Objections to the Abiding Validity of the Judicial Law

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by Reformed Covenanter, Dec 16, 2007.

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  1. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    As I have read, this is only true becasue to debate on an issue, actually gives the issue relevance. For instance, I woudl never debate a oneness pentacostal, and the debating of Bahnsen is parallel. ANd I would have never wanted Geisler representing the truth anyway. There was really no reason to debate him becasue until his death there was no notice of his thought other than being 'out there' on the fringe. Once it became Viral and attached itself to others, then the deabtes happened. "Rabbi Bahnsen" was brilliant though, and probably could have won a debate based on his ability to speak well and captivate the audience with perception and pizazz..

    I found this almost laughable on the inside flap of his book:




    This is Greg Bahnsen's response to criticisms of the theonomic position that have been published or circulated over the last ten years. Bahnsen deals not only with Westminster Theological Seminary's Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, but also with two other brief critical books against him, and with various published articles and typewritten, photocopied responses. One by one, Bahnsen takes his critics' arguments apart, showing that they have either misrepresented his position or misrepresented the Bible. Line by line, point by point, he shows that they have not understood his arguments and have also not understood the vulnerability of their own logical and theological positions.

    What I find amazing is when someone, who has 50 people showing him scripturally he is wrong, yet all 50 have misrepresented him....
     
  2. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    "Rabbi Bahnsen"? That's a cute slur to mask the lack of argument. As for the 50 people showing him they are wrong, they had the opportunity to debate him. Silence ain't golden, but it is another color. Not to mention that WTJ forbade anyone to critique Meredith Kline's slander of thoenomy. How fair...
     
  3. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior



    You like that Jacob? AS they say in Jerusalem, "if the yamulke fits....." Him, Gary, Ken, Rush, should have just worn one, wore sackcloth and swam in ashes.

    But why would they debate him? During his lifetime, it was a little more than a novelty in the greater realm of debatable issues. Just like Calvin did not get debated on Limited atonement. Only when a doctrine becomes dangerous and more visible within the fold, is there reason to debate it?

    Now I will also state that I find it deplorable on the part of WTS to give Bahnsen a MDiv degree, yet our own 'Dr." Clark here did not debate him. Please take no offense R. Scott. I have just always wondered why this happened. He should have been debated immediately.

    Kline also did a fantastic job in my humble estimation.
     
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Please keep posting. You are making theonomists look good.
     
  5. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Time for a breather.
     
  6. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Back open. Play nice.
     
  7. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Nicholas,
    Kline admitted back at the beginning that the Theonomists were a great deal closer to the confession than his side was. So what is your point here in this thread.
    Perhaps it would be best to the Intrusive Ethics and its derivative New Covenant Theology point of view and start a new thread on why the Original Westminster Confession was wrong at various points.

    CT
     
  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    And the heat of my reply was that you are speaking very disparagingly of an ordained minister of the gospel who has passed into glory. And an ordained minister who remained in good standing all of his life. That isn't exactly tactful. Perhaps Westminster was wrong to give him a degree, but perhaps the OPC was wrong not to bring charges against him, if he is that dangerous.
     
  9. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    This entire thread has been focused around Bradford's question in post #3: "Ok, what does general equity mean, then?"

    It has been a very helpful thread for me and I thank those who have contributed. However, I don't see how Bahnsen became the center of the discussion (Bradford brought him up originally) since he was not there when the words 'general equity' were written. Perhaps it would be better to leave Bahnsen out of these discussions because he is such a polarizing figure.

    However, Bahnsen supporters cannot in one breath quote him and then in another breath shame those who disagree with him because he is no longer around to defend himself.

    On the other hand, those who disagree with him could also be charitable in that some of the PB readers may have known him personally or known men who did.
     
  10. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    As for me, Bahnsen was in his grave four years before I even knew of his work. As for those who challenged him, some did so on paper even if not in person, the most effective being Vern Poythress, Paul Fowler and Steven Hodge. As for the story that the WTJ forbade anyone to critique Kline's paper, Dr. Robert Godfrey was finally asked about the issue by a WTS west student named Tom Lauder a few years ago and later by Dr. Michael Butler, who confirmed what you are about to read. At the time, Mr. Lauder had a chat club called the Calvin Club (now defunct): he there posted Godfrey's story as follows (with one later edition by TL):

    It has also been said that a letter was written by a subsequent WTJ editor apologizing for the Journal's treatment of Bahnsen. This could only have been written by three men: Drs. Godfrey and Silva and Mr. Norman Shepherd. It is clear from his account that Godfrey would not have written such a letter and according to Tom Lauder, Silva has also denied writing it. Mr. Shepherd has said in correspondence with me that he cannot remember doing so although he does not remember such a policy being in place during his brief tenure. Dr. Bahnsen's son David was at one time actively looking for this letter in his father's files, but I have heard no report that it has been found.
    At the moment it seems that we have contradictory accounts of this incident and no way for onlookers to determine which account is correct until the missing letter is found.
     
  11. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Tim,
    Concerning Idolatry, it is well within the rights of the civil magistrate to suppress it as far as it goes to the peace of the society. For example, you could not allow temples to be built to the false God of Islam etc. and expect it to have no effect on the running of a Christian society. Up to and including the death penalty should be no problem, for a crime that is clearly considered to be worse than Murder (Soul Destruction). One is to fear the second death way more than the first one.

    CT
     
  12. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    It should be noted that the reason it took Westminster Seminary so long to answer Greg Bahnsen is because Theonomy is not easy to refute. Hence they needed to get a faculty to right a reply.

    Moreover, I do not consider a book which advocates political polytheism, welfare statism and denies six-day creation to be in any way Reformed.
     
  13. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    Jacob, my point being is why did he remain in good standing on the subject of theonomy/Law. The OPC, should have vehemently opposed his position in 1973 when Rush wrote Institutes of Biblical Law and Bahnsen wrote the manuscript of Theonomy in Christian Ethics. The ground was fertile for this and why it never happened is a mystery in my mind. Regardles if these 2 men 'caused' the split is a moot point. It happened and the swords were drawn, yet this movement was left untouched. Now we are left with attacking a deceased person who has been elevated into a position of untouchable coated with thick teflon by his disciples.

    I honestly did not notice any heat in your reply. and took no offense. You are passionate and I repsect that. And yes, WTS was terribly wrong to give hi a degree. A process which is not easily attained. I only wish Durand kept the original name of his book, "Judicial Warfare" to be "The New Galatians" Yet out of some sort of charity he did not. For some reason the teflon on GB and RR and Gary is thicker than the one on my cookware...
     
  14. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Nicholas,
    You seem to be falling deeper and deeper into a whole. Let me attempt to get you out of it. First off, you have stated that you believe that Kline did a "fantastic job" defending his thesis. Now Kline has stated, from the beginning, that the Theonomic position, was far closer to the Westminster position than his was. Next you have seem to have a wish to describe Theonomy as "The New Galatians" heresy. Before you go much further, it would probably be a good idea, to describe, how you believe Westminster avoided the Galatian heresy while Theonomy did/does not avoid such.

    CT
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2008
  15. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2008
  16. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Tell me Nicholas, do you believe that there should be any civil laws nowadays at all? If so who gets to make them?

    Moreover, do you consider George Gillespie to have been a "New Galatian" as well?
     
  17. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    And there is reason to believe that Kline was in error on the point: see
    Providence PCA Church Plant- Fayetteville, NC
     
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Am I correct to assume that Dr Duncan--at least on this point--assumes that the American revisions still allow for the magistrate to punish on the first table?

     
  19. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    The reason Bahnsen was given a degree was that his supervising committee were all, to a large extent, operating outside their areas of expertise and they did not do well by their student. Bahnsen's thesis was based on an exegetical foundation and none of his committeee (Faculty Advisor: N. Shepherd and Drs. Knudsen and Davis), were exegetical specialists. I recently asked Dr. James Houston (founding Principal of Regent College, Vancouver) what he would say if a committee supervising a thesis failed to check a commentary citation in a thesis for accuracy. He looked at me, as horrified as only a Scotsman can, and said "That would be a major default!" on the committee's part. Yet Bahnsen's committee did not correct Bahnsen's citing Meyer in support of his view of how the word behind the "or" in verse 18should be translated when Meyer explicitly and adamantly opposes Bahnsen's suggested translation. And there are other errors of this type that his committee should have caught but did not.


    Ironically, the Westminster Faculty did not even try the area where they should have begun: reviewing his exegesis of Matthew 5:17-20. Had they done so, or had any Reformed writer done a full critique of Bahnsen's exegesis in the immediate aftermath of the publication of the first edition of Theonomy in Christian Ethics, the micro-Presbyterian denominations would not be troubled by Theonomy at all. As it is the partial critique by Poythress in The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses has proved sufficient to show a great many theological students that there are major problems with Bahnsen's exegesis even if it doesn't address all of them.
     
  20. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I appreciate and respect most anything Dr Poythress writes--he is brilliant and gracious, but it's been years since i have read his work. I can grant some of his exegetical responses, but I also noticed (and I guess I would have to go back and provide examples) that Poythress had a few conceptual problems in his book. Sorry for the hit-and-run. I will try to provide examples later.
     
  21. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    So Kline was in error about his view being farther away from the confessional view than Theonomy was?

    So he did not know his own work or he did not know that the confession actually supported his own work?

    CT
     
  22. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    Tim cat:

    Thank you, but I hope you find the 'reasons' you cite to be lacking and weak at best.
     
  23. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    ***Moderator Note***

    While I mainly agree with the non-Theonomist group I want to make an observation.

    This comment was a bit overboard. Amazing Grace should be a bit more gracious in my estimation. The phrase 'I only wish' sends a personal heated message in context. I mean the implication sounds like you might wish that these guys are to be considered in the same boat as those whom Paul wished had slipped with the knife.


    Now Chris gave the thread a rest yesterday for a reason. I think that that should have been a warning.

    So now... take this as a warning. I personally have enjoyed this thread. But I will not tolerate this kind of behavior.

    Be Encouraged,
    Randy
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2008
  24. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    Kline seems to have accepted the Theonomic reading of the Confession. In actual fact the Confession, although allowing for Theonomic outcomes in particular cases, is not Theonomic in theory or intent. See Duncan's paper or How Firm a Foundation (pm me for a copy).
     
  25. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    The reasons given were illustrative not exhaustive. If you want to see the full extent to which Bahnsen's committee let him down and his exegesis can be critiqued, pm me for a copy of How Firm a Foundation in which the section dealing with Bahnsen's exegesis runs to about 80 pages.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2008
  26. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    “General” appears to mean “general rules of” and at that date, “equity” did not only mean “justice” but also meant a particular long established technical term in English law. From the twelfth to the nineteenth century, England had two court systems; courts of common law and courts of equity. The common law courts worked entirely on precedent and

    …if no statute clearly applied the judge was required to make his decision according to the nearest applicable law. Little discretion was permitted to the common law judge. Obviously this frequently led to injustice—especially if the law was not intended to be used for such cases. So if a man believed himself to have been wronged, he could appeal to the Court of Chancery where the Chancellor would decide his case. (Black, Henry Campbell, “Equity” in Black’s Law Dictionary, (St. Paul. MN: Westminster, 1979) p. 484, quoted in Troxel, A. Craig and Peter J. Wallace, “Men in Combat over the Civil Law: General Equity in WCF 19:4” Westminster Theological Journal, 64, 2002, p. 309.)

    The chancellor was not bound by the common law. He was bound merely by equity—a system of principles of justice that enabled him to decide a case when the law did not directly apply. The medieval chancellors “…were making sure that justice was done in cases where shortcomings in the regular procedure…rendered its attainment by due process unlikely. They came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it.” (Baker, J. H. An Introduction to English Legal History, (London, Butterworths, 1979), p. 87, quoted in Troxel and Wallace, “Men in Combat,” p. 309.)

    When dealing with situations for which common law provided no just precedent, courts of equity weighed: “the reason and spirit of a statute, and [considered] what should be either corrected or more widely applied, according as the principles of natural law might dictate.” (Isbell, Divine Law of Political Israel expired: Part 4 General Equity: Part III 13 November 2005). To the contemporary courts, “equity” then meant: “The recourse to general principles of justice (the naturalis aequitas of Roman jurists) to correct or supplement the provisions of the law. Equity of a statute: the construction of a statute according to its reason and spirit, so as to make it apply to cases for which it does not expressly provide.” (Oxford English Dictionary, Online edition Oxford English Dictionary Sign In October 27. 2007)

    The Westminster Divines, then, understood “general equity may require” to mean righteously applying the eternal moral law/Decalogue provision underlying a specific civil law to a situation for which that civil law was not directly intended. As Sherman Isbell has noted:

    The Confession uses the term general equity to identify the element in the judicial laws which is of enduring obligation. The meaning of this term is evident from the chapter in which it appears. There is an equity or righteousness which on four other occasions in this chapter is said to still oblige, amidst all the changes in redemptive history. That equity is the moral law, which 1) was first given at creation, 2) was afterwards delivered in the ten commandments, 3) is distinguished from the ceremonial and judicial laws as such, 4) is always backed by the authority of the Creator, and 5) is strengthened by Christ in the Gospel: "God gave to Adam a law, . . . by which He bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience . . . . . This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness . . . . . Beside this law, commonly called moral, [are the ceremonial and judicial laws] . . . . . The moral law doth for ever bind all . . . to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it: neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.”
    Confirmation that "general equity" signifies the moral law is furnished by an examination of the earlier Reformed and contemporary Puritan literature which forms the background and context for the writing of the Confession. These writers regarded equity as identifiable by reference to well-known standards. In the classical Reformed tradition, equity is the righteousness of the moral law, which is 1) embodied in a natural law binding upon all men as creatures under the authority of the Creator, and 2) common to moral teaching found in the Scriptures as a whole. We shall see that Calvin and the Puritans did not allow the judicial laws to define equity. Conformity to the moral law was the standard against which these writers reviewed the judicial laws and isolated the elements of perpetual equity in them. (After citing WCF 19:!-3,5 Isbell demonstrated that key Reformation and Westminster era theologians used “general equity” in this sense in Divine Law, Part II www.members.aol.com/RSICHURCH/expire2.html and Part III General Equity: Part III continues the argument 13 November 2005).

    So that is how the term "general equity is usually understood in WCF 19:4.
     
  27. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    If you go back to what I said, I did not say the confession was in fact Theonomic, I said that Theonomy is far closer to the confession than Kline. So my question to Nicholas stands. He either needs to step up or throw the Confession under the bus with Theonomy.

    CT
     
  28. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    The problem is that if Theonomy is the New Galatian error, then one should not even need a seminar education, let alone be a professor (of any specialty) in order to blow it out of the water.

    So one has either of two options. Either the committee was completely incompetent (regardless of the specialty) or the claim of being the Galatian error is incompetent.

    CT
     
  29. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    CT,
    You make it sound so black and white. And that is just as reductionist as the other reply in my opinion. After all so many are shading Galatians today with so many varying views. Even Covenantally.
     
  30. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    My point was that if one wants to call Theonomy such, then such are the implications. If one wants to just call Theonomy an error or even serious error, then the implications of such a claim are different.

    CT
     
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