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The Law of God discuss Am I a Theonomist? in the Theological Forum forums; I have not read any Theonomy books so I was just wondering if my view is similar to theirs. I believe that the civil law ...

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    AV1611 is offline. Puritanboard Senior
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    Am I a Theonomist?

    I have not read any Theonomy books so I was just wondering if my view is similar to theirs. I believe that the civil law and ceremonial law of Israel are done away with. However I believe in the perpetual abiding of the moral law. I also see that parts of Israel's civil law were founded upon the moral law and these therefore provide us with a perfect application of the moral law in the civil sphere and so there is no reason for the state not to use OT law as a part of its legislation.
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    maybe semi
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    AV1611 is offline. Puritanboard Senior
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    Quote Originally Posted by A5pointer View Post
    maybe semi
    Are Theonomists arguing that all of the civil law of Israel ought be enforced or only parts of it?
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    Richard, the real question for theonomists is do some civil laws for Israel have a mixture of the ceremonial laws in them and therefore need to be carefully qualified or not inforced in those cases.
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    Just like the title on Bahnsen's books on theonomy state, "By this standard" and "No other standard". The whole point of theonomy is what standard ought we use for our civil code? man's or God's. To be sure man comes up with civil laws, but what should be used to judge whether or not these civil laws are truly just.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AV1611 View Post
    I have not read any Theonomy books so I was just wondering if my view is similar to theirs. I believe that the civil law and ceremonial law of Israel are done away with. However I believe in the perpetual abiding of the moral law. I also see that parts of Israel's civil law were founded upon the moral law and these therefore provide us with a perfect application of the moral law in the civil sphere and so there is no reason for the state not to use OT law as a part of its legislation.
    The problem I have had with the theonomy threads is that everyone has a different definition of the word. These discussions and others might bear more fruit if PB had a glossary of terms to which everyone agreed.


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    Quote Originally Posted by KMK View Post
    The problem I have had with the theonomy threads is that everyone has a different definition of the word. These discussions and others might bear more fruit if PB had a glossary of terms to which everyone agreed.
    Good point Ken, the definition of theonomy that I hold to is very broad and loose, mainly because I have not done and extensive study on the subject to nail down where I stand on the various positions within theonomy, but I certainly agree with the general idea behind the theonomic movement.

    Our founding fathers weren't the least bit afraid to quote from the Bible, even from the Old Testament, when formulating laws. I could only wish the same thing was true today.

    Oh God, please send a revival in our nation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Answerman View Post
    Our founding fathers weren't the least bit afraid to quote from the Bible, even from the Old Testament, when formulating laws. I could only wish the same thing was true today.
    Amen Brother!
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    Richard

    If you believe that aspects of the civil law circumstantial to Israel have expired, but that civil laws which can't be exegetically proved to be circumstantial to the land of Canaan are also moral laws, then I would say that you are basically a theonomist.

    Daniel
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    Greetings:

    Bahnsen defines Theonomy as the application of all of the principles of the judicial law in society today together with their literal penal sanctions. Thus, if the judicial law calls for the death of an adulterer, then that is what we should do.

    The anabaptists hold that the whole of the judicial law has been abrogated and has nothing to do with civil law today.

    The Reformed hold a middle ground: The Judicial laws were given to the Jewish State to distinguish it from the nations around it. With the destruction of the Jewish state one can say that the Judicial laws of that state have been abrogated. However, some of these laws are echoed in Greek, Roman, British and American Law as well. These laws, founded upon the law of nations (or nature or general revelation if you like) are still binding as they are worded in the Constitutions of those respected states.

    The penal sanctions of the Judicial laws are not obligatory. They were not even obligatory during the Jewish State: David committed adultery and murder - yet he was never punished according to the penal sanctions of the Judicial Law of Israel. Jesus, also, does not condemn the adulterous woman - though the Jews cried out for her being stoned to death because of the Judicial law.

    The "General Equity" passage in the WCF is erroneously interpreted by Bahnsen as "general principles." A better understanding of it would be general revelation or the equity found in the law of nations.

    See: Calvin's Institutes, book 4, chapter 20, sections 14-16.

    An online copy can be found at our website here: http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/index.html - you will have to scroll down a little to find it.

    or,

    Francis Turretin's, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 2, pg. 165-167.

    God bless,

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    While I refuse to debate this again (at least for the moment), also consider Robert L. Dabney's take on the Mosaic laws:

    The laws of Moses, therefore, very properly made adultery a capital crime; nor does our Saviour, in the incident of the woman taken in adultery, repeal that statute, or disallow its justice. The legislation of modern, nominally Christian nations, is drawn rather from the grossness of Pagan sources than from the Bible.
    Lectures in Systematic Theology, p.407.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CalvinandHodges View Post
    The penal sanctions of the Judicial laws are not obligatory. They were not even obligatory during the Jewish State: David committed adultery and murder - yet he was never punished according to the penal sanctions of the Judicial Law of Israel. Jesus, also, does not condemn the adulterous woman - though the Jews cried out for her being stoned to death because of the Judicial law.
    I also remember that the penalty for the man in Corinth who had been sleeping with his mom (stepmom?) was not death but excommunication. Israel the nation, which was a shadow and type of the worldwide visible Church, had death as its highest form of punishment for the most severe crimes. The worldwide visible Church excommunicates and this punishment has arrived as the "fulfillment" of previous judicial sanctions for a Church which is no longer also a state.
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    No theonomist argues that the Church should use the sword.

    Israel the nation, which was a shadow and type of the worldwide visible Church, had death as its highest form of punishment for the most severe crimes. The worldwide visible Church excommunicates and this punishment has arrived as the "fulfillment" of previous judicial sanctions for a Church which is no longer also a state.
    Under such logic what would be the punishment for kidnapping, since the death penalty has been superceded by the "Church?"
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    Actually, Theonomy is the only truly Reformed view of civil ethics; this is because only Theonomy recognizes that we cannot have any knowledge of what is right and wrong regarding civil justice independent of God.

    All other views - which imply that the state can invent its own crimes and penal sanctions - deny the sovereignty of God in civil ethics. It does not matter how many Reformers or Puritans you can quote (or mis-quote), the fact of the matter is that Theonomy is the only truly epistemologically Reformed view of judicial ethics.

    For more information read:

    Greg Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, No Other Standard, By This Standard

    Gary DeMar The Debate over Christian Reconstruction and his articles in Theonomy: An Informed Response
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spear Dane View Post
    No theonomist argues that the Church should use the sword.

    Israel the nation, which was a shadow and type of the worldwide visible Church, had death as its highest form of punishment for the most severe crimes. The worldwide visible Church excommunicates and this punishment has arrived as the "fulfillment" of previous judicial sanctions for a Church which is no longer also a state.
    Under such logic what would be the punishment for kidnapping, since the death penalty has been superceded by the "Church?"

    It is a difficult question brother. I am sympatetic to the thonomist postion, but would we kill sabbath breakers as well?
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    The death penalty in Israel was distinguished from excommunication as it was applied to the strangers who could not partake of the passover. The issue in 1 Cor. 5 is church discipline, not civil penalties.

    Some Theonomists argue that the death penalty for Sabbath violation was partly ceremonial (even if the duty to keep the Sabbath is moral), and therefore no longer binding. I am not convinced by this as the Sabbath is part of God's moral law (just like adultery). I think we need to look at things from God's perspective, not ours, the reason these things seem harsh to us is because we do not view them the way God does.
    Daniel
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    The death penalty in Israel was distinguished from excommunication as it was applied to the strangers who could not partake of the passover. The issue in 1 Cor. 5 is church discipline, not civil penalties.
    I agree with you here. How would you respond to the fact that King David was not put to death for adultery?
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    Quote Originally Posted by AV1611 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    The death penalty in Israel was distinguished from excommunication as it was applied to the strangers who could not partake of the passover. The issue in 1 Cor. 5 is church discipline, not civil penalties.
    I agree with you here. How would you respond to the fact that King David was not put to death for adultery?

    God put away his sin just as he does any repentant sinner. If not, we'd all be dead. It didn't change the fact that he deserved to die though, just as we all do.
    Psa 55:16 As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me.
    Psa 55:17 Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
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    I agree with you here. How would you respond to the fact that King David was not put to death for adultery?
    Biblical Law requires two witnesses for the death sentence to be carried out as nobody witnessed the incident David and Bathsheba could not be executed. Those who use this as a pretext for laying aside the death penalty for adultery would also have to do the same with murder, as David had Uriah killed.

    God could have called for him to be executed later, but in His infinite wisdom he did not; but he was judged in God's providence with the death of his sons.

    Last edited by Reformed Covenanter; 08-23-2007 at 01:20 PM. Reason: Addition
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    Quote Originally Posted by AV1611 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by A5pointer View Post
    maybe semi
    Are Theonomists arguing that all of the civil law of Israel ought be enforced or only parts of it?
    They argue the general equity of the laws should be enforced (but no one has ever been able to define that adequately).

    Instead of saying I am a theonomist, I say that I hold to Dabney and Thornwell's worldview (men who are heroes in the Reformed faith). I then recommend page 407 in Dabney's systematic theology book. Or Thornwell's address to the Confederate Congress. I leave the discussion at that. No more, no less.


    Of course, to quote Dabney and Thornwell is to quote some men who were theonomic in orientation.
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    John Calvin on Theonomy:

    This I would rather have passed in silence, were I not aware that many dangerous errors are here committed. For there are some who deny that any commonwealth is rightly framed which neglects the law of Moses, and is ruled by the common law of nations. How perilous and seditious these views are, let others see: for me it is enough to demonstrate hat they are stupid and false.
    The law of God forbids to steal. The punishment appointed for theft in the civil polity of the Jews may be seen in Exodus 22. Very ancient laws of other nations punished theft by exacting the double of what was stolen, while subsequent laws made a distinction between theft manifest and not manifest. Other laws went the length of punishing with exile, or with branding, while others made the punishment capital. Among the Jews, the punishment of the false witness was to "do unto him as he had thought to have done with his brothers" (Deut. 19: 19.) In some countries, the punishment is infamy, in others, hanging; in others, crucifixion. All laws alike avenge murder with blood, but the kinds of death are different. In some countries, adultery was punished more severely, in others more leniently. Yet we see that amid this diversity they all tend to the same end. For they all with one mouth declare against those crimes which are condemned by the eternal law at God, viz., murder, theft, adultery, and false witness; though they agree not as to the mode of punishment. This is not necessary, nor even expedient. There may be a country which, if murder were not visited with fearful punishments, would instantly become a prey to robbery and slaughter. There may be an age requiring that the severity of punishments should be increased. If the state is in a troubled condition, those things from which disturbances usually arise must be corrected by new edicts. In time of war, civilisation would disappear amid the noise of arms, were not men overawed by an unwonted severity of punishment. In sterility, in pestilence, were not stricter discipline employed, all things would grow worse. One nation might be more prone to a particular vice, were it not most severely repressed. How malignant were it, and invidious of the public good, to be offended at this diversity, which is admirably adapted to retain the observance of the divine law.
    The allegation, that insult is offered to the law of God enacted by Moses, where it is abrogated and other new laws are preferred to it, is most absurd. Others are not preferred when they are more approved, not absolutely, but from regard to time and place, and the condition of the people, or when those things are abrogated which were never enacted for us. The Lord did not deliver it by the hand of Moses to be promulgated in all countries, and to be everywhere enforced; but having taken the Jewish nation under his special care, patronage, and guardianship, he was pleased to be specially its legislator, and as became a wise legislator, he had special regard to it in enacting laws.
    Some point out James Jordan's article concerning Calvin's sermons on Deuteronomy. Note, however, that Calvin did not forbid the use of the Mosaic Judicials, but he only said that they are mutable - changeable according to the natural Equity of the country or society that is enacting laws.

    The Theonomic position is wrong and unorthodox because it insists that the Judicial Law must be enacted for a country to be considered legitimate. Calvin states that as long as the crimes listed in the Moral Law (Ten Commands) are being punished, then righteousness is being instituted in a nation. Such punishment may be consistent with the Judicial Law's penal sanctions, or, it may not.

    Grace,

    -CH
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    I am not beating this horse again. Martin Foulner did an admirable job in defending theonomists' orthodoxy in the last thread on this subject.

    On the other hand, if that's the case, Dabney is unorthodox.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spear Dane View Post
    I am not beating this horse again. Martin Foulner did an admirable job in defending theonomists' orthodoxy in the last thread on this subject.

    On the other hand, if that's the case, Dabney is unorthodox.
    Martin Foulner's (and I met him in his bookstore back in '97 and talked to him about it) error is that he is missing the Forest for the trees. This is the same error that Bahnsen makes as he explicates "Theonomy." And it is the same error that all Theonomists make when they try to relate their interpretation with the WCF and the Divines.

    The Forest: Is the overall attitude of the WCF and the Divines to the Judicial Law. Calvin, as noted above, does not forbid the use of the Judicials in society today (or even in his day). What he says is that they are not necessary for a society to enact in order to be under the Sovereignty of Christ or for that society to be just. Francis Turretin picks up on this when he says:

    But the forensic [Mosaic judicials] law is better than other laws, not affirmatively, but negatively because it was determined to certain circumstances. Then again it is better than human laws (simply as human), but not inasmuch as they are founded upon the natural law whose source is God. Therefore, when the Roman laws are preferred to the Mosaic, they are not preferred simply as enacted by men, but as derived from natural and common right they can be more suitable to places, times and persons. Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 2, pg. 167.
    What Theonomist would say that the Roman Laws are preferred to the Mosaic? It is here that Foulner and Bahnsen make their error. All the civil laws of a society and their penal sanctions refer themselves to the Moral Law (Ten Commands) not to the Judicial Law (forensic or "case" laws if you like). Calvin would say that it is the law of love that should encompass the "equity" of a nation.

    The Trees: This is where Martin Foulner derives his strength from - because it is evident that some of the divines looked to a more literal application of the Judicial Laws than others. Thus, he takes selected quotes from some of these men out of their context in order to promote Theonomy. The argument of necessity of the Judicial Laws for the "righteousness" of a society is where they go wrong. The divines did not argue necessity, but expediency. If the Judicial Law was consistent with the natural (or general) equity of a society, then it was lawful to use. However, if the general equity of a society contradicted or overthrew a Judicial Law, then that contradiction is not unlawful - as such is founded upon "natural equity" (the Laws of Nations or Natural Law if you like). As Turretin states above:

    ...but as derived from natural and common right they can be more suitable to places, times and persons.
    Consequently, one can quote the WCF and the divines as if they were Theonomists, but they were far from the the interpretation of the Theonomist.

    Grace and Peace,

    PS: If the Theonomist position is correct, then one has to argue that any nation which does not use the Mosaic Judicials is not under the authority of Christ? A rather weak position to hold I would think.
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    All the civil laws of a society and their penal sanctions refer themselves to the Moral Law (Ten Commands) not to the Judicial Law (forensic or "case" laws if you like).
    I understand the rest of what you said, but still think Foulner did a good job. In the meanwhile, could you explain the above statement? Do you mean *all* societies, or just society x?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spear Dane View Post
    All the civil laws of a society and their penal sanctions refer themselves to the Moral Law (Ten Commands) not to the Judicial Law (forensic or "case" laws if you like).
    I understand the rest of what you said, but still think Foulner did a good job. In the meanwhile, could you explain the above statement? Do you mean *all* societies, or just society x?
    Martin is a great guy, and I like him alot despite our differences.

    I think my previous quotation from Calvin points this out:

    The law of God forbids to steal. The punishment appointed for theft in the civil polity of the Jews may be seen in Exodus 22. Very ancient laws of other nations punished theft by exacting the double of what was stolen, while subsequent laws made a distinction between theft manifest and not manifest. Other laws went the length of punishing with exile, or with branding, while others made the punishment capital. Among the Jews, the punishment of the false witness was to "do unto him as he had thought to have done with his brothers" (Deut. 19: 19.) In some countries, the punishment is infamy, in others, hanging; in others, crucifixion. All laws alike avenge murder with blood, but the kinds of death are different. In some countries, adultery was punished more severely, in others more leniently. Yet we see that amid this diversity they all tend to the same end. For they all with one mouth declare against those crimes which are condemned by the eternal law at God, viz., murder, theft, adultery, and false witness; though they agree not as to the mode of punishment. This is not necessary, nor even expedient. There may be a country which, if murder were not visited with fearful punishments, would instantly become a prey to robbery and slaughter. There may be an age requiring that the severity of punishments should be increased. If the state is in a troubled condition, those things from which disturbances usually arise must be corrected by new edicts. In time of war, civilisation would disappear amid the noise of arms, were not men overawed by an unwonted severity of punishment. In sterility, in pestilence, were not stricter discipline employed, all things would grow worse. One nation might be more prone to a particular vice, were it not most severely repressed. How malignant were it, and invidious of the public good, to be offended at this diversity, which is admirably adapted to retain the observance of the divine law.
    The idea is that a society may have a stealing problem, therefore the penalty for stealing would be more stringent in society "x" rather than in society "y."

    Quite frankly I think we should have the death penalty for pedophiles because it is such a problem in society today. Such a view is not found in the Mosaic Judicials. It is a violation of the 7th Command.

    Grace,

    -CH
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    Actually, Theonomy is the only truly Reformed view of civil ethics; this is because only Theonomy recognizes that we cannot have any knowledge of what is right and wrong regarding civil justice independent of God.
    I too, hesitate before participating in another Theonomy thread but...
    Every man and woman knows what is right and wrong by general revelation. God did not give the Mosaic civil stipulations to the world as a worldwide guide for all men at all times but he gave them to Israel as statutes regulating Israel's specific covenant relationship with him. The Reformed have historically recognized these facts and where possible have instituted those Mosaic stipulations whose general equity still applied.


    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    All other views - which imply that the state can invent its own crimes and penal sanctions - deny the sovereignty of God in civil ethics. It does not matter how many Reformers or Puritans you can quote (or mis-quote), the fact of the matter is that Theonomy is the only truly epistemologically Reformed view of judicial ethics.
    If by Theonomy you mean Bahnsen's "ethical perspective of Christian Reconstructionism" you err. Calvin, Turretin, Bullinger, the English Puritans from Perkins and Bayes through Ball and the majority of Westminster Divines differed significantly from Bahnsen on the means employed to justify present day use of Mosaic judicial stipulations. And the difference has consequences affecting whether a modern state can change penalties or decriminalize crimes without implicit or explicit authorization. Bahnsen says no, the others I mention (who are certainly Reformed say yes). And it is because the majority of Reformed folk who have studied the matter recognize these differences, that Bahnsen's Theonomy is not making greater headway in the Reformed world.


    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    For more information read:

    Greg Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, No Other Standard, By This Standard

    Gary DeMar The Debate over Christian Reconstruction and his articles in Theonomy: An Informed Response
    Having read all the books you mention, I remain unpersuaded.
    In Christ's love and service

    Mr. Tim Cunningham,
    Diploma in Christian Studies, Regent College, Vancouver
    Author: How Firm a Foundation? An Exegetical and Historical Critique of the "Ethical Perspective of [Christian] Reconstructionism" Presented in Theonomy in Christian Ethics, Wipf & Stock, 2012.
    Bachelor of Music in Trombone Performance, University of Toronto
    Member, First Baptist Church
    Vancouver, BC
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    "I once sat in darkness, and waited for the moon to rise.
    I once sat in darkness, and waited for the sun to shine.
    I once sat in darkness, when all the light I'd waited for was gone.
    Then Jesus came, and now the only true light, ever, shines in me."
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    Dear Tim

    Sorry I missed you post, but I think you have missed the point of my statement about it being epistemologically Reformed; it does not matter if Calvin, Turretin or all the Puritans were explicitly anti-Theonomic, the argument is a philosophical/theological one, not a debate about Reformed histroy. To answer your more specific objections a friend of mine e-mailed me a list of answers:

    I too, hesitate before participating in another Theonomy thread but...
    Every man and woman knows what is right and wrong by general revelation.
    Response: Does every man and woman know what is the right punishment for every criminal wrong doing? The vast differences in judicial practices around the world show that they don't. (epistemologically they do "know", just as they all "know" that God truly exists). But because of sin, they suppress that knowledge of judicial right and wrong, just as they equally suppress the knowledge of God's existence.

    So what I am saying is that epistemologically, everyone is a Theonomist (in Bahnsen's and Van Til's correct sense of the term). But the sinful nature of men supresses the Theonomy of God. Dr. Bahnsen has been reviled by his naive critics simply because he exposed the epistemological suppression of Theonomy by sinful man. Some people's crusade against Bahnsen's Theonomy is just another part of this sinful suppression of righteous knowledge that was revealed in the Bible.

    God did not give the Mosaic civil stipulations to the world as a worldwide guide for all men at all times but he gave them to Israel as statutes regulating Israel's specific covenant relationship with him. The Reformed have historically recognized these facts and where possible have instituted those Mosaic stipulations whose general equity still applied.
    God did give the Mosaic civil stipulations to the world via the Isrealites who were to be a light to the nations. (Deut 4:5-8). It was only the ceremonial laws (and their few judicial attachments) which were intended solely for "Israel's specific covenant relationship with him.".

    To suggest that civil punishments of adulterers, sodomites, idolaters, kidnappers and incestors with death, and punishing thieves with restitution was merely for "regulating Israel's specific covenant relationship with him" is false, and contrary to historic reformed thought in this area, and contrary to the covenantal hermeneutics of the Bible.

    What if one particular "general equity" reasoner happens to disagree with the conclusions of another general equity reasoner? A stalemate ensues. Whenever the continuing validity of God's law is left in the hands of men, no matter how good they think they are
    at exegesis, autonomy is the inevitable result, since the validity of God's law would then ultimately depend on the skills of a fallible exegete.

    The Reformed have historically recognized these facts and where possible have instituted those Mosaic stipulations whose general equity still applied.
    The "Reformed" of the 16th and 17th centuries (who were indisputably Theonomists in
    Bahnsen's sense) had to first *presume* the continuing validity of the general equity of the Judicials (which they did) before they could "institute" them. Hence, the historic Reformed had to be Theonomists in Bahnsen's sense of his "presumption of continuity" hermeneutic, otherwise they could have had no use forgeneral equity at all.

    And since none of them were Dispensationalists, then they followed the hermeneutics of covenant theology, which is the very same hermeneutics of Greg Bahnsen, and not surprisingly, they both came to nearly the same conclusions about civil ethics.


    If by Theonomy you mean Bahnsen's "ethical perspective of Christian Reconstructionism" you err. Calvin, Turretin, Bullinger, the English Puritans from Perkins and Bayes through Ball and the majority of Westminster Divines differed significantly from Bahnsen on the means employed to justify present day use of Mosaic judicial stipulations.
    Again, I repeat this is an epistemological question, not a historical one. Even if it can be proved that all of these men were explicitly anti-Theonomic, it does not mean that Theonomy is not epistemologically Reformed. However, here are the historical arguments:

    Greg Bahnsen revived the Theonomic teachings of Calvin [in his commentaries and sermons], Bullinger, and the EngishPuritans from Perkins and Bayes and Ball and the majority of the Westminster Divines. No one in the 1970's was writing about the puritan view of civil law, except Greg Bahnsen and Rushdoony. A fact which John Frame also noted when he said that the writings of these two men had "revived" the views of the puritans.

    There is no significant differences between Bahnsen's view and the puritan's view on the civil law of God. And infact, hardly anyone in recent times (calvinist or otherwise) really cares what the Puritans said about the civil law of God, except Bahnsen, Rushdoony, North and Gentry and Martin Foulner. Not even Sinclair Ferguson really cares except as a polemic to try and undermine Bahnsen's "Theonomy in Christian Ethics", a book which remains unrefuted to this day.

    And the difference has consequences affecting whether a modern state can change penalties or decriminalize crimes without implicit or explicit authorization. Bahnsen says no, the others I mention (who are certainly Reformed say yes). And it is because the majority of Reformed folk who have studied the matter recognize these differences, that Bahnsen's Theonomy is not making greater headway in the Reformed world.
    Since there are no significant "differences" between Bahnsen and the Puritans [in terms of the abiding validity of penal sanctions], then this point is moot. If anyone thinks that something better than the Bible can be used to "change penalties" or "decriminalize crimes", then he is really promoting *autonomy in Christian ethics*.

    But for Theonomists, we have no objection to the Puritan view of Civil law. And certainly Greg Bahnsen had no general objection to the puritan view of civil law, and infact, he had enthusiastically endorsed their view.

    As for the "majority of [modern] Reformed folk who have studied the matter", they have not been successful in refuting Bahnsen's Theonomy, even after 30 years. The Westminster Seminary book Symposium in 1990 was a major failure as a "reformed critique".

    Furthermore, the majority of modern "Reformed folk" have exposed themselves as Political pluralists and natural law advocates and have little interest in puritan views of civil law application.

    Also, as for the argument about pedophiles, this is dealt with in Biblical law as it would either be a hetrosexual rape (requiring compensation) or a homosexual rape (requiring death).
    Daniel
    RPCI
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    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    Dear Tim

    Sorry I missed you post, but I think you have missed the point of my statement about it being epistemologically Reformed; it does not matter if Calvin, Turretin or all the Puritans were explicitly anti-Theonomic, the argument is a philosophical/theological one, not a debate about Reformed history.
    Actually I have not missed that point. The Reformers and the Puritans used a different philosophical and theological justification for instituting particular Mosaic judicials than did Bahnsen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    To answer your more specific objections a friend of mine e-mailed me a list of answers:
    I believe your friend was Mr. Colin Tayler, with whom I have corresponded extensively on these matters as he has posted the arguments below on another board as well. His points will be marked Quote. QuoteTim: will mark where he cites me.

    Tim: Every man and woman knows what is right and wrong by general revelation.
    Does every man and woman know what is the right punishment for every criminal wrong doing? The vast differences in judicial practices around the world show that they don't. (epistemologically they do "know", just as they all "know" that God truly exists). But because of sin, they suppress that knowledge of judicial right and wrong, just as they equally suppress the knowledge of God's existence.
    Mr. Tayler has just contradicted himself. If men do know that God exists, their pretence that they don't is unconvincing. So if there is a single punishment for a crime that is justly applicable to all situations, men do know it despite their unconvincing protests.

    "So what I am saying is that epistemologically, everyone is a Theonomist (in Bahnsen's and Van Til's correct sense of the term)."
    Everybody is a theonomist in Van Til's sense of the term and in the sense in which Bahnsen usually used in his introduction to "Theonomy in Christian Ethics" i.e. one whose source of ethics is God. But not everybody is a Theonomist in the sense of holding to the "ethical perspective of Christian Reconstructionism." Let us not equivocate over the different meanings of this word.

    But the sinful nature of men supresses the Theonomy of God. Dr. Bahnsen has been reviled by his naive critics simply because he exposed the epistemological suppression of Theonomy by sinful man. Some people's crusade against Bahnsen's Theonomy is just another part of this sinful suppression of righteous knowledge that was revealed in the Bible.
    Not so. Dr. Bahnsen made errors of exegesis, historical fact and logical reasoning. Had those errors not been made, the claim that any criticisms of him are sinful suppression of Biblical truth might be just. Given that in my book, How Firm A Foundation", I demonstrate that Bahnsen made the errors I claim he made, and that to date Mr. Tayler has yet to refute the demonstrations (not even attempting to refute some of the principle criticisms) despite having access to the draft of my book, his claim with its implied innuendo against me is a violation of C. S. Lewis's dictum that one must show THAT a man is wrong before we talk about why he is wrong. (C. S. Lewis, "Bulverism" in God in The Dock.)

    Tim: God did not give the Mosaic civil stipulations to the world as a worldwide guide for all men at all times but he gave them to Israel as statutes regulating Israel's specific covenant relationship with him. The Reformed have historically recognized these facts and where possible have instituted those Mosaic stipulations whose general equity still applied.
    Had I known Mr. Tayler was reading this board, I would have phrased the point differently. I would have said "God did not give the Mosaic civil stipulations to a worldwide audience with their applicability assigned to all men at all times. Instead they were given to Israel as some of the statutes regulating Israel's specific covenant relationship with him." That was indeed the context in which they were originally given and it is indisputable that the Reformed have recognized this.

    God did give the Mosaic civil stipulations to the world via the Isrealites who were to be a light to the nations. (Deut 4:5-8).
    And I have never disputed that the civil laws contain wisdom for the nations. The essential difference between myself and many other theonomists on one hand and Theonomists such as Bahnsen on the other is over the hermeneutic we use to justify applying a given Mosaic stipulation today to a covenantal context different from that to which it was originally given.

    It was only the ceremonial laws (and their few judicial attachments) which were intended solely for "Israel's specific covenant relationship with him."
    To suggest that civil punishments of adulterers, sodomites, idolaters, kidnappers and incestors with death, and punishing thieves with restitution was merely for "regulating Israel's specific covenant relationship with him" is false, and contrary to historic reformed thought in this area, and contrary to the covenantal hermeneutics of the Bible.
    Yet the Reformed have historically recognized that God gave to Israel, "as a body politic sundry judicial laws," also recognizing that those laws "expired together with the state of that people..." Yet like the historic Reformed, I do not falsely conclude from the above that any or all of those punishments must not be instituted by modern states as Mr. Tayler implies. Nor did I use the word "merely". So he is attacking a straw man here. Rather, with the WCF, I recognize that any given Mosaic stipulation may remain just today if its "general equity may require." (WCF 19:4)

    What if one particular "general equity" reasoner happens to disagree with the conclusions of another general equity reasoner? A stalemate ensues. Whenever the continuing validity of God's law is left in the hands of men, no matter how good they think they areat exegesis, autonomy is the inevitable result, since the validity of God's law would then ultimately depend on the skills of a fallible exegete.
    Although Scripture tells us everything we need to know for salvation it does not tell us everything we would like to know about everything else. Scripture tells us everything we need for training in righteouness, but if all of us obeyed what it taught us about training in righteousness, there would be no need for any judicial laws. The simple fact of the matter is that God has chosen not to directly regulate any civil state outside of OT Israel and he was not obligated to tell such states how they should frame their judicial stipulations. It is certain we may not justify contemporary application of the Mosaic judicials because they are covenant stipulations because a) that covenant was never exteded to Gentiles b) that covenant has been superseded and c) if held covenantally, we are in the heresy of Galatianism. So we need some other hermeneutical principle to govern how we apply them today to a different context from which they were given.
    And as in all cases where we take Scripture addressed to one context and apply it to another, we must carefully construct our applications according to good hermeneutics. And whenever hermenetics enters the picture, disagreement follows. So disageement on this point is inevitable, and permitted by God and erring here is not automatic damnation.

    The "Reformed" of the 16th and 17th centuries (who were indisputably Theonomists in Bahnsen's sense)
    The Reformers, Puritans and Westminster divines were overwhelmingly not Theonomists in Bahnsen's sense
    Proof: Bahnsen's hermeneutic:
    All Mosaic stipulations must be enforced unless the Lawgiver implicitly or explicitly alters them.
    Consequence
    No Mosaic crime may be decriminalized by a state, nor may a Mosaic punishment be changed from its original equity without authorization to do so.

    The Reformed Practice
    I have shown in "How Firm a Foundation" that Calvin, Perkins, Bayes and Gillespie altered Mosaic punishments without authorization. Since Bahnsen's hermeneutic forbids such alteration...
    Consequence
    ...these men did not follow Bahnsen's hermeneutic and thus could not have been Theonomists in Bahnsen's sense of the word.

    [The Westminster Divines] had to first *presume* the continuing validity of the general equity of the Judicials (which they did) before they could "institute" them. Hence, the historic Reformed had to be Theonomists in Bahnsen's sense of his "presumption of continuity" hermeneutic, otherwise they could have had no use forgeneral equity at all.
    This statement contains a logical error. The Divines did not presume the continuing validity of all the judicials. What they presumed was the possibility that any of the judicials might continue to be valid if its general equity still applied. To put it another way, the divines postulated that stealing a cow might possibly deserve the same punishment in 17th century England that it got in Israel. To test that postulate they provided a test: did general equity still apply?

    And since none of them were Dispensationalists, then they followed the hermeneutics of covenant theology, which is the very same hermeneutics of Greg Bahnsen, and not surprisingly, they both came to nearly the same conclusions about civil ethics.
    Unfortunately, Mr. Tayler commits another logical error; this time, the false dilemma. He has been previously and repeatedly informed that at least two major covenant theologians of the period John Ball and Herman Witsius, disagree from Bahnsen on the two key points. Unlike Bahnsen they limit the extent of the moral law to the decalogue specifically, and they recognize that the term judicial laws includes all of what Bahnsen would later describe as standing laws not just some of them. So they did not follow the same hermeneutic as Bahnsen even though in many cases they reached the same conclusios as Bahnsen. Given that the two major covenant theologians of the period do not follow the same hermeneutic as Bahnsen, Mr. Tayler cannot claim that because the divines were covenant theologians they were ipso facto Theonomists in Bahnsen's sense.

    Tim: If by Theonomy you mean Bahnsen's "ethical perspective of Christian Reconstructionism" you err. Calvin, Turretin, Bullinger, the English Puritans from Perkins and Bayes through Ball and the majority of Westminster Divines differed significantly from Bahnsen on the means employed to justify present day use of Mosaic judicial stipulations.
    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    Again, I repeat this is an epistemological question, not a historical one. Even if it can be proved that all of these men were explicitly anti-Theonomic, it does not mean that Theonomy is not epistemologically Reformed.
    That Bahnsen's Theonomy will be in the same epistemological camp as the Reformed (i.e. that of theonomy in the older pre-Bahnsen sense of the word) doesn't end the debate. For it is not the only view of how to apply the civil laws that comes out of that camp. A diffent view from the same source was adopted by the Reformers/WCF.
    The question at issue in the debate is which hermeneutic is Biblical, Bahnsen's or that of the Reformers/WCF.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    However, here are the historical arguments:
    The following arguments are again supplied (I believe) by Mr. Tayler.

    Greg Bahnsen revived the Theonomic teachings of Calvin [in his commentaries and sermons], Bullinger, and the EngishPuritans from Perkins and Bayes and Ball and the majority of the Westminster Divines.
    Unfortunately the facts are against Mr. Taylor's claim. These men did not share Bahnsen's hermeneutic. Calvin and Bayes allowed for Dominically unauthorized changes in punishments, Ball unlike Bahnsen limited the moral law specifically to the decalogue. Those interested in seeing the proof of this pudding may contact me offline for an online copy of my book "How Firm a Foundation" which documents these claims.

    No one in the 1970's was writing about the puritan view of civil law, except Greg Bahnsen and Rushdoony. A fact which John Frame also noted when he said that the writings of these two men had "revived" the views of the puritans.
    In the sense that the Puritans held that the Mosaic judicials should be applied and not ignored, Frame is correct. As far as I can determine, nobody in the 70's put forward the Puritan view with any vigor. But if Frame meant that Bahnsen's hermeneutic was that of the Puritans, he was incorrect as I have shown at length. To see the proof of this point, see my paper "How Firm a Foundation" as noted above.

    There is no significant differences between Bahnsen's view and the puritan's view on the civil law of God. And infact, hardly anyone in recent times (calvinist or otherwise) really cares what the Puritans said about the civil law of God, except Bahnsen, Rushdoony, North and Gentry and Martin Foulner.
    Tim-I think there are a few more who care. I notice Mr. Taylor didn't mention Vern Poythress or James Jordan both of whom he knows hold similar views to mine. And those are only two I know about.

    Not even Sinclair Ferguson really cares except as a polemic to try and undermine Bahnsen's "Theonomy in Christian Ethics", a book which remains unrefuted to this day.
    Partial answers to "Theonomy" are extant even if they have to be looked for. And a more complete one is in the publishing process. John DeWitt, (Bahnsen's department chairman at RTS) who acted as publisher's reader for "How Firm a Foundation" has said "As I read your formidable treatise I found myself thinking, 'He is killing a gnat or a flea with a sledgehammer.' If Theonomy is still widely received and credited, then your book is much needed. I was amazed at the thoroughness with which you have done your work. You have brought together a prodigious amount of material. You have, moreover, organized it with painstaking care. For the most part your argument is clear and readily followed, at least by those who have had some introduction to the school of thought you undertook to combat. I should think also that the case you make is unanswerable."

    Tim:And the difference has consequences affecting whether a modern state can change penalties or decriminalize crimes without implicit or explicit authorization. Bahnsen says no, the others I mention (who are certainly Reformed say yes). And it is because the majority of Reformed folk who have studied the matter recognize these differences, that Bahnsen's Theonomy is not making greater headway in the Reformed world.
    Since there are no significant "differences" between Bahnsen and the Puritans [in terms of the abiding validity of penal sanctions], then this point is moot.
    Not at all. Because the Puritans did both while Bahnsen allows neither, as HFAF documents.

    If anyone thinks that something better than the Bible can be used to "change penalties" or "decriminalize crimes", then he is really promoting *autonomy in Christian ethics*.
    Straw man argument. I promote the Biblical and confessional view that if general equity still applies then a given Mosaic stipulation should be instituted.

    But for Theonomists, we have no objection to the Puritan view of Civil law. And certainly Greg Bahnsen had no general objection to the puritan view of civil law, and infact, he had enthusiastically endorsed their view.
    But since there is a difference in methodology between the 17th century men and Bahnsen he was not endorsing their view even if he thought he was. And if Theonomists call the an accurate description of Puritan view "autonomy in Christian ethics," then Theonomists should be proclaiming their objection to it, not trying to claim it as their own.

    As for the "majority of [modern] Reformed folk who have studied the matter", they have not been successful in refuting Bahnsen's Theonomy, even after 30 years. The Westminster Seminary book Symposium in 1990 was a major failure as a "reformed critique".
    Uneven yes, "major failure" not. John Frame (Machen's Warrior Children) has documented the relative unsuccess of Theonomy in winning converts among Reformed seminarians and TARC is a major reason why that is so.

    Furthermore, the majority of modern "Reformed folk" have exposed themselves as Political pluralists and natural law advocates and have little interest in puritan views of civil law application.
    Some have, but there are others who have not that Mr. Tayler doesn't mention even though he knows their stand.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    Also, as for the argument about pedophiles, this is dealt with in Biblical law as it would either be a hetrosexual rape (requiring compensation) or a homosexual rape (requiring death).
    I don't think I said anything to this specific point. And I agree that the Biblical punishment for rape is one where general equity applies.

    Daniel, if your computer can read Word documents and you want to see a copy of "How Firm A Foundation" I'd be happy to forward a copy to you if you reply via private message giving me your email address.
    Last edited by timmopussycat; 08-26-2007 at 11:12 AM.
    In Christ's love and service

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    Then Jesus came, and now the only true light, ever, shines in me."
    – John Deacon -

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    Mod. A friendly reminder that may or may not be necessary, but prudent. Please do not let the discussion at this point turn into some kind of proxy conversation with a third party, in this case Colin Taylor, who is not a member of this board. The point of citing external sources is not to create a cross board conversation. If Colin is commenting elsewhere on what is said here, take the response to that site.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NaphtaliPress View Post
    Mod. A friendly reminder that may or may not be necessary, but prudent. Please do not let the discussion at this point turn into some kind of proxy conversation with a third party, in this case Colin Taylor, who is not a member of this board. The point of citing external sources is not to create a cross board conversation. If Colin is commenting elsewhere on what is said here, take the response to that site.
    I was responding to the points Mr. Ritchie had posted here, even though I suspected they were authored by Mr. Tayler. Query: if Mr. Ritchie posts further replies here that appear to be from Mr. Tayler should I identify the possible source when I reply to Mr. Ritchie's posts?
    In Christ's love and service

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    Just treat them as Daniel's argument. If you want to say, that is just like some other person's argument that is fine, but I didn't want this to turn into engaging Colin by proxy through Daniel.
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    The disputes between Tim and Mr Tayler can be carried on elsewhere; I put them up but Colin can defend them at length in another context. In hindsight I regret putting them on as it has caused confusion, and will not do so again.

    As for epistemology:

    Actually I have not missed that point. The Reformers and the Puritans used a different philosophical and theological justification for instituting particular Mosaic judicials than did Bahnsen.
    Tim, I am afraid that you have completely missed the point; you have not dealt with the sovereignty of God and civil law. Theonomy is the only position that consistently holds that God and His law-word is sovereign in civil law. Hiding behind a few quotes or mis-quotes from the Reformers or Puritans does not alter this fact.

    Moreover, this thread started as discussion over whether or not Richard was a Theonomist, not to debate the issue. It seems that certain PB members are determined to hijack every thread where Theonomy is mentioned rather than sticking to the topic at hand (this was done on my WCF vs Blind WCF following thread). Thus out of respect for Richard - and the subject he wanted to discuss - I will withdraw from this thread.

    We have established that Richard is a Theonomist; if we want to debate Theonomy further can that not be done on existing threads? Obviously it is the moderators decision to close a thread; but I notice a pattern emerging that is not helpful to Christian discussion.

    If someone started a thread asking whether or not they were a Baptist, I think it would be inappropriate to then use this as a pretext for pointing out to them the error of their ways.
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    The Sovereignty of God and Civil Law

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    As for epistemology:

    Actually I have not missed that point. The Reformers and the Puritans used a different philosophical and theological justification for instituting particular Mosaic judicials than did Bahnsen.
    Tim, I am afraid that you have completely missed the point; you have not dealt with the sovereignty of God and civil law. Theonomy is the only position that consistently holds that God and His law-word is sovereign in civil law. Hiding behind a few quotes or mis-quotes from the Reformers or Puritans does not alter this fact.
    Daniel, Theonomy is not the only position that consistently holds that God and His law-word is sovereign in civil law. The Reformers, Puritans, WCF men and myself all hold that God and his word is sovereign in civil law, but we do not follow Bahnsen's hermeneutic for applying God's word to this age. And you should not call a quotation a misquotation unless you go on to demonstrate that it is one.
    In Christ's love and service

    Mr. Tim Cunningham,
    Diploma in Christian Studies, Regent College, Vancouver
    Author: How Firm a Foundation? An Exegetical and Historical Critique of the "Ethical Perspective of [Christian] Reconstructionism" Presented in Theonomy in Christian Ethics, Wipf & Stock, 2012.
    Bachelor of Music in Trombone Performance, University of Toronto
    Member, First Baptist Church
    Vancouver, BC
    ------------
    "I once sat in darkness, and waited for the moon to rise.
    I once sat in darkness, and waited for the sun to shine.
    I once sat in darkness, when all the light I'd waited for was gone.
    Then Jesus came, and now the only true light, ever, shines in me."
    – John Deacon -

  34. #34
    Reformed Covenanter's Avatar
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    Daniel, Theonomy is not the only position that consistently holds that God and His law-word is sovereign in civil law.
    No, Theonomy is the only position that consistently holds that God is the only Lawgiver to the state. Other positions - by rejecting Biblical penal sanctions - deny this. All other views deny that God ALONE has the sovereign right to determine what constitutes crime and what constitutes a just penal sanction. Others may tip their hats to the sovereignty of God in civil affairs, but they deny it by their rejection of Biblical law.

    And you should not call a quotation a misquotation unless you go on to demonstrate that it is one.
    The point of that statement was that the issue is NOT a historical one. Now is not the place to determine whether or not something is a quote or mis-quote as their are other threads in which this may be done.

    May I recommend Tim that you devote more of your time to refuting the disastrous ethics of humanism, rather than waging war on those who wish to uphold the holy laws of God. This would be a much more profitable use of your time. If you don't agree with me, then I have to respect you as a brother in the Lord, but things need to be kept in proportion: there are bigger battles to fight.
    Daniel
    RPCI
    Northern Ireland
    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

  35. #35
    Blueridge Believer's Avatar
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    JEWISH DREAMS

    The hope of postmillennialism, particularly in its "Christian Reconstruction" form, is a "Jewish dream." This was the express judgement of the early Reformed creed, the Second Helvetic Confession (A.D. 1566):

    We further condemn Jewish dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgement, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth. For evangelical truth in Matt. chs. 24 and 25, and Luke, ch. 18 and the apostolic teaching in II Thess., ch. 2, and II Tim., chs. 3 and 4, present something quite different (Chap. 11, in Reformed Confessions of the 16th Century, ed. Arthur C. Cochrane, Westminster Press, 1966).
    The carnal kingdom of postmillennialism, particularly as painted by "Christian Reconstruction," is exactly the kind of Messianic kingdom dreamed and desired by the Jews in the days of Christ's earthly ministry. This was what the Jews of John 6 wanted: Christ as the king of an earthly kingdom and a temporal future bright with the prospect of political power and earthly glory.
    The damning judgement upon postmillennialism by the Second Helvetic Confession reflected the theology of the early Reformers, Luther and Calvin, as well as Bullinger, author of the creed. More importantly, it is the stand of the confessions that bind Reformed and Presbyterian churches and Christians today.

    PROF. ENGLESMA
    Psa 55:16 As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me.
    Psa 55:17 Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
    James Farley
    Husband of Melissa and father of Ann.
    Grandfather to Owen and Claire
    Member and precentor of Psalms at Grace Reformed Presbyterian, Dublin Va.

  36. #36
    Baroque Norseman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blueridge Baptist View Post
    JEWISH DREAMS

    The hope of postmillennialism, particularly in its "Christian Reconstruction" form, is a "Jewish dream." This was the express judgement of the early Reformed creed, the Second Helvetic Confession (A.D. 1566):

    We further condemn Jewish dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgement, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth. For evangelical truth in Matt. chs. 24 and 25, and Luke, ch. 18 and the apostolic teaching in II Thess., ch. 2, and II Tim., chs. 3 and 4, present something quite different (Chap. 11, in Reformed Confessions of the 16th Century, ed. Arthur C. Cochrane, Westminster Press, 1966).
    The carnal kingdom of postmillennialism, particularly as painted by "Christian Reconstruction," is exactly the kind of Messianic kingdom dreamed and desired by the Jews in the days of Christ's earthly ministry. This was what the Jews of John 6 wanted: Christ as the king of an earthly kingdom and a temporal future bright with the prospect of political power and earthly glory.
    The damning judgement upon postmillennialism by the Second Helvetic Confession reflected the theology of the early Reformers, Luther and Calvin, as well as Bullinger, author of the creed. More importantly, it is the stand of the confessions that bind Reformed and Presbyterian churches and Christians today.

    PROF. ENGLESMA
    I am sorry. I cannot take anything written by Engelsma seriously. His "resurrection of the soul" view is heterodox. He has slandered theonomists for a decade now.

    The quotation from the Second Helvetic COnfession is a joke and out of context (I am not saying the confession is a joke, just using it to tar theonomists is way below the belt and unworthy of rebuttal).

    And I am getting really tired of this "copy/paste" style of argumentation. My next post will be a mile-long thread refuting Engelsma's strawmen.
    Jacob
    M.A., Louisiana College
    Studied at RTS Jackson
    ARP, Louisiana

    2Kingdomz4Life

    My blog: Extra Nos

  37. #37
    Blueridge Believer's Avatar
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    NO offense meant brother. Just thought I'd add a link to another point of view.
    Psa 55:16 As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me.
    Psa 55:17 Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
    James Farley
    Husband of Melissa and father of Ann.
    Grandfather to Owen and Claire
    Member and precentor of Psalms at Grace Reformed Presbyterian, Dublin Va.

  38. #38
    Baroque Norseman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blueridge Baptist View Post
    NO offense meant brother. Just thought I'd add a link to another point of view.
    Engelsma's attacks represent sloppy scholarship that really isn't worthy of refutation. But since people take him seriously, I will respond.

    The first chapter, “A hope of the saints,” begins what quickly becomes recognizable as an unusual approach to a familiar subject, with a specific end in mind. The hope that Engelsma discusses is not the resurrection of the dead and eternal glory, which he is right to call the hope of the saints. Rather, this chapter is about a lesser hope, namely “the hope of conscious life and glory with Christ in heaven at the moment of death.” He tells us, “I believe in the resurrection of the soul.” At this point the reader will be forgiven for finding such language unfamiliar – the resurrection of the soul? Engelsma says that when the soul leaves the body and goes to heaven, this is a resurrection. As it turns out later in the book, the only reason such a strange terminology is used here is to lay the foundation for interpreting Revelation 20 by saying that the “first resurrection” is the resurrection of the soul into heaven.


    But this seems, on the surface at least, to militate against ordinary usage of the term “resurrection.” Resurrection, one would think, involves a dead thing coming to life. But in the case of the soul going to heaven, the Reformed confessions to which Engelsma repeatedly refers are absolutely clear: this is not resurrection at all. In the Westminster confession of faith chapter four paragraph two we read that God endowed human beings with “immortal souls,” which clearly indicates that they never die at all. In 22:1 of that same confession, we read of the righteous and the wicked alike, “The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption: but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them,” the righteous going to heaven and the wicked going to hell. In fact, Prof. Engelsma fails to make his case even from the Reformed confession that he cites most often, the Heidelberg Catechism, question fifty seven: “my soul after this life shall be immediately taken up to Christ its head.” But this says nothing about resurrection. Engelsma wants to avoid saying that the soul survives death because it is immortal, insisting that on the contrary “the explanation of the Christian’s being with Christ in his or her soul immediately upon dying is resurrection.” But in saying this he rejects the Reformed tradition he so often lays claim to by citing the confessions. He also, I daresay, violates common sense. If one believes, as Engelsma does, that the soul of the believer goes to be with Christ upon death, it can only be because resurrection has not yet taken place, and hence the saint must wait patiently.

    Engelsma rejects the teaching of the Reformed Confessions further when he claims that it is proof that the everlasting future life has nothing to do with the soul’s immortality to point out that the damned will go to hell and suffer forever, even though they are not immortal. But the Belgic Confession says precisely the opposite, saying that the lost “shall be made immortal but only to be tormented in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” I say this not to defend the Reformed Confessions, but only to point out that Engelsma seems to be having it both ways, in many places insisting that nobody who differs from them should minister in Reformed Churches, but rejecting their teaching outright when it comes into conflict with his own.
    In short, Engelsma must give up his loyalty to the Reformed confession, or he must give up his view of the first resurrection. This is because the Reformed confessions teach that the soul is immortal and never dies (hence ruling out the need for resurrection of the soul). Now, it may be that he would be willing to reject the Reformed confessions, but this means he is then put in the position of having to show that Scripture teaches that when the body dies, an invisible event occurs that can be called resurrection (and of course he cannot appeal to Revelation 20 at this point, since that would be begging the question). He would have a much easier task if he instead identified our spiritual resurrection in the same way the Apostle Paul did, when he declared in Ephesians 2 that “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Not only would this not conflict with his view of the thousand year reign as spiritual in nature, but it would be much more defensible on biblical grounds – and it would also not bring him into conflict with the Reformed confessions he cherishes so much.

    Unfortunately Engelsma does not end the chapter there. He goes on (pp 4-5) as though he were about to seriously tackle the claim that the immorality of the soul is an intrusion of Greek pagan views into Christianity (even though Engelsma himself has said, in conflict with the Reformed confessions, that the departure of the soul from the body has nothing to do with the soul being immortal). But instead of doing so, he decides to identify a learning institution that was at one time associated with a person who made this accusation (namely the conservative Herman Dooyewerd), and point out that another person (a theological liberal) who now works there a century later has endorsed a book written by a homosexual, as though this discredits the view expressed a hundred years ago by a different person! Tactics like these are something to be ashamed of, rather than published.
    Jacob
    M.A., Louisiana College
    Studied at RTS Jackson
    ARP, Louisiana

    2Kingdomz4Life

    My blog: Extra Nos

  39. #39
    Baroque Norseman's Avatar
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    These quotes are from a book review of his book on Christ's Neo-Platonic Kingdom

    Throughout the book Prof. Engelsma frequently misrepresents the views of the postmillennial theologians he disagrees with. For example, in a chapter entitled “Jewish dreams,” he calls the postmillennial vision a “carnal” kingdom, “exactly the kind of Messianic kingdom dreamed and desired by the Jews n the days of Christ’s kingdom” [emphasis added], and he adds that postmillennialists want “Christ as the king of an earthly kingdom and … political power and earthly glory” (p 8). He goes so far as to begin slinging mud by saying that for any postmillennial brother in Christ, “Christ’s coming is not his hope, the carnal kingdom is” (p 11). It is, in fact, difficult to count the number of times Engelsma uses the term “carnal kingdom” in his book to describe the postmillennial view of the kingdom of God.
    Engelsma is either badly confused or blatantly dishonest. It is possible that he is simply muddling up different eschatologies here, since what he is describing is not postmillennialism, but rather a kind of premillennialism known as dispensationalism, where the kingdom of God is literally an earthly kingdom with Christ in the throne here on earth ruling over a political body from Jerusalem. But no postmillennialist has ever asserted any such thing, and it is hardly likely, given the number of postmil authors that Engelsma claims to have read, that he could have made the mistake honestly. It is worthy of note that Engelsma sees no need to actually quote any postmillennial author to substantiate his claim. If he had attempted to do so, perhaps he would have discovered that he was attacking a straw man all along. Such sloppy scholarship (assuming that this is not dishonesty) is inexcusable. Engelsma even goes so far as to respond to a letter from postmillennialist Gary DeMar and directly state that Gary DeMar believes that the kingdom of God on earth is “political,” in spite of the fact that he quoted the whole letter in the same chapter, enabling the reader to see that DeMar said no such thing.
    Postmillennialists clearly say that Christ’s kingdom is not an earthly kingdom but a spiritual kingdom. It is not a worldly political body but rather Christ reigns from heaven over his church on earth. This is everywhere affirmed by all the postmillennialist writers of every stripe. Lorraine Boettner stated it clearly, “in short, postmillennialists set forth a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men.”3 No postmil could agree more heartily. The issue is whether or not an increase in the world of those who believe in Christ will make any worldly difference at all. If faith translates into action (as it surely must), then no political kingdom of Christ would be necessary, provided those who are members of His spiritual kingdom (including politicians, lawmakers, clergy, butchers, bakers, accountants and so forth) act accordingly. Gentry spells that matter out in a way that clearly illustrates how false and misleading Engelsma’s comments are, when he describes the postmillennial view of God’s kingdom:

    [T]he fundamental nature of that kingdom is essentially redemptive and spiritual rather than political and corporeal. Although it has implications for the political realm, postmillennialism is not essentially political, competing with temporal nations for governmental rule. Christ rules His kingdom spiritually in and through His people in the world (representation), as well as by His universal providence.4
    In addition to so obviously misrepresenting his theological opponents, Engelsma in this chapter stoops to almost unbelievable tactics when he makes the claim that postmillennialism “in some quarters” leads to social passivity. For example, he says, some in the British Isles are so sure that the government will become more godly when society becomes more godly that they are happy to let the state educate their children instead of establishing Christian schools. Just imagine how this argument works in reverse! Amillennialists like Engelsma, who are so certain that things are doomed to get worse, the Gospel is doomed to fail to transform society and our social task is ultimately a futile one, would have the reader think that the alternative view leads to social passivity. It is no accident that the bulk of early Christian homeschooling material in the United States was written by reconstructionists, and virtually all those who hold to Reconstructionist ethics are themselves defenders and practitioners of homeschooling.
    In his very next breath, Engelsma demonstrates that he has not read the work of his opponents, or that he has not read it carefully. He again makes the mistake of saying that Reconstructionists believe the kingdom of God is an earthly kingdom, and then he claims, based on no evidence at all, that they believe that the future earthly millennial kingdom is the fulfillment, the typological fulfillment, as it were, of the Old Testament nation of Israel! His response is predictable (p 12):
    The enormous, and obvious, blunder of Christian Reconstruction that results in such bondage, as well as in innumerable hefty tones of instruction in and controversy over this Reformed “utopia” – this “no-place,” this “never-never-land” – is the failure to understand that the fulfillment of Old Testament Israel is not a future, earthly Christian world power, but the church. The fulfillment of Old Testament Israel as a nation is the church – the present, spiritual church.
    The reader is left with absolutely no idea who Prof. Engelsma is referring to. This is always what postmillennialists have said. In fact it is ironic almost to the point of being hilarious (were it not so ignorant or misleading) to see a Reformed amillennialist say this about postmillennialists, given that postmillennialists (including reconstructionists) are criticized by the premillennialists precisely because they do teach that the Church is the fulfillment of the nation of Israel, whereas the premillennialists (specially dispensationalists) see the temporal political nation of Israel taking once more the role as keepers of the kingdom in the future, as an earthly kingdom of God. At least the dispensationalists understand what they are criticizing! Premillennial authors attack postmillennialism just because it does teach what Engelsma teaches about the relationship between Israel and the church, a view that dispensationalists label “replacement theology.” Engelsma could have saved time by doing a small amount of homework (although this would have robbed him of some of his more sensational remarks).

    Aggravating his errors in this chapter is the fact that there is only one kind of evidence that Engelsma offers in this chapter against postmillennial hopes. The Second Helvetic Confession, written by one Heinrich Bullinger, says that such progress will not be made on earth. Secondly, the Engelsma says that the “three forms of unity” (that is, the doctrinal basis of Reformed Churches: the Canons of Dordt, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession) condemn postmillennialism. He says that the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession both say that the kingdom of Christ is the church, which is actually something all postmillennialists accept. He adds to this the claim that the Heidelberg Catechism denies that the church will ever gain dominance in the world, but will be a persecuted church. As evidence, he makes no quote, but refers to question 52 of the catechism. For the sake of clearly exposing the quality of evidence used, let us see what this question and its answer say:
    Question 52. What comfort is it to thee that “Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead”?
    Answer: That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head I look for the very same person, who before offered himself for my sake, to the tribunal of God, and has removed all curse from me, to come as judge from heaven: who shall cast all his and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall translate me with all his chosen ones to himself, into heavenly joys and glory.
    Now that the question and answer are clearly presented to the reader instead of a mere footnote with no content, we can see that Engelsma is just wrong in thinking that the catechism teaches against postmillennialism. The question is about what comfort we receive from knowing that Christ will return. The question has nothing at all to do with whether or not the church is doomed to always remain a persecuted minority, as Engelsma suggests. If he wants us to imagine that because the person answering the question himself has “sorrows” and “persecutions,” this is supposed to indicate an entire eschatological scheme, he is attempting to build far too much on much too little. He also adds a reference to the Belgic confession, article 37, on the last judgment. But here too he is inserting teachings that simply are not there. The only plausible reference in this statement to what Engelsma has in mind is the declaration that all those who “tyrannized, oppressed, and tormented” Christians in this world will receive God’s “terrible vengeance.” But postmillennialists do not deny any such thing!
    Then comes Engelsma’s attack: “For this reason, it is unfaithfulness on the part of office bearers bound by the “Three Forms of Unity” to permit the advocacy of the postmillennial dream in the churches for which they are responsible.” But Engelsma is just wrong about what the three forms of unity teach. Moreover, Engelsma is a Protestant. The watchword of the Reformation was sola scriptura – the Scripture alone! In this chapter written to refute postmillennialism, Engelsma has not once appealed to Holy Scripture, but expects the reader to accept Heinrich Bullinger’s authority as an infallible rule of faith. It is time for Engelsma himself to come face to face with the Belgic Confession, article 7:
    Article 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture
    We believe that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it. For since the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one-- even an apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says-- ought to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God, this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects.
    Therefore we must not consider human writings-- no matter how holy their authors may have been-- equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.
    For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself.
    Postmillennialist build their case on Scripture, and plenty of it. But where is the response built upon Scripture? Apparently for Engelsma, creeds settle doctrinal matters. Well, not all the creeds. He admits that some Reformed Creeds and a great many Reformed theologians were postmillennial. For some reason, these ones do not count. Texts like Daniel 2:29ff, Isaiah 11, John 12:23 (cf. Micah 4 and Hebrews 12:22), Matthew 13:31-33, and so forth, are never dealt with at all. Apparently the words of men (very few selected men, actually) take precedence over Scripture, which the Reformed confessions regard as the very word of God, when it comes to settling theological disputes for Prof. Engelsma.

    Ok, you get the point.
    Jacob
    M.A., Louisiana College
    Studied at RTS Jackson
    ARP, Louisiana

    2Kingdomz4Life

    My blog: Extra Nos

  40. #40
    AV1611 is offline. Puritanboard Senior
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    Let us not forget that the issue of postmillennialism is not the same as the theonomic issue
    Richard
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