A Christ-centered World and Life
Introduction and editorial by Rev. Paul Michael Raymond
Theonomy is a composite
Greek word which simply means God's Law. [Theos = God & Nomos =
Law]. While the word itself may have a simple meaning, its implications
are not at all simple.
The Theonomic Creed holds
to the doctrine that God's Law is Supreme, universal, and comprehensive,
and that all flesh is bound to obey it. Theonomy insists that all human
action, law and public policy be entirely, and comprehensively subject
to the Divine Standard of the Holy Scriptures. In regard to moral Law
and legislation, the question is not "law or no law" but
rather who's law? To ask that question is to answer it. Mankind will
either follow God's Law or a law of his own making. The issue is one of
Theonomy or autonomy - God's Law or self-law.
While it is true that no
son of Adam can perfectly keep the Holy Law of God, they
are commissioned and commanded to totally keep it, in
every area and aspect of life. This obligation is given to everyone
without exception. All those who are created in the image of God are
entirely held accountable and responsible to obey. The fact that by
nature they will not, nor cannot obey does not exempt them from adhering
to the Divine Commandments.
On the other hand, those
who are regenerated by the Last Adam, the Lord Christ, are empowered by
the Holy Spirit, so as to appropriately exercise the commission of
obedience to the Law of God totally. Yet, even the Sons of God, cannot
keep the Law perfectly. They do however, strive to keep it totally.
Every Christian a
Every true Christian is a
Theonomist. Mankind is divided into two distinct groups when it comes to
God's Law. They are either in support of God's Law, or they are in
rebellion against God's Law. They are either pro-Law or anti-Law, i.e.
pro-nomos, or anti-nomos. Those who are against God's Law
are called anti-nomians. (Lit. against God's Law)
Many are they which
profess to be Christian, yet, in reality are in stark rebellion against
the Law of God. By perversely using Scripture, these claim liberty from
the Law, sighting texts such as Romans 6:14.
ye are not under the Law but under Grace." Romans 6:14
Where the Apostle declares
that the saints are free from the condemning power of the
law's demands, antinomians read it as being free from obeying the
Law's perfect standard of obedience. Consequently they become a law unto
themselves, and practice a form of godliness without the power of God's
Lawful standard. Antinomians cannot reconcile the words of the Psalmist
with their erroneous doctrine.
how love I Thy Law..." Psalm 119
Antinomians do not love
the Law, but rather seek to change the Law in order to fit their
Contrary to the lawless,
the Theonomist does not find the moral, Judicial Law of God a burden.
The Law to him is a delight and an empowering tool for personal and
cultural dominion. Theonomists love the Law because they love the
Lawgiver. They obey out of love and childlike faith.
The Theonomic approach to
the Christian life is the only approach. "If ye love me,
keep my commandments." No clearer principle can be set forth than
this. Love and careful obedience are yoked together.
The Success of the
Reformation based upon Theonomy
The reason behind the
success of the 16th Century European Reformation can be directly traced
back the principles of Theonomy. This is especially evident in the
Scottish arena. John Knox is considered by many to be the most
Biblically consistent and theologically thorough of all the great
reformers. His posture on the Regulative Principle of Worship and Life
sparked a great awakening and revival among the reformers which followed
through to many generations.
Of all the reformers, Knox
remains the most ardently loved and fiercely hated. No Reformational
leader saw so clearly the need to apply the Law of God totally to every
aspect of life - politically, socially, economically, ecclesiastically,
familiarly (i.e. to the family), and personally, than Knox.
Knox, along with many of
the other great Reformers of his day saw the Old Testament as a book of
Case-Study Laws. These were actual, historical cases of legal precedence
which were to be used as a source-book of law and policy. These laws
also were to be binding upon all nations to the same extent as they were
binding upon Israel and Judah. This binding power of God's Law was
simply due to the fact that, like God Himself, so too were His Laws
immutable and universal to all nations and peoples, regardless of
geographical location or religious affiliation.
Although much of the
Theonomic emphasis is upon the role of the Civil governing authorities,
it is a complete doctrine which intervenes into all areas of life.
Theonomic principles are the principles of Law and Ethics for the home
and the family as much as it is the standard for the Government, not to
mention the church and the individual.
Theonomy is not legalism -
it is obedience. It is an obedience which has no boundaries, that is to
say, obedience is to be practiced everyday in every area of life's
realms without exception, and without delay.
Resources and Further
Theonomy and Christian
Ethics by Greg Bahnsen
The Institutes of Biblical Law I II III by R.J. Rushdoony
No Other Standard by Greg Bahnsen
By This Standard by Greg Bahnsen
The Grace of the Law by E. Kevan
Clark's Biblical Law by H.B. Clark 1943
Knox's Appellation to the Civil Magistrates by John Knox
The Reformation in Scotland By John Knox
Puritan Political Ideas by E. Morgan
The Sinai Strategy by Gary North
The Reconstruction of the Church by J. Jordan
Claims to Dominion by James Willson 1832
Civil Government by James Willson 1853
The Following essay by W.O.
Einwechter sets forth the Theonomic View of Civil Law and the Civil
For more information on Theonomy, Law and Public Government Policy
request James Willson's Civil Government: An Exposition of Romans
13 and/or Willson's Prince Messiah's Claims to
Dominion over All Governments, available through the Institute
for Theonomic Reformation.
The Christian Statesman
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15221
A Theonomic View of Civil Law
by William O. Einwechter
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the author's book,
Ethics and God's Law: An Introduction to Theonomy, published by
Preston/Speed Publications, RR#4 Box 705, Mill Hall, PA 17751. Copyright
1995 William O. Einwechter.
One of the most important distinctives of Theonomy is its view on civil
law and the civil magistrate. Theonomy teaches that God's law as
revealed in Scripture sets the moral standard for all of life, including
the social and political. Theonomy contends that the law of God ought to
form the basis for all civil law, and that the civil magistrate is a
servant of God who is responsible to uphold all aspects of the moral law
that directly relate to the social order, public morality, and civil
justice. Autonomy in socio-political ethics is just as offensive to God
as autonomy in personal ethics. The discussion that follows will present
some of the basic features of the Theonomic approach to civil law.
God, who is King over all the earth (Ps. 47:2, 7-8), has established
three separate institutions for our good and for the ordering of human
society. These institutions are: the family (Gen. 2:24; Col. 3:18-21),
the church (Gen. 12:1-3; Eph. 1:22-23; 2:19-22), and the state (Gen.
9:5; Rom. 13:1-7). Each has been granted authority from God for the
carrying out of their respective commissions. Now, when God gives
authority to men, He always gives clear instructions on the purpose,
limits, and use of that authority. The Word of God reveals these
necessary instructions (torah, or laws) so that the family, the church,
and the state will be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim.
3:16-17). This all seems reasonably clear. Yet, many Christians who
believe that Scripture ought to establish the laws of conduct for the
family and church, reject out of hand the teaching of Theonomy that the
state is also bound to adhere to biblical law as the standard for all
its activities and legislation. Theonomists avoid such a glaring
inconsistency and properly maintain that each institution established by
God is bound to the authority of the law of God revealed in Scripture.
The Theonomic view on civil law is centered on the biblical teaching
concerning the state and the civil magistrate:
God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil
magistrates to be under him, over the people, for his own glory and the
public good; and to this end hath armed them with the power of the
sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that do good, and for
the punishment of evil doers.1
The Bible distinctly teaches that the civil magistrate receives his
authority from God and that he is to function as God's minister
(servant). That this is the case is seen by direct scriptural statements
(Rom. 13:4, 6; Isa. 43:28); by the fact that God is the one who places
him into authority (Dan. 4:25, 32, 34-37; Jn. 19:11; Rom. 13:1; 1 Pe.
2:14); by the fact that all those who rule over men are commanded to
rule in the fear of God (2 Sam. 23:3; 2 Chron. 19:6-7); by the fact that
all the kings and judges of the earth are commanded to serve the Lord
and pay homage to His Son (Ps. 2:10-12); and by the fact that Jesus
Christ, the risen and ascended Lord, is now King of kings and Lord of
lords with sovereign authority over all the nations (Ps. 2:1-12;
110:1-7; Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 1:5; 17:14; 19:16).
Furthermore, the Bible leaves no doubt concerning the purpose of the
state and the function of the civil magistrate. The state is appointed
by God to execute His wrath upon evil doers, and to praise and defend
those who walk in righteousness (Rom. 13:1-6; Prov. 17:5). This means
that the state has been commissioned by God to administer justice in
society (Deut. 1:16-17; 16:18). To the state belongs the power of
distributive justice which consists in giving to every man that judgment
and equity, protection or punishment that the law requires. Therefore,
it is evident that the civil magistrate is appointed to enforce the law.
But whose law is the magistrate to enact and enforce upon those under
his jurisdiction?2 Is not the biblical answer to this question clear? If
the magistrate is God's servant appointed to carry out God's vengeance
on evil doers, then it must be God's law that the magistrate is to
administer and enforce!3
The civil magistrate is required to know the law of God and always keep
the Scripture before him so that he will rule in the fear of God and
judge according to the righteous standard of God's law (Deut. 17:18-20;
2 Chron. 19:6-7). No other standard is acceptable! It is through the
wisdom revealed in God's Word that the ruler and judge are enabled to
"decree justice" (Prov. 8:15-17). But when the magistrate
forgets the law of God, judgment is perverted (Prov. 31:4-5). The
magistrate is called to emulate God's righteous throne by ruling
according to God's righteous law (Ps. 47:8; 97:2; Prov. 16:12; 20:8;
25:5). The Scripture praises the ruler who upholds God's law and
properly protects the righteous and punishes the wicked (Prov. 21:3;
29:2, 4, 14), but "he that justifieth the wicked, and he that
condemneth the just, even they both are an abomination to the Lord"
(Prov. 17:15). The Bible condemns "the throne of iniquity" as
a civil administration "which frames mischief by a law"
because such laws assail the righteous and condemn innocent blood (Ps.
94:20-21). The Lord says, "Woe unto them that decree unrighteous
decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed" (Isa.
10:1), and "Woe unto them...which justify the wicked for reward,
and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him" (Isa.
Thus it is evident, there can be no neutrality in civil law. A
magistrate will either forsake God's law and praise the wicked, or he
will keep God's law and contend with them (Prov. 28:4). A civil
administration will either rule according to God's law (theonomy) and be
a "throne of righteousness," or it will reject God's law and
rule according to man's law (autonomy) and be a "throne of
Having commissioned civil government to rule according to His law and
establish justice in the land, the Lord arms the state with the power of
the sword (Gen. 9:5-6; Rom. 13:3-4). The power of the sword is the
authority to inflict punishment on those who break the law. It is this
power to enforce the law by means of punishment which is a terror to the
wicked and thus a restraining force upon evil in society (Deut. 19:20;
21:21; Prov. 21:11; Ecc. 8:11). God grants the state the right to
require the payment of damages or restitution (Ex. 21:18-19, 22; 22:1,
8-9), to inflict corporal punishment (Deut. 25:1-3, 12; Prov. 19:29;
20:30; 26:3), and to execute those who are worthy of death (Ex.
21:12-17; Deut. 19:12-13, 16-21). 4 Now the obvious and pertinent
question is this: when should the state use this power of the sword?
What actions of men ought the state to punish, and how ought these
actions (crimes) be punished? These are the central questions of
penology. Every system of ethics must definitively address these issues.
By what standard shall the state define crime and the just punishment
for particular crimes? Does the state have autonomy to determine these
questions for itself? The Scripture emphatically answers, no! The Lord
God who gave the state the power of the sword has also given specific
revelation in the Bible on how and when the state ought to use that
power. Where in the Bible did He reveal these things? He did so in the
civil law codes of Israel. In the civil statutes and case laws of the
Old Testament, God reveals the demands of the moral law in terms of
civil justice. Through the Old Testament law the civil magistrate will
be instructed as to what sin5 (evil) he ought to punish, and how he
ought to punish it.
The law of God revealed through Moses and the Prophets sets forth the
standards of crime and punishment that all nations ought to follow
(Deut. 4:6; Ps. 2:10-12; Prov. 8:15; 28:4). By discerning the
"general equity"6 revealed in Israel's civil law, the state
will be instructed in how to frame its own laws in accord with the moral
law of God. To reject the Old Testament laws which deal with civil
justice is to leave the state with no objective written standard for
carrying out its mandate from God. Would God grant the state the awesome
power of the sword, and then fail to give the state specific
instructions on how and when to use that sword? If you reject Old
Testament civil law as the standard, then your answer must be, yes.7
The disturbing fact is that many Christians deny that God intends the
nations to be bound to the principles of justice revealed in Israel's
civil law. These Christians would rather substitute the standard of
natural law for the standard of God's written law. This may appear to
many to be the most acceptable standard for the nations, but the
rejection of biblical law for natural law raises a number of important
questions which the proponents of natural law need to answer.
First of all, where in the Bible does it expressly teach, or even imply,
that civil government is only accountable to natural law and not
accountable to the righteous standards of biblical law? If God has been
pleased to bring the revelation of His holy Word to a nation, will He
not also hold that nation accountable to rule according to the standards
of justice that He makes known in that Word?
Secondly, since natural law and biblical law are really the revelation
of the same moral law through different channels, why choose the
inadequate channel of natural law over the perfect and infallible
revelation of Scripture? Why choose natural law which reveals no
specifics on the nature of civil government, or the use and limits of
state power, over the Word of God which does give these specifics?8 Some
may respond by saying that we live in a secular society that does not
accept the authority or the ethical standards of biblical law. However,
if natural law and biblical law are the revelation of the same moral
law, how will the ethical standards of natural law be any easier for the
unbeliever to accept than the ethical standards of the Bible?9 If there
is no hope that a pluralistic society will ever accept the standard of
biblical law, what basis is there to hope that such a humanistic culture
will ever come to a true and common understanding on what constitutes
Thirdly, why should Christians surrender the "sword" of the
Word of God for the elusive concept of natural law in our battle to
establish righteousness in our nation? What possible advantage is there
in laying aside the quick and powerful Word of the living God as we seek
to call this nation to repentance and to its duty "to serve the
Lord with fear...and kiss the Son" (Ps. 2:10-12)?
Fourthly, what standard of social and political ethics should a
Christian magistrate use to guide him in the decisions and judgments
that he must make as God's minister, biblical law or natural law? Is the
Christian magistrate to use the Bible for his own personal ethics and
family ethics, but then set the Bible aside when he comes to his office
of civil magistrate? Christians who propose natural law as the rule for
social and political ethics need to supply biblical answers to the above
Christian natural law advocates also need to provide a biblical
refutation of Symington's insightful words:
It is the duty of nations, as the subjects of Christ, to take his law as
their rule. They are apt to think it enough that they take, as their
standard of legislation and administration, human reason, natural
conscience, public opinion, or political expediency. None of these,
however, nor indeed all of them together, can supply a sufficient guide
in affairs of state. Of course, heathen nations, who are not in
possession of the revealed will of God, must be regulated by the law of
nature: but this is no good reason why those who have a revelation of
the divine will should be restricted to the use of a more imperfect
rule. It is absurd to contend that, because civil society is founded in
nature, men are to be guided, in directing its affairs and consulting
its interests, solely by the light of nature...The truth is, that
revelation is given to man to supply the imperfections of nature; and to
restrict ourselves to the latter, and renounce the former, in any case
in which it is competent to guide us, is at once to condemn God's gift
and to defeat the end for which it was given. We contend, then, that the
Bible is to be our rule, not only in matters of a purely religious
nature, in matters connected with conscience and the worship of God, but
in matters of a civil and political nature. To say that in such matters
we have nothing to do with the Bible, is to maintain what is manifestly
untenable. To require nations, who possess the sacred volume, to confine
themselves, in their political affairs, to the dim light of nature, is
not more absurd than it would be to require men, when the sun is in the
heavens, to shut out its full blaze and go about their ordinary duties
by the feeble rays of a taper. Indeed, if nations are moral subjects,
they are bound to regulate their conduct by whatever laws their moral
Governor has been pleased to give them; and as they are the subjects of
the Mediator, they must be under the law of the Mediator contained in
the Scriptures. He has not placed his moral subjects in ignorance of his
will, nor left them to search for it amid the obscurities and
imperfections of a law which sin has effaced and well nigh obliterated.
In the Holy Scriptures of truth, he has given them a fairer and more
complete exhibition of the principles of immutable and eternal justice,
than that which is to be found in the law of nature.10
Theonomy rejects the claim that natural law ought to be the standard,
and teaches that the nations are bound to the universal and unchanging
principles of justice revealed in Israel's civil law. The Old Testament
law is a model of justice for every sphere of life, including the civil
sphere (Deut. 4:6-8). Therefore, the penology revealed in the civil law
of Israel ought to be the rule for civil law today. The punishments
prescribed in the perfect law of the Lord (Ps. 19:7) establish perfect
justice. The New Testament itself declares that all the penalties
appointed for the violation of the civil law of Israel were "a just
recompense of reward" (Heb. 2:2). The Lord did not violate the lex
talionis principle of justice ("an eye for an eye," cf. Ex
21:24-25; Deut. 19:21), 11 which He had commanded judges to follow, when
He established the penal sanctions of Israel's civil law. The penalties
were neither too harsh, nor too lenient. In God's law the punishment
always fits the crime.12
Not only does the law of God establish the duties and functions of civil
magistrates, it also sets forth the necessary qualifications for those
who will bear rule in the civil sphere: "Moreover thou shalt
provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth,
hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of
thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of
tens" (Ex. 18:21). If a nation is to know the blessing of
righteousness and justice under God's law, its rulers must be men who
fear God and openly serve Him as His ministers (2 Sam. 23:3; Rom.
13:1-6), submitting to His law in all their duties and decisions. To
seek to establish righteous laws without taking into account the
spiritual condition of the men who enact and enforce the laws is an
exercise in futility. There is perfect harmony, however, in the law of
the Lord: it insists on righteous laws and righteous men.
So then, just as we have no right to autonomy in the making of our civil
laws, so likewise, we have not right to autonomy in the choosing of our
civil leaders. God's law requires that we only choose men who are wise
and able, who know the Scriptures, and who fear God and pay homage to
Jesus Christ, publicly confessing Him as King of kings and Lord of Lords
(Ex. 18:21; Deut. 1:13; 17:15; Ps. 2:10-12; Rev. 1:5; 19:16).
Theonomy also affirms that true civil liberty can only be known in a
nation where God's law is the standard for civil law. This is because
true liberty in God's world is not freedom to do what one pleases
(autonomy), but it is freedom to do what is right and good (theonomy).
The law of God sets forth the path of righteousness; hence it is the
perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1:25). The psalmist said, "I will walk
at liberty: for I seek thy precepts" (Ps. 119:45). The law is God's
truth, and it is the truth that sets us free (Ps. 119:142; Jn. 8:31-32).
Humanistic law, which is based on the lie, promotes wickedness, and this
is the path of bondage and death (Jn. 8:34; Prov. 14:12).
Additionally, the law of God promotes civil liberty by defining the
limits of state power. The state may not control or legislate where it
has no scriptural warrant.13 The magistrate must stay within the bounds
of his legitimate authority. The individual, the family, and the church
are to be free from unlawful state oppression so that they may fulfill
their responsibilities from God. Likewise, the law of God gives the
citizens a standard whereby they may judge the actions of the state. If
the state oversteps its bounds, the citizens are justified in resisting
the tyranny of the state (Acts 4:19; 5:29; Matt. 22:21). 14 Without the
measure of God's law, the citizens might never be sure when the state
ought to be resisted.
Theonomy also advocates the separation of church and state. The church
and state are distinct institutions, each having their own clearly
defined ministry from God. The state is a ministry of civil justice by
the securing of the rights of its citizens and by the punishing of evil
doers (Deut. 19:13; 25:1-2; Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Pe. 2:14). The church is a
ministry of grace through the preaching of the Word of God and the
administration of the sacraments (Matt. 28:19-21; 26:26-28; 1 Tim. 3:15;
4:13). The state is not to control (govern) the church, nor is the
church to control (govern) the state.
However, both church and state are to function under Christ's authority
and law; both are to serve God's kingdom by carrying out their
respective commissions; both are to assist each other and influence each
other for good. The state is to shield the church from the wicked, and
provide the domestic tranquillity and freedom which will enable the
church to carry out its calling without harassment or fear (1 Tim. 2:2;
Isa. 49:23). 15 The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism (1949) asserts,
"The State serves the interest of the church in that while
recognizing the independence of the Church, she exercises her authority
to preserve public morals and to honor the true religion."
The church is to teach the state the principles of God's Word by which
the state is to govern. The church has the prophetic function of
rebuking the state when it departs from the law of God and of calling
the civil magistrate back to the paths of righteousness (Isa. 10:1-2;
Amos 5:10-12; 2 Sam. 12:1-14; Jer. 1:9-10; Mk. 6:18). The church is to
prepare men in both character and knowledge to be effective and godly
magistrates. The church is to provide the foundation for a just and free
society by evangelizing and discipling the citizens in the Christian
faith, and by teaching them to pay their taxes and to give all proper
respect and obedience to the civil authorities over them (Rom. 13:1, 7;
1 Pe. 2:13-14, 17; Matt. 22:21). Theonomy strongly condemns the current
secular view of the separation of the church and state which promotes
the separation of the state from God and the authority of His law. This
secular perversion of the biblical doctrine of the institutional
separation of church and state is really an attempt by autonomous man to
deify the state, and to make the state's word the law of the land in the
place of God's Word which ought to be the law of the land (Ps. 2:1-3).
Finally, let it be clearly known that theonomy does not believe in
salvation through politics. Theonomy is a doctrine of ethics. It teaches
the ethical standards which ought to govern a nation and its civil law.
But the theonomist's hope for bringing a nation into conformity to the
law of God is not in politics or in politicians, but in Jesus Christ
alone! Salvation on a personal and national level is of the Lord (Isa.
33:22). It is only through the sovereign will and power of the triune
God that a people can be turned from their sin and become a righteous
God-fearing society that honors the Lord Jesus Christ and keeps His law.
The evangelization of the lost and the edification of believers are both
essential to any true national reformation.
Furthermore, Theonomists believe that reformation is needed at all
levels, not just in civil government. Theonomy issues a prophetic call
to individuals, to the family, to the church, and to the state to repent
and recognize Christ as Lord and His law as the supreme rule of ethics.
Theonomy seeks to reform politics, but it does not seek a reform
through politics. The humanist trusts in the "messianic
state" to save him and his society. The Theonomist puts his faith
in the Messiah.
1. This confessional summary of the biblical teaching on the state and
the civil magistrate is contained in the Westminster Confession, the
London Baptist Confession of 1689, and the Savoy Declaration (1658).
2. Please note that the question is not whether there will be law in the
state. But the issue is: whose law or which law; God's law or man's law?
3. There is a popular phrase today which says, "you cannot
legislate morality." This statement is true or false depending on
what one means by it. It is true that you cannot make a person or
society righteous by merely enacting certain laws. However, it is false
to think that civil law can be ethically neutral. Every law legislates
morality in the sense that it prescribes certain conduct or permits
certain conduct. The question then is: whose morality will be
legislated? Will it be God's righteous standards, as revealed in His
law, or will it be the standards of rebellious autonomous man? For
example, there can be no neutral laws on the issue of abortion. A
nation's abortion laws will either legislate life or death for the
unborn; either protect innocent blood or condemn it.
4. It is important to note that the law of God does not specify
imprisonment as a form of punishment for criminals. This has serious
implications for a nation that has made incarceration its primary form
5. All crimes are sins, but not all sins are crimes punishable by the
6. "General equity" refers to the universal, trans-cultural
principles of justice that form the basis for Old Testament civil law.
Bahnsen defines "general equity" as "(an expression used
by Reformed or Puritan theologians to denote) the underlying substance,
principle, or point of a law - over against the specific case or
cultural setting mentioned by it." By This Standard, p. 355.
7. The New Testament reveals very little on the specifics of civil law
and civil justice. But of course, it does not need to, for God has
already addressed these issues in the Old Testament!
8. By discounting God's written revelation of the moral law, natural law
advocates wrongly contend that Gentile nations of today are only
responsible to the same dim standard that pagan nations were responsible
to during "the times of this ignorance" (Acts 17:30).
9. Unless, of course, natural law advocates really believe that there is
a double standard for socio-political ethics: a lower standard revealed
to the nations by natural law, and a higher one revealed to Israel in
Scripture. Such a double standard would also imply that the nations
living in the New Testament age of fulfillment and the completed canon
of Scripture are under a lower standard of socio-political ethics than
Old Testament Israel since natural law proponents believe that Gentile
nations are still bound to only natural law and not to biblical law.
10. William Symington, Messiah the Prince (Edmonton: Still Waters
Revival Books, 1990, reprint of 1884 ed.), pp. 234-235.
11. Lex talionis, or the law of retaliation, was a legal formula for
judges, and not a sanction for personal revenge (Matt. 5:38-42). This
legal prescription taught judges that the punishment must be
commensurate with the nature of the crime. It imposed strict limits on
the punishment which could be meted out.
12. This would include the capital crimes of the Old Testament civil
law. Some would argue that the death penalty for adultery, rape, or
kidnaping was appropriate for Israel, but not for the United States. But
why would it be just for the civil magistrate in Israel to execute such
malefactors, and yet be unjust for the civil magistrate in our country
to do the same? Who dare say that death is too strong a punishment for
these crimes, when God Himself established this penalty in His revealed
law? Are we wiser than God? Do we know a better and more just penalty
than the one God has prescribed? And by what standard do we establish
this supposedly more just punishment?
13. The state, for example, has no authority to control education or the
economy, nor to redistribute the wealth of its citizens according to
some scheme of "economic justice" or social welfare.
14. Theonomy does not preach violence or insurrection, but resistance in
accordance with God's law. Theonomists would advocate the principle of
interposition which is this: when a people are being oppressed and
stripped of their rights by a tyrannical government or magistrate, they
should not choose the path of individual resistance or rebellion, but
should seek out a magistrate or magistrates at an intermediate level of
government who will lead them in their resistance. The lesser magistrate
or level of government interposes itself between the people and the
oppressing higher power. Anarchy is never blessed of God. It is the way
of the flesh and the world. All resistance movements should be under a
properly appointed magistrate. Furthermore, theonomy would advocate the
use of the Imprecatory Psalms as a biblical means of bringing God's
judgment on wicked rulers so that they will either repent, or be removed
from office and righteous men put in their places (cf. Ps. 7; 35; 58;
59; 69; 83; 109; 137; 139; also cf. Jer. 10:25; 17:18; 18:18-23).
15. The Savoy Declaration (1658), a Reformed Confession which set forth
the "Faith and Order Owned and practised in the Congregational
Churches in England," provides us with a useful statement on the
relationship of the civil authorities to the church: "Although the
Magistrate is bound to incourage, promote, and protect the professor and
profession of the Gospel, and to manage and order civil administrations
in a due subserviency to the interest of Christ in the world, and to
that end to take care that men of corrupt mindes and conversations do
not licentiously publish and divulge Blasphemy and Errors in their own
nature, subverting the faith, and inevitably destroying the souls of
them that receive them: Yet in such differences about the Doctrines of
the Gospel, or in ways of the worship of God, as may befall men
exercising a good conscience, manifesting it in their conversation, and
holding the foundation, not disturbing others in their ways or worship
that differ from them; there is no warrant for the Magistrate under the
Gospel to abridge them of their liberty." Williston Walker, ed. The
Creeds And Platforms of Congregationalism (New York: The Pilgrim Press,
1991), p. 393.