Sunday, January 30, 2011

Keith Mathison on Theonomy

Keith Mathison of Ligonier Ministries reviewed David VanDrunen’s Living in Two Kingdoms. In that review Mathison demonstrated his ability to reaon fallaciously by drawing a gross and obvious hasty generalization. Mathison impugns a class of people, theonomists, of having a tendency of being guilty of a practice that is not integral to theonomy, nor a trajectory of theonomy. What's worse, most theonomists, being Reformed, actually confess a doctrine (liberty of conscience) that opposes that which Mathison hastily indexes to theonomists (conscience-binding tendencies).

Mathison writes:
Van Drunen’s emphasis on Christian liberty is also to be appreciated. Many transformationists, particularly of the theonomic stripe, have a tendency to bind Christians’ consciences on a whole host of matters that the Word of God does not clearly address. I remember to this day one of the first debates I heard in a student break room after transferring to Reformed Theological Seminary. Two students, one of whom was strongly influenced by theonomy, were having a lengthy and heated debate over infant feeding practices: demand feeding vs. schedule feeding. The theonomist participant insisted that schedule feeding was the biblical view and required of all Christians. But does the Bible really give us a clear answer to this question? No, but there are some who would love to bind our consciences with a Christian Mishnah.

That one theonomist in the hearing of Mathison defended scheduled feeding for babies is hardly evidence for the erratic assertion that theonomists have a tendency to bind Christians’ consciences, let alone on a whole host of matters. Now, of course, I trust that Mathison might be able to reach back into his experience and find another such dubious example, but is it at all rational (or charitable) to index a tendency to a position that nicely comports with the opposite tendency, in this case liberty of consicence? At the very least, if the conscience-binding theonomist was debating a Muslim, wouldn't it be equally irrational for a Buddhist to attribute such legalism to Trinitarians?

Theonomists are generally Reformed in their theology and without contradiction affirm a robust doctrine of liberty of conscience as found in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Amusingly enough, probably the furthest Christian “stripe” from theonomy is dispensationalism and as far as I know, the greatest emphasis on scheduled feeding that has come forth in the evangelical church was brought to us by the “Growing Kids God’s Way” curriculum created by dispensationalists Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo while attending Grace Community Church, whose pastor is Dr. John MacArthur. Since I have known several dispensationalists that would passionately defend “scheduled feeding” as the biblical position and since we can trace the roots of this idea to a dispensationalist, maybe we should attribute this one theonomist's tendency to his living within a kingdom that is filled with dispensationlists. No, that would not be right. In fact, it's always wrong to arbitrarily pin sinful tendencies on groups of people with whom we have some apparent axe to grind. Shame on you, Keith Mathison.

Mathison also writes:

VanDrunen is right in his rejection of theonomy and in his rejection of the misguided practice of confusing Christianity with civil religion (American or otherwise).

Mathison describes “civil religion” thusly:

There are far too many Christians who are confusing biblical Christianity with civil religion. The Patriot’s Bible is merely one of the more recent and disturbing (if not blasphemous) examples of this kind of confusion. I have been in church services where the American flag surrounded the pulpit, the Pledge of Allegiance rather than the Creed was recited, the National Anthem rather than a Psalm or hymn was sung, and a political platform rather than the Word of God was preached. I love my country, but this kind of thing is a serious problem. I appreciate the insistence of two kingdoms proponents that these things should not be confused.

Mathison is at best uninformed and is not being truthful. Theonomy does not embrace what Mathison calls “civil religion”. Nor does the theonomic thesis lend itself to any tendency of substituting man's opinions for God's; though I can understand such a tendency of substituting man's opinions for God's word springing from a radical 2K theology given its emphasis on the wax nose of natural law.

In the final analyses, Mathison has simply demonstrated himself to be careless if not also uncharitable, but it would be hasty of me to conclude that all non-theonomists are as muddled as Mathison has demonstrated himself to be, at least on this particular matter.

On a somewhat related matter:

For a more thoroughly presuppositional treatment of natural law as it relates to culture, see John Frame’s article. I’d also recommend John Frame’s critique of Van Drunen’s work on natural law.

It remains a mystery to me how this natural law craze can attract mature Christians, but it has always been mysterious to me how a mature believer could favor an outright autonomous approach to apologetics as opposed to the nuclear strength approach that entails a revelational epistemology and presuppositional defense of the faith. I'm convinced that these matters cannot be ones of pure intellect, but rather I find them to have grave spiritual implications.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Radical 2K & Theonomy

In Reformed circles there is a growing infatuation with “natural law” and radical two kingdom (R2K) theology. The soil from which this weed grows is in my estimation Escondido, California, but like the kudzu, it's growing everywhere.

There's a discussion on 2K and civil law on GreenBaggins, which can be found here. My contributions to that discussion are contained below. I have bowed out of the discussion. Dr. Darryl Hart is one of the persons I interact with in the thread. I also interact a fair amount with someone who for all intents and purposes seems to share the typical R2K thinking that is infecting portions of the Reformed church. The comments of those I interact with are indented.
For example, it is worth considering that the 2k position is more consistent with our (biblical) doctrine of justification by faith.

David, would you mind, or anybody for that matter, fleshing that out a bit more. Darryl wrote me something that sounds very similar to that today if I may say.
Ron, Doug’s last couple of entries I think help make a point. On the one hand, you re-produced (#813) what was evidently a response to me in September which rightly lamented the Christian Nation stuff that eminated from Coral Ridge. On the other, you’re getting plaudits from Doug who seems to sound pretty Christian Nation-y in a Coral Ridge-ish sort of way. So it becomes hard to see how the outlook you basically champion doesn’t give rise to that which you also lament. I trust you see the conundrum from a pc-2k point of view.


I’m glad I went back and saw that post of yours on the other thread. I trust I’m to try to address it here rather than there.

I’ll begin with an analogy. If it doesn’t work for you, please let it go. It’s only meant to help clarify a point; I’m not trying to build a case upon it. There are 5-point Calvinists out there that believe witnessing is a waste of time and that when a believer receives Christ he is merely bringing his eternal justification to his consciousness, but I wouldn’t want to impugn TULIP with such silliness and neither would you. People run head strong into error though they begin with true doctrine. In the like manner, the Coral Ridge Christian-nationalism does not represent my position on the civil law as it relates with the rest of Scripture. Frankly, it infuriates me to put it mildly. I don’t see that as a conundrum though, at least not for me. It might be something that must be explained a bit more, but how many times have we Calvinists had to explain why we pray and witness in light of God’s eternal, unchangeable decree? Enough with the analogy.

I believe these are compatible theologies, (a) our Kingdom is not of this world and (b) rapists ought to be put to death. Mind you, I’m not defending theonomy here. I’m merely pointing out that upholding the equity of the case law is not at odds with the primacy of the gospel, the mission of the church.

More about me.. In brief, I take great comfort that our kingdom is not of this world. I live in the re-creation, the church, and by God’s grace enjoy with you the inaugurated kingdom that awaits consummation. In that context, in the church that is (and hopefully in our respective homes too!), we see and enjoy God’s display of unity and plurality (i.e. harmony) progressively maturing and reflecting the Trinity and our ultimate Sabbath rest. This realty is fact, not fancy. It needs to be reckoned as fact and seen through the eye of faith, but it is there to behold for all whom God is pleased to illuminate. Naturally then, I am deeply saddened (you have no idea how much so) when Christians think and even try to usher in the kingdom through a concerted effort to restrain evil and reconstruct Washington. I’m saddened along with you that the pure message of the church is at sundry times and in various places at best hidden and at worst exchanged for another, which is not another but no message at all. What is equally sad to me (and I hope for you too) is that these Christians are not enjoying the wonders of the kingdom. As a Christian and elder, that breaks my heart.

Moving on… yes evil is to be restrained and although some evils can be curbed, I suppose, through the Falwell, Robertson and Kennedy types, these sorts of ministries clearly jettison the Christian message in their efforts. Consequently, ministries such as these do more harm than good. Let me repeat that. They do more harm than good! By the nature of the case they mislead, because in a very real sense they are promoting another gospel. My defense of that assertion is that if the church is to preach the gospel, then their message is to be perceived as the gospel; so when it’s not the gospel that is being preached – then naturally they mislead those who would look to them for the gospel message. Make sense?

Wrapping this up… in an effort to make disciples of all nations, we aren’t to lead with the civil law but with the moral law (as a backdrop) and the gospel (as the solution). That doesn’t mean we ought not to vote for candidates that will govern according to biblical principles so that we can live peaceable lives in the Kingdom. Indeed we should, but that’s very secondary and it is certainly not the church’s place to stand behind any candidate or party, as if any candidate or party could represent the Christian church. With all that as absolute bedrock for me, when it comes to the question of what types of laws I think ought to be legislated, my views are clear and need not be rehearsed here. Yet notwithstanding, my convictions on what ought to be the case has little bearing on my day-to-day life as a husband, father, elder, friend, or business man. (It doesn’t even dictate my eschatology, for “ought” does not imply “will”.) The only reason I speak up on these matters (and on matters having to do with apologetics) is not because these are high on my fun / priority list (they’re far from it in fact), but rather it is because I believe that the church is in need of spokespeople who love and embrace the general equity of the civil case laws while also realizing that those doctrinal distinctives pale insignificant to the already-not-yet reality that pertains to the Kingdom from which the gospel of reconciliation and forgiveness is to go forth. The two views are compatible, but unfortunately they are not always regarded as such.

Finally, I don’t believe that Coral Ridge shares my view of the civil case laws. Not in the least. I think they’re arbitrary nationalists that would never dare justify civil code with OT precepts. I do believe that there are many Christians out there that do agree with me on the place for the case laws, but should they choose to lead with reconstruction over gospel transformation I will run for cover just like you. Again, our Kingdom is not of this world and that’s where I live my life (my family, ministry and fellowship). That being said, if someone asks me should a rapist get ten years (or 180 years!) and a chance for parole, I’ll say no. I’ll plead with such a criminal to be saved and labor with him in his cell, but at the end of the day I’ll be the first to call for his execution. Strange – maybe, conundrum – I don’t think so. I believe God’s precepts require death for such a transgression and that settles it for me. I, also, believe such sanctions will deter other would-be rapists. Finally, I believe such a penality is a means to protect other would-be victims. But again, my sole reason is not the good I believe might come from it, though that can be a comfort, rather it is because with all my heart I believe that God’s precepts require that a rapist be put to death, just like his precepts require that we try to win such a one to the Savior before throwing the switch. My brother, I’m tired and not inclined to discuss this too much further, but I wanted to give a more exhaustive answer to what I think is a confusing point for so many Christian brothers (and sisters).

I’ll end with this… I witnessed to this man in prison; with my wife visited and prayed with his wife and children; and I attended his funeral. My love for Mr. Miller was, I believe, consistent with what I believe he deserved. I’m quite certain that serving a 180 year prison sentence was not God’ revealed will.

Grace and peace,

The fact is that we have to do this work of promoting justice with those who do not recognize special revelation.


My point is that all men are to desire such laws because they reflect the thinking, precepts and wisdom of God. You find a logistical problem at work, but that problem pertains to the implementation of such laws, which is not germane to the question of whether such laws ought to be desired by the Christian and legislated by congress. You’re saying with that particular rejoinder that the laws are no good because they aren’t feasible, whereas I’m arguing that they should be our desire whether they’re feasible or not. It’s not a question of whether we think such ideas can make it into law but whether individuals should desire to be governed by such a standard.
And, again, as I’ve argued in the other thread, this isn’t at all to say that special revelation mayn’t be referenced. But it does seem to me that God has provided sufficient material in general revelation to do this work without having to pull out special revelation.

Your point, to quote you from the other thread, is that general revelation offers enough revelation in order for us to live in a “non-chaotic” world, which I’m afraid misses the point of the theonomist. For one thing, your standard of what is non-chaotic and mine are different, so degree of chaos can never answer the dispute over whether general revelation relieves chaos. In passing I’ll note that there will be chaotic government in hell but won’t there be a general revelation of God? Consequently, general revelation doesn’t relieve chaos so let’s not attribute non-chaos to general revelation. For what it’s worth, what deters chaos is not general revelation but providence. In any case, even if everyone agreed on what defines chaos, it is irrelevant to the question of how things ought to be. It’s not a question of what one thinks can be pulled off, or whether the degree or lack of chaos suits our subjective sense of balance. Rather, it’s a question of what men are to aspire to with respect to God’s precepts. You keep speaking of what is sufficient to meet your subjective view of “good enough”, but the question we’re to be asking is not what our opinion is but rather what is God’s opinion on the matter.
Don’t you think you can get the sort of justice you think is in keeping with godliness by appealing to natural law?

I find the justice in this world quite ungodly, but that’s irrelevant too. Even if all the laws on the books mysteriously reflected the code I have in mind, without an appeal to special revelation they’d be unjustifiable in an ultimate sense and arguably tyrannical by the nature of the case. It would just be one man (or group of men) inflicting subjective opinions upon others without divine permission or justification. Moreover, the Author of the code would not be receiving the homage He deserves in the matter and that should be no small concern for the Christian. Even human authors get footnoted from time to time.
If so, I don’t see how you’ll persuade anybody who isn’t implicitly convinced that rapists should be executed by simply writing it explicitly on the board.

There are many laws on the books that I don’t agree with but I must live under them. That’s because persuasion of every person is not a necessary condition for laws to be implemented. In any case, persuasion is God’s business not mine. My business is to desire laws that are pleasing in God’s sight and to affect my sphere of influence regarding the implementation of such laws. If and when we get such laws on the books – it will be on God’s time table, not ours.
That’s like a Muslim trying to tell me that he thinks thieves should have their right hands sliced off, and when I am unconvinced he pulls out the Koran. Yeah, so?

Correct, you should not be persuaded by such a defense, but that’s because the Koran is not God’s word. But a Muslim is responsible to be persuaded by the word of God. God’s word and not the Koran is a true justification for laws whether people are persuaded or not. If righteous laws are rejected in the face of God’s testimony, then so be it. If the code of which I speak is received into law and only the Christians see the beauty of it, that’s even better. Our task is to desire and influence change. We are not to use as our justification only those things the other person will accept as valid. Because some people suppress the self-attesting God-breathed Word is not a reason to forgo an appeal to it in the civil realm. Are we to forgo absolute logic when dealing with a relativistic skeptic? (I’m a presuppositionalist, not an evidentialist as you can well guess.)

If you were not discussing the civil code but rather the final judgment with a Muslim, would you appeal to the Sermon on the Mount to show the Muslim he has violated the meaning of God’s holy law? If yes, then why not use the Word to refute the idea that thieves ought not to lose their hand for steeling a loaf of bread? However, if you would limit yourself to general revelation, you would be constrained to say that steeling a loaf of bread deserves eternal damnation. In which case, the Muslim can turn to you and say, “Well, since we can’t cast men into hell, we might as well cut their hands off now!” You see Zrim, general revelation is impotent with respect to governing ourselves in a fallen world because general revelation communicates judgment for all transgressions. Ironically to some, theonomy enables us to justify lesser penalties for lesser crimes.
Spiritually, the Bible is concerned for exact justice, and that is what all the OT laws and prophets were about, and Jesus was the fulfillment of all of it.

Jesus said he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. Whatever you want to interpret “fulfill” as meaning, please don’t let the statement contradict itself. It would seem that your interpretation is that Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to abolish the law, which is a contradiction. Fulfill can mean many things, such as give us the fuller meaning of the law; or it could have to do with obeying the law perfectly. It could, also, mean that the law points to Christ. I have my view on the matter but in any case, fulfilling cannot mean abolish for the simple reason that Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law. Moreover, if you wish to take fulfill as abolish, then that would mean he abolished the moral law as well, in which case you prove too much.
Why use a text that is concerned for spiritual exactness for a task that is about civil approximation? Doesn’t pressing the Bible so defined into a civil cause so defined actually do harm to the plight of the Bible? That is, doesn’t it obscure what the Bible is all about?… Again, I affirm what I think is your concern for justice, but I oppose your method since it is a way that obscures the very heart of the gospel.

These laws were on the books for 1500 years before Christ. Did the law during that time “obscure what the Bible [was] all about?” If the equity of the civil code obscures the gospel, then it obscured the gospel under Moses. Accordingly, if you’re right that a theonomic civil code obscures the gospel, then you have a greater desire not to obscure the gospel than God did when he gave the law. That should give you reason to pause I would think. It should tell you that the desire for implementation of such laws cannot be argued away by the primacy of the gospel.

Since your point is a pragmatic one I’ll continue with some pragmatism of my own. What I think is that the gospel as a solution works best against the problem men have, which is accentuated by the moral law, out of which the civil law comes. Moreover, to justify a civil code with God’s word is to remind all men everywhere that there is an ultimate law giver who is the Judge over all. From there we may best show how God is just and the justifier – the one who judges and acquits in Christ.

You think that the law obscures the main message of the Bible, but certainly the main message of the Bible under Moses wasn’t civil law but rather it was God’s works of creation, providence and grace, was it not? Accordingly, this particular reason you raise for not wanting such laws today should by your standard be a sound reason to have not wanted the same laws under Moses. I also hear anti-theonomists argue against the laws in this manner: “So you would have such and such a person put to death…” All that tells me is that the person saying such a thing finds the law too harsh if not obscene, but I don’t see a reason why such a one would not also find the same laws equally obscene under Moses. How do satisfaction, propitiation, expiation and reconciliation turn wisdom into foolishness? In other words, how does the cross make the civil laws given to Israel (over night no less) repulsive to some, or are these laws intrinsically repulsive to some? I pray not. Accordingly, it is never under good regulation to argue against such laws because they appear harsh to our ears.
Jesus’ own hermeneutic here is to say that the Bible is all about him, all about the fulfillment of the law and prophets. To reach back into the law and prophets to do anything but point us to Jesus is to point us away from Jesus.

Ah, but to desire to have ourselves governed by the standards put forth by the King of Kings who is the Word become flesh is to think Christ’s thoughts after him and to yield to his epistemic Lordship. I do well not to desire anything in the realm of civil rule than the standard God desired for those who would follow him.
I know you affirm that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the law and prophets, but it seems to me that your left hand doesn’t realize what the right is doing. There are times when that’s a good thing, but in this instance it’s actually a way to say that you’re getting in the way of your own good confession.

I grasp your opinion on the matter now please receive mine. It would seem to me that you are placing your wisdom with respect to what is good for the gospel above God’s. Your arguments seem to be that the implementation of such laws don’t seem feasible to you, and that they eclipse the main message of Scripture. I hope I dealt with those objections at least in some measure.

I don’t know what more there is to say other than,

Best wishes,


My main concern about “theonomic” as a label is that people have associated that term with things like re-instituting the dietary laws, which someone like Calvin would never have assented to.


Real quick – I don’t want to take you away from what you’re doing on this thread. Just one point though… These people that associate dietary laws with theonomy are simply uninformed. Given the magnitude of their misunderstanding, I wouldn’t be too concerned with accepting the label in fear of being thought of as adhering to dietary laws. Theonmists appreciate that the separation from clean and unclean meats (for instance) was symbolic and pointed to the principle to separate from the gentiles, which is a principle that has been abrogated and with it the dietary symbolism. (Lev. 20; Acts 10; Romans 14:17) The NT application is separation from unbelief and compromise (2 Cor. 6) in the realm of spiritual yoking, whether in worship or marriage.


When it is pointed out to them that Jesus and the Apostles did not speak out against Roman policies, did not give the church a mandate to bring the OT law to bear on governments, etc… it is called an argument from silence.


Both sides argue from silence. Theonomists say that the NT in no way abrogates the principles that are to govern civil life for a godly nation and non-theonomists argue that the NT in no away affirms the precepts for nations that we find in the OT. Neither side has from the NT an explict instruction or good and necessary inference for their position. If you have such evidence for your position, then please produce it.

A word or two about arguments from silence is in order. A Reformed hermeneutic advises that God’s word is binding in precept until he determines otherwise either by explicit instruction or good and necessary inference. Accordingly, I don’t need to look in the NT for an affirmation of the justification that beastiality is sin. It’s never been abrogated so my justification for this assertion is to be found in the OT.

Finally, it’s a bit vague to say that the church was not mandated to bring the OT civil laws to bear upon civil magistrates. I’m not sure what you mean by bringing such instruction to bear, but I do know that the church is to preach the whole counsel of God with a proper balance. If there is a continued validity for the OT civil case laws, then the church is to preach that message in its proper place, yet without majoring on minors.

So you don’t put up another post like the one I just referenced, I hope you will respond with some contraints. When I ask you to produce evidence for good and necessary inference or explicit instruction for abrogation of the relevance of the case laws, I’m expecting something quite different from you than simply your opinion that if Jesus and the apostles wanted such laws to be observed today they would have said so.

For you to get from the observations that you already voiced to the grand conclusion that the civil case laws are not to be observed today in their general equity you will have to assume, just as you have, that Jesus and the apostles have to repeat principles and precepts for them to remain binding, which makes beastiality acceptable and infant baptism unacceptable. Yet such an hermeneutic is unworkable, and not one that you live under with any consistency. At the very least, 2 Timothy 3:16 is pretty broad in its application. It teaches us that all Scripture does not need to be repeated for it to remain profitable. It teaches us that all Scripture…. is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. That would include the OT case laws.

From Darryl Hart:
Ron, the NT does talk about the magistrate and it says nothing like what the OT says. Rom 13 is obviously a place to go. If Paul were expecting the magistrate to enforce laws like Israel was called to do, don’t you think he would have said it?

No, I don’t think he needed to address it in Romans 13. That he didn’t doesn’t afford you good and necessary inference, as I’ve argued with Todd. There was already a lot said in the OT and as I also noted to Todd, Paul stated that all Scripture is profitable…Gotta board the plane…
Ron, I’ll say it again, since Paul spent so much time addressing the differences between Jews and Gentiles, and also said that Gentile were not bound by Israelite norms, then his instruction in Rom 13 is hardly a reaffirmation of OT civil laws.

Hi Darryl,

You continue to presuppose that Romans 13 must affirm theonomy in order for theonomy to be a biblical paradigm, but that’s an arbitrary assertion you have yet to defend. We need to be careful in requiring, if not demanding, that God reveal his precepts in a way that satisfies us. I would urge you to consider just a few passages of Scripture that speak to this very point.

Mark 10:17-18: When a rich young ruler called Jesus good, he neither affirmed nor denied that he possessed that quality of person but instead said nobody is good but God. Depending upon one’s pre-commitment it might be inferred that Jesus was not good and, therefore, not God; yet the text neither affirms nor denies either conclusion.

Acts 1:6, 7: When the apostles asked Jesus whether he was at that time going to restore the kingdom to Israel, he neither affirmed nor denied such an intention but instead said that it was not for them to know the times or epochs that the Father has fixed by his own authority. Dispensationalists, given their pre-commitment to a restored national Israel, infer from the answer a confirmation of their theology, that the kingdom will be restored. Notwithstanding, no logical conclusion can be deduced from the text with respect to the restoration Israel’s kingdom.

John 21:20-22: When Peter asked Jesus whether John would be alive at the time of Jesus’ return Jesus told him that if he wanted John to remain until such time it was no business of Peter’s. Jesus then put to Peter his task, which was to follow Jesus. Jesus’ answer did not logically imply that John would remain or not, let alone whether Jesus would even return one day! The answer even caused a rumor among the brethren that John would not die (John 21:23). John in this very epistle (same verse: 23) remarked on the unjustified inference that caused the rumor: “Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?’”

There are many more examples but the point should be obvious. We cannot logically deduce that which is not deducible. But more importantly, we may not require that God give us answers in the places we want to find them. That is to put God to the test.

In the final analyses, if we could deduce that Romans 13 demands the repudiation of theonomy, then I would think that a syllogism to that end, comprised of premises that don’t beg crucial questions, could be constructed rather readily from the text. At the end of the day, using Romans 13 to refute theonomy is on par with concluding that (a) Jesus was not a teacher sent from God; (b) Jesus was not good and, therefore, not God; (c) Jesus intended to establish Israel as a political power but failed with the passing of John. It’s not only irrational to make such leaps in reason, it’s reckless.

The destruction of Israel and Jerusalem which Christ foretold and which the apostles witnessed certainly did not lead to revelations of how to re-institute Israel and Jerusalem, as if Constantinople is the capital city in exile.

God is done with Israel as the only nation under God. Now all nations are to receive King Jesus as their sovereign, which is consistent with the Abrahamic covenant and the great commission. The Lord Jesus is not merely head of the church but Lord over the nations; so just as elders are to rule on his behalf according to his word, so are kings. There need not be additional revelation on this matter of the law for all Scripture (and that would include the civil case laws) are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

So I don’t see in your view how you recognize what the confession says that the gospel under the church is administered with more simplicity and less outward glory than in Israel (WCF 7.6).

It’s remarkable to me that you don’t see how I can reconcile the simplicity of the outward administration of the covenant under the gospel dispensation with an objective standard by which rulers should govern. Maybe you might show a logical contradiction between less outward glory in the administration of the covenant of grace and civil laws that reflect the thinking of God.

Best regards,

Ron (#143), then what is the point of Romans 13:1-7? This is the question you never really seem to address. Your point seems to be, “Whatever it means, it doesn’t mean the magistrate shouldn’t utilize the OT case laws to do his job.”


The passage you cite instructs believers how they are to live in a fallen world and consequently in subjection to fallible leaders.
Maybe you’re right. But it seems to me the plain reading is that the magistrate God appoints is our source for political and legislative arrangements—not the OT case laws.

I don’t know. This seems terribly simplistic to me. Indeed, the magistrate is in place “for political and legislative arrangements” but that only defines whose job it is to make laws, policy etc. The ordination of rulers, however, does not inform us (or them) of the standard by which they should govern, but some standard must be presupposed if they are accountable to God to rule well. If the standard is general revelation, then they could not distinguish which transgressions are worthy of punishment. Are we to believe that God gives the awesome power to execute creatures made in his image without also making available a revelation of which type crimes warrant the death penalty? It’s hard for me to imagine that if you were King of your own nation you would you presume to look outside God’s civil law to determine who should be put to death, but maybe you would. At the very least, if kings were not required to rule according to the case laws, why wouldn’t it be a good desire, pleasing to God, to turn to that alleged obsolete word of wisdom anyway?

The question of by what standard magistrates are to govern is not in view in Romans 13. So neither you nor I may build a case for or against theonomy from Romans 13. Note well, however, that there is nothing in the text that suggests that magistrates are free before God to govern any which way they please. Certainly God has some opinion on which transgressions are to be punished by civil magistrates and what those sanctions should be. The burden of proof would seem to be on you to show that such a detailed provision should be found in the NT, let alone in Romans 13 since the NT tells us that all Scripture including the case laws are profitable for instruction etc.



My dear Brothers,

I’m going to stop posting on this matter for various reasons. 1) I don’t think I can add anything more to the discussion. 2) Although this matter is somewhat important, it always seems to generate more heat than light. 3) When we focus on any matter with such intensity, we begin to lose perspective on what is most important, God’s glory in the gospel.

Yours in Him,


Darryl Hart's last post to me:
Ron, I know you’ve pulled out, but I don’t think you caught part of my point. The Jewish Christians knew the OT code for the magistrate. But Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. And since he had to do a lot of explaining about whether or not circumcision still applied, you’d think he’d supply a little political theology to those new to the covenant. But he did not.

And the Reformed hermeneutic is let the clear passages interpret the less clear. Rom. 13 is fairly clear about what believers may or may not expect from a ruler — a pretty nefarious ruler at that. And since much of what Paul writes to Christians about observing the OT is that it has passed away, I don’t see how the civil polity of Israel is exempt.

But if your point is simply that the magistrate should enforce both tables, then that would fit more with the difference I am arguing for here. At the same time, since you are arguing for theonomy, that seems to bite off a lot more of the OT than the decalogue can chew — so to speak
I didn't bother to respond to Darryl Hart on GreenBaggins. Had he said something new, or at least interacted with my objection of his demands of God, maybe I would have. I'll simply say here that it's remarkable to me that Dr. Hart's arguments are based upon things like:

"you’d think" it would have been this way...

"Rom 13 is obviously a place to go."

"If Paul were expecting the magistrate to enforce laws like Israel was called to do, don’t you think he would have said it?"

"...his instruction in Rom 13 is hardly a reaffirmation of OT civil laws..."
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