The following is from author Peter Otajian.
As you know, I am far from being an expert in theonomy and Christian Reconstruction and still have much to learn and grow before I ever catch up to many of you. Ergo, I request your help in answering the objections of one of my Deacon friends from my church to whom I emailed Rev. Paul M. Raymond’s sermon on:
The Biblical View of Culture and Social Theory 11.
Below is my good Deacon friend’s response:
Thanks for the sermon audio – it is a polemical sermon and includes a swipe at the amillennialist position. I am sympathetic to the frustrations and concerns, but overall I think there is need for greater exegesis from Scripture to be convincing. Also he appeals to section 23 of the WCF, but I do not think that the WCF as a whole supports Theonomy and Reconstructionism (see WCF sect. 19.4).
I truly appreciate all of your time and consideration in answering this serious objection if you can. It should be very educational to all of us and it will buttress and re-enforce us in what we believe.
Your comrade in Christ,
It’s an ironic position to take that England, Scotland and America were not theonomic and Reconstructionist in the mid-1600s when the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) was adopted.
For some hard data on this, I’d recommend Iain Murray’s The Puritan Hope. The fact is that not all Puritans and Presbyterians were postmillennial. In fact, that term did not exist then. There was no distinction between amillennialism and postmillenialism until later. Premillennialism existed on the fringes, but was viewed as aberrant. The so-called “Fifth Monarchy Men” were akin to the modern “end-times” prophets. The problems they caused served as a lesson for us today. However, Murray does a good job showing that what we now call “postmillennialism” was the dominant eschatological view among those who adopted the Westminster Confession. It was the “Puritan Hope.”
In addition to the solid optimistic eschatological outlook among the Puritans and Presbyterians, theonomy was the order of the day. If you read John Knox’s interviews with Mary Queen of Scots in The Reformation of Scotland they both appealed directly to the Bible in their arguments about civil policy.
When John Knox, a student of John Calvin, defended Protestantism in the court of Mary Queen of Scots he did not shrink back from the binding nature of the Law of God. He even openly proclaimed in these debates that the death penalty should be carried out in accordance with the prescribed biblical sanctions. These debates demonstrate conclusively that Knox was a theonomist in the sense that he believed in the continuing binding validity of Old Testament penal sanctions.
This we have not by profane writers only; but the Holy Spirit taught us this infallible truth, that where iniquity reigns in a commonwealth, and none is found boldly and openly to reprehend the same, that there shall sudden vengeance and destruction follow.
Knox then quotes from Ezekiel 22, and says that the moral Law of God, as reiterated by the prophet, is for every nation.
Advert, madam, for these are not the words of mortal man, but of the eternal God, and were not spoken against Jerusalem only, but against every realm and nation that so offends.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Bible shaped civil law either by direct application or by principle. Whether Puritan, Presbyterian, Anglican or Roman Catholic, biblical law formed the basis for determining the civil law. When Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragorn he appealed to the prohibition against marriage to his now deceased brother’s wife, which was forced on Arthur and then Henry when they were still youths in order to secure an alliance between Spain and England.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness (Leviticus 18:16).
Here was the question posed to the Catholic Church: Since Arthur and Catherine did not have sexual relations during their brief marriage, did the the injunction of Leviticus still apply? Catherine claimed the marriage was never consummated and therefore the marriage to Henry was legitimate.
The Catholic Church argued that the case law here applied only to Levitical priests and that Henry had no right to have the marriage annulled based on the precepts of Leviticus. And in fact, that is what the WCF means when it says that certain laws are no longer applicable – either they were for the priests specifically or described the civil structure of the twelve tribes. Those laws obviously passed with the passing of civil Israel.
To them 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 (WCF 19.4).
But it is shortsighted to say that the Reformed and Presbyterian churches did not try to apply the law of God to civil, ecclesiastical or familial polity. The modern theonomic movement does not teach that we do not need to adapt the case laws to our modern culture
- The Ten Commandments are binding and have not passed (no Christian and certainly no Calvinist would argue that we don’t need to obey the Ten commandments). Cursing God is still wrong, Sabbath breaking is wrong. Murder, adultery, theft and lying are still wrong.
- The case laws where they are specific and applicable still apply and, in fact, they are part of our law code. Today, we differentiate between first degree murder and homicide based on biblical law. Biblical law also gives us the parameters for incest, when a rape is a capital crime and why a “date rape” might involving some culpability on the part of the woman. It describes why pollution laws may exist and that cruelty to animals is forbidden.
- Some civil laws may be derived from the case laws in principle. For instance, the law requiring a rail around a rooftop (Deut 22:8) may be applied to tort law that makes a property owner responsible for injuries that take place around unsafe construction works.
- The aspect of theonomy that most moderns oppose are the capital cases, that is, those laws that carried death by stoning as a penalty. Here again, we only need to look at the civil laws during the centuries surrounding the Reformation to see that adultery, homosexuality, sorcery were considered capital offenses. It makes no sense to say that the general equity clause of the WCF describes the abrogation of these punishments. If anything, biblical law would have reigned in the abuses of medieval justice in punishing witches without two or more eyewitnesses and without due process.
I have always thought that this argument over whether the Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians were being “non-theonomic” when they wrote the WCF is both myopic and stunningly stupid. This point of view is foisted by Reformed people who are squeamish about applying the civil sanctions of the moral law of God — especially the death penalty in any case except premeditated murder.
But the fact of the matter is that England, Scotland and America had all sorts of capital sanctions on the books for rape, adultery, witchcraft, and so on, at the time of the signing of the WCF in 1646. For example, in 1650 England’s Parliament passed laws making adultery punishable by death.
However, it was not the WCF that brought these laws to bear. All of Christendom had more capital laws than we do today. Sometimes they even superseded the recommended penalties of the Bible and were far more harsh than the Mosaic Code could ever be interpreted — especially as perceived by today’s humanistic standards.
For instance, we had death penalty laws on the books in some states for horse thieves until the 20th century. Calvin sided with those who would execute Servetus, but thought that beheading rather than burning was the way to go. Cromwell advocating cutting off the king’s head “with the crown upon it.” And so on.
So in reality, a “theonomic” interpretation of the law actually softened the harshness of the civil penalties for most crimes of that day.
For evidence of this, see my article here:
See also yesterday’s USA Today article here:
«- What is "optimistic amillennialism"?
- God's Law and Society
-» Theological Presuppositions of Pro-life Activism
Your comments are welcome!
Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
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Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
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Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?
This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.
Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.
The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?
As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).
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Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!
Running Time: 195 minutes
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Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!
Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:
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2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?
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Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!
Running Time: 240 minutes
Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.
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Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?
These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.
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