From Academic Kids


Antinomianism, or lawlessness, in theology is the idea that members of a particular religious group are under no obligation to obey the laws of ethics or morality as presented by religious authorities. Antinomianism is the polar opposite of legalism, the notion that obedience to a code of religious law is necessary for salvation. It comes from the Greek word nomos, which means law.

The term has become a point of contention among opposed religious authorities. Few groups or sects explicitly call themselves "antinomian," but the charge is often leveled by some sects against competing sects.

In the case of Christianity, the controversy arises out of the doctrine of grace, the forgiveness of sins and atonement by faith in Jesus Christ. If God forgives sins, what exactly is the disadvantage in sinning, or the reward of obedience? St. Paul of Tarsus, in his Epistles, mentions several times that we are saved by the unearned grace of God, not by our own good works, "lest anyone should boast." In Galations 2:14 (part of the "Incident at Antioch") he publicly accuses the Apostle Peter of judaizing, i.e. Legalism. He invariably goes on to say that sins remain sins, and condemns by several examples the kind of behaviour that the church should not tolerate. This confusion is most likely the cause of the statement in 2nd Peter 3.16 that some of Paul's Letters are hard to understand and have led many astray. St. James, by contrast, states that our good works justify before men our faith after salvation and we are to obey the Law of God. As he puts it, faith without works is death [Jm2.14-26]. Jesus himself is recorded as teaching that you will know true believers by their works, even though many will claim his name [Mt7,Lk6]. An excellent technical reference on this subject is Jesus, Paul and the Law by James D.G. Dunn, ISBN 0664250955. Also, Christ the End of the Law, Romans 10.4 in Pauline Perspective by Robert Badenas, 1985, ISBN 0-905774-93-0. The gist is that the Greek word telos is correctly translated as goal, not end. Christ is the goal of the Law, not the end of the Law. The end of the Law would be antinomianism. In contrast, there are many passages in the Bible that say the Law is Perpetual [Ex31.16,Lv16.31,23.3,24.8,Nm15.14,Is56.6,66.23,Ps19.7 ...] Also see Anchor Bible Dictionary, Antinomianism in the Bible

There are several issues that are addressed by the charge of antinomianism. The charge may represent the fear that a given theological position does not lead to the edification of the believer or assist him in leading a regenerate life. Doctrines that tend to erode the authority of the church and its right to prescribe religious practices for the faithful are often condemned as antinomian. The charge is also brought against those whose teachings are perceived as hostile to government and established authority.

The first people accused of antinomianism were found, apparently, in Gnosticism; various aberrant and licentious acts were ascribed to these by their orthodox enemies; we have few independent records of their actual teachings. In the Book of Revelation 2:6-15, the New Testament speaks of Nicolaitanes, who are traditionally identified with a Gnostic sect, in terms that suggest the charge of antinomianism might be appropriate. In Acts 21:18ff, James challenges Paul about the rumor that he is teaching rebellion against the Law of Moses, but Paul goes to the Temple of Jerusalem as James prescribed to demonstrate that the rumors are false and that he "walks in the ways of the Law".

Roman Catholicism tends to charge Protestantism with antinomianism, based in part on the distinctively Protestant doctrine of sola fide, salvation by faith alone, and the typical Protestant rejection of the elaborate sacramental liturgy of the Roman church, and its body of canon law. Within Roman Catholicism itself, Blaise Pascal accused the Jesuits of antinomianism in his Lettres provinciales, charging that Jesuit casuistry undermined moral principles. Charges of antinomianism have also been bandied about within the Protestant camp as well; Martin Luther accused Johannes Agricola of antinomianism and rejecting the notion of a moral law; other Protestant groups that have been so accused include the Anabaptists and Mennonites. Calvinists have also drawn charges of antinomianism. In the history of American Puritanism, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were accused of antinomian teachings by the Puritan leadership of New England.

Theological charges of antinomianism typically imply that the opponent's doctrine leads to various sorts of licentiousness, and imply that the antinomian chooses his theology in order to further a career of dissipation. The conspicuous austerity of life among surviving groups of Anabaptists or Calvinists suggests that these accusations are mostly for rhetorical effect.

Antinomianism among certain Scottish sects is the subject of James Hogg's 1824 novel, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools