Theonomy

  • An Introduction to Theonomy and Reformed Confessions

    religion and politics

    Heresy is declared by an ecclesiastical court after due process and adequate trial. Individuals do not pronounce a position to be heretical, the church does. Critics of Theonomy make haste to build various strawmen, proceed to tar them well, grab the masses of churchmen by their emotions and then burn that baby real good. All those with forks and picks stand back, breath in the satisfaction of the toxic, charred remains of Theonomy and its so-called legalism.Only problem is that a strawman is exactly and only that. No matter how many of them you burn, the true position will keep moving forward. The self-gratification of feeling victory over a myth holds no gravitas. The truth wins. God’s Word prevails. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is 40:8).

  • Covenant theology

    treaty

    It has been a strange and bizarre few weeks in the deep south of Tasmania. People have been hurt. Relationships torn and the right hand of fellowship withdrawn from some. At a time such as this, we must remember Christ and His covenant. This is an overview of covenant theology to encourage people in their time of need.

    Fingertips

    An old acquaintance is fond of saying, “your theology flows out of your fingertips.” All of life is religious as the Psalmist says, “you become what you worship” (Psalm 115:8). The idea of relationship is a strange beast in our modern world. Our society is attempting to redefine many things. Relationship is one of them. Sinful man desires his relationships to be free of rules and regulations. He thinks freedom (and therefore happiness) is found in lawlessness. This is impossible. Interactions between image bearers cannot be conducted in an ethical vacuum. Love is bound by law (1 John 5:1-5). The ethical/moral neutrality myth is a hook of secular humanism that many within the church have unfortunately swallowed. No matter how much man desires to void life of law and an ethical framework, it is impossible. It is not “no law” but “whose law?” Life is not a zero-ethics game. Rather, the question is, “whose ethical framework.” Life is religious. All of life is ethical (1 Cor 10:31). We either honour the King or are imposters (Matt 6:24-34, 2 Cor 10:5, Isa 14:13-14).

    The King is the king

    Before we climb our mighty wooden pedestal, let us remember that God cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2, Is. 14:27). His will prevails. No one hoodwinks the King. All do His bidding, in whatever capacity He has ordained. Man is responsible for his actions and God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass. God writes the story. He controls the plot. The King is the author and we are not, period. Further, than this, God governs His world via His covenant. The enthroned Christ rules heaven and earth. God’s will is to be done on earth as it is done in heaven. King Jesus wears the crown and rules the whole world, His world, via His covenant. The two go hand-in-hand. No covenantal rule equals an empty crown; no crown means an inability to rule. Our universe is not random. The world doesn’t simply move forward in a meaningless, blind evolutionary manner. There is ethical structure and order to life. This ethical structure is rooted in the covenant. It is judicial by nature. But the covenant is not simply pietistic hot air. It is deeply practical. God works in history via covenant.

    The King's covenant

    So, what exactly is the covenant? Reformed theology has always assumed the covenant to greater or lesser degree. But no reformed theologian took the bull by the horns and wrote extensively on the subject. [1] That is before Ray Sutton wrote That You May Prosper, Dominion By Covenant in 1991. He systematically worked through Deuteronomy, showing how this book (and many others) follows a 5-point covenantal structure. If you read his book you will see how this structure has not been imposed on the text, but flows out of it.

    Remember THEOS

    Dr Gary North notes the helpful acronym created for remembering Sutton’s 5-point covenant structure: THEOS [2].

    T – transcendence
    Deuteronomy 1:1-5 gives the preamble to the covenant, wherein we read about the transcendent Lord who makes covenant with a lesser vassal. In short, T asks and answers, “who’s the boss here?” The text reveals that the Creator God is distinct from His creation but He is not distant and uninvolved. He is distinct and eminent. This combination of Creator/creation distinction and the eminency of God in history is unique to the Christian worldview. All other systems either blur the Creator/creature distinction or advocate for a distant, irrelevant lord.

    H – hierarchy
    Deuteronomy 1:6-4:49 outlines the historical prologue. The author gives a historical sketch of the relationship between the sovereign God and His people in history. It outlines the authority structure of a representative government that the Lord has instituted. Those who God elects as representatives were to “mediate judgment to the nation. And the nation was to mediate judgment to the world.” [3]

    E – ethics
    Deuteronomy 5-26 is the longest section of the covenant. It is where the Lord lays out His stipulations. God gives His Ten Words (or Commandments) and then He restates them and applied in case laws. “These stipulations are the way God’s people defeat the enemy. By relating to God in terms of ethical obedience the enemies fall before His children. The principle is that law is at the heart of God’s covenant. The primary idea is that God wants His people to see an ethical relationship between cause and effect: be faithful and prosper.” [4]

    O – oath
    In Deuteronomy 27-30 we read the list of blessings and curses, which is the process of covenantal or treaty ratification via self-maledictory oath. Sutton notes that “to cut a covenant, three elements are necessary: sanctions, oath, and witnesses.” [5] Each of these elements are present in this section of Deuteronomy. At Mt. Gerizim (blessing) and Mt. Ebal (cursing) Israel accepted the sanction terms of the covenant by saying the holy oath, ‘Amen’ to all the covenantal curses. The witnesses, heaven and earth verified the legitimacy of the covenant. Essentially the big idea is that there are blessings and cursings associated with the covenant.

    S – succession
    The final point of the covenant determines the true heirs (Deuteronomy 31-34), and this is established by “ordination and faithfulness.” The covenant is not static. It does not remain with a single generation. Rather, it is handed from generation to generation. This is accomplished through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Inheritance is by grace through faith.

    The Great Commission

    Many Christians don’t understand that the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) is structured in a covenantal manner. The Lord recommissioned His people with the Cultural Mandate (Gen. 1:28-30) and thus Christians are to take dominion by covenant. Our chief end is not simply to evangelise. Rather, in the Great Commission, the church has been given all the nations of the world to disciple. The church’s commission is to bring the nations to Jesus, immerse them in the Word and teach them to obey His commands. This is a reapplication of the covenant with Israel. She was to bring all the nations to God (1 Kings 1:43-48).

    Sutton identifies the 5-points of the covenant in the Great Commission

    1. True Transcendence – Matthew 28:16
    2. Hierarchy – Matthew 28:17-18
    3. Ethics – Matthew 28:19a
    4. Sanctions – Matthew 28:19b
    5. Continuity – Matthew 28:20 [5]

    The 5-point covenant model is everywhere in the Bible. It is not simply an Old Testament thing. It is the structure whereupon the Bible’s tapestry is woven. The church's Great Commission is a restating of the covenant.

    This means that the recent hurt down here in Tasmania can be understood through the lens of the covenant. This is comforting and reassuring. God is good. He never sins. His will prevails and those who sin against Him will be covenantally judged in history.

    End notes

    [1] Sutton, R. (1992). That You May Prosper – Dominion by Covenant, pp. XIV-XV.

    [2] Op cit. pp. XV & 16-17.

    [3] Op cit. p. 17.

    [4] Op cit. p. 17.

    [5] Op cit. p. 78.

    Editors note

    I apologise for mentioning the name of my church in the previous edition of this article and indicating that I would address recent issues that resulted in a number of families being told to leave. This was not wise. I encourage anyone who has heard things on the grapevine to contact me or any of the other families. Gossip is a sinful thing (Ephesians 4:29, Psalm 101:5, Titus 3:10, Proverbs 26:20). It has been spread in the past. So, if you think your brother has sinned, go to him (Matthew 18). Don't believe every "official" position and what you may have heard first - Proverbs 18:17.

  • The Bounds of Love: An Introduction to God's Law of Liberty

    By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2–3).

    Joel McDurmon’s The Bounds of Love is a new introduction to Theonomy, the view that Scripture, including the law of Moses, contains abiding principles for civil government. The book is written with exceptional clarity. It reviews the traditional case for theonomy developed by Rushdoony, Bahnsen, and North, and it adds some creative approaches to controversial questions. For example, McDurmon develops a new approach to the question of what laws carry over from the Mosaic covenant to the New, and which do not, and he presents an attractive and detailed portrait of what a theonomic society would look like in the twenty-first century. Though I do not endorse every statement and argument of the book, I pray that it will get a wide readership. It deals with biblical passages, themes, and principles of which the church today is almost entirely ignorant.

    —John M. Frame
    J. D. Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy
    Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

  • The war on drugs

    war on drugs

    The war on drugs has cost the western world. Australian civil governments have ploughed huge sums of money into policing, courts, rehabilitation programs, hospitals and other medical care, social security and a raft of other things. As always the bill is footed by Australian taxpayers via the theft of wealth redistribution. And we love it! We want more to be done by our civil governments. Why? Like the Jews in Moses' day, we love slavery. The food and drink are good.

  • Theonomy and the Hobart grapevine 3

    Angry Priest

    Heresy rolls off the tongue. It’s orgasmic to discernment bloggers. Those who step outside the fundamentalist unbiblical tunnel vision are instantly castrated. Unfortunately, a few Hobart Christian leaders have evidently bathed in those blogs, or should I say bogs. Elements of two-kingdoms (2K) and radical two-kingdoms (R2K) theology seem to undergird at least some of the thinking of these leaders. A number of these men strongly oppose Theonomy. Goo was well and truly spat over our recent conferences. Some do not understand the position; while others continue to misrepresent it. Elements of 2K and R2K theology obscures everything.

  • Theonomy and the Reformation

    Heroes of the Reformation

    The 16th century Reformation transformed the western world. [1] Many of our societal freedoms were won by men like Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, Knox, Bucer and the like. These men were used by God to impact the world and topple tyrannies. This was accomplished through a return to faithful teaching and preaching of the Bible. The Reformers thundered the Word. They were bold men and often spoke hard words. These men taught that the Word of God applied to all of faith and life. The Bible once again became man’s ultimate standard. Sola Scriptura pulled the rug from under the feet of ecclesiastical and political tyranny.

  • Theonomy on the Hobart grapevine

    angry protestant leader

    “Oh I heard it through the grapevine. Oh I'm just about to lose my mind.” Classic Marvin Gaye. Often Christians hear and discern "truth" via the Marvin hermeneutic. It is not a good thing. Gaye style gossip is sinful (Exodus 23:1, Psalm 34:13, Proverbs 20:19, Romans 1:29, Titus 3:2, James 1:26,4:11, etc). We are warned; “the first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Should the grapevine be your source of truth?

  • Theonomy on the Hobart grapevine 2

    legalism

    Theonomy has been a little buzz word in some Hobart circles over the last few weeks. You can read my first article on the topic here. Let's recap, the theonomic soundbite:

    “The word ‘Theonomy’ comes from two Greek words, theos (God) and nomos (law). Together, these words simply mean ‘God’s law’…Theonomy is the biblical teaching that Mosaic law contains perpetual moral standards for living, including some civil laws, which remain obligatory for today” (Joel McDurmon - The Bounds of Love, pp. 12 & 24).

    I am continuing to briefly discuss concerns that I am aware of. Conversation is good. This certainly isn’t exhaustive nor is it the last word. If you have specific concerns/questions please contact me.

  • Unconditional Surrender: God's Program for Victory

    Everyone knows Christianity is a religion, but what difference does it make in a society? Is Christianity just a religion for private time, or is it a way of life that shapes ones understanding of the world even able to transform a nation?

    Does the Bible teach anything specific about how to raise a family, run a country, or manage an economy? Moreover, if the Bible does have something to say, do we have to observe those commands, or are they mere suggestions or general principles?

    Despite widespread ignorance of the Bibles teachings both inside and outside of the church the Bible has plenty to say about social, civil, and political affairs. And when men and women apply these teachings to their lives and the world around them, the world will change for the better.

    A primer in the Christian faith, Unconditional Surrender provides readers curious about the Bible with the blueprint of a biblical worldview. Using the Bibles basic teachings about God, man, law, judgment, and time and illustrating how these beliefs affect society at large Gary North wades in at the heart of the battle in todays culture war, and shows that the Bible has the answers modern science and socialism lack.

    About the Author

    Gary North (Ph.D., University of California, Riverside) is the author of over 40 books on economics, theology, history, and education. His articles have appeared in National Review, American Spectator, The Wall Street Journal, and The Westminster Theological Journal. Gary continues to speak and write prolifically. He resides in Dallas, Georgia, with his wife and two dogs. Original Edition Copyrighted: 1994 Revised, Updated, Expanded and Reprinted: 2010

    You can read this book for free at this link.

  • What is theonomy

    ten commandments large1

    The theonomic position as outlined by Dr Greg Bahnsen.

    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.

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