Theonomy
A Christ-centered World and Life View

Introduction and editorial by Rev. Paul Michael Raymond

A Definition

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 Theonomist

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.

"...for 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.

"Oh 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 autonomous lusts. 

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 Study:

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

 

EDITOR'S NOTE

The Following essay by W.O. Einwechter sets forth the Theonomic View of Civil Law and the Civil Leader.
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 P.O.Box 8741-WP
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. 5:22-23).

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 iniquity."

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 natural law?

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 questions.

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.

Endnotes:

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 of punishment.

5. All crimes are sins, but not all sins are crimes punishable by the state.

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.

 

ITR