October 19, 2012 by Jason Hood
Nothing is new under the Sun. Kenneth Stewart, professor of theology at Covenant College, is one of the Reformed theologians who are rightly concerned about some contemporary views of sanctification among the YRR. He has recommended the sixth chapter of his book, Ten Myths About Calvinism.
Throughout the Reformation and post-Reformation era, a wide variety of beliefs and practices arose that could be construed as leaning toward legalism or antinomianism. Such errors were not a uniquely Reformed problem. They can be found among anabaptists, Lutherans, and in Roman Catholic and medieval Christianity. If you don’t believe me, I can produce examples faster than you can say “the illegitimate children of his holiness the Pope.”
Stewart cites John Flavel (A Succinct and Seasonable Discourse on the Occasions of Mental Errors, 1691) and other Reformed theologians who addressed and critiqued the following antinomian beliefs as they appeared in Reformed circles:
“It is wrong for Christians to examine themselves as to whether they are in the faith.”
“God never sees the sin in believers.”
“At no time does God ever punish the elect.”
“Christians should not worry about sin in their lives, for these can do them no harm.” (He sums this up a few pages later as belief in “the inconsequentiality of sin in the life of the Christian,” 164).
“Christians are not to rely on signs and marks of grace in their lives as helps to an assurance of salvation.”
Stewart is summarizing Toon, Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism, 30, but he could well have been summarizing some contemporary YRR slogans. Stewart has noted the relevance of the past debate for the current debates over sanctification. He also notes that while these antinomian leanings may arise in the so-called Reformed world, they in fact signal a departure from Reformed (and biblical) Christianity.
As a side note, Carl Trueman will be soon be addressing one important facet of this debate: the misuse of Luther in contemporary discussions about sanctification.