Posted in self-defense

Is it Lawful or Appropriate? A Question of Governance Regarding Self-Defense and the Loss of Life

And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning; from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen 9.5-6; ESV).

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge. My shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, my refuge, and my Savior, You save me from violence. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies…He trains my hands for war; my arms can bend a bow of bronze…I pursue my enemies and destroy them; I do not turn back until they are wiped out. I wipe them out and crush them, and they do not rise; they fall beneath my feet. You have clothed me with strength for battle; You subdue my adversaries beneath me” (2Sam 22.2b-4, 35, 38-40; HCSB).

INTRODUCTION:

Today we return to the subject of self-defense. In particular, we return to the one caveat that gives people fits regarding it…the taking of the life of another. The sixth commandment: “Thou shall not kill [i.e., murder]” (Exod 20.13) is fairly straightforward in the minds of many. I noted this in my previous post. Taken at face value it appears to mean that “all killing” is wrong or unlawful in the eyes of the Lord. But taking things at face value instead of investigating deeper is what children do, not adults.

There are times when killing is appropriate (cf. Eccl 3.3a). Knowing our biblical history reveals that a lot of killing has been accomplished by the time God writes this commandment on the tablet of stone with His finger (an anthropomorphic expression which means, by His power; comp. Exod 8.19; 24.12; 31.18). A clear indicator that not all killing is deemed unholy.

I’m not sure exactly why this teaching is so offensive to our generation of Christian men and women? Don’t get me wrong I have my suspicions about why this is the case. But let us just state at the outset that I believe the reason is related to our modern generation (perhaps, the last few generations) inability or unwillingness to see the Bible as a unified, cohesive whole. Just like our corporate media here in the US cherry-picks their narratives, many professing Christians cherry-pick their Bibles. On some level, we can’t fault them. They have been taught and in many churches across this nation (at least these are my limited observations) are still be instructed to see the Bible all chopped up in verses. And so, favorite verses are chosen as representative of biblical truth, and yet, unfortunately, they have been ripped out of context. The result is a very shallow comprehension of biblical truth.

To illustrate this to the church I pastor I gave them a test where they were given various biblical terms and they had to choose whether these key-word concepts were “good, evil (bad), or both.” I will admit that Gary DeMar’s book Myths, Lies & Half-Truths gave me the idea. So I can’t claim originality. But, I did develop it further than what he did in his work and I went in a slightly different direction.1 The reactions when the tests were publicly graded and discussed were all across the board. Some were delighted to learn their thinking was in error (an eager student wants to learn and so is not discouraged by a gentle correction) but others were angered and attempted to argue the point.

What I have found is that the same is true when it comes to the matter of self-defense, specifically, when the defense in question leads to the loss of human life. However, if Christians would take the time (and put forth the effort) to study what the Bible actually teaches regarding a specific topic there would be fewer negative knee-jerk reactions to contend with. We must allow God’s Word to determine our thinking in this matter. This is why I pointed out at the closing of my last article that there are exceptions to the rule as seen in Exodus 22:2-3 (pertaining to the thief who breaks in), Exodus 21:12 (when civil authorities are authorized to kill murderers), and in Nehemiah 4:11-14 (when war is justified to protect life and property from another nation/people).

Necessary Safeguard…2

That being said, God does not allow us to wantonly take the life of a fellow creature. His law on this matter pertains to all creatures made by Him. Similarly, He protects animal life from being taken without justification. In short, no one is allowed to kill just because they feel like it.

"And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image" (Gen 9.5-6; ESV).

What do these verses suggest? That whoever takes life without cause, their life will be forfeit. Whether it be a man or an animal. Have you ever wondered why, when a pet kills someone, they put it down? This is why. The Lord God deems it necessary to put a dangerous animal down…just like He does dangerous human beings.3 Though there are many, I will cite two laws to sate the appetite of the curious mind.

"Now if an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall certainly be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall go unpunished. If however, an ox was previously in the habit of goring and its owner has been warned, yet he does not confine it and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death" (Exod 21:28-29).
"He who strikes someone so that he dies shall certainly be put to death. Yet if he did not lie in wait for him, but God caused him to fall into his hand, then I will appoint you a place to which you may flee. If, however, someone is enraged against his neighbor, so as to kill him in a cunning way, you are to take him even from my altar, to be put to death" (Exod 21.12.14).

A brief explanation of cited texts:

The first text deals with an animal4, in this case, livestock which was common in Israel at this time as a beast of burden. If the animal proved to be aggressive to the point of causing the death of a human being, then it was necessary to put that animal down. The owner was innocent of the animal’s aggression unless there had been prior cause to warn the owner to be cautious. An animal that had evidenced an aggressive nature in the past was to be put under guard. It was the owner’s responsibility to guard the lives of his neighbor and his animal. Failing to do this, if the animal killed another, would result in the owner’s life being forfeit as well; for he refused to do what was right and was therefore liable.

The only exception to this is found in Exodus 21:30,

If instead a ransom is demanded of him, he can pay a redemption price for his life in the full amount demanded from him” (HCSB).

This is a case of the victims’ desire to be merciful, something God allowed for. Please note it was not the judges’ decision but the decision of the victimized party whether or not mercy was to be shown to the guilty party. The imposition of a fine was what they deemed worthy, rather than the individual’s life, and in this case, a lawful exception was made.

The second text (Exod 21.12, 14) deals with two types of killing. The first we would recognize as murder, the other, from our understanding, would label it manslaughter. Murder is a crime against another human being where they purposefully strike to kill.5 However, as the text points out a person who takes the life of another accidentally (i.e., manslaughter) is not considered a murderer. They were allowed to flee to a city of refugee if the preceding investigation proved that they were not guilty of premeditation (cf. Num 35.24; Deut 13.14; 17.4; 19.18).

But what about accidental death due to negligence? Texts dealing with loose ax heads or not putting a fence up around a dangerous structure on one’s property make you liable if someone was injured or hurt because of your negligence (cf. Deut 19.4-5; 22.8 respectively). Even getting in an altercation where a pregnant woman gets hit and it causes her to prematurely go into labor if that baby is injured or killed whatever happened to the child was required of the attacker who hit her: accident or not doesn’t matter (See: Exod 21:22-24).

Life is sacred. It is a gift from our Creator. Therefore, it is to be protected at all times. This is the meaning of the prohibition announced after the Flood. God was declaring through Noah to the rest of the human race that whoever treated lightly the life of mankind, be it another man or beast, their life was (is) forfeit. To shed the blood of another, which is a figurative way of saying—“ending their life” is to give up the right to life. For God authorizes and requires the use of lethal force against the perpetrator.

And, no, that’s not a contradiction, for as we have seen in just these few examples not all circumstances are equal. The goal of the death penalty (another form of defense in the civil sphere of governance) is the protection of life.6 The sentences were to be carried out swiftly once the court of law had convened and determined the situation appropriately, according to the evidence. Why? Two reasons are given in Scripture. First, so that evil might be purged from the surrounding society. Second, the death penalty served as a deterrent to the other wicked in the community who might be inclined to perpetrate evil. As it is written,

"So you shall eliminate the evil among you. And the rest of the people will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. So you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot" (Deut 19.19b-21; also see: Deut 13.11; 17.13; 21:21).

Wrapping things up…

The question of defense is a governmental one. An unfortunate reality, however, is the average understanding of government is a narrow one. The majority of the passages cited in this article are taken from the case laws of the Pentateuch. They served as instructions for how the civil sphere was to respond to the behaviors of some to protect society as a whole. In this fashion then, we see the application of the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 13:4,

...be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a servant of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (NASB).

But is the civil government the only form of government? No. Think about this. To whom were the laws of God written? A nation or a people? A group or the individual? Both. God’s law first applies to the man or woman who is made in His image, and then, it applies to the nation as a whole. Personal government is the sphere where the individual is charged with performing the Law of God in their life. When a person’s behavior is shown to be in rebellion to this standard of holiness all sorts of vile actions are produced. Murder, the wanton taking of the life of another, is one such violation. To strike against another, to end their life without justification is a criminal offense one that aims for the Creator who gave life. One punishable by death.7

Is that the same thing when a person defends their life or the life of another and a loss of life occurs? Is that act of self-defense the same thing as murder? Another related question is this: “Is the civil government the only governing agency authorized to use the sword?” Let us make this a little more relevant to our time: “Is the civil government the only governing agency authorized to bear arms?”

I want to be careful here because it is easy to be misunderstood. I am only speaking about extreme cases. Self-defense may be a daily reality but it is only exercised on rare occasions. But on those rare occasions, as I’ve put it, is it the right of the individual to use such force in the protection of life? Not as an aggressor, but as a defender?

The text of 2Samuel 22 (and others like it) seems to suggest this is correct. Notice in vv. 3-4 that David states the Lord protects him from violence and saves him from his enemies, but later on, in the same Psalm, David also explains that it is God who “trains my hands for war” (v. 35; HCSB). And those later verses explain that David showed no mercy to those who sought his life. What are we to do with this biblical teaching? Do we ignore it? Do we pass it over? Do we rationalize this passage (and others like it) in an effort to delegitimize it? Essentially, placing it on the proverbial shelf, calling it Old, and thus, not worthy of the New?

When next we meet we shall look at a couple of Scriptural passages that have caused no small amount of confusion for Christian commentators, where Jesus offers insight into the questions I’ve been asking.

ENDNOTES:

1For example, Gary DeMar, wrote in his Introduction, “When I was very young, I remember seeing a western on television where a dispute was settled by the answer to a simple Bible question. I can’t tell you anything else about the movie, but that one scene is etched in my mind. Here’s the question: ‘Who cut off Samson’s hair?’ A smile appeared on the man’s face as he confidently responded, ‘Delilah.’ No doubt the majority of people would have given the same answer, and they like the man in the long-forgotten western, would be wrong [it was a man: Judges 16:19].” DeMar continues, “While the Samson and Delilah hair removal story is not a central doctrine of the Christian faith, it does demonstrate that if a misreading of the Bible is passed on as fact, with few people ever checking the text for accuracy, then misinformation or worse (myths, lies and half-truths) becomes a part of the biblical record.” Myths, Lies & Half-Truths: How Misreading the Bible Neutralizes Christians (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2004), xv.

2The reason why safeguards are necessary for the protection of life (both animal and human) is that human beings are violent creatures that love death (cf. Prov 8.36). We live in a fallen world where the wanton taking of a life, be it a human or animal, is a reality. But the warning is given to God’s stewards so that the faithful protect life (sometimes in its preservation, at other times in its removal).

3On this point Gary North writes, “There are no exceptions based on idiocy, temporary insanity, temporary anger, or anything else. Unless it can be proved that the death came as a result of an accident—no premeditation—the criminal is to be executed. The willful shedding of man’s blood must be punished by the civil government by execution.” The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1986), 116, PDF E-book.

4The application would go beyond livestock, for the principle in the law is in regards to an animal, even though “ox” is mentioned. Being able to draw the applying principle from the cultural consideration of the period, in which, the text was originally written to a specific audience, is of paramount importance.

5This would likewise apply to those who desired the outcome, participated in some way (like paying for an assassin), or refused to offer aid in the preservation of life (cf. Prov 24.11-12; Lev 19.17; Rom 1.32). Thus, the malicious witness falls under the category of “worthy of death” if they are testifying about a crime supposedly committed where the death penalty is applicable. Say, for example, accusing a man of rape when no rape has been committed. The penalty for rape is death, and so the malicious witness in such a scenario would, when they are found guilty through investigation, be applied to them (cf. Deut 19.16-19).

6In light of Genesis 9:5-6 North explains, “[This passage] explains the nature of the [murder] violation: man’s life is uniquely important to God, since man is made in God’s image. An assault on man is an assault on the image of God. [Moreover,] the clause explains why men, by means of the civil government, are required to execute bloody judgment on murderers. Man is made in the image of God; therefore, as God’s image, mankind can bring judgment in the name of God, the supreme Judge who executes final judgment. Man is God’s agent who exercises God’s delegated authority. He is an agent of the King. He is to exercise dominion over the earth… [as] a royal agent, and as such, he deserves protection.” Ibid., 117.

7This is why Kyle Rittenhouse’s use of a firearm had to be investigated. If he wantonly took the life of another, then he’d have been guilty of murder. However, if it could be proved that he was provoked, fearing for his safety with no other recourse, and was therefore justified in his killing, then he’d be found innocent. Which he was.

Posted in Biblical Questions

Would Jesus be Woke Today? – The American Vision

Matthew Dowd who was the chief strategist for the re-election campaign of former President George W. Bush who’s now running as a Democrat in the Texas lieutenant governor’s race implied in a tweet that conservatives and Republicans would criticize Jesus as being “woke” if He were alive today. Given the definition of being woke, Jesus would denounce it since it’s being used to promote racial division in the name of “social justice.
— Read on americanvision.org/posts/would-jesus-be-woke-today/

By Gary DeMar at American Vision.

This article reveals what occurs when foolish people attempt to interpret the Bible in order to justify a social(istic) issue like Wokeism. In short, their argument, proposition or premise falls flat on its face because it’s false–Dr. Kristafal Miller

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.