Wednesday, January 11, 2012


In Part 2 of his book, Farley takes on the law, sin, and Adam and Eve’s illicit activity in the Garden of Eden.  One can understand the title of the section, given the past experience Farley had with “legalistic religion” rather than grace infused Christianity.  In that, he is right—“religion” is a headache!

In this section, we will examine three of Farley’s arguments in this regard, that is, (a) the Law has nothing to do with the fruit of the Spirit, (b) Adam and Eve did not sin, and (c) the pursuit of godliness or sanctification is off the table.

The Moral Law and Antinomianism
While there is no argument that Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law and eliminated it with his voluntary, sacrificial death on the cross, one must consider two questions posed by Farley, who asked, “So if you’re a Christian, what place should the law have in your life?” (p.48) The implied answer is “none!”  He also asked, “But should Christians still look to the Ten Commandments as their moral guide?” (p.54) Farley says that no one can keep the law, and he is absolutely right!  But he then makes a giant leap, casting aside the moral law.  He answered the questions he posed at page 48 and page 54 when he wrote about his confrontation with pastors at a conference in Chihuahua:  “After several minutes of absorbing heated comments, I realized that what angered them the most was my insistence that Christians are even free from the Ten Commandments” (p. 57, emphasis added).  As will be shown below, that is classic Antinomianism.
To support his theory that the law has nothing to do with believers,
Farley quotes from Galatians 5:2-3—

2Look:  I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.

What Farley seems to miss here in his hermeneutics is the context—Paul was writing to the Galatian believers because the Judaizers were telling them that people had to become Jews before they could become Christians.  The Judaizers were perverting the Gospel, but were not saying the law in its entirety had to be followed. Their focus was circumcision.  Nor was Paul addressing the moral law in his letter to the Galatians, which is the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments.  Instead, he emphasized that if the Judaizers were right, and one did have to be circumcised, then the new believers would have to keep the law in its entirety, and not just circumcision!

Farley also quotes from Galatians 3:2-3—

2Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?  3Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

Again, Farley misses Paul’s contextual point—that becoming a Jew was not necessary to becoming a Christian!  Paul was not talking about the necessity of living out the law, nor was he addressing the question of whether or not the Ten Commandments had anything to do with believers.  And he was not addressing the “daily living” (p. 59) of the believer in this passage.  Paul was emphasizing the fact that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. 

Samuel Bolton, who was one of the Puritans, said that the word 'law', in its natural meaning both in the Old and New Testaments, means any doctrine, instruction, law, ordinance, or statute, divine or human, which teaches, directs, commands, or binds men to any duty that they owe to God or man.[1]  In Romans 6 and 7, the word “law” is used for the moral law alone, the 10 Commandments.[2] Bolton wrote to answer nearly the same question Farley posed.  Bolton wrote to answer, “Are Christians freed from the moral law as a rule of obedience?” and he defined the law as follows:

“By the law is meant the moral law comprehended in the Decalogue
or Ten Commandments...the things commanded or forbidden which
are morally good or evil, and cannot be changed or abolished.”[3]

I will represent to you, the reader, that the moral law does continue to govern, and to guide our behavior as believers. Paul said in Romans 3, 31Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”  Jesus, in Matthew 5 said, 17Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”  [All what? All of God’s plan!]

Paul also wrote to the Roman church about the law, saying:
12So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”

The law is holy—it reflects the character of our God.  It defines our interaction with God, that is, how we are to live, and it provides an objective means to evaluate our behavior before our God and with each other.  This is necessary because left to our own devices, we will chose to sin despite the fact that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in each believer!  To cast the moral law aside is to adopt the position of Antinomianism.  That is a six-bit Latin word that means “against the law” or “against law”. It represents the viewpoint that as New Testament believers, we are not expected by God to adhere to, or to follow, God’s moral law.

Despite Farley’s claim that he is not an Antinomian, he erroneously defines Antinomianism as “law haters” and claims that those who hold to Antinomian thought consider the law as “evil” (p. 60).  He then said, “Understanding the law’s place in the world today keeps us from the error of antinomianism (‘law hating’).  Understanding that the law has no place in the life of a Christian keeps us from the error of legalism” (p. 61-62).  While Farley is correct in saying that legalism is error, this writer would disagree with his definition of antinomianism and would argue he is not correct in his assertion that “the law has no place in the life of a Christian”.  His position is not only a good example of truth sprinkled with error, but, again, is classic Antinomianism. 

Paul addressed this issue in Romans 5 to 7 when he wrote:

20Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 5:20-21, 6:1-2)

The logical result of Paul’s outline of the gospel in the first five chapters of Romans is the question he posed in v.1 of Chapter 6.  This “living arrangement”—hey, I’m saved, so it doesn’t really matter how I live, right?—has been an issue since the first century. Because of man’s pride, it is still being addressed today. It was Martin Luther who gave this view its name—Antinomianism.

Of course, striving to keep the Ten Commandments is not something believers are able to do.  All true believers will “break” one of the Commandments as they live their lives out on a daily basis.  All true believers continue to deal with sin in their lives.  However, as the believer lives out his life, conformity to the Decalogue will be something that the Spirit of God accomplishes in that believer’s life.  Mark Noll enlarges on this idea:

“In general, orthodoxy teaches that the moral principles of the law
are still valid, not as objective
strivings—that is, things that we accomplish on our own—but as fruits of the Holy Spirit at work in
the life of the believer.
This disposes of the objection that since the
law is too demanding to be kept, it can be completely thrust aside as irrelevant to the individual living under grace.”[4]

Again, Noll makes the point here that our obedience is the work of God’s Spirit in us, by his grace, not by anything we do.   

Later, Farley argued, “So if the Scriptures say that the law has no place in the life of the believer (he is asserting that as being true), the most logical question is this: If the law isn’t our moral guide, then what is?  As Christians, we have an inborn desire for our behavior to turn out right.  In fact, the desire to please God is what drives some to embrace the error of law-based living!” (p. 90).  He continued, saying, “Similarly, freedom from the law can make some of us uneasy.  When boundaries are removed, we’re left to make up our minds concerning what is and what isn’t profitable.  But this is what Christian maturity is: since we’re in Christ and he’s in us, we don’t look to external rules to determine our every move; instead, we’re urged to move away from religious bondage and to journey toward a beautiful freedom, never looking back:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1)” (p. 92-93).

An inborn desire for our behavior to turn out right?  Really?  That statement is truly erroneous.  Man is born in sin, and his innate desire is to serve himself.  Man’s innate desire is not to serve or please God.  How would Farley respond to the fact that man is totally depraved?  How would Farley answer the fact that man sins naturally, is ego-centric, and is not concerned with having his behavior “turn out right”?  (Romans 3:9-18)

As far as his second comment from p. 92-93, Farley appears to miss Paul’s point at Galatians 5:1, and that is that believers are freed from the law as a means of salvation.  The scribes and Pharisees had turned the God’s law on its head—adding the oral traditions—turning it into a heavy burden.  That is what Paul was referring to in Galatians 5.  Paul was not saying that believers are to live as antinomians, rejecting the moral law completely.

Adam & Eve and Sanctification
Another problem interpretation of Scripture by Farley is his explanation of the events in the Garden involving Adam and Eve.  He argues that, “The mistake we make is thinking that Eve was motivated by the desire to do evil.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  What she really wanted was to avoid evil and do goodIn short, she wanted to do what God does—choose on her own, having the ability to detect evil and maintain goodness” (p. 70, emphasis added and in the original).  This understanding of Eve’s yielding to temptation is clearly erroneous.  It does not even fall under the heading of “an alternate interpretation”.  The sin of both Adam and Eve consisted of wanting to be like God—it was pride!  Their sin was akin to the sin by Lucifer in heaven.  He too wanted to be like God, which was the reason for his dismissal from heaven.  Adam and Eve deliberately cast aside reverence for God and his Commandment.

How do we know this?  A look at Genesis 3:4-5 will make it clear.

4But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.  5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.” 

Eve took of the fruit because she bought into what she was told by the serpent—that she would be like God.  When God came to the Garden, Adam and Eve were hiding—why?  They were hiding because they knew that they had sinned against God.  Sin causes an individual to want to hide their behavior, and Adam and Eve clearly demonstrated that.

Because of this misguided attempt to rewrite the historical account in Genesis 3, what follows by Farley is just mistaken.  Farley argues that Adam and Eve “…weren’t pursuing sin as we normally think of it.  They were pursuing a form of godliness.  They made an attempt to be like God.  The serpent successfully lured them, and the bait was godlikeness.  Event today, this is seen as a worthy goal” (p. 70).  That premise is a distortion of the truth imagined by Farley to enable him to make his argument that the pursuit of godliness today—“human effort” as he sees it—is no different from Adam and Eve’s transgression of “good intentions” in the Garden. Godliness today is not “bait”.  Godliness in the Greek is eusebeia, which describes reverence, respect, piety towards God, or godliness.  It is something the Apostle Paul said is to be pursued (1 Timothy), as well as the Apostle Peter (2 Peter).  It is a good thing in God’s sight, not “bait” used by Satan.  However, it is completely understandable—given Farley’s early life as a believer—that one who is wont to cast aside anything that has the appearance of a form of legalism would cast aside and be critical of the intentional pursuit of godliness.  Yet believers are exhorted to pursue it nonetheless.

Farley continues, “The fall in the Garden was due to Satan’s cunning as he tempted the first humans to abandon God and choose human effort” (p. 70).  That is simply not an accurate rendering of the text.  Adam and Eve were not interested in exerting their own effort.  They wanted to be like God, they wanted to be God!  “…fabricate(ing) their own system of right and wrong” (p. 71) was not their fatal mistake as alleged by Farley.  Wanting to be like God was the sin!

Farley asked, “But what was their motive really?” (p. 71).  He answered his own question, saying, “Although they were openly disobedient, we might say it was for a ‘right’ reason.  They wanted to be ‘right’ and do ‘right’.  They wanted to know right from wrong so they could choose right and avoid wrong” (p. 71).  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Pride was the motivation!  Pride caused them to surrender to the temptation.  Pride was what motivated them to want to be like God! 

Farley then parlays this specious argument, saying, “They admired God’s goodness and desired to generate and exude that same quality” (p. 71).  First of all, there is no Scriptural support for that statement.  There is no place in the Scripture where that is recorded.  Secondly, it was pride that was the motivator.  Thirdly, Farley uses this fallacious premise to argue that the pursuit of holiness, the pursuit of godliness, is wrong for believers.  He argues that Adam and Eve’s desire to “generate and exude that same quality” (p. 71) is no different from the believer today, pursuing godliness. Farley wrote, “…the Eden story reveals that a desire for behavior improvement was the cause of spiritual death” (p. 72).  He said, “The original sin was not Adam and Eve’s thumbing their noses at the goodness of God.  Instead, it was their wanting to author their own system of right and wrong so they could make sure they did right and avoided wrong”  (p. 71, emphasis in original).  Again, Farley is just plain wrong.  Again, there is no Scriptural basis for such statements.  The first couple did thumb their noses at God’s goodness, and they intentionally disobeyed God.  It would appear from his writing that godliness—the transformation that God brings about in the life of the believer commonly known as sanctification or transformation—is off the table for Farley.


[1] Bolton, Samuel, “The Moral Law a Rule of Obedience”, in Banner of Truth, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, Chapter 2
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Mark Noll, “Antinomianism”, 1997 (Emphasis added) 

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