Posted in Uncategorized

Don’t Ever Try to Build on Lies

Don’t Ever Try to Build on Lies

Don’t Ever Try to Build on Lies


— Read on dougwils.com/books-and-culture/s7-engaging-the-culture/chrestomathy-template-162.html

A quote worth considering…

Posted in theonomy

Theonomic Outlook: From Generalities to Particulars–Part 1

The use of God’s Word is akin to a sharpened two-edged sword (cf. Heb 4.12). Either it will cut you to the quick in a temporal sense; or, it will cut you to the quick in an eternal sense. In other words, one will find, when confronted with God’s whetted blade, that they readily confess on bended knee that Jesus Christ is Lord over all life, admitting they have sinned against Him in the here and now, or before the final judgment seat of God Almighty. For it is appointed that all men shall die and then face judgment (Heb 9.27), that is never in question, but the question does remain, “will it happen now before the axe falls, or after it has severed the root?” (cf. Matt 3.10; Luke 3.9).

Law and order…

Over my last two posts I started speaking on the subject of theonomy—God’s Law. My reasons for this is rather simple. Our current culture is severely fragmented. The old guard which has been dying the death of a thousand cuts, due to Christians continual compromise with the unbelieving culture. There is a call for “law and order” by many, but from what standard shall that “law and order” be drawn?

As I noted in my first post (That Dirty Word Called Theonomy), theonomy is a dirty (i.e., taboo) word or idea in many Christian circles. A part of me is still amazed that such is the case. And so, I raised the question in my second post (Saved from What to What?) as to how we are supposed to live after we have been delivered from our previous life of sin? Not just as individuals, but as families, as congregations, and even in the sociopolitical spheres of life. You became a Christian…now what?

Anything but…

Anything but a theonomic outlook. Anything but that. That is the response you will get by those that have an aversion to God’s Law-Word. Take for example Matt Slick founder of CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry). Here is what he has to say about theonomy (although he equates Christian Reconstruction with Theonomy)1:

“Christian Reconstructionism (also known as theonomy) is a highly controversial movement within some conservative Christian circles. It maintains that the world should be brought under (reconstructed) the lordship of Jesus Christ in all areas: social, moral, political, judicial, military, family, art, education, music, etc. Christian Reconstructionism advocates the restoration of Old Testament civil and moral laws in order to reconstruct present American society into an Old Testament type Mosaic form and that the three main areas of society – family, church, government – should all be biblically modeled, the Bible being the sole standard. This would include severe punishments for lawbreakers. Some Christian reconstructionists would advocate death for adulterers, abortionists, idolaters, murderers, homosexuals, rapists, etc.”2

Controversial teachings…

There are a few more items in Slick’s short article that I would like to address, but for the moment let us bask in his insight in this paragraph under the heading, “Teachings.” Minus the error in equating Christian Reconstruction with Theonomy (see note 1 below), Slick is correct that in “some…Christian circles” theonomic teaching is “highly controversial.” He is also right in pointing out that the desire of the Christian Reconstructionist is to apply Christ’s lordship to all areas of life.3 Unfortunately, though, Slick’s disdain for theonomic thinking begins to seep through as he tries to muddy the waters a bit with his large audience.

He says that theonomy is about restoring the Old Testament Mosaic system and applying it to American society. While it is true that theonomists are concerned about properly applying God’s standard of righteousness to all areas of life, it is not true that we desire to use a cut-and-paste style format.4 We are not trying to recreate ancient Israel. Nor is it accurate to say that theonomists are only concerned about American society. For as the biblical worldview pertains to the entire globe (the entire created order where mankind has been placed by their Creator) so too does the theonomic outlook contain in its vision of the entire world. All countries not just America are under the authority of Jesus Christ whether they recognize so or not.

Slick rightly identifies three of the four main spheres of governance5 that Christian Reconstructionist who teach theonomy believe should have the same standard of holiness applied as the Bible teaches. And yet, he quickly adds that this will “…include severe punishments for lawbreakers” with some who share a theonomic outlook “advocat[ing] death for adulterers, abortionists, idolaters, murders, homosexuals, rapists, etc.” I’m not sure Slick has taken the time to clearly think through what he is saying before he sat down to write it. Severe punishments for lawbreakers, including the death penalty, were authorized by whom? Moses was merely a mouthpiece. He repeated what had been handed down to him. These were not Moses’ laws, they are God’s. These are not Moses’ punishments, they are God’s.

When kicking is preferred...

This is where the “kicking against the goads” to use a KJV expression for our stubborn, stiff-necked stupidity is a useless, though highly practiced venture by the children of Adam, is appropriate. The Lord God is the author of those laws and punishments, is Slick then calling Him severe? Is Slick troubled by the death penalty (a maximum not necessarily required for every violation of the law, and one that could not be enforced without two or three witnesses) that God said was a just punishment for violating His Law-Word?

Slick is not alone. These types of comments are normative for those who cannot stand the thought of holding all people, in all societies, by the same holy standard.6 This, in spite of the fact that God calls the application of differing standards of judgment an abomination (see: Prov 20.10; Lev 24.22). Rather than God’s objective law, man’s subjective law is preferred (cf. Prov 18.2; Mark 7.6-9). This has been a handicap since the beginning. For rather than stating, “It is written, man shall not live on bread alone, but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4.4; cf. Deut 8.1-3), the preferred response is “Did God actually say…” (Gen 3.1). Better a man to declare what the law is, for him we will listen to, than the law be given from the mouth of God (cf. John 5.43).7

Throughout his article Slick’s apparent distaste for theonomy as a Christian branch of theology is clearly seen. Calling it “an extremist Christian movement, not held by very many people,” he then proposes the following rhetorical question:

“The concern is that when a religiously dominated society has control of the family, moral, and governmental regulations, who is to govern the governors?” (final par.).

Two things can be said about Slick’s closing thoughts (the comment about extremists and the rhetorical question of “who is to govern the governors?”). To follow Christ, to bring every thought captive to Him in every area of life, to take His Law as written, in context, deriving either its positive or negative application, or deriving the underlying principle behind it is what is required of all who profess a love of the Lord (John 14.15; 15.10; 1John 2.3-4; 5.3). This is not optional, although admittedly, it is considered radical by the world and those who are (perhaps unknowingly) influenced by it. As to the “who will govern the governors?” the answer is very simple—Jesus the Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords. Laws are holy and good when used properly (1 Tim 1.8).

More will be said on this, but this seems a sufficient place to stop.

ENDNOTES:

1Although there is no question that Christian Reconstruction and Theonomy are interrelated, they are not the same thing. This is a common misconception that I have noticed by the uninformed. Christian Reconstruction is related to the Dominion mandate (a.k.a., cultural mandate) of Genesis 1:26-28. Since mankind is God’s image bearers they are expected to exercise godly dominion over all the earth. The earth was made for mankind, just like the Sabbath (a day of rest) was given as a gift after six days of labor (coinciding with the biblical creation week; cf. Gen 1; Exod 20.11). It is an example of God’s delegated authority given to His earthly representatives. This command to “subdue the earth” has never been remitted. Rather we still see this delegated authority exercised in Scripture through God’s people. And, it is King Jesus who reaffirms it to His followers in Matthew 28:18-20. Theonomy on the other hand is the toolin the believer’s hand by which he/she has been enabled to exercise this godly dominion. First in their lives, and then in the lives around them. Therefore, Christian Reconstruction is the practice of reforming the world in which we live to properly image the Creator who made it all. Theonomy is one of the key tools that God has given so that we might be faithful to that end.

2 Slick, Matt. “Christian Reconstructionism, Theonomy – CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry),” January 12, 2009, Accessed May 27, 2021. https://carm.org/christian-reconstructionism-theonomy/.

3I’m not sure how Slick sees this application of Christ’s lordship over all things, but the way the rest of the article reads it would appear that he is not convinced that such thinking is right or to be put into practice. However, I would merely offer that since Christ is Lord over all, and since all things owe their being to Him, as all things were created by Him and for Him (ff. Col 1.15-18), that the only logical conclusion one might draw when applying the biblical worldview consistently is that, as Christians, our goal ought to be to shape this world (at least our little niches or areas of influence) in a way that conforms to Christ’s thinking.

4Greg L. Bahnsen answers many of these sort of objections in his work, “By This Standard.” In it he is quick to point out that “We need to be sensitive to the fact that interpreting the Old Testament law, properly categorizing its details…and making modern day applications of the authoritative standards of the Old Testament is not an easy or simple task. It is not always readily apparent to us how to understand an Old Testament commandment or use it properly today. So the position taken here does not make everything in Christian ethics [i.e., theonomic outlook] a simple matter of looking up obvious answers in a code-book. Much hard thinking—exegetical and theological homework—is entailed by a commitment to the position advocated in these studies” (7).

However, Bahnsen does offer a strong caveat to the Christian who thinks of sidestepping God’s Law-Word, “If something was sinful in the Old Testament, it is likewise sinful in the age of the New Testament. Moral standards… do not fluctuate…When the Lord makes a moral judgment, He is not unsure of Himself, or tentative, or fickle. Unlike human lawmakers, God does not change His mind or alter His standards of righteousness…When the Lord speaks, His word stands firm forever. His standards of right and wrong do no tchange from age to age: ‘All His precepts are trustworthy. They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness’ (Ps. 111:7-8).” Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), 37-38, PDF e-book.

5The one that Slick misses is “personal or individual governance.” As creatures we are accountable to the Lord above. God blesses and curses not just nations for how they behave, but the individuals who live in them. If a person fails to self govern properly in light of God’s revealed Word, then they are cursed (e.g., Judas Iscariot). However, if a person does govern themselves properly in relationship to God’s commands, then they are blessed by Him (e.g., Jesus Christ).

6Paul Copan in his book entitled “Is God a Moral Monster?” seems in my mind to be an excellent example of this type of thinking intimated by Slick. Copan argues that “…we shouldn’t see the law as the ideal standard for all humanity” (86). A little later he adds, “the Mosaic law is not permanent, universal, and the standard for all nations” (89). Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011).

Kyle D. Fedler conveys a similar strain of thought in stating a warning of the danger in assuming that “…all the Torah laws are still valid.” Kyle D. Fedler, Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 115.

This based on the premise that Christ removes the bondage one suffers under the law. But, we must not forget what that bondage was; it was the curse of sin. The bondage was not a righteous requirement, the righteous requirement that the law enforced upon humanity brought to bear our enslavement to sin, and so a curse was what we were held under until Christ set us free via our faith in Him. Fedler either fails to see this or allow this truth to shape his meaning.

7This is the problem that Jesus faced during His earthly ministry. It was not just what He did that offended the cultural elites (the supposed religious leaders/experts in the law), but what He said in regards to God’s Law. He gave the proper interpretation of it, showing it applicability over an above their own erroneous standards. If anything, Israel at the time of Jesus reveals what it looks like when man’s law is held on par with God’s own.

Posted in Biblical Questions

Saved from What to What?

So you’ve heard the gospel proclaimed and in response, you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord. Acknowledging before all people that hope is found in no one else, and so you entrust yourself to Him who came, who lived, who died, was raised, and ascended to the Father’s right hand. Now what?

What do you do after you’ve embraced the gospel of Jesus’ kingdom? What do you do then? From where do your marching orders come? How are you to live? How are you to raise a family? How are you to act as an employee? How are you to be a member of a local church? How are you to be a good citizen in the society in which you live?

According to Jesus, as His disciple, you are to observe “all that He has commanded” (Matt 28.19), but what does that mean? Does this limit Christian behavior to the few things recorded in the New Testament that Jesus said? Does it incorporate the things that His apostles, after Him, taught?

What’s new?

This may or may not be where you stopped your investigation. Perhaps you have been taught that Christians are only bound (for the most part) to abide by New Testament teaching. I mean, the Bible does say, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb 8.13; ESV).1 But in what sense is “new” being used? Has the content of the Old been entirely done away with? Is “new” meant to convey, ofan entirely different origin? Or is “new” meant to be understood as “different from one of the same category that has existed previously?”2

It is the means by which the covenant has been ratified and applied that is new, not the standard by which the covenant is to be honored. The standard of both covenants—what is referred to as Old and New—is holiness. To be an honored member of the covenant between God and man, the person in question must live honorably by reflecting his/her Creator’s mind and action.

A requirement…

Holiness is the requirement. Holiness defined by God our Maker, not mankind the creature; “…without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12.14). For the charge from our Lord is, “… [to] be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5.48). A demand based upon divine writ: “You must be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the other peoples to be mine” (Lev 20.6; NET). And before the critic speaks, yes this applies to all who would be called children of God. As Zechariah prophesied before the birth of our incarnate Lord:

“That we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1.75).

What changed…

Therefore what is “new” about the New Covenant is not a “new” standard of living, but the means by which it is ratified and applied:

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb 9.11-14).

What the living sacrifice of Jesus offered to creation was a perfect redemption. In the past copies of heavenly things (the tabernacle, the mercy seat, the holy places, etc.) were ratified with a temporal offering, but since the crucifixion of Jesus the shadows have passed away:

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb 9.24-28).

Christ came to bear His people’s sins (cf. Matt 1.21), that is what the writer of Hebrews is pointing out. In defining the New Covenant, we find that a better sacrifice has been offered, a better high priest has been given to intercede on behalf of those who are rightly called children of the Most High. He was able to do this as our representative for at least two reasons: 1) He came from God being the living Word that put on flesh (cf. John 1.1-18)3; 2) He lived a perfectly holy life.

On living…

This brings us full circle to the questions posed at the beginning of this post. If we are saved from our sins. If we have our identity seated in the God-Man Jesus the Christ. How should we live? How should we govern our lives? How should our families be governed? How should our churches be governed? How should our society be governed?

Are we saved from our sin, from our “dead works” (Heb 9.14) to live by some other standard or by His standard? The apostle Paul points out that before Christ redeemed us we were “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph 2.1). But after our redemption we have become God’s “…workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2.10).

Well, what are those “good” works? Is not the goodness of God shown in His holiness? And is it not accurate to say that God’s holiness is a light that shines through the darkness with blinding authority? And to where must we turn to find such holiness, such righteousness, such a light that is able to cut through the darkness of sin that plagues creation, but is now being overcome? Is it not God’s Law-Word?

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa 119.105).

Therefore should we not walk as our Savior walked in this life4; a man who was guided by every intention of God’s heart, careful to do all that He commanded (cf. John 5.19; 10.32; 12.49)?

“I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules” (Psa 119.106).

Preparing to deal with the specifics…

At this point in the dialogue, I imagine that most professing believer’s would acknowledge a great deal of what I’ve said with an “Amen.” But, I have only spoken in a general way. It is easy to get people to agree with you when you speak in generalities, if you leave the specifics or the particulars unspoken. This has been true since the beginning. For if we speak in generalities, then freedom is left to the creature to fill in the specifics or particulars as he/she sees fit. Moses was likeable (Exod 4.29-31) until he declared what must be done (Exod 5.20-21). Many enjoyed the company of Jesus until he got down to the specifics (John 6). Christians of every stripe and color today will agree with many general ideas, concepts or themes of a biblical nature. But the ire of the people grows when you start laying out the black and white areas of life.

No, I’m not speaking about woke, cancel culture of modern day America; although, the content of that subject could be applied here. What I’m referring to is that dirty word called theonomy. When next we meet the specifics and particulars of how we are to live as God’s people, and where it all really applies will be discussed. All I wanted to do in this post was to get you, the reader, thinking about what it means when we say “new” covenant. And, by what standard we are commanded to live by in this day an age. As I said, next time we will begin to look a little closer at the specifics of how we should live. In so doing, we will be starting to shine a light on why theonomy is such a dirty word in many Christian circles.

ENDNOTES:

1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

2Def. 5, Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary & Thesaurus, 2008, desktop edition.

3That Jesus was no mere creature is evident in these 18 verses alone. In the opening of John’s gospel we find that Jesus is identified as God, being present with God in the beginning (vv. 1-2). This means that He was with God the Father as a separate person, but He shared the quality/essence of Godhood. He is revealed as the Creator distinct from the creature (v. 3). He is identified as the author of life and the source of light that overpowers all dark forces (v. 4). He is the source and hope of mankind’s salvation (vv. 9-13). He put on flesh to represent us and to reveal the unseen Father who is in heaven through grace and truth (vv. 14-18). Thus, He alone is worthy to be called “My Lord, my God” (John 20.28).

4“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1John 1.6-7).

“By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1John 2.6; italics added).