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Posts Tagged ‘John Nelson Darby’


The Book at the Center of it All

Here are my notes from the 3rd lecture by Sinclair Ferguson on The Marrow Controversy.

Antinomianism

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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With no apologies to Rev. MacArthur by the way.  I promised myself I’d tackle this baby, but made sure I didn’t just jot something down while I was still annoyed.  One of those little things you learn as a pastor- don’t respond immediately because you tend to make things worse. 

Here is an excerpt from THE Live-Blogging Machine that is Tim Challies:

“MacArthur made the point that those who most celebrate the sovereign grace of election regarding the church and its place in God’s purpose and those who defend the truth of promise and fulfillment and believe in election being divine, unashamedly deny the same for elect Israel. This is a strange division. “It’s too late for Calvin,” he said,” but it’s not too late for the rest of you. If Calvin were here he would join our movement.”

“The thrust of the message was simple: Of all people to be pre-millennialist it should be the Calvinist–those who believe in sovereign election. A-millennialism is ideal for Arminians because according to their theology God elects nobody and preserves nobody. A-millennialism is consistent with Arminianism. Yet it is inconsistent with Reformed theology and its emphasis on God’s electing grace.

“For those who “get it” that God is sovereign and the only one who can determine who will be saved and when they will be saved and is the only one who can save them, A-millennialism makes no sense because it says that Israel, on their own, forfeited the promises. The central argument went like this: If you get Israel right, you will get eschatology right. If you don’t get Israel right, you will never get eschatology right and you’ll drift forever from view-to-view. You get Israel right when you get the Old Testament promises and covenants right and you get these when you get the interpretation right which you get right when you use a proper hermeneutic (Did you get all that?). Essentially, you move from a proper hermeneutic to a proper interpretation to a proper view of the covenant and Old Testament promises and then you get Israel right. And then, of course, your eschatology is right. If you go wrong at the base, and set aside proper methods of hermeneutics, you have no chance to get anything else right.”

Okay…. I will make some comments about the summary and then spend some time in Romans 9-11 to flesh some of this issue out.  I guess I’m stumbling over the question of “elect Israel”.  As a nation, they were chosen for some specific tasks.  As individuals, many were chosen for salvation.  But the nation as a whole was not chosen for salvation, for salvation has always been by grace thru faith.  As a Calvinist and biblicist, I recognize BOTH types of election in Scripture (unlike some Arminians who only recognize the former, and John who seems to have forgotten the former).  To say God has some as yet unfulfilled promises to the nation of Israel is a function of his dispensational hermeneutic- one which was initially devised in the 1800’s by John Nelson Darby which has some serious issues in dealing with biblical data (IMO).  So, John MacArthur is confusing/conflating the 2 types of election but says we are inconsistent regarding election unto salvation.  That is not a sound premise.

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Justin Childers (Cross-Eyed) came across this in his reading.

“We have even heard it asserted that those who lived before the coming of Christ do not belong to the church of God! We never know what we shall hear next, and perhaps it is a mercy that these absurdities are revealed one at a time, in order that we may be able to endure their stupidity without dying of amazement” (Vol. 15, 8).

Keep in mind, dear readers, that when Spurgeon said this, dispensationalism was an innovative doctrinal position and interpretive method put forth by John Nelson Darby.  Read this through Spurgeon’s eyes and time frame, not the 21st century glasses in which dispensationalism is the dominant theological view in western Christianity.

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