Teens, Grace, and the Pursuit of Holiness

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Some of you may have picked up on the cyber banter currently going on about the age-old charge of “Antinomian” against Reformation-minded theologians and preachers.  The debate comes back to one question: “How are lives changed?”, a question we see as central to our role as “grace-driven” student ministers.  To catch you up:

It all started with Jason Hood’s article published last Monday on Christianity Today which charged followers of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who claimed “there was ‘no better test’ of gospel fidelity than an accusation of antinomianism”, of falling into the beguiles of a law-allergic culture.

Next came the rebuttal by Dane Ortlund on The Gospel Coalition blog.  Ortlund moves straight to “the real crux” of the debate, which is “how this radical obedience and personal holiness are to be encouraged”.  Ortlund’s answer follows: “The solution to immorality is the free grace of God—grace so free that it will be (mis)heard by some as a license to sin with impunity. The route by which the New Testament exhorts radical obedience is not by tempering grace but by driving it home all the more deeply.”

It doesn’t end there.  Hood responded Friday with a defense and his own response to Ortlund’s proposed question. Hood argues that as New Creations, we now have the power to work alongside God as he sanctifies us, and that preaching should reflect that newfound power: “Let’s preach with Paul that believers in Christ have a new life, and new Holy Spirit power. They are graciously given a new identity and new capacity for good works, holiness, and righteousness (Eph 4:24ff). Then let’s preach lots of other radical indicatives and lots of radical imperatives, imitating Galatians, Ephesians, and Romans. Maybe even James!”

Ortlund came back yesterday with what seems to be the peace treaty, concluding, “You [Hood] want to call people to holiness, as the new creatures they are, and bring them into a deep awareness the gospel of grace. I want to call people to holiness, as the new creatures they are, by bringing them into deeper and deeper awareness of the gospel of grace. You believe “effort and action [are] central to sanctification.” I believe the gospel is central to sanctification, and that effort and action are neither central nor optional (optional = antinomianism) but integral.”

What then?  How do we, as grace-centered student ministers, respond to this?  How do walk the fine line?  How do we call our students to holiness without falling into the heresy of antinomianism or the heresy of legalism?

Stay tuned as we address these issues in our next series, “Teens, Grace, and the Pursuit of Holiness”.

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