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July 19, 2011 / Daniel

Dallas Willard on Antinomianism

Dallas Willard giving a Ministry in Contempora...

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In his book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard teaches through the Sermon on the Mount.   He offers this assessment of the Western church.

If people in our Christian fellowships today were to announce that they had decided to keep God’s law, we would probably be skeptical and alarmed.  We probably would take them aside for counseling and possibly alert other responsible people in the group to keep an eye on them.  We would be sure nothing good would come of it.  We know that one is not saved by keeping the law and can think of no other reason why one should try to do it.

This leaves us caught in a strange inversion of the work of the Judaizing teachers who dogged the footsteps of Paul in New Testament days.  As they wanted to add obedience to ritual law to faith in Christ, we want to subtract moral law from faith in Christ.  How to combine faith with obedience is surely the essential task of the church as it enters the twenty-first century.

Do you agree?  Is antinomianism prevalent in the church today?  Or is the church too concerned with unnecessary rules and regulations?   Have we over-reacted to legalism to the point of lawlessness?

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3 Comments

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  1. Bruce / Jul 19 2011 6:21 pm

    The goal is to stay in the middle, not to become a legalist and also not to become a friend of sin. It’s called living by the Spirit. At the end of the book of Romans Paul applies the truth of the gospel and says if we are going to honor that gospel we will do three things. Honor God, love the brethren, obey the government.

  2. Daniel / Jul 20 2011 5:06 am

    Sounds a lot like the great summary of the Law that Jesus gives. “Love God. Love others.”

  3. Steffan B / Jun 3 2013 7:59 am

    Legalism will always be with us whether is subtle forms (like it is now mostly) or overt forms (like it was in the past). The subtle form of legalism is more deadly actually and Satan can use it more easily to distract and distort the gospel.

    The goal is not to “balance” law and grace but rather to abandon the law because it was fulfilled in and through Christ in us by His death. As Christ lives now, we live in Him and are no longer under law but grace. Yet, we return to the law and mix the Old and the New way because freedom is scary. We don’t trust grace because we think we’ll “be out of control” – but the truth is that we were never meant to be in control. We were meant to trust God and our identity through the Spirit in Christ.

    The main thing the church needs to watch out for is accepting a “reasonable” gospel which relies on human effort and modern forms of the law in order to grow (e.g. what Paul was talking about with the Galatians in Gal. 3). Just as we are saved by faith, so we grow by faith – faith in our identity as completely forgiven once and for all by Christ’s death, completely righteous at our core. When we sin it is not us but the flesh and the power of sin which are not apart of us (hence Paul’s language in Romans 7) but still tends to influence and distract us from our identity which is in Christ through the Spirit. And in the Spirit we have been risen with Christ who is seated with God in the heavenly places – that is where we are. And we are completely righteous. This is why we are no longer slaves to sin but to righteousness – it is because our core identity and heart has been replaced. We are new creations, we have been born again in Christ.

    To answer the question of integrating faith and obedience – we will only truly obey when we deepen our faith to understand who we are and what has been done for us and the scandalous freedom we have in Christ. We can do whatever we want, but only certain things will edify and satisfy us if we are in Christ and have been made new. To return to the law and human efforts to grow and mature as a Christian is to mistrust that we have been made new and that Christ is in us and we have been forgiven completely and are righteous completely (not just that God sees us as righteous, but that we truly are – it is who we are literally) – really, it is to mistrust and to miss the gospel. Yet, so many people are missing the gospel and settling for a performance based Christianity and religion rather than an identity based.

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