The Decalogue and the Civil Magistrate

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non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
Jacob quotes Bahnsen:
Governments which do not guard the majesty of GOd and his righeous law have no alternative and choice but do uphold the majesty of their own human authority. When crime is not viewed as an offense against the moral order of God, it becomes viewed as an offense against the arbitrary power of the State. If no higher law is adhered to, then the law of man is absolute; there is no logical barrier to stop such a state from becoming totalitarian.
But crime could ALSO be viewed as an offense against the general welfare of the people.

I take the view that Joe Citizen is the chief agent of law enforcement. When I see a crime being committed I call for professional assistance, as I would any other task beyond my capability such as plumbing repair or heart surgery.

The Rodney King riots demonstrated the fact that if the people begin looting, the professional police force is rendered impotent. If the entire nation engaged in civil disobedience, that disobedience would surely stand. Thus it is shown that police power only assists the needs of the people.

Bahnsen makes a false conclusion in the above quote.
 

Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
Rom 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Rom 13:2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
Rom 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
Rom 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Rom 13:5 Wherefore [ye] must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
Rom 13:6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
Rom 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute [is due]; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.


Nero was in power when Paul penned this. Was he enforcing the moral law? Did Nero have any sympathy to Christian doctrine whatsoever?
 

non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rom 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Rom 13:2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
Rom 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
Rom 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Rom 13:5 Wherefore [ye] must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
Rom 13:6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
Rom 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute [is due]; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.


Nero was in power when Paul penned this. Was he enforcing the moral law? Did Nero have any sympathy to Christian doctrine whatsoever?
Hi James,
Good to chat with you.

I'm certainly not advocating rebellion for minor things. My point is that we have power vested in the people. Police assist citizens in law enforcement, not the other way around. Real police power is mine because I am the eyes and ears of crime detection. The police are essentially powerless in the face of overwhelming numbers. They are outnumbered, what, 500 to 1?

PS I agreed with your posting on Trevor's new thread.
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
I'm interested in hearing about people's views on the civil magistrate's biblical obligation/role (or lack thereof) to enforce the Decalogue, or the moral law. I am not interested in making this thread a set of arguments for (or against) theonomy, as that is really a separate issue. Thus, I'm especially interested in hearing which view non-theonomists hold with respect to the magistrate's enforcement of the moral law, and why you biblically and confessionally hold to that view.

(The reason I have not listed sole enforcement of the first table without the second is that I have never heard anyone espouse that view.)
I would agree with the 39 Articles:

VII. Of the Old Testament.
THE Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore there are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.
 

non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
I would agree with the 39 Articles:

VII. Of the Old Testament.
THE Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore there are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.
Yes, absolutely.

But the question arises: What should NT obedience be like? Is it identical to obedience in the Mosaic context?
 

non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
For example, the Sabbath is still holy but should I respond in the letter of Moses or in the spirit of Christ?

We observe the sabbath, but not the same way as in the OT.
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
For example, the Sabbath is still holy but should I respond in the letter of Moses or in the spirit of Christ?

We observe the sabbath, but not the same way as in the OT.
Oh right...I was under the impression that the question was what was the role of the civil magistrate in enforcing the decalogue.
 

non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
Oh right...I was under the impression that the question was what was the role of the civil magistrate in enforcing the decalogue.

Wouldn't it be a thorny task today to enforce the 4th commandment in light of Col 2:16 and Romans 14:6?
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Adding to the list:

William Ames - Conscience and Cases Thereof, 1639 Book IV, Chap. 4 Of Heresy

Question 6 - Whether are Heretics to be punished by the civil Magistrate?

12. A.1. That Heretics are to be resisted by everyone that is godly, according to the calling and power which he hath received from God, it appears sufficiently from the nature of the thing: because all the godly are called to a christian warfare, and are in their stations every one to oppose themselves to the kingdom of darkness.

13. A.2. The place and office of a Magistrate requires, that he repress wicked men that trouble the Church, even with the sword, or with public and external power if there be need, Rom. 13.4, 1 Tim. 2.2.

14. A.3 If therefore Heretics be manifestly known and publicly hurful, they are to be restrained of the Magistrate by public power.

15. A.4. And if they be manifestly blasphemous, and pernacious, and stubborn in those blasphemies, may suffer capital punishment. for that Law Lev.24.15,16 although it bind not Christians as it is a Law, yet as it is a doctrine coming from God, it does belong to the direction of Christians in cases of the like nature. When therefore the glory of God, and the safty of the Church requires such a punishment, it may, and if other remedies have been used in vain, it ought to be inflicted by the Christian Magistrate.

Book V. Chap. XXV Of the Mutual obligation between Magistrates and Subjects

8.3 The chief care of the Magistrate ought to be, that he promote true Religion, and repress impiety. Isa 49.23. Psalm 2.11. Examples of this care are commended in David, Solomon, Josaphat, Hezikiah, Josiah, etc. The business of the Lord, and the business of the King, are not so disproportionate, (as you may see in the 2. Chron. 19.11) but that the care and knowledge of the things which are Gods, may well belong to the King: But they are thus truly distinguished, that in the managing of affairs the King play his part politically, and the Priest his Ecclesiastically.
 
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ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
I love it when we find the modern two-kingdom doctrine found in the puritans writings. Good job, Chris. Warms my heart that we have not strayed.

CT
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
I love it when we find the modern two-kingdom doctrine found in the puritans writings. Good job, Chris. Warms my heart that we have not strayed.

CT
I think the last answer shows at least one puritan's outworking of general equity.
 
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crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
As an aside, my goal in collating our forefathers' views regarding the magistrate and the first table is not to argue for/against theonomy but rather to establish the drift we've undergone. We always cry out to go to the sources to determine what is reformed, well I'm doing that and whether one thinks that theonomy is/isn't found there we can all rest assured that pluralism and the modern day notion of separation won't be found there. If anything it was theocratic in the sense that the Magistrate was bound to God in his duties. Both tables.

If I may humbly request not to bloat this thread by rehashing theonomy again so we can use it as a collection piece. If there is a quote such as Ames above that sparks discussion, may I suggest that someone start a new thread? :handshake: :candle:
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
How is the quote non-theonomic?
He says "it bind not Christians as it is a Law," nomos, "yet as it is a doctrine," didache. He recognises discretionary power to be exercised by the magistrate: "When therefore the glory of God, and the safty of the Church requires such a punishment." It is not legislation which must be rigidly enforced. Hence he says "it may be used," and says it only ought to be inflicted "if other remedies have been used in vain."
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
He says "it bind not Christians as it is a Law," nomos, "yet as it is a doctrine," didache. He recognises discretionary power to be exercised by the magistrate: "When therefore the glory of God, and the safty of the Church requires such a punishment." It is not legislation which must be rigidly enforced. Hence he says "it may be used," and says it only ought to be inflicted "if other remedies have been used in vain."
I sincerely believe that you overly limit the flexibility in Theonomy, but I won't fight you. I only have a limited number of arrows and hours in the day, and they will not be used on a fellow two-tabler. :handshake:

CT
 
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