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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Theonomy - Second Verse, Same As The First


If God’s Old Testament case law ought to be exchanged for God’s natural law, then the necessary implication is that God’s natural law somewhere along the line became at odds with – contradicted - God’s Old Testament case law. More specifically, since we know that the Old Testament case law has not been altered, we must conclude that if any law has changed then it must be natural law. But isn’t natural law, being law, universal and invariant? If so, then why should we believe that it now contradicts Old Testament case law if it didn’t 3,000 years ago? Now someone might wish to argue that the ceremonial law now contradicts the finished work of Christ; so why can’t God’s case law now be at odds with natural law? The simple answer is that the ceremonial law and the finished work of Christ were not operative at the same time; so the latter may supplant the former without contradiction. In the case of natural law, it was from creation and was operative during the time of Moses, unlike the work of the cross. Accordingly, there is no reason to believe that natural law is superior and contrary to the case law today if it was not under Moses. The simple reality is that natural law does not contradict Old Testament case law; nor were these laws ever functionally equivalent.

Natural law affirms to all men, at all times and in all places that each sin against God’s moral law deserves God’s wrath, but God’s ministers of justice are not always to punish evil doers to the fullest extent humanly possible. Natural law is known by all men everywhere, but it cannot be justified in any philosophically sound way apart from special revelation. What revelatory authority would one appeal to after all? Accordingly, if the state were to strive to follow natural law with a pure heart with respect to penal sanction – as if that were even possible, all men would be put to death, even for the least of all transgresssions, by unjustified tyrants who are left to employ autonomous and, therefore, arbitrary reasoning. Apart from a theonomic appeal to a law that is self-attesting, the state is left to grasp from its shelf a volume of natural law that does not exist.

At the very least, how might a Dispensationalist, or Klinean for that matter – same thing really with respect to this subject, argue that the general equity of the civil case law is not still relevant and binding today? The non-theonomic thesis, which promotes a religion of pluralism that denies that all kings are to offer homage to the Son, really reduces to a secular philosophy that implies that any law may be legislated as long as it is not God’s law, justified by his word! The anti-theonomist may of course support capital punishment for some sins he deems criminal but only when it satisfies his personal sense of justice, apart from God's written law informing him.

The relevance of God’s law as it pertains to the nations is that we are to be governed according to God’s revelation to Moses as the promise to Abraham is fulfilled. The two-kingdom social theory is simply an unworkable principle and, frankly, a gross affront on the kingship of Christ and the fullness of the great commission.

Ron

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21 comments:

Joshua said...

"The relevance of God’s law as it pertains to the nations is that we are to be governed according God’s revelation to Moses as the promise to Abraham is fulfilled."

Truer words could not be penned more succinctly.

Unfortunately far too many in our age expect Jesus to do all the work in and of Himself at or after the Second Coming, rather than through the agency of His Body and His Commandments in the here and now.

Anonymous said...

You write..."but God's ministers of justice are not always to punish evil doers to the fullest extent humanly possible."

I know we need to act upon the whole of God's law vs. select civil law standards agreed upon over the years.But whom are these God's ministers of justice to be? Even though saved by God's great mercy;as fallen evil doers ourselves;who is righteous enough to even begin to distinguish the line in punishing someone to the fullest extent humanly possible?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

The ministers of God's justice are the ministers he appoints through ordinary providence. God's grace is sufficient to equip one for the task; just as it is sufficient to equip one for the task of serving anywhere in a fallen world.

Joshua said...

I've wondered at times why two-kingdom folks have more confidence in a government and sword ruled by men who deny the validity of God's Law as opposed to one ruled by those who recognize His Word-law governs over all affairs.

Moreover, and speaking normatively, one would presume that men who have tasted of God's grace would be more willing to extend it appropriately than those who trample grace in rebellious unbelief.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Joshua,

My wife was warned about theonomy by her pastor prior to marrying me. She saw with her own eyes, with little argument from me, that what he said were either caricatures of the thesis and / or irrational fears, like we are supposed to take the law into our own hands. Some of these fears by non-theonomists are born out of ignorance, whether willful or not it depends on the individual. But yes, you touch on one of the common irrationalities. It’s often driven by the idea that if Christians uphold theonomy, then what would happen if a Muslim got into office? The solution they come up with is that ought not to argue for theonomy so that we might reduce the odds of being ruled by a non-Christian dictator.

Ron

Anonymous said...

Ron and Joshua,
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. You might have a different perspective if you were the woman at the well.
Loving you in Christ.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Was the woman at the well caught in adultery? Even allowing for your application of the text, what you are suggsting is that the God of the Old Testament was not has caring as the God of the New Testament and that civil sanctions are to be derived by what seems best to transgressors.

Blessings,

Ron

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Anon,

What do you think of the Marcionite heresy and how does it apply to your thinking given in your comment?

Anonymous said...

Benjamin
I am not a dualist.The new testament is the old testament revealed.Obviously the God of the OT is the same God of the NT!
MY challenge to theonomists lies in their definition of grace.All people are limited and blinded by their fallen nature.We need to remain humble and extend grace to the believer and unbeliever.

Joshua said...

Anon,

How is an unbelieving official to extend grace to the people he governs without a knowledge of what grace is and from Whom it is derived?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"MY challenge to theonomists lies in their definition of grace.All people are limited and blinded by their fallen nature.We need to remain humble and extend grace to the believer and unbeliever."

Yes, as partially blinded and fully limited we must remain humble and extend grace to believers and unbelievers, as did the judges and the kings in the older economy. Now with that aside, why should the general equity of the OT case laws be aborogated? I have heard the emotional arguments all too often. What I'm looking for is a theological one.

Ron

Anonymous said...

Ron,
Don't get so emotional dude...lol...

Turretinfan said...

Ron:

Great Stuff!

"But isn’t natural law, being law, universal and invariant? If so, then why should we believe that it now contradicts Old Testament case law if it didn’t 3,000 years ago?"

Right on the money.

-TurretinFan

Anonymous said...

Ron,

I just don't understand. Your argument is so simple and clear. R2Kt virus types it sometimes seems to me are just suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.

I have to work on not getting intensely angry at Christians (many of whom are the brightest and who sit in key positions) combating God's Word.

Ah well ... it is good to know I am can visit this site occasionally and find some sanity.

Bret

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Bret,

Thank you for your candor and your encouraging words. I suppose this is where our Calvinism becomes exceedingly practical. That we see the obvious relevance of God's law for today is a matter of grace alone.

Blessings,

Ron

Anonymous said...

So what would you say to the person who says that theonimists believe that they should take civil matters into their own hands. And, if you don't believe you should take civil matters into your own hands are you a "normal" theonimist?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Regarding your first sentence, I'd ask the person to produce one statement from a well regarded theonomist who thinks that way. The notion is simply a caricature. It's on par with saying that Calvinism is adverse to preaching the gospel.

Regarding your second sentence - not taking the law into your own hands is a necessary condition for normal theonomy but not a sufficient condition. In other words, one is not a normal-theonomist by virtue of the fact that he believes that one should not take such matters into his own hands; yet normal theonomy subscribes to such a premise.

Ron

Anonymous said...

What would you say to this: "sanctions for rape should be determined on the basis of local custom, in keeping with the biblical teaching on natural law as found in Romans 2."

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

What would you say to this: ‘sanctions for rape should be determined on the basis of local custom, in keeping with the biblical teaching on natural law as found in Romans 2.’

The short answer is, the person who wrote it hangs out at GreenBaggins.

Before I answer, let me say what I believe about Romans 2 as it pertains to natural law and rape. Romans 2 teaches that the gentiles (all who have sinned without the law) have the moral law written on their hearts. Accordingly, God’s revelation to Moses is not necessary for one to receive in order to be culpable for the sin of rape. The law written on one’s heart is sufficient to convict a man of moral wrongdoing, but it is not sufficient for the determination of which sins are crimes let alone the penalty for crimes. The question is whether rulers are to deem rape as a sin worthy of non-ecclesiastical punishment and if so, how is that premise and the corresponding sanction to be justified?

Bells should be going off in your head at this point. What does it mean that the local custom should be “in keeping with the biblical teaching on natural law as found in Romans 2”? Even if the local custom is perfectly framed according to natural law (apart from Moses), the society with such customs would have no basis to consider rape a crime anymore than it does the contemplation of rape. Natural law condemns the sins of thought and of action in conscience; and the only sanction given by natural law is that all sin is worthy of God’s wrath. Accordingly, natural law can only lead a ruler to put everyone to death (even for the least of all sins) so that men can meet God speedily in his just wrath.

Natural law is simply impotent with respect to giving an answer to this question because natural law does not reveal to us which sins are criminal let alone the degree of sanction that is appropriate in a fallen world for any sin. Consequently, the non-theonomic answer to the question of what would be an appropriate sanction for rape reduces to: whatever seems good to “local custom”. One might asks, what if Moses “seems good”?! Are we to believe that theonomy is permissible but just not required? Can we even imagine God being less pleased by theonomic legislation and more pleased by sanctions that are less or more severe than what he demanded under Moses? If natural revelation can inform us of that, then did natural law change over time or did it contradict Moses at the time of Moses?!

God’s revelation to Moses is simply God’s wisdom to rulers in that it reveals how a godly society is to be governed. At the very least, since natural law cannot contradict Moses (lest God contradicted himself under Moses), then there is no reason to believe that the wisest thing to do today is to model all societies after Moses. Or has God’s law become passé?

Ron

Anonymous said...

Ron,

I will admit that I lifted that quote from here: http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/new-book-coming-out-on-the-law-of-moses/

It doesn't suprise me that you caught that since the statement was aimed at you. I am coming out of the closet on this. There's no way around theonomy. Years ago I fought TULIP and I couldn't defeat the arguments. It's even worse with theonomy. What's the alternative? Do I need to become a postmillenialist too? How about an infant baptizer? Do those things go together like all the letters in TULIP fits together.

Grace to You.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

One can have a doom and gloom eschatology and still be theonomic. That's a rare combination but there's no logical contradiction. Theonomy is concerned with what "ought" to be the case; whereas a post-mil eschatology is concerned with what "will" happen.
And no, one need not embrace paedobatism because he's a theonomist but a proper hermeneutic will lead one to both. By becoming theonomic, you should also become presuppositional in your apologetic and nouthetic in your practical theology. It's quite the journey, my brother.

Are you from John MacArthur's church? The "Grace to You" kind of got me. You obviously don't sound like "the man"! :)

Let me know if I can be of service to you.

Ron