First of all, I wanted to thank-you for the blessing that your ministry at The Forerunner website has been. I was very pleased to find that website a few weeks ago and I’ve been since learning through your ministry and enjoying the articles. I know this is rather presumptuous, but when I had some questions regarding theonomy, you immediately came to mind. If you’re too busy to answer that’s completely understandable. I hope I’m not out of line by asking.
I guess my main question is: What is the primary difference between the theonomic view and the typical evangelical understanding of the law? All evangelicals are agreed that the ceremonial law was abolished with the fulfillment of the “types and shadows” in Christ’s atoning work. When it comes to the moral law, however, I confess I don’t see that theonomists have much disagreement with typical evangelicals. I don’t see any Christians claiming that they are no longer under an obligation to keep the Ten Commandments, that it is morally permissible to commit adultery, murder, steal, etc. However, if the main difference between the theonomic and traditional camps is on the matter of the civil law, then why is it that we find most of the defenses of theonomy directed against those who would claim that the moral law is no longer in effect? I haven’t found anything that argues specifically for the current application of the Old Testament civil laws.
Also, I’ve heard it said by many theonomists that the Old Testament civil law is not to be imposed from the top down; rather the establishment of a theonomic government will come about through revival, and changed hearts, as the majority of people willingly submit themselves to God’s law. Is the theonomic view of the civil law that it is a type or shadow of what will be established in Christ’s Kingdom? Just as the ceremonial law was a shadow of Christ’s work? Also, would you consider it to be wrong to try to enforce those laws now, from the top down? Again, thank-you so much for your ministry at The Forerunner; it’s truly been a blessing to me. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to read this email. Have a blessed day!
In Christ’s Name,
Many evangelicals are operational theonomists. They want to ban abortion, homosexual marriage, allow school prayer and promote family friendly policies because this is in accord biblical law.
It’s the issue of biblical sanctions that separate the two groups.
What do we do about abortionists and the parents who kill their children? Should they be executed as murderers or should hey be regulated by a government agency in the same way that the FDA regulates the sale of beef.
That is just one difference.
Theonomists ought to teach that we cannot advance Christ’s kingdom through law. This needs to happen through conversion. We cannot emphasize that enough.
But let’s say that the majority of voters were converted. Let’s say that situation were true today. (For example, there are supposedly 65 million evangelicals in the United States and less than that number voted for Obama in the last election.) Then the question becomes: Whose law should we legislate? God’s or man’s? If we won’t enforce God’s law because it no longer applies, then where does man’s law derive it’s authority?
The homosexual wants marriage rights. We would deny that, but on what basis do we have the authority to deny it?
Someone’s law has to rule. Should it be man’s law or God’s law? Or some combination of the two?
All Christians ought to agree that God’s law — even the capital case laws — in the Old Testament were put in place by a just and loving God. There is not one God of the Old Testament and another God of the New Testament. There is only one God. However, most evangelicals believe that the laws governing Israel were put to rest under the New Covenant.
The question remains: Whose laws ought we to have on the books?
I personally believe that God’s moral law and the sanctions found in the Bible ought to be the basis for our civil code. Judges would have the right to show mercy in capital cases with the exception of premeditated murder. Another thing we can imitate is that ancient Israel had no prisons. The prison system ought to be abolished in favor of a system of double restitution paid to victims of non-violent crimes.
It is important to remember that this has nothing to do with bringing about the salvation of the criminal. We cannot be saved by law. We cannot bring about revival by legislating righteousness. However, revival ought to result in righteousness and the righteous ought to stand for God’s morality in every sphere of society — family, school, business, church, civil government, art, science, etc.
At most, the Law of God acts as a tutor to show us where we have sinned (and in civil cases, where we have become criminals) and it can lead people to Christ by showing His eternal standard of righteousness and our need for grace and forgiveness. Civil judges can model the mercy and compassion of Christ to criminals who are truly repentant and willing to make restitution for their crimes.
But the fact remains, all law is an attempt to impose someone’s morality from the top-down. If we are a Christian people, whose law do we want? Do we want Barney Frank imposing laws that govern our economic system and whether homosexuals should have the right to marry?
Someone has to rule and these rulers will decide which laws will be the standard.
See also: God’s Law and Society
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