Often, I have found myself in this peculiar dilemma as someone who believes God’s Law is still relevant for me today. What am I? Quite simply, what do I call myself?
For a time, I called myself Messianic, an immensely confusing nomenclature. People thought that meant I had converted to Judaism, because, until this exact moment, they had never heard the word “Messianic” unaccompanied by the word “Jew”. At first, I was undisturbed by this association with Judaism. I was more than happy to dispense with the title of “Christian”, because obviously I had “transcended the shackles of my indoctrination and had risen from the ashes of my deconstructed faith with the real truth”. Nonsense. This thinking was all ignorant “cage stage” blather. I was in the emotional throes of discovering God’s Law, a concept nary discussed in the Church, and this somehow gave me a sense that the Church hated God’s Law. “If the Church was wrong about this, what else were they wrong about” or something like that.
Eventually, my zealous spirit was saddled and bridled by the anarchy of the Messianic/Hebrew roots movement, and suddenly the novelty of being called “Messianic” had run its course. Nothing makes one nostalgic for regular Church life like spending a few Sabbath afternoons with Frank Ben Yahuah explaining why Enoch isn’t Scripture and why Paul is. You find yourself reminiscing with your spouse, “Honey, remember all those times we didn’t run into polygamists and flat earthers in the Church lobby? Good times… good times.” Eventually, I said my farewells to the Messianic movement, and it’s incessant shenanigans. I came to realize the importance of my Christian heritage, and I was grateful for it.
I am Christian. I’m a Gentile grafted into Israel, undoubtedly. I am united with my Messianic Jewish brethren in the bonds of Yeshua (Jesus), however, I feel identifying as Messianic (even without the word Jewish) creates more confusion than it does clarity. Perhaps, in some contexts, the title “Messianic” makes sense, but for the average Gentile Christian (me) it does not.
How do we—Gentile Christians finding God’s Law as relevant to the modern believer—identify with God’s Law without separating ourselves from Historic and Modern Christianity? When a Christian asks about my theology, how do I explain to them that I eat clean foods, celebrate the Lord’s festivals, and rest on the Sabbath, without telling them something that either makes me sound like a Jewish convert or in a cult? What do we call this? Well, thankfully for us, there is a name for this. It’s called Pronomianism.
First, what isn’t pronomianism? Naturally, that would be antinomianism. Antinomianism is the antithesis of this idea. It’s has become a common phrase within the framework of theological conversation. Anti being a Greek word that means “against” or “opposed”. Nomian comes from the Greek word meaning “law”. This word, antinomian, is used in theological circles to describe the kind of theology that begins with the rejection of God’s Law as a necessary part of the Christian life. Quite obviously, this doesn’t represent those of us that know God’s Law has not been abrogated, and therefore we turn toward the only “nomianism” left.
What, then, is pronomianism? Pronomianism, quite simply, is the notion that God’s Law is still relevant to the theology and practice of the modern Christian. Pronomianism is a word already familiar within the theological framework and representative of many aspects of historic theology such as theonomy and Covenant theology, but is also consistent with newer theological positions such as One Law theology. Interestingly enough, the term pronomian doesn’t actually separate us from our Messianic Jewish brethren, because by definition those Jews that observe the Torah are pronomian in theology. Regardless of any cultural distinction between the Gentile Christian and Messianic Jew, the sacramental tie that binds us together can be summed up in pronomianism.
I was at a restaurant with a reformed Christian friend of mine, and we were eating some wings and having a beer (as good reformed Christians do). We were discussing my theology and some of the Scripture proofs for it. He had heard me describe my theological position in other dinners before, and as always, was respectful and interested. He looked up from his spicy barbecue wings smothered in ranch and asked me the dreaded question, “So, what do you call yourself then?”
I stared straight back and calmly replied, “I’m a pronomian Christian.”
“Oh,” he gave a nod of approval, “… as opposed to antinomian.”
“Exactly,” I said.
“I like that,” he said, and went back to eating his wings.
That was easy, I thought.
The reason I tell this story is because, yes, the average Christian might need some explanation on what pronomian means, but it isn’t a word that is foreign to Christianity. There are theological words that exist that can keep us tethered to our Christian heritage. We can make a claim about our views regarding God’s Law without identifying ourselves with an entire culture and host of other theological positions that may not represent us. Once we—the Jew and the Gentile—understand how to begin our discussion regarding God’s Law, now we begin the labor of understanding the practical and sacramental applications of that Law in their various traditions.