Tuesday, July 26, 2011

By What Standard? pt. 2

The following is a brief dialogue with a friend and faithful pastor. He and I agree on many, many things. Theonomy is not one of those things. He respectfully disagreed with my last blog, and the following is my response to his two stated objections. The discussion was irenic, and I think, beneficial.

For clarity, my friend’s words appear bold and italicized. May God add His blessing to your reading.
“[Theonomy] is an error and leads to further error [sic] you only need to see the influence it has ...exerted in Kinism, Federal Vision, and NPP."
I'm sure there are theonomists in each of those camps. However, I cannot see how theonomy per se necessarily results in these positions. (I've certainly never read anything of the like from Bahnsen, et. al.) That is, the notion that theonomy leads to error may be somewhat of a slippery slope fallacy.

Also, I'm thinking that the idea that these groups are the consequence of theonomy per se, is a kind of post hoc fallacy. Just because there are theonomists within these positions, it does not follow that they are there BECAUSE of or even in connection to theonomy. For example, I've heard Dispensationalists argue that Amillennialism results in anti-Semitism. Or, many Arminians allege that Calvinism results in being non evangelistic. Now, while there may be such offenders in both camps, I do not for a minute believe Amillennialism or Calvinism necessarily result in or are responsible for such things.

In other words, it seems to me that a person can be consistently theonomic and not countenance the aforementioned errors.

"In the end I see no logical way for theonomy to achieve its goal without adapting an Islamic like stance..."
This, in my mind, is a more substantial concern. Thus far, I tend to think of theonomy as being more of a criticism of godless government, rather than a worked out system of governance. (I hope you understand what I'm trying to express here. I'm speaking more of theory than practice perhaps?) That is, I share your consternation as to the "practical reality" of theonomy taking root in a nation which is hostile and opposed to God's Law.

As to the concept of "theocracy." Bahnsen, and other theonomists I've read deny the allegation that they advocate theocrcacy. Bahnsen is quite clear that the form of government is not the central issue at all. Also, he points out, I think rightly, that both Testaments strongly advocate the separation of civil and religious authority.

That being said, I don't see how a civil government, adhering to God's Law, would be "Islamic like." I see nothing in holy scripture which is prescriptively oppressive or cruel--as is found in Shariah. Do you? I should think civil government, fettered to God's Law, would not in any way correlate to Islam.

I keep going back to Romans 13. The magistrate is God's minister. He is to punish "evil" and reward "good." How is the magistrate to know what is evil and what is good--if not from God's Law? What is to be the government's standard for determining what is evil and what is good? Majority vote? Tyrannical whim?

God judged Israel for her iniquities. But not only Israel. God judged even the pagan nations for their iniquities as well. In other words, all nations, not just Israel, were judged according to God's Law. (What is iniquity but the breaking of God's Law?) Do we not fear God's judgment on our nation because of our breaking His Law with impunity? (Are we not experiencing His judgment even now?)

For me, the question is: How should the believer desire to be governed? By God's Law or man's "law"? What are we to make of Deut 17:18-20?

Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.
Doesn't God in this passage command civil authorities to rule according to His Law? (Have sinful legislators improved upon God's Law?) What are we to make of the numerous times that the book of Judges decries: "everyone did what was right in his own eyes"?

Think of it thus. What is the basis for our absolute rejection of “abortion on demand” and gay "marriage"? Aren't our objections to these things moral objections? And don't we appeal to the higher authority of God's Law contra man's "law" when discussing such sins?

It seems to me that the civil government which seeks to govern according to God's Law would be far and away better than the government which wants absolute power/authority to do as it wills--without regard to any moral authority other than its own. (It would not be perfect of course, but better.)

Should governments rule according to God's Law? (If not, what "law" or standard should they use?) Will God judge, and does God judge, all the nations? Does He judge them by His Law? (If God will and does judge us by His Law...shouldn't the nations be ruled by His Law?)

I close with saying once again: In my mind theonomy is a critique of corrupt governments ruling as though they are absolute and autonomous--a "law" unto themselves. The further a nation distances itself from God and His Law, the more the nation morally declines.
Next week: “By What Standard?” continues in a spirited debate with an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America minister.

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