Relation of case law, decalogue, natural revelatio

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Puritan Board Freshman
I'm new to PB, and this is my first thread I'm starting. I began responding to the thread by KMK on "Help Im slipping into Theonomy" but I couldn't keep up with all the posts. I don't know how you guys do it, I tried to in the beginning, but then it's like a landslide of posts, and if you are going to respond to everything, you have to write a book for every post. Then people start posting articles, and going down 100 rabbit trails etc. Kind of hard to steer the discussion straight. Might be easier sitting down over a pipe and beer.

Nonetheless, I'll attempt to strike at what I see to be a major issue between theonomists and non theonomists (especially Klineans). Please try not to steer this post off in 100 different directions or post 5-10 page ariticles, because it's not helpful, and everyone ends up just talking past one another and not really getting to the heart of issues.

With that being said, here is firstly my view, and secondly a question.

It seems to me that at the heart of the theonomy debate is the relationship between the case law and the decalogue. Also a major issue (and closely related) is the relationship between the mosaic law and natural revelation, specifically from Rom 1-3.

My belief is that the case law is a natural extension of the decalogue. God first gives the decalogue, but then the question remains as to how we are to keep the decalogue. He says "thou shalt not murder" but exactly what does that mean for issues of self defense, warfare, capital punishment, etc. Exactly what constitues lawful self defense, and when does self defense itself turn into murder? These are all questions that arise from the decalogue. Therefore God further clarifies the decalogue with the specific applications of the decalogue, given in the case laws.

The case laws, therefore, are seen as a definition of the ten commandments, they define for us, in applicatory form, of how the decalogue is to be understood. The reason why the relationship between the two is so important is that there are many today who want to keep the decalogue, but not the case laws. This simply makes no sense. You cannot do away with the definition and keep that which is defined. If you change the defintion, you have in fact changed what is defined. Therefore if anyone says that they keep the decalogue but not the case laws, they have in fact reinvented the decalogue. When we submit to the decalogue, we must in turn submit to the interpretation of the decalogue which God provides.

Closely related to this issue is the relation of special revelation and general revelation in the ethical field. Exactly what is the relationship between the moral principles God has revealed in nature/conscience and those which he has revealed in the Mosaic covenant? The klinean/natural law position teaches that natural law can basically be equated with the decalogue. Of course this would bring us once again to the above discussion. Because if the case law is an exposition/definition of the decalogue, then acording to the natural law theory, it would follow that the case law is an exposition/definition of natural law as well. Of course they don't want to go this far, but if my reasoning is sound, it logically follows. This seems to me to be unavoidable, even Dr. R. Scott Clark writes as follows in his aricle "Calvin and Natural Law" posted on his blog on 12/26/06
We don't need to invoke the Mosaic civil code, except perhaps, as a concrete example of the application of natural law
He admits that the Mosaic civil code is the logical application of natural law, because he equates natural law with the decalogue. If this is the case, then the only difference between him and a theonomist is that he wants to come up with the same applications of the decalogue, but he wants to try to do it all from natural revelation, unless a dispute arises and he is forced to turn to the case law/civil code. I know, he won't want to say that, but it seems that he has come close to admiting as much in the above quote.

As I read Rom 1-3, Paul teaches that the difference between natural law and the Mosaic code is not one of content, but a distinction in the method of revelation. The gentiles have the law (singular) revealed to them in nature, so they are without excuse. The Jews have the same law revealed not only nature but in explicit forms in the oracles of God, so they are even further from an excuse. Paul sums up his argument in 3:19 when he says that whatever the law (singular) says, it says to those who are under it, so that every mouth (both Jew and Gentile) will be silent, and the whole world be held accountable. There is not two laws, one revealed in nature and another in the Mosaic covenant. There is one law, which is revealed in both nature and the mosaic covenant.

So here is my question/challenge to those who disagree. Can you show that the case law is not a defintion/application of the decalogue? If so, what is the relationship between the two? Please don't go into a diatribe on the theocratic state, but specifically what is the relationship between the 10 commandments and the case law.

Also, if you believe that natural revelation and special revelation teach a different ethic can you prove your position from Rom 1-3? If not, then why would you prefer to use natural revelation which is distorted by sinful men, to the clear and objective oracles of God, revealed in Scripture?

I pray that this discussion will be helpfull.
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Puritan Board Post-Graduate

Are you saying that natural law is of no value in consideration of God's law? What is your definition of "natural law"?

Here is an OT case law:

Deu 18:20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.

This derives from the second commandment, as you suggest in saying that the case laws are outworkings of the Decalogue.

The NT adds,

Gal 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

The WCF states that,

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.[12] Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word:[13] and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.[14]

12. II Tim. 3:16-17; Gal. 1:8-9; II Thess. 2:2
13. John 6:45; I Cor. 2:12, 14-15; Eph. 1:18; II Cor. 4:6
14. I Cor. 11:13-14; 14:26, 40

(notice the two parts that I put in bold)

So here you have elders given authority to rule by discretion in certain matters which the Word of God does not clearly define for us, using the light of nature, Christian prudence, and therefore not way that disagrees with the plainer and clearer teachings. But at no time is there given any warrant to cite the writings of men, traditions, antiquity, as authority in matters of doctrine.

In the OT we are told that he who speaks what God did not command, who presumes upon any other authority than God Himself to speak in God's name, must die. In the NT we are told that he should be considered accursed. So do we put him to death, excommuicate him, or put him out of office and/or under discipline?

Romans 1-3 speaks of the law that binds everyone because they know it. They are without excuse. Knowledge of God's power and deity is knowledge of the law of rectitude.

What I am saying is that there is a unity of uprightness in both natural and inscripturated law, but that we are to use the former in addition to the latter. That can only be because the latter implies the use of the former, adding the need for judgment in each situation, therefore calling for the light of nature and Christian prudence as well as the rules set down in Scripture. Therefore, it is possible to say that there is unity within the two, and yet they are different.

They teach the same ethic, but yet are different from each other. The case laws of the OT are cases in point. They are the practical outworking of the Ten Commandments as each situation made them necessary, and were become the law of the land through their recording of them, much like the "precedence of law" works in basis in the US constitutional judiciary.

Therefore, the NT people of God being a new nation, the precedence of law becomes a binding record in a new way, since a new constitution also is brought in. Thus case laws in the OT are not carried over rule for rule, sanction for sanction, and are not binding in the same way; but are rather examples to us as they reveal the holy will of God for the lives of those who are no longer under the judgment under the law, for the lives of those who have been freed to live lawful lives without the weight of the curse upon them. These case laws demonstrate for us the intent behind the law, how the Ten Commandments are carried out in compliance with God's will. They reveal to us the general equity required of us by God, without having direct application as under the old constitution. They are now an example to us under a new constitution, a newly ratified covenant.

Would you concur?


Puritan Board Junior

I would concur with JohnV above, and would add a few things for your consideration.

First, Theonomy is a philosophy - a way of looking at the Scriptures. Bahnsen argues that because the mosaic judicials were a commentary on the 10 Commandments that the judicials are just as binding as the Decalogue. I believe this is the same thing that you say above.

Second, the Reformers and the Puritans did not look on the mosaic judicials the way modern Theonomy does. They understood the 10 Commands to have been written in stone. Consequently, they are binding forever. However, both the Ceremonial and Judicial laws were written on animal skins: thus indicating their temporary nature. Calvin, for example, was not unfamiliar with modern day Theonomy:

I would have preferred to pass over this matter in utter silence if I were not aware that here many dangerously go astray. For there are some who deny that a commonwealth is duly framed which neglects the political system of Mose, and is ruled by the common laws of nations. Let other men consider how perilous and seditious this notion is; it will be enough for me to have proved it false and foolish, Institutes, 4:20:14

...Therefore, as ceremonial laws could be abrogated while piety remained safe and unharmed, so too, when these judicial laws were taken away, the perpetual duties and precepts of love could still remain, 4:20:15

...God's law forbids stealing. The penalties meted out to thieves in the Jewish state are to be seen in Exodus [Ex. 22:1-4]. The very ancient laws of other nations punished theft with double restitution ... Some proceeded to banishment, others to flogging, others finally to capital punishment ... Yet we see how, with such diversity, all laws tend to the same end. For, together with one voice, they pronounce punishment against those crimes which God's eternal law has condemned, namely, murder, theft, adultery, and false witness. But they do not agree on the manner of punishment. Nor is this either necessary or expedient, 4:20:16.
Third, it appears to me that on the previous thread, "Help!..." that you have not adequately answered my posts #17 and #50. You accused me in a previous post that I did not understand the Theonomic distinction (which is a common ploy by Theonomists). If you cannot answer my posts #17 and #50, then you have made a false accusation, and have violated the immutable Law.

Finally, my suggestion to you is to put down the Theonomic books, and start reading some good Reformed material on this matter. Calvin's Institutes and Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology, are both excellent sources to read and understand. You will find that Turretin especially destroys every siingle argument that the Theonomist makes.

I doubt that you will take this advise since you seem to be enamoured with the Theonomic demi-cult.

Grace and Peace,



Staff member
I doubt that you will take this advise since you seem to be enamoured with the Theonomic demi-cult.
Grace and Peace,
***Mod Note.***This is evil surmising; something Puritans and theonomists should appreciate alike. Everyone tread carefully here; speaking as a nonTheonomist.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
***Mod Note.***This is evil surmising; something Puritans and theonomists should appreciate alike. Everyone tread carefully here; speaking as a nonTheonomist.


I'm sorry if my post upset some people, if it did. I'm trying to get us all to redefine the term "theonomy". Not so that it no longer refers to the Law of God, but so that the distinction of who is a "theonomist" and who is a "non-theonomist" is more along what I believe to be the Reformed basis.

I am not a follower of Bahnsen or Rushdooney, but I am not therefore a "non-theonomist". I do not want to reintroduce the case laws beyond the Confessional standards, but I am not therefore a "non-theonomist".

I believe that Christians are set free from the accusations of the law, not because they are above the law, or because they are better than the law, nor because they do much more than keep the law. They are lost under the law. But the penalty of the law no longer applies to those who by faith in Christ are set free from the demands of the law. And we have this same message of liberty to take to the lost of this world, that unbelievers too can be set free from the judgment of the law through faith. I believe that a just and Christian society will develope laws that enhance the propagation and dissemination of this gospel message.

I am, in fact, a Reformed theonomist. I am no less a theonomist than those who follow Bahnsen or Rushdooney.

Therefore, I am trying to introduce to the discussions that the distinction between "theonomists" and "non-theonomists" should be reserved for those who agree or disagree with the Reformed standards. We should assume that all on this Board, who have signed to the Reformed Confessions to be members, are deemed theonomists by virtue of that signature. The distinction should no longer be marked by whether one is follower of Bahnsen or Rushdooney.

Within the discussion of theonomy, we can make the distinction between "Bahnsenists" and "non-Bahnsenists"; or "Rushdooneyists" and "non-Rushdooeneyists". That's OK, and well within the parameters of this Board. But I believe that claiming that non-Bahnsenists are non-theonomists taints the discussion as somewhat accusatory. This should not be among brothers.

I believe I had to address my post as I did in order to put forward this idea. Gabriel makes a rather broad generalization between "theonomists and non-theonomists", and I, as a Reformend theonomist, can't agree with it. But I am not therefore a "non-theonomist". I think I made that point. But I in no way wish to cut off discussion of this vital point of Reformed theology. My intentioin is to enhance and enlarge and encourage it. I want to "unconfine" it from merely discussing Bahnsen's or Rushdooney's theses.

If this is wrong, then I am sorry. Please accept my apologies.
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