New Book Coming Out On the Law of Moses

I know the author fairly well, and can attest that he loves the law of the Lord, and yet recognizes both continuity and discontinuity in the application of the law from the OT to the NT. Should be a very interesting book.

62 Comments

  1. Ron said,

    September 16, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    It will be interesting to see how he tries to avoid arbitrariness and inconsistency given an epistemology that rejects the tenets of theonomy. http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2008/08/theonomy-second-verse-same-as-first.html

  2. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    September 16, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    The tagline says, “Duncan’s personal position on Christian political theory is the historic, Reformed, Scottish, Puritan view found in the Westminster Confession.”

    I think Rutherford et al would disagree.

  3. tim prussic said,

    September 16, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Yeah, that tag line is quite something. They should have put something about the Old-New Error along with it!

    It’s funny: I almost always click on Pr. Lane’s links to WTS (as I gather it earns him points… er somthing) and they usually have 4-5 books at the bottom of the page that are related. In this case, there were only two books: Theonomy: A Reformed Critique and a book by Poythress. I’m not familiar with the latter, but I’m impressed that they don’t ever offer books from the theonomists’ side – not surprised, just impressed.

  4. Ron Henzel said,

    September 16, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Ron wrote,

    It will be interesting to see how he tries to avoid arbitrariness and inconsistency given an epistemology that rejects the tenets of theonomy.

    Actually, I don’t think that feature will be all that interesting, since he won’t have to try very hard. All he has to do is stick to Scripture and the Confession, as he’s done in the past.

  5. E.C. Hock said,

    September 16, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Ron states: “All he has to do is stick to Scripture and the Confession, as he has done in the past.” Well said. If anyone is familiar with Ligon’s pattern of exposition so far, as well as in the article referenced above, there is no need to think otherwise on this new work.

  6. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    September 16, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    That is fine but one cannot say that it is the “Scottish view” when most of the Scottish Divines would disagree.

  7. KBennett said,

    September 17, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Ron,

    Actually, the main tenet of theonomic epistemology is arbitrary, especially considering the Bible nowhere says that only mosaic case law is just or true.

    You gotta love modernistic, unbiblical biblicism.

    Sigh… how did the early church get along without you guys? ;-)

  8. ReformedSinner said,

    September 17, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    I could be way off, but my take is ever since the passing to the LORD of Greg Bahsen, theonomy has lost much steam in the Reformed world.

  9. Ron Henzel said,

    September 17, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    I think Bahnsen’s death certainly played a role, but it was also soon followed by that of David Chilton, and eventually that of Rousas J. Rushdoony himself, leaving only Gary North from among the original theonomian patriarchs. It’s kind of like having a family business in which all potential CEOs died off except for the crotchety old uncle with the tact of Don Rickles, the sense of humor of Idi Amin, and the paranoia of WKRP’s Les Nessman, who was disowned by the family 20 years earlier. I suppose one could argue that the mantle has actually fallen on Gary DeMar, but, whoever’s leading the movement, it seems to have become as insular and unfocused as RJR became at the end of his life.

  10. G.C. Berkley said,

    September 17, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Ron,

    Now that’s funny :-)

  11. David Gadbois said,

    September 18, 2008 at 10:53 am

    At least Bahnsen was a kind and likable fellow. He did his movement a great service by it, and is justly remembered fondly because of it. Almost every other theonomic leader was not.

    There are still vestiges of the movement around here in the Southern California OPCs (most notably in Roger Wagner). I do not know where Ken Gentry has ended up. I do know that the study center and seminary Bahnsen founded (SCCCS and BTW) closed their doors and their newsletter stopped 1 or 2 years ago.

    Unsurprisingly, a great many theonomists seem to have made their way to the CREC.

  12. E.C. Hock said,

    September 18, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Is it so unusual that, given that its literalist OT hermeneutic paralleled that of Dispensationalism (i.e, reading the NT in the lesser light of the OT), Theonomy’s approach to the law, like Dispensationalism’s approach to prophecy, faded and lost its force? Adding to it the loss of key leaders, whose voice sustained their appeal, they both collapsed under similar curcumstances. What a contrast this is to someone’s influence like G. Vos. All along, coming into its own, the juggernaut-like advance and depth of Biblical Theology (Reformed style) only helped the eventual demise of each.

  13. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    September 18, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Why the need to bismirch Theonomists by trying to link it to FV? I see this very often by those who find theonomy objectionable for whatever reason. Y’all do know Steve Schlissel, James Jordan, and other FV men have repudiated theonomy and have become active anti-theonomists?

  14. KBennett said,

    September 18, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Ben,

    It is warranted – they hold to the same hermeneutic, and sociologically – a remarkable number of former theonomists have become FV.

    A better question to ask is why would anyone feel the need to separate them?

  15. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    September 18, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    KBennett,

    Because it would be a violation of the Ninth Commandment that to insinuate one must be a FV’er if they are a theonomist. Again do you not understand that James Jordon, Mr. FV, repudiates Theonomy? I fancy myself as “theonomy friendly” does that make me a believer and signer to Federal Vision?

    Also notice that all of the FV’ers are Calvinists, so they must be the same right?
    We could go on and on but we both know that to be absurd.

  16. KBennett said,

    September 18, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Ben,

    Um. No one is saying that.

    All anyone has said is that there is a link between the two. My ancestors are from Britain, but that does not make me British.

    I call for a floor motion that anyone who calls for/about a violation of the 9th commandment be put in time out.

  17. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    September 18, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Look at your last sentence of #14.

    “A better question to ask is why would anyone feel the need to separate them?”

    You say here that FV and Theonomy are joined. Saying that the holder of one must by consequence of their unity hold the other, which is factually untrue.

  18. G.C. Berkley said,

    September 18, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    “Why the need to besmirch Theonomists by trying to link it to FV?”

    I agree. There is no need. Theonomists do a fine job of besmirching themselves.

    Just funnin’ ;-)

  19. tim prussic said,

    September 18, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Making the FV and Theonomy identical is a bare naked political tactic. It’s simply guilt by association. Saying that there are connections between the two is merely stating the obvious and shouldn’t raise any eyebrows. Saying that one of the links is that the two groups hold to the same hermeneutic is a little bit more interesting.

    ISTM that the fundamental theonomic hermeneutic would have to be that the law of God, down to the details, is binding upon all ages unless altered by Scripture itself, explicitly or implicitly. Bahnen’s _Theonomy in Christian Ethics_ certainly stresses this. Now, I’ve read and spoken with scores of people on both sides of the FV debates that agree with that hermeneutic. Further, I’ve read and spoken with hundreds that that disagree with the theonomic hermeneutic – also on both sides of FV issues. Thus, either I’ve missed the hermeneutical distinctive of Theonomy (or screwed up some other way) or the hermeneutical link ‘twixt the FV and Theonomy really isn’t one after all.

  20. E.C. Hock said,

    September 18, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    If there is a connection between Theonomy and FV, or a noted propensity for theonomists to gravitate towards a FV position, it probably has more to do with an affinity of some to emphasize law, not necessarily by some thought out hermeneutic. Wherever law is more or less elevated, there they find a new home. Law-living is their comfort, be it in one’s obedience within a system of ethics, or one’s obedience within the framework of justification. The important thing is that it has due prominence. One need not insist upon some precise analysis for such trends to emerge and find new expressions.

  21. KBennett said,

    September 18, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Tim Prussic,

    E.C. Hock just expressed it beautifully. I was working up a long, specific response. But, he summed it up better than what I have.

    It’s an ad hoc hermeneutic, not necessarily one that is consistent point-by-point. The tie that binds is covenantal faithfulness, wether to obeying Sinai’s judicial code, or remaining an obedient communicant in-good-standing. OT categories remain uninterpreted by the NT.

    Ben,

    Again. No I didn’t. No need to be so sensitive on this topic.

  22. Vern Crisler said,

    September 18, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I think there’s more of a connection between theonomy and a too strong covenant theology. IOW, the stronger your covenant theology, the more attractive theonomy looks to you.

    On the other hand, the relation between theonomy and FV is not easy to see. I believe Colin Tayler runs a Bahnsen and a Reformed culture list — and he is definitely a strong defender of theonomy and reconstructionism.

    Yet he also severely criticizes FV, including David Bahnsen’s claims that Greg was FV. So how can there be any direct links between the two positions?

    Rush, Greg, and North did support Shepherd, in much the same way Van Til did, but I think most of us would acknowledge that only a very few really understood at the time (long ago) where Shepherd was going with his theology. And I don’t think R, G, and N had any special insight into something that only became a big deal just five or six years ago.

    Vern

  23. Ron said,

    September 19, 2008 at 7:15 am

    KBennett wrote: “Actually, the main tenet of theonomic epistemology is arbitrary, especially considering the Bible nowhere says that only mosaic case law is just or true.

    You gotta love modernistic, unbiblical biblicism.

    Sigh… how did the early church get along without you guys? ;-)

    Your make two claims and then two silly remarks. I’ll deal with your claims. First you imply that Moses is a justification for laws, and secondly Moses is not the only justification for laws. Concerning your first claim, are you suggesting that it is justifiable to legislate laws that are consistent w/ Moses? Should it be law to put a rapist to death based upon Scripture? If so, then that would not be arbitrary or inconsistent and, therefore, theonomic. Concerning your second claim that Moses is not the only justification for law: If you do have another justification for laws other than Moses then in order not to be arbitary and inconsistent – that justification must not violate Moses or any part of Scripture. Now tell me, what should be the punishment for rape and how do you justify your answer?

    Ron

  24. Ron said,

    September 19, 2008 at 7:23 am

    #15 Ben,

    I appreciate that you are theonomic friendly, but I can’t go along with your claim that all FV’s are Calvinists. Haven’t some FV’s argued that one can lose his union with Christ? That’s anything but Calvinistic.

    Ron

  25. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    September 19, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Ron,

    I was being absurd on purpose. Much like saying FV and Theonomy are joined, since most FV’ers attack Theonomy.

  26. Ron Henzel said,

    September 19, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Ron,

    Regarding your comment 23, you seem to be implying that any punishment for rape other than that prescribed by Moses would be arbitrary, and that for a Christian to support it would be inconsistent. I assume you would apply this reasoning to other criminal penalties as well.

    But when Paul wrote, “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God” (Rom. 13:2), he was referring primarily to the Roman government, which had a different set of punishments than those prescribed by Moses. Even so, he referred to their authority as “the ordinance of God.”

    According to your logic, this would seem to mean that Paul was arbitrary and inconsistent on this topic.

  27. Ron said,

    September 19, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Regarding your comment 23, you seem to be implying that any punishment for rape other than that prescribed by Moses would be arbitrary, and that for a Christian to support it would be inconsistent.

    Ron,

    Not only would it be arbitrary, it would be disobedient. After all, has God lifted the penalty for rapists?

    But when Paul wrote, ‘Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God’ (Rom. 13:2), he was referring primarily to the Roman government, which had a different set of punishments than those prescribed by Moses. Even so, he referred to their authority as ‘the ordinance of God.’

    That citizens are to obey government (when it does not require them to sin) does not logically imply that the government is not required by God to put rapists to death.

    According to your logic, this would seem to mean that Paul was arbitrary and inconsistent on this topic.

    Not at all. Paul instructed that to disobey government (when they are not requiring sin on the part of its people) is to disobey God’s ordinance. That we are to obey rulers does not speak to the questions of which sins they are to punish and to what degree. Maybe you might tell me whether rape should be punished and to what degree. Then tell me how you justify your answer.

    Ron

  28. Mark Chambers said,

    September 19, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Rom 13:3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;
    Rom 13:4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

    Only God is good. Ergo whatever is good must conform to the sole source of good. To the extent that any law conforms to the law of God it may be said to be good. When the state administers law based on any standard other that God’s law it ceases to be a minister of good for only God is good.

  29. Ron Henzel said,

    September 19, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Ron,

    You wrote:

    Not only would it be arbitrary, it would be disobedient. After all, has God lifted the penalty for rapists?

    I think you’re asking the wrong question. It’s not a question of whether He has lifted the penalty He prescribed for ethnic Israel, but whether he ever imposed that same penalty on the legal system of any other nation.

    That citizens are to obey government (when it does not require them to sin) does not logically imply that the government is not required by God to put rapists to death.

    You appear to be using the word “government” in a generic sense that once again implies that the civil requirements God placed on Israel He also placed on all nations. I think we all already agree that there is much in the Mosaic Law that God did not place on all nations, even though our agreement may lie solely in the area of ceremonial laws. Nevertheless, the obsolescence of the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law demonstrates that just because something was in that law does not mean it has ethnically-universal application.

    Now, one might argue that the only parts of the Mosaic Law that do not apply today are those which have been explicitly repealed in the New Testament. However, it should be noted that this is an assumption, and if it’s true it makes it difficult to explain why in Romans 2 Paul argues that the nations are only guilty of violating the law written on their hearts rather than the Law of Moses itself, if, as you say, it would be arbitrary and disobedient for Gentile governments not to keep the written Torah because it is required of all nations. While the obsolete ceremonial aspects of the Law pointed to Christ, I believe the penal aspects are equally obsolete, since they had much to do with the typological significance of Israel’s role in redemptive history, a role which has it has ceased to play.

    Maybe you might tell me whether rape should be punished and to what degree. Then tell me how you justify your answer.

    My first reaction to these questions, since it’s not the first time you’ve asked them, is to note that they give me the impression that you believe there is no possible way to provide an answer other than yours without being arbitrary or inconsistent. I do not agree with that assumption.

    My second reaction is to note that you have oversimplified the biblical data on the punishment for this particular crime by quite a stretch! You have avoided the fact that the Mosaic Law did not require the death penalty for all rape, but only for the rape of betrothed women (Deut. 22:25-27). The rape of a non-betrothed virgin was actually punishable by a fine of fifty shekels of silver and marriage to the victim without the possibility of divorce (Deut. 22:28-27). (A half-shekel was an amount that even the poor could afford to contribute to the priests when they offered sacrifices [Ex. 30:15]. Slaves were commonly valued between thirty and fifty shekels, usually depending on their gender [Ex. 21:32; Lev. 27:3-4]. Fifty shekels, therefore, was a pretty stiff fine, one that would probably have to be worked off, perhaps by performing services for the victim’s father, who might have some motivation to hire the offender once he was married to his daughter.)

    Well, is rape a capital crime or isn’t it? I suppose if one considers marriage as a form of capital punishment, then perhaps it is. But since Henny Youngman’s school of interpretation never really caught on in rabbinic circles, let alone Christian ones, I think it’s difficult to sustain that view. So you’re left with one crime having two very different forms of punishment—one capital, and one decidedly not (the rapist gets to live, get married, have a family, and is only out fifty shekels!)—and the only circumstance determining which one is administered is the marital status of the victim.

    If the Mosaic Law was specially-crafted with a non-transferable penal system due to the unique typological place of Israel in redemptive history, then this discrepancy is not as difficult to explain. But if the Law was intended for all governments in the sense that it requires even Gentile governments to punish all crimes in the same manner as Israel was required to punish them, then it is difficult to explain how this discrepancy in rape penalties is not an example of arbitrariness and inconsistency, unless we’re prepared to argue that rape is not inherently heinous because raping a betrothed woman is an exponentially more worse crime than raping a non-betrothed woman, which can be remedied with a fine and a wedding.

    I think it would be difficult to explain to the average American today why he should allow his former-virgin daughter to marry the man who violently abused her and probably scarred her emotionally for life. Who on earth would believe that such a man would make a good husband? A provision in the Law allowed the father to refuse in cases where his virgin daughter was seduced instead of raped (Ex. 22:17). Perhaps the rabbis used the principle of qal va-homer (from “light” to “heavy,” or from lesser to greater) to allow application of this principle to cases of rape. But still, in such a case, the rapist would have lived!

    Of course, rape should be punished. I think every nation on earth understands that, and this is consistent with Paul’s teaching in Romans 2:14-15, so the question itself (“Maybe you might tell me whether rape should be punished”) borders on the absurd. As for the degree to which it should be punished, it seems to me that Paul’s position was that as Christians living among the Gentiles (most of us actually being Gentiles) we should accept the decision of the government under which we find ourselves because its authority constitutes the ordinance of God.

    On the other hand, if we insist that it would be disobedient for those in authority today—particularly Christians—to fail to apply the penalties of the Mosaic Law, we might as well forget about Christians serving as judges in American courts, where they will have no choice but to limit their sentencing to that which legislators have previously decided if they wish to remain judges. I realize that this a pragmatic argument, but it still should be taken into consideration: Christians will ultimately have no voice at all in the very government they seek to transform according to biblical principles if they insist on those principles being the Mosaic Law “in exhaustive detail.” Perhaps this explains why Theonomy’s voice has become increasingly muted as of late.

  30. E.C. Hock said,

    September 19, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Ron Henzel’s above diagnosis of the assumptions, and consequent conundrum, that afflicts many ethical ethusiasts of Theonomy is another reason why we see biblical principles within the narrative and redemptive progession of biblical theology (typical role of Israel and its legal applications) as germane to Covenant Theology. It also helps us explain why Paul, with apostolic authority, could yet support and affirm equitable expressions of God’s law under broader forms of government.

  31. David Gadbois said,

    September 19, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    I think E.C. Hock’s comments are correct, but I think Vern’s comment here comes closest to fleshing out some of the theological presuppositions in play:

    I think there’s more of a connection between theonomy and a too strong covenant theology. IOW, the stronger your covenant theology, the more attractive theonomy looks to you.

    And so it is with FV as well. That is why FV has frequently been labeled “hypercovenantalism.” FV sees the covenant as essentially undifferentiated (i.e. “head for head” stuff, can’t get visible/invisible church distinction right). The covenant and the covenant community (the church) become more and more identified *as* salvation, rather than the means of administering salvation. And FV is monocovenantal, just as Rushdoony was.

    Both FV and theonomy *must* downplay discontinuities between the Old and New Covenant, national Israel/Mosaic economy and the NT church. In this capacity, both movements are childish overreactions to dispensationalism. So not only is it monocovenental (failure to distinguish pre and post-lapsarian covenants) but mono-economical (failure to distinguish properly the various economies within the covenant of grace). Everything is blurred together.

    Also, a note about theological “trajectory.” You lift up the law too much, and eventually the law becomes good news. And that is where FV have taken theonomy’s cues. Then you end up with no law/gospel distinction (which goes hand in hand with monocovenentalism). That is why FV is far more dangerous than theonomy. Theonomy is, at this time, not much more than an academic discussion about how Christians might want to govern civil society if we were in charge, which we aren’t.

  32. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    September 19, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    How can Theonomy be a “childish reaction” to Dispensationalism when Modern Theonomy predates Ryrie by about 200 years?

  33. KBennett said,

    September 19, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Ron Henzel,

    Amen!

    See? It is possible for the two of us to agree. :-)

  34. E.C. Hock said,

    September 19, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    I will probably overstate myself here in this next blog spot. When Vern wrote: “I think there’s more of a connection between theonomy and a too strong covenant theology. IOW, the stronger your covenant theology, the more attractive theonomy looks to you.” I, too, would agree with this comment. It takes my earlier comment further. Thus “covenant” is defined largely, or near exclusively, in terms of its continuity (with the OT as the greater light), and becomes, as stated, “mono-covenantal.” That strong continuty moves into other spheres of lifeview and culture. (We then have Reformed children running about looking like Frontier Pilgrims or the Amish, all in the cause of looking covenantal, like their forefathers.)

    I also agree with this rendering by David: “You lift up the law too much… eventually the law becomes good news. And that is where FV have taken theonomy’s cues. Then you end up with no law/gospel distinction (which goes hand in hand with mono-covenentalism).” Well said; law then does become the “good news.” This is a more subtle digression or development, but also more insidious. Doing the law and doing the gospel collapse into one seamless expression of what it means to walk in the light. (i.e., This is where churches have to sit down and work out why they as parents in Christ should support one another, and not splinter and divide over how they school their covenant kids).

    If the role of law in Theonomy and in FV are distinct, and they are, they nevertheless have an overlapping kindred spirit – a love for the law that flattens the gospel if not transcends it. Thus, a ‘gospel-ing of life,’ or a redemptive way of interpreting life, ceases to have an on-going influence. Rather than law leading to gospel, we have gospel leading to law, or in terms of the FV, the gospel eclipsed altogether in both framework and function.

  35. Ron said,

    September 19, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Ron,

    In all your writing you said nothing to support your position, let alone deal with mine. Let me deal with a perfect example of this. You wrote:

    “Of course, rape should be punished. I think every nation on earth understands that, and this is consistent with Paul’s teaching in Romans 2:14-15, so the question itself (”Maybe you might tell me whether rape should be punished”) borders on the absurd. As for the degree to which it should be punished, it seems to me that Paul’s position was that as Christians living among the Gentiles (most of us actually being Gentiles) we should accept the decision of the government under which we find ourselves because its authority constitutes the ordinance of God.

    Your answer to what the punishment for rape (or any crime for that matter) should be is in bold text and incoherent. Your answer for what the punishment should be is “we should accept the decision of the government.” That, Ron, is not a sanction. It’s an attitude that Christians should have toward the punishment. Since you didn’t offer the punishment, presumably you mean that the punishment should be anything the governement decides. But that makes the punishment arbitrary. Given your epistemology as it pertains to civil sanctions, you can’t even prove that the sin should even be punished by rulers in the first place.

    Your also wrote “My first reaction to these questions, since it’s not the first time you’ve asked them, is to note that they give me the impression that you believe there is no possible way to provide an answer other than yours without being arbitrary or inconsistent. I do not agree with that assumption.

    Well Ron, you say you don’t agree with my assumption that the Bible must inform us on sanctions for crimes and you have even gone so far to suggest that there is another way to arrive at justifiable answers; yet for some reason you have refused to disclose the basis upon which you believe sanctions should be determined. Finally, the distinctions you have tried to draw out for different kinds of rape are irrelevant in our legal system unless theonomy is sound! Theonomy is not concerned so much with the sanction but as to how we arrive at the sanction. Theonomists can and do disagree with sanctions; what we together affirm is that the Bible is to inform us on which sins are crimes and how crimes are to be dealt with by righteous rulers.

    Ron

  36. Ron said,

    September 19, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Ron,

    I should probably make mention that I find your exegesis incorrect with respect to Deut. 22 as it pertains to rape. I would argue that it pertains to seduction. That verse does come up from time to time in an attempt to refute the theonomic thesis. However, neither interpretation has any bearing on the thesis because a theonomist can exegete the verse either way; if he exegetes it your way, then of course he’d apply that exegesis in cases dealing with virgins. In the final analyes, your distinction is only germane if theonomy is a sound principle. Otherwise the distinction is moot. Tell me though, if your married daughter were raped apart from seduction, what do you think the sin should warrant if anything? I’m not asking you what your attitude would be toward God’s ordained rulers. I’m asking you whether the sin should be punished and if so, what that punishment should be and how you would justify those determinations.

    Ron

  37. September 19, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    […] All Theonomists & Other Reasonable Persons Please tell me if you find this frustrating. New Book Coming Out On the Law of Moses Green Baggins There are two with the name Ron. I’m not Henzel. I’m the theonomist-Ron. Ron […]

  38. September 19, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    When God says that a punishment is just, any other punishment is unjust, since it departs from the justice of God’s Law and is an arbitrary invention of man.

    I am extremely surprised that anyone would set forth Ligon Duncan’s work as a series critique of Theonomy, though he does make one good point: VanTillanism demands Theonomy. At an epistemological level, Theonomy is simply presuppositionalism applied to ethics.

    For those interested in an exegetical and historical defence of Theonomy, keep your eyes peeled on my blog over the next year, as I am currently working on a doctoral thesis called “Reformed Theonomy: An Exegetical and Historical Defence of Biblical Law” which contains several hundred pages of Theonomic quotes from the past, not to mention evidence from the Older and New Testaments proving the equity and validity of Biblical civil law, while exposing the folly of latent antinomian appeals to Israel’s covenantal uniqueness, intrusion ethics, etc., as an excuse for randomly setting aside the Law of God in its civil application.

    I recommend some reflection on Paul’s political use of the Law in 1 Tim. 1:5-11 for those who are new to the subject. You will find that not only are the OT penal sanctions not repealed in the NT, but they are actually repeated – how clear does it have to be.

  39. September 19, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Sorry, that should read “serious critique”.

  40. September 19, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    FWIW, Lord willing there will be a lengthy research article by two writers (splitting the analytical and historical work) on the Westminster Assembly and the judicial law in the 2009 issue of The Confessional Presbyterian journal (the 2008 is late but under preparation now). While there have been a number of books and articles touching the subject, I’m told by the leading authority on things Westminster that the approach taken is unique, not just for this subject, but for any subject dealing with the Westminster Assembly. I’ve undertaken and completed the historical work (I think; never sure I’m really ever “done” on research projects) and will be getting after my co writer soon to do the analytical. I’m sure Dr. Duncan’s book will figure in that. Look for something in the 2009 CPJ, D.V. (Luke 14:28-30).

  41. Vern Crisler said,

    September 20, 2008 at 12:45 am

    Re: 31

    David said, “And so it is with FV as well. That is why FV has frequently been labeled “hypercovenantalism.” FV sees the covenant as essentially undifferentiated (i.e. “head for head” stuff, can’t get visible/invisible church distinction right). The covenant and the covenant community (the church) become more and more identified *as* salvation, rather than the means of administering salvation. And FV is monocovenantal, just as Rushdoony was.”

    I agree that in one sense, FV is an extreme version of covenant theology. Nevertheless, while theonomy is supportive of covenant theology, the trajectory of FV covenantalism is in the direction of undermining traditional covenant theology (in the ways you’ve pointed out). As far as Rushdoony’s denial of the covenant of works, it’s more like John Murray’s denial: it really did not affect their theology in any significant way.

    David said, “You lift up the law too much, and eventually the law becomes good news. And that is where FV have taken theonomy’s cues. Then you end up with no law/gospel distinction (which goes hand in hand with monocovenentalism). That is why FV is far more dangerous than theonomy. Theonomy is, at this time, not much more than an academic discussion about how Christians might want to govern civil society if we were in charge, which we aren’t.”

    Despite the emphasis on law, theonomy at its best does not deny the law-gospel distinction, nor justification by faith alone, nor salvation by grace, or other important loci in Reformed theology. In addition, correlating theonomy with FV doesn’t explain why the major proponents of FV (such as Jordan) repudiate theonomy. Also, FV is ecclesiocentric and very totalitarian in its conception of the power of the church, the very opposite of what Rushdoony taught.

    So again, I don’t see a direct correlation between theonomy and FV. To the extent Gary North has adopted FV lately (and anti-Constitutionalism), I seriously doubt whether Rushdoony or Bahnsen would have agreed with him.

    Cordially,

    Vern

  42. September 20, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Chris, RE #40,

    I am looking forward with eager anticipation to receiving the 2008 edition. I’m pleased to see that you are already lining up more quality content for 2009. Thank you for your helpful work for the Kingdom.

  43. September 20, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Daniel,

    I recommend some reflection on Paul’s political use of the Law in 1 Tim. 1:5-11 for those who are new to the subject. You will find that not only are the OT penal sanctions not repealed in the NT, but they are actually repeated – how clear does it have to be.

    First, let me say that I have enjoyed and benefited by some of your contributions to the Reformed community. I genuinely appreciate you as a fellow servant of our Lord and His Kingdom.

    I do, however, have serious problems with your handling of 1 Tim 1:5-11. I don’t see anywhere in that passage where Paul refers to the political law of Israel. The crimes he lists in verses 9 and 10 are moral failures touching the moral law. Sure, some overlap the civil law, but in verse 10 he clearly says that the item enumerated are contrary to “wholesome doctrine”, not political or societal rules.

    What is “wholesome doctrine”? In verse 11, Paul says that it’s “according to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which is committed unto me.” The gospel clearly refers back to the moral law, not the civil law. Paul goes on in verses 13-16 to talk about his moral failings and Christ’s great faithfulness to him. The civil law is nowhere in view.

    This is consistent with the overall tone and purpose of the letter, which provides pastoral encouragement and counsel to a young pastor. It would make no sense and serve no pastoral purpose for Paul to jump out of context in 1:5-11 to address civil situations, especially since Timothy had no civil authority. It is consistent with the context that Paul would contrast the faithlessness and sin of a fallen world with the great, free, and unmerited grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    This analysis is also consistent with WCF 19.4, as one might expect.

  44. Ron Henzel said,

    September 20, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Ron,

    In comment 35 you wrote:

    In all your writing you said nothing to support your position, let alone deal with mine.

    That hardly surprises me. In everything I’ve ever read by you, either here or on your own blog, I don’t recall ever seeing you admit that anyone has ever been able to adequately reply to your scholarly brilliance. I guess you’re just a beacon of light in a sea of intellectual darkness (along with occasional “insufferable” professor). And, of course, you want all the world to know about it (“Gee, isn’t it frustrating when someone won’t admit that I’m obviously right?”), so you run over the Puritan Board (as we see in the ping in comment 37) like a schoolboy on a playground, looking for allies.

    It also doesn’t surprise me because your response shows no evidence that you actually read the bulk of my comment (#29).

    You wrote:

    Let me deal with a perfect example of this. You wrote:

    “Of course, rape should be punished. I think every nation on earth understands that, and this is consistent with Paul’s teaching in Romans 2:14-15, so the question itself (”Maybe you might tell me whether rape should be punished”) borders on the absurd. As for the degree to which it should be punished, it seems to me that Paul’s position was that as Christians living among the Gentiles (most of us actually being Gentiles) we should accept the decision of the government under which we find ourselves because its authority constitutes the ordinance of God.“

    Gee, you skipped over a lot of stuff I wrote that I kinda’ thought might remotely qualify as statements that support my position in order to get to this “perfect example” of something that supposedly doesn’t. It’s reminds me of the middle schoolers I teach who think that if they pretend not to hear what I say they don’t have to deal with it.

    You wrote:

    Your answer to what the punishment for rape (or any crime for that matter) should be is in bold text and incoherent.

    Incoherent? Hmmm. I went back over it a few times and it did not seem to be “lacking orderly continuity, arrangement, or relevance” (Merriam-Webster). Nor did it seem to be “lacking normal clarity or intelligibility in speech or thought.” Perhaps if use smaller words next time, you won’t find it so difficult.

    You wrote:

    Your answer for what the punishment should be is “we should accept the decision of the government.” That, Ron, is not a sanction. It’s an attitude that Christians should have toward the punishment.

    You mean, kind of like the Theonomian attitude toward punishment, that we should just take what we find the Mosaic Code and shove it into our Gentile legal systems like a matzoh ball into a pork roast? You mean like that?

    You wrote:

    Since you didn’t offer the punishment, presumably you mean that the punishment should be anything the governement decides. But that makes the punishment arbitrary. Given your epistemology as it pertains to civil sanctions, you can’t even prove that the sin should even be punished by rulers in the first place.

    Which definition of “arbitrary” are you using? Merriam-Webster lists the following:

    1: depending on individual discretion (as of a judge) and not fixed by law
    2 a: not restrained or limited in the exercise of power : ruling by absolute authority
    b: marked by or resulting from the unrestrained and often tyrannical exercise of power
    3 a: based on or determined by individual preference or convenience rather than by necessity or the intrinsic nature of something
    b: existing or coming about seemingly at random or by chance or as a capricious and unreasonable act of will

    Frankly, I don’t see how accepting the decision of a government necessarily qualifies as arbitrary under any of the above definitions of that term, especially in a representative democracy with a deliberative legislature, such as our own. But if you let me know which definition of “arbitrary” you’re using, and how it applies, I think that will help me understand where you’re coming from.

    You wrote:

    Well Ron, you say you don’t agree with my assumption that the Bible must inform us on sanctions for crimes and you have even gone so far to suggest that there is another way to arrive at justifiable answers; yet for some reason you have refused to disclose the basis upon which you believe sanctions should be determined.

    You really enjoy framing your opponent’s argument in the least charitable way possible, don’t you? I frankly find that disturbing in a Presbyterian elder.

    No, I did not “refuse” to disclose anything to you. If I refused, you would know it, because I would tell you. But it is now clear to me that you did not deign to receive what I wrote as being an adequate response to your question, so I would like to try again: sanctions for rape should be determined on the basis of local custom, in keeping with the biblical teaching on natural law as found in Romans 2. I actually think a reasonable person could have gathered that from what I already wrote, but perhaps I was less clear than I imagined.

    Luther put it this way:

    I would be glad if [today’s] lords ruled according to the example of Moses. If I were emperor, I would take from Moses a model for [my] statutes; not that Moses could be binding on me, but that I should be free to follow him in ruling as he ruled….

    <[“How Christians Should Regard Moses,” in Timothy L. Lull, ed., Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), 140.]>

    Deal with it.

    And in the meantime, before you call this procedure “arbitrary,” kindly advise as to which definition of that word you are using and demonstrate how it applies.

    Finally, the distinctions you have tried to draw out for different kinds of rape are irrelevant in our legal system unless theonomy is sound!

    You totally misunderstand what I was saying by referring to the two different kinds of rape in Deuteronomy 22. I never said the Deuternomic distinction between two kinds of rape was in any way relevant to our legal system. My point was quite the opposite: they demonstrate the irrelevance of Mosaic penal sanctions to our legal system.

    You wrote:

    Theonomy is not concerned so much with the sanction but as to how we arrive at the sanction. Theonomists can and do disagree with sanctions; what we together affirm is that the Bible is to inform us on which sins are crimes and how crimes are to be dealt with by righteous rulers.

    Well, the fact is that you have utterly failed to justify this approach, and since you spend so much time defending Theonomy, I think I’m more-than-justified in putting this in such harsh terms. You have failed to deal with the opening points I made in my last comment, where I wrote:

    I think you’re asking the wrong question. It’s not a question of whether He has lifted the penalty He prescribed for ethnic Israel, but whether he ever imposed that same penalty on the legal system of any other nation.

    I know very well what Theonomy’s view of Mosaic sanctions is. I also know that it has never demonstrated that God has imposed the Mosaic civil code on any nation other than Israel. Theonomists simply assume that He has, and Theonomists like you make a career out of trying to make those who don’t look silly.

    Theonomy is nowhere asserted in the New Testament. In fact, given the extent to which the New Testament authors are concerned to establish that the Mosaic Law does not have abiding validity “in exhaustive detail,” given the fact that the entire church has denied the applicability of Mosaic civil sanctions throughout its history, and given the fact that Theonomy did not exist as a blip on anyone’s radar screen until the 1960s (Ferguson and Duncan having amply refuted the notion that Theonomy carried the day in the Westminster Assembly), you live in a fairytale world of your own creation in which the rules of argument place the burden of proof on anyone who opposes your Johnny-come-lately system (heck! it’s at least 130 years or so younger than Dispensationalism for crying out loud!). Where I come from (Chicago) we have a word for that that we borrowed from Yiddish: chutzpah! You certainly have a lot of it.

    You wrote in comment 36:

    I should probably make mention that I find your exegesis incorrect with respect to Deut. 22 as it pertains to rape. I would argue that it pertains to seduction.

    Then you’re arguing against the overwhelming evidence of Hebrew usage. The word translated “rape” in the NIV of Deuteronomy 22:28 (taphas) is usually translated “seize,” “capture,” “arrest,” or “catch” in the NASB and KJV. It is the same word used of Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:12, where we read, “She caught (taphas) him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me!’ And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside.” It frequently signifies a violent seizing of something, as when Moses said, “I took hold (taphas) of the two tablets and threw them from my hands and smashed them before your eyes.” It is used of both the invasion of the city Ai (Joshua 8:8) and the capture of its king (Joshua 8:23). It expresses the imprecatory wish of the psalmist that the wicked will be caught (taphas) by the same devices they use to persecute the afflicted (Psalm 10:2). In Proverbs 30:9 it refers to the misappropriation of God’s name, when the author prays that the Lord keep him from poverty so that he does not become a thief and thus “profane (taphas) the name of my God.” Even in its mildest usage, referring to Jubal as “the father of all those who play (taphas) the lyre and pipe,” it signifies mastery and control, in much the same way as when it is used of the farmer who “wields (taphas) the sickle” (Jeremiah 50:16), the rower who “handles (taphas) the oar” (Ezekiel 27:29), and of soldiers who “grasp (taphas) the bow” (Amos 2:15) or “wield (taphas) the sword” (Ezekiel 38:4). There is never any implication that the object thus seized is taken willingly. “The lizard can be caught (taphas) with the hand,” but he is still elusive enough to slip past the guards and be “found in king’s palaces” (Proverbs 30:28). The word is never used of a seduced woman. In fact the only time it’s used in the context of seduction is when Joseph escapes it.

    I realize that you will dismiss all this with a wave of your theonomian wand (as you proceed to do in anticipation of my reply in your next paragraph), but it nevertheless shows to what great lengths you will go to deny the obvious.

    You wrote:

    That verse does come up from time to time in an attempt to refute the theonomic thesis. However, neither interpretation has any bearing on the thesis because a theonomist can exegete the verse either way; if he exegetes it your way, then of course he’d apply that exegesis in cases dealing with virgins.

    You’re quite correct: Theonomists don’t give a hoot if the Mosaic Law prescribes death for the rape of one kind of woman and marriage and a fine for the rape of another kind of woman. It doesn’t faze them at all because their thesis blinds them to any difficulty. I understand.

    In the final analyes, your distinction is only germane if theonomy is a sound principle. Otherwise the distinction is moot.

    Unless you made a poor choice of words here, I think I’ve rarely read anything more intransigent in a blog comment. Either it proves Theonomy or it’s debatable? Either I’m right or I still refuse to admit I’m wrong? What else could you have meant by “moot?” (The only other meaning it has as an adjective is “deprived of practical significance,” i.e., “made abstract or purely academic,” in which case you’d be saying that it either proves Theonomy or it’s not worth discussing! Have you ever been confronted by a cogent point that you weren’t able to parry away with the stunted rapier of your logic?)

    This is not my distinction. This is a distinction made in Deuteronomy. If you think you can apply it directly to early-21st century American culture—or virtually any other culture on the planet, for that matter—I would like to purchase tickets to a front-row seat for that spectacle.

    Tell me though, if your married daughter were raped apart from seduction, what do you think the sin should warrant if anything? I’m not asking you what your attitude would be toward God’s ordained rulers. I’m asking you whether the sin should be punished and if so, what that punishment should be and how you would justify those determinations.

    To repeat: sanctions for rape should be determined on the basis of local custom, in keeping with the biblical teaching on natural law as found in Romans 2.

    The utter novelty of Theonomy in church history should be plenty to inform you that the burden of proof is on you. Your Jedi mind trick of trying to put us on the defensive by getting us to demonstrate that our view isreductio ad absurdum while you stand outnumbered by the witnesses of the apostles, historical theology, and church history won’t work here.

  45. Ron said,

    September 20, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Ron,

    I really have no more to say to you.

    Blessings,

    Ron

  46. September 20, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Reformed Musings

    Thank you for your gracious comments.

    Paul’s comments in 1 Tim. 1:5-11 refer to how the law has been made for unrighteous men; the first use of the law is to restrain ungodly men, but the Law can only do this if there are penalties attached to the law. In the context, Paul is contrasting this lawful use of the law, with the unlawful use of the law by the Judaizers – and most of the things Paul lists are capital crimes in Biblical Law.

    The fact that Timothy is not a civil magistrate is pretty irrelevant, as Paul is talking about the proper use of the law, which is not to condemn the just but the unjust. Keep in mind that the Pharisees were not civil magistrates, yet Christ told them that the death penalty for cursing one’s parents was still applicable.

    The Theonomic view is that a law can be both moral and civil; and so what is moral in the judicial law continues. This view is consistent with the writings of the Reformers, Puritans, Covenanters and WCF 19:4. In my experience, non-theonomists only appeal to WCF 19:4 in order to attack Theonomy; they have no idea what it means. This is substantiated by the fact that virtually none of the Puritans or Covenanters would be employed by any Reformed Seminary today because of their view of the judicial law.

  47. September 20, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Moreover, why would “wholesome doctrine” be out of accord with the civil law of Scripture?

    By the way, my comments were only a call for reflection; I don’t have time to debate this.

  48. Colin said,

    September 20, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    This book advertised on the WTS website by Dr. Duncan is hardly “new”. I received a free copy from Duncan over 3 years ago. And its same content that can be found for free on many websites for the past several years. Though this particular hard copy is enhanced by some valuable footnotes which include the author’s admission of a strong Van Tillian apologetics and Theonomy connection (note: not necessarily Van Til the person and Theonomy).

    What has been long rumored is that Dr. Duncan was preparing (for the past 10 years) a new distinct book against Theonomy entitled, “What About Theonomy?” This is said to be an expansion on his 1995 circulated paper of the same name (which is distinct from his Moses Law for Government work). Rev. Chris Strevel of the RPCUS wrote a point by point rebuttal to Duncan’s WAT that was published in the Counsel of Chalcedon magazine several years ago (and is now available in the online CoC archives).

    http://www.counselofchalcedon.org/includes/pdfs/MayJune1995.pdf

    I agree with Ben, that Duncan’s advertised political theory is not fully reformed, nor puritan, nor confessional. If it were, he would likely not be permitted to teach in any modern Reformed seminary. But among all the would be critics and analysers of Theonomy, Dr. Duncan is one of the few writers who tries to be fair, similar to Dr. Bruce Barron (cf. “Heaven on Earth? The Social and Political Agenda of Dominion Theology”), and John Frame (cf. “Review of Theonomy in Christian Ethics”, and “Machen’s Warrior Children”, and “Greg Bahnsen: Student/Scholar” )

    As for the FV connection allegation, it should be acknowledged by all fair minded critics that there have been many Theonomists who have publicly repudiated and opposed both Shepherd and FV. cf. “Danger in the Camp: An Analysis and Refutation of the Heresies of the Federal Vision” by Theonomist, Rev. John Otis.

    http://www.westminsterrpcus.org/modules/wfsection/article.php?articleid=3

  49. September 20, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Daniel,

    Thank you for your gracious response. Like you, I do not have the time to debate this either. I’m happy to leave it as it is, agreeing to disagree on the topic.

    Again, I thank you for your work for and dedication to our Lord and His Kingdom. May God continue to richly bless you and your work.

    By His grace,
    Bob

  50. September 20, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Since I’m here at the moment, I will chime in on this last point.

    As for the FV connection allegation, it should be acknowledged by all fair minded critics that there have been many Theonomists who have publicly repudiated and opposed both Shepherd and FV. cf. “Danger in the Camp: An Analysis and Refutation of the Heresies of the Federal Vision” by Theonomist, Rev. John Otis.

    Colin is spot on. Although some theonomists have strayed into Federal Vision, Federal Visionists do not represent theonomy as a whole. Mainstream theonomists have repudiated the Federal Vision, just as 7 Reformed denominations have. I’ve made that clear on my blog and repeat here in the hopes that all will make that accurate distinction.

  51. E.C. Hock said,

    September 20, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Colin notes: “…Duncan’s advertised political theory is not fully reformed, nor puritan, nor confessional. If it were, he would likely not be permitted to teach in any modern Reformed seminary.”

    Let’s raise the question, since it is not looked at that often: What is the Reformed political theory?

    Other matters arise here as to the answer, like how and when do we politicize the pulpit with that specific theory? But surely there are shades of interpretation here. The above citation assumes a clear understanding of it that (perhaps) ought to be applied today, which our seminaries are missing.

    Yet is there not a contextual issue here, much like how the Pope was viewed as the anti-Christ? Given as background the conflict between King and Parliament in the English Civil War, which drives much of Puritan political theory, how do we re-interpret and apply that political theory in our day? Were not there variations of it among the Puritans themselves? Afterall, not everyone in Reformed England wanted Cromwell to be a Protectorate. We of course may have wistful sympathies with such theories, eclectically applied, but it sounds like “the Reformed theory” is assumed to be monolithic and transcultural in nature.

  52. September 20, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Bob

    Thanks for your reply. Just out of interest, John Gill seems to take a view of the passage similar to my own; but I will leave it there.

    Blessings.

    Daniel

  53. TurretinFan said,

    September 21, 2008 at 9:31 am

    I was a bit surprised by Mr. Henzel’s comments, as I cannot imagine how he would hope to justify his “natural law” conclusions. I’ve tried to respond thoughtfully here (link to my response).

    -TurretinFan

  54. Ron Henzel said,

    September 21, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    TurretinFan,

    I believe everything I wrote is consistent with Turretin’s Institutes of Eclectic Theology, 11.10-23 and 11.26.1-10 (Giger translation, 2:3-7 and 2:165-167).

  55. David Gadbois said,

    September 22, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Re: VanTil and theonomy

    I take VanTil’s central insight to be that we must have a self-consciously revelatory epistemology. In that, I fully agree. Some seem to take this to mean Scripture is the only basis for knowledge, but that is more Clark’s position. But that seems to be the theonomist’s argument – that you don’t have an objective moral standard without Scripture and the Mosaic law code in particular (as a civil standard). They poo-poo natural law on this basis.

    But a biblical and Reformed revelatory epistemology must acknowledge general revelation to be a just, valid, and necessary foundation of knowledge as well. Natural law is just a subset of general revelation.

    I don’t consider the theonomist challenges for us to objectively prove, without the Mosaic Law, that X is wrong and Y is the equitable punishment for X to be effective arguments. I may not know how to prove such things, but I do this:

    although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death

    Pagan unbelievers, who have neither the Bible nor the Mosaic Law, knew what acts constitute sin, and knew what the equitable punishment was. Now the matter of *demonstrating* or proving the contents of innate knowledge like natural law in the manner of philosophers is notoriously difficult – and the theonomists want to make much hay out of this. It is certainly a lot nicer to have a black and white text to appeal to.

    All I know is that the Bible says that everyone knows natural law and is therefore culpable for it, whether or not I can do a good job of constructive arguments to prove those laws or not. The theonomist’s challenge cannot undo Romans 1.

  56. ReformedSinner said,

    September 22, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Good point #55,

    I would add that because of sin we can never truly know the natural laws, and that is why we need the Gospel and Revelation of God as ultimate authority in all of life, including law and government. However, that does not equate theonomy.

    They love to quote Van Til’s phrase “it’s theonomy or anarchy”, but that phrase is blatantly taken out of context and many Van Tillians have already written countless articles to refute that abuse of scripture.

  57. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    September 22, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Actually the quote is “theonomy or autonomy”, which makes a huge difference.

  58. Ron said,

    September 22, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    David,

    You said that you “may not know how to prove such things” (i.e. that “Y is the equitable punishment for X”) and then you quoted from Romans 1:32: (“although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death”). You then followed-up that train of thought with: “Pagan unbelievers, who have neither the Bible nor the Mosaic Law, knew what acts constitute sin, and knew what the equitable punishment was.”

    Romans 1:32 teaches that those who practice those sins within the apostle’s view, which included the sins of “untrusting” and “unloving”, deserve death (which I would argue is eternal death). We should all agree that the pagan truly knows that such sins, especially when done in persistence, requires eternal death; but how does that general revelation to the pagan (or the Christian) lead one to any knowledge whatsoever of temporal civil-sanctions that are to be less than death? If we interpret the verse to mean that such sins are known to deserve death as a civil sanction, then you go well beyond the severity of Moses in the two sins I sited; and in doing so you imply contrary revelatory civil sanctions (one special, the other general) in the days of Moses for certain sins. Yet if we interpret the verse not as speaking to temporal punishments but to eternal consequences, then the verse cannot support your non-theonomic conclusion because we’re to be discussing temporal civil-sanctions, not the eternal consequences for sin. Not to belabor the point but you said you “may not know how to prove” what appropriate civil sanctions are, but then you suggest that “Pagan unbelievers, who have neither the Bible nor the Mosaic Law, knew what acts constitute sin, and knew what the equitable punishment was.” In short, all the verse teaches is that it is most evident that all men know that head-strong persistence in at least those sins deserves the wrath of God.

    Now the matter of *demonstrating* or proving the contents of innate knowledge like natural law in the manner of philosophers is notoriously difficult

    It’s not only notoriously difficult to prove innate knowledge, I would suggest that apart from special revelation it’s utterly impossible. Indeed, men have true beliefs that are justified by God through their consciences and experiences, which is to say that men have knowledge apart from special revelation, but no knowledge of either God, self, transgression or judgment can be proved apart from special revelation. All man may put forth to try to “prove the contents of innate knowledge like natural law” is a conceptual necessity for the justification of intelligible experience. But in all fairness, that point does not help prove the theonomic thesis simply because the degree of civil sanction for any particular transgression in a fallen world is not written on the hearts of men, let alone is it written on the hearts of men which sins are even crimes. Accordingly, there’s nothing within one’s innate knowledge that requires proving with respect to civil-sanctions because we do not know by nature which sins are punishable by civil magistrates or what those punishments should be. All we know is right from wrong and that God’s wrath rests upon us – (as I’ve argued here: http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2008/08/theonomy-second-verse-same-as-first.html and here: http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/04/theonomy-epistemological-matter.html).

    I really am not interested in getting into any knock-down drag-outs on this matter. We all want righteousness to prevail in the earth. If the gospel triumphs in the word, like I believe it will, then these laws will I trust come into existence without too much effort.

    In His grace,

    Ron

  59. TurretinFan said,

    September 22, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Re: 54

    Turretin identifies the Anabaptists and Antinomians as being the ones who wish the judicial law to be absolutely and simply abrogated, and considers as orthodox those who relieve the matter between the abrogational extremists and continuational extremists by distinguishing between those things having moral significance and those things having typical significance.

    Moreover Turretin specifically identifies “the punishment of crimes” as falling within the scope of things “founded upon the law of nature common to all,” and consequently as of continuing application.

    Finally, Turretin even explicitly states, “Thus in the laws concerning the punishment of crimes, the substance of the punishment is of natural right, but the manner and degree of punishment is of particular right and on that account mutable.” Eleventh Topic, Twenty-Sixth Question, Section IV, last sentence. (vol. 2, p. 167 in Dennison’s edition of Giger’s translation – emphasis is T-Fan’s addition)

    So, the manner of stoning may be mutable, but the substance of death is not. Furthermore, even if the substance were to be limited to the fact that the civil government ought to punish the crime (without any instruction as to how), one would still need to justify a departure from the example of Scripture by more than merely the fact that the civil government is ordained by God.

    Thus, Turretin is not afraid to speak of “iniquitous laws” (“iniquissimae … Leges” 11:1.IX) and “various wicked laws” (“variae Leges impiae” 11.1.XIX), such those wicked laws that sanction rape (“sanxerunt … rapinas” Id.) contrary to the law of nature (“legi naturali repugnantes” Id.).

    -Turretinfan

  60. Vern Crisler said,

    September 23, 2008 at 1:38 am

    Romans 2:14 and 15 tells us that Gentiles do not have to guess about the moral law, but do the things contained in the moral law “by nature.” It is their conscience that makes them aware of the moral law. The moral law is the law of Moses. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law.” What law? Obviously in context, the law of Moses. “By nature do the things contained in the law.” Again, what law? And again, obviously the Mosaic law. The Gentiles do by nature the things contained in the Mosaic law.

    But the whole of the Mosaic law — in exhaustive detail? Just as obviously, no, since the Gentiles were not observing the entire Mosaic law, whether the ceremonial laws or the judicial sanctions. The law of Moses in Romans 2 must therefore refer to the general moral laws of Moses, not to the ceremonials or judicials of the Mosaic theocracy.

    Vern

  61. Ron Henzel said,

    September 23, 2008 at 6:01 am

    Turretin Fan,

    In comment 59 you wrote:

    You wrote:

    Turretin identifies the Anabaptists and Antinomians as being the ones who wish the judicial law to be absolutely and simply abrogated, and considers as orthodox those who relieve the matter between the abrogational extremists and continuational extremists by distinguishing between those things having moral significance and those things having typical significance.

    Yes, but he repeatedly indicates that that which is continued in the judicial law is continued because it “agrees with the natural law and is founded upon it” (11:26:8; Giger 2:167).

    You wrote:

    Moreover Turretin specifically identifies “the punishment of crimes” as falling within the scope of things “founded upon the law of nature common to all,” and consequently as of continuing application.

    And right in the same sentence he discusses judicial laws which “were of particular right (which peculiarly applied to the Jews in relation to time, place and Jewish nation: such was the law concerning a husband’s brother, the writing of divorcement, the gleaning, etc.)…” (11.26.3; Giger 2:166). In other words, he refers to civil laws that do not apply to the church. How does anything you or I have quoted here contradict anything I wrote?

    You wrote:

    Finally, Turretin even explicitly states, “Thus in the laws concerning the punishment of crimes, the substance of the punishment is of natural right, but the manner and degree of punishment is of particular right and on that account mutable.” Eleventh Topic, Twenty-Sixth Question, Section IV, last sentence. (vol. 2, p. 167 in Dennison’s edition of Giger’s translation – emphasis is T-Fan’s addition)

    It would help if you used the standard reference system instead of merely the page numbers. Here you cite the end of 11.26.4. The beginning of the paragraph makes clear that Turretin is discussing “the laws founded upon the common right or the law of nature,” but he does not allow that the penalties of all Mosaic judicial laws are transferable to the church. The phrase “particular right” refers to that which is peculiar to Jewish polity, and therefore “mutable” (changeable) by the church. Thus those penalties are changeable, and, in keeping with what Turretin writes elsewhere, would have to be changed based upon the light of natural law.

    You wrote:

    So, the manner of stoning may be mutable, but the substance of death is not. Furthermore, even if the substance were to be limited to the fact that the civil government ought to punish the crime (without any instruction as to how), one would still need to justify a departure from the example of Scripture by more than merely the fact that the civil government is ordained by God.

    I think you’ve completely misread Turretin here. His distinction is not between manner and substance, but manner and degree, and he plainly states that both are changeable. The word “degree” would include the concept of whether someone should be punished with death or some lesser penalty.

    You wrote:

    Thus, Turretin is not afraid to speak of “iniquitous laws” (”iniquissimae … Leges” 11:1.IX) and “various wicked laws” (”variae Leges impiae” 11.1.XIX), such those wicked laws that sanction rape (”sanxerunt … rapinas” Id.) contrary to the law of nature (”legi naturali repugnantes” Id.).

    Yes, this is one of my favorite paragraphs in Turretin’s earlier discussion of natural law itself. But you fail to indicate what Turretin himself concludes based on this information. He wrote that such “wicked laws” “prove only that men with leisure ill employed have wickedly abused the conceded light [of nature or reason] and, by struggling against and striving with all their might to extinguish it, were given over to a reprobate mind.” Thus these examples do not, according to Turretin, invalidate the principle of basing laws today on natural law. The paragraphs that immediately follow (11.1.10ff.) clarify this and drive the point home.

  62. TurretinFan said,

    September 23, 2008 at 6:33 am

    RH wrote: “I think you’ve completely misread Turretin here. His distinction is not between manner and substance, but manner and degree, and he plainly states that both are changeable. The word “degree” would include the concept of whether someone should be punished with death or some lesser penalty.”

    You are mistaken, though perhaps you merely misspoke. The distinction Turretin draws is between substance (immutable) on the one hand and “manner and degree” (mutable) on the other hand. Death is not really something susceptible of “degrees,” except perhaps as to the violence of that death – and death is the substance of capital punishment.

    Let’s consider a penalty that is capable of degrees. In the case of restitution for theft, both the manner (whether in kind or in money) and degree (whether simple restitution or triple restitution) may be mutable under Turretin’s scheme, though the substance (restitution) is not mutable.

    I think saying that the substance of the punishment is limited to the fact of punishment is rather absurd – since it would seem to invalidate Turretin’s comment that punishment (as such) is of natural right, but unfortunately for us Turretin does not appear to provide any examples of substance vs. manner/degree to guide us as to determining what he meant. In other words, I am quite confident that I have correctly determined what Turretin means when he divides substance from manner/degrees, but sadly you have little but my own anonymous testimony (or the persuasion of the examples I provide) to convince you.

    Here’s the dilemma for you, though. Turretin (and surely you as well) notes the fact that the light of Scripture is clear, whereas the light of nature is obscure. I don’t recall the section off hand, but I assure you it is there. So then, the question for you is how you would hope to justify a substantially different punishment for rapine than that set forth by example of the patriarchs (who improperly took justice into their own hands) and the law of Moses. Would it be by making reference to the less clear “law of nature” to amend the more clear law of Moses?

    After all, at a minimum the laws of Moses provide a default baseline of a just civil government. If one varies from that default, one bears the burden of demonstrating the justice of one’s move, even if – as Turretin believes – the manner and degree of the punishments are mutable.

    -TurretinFan

    P.S. In response to my comment: “Eleventh Topic, Twenty-Sixth Question, Section IV, last sentence. (vol. 2, p. 167 in Dennison’s edition of Giger’s translation – emphasis is T-Fan’s addition)” RH wrote: “It would help if you used the standard reference system instead of merely the page numbers. Here you cite the end of 11.26.4.” Umm … please read more carefully. In your own citation, 11 = Eleventh Topic, 26 = Twenty-Sixth Question, 4 = Section IV.


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