Once again we continue to take up this idea of the Kingship of Jesus Christ and what that looks like in very concrete matters. We have said, and this is important to continue to keep in mind, that this is a top-down approach. We are taking a birds-eye view on this matter. Each one of these sermons from the past four weeks could easily be 4 or five sermons. That is what they would be if we were seeking to do a worm’s eye view. Another way of saying this is that this sermonic approach is deductive in its methodology as opposed to inductive.
We have posited and demonstrated from Scripture that Jesus Christ is a King… indeed a King of Kings. We have labored to demonstrate that this Kingship is not limited, nor is it ethereal, nor is it pietistic nor is it Gnostic. He is King and His Kingship exercises authority and so flows into every nook and cranny of life.
We spent time considering what life has become in just four areas (and we could have done many more) as we have surrendered the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We looked at Law, Psychology, Sociology, and Education. We provided quotes and proof that these realms are now being thought of and understood in terms of man’s Kingship as opposed to Christ’s Kingship. We have spent time along the way considering what these realms might look like if Jesus Christ was owned once again. We have also punctuated repeatedly warnings against a movement that goes under the name of Christianity which seeks to insist that Jesus Christ’s explicit Kingship is not totalistic but rather only applies to the realm of grace while insisting that the common realm is only ruled by Christ implicitly via a nebulous thing called Natural Law.
Subsequent to all that we began to consider a minimalist approach to the Kingship of Jesus Christ. We said that the minimalist approach has been called “Reconstructionism,” and the practitioners of it have been called “Biblical Christians.”
Slicing matters thinly we have looked at
1.) Thecentric thinking
2.) Organic or Holistic thinking
4.) The Reformation Solas
5.) Limited and Constrained Government (which implies Hard money)
6.) Jurisdictionalism (Sphere-Sovereignty / Subsidiarity)
7.) Covenant Theology
Now, none of these have been given the time they deserve because of this birds-eye approach we have been taking but we are seeking to see the whole and not just the parts.
We have yet to consider
3.) Familialism / Kinism / Oikaphilia
4.) Missions / Outreach
We have insisted that all of this probably shouldn’t be named anything but vanilla or pedestrian Christianity. We have said the fact that some kind of adjective has to be added to Christianity in order to distinguish Reconstructionist Christianity from Christianity, in general, is an indication of how far Christianity has fallen.
So, with that re-cap in front of us, we continue to consider Biblical Christianity lived underneath the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Of course what is presupposed in all of this is that before man can live and move and have his being underneath the Lordship of Jesus Christ he must own His sin, make an appeal for forgiveness in the context of faith, repentance, and Baptism, and so look to Christ as savior, mediator, and great High Priest.
In the Scriptures, the word Dominion can have a positive or negative connotation given the context and the word that is being used. Positively, the word is used in Gen. 1:26 & 9:1
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Gen. 1:26
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.
These passages communicate the idea that the entrusting of man with Dominion is for the purpose of serving as a steward who improves upon the charge that God has given him. It is a responsibility to care, tend, keep, and bring out the latent potential in what God is entrusting man as His steward to have dominion over in terms of creation.
I get this thought from Gen. 2 which contains a parallel account of creation, adding detail to certain parts of the narrative of the first chapter. Notice God’s expanded instruction in Gen. 2,”Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden to tend [dress, KJV] and keep it” (verse 15).
This gives definition to the force of “have dominion” and “subdue it” from Gen. 1.26f
Tend (Hebrew ‘abad) means “to work or serve,” and thus referring to the ground or a garden, it can be defined as “to till or cultivate.” It possesses the nuance seen in the KJV’s choice in its translation: “dress,” implying adornment, embellishment&improvement.
Keep (Hebrew shamar) means “to exercise great care over.” In the context of Genesis 2:15, it expresses God’s wish that mankind, in the person of Adam, “take care of,” “guard,” or “watch over” the garden. A caretaker maintains and protects his charge so that he can return it to its owner in as good or better condition than when he received it.
However, elsewhere in Scripture, the word Dominion can be used in a negative sense to mean tyrannical domination. The Greek word used (and the context must be considered) is Katakurieuo. We see that word and meaning in Matthew 20:25
25But Jesus called them aside and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them (κατακυριεύουσιν) and their superiors exercise authority over them.
There the meaning is, to exercise authority over, overpower, master. From kata and kurieuo; to lord against, i.e. Control, subjugate.
This word likewise communicates the idea of dominion but clearly, the kind or type of dominion communicated is very different. We might say that one type of dominion is godly dominion. It is the type of dominion that seeks to exercise control that allows whatever one has dominion over to flourish and fulfill all its potential. The other type of dominion we would characterize as a Satanic dominion. Its purpose is to lord over, to rule tyrannically over, to keep others under the heel.
There can be no greater difference between these two kinds of dominion. It is the difference between Cinderella being under the dominion of her Step-mother and Step-sisters and Hobbiton being under the dominion of King Elessar & the Kings of Gondor. It is the difference between being under the dominion of Stalin and being under the dominion of King Alfred the Great.
So, Biblical Christianity … Christianity that takes Jesus as King means that we are dominion men and women underneath the dominion of our great and high King. We take up the responsibility of Kingship by seeking to disciple the nations understanding that nation discipleship … that dominion we’ve been speaking of begins with our own wives and children.
And we should be clear on something here.
We must understand that dominion is an inescapable category. Either we will take dominion as kings under the Kingship of Jesus Christ and His revealed Law-Word or we will be dominated in the Cinderella and her step-mother sense by the domination of some wicked religion with its wicked god and its wicked law-word. There can be no neutrality here. Either we will rule as those who care, tend for, cultivate with the purpose of adorning, embellishing, and improving or we will be dominated by those who are of their father the Devil and so who seek to kill and destroy.
And to clarify yet even further on this subject of godly dominion,
You can be sure that if we seek to take up this mantle of dominion that we have been charged with (Making disciples of the nations teaching them to obey all things that Christ has commanded) that those who are outside the covenant community will scream the loudest that we are being tyrants and seeking to employ ugly domination. They will accuse us of the very things they do when they are in power. And they should since they hate the Lordship of Jesus Christ and everyone who rules consistent with His Kingly rule.
And here we arrive at a great crossroads of Reformed thought. Since the 1970’s the Reformed world has been in a death cage wrestling match over the issue of theonomy. Typically it has been the Reformed hoity-toity blue blood who have manned the gates against those who “grew up on the wrong side of the Reformed tracks,” that is the Reformed who have embraced the principles of Theonomy. In my estimation, it can continue to be justly characterized as this kind of battle.
That theonomy has been hated by the blue blood is seen in the words of Greg Bahnsen,
“Of all the wicked heresies and threatening movements facing the church in our day, when Westminster Seminary finally organized their faculty to write something in unison, they gave their determined political efforts not to fight socialism, not to fight homosexuality, not abortion, not crime and mayhem in our society, not subjectivism in theology, not dispensationalism, not cultural relativism, not licentiousness, not defection from the New Testament, not defection from the Westminster Confession of Faith, all of which are out there and they can give their legitimate efforts to… boy the thing they had to write about (and against) was theonomy! How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he doesn’t see the problem?”
The blue bloods … those born to the manor … have in the past and continue to this very day to excoriate theonomy as being works salvation and that no matter how many times it is clearly laid out to them the falsity of that accusation.
Theonomy means literally God’s Law. It is the belief that the 10 Commandments were the equivalent of God’s eternal Constitution for all time for God’s people throughout time and that the Judicial (Civil) law was the equivalent of God’s case law that applied the 10 commandments in their particularity as the practical application of the 10 commandments Constitution in their general equity.
So, theonomy believes that the judicial law continues to apply in their general equity. And by that, we mean that the principle contained within the judicial law continues as that principle carries over into subsequent cultures. So, the classic example of general equity is that the law requiring to build fences around roofs no longer applies to our roofs since the principle is translated as the requirement to protect people that your are entertaining from injury. People in the ancient world would often entertain on their flat roofed houses and so fencing was required as an application of the 6th commandment – “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Today we no longer entertain on our pitched roofs but the general equity of this law remains as we may well, in light of the general equity, build fences around our pools.
We see St. Paul invoking the idea of general equity in Scripture
I Timothy 5:17Elders who lead effectively are worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, “ Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and, “The worker is worthy of his wages.”
Here we see St. Paul taking the general equity of the law regarding the Ox treading out grain and feeding and takes the principle of that civil law concept to say that effective Leaders are to be generously paid (double honor). St. Paul demonstrates the ongoing validity of God’s Judicial law by drawing out a matter of general equity.
Of course other of God’s laws are completely transferred over time. For example, the laws against incest, sodomy, and bestiality from the OT continue to be in force and are just assumed to remain valid in the NT.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even [a]named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. (cmp. Romans 1)
That St. Paul is applying the Judicial law is seen from Leviticus 18
7 The nakedness of thy father, and the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. 8 The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.
So, clearly, we see a theonomic motif. Jesus Himself supported a theonomic reading of the law when He
Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
He also endorsed the minutia of the law’s continuance when He said,
Matthew 23:23Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of mint, dill, and cumin. But you have disregarded the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
And we see our savior going all theonomic with the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53–8:11.
This they (Pharisees) said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. (John 7:6)
If Jesus let the woman go His enemies could accuse Him of antinomianism and condemn Him. If Jesus affirmed the necessity of the woman being stoned He would have been violating Rome’s hegemony.
So, instead what Jesus does is He appeals implicitly to what the law taught in terms of due process. We know this from the language of the text. In John 8:4, we read,
(Scribes) and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery.
the Greek word used for “was caught” is κατείληφθη (kataileptai), this is the aorist passive indicative tense of the word “catch.” The import of this is that that accusers are relating a story that they were not active participants in. In other words, they are bringing this woman caught by others committing adultery but they themselves did not catch her in the act. If this is accurate we might read Jesus saying,
“Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.”
differently than the way we typically read it. We typically read this as if Jesus is saying “whomever among you is guiltless in committing adultery like this woman may be the first to cast the stone. But what if Jesus is saying instead, “Whoever is without the guilt of bringing me this woman without being a witness to her crime let him cast the first stone?”
If this reading is accurate then the reason that these people dismissed themselves is they knew that they had violated the law of Moses and so had no standing in stoning the woman. Jesus handled this scenario as a Theonomist.
Having said all this I recognize that theonomist disagree among themselves in terms of application. Rushdoony did not always agree with Bahnsen and vice-versus. There are going to be disagreements. They are present in this Church among theonomists. I believe that the festivals have been fulfilled in Christ. I believe this if only it would be blasphemy to celebrate Passover. If one festival is fulfilled then they are all fulfilled. Others disagree.
I believe that when Jesus says,
Matthew 15:11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
That means the OT dietary laws are no longer in force.
Other theonomists disagree. That’s alright. We ought to be able to allow a certain amount of disagreement here. This is why we try to provide pork-free dishes when we have our fellowship meals.
Other examples of disagreement could be adduced but these examples suffice to demonstrate that we have to forbear with one another on this issue lest we rend the body of Christ apart.
However we can have no tuck with those who seek to extinguish some expression of theonomy from God’s revelation.
Kline admits that the original Westminster Confession actually taught theonomy and that the American revised version continues many of those strands. Kline notes and when you hear the word Chalcedon here you should interpret it as “Theonomy”:
“Ecclesiastical courts operating under the Westminster Confession of Faith are going to have their problems, therefore, if they should be of a mind to bring the Chalcedon aberration under their judicial scrutiny” (p. 173).
Elsewhere Kline states:
“If, providentially, anything good is to come of the Chalcedon disturbance, perhaps, paradoxically, it will come from the very embarrassment given to churches committed to the Westminster standards by the relationship that can be traced, as noted above, between the Chalcedon position and certain ideas expressed in the Westminster Confession. Perhaps the shock of seeing where those ideas lead in Chalcedon’s vigorous development of them may make the church face up to the problem posed by the relevant formulations and reconsider the Confessions position on these points. . . .”
Interestingly, Presbyterian Church in America teaching elder and New Testament scholar R. Laird Harris has negatively critiqued theonomy in Covenant Seminary’s Presbyterian Covenant Seminary Review (Spring 1979), p. 1 and yet he has to admit of theonomy in his second paragraph:
“The view is not really new; it is just new in our time. It was the usual view through the Middle Ages, was not thrown over by the Reformers, and was espoused by the Scottish Covenanters who asked the Long Parliament to make Presbyterianism the religion of the three realms—England, Scotland and Ireland.”
So these men admit that Theonomy is consistent both with the Westminster confession and with Church history and yet they have desire to snuff it out. These types continue with us today. All of Radical Two Kingdom theology hates Theonomy with a blind passion.
Let the lovers of antinomianism and the haters of theonomy rage. We know that vanilla Christianity which owns Christ as King has always been theonomic and if Christianity is once again to walk in the public square it will because it has returned to a commitment to both Dominion and Theonomy – constituent aspects of Biblical Christianity.