George Gillespie on distinguishing between the particular and common judicial laws

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
It will be asked, But how doth it appear that these or any other Judicial Laws of Moses do at all appertain to us, as rules to guide us in like cases? I shall wish him who scrupleth this, to read Piscator his Appendix to his Observations upon the 21, 22, 23. Chapters of Exodus, where he excellently disputeth this question, Whether the Christian Magistrate be bound to observe the Judicial laws of Moses, as well as the Jewish Magistrate was.

He answereth by the common distinction, he is obliged to those things in the Judicial law which are unchangeable, & common to all Nations: but not to those things which are mutable, or proper to the Jewish Republic. But then he explaineth this distinction, that by things mutable, and proper to the Jews, he understandeth the emancipation of an Hebrew servant or handmaid in the seventh year, a man’s marrying his brother’s wife and raising up seed to his brother, the forgiving of debts at the Jubilee, marrying with one of the same Tribe, and if there be any other like to these; also Ceremonial trespasses, as touching a dead body, &c.

But things immutable, and common to all Nations are the laws concerning Moral trespasses, Sins against the Moral law, as murder, adultery, theft, enticing away from God, blasphemy, striking of Parents. Now that the Christian Magistrate is bound to observe these Judicial laws of Moses which appoint the punishments of sins against the Moral law, he proveth by these reasons. ...

For more, see George Gillespie on distinguishing between the particular and common judicial laws.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I cannot for the life of me figure out why the ideas of Theonomy are held in such contempt by so many of today's Reformed when men of the stature of Gillespie so clearly held to it. Sure, there are some kooks here and there with some weird fringe ideas, but in the main this is Theonomy. And it is beyond dispute that, at the very least, Theonomy has Reformed precedent and pedigree.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Gillespie is no Theonomist unless you let modern theonomy die the death of equivocation.
I’m just having a hard time seeing the difference. Of course, strictly speaking, Gillespie was not a “Theonomist.” That would be anachronistic. But what about what Gillespie says here would not make him be labeled a Theonomist today?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
There were issues with the modern theonomists in relation to natural law, hermeneutics, the Lex Triplex, and the role of the state in society with which I and others would disagree. Still, it must be recognised that the opposition to theonomy in Reformed circles primarily focused on its view of the judicial law's penalties. Most contemporary Reformed opposition to theonomy would, if consistent, also have to condemn the views of George Gillespie and a whole host of other divines as well.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
I cannot for the life of me figure out why the ideas of Theonomy are held in such contempt by so many of today's Reformed when men of the stature of Gillespie so clearly held to it. Sure, there are some kooks here and there with some weird fringe ideas, but in the main this is Theonomy. And it is beyond dispute that, at the very least, Theonomy has Reformed precedent and pedigree.
Brother, You are mistaken. What Gillespie here articulates is the Reformed principle of general equity. It is contra Theonomy. And the reason Reformed folk hold Theonomy in contempt is because it is contrary to the biblical understanding of the Law as expressed in the Reformed confessions.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Brother, You are mistaken. What Gillespie here articulates is the Reformed principle of general equity. It is contra Theonomy. And the reason Reformed folk hold Theonomy in contempt is because it is contrary to the biblical understanding of the Law as expressed in the Reformed confessions.
Read Kenneth Gentry on general equity.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
No, thank you. As it is, I've read too many Theonomists with their novel interpretation of Scripture and revisionist take on the Reformers and Puritans.
You know, I've gotten so used to this stock response that it doesn't even make me upset anymore.

Ignorance is bliss.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
So people who disagree with Theonomy are just ignorant? Is that really your position?
Not at all, but people who are unwilling to even consider engaging the best of an opposing viewpoint are. You brought up general equity. I mention an author who writes from the Theonomic perspective who I think would really challenge you on your assertion. Your response: "Nah." How is that not just willful ignorance?

I'll make it even easier. If I scan and send you his article on general equity, will you at least read it?
 

JH

Puritan Board Freshman
Not at all, but people who are unwilling to even consider engaging the best of an opposing viewpoint are.
In all fairness, one need not thoroughly exhaust all articulations of a viewpoint in order to reject it. I don't think to myself every time a Leighton Flowers video comes out that I need to re-examine my beliefs on Calvinism because this video just might be the one that undoes me. CM has probably exhausted various sources, and has found the counter-arguments wanting. That's how a lot of us arrive at positions, the unconvincing nature of the contrary argument.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
Not at all, but people who are unwilling to even consider engaging the best of an opposing viewpoint are.
You didn't even present an opposing viewpoint. You simply told me to go and read Kenneth Gentry. That's hardly an argument for anything. So you'll forgive me if I do not take your criticism seriously. I would encourage you to consider reading about General Equity form the primary sources (Calvin, Turretin, Rutherford, Cartwright, et al.), or at least someone other than a Theonomist.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
In all fairness, one need not thoroughly exhaust all articulations of a viewpoint in order to reject it. I don't think to myself every time a Leighton Flowers video comes out that I need to re-examine my beliefs on Calvinism because this video just might be the one that undoes me. CM has probably exhausted various sources, and has found the counter-arguments wanting. That's how a lot of us arrive at positions, the unconvincing nature of the contrary argument.
That's fair enough. However, it is clear from what has been said that Mr. Sheffield does not understand Theonomy. And his unwillingness to consider even reading a Theonomist (and not some kook, but a Reformed pastor and biblical scholar) due entirely to his own prejudice gives me quite a hunch that he hasn't read the standard literature, either.

You didn't even present an opposing viewpoint. You simply told me to go and read Kenneth Gentry. That's hardly an argument for anything. So you'll forgive me if I do not take your criticism seriously.
I wasn't trying to make an argument. I was attempting to expose you to one by pointing you to an author who I think would effectively challenge your assertions regarding general equity. But when I get the stock, "Nah," the only thing left I can conclude is willful ignorance, hence my criticism.

I would encourage you to consider reading about General Equity form the primary sources (Calvin, Turretin, Rutherford, Cartwright, et al.), or at least someone other than a Theonomist.
I have, actually, and I come away every time having my own convictions confirmed, primarily because I have a good grasp of what Theonomy actually holds to. Now, since I edited my previous post before you could reply, I will restate my offer. If I scan and send to you the Gentry article on general equity, will you at least read it?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
The problem with these arguments is how are we defining theonomy? If you define it as Rushdoonyism, then, yes, that is definitely contra-confessional (as R. J. Rushdoony himself admitted). If you are defining it as other theonomists defined it, then that is a more complex discussion. To be clear, I do not agree with the modern theonomists on natural law, presuppositionalism, sphere sovereignty, libertarianism/hardcore small government (or whatever you want to call it), and various other issues. I still maintain, nevertheless, that on the specific subject of the contemporary applicability of the Old Testament penalties, the theonomists were closer to Reformed orthodoxy than most of their critics. And most Reformed critics of theonomy would, rightly or wrongly, brand you as a theonomist if you said that you agreed with what George Gillespie wrote on the OT penalties.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
That's fair enough. However, it is clear from what has been said that Mr. Sheffield does not understand Theonomy. And his unwillingness to consider even reading a Theonomist (and not some kook, but a Reformed pastor and biblical scholar) due entirely to his own prejudice gives me quite a hunch that he hasn't read the standard literature, either.


I wasn't trying to make an argument. I was attempting to expose you to one by pointing you to an author who I think would effectively challenge your assertions regarding general equity. But when I get the stock, "Nah," the only thing left I can conclude is willful ignorance, hence my criticism.


I have, actually, and I come away every time having my own convictions confirmed. Now, since I edited my previous post before you could reply, I will restate my offer. If I scan and send to you the Gentry article on general equity, will you at least read it?
Thank you for the kind regard you had for this unread and unwashed rube. :lol:
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thank you for the kind regard you had for this unread and unwashed rube. :lol:
How about a redirect? Here is how Bahnsen defines the core of Theonomic ethics, given in twelve theses. Can you show me how any of the following goes against the Confession, or contradicts Gillespie?

1. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are, in part and in whole, a verbal revelation from God through the words of men, being infallibly true regarding all that they teach on any subject.​
2. Since the Fall it has always been unlawful to use the law of God in hopes of establishing one's own personal merit and justification, in contrast or complement to salvation by way of promise and faith; commitment to obedience is but the lifestyle of faith, a token of gratitude for God's redeeming grace.​
3. The word of the Lord is the sole, supreme, and unchallengeable standard for the actions and attitudes of all men in all areas of life; this word naturally includes God's moral directives (law).​
4. Our obligation to keep the law of God cannot be judged by any extrascriptural standard, such as whether its specific requirements (when properly interpreted) are congenial to past traditions or modern feelings and practices.​
5. We should presume that Old Testament standing laws continue to be morally binding in the New Testament, unless they are rescinded or modified by further revelation.​
6. In regard to the Old Testament law, the New Covenant surpasses the Old Covenant in glory, power, and finality (thus reinforcing former duties). The New Covenant also supersedes the Old Covenant shadows, thereby changing the application of sacrificial, purity, and "separation" principles, redefining the people of God, and altering the significance of the promised land.​
7. God's revealed standing laws are a reflection of His immutable moral character and, as such, are absolute in the sense of being non-arbitrary, objective, universal, and established in advance of particular circumstances (thus applicable to general types of moral situations).​
8. Christian involvement in politics calls for recognition of God's transcendent, absolute, revealed law as a standard by which to judge all social codes.​
9. Civil magistrates in all ages and places are obligated to conduct their offices as ministers of God, avenging divine wrath against criminals and giving an account on the Final Day of their service before the King of kings, their Creator and Judge.​
10. The general continuity which we presume with respect to the moral standards of the Old Testament applies just as legitimately to matters of socio-political ethics as it does to personal, family, or ecclesiastical ethics.​
11. The civil precepts of the Old Testament (standing "judicial" laws) are a model of perfect social justice for all cultures, even in the punishment of criminals. Outside of those areas where God's law prescribes their intervention and application of penal redress, civil rulers are not authorized to legislate or use coercion (e.g., the economic marketplace).​
12. The morally proper way for Christians to correct social evils which are not under the lawful jurisdiction of the state is by means of voluntary and charitable enterprises or the censures of the home, church, and marketplace—even as the appropriate method for changing the political order of civil law is not violent revolution, but dependence upon regeneration, re-education, and gradual legal reform.​
—Greg L. Bahnsen, No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), 11-13.​
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hey, guys. I'm pretty sure we should bite & devour one another. It's good prep. ;)
I don't think anyone is biting or devouring. That certainly isn't my intention. Just a little bit of intense and frank discussion. :) However, it is the Lord's Day tomorrow, and you are right. This isn't the best way to go to bed before that day.

Have a blessed Lord's Day, everyone.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
However, it is the Lord's Day tomorrow
It is the Lord's day today. You are a little behind ;) Seriously, you might be interested in this article on how the New Zealand churches handled this. It was written by a pastor highly esteemed in our churches and printed in the OPC Horizons some decades ago.
 

Thomas_Goodwin

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't think anyone is biting or devouring. That certainly isn't my intention. Just a little bit of intense and frank discussion. :) However, it is the Lord's Day tomorrow, and you are right. This isn't the best way to go to bed before that day.

Have a blessed Lord's Day, everyone.
how much practical implication does theonomy discussions have? not how important but how does this have any practical or immediate difference? I really dont understand the significance.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It is the Lord's day today. You are a little behind ;) Seriously, you might be interested in this article on how the New Zealand churches handled this. It was written by a pastor highly esteemed in our churches and printed in the OPC Horizons some decades ago.
Reading your post, I thought you were about to share another article by another minister in New Zealand who also had his work on Theonomy published in New Horizons—G. I. Williamson. His article is very helpful.

Thanks for this link. I will give it a read in the next couple days, Lord willing.

how much practical implication does theonomy discussions have? not how important but how does this have any practical or immediate difference? I really dont understand the significance.
This whole discussion has immense practical implications because it gets to the heart of how the Law of God ought to be carried out in society. In my view, many of the major Theonomists fifty years ago predicted with pinpoint accuracy the issues we are facing this very moment in the West. That alone shows how important this discussion is, whether you agree with their proposed solutions or not.
 

Thomas_Goodwin

Puritan Board Freshman
Reading your post, I thought you were about to share another article by another minister in New Zealand who also had his work on Theonomy published in New Horizons—G. I. Williamson. His article is very helpful.

Thanks for this link. I will give it a read in the next couple days, Lord willing.


This whole discussion has immense practical implications because it gets to the heart of how the Law of God ought to be carried out in society. In my view, many of the major Theonomists fifty years ago predicted with pinpoint accuracy the issues we are facing this very moment in the West. That alone shows how important this discussion is, whether you agree with their proposed solutions or not.
I see. I dont fully understand, but Ill try my best.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
Reading your post, I thought you were about to share another article by another minister in New Zealand who also had his work on Theonomy published in New Horizons—G. I. Williamson. His article is very helpful.
I did not personally know G.I. Williamson but one of the members in my church sat under his ministry in her former church and speaks very highly of him. I love his edited work on the WLC.

Thank you for that link. I found the following quite insightful and shows that our Western nations, formerly influenced by Biblical Christianity, took God's law very seriously. He says:
"The law, in most Western countries, was at one time strongly antihomosexual. Our laws were once intentionally close to biblical standards. In a word, we had some theonomy in civil matters. But now, all over the Western world, this is fading. Homosexuals are “out in the open.” They demand the right to express their lifestyle. And when the state is pluralistic in allowing its citizens “freedom of conscience to worship as they believe they must,” this cannot be avoided."

In New Zealand in the 19th century, we had a Buggery law (similar language is used in the Geneva Bible.) Stiff punishments were metered out for homosexual behaviour. This would have been true for other former British colonies such as Australia and Canada.
Thanks for this link. I will give it a read in the next couple days, Lord willing.
I would be interested in your thoughts. Many in the RCNZ would regard themselves as 'mild' theonomists.
 
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