The Book at the Center of it All
Here are my notes from the 3rd lecture by Sinclair Ferguson on The Marrow Controversy.
This controversy enables us to see marks in our hearts and ministry of where we are with relationship to the grace of God. We must exegete those great passages dealing with law & gospel. It is one of the hardest notes in all divinity for us to untie.
The Marrow Men were accused of Amyraldianism, Arminianism, antinomianism. But they held to a particular, not universal, atonement; free grace, not free will; and the law as a rule of life.
The 2nd part of the Marrow of Modern Divinity is an exposition of the place of the law of God in the life of the believer. Wherever natural hearts, or gracious hearts bound by a legal spirit, hear of the grace of God they hear “shall we sin that grace may abound?” We are in danger of legalism in response to this.
Wherever free grace is fully preached, the accusation of antinomianism has ever arisen. Israel called John the Baptist a legalist and Jesus an antinomian. The gospel is ever under attack.
Often it is a false conclusion from a true premise. Grace does abound all the more where sin abounds. But we do not sin that grace may abound. We must affirm the true premise that grace is greater than sin.
The Nature(s) of Antinomianism– it wears many faces
The historical use of the term arose in the days of Martin Luther. He emphasized free grace. About 1537, one of his friends drove this to unbiblical, but logical, conclusions. This friend taught we were free from the law as a rule of life. Luther began to correct his friend.
Antinomianism existed long before the name was given to it. The WCF teaches that while the law is not a covenant of works to the believer, it remains a rule of life to the believer. We are bound to the law as a rule of life. Antinominism denies this in a variety of ways.
We must not dispute about mere words, but instruct with gentleness. We should not use it as a cuss word, condemning others needlessly. We often attribute the worst possible theological conclusions to adherents of a particular view point, conclusions they do not hold. We need the wisdom of Solomon and the meekness of the Son of Man.
It is a pastoral and theological duty for us to distinguish from the forms of antinomianism.
Doctrinal Form- the absolution of the law as a rule of life is the result of a theological premise. Some Puritans emphasized the free grace of God that any question of law was opposite to the grace of God. Justification was eternal, and emphasized immediate assurance apart from the Word of God. Since we are justified, we have no need to know our sin. It was associated with hyper-Calvinism at times.
They ignore the indicative-imperative pattern of Scripture from beginning to end. They focus only on the indicative, rending asunder what God had joined.
The Brethren and their concern for the purity of the church, similar to hyper-Calvinism, drew similar concerns. Darby called the covenant of works as a mischievous fable. He could see no place for the 10 Commandments in the life of the believer. In his full-blown dispensationalism, it was confined to the OT. This has lead many Brethren to fill the void with tradition, looking for decisions instead of obedience as a fruit of grace. This is like Ryrie’s “unbelieving believer.” Easy believism rejects the place of the Law in our life as a rule. When Christianity is more a matter of decision than living, grace becomes an excuse of licentiousness.
Exegetical Form- it is commonplace now for theologians to take a view of the law is like the position adopted by hyper-Calvinists and dispensationalists. They think Jesus did away with the law. They think Paul makes no distinction between the end of the ceremonial law and the continuation of the moral law. This does not mean these men are immoral. They often affirm all but the Sabbath since they are repeated in Paul.
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