The chief carrier of the R2Kt virus is Dr. R. Scott Clark. It is hard to guess how many other people (students) he has infected with this viral strain. Recently he re-published a hit piece on theonomy. Bob hates theonomy so much because it is the antidote curative to R2Kt virus.
A little running commentary with Bob’s recent libelous hit piece.
The question comes concerning the relations between Theonomy and the Federal Vision. There is reason to think that there is some connection between the two movements. Several well-known theonomists are also proponents of the FV. One of the FV leaders recently described the current FV controversy as a renewal of the theonomy argument. Interpreters on both sides have seen connection between the two controversies and movements.
Certainly there are those sympathetic to theonomy who are in the Federal Vision camp. The problem is that there are those who have sympathy to theonomy who have spoken out with clear antipathy toward the Federal Vision. Bob is trying to create guilt by association in this article. The fact of the matter is, is that the situation is far more complex then Typhoid Bob admits in this article.
There are good reasons for seeing connections between the two movements. Both movements date to the mid-1970s. In the early phase of the argument, Norman Shepherd found much support among theonomists and the FV movement today finds considerable support among theonomists. There are ambiguities, however. There is open debate among theonomists about WWBD? (What would Bahsen do?) Would he support the Federal Vision? Support for Norman Shepherd is a point of connection between the theonomists and the Federal Visionists. In turn Shepherd, though not overtly identified with theonomy, shares their their neo-postmillennial eschatology. Further, not all theonomists are Federal Visionists nor are all Federal Visionists are theonomists. At least one theonomic denomination (the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the US, not to be confused with the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America) has been highly critical of the FV.
First, the drive to go to the moon and the hippie movement both date to the 60’s. That doesn’t mean they had anything to do with each other. Second, Typhoid Bob (hereinafter TB) makes all kinds of allegations until he finally, briefly admits, that in all of this there are ambiguities which effectively undercuts all the correlation TB tries to make. Does he mean the ambiguity that it was a theonomic denomination (RPCUS) that originally blew the disciplinary whistle on the Federal Vision? Does TB mean that kind of ever so slight ambiguity? Third, TB next tries to throw in post-millennialism into the mix thus trying to suggest that there is something inherently heterodox about post-millennialism. I’m sure B. B. Warfield would be glad to know that. TB completely voids the argument he has made thus far with the last two sentences in the blockquote immediately above.
Though not identical movements, Theonomy and the Federal Vision movements are analogues. Both movements reflect a similar pathology in the Reformed corpus. Both reflect what I call the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty (QIRC). The FV does it by making the doctrines of covenant, justification, and perseverance, a little more “reasonable,” by reducing the scandal of the cross and the offense of the gospel. As it turns out, according to the FV, it’s not really filthy sinners that Christ justifies, but those who are sanctifed, who cooperate with grace. As we’ve seen, in the FV, the sentence “A justified man is sanctified” becomes, “A man is justified because he is sanctified.” The elect, as it turns out, are those who have cooperated with grace. That’s just a little more “sweetly reasonable” than the confessional Protestant alternative.
I have no tuck with the Federal Vision doctrine of justification so I won’t bother to engage with any of this except to say that the Apostle Paul could speak of legitimate Religious Certainty when he said, “I know whom I have believed….” Notice, he didn’t say, “by way of induction I am 99.9% certain that I know whom I have believed.”
I can’t help but comment that I seriously doubt that any Federal Vision aficionado would say that “A man is justified because he is sanctified.” But, still, I am glad to agree with Typhoid Bob that FV doctrines of justification are seriously messed over.
Theonomy represents another side of the same quest. It offers a kind of ethical precision and a kind of ethical authority that reduces ambiguities to certainties and, on its premises, makes Christian ethics a little more “reasonable.” In contrast, non-theonomic ethics aren’t nearly as attractive. First, we non-theonomists don’t have any catchy slogans. Our ethic, like our eschatology, is paradoxical. Theonomy is attractive because it flattens out the tension between what is and what shall be. For theonomy there is a continuum between the now and the not yet. For non-theonomic amillennialism there is a sharp disjunction between “the now,” or “this age,” and the “not yet,” or “the age to come.” They are two different types of existence. The consummate state exists in heaven and is interjected into this life in small ways, but, for the most part none of us seems to have a plan to bring out the Kingdom of God on the earth. The theonomists definitely have a plan and Americans like a plan. Do most American Dispensationalists really understand the complicated eschatological charts? Probably not, but they do have implicit faith in their leaders that someone has figured out what the news means and what’s going to happen.
First off, I would say that the problem with TB’s form of ‘Christianity’ is that he desires to introduce ambiguities into what God has clearly spoken in regards to ethics. This serves to allow Bob to convert pagans without having to suggest that the Christian life actually has a profound ethical impact on their life.
Second if TB wants some catchy slogans for his belief system I can help.
“Embrace Our Jesus, He’s easy on the lifestyle.”
“Want To Keep Your Economic Marxism? — Our Jesus Is Your Man”
“Come To Jesus, He’s A God Who Minds His Own Business.”
“Christianity — A Religion Where Lordship Means What You Want It To Mean.”
Third, since Theonomy insists on self-denial, and cross-bearing I don’t know how Typhoid Bob can suggest that theonomy makes ethics more reasonable. Of course TB might mean that theonomic ethics are more reasonable when compared to his ethics which are irrational.
Fourth someone needs to tell Typhoid Bob that a paradox is defined as a cramp between the ears. If his ethics are paradoxical does that mean that it is ok both to commit adultery and not to commit adultery? Is it ok to both support the Messianic state in violation of the 1st commandment and not support the Messianic state in keeping with the 1st commandment? Hey, baby, its all paradox, you know.
Fifth, Typhoid Bob’s eschatology is grossly under-realized which forces him to say that theonomy flattens out the tension between what is and what shall be. The rest of his kvetching in the blockquote above all stems from his a-millennialism which builds a impenetrable barrier between the age to come and this age so that increased righteousness among any people in any culture is impossible since righteousness has to wait from the abrupt in breaking that will come on the final day when the Gospel has been defeated in this age.
In contrast, Non-theonomic, Amillennial, types confess that all 613 Mosaic laws were civil, ceremonial, and moral and at the same time, that the moral law, grounded in creation, continues to obligate all creatures before, during, and after Moses. That creational law is a set of general principles (embodied in the Decalogue and in the golden rule and taught throughout Scripture and revealed in nature [Rom 1-2]) not an extensive civil code. Thus, confessional Reformed folk must seek wisdom as they attempt to apply the moral/creational law to difficult civil problems, but without the certainty that any particular application is necessarily is the correct “Christian” application.
Listen to what Typhoid Bob has said here. There is no certainty that the way the Christian family has been organized in Christendom is the correct “Christian” application. Family organization is all a crap shoot. There is no certainty that two thousand years of Christian just war theory is the correct application. Doctrines of just war are just as likely to come from Hindus as they are from Christians. There is no certainty that education can be done in a distinctly Christian fashion. It is all a crap shoot.
Second, Theonomists insist that the moral law, grounded in creation, includes what Typhoid Bob is calling the Civil law. That is to say that what is known as the civil law is only the practical application of the Moral law. The civil law is to the Moral law what case law is to Constitutional Law. Typhoid Bob is assuming an intrusion ethic that he has not, nor can not prove. TB wants to embrace the moral code in the abstract so he can ignore it in the concrete.
Thirdly, Theonomists completely agree that Confessional folk (which they are part of) must seek wisdom as they apply God’s Law Word to today’s world. TB keeps suggesting that theonomy makes all of this simple but any theonomist worth his salt will tell you that application takes great wisdom.
Theonomy, however, under the slogan, “abiding validity of the law of God in exhaustive detail,” seems to offer “the” Christian answer to difficult problems. Unsure about “the general equity thereof” in a given case? Put the quarter in the slot, pull the handle and out comes the correct ethical and civil answer to one’s particular question. They even have ready-made civil code in Theonomy in Christian Ethics and in the Institutes of Biblical Law.
Yeah, everybody knows that God can’t make His mind known on difficult problems. What are people thinking that God’s word would apply to all of life, including our ethical conundrums?
That both movements came to prominence in conservative Reformed circles at the same time, during the years of post-Nixon, post-Haight-Ashbury period, the time of disco and cocaine propelled self-indulgence, during the moral “malaise” of the Carter administration, suggests that they may both reactions to the same stimuli. Neither movement was driven by the Reformed confession. Rather, when these movements were born attention to the Reformed confessions was at a nadir. In an autobiographical passage in his essay, “In Defense of Something Close to Biblicism,” John Frame comments that his seminary education wasn’t marked by sustained, focused attention to the Reformed confessions. The attitude of the period seemed to be that as long as one had a high view of Scripture and divine sovereignty, everything else was negotiable. I remember reading things from the period that said, in effect, “we all know what we believe about justification,” let’s get on with applying the Scriptures to every area of life.
This is just stupid. I have a post on this blog that cites extensively theonomic literature throughout the history of Reformed thought. If one in interested to see that one need only google ‘The Magistrate and The First Table — Contra Intrusionists.’ The advent of Theonomic thought may indeed have made a comeback during a time of moral laxity but if it did it did so with a long Reformed pedigree which started with the advent of Reformed Confessions and historic Reformational thought.
Both Theonomy and the Federal Vision are theologically and socially conservative. Both movements have in common a deep concern for the collapse of the culture and our place in it. Some versions of theonomy/reconstructionism envision the culture being gradually regenerated through Christian influence and some expect a cataclysm out of which arises a Reconstructionist phoenix. The FV wants to regenerate the culture through sacerdotalism (baptismal union with Christ whereby all baptized persons are, ex opere operato (Rich Lusk has spoken this way), temporarily, historically, conditionally united to Christ). Both are visions aimed at the restoration of Christendom. One is primarily ecclesiastical and the other primarily civil. These common attitudes, interests, and approaches, however, help explain why so many theonomists have been attracted to the FV and vice-versa.
Both Westminster West and Cultural Marxism have no use for Christendom. Both movements have in common a deep concern that Christianity is wrongly embedded in our culture. Some versions of Westminster West Theology teach that the Church should have nothing to say regarding homosexuality in our culture and so Westminster West wants Christianity to ignore the culture choosing instead to get souls saved. Cultural Marxism likewise wants Christianity to ignore the culture desiring a Christianity that won’t get in the way of their agenda to de-Christianize the West. Both are visions aimed at destroying Christendom. One is primarily ecclesiastical and the other primarily civil. These common attitudes, interests and approaches, however, help explain why so many Cultural Marxists have been attracted to Westminster West Theology and vice-versa.
See, two can play that game.