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The Pilgrim's Regress: Guarding against Backsliding and Apostasy in the Christian Life


Mark Jones addresses the uncomfortable topic of backsliding believers—and, to a lesser extent, apostasy—in a serious, hopeful, and pastoral work informed by wise theologians of the past and present.


Mark Jones (PhD, Leiden University) is Senior Minister at Faith Vancouver Presbyterian Church (PCA) and Research Associate at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He has written and edited several books and most recently coauthored A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life.


“Each chapter is a wake‑up call providing clear spiritual medicine for Christians to progress and not regress in their faith. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s a must-read.” —Rosaria Butterfield, author, Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age

“Warning! Don’t read this book if you don’t want to be confronted with the danger of backsliding to which every Christian is constantly exposed. Warning! Don’t read this book if you don’t want to be encouraged by learning of the resources readily available to every Christian for countering the ever-present tendency to backsliding. Reading this book has been a searching experience for me personally, as Mark Jones carefully delineates the various regressive tendencies that plague the Christian life, explores the difference between them and irremediable apostasy, and unfolds in a deeply probing way the thoroughly sufficient and efficacious remedies that Scripture provides. Don’t heed my warnings. Read this book!”
—Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary

“Few address the subject of this book, yet backsliding and apostasy are genuine realities in the story of the church. This fresh study of the subject not only examines the nature of backsliding but also, in John Owen–like fashion, probes deeply into its sources. . . . Sadly, this is a much-needed tract for our crooked age. Thankfully, though, it provides a robust gospel remedy for this ill that ails so many of our churches.” —Michael A. G. Azad Haykin, Professor of Church History, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Dr. Mark Jones’s The Pilgrim’s Regress: Guarding against Backsliding and Apostasy in the Christian Life is a masterly exploration of the complex spiritual journey that every believer undertakes. With eloquent prose and an unwavering commitment to biblical truth, Jones weaves a tapestry of profound theological insight, pastoral wisdom, and genuine compassion that speaks to the heart of every Christian pilgrim on his or her path to consummated glory. Delving into the intricate dynamics of the Christian walk, he unravels the mysteries of grace, perseverance, and the relentless battle against indwelling sin. His profound insights and practical solutions offer guidance to believers of all backgrounds. This literary masterpiece is a beacon of understanding, providing solace, wisdom, and hope for every follower of Christ. This is a must-read for all believers.” —Christopher Yuan, Speaker; Author, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel; Producer, The Holy Sexuality Project Video Series for Parents and their Teens

“In a culture now beginning to be wearied by the hypocrisy of so-called positive energies, a culture that in turn proposes to embrace the ‘true self’ by giving in to the downward stream of turning from God, this refreshing book reminds us of a genuinely Christian way of being authentic as sinners saved by grace.” —Shao Kai Tseng, Research Professor in the School of Philosophy, Zhejiang University

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Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest?


an·ti·no·mi·an noun [an-ti-ˈnō-mē-ən] One who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation. —Merriam-Webster’s dictionary

Hotly debated since the sixteenth century in the Reformed theological tradition, and still a burning issue today, antinomianism has a long and complicated story.

This book is the first to examine antinomianism from a historical, exegetical, and systematic perspective. More than that, in it Mark Jones offers a key—a robust Reformed Christology with a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit—and chapter by chapter uses it to unlock nine questions raised by the debates.

Read Sample Pages

Table of Contents:

  1. Lessons from History
  2. The Imitation of Christ
  3. The Law
  4. The Law and the Gospel
  5. Good Works and Rewards
  6. Amor, Amor
  7. Assurance
  8. Rhetoric
  9. Toward a Definition and a Solution


Mark Jones (PhD, Leiden University) is Senior Minister at Faith Vancouver Presbyterian Church (PCA) and Research Associate at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He has written and edited several books and most recently coauthored A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life.


"Mark Jones's monograph is the work of a Puritan-minded scholar and theologian who understands these things well, has researched historic antinomianism with thoroughness, and has many illuminating things to say about it. His book is a pioneering overview that I commend most warmly, particularly to pastors. Why to them? Start reading it, and you will soon see." - J. I. Packer

"The problem of antinomianism is a hardy perennial for the church. There is a mischievous movement afoot at the moment whose soaring rhetoric about grace is matched by an equally casual presumption on the same. Mark Jones's book is thus to be welcomed: it is biblically grounded, historically sensitive, and above all timely. In addition, through his careful attention to the role of Christ in scripture and in historical Reformed confessional treatments of sanctification, Jones provides a significant supplement to other recent books pleading for a biblical emphasis on personal piety." — Carl R. Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary, PA; Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (OPC) Ambler, PA "We are living in a deeply encouraging day when the sovereignty of God's grace is being rediscovered far and wide. But, as has happened in the past, when such times of biblical ressourcement have occurred, the error of antinomianism has made its appearance. This new work by Mark Jones is thus a timely tract for the times. It is rich in scriptural argument, illustrations from church history, and vigorous application. May it have a wide reading and even wider heeding!" — Michael A.G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY

"Though in the popular imagination antinomianism is often simply identified with a denial of the positive role of God's moral law in the Christian life, Jones demonstrates that it includes a number of additional elements—a belittling of Christ's example of holiness as a pattern for the Christian life (imitatio Christi); a diminishment of the law of God as a true means of sanctification; an unbalanced conception of the relationship between law and gospel; a reluctance to acknowledge the biblical emphasis upon rewards as a legitimate motive for Christian obedience; and a failure to recognize the role of good works as a secondary ground for the believer's assurance of salvation. However, the principal strength of Jones's argument against antinomianism resides in his emphasis upon the fullness of Christ’s person and saving work. Jones shows how a proper understanding of the work of Christ includes both the gospel benefits of free justification and progressive sanctification. In doing so, Jones nicely exposes one of the ironies of antinomianism—in the name of preserving the gospel, antinomianism typically truncates it." — Cornelis P. Venema, President, Professor of Doctrinal Studies, Mid-America Reformed Seminary

"What does a seventeenth century theological controversy have to do with Christian living in the twenty-first century? Everything. With the acumen of an historian and the heart of a pastor, Mark Jones deftly guides readers through one of the most tangled and most important set of issues facing the Reformed church. If you want to preach the gospel with greater biblical clarity, or learn how better to apply the gospel to your daily life, pick up this book and begin reading." — Guy Prentiss Waters, Ph.D, Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary

"Church history records that the doctrinal pendulum often swings from one dangerous extreme to the other. This present day is no exception. The legalistic abuses of recent decades are now being replaced with a hyper-grace license to sin. Sad to say, portions of the Reformed community have given shelter to this new Antinomianism, claiming that personal obedience to the Law of Christ is merely optional. Often trendy with 'the young, restless, and Reformed,' this toxic message is poisonous to the soul. In this excellent work, Mark Jones exercises considerable skill in exposing the fatal flaws of this anti-law, cheap-grace easy-believism. Throughout these pages you will find the theological clarity needed to reject the twisted errors of legalism and license and to embrace a true, grace-inspired, Spirit-empowered obedience to the Scripture." — Dr. Steven J. Lawson, Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, Mobile, AL