Paul's Passing Thoughts

Should Calvinism Be Labeled Works Salvation or Antinomianism? Or Both?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 18, 2013

ppt-jpeg4The Reformers do evoke some awe in their ability to create a doctrine that is works salvation by being antinomian in sanctification. Basically, you have to be an antinomian to keep your salvation. And if you aren’t an antinomian, you are not saved. This is why many Calvinists say that if you are not accused of being antinomian—you are probably not preaching the gospel. This is a completely upside gospel, and revival in the American church will never be possible until we see this doctrine for what it is and begin to implement alternatives.

A good place to start in understanding Calvin’s all-out assault on biblical truth is his definition of righteousness. As with most of the Reformers, he defined righteousness as a perfect keeping of the law. Sounds very logical, but once we are drawn into that definition and accept its premise—we are in grave danger of being led astray. Let’s begin by reading some citations from the Calvin Institutes on this point:

But in order that a sense of guilt may urge us [Christians] to seek for pardon, it is of importance to know how our being instructed in the Moral Law renders us more inexcusable [the need for perpetual pardon]. If it is true, that a perfect righteousness is set before us in the Law, it follows, that the complete observance of it is perfect righteousness in the sight of God; that is, a righteousness by which a man may be deemed and [*]pronounced righteous at the divine tribunal. Wherefore Moses, after promulgating the Law, hesitates not to call heaven and earth to witness, that he had set life and death, good and evil, before the people. Nor can it be denied, that the reward of eternal salvation, as promised by the Lord, awaits the perfect obedience of the Law…(CI 2.7.3).

Therefore, if we look merely to the Law, the result must be despondency, confusion, and despair, seeing that by it we are all cursed and condemned, while we are kept far away from the blessedness which it holds forth to its observers. Is the Lord, then, you will ask, only sporting with us? Is it not the next thing to mockery, to hold out the hope of happiness, to invite and exhort us to it, to declare that it is set before us, while all the while the entrance to it is precluded and quite shut up? I answer, Although the promises, in so far as they are conditional, depend on a perfect obedience of the Law, which is nowhere to be found, they have not, however, been given in vain (CI: 2.7.4).

To declare that we are deemed righteous, solely because the obedience of Christ is imputed to us as if it where our own, is just to place our righteousness in the obedience of Christ…. And so indeed it is; for in order to appear in the presence of God [*]for salvation [**to stand in a future judgment to determine salvation], we must send forth that fragrant odour, having our vices covered and buried by his perfection. (CI: 3.11.23).

For the meaning is—As by the sin of Adam we were alienated from God and doomed to destruction, so by the obedience of Christ we are restored to his favour as if we were righteous (CI: 2.17.3).

We see from these quotations with emphasis added that a perfect keeping of the law is the definition of righteousness. This would be true if Christians did not remain in their mortal bodies for a time, but biblically, imperfect obedience in sanctification does not exclude the truth that we are presently righteous in the truest sense. Therefore, Calvin’s definition of righteousness is fundamentally flawed and the problems caused thereof can be seen in these same citations.

First, note that the law must be kept perfectly by Christ in order for us to be “pronounced righteous” at “the divine tribunal.” And: “for in order to appear in the presence of God for salvation.” And what must we do to procure the perfect obedience of Christ to fulfill the law?

But in order that a sense of guilt may urge us [Christians] to seek for pardon, it is of importance to know how our being instructed in the Moral Law renders us more inexcusable [the need for perpetual pardon].

In Calvinism, the purpose of the law is to drive the Christian to guilt for the purpose of seeking “pardon.” This pardon, for the Christian, is perpetual because it “renders us more inexcusable.” What kind of pardon? Pardon for the same salvation that we originally received. Not forgiveness in sanctification to restore intimacy with Christ and the Father, but forgiveness for salvation. Calvin makes this clear:

Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death….(CI: 3.14.11).

So, as the law of God shows us our continual need for pardon, we seek pardon for salvation not just once, but perpetually. This continually satisfies the righteous demand of the law which is perfection. In a future judgment, we must present “that fragrant odour, having our vices covered and buried by his perfection.”

What work must we do to keep our salvation? We must use the Bible to see our continual need for pardon and seek continual re-salvation. As the New Calvinist mantra of our day states: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” Robert Brinsmead, the father of present-day New Calvinism, stated it this way:

After a man hears the conditions of acceptance with God and eternal life, and is made sensible of his inability to meet those conditions, the Word of God comes to him in the gospel. He hears that Christ stood in his place and kept the law of God for him. By dying on the cross, Christ satisfied all the law’s demands. The Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to accept the righteousness of Jesus. Standing now before the law which says, “I demand a life of perfect conformity to the commandments,” the believing sinner cries in triumph, “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . . ” (Luther). The law is well pleased with Jesus’ doing and dying, which the sinner brings in the hand of faith. Justice is fully satisfied, and God can truly say: “This man has fulfilled the law. He is justified.”

We say again, only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. This is what faith does—it brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ. By faith the law is fulfilled and the sinner is justified.

On the other hand, the law is dishonored by the man who presumes to bring to it his own life of obedience. The fact that he thinks the law will be satisfied with his “rotten stubble and straw” (Luther) shows what a low estimate he has of the holiness of God and what a high estimate he has of his own righteousness. Only in Jesus Christ is there an obedience with which the law is well pleased. Because faith brings only what Jesus has done, it is the highest honor that can be paid to the law (Rom. 3:31). (As cited in The Truth About New Calvinism: Paul M. Dohse Sr.; pp. 101,102).

Therefore, in Calvinism, the Christian life is a continual re-salvation by faith alone as we see our sinfulness in the Bible. The goal is to use the law we cannot keep to reveal our corruption more and more which drives us to repentance. When we repent, Christ’s perfect obedience to the law is presented to the Father and our justification is maintained. This is the gospel of Calvinism. It is working by faith alone to maintain our salvation by acknowledging that we cannot keep the law; for all practical purposes, antinomianism. What are the differences between “I can’t keep the law,” “I won’t keep the law,” or “I don’t have to keep the law”? Calvinism’s version of antinomianism is the idea that an antinomian believes that the law doesn’t have to be kept. They piously object that it must be kept while not mentioning that we can’t keep it—Christ must keep it for us.

Righteousness is not defined by a perfect keeping of the law. The very Reformed definition of righteousness is egregiously flawed. It’s works salvation. If it is true, we are not justified APART FROM THE LAW:

Romans 3:19 – Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

Abraham was justified apart from the law—the law didn’t come until 430 years later (GAL 3:17,18). He was declared righteous because he believed God. Hence, GOD’S righteousness APART from the law has been manifested. If Christ had to keep the law perfectly for our righteousness—that’s NOT apart from the law, and moreover, Abraham could not have been justified. “But Christ’s perfect obedience was imputed to Abraham when He died on the cross.” Then what is the point that Paul is making in Galatians? Why make a point in regard to when the law came? In addition, Christ had not yet obeyed the law perfectly when Abraham did the following:

James 2:20 – Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

The Reformed always make it a point to state that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. This is important to them (although the Bible always refers to it as the righteousness of God) because it imputes the perfect obedience of Christ (His life when He came as a man) to us so that the law is fulfilled for our salvation. But again, the Scriptures state:

Galatians 3:11 – Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Galatians 2:16 – yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

If Christ lived a perfect life on earth to fulfill the law so that it could be imputed to us for righteousness—THAT’S NOT RIGHTOUSNESS APART FROM THE LAW. Though Christ kept it for us, it is still righteousness based on the law.

Hence, a proper definition of righteousness is, believing in God, not perfect obedience to the law. The law has no stake at all in righteousness that justifies. It informs our righteousness, but it does not affect it:

Romans 3:21 – But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

Galatians 4:21 – Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?

But if Christ had to keep the law for us, we are not declared righteous apart from the law, and we are still under it albeit fulfilled by Christ. We are either under law or under grace (Romans 6:14). The Bible never states that we are still under the law and covered by grace—it’s either one or the other. If we need the gospel of first importance just as much as we did when we were saved (a popular truism in our day), then we are still under the law which is a biblical idiom for the unsaved.

We are righteous because we have God’s seed within us via the new birth and it was attained by faith alone. Perfect law keeping is not the standard, but a DIRECTION of righteousness resulting from a born again believer fighting the remnant of sin that remains in his mortal body:

1John 3:7 – Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

The righteous believer has a mind that serves the law, but is hindered by the remnant of sin left in mortality:

Romans 7:25 – Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Note “I myself,” and “you, yourselves” in the following citation:

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Where perfection is commanded in the Bible, the goal is being referenced, not a standard for remaining justified that has to be perpetually implemented through re-salvation. Calvinism denies that we are presently righteous, and therefore denies the biblical new birth. Jesus said we “must be born again.” To redefine the new birth is to posit another gospel. Calvinism keeps Christians under the law and propagates a gospel of perpetual re-salvation to maintain a satisfaction to the law culminating in a judgment to determine if we did so satisfactory. Therefore, assurance of salvation is on shaky ground. It also circumvents our ability to love the Lord by keeping His commandments because the standard is perfection.

It all starts with an unbiblical definition of righteousness, and results in a completely corrupted gospel.


19 Responses

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on March 18, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.


  2. Andy said, on March 19, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    “…biblically, imperfect obedience in sanctification does not exclude the truth that we are presently righteous in the truest sense. Therefore, Calvin’s definition of righteousness is fundamentally flawed and the problems caused thereof can be seen in these same citations.”

    A great example of this is a Calvinists’/Refromed misunderstanding of present verb tenses in the Greek text. They misunderstand the present tense to be a continuing action, confusing it with a PARTICIPLE which indicates a means or method or process. Thus, present tense verbs are mis-translated to indicate a progressive process. So “ye are saved” becomes, “ye are being saved”. Greek verb tenses have more to do with an indication of “state” rather than an indication of “time”. So, the present tense means that right now, at this moment, or at any given moment, you are in the state of “saved”, or “just”, or “righteous”, or “sanctified”, or “washed”.

    Since this is our “state” or present condition, all the more reason it is important to behave in a manner that is consistent with our condition; thus we have all the imperatives, all the admontions, all the exhortations to holy, righteous living.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 19, 2013 at 8:11 AM

      Excellent. And let me remind you that no one is putting this out there. I see exactly what you are talking about in the Scriptures all of the time. It follows because we are justified APART FROM THE LAW period. If Christ had to fulfill the law for our justification–that is clearly NOT justification apart from the law.


  3. Andy said, on March 19, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    “…for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God…”

    Here is a good example that you cited from the ESV (the Reformed/Calvinist bible). Reformed love to use this text as a proof to say, “so if you keep on sinning you must not be saved”. But you must look at the structure and context, because the “he” that “cannot keep on sinning” refers to the “seed”, not the believer. The “seed” is the new man born of the Spirit, and anything that is of God CANNOT sin because it has God’s nature. So when a believer sins, it is not the “seed/new man” that sins but the old man, the flesh.

    Moreover, the ESV has misrepresented the present tense verb here. There are two verbs to consider.

    δυναμαι – dunamai, to be able or possible, to have the power to do something (we get the word “dynamite” from this)
    αμαρτανω – harmartano, to miss the mark (sin)

    “dunamai” is a present indicative preceeded with a negative particle, and “harmartano” is a present infinitive (usually preceeded with “to” in english). So a literal rendering of this phrase would be “..He is not able to sin…”. KJV renders this “he cannot sin”. Remember this refers to the “seed, the new nature” of God that abides in the believer, not the believer himself. We all know that we do continue to sin because we battle the flesh, but the truth remains that the NEW MAN IS NOT ABLE TO SIN. Of course, as you have pointed out many times before, New Calvinists have to deny the new birth to make this verse (and ESV rendering) fit their theology.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 19, 2013 at 9:28 AM

      Right again Andy. And this is exactly the point that Paul made in Romans 7:20. No?


  4. said, on March 19, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    Both you and Andy need to get a good Greek grammar. Virtually all of them acknowledge that “tense” in Greek concerns kind of action and that the present tense represents durative action. That does not mean we are continually being justified since “saved” and “justified” are not synonymous in Scripture.

    According to your apparent definition of “flesh” and “new man,” definitions I would not accept, where does sanctification occur? The “flesh” it would seem is incurrably sinful and cannot change. The “new man” is righteous and cannot sin. It would seem this is the case as soon as a person is rgenerated. Where does sanctification occur?


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 19, 2013 at 10:06 AM


      Really dude? You don’t think I can get around an anonymous proxy? Randy, you, like all of the Reformed, believe that “flesh” and “Spirit” are realms. Hence, when Christ obeys for us we experience it in a certain way because we are in that realm. Kinda like passively standing in the rain–we experience the rain but aren’t doing the work. It’s Gnosticism. You have emailed me and admitted that the “flesh” is a realm and doesn’t pertain to our mortal being. Chad Bresson’s massouse, Russ Kennedy, also stated the same in an email sent to me.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 19, 2013 at 10:08 AM

      ….Randy, hope you didn’t spend too much money on that Argos software.


  5. jimmy said, on March 19, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    I’m not sure what all that has to do with my question. Where does sanctification occur?


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 19, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      This is just a Reformed question that attempts to set the perimeters of the argument. Those who control the language, the terms, and the context control the truth. I am not going to bite on this. You don’t set the metaphysical agenda.


  6. jimmy said, on March 19, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    I don’t think all Reformed people believe “flesh” is a realm.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 19, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      ….because many of them don’t even know what Calvin really believed. I will give you that much as well as TT–you at least know what you believe.


  7. Lydia said, on March 19, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    Paul,when you refer to “realms” would this lead us back to their belief that everything happens outside of us? Remember that graphic you have used that shows this? I keep reminding myself that they do think in realms so while we are using the same words, they have different meanings.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 19, 2013 at 2:12 PM

      ABSOLUTELY. We can’t forget the backbone: COGOUS. I drive Susan crazy with that chart. What they say has to be interpreted through that chart. They all concur with it, so while the terms are the same they mean different things by them–no different than any other cult.


  8. Lydia said, on March 19, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    I have been thinking on this while researching. And it is funny that both the Catholicsn and Reformers claimed Augustine. And how vitriolic some of the stuff about Catholics can be coming from the Reformed movement. And I found that amusing since they both claim him.

    I was wondering if anyone else have given any thought to the Catholic position on Justification. We know they practice works salvation. Luther did a 180 and said NO works at all. But it seems they both believe in a progressive justification and it goes back to the realms and Augustine with his “all material is evil and spiritual good” thinking.Was it that the reformers brought in imputed righteousness?

    Just thinking outloud.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 19, 2013 at 7:59 PM


      You are on the right track. Both are the same for all practical purposes and that’s why the behavior is the same as well. Also, Luther and Calvin never swayed from Gregory/Augustine metaphysics which was based on Platonism. Luther got his basic ideas for the Heidelberg Confession from Gregory (especially gospel contemplationism). Both the Reformers and Rome held to a progressive justification that fused justification and sanctification. Rome taught that the Holy Spirit helped the believer finish salvation. The Reformers cried foul and said Christ finishes our salvation for us. But both held to a “Golden Chain of Salvation.” In other words, linear with sanctification being in the middle of the chain. That’s why Luther did the 180–if justification needs to be finished, we can’t be involved. That’s what the Reformers meant by “justification by faith alone.” Neither saw justification as being finished.


  9. Joey said, on March 24, 2013 at 2:43 PM


    Another thing to think about: if Christ’s perfect obdedience to the Law is imputed to us as our righteousness, so that it’s like we ourselves perfectly kept the law for our justification, then why did He have to die? In God’s eyes we were perfect law keepers, so what sense would it make to say He died for our trangressions?


  10. said, on March 28, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    Antinomianism and Works Righteousness is one in the same. Systems of works-righteousness lower the standard of perfect obedience to God’s laws in order that we might actually be able to fulfill said law. Therfore, Works-Righteousness is actually a smokescreen to cover lawlessness.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 28, 2013 at 1:03 PM


      I agree with that assessment totally unless by the same token you make a perfect keeping of the law synonymous with justification.


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