|The word "Theonomy" comes from two Greek words: Theos, "God," and nomos, "law."
"Theonomy" = "God's Law"
|The word "anarchism" comes from two Greek words:
• "A" is the "alpha privative," meaning "not" or "the absence of."
• Archein is the Greek word "to rule over."
• The two vowels are separated by the letter "n" -- A(n)archism.
• The opposite of an "anarchist" is an "archist."
• Christians are prohibited from being "archists." (See Mark 10:42-45)
|"Theonomy" sometimes has the connotation of "legalism," "Pharisaism," "Puritanism,"
"Theocracy," "mean-spirited," "executions all day long," and other ideas which suggest that
• God's Law is a grievous burden, or
• Theonomists distort and abuse The Bible.
Under a Theonomic State, we are led to believe, there would be no Freedom, only a totalitarian "church-state" where clergymen order the executions of adulterers, really cool homosexuals, and innocent little 5-year olds who expressed some displeasure about their parents.
|"Anarchism" sometimes has the connotation of "lawless," which is clearly contrary to "Theonomy." The word has
this connotation because "archists" (those who "rule over") want you to think that they are the source of law. They want us to
believe that without "archists" (the State), there would be no law, only disorder. Theonomic Anarchists deny that "archists"
are the source of law.
The Biggest Lie in the history of political science is that "anarchists" are bad for society, the implication being that "archists" are good for society. In truth, "archists" are the bad guys, and are bad for society. They need to repent themselves out of business.
|"Theonomy" is also known as "Christian Reconstruction."
What separates "Theonomists" from other Bible-believing Christians are the views that
|Our brand of "Anarchism" is also known "anarcho-capitalism." Some anarchists don't like "capitalism." These are also known as "Left-libertarians." So we sometimes speak of our brand of anarchism as "Creationist Anarcho-Socialism."|
|It is the position of this website that God's Law is good for mankind and human society -- even the laws in the Old Testament.|
|It is the position of this website that the entity called "the State" or "the government" is a violation of God's Law -- even the laws in the Old Testament.|
|The goal of this website is to persuade Christians to become Theonomists.|
|The goal of this website is to persuade Theonomists to become anarchists.|
|In this column we'll look at an article by Greg L. Bahnsen, who authored a book called Theonomy in Christian Ethics. We added all links, highlighting, or emphasis.|
|In this column we will comment on Bahnsen's article from the perspective of an archist-free Stateless Theonomic Society.|
What Is "Theonomy"?
What is "Anarcho-Theonomy?"
|Dr. Van Til taught us that "There is no alternative but that of theonomy and autonomy" (Christian-Theistic Ethics, p. 134). Every ethical decision assumes some final authority or standard, and that will either be self-law ("autonomy") or God's law ("theonomy"). While unbelievers consider themselves the ultimate authority in determining moral right or wrong, believers acknowledge that God alone has that position and prerogative.||The opening sections of Bahnsen's article should not be controversial. So I've placed another summary of Theonomy by Bahnsen in this right-hand column. This is how Bahnsen summarizes the Theonomic thesis in his book No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics (another version of this summary is in the 2nd edition of Theonomy, and this summary has been published in numerous other works by Bahnsen):|
|The position which has come to be labeled "theonomy" today thus holds that the word of the Lord is the sole, supreme, and unchallengeable standard for the actions and attitudes of all men in all areas of life. Our obligation to keep God's commands cannot be judged by any extrascriptural standard, such as whether its specific requirements (when properly interpreted) are congenial to past traditions or modern feelings and practices.||
1. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are, in part and in whole, a verbal revelation from God through the words of men, being infallibly true regarding all that they teach on any subject.
Jesus My Savior
|When any of us come to Christ for salvation, it is with a sense of our sin and misery before God. Our very need of the Savior arises from a conviction of sin, brought home to our hearts by the Holy Spirit showing our guilt for violating God's commandments. As Paul wrote, "I had not known sin except through the law" (Rom. 7:7). The law defines what sin is (1 John 3:4). As such the law cannot be our personal vehicle for gaining favor with God. It rather aims at Christ as our only righteousness, tutoring us that justification must be by faith in Him (Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:24).||Let's start with a Theonomic definition of "sin," from the Westminster
Here are the Catechism's prooftexts:
"Sin is the transgression of the law."
The opposite of "sin" is "righteousness."
|So theonomy teaches that since the fall it has always been unlawful to use the law of God in hopes of establishing one's own personal merit and justification, in contrast or complement to salvation by way of promise and faith. As Paul said, it was "through the law" that he learned to "die to the law" as a way of self-salvation (Gal. 2:9). Commitment to obedience is but the lifestyle of faith, a token of gratitude for God's redeeming grace. "By grace you have been saved through faith... not of works.... We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God previously prepared that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:8-10).||
2. Since the Fall it has always been unlawful to use the law of God in hopes of establishing one's own personal merit and justification, in contrast or complement to salvation by way of promise and faith; commitment to obedience is but the lifestyle of faith, a token of gratitude for God's redeeming grace.
|In What is Faith? J. Gresham Machen urged that "a new and more powerful proclamation of that law is perhaps the most pressing need of the hour.... A low view of laws always brings legalism in religion; a high view of law makes a man a seeker after grace. Pray God that the high view may again prevail" (pp. 141-142).||If God's Law is not proclaimed, men substitute their own laws, customs, and traditions, which is "legalism." When there is a vacuum of God's Law, humanistic pseudo-laws fill the void. In place of a just and righteous society, we have "fundamentalist" laws against smoking and movies in the "church" area of life, while the "public square" turns into secular statism.|
Jesus My Lord
|Seems like every Christian should be a "Theonomist" at this point.|
|After coming to Christ in faith and repentance we all naturally ask how a Christian should live. A. A. Hodge answers: "While Christ fulfilled the law for us, the Holy Spirit fulfils the law in us, by sanctifying us into complete conformity to it" (The Confession of Faith, p. 251). Paul wrote in Romans 8:4-9 that unregenerate men are enemies of God who cannot submit to His law, but those who walk by the Holy Spirit subject themselves to that law. Paul himself endorses that we should "delight in the law after the inward man" (Rom. 7:22).||
On a recent podcast, J.D. Hall criticized R.J. Rushdoony's slogan, “Justification is by grace through faith; sanctification is by law.” I'll take the bait: check this out. Rushdoony's slogan seems to be Hodge's as well.
|The Christian confesses that Jesus is the Lord, thus looking to the directives of Jesus to guide his life. Jesus said "if you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Moreover, we will strive to teach others to observe whatever He has commanded us (Matt. 28:18-20[; Matthew 5:19]). Such healthy and necessary moral standards are surely not burdensome to the believer who bows to Christ as the Lord (1 John 5:3).||
3. The word of the Lord is the sole, supreme, and unchallengeable standard for the actions and attitudes of all men in all areas of life; this word naturally includes God's moral directives (law).
|As our Lord, moreover, Jesus teaches us that man is to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). We have no right to edit God's commandments for ourselves, deciding to follow those which agree with our preconceived ideas and rejecting the others. James teaches that we are not to become "judges of the law," but rather doers of that law (4:11-12); to break even one point of it is to be guilty of breaking it all (2:10). The whole law is our duty, except where the Lawgiver and Lord reveals otherwise. God forbids us to diminish His commands on our own authority (Deut. 4:2). "Every scripture" (even the Old Testament) is profitable, said Paul, for "instruction in righteousness" so that we would be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).||
4. Our obligation to keep the law of God cannot be judged by any extrascriptural standard, such as whether its specific requirements (when properly interpreted) are congenial to past traditions or modern feelings and practices.
|Accordingly theonomy views God's laws directing moral behavior to be a reflection of His unchanging character; such laws are not arbitrary, but objectively, universally, and absolutely binding. It is God's law that "you are to be holy because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16, citing Leviticus). The law may not be criticized or challenged by us. It is "holy, righteous and good" (Rom. 7:12).||From Bahnsen's summary:
|This moral law was revealed to Israel in oracles and ordinances, but even the Gentiles show the work of the law upon their hearts and know its ordinances from the natural order and inward conscience (Rom. 1:32; 2:14-15). Who, then, is under the authority of God's law? Paul answers "all the world" (Rom. 3:19).||The Gentiles not only knew of God's Law from the testimony of their conscience, but they had direct contact with God's Revelation to Israel. The true
history of mankind was known to all mankind. God's supernatural activity in Israel was known to the Gentiles. For example, when the Israeli spies entered the Promised Land, a
Canaanite prostitute said to them:
Rahab used the name "YHWH" or "Jehovah," the specific name of the God of Abraham and Israel, not just a generic god. There is abundant evidence in the pages of the Bible that the Gentiles had heard (or read) the specifics of the Law God revealed to Israel. "Special Revelation," not just "General Revelation."
|Here's where the "controversy" might start. Some Christians (like Dispensationalists) view the Old Testament as irrelevant, unless repeated by the New Testament. I'll add the text of some of the verses cited by Bahnsen.|
|The law revealed by Moses and subsequent Old Testament authors was given within a covenantal administration of God's grace which included not only moral instruction, but gloriously and mercifully "promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come" (Westminster Confession of Faith VII.5). God's revelation itself teaches us that New Covenant believers, who have the law powerfully written on their hearts (Jer. 31:31ff.; Heb. 8:8-12), no longer follow the foreshadows and administrative details of the old covenant. They are obsolete (Heb. 8:13), having been imposed only until the time when the Messiah would come (Heb. 9:10; Col. 2:17).||
This passage is quoted by the writer to the Hebrews:Hebrews 8:8-12
days are coming, says the Lord,
When Jeremiah prophesied these words, he said God would write His TORAH on the hearts of Christians. Not just so that we would have them memorized, but that we would obey them. How do you think the Hebrews of Jeremiah's day understood this prophecy? Theonomic? How do you think the Hebrews of Jesus' day understood this letter quoting Jeremiah? A repudiation of Jeremiah's Theonomy, or a strengthening of it? Jeremiah's thought is also seen in the prophet Ezekiel:
19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep Mine ordinances, and do them. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God.
27 And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments and do them.
The Prophets of the New Covenant were Theonomic.
But lets' emphasize the last line in Bahnsen's paragraph:
|God's revelation itself teaches us that New Covenant believers, who have the law powerfully written on their hearts (Jer. 31:31ff.; Heb. 8:8-12), no longer follow the foreshadows and administrative details of the old covenant. They are obsolete (Heb. 8:13), having been imposed only until the time when the Messiah would come (Heb. 9:10; Col. 2:17).||"Theonomists" are often painted as simplistically or "legalistically" advocating the imposition of Mosaic (or
Abrahamic) ceremonies, rituals, and liturgies. True, some Theonomists are "high-church," favoring a liturgical worship service, others are not. But both sides agree that we
need to do our homework in the pages of the Bible and put our practices under the authority of God's Commandments, properly exegeted and interpreted.
As he puts it in his summary:
6. In regard to the Old Testament law, the New Covenant surpasses the Old Covenant in glory, power, and finality (thus reinforcing former duties). The New Covenant also supersedes the Old Covenant shadows, thereby changing the application of sacrificial, purity, and "separation" principles, redefining the people of God, and altering the significance of the promised land.
|Thus, for example, on the basis of God's own instruction, we no longer resort to animal sacrifices at the temple and a Levitical priest (Heb. 7-10); the cultic dietary laws have been set aside, for God has cleansed the unclean meats (representing the Gentiles) from which Israel was to be separate or holy (Acts 10).||
Bahnsen says "no more animal sacrifices," but that doesn't comfort many anti-Theonomists. He says the dietary laws are out, but that's not good enough for them. Rushdoony and Bahnsen did not agree on the issue of the dietary laws. Some Theonomists still observe them. So some anti-theonomists accuse [all] Theonomists of being "judaizers." On a recent podcast, J.D. Hall accused Rushdoony of being a "Judaizer," and guilty of "the Galatian heresy." I wonder which is worse, being a "Judaizer" or calling down God's "Anathema" on a Godly Christian man like Rushdoony.
I personally think there is good reason to continue observing the dietary laws. Contrary to Bahnsen's claim, it is not inescapably correct to say that "clean" and "unclean" symbolize the difference between "Jew" and "Gentile," because the clean/unclean categories existed in Noah's day -- before there was "Jew" and "Gentile" -- and still exist (in some sense) in the Apostolic age (verses). Read more.
Was Rushdoony therefore not a "real" Theonomist because he disagreed with Bahnsen on the issue of the dietary laws? Or vice versa? No, because both believed that it was the Bible itself that must tell us what "Theonomy" really is, not theories of "natural law," and we'll have disagreements about what the Bible says, but we'll work through them like Bereans. There are respectable arguments on both sides of these issues. I respect them, even if I don't completely agree with them.
Unfortunately sometimes respect is lacking. Theonomists disagree among themselves, and anti-Theonomists call Theonomists "dangerous," and there's not a lot of Scripture-searching, like the Bereans.
"Better safe than sorry," I say. It's obvious to me that after Christ shed His blood, shedding any other blood in an attempt to make atonement or propitiate the wrath of God is a bad idea. But mixing wool and linen? Maybe there's something to that. If it's still a good idea to "Honor your father and mother" (Ephesians 6:1-3), maybe it's a good idea to ask some questions about the creatures that go along the bottom of the water cleaning up after other fish (if you catch my drift). God isn't arbitrary or stupid. I'll obey a given law unless firmly persuaded otherwise.
|[Bahnsen continues below]|
|Theonomy teaches, then, that in regard to the Old Testament law, the New Covenant surpasses the Old Covenant in glory, power, and finality. The New Covenant also supersedes the Old Covenant shadows, thereby changing the application of sacrificial, purity, and "separation" principles, redefining the people of God (e.g., Matt. 21:43), and also altering the significance of the promised land (e.g., Rom. 4:13; 1 Peter 1:4).||Who could disagree with this?|
|What is crucial to notice here is that theonomic ethics comes to these conclusions on the basis of Biblical instruction. Men have no right to alter or spurn Old Testament laws on their own say-so, social traditions, or preconceived ideas about what is morally appropriate or inappropriate in the Mosaic law. They have no right to include more in the discontinuity between old and new covenants than can be warranted from divine revelation.||Who could disagree with this?|
|Theonomy thus teaches that we should presume that Old Testament laws continue to be morally binding in the New Testament unless they are rescinded or modified by further revelation. Theonomy's methodology stands squarely against that of dispensational theology which maintains that all of the Old Testament commandments should be deemed -- in advance of exegesis -- to be abrogated, unless they are repeated in the New Testament.||Obviously Dispensationalists disagree with this.|
|On this issue the words of our Lord are definitive and clear in Matthew 5:17-19. Jesus declared that he did not come not abrogate the Old Testament Law and Prophets, but to give them their full measure. John Murray wrote that Jesus' "fulfillment" of the law "refers to the function of validating and confirming the law and the prophets" (Principles of Conduct, p. 150). With respect to the Old Testament's moral standards, Jesus went on to insist that until the end of the physical cosmos, not the slightest stroke of the law will pass away. "Therefore whoever shall break one of these least commandments and teach men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven." Jesus confirmed the validity of the law, even down to its least commandment, and censures anyone who dares to teach otherwise (without authorization from the Lawgiver Himself). New Testament Christians must operate on the presumption of continuity with the Old Testament moral code.||
There's a lot of heated debate about the meaning of those two Greek words. What do they mean? You don't have to know Greek to figure it out. What Jesus is saying is that He came to create conditions in which the follower of Christ is committed to obeying the law and the prophets, and teaching others to obey them as well. Some anti-theonomists claim that Jesus "fulfilled" God's Law for us, therefore we don't have to keep it (compare Hodge above). Sounds like the Pharisees, who said it was enough to keep their own man-made traditions instead of God's Law. The next verse makes clear what the Greek words mean:
"Doing" and "teaching" are not things Jesus came to destroy or to abrogate. He came to fulfill the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, of making a people for Himself that would be heartfelt Theonomists.
I've heard J.D. Hall on more than one video describe Bahnsen's exposition of Matthew 5:17-19 in Theonomy in Christian Ethics as taking up "half the book." If you have your copy of Bahnsen's book, place one finger at page 39, where Bahnsen begins his exposition of Matthew 5:17-19, and another finger at page 86, where he finishes looking at that passage. Hold all those pages between your thumb and index finger. Does it look like "half the book?" Maybe it seems like "half the book" to anti-theonomists because Bahnsen put "lotsa Greek stuff" in that chapter. (And they probably didn't read the other "half" either.)
Many people think that Theonomists are "Pharisees" and "legalists." But Jesus says His disciples are more righteous (Law-abiding) than those who use God's Word for their own selfish purposes:
It is one of the biggest anti-Theonomic myths that the Pharisees were pro-nomian. To the contrary, the religious leaders of Jesus' day were "hypocrites," as Jesus repeatedly said. Outwardly they postured as Theonomists, but they were actually committed to evading God's Law, not putting it into practice. The legalistic religious leaders were the enemies of God and the enemies of Theonomy:
King of Kings
|In what sense is Jesus a "King" or "political" figure? Isn't that breaching wall of separation between religion and politics?
Jesus is a political figure because he is the Christ, the Messiah, the King of kings. By His Word,
His Word "rebukes" kings now. Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Dictators only wish that this rebuking did not begin until after His Second Coming.
|Here is more from Bahnsen's summary. His article on the left continues below.|
|That general continuity which we presume with respect to the moral standards of the Old Testament applies to political ethics. John Murray called it a fatal error "if it is thought that the Christian revelation, the Bible, does not come to the civil authority with a demand for obedience to its direction and precept as stringent and inescapable as it does to the individual, to the family, and to the church"||All political entities are required to be "Theonomic." Any doctrine of "separation of church and state" which says otherwise is a lie.|
|OK, we've surveyed the first controversial issue regarding "Theonomy" -- the presumption that the Old
Testament Scriptures are authoritative in the New Covenant age.
Now here's where we diverge from Bahnsenian or Rushdoonian Theonomy.
Our claim is that God's Law prohibits the formation and maintenance of "the State."
Bahnsen says entities calling themselves "the State" or "the government" or "the civil magistrate" are obligated to follow God's Commandments in the
Scriptures (including commandments in "The Law and the Prophets"). I agree. I also believe entities calling themselves
|In addition to being the Head of the church, Christ has been made King over all other earthly kings (1 Tim. 6:15), the "ruler of the kings of the earth" (Rev. 1:5); to Him by right they owe allegiance and obedience. He has been invested with all authority in heaven as well as on earth (Matt. 28:18), and it is to be our prayer that God's will be done on earth just as perfectly as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). Jehovah has established His Son as King upon His holy hill, and thus the kings and judges of the earth are now required to submit reverently to Him and serve the Lord (Ps. 2:6-12).||What happens if entities calling themselves "civil governments" take seriously the Law of God, submit to Christ the King and serve Him as
Lord? What happens if "governments" repent of theft, murder and vengeance?
I would say they would "go out of business." Nowhere in Scripture does God command human beings to conquer other people groups,
or form "the State." By definition, "The State" violates God's Law by stealing, murdering, and taking
vengeance. Most of the Bible is filled with criticisms of empires. Entire books are dedicated to chronicling kings and judges. In spite of this, most Christians believe the Body of
Christ should not be involved in politics -- that is, should not oppose the most concentrated, well-funded machinery of evil on the
Christians in general -- even non-Theonomists -- have a generally positive view of "the State." Our contention is that the Bible has a generally negative view of the State. Of course, God works all things -- even evil things -- together for good.
|So theonomy teaches that civil rulers are morally obligated to enforce those laws of Christ,
found throughout the Scriptures, which are addressed to magistrates (as well as to refrain from coercion in areas where God has not prescribed their intervention). As Paul
wrote in Romans 13:1-10, magistrates -- even the secular rulers of Rome -- are obligated to conduct their offices as "ministers of God," avenging God's wrath
(compare 13:4 with 12:19) against criminal evil-doers. They will give an account on the Final Day of their service before the King of kings, their Creator and Judge. Christian
involvement in politics calls for recognition of God's transcendent, absolute, revealed law as a standard by which to judge all social codes and political policies. The
Scottish theologian, William Symington, well said:
|I believe a strict Theonomic application would not only shrink the size of government -- by cutting welfare, education, and other
activities which are carried out more humanely, effectively and beneficially by families, charities, and churches -- but would abolish civil governments entirely.
God created human beings in a social form we would call "Patriarchy." When Noah got off the ark with his family, all human beings existed in a state of "Patriarchy." Abraham the Patriarch had perhaps thousands of people in his family as a result of evangelism, domestic apprenticeship, job-creation, charity, and home-church. Romans 13, a much-misunderstood passage, prohibits Christians from violently resisting demonic empires, but does not condone imperial conquest and plunder of the weak by the strong.
Jesus prohibits His followers from being "archists" (Mark 10:42-45), which logically means Christians, while orderly and peaceful at all times, are technically "an-archists."
I feel that Christians who are not Theonomists let the State off the hook.
I agree that everyone -- civil magistrates, mafia hit-men, prostitutes -- are obligated to submit to Christ by obeying His inscriptured Word. I worry that many Theonomists envision little more than a "Theonomic Oligarchy" in which a small plurality of Theonomic voter-activists elect a slate of "Theonomic candidates" to political office to execute the unrepentant demographic. This, I guess, would be an "amillennial Theonomy," whereas a more robust "Postmillennial Theonomy" would come closer to the Biblical vision of the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea, resulting in widespread conversion, repentance, obedience, and cultural sanctification, rather than a more pessimillennial theocratic whack-a-mole. (I also consider myself a "Theocrat.")
|The Apostle Paul affirmed that one of the uses of the Old Testament law which we know to be good is the restraint of criminal behavior (1 Tim. 1:8-10). Jesus endorsed the penal sanctions of the Old Testament law, condemning those who would make them void by their own human traditions (Matt. 15:3-4).||For Matthew 15, see Mark 7, above.|
|Paul likewise upheld the penal standards of the Mosaic judicial law (Acts 25:11).||Here we have the first use of the phrase "Mosaic judicial law." This raises many questions.
First, with regard to Paul in Acts 25. An argument can be made that Paul did not "uphold the standards of the Mosaic judicial law," but rather appealed to Roman law under Caesar. This assumes that his Jewish opponents were defenders of the "Mosaic judicial law" (which they were not, as we have seen). The "Mosaic judicial law" is not an issue in Acts 25.
Bahnsen makes an assumption in Acts 25 based on another text, Romans 13. Bahnsen believes that in Romans 13, God authorizes, or even mandates, the existence of an entity we call "the State." As we said above, all human beings, and all bodies, corporations, organizations, networks, syndicates, leagues, etc., in which human beings may associate themselves, are obligated to obey all of God's Law in the Bible. This includes entities we might call "the State" or "the Mafia."
But Romans 13 is addressed to Christians in their capacity as "private" citizens. It is not a mandate for "the State." In Romans 13, Paul calls "the State" "the powers," a term which everywhere in the New Testament (and in the Greeco-Roman world at the time) signified a demonic nexus of tyranny. Paul is continuing his theme in Romans 12, which is to submit to evil in a "pacifist" manner, rather than respond to evil with more evil (violent revolution, in the case of the State). Romans 13 has arguably been the most disastrously misinterpreted passage in the Bible.
Hundreds of millions of people murdered.
We have undertaken an analysis of Romans 13 from an anarcho-theonomic perspective here:
Second, is there such a thing as ""Mosaic judicial law?" Did God give Israel laws through Moses which were intended to be carried out by an entity we today call "the State?"
|The author of Hebrews leaves us no doubt about the inspired New Testament perspective on the Mosaic penalties, saying "every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward" (2:2). God requires that judges not punish too harshly or too leniently, but assign a penalty proportionate to the crime (cf. "an eye for an eye..."). To uphold genuine justice in their punishments, magistrates need the direction of God's law. In observing the law which God revealed to Israel, all nations should respond "what great nation is there that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law?" (Deut. 4:8).||Nearly all scholars are agreed that the lex talionis ("eye for an eye") was intended by God to temper the quest for vengeance which
those in power often sought. Lamech wanted seven eyes for one
of his own. (See R.J. Rushdoony, "The Song of Lamech," Revolt
97-101.) God's Law is clearly a limit on tyrannical State power.
But is there in God's Law a requirement or mandate for the existence of "the State?"
|I think it is an error to speak of "the judicial law." Here's why.
Bahnsen speaks of "penalties," "punishments," and the "penal law." These phrases carry with them assumptions about the legitimacy of political institutions. (The word "political" comes from the Greek word polis.)
Even if you agree with these assumptions, anarcho-capitalists have shown how "judicial law" or "penal codes" can be more equitably, efficiently, and humanely administered by competing judicial agencies in a freed market, rather than a centralized judicial monopoly called "the State."
|But I think we have completely mis-read the "judicial law." I think part of what Bahnsen calls "judicial law" is actually part of
the category of law which Theonomists call "the ceremonial law."
For the most orthodox of Theonomic reasons, I believe "capital punishment" -- a liturgical shedding of blood -- was a "ceremonial" law, and is therefore abolished. For all crimes. That might surprise many opponents of Theonomy, who assume that "Theonomy" means nothing if not the execution of homosexuals and adulterers.
This is obviously a controversial position, and requires something of a "paradigm shift."
Imagine someone who says that the abolition of animal sacrifices commanded in the Mosaic law would lead to social chaos. "Those daily sacrifices were a powerful reminder of the odiousness of sin and God's holy and righteous standards," they might say. "Abolish the daily sacrifices and society will plunge into depravity and lawlessness." Sounds like a compelling argument. But shedding animal blood is a blasphemous affront to the work of Christ on the cross.
Shedding human blood is too.
The case for "capital punishment" as a "ceremonial law" can be made in three passages:
These three passages establish the "theology of capital punishment," and show it to be a ritual shedding of blood to make atonement. In our modern minds, these passages are filed under "capital punishment" and given a civil/judicial interpretation. But that's not a Biblical "theology of capital punishment." That's a secular/Roman law handling of the texts.
Other crimes which we call "capital crimes" are spoken of in the Bible in the same way as murder. For example, in Leviticus 20, it is repeatedly said of those who commit capital crimes, "their blood shall be upon them," and not upon a scapegoat or sacrificial lamb.
We are not allowed to shed blood after Calvary. Literally implementing Deuteronomy 21:1-9 would be an insult to the blood of Christ, everyone agrees. But the same holds true with Numbers 35:33. Same with Genesis 9:4-6 (and Genesis 8:20f.) We have to come up with other responses to "capital crimes" consistent with the rest of God's Law. This is, admittedly, a big assignment.
Rather than shedding blood, Theonomists should work for Christian Reconstruction in families, schools, businesses, and all other areas of life, and then blanket society with voluntary dispute resolution organizations. There is a tendency among some Theonomists to focus on executions and ignore the much larger task of social reconstruction which will ultimately diminish the number of murders and other "capital crimes." As Christians gain social influence, even the unconverted will feign Theonomic obedience and come under the market institutions and social order of a global Christocracy.
|I don't consider "restitution" a civil "punishment."
When one repents, one has a duty to undo the damage done by his sin. The duty of restitution stands even in the absence of socialism, fascism, or any other form of "the
State." It is a duty of restoration, and Biblical commands regarding restitution are the path to justice as righteousness, not "justice" as state
inflicted vengeance ("punishment").
Replacing "the State" is a big job, but a necessary one.
|Although Israel as a political body has expired -- and along with it its judicial law as a constitution -- the general equity of those judicial laws is still required (Westminster Confession XIX.4). Similarly, when a public library goes out of business (and your library card thus expires), the truth of what was written in its books is not abolished or changed. Political codes today ought to incorporate the moral requirements which were culturally illustrated in the God-given, judicial laws of Old Testament Israel. George Gillespie, widely regarded as the most authoritative theologian at the Westminster Assembly, wrote: "the will of God concerning civil justice and punishments is no where so fully and clearly revealed as in the judicial law of Moses.... He who was punishable by death under the judicial law is punishable by death still" ("Wholesome Severity Reconciled...," 1645).||I agree with Rushdoony that the Westminster Confession at this point is corrupted
by "natural law" thinking inherited from statist Greco-Roman philosophy. The Reformers and Puritans were not as consistently Biblical in their thinking about Biblical Law
as Rushdoony was centuries later. As someone ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which is confessionally tied to the Westminster Standards, Bahnsen was unable to break free
from those standards where they were not consistently Biblical. More here: The Theonomy Debate
The concept of "judicial law" in the Bible is a hold-over from Greco-Roman thinking. "Judicial law" is a concept imposed on the Bible rather than exegeted (from the text of the Bible). God did not give laws to "the State" in a way that approves of the perpetual existence of the State. (Deuteronomy 17 should not be separated from 1 Samuel 8.)
|Those who do not favor taking God's law as the ultimate standard for civil morality and public justice will be forced to substitute some other criterion. The civil magistrate cannot function without some standard of good and evil. If that standard is not the revealed law of God, then in some form or expression it will have to be a law of men -- the standard of self-law or autonomy. Men must choose in their civil affairs to be governed by God's law (theonomy), to be ruled by tyrants, or acquiesce to increasing social degeneracy.||
It may seem like "Theonomy" is all about politics. This should not be the case. The bulk of Bahnsen's lengthy treatise on Theonomy does not discuss politics, but only the basic concept of the abiding validity of the Old Testament generally. More specifically, the book deals with the basic objections to God's commanding us at all, which are often the "Law vs. Grace" or "Law vs. Gospel" objections. This is really the heart of most objections to Theonomy. That and executing adulterers.
Bahnsen's particular application of Theonomy to the State is not the Theonomic thesis itself, but only an "application of the thesis." Ditto for applications made by R.J. Rushdoony and Gary North. Indeed, the section in Bahnsen's book which does address politics is called "Application of the Thesis to the State" (p. 315).
Bahnsen writes in his summary volume, By This Standard: The Authority of God's Law Today,
Leaders of the "Christian Reconstruction" movement have had their disagreements on the application of the Theonomic thesis. Rushdoony and North disagreed to such an extent that they weren't even talking to each other! Bahnsen disagreed with Rushdoony on several issues, as we've noted.
"Theonomy" means God has the right to command man. It does not mean "the State" does.
God created human beings in a Family. The institution of a priesthood was temporary. The creation of "the State" was an act of rebellion against God's Law. That means society should be a patriarchal (family-centered) Christocracy.
John M. Frame's Theory of the State: An Anarchist Salute -- Contains a brief overview of the "Vine & Fig Tree" vision of Anarcho-Theocracy.
|Where in God's Law are human beings commanded to create an entity which has the right to compel other people, and the right to fund this compulsion by the forcible extraction of
Note: verses which command people to "submit" to such compulsion are not mandates for such compulsion. Jesus says (Matthew 5:41) that we are not to resist conscription by a foreign military occupation army, but Jesus was not saying it was morally mandatory for Italy (Rome) to invade Israel.
Please leave a comment here:
For Further Reading
Here are some recent (2014-15) articles, blog posts and Facebook discussions I've had on the subject of "Theonomy."
|Favorable to Theonomy||Possibly Unfavorable|
The Theonomy Debate (McDurmon v. Hall)(Comments on a Reformed Baptist analysis)
Is 1 Cor 5:13 the "general equity" of Deut 22:21? (Comments on a Reformed Baptist analysis)
Why Old Testament "Holy Wars" are Not a Civil Model Today and why there is no such thing as a "civil code" in the Bible.
The Case Against "Capital Punishment" -- A short introduction. Contains links to more thorough treatments
Conversation with Kurt and Tom
My Weekend with the "Covenanters" - I was invited to join a Facebook Group called "Christians for the Civil Recognition of Christ's Kingship." I lasted one weekend. I believe the Mafia should recognize Christ's Kingship. This group should be called, "Christians for Christ's Recognition of Archists."
|General Biblical Issues||About the Author|
|Kevin Craig first encountered "Christian Reconstructionism" around 1974.
• He was personally tutored by R.J Rushdoony, wrote a regular column for The Chalcedon Report, and as a Chalcedon Scholar substituted on occasion for Rushdoony when he was unable to fill the pulpit in the Westwood chapel where the Institutes of Biblical Law was delivered.
• KC was also tutored one-on-one by Bahnsen, who wanted to see if someone could be ordained in the OPC through an apprenticeship, rather than the modern seminary model.
• Gary North has published a few of his articles, including this one. North says KC is either in the "Who's Who" or the "Who's Not" of Christian Reconstructionism.
Kevin Craig founded Vine & Fig Tree (a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation) in 1979.
The problem with option #1 is that "the State" is violation of God's Law. It promotes more lawlessness than its executions prevent. The State is -- by definition -- funded by theft (violations of the 8th Commandment), and exists to kill people (in violation of the 6th Commandment). "The State" cannot exist without perpetuating the idea that it is morally permissible for some people to steal from other people, in order to take vengeance and kill other people. "The State" is a moral cancer in society. It's time for human beings to learn that "the State" causes every culture to fall. This is what the Bible says. This is what history says.
The "Free Market" means "Providence." It is "organic," arising spontaneously, moment-by-moment, as men assume Godly responsibility.
|The State destroys the market for the peaceful resolution of disputes||
For the LORD is our Judge,
The State makes its own laws
The LORD is our Lawgiver,
|The State claims to protect us,
even as it fleeces and destroys us
The LORD is our King;
|The State claims to bring salvation.||
He will save us—
The Family ("patriarchy") is how God created Mankind in Eden. There was no "State." After the Fall, Man needed a mediator or "priest." The archetypal Priest is Jesus, seen in Abraham's day as Melchizedek. "The State" was not created at the time of Noah. When Noah got off the ark he offered burnt offerings on an altar (Genesis 8:20-21), and was commanded or reminded by God not to eat blood and to shed the blood of those who shed innocent blood (Genesis 9:4-6). John M. Frame notes,
"State" is not a biblical category in the sense that "family," "people of God," "Israel," and "church," are biblical categories. God established the family at creation (Gen. 2:24). In Exodus 19ff., God established Israel as a nation, as the people of God. The church is, in one sense, the whole people of God from Adam to the present, and in another sense a fresh historical expression of that community based specifically upon the apostolic confession of Christ (Matt. 16:18ff.). But in what passage did God establish the state?
Some have found divine warrant for the state in Genesis 9:6, where God commands Noah’s family to return bloodshed for bloodshed. But this is a command given to a family. There is no indication here of any new institution being established. And in the law of Moses, the execution of murderers was carried out, not by the state as such, but by the "avenger of blood," kin of the murder victim (Num. 35:19,21; Deut. 19:12). The family, here, is the instrument of justice. We have no reason to believe, therefore, that any special institution beyond the family for the establishment of justice was created in Genesis 9:6.
At the time of Moses, the Levitical Priesthood was formed. This was a remedial priesthood which Theonomists recognize was intended to be superceded in the New Covenant. Priests as mediators between God and Man facilitated atonement to propitiate the wrath of God. God ordained priests to help Family heads ("elders") do this.
The priesthood administered the "ceremonial law" and was remedial and temporary, and is not to be equated with the modern "State."
During the 20th century, "the State" killed more than 10,000 people every single day on average. These were not executions that could in any way be Theonomically justified or warranted from the Biblical texts covered above (Genesis 9, Deuteronomy 21; Numbers 35, etc.).
The entity we call "The state" is "the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen" (to exploit the words of Princeton professor Archibald Hodge in 1887).
"The State" in America controls thousands of so-called "non-governmental" entities which surround the world with tentacles of atheism and immorality, promoting homosexuality, abortion, and paganism around the world.
The entity we call "The state" is based on theft and murder; its primary, fundamental purpose is to take vengeance and fund this vengeance through acts of theft. It exists for no other purpose, and does not exist if theft is not occurring. If there is no theft, there is a social club of some kind, but not "the State."
In the last 100 years, "the State" in its various forms has
No other syndicate or organized corporate body of individuals has been as lethal or as sinful as "the State."
Ten thousand years ago, Christians will be shaking their heads in astonishment that Christians in our day could have sat silently while this vast and depraved engine of violence could have been allowed to continue, justified by the fear of a home burglary or "terrorist" (the burglar learning his craft in a government-run school or prison, and the "terrorist" being a "freedom fighter" in a previous [government-funded] life).
There is an inherent and inescapable tension between Theonomic ethics and "the State." The State prohibits God's Law from being taught in state-run "public" schools. The State is an organized rebellion against God's Law, and if the State claims to promote Theonomy as political campaign strategy, it knows its days are limited if people take God's Law seriously.
you believe that God still wants blood to be shed in cases of "capital crimes," there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits you from doing that as the head of a household, by hiring one of several competing Free Market agencies to shed the blood, or for "the church" (ekklesia) to shed the blood. Clearly, under the Old Covenant, the shedding of blood in "capital crimes" was explicitly said to be the path to "atonement," was overseen by priests, and should be called a function of "the church" rather than "the state" (which did not exist in Israel until the Kingship of God was denied in 1 Samuel 8). "The State" was not mandated by God, it was created by rebels like Cain, Lamech, Nimrod, and "all the nations." It was not created to obey God's Law, but to evade God's Law and implement man's law and man's vengeance.
Famous Archists in History:
You'll recognize one of those archists above as Adolph Hitler.
Hitler did not kill six million Jews.
Name one Jew whom you can prove Hitler killed.
Six million Jews were killed by
six million Germans
who chose to wear a silly uniform, walk a silly goose-step, and follow the orders of a beyond-silly, pathologically evil man.
These Germans were archists. They were "ordinary people." Just like you.
If you don't take immediate steps to become an anarchist, then by default you'll
be an archist. Plus, you'll be unable to resist the temptations, the bribes, the pressure and the threats by archists
to become an archist. You'll become an archist just like those rows and rows of "good" Germans
above. They are just like you. You are just like them. "Sensible." "Rational." "Practical."