. Justification by faith is nothing more than a manifestation to us of what was really done from eternity.

3. Men ought never to doubt their faith or question whether or not they believe. To question one's faith is to question Christ, they say.

4. Believers are not bound to confess sin, mourn for it, or pray for forgiveness of it. All the sins of believers are forgiven, and a pardoned sin is no sin at all.

5. They say that God "sees" no sin in believers. God can see no adultery, lying or blasphemy in believers since those sins were pardoned from eternity.

6. God is not angry with the elect, nor does He afflict them for their sins.

7. When God laid our sins upon Christ, Jesus literally became as completely sinful as us, and we became as completely righteous as Christ.

8. Believers do not need to fear either their own sins or the sins of others. No sins can do them any harm whatsoever.

9. They do not allow the new covenant to be made with believers, but insist it was made with Christ only for us. Thus, all conditions in the new covenant were kept by Christ and there are no conditions in the new covenant to be kept by the believer.

10. They downplay the need for men to examine themselves by the marks and signs of grace. They consider it a fundamental error to make sanctification an evidence of justification.

See John Flavel, "Giving a Brief Account of the Rise and Growth of Antinomianism," in The Works of John Flavel (reprint, Carlisle, PA: Banner, 1997), 3:555-57.

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