What They Think About Theonomy

I know that this is perhaps getting old, but at the risk of beating a dead horse I offer another example of R2kt reasoning.

Mr. Dove,

I read theonomists and Jim Wallis to be saying that the Bible should be the norm for public life (as opposed to some formulation of general revelation). Because saints, either individually or collectively in the church, are the ones who have some inkling (by virtue of the HS) to understand the Bible correctly, the move to make the Bible the norm then also elevates those people and officers who are subject to the Word and minister it. I do not believe that God granted jurisdiction of civil society to the church in this age of redemptive history. He has to some believers whose vocation is that of public servant. How those folks balance their duties to the Constitution and to the Bible is tricky, just as tricky as it was for JFK to juggle the Constitution and the papacy, and for Mitt Romney to juggle the Mormon elders and the Constitution.

Dr. D. G. Hart
Response to letter inquiring whether he thought theonomists desired ecclesiocracy

To say that the Bible should be the norm for public life and to say that God has granted jurisdiction of civil society to the Church in this age is to say two very different things. A person could hold to the former without ever holding to the latter. Theonomists do believe that the Bible should be the norm for public life but they do not say that God has granted jurisdiction of civil society to the Church in this age. What Theonomists say is that the Church ought to be able to speak to a culture’s magistrates using its moral and spiritual power, just as John Knox spoke to Queen Mary, and just as the Black Robed Regiment spoke to King George III.

Second, Dr. Hart appeals to Natural law (some formation of general revelation) as being that which should provide the norm or the standard of right and wrong for the public square. The problem is though that this appeal to “some formation of general revelation” hardly takes the idea that “men suppress the truth in unrighteousness” seriously. Because non christians suppress the truth in unrighteousness Natural law can be and has been used to excuse any number of aberrant behaviors. As one example, Natural law told the Deists that God was a watchmaker being. Next on this score we might ask, “who’s formation of general revelation?” The Muslims or the Humanists formation of general revelation is going to be something profoundly different from the Christians formation of general revelation. The idea of appealing to some form of general revelation in order to be a universal norm completely leaves out any thoughtful consideration on how theological presuppositions inform how people come to their conclusions regarding general revelation.

Third, notice how Dr. Hart yokes theonomists with socialists (Jim Wallis), as if they were somehow equal. The problem here is that Dr. Hart doesn’t even ask what presuppositions are driving each to handle the scriptures in the way that they do. What Dr. Hart has done here is akin to yoking the Higher-Critical school as personified in Harry Emerson Fosdick with the Historical grammatical school as personified in J. Gresham Machen and then saying that they both do the same thing inasmuch as they both interpret the Bible. The problem with the Higher-Critical school and the problem of the socialists like Jim Wallis is they start out with presuppositions alien to the Scriptures themselves. The fact that the Higher Critical school of interpretation and the Socialists each handle the scriptures in a way contrary to its intent hardly justifies yoking them with those who do seek to handle the scriptures according to its intent. To yoke theonomists with Jim Wallis is either very close to being not very nice at all on Darryl Hart’s part or it is an example of not understanding why completely different schools of thought exist.

Fourth, one wonders why an elected believer would find it tricky to balance the bible with the constitution. Now if it would be ‘tricky’ because of the raw politics of the situation I would agree, but if it is ‘tricky’ because it is difficult to know how to be obedient and disobedient at the same time to God’s revealed Law-Word then that is another matter. I wonder if it would be found tricky because an elected believer, according to those who hold that pluralism is what cultures should be comprised of, would be in the position of making sure that Christianity didn’t make to much progress.

Finally, I am actually sympathetic to the point Dr. Hart makes about elevation. Perhaps this is why teachers are judged more harshly. Still, every godly culture has had its elevated teachers whether it was Knox, or Calvin, or Witherspoon, or any number of others and we must realize that if we do not seek to have elevated godly leadership — men who desire to handle the scriptures in a God honoring way — then we will have elevated ungodly leadership.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

4 thoughts on “What They Think About Theonomy”

  1. I don’t think the question is one about jurisdiction, as you keep pointing out. Rather, it’s about whose law gets championed in the civil sphere. The 2Kers must acknowledge that if the church preaches the moral law, that moral law ought to and will find application in the civil sphere. Otherwise, the “moral law” of idols will be applied in the civil sphere. It’s a matter of who’s God will be the God of the civil realm. Somebody’s God will be.

    This sounds bizarre: ” … the move to make the Bible the norm then also elevates those people and officers who are subject to the Word and minister it.” If the Bible is not the norm, then what will be? Either a pluralist compromise or an outright idolatrous system. It also does not follow that if the Bible is the norm for the civil sphere, then church officers become state officials. That is a very big leap indeed.

    Maybe you should address the passage in the Westminster Confession about the “expiration” of the Hebrew civil law and how it is viewed by theonomy.

  2. Why would we “sola Scriptura Calvinists” expect the Bible to be the standard for a pulpit minister and not for a minister of civil justice? Both are ministers of God; why would his law not be the standard of each?

    And why would we assume that God would enlist the service of a minister of justice and expect that minister to define justice for himself apart from God, when justice is a revealed attribute of God’s character (Gen. 18:25; Heb. 2:2) and thus cannot rightly be defined apart from him?

    Hebrews 2:2 is clear that justice is found in the Law of God (Old & New Testamnet).

  3. Joshua,

    I think it does elevate them, not in the sense of now become civil official, but in the sense of being seen as those who can speak authoritatively to the culture. Right now ministers are not elevated because very few take what they have to say seriously. Instead those who are elevated are anybody but ministers.


    You have to get with the program. The case law was for theocratic Israel. That law comprised part of what is known as the intrusion ethic. In theocratic Israel the Kingdom of heaven had come to an expression but with the dissolving of theocratic Israel the intrusion was drawn back into the heavenlies as it were and now we live by Natural law and not God’s revealed case law.

    It’s all in Kline.


  4. True, Bret. It’s not a question of whether ministers will be elevated, but whose ministers will be. The elevated ones these days tend to be shoddy theologians and/or scam artists who serve the purpose of some powerful faction, like the Rapture guys in love with the Israeli state.

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