The Challenge of Antinomianism: You Mean the Gospel Isn’t All About Mercy?

Somewhere in his writings on the priesthood, St John Chrysostom makes an interesting observation. Speaking about how priests should behave around women the saint says that “more priests have fallen through compassion than lust.”

To contemporary ears it sounds odd to find fault with compassion or even that compassion might in someway be a source of error. In part this is because we have, as Peter Kreeft has pointed out, become in recent years better at the “soft” virtues (forgiveness and compassion to name but two) then the “hard” virtues (for example, justice and obedience). Added to this is I think the more general struggle of fallen humanity to advance some virtues at the expense of others. If in an earlier age, to return momentarily to Kreeft, we were better at justice it was (I suspect) because we neglected compassion, forgiveness and mercy.

In any event all of this came to mind when I read recently a comment how antinomianism has taken hold off American Christianity in general and Orthodox Christianity in particular. To be sure, the Apostle Paul reminds us that we are “free from the law.” For example he tells the Galatians, “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (3:23-25, NKJV)

But our freedom for Paul is not license;  not freedom from the moral law but from compulsion.  And so as the moral theologian Germain Grisez argues what we have in Christ is a freedom for virtuous living. Writing in Living a Christian Life Grisez summarizes Paul’s teaching and argues that

Far from limiting freedom, faith in Jesus makes his disciples free (see Jn 8.31-36). With faith, individuals can escape from slavery to sin and to death’s terror, and men and women together can escape mutual exploitation and enter into authentic, faithful communion. No longer living in conflict with reality and true fulfillment, Christians, if they are faithful, enjoy the freedom of the children of God (see Rom 8.21).

Chrysostom’s comment about compassion is, I think, a reminder that there is more than one way that we can slip back into the slavery to sin from which we have only recently escaped. If at one time American Christianity found itself tempted by justice (for example) today we are tempted by the very softer virtues that we celebrate. Odd though it may sound mercy, compassion, and forgiveness are now often the cause of our fall and this is because we have come to see these virtues as somehow detached from, and even opposed to, the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and courage.

Tomorrow I would like to look with you at what I’m calling the human foundations of antinomianism.  What, I hope to show, the anthropology that underlies  this false vision of the human person?  Until then, and as always, your comments, questions and criticisms are not only welcome they are actively sought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • David

    I’m looking forward to seeing where you go with this.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Fr Gregory Jensen

      David,

      I know where I’m going and will get there by Wednesday! :)

      What interests ME is not were I’m going but where you take what I say.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • David

    I’m looking forward to seeing where you go with this.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Fr Gregory Jensen

      David,

      I know where I’m going and will get there by Wednesday! :)

      What interests ME is not were I’m going but where you take what I say.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • http://wanweihsien.wordpress.com/ Wei-Hsien

    Father,

    I’ve been thinking about the same and look forward to your thoughts on this issue. I can’t help but notice that we tend to joke about and flaunt our disregard for anything that smells like law, as though playing it fast and loose with moral questions were somehow inherent to Orthodoxy itself…

    W.H.
    .-= Wei-Hsien´s last blog ..Beautiful letdowns =-.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • http://wanweihsien.wordpress.com Wei-Hsien

    Father,

    I’ve been thinking about the same and look forward to your thoughts on this issue. I can’t help but notice that we tend to joke about and flaunt our disregard for anything that smells like law, as though playing it fast and loose with moral questions were somehow inherent to Orthodoxy itself…

    W.H.
    .-= Wei-Hsien´s last blog ..Beautiful letdowns =-.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Fr Gregory Jensen

    W. H.,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I agree with you, it does seem as if a disregard for (some) moral norms has become for many the sine qua non of Orthodoxy. For some it seems the canons–and ideally an obscure canon or one that applies to someone else and not me–matter more than the biblical command to justice, to take but one example.

    This state of affairs cannot stand–it is offensive to Christ I think.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Fr Gregory Jensen

    W. H.,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I agree with you, it does seem as if a disregard for (some) moral norms has become for many the sine qua non of Orthodoxy. For some it seems the canons–and ideally an obscure canon or one that applies to someone else and not me–matter more than the biblical command to justice, to take but one example.

    This state of affairs cannot stand–it is offensive to Christ I think.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Fr Michael Plekon

    Tantalizing but is this going to be another dismissal of the compassion, tolerance, social activism of of course the west and maybe now the east? I will follow along. I myself do not believe that justice and mercy can ever be pit against each other–you are not doing that but implying that perhaps there is too much compassion etc today?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Fr Michael Plekon

    Tantalizing but is this going to be another dismissal of the compassion, tolerance, social activism of of course the west and maybe now the east? I will follow along. I myself do not believe that justice and mercy can ever be pit against each other–you are not doing that but implying that perhaps there is too much compassion etc today?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Fr Gregory Jensen

    Fr Michael,

    Thanks for the comment and the necessary caution.

    No, this is not going to be a dismissal of compassion, etc.. far from it in fact! What I am struggling with is the tendency of some to oppose justice and mercy to each other. Whether the ascending virtue is mercy OR justice is for me is not as important as the fact that we imagine that we can have one without the other.

    While I understand the question you ask, and I certainly would hold myself accountable for the unintended consequences of what I wrote, I’m not arguing that we have too much compassion. I am arguing that we have suggesting that we may have allowed compassion to trump justice even as an earlier generation tended to allow justice to trump compassion.

    So yes, in a sense, I think we can say we have too much compassion if we mean by this that we have compassion that comes at the expense of justice. I think we can likewise have too much justice if justice comes at the expense of mercy.

    Thinking about things a bit more, I think the language I used is not maybe the most helpful since I tend to set up my argument as if mercy and justice were quantities that could be measured. Obviously they can’t be quantified–when they exist in human affairs at all they exist as virtues and virtues wax and wan as one of my old professors would remind me.

    What I want to do is challenge people to reflect critically (though appreciatively) on the practice of the Church. Too frequently, I have heard clergy (including bishops) say that the Church is concerned with mercy not justice. While I appreciate what I hope is the noble intent, such language too often serves as a cover for unhealthy behavior and as as a justification of not taking action in the face of harmful, sinful behavior.

    Does this make any sense?

    Again, thanks for the comment and caution.

    In Christ,

    FrG

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Fr Gregory Jensen

    Fr Michael,

    Thanks for the comment and the necessary caution.

    No, this is not going to be a dismissal of compassion, etc.. far from it in fact! What I am struggling with is the tendency of some to oppose justice and mercy to each other. Whether the ascending virtue is mercy OR justice is for me is not as important as the fact that we imagine that we can have one without the other.

    While I understand the question you ask, and I certainly would hold myself accountable for the unintended consequences of what I wrote, I’m not arguing that we have too much compassion. I am arguing that we have suggesting that we may have allowed compassion to trump justice even as an earlier generation tended to allow justice to trump compassion.

    So yes, in a sense, I think we can say we have too much compassion if we mean by this that we have compassion that comes at the expense of justice. I think we can likewise have too much justice if justice comes at the expense of mercy.

    Thinking about things a bit more, I think the language I used is not maybe the most helpful since I tend to set up my argument as if mercy and justice were quantities that could be measured. Obviously they can’t be quantified–when they exist in human affairs at all they exist as virtues and virtues wax and wan as one of my old professors would remind me.

    What I want to do is challenge people to reflect critically (though appreciatively) on the practice of the Church. Too frequently, I have heard clergy (including bishops) say that the Church is concerned with mercy not justice. While I appreciate what I hope is the noble intent, such language too often serves as a cover for unhealthy behavior and as as a justification of not taking action in the face of harmful, sinful behavior.

    Does this make any sense?

    Again, thanks for the comment and caution.

    In Christ,

    FrG

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Fr Michael Plekon

    It makes a great deal of sense & I thank you for bringing this issue up also for your responses to my comments. Of course the contents & location of legalism, fundamentalism or better spiritual (and other) immaturity can go left or right. I would say that when the Gosepl & following, living is is REDUCED to a set of rules, whether of dress, the number of fasting days, the length of services, the number of prayer to be read, we have a problem. I am a fan of Afanasiev’s last chapter in The Church of the Holy Spirit, “The primacy or power of Love.” Does not negate justice or order or anything else good. But it does reject power of the ecclesiastical elite, power of rules/law> power asserted & used over others–this runs against the very understanding of the koinonia–“But among you it shall be otherwise..servants.” the Gospel for St Yakov Netsvetov on Sunday, Mark 10: 29-45

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Fr Gregory Jensen

      Fr Michael,

      Your observation about our tendency to reduce the Gospel to a set of rules is very helpful for me thank you. We do that don’t we? and (at least in my experience) I do this precisely so I can maintain some at last the illusion of power and control.

      But again and again, I think my desire for power and control runs up against reality–I am not in control in any absolute sense anyway. My relative lack of control (what one of my prof’s in grad school called our situated freedom) is part and parcel of being a creature. Taking my contingency as the basis of my situated freedom, my desire for control, my refusal to love (which goes hand in glove with control) is a rejection not only of my neighbor but also to rebel against God and to work against my own identity as His creature. Powerful stuff you offer us. Thank you.

      In Christ,

      FrG

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Fr Michael Plekon

    It makes a great deal of sense & I thank you for bringing this issue up also for your responses to my comments. Of course the contents & location of legalism, fundamentalism or better spiritual (and other) immaturity can go left or right. I would say that when the Gosepl & following, living is is REDUCED to a set of rules, whether of dress, the number of fasting days, the length of services, the number of prayer to be read, we have a problem. I am a fan of Afanasiev’s last chapter in The Church of the Holy Spirit, “The primacy or power of Love.” Does not negate justice or order or anything else good. But it does reject power of the ecclesiastical elite, power of rules/law> power asserted & used over others–this runs against the very understanding of the koinonia–“But among you it shall be otherwise..servants.” the Gospel for St Yakov Netsvetov on Sunday, Mark 10: 29-45

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Fr Gregory Jensen

      Fr Michael,

      Your observation about our tendency to reduce the Gospel to a set of rules is very helpful for me thank you. We do that don’t we? and (at least in my experience) I do this precisely so I can maintain some at last the illusion of power and control.

      But again and again, I think my desire for power and control runs up against reality–I am not in control in any absolute sense anyway. My relative lack of control (what one of my prof’s in grad school called our situated freedom) is part and parcel of being a creature. Taking my contingency as the basis of my situated freedom, my desire for control, my refusal to love (which goes hand in glove with control) is a rejection not only of my neighbor but also to rebel against God and to work against my own identity as His creature. Powerful stuff you offer us. Thank you.

      In Christ,

      FrG

      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • http://nothinghypothetical.wordpress.com/ David

    Since converting to Orthodoxy I have not yet had the “Man not made for the Sabbath” conversation with anyone. To be honest, in certain circles it seemed dangerous to apply to Church Canon Law, the thinking I was accustomed to using with the Jewish Law as a protestant (though I was a Protestant who appreciated Psalm 19).

    I was also concerned that I would be in other company that would assume that such a quote would mean that I’m a “cultural liberal”. Which is as far from the truth as can be said. Saying laws are good except when they are not, is not saying that “relevance” dictates goodness. I would argue that the greatness of the law is shown in mercy not in aggressive proscription. And such mercy should always uphold the law. Thus law is never abstract, but always interacting with its own application.

    There were a couple comments on Father Stephen’s blog about St Nicholas punching Arias. An offensive he should have been deposed for and was. The rightness of the law was upheld by the mercy of the Theotokos.

    You wondered where I might head, there it is. :-)
    .-= David´s last blog ..A Sign from Heaven =-.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Fr Gregory Jensen

      David,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Like you, I am often find myself wanting to have the man not made of the Sabbath talk–unlike you, I usually have the talk! :)

      Seriously though, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that what we do in the Church is done not as an end it itself but for our salvation and the salvation of the world. In this light, your comments about obedience also seem to me correct.

      The harsh truth (to some ears anyway) is that Protestant fundamentalists do not have the market cornered on legalism–for that matter neither does the right or the left have a monopoly on the aggressive use of the law.

      It is funny you mention being thought by some to be a cultural liberal–in my experience such evaluations are highly sensitive to, and dependent upon, social context. Or, as a friend of mine once said, “As an Episcopalian I was an archconservative–in the Orthodox Church I’m a liberal. You know what a liberal is in Orthodoxy? Someone who drinks milk on Wednesday–an ultra-liberal drinks milk on Friday!”

      Kidding aside, could you please say a bit more about the greatness of the law being demonstrated in mercy? I am not sure I understand.

      Again, thanks for the taking the time to comment.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • http://nothinghypothetical.wordpress.com David

    Since converting to Orthodoxy I have not yet had the “Man not made for the Sabbath” conversation with anyone. To be honest, in certain circles it seemed dangerous to apply to Church Canon Law, the thinking I was accustomed to using with the Jewish Law as a protestant (though I was a Protestant who appreciated Psalm 19).

    I was also concerned that I would be in other company that would assume that such a quote would mean that I’m a “cultural liberal”. Which is as far from the truth as can be said. Saying laws are good except when they are not, is not saying that “relevance” dictates goodness. I would argue that the greatness of the law is shown in mercy not in aggressive proscription. And such mercy should always uphold the law. Thus law is never abstract, but always interacting with its own application.

    There were a couple comments on Father Stephen’s blog about St Nicholas punching Arias. An offensive he should have been deposed for and was. The rightness of the law was upheld by the mercy of the Theotokos.

    You wondered where I might head, there it is. :-)
    .-= David´s last blog ..A Sign from Heaven =-.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Fr Gregory Jensen

      David,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Like you, I am often find myself wanting to have the man not made of the Sabbath talk–unlike you, I usually have the talk! :)

      Seriously though, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that what we do in the Church is done not as an end it itself but for our salvation and the salvation of the world. In this light, your comments about obedience also seem to me correct.

      The harsh truth (to some ears anyway) is that Protestant fundamentalists do not have the market cornered on legalism–for that matter neither does the right or the left have a monopoly on the aggressive use of the law.

      It is funny you mention being thought by some to be a cultural liberal–in my experience such evaluations are highly sensitive to, and dependent upon, social context. Or, as a friend of mine once said, “As an Episcopalian I was an archconservative–in the Orthodox Church I’m a liberal. You know what a liberal is in Orthodoxy? Someone who drinks milk on Wednesday–an ultra-liberal drinks milk on Friday!”

      Kidding aside, could you please say a bit more about the greatness of the law being demonstrated in mercy? I am not sure I understand.

      Again, thanks for the taking the time to comment.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • http://nothinghypothetical.wordpress.com/ David

    I think we might have reached the end of my current abilities. The greatness of the law being demonstrated in mercy is a subject worthy of books not a simple comment.

    But I think I can offer a spring board to this thinking by saying two things I think are equally true.

    Mercy allows the law to remain pure. Mercy isn’t the compromise of law but rather the exception of it. So by offering clemency RATHER than altering the law you are upholding the ideal. You are not tarnishing the goal, the target and purpose of the law. The law still inspires, compels and convicts. Mercy allows for the necessarily ambiguous outcomes of the justice process while allowing the law to retain absolute clarity.

    Secondarily, mercy becomes the glory of the merciful lawgiver. A merciful lawgiver is a lawgiver loved. If the law accounted for all merciful ends, then the relationship between lawgiver and lawkeeper is contractual, rather than covenantial. All play their parts in a mechanistic, rather than organic way. Nothing is “owed” to each other, there is no debt of relationship. By mercy’s aura of glory around the lawgiver their laws are exalted as just and great. The response mercy invokes compels a greater adherence to the law.

    You might say mercy can meet the end goal of the law better than the law could alone. This does not diminish the law, but celebrates it’s purpose and combats the tendency of the law to usurp its own purpose.

    I’d need more time to think this through to make a proper post about it.
    .-= David´s last blog ..The Glory of God =-.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • http://nothinghypothetical.wordpress.com David

    I think we might have reached the end of my current abilities. The greatness of the law being demonstrated in mercy is a subject worthy of books not a simple comment.

    But I think I can offer a spring board to this thinking by saying two things I think are equally true.

    Mercy allows the law to remain pure. Mercy isn’t the compromise of law but rather the exception of it. So by offering clemency RATHER than altering the law you are upholding the ideal. You are not tarnishing the goal, the target and purpose of the law. The law still inspires, compels and convicts. Mercy allows for the necessarily ambiguous outcomes of the justice process while allowing the law to retain absolute clarity.

    Secondarily, mercy becomes the glory of the merciful lawgiver. A merciful lawgiver is a lawgiver loved. If the law accounted for all merciful ends, then the relationship between lawgiver and lawkeeper is contractual, rather than covenantial. All play their parts in a mechanistic, rather than organic way. Nothing is “owed” to each other, there is no debt of relationship. By mercy’s aura of glory around the lawgiver their laws are exalted as just and great. The response mercy invokes compels a greater adherence to the law.

    You might say mercy can meet the end goal of the law better than the law could alone. This does not diminish the law, but celebrates it’s purpose and combats the tendency of the law to usurp its own purpose.

    I’d need more time to think this through to make a proper post about it.
    .-= David´s last blog ..The Glory of God =-.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Chrys

    While I have read quite a few very interesting and insightful responses to Father’s post, I guess I had a different take on it. It led me to reflect on the nature and sources of antinomianism. Having spent years (now decades) reading in biblical studies, my thoughts are heavily influenced by the findings of New Perspective scholarship which are, to my mind, compelling – most especially Bishop N.T. Wright.

    As I see it, antinomianism is the equal and opposite heresy corresponding to legalism. Both are rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of the law, covenant and salvation.

    The law is the covenant charter established by the creator God.
    This is a dense statement that requires some “unpacking.”

    The creator God made the universe and established man within it as His image-bearer. As such, man was made to correspond with and to God in order to reflect His image and convey His will in the world. As a creature made in His image, man corresponds to God; he is designed to be the abode of His Spirit, reflect His glory and convey His will. (In this, Jesus truly is the perfect expression of humanity.) Realizing the purpose and potential of that image requires ongoing correspondence with God; that is, full communion. (Here, too, Jesus is the perfect expression of our calling.)

    Yet man sinned and severed that relationship, disrupting communion, impairing the image and distorting his relationship with the universe in the process. This sin arose – and arises – out of a fundamental lack of trust in God, which in turn led to a refusal to honor God and recognize His primacy in all things (Romans 1:21).

    To heal the rupture and resolve the evil introduced into creation by sin, the creator God established a covenant. This, as a responsible and loving Creator, he was “required” to do. He would reconnect with humanity through a representative portion of it – Israel. This covenant is best understood as a marriage between unequal (but corresponding) parties. Through this covenant, God will reveal sin and restore humanity.

    The law, the Torah, is the charter that describes and reveals the requirements of a true marriage, which – faithfully followed – will restore man to his communion with God and thus his position in creation as God’s image-bearer. This charter is the essential revelation given to begin the process of restoration and redemption. It does this in four ways.

    > It reveals the proper requirements of a full, healthy marriage between God and man – how life is to be properly lived.
    > It reveals the character of God, for what the covenant God is obligated to do, the creator God is able to do.
    > It reveals to fallen man his true nature and calling. When the covenant is fulfilled, man as the image of God will be revealed.
    > It reveals sin. By outlining requirements of true life, it reveals – diagnoses – the true nature of our departures, deviations and deformation.

    The covenant was established to redeem and restore all of humanity to its created purpose; the charter was given to permit the fulfillment of the covenant.

    Benighted humanity’s fall was destructive, but (at least after the fall) leaves us in a general state of ignorance. With the giving of the law, Israel’s failures were now outright transgressions. Indeed, it exposed the depths of sin, for sin both betrayed the marriage (covenant) and used it for its own purposes rather than God’s purposes. Thus, Israel used the light of the Law to build up its own identity, rather than share that light generously with a desperate and doomed world. Thus, when even the selected representative, Israel, failed to enter into the fullness and purpose of the covenant, God Himself stepped in as humanity’s representative to fulfill these obligations and take on Himself the consequences of the its violation. Those who unite themselves to Him may thus be restored to the originally intended creation – indeed, as a new creation – in order to begin to fulfill their intended purpose. Living in and growing in communion with God, we are free to enter into the fullness of the marital covenant and effect the restoration and redemption, healing and recovery of the entire universe.

    The twin heresies of antinomianism and legalism both objectify the Torah and neglect the underlying covenant relationship to which the Torah points and for which it exists.

    The antinomian recognizes the instrumentality of the Law and thus dismisses it. In failing to recognize that it nonetheless rightly describes the character of a right relationship, they thus neglect the Spirit Who gave the law and Who fulfills the intent and description of the law.

    The legalist also objectifies the law and makes it – rather than the underlying covenant relationship – the end of his efforts. In order to control the process, the legalist focuses on getting the rules “right.” (But, as I was told many years ago: there is more to picking peas than bending over.) In failing to recognize and focus on the underlying relationship which the law serves, the legalist uses the law as a means of self-definition and self-justification, rather than as a means to cultivate a proper, healthy relationship with God for the glory of God and the blessing of others, even God’s creation.

    Once we see Torah as the charter of THE marital covenant par excellence, we can see the same deviations in our day-to-day marital relationships. The antinomian refuses to recognize the claims of marriage and uses it only as a means to promote his own self-satisfaction. The legalist focuses solely on the obligations and duties of the marriage and so fails to develop a relationship of live. Both miss its point and, bending it to serve themselves and their own purposes, fail to enter into the relationship for which it was provided.

    Yet those who will trust in God and honor Him, who give Him the primacy He is owed as creator and covenant redeemer, will allow Him – as Abraham did – to walk alone through the severed animals (emblematic of death). So led by God, we become a new creation – re-connected with God and others, re-integrated within ourselves, restored as His image-bearer and resurrected to eternal life by participation in the Life of the Trinity.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Chrys

    While I have read quite a few very interesting and insightful responses to Father’s post, I guess I had a different take on it. It led me to reflect on the nature and sources of antinomianism. Having spent years (now decades) reading in biblical studies, my thoughts are heavily influenced by the findings of New Perspective scholarship which are, to my mind, compelling – most especially Bishop N.T. Wright.

    As I see it, antinomianism is the equal and opposite heresy corresponding to legalism. Both are rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of the law, covenant and salvation.

    The law is the covenant charter established by the creator God.
    This is a dense statement that requires some “unpacking.”

    The creator God made the universe and established man within it as His image-bearer. As such, man was made to correspond with and to God in order to reflect His image and convey His will in the world. As a creature made in His image, man corresponds to God; he is designed to be the abode of His Spirit, reflect His glory and convey His will. (In this, Jesus truly is the perfect expression of humanity.) Realizing the purpose and potential of that image requires ongoing correspondence with God; that is, full communion. (Here, too, Jesus is the perfect expression of our calling.)

    Yet man sinned and severed that relationship, disrupting communion, impairing the image and distorting his relationship with the universe in the process. This sin arose – and arises – out of a fundamental lack of trust in God, which in turn led to a refusal to honor God and recognize His primacy in all things (Romans 1:21).

    To heal the rupture and resolve the evil introduced into creation by sin, the creator God established a covenant. This, as a responsible and loving Creator, he was “required” to do. He would reconnect with humanity through a representative portion of it – Israel. This covenant is best understood as a marriage between unequal (but corresponding) parties. Through this covenant, God will reveal sin and restore humanity.

    The law, the Torah, is the charter that describes and reveals the requirements of a true marriage, which – faithfully followed – will restore man to his communion with God and thus his position in creation as God’s image-bearer. This charter is the essential revelation given to begin the process of restoration and redemption. It does this in four ways.

    > It reveals the proper requirements of a full, healthy marriage between God and man – how life is to be properly lived.
    > It reveals the character of God, for what the covenant God is obligated to do, the creator God is able to do.
    > It reveals to fallen man his true nature and calling. When the covenant is fulfilled, man as the image of God will be revealed.
    > It reveals sin. By outlining requirements of true life, it reveals – diagnoses – the true nature of our departures, deviations and deformation.

    The covenant was established to redeem and restore all of humanity to its created purpose; the charter was given to permit the fulfillment of the covenant.

    Benighted humanity’s fall was destructive, but (at least after the fall) leaves us in a general state of ignorance. With the giving of the law, Israel’s failures were now outright transgressions. Indeed, it exposed the depths of sin, for sin both betrayed the marriage (covenant) and used it for its own purposes rather than God’s purposes. Thus, Israel used the light of the Law to build up its own identity, rather than share that light generously with a desperate and doomed world. Thus, when even the selected representative, Israel, failed to enter into the fullness and purpose of the covenant, God Himself stepped in as humanity’s representative to fulfill these obligations and take on Himself the consequences of the its violation. Those who unite themselves to Him may thus be restored to the originally intended creation – indeed, as a new creation – in order to begin to fulfill their intended purpose. Living in and growing in communion with God, we are free to enter into the fullness of the marital covenant and effect the restoration and redemption, healing and recovery of the entire universe.

    The twin heresies of antinomianism and legalism both objectify the Torah and neglect the underlying covenant relationship to which the Torah points and for which it exists.

    The antinomian recognizes the instrumentality of the Law and thus dismisses it. In failing to recognize that it nonetheless rightly describes the character of a right relationship, they thus neglect the Spirit Who gave the law and Who fulfills the intent and description of the law.

    The legalist also objectifies the law and makes it – rather than the underlying covenant relationship – the end of his efforts. In order to control the process, the legalist focuses on getting the rules “right.” (But, as I was told many years ago: there is more to picking peas than bending over.) In failing to recognize and focus on the underlying relationship which the law serves, the legalist uses the law as a means of self-definition and self-justification, rather than as a means to cultivate a proper, healthy relationship with God for the glory of God and the blessing of others, even God’s creation.

    Once we see Torah as the charter of THE marital covenant par excellence, we can see the same deviations in our day-to-day marital relationships. The antinomian refuses to recognize the claims of marriage and uses it only as a means to promote his own self-satisfaction. The legalist focuses solely on the obligations and duties of the marriage and so fails to develop a relationship of live. Both miss its point and, bending it to serve themselves and their own purposes, fail to enter into the relationship for which it was provided.

    Yet those who will trust in God and honor Him, who give Him the primacy He is owed as creator and covenant redeemer, will allow Him – as Abraham did – to walk alone through the severed animals (emblematic of death). So led by God, we become a new creation – re-connected with God and others, re-integrated within ourselves, restored as His image-bearer and resurrected to eternal life by participation in the Life of the Trinity.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Pingback: Facebook “Listening” Group Drags Culture Wars into the Orthodox Church - AOI Observer

  • Pingback: Facebook “Listening” Group Drags Culture Wars into the Orthodox Church | OrthodoxNet.com Blog

  • Pingback: The Cruelity of the Elite | Koinonia