Jesus is not a Theonomist

I have done a lot of reading, blogging (I, II, III), talking, and listening, and in the end, I have decided that Theonomy is not scripturally justified. And just to be crystal clear, what I mean by ‘Theonomy’ is specifically the Theonomic conclusion that God expects that civil magistrates uphold Mosaic death penalties for violation of 1st table laws, i.e. apostasy, idolatry, blasphemy, and sabbath-breaking. It seemed very clear to me that this position is required for any consistent Theonomist, and if you can swallow that, then it would be a cinch to accept other executable offenses, such as incorrigibility, adultery, witchcraft, sodomy, bestiality, kidnapping, rape, and murder. But this post is not about those second-table offenses.

Very many arguments are put forth by the Theonomist, which I do not find convincing. I will list them only very shortly here [turned out not so short in the end…], because I believe all of them have been discussed at more length in previous posts.

  • God’s Law remains in force until God says otherwise. Well of course it does, which is why God gave us Galatians and Romans and Hebrews, and most of the rest of the New Testament.
  • Does God change his mind? This is not an argument, but a juvenile taunt. God used to require animal sacrifice; did He change His mind? He used to require a kosher diet; did He change His mind? He used to require that males in his covenant be physically circumcised at eight days old; did He change His mind? He used to require sabbath observance from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday; did He change His mind? Why yes, as a matter of fact, He did. Or rather, He eternally decreed that some laws applied only to a special people at a special time in a special way.
  • Matt 5:17-20: ‘fulfill’ means ‘maintain’: This was especially infuriating to me. Bahnsen spends half an hour ridiculing various interpretations, reiterating ad nauseam that ‘fulfill’ cannot be interpreted as ‘complete’, or any way that allows for any change in the law. And then he tries to slip in that the proper interpretation includes “keep listening, because there will be some changes to the law”. I have not heard any Theonomist convincingly juxtapose these verses with the constant theme of the New Testament that the Law has changed! How many jots and tittles are included in all of the sacrificial, ceremonial, dietary, and purity laws, which are wholesale blown away by the New Testament? In the face of this overwhelming amount of other scripture to aid interpretation, Matt 5:17 must be interpreted somehow paradoxically, thus the traditional interpretation of fulfill=complete fits perfectly.
  • Israel exemplified church / state separation (therefore we cannot plead church/state as a way to exempt the New Covenant civil magistrate from enforcing religious laws). This is just nonsense. Israel was a theocracy, pure and simple. How do you like these apples?
  • God held other nations responsible for obeying His law, and expected Israel to enforce it. Also nonsense. Although all nations, and all people, will be held responsible for obeying God’s law (punishable by eternal death at His final judgement), Israel was responsible not for regulating the surrounding nations, but exterminating them. According to Bahnsen, Deut 4:5-8 is supposed to show that “even the non-theocratic nations around Israel were held accountable by God to the same moral obligations as those revealed through Moses”, but it is clearly more of a taunt (ha ha, we have God’s law, and you don’t) than a mandate for extension of Mosaic law beyond the borders of the Promised Land. Note in Deut 20:10-18 how only “cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance” are subject to complete annihilation; “cities that are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here,” if Israel wins a war against them, may be taken for slaves or booty. And the reason? So that Israel remain pure from Canaanite abominations within its own borders. Israel had no analogue of the Great Commission to reach out to the whole wide world and bring it all into covenant with God, because God made the covenant only with them (and only then).
  • Bestiality: Another nonsense argument, which claims that, since bestiality is nowhere re-prohibited in the New Testament, non-Theonomists have no basis on which to judge bestiality as sin. To borrow a turn of phrase, if you ask “By what authority do you forbid bestiality?” I answer “If you tell me by what authority you forbid pornography, and blow-up dolls, and necrophilia, and sex with children, I will tell you by what authority I forbid bestiality.”
  • The original Westminster Confession was Theonomic: It was wrong, and after the Revolution, American Presbyterians recognized it. Hence the 1788 revision, which remains the confessional standard of American Presbyterian denominations today.
  • Calvin was Theonomic in that he assented to the execution of the heretic Servetus: Calvin (and the Geneva city council) were wrong. A quote from William S. Barker, “Theonomy, Pluralism, and the Bible”, in A Reformed Critique of Theonomy: “Calvin deserves credit for developing one side of a church-state separation, the protection of ecclesiastical integrity against intrusion by the civil magistrate into essentially spiritual matters, such as admission to the Lord’s Table.” But he didn’t go far enough.
  • Let’s not argue about who rules who with the sword, or when, because when (almost?) the whole world has been redeemed with the gospel, earthly laws conforming to God’s law will naturally flow out of the people, and by that point, almost nobody will get killed anyways. (a) if God wants it, why doesn’t he want it now? (b) if everybody is already Christian, with the law written on their hearts, what need for earthly legalism? (c) If not everyone is already a Christian, what good is it going to do them (in terms of justification) to obey externally imposed laws, when what is necessary is the inner transformation of the gospel, and (d) you have to be post-millenial to believe this, and I aint. So in the end, surprise, surprise, it comes down to my favorite ‘irrelevant for the here and now’ branch of theology, namely eschatology.

The first Bahnsen I ever listened to (which was probably not the right thing to have started with) was his address Does Westminster have a Critique of Theonomy Yet? In this talk, he deals with the long-in-coming response to Theonomy from Westminster (after the Kline debacle). After dismissing (most of) the other articles, he addresses in detail only that one article by Barker, quoted above. So I read that one article (and another by Dennis Johnson, which I’m not sure why Bahnsen ignored, because it was a substantive argument from Hebrews), and from its main argument comes my title.

Barker ties together the first table (duty to God) and second table (duty to man) of the law, with the first (love God) and second (love your neighbor) greatest commandments; that in itself is nothing new, but he also extended the dichotomy to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s, thus showing that Jesus endorsed the separation of church and state, and submission to civil authorities, even to pagan Rome!

As Barker had the unconscionable temerity to suggest that Christians should therefore pay taxes to support enterprises such as public schools, Bahnsen flew into a thunderous rant that it is unthinkable that Christians should have to support an instititution that has demonstrated that it is dedicated to the destruction of Christian ideals. Granted that this is a fair assessment of the original champions of public schooling (Dewey, Mann), and their continuing legacy in the NEA, Bahnsen’s logic would prohibit Jesus from paying taxes to Caesar! Was the Roman empire not bent on the destruction of Christianity? This is why (Barker explains) Jesus calls for an actual coin, so that its inscription may be examined. The inscriptions on Roman coins didn’t just have a picture and a name of a Caesar, they identified him as Imperial Divinity — and yet Jesus pointed specifically to that blasphemy, and declared Caesar’s authority as legitimate (within its civil bounds; thus the martyrs were right to go to their deaths for drawing the line at worshipping Caesar), and due our support.

Some more quotes from Barker:

In the area of our relation to God, not only is it not legitimate for the state to enforce its false religion on us (“Give to God the things that are God’s”), but it is not even the proper function of the state to enforce religion (“Bring me a denarius and let me look at it”) — even the true faith and worship.

This distinction became important as the Gospel went forth into the Gentile nations. All that missionaries could rightly ask of the civil authority was the freedom to preach the Gospel so that people might be freely persuaded by the word and by the Spirit. To have the state in any way coerce belief or worship could only compromise the free nature of the Gospel and contaminate the purity of the church.

And Barker quotes from Tertullian, De Idolatria:

The Lord … said, ‘Render to Caesar what are Caesar’s, and what are God’s to God;’ that is, the image of Caesar, which is on the coin, to Caesar, and the image of God, which is on man, to God; so as to render to Caesar indeed money, to God yourself.

So where does that leave me? Once again I find (after much profitable biblical searching, but frustrating attempts at argument) that Westminster says it best:

The Law of God, para. IV: To [Israel] also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other, now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

para. VII: Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it: the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.

In paragraph IV, the concept of general equity is a footnote, while the expiration and non-obligation is the main point (not the other way around, which Theonomists would have us believe). The final paragraph underscores that it is the responsibility of the Spirit of Christ (not the sword of the civil magistrate) to subdue the will of man to obey freely and cheerfully (and the civil magistrate cannot enable the will of man to do anything, freely or cheerfully or otherwise).

As members of the New and Better Covenant, we should remember that the Mosaic Covenant was not established between God and us, but between God and the Israelites. That covenant was a temporary prison and tutor, and it is now obsolete, and set aside because of its weakness and uselessness. Certainly, it was God-breathed, and remains profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, and it is “of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions”, but what God has separated (His law and civil authority), let no man join together!


52 Responses

  1. I can’t even finish reading this right now. You definitely know how to push my buttons. It’s just a little frustrating to find arguments that I actually HAVE answered in speaking with you repeated by you with inferences that they haven’t been answered.

    One rebuttal and then I guess I need to cool down so I can read the rest:

    “This is just nonsense. Israel was a theocracy, pure and simple.” SO WHAT!!!!!! BIG DEAL!!!! How does this have ANY bearing on what IS and what IS NOT expected of the civil magistrate today? This is such an amiguous statement that it makes no logical sense to bring it into the discussion. If they were or were not a Theocracy, you still have to deal with all of the arguments. It’s like you can just throw out this statement and expect everybody to understand and agree that this proves everything. Rube, this is just a very silly statement, I would have to say just as much “a juvenile taunt” as you make out Bahnsen’s title of one of his lectures.

    Okay, I’m off to lunch. I still love you buddy. Remember, just because you don’t like it, doesn’t make it false. :)

  2. You certainly have addressed some or all of these points, and more, but you haven’t answered them (at least in my mind), otherwise I’d be a theonomist by now.

    Theocracies are defined by having (and enforcing) religious laws. The fact that Israel had death penalties for 1st table offenses is what defined them, politically, as a theocracy. We are not a theocracy, God only ever instituted one theocracy, and now it’s over. God’s will is now for his people to be dispersed among all the nations, and to reach them by the gospel, not by re-establishing theocracies. A law banning, say, idolatry would be completely irrelevant to spreading the gospel — counterproductive even!

    So here’s a question; put these reasons that God used Israel to exterminate Canaanites in priority order: idolatry, child sacrifice, Israel needed a place to crash until 3BC.

    I agree though; true or false has nothing to do with whether I like it — but whether God likes it!

  3. A theocracy is also contingent upon God’s rule being coupled with a realm, his dominion with a domain — a distinct land within the bounds of which he rules his people in a unique way.

    So during OT times, the rules were different for the Jews while in the land as opposed to when they were outside of it. And moreover, pagans who lived outside the land (like the queen of Sheba) were dealt with differently than the pagans who lived within the land.

    When God’s people are in exile (such as with the patriarchs, the captives in Babylon, and the Church today) there are two distinct kingdoms through which God rules the world. One is spiritual, eschatological, and cultic, and the other is earthly, temporal, and cultural.

    To insist that the same dynamic exist today as existed under the OT theocracy is just an improperly realized eschatology.

    Or as Calvin put it, to conflate the two kingdoms is a “Jewish folly.”


  4. Okay, I’ve settled. But I still haven’t read on further.

    To continue the point on “Theocracy,” You define it, then you say that God only ever instituded one and it’s over. Then you assert He isn’t re-establishing theocracies. And you also assert that banning idolatry would be completely irrelevant to spreading the gospel.

    Where does scripture define Israel as a Theocracy?

    Where does scripture say that there will only be one Theocracy in the world?

    (I’m not saying I agree or disagree on these points)

    If you want to ‘simply’ define a Theocracy, politically, as a nation that has a death penalty for the 1st table, then again I say “so what.” Who cares about the label? Or more to the point: “I don’t care about the label.” It can only be used here to confuse the actual issue. The question is “Does God require the modern day civil magistrate to enact the same penalties for violating the 1st table?” If the answser is yes, and you want to call that a Theocracy, big deal. Go ahead and call it one. I maintain that the answer is “yes, He does” and if you want to call that a Theocracy, it just doesn’t matter or bear on the argument. It’s just a logical distraction.

    Can you give specific scriptures that abolish the penal sanctions of God’s law?

    Can you give exegetical proof that the penal sanctions are part of the ceremonial law?

    Can you demonstrate biblical evidence that the Decologue should be divided into two tables when it comes to penology?

    When you throw out Theonomy, you either have to choose complete anitinomianism, or an inconsistent reformed view on God’s law. You can’t rationally embrace God’s law and yet divide it from His sanctions. Only scripture can tell us what to do with God’s law, and scripture tells us every jot and tittle INCLUDING the restorative (ceremonial) law. We still follow every jot and tittle of the ceremonial by going to the cross, by not marrying unbelievers, etc. Better put, by following the reality of the shadow that is today known as ceremonial.

    I’ll read the rest of your post when I get home tonight and after the kids go to bed.

    I do hope that you plan to send this post to Roger Wagner so he knows what he’s up against.



  5. Very briefly, I, of course, agree with your conclusions and I embrace your work as well done. Areas where you might look closer are these:1)I suspect that you might get a stiff challenge on your approach to the seventh day versus the Lord’s day from some quarters. 2) Technically, OT Israel was the last theocracy, not the only theocracy. The others were, more obviously, A&E in the garden and, less obviously, Noah and his family on the ark. 3) I suspect that there will come a day (in your life time) where your take that eschatology, as a theological concern, is irrelevant for the here and now will change.

  6. I can see that I have failed and must not be very good in communicating. My thoughts must be clearer than my words. My only consolation in this is that it seems Bahnsen had the same problem. Here I have Rube in many places (not all) completely missing the mark on what Theonomy teaches, therefore arguing against a straw man. But then again, Barker participated in the publishing of a book that in which he also argues against a straw man instead of Theonomy. :(

    Maybe Bahnsen can do it better than I. Following is part of what he wrote in response to Barker’s essay in “Theonomy: A Reformed Critique.”

    Much of what Dr. Barker advocates in his paper is set forth
    as though it conflicts with a theonomic understanding of the civil
    magistrate, when in fact there are large areas of agreement which
    Dr. Barker did not see due to misconceptions about theonomic
    ethics. Barker says, “If we are indeed zealous for the application
    of God’s law in society, our first question must be, what is our
    King’s intention?” He answers: “his intention is for the civil author-
    ity to apply God’s law in the area of human relations in which
    God has ordained him to serve.” Given Barker’s conception of
    how this application would take place, it is inappropriate for the
    state to propagate God’s saving truth or promote personal faith.
    “Civil authority” should not be used “to enforce the true religion”
    or “enforce the true faith and worship,” for instance by “destroy-
    ing” other religions than Christianity. The state may not “in any
    way coerce belief or worship,” nor is it responsible “to exterminate
    false religion.” We must, rather, “protect the liberty of conscience and belief of unbelievers under a Christian government.” “It is not Caesar’s to enforce the true religion.” Accordingly, there ought not to be an “established church.” We should “oppose the require-
    ment of prayer or acts of worship in the public schools.” The true
    religion ought not to be supported by taxation, and taxes ought
    to be paid even when the government follows a blasphemous
    religion. Victory for King Jesus “comes not through civil govern-
    ments, but through his witnesses.”

    Theonomists agree heartily with beliefs such as these, and I
    have promoted such viewpoints zealously in my public lectures
    because I believe that they are required by a proper reading of Gods
    law. It seems that Barker mistakenly expected theonomists to
    disagree with such views of religious liberty in the state because
    of his own misreading of the theonomic position. For instance he
    incorrectly asserts that theonomic ethics recognizes no greater and
    no different distinction between church and state today than ex-
    isted in Old Testament Israel. Barker also incorrectly alleges that
    theonomic ethics holds that civil authorities are obligated to carry
    out and apply the whole law of God, all of its commandments — an
    exaggeration which is patently repudiated in my writings. Because
    of their advocacy of God’s law as the standard (and limit) of
    political ethics, theonomists have a deserved reputation for advo-
    cating a small area of legitimate civil government.

    No Enforcement of the First Table of the Law?

    Putting aside Barker’s misconceptions, what is the specific
    thesis advanced in his paper on political pluralism, and how does
    he attempt to provide Biblical support for it? The general thrust
    of Barker’s argument is that the civil magistrate should be preju-
    diced toward Christian values only with respect to matters per-
    taining to the second table of the law – but then, to protect the
    religious liberty of non-Christians, approach these matters only
    through natural revelation. He says that according to the will of
    the Lord Jesus Christ, the civil magistrate today is not expected
    (nor permitted) to enforce the first great commandment (viz.,
    loving God), that is, the first table of the law (viz., our duty
    toward God). Barker thinks that Jesus taught us so in His answer regarding the coin and taxation (Matt. 22:15-22).

    As interesting as the discussion of Christ’s answer to His
    critics is, Barker’s line of reasoning really does not demonstrate
    what he set out to show. In this passage Jesus taught that it is
    indeed lawful for political subjects to give tribute-money to Caesar
    (cf v. 17). To infer from that premise that it is, then, unlawfiul for
    Caesar to give tribute to God (enforcing the civil aspects of the
    first table of God’s law) is an enormous non sequitur. Barker at-
    tempts to squeeze that conclusion out ofJesus’ answer by pointing
    to the distinction which Jesus draws between the things belonging
    to Caesar and the things belonging to God. But that distinction
    in itself was nothing new —certainly not a new divine revelation,
    a truth which was unknown or inoperative in the Old Testament
    (e.g., Jehoshaphat’s distinction between “Jehovah’s matters” and
    “the king’s matters,” 2 Chron. 19:11) – and everyone is aware
    that in the Old Testament, where that distinction was taken into
    account, the king was indeed obligated to show tribute to God by
    enforcing the civil provisions of the first table of God’s law. Conse-
    quently, Christ’s reminder of that distinction cannot in itself have
    the logical force of revoking such an obligation. Barker’s reasoning
    does not deduce anything from the text, but rather reads it into
    the text from outside.

    To make his thesis plausible, Barker would also need to offer
    a convincing explanation of why in the Old Testament era Gen-
    tile, non-theocratic magistrates were held accountable to the first
    table of the law (or first great commandment in its civil applica-
    tions), but they are no longer required to do so in the New
    Testament. After all, the king of Babylon was indicted (even by
    the dead kings over the other nations) for daring to rule in such
    a way that he was guilty of idolatry and despising his duty toward
    Jehovah (Isaiah 14). Darius decreed that throughout his empire
    all men “must fear and reverence the God of Daniel, for He is the
    living God and endures forever” (Dan. 6:25-26). Why would
    non-theocratic kings today be under any less responsibility than the
    Old Testament kings of Babylon and Persia?
    We find the New Testament also holding unbelieving civil magi-
    strates responsible to honor and act in terms of the first table of the decalogue. When Herod arrogantly acted in defiance of the first commandment, permitting and receiving the crowd’s accla-
    mation of himself as divine, God clearly displayed His own holy
    jealousy and displeasure by striking Herod dead of worms on the
    spot (Acts 12:2 1-23). Likewise Paul condemned the civil ruler
    known as “the man of sin” because he dares to conduct his office
    in violation of the first table of the decalogue, ‘setting himself forth
    as God” (2 Thes. 2:4). When Barker argues that civil magistrates
    ought to honor the second table of the law, but not the first table
    today, the distinction which his thesis advocates simply does not
    comport with the text of Scripture.

    Returning to Barker, there are other diiiiculties in his reason-
    ing as well. For instance, the thesis that today’s civil magistrates
    ought not to enforce the first great commandment really proves
    far too much since it would imply that the civil magistrate should
    not enforce any of God’s commandments. Why is this? Because
    in terms of Biblical teaching (reflected in numerous Reformed
    works of theology) part of my duty toward God (thus part of what
    it means to love God) includes obedience to those laws regulating
    relations with others; that is, the second great commandment
    is built into the first great commandment. Scripture persuasively
    declares that loving God entails loving my fellow man (e.g., 1 John
    3:17; 4:8, 19; James 3:9-10). Hence the line of reasoning in Barker’s
    essay implicitly rules out the magistrate enforcing laws which
    pertain to showing love to our fellow men (by protecting them
    from theft, rape, slander, abortion, sexual deviance, etc.) as well
    as to God Himself.

    Can Pluralism Be Rescued From
    Secularizingg or Dei@iug the State?

    It would seem that Barker’s approach could be rescued at
    this point only by resorting to some version of the sacred/secular
    distinction – for instance, by holding that the “secular” applica-
    tions of loving-God-by-loving-my-fellow-man are to be followed
    by the civil magistrate, but not the “sacred” applications of loving-
    God-by-loving-my-fellow-man. We should all be well aware of the
    conceptual and theological quicksand Barker would be stepping
    into if he moved in that direction. To avoid it, he should instead
    move in the direction of the theonomic position which delineates
    the kind of love (toward God and/or man) which the magistrate
    should and should not enforce by the objective, written revelation
    of God’s law.

    Unfortunately, though, that option is not available to Barker,
    since he contends that it is natural revelation that should be the
    standard for civil laws. But this conviction is ileighted with self-
    contradiction and/or a conspicuous theological lapse regarding
    natural and special revelation. This is evident when we remember
    that natural revelation includes the moral obligations contained in
    the 1st table of the decalogue (our duty toward God), just as
    much as it contains those of the second table. Paul taught that
    natural revelation condemned the pagan world for failing to glo-
    rify God properly and for idolatrously worshiping and serving the
    creature instead (Rem. 1:21, 23, 25).

    It would seem that, by exempting the civil magistrate from
    the civil demands of the first table of the law and obliging him to
    follow natural revelation instead, Barker has contradicted himself
    The fact is that all of the Mosaic laws (in their moral demands) are
    reflected in general revelation; to put it another way, the moral
    obligations communicated through both means of divine commu-
    nication are identical (Rem. 1:18-21, 25, 32; 2:14-15; 3:9, 19-20,
    23). Scripture never suggests that God has two sets of ethical
    standards or two moral codes, the one (for Gentiles) being an
    abridgement of the other (for Jews). Rather, He has one set of
    commandments which are communicated to men in two ways:
    through Scripture and through nature (Ps. 19, cf. w. 2-3 with
    8-9). Accordingly, the Gentile nations (and rulers) are repeatedly
    condemned in Scripture for transgressing the moral standards
    which we find revealed in the law of Moses — and not simply the
    summary commands of the decalogue, but their case-law applica-
    tions and details as well (e.g., Mk. 6:18).12 Therefore, Barker’s
    preference for natural revelation over special revelation in civil
    matters involves a faulty conception of natural revelation. It also
    assumes a mistaken view of the relation between natural and
    special revelation, overlooking the need for special revelation to
    interpret and correct our perception and understanding of natural
    revelation. The last thing we need in politics is the possibility of
    a Hitlerian perception of nature or “nature’s laws” which cannot
    be checked by Scripture!

    It would be a formidable task for Barker to rescue his thesis
    from these defects, but even if he could, there would remain an
    inherent inconsistency in his modified political pluralism. Just as
    we saw in the earlier evaluation of pluralism offered above, the
    position that there should be no special political dependence or
    preference shown to the religious distinctive of any one religion
    proves to be logically impossible. Barker illustrates this again
    when his paper addresses the problem of explaining how the state,
    on a pluralist basis, can be prevented from deifing itself (e.g., going
    the direction of Hitler). His answer is that the state should “recog-
    nize” its subordinate place in relation to “the things of God” – and
    that state officials should “bring a Christian understanding” to
    their tasks. But Barker cannot have his cake and eat it too! There
    are legal positivists, naturalists, secularists, and atheists who would
    not for a moment tolerate Barker’s Christian understanding that
    “the things of God” limit the prerogatives of the state (“the things
    of Caesar”). They are not about to have such a “Christian under-
    standing” intrude into the governing of the secular state. If Barker
    calls for bringing the Christian conception of a “higher law” to
    bear upon the state (to keep it from deifing itself), he cannot with
    logical consistency also argue that the state should not operate on
    any distinctively Christian understanding of its duties, limits or
    prerogatives over against the convictions of naturalists, positivists,
    etc. Honest pluralism logically precludes a distinctively Christian
    conception of the state.

    Dr. Barker’s interpretation and application of the taxation
    pericope in Matthew 22 does not, then, provide any good reason
    or Biblical basis for us to depart from the conclusions which we
    have reached earlier concerning the way in which the civil magis-
    trate ought to be prejudiced in favor of Christianity in the exercise
    of his public office. The words of Jesus prior to His ascension in
    Matthew 22 should not be pitted against the divine pledge of
    Psalm 2 that, following upon the exaltation of God’s Son, all the
    kings and judges of the earth would be required to serve Jehovah
    with reverence and to kiss the Son. Christian citizens certainly
    should render their tribute to Caesar by paying their taxes (for
    Caesar’s image is on the coin), but civil magistrates should like-
    wise render their own tribute to God (for His image is on them, as
    well as us all). Finally, the view that the state ought to be biased
    (“morally prejudiced”) in favor of Christianity does not, when
    applied in a theonomic fashion (&. chapter 10 above), rule out a
    Biblically conceived religious toleration, as Barker and others
    seem to fear.

    “The earth also is polluted under the inhabitants thereof because
    they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the
    everlasting covenant.”
    Isaiah 24:5

    ‘Perhaps the Noahic covenant . . . applies to the world at large.
    But here the agency of man in applying a sanction is invoked only
    with regard to murder. This means that the only sanction re-
    quired of all civil government by God’s covenant with all mankind
    is the death penalty for murder.”
    Dan McCartney,
    Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (1990), p. 147

    “While one might appeal to the fact that the Noahic covenant
    was made with all the living creatures as well as Noah and his
    seed (thus having universal scope), someone else could just as
    well appeal to Romans 1-3 to show that the whole world is also
    under the Mosaic law (thus having universal scope as well) .“
    Theonomy in Christian Ethics
    (1977), pp. 462-463

  7. I do hope that you plan to send this post to Roger Wagner so he knows what he’s up against.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever represented myself to Roger as a theonomist, and in any case, I doubt he will ever be “up against” me. He’ll be up against an audience of New Life men, most of whom share my impression of Theonomy, and I’m sure he’s already aware of that. And I do plan to send Roger links to all my theonomy posts, when we start planning (which will not be until I get the education thing behind me). In any case, I doubt my objections are anything new.

    banning idolatry would be completely irrelevant to spreading the gospel.

    Gal 3:21: Not even God was able to give a law that could give life, that could bring righteousness. I’m pretty sure we can’t come up with one either.

    Can you demonstrate biblical evidence that the Decalogue should be divided into two tables when it comes to penology?

    That one is easy; not only is it obvious from reading that the first table contains our duty to God, and the second table our duty to Man, but Jesus also endorsed the distinction when he laid out the greatest commandments. The Decalogue should be — IS — divided into two tables period.

    You can’t rationally embrace God’s law and yet divide it from His sanctions.

    We’re not supposed to be embracing the law of the Israelites! Rom 7:6, Rom 8:2, IICor 3:6-11, Gal 3:23-4:11. Why do you seek to impose the slavery of the written law after its temporary purpose has been completed?

    Look, the point of using the term theocracy was just in opposition to a nation in which church is separated from state. You and I seem to have previously agreed that here and now we need to maintain a separation between church and state. Then you claim “Hey, Israel had a church/state separation too, hence it’s OK for our laws to look like their laws”. I deny that conclusion by denying that Israel had a church/state separation, and I deny that separation by characterizing Israel as a theocracy — a state not separated from church. What does it mean for state not to be separated from church? Religious (church) laws (state).

  8. Catchy title: “Jesus is not a Theonomist” — My “theological provocations” have been contagious, I see. I would have called it, “The Apostle Paul was not a Theonomist” – of course he wasn’t exactly a cessationist or a “prosperity preacher” either, but we do know what he was: A Texan. “I would that y’all would speak in tongues”

  9. [I was trying to post the previous comment yesterday, but WordPress was slow, so I sent it to Jeff offline, and he sent some replies offline; I don’t want to reproduce them all here (Jeff certainly can if he wants), but this one point I do want to address:]

    Jeff: you assert that banning idolatry would be completely irrelevant to spreading the gospel.

    Me: Gal 3:21: Not even God was able to give a law that could give life, that could bring righteousness. I’m pretty sure we can’t come up with one either.

    Jeff: I really don’t know what you’re saying here. When one is allowed to subvert society by preaching heresy or publicly worshipping false Gods, I have to think that this is hindering the Gospel.


    The Church’s response to preaching of heresy is well spelled-out (and exemplified) by the New Testament: it is to refute, and if necessary to excommunicate. The Church’s response to public worship of false Gods is also well spelled-out (and exemplified) by the New Testament: to engage those of the other religion, and to preach the gospel.

    When you say “subvert society by preaching heresy or publicly worshipping false Gods”, you are assuming that society is meant to be Christian, and that is no doubt tied to your postmillenial eschatology.

    The proper response of a secular state (a non-theocratic state; a state separated from church) to heresy and worship of false Gods is to ignore it as irrelevant to its purpose, and beyond its capability to address. The state cannot make any determination between heresy and true doctrine, or false gods and the one true God.

    And Bahnsen demonstrates the same error in his discussion of loving neighbor being wrapped up in loving God: that is certainly a truth about God’s law for our hearts, but it has nothing to do with any outward legal code — even the Mosaic Law! No Law can possibly cause anybody to love their neighbor or to love God. A law against blasphemy cannot cause anyone to love God any more than a law against murder can prevent anyone from hating.

    And his attempts to find penology in the New Testament are also faulty. Yes Herod was executed for his 1st table offenses, but by God’s direct hand, not by the state. Paul certainly condemns the “man of sin” or “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thes 2:4. But read on through v12 to see that (a) Paul is speaking of an eschatalogical figure yet to come (not necessarily a “civil ruler” as Bahnsen arbitrarily asserts) (b) the reason he is not here yet is because he is “restrained” by God (not by man’s laws), (c) God’s purpose in restraining him is to reveal him later, and (d) when he is revealed, “the Lord Jesus will kill [him] with the breath of his mouth and bring [him] to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” — i.e. God will punish him, not man’s laws. (Talk about taking scripture out of context!)

    And in dealing with natural revelation (which I guess is a synonym for natural law), Bahnsen misuses the purpose of Rom 1. Even by itself, Rom 1 describes the way in which men are guilty before God, not before men: “The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven“, therefore (three times it says) “God gave them up” to their wickedness (1st and 2nd table). v27 they receive “in themselves due penalty for their error” — the sin is itself part of the penalty (just like a passage I can’t find at the moment where God declares that the consequence of Israel worshipping idols, is that they will be forced to serve idols!)

    But when ch 2 uses Therefore to draw a conclusion about all of this condemnation, what is the great conclusion? Let’s get out there and make some laws to stop this happening? Not at all! Do Not Judge. Man cannot judge because every man is just as guilty. “We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things.” “He will render to each one according to his works” “there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress”; not from men on this earth, but from God in the final judgement.

    This is not to say that man should never punish man for any wrong; this is to say that the exposition of natural revelation of sin in Rom 1 does not have the purpose of instructing the state on how to punish wrong; it has the purpose of reminding man of his sinfulness, and leading him to salvation.

  10. @Albino Hayford: thanks for dropping by! Please jump into the fray if you can take time from your more important duties as a shepherd of God’s people.

    (And Jeff, (virtually) meet my old friend ‘bino. Don’t waste any time worrying about causing offense with this guy — he can dish it out and take it with the best of them (if in doubt, see here and here!))

  11. […] In light of my last post, I’ll note that this guy is lucky that Theonomy is not correct.  Actually, he’s not that lucky, since the fact that he will not be executed for blasphemy is little consolation for one facing an eternity in hell. […]

  12. I have to admit that I have not had the time to read all the the disscussion that has taken place over the past few months. But I would like to have something clearified that was said.

    “God’s Law remains in force until God says otherwise. Well of course it does, which is why God gave us Galatians and Romans and Hebrews, and most of the rest of the New Testament.”

    What precisly did God change about the Law in these New Testament books? Was it changed in its entirety? Was it the civil aspects?

  13. Good question lawstudent, and exactly relevant to the heart of the discussion. I’m working on another post that examines my view on this. But certainly everybody agrees that the changes include the abrogation of all sacrificial, ceremonial, dietary, and purity laws, and that the moral law remains binding. The remaining bone of contention then is civil/judicial/case laws; whether they are binding, and in what form — in particular what form of penalty.

  14. Are there agreed upon major divisions of the Law for the purpose of this discussion? Are the civil/judicial/case laws a division unto themselves or are they a subgroup?

  15. Quote from Rube:

    “certainly everybody agrees that the changes include the abrogation of all sacrificial, ceremonial, dietary, and purity laws”

    Now look at my comment, #4 above. Excerpt: “We still follow …”

    Does that and what I’ve written on the other Theonomy posts show that I agree with that statement?

    I think this is more evidence that what I’m trying to communicate is just falling on deaf ears and people are just hearing what they want to hear.

  16. You continue to confuse the sign (Mosaic Law) with the signified (God’s Law). Moses’ Law said “For atonement, animals must be sacrificed in a particular place, by particular people, in a particular way”. Moses’ Law is abrogated. God’s Law says (Heb 9:22) “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” This Law is not abrogated, and we continue to abide by it by receiving forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice.

  17. So are you saying that Moses’ law is not God’s law?

    What law was Jesus talking about in Matthew 5? Paul in Romans and Galations? The Hebrews writer?

    What’s scriptural support for these distinctions?

  18. Are you saying God’s Law could be temporary, obsolete, set aside, weak, and useless? (All of these words are linked to scripture in the last paragraph of the original post)

    Moses’ Law is from God, but itself is not God’s Law in all fullness. Moses’ Law is less than God’s Law.  God’s Law is not subject to diverse interpretations/applications through the lens of general equity.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. This fuller exposition is on its way as a new post in the next few days…

    I can’t do an instant lexical study, but I’ll initially stab: whenever the law is described with the negative terms above, the NT refers to Moses’ Law. The Law of the Spirit, or the Law of Christ, is God’s perfect and unchanging Law.

    The problem I can’t resolve cleanly is Matt 5:17, since God’s perfect and unchanging Law, although it will endure until Heaven and Earth pass away, is not made out of jots and tittles. But as I stated above, in the face of wholesale changes to the law, this has to be interpreted paradoxically (so nobody can resolve it cleanly). Part of the paradox may be that Jesus was referring to God’s law, and the jot & tittle language was figurative.

  19. Am I to understand that the divisions of the Law that are being discussed are God’s and Moses’? I am not sure that I follow. Is the moral law a part of God’s or Moses’? And the civil? Is ceremonial part of both or separate all together?

  20. LawStudent, this is the 5th of a very long series of discussions that haven’t ever been fully answered. There are many questions posed by both sides of this discussion that still need to be addressed and yet so little time in one’s day and such. At first, I spent so many hours on this that I was actually losing sleep just to try and give a good complete concise answer to questions, always on the defense.

    Please, take some time and start with Theonomy I, then II, II, and the Applications post. That will catch you up and answer your questions.

    Rube may even link what I’ve written here, but I believe he’s got 3 links at the very beginning of this post.

    Welcome to the discussion, but please catch up so we’re not re-inventing the wheel. I’m sorry but I just don’t have time (and I dare say that Rube doesn’t either).



  21. Both God’s and Moses’ Law have their internal classifications, I suppose, which are more of man’s inference than God’s declaration. And the specific answers depend on who you ask.

    Ceremonial/purity/dietary are probably all one concept, including festivals, diseases, beards, clothing, food, etc. Civil/judicial/case are also pretty much synonymous, and include specific applications and penalties meant to aid in interpretation of the general principles. Moral is understood by Westminster to be the 10 commandments themselves. I forgot a category: restorative, which is to do with sacrifices and atonement, maybe that lumps in with ceremonial.

    And this breakdown applies to Moses’ law. I’m not sure the underlying, unwritten Law of God can be sliced and diced like that.  For instance, though, I don’t think God’s Law has any ceremonial component, except perhaps the underlying sacramental principles of circumcision=baptism and passover=communion.

  22. But yes, please go to the very top of this post, and follow the links to I (Theonomy), II (Theonomy II) and III (Principle and Application).

  23. Rube,

    So is the reflection inaccurate? If the reality is still reality, then why not the reflections? I have my answers to this question, but I want to know yours.

    Also, there is no paradox to deal with when interpreting Matt 5 in Bahnsens’s way (which is not just Bahnsen over the centuries, see earlier comments on earlier posts). Jot and Tittle are specifically referring to the written law. There was only one: Moses’. Not one jot or tittle has passed away or will pass away. Some are shadows but are still valid in their reality. Your biggest problem is the penal sanctions. Either give exegetical proof for their being shadows that have somehow realized a reality, such as Christ’s sacrifice, or just accept them. What other choice is there besides arbitrariness (is that a word?) or antinomianism?

    Regarding the negative words: temporary, weak, useless, etc. Read the context. These are the shadows that Christ and His sacrifice are the reality of. The slain lamb POINTED to Christ, we don’t slay lambs any longer because we have a sacrifice that was once and for all forever (Hebrews). Where is there any language that shows us the same thing for penal sanctions?

    This rationale is very clear and allows one to no longer arbitrarily embrace God’s (Moses’) Law and yet have some changes (only the ones that scripture gives).

    Again, if executing someone for rape or idolotry was a reflection of God’s law, then what is it in God’s law that still exists and why doesn’t it cast a reflection somewhere any longer?


  24. there is no paradox to deal with when interpreting Matt 5 in Bahnsens’s way

    I disagree, and so do you:

    Some are shadows but are still valid in their reality.

    Reality: “there is no forgiveness without shedding of blood”
    Shadow: “kill a sheep”
    Where are the jots & tittles? With the Reality or with the Shadow? Which has passed away?

    Again, if executing someone for rape or idolotry was a reflection of God’s law, then what is it in God’s law that still exists and why doesn’t it cast a reflection somewhere any longer?

    The wages of sin are death. God’s perfect and holy law demands eternal death in hell for stealing a paperclip. Where’s the shadow that points to that? There’s a lot of possible written shadows of God’s perfect law, and God chose the perfect set of shadows for the temporary purpose he required with Israel.

  25. Indeed, I did not mean to cast off the work that has been put forth in this debate. Nor did I expect for anyone to re-write their positions for the new guy. From the little that I had read, it seemed that there was not yet agreement on the terminology being used.

    I am reformed and familular with the general debate of Theonomy. I have not read half as much as the main participants here have. I too have little time for long complicated replies. It was to remain concise that I started with a few clearifying questions.

    What are the divisions of the Law? I am not sure where to draw the lines either. It is not easy to name the divisions let alone separate the ideas and particulars neatly.

    Am I right is saying that both agree that there are 3 main divisions? Civil, Moral, Ceremonial?

  26. For maximum conciseness and reformed concistency, I point you to the Westminster Confession chapter On The Law Of God. There are two other relevant chapters: On Christian Liberty, And Christian Conscience, and Of the Civil Magistrate.

    For fairness’ sake, you should also know that in 1789, American Presbyterians recognized Theonomy in the original confession, and so amended the Christian Liberty and Civil Magistrate chapters to eliminate Theonomy; they also modified the set of scripture proofs because they realized that it is inaccurate to base doctrine of the civil magistrate on the example of the theocratic Kings of Israel. You can see both versions (of the confession and the scripture proofs) here.

    These differences pretty neatly sum up the difference between Theonomy and not.

  27. Reply to comment #9 above:

    First you mention Gal 3:21 to show that law can’t bring life. Why do you bring this up? Who is saying that law brings life or righteousness? Why argue against something that someone isn’t asserting?

    Or, could it be that again you are setting up another straw man instead of arguing against what Theonomy really teaches? In almost every comment I read, Theonomy is STILL not being represented accurately by you. How can you have decided against something that you STILL obviously don’t understand?

    Second you respond to my comment about how allowing the preaching of heresy or the public worship of false God’s is a hinderance to the gospel. You start off by talking about the CHURCH and her response.

    Again, completely missing the point here. Let’s throw up another straw man. As much time as you spend arguing against something that is not Theonomy, you are wasting your time. Theonomist’s COMPLETELY agree with you that that is the CHURCH’S response to heresy and idol worship. Making this statement is a complete waste of effort as a result. The real issue being debated is the CIVIL MAGISTRATE’S responsibility as spelled out by scripture. Society is the only BODY that I mention in the statement you are responding to.

    Then you say that I ‘assume society is meant to be Christian.’ Again, this is not an accurate reflection of Theonomy or my position. Let’s see, in this one comment, that is straw man #3, right? Are you sure you’ve been paying attention? Or, could it be that you just don’t like the idea that a government today can still be held responsible to execute heretic’s and idol worshippers NO MATTER WHAT so you need to keep ignoring the accurate understanding of what Theonomy teaches? (For those just jumping in, please see earlier discussions to get a clear understanding of what a theonomist means by heretic, it’s very similar to the way I defend blasphemy penalties in Theonomy III, comment 10)

    I assume that God is due allegiance from ALL MANKIND, be it Christian or not. Society: All mankind living together, whether they be Christian or not. Any man that is on this earth, be him a child of the devil or a child of God is under obligation to serve God and obey God’s commands (law). That is the ONLY reason why a child of the devil will be condemned to eternal hell: disobeying God’s law (sinning). Kings are repeatedly throughout both testaments exhorted to do ‘justly’ or condemned for not doing ‘justly’ and there is no prejudice as to whether these Kings are of Israel or of pagan nations.

    The civil magistrate is a ‘minister of God’ JUST as the pastor is a ‘minister of God.’ God appoints them, verse 1. They are to be a terror to evil works, verse 3. What are evil works? How do you define evil works? By God’s law, right? If you accept that, then how do you pick and choose which of God’s law? All of it or some of it? Where is it that it differentiates whether the magistrate is Christian or not? Where is it that Paul explains that he is only talking about the obsolete Theocracy? If he was talking about a Theocracy then you can really ignore what he’s saying in Romans 13, right? But, if you say that’s absurd, he’s not talking about a Theocracy, then you’ve got yourself in a pickle if you’re not theonomic.

    You say the proper response of a ‘secular state…’

    Ummm, straw man # 4, is it? Now you’re arguing as if theonomy agrees that there should be secular states. This is pluralism which opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms. Pluralism is wrought with so many more problems and issue and inconsistencies that I really hope you don’t want to go there. The assumption that you can have a government based on religious neutrality is just completely naive. First, for a government to be, it has to have laws it enforces. These laws are statements of what ‘should’ and ‘should not’ be done by people. This is morality. Morality is inherently religious. Hence all governments are religious and enforce the going ‘religion’ of the day.

    The original WCF agreed with you about the state not being able to determine heresy or blasphemy. That’s why they said the state had the right to call synods of the church so that the church could inform it. So, you make a statement as if to further an argument against theonomy, but you are making a statement that theonomy agrees with, so you again are wasting efforts here.

    You say: “No Law can possibly cause anybody to love their neighbor or to love God. A law against blasphemy cannot cause anyone to love God any more than a law against murder can prevent anyone from hating.” I REPLY: IRRELEVANT!!! SO WHAT!!! (Do you see a theme here yet?) Again you are completely missing the point and therefore wasting your efforts. I might argue that laws are needed against blasphemy. Argue the point. Argue that there ought NOT to be laws against blasphemy. I’ve nowhere inferred the reason why is because it will make others love God. I believe there are good results from having these laws, but even these results are not ‘proofs’ that we should have these laws. Argue against the ‘reasons’ I give you or Bahnsen gives you. Only then will you not be wasting your efforts.

    Well, that’s about all for tonight. It is almost midnight and this staying up late thing actually negatively affects me worse than a normal person because of my sleep apnea.

    I want to conclude by first acknowledging that I have taken a different tactic with this comment especially and in this whole post as well. You may note that I’ve been more prone to taking an ‘offense’ instead of a ‘defense.’ ME stated in the first post that he was impressed with the tone and expected to find a Gary North style of discussion from the Theonomist. Well, if that is coming across in this post, I don’t mean it personally. I read over almost the entire discussion from the first Theonomy post until now, and I saw that even in many of the other posts, I was constantly stating that you are not understanding correctly or missing the point, or something to that affect. So, in this comment, my point is to show just how prolific that has been in this discussion and how problematic that can be. In just one of your comments, I have shown multiple misrepresentations of theonomy. This late in the discussion, this really shouldn’t be happening. I don’t know where I’ve gone wrong. I am baffled, yet thoroughly convinced that a true understanding of what Theonomy teaches is still beyond your current understanding, and therefore any attempt at refutation is in vain. Maybe a comment that is written so strongly such as this one will get your attention and help you to slow down and re-examine exactly what it is that you think you’re disagreeing with. That is my intention here. I certainly don’t want to offend, though I’ve taken that risk.

    Good Night All.

  28. I’m intrigued, Rube, and would like to take some time with you and a cup of coffee (or beer), discussing the distinctions between God’s Law and Moses’.

    I agree and endorse the comments of JJS in post 3. Good insights.

    I also agree with Bruce (post 5). Eschotology matters now. Your understanding of much of the Bible, which dictates your understanding of God, is influenced by your eschotology. It’s important to get it straight, which of course means that your eschotology will agree with mine.

  29. Then you say that I ‘assume society is meant to be Christian.’ Again, this is not an accurate reflection of Theonomy or my position.

    Now you’re arguing as if theonomy agrees that there should be secular states…all governments are religious and enforce the going ‘religion’ of the day.

    So which is it: are nations meant to be secular or Christian?  I certainly don’t understand Theonomy if Theonomy does not agree with the statement “society is meant to be Christian”.

    The original WCF agreed with you about the state not being able to determine heresy or blasphemy. That’s why they said the state had the right to call synods of the church so that the church could inform it.

    The state has the right to call synods of what church? I’m pretty sure your answer is ‘The Christian Church’. So the ultimate authority for the state, in matters of religion (or excuse me, all morality), is the Church. I repeat, you assume society is meant to be Christian.

  30. @ME: Welcome back!

    This discussion has caused me to state some concepts about the distinction between God’s and Moses’ Law that I have not heard elsewhere, and I’m still chewing them over, but I think they are fundamentally orthodox.

    As for eschatology, my original statement up there was tongue-in-cheek. Theonomy has forced me to admit that eschatology has immediate consequences. But that can’t make me prefer Revelations to Galatians.

  31. Quote from #29:

    “So which is it: …secular or Christian?”

    To which I say: Only a Sith deals in absolutes! ;)

    So, before Christ, was God’s law Christian? Before Moses? Before Abraham? Noah?

    The universal standard of right and wrong, just and unjust, has been in existence since existence began. There are many things in ‘Christianity’ that does not belong to a state. Murder is wrong because God says it is wrong, NOT because it is Christian. In the same sense, government must obey and enforce the laws God requires of states because He requires them and NOT because it is the ‘Christian’ thing to do. Having a government that reflects these requirements would not force society into being ‘Christian,’ just just (figured I’d leave the pun) or righteous.

    It is true that today, it is the Christian church that God has ordained to handle His special oracles. Still, what I say above stands. There is nothing so specific in the laws God requires of the state the would make the state look so specifically Christian. The state would look just as “Jewish” or just plain old “righteous” even though it is the Christian church now informing the state.

    Off to work! :)

  32. BTW, I’m not sure how heresy worked its way into the discussion. I was originally careful to stick to the actual first four commandments: worshipping other Gods, worshipping idols, taking the Lord’s name in vain, breaking the sabbath. Heresy is teaching wrong doctrine, for which I don’t see a Mosaic death penalty.

    Anyways, maybe it will be more productive to talk about sabbath breaking. Not only was it a capital crime under Moses, the sabbath is also a creation ordinance. So is sabbath breaking represented in the Bible as being a capital crime outside the nation of Israel?

    Or how about general equity concerns. WSC51 claims that the second commandment prohibits worshipping God in any way not appointed in his Word; certainly that seems justified, given that Nadab and Abihu died because of their strange fire (unauthorized incense, Ex 30:9) Does that mean that civil states need death penalty laws to regulate worship? (Hey, maybe I could get a petition going to have a death penalty for drum kits on Sunday Mornings?)

    Granting your assertion that I don’t understand Theonomy, I’ve stuck to only questions for this comment.  But maybe this whole thing will work out better if you ever get your blog going, so you can present Theonomy, and I can ask the questions.

  33. […] I stumbled upon this while starting to write a comment in this previous thread. It seemed important enough that it deserved its own new post (and thanks to Albino Hayford for the title suggestion!). I wish I had been aware of this before, because it would have saved a lot of time! […]

  34. The theonomists are coming!!

    I’ll give you half marks, because your title is not completely original:

  35. God’s Law: “Useless”, yet “profitable”. Haha, that would make a great slogan for the top of your Blog, Rube.

    Oh, and the law was meant to give life, but it was disobeyed which lead to curse and death. Disobedience to God’s Law still leads to curse and death, by the way – on an individual and corporate level.

    Oh and Paul was too a theonomist:

    Rom 1:29-32 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

  36. Romans 2:13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

  37. And Jesus was a theonomist too.

    Matthew 23:1-3 “1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2′The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

  38. You say the state should only prosecute “second table” offenses (where you get the distinction, I do not know), but what about coveting? Isn’t that a second table offense? Isn’t that a matter of the heart? How could the state prosecute that? They can’t and never could, even under the Mosaic covenant.

    I think the disconnect in communication is that you think theonomists want the government to read people’s hearts. Only God can judge the heart. On this I am certain we would agree. But where we disagree is that I believe He has given His agents on earth to judge by His Standard what the heart produces outwardly, while you think He wants heathens to do that by their standards.

  39. @Ron: hey man, thx for stopping by; make sure you check out the latest & greatest post, here, in which many of your comments are already addressed.

    Oh, and the law was meant to give life, but it was disobeyed which lead to curse and death.

    The problem was not only disobedience, but inherent shortcomings of all possible written laws (even when God does the writing):

    2Cor 3:6 … a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

    Gal 3:21 if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

  40. The shortcoming is not with God, blasphemer! Shall we find fault with God!?! (No wonder you’re not a theonomist. You’d be dead) =)

    Seriously though, Paul explicitly states in Romans 7 that the fault with the Law was not with the Law itself (and thereby with God), but with those who disobeyed (and namely, himself).

    “9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.

    Why’s that, Paul?

    “11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.”

  41. You are right.

  42. Boy Rube, Ron’s just barely been here and already he gets a “You are right” from you. I’m jealous. :(


  43. I never said I was wrong; I just decided to withold the nuance, because it belongs in the next post — everybody keeps getting ahead of me! No wonder I have to post so fast!

    Closer look, turns out I was wrong.  Ron did make one mistake…

  44. I’m intrigued, Rube, and would like to take some time with you and a cup of coffee (or beer), discussing the distinctions between God’s Law and Moses’.

    ME, you owe me a beer.

  45. Wow, you guys are hard core. One thing I’ve noticed though, is the absence of commentary on the love of God’s law.. ie. (Ps 119) Or maybe I just didn’t see it. Praise God for his eternal law word!

  46. […] One advantage of this theme, over my old theme (Andreas04) is that it offers public permalinks for individual comments. So if you are the type of guy who makes lots of comments, and wants to reference other comments, you can now find the exact URL to an individual comment hiding behind that comment’s date (for instance August 31, 2006). […]

  47. […] Our good friend Jeff “Not-a-Sith” Kazules argued in the affirmative, and our new friend Gene “Unchained” Cook in the negative. Both speakers represented their positions well, and everybody enjoyed the debate. You will enjoy it too, if you download it right now! The debate proper (65 minutes) and the Q&A (90 minutes) can be downloaded for free from (for now, and for a small fee after it expires from the podcast). […]

  48. […] This is certainly an interesting subject that tends to induce rigorous debate amongst advocates on either side.  For more on this subject there has definitely been a lot of ink spilled over it at Rube’s site (More on Theonomy). […]

  49. Awesome post, brother. I appreciated the way you refuted common arguments with biblical passages.

  50. Thanks, man; I’m glad you enjoyed it. There’s lots of stuff about Theonomy around here, but I think the best argument is this one.

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