Chapter 19.4 of the Westminster Confession of Faith

Central to any discussion of whether or not theonomy is confessional (at least with regard to the WCF) is WCF 19.4. Here is what that section says:

To them (Israel, LK) also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

One must first ask the question of what “general equity” means. Whatever it means, it cannot refer to the entirety of the judicial laws. Otherwise, nothing “expired” whatsoever. Also senseless would be the statement “not obliging any other now” if general equity meant the whole of the judicial law. The impression that is given here is that general equity is considerably smaller than the judicial law. To say that general equity equals the entirety of the judicial law makes mince-meat of this section of the WCF.

So, if is not equal to the judicial law, then what does the phrase mean? We must look to context to see what that means. It is helpful here to see that the WCF regards Israel as the church under age (19.3). Now, let me be clear. I think that modern governments should rule justly, and in defining what is just, I use the Ten Commandments. It seems to me that many theonomists give us two choices: either be autonomous from God and have a civil government that has no relation to the law of God; or, conversely, have a theonomic government that governs according to all the judicial laws of the Old Testament. However, is there not a third option? Can not a government rule according to the Ten Commandments, but not according to all the Old Testament judicial regulations? That would not be autonomy, since it is based on God’s law, not man’s. At the point of law and determining what is just, I have more than a little sympathy for what theonomy has to say. Are we choosing man’s law or God’s? Which one is righteous? To ask the question is to answer it. However, the Ten Commandments simply do not apply the same way in the New Testament in all circumstances as they did in the Old Testament. And here is where I differ with theonomists, and this is where I feel they caricature the non-theonomic position most badly. There is no room in most theonomic minds for a government that rules according to the Ten Commandments, but not according to the Israel-specific judicial law. That is not even a possibility. I have yet to see a theonomic reckoning with this position. Therefore I interpret the term “general equity” to mean what comports with the Ten Commandments in a non-Israelite setting. Indeed, one could also equate the term “general equity” with the second use of the law, which is to restrain evil in the world. I do not feel that theonomic positions have interpreted WCF 19.4 correctly.

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98 Comments

  1. tim prussic said,

    October 28, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Pastor, I’m sympathetic with your analysis and am happy to engage. I also think that defeating caricatures of other positions don’t do much good. But that goes all directions, no?

    First, the 10 Commandments don’t stand by themselves. They’re defined and applied in the case laws. The Decalogue is broad and encompasses much. The case laws get down to more concrete examples of how the broader principles of the Decalogue apply.

    Second, the problem of broad principles and specific applications is at the heart of judicial and civil laws. It’s one thing to talk about the Decalogue guiding civil affairs, but it’s quite another to make it work in this and that situation. We need the applicational principles of the civil case law to apply the general principles of the Decalogue to the civil realm. This would be my current understanding of “general equity.” The particulars of the application might change from state to state and age to age, but the civil principles concerning how the state is to rule over the people still apply.

  2. October 28, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    “One must first ask the question of what “general equity” means. Whatever it means, it cannot refer to the entirety of the judicial laws. Otherwise, nothing “expired” whatsoever. Also senseless would be the statement “not obliging any other now” if general equity meant the whole of the judicial law. The impression that is given here is that general equity is considerably smaller than the judicial law. To say that general equity equals the entirety of the judicial law makes mince-meat of this section of the WCF.”

    Absolutely correct; but Theonomy does not teach that THE WHOLE JUDICIAL LAW remains binding, only the parts of the judicial law which are part of the moral law.

    “Now, let me be clear. I think that modern governments should rule justly, and in defining what is just, I use the Ten Commandments.”

    The Ten Commandments don’t tell us what is crime or how crime should be punished justly; instead they are merely a summary of the WHOLE moral law which is expounded throughout the rest of the Bible. To define crime, we must look to the parts of the Bible which define crime and apply them to modern society.

    “However, is there not a third option? Can not a government rule according to the Ten Commandments, but not according to all the Old Testament judicial regulations?”

    Again, if Theonomy was defined properly, there would be no conflict here.

  3. October 28, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    “There is no room in most theonomic minds for a government that rules according to the Ten Commandments, but not according to the Israel-specific judicial law.”

    Yes, because we are not bound by “Israel specific” judicial law any further than the general equity thereof may require.

    However, prove that the PENAL SANCTIONS (generally) were only ever meant for Israel.

  4. October 28, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    In fact here is a brief extract from my doctoral thesis which answers the question of this post:

    Theonomy does not bind us to the whole Judicial Law of Moses

    Another common misconception in relation to Theonomy is that because Theonomy teaches that the Law of God remains binding in exhaustive detail, it is therefore presumed that the Theonomic view advocated the idea that the whole judicial law of Moses remains literally binding upon all nations. For instance, we find Christopher J.H. Wright portraying the Theonomic approach as calling for ‘a literal imitation of Israel.’ Is this an accurate representation of the Theonomy? No, because since Theonomy only teaches that the whole moral law remains binding, it recognizes that aspects of the judicial law which were either completely unique to Israel, or expressed in a manner peculiar to its circumstances, are not to be literally followed in the modern world. Greg Bahnsen argues that those laws which were unique to the land of Canaan have expired in the New Testament:

    ‘With the coming and establishment of that kingdom typified by the “promised land”, and with the removal of special kingdom privileges from the Jews by Christ, the laws regulating aspects of the land of Canaan (for example, family plots, location of cities of refuge, the levirate institution) have been laid aside in the New Testament as inapplicable.”

    Moreover it must also be recognised that the Older Testament contained various judicial (social and civil) laws particularly worded for the ancient Jewish nation; although these laws may have expired as they were literally expressed, their underlying principle of justice and fairness remains binding. Theonomists recognise that moral principles are sometimes conveyed through cultural illustrations. For instance, Greg Bahnsen points out that ‘the requirement of a rooftop railing (Deut. 22:8), relevant to entertaining on flat roofs in Palestine, teaches the underlying principle of safety precautions (e.g., fences around modern backyard swimming pools), not the obligation of placing a literal battlement upon today’s sloped roofs.’ So it is important to realise that ‘we ought not to read the case laws of the Old Testament as binding us to the literal wording utilized.’ And even a critic of Theonomy like John Frame recognised that ‘the Reconstructionists find much in the Old Testament law that we cannot follow literally today.’ Hopefully readers will now be clear about what Theonomy does not teach with respect to the abiding validity of God’s Law (i.e. the abiding validity of ceremonial laws or the literal application of aspects of the law circumstantial to Israel).

  5. Patrick said,

    October 28, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    The Tyndale Bulletin 58.2 (Nov. 2007) contains the following article, which looks quite interesting:

    God’s Law, ‘General Equity’ and the Westminster Confession of Faith
    Harold G. Cunningham (Queen’s University, Belfast)

    Summary:

    According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the only obligation now placed upon the Christian community towards the Old Testament judicial laws is one of ‘general equity’. How to interpret these words has often been discussed, mainly because of the very stringent position adopted by the Reconstruction Movement. This article reviews the development of the term ‘general equity’ in terms of English Law and its subsequent use by theologians. Because of comments by Calvin and others a study is made of the idea in the writings of Aristotle. The practical application of ‘general equity’ is not without problems, but the conclusion is drawn that it can be implemented in the sense of ‘being reasonable’.

  6. October 28, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Funny you should mention that because I am presently going through his doctoral thesis at present (its in the basement of a library in Belfast) and it is appalling. For instance, he says that Gary North “writes against the evils of capitalism”. Anyone who makes as elementary a mistake as that is not a credible critic. I would suspect that if he had written the PhD in the USA, he would not have got it, but in NI nobody knows any better.

  7. October 28, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    “I do not feel that theonomic positions have interpreted WCF 19.4 correctly.”

    To prove that objectively you must interact with primary sources both of modern Theonomists and early Reformed divines. A “feeling” which is based on misconceptions is not an objective argument. Granted there were differences of opinion among earlier divines on the modern application of the (non-Israel specific) judicial laws, but these are virtually identical to those among modern Theonomists (are all the penalties mandatory, is the death penalty for Sabbath breaking perpetual, have the penalties been modified in the NT, etc, etc).

    Moreover, for those who say a nation can be ruled justly in accordance with the Ten Commandments, but neglect Biblical penal sanctions, then who decides what constitutes a crime or how it is to be punished in a manner that is just and equitable? It is on this basis that Theonomists can accuse other Reformed Christians who are generally Theocratic of introducing autonomy into Christian civil ethics. However, such autonomy is not in the same category as a more extreme version – secular humanism. However, it is autonomy in the area of jurisprudence.

  8. Roy said,

    October 28, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    The impression that is given here is that general equity is considerably smaller than the judicial law.

    I think exactly the opposite conclusion results. General equity implies applying the Word to situations which did not exist, indeed, probably could not haveexisted in OT Israel. General equity flows from the understanding of the Proverbs as Spirit given commentary on and exposition of the Decalogue.

  9. October 28, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    “General equity implies applying the Word to situations which did not exist, indeed, probably could not haveexisted in OT Israel.”

    Precisely; when a parallel case arises, the general equity continues. See 1 Cor. 9:8-10 proof text.

    However, it must be understood that the Puritans and Covenanters believed various laws to be both moral and judicial (usually the death penalties), and thus of perpetual validity. Other laws have an underlying moral principle which remains, even if the precise illustration of that principle cannot be literally replicated today – as the 1 Cor. 9:8-10 proof-text shows.

  10. Patrick said,

    October 28, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    See also this article by Sherman Isbell:

    http://www.masterstrumpet.org/expire.html

  11. Elder Hoss said,

    October 28, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Lane, you noted: “There is no room in most theonomic minds for a government that rules according to the Ten Commandments, but not according to the Israel-specific judicial law. That is not even a possibility. I have yet to see a theonomic reckoning with this position.”

    Speaking as a Kuyperian who himself has apprehensions around at least SOME of theonomy’s claims, I nonetheless wonder how hard you have looked, and how many theonomic minds you’ve scoured (I’m not speaking here of easy targets like Gary “must have missed it in 2000″ North). For example, have you read Bahnsen’s closing critique of Kline which appends THEONOMY IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS?

    Here one is also reminded of such Westiminsterians as Gillespie, and other of the framers of WCF, as well as their progenitor, viz. Calvin himself, particularly his sermons on Deuteronomy where he often discusses at length the application of either particular judicial laws themselves, OR that which the later Westminsterians referred to in 19:4 as their “general equity.”

    Here I would recommend Dr. Francis Nigel Lee’s ARE THE MOSAIC LAWS FOR TODAY: OBSERVATION ON CALVINISM AND THE WESTIMINSTER STANDARDS ANENT THE RELATIONSHIP OF GOD’S MORAL LAW OF NATURE FOR ALL MEN AND ANCIENT ISRAEL’S CEREMONIAL & JUDICIAL LAWS, a ca. 90 page treatment available free of charge and found at http://www.dr-fnllee.org/docs4/atmlft/atmlft. pdf.

    There you will find a central assertion from Dr. Lee that, for Calvin, Bullinger, Knox, de Bres, and several of the Westminsterian divines, the judicial law actually further explicates the duties of the moral law.

    After all, Kline himself admitted that Presbyterian denominations would have a very hard time disciplining theonomists, since (he reasoned) the original Westminsterian tradition (pre 1784) is theonomic at its core. It is not clear from your post whether you would agree with that admission of Kline’s and some of his erstwhile disciples (such as the defrocked Lee Irons), or would consider them mistaken. At any rate, F.N. Lee’s work is most helpful in this regard, along with some of this others, including his treatment of CALVIN ON THE SABBATH (there he debunks the standard latitudinarian view of Calvin’s position), as well as other of his writings dealing with the interrelation of God’s law and society – Blessings

  12. ReformedSinner said,

    October 28, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Hmm…. F.N. Lee’s “Calvin on the Sabbath” vs. Richard Gaffin’s “Calvin and the Sabbath”

    I believe Gaffin read Calvin right, and critique Calvin right.

  13. Elder Hoss said,

    October 28, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    RS – Ancillary to my response, but good to read both. Just like it’s good to read Kline, or T David Gordon, along with Bahnsen with regard to the hermeneutical issues surrounding theonomy.

    Have you read Lee’s treatment?

  14. October 28, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    On Calvin on the Sabbath see also Stewart E. Lauer’s “John Calvin, the Nascent Sabbatarian: A Reconsideration of Calvin’s View of Two Key Sabbath-Issues,” The Confessional Presbyterian volume 3 pages 3-14, 302. He advances Calvin as not just a practical Sabbatarian (Gaffin; Primus), but closer to the Puritans theologically.

  15. October 29, 2008 at 3:32 am

    With regard to the Sherman Isbel article, there is not much that I would disagree with in it; but it is based on a misunderstanding of Theonomy.

  16. October 29, 2008 at 3:35 am

    Is F.N. Lee’s treatment of Calvin’s views on the Sabbath available online? Harold Cunningham repeats the “Calvin played bowls argument” in his PhD. I referenced Chris Coldwell’s article as a rebuttal, but it would be good to reference something else.

  17. October 29, 2008 at 3:43 am

    While there does appear to be something of a difference of substance between earlier divines and modern Theonomists, there is an important reason for this: differing historical contexts.

    The early Reformed were living in days when fanatics were claiming that the WHOLE judicial law remained binding (a position which Heinrich Bullinger very properly calls “half mad”), and so they needed to stress discontinuity with the Older Testament.

    The modern Theonomists, on the other hand, are living in days when most Reformed people deny that ANY of the judicial law is of perpetual obligation, thus they tend to stress continuity with the Older Testament. Yet they do not hold the extreme position that earlier divines were refuting. Their position is essentially the same as the early Reformed: what is moral in the judicial law continues.

    A difference of semantics? Yes, to some extent. A difference of substance? Not really.

  18. Stephen Welch said,

    October 29, 2008 at 7:07 am

    Thanks, Elder Hoss for your response in number 11. I will be interested to check out Dr. Lee’s treatment on the Mosaic Law. I am always amazed that those who attack theonomy like to build strawmen. I am glad to see that Kline actually admits the original Westminster Presbyterians were theonomic to the core. Many non-theonomist admit this as well.

  19. October 29, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Daniel, thanks for the referral. For those who have not seen it, my article is at http://www.naphtali.com/articles/chris-coldwell/calvin-in-the-hands-of-the-philistines-or-did-calvin-bowl-on-the-sabbath/

    How might I get a copy of Dr. Cunningham’s PHD dissertation?

  20. Stephen Welch said,

    October 29, 2008 at 7:18 am

    There must have been alot of threads that were deleated from this post. In response to the man yesterday who told Daniel that the PCA has no theonomists he better look around. The late Dr. D. James Kennedy was not a theonomist but was a reconstructionist, Gary DeMar, George Grant and others are very much theonomists. I myself lean strongly toward theonomy and would agree with Daniel Ritchie and others that the general equity clause refers to some application of the judicial laws that are still binding. The Ten Commandments are only a summary of the entirety of the law. Many non-theonomists believe that the state should carry out the death penalty for capital crimes but this is one of the penalties that fall under general equity.

  21. Stephen Welch said,

    October 29, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Elder Hoss, I attempted to check out your tread on Dr. Lee’s 90 page treatment and it does not come up for me. I tried it three times.

  22. Stephen Welch said,

    October 29, 2008 at 7:27 am

    Sorry for the confusion, but please disregard my comments in number 20. I see that I read the second thread on theonomy instead of the first and this comment was for the first thread.

  23. steve hays said,

    October 29, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Lane,

    I have a question for you. Back in 1971, the 38th General Assembly of the OPC issued a report on abortion (which is posted at the OPC website). I’m sure you’ve seen it.

    It staked out a strong prolife, antiabortion position. I believe that became the official position of the OPC. I believe this report was also influential on other Reformed denominations as they had to formulate their own position on abortion.

    In making its case for a prolife/antiabortion position, the report relied heavily on OT ethics.

    Question: Do you agree with the methodology of the report? Do you think it was appropriate for the committee to anchor so much of its argument in OT ethics?

    Do you think it would be possible to present an equally strong, exegetical argument against abortion if we excluded all of the OT prooftexts from consideration?

    Depending on how you answer the question, how does that affect your evaluation of theonomy?

  24. Elder Hoss said,

    October 29, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Hi Stephen – If the link doesn’t work, google Francis Nigel Lee and it will take you to his site, where the Calvin/Sabbath article is found, along with his treatment of the Westminsterians and the aforementioned article ARE THE MOSAIC LAWS FOR TODAY: OBSERVATIONS ON CALVINISM AND THE WESTMINSTER STANDARDS, etc…

  25. greenbaggins said,

    October 29, 2008 at 9:31 am

    All, thanks for the comments. You’ve given me a lot to think over. Let me state at once that I am only beginning to look at theonomic literature at the moment. So, undoubtedly, my feelings are a bit skewed by this fact, and I am sometimes going on general impressions rather than published work. Obviously, there is a high probability that such impressions are wrong. So let me say that for the foreseeable future, anything I say on theonomy has a tentative aspect about it, and should be seen as me thinking aloud. I think that most of the commenters here have taken my statements this way, for which I am grateful.

    Tim and Daniel, those are very helpful comments that help me get at the heart of theonomy. Let me ask these questions: first of all, how does one determine which judicial laws are of general equity and which are not? How does one determine which judicial laws relate directly to the moral law as case law and which do not? Most treatments of the judicial law that I have read (which are admittedly non-theonomic) argue that ALL the judicial law is application of the Ten Commandments in one way or another. Secondly, it seems to me that the typology of theonomy is wrong. Old Testament Israel is not typological of New Testament governments, but rather of the NT church. Does theonomy argue a typology between OT Israel and NT governments?
    Thirdly, it seems also from what I have read so far that there is an over-realized eschatology in theonomy. Statements such as “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” in the Great Commission are read as saying that Christ rules over the nations right now. Of course, we have to be careful here, because God does rule sovereignly over the nations. But right now, one could say that it happens only in the decretive will of God, and not in the preceptive will of God. Obviously, all modern states do not rule according to God’s law. In fact, there does not seem to me to be any modern government that even comes close. Is there any aspect of Jesus’ rule that is “not yet?”

  26. greenbaggins said,

    October 29, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Steve, I don’t have a problem with the OPC’s methodology at all in that report, since they used the judicial case law as their supporting argumentation to flesh out why the Ten Commandments tell us that we shouldn’t murder infants. However, I think that is distinct from saying that we should apply the actual OT case law to the abortion problem.

  27. October 29, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Lane

    Can I discuss this with you offline? Or perhaps you should wait till you finish my book (pardon the shameless self-advertising) as I go into this in more detail there. This is not an easy question to answer.

    With regards to over-realized eschatology; even if one is not a postmillennialist, as I am, one should recognize that the nations have a duty to submit to Christ (even if they never will this side of eternity). To say anything else would surely render the GC untenable.

    Chris

    It is virtually impossible for anyone outside of Northern Ireland to get access to Dr. Cunningham’s Ph.D. This is because it is a thesis owned by Queen’s University, which is stored in the basement of the Science Library (of the Stanmillis Road – near the church where W.J. Grier, author of the Momentous Event, and Derek Thomas used to labour). Moreover, even though I am a student of that University, I cannot even borrow it, but only read it while in the actual Science Library building. However, if you were absolutely desperate, I could photocopy a chapter or two.

  28. steve hays said,

    October 29, 2008 at 11:46 am

    greenbaggins said,

    “Let me ask these questions: first of all, how does one determine which judicial laws are of general equity and which are not? How does one determine which judicial laws relate directly to the moral law as case law and which do not?”

    Good question. There’s no precise answer to that question, although ethics is often imprecise (e.g. borderline cases)—so that’s nothing new.

    In chap. 19 of his classic commentary on the WCF, A. A. Hodge lays down some criteria.

    Likewise, Gordon Wenham, in Story as Torah, lays down some criteria. Those would be two good places to start.

    “Most treatments of the judicial law that I have read (which are admittedly non-theonomic) argue that ALL the judicial law is application of the Ten Commandments in one way or another.”

    I don’t think that’s necessary. Some case laws are timebound injunctions, tied to the specific, socioeconomic conditions of the ANE.

    Other case laws, while culturally conditioned to some degree, involve timeless principles which are applicable to a modern situation as long as we abstract the generic norm and modernize it accordingly.

    The process isn’t fundamentally different from the way we analogize from NT ethics to contemporary situations. There’s always an element of recontextualization when we apply Biblical ethics to modernity.

  29. October 29, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Lane

    One thing I believe important to bear in mind with Theonomy is this: get the principle right first, then worry about the details later.

    For instance, if you were trying to convince someone of exclusive psalmody, but they did not believe in the RPW, you would first try to convince him of the RPW, before getting into the details (exclusive psalmody).

    Once a common principle is established – i.e. all nations are to be governed by God’s Law as it pertains to socio-political affairs – then we can iron out the details; but it is a bit pointless trying to do this beforehand.

  30. October 29, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    “Secondly, it seems to me that the typology of theonomy is wrong. Old Testament Israel is not typological of New Testament governments, but rather of the NT church. Does theonomy argue a typology between OT Israel and NT governments?”

    The Confessional position is that OT Israel was both the church and a nation; Israel was not a type of the church, it was the church “under age” (19:3) [though the land of Canaan was a type of the New Heavens and New Earth]. Yet it was also a nation with a civil government. And the civil government did not exercise ecclesiastical supremacy (i.e. King Uzziah being struck with leprosy for offering sacrifice).

  31. Richard said,

    October 29, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Daniel, I would challenge your assertion that “the civil government did not exercise ecclesiastical supremacy” and I would do so on a number of grounds. I will post the references later (my sausages are just about ready!) but I would quickly point out John Eaton’s Kingship and the Psalms where he demonstrates that such a view is untenable in the light of what the OT records about worship.

  32. October 29, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    That’s Erastianism, this is a Reformed blog, so you can expect a short shrift here.

  33. October 29, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Read George Gillespie’s Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, which to this day has never been answered by any Erastian – the one’s in the Westminster Assembly could not even answer him.

    Arguments in relation to David and Solomon’s role in the construction of the Temple are totally irrelevant as they were told to do this by immediate inspiration. If the kings had been supreme, then Uzziah should have been able to offer sacrifice, but he was not, therefore, no civil supremacy over the church.

  34. October 29, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Moreover, it should be realise that the typical nature of the Davidic kingship meant that the kings did SOME (note I say some) things which were unique to them as types of Christ (i.e. composing psalms for the church’s worship), and so forth. However, it cannot be proved that the state/civil government had ecclesiastical supremacy over the church’s officers like the Stuart Kings in Britain claimed to have. If the civil magistrate had such supremacy in Israel, then Azariah could not have driven Uzziah out of the Temple and forbidden him to offer sacrifice.

    The whole concept of the divine right of kings was the baptizing of the pagan idea that earthly monarchs were the incarnate deities; the revival of Greek thought at the Renaissance allowed kings such as Henry VIII to claim ecclesiastical supremacy while using Biblical language to defend his usurpations.

  35. October 29, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Daniel; some libraries are more user friendly than others; I have to say I got practically any help I wanted long distance from the National Library of Scotland, but I paid for it of course. Will QU accept American dollars to copy and mail it? Or, would you accept some free CPJs to copy the whole thing and send it to me? Drop me a note off list. Thanks much. (PS I also want to get his newer 2007 thesis not just the abstract in Tyndale Bulletin; but it is not even listed in the card catalog? Yet there’s an abstract in print? What’s with that?)
    “Chris

    It is virtually impossible for anyone outside of Northern Ireland to get access to Dr. Cunningham’s Ph.D. This is because it is a thesis owned by Queen’s University, which is stored in the basement of the Science Library (of the Stanmillis Road – near the church where W.J. Grier, author of the Momentous Event, and Derek Thomas used to labour). Moreover, even though I am a student of that University, I cannot even borrow it, but only read it while in the actual Science Library building. However, if you were absolutely desperate, I could photocopy a chapter or two.”

  36. Richard said,

    October 29, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Daniel, I will pick up on Uzziah later but let me just quote Eaton:

    The king as convener and president
    Just as Yahweh was considered responsible for the building of his Temple through the agency of the king, so the institution and conduct of the festival were considered to be ordinances of Yahweh (Ps. 81:5-6) executed by the king, as the stories of David, Solomon, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Jereboam II, Josiah, etc., make clear. Having been responsible for the construction and maintainence of the installations, the appointment of ministers, and the very institution of the festivals, it was the king who finally called the people from far and wide to the great pilgrimage gathering (1 Kings 8:1, cf 2 Kings 10:21). He then presided over the festival, taking the leading part in the worship. (Festal Drama in Deutero-Isaiah pp. 10 )

    The last statement is demonstrated within the book in a few extensive sections which I haven’t the time to type up for you.

    An interesting point is that in Ps. 110 which was a Royal coronation hymn we get the following declared of the king, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

  37. October 29, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Chris

    Queen’s only have the 1996 thesis; you could contact them to see if they would copy it, but you would probably have to pay be credit card or something like it. As the author owns the copyright, you would probably only be allowed to photocopy 20%. If you want any more help I will see what I can do, I doubt you would really need the whole thesis, but there might be a couple of chapters of interest.

  38. October 29, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Richard, I am not sure how that is anything contrary to the original WCF which denies ecclesiastical supremacy.

  39. October 29, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Of course Psalm 110 is referring to Christ the divine priest-king, something that no earthly king today is.

  40. October 29, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Daniel,
    I will see if I can contact Dr. Cunningham; if he owns copyright then that would seem the thing to do to cut to the chase. If you have any contact info could you drop it to me in an email. Thanks much.

  41. Richard said,

    October 29, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    From evidence gleaned from the Psalms as well as evidence in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles we find that the king in Israel has the supreme cultic role. It was the king that led worship, note the central role of Solomon in the worship recorded in 1 Kings 8. We find both Hezekiah and Josiah playing leading roles, so “They brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven male lambs and seven male goats as a sin offering for the kingdom, for the sanctuary and for Judah. The king commanded the priests, the descendants of Aaron, to offer these on the altar of the LORD. Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar.” (1 Chron. 29:21, 27) In 2 Chron. 31:2 we read that “Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to divisions—each of them according to their duties as priests or Levites—to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, to minister, to give thanks and to sing praises at the gates of the LORD’s dwelling.” Then we also read in 2 Chronicles 34:29-31 “Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD -to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book.”

    These provide us with an indication that the king acted as the “worship leader”. But more, that the king himself influenced the worship, so Hezekiah gives duties to the priests and we read that David “appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 16:4).

    You are correct that Psalm 110 was applied by the writer of the Hebrews as well as St. Paul to Jesus but the Psalm had an original Sitz im Leben, i.e. the king of Israel was declared to be a priest &c.

  42. jeffhutchinson said,

    October 29, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    (FYI, I just deleted a couple of comments that, in light of commenting on another thread being shut down, tried to take up those matters here. One of Lane’s rules for commenting is staying on topic with each particular thread. Thanks to all in advance for their cooperation.)

  43. October 29, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Richard

    I would not (for the sake of argument) necessarily disagree with all that you say, but that does not justify the idea that the State held ecclesiastical supremacy in OT Israel (especially prior to the monarchy) or that it should do today. Indeed some would base the whole concept of church establishment on the texts you cite – see the original WCF.

  44. Richard said,

    October 29, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Daniel, as far as I am aware the classic statement regarding ecclesiastical supremacy is found in the Thirty-Seventh Article.

    The Queen’s Majesty hath the chief power in this realm of England and other her dominions, unto whom the chief government of all estates of this realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not nor ought to be subject to any foreign jurisdiction.

    Where we attribute to the Queen’s Majesty the chief government, by which titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended, we give not to our princes the ministering either of God’s word or of sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen doth most plainly testify: but that only prerogative which we see to have been given always to all godly princes in Holy Scriptures by God himself, that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers.

    I would content that comment 41 supports such a position.

  45. October 29, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Chris

    I have not got anything at the minute, but since he is a minister in my presbytery there should be contact details in our financial reports – which I have at home. If there is, I will let you know.

  46. October 29, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Richard

    I will contend it supports the magistrate being a nursing father to the church, and has the duty to see that the worship of God is carried out in accordance with his word. But I doubt we will settle this in an internet chatroom, so I will leave it for now.

  47. October 29, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks very much Daniel.
    “I have not got anything at the minute, but since he is a minister in my presbytery there should be contact details in our financial reports – which I have at home. If there is, I will let you know.”

  48. October 29, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Chris

    His address is online, but I can’t find an e-mail:

    Rev. Dr Harold G. Cunningham
    5 Parkside
    Dromore
    Northern Ireland
    United Kingdom
    BT25 1RZ
    Tel: 028 9269 9092

    This is on public view at the following source:

    http://www.qub.ac.uk/home/ProspectiveStudents/InternationalStudents/Socrates-Erasmus/StudentSupportandFacilities/ReligiousSupport/

  49. tim prussic said,

    October 29, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Pr. Lane, I’ll spill some electronic ink on the eschatological issue.

    First, Christ’s Mediatorial reign is distinct from the general and exhaustive divine sovereignty. Christ is, via his resurrection and ascension, now seated on David’s throne – the holy hill of Zion (Ps 2; see how it’s used in Acts 13:33). Thus, as the positionally reigning Messianic King, Jesus is called King of Kings and Lord of Lord; also the Ruler over the Kings of Earth (Rev 1:5). Thus, to say that Christ is not nowreigning seems to me quite a problem. It’s a problem I’ve often run into with premils.

    Second, Christ is making his positional rule visible and palpable through the work of his church. This can be unearthed in Ps 110 and all the uses of it in the NT – esp Heb 10:13. Couple that the the scope and promise of the Great Commission (not to mention the Prophets, Psalms & Parables), and you got some rocket fuel. I won’t spend much time trying to prove this. Some great books have been written on Postmillennialism – the best in my opinion is He Shall Have Dominion by Kenneth Gentry. **This second part is important, as it gives direction and vision to the church. Christ is reigning in and through us. He’s positioned at the King of the whole universe, but he’s palpably extending that reign in history in and through his church.

    [Aside: this palpable historical rule will equal his positional rule only at his return when he conquers the final enemy death - that is, at the resurrection. We see his historical reign increasing by increment over time (along with intermittent set backs), but still look forward to the fullness of it only after the resurrection and in heaven.]

    Third, as Christ reigns in his Church and the Church extends (Mt 16:18), so extends the palpable historical reign of Christ. Under the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ, we are called to disciple all the nations and baptize them (Mt 28:18-20). We’re to teach them to observe ALL that Christ has commanded. Nations necessarily have governments that make laws. The discipled nations will observe all that Christ has commanded and that includes the area of civil law.

    So, if you can cut through (or better, agree with) the postmil’ism, that oughta provide something of an attempt at an eschatological basis for my views. Hope it helps.

  50. October 29, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks Daniel.

  51. tim prussic said,

    October 29, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Pr. Lane, I’ll take a crack at answering your first question. I quite agree with Daniel that nailing down the general principle is most important. Applying it can be tricky and can take a lot of work.

    Here’s a theological basis for general equity as syllogistically as I’m able: God is a being of a moral nature. All God’s speech shares in the attributes of his nature (insofar as that’s possible). God spoke the Law. Therefore, the Law is moral. That moral aspect (along with all applicable parts of the other aspects [see below]) of every law IS the general equity.

    Now, while the Law is moral (or necessarily has a moral aspect to it), it can also be other things (or have other aspects). Any given law can be civil, judicial, ceremonial, dietary, etc. These various aspects of law all have different teloi. With each specific law, we need to ascertain its specific aspects. Once ascertained, we “apply” that law according to the teloi of its aspects.

    If this is correct, if follows that no law is utterly abolished. Each and every biblical law has a moral aspect and can be applied according to purpose or telos. For example, we can read and study the ceremonial law (ceremonial being a good example, as it is the most “abolished”) and know that its telos is the sacrificed Messiah. Thus, the application of the ceremonial aspect would be to look to Christ through that law, to see that Christ is the fulfillment of it. Through faith in Christ, we keep the ceremonial aspect of the law. We’re doing all the ceremonies as we trust Christ, and each ceremonial law has something to teach us about Christ. We dare not literally/physically do the ceremonies now, for that would be to miss the telos of that commandment, and thus to misapply them.

    As we come to the more judicial laws, we have to distinguish the judicial, civil, and moral aspects of each law. The judicial aspect terminates on the law courts of ancient Israel. Insofar as judicial principles are applicable to other situations, they should be applied. The civil aspect terminates on civil relations and is applied similarly to the judicial. The moral aspect of the law always has various teloi (e.g, the three “uses” of the law), but each telos will generate an application (or a set of them).

    I’ll give it a good shot, here. Let’s use Exodus 21:12-14 as an example:

    Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.

    The judicial aspect is simple – the judge will rule according to the words of this statue – capital punishment and all. The civil aspect is how men are to relate to each other. They are to protect innocent life and punish the one who wrongfully takes human life. Further, the civil aspect addresses the cities of refuge. The moral aspects here rest upon and further develops both the Noahic law (Gen 9:6) and Mosaic law (Ex 20:13). This aspect of the law distinguishes different types of murder, which are to be punished differently. Aside from the capital sanction, there are also religious/spiritual sanctions brought to bear upon the willful & cunning murderer.

    Now, the judicial aspect of ruling according to the written Law of God is certainly part of the general equity and quite applicable, as are capital punishment and spiritual sanctions. The spiritual sanctions will be applied differently, as we have no altar, no Tabernacle, no Temple (all of which are anchors to ancient Israel and therefore inapplicable to us). As to the civil aspect, there’s nothing peculiar about it that would anchor it to the civil structure of the nation of Israel, thus it falls into the general equity category. The moral aspects speak for themselves and are clearly in the general equity category and are still very applicable – even directly so. Finally, It’s interesting to see how this case law unfolds earlier biblical law and helps us better understand how it applies.

    Maybe that doesn’t fully answer your question, but at least it’s a start.

  52. October 29, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    “You are correct that Psalm 110 was applied by the writer of the Hebrews as well as St. Paul to Jesus but the Psalm had an original Sitz im Leben, i.e. the king of Israel was declared to be a priest &c.”

    This is because the true king of Israel was Christ. As the Davidic king was a type of Christ this could be applied to him, however, as the case of Uzziah and Saul shows he did not have the right to offer sacrifice.

  53. Elder Hoss said,

    October 29, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    In light of Lane’s thoughtful and important # 25 and the question of Judicial applicability, Calvin on Ex. 22:25 is interesting:

    “The judicial law which God prescribed to His ancient people is only so far abrogated as that which charity dictates should remain.”

    There is admitted ambiguity in this statement, and yet at the same time a certain qualification (rather than a blanket dismissal) of the perpetuity of the judicial law today.

    Isn’t it fascinating though that we find ourselves in a cultural and eclessiastical context today where many Reformed and Presbyterian men not only deny ANY validity to the judicial law today, but ALSO would relegate the moral law to a similar status of irrelevance at least as pertaining to the political order.

    This is a rather astounding devolution from the vision of men like Gillespie, the magisterial reformers before him, and even non-Reformed branches of the Christian Church pre and post-16th century.

  54. Bret McAtee said,

    October 29, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    “What modern legislators, magistrates, and judges should be concerned to apply and enforce in the state are the precepts of God’s law. Although this idea has long been a virtual staple of the Reformed social outlook, many respond to it today with intellectual shock and adamant personal rejection. A common reason for this is that people adhere to a particular interpretation of church-state separation that actually parallels the sacred-secular distinction we previously found biblically unacceptable. There are writers who will concede that God’s law is valid in personal, ecclesiastical, or social ethics, but then they utterly deny its continuing validity in political ethics. Such a distinction hardly arises from the literature and teaching of the Bible, much less the ancient and medieval worlds. It is much more in tune with the mentality of modern Enlightenment-sponsored rationalism, which quarantines politics, along with other material concerns such as history and natural science, from religious revelation.”

    Dr. Greg Bahnsen
    God and Politics – pg. 46

    “Theonomists equally repudiate the sacred-secular dichotomy of life, which is the effect of certain extra-scriptural, systematic conceptions of biblical authority that have recently infected the Reformed community – conceptions implying that present-day moral standards for our political order are not to be taken from what the written Word of God directly and relevantly says about society and civil government. This theologically unwarranted and socially dangerous stance curtails the scope of the Bible’s truth and authority (Ps. 119:160, Isa. 40:8, 45:19, John 17:17, Dt. 4:2, Mt. 5:18-19). Two pertinent illustrations are found in (1) the Dooyeweerdian scheme of dichotomizing reality into modal spheres having their own peculiar laws and (2) Meredith Kline’s idea of dichotomizing the canonical authority of various elements of Scripture, both between and within the two testaments. In the former case, explicit biblical texts pertaining to civil government may not provide a Christian view of the state, for Scripture is said to apply directly only to the modal sphere of ‘faith’ (Cmp. Bob Goudzwaard, A Christian Political Opinion – pg. 27). In the latter case, the moral authority of certain elements of Scripture is arbitrarily dismissed on the basis of separating (without conceptual cogency or exegetical justification) faith-norms from life-norms, individual norms from communal norms, and ‘common-grace’ principles from ‘eschatological intrusion’ principles – implying that the most explicit Biblical directions about political ethics may not be utilized today ( The Structure Of Biblical Authority).

    Greg Bahnsen
    God & Politics – pg. 22

  55. Elder Hoss said,

    October 29, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Bret – Powerful quotes. Reading them again, one can understand why Kline would consent to publishing his brief attack on theonomy in WTJ only on the condition (granted by R. Godfrey, I’m told) that Bahnsen not be allowed to respond. At least though, Kline consented that the Westminsterians were largely theonomic, a point disputed by not a few today.

    It really is a shame that Van Til’s wish to have Bahnsen succeed him was dashed on the rocks in favor of (if I understand the history correctly) Ed Clowney’s son, who went on to embrace women’s ordination, and eventually left.

    Imagine that – Bahnsen cast out from Westminster for being too Westminsterian, sounding too much like Gillespie et al…

  56. ReformedSinner said,

    October 29, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Ed Clowney’s son? First time I heard of that. It’s amazing Van Til did not force his choice on WTS, because a man with his stature can sure get things done at WTS if he really fight for it. It shows his humble spirit.

    But I thought Robert Knudsen was Van Til’s pick (or second pick as his first choice would of been Bahnsen.) The funny thing is this Van Til protege was sent to Holland to learn and Knudsen came back having more sympathy for Dooeywaard than for Van Til. Murray and Wooley, sensing the change, both tried to block Knudsen’s appointment to apologetics but when the board asked Van Til if Knudsen is a good candidate Van Til says yes. The rest is history…

  57. Michael L. said,

    October 30, 2008 at 5:30 am

    Greetings to a distinguished circle of men!

    I’m an RPCNA minister in Indiana, and one of those “blog prowlers” who skims a few choice blogs (like this one) but never comments, simply because I’m too busy. However, I did my PhD on OT law (through the University of Aberdeen), so this is a tough thread for me to keep out of! So, if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to chime in with a few thoughts…

    I believe that, at the core of this kind of debate, is a mistaken assumption that the Mosaic law-writings belong to the same genre as modern law-writings. We know better than to read Prov 23:2 as legislation (“put a knife to your throat If you are a man of great appetite”), because it belongs to the genre “proverb.” But we move too hastily with a rather profound assumption if we take up OT law-writings and assume that they belong to the genre “legislation.” Both the theonomists (in trying to figure out how to apply the Mosaic law-writings in modern courts) and the anti-theonomists (in trying to explain what Paul’s reasoning could be when he says the law is still holy and righteous and good to be honored, but does such strange things with it). The core problem, as I see it, in this kind of debate is (as so often is the case) one of presuppositions which have not been carefully worked out. How do the biblical records themselves show us the law-writings being used? Were they ever, really, a “civil code of legislation” for ancient Israel as we assume; or were they always a “general equity thereof” document, whatever that means? My own research brings me to the latter conclusion.

    If you look at the examples of how law-courts operated in biblical Israel, you’ll find that the Mosaic law-writings are never cited as court legislation; and, furthermore, that OT court findings often differ with “what is written” in ways which are surprising from a legislative point of view (but not from a typical, ANE point of view).

    For one example, #51 above quoted Exod 21:12-14 and offered an elaborate system of thought to try to distill how to apply it. But look at the court example in 2Sam 14, where David hears a murder case (the case of the Woman of Tekoa) and does NOT apply the death penalty like we might assume he should based on Exod 21 (and Num 35:30-34; Lev 24:17; Deut 19:13; 21:9). Yet David is called “like the angel of the LORD” in the judgment he renders. Actually, the case is one which is conjured up by Joab, so that it is a sham case in the end. But it is a carefully crafted case, cooked up by Joab, to deliberately put David in a hard spot, because the case sets a number of principles of justice in conflict: (1) Israelite inheritance laws (e.g., Num 27.8–11); (2) Israelite bloodguilt laws (already noted, above); (3) Israelite kinsman-redeemer laws (e.g., Num 35.27); and, (4) the right of widows to call down divine vengeance (e.g., Ex 22.22–24). But this is the way in which ancient Near Eastern courts understood law to function in the real world: cases are never simple and it would never be imagined that a written-prescription of legal formulas could ever dictate how a judge should rule in cases. In a typical ANE court (including ancient Israel), a judge was expected to know the righteousness of the nation’s God (as exemplified in the written case-studies from an inspired king’s/judge’s court), but then it fell to the judge to show his wisdom by discerning the complex moral dilemmas in a given case and to skilfully reason with the parties to negotiate a God-honoring settlement and to educate both parties in the process. And neither in the David case here noted, nor in any other such case in OT texts, do we ever find a judge implementing a law-writing from the law-book (i.e., as courtroom legislation). That simply was not the function which the Mosaic law-writings were intended to fulfill.

    Actually, one of the reasons Wellhausen took up and promoted his infamous JEDP system for re-ordering the chronology of “biblical sources” was because he saw how often the OT prophets cried out for justice, but never cited any Mosaic lawbook violations in doing so, and he noted how the court scenes which are preserved in the historical texts do not generally comport with what the Mosaic law writings require (at least, based on the assumption that courts would have used the Mosaic law in a legislative way). So, this was one major reason why Wellhausen (and much of scholarship with him) concluded that the Mosaic laws are actually a later innovation retrojected on an earlier period, and that the prophets labored at a time when Israel did not have the elaborate law-book of Moses.

    Actually, while Wellhausen and such critics are right in their observation, they are wrong in their conclusion (at least, that is one of the implications of my argument in my work on the subject). What we have in the OT historical and prophetic texts is a demonstration that the Mosaic law-writings did exist and were known, but they were not used in the mechanistic, judicial function which modern legislation fills. It was the Athenians, around 400 B.C., who first introduced the concept of “the rule of (written) law” in the modern sense of the word. And, in my own research, I argue that it was only in the time of the Hellenistic domination that intertestamental Judaism (as illustrated in 1-2 Maccabees, for instance) began to re-characterize the Mosaic law-writings as being a legislative code.

    In fact, Josephus in his “Contra Apion,” illustrates an understanding even in his day that the so-called “barbarian” world (in which Israel existed) possessed law-writings which were not used as judicial legislation in the “civilized” manner of Greece and Rome. But Josephus also illustrates the effort to deliver Israel’s God from the characterization as a barbarian deity by endeavoring to prove that Israel was different from its surround nations in that Israel did use its law-writings as legislation, and that Moses had invented the “rule of law” (which was the pillar of “civilized” society, in the Greek charcterization) long before Athens. His arguments illustrate the pressure Judaism was under to prove the civilized nature of its institutions, but the temptation to do so by re-interpreting the historic writings of Moses according to the assumptions (and hermeneutic) of Greek and Roman law. But alas, that re-characterization of the law-writings after a Hellenistic model is (in my conclusions in my research) what set the stage for the great contrast between Jesus and the Jewish leadership of his day

    Jesus promoted a kingdom where the King is truly sovereign, and who rules according to righteousness idealized in the law-writings (but does not suppose that those law-writings were ever intended to be implemented in a mechanistic, legislative manner). In other words, Jesus promoted a form of kingship and use of law-writings which his contemporaries had labled “barbarian.” Meanwhile, most of the Jewish leaders insisted that the Mosaic law-writings should be observed after the manner of a Greek-like legislative code, which is why it became conceivable for them to have a just society without a King — for, as the Greeks would say, “the law is our king.” But are the Mosaic law-writings really adequate to provide righteousness for a society by themselves? Paul argues that the law-writings were never designed to accomplish righteousness, they always pointed to and expected a King to accomplish what they idealized. In making those arguments, I believe that Paul is reflecting good, ANE (aka, “barbarian”) thought, and the way Moses himself would have understood the law-writings to function…

    Anyhow, my main point is just to open up what I would suggest is the underlying presupposition in any debate like this: was the lawbook of Moses ever intended to serve as a civil law-code (of the legislative genre)? And if not, how did it function? And then, how do we receive it today? In my view, to assume that the OT law-writings functioned in the same way as modern legislation is to guarantee a wrong conclusion before we even begin.

    Perhaps I should note, I really do not see myself as an expert on OT law. My original research project was actually aimed at a study of Psalm 1 and its function as an introduction to the Psalter. I never really intended to get into a study of OT law, and still consider myself a novice just getting into the field. I originally aimed to focus my PhD work on the Psalms. But Psalm 1, and the Psalter it introduces, urges us to delight in God’s law as a source of hope and anticipation. And it was in trying to understand how the Psalms understand the law (and offer such joy and comfort in the law!) that I got sucked into what ended up becoming my PhD project — and an extremely enriching and rewarding one at that. I certainly am a much better Psalm-singer for having done this work, delighting in the law of the LORD in the midst of a sinful and broken world in need of the true subject of that law which is the King (not so much rules of piety and morality).

    Anyhow, for anyone interested, here’s a link to my research, which I need to offer with this disclaimer: I did my work in academic, not ecclesiastical, circles, so I picked my battles and left many untouched in the course of my work. As reflected in my comments above, I do not buy into the source critical assumptions which underlie much of academic OT study; but, for the purposes of this project, re-dating texts was really not an issue I needed to address. So, peruse my work if you’re interested, with that disclaimer; someday I hope to do a re-write of the same basic study within an ecclesiastical (rather than academic) framework.

    Here’s the link, if anyone is interested:

    http://www.continuumbooks.com/Books/detail.aspx?ReturnURL=/Search/default.aspx&CountryID=2&ImprintID=5&BookID=126400

    God bless! And keep up the fascinating blogging!

    (Michael)

  58. October 30, 2008 at 7:01 am

    RE 55. FWIW. Someone has recorded Godfrey’s response to this, given in an exchange below.

    http://www.puritanboard.com/f54/objections-abiding-validity-judicial-law-27502/index4.html#post341592

  59. October 30, 2008 at 7:34 am

    “Imagine that – Bahnsen cast out from Westminster for being too Westminsterian, sounding too much like Gillespie et al…”

    Further evidence of the Lutheranization of Calvinism. I doubt if any of the Calvinistic Reformers, Puritans or Scottish Covenanters would get a job at any major Reformed Seminary today….They would probably be reported to the FBI by Cloister Calvinists.

    Cloister Calvinism is no Calvinism.

  60. steve hays said,

    October 30, 2008 at 8:06 am

    I agree with Michael L. that there’s a difference between the Mosaic law code and modern law codes. But I disagree with him on the nature of the difference. Douglas Stuart, in his magisterial commentary on Exodus, has delineated the real difference:

    “What the chapter [Exod 20] contains—in particular, the Ten “words” (debarim)—is more like the content of a national constitution than merely the content of one section of codified law or another. If the American legal corpus is used as an analogy, it could be said that the ten ‘words’ of Exod 20 are somewhat like the Constitution of the United States (legally binding in a most basic, foundational way but more than a mere set of individual laws) and the laws that follow (cf. 21:1, ‘These are the laws you are two set before them’) somewhat analogous to the various sections of federal law dealing with all sorts of particular matters that have been enacted legislatively over time. The one group is absolutely ‘constitutional’ or ‘foundational;’ the other is specifically regulatory, following from the principles articulated in the more basic ‘constitution’,” Exodus (B&H 2006), 440-41.

    “The biblical commandments occur in three levels of specificity. At the most comprehensive level are the ‘two great commandments’ of Deut 6:5 (‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart…’) and Lev 19:18b (‘love your neighbor as yourself’). The first of these commands requires in broad terms a loyal, covenantal obedience to God, who is put first above all other relationships. The second requires loving (loyal) treatment of other human beings,” ibid. 441.

    “The first four of the Ten Commandments hang on the command to love God since they describe ways to show covenant loyalty directly to him. The final six hang on the command to love neighbor as self…Thus the first four ‘vertical’ commandments are balanced by the final six ‘horizontal commandments.’ Then, in order of hierarchy, follow all the others. The order is, then, the two, the ten, and the six hundred and one,” ibid. 442.

    “Modern societies generally have opted for exhaustive law codes. That is, every action modern society wishes to regular or prohibit must be specifically mentioned in a separate law. Under the expectations of this exhaustive law system, state and/or federal law codes run to thousands of pages and address thousands of individual actions by way of a requirement or restriction or control or outright banning of those actions. By this approach, all actions are permitted that are not expressly forbidden or regulated. Thus it is not uncommon that criminals in modern Western societies evade prosecution because of a ‘technicality’ or a ‘loophole’ in the law—their undesirable actions are not *exactly* prohibited or regulated by a written law, so they cannot be convicted even though an objective observer may be convinced that what they did surely deserved punishment,” ibid. 442.

    “Ancient laws did not work this way. They were paradigmatic, giving models of behaviors and models of prohibitions/punishments relative to those behaviors, but they made no attempt to be exhaustive. Ancient laws gave guiding principles, or samples, rather than complete descriptions of all things regulated. Ancient people were expected to be able to extrapolate from what the sampling of laws did say to the *general* behavior the laws in their totality pointed toward. Ancient judges were expected to extrapolate from the wording provided in the laws that did exist to *all other* circumstances and not to be foiled in their jurisprudence by any such concepts as ‘technicalities’ or ‘loopholes.’ When common sense told judges that a crime had been committed, they reasoned their way from whatever the most nearly applicable law specified to a decision as to how to administer proper justice in the case before them,” 442-43.

    “The way paradigmatic law works: through a somewhat randomly presented admixture of rather specific examples of more general behaviors and very general regulations of broad categories of behavior, the reader/listener comes to understand that all sorts of situations not exactly specified (either because a law is to broad or so narrow) are also implicitly covered,” 444.

  61. Elder Hoss said,

    October 30, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Daniel – While I think there are some exegetical problems with Bahnsen’s dictum re “the abiding validity of the law in exhaustive detail” (perhaps he might have said “comprehensive” or “full-orded” detail as a more a felicitious way of describing what Calvin and most of the Westministerians believed), I think the point he makes in the quotes Bret provided re an apriori commitment to a particular view of church/state (or better said, “religion and state”) as somehow taking precedence over an exegetical argument from the other side is compelling. There is a similar problem in Kline he notes, wherein Kline states of extra-biblical suzerianty models (drawing from the scholar Mendenhall) that he “sought in them a hermeneutical key”, a kind of controlling principle, derived NOT from Scripture itself but outside of it.

    Having said this, he also took pains to complement Kline’s overall work in defending the infallibility of Scripture as over against the canon-critics like Brevard Childs and other neo-Orthodox folk; Bahnsen was quite fair in his assessment of his discursive proponents even when demolishing some of their assumptions and arguments (note the appendix to Theonomy in Christian Ethics where he spends 10-15 pp. addressing some of Kline’s exegetical assumptions).

    As you rightly note, the magisterial reformed, the puritans, the covenantars, were they to benefit from time-travel and observe what is occuring today, one suspects,they would scratch their collective heads and then weep.

    Rushdoony once noted that if the Bible is made to speak to only component of life (here one thinks of T David Gordon’s article “The Insufficiency of Scripture”), that is, to basically interior/soteric, or at best, ecclesiastic concerns, in due time, it will speak to NONE.

    We appear to be heading in this direction in the United States, and may God have mercy on us all.

  62. Michael L. said,

    October 30, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Steve (on #60),

    I am not familiar with Douglas Stuart’s work, but will have to look for it. Much of his description of the ancient judges’ role, and the paradigmatic (not prescriptive) character of ancient law-writings, is indeed the same as what I am saying.

    But in your copy of his book, does he provide any footnote or documentation for his assertion on pp442-3 that, “Ancient judges were expected to extrapolate from the wording provided in the laws that did exist to ‘all other’ circumstances”? I’d like to know where he draws that conclusion, since there is not biblical evidence for that in Israel that I know of; although, that is a virtual quotation from Aristotle’s description of how Athenian judges were taught to operate under their new, “rule of law” innovation (see his Politica 3.11.4).

    Much of what your quotation from Stuart’s work describes is in line with what I argue. However, there are two points being made here. Stuart is right (I would argue) in how he describes the CHARACTER of the Mosaic law-writings (i.e., that they are paradigmatic and principial rather than exhaustive). But he is invoking a modern comparison to suggest the FUNCTION of those law-writings — i.e., how they were used. It is in his vision of how judges might have used the law-writings that more evidence would need to be given. Especially since he is basing his proposal on a comparison between the OT law-writings and modern law-documents (it sounds like he is saying that ‘Ten Commandments = US Constitution’ and ‘Other OT Laws = US Law Code’ in the way they function, even if he recognizes they are different in their character). I think Stuart would have to demonstrate **from examples of OT court narratives** that judges did indeed use the law-writings in a manner roughly like the US Constitution is used today. And that is where I would disagree with him.

    In my research, I look at how other ANE societies used their law-writings, drawing a comparison between the Mosaic law-writings and the law-collections of Hammurabi and Eshnuna and so forth (rather than the US Constitution, etc.) That, at least, is a culturally closer comparison. But even then, it is necessary to test the comparison against biblical evidence. So, I examine various courtroom and other, law-citation examples in the biblical narratives; and, from the evidence preserved from the Scriptures, I conclude that the Mosaic law-writings are not only different from modern legislation in their character (pro Stuart), but they are also different from modern legislation in their function (contra Stuart, apparently).

    Anyhow. I feel badly for crashing this party! But I believe this is important, and hope you don’t mind tolerating my interjections. Does Stuart, indeed, provide any biblical evidence for the way he postulates Hebrew judges using the law-writing?

    Michael

  63. Todd said,

    October 30, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Michael,

    Fascinating and thought-provoking,

    thanks much!

    Todd

  64. greenbaggins said,

    October 30, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Michael, no problem at all. Welcome to my blog.

  65. steve hays said,

    October 30, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Michael,

    Since Stuart is writing for a popular commentary series, you wouldn’t expect him to give the kind of documentation he’d give in an article for a peer-reviewed journal. But why don’t you contact him?

  66. steve hays said,

    October 30, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Michael,

    You’ve told us what you don’t thing was the function of the Mosaic Law. But, on your view, what was the function of the Mosaic Law? Specifically, what was the practical purpose of all those civil and criminal injunctions and penalties?

  67. October 30, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Elder Hoss

    Although I support a Thenomic exegesis of Matt. 5:17-20 (i.e. its ethical, rather than eschatological), I would not endorse every single aspect of Greg Bahnsen’s exegesis of the passage.

  68. Elder Hoss said,

    October 30, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Daniel – I have often thought the early followers of the Master, as well as the first 20 centuries or so of Christian witness would not, and did not read the SOT as primarily typological or eschatological either (so I would concur with you, there).

    It almost seems as if some would read our Lord to be saying “Don’t think I’ve come to destroy the Law – I did not come to destroy the Law, but abolish it…” the logica of which would be a kind of tautological Yogi-Berra-ism the like of which perhaps only a post-Enlightenment academic could dream up : )

    The eschatological component seems to flow from the ethical, insofar as Jesus there teaches that obedience to his doctrine will lead to safety from the impending judgment of God, whereas rejection of His sayings will be calamitous.

    Thank you for this exhange.

  69. tim prussic said,

    October 30, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    #66 – you nailed it. It’s one thing to say that the Mosaic text ought not be viewed as modern legislation. I’m certainly willing to entertain that notion. Some positive notion as to the function of Mosaic law, however, would be helpful.

    Michael, thanks for the helpful and insightful comment. I hope you’re still around to answer Steve’s questions.

  70. October 30, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    With respect to the other post, I will just point out that the verse GC cites in Romans 12 comes immediately prior to Paul’s teaching on the civil magistrate’s duty to execute God’s temporal wrath on the criminal.

    I can pray for those who persecute me, I can also pray against them. It is up to the Lord to answer as he so pleases.

  71. tim prussic said,

    October 30, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    G.C. – Can you really not reconcile how forgive personal enemies, but oppose God’s enemies? That’s a serious question. You and Daniel were dancing around in the other post about this. God calls the civil magistrate to punish wickedness (Rom 13). Vengeance is God’s and he’ll repay, and sometime he’ll start to repay via his minister of justice on earth – the civil magistrate.

    Individual Christians, Christian families, and the Church, however, are not called upon to mete out justice in the same fashion. In fact, individual Christians are oftentimes to turn the cheek and pray for those who persecute them. This is a very simple distinction that you seem to have missed entirely.

    Another thing, you say, “It’s hard to show respect for radical views, such as the execution of those in need of Christ.” Gooooooood morning, Vietnam! This is really quite something! Did God overlook this need when he himself *instituted* this “radical view” in the OT? On your view, is the OT God simply more “radical” than the NT God? Maybe folks back then just needed Christ less, so they were more expendable. The stated reason for your position is entirely untenable. Further, what when, by God’s command, we execute a duly convicted murderer? Doesn’t he need Christ? Should be due away with capital punishment altogether because, as you argue, people need Christ?

    It seems that your ideas are FAR more radical than those of the Theonomist.

  72. David Gadbois said,

    October 30, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    A few points:

    1. As a baseline, I take a theocratic conception of government to mean that the state is explicitly and constitutionally Christian, enforcing both the first and second tables of the decalogue.

    2. Whereas I take the theonomic conception to mean that the state is theocratic and *more* – that it should enforce the Mosaic law “in exhaustive detail” minus only the ceremonial laws. Some adjustments and modifications are made for applying the Mosaic laws circumstantially. Specifically, penology remains unchanged in essence and severity, while only method of application may be modified.

    3. Speaking from the perspective of the Continental Reformed, I can find confessional precedent for the theocratic (#1) construction. The French Confession, for example, specifically teaches that duty of the government to uphold both Tables of the Decalogue.

    4. This specific teaching, however, did not find its way into the received confession of the Continental Reformed churches, the Belgic Confession. The original version of the Belgic, however, still advocated the government to *actively support*, and not just protect, the church while suppressing false worship and idolatry in Article 36. So it was still basically theocratic.

    5. This teaching, however, was overturned and Article 36 was modified in the early 20th century. This was the received version of the Belgic of both the Dutch Reformed and the English-speaking 3 Forms of Unity churches in North America (CanRC, CRC, URC, RCA, RCUS, PRC).

    The original text read:

    Their office is not only to have regard unto and watch for the welfare of the civil state, but also that they protect the sacred ministry, and thus may remove and prevent all idolatry and false worship, that the kingdom of antichrist may be thus destroyed and the kingdom of Christ promoted.

    This was trimmed down to read:

    Their office is not only to have regard unto and watch for the welfare of the civil state, but also to protect the sacred ministry, that the kingdom of Christ promoted.

    In our confession, there is no mention at all of either the Mosaic law or the tripartite division of the law. Our standards do not address the application of law by government in nearly the sort of detail that the Westminster Standards do. The positive duties of the civil government are limited to the following:

    We believe that our gracious God, because of the depravity of mankind, has appointed kings, princes, and magistrates; willing that the world should be governed by certain laws and policies; to the end that the dissoluteness of men might be restrained, and all things carried on among them with good order and decency. For this purpose He has invested the magistracy with the sword, for the punishment of evil doers and for the praise of them that do well.

    Their office is not only to have regard unto and watch for the welfare of the civil state, but also to protect the sacred ministry, that the kingdom of Christ promoted. They must therefore countenance the preaching of the Word of the gospel everywhere, that God may be honored and worshipped by every one, as He commands in His Word.

    6. I would argue that, for churches under the 3 Forms of Unity, the theocratic conception is no longer a live option. It was positively repudiated in the alteration of the Belgic Confession. (Originally, the Synod appended a footnote condemning the language as “unbiblical teaching”, later it was simply omitted from Article 36).

    But if the theocratic conception is not a live option, then the theonomic conception certainly cannot be either, since (per #2) theonomy presupposes the theocratic conception and builds on it.

  73. tim prussic said,

    October 30, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for that work, David. I’ve conceived of the connection between theocracy and theonomy in almost opposite terms. Theocracy, where God is said explicitly to rule in a nation, necessarily includes theonomic aspects. Theonomic theory can be applied (by degree) in a nation who’s God is not Yahweh. Thus, theocracy necessarily includes theonomy, but not vice versa.

    In any event, it’s a good thing our confessional history extends beyond our modern American borders, huh? Again, it’s the OLD-new “error”!

  74. Bret McAtee said,

    October 30, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Yes, the changes in the WCF and Article 36 BC indicates that there were generations where slippage occurred in the Reformed faith. The presence of those want to embrace the original and uncorrputed language portends awakening among the Reformed Church.

    May God increase our awakening and our return to the old paths.

  75. October 31, 2008 at 6:23 am

    David

    Where should I go to find Theocratic writings among the Dutch Reformed?

  76. Michael L. said,

    October 31, 2008 at 6:36 am

    Steve et al.,

    Thanks. Following up on #66: Bernard Jackson published an essay in 1989 called, “Ideas of Law and Legal Administration: A Semiotic Approach,” which cataloged explicit examples of law-book use in the OT, and came up with the following four ways in which the writing-down-of-laws functioned: (1) as a monument to God’s rule (e.g., the Mount Ebal inscription, in Josh 8:32); (2) for deposit in the sanctuary (e.g., the law-book kept with Aaron’s staff, etc., in the tabernacle; Deut 31:26); (3) for reading in worship assemblies (e.g., Deut 31:9-13; Exod 24:3-8; Josh 8:34; 2Kgs 23:1-3; Neh 8); and (4) for use in education (e.g., 2Chr 17:7-9; Deut 17:18-20; Josh 1:8). I would add the category of (5) religious reform to the list, with Josiah and Ezra-Nehemiah as prime examples of major religious reforms taking place using the Mosaic law-writings. (The reason Jackson does not include that fifth category is not because he overlooked those examples, but because there are issues he and I differ on regarding how Ezra and Nehemiah are understood.)

    We might say that (and this is a bit simplistic, but perhaps it gets at the point) the uses of the law-writings in ancient Israel were not that different from the uses which the church has learned from Jesus and the Apostle Paul (surprise, surprise!). The laws are divinely given paradigms of holiness that teach us (the people of God are its audience, not lawyers and judicial specialists) what it looks like, through use of practical, concrete examples, to love God and to love our neighbor. So we study (or should study!) the laws in worship, and in private and public education.

    In regard to the latter, Jackson (whom I earlier referenced) has even gone so far as to suggest that the law-writings were used in Israel to help train the people to resolve their conflicts without going to court: the cases which went to court would be the ones for which there was no clear custom (known to a law-educated public) by which the parties could handle matters themselves. So, Jackson suggests that the courtroom is the one place where the law-book would not be in typical use (the exact opposite of modern legislation, which is not reading material at home but used in the courtroom)! That is probably overstating the case, but it highlights the crux of the matter. The audience of Israel’s law-book is consistently *the public* (more precisely, the likely illiterate public through literate leaders reading and teaching them from the law-book).

    In fact, even the Deut 17:18-20 passage, where the king is called on to read from the law-book, gives that charge as part of a list of charges designed to humble the king and make him “like his brethren.” He is not being charged to read the law-book as a kingly activity (i.e., as a “constitutional monarch”); rather, it is one of the charges which makes him “like his brethren.” In other words, law-book reading was something done for the edification and instruction of the people; and, unlike in neighboring kingdoms, Israel’s king must be “like his brethren” and he also reads and studies the law-writings (with Levite assistance, the passage implies) like the public.

    Certainly, all this would mean that kings and judges are also educated in the righteousness of God through the paradigms collected by Moses, and this, we might expect, would have important authority in their judicial thinking. But to be educated by the law-book (as a law-collection/didactic text) is quite different from the modern notion of judges implementing pre-defined penalties for pre-defined categories of cases (as a law-code/legislative text).

    A possible analogy is that of medicine. Doctors, we expect, are well trained in all that previous experts have discovered about the nature of health and what symptoms respond to what kinds of treatments. But we know that health is such a complex balance, that we expect the doctor to bring his knowledge to a specific patient, to weigh through the many unique and overlapping issues involved in the specific, concrete case before him, and from his wisdom in medicine, to work out the best treatment in this instance, and to help educate the patient and motivate him/her to pursue it. Medical textbooks have an important role in thus equipping the doctor, but those texts are not legislating his treatments, case-by-case. Actually, another biblical/ANE law scholar, Raymond Westbrook, has done a fair bit of work comparing ANE medical texts and legal texts, suggesting that there may be a real analogy between their uses in the ancient world. But I actually got the idea of this comparison originally from Aristotle. Aristotle wrote to defend the “superiority” of the new, Athenian way of doing law under legislation, by contrasting it against the “barbarian” nations where judges, as he described them, functioned like doctors, their law-texts being like medical-texts which guide but do not prescribe how they must treat each case (Pol. 3.10.4).

    While such analogies and comparisons might all be helpful heuristics, we ultimately have to draw our conclusions from what Scripture itself portrays. And the Scriptures show us, on the one hand, that the law-writings were used to educate God’s people in loving him and loving one another; and, on the other hand, Scripture shows us judges and kings handling cases out of a love for God and his ways, but never through application of a “here’s what the regulations say” method. Indeed, over and over in biblical court examples (like that of David and the Woman of Tekoa, and numerous others), we often find biblical judges coming to rulings that are at variance with the specific provisions described in the law-book (though, I would argue, always within “the general equity thereof” — if I can use that phrase, anachronistically). But that kind of detail I’ll leave to those who want to do more reading on the subject…

    I hope that helps. And I do think that this kind of work — resolving what was the original function of the law-writings within ancient Israel — is necessary BEFORE we can then ask what the function of those law-writings should be for society, today. In particular, from what I know of it, theonomy seems to me to be imposing a function upon the Mosaic law for which it was never originally intended. But much of the anti-theonomy reactions (from what I’ve seen of it) seems to rely on extra-biblical systems of elaborate logic to try to justify what laws (or portions of laws) are valid and in what way, and which are not, all in a very complicated, extra-biblical schemes imposed on the text. I believe that such schemes are devised because the anti-theonomist movement also mistakenly presupposes that the Mosaic law-writings were once legislation, but because they see Jesus and Paul claiming to uphold the law while doing such non-legislative things with it, they feel compelled to devise these convoluted schemes to try to explain.

    Much simpler to just go back and first ask the question, “How were these law-writings actually intended to be used in the first place?” And then we can ask the question, “Do Jesus and Paul uphold that same use, or do they do something different with it?” And that, then, lays the groundwork for asking ourselves, “How can we avoid becoming like the pharisees, who read the right book (the Torah) but with the wrong glasses (Hellenistic legal ideals), and instead ‘use the law lawfully’ (1Tim 8:8), today?”

    Michael

  77. steve hays said,

    October 31, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately, I don’t see how your explanation is all that responsive to my original question: “on your view, what was the function of the Mosaic Law? Specifically, what was the practical purpose of all those civil and criminal injunctions and penalties?”

    Let’s run through your examples and arguments:

    “(1) as a monument to God’s rule (e.g., the Mount Ebal inscription, in Josh 8:32).”

    How would inscribing some portion of the law be, in and of itself, a monument to God’s rule unless the Mosaic law code was, as a matter of fact, the rule of law in ancient Israel?

    A legal inscription is not, all by itself, a substitute for the practical function of a law code. Rather, it presupposes the functionality of the law. You have a public inscription of the law so that people will know their legal rights and responsibilities.

    If, on the other hand, you deny that the Mosaic law code was actually the rule of law in ancient Israel, then what’s the point of a public inscription?

    “(2) for deposit in the sanctuary (e.g., the law-book kept with Aaron’s staff, etc., in the tabernacle; Deut 31:26).”

    Same problem as (1). This action is not an alternative explanation for the practical function of the law. Rather, it presupposes the functionality of the law. Unless the Mosaic law code was actually implemented, there would be no particular value in preserving it for posterity.

    “(3) for reading in worship assemblies (e.g., Deut 31:9-13; Exod 24:3-8; Josh 8:34; 2Kgs 23:1-3; Neh 8).”

    Same problem as before: why bother reading the law aloud in public settings unless the life of the audience was actually regulated by this law code?

    “(4) for use in education (e.g., 2Chr 17:7-9; Deut 17:18-20; Josh 1:8).”

    Same problem as before: why educate the general public in the content of the law unless their lives were actually regulated by this law code?

    “(5) religious reform…Josiah and Ezra-Nehemiah as prime examples of major religious reforms taking place using the Mosaic law-writings.”

    What does that mean unless Josiah and Ezra-Nehemiah were now enforcing a hitherto neglected law code?

    So, unless I’m missing your point, I fail to see how these 5 explanations supply an alternative interpretation regarding the practical purpose of the law. To the contrary, it seems to me that all 5 actually presume and confirm the common sense interpretation, according to which the Mosaic law code, including the case laws, were actually in use.

    “We might say that (and this is a bit simplistic, but perhaps it gets at the point) the uses of the law-writings in ancient Israel were not that different from the uses which the church has learned from Jesus and the Apostle Paul (surprise, surprise!). The laws are divinely given paradigms of holiness that teach us (the people of God are its audience, not lawyers and judicial specialists) what it looks like, through use of practical, concrete examples, to love God and to love our neighbor. So we study (or should study!) the laws in worship, and in private and public education.”

    I still don’t follow your intended contrast between a functional law code and your own position. So these inspired paradigms teach us how to love God and our fellow man.

    Then what? What do we do with that teaching? Do we live by that teaching? Isn’t the function of NT household codes to govern the individual and corporate life of Christians, in church and society at large?

    If we accept your analogy, how does that prove that the Mosaic law code wasn’t actually applied to real life cases? Wouldn’t it underscore the opposite interpretation?

    “In regard to the latter, Jackson (whom I earlier referenced) has even gone so far as to suggest that the law-writings were used in Israel to help train the people to resolve their conflicts without going to court…”

    Isn’t that a trite way of saying that laws have a deterrent value? The liable party has an incentive to settle out of court, since he would likely lose if his case comes before a judge? So how does this explanation evidence your apparently claim (unless I’ve misunderstood you) that OT judges didn’t use the OT case laws?

    “The cases which went to court would be the ones for which there was no clear custom (known to a law-educated public) by which the parties could handle matters themselves. So, Jackson suggests that the courtroom is the one place where the law-book would not be in typical use (the exact opposite of modern legislation, which is not reading material at home but used in the courtroom)!”

    i) I’m sorry, but isn’t that explanation pretty silly on the face of it? To begin with, isn’t the primary incentive for an out-of-court settlement the fear of legal repercussions if the case ever comes before a judge? The leverage for an out-of-court settlement is the implicit or explicit threat of ratcheting up a private dispute to the next level if the liable party refuses to settle out of court. So this explanation actually presupposes the very thing it denies.

    ii) On a related note, if the parties are unable or unwilling to settle out of court, then judicial proceedings would be the only legal enforcement mechanism. It’s a necessary back up system.

    iii) And the grounds for judicial action would be the law. The judiciary is established by law. The rules of evidence are established by law. The actionable offenses are established by law. And the penalties are established by law.

    iv) If a plaintiff went to court, his only argument would be to accuse the defendant of breaking the law. And the judge would try the defendant for violation of the law. What law, if not the law of Moses?

    So don’t see how Jackson’s scenario avoids the functionality of the Mosaic law as the rule of law for ancient Israel. To the contrary, it seems to me that his scenario logically assumes the functionality of the Mosaic law every step of the way. Am I missing something?

    “In fact, even the Deut 17:18-20 passage, where the king is called on to read from the law-book, gives that charge as part of a list of charges designed to humble the king and make him ‘like his brethren.’ He is not being charged to read the law-book as a kingly activity (i.e., as a ‘constitutional monarch’); rather, it is one of the charges which makes him ‘like his brethren.’ In other words, law-book reading was something done for the edification and instruction of the people; and, unlike in neighboring kingdoms, Israel’s king must be ‘like his brethren’ and he also reads and studies the law-writings (with Levite assistance, the passage implies) like the public.”

    I don’t see how your conclusion follows from your example. Just the opposite: this is a paradigm case of constitutional monarchy. The Israelite king is to study the law, in part, because the law applies to him as well as to a private citizen. He is not above the law. Rather, he is subject to the law. In that respect, he’s on the same footing as every other member of the covenant community. His authority derives from the law and, by implication, he can be deposed in case he’s a covenant-breaker.

    “Certainly, all this would mean that kings and judges are also educated in the righteousness of God through the paradigms collected by Moses, and this, we might expect, would have important authority in their judicial thinking. But to be educated by the law-book (as a law-collection/didactic text) is quite different from the modern notion of judges implementing pre-defined penalties for pre-defined categories of cases (as a law-code/legislative text).”

    But the Mosaic paradigms are paradigms of predefined penalties for predefined offenses. If kings and judges are educated in the law, that’s the content of the law they studied. So how do you drive a wedge between the content of the law they studied and their legal duties?

    “While such analogies and comparisons might all be helpful heuristics, we ultimately have to draw our conclusions from what Scripture itself portrays. And the Scriptures show us, on the one hand, that the law-writings were used to educate God’s people in loving him and loving one another; and, on the other hand, Scripture shows us judges and kings handling cases out of a love for God and his ways, but never through application of a ‘here’s what the regulations say’ method. Indeed, over and over in biblical court examples (like that of David and the Woman of Tekoa, and numerous others), we often find biblical judges coming to rulings that are at variance with the specific provisions described in the law-book (though, I would argue, always within ‘the general equity thereof’ — if I can use that phrase, anachronistically). But that kind of detail I’ll leave to those who want to do more reading on the subject…”

    i) This claim is too vague to respond to. We’d have to work through a specific list of examples to evaluate your argument.

    ii) Also, you seem to be assuming that if OT judges actually made use of Mosaic case laws, they would have no judicial discretion in how they applied the case laws to real life situations. I don’t know the basis of your assumption.

    There is always an element of judicial discretion since a judge must analogize from a case law to a real life situation.

    iii) Moreover, you also seem to be assuming that the penalty structure would be rigid (if OT judges were using Mosaic case laws). Once again, I don’t know the basis of your assumption. Depending on the offense, the sentence could be commuted.

    Going back to your initial comment (#57):

    “For one example, #51 above quoted Exod 21:12-14 and offered an elaborate system of thought to try to distill how to apply it. But look at the court example in 2Sam 14, where David hears a murder case (the case of the Woman of Tekoa) and does NOT apply the death penalty like we might assume he should based on Exod 21 (and Num 35:30-34; Lev 24:17; Deut 19:13; 21:9). Yet David is called ‘like the angel of the LORD’ in the judgment he renders. Actually, the case is one which is conjured up by Joab, so that it is a sham case in the end. But it is a carefully crafted case, cooked up by Joab, to deliberately put David in a hard spot, because the case sets a number of principles of justice in conflict: (1) Israelite inheritance laws (e.g., Num 27.8–11); (2) Israelite bloodguilt laws (already noted, above); (3) Israelite kinsman-redeemer laws (e.g., Num 35.27); and, (4) the right of widows to call down divine vengeance (e.g., Ex 22.22–24). But this is the way in which ancient Near Eastern courts understood law to function in the real world: cases are never simple and it would never be imagined that a written-prescription of legal formulas could ever dictate how a judge should rule in cases.”

    How do you think that stands in contrast to either theonomy or general equity?

    In real world situations, an OT judge might have to balance or counterbalance different legal obligations. Take mitigating circumstances into account. So what? How is that in tension with the idea that OT jurisprudence was guided by the Mosaic case laws? What, exactly, is your position opposed to? What’s your target?

    “Jesus promoted a kingdom where the King is truly sovereign, and who rules according to righteousness idealized in the law-writings (but does not suppose that those law-writings were ever intended to be implemented in a mechanistic, legislative manner).”

    You like to use the word “mechanistic,” as if the position you oppose is guilty of applying OT ethics or NT ethics “mechanistically.” What do you mean by that, exactly?

    For example, what do you think we should do with Jesus’ statements about fornication, adultery, divorce, and remarriage? How should they function in the church or society at large? Should the church discipline adulterers, or would that be too “mechanistic”?

    “But are the Mosaic law-writings really adequate to provide righteousness for a society by themselves? Paul argues that the law-writings were never designed to accomplish righteousness, they always pointed to and expected a King to accomplish what they idealized. In making those arguments, I believe that Paul is reflecting good, ANE (aka, ‘barbarian’) thought, and the way Moses himself would have understood the law-writings to function…”

    i) This is simplistic. A basic function of law is not to make people good, but to deter evil.

    ii) Paul himself has a list of moral prohibitions which Christians are supposed to abide by.

  78. Tony Monaghan said,

    October 31, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Hello all,

    I simply want to raise a point about 19:4 which I rarely see made, not regarding the nature of general equity, but the statement that the general equity “may require” some contemporized civil response. With great affection for the divines, trying to draw together differing opinions into a single confessional statement, this is a brilliant use of weaselly language. For by definition, that which is required is not a “may,” it is a “must.”

    Grace to You and Peace,
    Tony Monaghan

  79. Michael L. said,

    November 1, 2008 at 6:42 am

    Steve (#77),

    Thanks for such a thorough reply! I’ve got a couple appointments today, along with final preparations for tomorrow’s services, so it’ll be next week before I answer, further. But I’ll get back to you.

    Meanwhile, thanks for your patience.

    Michael

  80. Colin said,

    November 1, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Daniel (#75)

    Some of the best theocratic writings among the Dutch Reformed are from the 19th century theologian, Philippus Jacobus Hoedemaker who had strongly opposed the principled pluralism of his Amerstam University colleague, Abraham Kuyper and his Anti-Revolutionary party. In addition, he vigorously opposed the revised Belgic Confession. Hoedemaker was basically a Dutch version of a Scottish Covenanter.

    Unfortunately for us English speaker’s, Hoedemaker’s writings are only in Dutch.
    However, Gary Demar has reprinted Ruben Alvarado’s 1991 Lecture on this topic entitled, “Kuyper Vs Hoedemaker”

    http://www.americanvision.org/downloads/KUYPHOED.pdf

    Another Dutch theocratic writer would be Willem Geesink who wrote on “Reformed Ethics”, but again, I am not aware of any English translation of his works. Perhaps Lane could could encourage some Puritanboard member who happens to know Dutch to translate some of these sadly neglected works?

    My apologies in advance to the Blog owner if this post is not deemed completely relevant to the OP.

  81. Michael L. said,

    November 4, 2008 at 8:35 am

    Steve et al. (#77),

    I can appreciate your expressions of mystification. I’m not going to pretend to be able to clear up all of your questions right off — not because there are not answers, but because the subject, admittedly, puts the Mosaic lawbook into a genre which is outside modern categories of thought.

    Sometimes, when teaching this subject, I introduce it with a set of math problems in Roman numerals. I ask the audience to give me the Roman numeral solution to several equations, like, X+X=___ (which, of course, is XX), and, X-V=___ (which, of course, is V). But then I’ll ask for the solution to V-V=___. The answer to V-V is, of course, zero; but there is no symbol for zero in Roman numerals. Nor in ancient Hebrew, Babylonian, or other ancient number systems. Zero simply was not a mathematical concept in the ancient world. (Nor were negative numbers.) As you probably well know, the numerical concept of 0 comes from far eastern religions (where concepts of nirvana emerged), and were mediated to the medieval west through Arabic universities.

    Now, typically we think of such a detail about Roman numerals as curious trivia; knowing this might help a person win a round of “Trivia Pursuit,” but is of little more benefit than that. But what it actually represents is a different concepts of numbers: a one-based, rather than zero-based, numerology. And it means that, if we were to pick up an ANE mathematical text — say an old Roman formula for determining the volume of a container for holding grain — and use that formula for my own business buying and selling grain today, I would need to use it according to ancient Roman numerology — not presuming modern numerology.

    Frankly, I don’t know much about ancient numerology. And I don’t mean “to wax obscure” with this reference. But my point is simply that, if we are going to use the Mosaic law-collections (as I believe we ought to!) in modern society, we must nonetheless use them according to their own genre, not by artificially fitting them into our modern concepts of law. And the points which I have been raising, and all your thoughtful questions in reply, are exactly the issues that need to be examined. And you rightly get to the point in one comment you made, in particular: “This claim is too vague to respond to. We’d have to work through a specific list of examples to evaluate your argument.”

    That is one of the major points which I raise in my book on this subject, and the one point I have been hoping to get across in these blog postings. Too many scholars of OT law read texts like Deut 17:18-20 and, seeing a king reading the lawbook, they immediately conclude that he is a constitutional monarch. Our minds work in that way: we read details (e.g., a king reading a lawbook) and search our minds for something we already understand (e.g., lex rex ideology) and we plug the data into the category we already know. But, shouldn’t we then move forward to examine actual examples of the king’s judicial activity in the biblical narratives? Do the narratives of the king show us that Israel invented the constitutional monarchy in a radical break from the rest of the ancient world? Shouldn’t we, indeed, go ahead and examine the actual examples of how the lawbook is being used in the biblical narratives, to conclude if Mt Sinai (and not Athens) really is the true origin of legislative society?

    What does it show us when we see Ezra-Nehemiah using the lawbook in the reinstitution of worship on Mt Zion, but when the people rise up with a cry for justice (in Neh 5), and Nehemiah convenes a court of law to hear their case, he never appeals to any law-texts in his verdict? Furthermore, when we “work through a specific list of examples” of how Ezra-Nehemiah do use the lawbook in guiding their religious reforms, there uses are so different from what the lawbook says that it is a common conclusion amongst OT scholars that the Pentateuch we now have has been changed from what Ezra-Nehemiah had. I disagree with that conclusion, but it is an understandable conclusion for those who expect use of the lawbook to be regulatory rather than indicative. In other words, you are correct in saying that “work[ing] through a specific list of examples” is exactly what is needed; and if you would actually do so, I think you’d find that Israel’s use of the lawbook does not fit into the genre of “constitution” or “legislation”.

    The major point which I’m seeking to promote is that, in the theonomy/anti-theonomy debate, the issue which we are discussing is “how the OT law-writings should be used in modern society.” But, as one who has done extensive work in the field, I have come to the conclusion that we first have to get our heads around “how the lawbook was actually used in Hebrew society” — and not to presume it was used after the manner we presuppose lawbooks to be fill in modern (Greco-Roman) society. The difference is not merely one of form (ala Douglas Stuart); it is that, but it is also one of function.

    By way of analogy: when Jesus came, he came as a king. He came as the promised Messiah whom the prophets announced would bring victory and justice to his people. But how would he do so? What kind of king was he and how does he function in that office? Sadly, period Judaism — influenced by the Greco-Roman examples of kingship set by Alexander and Caesar, and already adapted in Judaism by the Hasmoneans — anticipated a king who would save after the manner of those militant rulers. But Paul labored, with detailed exegesis from the OT law and prophets, to explain to his fellow Hebrews that the Scriptures called for a king who would conquer, not by shedding the blood of others, but by shedding his own blood. It was a different model of kingship, though every bit as much a true king and exactly what the OT texts actually described (though read through period presuppositions, many Jews missed it).

    In the same manner, do not think that I am arguing that the lawbooks of Moses were without authority. By all means, they are the inspired description of what holiness, justice, and love look like. But the question I believe we have to ask ourselves, and answer through careful examination of the biblical narratives, is “how is this lawbook supposed to be used?” Before we can really make any traction on the debate about how we are supposed to use it today (theonomy/anti-theonomy), we have to re-visit the way it was used in ancient Israel.

    I’ve attempted, in these blog posts, to open up that kind of question, and to point out some of the Scriptural texts relevant to the matter. Naturally, an initial reading of my positions will produce more questions than answers, simply because I’m putting the lawbook into a category which simply does not exist in modern systems of thought. As the kind of Messiah Jesus came to be had to be redefined in contrast to the kind of kings Judaism learned from Greece; as the kind of pastor the church requires had to be redefined from the Aristotle-like rabbi-sages which period Judaism learned from Greece; as the kind of sacrifice God’s people required had to be redistinguished from the materialistic readings of the OT sacrifice texts which Hellenistic Judaism had developed; as the very nature of the kingdom of God as always having been a promise/faith-based rather than ethnic-based community had to be retaught in contrast to the ethnic polemics brought into Judaic thought by Alexander’s conquests; so also the way in which we receive and use the lawbook had (and again, today, has) to be reformed according to the pattern of its use demonstrated in the OT narratives.

    The best answer to your questions is to complete the careful “work[ing] through [of] a specific list of examples” that you are rightly perceiving to be needed. Sadly, that kind of detail work is generally done in academic circles, but not in ecclesiastical circles, nowadays. There is a lot of literature on this subject in scholarly realms, but very little serious examination of this nature takes place in church circles. I suppose that’s why I started work on the subject 6 or 7 years ago, and why I thought I’d try to “stir up” the issue here.

    Let me encourage you to take my various remarks, poorly crafted as they may be, and reflect on them from time to time as you study relevant passages in the OT narratives (or, indeed, the NT writings). Try not to throw my arguments away too hastily, and certainly do not suppose that granting serious thought to my arguments in any way undermines the authority of the Mosaic law-writings.

    As the proverb, “put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite” (Prov 23:2) is granted its fullest authority when it is received as a proverb; as the judicial ruling King Jesus gave from the 7th commandment, that, “if your right hand offends you, cut it off and throw it from you” (Matt 5:30), is given its fullest authority when it is read according to its intended import; as the naturalistic description that, “the sun stood still” in Joshua’s day (Josh 10:13) is granted its full authority when read as a statement of the phenomenological genre (rather than imposing upon it the anachronistic category of scientific observation); and as so many prophetic, rhetorical, narrative, and other passages of Scripture are granted their rightful authority when read within their original genre (and actually are robbed of their authority when forced into unnatural genre categories), so my argument is for granting the Mosaic law-writings their full authority. Don’t hastily conclude that, by pointing out that an extensive study of the OT narratives illustrate that the Mosaic lawbook was not used in court verdicts, but as a popular teaching text, I am in any way disparaging their authority. But I am wanting to urge my fellow ministers and churchmen to consider how the lawbooks actually were designed to be used in ancient Israel, before going on to draw conclusions about how they might need to be used in modern society.

    It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that such studies (perhaps because they are involved and stretching) are rarely undertaken by the church, but are left to the universities. I hope that the church will take such foundational studies seriously, once again.

    I hope all that is some help. It has been great fun dialoguing about these matters here. Maybe when I finally get around to re-writing my research on the subject in a more readable format for the church (my current book is, I recognize, technical and difficult reading), I’ll post something on GreenBaggins. In the meantime, don’t dismiss my position too quickly, but keep trying to make sense of it as you study the biblical examples themselves…

    Michael

  82. steve hays said,

    November 4, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Michael L. said,

    “Try not to throw my arguments away too hastily, and certainly do not suppose that granting serious thought to my arguments in any way undermines the authority of the Mosaic law-writings.””

    You’ve given us no sustained argument for your position. So there’s nothing to throw away, whether hastily or with all due deliberation. For the most part, all you’ve done in this reply is to repetitiously assert some programmatic claims about the true genre of the Mosaic law code. You keep assuming what you need to prove.

    The only thing I can identify by way of argument are two very rudimentary arguments: one argument from analogy, along with a vague appeal to discrepancies between the Mosaic law and Ezra-Nehemiah. Let’s take your argument from analogy:

    “By way of analogy: when Jesus came, he came as a king. He came as the promised Messiah whom the prophets announced would bring victory and justice to his people. But how would he do so? What kind of king was he and how does he function in that office? Sadly, period Judaism — influenced by the Greco-Roman examples of kingship set by Alexander and Caesar, and already adapted in Judaism by the Hasmoneans — anticipated a king who would save after the manner of those militant rulers. But Paul labored, with detailed exegesis from the OT law and prophets, to explain to his fellow Hebrews that the Scriptures called for a king who would conquer, not by shedding the blood of others, but by shedding his own blood. It was a different model of kingship, though every bit as much a true king and exactly what the OT texts actually described (though read through period presuppositions, many Jews missed it).”

    This strikes me as simplistic. Doesn’t it amount to a half-truth?

    The obvious response is to distinguish between the first advent of Christ and the second advent. In the first advent, he comes as a Savior—but in the second, he comes as a judge.

    So political messianism is half right and half wrong. It’s wrong on the timing, but it’s correct insofar as the Messiah is, indeed, a warrior-king who will conquer his remaining foes by force. But this occurs on the Day of Judgment.

    If you disagree with that explanation, why?

    “I hope all that is some help.”

    How would that be of any help? I asked you a number of questions to clarify the implications of your position. You duck my questions and simply reiterate what you said all along. That does nothing whatsoever to advance the argument.

    Let’s take a concrete example at random. The Mosaic law has a provision for war brides. In your opinion, what is the purpose of that provision?

    What would be the function of a provision for war brides unless that was addressing a real world situation, viz. Israel wins a battle, captures some eligible women. What’s to be done with them?

    If you reject that common sense interpretation, then what is your alternative explanation for the existence of this provision?

    “In the meantime, don’t dismiss my position too quickly, but keep trying to make sense of it as you study the biblical examples themselves…”

    What Biblical examples? The only example you gave in your latest reply was a vague appeal to the alleged discrepancy between the Mosaic code and the jurisprudence of Ezra-Nehemiah. But you furnish no specifics.

    What, exactly, are the discrepancies between the Mosaic law and Ezra/Nehemiah? And why do you think evangelical commentaries fail to adequately explain these (alleged) discrepancies?

    I’m left to suspect that you play your cards close to your vest because your position entails a lenient view of personal social ethics, and you wont lay your cards on the table because, as soon as we see where your position leads to, we will pounce.

    Maybe I’m mistaken about that. Can you prove me wrong? What’s the cash-value of your position? How would you apply your position to a church discipline, viz. divorce and remarriage?

  83. G.C. Berkley said,

    November 4, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Tim #71,

    Sorry, I haven’t been reading the comments on this post of late. The OT theocracy is no more, we excommunicate idolaters from the church, not execute them from the land. It is the spiritual nature of the new covenant. There is no reassertion of OT penalogy in the NT regarding the 1st table of the law, only the 2nd. If I have missed it, please let me know…

  84. tim prussic said,

    November 4, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    GC, the “spiritual” side of the Old Covenant didn’t execute anyone either – the civil side did. There is clearly a church/state distinction within the OT theocracy. Only in special persons, did the two come together. No theonomist is arguing that the church out to start executing people – the church uses the spiritual sanction given her (as you mentioned in #83). So it was in the OT. The state uses the sword AS GOD’S MINISTER (again, nothing new here – same as OT). However, that’s New Covenant talk, right there, GC. God uses the sword (an implement of execution) of the state to punish evil doers AND he uses the state to reward those that do good… read Paul – even Dispensationalists think he’s New Covenant!

    Contra a gnostic view of the NT: The NC is no less bound to time and space as was the OC, so the “spiritual” nature of the NC is the same as the “spiritual” nature of the old. What the Bible talks about is a variation of emphasis or degree – the OT is more external than the New – not one of kind. It’s quite false to say that the OT was external and physical, while the NT is internal an physical. They’re both both – in varying degrees.

    GC, please tell me where your “reassertion” notion comes from. Where does the Bible say that God has to speak twice to mean it once? I see (to advance one argument of a thousand) no “reassertion” of laws against bestiality in the NT, is that now a lawful practice?

  85. its.reed said,

    November 4, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Tim:

    Picking up on one point you make, I’ve alwasy wondered how does theonomy make the case that under the NC, the civil magistrate is tasked with physical administration of spiritual violations.

    E.g., under the OC, the nation of Israel was a theocracy in which there was a merging of both physical and spiritual justice, the OC church and state worked hand in hand. This can be clearly seen in the blasphemy laws used to justify executing our Lord.

    But does not the NC establish a separation of these? I.e., are not the swords of the Church and the State separated now. To the Church is given the keys by which they are to execute 1st Table violators) (e.g., blasphemers) in the pronouncement of their eternal damnation. Whereas the State, now not found in one nation, is given the responsibility to execute those who violate 2nd Table laws.

  86. tim prussic said,

    November 4, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Reed, I’d argue that distinction between church and state is found throughout the OT. Kings are not to take priestly duties upon themselves and get busted when they do. Only in certain and limited persons do these offices converge. The time of the judges also blurs this distinction a good deal. The church side always used spiritual sanctions and the civil side always physical ones. Possibly this is more pronounced in the NT, but it’s certainly not something new in the NT. It comes to the fore whenever God’s people are not under a godly government (Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome…. D.C.).

    More to the piont (GC and Reed), please tell me were the 1st and 2nd table argument finds its grounding in the Bible. I hear it again and again, but I can’t see it in the Bible. The church applies its sanctions to law breakers (of both tables – wouldn’t the consistory/session discipline a thief?) and the civil authority applies its sanctions to law breakers – but why limit this to the second table of the law? What Biblical basis do we have for this? Further, shall the civil authority apply its sanctions to covetousness (the second table)? That internal sin is only ever brought out into the open by Mt 18 type discipline, which is within the church.

    What I’m saying is that this 1st/2nd-table paradigm imposed on this discussion by so many Christians is a foreign paradigm, not a biblical one. It fits well with pluralistic modern notions of church and state, but not well with the Bible – at least that’s what I’m contending. I’m happy to be taken to school, though!

  87. tim prussic said,

    November 4, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    DOH!

  88. G.C. Berkley said,

    November 4, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Tim,

    Right, the difference between the OT and NT is a difference of “spiritual” degree. I didn’t say the OC was physical and external only, but when it passed away and became obsolete, so did the theocracy. The NC is not national in it’s character, but spiritual. We execute murders because of the general equity of the OT civil law with regard to the 2nd table of the law.

    I can sympathize with theonomists not wanting idolaters and blasphemers in their midst in this world, but the fact is we don’t live in such a world (not yet).

    Theonomists are trying to construct a world they will never see until the new heavens and new earth.

  89. its.reed said,

    November 4, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Tim: I actually prefer using the distinctions from the tri-part view of the law.

    Under the OC, violators of the the ceremonial, the ecclesiastical laws (usually applications from the 1st Table, hence the reference), received both ecclesiastical and civil sanctions.

    Under the NC, the ceremonial laws have been done away with in that their purpose in pointing to Christ has been fulfilled. Thus with the cessation of theocratic Israel, both its ecclesiastical functions (OC worship) and its civil functions (OC adminstration) are done away with. They served their purpose, said purpose being fulfilled in Christ.

    I would no more expect the state to execute a blasphemer than I would the Church to sacrifice a lamb.

  90. G.C. Berkley said,

    November 4, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    “I would no more expect the state to execute a blasphemer than I would the Church to sacrifice a lamb.”

    Amen, brother

  91. E.C. Hock said,

    November 4, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Reed, good points above. Your note about “ecclesiaistical function (OC worship),” however, raises discussion – again. (I know this is not where the WCF 19 takes us, but I raise it anyway). How is theocratic Israel related to its national form of temple worship? They are not disparate issues. The RPW is usually referenced in the WCF with passages from the OC theocratic context of Israel. Dominic Aquila’s recent Festschrisft article (O.P. Robertson) argues however for a NC rendering of the RPW. It makes sense. The RPW needs to be seen under the Gospel as an “expansive principle,” not restrictive principle, in light of the wider fulfillment of the law in Christ in all these other areas.

  92. its.reed said,

    November 4, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Evan:

    Interesting. I haven’t read Aquila’s piece. I guess it actually does come down to a measurement of where General Equity begins/ends, in this case with reference to RPW. That, it seems, will involve some considerations this same kind of fulfillment/cessation concept.

    To what degree is the RPW principle and to what degree is it practice? Cleary at the practice level we adopt the NC worship practices. At the principle level, we maintain the same across both covenants.

    Yet without reviewing the article, best I can say is hmmm …

  93. tim prussic said,

    November 4, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Gentlemen, thanks for the conversation. Reed, I’ll give some thought to your notion of the origins of the table distinction.

    As to GC’s OT-national vs. NT-spiritual – I think it mistakes the latter. No doubt that the OT was theocratic (so long as there was a nation). The NT, however, brings all nations into Israel; all lands into the land; all people into the people. This is very simple non-replacement covenant theology. As Christians go forth, in the grace of Christ and the power of his Spirit, converting nations, we’ll need to train them – for one, as nations – to obey Christ. A nation full of converted Christians will be a vastly different place than a nation full of heathen. The laws of each nation will always reflect the god or God of that people. There’s really no way around this, AND this is precisely where the (notice the binding WCF language here) *obliging* and *required* aspect of general equity comes into play. We’re not trying to recreate Israel’s theocracy – we’re trying to convert individuals and teach them how to love Christ and keep his commandments – same for families, neighborhoods, and all the way up to nations. (Dare I say the whole world?) Families, neighborhoods and nations all legislate; they all draw lines and say these things over here are good and will be rewarded and those over there are bad and will be punished. We want the laws of the Bible to be taken into consideration (in a central and primary way) in this process and applied as it’s generally equitable to do so. I think that is the Westminsterian position. I think that’s (unfortunately) called Theonomy.* And I think that why my position’s called the OLD-New error by Dr. Kline.

    *Note: I take it for granted that there are various stripes of Theonomists.

    See my #51 above. I am totally hip to the Christoloigcal terminus of a good deal of ceremonial and civil (and moral) law in the OT, but that does not preclude other aspects and applications. Both you men seem to want to make one aspect the only aspect.

  94. its.reed said,

    November 4, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Tim:

    This discussion began as a post on the meaning, better maybe, the contours of the General Equity Principle. I think it helpful to remember that we both agree with the principle, but root it in Scripture differently. This accounts for differences in application.

    I continue to be impressed with the degree of similarity in application.

  95. tim prussic said,

    November 4, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    I’m with ya, bro. *HUG* :)

  96. its.reed said,

    November 4, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    LOL. You geek (said with chuckle).

    For the record, I am NOT an advocate of Leo Buscaglia’s “theology” (author of the “group hug”). But I do appreciate the thought.

  97. Michael L. said,

    November 8, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Steve (#82),

    I’ve been on vacation, so have not been checking recently. Thanks for your continued dialog.

    The sustained argument you are looking for is in my book, which is quite public. I’m not hiding anything. If I was a closet liberal of some sort, I never would have posted here in the first place. I’m frankly stunned that your last post moved from thoughtful dialog into allegations against my character.

    As I’ve said all along, my only intention on this blog is to raise the presuppositional issue which theonomy/anti-theonomy debates seem too often to ignore. Here is that presuppositional issue, again: Before theonomists or anti-theonomists can determine how to use the Mosaic law today, they first have to prove (not just assume!) how the Mosaic law-collection was used in Israel of old.

    Many (like you) will *presuppose* that the Mosaic law is legislation, enforced by judges in courtrooms. All I am saying is, take that presupposition and test it before you use that as a starting point for the theonomy/anti-theonomy discussion. First we must do the careful work to examine the court narratives in the OT to see if that presupposition holds up against the actual, biblical evidence. I have done 300 pages of that kind of work, which is published in my aforementioned book. If you are truly interested in my analysis of those court narratives and so forth, try to find my book in the library.

    But to reiterate once again: my goal, here, is simply to raise the fact that that question needs to be asked. The next step, as I have said all along, is to carry out the text-level analysis to answer the question, and that is exactly what I am wanting to urge more churchmen to do! I sketch out the direction of my own conclusions from doing that kind of study, only as a heuristic to push for the need to do so. But I’m not planning to reproduce my “under the hood” work, here.

    If you really do want to see *my* analysis: as I have said all along, go see if you can get my book through a library. It is public. I’m not hiding anything. Blogs are great for opening up general issues. Books, or extended in-person conversation, are better forums for the detailed study required once the issue has been introduced.

    Take care, Steve. And have a blessed Lord’s Day, tomorrow.

    Michael

  98. RubeRad said,

    November 26, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Let me state at once that I am only beginning to look at theonomic literature at the moment.

    Make sure you check out Vern Poythress’ Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses. Poythress is no theonomist (he is closer to Kline), but his robust view of general equity allows for innumerable concrete examples of how to apply the moral and judicial principles to be found in Mosaic law, without applying the Mosaic law itself.


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