I promised a “major concession“, so here it is.
The (Westminster Confession’s) distinction between ‘duty to God’ and ‘duty to man’ does not justify the exclusion of first-table laws from enforcement by the civil magistrate.
[Secondary concession: Before I continue, let me throw another bone to the Theonomists: Echo, in comments like this:
There can be only one reason for insisting that the law of God be enforced by the civil magistrate. It MUST be the case that you think this will make the people underneath those laws more holy, otherwise there’s no point.
shows that he doesn’t understand the Theonomist’s true position, and also proves too much (as Wacky also notes): asserting that making people more holy is the only possible reason to enforce God’s law precludes the civil magistrate from enforcing any laws at all — even murder. But I think it is pretty clear that the reason to enforce “Thou shall not murder”, is not to make people more holy, but to make people less dead. Sidebar over]
Back to the point, I now realize that there is no clear-cut distinction between the two tables wrt sins against man and sins against God. Everybody agreed beforehand that second table sins are against both God and man, and first table sins are against God. And previously I denied that first table sins were sins against man. But consider this Wacky little counterexample:
Let’s say someone at your church sought to try to get you to believe heresy. If you did, you’d be out of the covenant community, and on your way to hell. Now, how is that not a sin against you?
Touche. Finally, somebody was able to convince me that first table sins are potentially sins against man — and it only took two sentences! I think what made it click for me was putting it in the context of the church. Myself, I don’t feel threatened or sinned against by Mormons or JWs or Hare Krishnas, but seduction to heresy from within the church is quite obviously a sin against one’s covenant neighbor.
It so happens the New Testament is quite clear on how to handle one that does this: “let him be accursed.” As Calvin comments,
This word, which we render accursed , doth not signify ‘accursed or condemned of God to the punishments of another world.’ This the Apostle would not wish to the worst of men. The meaning is, ‘Let him be as a person excommunicated, or wholly cut off from the synagogue, or church, with whom it is unlawful to have any commerce or correspondence whatever.’
Later in Galatians, Paul repeats his condemnation with a pun:
O that even they would cut themselves off who are unsettling you!
(The pun uses the Mosaic catchphrase “cut off” from Israel to describe what the circumcisers should do to themselves).
So it’s clear that covenant members who commit this first table sin against their neighbor, are to be expelled from the covenant. But what about those outside? In 1 Cor 5, Paul echoes another Mosaic catchphrase (“Purge the evil person from among you“). This is in the immediate context of juxtaposing the church’s responsibility to excommunicate sinning brethren, against the inevitability of rubbing shoulders with sinners (both tables) out in the world. Key verse:
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.
In other words, “Civil Magistrate, you’re on your own.” (I won’t go into that all over again, because I’m happy with how I treated it last time).
Which brings me to my new understanding of jurisdiction wrt God’s law. Theonomists & non- both agree that the civil magistrate is not to regulate sins of the heart, but only outward sins. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Obviously,
If man is not able to see sin X, man is not able to judge sin X (~P=>~Q)
It is beyond this point that Theonomists commit the logical fallacy of confusing the contrapositive (valid deduction) with the converse (invalid deduction). It is logically correct to conclude that
If man is able to judge sin X, then man is able to see sin X (Q=>P),
but foundational to the Theonomist’s system is the logically incorrect conclusion
If man is able to see sin X, man is able to judge sin X (P=>Q)
So, bringing me all the way back to my concession, the true distinction between what part of God’s law lies within man’s jurisdiction, and what part is reserved only to God, it’s not duty to man vs. God, and it’s not even sins of the hand vs. heart. The critical distinction lies with the reason behind heart-sins being judged only God: man is unable to judge heart sins. Obviously, man is well able to judge many outward sins. Even an unregenerate man can determine, from the testimony of witnesses (and the testimony of mute witnesses like forensic crime scene evidence, written documentation, etc.) whether one man murdered another man, or slept with a woman not his wife, or stole another man’s property.
But unregenerate man is unable to discern between true worship and false worship; unable to discern the distinctions between blasphemy, heresy, and mere theological disagreement. That’s why the responsibility for “all matters of the Lord” were given to the priesthood, and “all the king’s matters” put under a Judge (2 Chr 19:11). That was yesterday. Today “matters of the Lord” are still reserved for the nation of priests (who are not given the physical sword), and tomorrow for the Great High Priest to pronounce eternal judgment Himself.
God gave only his priests the ability to judge in “all matters of the Lord” (his regenerating Holy Spirit enables that judgment) but in the New Covenant, he did not give his priests the authority to judge with the sword. On the other hand, God gave the authority of the sword to all men to regulate themselves civilly, and in his common grace he gave all men the ability to judge a subset of sins (which subset has a large correlation with outward sins against neighbor, which is why I was previously confused), but he did not give them the ability (and therefore not the right or jurisdiction) to judge all outward sins. To sum up (in Jon Stewart a la George Dubya Bush style) when it comes to “matters of the Lord” in the New Covenant, Priests — ability, no sword! Heathen — sword, no ability!
Thus the only possible way to enforce 1st table sanctions like they did in Israel, is to get the people with the ability into the role that has the authority. The problem then becomes, if a Christian is made a judge, he doesn’t get to enforce a new set of laws that he deems just; he has to enforce the laws already on the books. And getting new laws on the books, which have the just Christian standards required, would require codifying Christianity into earthly, civil law. Enacting such laws at all violates the borderless, not-of-this-earth nature of the one and only holy nation of Christ. Enacting and enforcing such laws justly violates I Cor 5:12-13, because it requires the judgment of the Church.
So in conclusion, I reissue a challenge to Theonomists (I can’t find any originals around the blog, but they might be from other email or conversational contexts):
Draft a civil death-penalty law against subversion to false worship which is not specifically Christian.
Go ahead, there should be no reason consistent Theonomists shouldn’t hold a convention to draft this law right now, and work the initiative process to get it enacted ASAP. You shouldn’t have to worry about constitutionality — I’m sure you’ll be able to convince the voting public that your law is not “Christian”, but “just just”:
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.
(Before you just cut&paste the 1st commandment and say that, once society is Christianized enough, we will be able to require that only Christians be judges — know that you are pre-emptively disqualified for cheating, since such a requirement itself would codify Christianity specifically into the law.)
Once you realize that false worship cannot be meaningfully or usefully defined without codifying true worship into the law (thus making the law, and the nation, specifically Christian), maybe you will stop pussyfooting around the fact that what you really want is an earthly Christian nation, and stop equivocating (here, and a few subsequent comments) about what it means for the state to judge God’s laws independently from the church.
Just man up (like Ron has) that what theonomy is talking about is not church/state separation, but church-over-state hierarchy, and then our discussion will finally end.