Eminent Domain

It’s been a while since I’ve dealt with Theonomy; largely because the main contenders have resumed their lives outside of Blogorrhea (as crazy as it may seem that there is a possibility of life outside of Blogorrhea)! But we do still chat in other venues, and Jeff said “you should blog this, and see what other people think,” so here goes.

A Theonomist was preaching about the Westminster standards, and his scriptural justification consisted of all of the “landmark” verses. His real point, based on Hosea 5:10, is that the confessional standards serve as doctrinal landmarks which should not be lightly tampered with. But as a side note before he got going, he tossed off his theonomic perspective that property boundary markers should be considered (in the words of Calvin) “as if they were sacred“, and thus property taxes, inheritance taxes, zoning laws, and Eminent Domain are all unscriptural violations of authority on the part of earthly governments. I brought this up with Jeff, and he agreed that Eminent Domain is nothing but theft and socialism.

First off, I think that Calvin was wrong to apply the term “sacred” to boundary markers outside of OT Israel. In the promised land, God himself laid out the boundaries, subdividing for tribes and families. Those boundaries were indeed sacred, but obviously those boundaries were also invalidated by God himself when the Old Covenant was made obsolete. In order to partly vindicate my boy J.C., I would put lots of emphasis on the “AS IF” and less on the word “sacred”. (Similarly, the doctrinal standards of Westminster are obviously not sacred, and I wouldn’t even say they should be treated “as if they were sacred.”)

Next, let’s take a look at Leviticus 25, in which laws concerning the “Year of Jubilee” makes a lot clear about the promised land. First of all, Israelites could not sell their family land even if they wanted to: v23 God says, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.” People have the right to buy back family property they have sold whenever they are able (v25-27), and they are guaranteed (v28) to receive back their property in the Year of Jubilee (every 50 years). As a matter of fact, even though the words “buy” and “sell” are used, it is pretty clear that (if it were available from Hebrew) a more appropriate word would be “lease”. As v15-16 explain, purchase price is to be justly determined based on years until the Jubilee: “If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you.” I.e. there are no actual land sales, but land leases, with a God-given requirement for all leases to expire every 50 years.

It is very interesting to note that (v29-30) city property is exempt from Jubilee; after a one-year “cooling-off-period”, “the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee.” Arguably, we all live in city property these days, so even if the sacredness of property boundaries were to have some general equity today, it would apply only to farmland, not residential property.

Now let’s turn to Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21. At a superficial level, this appears to be an indictment of the principle of eminent domain. The government wants to force a citizen to sell his private property for fair market value, and is condemned for it. But closer inspection reveals that has nothing to do with eminent domain. First of all, it is not so much that the government wants private property, as much as a person who happens to be a powerful King covets his neighbor’s possessions. The definition of Eminent Domain requires that the property be for public use, not private use. See for instance Amendment V in the bill of rights: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” No mention there of private property taken for private use, and that’s all Ahab wanted. He wanted to own the nice vineyard he always saw from his palace window, because he wanted space for a vegetable garden.

Also, note the reason that Naboth declined Ahab’s offer to buy the vineyard, or even exchange it for a better vineyard. “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” In other words, he was citing Lev 25, and saying “it would be sinful for me to sell you the vineyard, because God said it belongs to my family in perpetuity.”

Now up to this point, I have given a lot of reasons why arguments that might be made from the Bible against Eminent Domain, would be misapplied. So my perspective is, since I don’t see the Bible forbidding Eminent Domain, then Eminent Domain is OK. But the Theonomist perspective works from the other direction: Since I see the Bible saying that, at one time, personal property boundaries were actually sacred, lacking further instructions we should still consider them to be sacred (or “as if” they were sacred). It’s related to the Theonomist assumption that, since God established the OT society of Israel, it must be the model to which all societies must strive to conform. But the purpose of Israel was not to serve as a template for earthly societies; rather it was all a shadow of Christ!

This reminds me of the “Challenge to Theonomists” (hat tip: Echo).

Bahnsen’s presumption of continuity rests on a solid impulse. The civil law can’t just disappear. But to presume there must be continuity between Old Testament civil law and something in New Testament reality is worlds away from presuming continuity between that law and secular, modern government. That’s as wrongheaded and far-fetched as presuming continuity between leprosy laws and modern medicine, between mildew laws and Hints from Heloise. …

Let us presume for a moment that Bahnsen’s presumption of continuity between the civil law and modern, secular government is valid. The continuity between Israel and the Kingdom of God is surely more basic and fundamental. Yet almost nothing has been written to explain the typological significance of the civil law and its antitypical fulfillment in Christ. [RR: this has been written] This need is more pressing than further defense of a secondary continuity, never mentioned in Scripture, but presumed. As Theonomists discover the glories of the primary continuity, they will have less and less interest in any secondary continuity. Eventually they will realize they have no need for a secondary continuity. Their theological lives are happy and fulfilled without it. Then they will be in the right frame of mind to reconsider the doctrine of secondary continuity. And having lost their need, they will realize their belief had been based on an insatiable desire rather than on the compulsion of Scripture. But that desire will find itself satisfied to abundance in Christ the King.

Let the Theonomist who dares take up this challenge. He will not remain a Theonomist for long.

[ Update: as Wacky Fundamentalist notes below, when I say “Eminent Domain”, I am actually referring to a concept inside my head which I find to be a just principle, and if you were inside my head, there’s a chance you might too. I realize that however Eminent Domain currently works in our laws (and as Forester notes, as recently adjudicated on by our Supreme Court) is quite probably not ideal, but not being a lawyer, I am not informed as to specifically how actual ED deviates from ideal. Read the thread below to get more of an idea of what I think would be ideal]

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75 Responses

  1. That last quote best explains my perspective on not just Eminent Domain, but most things Theonomical. After examining the scriptures concerning Mosaic property laws, I am so convinced of the true purpose and intent of those laws, that I think it’s completely silly to try to apply those laws to any secular, non-covenantal government.

    When the rubber hits the road (every weekday morning and evening), I’m glad that the SR-52 project will be using Eminent Domain to extend the freeway all the way out to SR-67. It gets down to the question of whether the civil magistrate has the responsibility (or authority even!) to build roads — or in a broader sense, to defend economic interests by funding infrastructure, as well as defending life with policemen, firefighters, and soldiers. In an austerely Theonomic state (as far as I can determine from my conversation with Jeff), all roads would have to be the product of private enterprise. Every Road a Toll Road.

  2. Notice you’re employing the austere/simpliciter distinction.

    Btw, I don’t need to take the challenge, that’s how I live. One can’t get me to drink pepsi rather than coke by taking the pepsi challenge if I already drink pepsi. I assume that the challenger thinks we should have laws, but also thinks most of the “primary continuity.” Does his thinking of “primary continuity” mean that he has no opinions or thoughts about how rapists and murderers should be punished?

    Anyway, you should study all the horror cases of eminent domain. I think all the non-theonomist elders (and two are former lawyers) at my church (a few of which are WSC seminary profs) are against eminent domain.

  3. Studying the horror cases would be intentional ad hominem. Yes, I’m sure there have been abuses, but those abuses don’t invalidate the principle.

    FWIW, I voted for Prop C, in order to prevent Eminent Domain from being used for private projects.

    When I say I’m for Eminent Domain, I mean only for public projects (infrastructure like roads, electricity, telephone, water, sewer, etc.), and only with fair-market compensation (which of course is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, or the bank-account of the dispossessed — what is the fair-market value of owning the house that your grandmother was born in, bless her soul?)

    So I’m leery of Eminent Domain for the vague purpose of “reducing urban blight”, and I’m not convinced that San Diego should have used Eminent Domain to build Petco Park (which they did — I talked to a guy who had a produce warehousing business that was bought out for Petco. He’s not really upset about it — he has an art-framing franchise now).

  4. The horror cases are not ad hominem, they show the problems with eminent domain.

    One problem is how vague the definitions are. For example, the city here in escondido bought a man’s property for about 600,000. The purpose was for a water treatment facility. The plans (allegedly) fell through. Now the city is selling the guy’s property for millions od dollars to developers.

    Abuses don’t generally invalidate a principle, but they can show where there are huge problems and holes in how the principle is stated. So, to support a 2007 concept of eminent domain, is to support a flawed principle which the horror cases (which are many) flush out.

    Btw, why did you vote against Prop C and what are your reasons for not wanting to allow ED of private projects. Blight almost always keeps people away, which hinders the public growth of the city. Afterall, you said,

    “So my perspective is, since I don’t see the Bible forbidding Eminent Domain, then Eminent Domain is OK.”

    Does the Bible forbid ED being used for private projects, cleaning blight, etc? if not, then is it “OK?”

    Just trying to get a look inside your head here, that’s all.

  5. I would say that ED needs to be used for specific public projects; the voting populace would have the right to say “We need that land for a water treatment plant” or whatever, but it is not a good idea to just say “We want that land for something else. ED all the blighters out, and we’ll figger out what to do with it later”. If the civil magistrate wants to fight blight, he can ED specific properties and say “The public needs a park here”, or “The public needs a school here”, or “The public needs a trolley line going through here”. If he does it right (and the question of whether the plans are right includes validation by the voting public), then the public improvements would make the blighty area a more attractive place to live, thus private citizens would move in and fix up individual properties. That seems to be what’s going on, for instance, in City Heights right now. They have put in new parks and schools, and I know some friends that took advantage of city subsidies to buy a house and pour tens of thousands of dollars of improvements into it.

    As for your water plant example, I think the way ED should be set up is, if the public plans fall through, and no alternative public plans (accpetable to the voters) can be found, then the land should be offered back to the previous owner(s) at the sale price, discounted by whatever it would cost to bring the property back to the original value (for instance, if a house had already been bulldozed, the city would have to reimburse the cost of rebuilding a comparable house). That way, the original owner would have the opportunity to live on his property like before, or he could sell to developers for millions if that was an available option. This kind of financial disincentive would make the city be more careful when they embark on plans that require ED. It would also prevent the possibility of shenanigans like “let’s fool the voters into approving a plan for a water plant that is obviously infeasible. After the ED is complete, the plans will fall through, and the city can make millions by selling the land to developers!” (I doubt there was an intentional profit motive in the case you describe, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility).

    More specifically, the question of Petco Park is whether that is a public project. Personally, since I don’t partake in the commercial product of professional baseball, I don’t feel that I, as a member of the public, have benefitted from Petco Park. But I’m probably ignorant of some benefits to local commerce. Also, “public benefit” is almost by definition general, not universal. So any project that is deemed “public” by virtue of voter approval is also deemed inappropriate by the proportion of the public that votes against it. But that’s just part of living in a society that votes on things. Usually, you gotta go along with what you voted against.

  6. Okay, but that’s not the way ED is presented. That’s not the way its being used now. I think you should build the necessary qualifications into your post. At any rate, what would you say to the city that impliments the ED you and I don’t agree with, and tells you that it is “OK,” to do what they’re doing because,

    “The Bible forbid does not ED being used for private projects, cleaning blight, etc? if not, then is it “OK?”

    Anyway, you’re not defending an ED that is in place now. And so that term is used ambiguously in your post, IMHO.

  7. hey, forget th eutter silliness. that’s a slam dunk against this tripe, shooting the proverbial ducks in a barrel.

    “Yet almost nothing has been written to explain the typological significance of the civil law and its antitypical fulfillment in Christ.”

    this is what tends to bother me even more about theonomy. how on God’s lovely green earth can you possibly miss this aspect? how do you miss type and fulfillment? it’s like missing the forest for the trees in a major way. what purpose Christ serves in their system becomes about as understandable to me as those dispy time charts! thus,

    “…their belief had been based on an insatiable desire rather than on the compulsion of Scripture.”

    how, how, how do they not see this?

    zrim

  8. I stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance because of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that governments can use eminent domain to hand land over for private development.

    That may sound trite on my part, but I hear the Pledge of Allegiance every day at work, and when I refuse to cite it, I do so in front of impressionable students.

  9. I don’t understand how you approached it that it was a specifically Theonomic idea, just because some theonomists may be against it. I would have to agree with you from a surface view at least that the scriptures you quoted don’t support an anti-ED position, but I never gave those to you. Did you read some other theonomist saying that this is what theonomy teaches?

    My argument is that the commandment: “Though shalt not steal” is what supports an anti-ED position, and last I checked, a whole lot more people than theonomists still think that’s a good law. If the majority of people decide they want something that belongs to someone else, it doesn’t all the sudden become non-stealing. If a person holds a gun to your face and demands your violin, asks you how much its worth, you say $15,000, and he gives you $15,000 and walks away with the violin, does that mean he didn’t steal it from you? Is that wrong? Of course. So what if two people did it instead? Is that still wrong? Of course! How about 50 people? Still wrong? What about a million people? Where does the line get drawn?

    I believe this is the heart of the issue. Or at least now it is properly stated from our conversation.

  10. I don’t see it as an issue of stealing … it’s more a matter of priorities. When a person’s right to own property can be waived to the highest bidder — when individual rights fall beneath the steamroller of the almighty dollar — then our country shames itself. Whether or not eminent domain is legal, or constitutional, or moral, I view it as utterly reprehensible, a matter of allowing the majority (“Oh, sure, we’d love a Wal*Mart there!”) against the minority (“But my grandfather established this farm”).

    What next? Can the majority use eminent domain to seize my car? My laptop? My childhood teddy bear? Hey, it’s a democracy, after all — as long as the majority agrees, the minority has to go along with it. Right?

    Our founding fathers crafted the Bill of Rights for a reason.

  11. Wacky, I updated the post to try to differentiate between “my” idealized ED and whatever is in practice.

    Jeff, I thought it was specifically theonomist because I was listening to a professed Theonomist say that Eminent Domain is unscriptural based on “do not move the landmark” verses.

    To your scenario of an escalating number of compensating violin-thieves, I’ll ask this: who owns “The City of San Diego”? What is the value of “The City of San Diego”? Whoever owns it, what are they allowed to do to maintain their “property”? If you own a house, you are authorized to cut a hole in the drywall to make the house a more valuable and useful house, by installing a light fixture. The owners of “The City” are entitled to maintain their “property” as well, in order to get out of the benefits which are the reason they own it. San Diego will be a more useful and valuable “property” once 52 is extended through to 67, despite some individuals who will be inconvenienced.

    As for the violin specifically, if the majority of a civil voting body of which I am a member decided that my violin was required to serve a public service, then I would have to give it up. If they were able to convince me that the violin would serve a public purpose, then I would vote along with them, and surrender the violin in exchange for fair compensation. If they were unable to convince me, then I would vote against them, I would lose, and I would be grumpy that I had to shop for a new violin.

    But let’s be realistic. ED is not about violins, or general property, it is about land. And if the city wanted to extend 52 through my property, then (after doing my best to convince other voters that such a roundabout path for the freeway is ridiculously wasteful!) I would use the money to buy another house on another plot of land. If I was particularly attached to the structure, I might negotiate some extra money to uproot the house and move it.

    That’s the price of living in a society. People in authority have authority to do some things that make you unhappy. This is worlds different than abortion, where it is my responsibility to work the (God-ordained) civil process to correct the law and criminalize murder.

  12. Forester, I think you’re missing my point. Read carefully my conception of what ED allows and what it doesn’t. I completely agree that the government exercising ED for private use is wrong, and you listed a bunch of examples of that (Wal-Mart, the supreme court example, your laptop, etc.) But what if a road needs to be built, and there’s no clear path to build it? What if energy-transmission lines are required to bring more electricity, but they have to cross ranchland?

    Another use for ED that hasn’t been brought up: condemnation. What if in your neighborhood there is a house owned by somebody who doesn’t live there, and the house is infected with mold that is spreading to other houses, it is a breeding ground for rats, it is a flophouse for crack-heads, etc., but the landlord doesn’t want to tear it down or clean it up or sell it to someone who wants to tear it down and build a new house? Does the community not have the right to defend itself by condemning the property, forcing the owner to sell it?

  13. Zrim,

    Your comments are ridiculous and show us only what your reading diet consists of. You cite,

    ““Yet almost nothing has been written to explain the typological significance of the civil law and its antitypical fulfillment in Christ.”

    Plenty has been written. Inded, why would they [theonomists] write about something that has been handeled and is something they agree with. Furthermore, it’s not germain to their subject matter. It’s beyond the scope of their work, and, frankly, is not inconsistent with it at all. Lastly, this is mentioned and affirmed in the theonomic literature. And so you only hurt your side when you make claims like you have. You make it look like you’ve not bothered to study that which you assume to have refuted.

  14. Forester, I think you’re missing my point. … But what if a road needs to be built, and there’s no clear path to build it? What if energy-transmission lines are required to bring more electricity, but they have to cross ranchland?

    I didn’t miss this point, I was only chiming in with one of my own. In both comments I specifically targeted my criticism of eminent domain as it is used to promote private development, which is the bazooka our Supreme Court handed to developers. I thought you’d be interested in hearing how eminent domain has practically touched my life.

    As for the other issues you raise, I see no reason to complain, although there are many strong arguments for why I should.

  15. So how do you feel about zoning laws?

  16. Our founding fathers crafted the Bill of Rights for a reason.

    Yes, but the bill of rights includes the phrase “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” I.e. the founding fathers were ok with the taking of private property, for public use, with just compensation.

  17. In ancient Athens, during the days of democracy, it became what Plato (or was it Aristotle? I can’t remember now) called the tyrrany of the many. All the poor citizens would periodically gang up on one of the rich, and vote that the state would seize his property. It would then be divided up equally among the citizens. So of course, socialism and the tyrrany of the poor via democracy have nothing to do with each other whatsoever. And this practice of the Athenians is nothing like Eminent Domain, and it’s nothing like what happened to Bill Gates in the anti-trust business, and certainly, if there is any similarity between us and the Athenians, it isn’t wrong, because what they did was fine.

    Nothing to see here, move along.

    E

  18. Nice try, bait-caster. Our constitution limits what majorities can lawfully decide to do, and our constitution (justly) says “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Thus if the poor wanted to gang up on Bill Gates and vote that his money be seized and redistributed, constitutionally he would have to be compensated for his lost money, so he would be no worse off, and all of the gains of the poor would be offset by increased taxes to fund the compensation. As usual, the middle class would take a swift one to the nutsack.

    You sound like a theonomist criticizing Natural Law. Didn’t you go to the WSCAL conference? Just because the majority does it, doesn’t make it right. The majority does not always (actually never) perfectly reflect the natural law that God made accessible through natural revelation, but the fact that men bear God’s image, and our consciences sometimes approve and excuse our actions, keeps us in check, so that secular societies are (as far as they can tell) a law unto themselves (Rom 2:14).

  19. I have a little time on my hands waiting for a server to finish rebooting. This is not a long term re-occurrance of ‘me’ on the blog.

    However:

    Jeff, I thought it was specifically theonomist because I was listening to a professed Theonomist say that Eminent Domain is unscriptural based on “do not move the landmark” verses.

    I think that the teaching that “Jesus is LORD” is specifically a violinist’s teaching because I heard a violinist (you) say that. ;)

    And nice job completely skirting the issue I brought up. How does changing the violin that you own to the land that you own change the argument? I think you should just admit that you are fine with stealing as long as it is a bunch of people together making that choice. “The City” is a non-personal entity, right? Flawed analogy on your part. That “city” is the 50, or 100 or millions of people I mentioned.

    ED is legalized stealing. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

    Jeff

  20. Rube,

    18

    Sorry, I was condemning Athens, with a heavy dose of sarcasm at the end in 17.

    How am I sounding like a theonomist railing against natural law?

    E

  21. Jeff,

    Re: 19

    Uh huh. Yeah. That was my (apparently well hidden) point in 17. I guess it was too subtle.

    E

  22. I think you should just admit that you are fine with stealing as long as it is a bunch of people together making that choice.

    Yet another “clear” term that others disagree on its meaning. Seizure with fair compensation I do not classify as, or include in the definition of, stealing. Stealing (by definition) results with you having less stuff or less value. Eminent Domain results with you having different stuff, but no less value. And yes, I admit that I am fine with being forced to have different stuff under the two conditions that are part of the definition of ED: (1) my old stuff is used for public, not private, purposes, and (2) the different stuff has the same value as the old stuff.

    “The City” is a non-personal entity, right? Flawed analogy on your part. That “city” is the 50, or 100 or millions of people I mentioned.

    Yes, “The City” is a non-personal entity. It is not the millions of people. “The City” is the roads, the water mains, the sewer pipes, the buses, the trolleys, the beaches, the mountains, and all of the city services that go along with them (water delivery, sewage and trash removal, road maintenance, police, fire, …). The millions of people are the owners of “The City”, and “The City” is an object that they own and maintain for a purpose. If the millions of people all packed up and moved to DeMoine, would it be the same city? If they moved to virgin rainforest, would they have the same city? No, it would be just a collection of people with no city, and they would have to get to work to build a city.

    Sorry, I was condemning Athens, with a heavy dose of sarcasm at the end in 17.

    Echo, I caught the sarcasm. You were trying to show that ED is wrong by comparing it to the wrong practices of Athens. I agree that a poor majority ganging up to vote to seize the property of the rich is wrong. I disagree that ED is comparable. ED, by definition, requires (1) public use, and (2) fair compensation. I keep going back to the phrase in the bill of rights, because it is as succinct and useful as any chunk of Westminster: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”. So the Athenians were wrong on both counts. They were taking private property for redistribution among private citizens (not public use), and they were not compensating.

    How am I sounding like a theonomist railing against natural law?

    By using the fallacious argument:

    * Natural Law means do what ever the majority wants

    * Example X shows a majority that did something atrocious or ridiculous

    * Therefore Natural Law is atrocious or ridiculous

    The Theonomist’s conclusion is “we can’t let people ‘be a law unto themselves’ we must rule them with Moses”. Your conclusion is “Eminent Domain is bad”

  23. no, whacky, you are correct. you got me! i have not read every single book on the planet before i came to any conclusions. what i said is my generall impression about theonomy in general. but that doesn’t bar me from speaking just because i am not some sort of scholar (my hunch is that most of the folks here are not either). you may not like my comments because you have sympathies elsewhere. i bet you are even more learned than me on this whole thing. i admittedly have a very cursory understanding of this stuff. my spidey-sense tells me it’s way off base. sorry that’s not good enough for you.

    further, i will refrain from calling your comments ridiculous. my sense is that we disagree? but don’t get your panties too bunched up just because the world contains folks who don’t agree with you. but i do find your implication that one must be as learned as possible before he either has an opinion or speaks, especially in blogdom, to be, what, a tad askew?

    also, i cited someone else’s comments and basically thought they caught something important tot he topics of theonomy, that’s all. so my guess is that you really find the quotes “ridiculous” and took it out on me? that’s fine. a bit childish, but fine.

    have a nice day, friend.

    zrim

  24. Rube,

    Holy hidden premise Batman!

    When on earth did I ever say that natural law means do whatever the majority wants?!?!?!?!

    I never mentioned natural law, nor would I EVER affirm that natural law means rule by majority.

    I am astonished, astonished that you got this out of what I said. Astonished and dumbfounded.

    But as for ED, I disagree that “just” compensation is sufficient justification for taking someone’s property. Let’s say I own a farm that my family has farmed for generations. I grew up on this farm, as did my great, great, great grandfather before me, who came over from England on the Mayflower. I have more right to this piece of land than most people, because of its history. The soil is perfect, and has never failed to produce excellent crops, making my family fairly prosperous. And you say that this man’s property CAN be fairly, justly compensated for?

    Who will determine what just compensation is? The people doing the taking, or the one being taken from? In this example, the farmer is so attached to his land sentimentally, that there is no such thing as just compensation. He will not receive enough money from the government to buy a piece of property identical to the one he owned. The government never gives what the market would pay for the land, but what the government decides it’s worth. But even if you manage to compensate him for the market value of the land, you can’t compensate him for the sentimental value to HIM of the land.

    What you are saying is very much equivalent to: who cares if your house burns down? The insurance company will pay you money if that happens.

    There is no way that the insurance company would EVER pay me enough to make me want to burn my house down. Because in order for it to be worth the heartache of losing ALL my stuff, I’d have to be compensated with WAY more money than the insurance companies are willing to pay.

    No one ever has any right to seize peoples’ property. It’s just plain wrong. We need a right to property added to the constitution.

    Natural law says not to steal. Now this is not the same as shoplifting in the store; you’re offering compensation after all. But the commandment has a deeper meaning than the prohibition of shoplifting. It means that we don’t have the RIGHT to do whatever we want with someone else’s property. We don’t have the right to take it from them. That means that people have the RIGHT to their stuff, because GOD is the one who provided it for them.

    ED is stealing because it presumes that the government has the right to take the man’s property. It doesn’t. It’s a matter of failing to recognize the man’s right to own his own property, as if everything we own we just keep in trust for the government, and they can come and take it whenever they like, giving us “just” compensation – even though the whole thing is unjust from the beginning, and there’s no way that they can compensate me for what I’ve lost, because it’s irreplacable.

    The right to property is upheld by natural law, as expounded by the Westminster divines in the Larger Catechism:

    Q142: What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
    A142: The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery, man-stealing, and receiving anything that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, false weights and measures, removing land marks, injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depopulations; engrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor what belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them; envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God hath given us.

  25. Hey Zrim,

    Actually, I did not say that you had to “read every single book on the planet before i came to any conclusions.” But one would expect one who hadn’t studied the issue (even so much as reading 1/3 of the books on the subject!) to not be so cock-sure of himself? Is that a fair statement? So, when someone comes barging in saying things like this,

    hey, forget the utter silliness. that’s a slam dunk against this tripe, shooting the proverbial ducks in a barrel.

    one would assume that he can back up this accusations. If not, he’s being ridiculous. Indeed, even if you had studied it, why call it “tripe,” “silliness,” and that we’re like “ducks in a barrel?”

    So, it was not that I didn’t “like my comments because you have sympathies elsewhere,” it’s because I don’t like overreaching dogmatism in general, even from my own camp.

    The fact is, I and ever other theonomist I’ve read, recognizes the fact that Christ fulfilled the law. This is primary. Even Christ says it in Matt 5. We just want to other stuff Christ said to matter. You know, the whole “I did not come to abrogate the law” business. Now, you may disagree with us on that, and my point isn’t to debate theonomy, but it is to point out that, despite what else we believe, we believe that everything points to Christ. Christ is the grand telos for everything in the OT. And so we do agree that Christ fulfilled the law and that this is primary. We just say that Jesus doesn’t speak in contradictions. Fulfill cannot mean abrogate. Otherwise Jesus is saying, “I did not come to abrogate but to abrogate.”

    Theonomists, especially this one, have a theology of the cross not a theology of glory.

    Laslty, you said,

    my spidey-sense tells me it’s way off base. sorry that’s not good enough for you.

    Yeah, it’s not. I actually hold to sola Scriptura, not sola spidey-sensula. :-)

  26. Why am I not interested in a discussion on ED?

    I guess I’m too young.

  27. When on earth did I ever say that natural law means do whatever the majority wants?!?!?!?!

    I guess the comparison is not productive, but that fallacious natural law argument is what I get all the time from Jeff, and your Athens analogy just reminded me of that argument — in logical form, and in unconvincingness.

    But as for ED, I disagree that “just” compensation is sufficient justification for taking someone’s property.

    So do I. But I think that just compensation PLUS public benefit is sufficient justification.

    Let’s say I own a farm that my family has farmed for generations. I grew up on this farm, as did my great, great, great grandfather before me, who came over from England on the Mayflower. I have more right to this piece of land than most people, because of its history.

    No you don’t. Sentimental value is not value. Next you’ll be saying the government should subsidize your farming lifestyle because it has great sentimental value, and has an important place in our country’s history. Or a robber who steals a family heirloom from a person should receive a harsher punishment than if he were to steal the same object from an antique dealer.

    Note also the perspective the Israelites were commanded to have in Lev 25: God says “The land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.” And when they buy and sell, they are not to think of actually selling the land itself, but “it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you”. So since your heroic historic farmer did not have his property lines actually drawn by the finger of God, he should not be so attached to that particular plot of land, but should be content with a piece of land that can produce comparably excellent crops.

    I think you allow for an unscriptural attachment to earthly things. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    What you are saying is very much equivalent to: who cares if your house burns down? The insurance company will pay you money if that happens. There is no way that the insurance company would EVER pay me enough to make me want to burn my house down. Because in order for it to be worth the heartache of losing ALL my stuff, I’d have to be compensated with WAY more money than the insurance companies are willing to pay.

    This may be purely subjective, but I gotta disagree here too. I had to face this exact possibility, when we got evacuated during the fires of Oct 03. We ran around loading cars with our most “important” stuff, and what it boiled down to in the end was our computer (but only because the hard drive was filled with family photos (which are now backed up by Google)), a bag of wedding photos that we have never gotten around to putting in an album, and a fire-box with documents (birth certificates, social security cards and stuff). We also packed some overnight bags with some clothes to wear, but I realized pretty quickly that all the rest could burn, I wouldn’t really care, as long as my family was OK. Yes it would be a hassle, but stuff happens.

  28. Is that Erectile Dysfunction?

  29. On a serious note, I have no problem with governments taking property for for just compensation. If it happened to me, I would find somewhere else to live. Then again, I have not lived in the same house my great great great grandparents did, and I would guess none of you do either.

  30. If I had Erectile Dysfunction, and the government wanted to compensate me for taking it away, I think I’d be OK with that.

    Daniel, you probably don’t care about Eminent Domain until you own, instead of rent. If you are renting, you are never guaranteed access to your “land” beyond the length of your lease anyways.

    Maybe this hypothetical would drive it closer to home. What if Poway voters felt the need to widen both Twin Peaks and Midland to 6-lanes in each direction, and used Eminent Domain to forcibly buy the chunk of LWC property where your gorgeous new church building is scooted right into the corner there? Would you be content with using the money to rebuild in a different part of the (smaller) property, or finding a new property to build on? (Assuming that my 6-lane premise were not actually ridiculous, but somehow reasonable?)

  31. I do not know how the City handles something like this because I have never been involved in a case or know anyone who has.

    But I would ask this question: Is there a difference between “just compensation” and “fair market value”?

    Meaning they compensate you for the trouble of rebuilding or moving above and beyond the market value of the property as determined by an appraiser.

  32. Rube,

    I am not convinced you read what the WLC said about the 8th commandment, or what I wrote commenting on it, asserting peoples’ rights to own what they own. Maybe their sentimentality is sinful attachment to this earth, but it’s their right to own that piece of earth, since they currently own it. It’s not on loan from the government, but from God.

    E

  33. Everybody that is familiar with this blog, take a deep breath before you read the next line….

    I agree with Echo (on this).

    Amazing. I am stunned. That’s all I can say on this.

    Jeff

  34. Rube,

    Yes, “The City” is a non-personal entity. It is not the millions of people. “The City” is the roads, the water mains, the sewer pipes, the buses, the trolleys, the beaches, the mountains, and all of the city services that go along with them (water delivery, sewage and trash removal, road maintenance, police, fire, …). The millions of people are the owners of “The City”, and “The City” is an object that they own and maintain for a purpose. If the millions of people all packed up and moved to DeMoine, would it be the same city? If they moved to virgin rainforest, would they have the same city? No, it would be just a collection of people with no city, and they would have to get to work to build a city.

    So when you were saying “The City” and I was saying “The City,” we didn’t mean the same thing. So let’s establish a term we can agree on or be more clear when we say “the city.” You suggest…

    Now, if you say “the city” is the property of the “millions of people,” that’s fine. It is not the “public property” that is taking away “personal property” and justly compensating for it. The “millions of people” are forcing another person to give up their “personal property” and forcing them to accept a “just compensation” (whatever that means). This is EXACTLY what is happening with classic ED. If you want to say that is okay with you, fine. No problem. It is okay with you. But, that’s not the issue. The issue is how can scripture support it? How is this NOT a violation of “don’t steal?” This is the same thing as the millions of people taking away your violin and giving you money for it (against your will). Okay, it’s land and not an instrument. So what? Back it up with scripture.

    That’s all I am saying. I think it is clear. And, I think you’re alone on this one for the most part here on your blog. I mean, heck, if Echo and I agree on this, then it has to be extremely plain and obvious, right? :)

    Jeff

  35. Rube,

    I was making a joke about erectile dysfunction. Evidently it wasn’t gotten.

    but to answer your question

    I actually have taken an interest in ED cases and do understand the seriousness of them. Unfortunately I don’t think we ever truly hear the side of the government just the groaning of the “innocent” victim. The fact of the matter is that as long as there are property taxes you never actually do own your little piece of land. It’s true I don’t own any land, but then again who does? It may be a broken system, but it gets it right a lot more then it gets it wrong. For every 1 person that is displaced through eminent domain laws I would venture to say the number of people who benefit from it are in the millions. Seriously. 5 people are displaced by a freeway. 5 million people use the freeway. 20 people are forced to move because of power lines 20 million people receive power.

    If they had to move the church to widen the road (highly unlikely, this is Poway and their goal is, to kick people OUT) I suppose we would consider it a tremendous difficulty and would try to make the best benefit of it as possible.

    Look at it this way. ED beats the heck out of taxing the person out, which is probably what they would end up doing.

  36. If you want to say that is okay with you, fine. No problem. It is okay with you. But, that’s not the issue. The issue is how can scripture support it? How is this NOT a violation of “don’t steal?” This is the same thing as the millions of people taking away your violin and giving you money for it (against your will). Okay, it’s land and not an instrument. So what? Back it up with scripture.

    Where does scripture say that stealing equals taking without compensation, AND taking with compensation? Why do you say my understanding of the word ‘steal’ is unbiblical, and your understanding of the word is biblical? We just got done with this same discussion about grace, and there is actually a discussion that needs to be had wrt Luke 2:40. The same discussion could be had about murder, because the simple command “Thou shall not murder” is elucidated in many places that make distinctions between warfare, execution, manslaughter, etc. and murder.

    But where is the verse that illustrates that the biblical, contextual use of the word steal includes compensated seizure? Show me that my definition of steal is wrong.

  37. DBalc, I agree with you, especially that the number of actual instances of ED abuse, and the amount of benefit that comes from proper ED use, paint a positive picture of ED. But an argument of the form “look, the principle may be wrong, but in practice almost everybody is happy with it” will not fly with this crowd, which is why I’ve avoided it. By the same logic, we could get to a point where enough people are happy about “safe” and legal abortion that it is considered a public good.

  38. “By the same logic, we could get to a point where enough people are happy about “safe” and legal abortion that it is considered a public good.”

    You mean like it is in China?
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,250813,00.html

  39. Rube,

    Interesting attempt. I find it somewhat disturbing that you’re willing to entertain that this isn’t “stealing.” What you left out in your post #36, is the “against a person’s will” part. Taking something from somebody ‘against their will’ with or without compensation is the whole issue here. I’m sure the catechism question Echo quoted above has plently of scripture proofs for you. They define violating the 8th commandment very well. Can we use their definition?

    I’ll say it again: “ED is legalized stealing.”

    Now, how about I play the other side a little for you and give you a possible solution to make ED not wrong, and yet still rational. Consider a group of people covenanting together to create a nation and they all decide together that for all of their lives and their posterity’s too, that if the majority of them decide for public good they need to ED a piece of land, that maybe then we’re not committing a moral violation. The key here then is that they all agreed, so it’s not “against their will.” I think this is the only defense you may have, and it’s pretty weak even. But your idea that it’s okay for the many to take against’ someone’s will if they compansate, is amazing to me.

    Thanks for posting this. I was curious about other’s views on this. Does your Dad have any comments? And where is ‘bino? (The Arminian, LOL)

    Jeff

  40. What country on earth has a better system and better results? I get frustrated with idealistic notions that lack any test cases to back up their claims.

  41. Thanks for the leg up Jeff, I did consider the “we all agreed that this is how our society will work” concept (and that’s basically the function our constitution does serve), but it doesn’t seem to hold much water for second generation citizens. Unless the national concept is to dissolve the nation every generation, and reconstitute it with a fresh, explicit, social contract.

    How about this — what if the reason for the ED is a public safety issue? Like what if it is necessary for a drainage ditch to be cut through your property, or the community is at risk for flooding? Or a firebreak needs to be constructed on your property, otherwise the community is at risk of fire? Such that it is not good enough for only the willing to consent to the project; if one or two refuse to participate, then all are still at risk. In your mind, does this situation justify the government forcing the owner to sell the part of their land (or even surrender access and use of part of their land, for no compensation — isn’t that what an “easement” is)?

    If you deny this, then it would seem that you deny the responsibility and authority of the government to defend and safeguard citizens. And if you agree, then it comes down to whether you agree that the government has responsibility and authority to defend the economic welfare of their citizens, as well as their physical wellbeing.

    But your idea that it’s okay for the many to take against’ someone’s will if they compansate, is amazing to me.

    Believe me, it’s not as amazing to you as Ron’s understanding of the possibility of grace without mercy is to me.

    Speaking of Ron, I wonder if he realizes that someday, the population of East County will have grown so much that it is “necessary” to add lanes to I-8 and quite likely the government will ED some of his backyard?

  42. Rube,

    Re: 36

    You said:
    “Where does scripture say that stealing equals taking without compensation, AND taking with compensation?”

    – Echo:
    I would be willing to concede that perhaps “stealing” is not the best word for taking with compensation. However, I still contend, and I have the WCF with me on this, that the command not to steal indicates that people have a right to keep what they currently own, and no one has any right to take it from them. Unfortunately, even the perceived common good doesn’t outweigh someone’s right to own what they own.

    I’m not sure if you’re deliberately making a utilitarian argument, or if you are just coming across as making one. But it seems to me that if large numbers of people will benefit from violating someone’s rights, then it’s ok, or even the right thing to do.

    I contend that it’s not ok. The government, biblically speaking, has the right to bear the sword, but I see no warrant in the Bible or in nature that grants the government the right to seize property.

    Here’s what I mean. If you could build a time machine, and go back in time to just before Hitler became famous, say when he was a painter, and you had a gun, so it would be easy to just go shoot him, would you be doing the right thing?

    The utilitarian answer is yes. By killing him (typically thought of as morally wrong, ahem), you would be saving the lives of 6 million Jews, at least in theory, assuming no one else rose to become another Hitler.

    The biblical answer is no. You don’t have that right. However, the Bible – God – does give the right to the state to kill someone, but only after they have committed the crime, Tom Cruise movies notwithstanding. The point is, while the government has the right to take life as just punishment for murder, it does not have the right to take life in the utilitarian way, such that the government can take a life because it might improve everyone else’s lives.

    I mean, you COULD make the argument that the babies who are aborted are unwanted children, so if they were born, there would be more unhappiness in the world. So the utilitarians, I suspect, are in favor of abortion. But we Christians are not utilitarians. We don’t think that the common good ever justifies actions that are morally wrong.

    And anyway, the state doesn’t have the right to seize property. The state has the right to punish wrongdoing and to maintain certain freedoms, and to maintain a military. I don’t see the role of the government biblically going beyond this. Of course, our government does go well beyond this, but I would say that that is wrong.

    Anyway, the state does not have the right to seize someone’s property on the grounds that many people will benefit from it. Sure, the 1 person gets screwed, but a million people will spend 5 minutes less in the car every day. That’s a lot of time gained. This is not sufficient justification for seizing someone’s property unless you’re a utilitarian.

    Unfortunately, many people ARE utilitarians. I think it’s pretty predominant in our society. That’s just how people think. Sure, people get all bent out of shape about the rights of the minority, and the rights of individuals, but for the most part, all of it serves supposedly the common good. That’s how people judge right and wrong in a lot of ways.

    Well, so we’re not utilitarians. And the command not to steal supports peoples’ right to own their property, and the WCF confirms that. So, I suppose I’ve said all I can.

    E

  43. Rube,

    You said:
    “what if the reason for the ED is a public safety issue?”

    – Echo:
    That’s different. Then it’s a matter of someone thinking that owning their home is more important than the safety of their neighbors. They ought to be willing to give up their home to save lives. But the government does have the mandate to protect its citizens.

    This is kind of like when a cop has to comandeer a car. That’s different than highway expansion.

    E

  44. Unfortunately I don’t think we ever truly hear the side of the government just the groaning of the “innocent” victim.

    I wasn’t going to say anything because you guys are scary (and so are all the erectile dysfunction jokes), but I thought you might want to know what ED looks like from the non-citizen side.

    My mom is a reasonably high-ranking administrator in the Escondido Union School District. She oversees the business side of things, including facilities planning/construction. About 4 years ago the district consisted of 17 elementary and middle schools, all of which were over-crowded with enrollments continuing to rise. Funding options were unearthed that would allow for 1 new middle school and I think 3 new elementary schools. One area that had a very pressing need for another campus was central Escondido (most people, least amount of land).

    There is basically no unoccupied land in that area, so the district exercised ED to acquire the land to build the new school. All residents were paid fair-market value (plus quite a bit if I remember correctly). Now, the school district is not part of the city (or the government), but this is one example where a public agency used ED to presumably better the lives of the masses (in this case, the children and parents serviced by this district).

    So what do you think? Bad or good? Right or wrong? If it’s wrong, what should the district have done instead? (Consider that there is no busing in EUSD due to budget cuts made in the 70’s or 80’s, so building schools out of the immediate area of the students’ homes, and then transporting them there is not really a viable option.)

  45. If the state does not have the right to use Eminent Domain, and does not have the authority/responsibility of protecting the economic welfare of its citizens, should the state be building roads at all?

  46. Itsasecret2u: public schools should all be abolished. I think that answers your questions. :) (How’s that for scary?)

    Rube: Roads? Public Health? Honestly, I don’t know all the answers. I’m not an expert on government. I’m just glad to see Echo talking like a theonomist finally. I mean really, where does he get off using biblical standards for the rule of government? :)

    You still have to admit ED is stealing. I’ve been waiting patiently my friend. Admit it. ED is wrong.

    Oh, one more thing: being that I believe in covenant, AND thank God that I am in Christ, so that He represents me now, and NOT Adam, I don’t have a problem saying that I am bound to my forefather’s covenanting together to form a nation. Or actually in my case, my relatives traveling to the U.S. and covenanting with the U.S. to become a citizen, which then binds me to become a citizen. It’s federal headship, man. (That’s FH, not FV)

    Jeff

  47. Secret,

    ED isn’t the only option. Perhaps some people will give up the land voluntarily with the right incentives.

    It’s the involuntary seizure that I’m saying is wrong.

    To save lives trumps peoples’ right to property. Lives trump everything. Except souls, of course. Souls trump lives.

    E

  48. Rube,

    To what extent ought the state look out for the economic welfare of its citizens?

    Should the government prohibit me from a risky investment, protecting me from my stupidity?

    How can the state ensure that it is guarding everyone’s best interests fairly? Should the government seize all property and redistribute wealth evenly?

    In capitalism, the individual’s greed is harnessed to serve the common good.

    The government ought to – in a capitalist system at least – give the consumer the most opportunity to manifest and feed his greed, because in a capitalist system, the individual’s greed creates wealth.

    So given that that’s what our government is supposed to be doing in this capitalist system of ours, to what extent should the government get involved in protecting everyone’s best interests economically?

    No, maybe the government shouldn’t be building roads. Maybe private companies ought to do that and charge people to use them, significantly lowering our taxes. But never mind me and my hyper-effecient, hyper-capitalist pipe dream. I think that there’s little that private companies ought not to be doing.

    One thing that should be government run is the police and military, and all similar things, like FBI, CIA, etc. That needs to be government run, because it’s all a matter of executive authority. They need to have the authority of the President, and as such they need to answer to him.

    E

  49. Echo: I am impressed, you have been able to ignore my bait. either that or you haven’t read my comments.

    Seriously though, you sound like my kinda guy when you write about these things. Cheers.

    Jeff

  50. ED isn’t the only option. Perhaps some people will give up the land voluntarily with the right incentives.

    Perhaps, in a hyper-utopian pipe-dream. The whole point of ED is that, yes, probably most people would go understand the public need, go along with a fair compensation, and be glad to help out. But one person who is not cooperative, makes a whole project impossible. If there is one house still in the middle of the fast lane, a new or bigger freeway is no better than what was there before.

    Hoping for total cooperation is useless. Can’t we all just get along?

    You still have to admit ED is stealing. I’ve been waiting patiently my friend. Admit it. ED is wrong.

    I don’t admit that ED is stealing, I don’t admit ED is wrong. That’s the whole point. If you can’t convince me to modify my definition of stealing, then it’s silly to ask me to just change my position.

  51. Jeff,

    Re: 46

    Ok, I’ll bite just a little bit. (Don’t be too impressed that I was able to avoid the “bait”, because I must have missed it somehow.)

    You said:
    “I’m just glad to see Echo talking like a theonomist finally. I mean really, where does he get off using biblical standards for the rule of government? :)”

    – Echo:
    Well, the Bible DOES clearly expound natural law, according to which governments should be run. The Bible is the Word of God, and he is the one who grants the state a certain agency. I mean, without God’s words to Cain and to Noah, the state would not have any authority; it wouldn’t exist. The state is a common grace institution, and the Bible has something to say about it.

    Re: 49

    Just because I’m not a theonomist doesn’t mean you and I don’t share a whole lot of common ground. In fact, I think the main point on which we differ simply boils down to whether or not the state should enforce the first table of the 10 Commandments. But with regard to the second table, I’m right there wit’ ya. “And when I say that I am wit’ you, I mean that I am wit’ you.”

    E

  52. I don’t have a problem saying that I am bound to my forefather’s covenanting together to form a nation.

    Well there’s your answer then. As I’ve quoted about 47 times in this thread, Eminent Domain is right there in the Constitution, the initiating Covenant of our nation.

    Since you gave me that argument, I’ll repay the favor by typing your response, which you can just copy&paste:

    But the bill of rights says “nor nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” That just says what the government can’t do, not what it can do; it doesn’t say that private property SHALL be taken for public use, WITH just compensation. Argument from silence!

  53. Rube,

    Re: 50

    I have conceded that ED should not be properly called stealing. However, I still find that it falls under the commandment not to steal, according to the WLC, quoted above.

    You still haven’t interacted with the catechism question. Do you think the catechism question above is flawed somehow, or do you find that ED doesn’t fall under that guidance? Please elaborate.

    E

  54. Rube,

    Re: 52

    Not being an enlightenment philosopher, I don’t think that the social contract is a valid paradigm for government having its authority.

    I guess I’m just not a democrat, but more of a republican. I think that either a republic or a monarchy is the best form of government, and I kind of lean towards monarchy.

    I do not think that the government requires the consent of the people in order to be considered legitimate. Therefore, I do not find that just because elected (republican/federal) officials covenant together to form a government that the constitution is therefore legitimate, regardless of what it says.

    Hitler was very popular, so we might say that he was legitimate, because his power stemmed from his popularity. The people wanted him to lead them wickedly, so he did. That doesn’t mean, however, that he wasn’t wicked. He was wicked.

    In a similar way, analogously, just because everyone in America thought that the Constitution was great, doesn’t mean that it’s biblical or that the government was exceeding its God given authority. I think it was in a lot of ways.

    However, that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to live with it. I think we’ve a pretty good system, despite its gigantic flaws. Though to be honest, I predict that those flaws will be our downfall, and I’m not talking about ED anymore, but the fact that everyone seems to think this is a democracy, rather than a republic. Yes, we elect our leaders, but we elect them to govern us. We ought to let them govern us how they see fit, because they are privy to more information than us.

    For example, I don’t think that the country, the citizens, have any right whatsoever to second guess the President on matters of intelligence. For crying out loud, we don’t have access to all the same information. We elected him to use his best judgment, warts and all. Now if we want to vote him out because we think his judgment might be flawed, well, ok, but we should do so recognizing that we don’t REALLY have the means to make that judgment with 100% certainty, because, we the people don’t have access to classified information.

    Now some people say that we the people OUGHT to have access to classified information. The consequences of this would be disasterous, because it would severely hamper our ability to collect, analyze and act upon that information. I was an intelligence analyst in the Marine Corps. I have had access to lots of information that I can never talk about. And trust me when I say that it would be impossible to have an effective intelligence apparatus if we think that everyone in the country had the individual right to oversee the process.

    And that only exposes the need for this country to be run more like a republic than a democracy. The people don’t govern, the elect leaders to do it for them. But they think that their vote gives them the right to micromanage those who govern. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. And it WILL be our downfall as a nation.

    Truly does the old saying go: too many cooks spoil the soup.

    E

  55. About WLC, I did read it, and I didn’t see anything in there that meant (or had to mean) “people have the RIGHT to their stuff, because GOD is the one who provided it for them”. Did you perhaps draw that out of this phrase:

    and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor what belongs to him

    or the closing phrase

    defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God hath given us

    ?

  56. mmm hmmm…

    both

    Feel free to argue that these don’t point to God being the one who gives to man what he has (give us this day our daily bread) and so therefore no man has the right to take it, and no man has the right to fail to be a good steward of what is his. God has determined that this man should own it. So to take it is to defy God.

    So…

  57. I don’t think that the social contract is a valid paradigm for government having its authority.

    Neither do I, which is why I haven’t argued in that way, except to respond to Jeff, who brought it up. Kind of surprising, for a theonomist, I think.

    So Jeff, since you think ED is stealing, why would you think it becomes OK if enough people get together to agree on it? What’s the dividing line that allows a nation to covenant together to legalize ED, but not abortion?

  58. Rube,

    So Jeff, since you think ED is stealing, why would you think it becomes OK if enough people get together to agree on it? What’s the dividing line that allows a nation to covenant together to legalize ED, but not abortion?

    I was giving you a possible argument, not saying that I hold to it. That’s #1.

    #2 The idea of stealing, or its subsets as we read in the catechism above, is it is ‘against someone’s will.’ If someone is ‘willing’ to let their land go, then it is no longer stealing. That is the point.

    #3 If through covenanting together, people give ‘their consent’ ahead of time, then it is still no longer ‘against their will.’

    #4 Children are represented by the father making this covenant, even if they’re not born yet, if you are thinking federally (again, I’m not saying I really hold to this, it’s just a hypothetical. I am throwing you a bone.) Therefore, the children and grandchildren, etc. have given their consent through their father’s covenant.

    #5 Abortion falls under the category of murder. It is a different category of sin. You can’t willingly let someone ‘murder’ you (notice I am not saying you can’t lay your life down for a friend, etc.) So, abortion verses stealing just isn’t a good analogy.

    So, I think that is the only way I can see that you even begin to have an argument. I can see problems with this, so I’m not even sure this argument will hold, but I think it is much better than anything else you’ve given us. I don’t think you’ve yet to deal with the “against one’s will” part. If I am to understand you correctly, then it’s not just America where we have a constitution that you are for ED, but any governement, right? So this scenario doesn’t play for you everywhere. How can you biblically support the government taking someone’s land ‘against their will?’

    Jeff

  59. Echo,

    I am so glad to see someone else talking for Republic and against Democracy! YES! Amen!

    On the natural law thing, Wacky is better at pointing this out than I am, but you are still appealing to the Bible to say how government should be run, ie: natural law. So we are both saying that the Bible has the answer to the question of how the state should run itself. We are both insisting upon a Christian answer. We just interpret the Bible differently. Try telling China how natural law speaks to it. Oops, I think this is the wrong post for this. He He.

    Jeff

  60. Jeff,

    You said:
    “I am so glad to see someone else talking for Republic and against Democracy! YES! Amen!”

    – Echo:
    Well, yeah, once upon a time it was the divine right of kings, but now it is the divine right of the people. It’s the same thing, but on a broader scale. It says, “God has put me in charge.”

    Now on the surface, we agree that there is no authority put in place other than those put in place by God. The problem comes in when the person who claims divine right blurs the line and says that they not only have divine right, but are in fact divine. It should be no surprise that as people view this country more and more as a pure democracy, where they don’t just vote for representatives, but that they actually do the governing (e.g., ballot initiatives in California), there is also an increase in New Age thinking, which says patently that “I am God.” We shouldn’t be surprised at all to find that both are steadily on the rise, because the two go hand in hand. If “I am God”, then of course I cannot be ruled by any man, but I should be the one on the throne. No one can tell me what to do.

    You said:
    “you are still appealing to the Bible to say how government should be run, ie: natural law. So we are both saying that the Bible has the answer to the question of how the state should run itself. We are both insisting upon a Christian answer.”

    – Echo:
    I would like to add a covenantal distinction to what you said. We are not both insisting on a Christian answer to how the state should be run, because I am not insisting on a Christian answer to how the state should be run. As a Christian, I have the Bible as a source of not just Christian revelation, but also of general revelation. I understand general revelation in a Christian way, of course, but simply appealing to the Bible does not automatically put me in the category of wanting a Christian state. I see the Bible as expounding not just law for the covenant of grace, but also the covenant of works.

    For example, “You shall not murder/kill.” (I put both murder and kill to avoid making the distinction or discussing it.) On the one hand, you can say that this is law for the Christian. As Christians, we remain under obligation to the law, even though we have been freed from the condemnation of the law.

    But the exact same moral law also serves as the moral law for the covenant of works, and as such is an expounding of natural law. So the same law does double duty. What matters is the specific covenantal context in which you are speaking.

    So when God says to Noah that those who murder must be killed by the sword, we consider this a mandate for the state. As Paul says, the magistrate doesn’t bear the sword for nothing. They are God’s agents, upholding God’s laws. But they are not upholding those laws in a covenant of grace context. They are upholding them in a covenant of works (or common grace) context. Yes, they are agents of God’s wrath, sent by God to punish wrong doing. But they uphold the laws of common grace. They uphold the Noahic mandate specifically. The Noahic mandate certainly extends beyond simply punishing murderers. I see the state as having a mandate from God to keep us from harming one another, in a basic sense.

    I mean, the state cannot REALLY uphold the second table of the law, because the second table cuts to the heart, demanding of us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The state cannot have any control over the heart. But they can punish muder, stealing, adultery, perjury, etc. Furthermore, they can take steps to avoid the people being murdered or otherwise wrongfully deprived of their lives or property, by setting up fire departments and a military, for example. This is an outworking of the Noahic mandate. And of course they have to collect taxes to pay for it all.

    In my view, there is a whole lot about our particular system of government that is good and right and biblical. A whole lot. But unfortunately, we are perverting and twisting it, by turning it into a democracy, rather than a republic.

    One of the revolutionary things about our government is the separation of the legislative and the executive. This was very good. You can imagine that being able to make laws and enforce them is too much power to have in one man’s hands. We are sinful, so it makes sense to separate these powers, rather than having them all in the hand of the king, for example.

    However, like pendulums, people tend to steer away from something too far. They are like a car spinning out of control because they overcompensated. In rejecting the inherent corruption of having too much power in one man’s hands, the people of our country said that that power needs to be in EVERYONE’S hands. And we only continue to steer closer to that everyday. There is, of course, an inherent corruption in this as well, simply because people are inherently corrupt.

    So what is the ideal form of government that will inherently guard against corruption? There isn’t one. But I think our founding fathers sought to create a good balance. We are destroying that balance in our country, which is to be expected. There will come a day when we all realize this, and the pendulum will swing back the other way, and we will once again have kings. People love stories of kings more and more. Look at how many people swarm to the Lord of the Rings movies. And say the word “kings” out loud. If someone tells you that they are going to tell you a story of kings, you are immediately interested. I am. I just like how the word “king” sounds. There’s something majestic about the word and what it describes that we have lost in our society, and people are curious about it and interested in it, so I’m convinced that someday, we’ll go back to that.

    I myself tend to look favorably on monarchies. I look favorably on republics too, but I like monarchies. I like the lesson that monarchy teaches its subjects. It is an analogy of God that is largely lost on us democrats.

    What is REALLY to be mourned above all is what this belief in the divine right of the people has done to the church. Willow Creek is kind of the quintessential “give the people what they want” kind of church. It is huge. I used to live in that area, and I have driven by it. It looks like a college. It’s gigantic. What I mean is that people love it. People in our country absolutely hate the idea of being ruled, despite our fascination with mythical kings. They love the idea of being pampered and catered to.

    Hand in hand with this is the fact that most people – boy am I babbling now – are dissatisfied with their jobs. Why, I ask you? It’s because they want to be the boss. They want to be the CEO who makes millions for doing nothing. They want to sit in the big office with the big desk, smoking cigars and chatting with a beautiful secretary who is only too eager to do your bidding, whatever that may be. They want to be the one giving the orders. They don’t want to do any work themselves, but they want to tell everyone what to do.

    But of course this is a bizarre fantasy. There is no one in this world that lives their lives that way. CEO’s work incessantly, nearly killing themselves with work. Everyone wants to be Donald Trump, but no one wants to do what he did to get where he is, and only a very few has his drive. Everyone wants to win the lottery. Many love to indulge in fantasy movies about mafia dons, because mafia dons do whatever they want, have more money than Bill Gates, and sit around and smoke cigars all day, surrounded by beautiful and willing women. That’s what the sinful nature desires, going hand in hand with the belief in our country that the people have the divine given right to rule themselves. They think they have a right to be Donald Trump or Tony Soprano. And when they look in the mirror and discover that they aren’t, they figure that they have been cheated somehow. Thus we get the popularity of movies like the Matrix, where we are told that everything is an illusion, designed to make us slaves. We want to believe that someone or something unseen has oppressed us, and that’s why we aren’t Donald Trump or Tony Soprano. What other explanation could there be, since it is our God given right to have that status.

    At the end of the day, we all want to be God. At least in a monarchy you have something else at your disposal in order to remember that you are not God, and that you cannot be God.

    There are really very few differences between a monarchy and a republic, because monarchies always have nobilities, and the nobles always have a great deal of power, and the king must manage that. So usually a monarch is not a dictator. By favoring monarchies, I am not at all favoring dictatorships.

    Ok, enough social commentary.

    E

  61. Rube,

    You still haven’t responded to the WLC question. You haven’t offered any interpretation of it such that ED doesn’t stand condemned by it. I eagerly await that, or an abandonment of your position.

    Salesmen are supposed to close by asking for the sale.

    E

  62. I myself tend to look favorably on monarchies. I look favorably on republics too, but I like monarchies. I like the lesson that monarchy teaches its subjects. It is an analogy of God that is largely lost on us democrats.

    If the biblical model for church government is repbulican (presbyterian), why should secular government be episcopalian (hierarchical/monarchic)? The beauty of American government is the checks & balances that limit the damage that can be caused by the fallen desires of any one particular leader. If this is a biblical safety check in church government, how much more so in secular government, where leaders are not in submission to scripture? Why would you want secular government to provide analogies of God?

    Hand in hand with this is the fact that most people – boy am I babbling now – are dissatisfied with their jobs. Why, I ask you? It’s because they want to be the boss. They want to be the CEO who makes millions for doing nothing.

    Not me! I am extremely satisfied with my job! As I see it, it’s only downhill from here. If I get promoted beyond where I’m at right now, that would mean more managerial tasking, and less time actually creating product (software, that is). I don’t want to manage people. Come to think of it, I don’t really like people.

    Jeff:

    The reason I don’t really want to push the covenantal agreement model for ED, is that it doesn’t really answer the question, it just pushes it back in time. So the question isn’t “is our government justified in using ED”, but “were the founding fathers justified in providing for ED in our constitution”? But in the end, it’s the same question.

    Echo:

    I don’t know what you mean about salesmen here. Are you trying to sell me the WLC? I don’t really know how to interact with the confession chapter, since it’s not inspired scripture. Not being up for ordination, I’m also not responsible for subscribing to the confession. And I don’t see myself as bound to accept the intention of the divines. For instance, I accept that the original divines were theonomists, and I reject the parts of the original confession that were theonomic (civil magistrate should regulate false religion, etc.).

    I guess the closest I could come would be to interact with whatever the scripture proofs are behind that paragraph, which I haven’t looked up yet.

  63. Rube,

    Make no mistake, the church is a monarchy under Christ, and that’s why in the church we never want to have one man in charge.

    But families have one man in charge. That’s an analogy of God. God himself utilized the analogy of kings in the OT, in order to show us our need for Christ.

    Look, I’m not saying that the Bible ADVOCATES monarchies, I just said that I like them because of the benefits of them. It’s a good picture. Perhaps even BECAUSE a monarch can be corrupt – but remember, I’m distinguishing between a monarch and a tyrant – because that shows us why we ought to be grateful for having Christ, our incorruptible king. Submitting to corrupt rulers is a good lesson to learn. “Slaves, obey your masters.” “Give unto Caesar…” “honor the king”.

    But republics are good too. I’m not saying they aren’t. And our system of separated powers is good too. The problem with it is that more people have had their hands on it, leading to greater corruption. Certainly the way people view our government is problematic today.

    You said:
    “I don’t really know how to interact with the confession chapter, since it’s not inspired scripture. Not being up for ordination, I’m also not responsible for subscribing to the confession. And I don’t see myself as bound to accept the intention of the divines. For instance, I accept that the original divines were theonomists, and I reject the parts of the original confession that were theonomic (civil magistrate should regulate false religion, etc.).”

    – Echo:
    Rube, I find your response here troubling. All I’m pointing out is that the command that prohibits stealing teaches us that people have a right to their property, because God is the one who gave it to them, or if you like, allowed them to obtain it. We have no right to take from them what God has provided for them. To do so is to put ourselves on God’s throne. I don’t need the confession to make that point. It seems a logical implication of the command not to steal that people have a right to their property which we don’t have the authority to violate. That’s WHY stealing is wrong. But you combine this with the understanding that ALL sin is idolatrous and is a manifestation of the sinful desire of our hearts to be God, and you come up with what I’ve said above.

    If you want to disagree with the confession, go ahead. I disagree with what it says about the Sabbath. But if you’re going to go to a Presbyterian church, note well that you are free to disagree with the Confession – but you had better have a good reason that you can articulate. Not because someone is going to bring you up on charges, or because you’re obligated to believe everything in them as a layman, but because that’s what your church confesses. If you are a part of that church, you need to confess what they confess. Otherwise, you aren’t heeding their teaching, but making up your own. Disagree if you like, or admit that you haven’t thought about it before, but don’t think that you have the right to arbitrarily disagree. You did take a vow to submit to the governance of the church, did you not? The Confession governs their governing. Don’t rebel against the Confession. It’s YOUR confession. Disagree because you are convinced of something else in the Word of God if you like, such as my disagreement – and confusion – on the issue of the Sabbath, but don’t arbitrarily disagree with what it says about something as simple as stealing just because it contradicts what you think about ED.

    Remember, what is written in the Confession and catechisms is what your pastors and elders claim the Bible teaches. And there’s a 350 year history of pastors and elders and deacons subscribing to it – in YOUR denomination. It seems to me that if you listen to the sermons written by one man, in which ONE MAN tells you what the Bible says, then it SHOULD logically follow that you should listen when ALL the PCA pastors and elders and deacons speak with one voice, in conjunction with so many fine men sent from God for so many years.

    I’ll grant that the original Confession has a few problems. The present Confession has a few problems here and there. You’re right, it isn’t Scripture. And meanwhile, you wouldn’t say that a sermon IS Scripture either. But you wouldn’t go around saying that your pastor’s sermon isn’t Scripture, so you are under no obligation to agree to what he said, or that you don’t have to listen to it. Don’t you train your children to listen to the sermon because that’s their pastor up there teaching us what the Bible says? If that’s true, then your take on the Confession seems inconsistent.

    Just because you don’t have to subscribe to the standards as a layman doesn’t mean you don’t set that as a goal. Do you want to be an elder or a deacon someday? EVERY man ought to have that as a goal. EVERY man. Not every man will be able to, I grant freely, but the requirements for elder simply boil down to spiritual maturity. Nothing more. Pursue spritual maturity, set being an elder as a goal.

    I think you’d make a fine elder.

    E

  64. Rube,

    Let me put this whole thing another way.

    God says that you are not allowed to steal. Roughly that means that you aren’t allowed to take someone else’s property, agreed? We cannot simply desire it for ourselves and deprive them of their property. It belongs to them.

    The Bible clearly states that what we have been given has been given by God. That’s why we pray to him to give us a good job so we can provide for our families. He is the giver of every gift.

    All sin is idolatry, seeking God’s throne for yourself.

    Stealing involves putting yourself on the throne of God, as if you have the right to dole out provisions to yourself in the same way God does. You take what God has given to someone else, and give it to yourself. By doing this, you are asserting that God has made a mistake. You are saying that he has acted unjustly in giving that other person what he has given them, and in failing to give you the same thing. Since God has acted unjustly, you take it upon yourself to rectify this wrong.

    This is fundamentally what stealing is all about. It’s clear. It’s biblical. If you need some kind of proof that it’s biblical, let me know. Pinpoint precisely where you object.

    But assuming that what I have said here is sound Christian thinking, I now ask you, what RIGHT do we have, or does anyone have, to undo what God has done by taking someone’s property? Yes, it’s a matter of violating someone’s right, but it’s also an affront to God, and this is more important than violating someone’s rights. But they do have those rights, and they have been given by God.

    E

  65. Do you or I really “own” our property or anything else for that matter? If you want to talk Biblically aren’t we just stewards of what the Lord has allowed us to enjoy while on earth? Why is there such a sense of “right” or “ownership” attached to this ED discussion.

    If you look at it like this (us being stewards) you will not be upset if the government wants to pay you to move. Just look at it as God orchestrating the move for you and using the city as His agent.

    Practically speaking, how much “ownership” of your property do you posess when you have to ask permission from the city to make any alterations to said property?

    It may sound good and be a source of pride for people, but “ownership” is an inflated term both Biblically and practically.

  66. Matt,

    You said:
    “If you look at it like this (us being stewards) you will not be upset if the government wants to pay you to move. Just look at it as God orchestrating the move for you and using the city as His agent.”

    – Echo:
    Last summer, someone stole my wife’s car. I find it impossible to view those theives as God’s agents, simply working it out for us to get her a new car.

    E

  67. Matt,

    By the way, it’s not how we feel about it that we have in view here, but whether or not the state has the right to do it. If they do it, we don’t have the right to go bomb city hall. We have to take it like a man like any other injustice. But that doesn’t mean that the government has the right to do it.

    E

  68. But did they leave you with money to replace it? That is not a fair comparison.

  69. Do you want to be an elder or a deacon someday? EVERY man ought to have that as a goal.

    Interesting perspective. Currently I do not have that goal.

    My fundamental disagreement with the confession (if indeed I have one) is not with the words themselves, but with the definitions of the words. Without trying to be slippery, I really honestly believe that (my concept of) ED is in a separate category than stealing. Maybe that sounds kind of FV (“I fully agree with the words in the confession (as long as words like [stealing|justification|sanctification|elect…] are defined my way)”)

    Your point about sitting in God’s throne I think proves too much. If God decided what we are to own, would we not be putting ourselves in God’s throne to sell anything?

    Matt sez:

    Practically speaking, how much “ownership” of your property do you posess when you have to ask permission from the city to make any alterations to said property?

    I can’t speak for Echo or Jeff, but the theonomist I was originally listening to also condemned zoning laws, although no mention of building codes (since that is an issue of preserving life). I do agree that the mindset that ED is wrong would probably also say that zoning laws are wrong; the government would have no right to prevent you from building any monstrous eyesore on your God-given private property, as long as it didn’t endanger anyone.

  70. My point is the premise that the government cannot take what you “own” is flawed because you do not own it so you are starting this whole discussion on a false premise.

  71. And I want to get away from the phrase “take private property against one’s will”, using instead “buy private property against one’s will”.

  72. BTW if you really want to go back in history we can say that the property we feel is “owned” by us now was once stolen from someone else right? What does that do for everyone who feels entitled to their property.

    I mean it is not our God-given right to live in America, our ancestors came over here and stole the property without compensation. I would say to take with compensation is a nice evolution!

  73. Not even remotely satisfying.

  74. But don’t worry, I’m not eager for a new thread. Nope, this one is just fine. Ahem.

  75. Get excited, theonomists! Stoning people to death is back in style, and now, with even rules on how big the stones can be!
    http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/

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