Tuesday, October 9, 2012

God's Law: Who Needs It? pt. 3

We continue the discussion concerning theonomy versus autonomy. We’re addressing the issue of whether theonomy is merely concerned with “penalties” and “punishments” or something more.

Government should make laws and penalties based upon what?

In the name of consistent autonomy, some argue: The civil government is free to make its own laws, and it is free to make its own punishments.

But do we want the power of government to be untethered from scripture? Do we want laws based upon the ethical whims of a dictator or the moral winds of a democracy? I say no. Furthermore, do we want punishments based upon the same? Again, I say no. What do autonomous governments—without the residual effects of biblical morality—look like?

However, if the State punishes behavior which fails to conform to God’s moral Law—punishes based upon the case law of the OT (I am speaking only of those case laws which are explications or applications of the Ten Commandments)—this will ensure that godly government is neither lenient nor cruel (unless one is prepared to argue that God’s judicial instruction is indeed lenient or cruel).

It seems we have been conditioned, by secular humanism in the West (the West which still enjoys the residual effects of a Christian heritage), to consider God’s judicial instructions to be harsh and barbaric. (For example: executing someone for Sabbath-breaking—Christians and atheists alike find this abhorrent).

Western man finds God’s prescribed punishments (in this life and the next!) to be absurd and offensive. But are modern-Western man’s philosophies of punishment better than God’s in the Old Testament? I personally don’t think so.

Even so, concerning those who reject God’s moral Law as a basis for governing: Is their only objection based upon the Bible’s prescribed punishments or penalties? I think not.

I’ve often heard Christians derisively inquire: “Do you want the State to pass laws regarding idolatry, blasphemy, and the Sabbath?” This is usually followed with: You must be joking!

Such a question reveals that we are disagreed over much more than punishments or penalties. We are disagreed over the very basis for legislating. We don’t agree as to what is properly punishable, much less over what proper punishment would or could be.

I believe the worship of false gods is immoral and SHOULD be illegal for a thoroughly Christian populace ruled by a truly Christian government. I believe that the public worship of false gods (something the magistrate can observe or be privy to) is a punishable crime against God (in a nation as described above).

Thus we are not simply disagreed over punishment. We are disagreed as to whether idolatry is even biblically or properly punishable.
 
I close with Martin Luther:

"Satan, like a furious harlot, rages in the Antinomians . . . The devil will do much harm through them and cause infinite and vexatious evils. If they carry their lawless principles into the State as well as the Church, the magistrate will say: I am a Christian, therefore the law does not pertain to me. Even a Christian hangman would repudiate the law . . .

“We have the plain text: 'Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge,' much more, therefore, will he judge those who protect and encourage vice. . . . Let the magistrate punish one as well as the other, and if there is secret vice, at least he is not to blame for it. We can neither do nor permit nor tolerate anything against God's command. We must do right if the world comes to an end. (The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, p. 281, 321)

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