I dealt with some initial thoughts on theonomy last week. I have refinements and more questions today.
Simply for reference (and fun), I found this site that has A List of the 613 Mitzvot (Commandments). This is not to indicate that I’m about to “prove” the silliness of theonomy or some such foolishness. In fact, I think I’m closer to agreeing with at least a semblance of theonomology (did I make that up just now?) after a bit more consideration.
Here’s what I find myself agreeing with:
God’s moral law, that which has been around all along in the hearts of men is not to be discarded in light of Christ’s New Covenant. The NC validates the Law in this respect. Christ didn’t teach a new law, rather spent plenty of his time (most of it) giving further explanation of what it means to obey as well as know what is really being commanded.
Now, having said all that, I cannot come to agreement on the penal system. This is difficult to argue because of the blanket either-or arguments that Bahnsen & co. present. It comes from my presupposition of how Christians interface with the pagan world, which I also perceive is analogous to some extent with Israel’s interface with the rest of mankind. Namely, only in a Bible-believing theocracy can the law of God be enforced in the manner in which the Torah describes. Only Israel could enforce, via the penal code of the Law, the Law on Only Israel. They could not hold outsiders to the Law. They could certainly proclaim the Law and call all men to repentance, faith and obedience, but they could not start waving the rod in disciplinary action. Furthermore, in the days of Israelite exile (or occupation as with the Romans), Israel couldn’t even execute discipline on her own people due to local rules.
The church of Christ is in the same position today and has been all along, with periodic exceptional circumstances (such as Puritan colonists). We are not a theocratic government/country. We are an embassy to a foreign government. In order to execute corporate discipline such as defined in the OT, we would need to extradite Christian offenders to Heaven (current country from which we hail) for said punishment. And we cannot, as ambassadors, demand that our government’s laws be copied by the government to whom we are ambassing (I made that word up too).
Here is an ideal reference for Church Discipline as it is to occur today. I’m referring to the PCA Book of Church Order:
27-4. The power which Christ has given the Church is for building up, and not for destruction. It is to be exercised as under a dispensation of mercy and not of wrath. As in the preaching of the Word the wicked are doctrinally separated from the good, so by discipline the Church authoritatively separates between the holy and the profane. In this it acts the part of a tender mother, correcting her children for their good, that every one of them may be presented faultless in the day of the Lord Jesus. Discipline is systematic training under the authority of God’s Scripture. No communing or non-communing member of the Church should be allowed to stray from the Scripture’s discipline.
Boiling this down to what should amount to a reality check, I am still convinced that we can only compel our own household to adhere to God’s Moral Law and that only by the instituted discipline in the New Testament (I.E. what we recognize as Church Discipline today – teaching, exhortation, excommunication). No beatings or stonings, eye-for-eye or monetary restitution. We can’t do that because it is not given to us by the government that is hosting us. We’re not free from the law of the world in this sense. Though our freedom in Christ lifts us from the penalty of sin and also frees us from the compulsion of this world’s rule that we must break God’s Moral Law (sin), we are not “not of this world” as the bumper sticker goes. We’re in it and stuck with it ’til Christ returns. And He is going to engage the sword to punish lawbreakers.
Final argument: sin twists the Law to its own end. The unregenerate will not comply with the law in a manner that is positive. He hates God and God’s Law (see how it is written on his heart and how he strives to break it every moment of every day?). The godless is lawless in the sense that he denies the truth and authenticity of the moral law. Since this is so, demanding that he obey it, let me time-travel into the future where there is a reconstructed theocratic society as Postmil folk seem to expect will happen. That lawless man will benefit nothing from the penalty communicated to him because he denies the validity of the law he broke. He doesn’t recognize the authority therefore will not accept the punishment, whether you kill him, beat him, take his money or his left hand.
Christian martyrs do the same thing. We deny the punishment of this world’s laws when they are ungodly. Paul, James, Peter and all the others got the sword of this world and counted it as no punishment. Their torture and deaths were invalid from a worldly perspective. Similarly, a Wiccan will take the punishment that a Christian deals and count himself a martyr for his faith – death for his beliefs. Look, here is an equation:
God’s code is written (hard code) on the hearts of all men.
All men have hearts that are twisted, dead in sin.
God’s code has been twisted in the twisted hearts of men.
The unbeliever will use the essence of the Law, taking all the commitment, submission, integrity and glory of a righteous, obedient life in Christ and point it at himself. He will not accept punishment for disobeying the Law because it is not his law and he did not convict himself of breaking the law. It is alien and cannot compel. Only the Word of God, with the power Spirit of God will change the lawless man to view and accept the code as it was originally written. Which then changes the equation above.
God’s code is written (hard code) on the hearts of all men.
Some men have hearts that are
twisted, dead in sin renewed, dead to sin.
God’s code has been
twisted in the twisted validated in the renewed hearts of those men.
Okay, so in closing this session on theonomy, I think I have said that Christians are morally obligated to uphold the Moral Law. I have not said Christians are to uphold all the particular details provided to Israel in further episodes of lawgiving (I.E. the 10 Commandments in their root form is all I’m discussing at this point). I have said that the world of unbelievers is not to be compelled by Christians to adhere to the law. I have not said Christians cannot teach the law or encourage obedience. I have said that we cannot punish in accordance with the OT penal code. I have not said we cannot punish Christian lawbreakers at all, only that we may punish via prescribed church discipline.
I hope this brings me closer to a fair view of the Law and kinder approach to theonomy. I’ll continue study as I’m working my way through Bahnen’s books.