Tuesday, August 2, 2011

By What Standard? pt. 3

The conversation concerning theonomy continues with a pastor who belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America denomination (ELCA). Regrettably, many within this denomination do not believe God’s Law should govern the church, much less the state. Evidence of this? In August of 2009, against the abundant and clear teaching of scripture, ELCA delegates voted 559-451 to ordain openly gay and lesbian clergy.

Martin Luther, whose courageous conscience was captive to the Word of God, without question, would vehemently disapprove. Recognizing this blatant departure from biblical principles and Luther, a faithful and heartbroken ELCA minister bemoaned, “My denomination is ‘Lutheran’ in name only.”

Given the milieu within this embattled denomination, I am not at all surprised or offended that an ELCA pastor would find my treatment of theonomy to be distasteful, if not laughable. The following is our respectful, but lively dialogue. For clarity, my interlocutor’s words appear bold and italicized. May God add His blessing to your reading.

"I disagree with your premise that Theonomy or whatever name you call it cannot lead to violence. In my opinion, it's an extreme view and not many scholars agree with it. I used to be Calvinist BTW. I know there are some good reformed scholars but Reconstructionism/Dominion/Theonomy is out of the mainstream."
Can you please present from my blog where I said "Theonomy cannot lead to violence"? I think one would be hard-pressed to find any system of belief of which it could be logically said, "this CANNOT lead to violence." Wouldn't you agree? (Do we not find "extreme" views in nearly all camps?)

Yes, there are "some good" Reformed scholars. And, I think there may be "some good" Lutheran scholars. But, I'm really not interested in what may be termed as the logical fallacy of "appeal to authority." (People all too easily throw around the phrase "scholars say....")

Similarly, the notion that "Theonomy is out of the mainstream" is also unconvincing to me. What constitutes "mainstream" is most often quite subjective.

I am more interested in this question: Is theonomy--as I presented it in my article--biblical? I'm not speaking of violence or of any particular form of government. I'm simply asking, by what standard should the civil magistrate seek to govern, according to scripture?

So by who's interpretation? Your interpretation of God's law which is Reformed?
This is nothing but an attempt at obfuscation. To demonstrate the foolishness of your queries, I shall answer you with questions. 1)Would you please give me the “Reformed interpretation” of YOU SHALL NOT MURDER? Can you now give me a “non Reformed interpretation” of the same command? Is the “non Reformed interpretation” essentially or significantly different from the “Reformed interpretation”?

2)Please answer these same questions in regards to YOU SHALL NOT STEAL. 3)Now, let’s try the same questions in regards to YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS. 4)Please answer the same questions with reference to “YOU SHALL NOT LIE WITH A MALE AS WITH A WOMAN.”

I don’t suppose I need to continue my reductio ad absurdum any further. The silliness of the proposition-- that God’s Law is unclear--should be apparent. For not only has God revealed His Law in scripture, but also in the heart of man. As Lewis argues in “Mere Christianity,” every man knows the law.

C.S. Lewis would not agree with you. Sorry.
This, of course, is a non sequitur. I do not appeal to Lewis in my article. (I did quote him, fairly, if not verbatim--from memory--in my comments to a reader.) Nevertheless, Lewis would completely concur that there is a higher Law than man’s “law." And while I can understand why you would wish to invoke Lewis (though improperly); I cannot understand why you would use the term “Sorry,” upon so doing.

Thomas Jefferson who was a Deist would disagree with you. LOL
This is yet another non sequitur. I make no appeal to Jefferson in my article. I remind you of what I wrote to you earlier: I'm simply asking, by what standard should the civil magistrate seek to govern, according to scripture? (Jefferson, like Lewis, was a brilliant thinker; however, neither of them are in the Canon.)

However, since you seem more interested in Jefferson than in scripture on this subject, I shall indulge you in a quote from an early American.

God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever. (Thomas Jefferson--LOL).
Don't get me wrong I do not believe in relativism but invoking God and country is dangerous and idolatry which is ironic.
Yes, invoking “God and country,” wrapping the Bible in the U.S. flag, etc. is at worst idolatrous; and at best perilously close to idolatrous. (I’m not exactly sure how this is “ironic”?) But I think we may be in agreement on this particular, narrow point. (That IS ironic.)
Next week: We shall conclude our series on theonomy with a debate from a disgruntled unbeliever.


  1. Steve,
    This almost seems like a personal attack rather than a civil debate(well the snide commentary around it). As a former Calvinist maybe I had a knee jerk reaction to the word "Theonomy" and from those who go to extremes like those in the Reconstruction Movement.
    I do agree with scriptural authority btw and take the deity of Christ and the resurrection of Christ very serious. However, I'm not a strict inerranist and you have to look at all scripture within the culture and context of that day.
    Regarding Luther: I believe that Christ is the key to scripture and the church stands or falls on the fourth article of the Augsburg Confession that Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4
    When you say by what standard should the civil magistrate govern according to scripture? This is the wrong question. How should a Christian govern is a better question and that is wisely, fair and just according to the laws of the land(which is the US Constitution in the United States)

  2. @Richard,
    I'm not sure why my opening commentary could be construed as a "personal attack." I give no names [or any other marks of identification] and I am speaking of the ELCA denomination and/or convention, not the person with whom I am debating.

    Nor do I consider the opening commentary to be "snide." I have conveyed the facts of the matter and my opinion of them. The ELCA vote does not reflect the teaching of scripture, and I know of no one who believes ELCA's stance on ordaining gay and lesbian clergy would meet the approbation of Luther.

    We are agreed that Christ is the key to undestanding scripture. And Christ's opinion of the Law of God was incredibly high.

    I don't see why my question is "wrong." Doesn't the scripture speak to all of life? Isn't Christ the Lord over every aspect of life?

    Should a Christian govern wisely, fairly, and justly? Yes...God's Law requires Him to do so. Should a Christian govern according to the laws of the land? Not if the laws of the land forbid what God commands or commands what God forbids. (For example, consider Daniel, a royal official, who purposefully broke ungodly law.)

    Christians and non Christians--the governors and the governed--answer to a higher Law than the "law" of the land or man, viz. the Law of God.

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  4. Steve,

    Believe it or not we agree more than you think. I know in the end "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. We all answer to God but are we talking about putting in laws against adulterers, homosexuals, unbelievers, other religious people? Do we force Christian morals on all people? I can understand the killing, stealing and other laws that are universal in all the major religions(even most unbelievers agree) but when Jesus told us to be salt and light I don't think he meant for Christians to try to force people into their religious mold. We are to Love God with our whole heart and love our neighbor as ourselves. Loving our neighbor does not mean forcing them to be Christian but to be like Jesus. Jesus would not be for Zealots.

  5. Pastor Richard, what kind of "laws against homosexuals" are you worried about?

  6. Richard,
    You write: "Believe it or not we agree more than you think."

    You could be right!

    You ask: "are we talking about putting in laws against adulterers, homosexuals..."

    As crazy extreme as this sounds to enlightened folks today...laws against adultery are still on the books in about two dozen states in the U.S.! http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2010-04-26-column26_ST_N.htm

    And why shouldn't adultery be against the law?(I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that adultery has shattered more lives and dammaged our culture--in so many ways--than has theft.)

    As for laws against homosexual sex. Such laws were declared "unconstitutional" June 26, 2003. (Ancient history!) Criminalizing homosexual sex is not at all extreme. Rather, homosexual activism has very successfully strong armed the media, the judiciary, and the public education system; framing this as a "civil rights" issue and painting biblical morality to be homophobic and "oppressive."

    As for laws against "unbelievers." How is one to know? Right? Only God knows the heart. Only God can truly know whether one is born again of His Spirit. Even within the visible church we have tares. So, I don't know how such laws could be enforceable.

    And then there is the matter of false religions. (What you--more politely than me!--term "other religious people.") In another conversation you told me that you "accept and believe" the 10 Commandments. What is the First Command? "You shall have no other gods before Me." It seems abundantly clear, that any nation who was theonomic would not recognize false religions. (This was certainly true of our first set of founding fathers, the Puritans.)

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  8. I'm not in favor of adultery and sad that it exists.
    I do not think God wants us to enforce Christianity on anyone. God changes peoples hearts not by laws.
    Jesus never talked about homosexuality and even though the Old Testament(Leviticus) and Paul(Romans) mentions it. At least in the New Testament its not a call to take over the government and enforce those laws. Israel was a theocracy but in the New Testament there is no call for theocracy.

  9. Richard,
    You write: "I'm not in favor of adultery..."

    Well, I'm glad to hear it! (And I'm certain your wife is most appreciative.:D)

    True, Jesus "never talked about homosexuality." In fact, Jesus never talked about a lot of things. He never spoke of pedophilia or bestiality or incest. Jesus did not provide us with a catalogue of sins. That being said, we do not base our teaching or morality on what Jesus DIDN'T say. Right?

    True, there is no call for the Church to take over the government in the NT. I'm not advocating otherwise.

    As I have maintained throughout, the Church should remain the church and the state the state: two distinct spheres with different purposes and separate authorities.

    You write: "Israel was a theocracy..."

    This is somewhat true, but only until Israel rejected God from being her King, and instead asked for an earthly king--King Saul. But after King Saul, the Bible is quite clear: there must be a distinction between the church and the state. Kings were not priests and priests were not kings. (King Saul violated this rule and was rejected from being king.)

    As I said in the first blog entry, "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" is NOT new with the NT. Theonomy, as I present it, recognizes that the civil magistrate has the power of the sword and the church the power of the keys.

    You write: "God changes peoples hearts not by laws."

    Without question, this is true. God's Law does not change man's heart. In fact, the Law of God is intended for the ungodly. As Paul teaches,

    "knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites [practicing homosexuals], for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine" (1Tim 1:9-10).

    It seems clear to me, Richard, that Paul [and Calvin] see one purpose of the Law of God to be a deterrence of evil. And the civil magistrate is God's minister to punish evil; a restrainer of wickedness.

  10. You seem to want to Christianize the Civil Magistrate and use the power of the sword to enforce Christian laws. This sounds like what the Roman church tried to do and yes Calvin as well.

  11. Richard,
    Do you deny that one purpose of the Law of God is the deterrence of evil?

    Do you deny that the civil magistrate is God's minister?

    Which "Christian laws" do you believe are detrimental to culture [family, church, and state]?

  12. The State has no business endorsing a particular religion.

    God's law is above mans laws. Church and State should be separate. Civil religion is idolatry.

  13. Richard,
    You're not even addressing my questions.

    You say, "Church and State should be separate." Well, I have said--REPEATEDLY--that theonomy as I have presented it distinguishes between the civil and the sacred. I have said--REPEATEDLY--that both Testaments renounce "theocracy." I really don't see how I can be more plain.

    You write: "Civil religion is idolatry."

    I couldn't agree with you more. America's civil religion is the amorphous god called Pluralism.

  14. Pastor Richard wrote:
    'Jesus never talked about homosexuality and even though the Old Testament(Leviticus) and Paul(Romans) mentions it.'

    CEH: Moses and Paul were concerned with the intrusion of homosexuality from the pagan culture (which suggests that homosexuality was virtually non existent among the Jews). Jesus didn't cover every subject (he wasn't offering exhaustive scheme of ethics); he had a specific mission. He would have had no reason to comment on what was obvious (and unchanging) from Leviticus. Paul, on the other hand, was concerned that the prevalence of homosexuality in the pagan cultures of the gentiles could be a problem for the Church. And, he was thankful to God that the gospel of Christ had even delivered some from the bonds of homosexuality.

  15. Then I don't know what we are debating then? Unless I am totally misunderstanding your view of "Theonomy".

  16. I don't know if you understand or misunderstand my view of theonomy. All I can do is present and then defend my view.

  17. Charlie,
    You write: "Paul, on the other hand, was concerned that the prevalence of homosexuality in the pagan cultures of the gentiles could be a problem for the Church."

    I don't believe there are as many homosexuals in the U.S. as the militant gay activists claim. Do you? And yet...isn't the "gay issue" "prevalent" to the point of dominating national, ethical conversation?

    And wouldn't you say that the jettisoning of scripture by many within the institutional church--affirming homosexuality and denying the Apostle Paul--is a "problem," a crisis, for the Church?

  18. Steve Griffin wrote:
    'I don't believe there are as many homosexuals in the U.S. as the militant gay activists claim. Do you?'

    CEH: As far as statistics thrown out in the media, I suspect those are constructed for political purposes.

    But, to be completely honest I don't believe there is any such thing as a "homosexual" (I only use the term for convenient shorthand in debate). I think of a homosexual the way I think of a unicorn, purely a concept.

    So whatever the figure, if its above zero, its inflated. But, homosexual must convey something of substance, we suspect. So, if it conveys anything, I guess it must convey those who describe themselves with the term. I could also call myself a unicorn, but that wouldn't make it so.

    I liken the idea we have when we think of, or hear, the term "homosexuality" to a psychological compulsion, or addiction. I.e., a bad habit like smoking cigarettes. First we experiment with tobacco (and are unsure about it, or even dislike it), and then having crossed a line we experiment with it some more because of other reasons -- like it calms our nerves, or makes us look cool, or whatever. So, also we experiment with sex with the same gender because of other psychological hangups, like arrested development.