I just released an episode on the For The King podcast with Jeremy Collins from Theonomoney. In that episode Jeremy makes a statement along the lines of “presuppositionalism when applied to politics is theonomy”. I thought it may be helpful to address theonomy in a blog post so anyone keeping up with what I am putting out understands where I am at. Usually when someone claims to be a theonomist there are a lot of moves that go into a statement like that. Similar to someone seeing the ocean and knowing it as such without knowledge of the deeps. I have just started plumbing the depths of this subject but I do have some texts that are helping me think about God’s law. I will list them below and then interact with them shortly to give you something to think about.
Now before I go into this I want to remind anyone that would read this that every single law finds its root in a worldview. If you legalize abortion (which the supreme court cannot do), there is an entire worldview that corroborates attempting to derive rights from the 14th amendment in that way. If you legalize one law derived from a worldview you are by logical necessity outlawing another worldview’s laws. Any nonbelieving pagan that would get angry at this post would do so because their worldview is being attacked and the claim I am making is to legislate according to God’s revealed law and not according to man’s wisdom. The Atheist that would rebut with a statement, “what about my rights to abort my baby?” is not understanding that they are inherently oppressing Christians who believe completely opposite of them about the nature of reality. One worldview must dominate and one worldview must win. Worldviews cannot coexist. The worldviews that do coexist only do so because one dominates in legislation, power, and in totality, while the other worldviews in that society take a back seat in passivity. Those other worldviews would very much like to step up and take power and legislate the way they would like to. This is a necessary reality of any productive thought at all. Any other worldview that reads this article and is angered is feeling that way rightly so. I am positing that I want to legislate according to my worldview and force it upon them. It is not a matter of, will a worldview be legislated, but which worldview will be legislated. If you cannot understand that position and respond in pure anger at this blog post you are a fool and cannot think in basic categories. I implore you to rethink your position and to adopt mine, that Christ is King and there is no other.
6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. 8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.1 Timothy 1:6-11 NASB
This text includes Paul claiming that the law is for the unrighteous. Law shows the unrighteous their sin and restrains them in their evil. The implication for theonomy here is the question of who is the law for? Should nonbelieving pagans be obligated to follow God’s laws even if they are not Christians. Every Christian believes that God’s law is good. The question at hand is, is it good for everyone in a sense that all people should follow it and the civil magistrates should punish the unbeliever if they do not follow the law of God. This text seems to show that the law is to retrain the wicked who without the law would continue in their lawlessness. So the work to be done here is to figure out what Paul means by the law. Is it just the moral law? All the judicial law? The ceremonial law? Just the 2nd table of the law? Both the 1st and the 2nd table of the law? I won’t argue a position yet, I just want to get you the reader thinking.
42 It is a night to be observed for the LORD for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the LORD, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.
43 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; 44 but every man’s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. 45 A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it. 46 It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. 47 All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. 48 But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. 49 The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you.”
50 Then all the sons of Israel did so; they did just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that same day the LORD brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.Exodus 12:42-51 NASB
This text in its context is commanding the foreigner in the midst of Israel to also celebrate the Passover with the people of God. The Passover is not to be celebrated with foreigners who are not circumcised. If a foreigner is to celebrate the positive law of the Passover in the covenant God has made with his people they were to be circumcised. The same law is to apply to the foreigner as to the sons of Israel. Now this command is tied to the land to keep it pure in this Covenant time. Now in the new covenant, the people of God have inherited the entire earth (Matt. 5:5). The kingdom of Israel was tied to a specific land, but now the Kingdom of Christ is for the entire creation. Therefore the laws of Israel only applied to them in the land and the nations were to look at the laws of Israel and see the wonders of Yahweh (Lev.20:24). Now after Christ has conquered (and is conquering) the entire world the ideal Christian society would be one where, if the sojourner in that Christian society is to remain and celebrate the covenant blessings of the people, they must be repent & believe and then be baptized. The ideal Christian society would also omit the outsider in their midst from celebrating the Lord with them and receiving the positive signs of the covenant. We see the atheist secularist doing the same thing by slowly disarming and purging the Christians from western society if they are not “baptized” into their (always changing) ideology. If we are not baptized into the secularist utopia then we are not to receive the “blessings” of their covenant relationship to wickedness. The scriptures here are picking up on the exclusivity of worldview. John Gill notes on this passage,
John Gill’s Commentary
A proper Israelite, one that is so by descent: and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you;
that becomes a proselyte to the true religion; these were both bound by the same law, and obliged to observe the same rites and ceremonies, and partook of the same ordinances, benefits, and privileges; this was a dawn of grace to the poor Gentiles, and presignified what would be in Gospel times, when they should be fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, be fellow heirs of the same body, and partakers of the promises of Christ by the Gospel, ( Ephesians 2:19 ) ( Ephesians 3:5 Ephesians 3:6 )
8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.1 Corinthians 9:8-12 NASB
Paul is here quoting from the old testament law, specifically Deuteronomy 25:4, in his discourse with the church in Corinth. Before I comment, Paul uses this same law in a similar fashion in 1 Timothy 5:18 if you are interested in looking at that as well. Paul in verse 9 poses the question, does God have JUST oxen in mind with the law laid out in Deuteronomy 25:4? His answer in verse 10 is that God is speaking mostly for our sake in that law for animal rights. He isn’t saying that the law about the rights of the oxen are not the point of the law, but that the general equity embedded inside of the law is that of plowing in hope, reaping what you sow. Paul claims that the apostles had this right to reap material things from the church in Corinth but they do not exercise this God-given right among them that there is no hindrance to the gospel. Paul has in mind something like an accusation of payment in exchange for the gospel. He doesn’t even want to entertain the possibility of that charge so he chooses not to exercise the right. Regardless, he, and the other apostles, have the right as well. What is Paul up to here? He is seeking the general equity of the law that is embedded in case laws throughout the old testament. He extracts the main principle (that of now plowing in vain but in hope) and applies to THAT case with the church in Corinth. Interesting right? Is there more work we can be done when deriving rights from the text of scripture and applying it to certain cases? This is the whole idea of the case law system (and common law) that has been conducted in the west for centuries. Rights do not precipitate out of thin-air, they are secured by God in his revealed law. It is our duty to apply them case by case in a godly way. We do not want to legislate man’s laws, but God’s law. That is at the heart of the theonomy discussion. From whence will you derive your laws? If you are a natural law whore you can derive them obscurely from creation. If you have natural law understood correctly you should see the natural law matching up with the more clear revealed law of God. So the claim is that we would do as Paul does here and look to God’s revealed law to derive a right that a laborer is due his wages rather thane exclusively by natural law, although you could get there from natural law. Listen to the confession here.
To them also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution; their general equity only being of moral use. ( 1 Corinthians 9:8-10 )London Baptist Confession of Faith Chapter 19 Article 4
This is the claim of the 1689 LBCF. This is the historic confession that I hold to and I agree with what it says here. I think this is the way Paul uses the judicial laws. God gave us the law in the OT for our good to determine the general equity of them that still apply today. I hope this is a good starting point for you. I hope to write more on this subject as I am still working through these issues but this should at least get the wheels turning brothers and sisters. My conclusions: I think you may be hard pressed to agree that God’s law is great, if you don’t seek to understand how the scriptures apply God’s law. Also, by necessary extension, YOU applying God’s law as Paul does.
For The King, Rocky