Christian nations and law of God

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arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
To what extent is the law of God to be implemented in Christian nations or those with a sizeable Christian majority? It seems that they all gravitate toward putting laws in place based upon mosaic law aside from certain civil punishments and the ceremonial law no doubt. I am definitely not 2k(no offense to those who are) nor am I really a theonomist, is there anything in between'?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Thanks for posting this, Joshua. The section I have highlighted in bold is further evidence that Libertarian Theology/Reconstructionism is contra-confessional. Up until now, I had totally missed the fact that it violated this portion of the Larger Catechism.
 

Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
Do you interpret "Providing all things necessary for soul and body" to mean that the government must provide food, water, medical care, clothes, housing, transportation, jobs, education, Bibles, preachers, and sacraments?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Do you interpret "Providing all things necessary for soul and body" to mean that the government must provide food, water, medical care, clothes, housing, transportation, jobs, education, Bibles, preachers, and sacraments?

Obviously, other things in the Westminster Standards would indicate that while the civil ruler is authorised to provide for the external needs of the church (which would include provision of buildings, Bibles, and clerical salaries), he is precluded from interfering with matters that are in sacris. Moreover, the Reformed held that the magistrate is bound to exercise a paternalist care for those who are poor and needy - which is reflected in this part of the Larger Catechism. In the administration of this, the civil ruler would have to exercise a degree of wisdom and Christian prudence. Nor would this justify the state countenancing the idle-poor or the idle-rich (which is sometimes what happens today). However, getting back to the main point I was making: the Libertarian Theologians/Reconstructionists deny that the civil magistrate has any right to do what the Larger Catechism says that superiors are do with respect to their inferiors, thus they are not in agreement with the Westminster Standards on this point.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
Q. 129. What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?
A. It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and, by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God hath put upon them.

Point of information? Who is meant by superiors here? I would have taken it to mean the "landlords" or "masters" of the day as opposed to elected officials, otherwise (say in an American system) the "instruct, counsel, and admonish...rewarding" etc. are all functions of the Federal Government as well?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Point of information? Who is meant by superiors here? I would have taken it to mean the "landlords" or "masters" of the day as opposed to elected officials, otherwise (say in an American system) the "instruct, counsel, and admonish...rewarding" etc. are all functions of the Federal Government as well?

Why would the civil magistrate, from a Reformed point of view, be excluded from doing such things? Certainly the catechism's comments are not limited to the civil government, but civil rulers are included in its definition of "superiors". That actually raises another major point concerning the difference between the Reformed and the Reconstructionists: the Reformed recognise that the magistrate is the father of the commonwealth, the Reconstructionists reject that notion as being a form of "Statism".
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
I would just be cautious of trying to apply everything in this catechism question to every "superior" without distinction or difference.

Have you read Lex Rex by any chance?

Edit: just to mention that the proof text for "and body" is:
1 Timothy 5:8. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I would just be cautious of trying to apply everything in this catechism question to every "superior" without distinction or difference.

I never said we should do that, but the confession makes it clear in other places that certain things do not pertain to the civil magistrate, namely, those things that are in sacris. Maintaining the church and helping the needy do not fall within this prohibition. What I have found when discussing this matter with Libertarian believers is that as soon as you point out that their civil minimalism is incongruous with the historic Reformed position, they respond by arguing, "But that cannot be right, as it would give the state too much power!" Until they learn to lay aside this ideological assumption that the state doing something = bad, they will never understand the Reformed view of magistracy.

Have you read Lex Rex by any chance?

Yes, though I recommend reading John Coffey's biography first in order to properly understand the intellectual context in which it was written.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Edit: just to mention that the proof text for "and body" is:
1 Timothy 5:8. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Which can be applied to the civil magistrate, as father of the commonwealth, who wilfully fails to provide for those of his own body politc.

To read the Kuyperian/Reconstructionist interpretation of this verse back into the Westminster Standards would be to ignore the views of those who wrote it. Nowhere do they argue that the civil ruler is forbidden from engaging in relief of the needy, which is not surprising as they rejected the regulative principle of civil government.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
Daniel,

I don't know if you understand what I'm getting at, and it's likely because I'm not being clear.

I have absolutely no problem with WCF Ch. 23. I believe that the magistrate should be involved in upholding the law (all of it, including Sabbath breaking) and protecting the church. The part where I would disagree is jumping from there to say that as a "superior" of WLC 129, they should engage in say, wealth-redistribution, food stamps, setting minimum wage laws, social security, low-income housing, and implementing national health-care systems, or similarly, mandating children attend a national school system only. I do not believe his responsibilities are identical with those of a "Master" or "Parent" superior in this section. As a general principle of looking after their souls and bodies (say, by laws or by using his own money) he has a responsibility but it is different in action from that of a Master or Parent, and I think that is specifically what Miss Marple was getting at.

Now note that I am focusing on a political system of elected representatives such as the US. It would be different under a lord-tenant system where tribute or rent is being paid and it is up to the lord to determine how he uses those funds. It may also be different in the economy you are under.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I have absolutely no problem with WCF Ch. 23. I believe that the magistrate should be involved in upholding the law (all of it, including Sabbath breaking) and protecting the church. The part where I would disagree

Logan, not to prolong the discussion, but you might want to consider if your interpretation of WCF 23 is congruous with the Westminster divines' original intent. It is an unsound historical method to argue that you have no problem with WCF 23 and then advocate views which they would not have concurred with (e.g. views which seem more congruous with a regulative principle of civil government than with the Confession's law of nature or normative principle of civil government). Here are some sources which may be of help to you. I have more of these in the pipeline, but keeping the blog updated has not been a strong-point of mine recently.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
It is an unsound historical method to argue that you have no problem with WCF 23 and then advocate views which they would not have concurred with

This is similar to what I was going to say :)
The Puritans were not modern-day libertarians or modern-day socialists. It seems like I'm countering the latter view while you're countering the former. I read through the first page of your link and did not find anything I would disagree with in the quotations, but there are some historical contexts to remember as well. A general responsibility of caring for the poor does not necessarily follow into the some of the methods advocated by today's governments, nor does it negate a personal responsibility to care for the poor, as today's systems seem prone to do.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Thanks for posting this, Joshua. The section I have highlighted in bold is further evidence that Libertarian Theology/Reconstructionism is contra-confessional. Up until now, I had totally missed the fact that it violated this portion of the Larger Catechism.

Bingo. I had never really paid attention to that as well.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
While it might be too much to read modern social democracy into the Confession on this point, it should be remembered that many of the divines, especially Scottish ones, saw the magistrate as a paternal figure, who not only had a negative function but also a positive one. Interestingly enough, the Larger Catechism condemns interest.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
While it might be too much to read modern social democracy into the Confession on this point, it should be remembered that many of the divines, especially Scottish ones, saw the magistrate as a paternal figure, who not only had a negative function but also a positive one. Interestingly enough, the Larger Catechism condemns interest.

Jacob, do you think this is where the general equity principle comes in useful? Whereas the Reconstructionists want express "biblical blueprints" for society, the confessional Reformed are more modest in that we only advocate the prudent application of general biblical principles to questions such as what form care for the needy in modern society should take in our particular circumstances. One point, however, is beyond dispute: whereas the Reformed recognise the civil magistrate's duty to positively enforce the sixth commandment by exercising a paternalistic care for the weak, the Reconstructionists/Libertarian Theologians do not. Ergo, CR/LT is a fundamentally different system of political theology to that espoused by the Reformed.
 

Tyrese

Puritan Board Sophomore
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight...(John 18:36).” Because Jesus said this I wonder how much of the law (Ten Commandments) we should be trying to implement into society. It makes sense that the people of God should obey Gods commands because Jesus said, "if you love me, keep my commandments."

Also Joshua wrote, "...and tolerating a false religion is certainly destructive thereunto, as an example." I'm not sure if we will ever be able to prevent this from happening. Matthew 13:24-30 says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn." Notice that he said "at the time of the harvest". I could be wrong, but I think its Gods will for us to be surrounded by false religion and ungodliness until the end.

I'm not saying we shouldn't desire to see godliness in our nation (or other nations), I'm just wondering if that's what we should expect. But we should expect godliness/holiness from the people of God.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight...(John 18:36).” Because Jesus said this I wonder how much of the law (Ten Commandments) we should be trying to implement into society. It makes sense that the people of God should obey Gods commands because Jesus said, "if you love me, keep my commandments."

Also Joshua wrote, "...and tolerating a false religion is certainly destructive thereunto, as an example." I'm not sure if we will ever be able to prevent this from happening. Matthew 13:24-30 says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn." Notice that he said "at the time of the harvest". I could be wrong, but I think its Gods will for us to be surrounded by false religion and ungodliness until the end.

I'm not saying we shouldn't desire to see godliness in our nation (or other nations), I'm just wondering if that's what we should expect. But we should expect godliness/holiness from the people of God.

True, the church isn't to enforce this on the state. But we are asking normative ethical questions of what the magistrate ought to do.
 
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