Monday, June 27, 2011

Radical 2 Kingdom & The "General Equity" of the Law

The Westminster standards teach that the general equity of the civil code given to ancient Israel is still binding upon civil magistrates today. When it comes to the execution of blasphemers radical 2 Kingdom (R2K) proponents will assert that the general equity for the death penalty under Moses is now excommunication from the church. A popular proponent of the R2K movement posted me a while back saying:

"Since you continue to insist on general equity, what is the general equity of executing blasphemers (Deut, 7 Deut; 13)? I haven’t heard where you go with that or how it might apply to the Christian magistrates treatment of Mormons and Jews. I believe that the general equity is excommunication."
It’s hard to imagine that such thinking has received a place within the Reformed community and even on some Reformed sessions.

That the church has a responsibility to deal with sin does not imply that the state does not. In fact, it is a common fallacy to argue for a repeal of directives that pertain to the state from directives that pertain to the church. One could just as well argue that the state should not discipline professing-Christian rapists because the church should censure them. It's rather apparent, is it not (?), that under the guise of preserving the general equity of civil sanctions, R2K proponents would prefer to see them replaced without remainder.

Maybe R2K proponents would like to distinguish for the rest of us how their view of applying the general equity of the civil case laws differs from an outright abrogation of those laws. If their view of "general equity" is for all intents and purposes no different than abrogation, then why should their interpretation of " general equity" seam plausible and confessional? The church doesn't need the "general equity" of the civil case laws to know it should censure blasphemers. Consequently, since the church apart from the case laws already has exhaustive instructions on spiritual matters pertaining to censure - how can it be maintained that the case laws are not indeed abrogated given that they are rendered useless under such an R2K interpretation of the Westminster standards? If the case laws no longer apply to the civil magistrates and are no longer to resemble the original penal sanctions in any respect, how can it be maintained that they are to be preserved in their general equity? R2K is not an affirmation of the preservation of the general equity of the civil case laws but a blatant denial of it.

It is simply arbitrary (and hazardous) to operate under the principle that one is not accountable to the state because he is accountable to the church. There was excommunication under the older economy, a “cutting off” (an exile of sorts), that was not accompanied by OT execution. Yet in God’s wisdom both were operative, presumably with distinct purposes. Accordingly, it seems a bit dubious that excommunication is equitable to execution, if for no other reason than the translation does not preserve the general equity of the civil sanction! The two aren’t even close to being equitable because, at the very least, repentance lifts the penalty of excommunication, which was not the case for capital crimes under the older economy.

Let’s not pretend any longer, shall we? By collapsing execution into excommunication the general equity of the sanction is not preserved but rather obliterated. But R2K proponents cannot admit that because in their autonomous thinking and quest for civil pluralism they also fancy themselves as the keepers of the Confession, while too often being historically inaccurate and theologically incorrect.

Now I have not argued here that public blasphemy is a crime punishable by death (though I am certain it is). The point I am making here is not that blasphemers should be put to death (for treason in God’s universe), but that it is a farce (and serious falsehood) to suggest that one may harmoniously affirm R2K and the Westminster standards. It is one thing to take exception to the Westminster standards and quite another thing to promote a misinterpretation of those standards. My Baptist and Arminian brethren do so all the time, take exception to the Reformed standards. However, their practice pales insignificant to those who would take exception to the Confession while claiming they don’t.

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Tim said...

Ron: Your point is well taken. These guys are not confessional and they no less lie about their confession than do those who crept into the PCUSA and destroyed that denomination. I am not saying that these people have denied the gospel or anything like that, but they are liars just the same and are not to be trusted.

Anonymous said...


Maybe they are just dull? Seriously, that could be the case. The reason I think so is that they put their arguments out there for everyone to see (and laugh at).

Reformed Apologist said...

Tim - "lie" is beyond your ability to discern. I am convinced though that there is "dull" reasoning as Anonymous suggests, but given the degree of dullness in the face of clear arguments, I remain open to the idea that such dullness could be judicial, a frightening thought indeed. If one ignores the facts and refuses to treat the opposing biblical position according to its tenets, there can be what appears to be an increase of dullness, which would be due to an obstinate unwillingness to be truthful. We find this dynamic at work with professing atheists.

john_wesley1 said...


I see many problems with Zrim over at Baggins. 1. He doesn't know the difference between common grace that restrains and converting grace that transforms. 2. Even if one single person becomes "better" through conversion, then the world is a better place. Now multiply that by thousands of conversions. If the converted person is a father, then an entire family is more blessed... 3. That the church is in bad shape (something that you never denied)true converts are always better off than they were. 4. Does Zrim really think that there are more abortions taking place within the church than outside? 5. Does he really think that converted men are no different after conversion?

Reformed Apologist said...


Zrim's problem could be that he's just stubborn and not truthful. His point, I hope, is that the church is in a sorry condition and that it's not as good as he perceives me to think it is. Of course, I never rendered a subjective opinion on the state of the church. All I noted is that objective truth that biblical salvation changes people for the good. Maybe he's seen no transformation in his own life. Or maybe he's just so obsessed with the legal aspect of justification that he doesn't understand what biblical salvation entails. It's hard to say why he's so blind to reason.

Reformed Apologist said...

I'm now taking note of something Anonymous said. Guys, nobody is a "moron" etc. Yes, I too marvel at how such nonsense is "paraded." I've said that to these guys for many years. What I have found is that some of these Protestants are very much like the Romanists out there. They have a certain play book that they parrot from, but they haven't internalized much of anything - not even their own position. So naturally, when challenged they cannot think on their feet. That's, also, why they show themselves incapable of drawing any sort of distinctions. Yes, they are "dull" in reasoning but not in every area of life I trust. The reason they struggle here is because either they really don't understand the very basics or else they are unwilling to address the real position that is before them. In any case, they appear over their head and terribly foolish. In many ways, they are the best spokespeople for theonomy. They misrepresent the opposing position, which is obvious to most, and even deny what God does in sanctifying grace.

Let's give it a rest, shall we?

Anonymous said...

Ron, I need not say more but this is worth repeating. Well done!

Reformed Apologist said...

Thanks, A.

Steve said...

Wow, feel the charity.

But, John Wesley, what could this possibly mean: “Does Zrim really think that there are more abortions taking place within the church than outside?”

I’m pretty sure there are very few abortions happening within the Mormon church, despite very little conversion. Same for any devout false religious group. If a view and practice on abortion is your measure (yawn) then have you ever heard of “godless and secular pro-lifers”? See links below. They sound a lot like religious pro-lifers. And I’m willing to bet there is about as much abortion going on with these folks as there are with the truly converted. Do you guys really think faith is what is needed to have a hold on morality or the ethics of life? Ron, this is the sort of reasoning I am talking about when I talk about Christians being conceited. I may be “blind to reason” but is that much worse than being conceited about ability to figure ethics out? Heavens to Murgatroyd.


Reformed Apologist said...

Nobody is suggesting that any particular Christian is better than any particular non-Christian but rather, what is being argued is that any particular person is a better person as a Christian than as a non-Christian, which is something your literal words have denied over and over again. I'd like to attribute your denial of biblical sanctification to a lack of ability to express yourself than a lack of actual conviction.



Steve said...

Ron, I have not denied that sanctification occurs. The point I have tried to make is that it is more conservative than progressive. It is characterized more by faith than by sight. It is more mysterious than known. It doesn’t have the immediate cash value you seem to presume. What do you think it means to say that even only the holiest amongst us have but a small beginning of obedience in this life? Maybe you think the Heidelberg has a hard time articulating itself? But I don’t know how you get around an implied conceit by contending that a believer is a better human being than when he was an unbeliever. Why not say he is justified and being sanctified?

But John Wesley’s point seems to be that we can measure whether Christians are better people than non-Christians by the frequency of abortions in either camp. Does he really think there are more abortions going on within the fundamentalist Muslim world?

Reformed Apologist said...

"But I don’t know how you get around an implied conceit by contending that a believer is a better human being than when he was an unbeliever. Why not say he is justified and being sanctified?"


Is a man better if he loves God yet imperfectly than if he hates God without reservation? The former is the convert, whereas the latter is the unbeliever.



Reformed Apologist said...

Does he really think there are more abortions going on within the fundamentalist Muslim world?


It is fallacious to compare one person to another, or one culture to another. What we must compare is the same person with himself, before and after conversion. People don't become worse upon conversion and nobody remains constant, consequently men become better upon conversion.

Don P said...

Isn't there a difference in the administration of the new covenant from the old? And isn't one of those that the covenant is no longer administered through a nation or civil government and civil laws?

So the visible church is now the vehicle for the administration of the covenant. But the church is multi national and not a government or able to legislate national laws.
It functions within what ever laws that state has.
It may have a duty to 1st call the officials to obedience to the moral law of god and to support the church and freedom of the gospel, it may even tell the officials they should make laws consistent with the general equity of the OT civil laws.
But the church only administers as church and therefore the church does not apply the general equity of the OT civil laws as civil sanctions. Therefore it uses discipline and excommunication and leaves any civil penalty to the government.
Now should the church recommend to the civil government that they stone disobedient children and heretics and adulterers? Or should it recommend something else with the general equity of that, or should it leave it to the civil government to do as it pleases?

General equity therefore means that the church looks to the OT laws and sees a general principle and the equity it teaches as a guide for its lifestyle and obedience to God and church discipline.
But the church does not apply or enforce civil law.