Luther Versus The Antinomians

Is there a need in the Christian life for the preaching of the Law? Should pastors proclaim the Law, such as the demands of the Decalogue, from the pulpit in the Christian congregation? Does the Law play a role in the Christian’s life of repentance? These were questions which the Church of the Reformation wrestled with during the mid-16th century, especially in Wittenberg. Perhaps we still face these questions today.

During the days of the Reformation some Lutherans argued that the Law had no place in the Christian life following conversion, that pastors did damage to the Gospel by preaching the demands of the Law, and that the Gospel by itself, not the Law, worked repentance. These teachers were concerned that preaching the Law to the Christian would cloud the truth of the Gospel and lead the Church back into legalism. Because of this concern, they rejected any use of the Law within the life of the Church, though they did see the need for the Law in the civil realm. As a result, Luther labeled this teaching as “antinomian.” (“Nomos” is Greek for “law” and “anti-” means “to be opposed”.) Antinomians were opposed to the proclamation of Law within the Christian congregation.

The Antinomian Disputations, as they’ve come to be known, were a series of six disputations dealing with the role of the Law in the Church, though only four of them were actually debated. These disputations took place between the years 1537 and 1540. The main players in the Antinomian Disputations were Martin Luther and his onetime colleague John Agricola.

…Agricola first began arguing against using the Law in the Christian congregation in response to Philip Melanchthon’s Articles of Visitation published in 1528. Melanchthon had said that the Law needed to be preached and taught and that it would lead a sinner to contrition and repentance. Agricola argued that this type of preaching contradicted the Evangelical faith and that a Lutheran pastor was to preach the gospel alone. To Agricola’s thinking it was the Gospel message of Christ’s sacrifice for sin, not the Law, that would turn one from sin in repentance.

Agricola again brought these thoughts forward in 1537, when he anonymously circulated a set of 18 theses in which he again opposed the preaching of the Law to Christians. Among other things, these “anonymous” theses led to a response from Luther, who published Agricola’s writings along with two sets of theses in response. Luther’s two sets of theses served as the basis for the first two disputations which took place at the end of 1537 and beginning of 1538. Read More»

Jesse Burns | “‘The Antinomian Disputations” | Oct 23, 2017


Heidelberg Reformation Association
1637 E. Valley Parkway #391
Escondido CA 92027
The HRA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!