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Things I Never Heard in Fundamentalism — Justification (6)


So I do know this — that the grace that justifies is the same grace that sanctifies. I know that much in my head.

But understanding what that really means takes me a lot longer. I need to hear it over and over and over. In different ways. Lots of different ways.

And it still surprises me.

So that’s what our pastor brought to a fine point when he said:

We didn’t merit salvation at the beginning, so we can’t keep it through our merit either.

Oooooh! Yeah!! You’re right!!!! Then what’s with the guilt trip I’ve been on for a couple of decades?

What they say in fundamentalism is that if they don’t preach “standards” or “rules” or “responsibilities” or “duty,” there’ll be chaos. That we’re all bent toward lawlessness, right? It’s the natural course of events. So we must fight lawlessness! We need rules! We need authority!!

But in the spectrum between hypernomianism (legalism) and antinomianism (lawlessness), true Christianity lies closer to the antinomian side than its opposite (because we have a natural bent toward legalism too!!). We’re supposed to be more Anne Hutchinson than John Winthrop. More hippie than Hitler. More play-at-home-mommy than prison matron.

But don’t take my word for it. Take Martyn Lloyd-Jones‘:

There is a sense in which the doctrine of justification by faith only is a very dangerous doctrine; dangerous, I mean, in the sense that it can be misunderstood. It exposes a man to this particular charge. People listening to it may say, “Ah, there is a man who does not encourage us to live a good life, he seems to say that there is no value in our works, he says that ‘all our righteousness are as filthy rags.’ Therefore what he is saying is that it does not matter what you do, sin as much as you like.” . . . There is thus clearly a sense in which the message of “justification by faith only” can be dangerous, and likewise with the message that salvation is entirely of grace. . . . I say therefore that if our preaching does not expose us to that charge and to that misunderstanding, it is because we are not really preaching the gospel.

Steve Brown teases us toward understanding the same sanctifying grace by giving away “3 free sins” and by talking about our scandalous freedom in Christ. He states it like this:

Now hear something very important: while the apostle Paul was not antinomian, he was very close to it. Just so, while the Reformation leaders were not antinomian, they were very close to it. Also, while the Christian faith is by no means antinomian, it is very close to it.

What’s the point? Paul would never have had to write a defense of his teaching on freedom if he had not been very close to heresy. Martin Luther would never have had to come back from Wartburg (where he was in hiding) to straighten out the libertarians in Wittenberg if his teaching had not at least implied something close to what they were doing. The Christian faith would not have had to deal with the heresy of antinomianism unless there was something in it which seemed to imply that particular heresy.

That brings me to a syllogism with two premises and a conclusion. Premise: The real Christian faith is close to antinomianism. Premise: A lot of modern day Christianity is not at all close to antinomianism. Conclusion: A lot of modern day Christianity is not real Christianity.

And I never heard that in fundamentalism. Not anywhere. Not ever.

13 thoughts on “Things I Never Heard in Fundamentalism — Justification (6)

  1. At some point, we cared more for control than freedom, for works than grace, for heresy than truth. Freedom in Christ is the scandalous message that so few dare to preach.

  2. A seminarian from Scotland I met last weekend mentioned a quotation regarding pastors that seems appropriate here: “If you’re not ever accused of being antinomian, than you’re not preaching the gospel.”

  3. I keep saying to myself “that post was my favorite”. But, the list keeps growing! This one is definitely my favorite! AMEN!

  4. The real beauty of justification that I keep coming back to is that we can “sin as much as we want” but we want to sin less because Christ frees us to do His righteousness that we were unable to do before–without our having to “watch our Ps and Qs” and conform to a set of man-defined regulations. He is alive in us, it’s His life now not ours, not our “authorities'”!

  5. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now. At first it was very interesting to me–I graduated from BJU in 96 so I know what you’re talking about–but now it just leaves me cold. It is, however tacitly, just so much bitterness, so much Bob Jones bashing. I know, I know, you’ve addressed this in places, that you’re no longer going to “shut up,” that doing this blog is a kind of therapy for you. I get all that.

    But can I suggest, as a fairly objective reader, that while you might be making yourself feel better by exorcising fundamentalist demons, you are also doing great harm? And that perhaps, just perhaps, Bob Jones and/or fundamentalism isn’t quite as bad you you’ve made it out to be? (For the record, I came from a public / international school environment, and found the atmosphere at BJU in the fall of 1991 to be unbelievably refreshing; I still do.)

    Look, all I’m saying is that 1) it’s very clear you’re in a lot of pain, and 2) you have absolutely zero objectivity when it comes to fundamentalism and Bob Jones University. I might also add that because of the foregoing, you completely lack the ability to accurately gauge what kind of harmful ripple effect your public comments might be having.

    OK, that’s my two cents. There have been many, many times I’ve wanted to say so very many things to you but I never did. Always thought better of it. Alas, figured I would say my peace now and leave it at that.

    You might feel the need to set me straight after reading this. You do seem to like to mix it up. Won’t hurt my feelings either way.

    Wishing you would suspend your judgment and perhaps embrace a little objectivity,

    Ross A. Smith
    BJU Class of 1996

  6. Hey Ross! Nice to “meet” you.

    I have to say that I am incredulous that you would write a critique of me on a post that’s so clearly not about me at all. ::scratching head:: It could be that you just chose the latest, I guess. But . . . it’s oddly ironic.

    As for your plea that I be “objective.”. . . come now. Really? Objective? None of us is objective. Not one of us. And getting a Ph.D. in religious rhetoric focusing on sectarian discourse is about as objective as a person can get. I’ve intellectualized the entire gestalt as much as a person can. And I still know that I’m not objective. Nor do I want to be. Nor can I be. Nor should any of us be.

    It’s just not my goal.


  7. Go Camille, go Camille, go Camille. My perspective isn’t that you’re bitter, rather, you’ve discovered another view point, and, just like the initial justification moment, you want to share your new-found perspective. And, comparing the new perspective with the old perspective is a legitimate method.

    While BJU has been a blessing to many, including you and me, I’ve moved away from fundamentalism because it simply doesn’t work in a very real world. I’ve had 30+ years to work all this out in my head. I’m not finished yet. I don’t know if I’ll every be finished. I’m beginning to think this continual “working it out” is what we’re supposed to do.

  8. Thanks.
    I have observed that one can have the spirit of God or the spirit of legalism but not both nor a mixture.

  9. Hey Camille,
    good going by not backing down on your open, honest discussion. Go girl Go. Keep on keeping on. Justification is not something that I can articulate well. But many years ago, God planted understanding in my heart, so that I know that I Know that I know that I ‘don’t’ ever have to earn the right to ‘have’ a right relationship with God. Because I ‘can”t explain it doesn’t mean it isn’t real to me relationally. The Anglican Life In The Spirit Seminar I took in Fall 1980, less than a year after I was radically saved, seems to have been the Grace filled time that God did in me what I didn’t know was possible. He set me free from legalism. Not being a cradle Catholic, I think the legalism had come from my trying too hard, and from religiosity and clothes line preaching from the Pentacostals who taught me many valuable things I would not have learned anywhere else. God really shook me up inside and out with his radical deeper conversion of my life, and since that seminar, I have never been the same.

    Since that time, justification has never really been anything I ever felt that had to prove to anybody. Why should I? So I didn’t. But I was protected somewhat by being around people who weren’t on my case all the time, inspecting sin! I think God really protected me from having my new found New life, ripped off by the religious rip off artists. I’m so glad God empowered you to make a big, big withdrawal, on the well of salvation, so that He could pour down his beautiful grace all over and in your lives, your’s and Grant’s, ‘and’ the children! Imagine the blessing that you can even ‘enjoy’ Grace with like minded believers who don’t question or challenge your right to be ‘you’.

    Isn’t it wonderful that we do not have to justify ourselves to anyone! God has already done that for us, through Jesus. Some of my favorite words of Jesus: “IT IS FINISHED.” All we needed to do was step into the gift of that by Grace and Faith, and Receive it by Faith. Grace alone with faith alone. We do not have to earn it and we cannot. He shows us how to live that by faith. But we ‘are justified’ and HE proves that, by manifesting HIS righteousness IN us in response to our surrendered lives. Where do we find our freedom from performance based religion? Grace. Grace. Grace. I don’t think we need to understand it. It’s enough to trust him to reveal whatever understanding of this that we need, as we are able to receive it. He empowers us to live this wonderful New life of being justified in his Son Jesus. We become New Creations, and we live in the Grace of Being and Becoming everything in Jesus God created us to be. Isn’t that wonderful! Peace, Barbara Quinn

  10. Hi, Camille! If you don’t mind a little push-back here, I remember one of my seminary professors (at BJU) making exactly this point! And it’s a point worth making, of course!

    1. Hey, Josh.

      If it were so common, I wouldn’t have gotten in such trouble for saying it when I was employed at BJU. I got in big, big trouble. ::shrug:: Just a fact.


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