Let’s Outlaw The Word “Antinomian”

The other day I mentioned the verses about those who say “Lord, Lord, look at all the great things we did in your name.” The Judge’s opinion of their good deeds is that they were sin.

He will say to them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” The word “iniquity” is from the Greek word anomia, from which we get the big ol word antinomianism.

Nomos is the Greek word for “law.” In Greek, any time there is the a- prefix before a word, it means against or without. English, in its ever helpful ways, doesn’t go with “anomianism” as it nicely did with “atheism” (a- without and theo–God), but expands it to antinomian.

Antinomianism is a large theological word that is thrown around willy-nilly in our day. I don’t know of anyone who claims to be antinomian, but I do know many who have been accused of being antinomian. 90% of all theological arguments include someone charging their opponent with being a Pelagian or an Antinomian. Neither charge is typically true.

Since no one claims to be antinomian, it’s hard to nail down a definition. The opposite of antinomian is to be a legalist, I guess, one who can’t stop bashing people with laws. Antinomians are the polar opposite of Pharisees.

According to Scripture, antinomianism is someone who sins, one who does iniquity, in which case we are all antinomians.

Theological antinomianism is saying there are no restraints on human behavior, no morality, no obligation to do right and by default, there isn’t really anything bad. Although some get dangerously close to saying this, I would label them Libertines, because even they will at some point admit there is some bad stuff you shouldn’t do, even though God may let you get away with it.

Since no one actually is theologically antinomian in this sense, and the word is generally used pejoratively, I move we don’t use it anymore in our theological debates. Ballots will be handed out at 3. Vote early and vote often.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Outlaw The Word “Antinomian””

  1. Rather then throwing out an excellent word because its been used wrongly, let’s instead all agree to use it in its correct fashion. Antinomianism is more akin to anti-the-restraint-of-any-and-all-externally-imposed-limits than to somebody who is by nature unable to fulfil the law. Thus it’s modern usage is more helpfully “willfully licentious” than “inherently sinful”. In any case, since we are united with Christ who fulfilled the Law in its entirety through his propitiatory sacrifice for us, we are now free from bondage to the Law (which exposes and highlights our sin) in order to live to the much higher standard of Christlikeness. I’d use the tern Antinomianism to perfectly describe those Christians who argue that since they believed they can go on living the same way as they did when enslaved to sin. IMHO of course.

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