Posted in theonomy

King’s Law: Of Whose in Particular do we Speak and Thereby Abide?

Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death” (Exod 21.16; ESV).1

This law is against kidnapping and it prohibits chattel slavery. The law states that the penalty for such activity is death. “Shall be…” is the equivalent of “certainly.” That is to say, “That person, who is found guilty of such activity, certainly will be put to death. Those who commit such acts deserve to die. Furthermore, God commands that when an individual is found guilty, when the punishment is to be carried out:

Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deut 19.21).

Meaning that the justice being served out in such situations is warranted and equitable to the offense that has been committed. The purpose was to purge the evil from society and to drive fear into the hearts of the people so that they did not commit such abominable acts (cf. Deut 24.7). Think for a moment how upholding God’s holy standard in society would affect society as a whole.

Rather than a Civil War, which our nation suffered under for treating a certain sector of society as less than human (i.e., animal property), where tens of thousands died, some, members of the same household, an application of God’s statutes in the civil sector of our society would have prevented it. The simple truth remains as a historical reality, where the Christian worldview (a.k.a., the biblical worldview) persists, slavery and other such undesirable practices dissipate. One such example is seen in the life of William Wilberforce (1759-1833, A. D.), a Christian parliamentarian in England whose life’s goal was to eradicate the slave-trade and the practice of holding slaves as property on the shores of his cherished country. He succeeded at the end of his life, after a long, well-fought battle.

It was Wilberforce’s convictions that stemmed from his religious zeal for the God of Scripture revealed in Jesus Christ and made evident by the Holy Spirit’s Word-driven promptings that moved England to a slave free state. The reason our nation suffered a Civil War was not only tied to chattel slavery, but an abuse of power being practiced by those serving in the offices of civil government. Rather than recognizing their duty as God’s ministers for good (Rom 13.4), they pursued the desires of their own heart.

Why? Why is this the case? Because at base all men are sinners, preferring the standard of their own subjective word over and above the revealed Word of God. But, why was it that some who professed to bear the mantle of Christ argued against freeing men and women and children from chattel style servitude? Because, they refused to use the Word of God, in particular His laws concerning chattel slavery, as a corrective lens over and above their perverted view of reality.

This attitude prevails today. People prefer their own law, their own traditions, their own understanding of the world around them rather than God’s own. People prefer a secular form of governance, rather than a divinely inspired one. I can understand this from someone who denies the God of Scripture, but not those who profess the name of Christ.

Lord and Savior (Deliverer)…

Christians profess that Jesus the Christ is Lord and Savior, but what is supposed to be understood by this profession of faith? Well, I’ll tell you what its supposed to mean. It means that Jesus is our King, our Deliverer. He is the established head over all things, having preeminence over all things, because all things were made through (and for) Him. Therefore, all things are commanded to serve Him.

James R. White sums up very nicely the reality of Jesus Christ and His gospel in a statement he made during a public speaking event. I do not have the direct quote in front of me, so I will paraphrase: “I’m tired of people presenting Jesus as a weak beggar, for He is a mighty Lord. And, the gospel is not an invitation, it is a command.”

This reality is demonstrated in the words of Christ’s Great Commission. Before His ascension to His heavenly throne at the right hand (the hand of power/authority) of His Father, Jesus declares a word to His disciples:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28.18; NASB).

This statement does not mean that before that day Jesus had no kingly authority. He has had that type of authority before the beginning (cf. John 1.1-3; 8.58; 17.5). What then is meant? That, now as the God-Man (fully divine, fully human), having accomplished the work that He was sent to complete (John 19.30; Col 2.14-17), He has became the permanent mediator between God and man, being mankind’s chief representative, replacing Adam in the garden (Rom 5.12-19; 1Cor 15.45-49, 57), and thereby destroying the works of the devil (1John 3.8).2

According to Gary North, “This text [Matt 28.18-20], more than any other in the New Testament, places the nations under Jesus Christ.”3 A point similarly made by Kenneth L. Gentry in his work entitled, The Greatness of the Great Commission: “In the concluding Great Commission, Christ sovereignly declares that He had been “given’ ‘all authority,’ not only over the kingdoms Satan had authority over, but also in heaven….”4

Most notice the evangelistic side of the commission, but few seem to recognize the other elements pertinent for consideration. The role of the Christian disciple under this charge is that of representation. Not only is the proclamation of the gospel (a command to the nations) required, but after baptism (an identification with Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior) in the name of God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) the disciple is to train up new converts in the observing and obeying of all that God has commanded. This last reference (Matt 28.20a) speaks of God’s Law.

A key aspect of the law of God is that it is not burdensome to the new convert, but a delight to their lives (1John 5.3). An oft repeated verse illustrates this truth:

Take my yoke [figuratively, my law] upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke [figuratively, My law] is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11.29-30; ESV).

Imaging slaves…

All men (people) are slaves. No, I didn’t misspeak. All men are slaves. The question isn’t whether or not we are slaves, but who are we slaves to (cf. Rom 6.16)? Jesus explains that people will be a slave of one master or Lord (see Matt 6.24 and Luke 16.13). They will, in response, hate the one and love the other, being devoted to the one whom they serve as they despise another.

To be an image bearer means that we are dependent not independent beings. God created mankind to serve Him, to live for Him, to exercise godly dominion through the reflection of His holy mind. If we are not slaves to the Lord who created all, then we will be slaves of some other lord. We will either respond to the voice of God in obedience, submitting to what He has revealed as good, or we will listen to the voice of another. The Great Commission of Christ is that He, having all authority in all creation (both the seen and unseen), sends out His representatives into the world, commanding all sinners to lay down their arms of rebellion and serve Him. Those that become new converts (i.e., disciples) are required to learn and obey all that He has commanded.

Not a N.T. thing…

Nowhere does Scripture limit this teaching to the New Testament. The overarching principle of the Creator versus the creature distinction, which is on display even in the Great Commission, is that when God speaks (or has spoken) through His inscripturated Word we are required to listen (i.e., obey). The only time a law or command can be said to be different now than in the past, is if God has dictated it to us as such. Mankind is never, not even the redeemed body of Christ, to add to or take away from what God has declared as good, righteous and holy. How can the subjective mind of man ever have a standard as clear as the objective mind of God? It is not possible.

Applicability of God’s Law Today…

Here’s the thing, the law against chattel slavery is an example of what the Lord requires His disciples to teach to the nations. This form of sin (a criminal act against a fellow image bearer of God) is worthy of death. This is true of a multitude of sinful activities, which we would define as crimes today, and even those our modern culture would not.

Here are a few examples of crimes against society as a whole that are worthy of death. Things that make modern Evangelicals pee their pants in frustration. To rape is punishable by death (Deut 22.25-27). To maliciously lie in a court of law in order to get the death penalty for one you hate is punishable by death (Deut 19.16-19). To kidnap or steal a fellow human being is punishable by death (Exod 21.16). If a person has an aggressive animal that they have not dealt with properly and it kills another, both the owner and the animal shall be put to death (Exod 21.29). To have sex with an animal is punishable by death (Lev 20.15-16). To kill a child in the womb is punishable by death (Exod 21.22-23). To kill a thief in broad daylight is punishable by death (Exod 22.3). To mistreat the widow or fatherless (i.e., the orphan) is punishable by death (Exod 22.22-24). To curse one’s parents, to strike out against them in harm is worthy of the death penalty (Lev 20.9). Treason in its various forms is punishable by death (Deut 13). Publicly blaspheming the Name (character of) God is punishable by death (Lev 24.11). To have sexual intimacy with the same sex (a man with a man, or a woman with a woman) was worthy of the death penalty (Lev 20.13; Rom 1.26-27, 32; also see Matt 19.4-5). As is adultery (Deut 22.22), and incest (Lev 18.6; 20.11-12, 14, 17), and cross-dressing (Deut 22.5; known in our day as transitioning genders).

This list is by no means exhaustive, and it does not cover a multitude of other laws that deal things touched upon in the civil sphere. For example, theft was dealt with not by the cutting off of one’s hands, or throwing them into prison, but the penalty prescribed was restitution or indentured servitude until what was stolen was paid back by the percentage determined in light of the violation that had taken place (e.g., Exod 22.1-14). It should also be noted to the reader that just because something required the death penalty, does not in fact that the death penalty would be determined. The prosecution must prove the guilt of such a person or persons, and this only in the light of two to three witnesses (i.e., lines of evidence), anything less would not suffice (see Deut 17.6; 19.15).

It is when we get to the particulars of God’s Law that begins to get people squeamish. (I was somewhat joking about modern Evangelicals peeing their pants in frustration). Jesus is identified in Scripture as King of kings and Lord of lords (1Tim 6.15; Rev 1.5; 17.14). The reference alone should settle the debate in regards to “whose law should be the standard for living?” A king exercises authority by dictating the normative practices of their citizenry. Laws are unavoidable. According to the Bible the civil magistrate is the one charged with upholding the good and punishing evil doers (cf. Rom 13.1-7). Debate swirls around what the role of civil magistrate actually entails, around what good and what evil are being spoken of. If only we would learn to read a little further, then perhaps, and I say “perhaps” because of the desire to be our own little gods, we would discern the truth as clearly as it has been dictated to us. For it is God’s law that is referenced as the normative good that the civil authorities are meant to publish and uphold (cf. Rom 13.8-10). And if it is not God’s Law, which is the Law of Christ, then whose shall it be? I think the current culture along with her leaders speaks volumes of just what type of law is being enforced upon us today.

In the United States, there was no king and so the people sought to do whatever they perceived right in their own eyes, under the guise of “We the people…” and our civil leaders were joyous at the opportunity to impose their own subjective opinions on the hearts of all…..

ENDNOTES:

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

2This resurrection certified this result (i.e., judicially), although history has a part to play as things are incrementally brought under the sovereign Jesus’ feet: “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he [Jesus the Christ] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1Cor 15.24-26; ESV).

3Gary North, Priorities and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Matthew (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1999), e-book, Chapter 46, “Discipling the Nations.” https://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/sidefrm2.htm.

4Kenneth L. Gentry, The Greatness of the Great Commission: The Christian Enterprise in a Fallen World (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), PDF e-book. When Adam sinned in the garden, he laid down his arms of warfare (contrary to Gen 2.15) and surrendered to the creature, rather than the voice of his Creator (Gen 3.17), and as a result was sold into slavery unto sin; judged ethically dead before the Lord (cf. Eph 2.1-3).

Posted in theonomy

Theonomic Outlook: From Generalities to Particulars–Part 2

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1John 5.3; ESV).1
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Eccl 12.13-14).
“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom 13.4-5)
“The concern that when a religiously dominated society has control of the family, moral and governmental regulations, who is to govern the governors?” –Matt Slick2

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS…

What is it that is so troubling about the theonomic position? What is it about the Law of God enforced or applied beyond the individualistic sphere of governance that causes such a negative reaction? What earns the theonomist labels like legalist, radical, biblicist, or an extremist Christian sect? Is it because we teach an ethical norm derived directly from the fount of God’s law? Is the standard that God established, which serves as a reflection of His holy heart, not sufficient, defunct, or tyrannical? How can that possibly be the case when Moses’ proclamation to the children of Israel was the following:

See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’” (Deut 4.5-6; emphasis added).

According to Matt Slick’s rhetorical question above, to seek to apply God’s law in this way to every area of life (starting from the individual, going to the family, and in the church and the greater society at large) is a seemingly dangerous notion. Who will “govern the governors?” Who will govern these religious leaders that have “dominated society [and] has control of the family, moral and governmental regulations?”

What is Slick concerned about? What sits beneath this question? In other words, what serves as the bedrock for Slick’s reasoning that a civil government led by God’s law seems a troublesome scenario?

First things first…

Keyboard warriors are a dime a dozen. Trolls that search the internet just to pick a fight and give you a headache are everywhere. Courage hidden is no courage at all.

That is not what I am doing. I’m not trying to pick a fight. I’m not trying to puff out my chest. The fact of the matter is that I don’t know Matt Slick personally from Adam (our forefather), though I do KNOW he is a son of Adam, like myself. That being said, I also know that Slick professes to be a son of the Last Adam—Jesus Christ. On these two things we share common footing. More importantly, confessing that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, we share a common heritage in God’s covenantal body.3 My interaction with his writing is not personal; although, I must confess that I personally hope that Slick (and others that share his thinking) would reevaluate their position in light of God’s Law-Word. What peaks my interest is the teeter-tottering occurring when one professes Christ as Lord of their heart and Savior of their being, but then they take a firm mental stand in opposition to His Law.

Peeling back the onion…

To look at the outside shell of an onion reveals little, but upon inspection we find that there are layers upon layers when we begin the peeling process. Some onions are sweet, others are a bit pungent with a hint of heat, and for most people the process of preparing an onion as a garnish for a meal will result in crying eyes. Despite the uncomfortable situation one often gets removing layers of the onion in order to prepare it for a dish, the effort is worthwhile. The same is true when we attempt to get to the underlying beliefs of those that hold differing positions from our own.

What is Slick’s underlying position in light of government? What is it that bothers him about applying God’s law (theonomic application) in civil government? It is because he sees civil government as a secular institution:

“A government is a political organization within a nation that exercises the control of military and judicial powers over its population. There are many different types of governments including communist, socialist, democracy, republic, etc. Though an argument can be made that some governments are religious in nature and that governments are overall instituted by God, CARM will classify governments as secular entities….”4

Notice that Slick claims that “some governments are religious in nature” but at the same time he asserts that “overall [governments] are instituted by God.” Raising the question as to whether “all” governments or just “some” are instituted by the Lord? If God institutes all, then why are only some religious? From where is Slick drawing such distinctions? He points to Romans 13:1-2 as to why he believes that God institutes civil governments:

...For there is no authority except from God, and those which exists are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God” (vv. 1b-2a; NASB).

But, what leads him to conclude that classifying all governments under the general heading “secular entities” is good and proper? Is this a biblical distinction that he provides his readers or an experiential one?

It would seem that the best policy at this point is to make sure that our definitions of “institute,” “religious” and “secular” are properly defined. The definitions shall be drawn from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary of 2008:

  • “institute—to establish in a position or office…to originate and…establish.
  • religious—relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity.
  • secular—of or relating to the worldly or temporal [concerns]…not overtly or specifically religious.”5

What are we to make of these definitions? We know from Romans 13, as well as other places (see Jer 18.7-10; Dan 2.21; 4.17; Prov 8.15-16), that God is the author of civil governments. He has established the institution and office. In fact, if we read a little further in Romans 13 we see that those that fill the office of leadership in the civil sector are called ministers of God three times (vv. 4 {2x}, 6). To what end? The institution and office of civil government is given two key roles in society: “1) They are “a minister of God to you for good”; 2) They are “a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” Thus, they do “not bear the sword [of judgment] for nothing” for the civil sector’s responsibility is to uphold justice, protecting the good from the evil, by purging the evil doer (if necessary) from the midst of civil society.

Again, Slick’s concern is that if God’s Law is enacted as the standard of justice, of righteous behavior, then who will “govern the governor’s;” who will limit their use of power? And so, he prefers to use “secular” (a.k.a. non-religious leaders or laws or morals) to define the role of civil government in general. Now, it is true that the use of secular does not necessitate non-religious, for the primary concern of secular is worldly concerns, but since the use of God’s law in the civil sphere of governance is what bothers Slick, what other conclusions are we supposed to draw from his writings?

A Question of Religion intent…

This leaves us with the question of religious intent (since that seems to be the actual heart of the issue). To be religious means to be faithfully devoted to what one supposes is true, ultimately, of reality. This can be a deity, but not necessarily so. The practice of faith is not in question, but the object of a person’s or societies faith is.

All people have faith everywhere you look. All people trust (entrust themselves) in, or to, something. They all possess an object of faith that leads them in their perception of reality (metaphysics), their source of knowledge (epistemology), from which they derive their moral norms (ethics).

Let’s look at Slick’s rhetorical question once more:

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

Common but False…

His underlying assumption, which is common but nonetheless false, is that if we apply God’s Law then we are applying a religious standard that is not suitable. Meaning, that without applying God’s Law (theonomy) to the civil government then that government, as most governments are (at least, according to Slick’s view) are non-religious (secular in nature). Again, as I said, common but nonetheless false.

All of life is Ethical and therefore Religious…

Do secular (non-religious) civil governments have laws regarding right versus wrong behavior? Do they then punish what they view as bad behavior and in turn uphold or praise the good behavior of other citizens? We know that they do. We see it, regardless of the form of the established civil government. All nations, all cultures, and therefore all established civil governments have a religious view point that they adhere to and make prescriptions from.

The question is not “if” but “what.” It is not “if this nation has a religious belief that governs the presuppositional worldview of its people and therefore exercised in its civil institutions,” but “what is the religious viewpoint of the people that shapes the society and the civil institutions that govern it?” Again, not “if” but “what.”

Slick’s fear of a religiously dominated society is already realized. The question we must ask is what religious view of the world is being exercised versus what religious view of the world ought to be exercised in the governing of a civil society.

In other words, if God is the author of both the office and the institution of civil government, what should be the standard that governs both the officer and the institution? If God declares that they are to be “His minister for good” in order to pour out “His vengeance” by use of the “sword” of judgment against all who commit “evil,” then what standard of good is to be upheld, what definition of evil is to be used? Should such things be left to the whims of fallen man? Can those who declare evil good and good evil really be seen as fit to rule? Are they not established to image God’s goodness and to hate what He hates?

“The theonomist would contend that neither we as individuals nor our society as a whole has enough wisdom to improve upon that which God Himself has revealed in the pages of His holy law. Sinful creatures are in no position to question or correct the wisdom of God at any point where He has chosen to speak…We must not trade the objective standard of sola Scriptura in our Christian ethic for the subjective standard of personally perceived wisdom…”6

This applies not only to the individual in the home, in the work place, in the church, but the individual tasked with being a civil servant. Both the office and the institution of civil government are God ordained to reflect God’s holy standards, not the whims of personal subjectivism.

ENDNOTES:

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

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

3For example, in an article entitled “Is Christianity a Cruel Religion?” Slick writes, “The truth is that many who claim to be Christians have violated what the Scriptures themselves teach. Christianity is not a religion that advocates cruelty. However, it does teach that all who reject Christ as Savior will face the ultimate punishment of eternal hell. If they want to say this is cruelty, then I would respond by saying it is justice.” October 21, 2013, https://carm.org/about-christianity/is-christianity-a-cruel-religion/. To this I would give a hearty amen.

4Matt Slick, “What is the Purpose of Government According to the Bible?” CARM (Christian Apologetcs & Research Ministry), accessed June 17, 2021. https://carm.org/government/what-is-the-purpose-of-government-according-to-the-bible/

5These are broad definitions missing, perhaps, many of the nuances that some may want to attribute to these terms. They are accurate insofar as they are intended to give a general or basic understanding of how the English language defined them. Given the current war on language here in the West, in light of the ongoing sexual revolution with the alphabet soup crowd, I chose to use a copy readily available in my personal library.

6Greg L. Bahnsen, No Other Standard: Theonomy and its Critics (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), 32, 33, PDF e-book. Emphasis in original.

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 theonomy

That Dirty Word Called Theonomy

Theonomy is a dirty word. For the uninitiated the term is the combination of two Greek terms: Theos (God) and nomos (law). “So then,” you might be wondering, “how is it a dirty word?” How indeed!

Sometimes I’m a bit naive and I make assumptions of others that I learn later were in error. Over a decade ago I did this in two different settings. The first was in a secular setting on a job I was running in Columbus, OH. The second was in a local church where I served as pastor. My subject matter was different in each situation, but I assumed too much on a commonality that I believed was sufficient grounds for civil conversation.

Let me share with you what happened in the secular setting first and then move onto the ecclesiastical one. Afterwards I will tie in the subject of Theonomy. I believe you’ll understand the connection without much effort.

Secular setting…

As I mentioned earlier I was running a job in Columbus, OH. It was on a new construction project, a rather large L-shaped building, that was to be an assisted living facility. My position was the HVAC foreman, and I was responsible for ordering, installing, and managing my team in the process. This type of job required that I become acquainted with all the other trades (e.g., electricians, plumbers, pipe-fitters, painters, etc.) as we were all expected to work together in a somewhat coordinated effort; so that, all steps of the building/finishing of the project were according to the schedule laid out for us by the general contractor.

The project was about two-thirds of the way done when my encounter with a window caulker occurred. I had returned from lunch and was heading from the rear parking lot towards one of the main entrances when I heard the man on his step ladder humming the melody of a well-known hymn. I thought, “Here is a kindred spirit that shares my faith,” and so, I attempted to start a conversation with him.

Now the day was warm and sunny, therefore my attire matched the elements. I had some worn jeans on and a sleeveless black shirt. About the age of 26 I began to enter into that stage of life that some men experience (male pattern baldness), and so, having been gifted with a nice dome from my Lord I began the ritual of cleanly shaving my head. My arms are tatted and my ears are pierced. So, I suppose outwardly I look anything but a Christian, least of all a pastor, nevertheless, I am both. Unfortunately, the man I struck up a conversation with. That fellow humming a familiar hymn. As soon as I spoke he looked me up and down arriving at the conclusion that the person speaking to hymn was a wolf pretending to be a sheep. He was anything but polite. Judgmental would be a better word. A very unpleasant encounter to say the least.

Ecclesiastical Setting…

My second encounter around the same time period happened after a lesson I’d given during a service. It was an election year and I used another dirty word (unknown to me): politics. What I had proclaimed from the pulpit is the universal nature of God’s Word. How it is intended to shape our thinking and acting in every area of life. No subject was forbidden. No matter is off limits as far as God is concerned, and this included politics. In particular, the way we ought to vote for a candidate. If the candidate is firmly planted on a platform that calls for the execution of the newly conceived, then any Christian worth his or her weight should not cast a vote for that individual. How could they in good conscience?

The individual in question, as soon as I was finished speaking, stood up with a Bible firmly gripped in one hand and a pointing finger on the other. On the verge of shouting, he explained to me that I was dead wrong. You would have thought I’d just finished blaspheming from the pulpit. His frustration was pouring from every facet of his being. His face was contorted with what I do not doubt was a righteous indignation on his part. Trying to reason with him went no where. Eventually, he stormed out of the sanctuary. His wife apologized for the spectacle. She told me that she doubted that he’d return. I kept my composure until after they left and then I hit my knees before the Lord praying for the man.

(Sidenote: Later that evening I received a call from the individual who attacked me, apologizing for his behavior. The following week he apologized to the church. The man is a solid believer. I believed this when he attacked me, and so I prayed for him. I told his wife as much when she left that service embarrassed. The Lord heard my prayer, and the believer repented. He became one of my strongest supporters before I resigned from the Nazarene denomination for issues pertaining to doctrine. I plan on seeing him and his wife in heaven one day.)

The Dirty Word called Theonomy

We have now come full circle. My point in sharing those experiences was illustrative. We sometimes make assumptions about people or teachings that are in error. Presuppositions are strong deterrents. This can be a good thing, if the presuppositions that we hold are correct. The first individual I spoke about made a judgment call about me because of how I appeared to him outwardly. He couldn’t reconcile what he believed a Christian should look like, with what actually makes one a Christian (the atoning life of Christ put upon those that trust in Him). The second individual struggled with seeing how his voting was an extension of His faith in Christ. The first individual never spoke to me again, even though I saw him for the a few more months before the job was finished. The second person did, and through consistent biblical teaching eventually laid aside his former convictions, adopting new ones.

I first encountered the word “Theonomy” in the writings of Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen. I had found a paperback copy of his book, By This Standard, while working on my Master of Divinity degree (2011-2015). After reading through it, I was convinced by the biblically based cogent arguments provided by Bahnsen that saturate every page. Here is the general synopsis that Bahnsen proves in this work:

“Fundamental to the position taken herein is the conviction that God’s special revelation—His written word—is necessary as the objective standard of morality for God’s people. Over against the autonomous ethical philosophies of men, where good and evil are defined by sinful speculation, the Christian ethic gains its character and direction from the revealed word of God, a revelation which harmonizes with the general revelation made of God’s standards through the created order and man’s conscience…

by this standard, 2

“Indeed, the Bible teaches that we should presume continuity between ethical standards of New Testament and those of the Old, rather than abbreviating the validity of God’s law according to some preconceived artificial limit…

by this standard, 2

“The methodological point, then, is that we presume our obligation to obey any Old Testament commandment unless the New Testament indicates otherwise. We must assume continuity with the Old Testament rather than discontinuity.”1

by this standard, 3

In other words, God has revealed to His people and through them to the world, the manner in which He intends for His creatures to live righteous lives. This ethic applies to all, including even the civil government over us, who are in reality, according to the testimony of the apostle Paul, God’s ordained ministers for good (Rom 13.1-5). A little later, Bahnsen continues,

“Christ said that the attitude which is genuinely godly recognizes the moral authority of God alone, does not question the wisdom of His dictates, and observes every last detail of his word. This is man’s proper path to God-likeness…[Moreover,] those who are not striving to become rivals to God by replacing His commands according to their own wisdom will rather endeavor to reflect His moral perfection by obeying all of His commands.”

By This standard, 47, 48

To be an image bearer means to reflect the One in whose image you’ve been created to mirror. According to Christ, says Bahnsen, God is concerned that our mode of operation is to submit to His divine word as an ethical standard that cannot be deviated from. So far so good?

One would think that all Christians would find commonality in this standard of ethics revealed in Scripture and proclaimed by Bahnsen (among others of his ilk). Yet, that is not the case. In fact, much to my own astonishment (initially at least) there are many who, bearing the name of Christ, kick at every jot and tittle laid before them from God’s Law-Word. Much of the angst seems to be based on misunderstandings as to what has changed between the Old and New covenants. A direct equivalency is not what Bahnsen or other theonomists (like Gary North, David Chilton, or Gary DeMar) argue for.2 Bahnsen even notes this in the beginning of his work:

“The aim of those studies is to set forth a case in favor of the continuing validity of the Old Testament law, including its sociopolitical standards of justice. It is advocated that we should presume the abiding authority of any Old Testament commandment until and unless the New Testament reveals otherwise, and this presumption holds just as much for laws pertaining to the state as for laws pertaining to the individual. As already noted, such a presumption does not deny the reality of some discontinuities with the Old Testament today; it simply insists that such changes be warranted by Biblical teaching, not untrustworthy personal feeling or opinion.”3

By This Standard, 7

That being said “Theonomy” is still a dirty word in many Christian circles. Bahnsen had his critics. He wrote an entire book answering them in the follow up to this work entitled, No Other Standard. I have encountered the same sort of criticism since adopting this theological branch of study into my own Christian worldview. Regardless, I have found that when investigated at a foundational level the critics are the one’s standing on shifting sand. Not the other way around.

As of yet, I have hardly begun to answer the question, “Why is Theonomy viewed in such a negative light?” This will be a topic returned to at some future date. Until then….

For those interested I would recommend the following works:4

Bahnsen, Greg L. By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 1985.

_____________. No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 1991.

North, Gary, ed. Theonomy An Informed Response. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 1991.

____________. Was Calvin a Theonomist? Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 1990.

ENDNOTES:

1Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), PDF e-book. All emphasis in these quotes (throughout) are what Bahnsen stressed, not the particular whims of the current writer.

2An easy example for the reader to consider is found in Deuteronomy 22:8, which reads, “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it” (ESV).

A couple of things may be said about this verse. First, taking it as stated and trying to apply it exactly as written is not what a good theonomist would do. The reader would need to consider what a parapet is (a boundary marker or “fence” or “rail”) and what the historical setting entailed (flat-roofed homes were commonplace in the Middle East [and still are], first before attempting to apply it. The concern is to discern the direction and purpose of God’s Law-Word here. The Law-Word of God is meant to demonstrate the love of the image bearer; primarily for the Creator, secondarily for the neighbor (i.e., fellow image bearer). Secondly, the underlying principle would need to then be applied to the current cultural setting. An example today would entail building a rail around one’s deck. This would be set as a guard for the guests life. Notice that the law does not say that the railing or fence needs to be impassible, for it invites the conclusion that one might still fall and die, but it does state that if the individual in question does this kindness in submission to what God has revealed, then, if something undesirable does happen (like injury or death) the individual in question is innocent before the eyes of the Lord.

3The emphasis in this section is of my own doing.

4Anyone may get these books free of charge in their PDF version here: https://www.garynorth.com/public/2649.cfm

Posted in biblical justice, Law, Theology, theonomy

Legal Relativism: Hasty Conclusions drawn about God’s Justice

Today, I want to deal with the legal relativist. You know the Christian who says, “Well, that Law was valid back then in that time, in that place, but not so today.” I want to pick on the Paul Copan’s of the world, men and women who are extremely talented Christians that have a strong aversion to applying God’s Law today. I realize that’s not a popular position to take, because it offends my brothers and sisters in Christ. Can we stop wearing our emotions on our shoulder’s please? We need to develop a little backbone and be able to take some criticism. Or do we, as professing believers, fail to realize that judgment begins with the house of the Lord (cf. 1Pet 4.17)?

For example, Copan argues “…as we look at many of these Mosaic laws, we must appreciate them in their historical context, as God’s gracious, temporary provision.”1 Copan is making this statement in light of the penal sanctions expressed in the Old Testament (hereafter O.T.). Highlighting the death penalty for adultery, he appeals to 1Corinthians 5:1-5 where the man is caught having an affair with his step-mother. Copan thinks that the only role the Law of God is to play here is for excommunication from the church body, since that is what the apostle Paul says the Corinthians should do. I’m sorry to say this, but that’s just sloppy exegesis on his part. A shame really when you get right down to it, because in a lot of ways, Copan is a very bright individual.

“Where does he commit an error?” you ask. Great question, glad you asked it.

First off, let’s look at the sin the man is guilty of. It is true that he has committed adultery for he has slept with his father’s wife, but he’s also guilty of incest. Biblical law takes familial relationships very seriously, and when one is grafted into a family through adoption, etc., they are considered a genuine family member. The man has not only seen his father’s wife’s nakedness, but he has fornicated with one who is considered his mother.

  • “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness” (Lev 18.8).
  • “If a man lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them” (Lev 20.11)
  • “A man shall not take his father’s wife, so that he does not uncover his father’s nakedness” (Deut 22.30).
  • “Cursed be anyone who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s nakedness.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen'” (Deut 27.20).

Second, notice the penalty is a death sentence. That alone makes many Westerner’s pause, reconsider and pull back. Is there really any crime deserving of death? God says there is. You say there isn’t. Who’s right? Well, unless you think you are God, then the answer seems rather simple. But surely we live in an age of grace such extreme (harsh, awful?) penalties are no longer applicable.

Hmmm, really? Again, I guess it depends on who you think you are. And you do realize that if you truly think this way you are calling the God of the Bible “harsh” and “awful.” I understand why unbelievers do this, but why you?

The death penalty is just, but there are limitations on how it may be applied. Let’s deal with the justice of it first, and then we’ll return to the limitations.

Justice

Why would the death penalty be just? How can taking the life of another be right? Two quick answers will settle it.

1) The punishment fits the crime. How you treat others, the Lord through His civil servants (cf. Rom 13.1-7) will do to you.

  • “If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him…You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God” (Lev 24.19-20, 22).
  • “Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deut 19.21).

**Obviously, the concern is for the victim not the perpetrator.

2) The punishment causes other criminal activity to lessen; evil doers don’t want to be blatant with breaking the law if there is quick retribution brought against them.

  • “So you shall purge evil from your midst. And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. (Deut 19.19b-20; cf. 13.11).

The alternative is seeing crime rising in society, because civil rulers fail to do what is right and just according to the Word of the Lord.

  • “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Eccl 8.11).

Do we not read of this in Israel’s history when they failed to abide by God’s judgments, seeking instead to do their own? Do we not see the fruit of this philosophy (cf. Eccl 8.11) in our own societies here in the West? We refuse to punish rapists, murders, child-molester’s, etc., speedily and with justice, preferring a man-made standard because the God of the Bible is too harsh, and so these individuals become more emboldened to continue running to harm their neighbors and shed blood. Justice would be better served if we did what was right in God’s eyes, and stopped pretending that we are the true kings.

Limitations

There is a notable distinction that God makes between certain sins. Some are criminal in nature and deserve a negative civil sanction, others do not. For example, the 10th commandment is against coveting (desiring/lusting after) what is your neighbor’s (fellow human being’s) property. This is a sin that needs to be repented of, but there are not civil sanctions against it. How in the world can a judge (civil authority) discern another man’s heart? They can’t (we can’t), and so that type of sin is judged by God alone (cf. Jer 17.9-10). However, this is not the case with adultery (which actually falls under the umbrella of sexual fornication). Adultery, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, etc. are sins that God provides civil sanctions against—i.e. they are crimes.

However, there is a caveat that needs to be mentioned. While certain crimes (sins that) deserve a civil penalty, there are limitations on how one may prosecute them. There has to be evidence. Specifically, there has to be two-to-three lines of evidence, and we are not talking about circumstantial here, but direct evidence.

  • “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deut 19.15; italics mine).
  • “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness” (Deut 17.6; italics added).

You could not convict someone of a crime deserving death without first meeting these necessary limitations. The people in question were innocent until proven guilty. Does that sound familiar? It should.

Moreover, the one being charged with a crime was protected from perjurers. If an individual or group of individuals brought false charges against another, and they were found guilty of lying, then they were the ones punished with the penalty that they sought against the other (Deut 19.16-19a). I cannot help but think of the Cavanaugh case in recent months as I contemplate the aforementioned verses.

Dare we say that these laws are from days gone by and are no longer applicable? Have you not read Matt 18:16 or 1Tim 5:19 or even Heb 10:28? Perhaps, you should for it is clear that their validity still stand.

“Wait a minute, if this is true, what about 1Cor 5? It seems that Copan does have a valid argument, since Paul did not insist on the things that you are claiming!” you say. Thank you, I appreciate the attentive nature of your reading. Please allow me to respond with the final thing that Copan failed to recognize in his hasty conclusion.

Understanding the Three Spheres of Governance…

Who was Paul speaking to in 1Cor 5? To what sphere of government was he referring to, in order to make a judgment against the man sexually fornicating with his stepmother? That’s right! Paul was speaking to the church in Corinth. There are three spheres of governance that God has established. Each sphere has a specific area of authority to rule and exercise godly dominion. They are the family, the church, and the state.

While it may be properly said that the Church has the authority to offer biblical guidance (godly counsel) to the other two spheres of governance (family and state), the Church through its elders, deacons and congregants2
has no right to rule in them. The parents are over their children, and the father is the head of them all in submission to his head—God. The civil magistrates are over their citizens, and they—the magistrates—are to be under their head who is God.3

Why is that important? Because, it would have been unlawful (against God’s Law and therefore sinful) for Paul to have the man sentenced to death. It was (is) beyond the sphere of authority for the Church of God (of Jesus Christ) to sentence a man to death, as they are not civil authorities.

However, they did offer the man a sentence of death in the sense that he was cut-off from the fellowship, handed over to Satan, and treated as an unbeliever. If the man failed to repent of this sin and plead the mercy of Christ in confession to the body from which he was forced out of, then his physical reality of being cut-off would be fully realized in the life to come. Being eternally damned, cast into darkness—bound and chained—where weeping and gnashing teeth is the norm.

The reason we do not see the application of the full penalty of these laws in existence today is not because they are invalid, but because we are rebellious sinners and our governments reflect this disposition. This should be obvious to the Christian living here in the states where many of the just laws of the past, based upon the Law-Word of God, have been slowly overturned and done away with. Why has this happened? Because the Church who should be counseling the nation’s civil leaders at all levels of government have been cowed into a corner, or they have truncated the gospel to a get out of hell free card, rather than standing for what is right and true.

While, I am saddened by Copan and other Christians for their confusion regarding these truths, I am not surprised as they are a product of a watered-down gospel; the gospel of the kingdom (rule) of God in Christ the King. Living in the land of relativists, we should not be baffled that many Christians are legal relativists to.

_____________________

ENDNOTES:

1 Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 65.

2 There is no true hierarchy in the congregation/assembly of Jesus Christ. He alone is the head of His church. Though there are notable rules of leadership, no one person elder or otherwise has explicit rule over the people of God. All members of the covenant community are on equal footing, although there is a slight difference in the roles each one plays, dependent upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10.42-44; ESV).

3 It should be noted in God’s economy that the citizens of the city would carry out the punishment determined by the elders at the gate.

“The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all of the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst” (Deut 17.6).

Why? More than likely so that those who brought charges against another image bearer would not take lightly giving false testimony since God would hold them accountable for murder if they did so. No doubt this was also a testimony of zeal for the Name of God whose name had been defiled by the act of the criminal (cf. Num 25.1-11); as well as, the righteous vindication of the victim who had suffered at the hand of the wicked person being condemned.