My rating: 5 of 5 stars
- What is antinomianism?
- What is the role of the law in the life of a true Christian?
- What is the role of good works in the life of a true Christian?
- Can we actually do genuine good works that can please God? (*Yes*)
- Does Jesus “need” our good works? (*Yes*)
- Are good works necessary for salvation (broadly conceived)? (*Yes*)
- Are we able to keep the commands of Christ? (*Yes*)
- Is the third use of the law primary? (*Yes*)
- Does God love everyone equally? (*No*)
- Is it bad to be motivated by future/potential reward in heaven? (*No*)
- Does God see sin in the justified? (*Yes*)
- Can he be displeased with those who are justified in Christ? (*Yes*)
- Am I an antinomian? In Word or Deed?
These are all questions that Mark Jones expertly addresses in his well-researched and clearly-written book. One of my impressions of this book is two-fold. One, without good, robust theology, the American Church (or any church) will lose its moorings and drift away from sound theology and practice. Two, without embracing and reading good historical theology of theological giants past (Owen, Westminster Divines), the American Church (or any church for that matter) will not have good theology or will at best be stagnant in re-inventing the wheel.
There is no new heresy or false doctrine under the sun. They may wear different disguises. But in the case of antinomianism (Anti-Nomos – against the law), the apparel is actually the same!
Do we think properly about the humanity of God in Christ (or, the humanity of Christ who is God and who is the primary revelation of God to us)? Are we shocked that Jesus can grow in glory and in favor and in obedience with God? Do we read Scripture in such a way that we do not think we can actually perform good works (by faith in the Spirit) that are genuinely pleasing to God? Are we shocked to hear that God grants more favor and love on his beloved people based on their holiness and good works (and that this does not reduce us to Catholicism/works-righteousness)?
If so, this book is for you.
Do we have pastors who preach sermons that all sound the same (much like how all Taylor Swift songs sound exactly the same, mutatis mutandis), always ending the sermon in “But we can’t do anything, even our righteousness are filthy rags, but thanks be to God that Jesus can for us”? Again, this is not wrong theology, unless this is the only thing that is said, every time. Because in Christ, by the power of the Spirit, we really can do good works (albeit imperfect ones with mixed motives) that can truly please God and satisfy him! To say we can never do good works and that they are always filthy rags (a misapplication of Isa 64:6) is actually quite discouraging. And to say that we have to believe harder in our justification is not any less focused on our own selves. This is not liberating good news of God’s “radical” or “scandalous” or “shocking” grace. What is grace is that we have the Spirit who can enable us to do good works that are truly ours and, while imperfect, can truly please God! So can we do good works? To borrow Obama’s campaign slogan, “Yes we can!”
As you may have realized, this is less of a book review and more of a teaser/book recommendation. Mark Jones expertly weaves through historical theology to show how the problem of antinomianism is an old, albeit subtle one. Especially if you are a pastor or teacher, we must be careful teachers who teach a full Gospel and a full Christology and a full, robust understanding of the role of good works in the life of a Christian. We must not limit godly (and Scriptural) motivation to holiness to gratitude alone. We must exhort with both gospel promises and gospel commands and imperatives! Read this book, and you will not regret. Mark Jones will lead us through the great minds and writers of Westminster Divines and other great Reformed theologians.
See my other reviews.