The Sovereignty of God and Civil Law

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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
So if the civil laws show us the moral law, and the civil/judical laws are obligatory insofar as they embody the moral law, then the entire civil law is obligatory.

Not really. The moral law is also "a testimony of natural law and of that conscience which God has engraved upon the minds of men." (Calvin) For example, the penal sanctions are not obligatory. There's no mandate to execute Sabbath breakers or juvenile delinquents today. There is also no modern equivalent of the Canaanites and no Christian equivalent of jihad.

Bahnsen made that distinction on the Canaanites.

Also: We may build prisons and charge tariffs. We may license barbers, doctors and drivers. We may allow jury trial and a right to counsel. The police may arrest prostitutes and drug dealers. We can abolish slavery and polygamy. You get the idea.

Well, that's a different question altogether. The prison system is horribly unjust and makes the victim pay twice for the crime.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Suffice to say that theonomist Stephen Perks wrote a book defending the use of common law.

Should his judges follow British precedent or Moses? What if the judge rules in an area not covered in Scripture?

Depends on the law, I guess. Let a hard theonomist answer that one. If Moses' law is more just (like executing a capital criminal) than British precedent, so be it. Dare we say vice-versa? As to the second part of the question, let the general equity deal with that. I don't necessarily deny natural law. As long as we admit that natural law begs the question in favor of Christianity, I am fine with using it.

Also, RTS rejected Bahnsen by saying he was "too puritan."

RTS, like all of us, is fallible.

As I painfully know too well.
 

clstamper

Puritan Board Freshman
Bahnsen made that distinction on the Canaanites.

This is another issue. Defining theonomy is impossible because the doctrine dies the death of a thousand qualifications. You can wind up with something weird, like Rushdoony's decision to keep kosher.

Well, that's a different question altogether. The prison system is horribly unjust and makes the victim pay twice for the crime.

The system is broken, yes. However, it also keeps the habitually violent and anti-social sequestered from ordinary society. This is a good thing.
 

clstamper

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't necessarily deny natural law. As long as we admit that natural law begs the question in favor of Christianity, I am fine with using it.

By admitting natural law, you've wandered off the presuppositionalist plantation. Don't let the Van Tillian thought police catch you.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I don't necessarily deny natural law. As long as we admit that natural law begs the question in favor of Christianity, I am fine with using it.

By admitting natural law, you've wandered off the presuppositionalist plantation. Don't let the Van Tillian thought police catch you.

Van Til didn't necessarily deny natural law. He denied more crassly expressed autonomous versions of natural law. There is in one place where he critiques Barth he seems to affirm it (no, I don't have the source on me). If theonomy dies the death of a thousand qualifications, natural law does more so. The Klinean expression of natural law is different than the Budziszewski expression (the latter being more vibrant).
 

BrianLanier

Puritan Board Freshman
So if the civil laws show us the moral law, and the civil/judical laws are obligatory insofar as they embody the moral law, then the entire civil law is obligatory.
Not really. The moral law is also "a testimony of natural law and of that conscience which God has engraved upon the minds of men." (Calvin) For example, the penal sanctions are not obligatory. There's no mandate to execute Sabbath breakers or juvenile delinquents today. There is also no modern equivalent of the Canaanites and no Christian equivalent of jihad.

Ok, but I was just anaylizing what was [seemingly] entailed by the numbered [(3) & (4)] premises in your above post. That's why I said, "whether right or wrong". I was neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the above, just stating what I saw as the relationship between (3) & (4).

Also: We may build prisons and charge tariffs. We may license barbers, doctors and drivers. We may allow jury trial and a right to counsel. The police may arrest prostitutes and drug dealers. We can abolish slavery and polygamy. You get the idea.

I agree with Jacob here. This is clearly another issue.
 

clstamper

Puritan Board Freshman
Van Til didn't necessarily deny natural law. He denied more crassly expressed autonomous versions of natural law.\

The back cover copy to "No Other Standard" says that Van Til "rejected the natural law philosophy in any form."

If theonomy dies the death of a thousand qualifications, natural law does more so. The Klinean expression of natural law is different than the Budziszewski expression (the latter being more vibrant).

The Klineans are more like Bahnsen than they imagine. They both call for an abstract relativism on matters not covered by Scripture. So you get theonomists calling for drug legalization and Klineans supporting state-sanctioned gay marriage. They are both confused.

Budziszewski is now some sort of neoconservative Catholic neo-thomist. He means something different by "natural law." Yet all three of the above tend to read natural law in a post-Enlightenment way. They are thinking of an abstract Lockean rationalism mixed with historic natural law. That's not what Calvin (or I) was talking about.

Natural Law is all those things that grownups told you when you were growing up. It is the voice of conscience telling you not to nick grapes from the supermarket. That s sort of thing. It is based in wisdom, tradition and prudence, but it isn't a propositional law code. Natural law is built into us. The CRC mis-identifies it as "common grace." This is the law written on the hearts of Gentiles in Romans 2.

I believe in some sort of natural law, but not in the neo-thomist or Lockean senses. So I don't fit comfortably in either the presuppositionalist or evidentialist camps.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
Finally, my comment about contemporary reformed rejecting first table punishments is not necessarily my own view but an objective description of the majority reformed view here in North America today.

That is because you Americans were influenced by the enlightenment to amend the Westminster Confession to suit the spirit of the age; of course Tim as a Baptist you don't agree with the WCF, so there is little point criticising Bahnsen for (allegedly) disagreeing with a document you yourself reject. You keep going on about the historical evidence against Theonomy, however it does not seem to occur to you that I have already considered this (and documented it) myself and do not agree with your conclusions, so repeating the same arguments over and over again is not going to work.

Tim-First off, I am Canadian not American, would you like to be presumed to be English? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ;-)
And just because I don't agree with the WCF on Baptism and church govt. does not mean I reject it on the contemporary use of the Mosaic judicials where, as it happens the WCF and the 1689 Old London Confession are substantially identical.
I would be willing to bet that your research only looked at whether the Divines shared certain Theonomic outcomes with Bahnsen and did not address the question of whether they got to the same results by the same reasoning process. Every published Theonomic writer I have read presumes that because the Divines anticipated Bahnsen's stances on a number of civil laws, that all involved shared the same hermeneutic for getting there. But the key Puritan figures, critical Westminster Divines and a number of those who followed flatly dissent from critical elements of Bahnsen's hermeneutic.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Daniel, Theonomy is not the only position that consistently holds that God and His law-word is sovereign in civil law.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie
No, Theonomy is the only position that consistently holds that God is the only Lawgiver to the state. Other positions - by rejecting Biblical penal sanctions - deny this. All other views deny that God ALONE has the sovereign right to determine what constitutes crime and what constitutes a just penal sanction. Others may tip their hats to the sovereignty of God in civil affairs, but they deny it by their rejection of Biblical law.

One of the things I have found in discussing these matters in the last 7 years is that Theonomists almost invariably misunderstand the historic reformed position at both epistemological and historico-theological levels and attack straw men versions of it. The classical Reformed view does not reject Mosaic civil stipulations: while it recognizes that they have expired as the law code for Israel, a nation state in national covenant with God, it does not draw the false conclusion that those laws are irrelevant for today. Rather, it specifically recognizes that any Mosaic civil stipulation may or may not be valid depending on whether or not general equity will apply in that case.

Notice here that Tim does not bother to answer the question of who determines whether or not something is a crime or what constitutes a just and equitable punishment? If the answer is anyone other than God alone, then that is Arminianism as it denies that God alone is Sovereign in civil law.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Tim-First off, I am Canadian not American, would you like to be presumed to be English? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ;-)
And just because I don't agree with the WCF on Baptism and church govt. does not mean I reject it on the contemporary use of the Mosaic judicials where, as it happens the WCF and the 1689 Old London Confession are substantially identical.
I would be willing to bet that your research only looked at whether the Divines shared certain Theonomic outcomes with Bahnsen and did not address the question of whether they got to the same results by the same reasoning process. Every published Theonomic writer I have read presumes that because the Divines anticipated Bahnsen's stances on a number of civil laws, that all involved shared the same hermeneutic for getting there. But the key Puritan figures, critical Westminster Divines and a number of those who followed flatly dissent from critical elements of Bahnsen's hermeneutic.

Well, Canada is part of North America isn't it ;)?

As for your differences with the WCF, the fact that you are a Baptist means that you have a different way of looking at Scripture and covenantal continuity, therefore, you are not qualified to understand how Presbyterians look at these issues.

Did the Westminster Divines come to the same conclusions as Greg Bahnsen and others by means of the same reasoning process? This is a pretty pointless question as they came to the same conclusions. After all you can argue for infant baptism on the basis that the children of believers are in the covenant of grace, or, alternatively, you can argue that since they are part of the visible church then they are entitled to receive baptism. Thus two different reasoning processes are employed, but both lead to the same conclusion (i.e. the children of believers should be baptised). Moreover, since they clearly differ with you on the civil application of the first table of the law, then you are removing the speck from Greg Bahnsen's eye while you have a beam of difference with the Reformers and Puritans in your own.

However, let us consider how some Reformers, Puritans and Covenanters reasoned in favour of Biblical civil law:

Donald Cargill (Covenanter):

Moreover we declare, that those men whom we shall set over us, shall be engaged to govern us principally by that civil and judicial law (we think none will be so ignorant as to think, by the judicial law we mean that which is ceremonial or typical) given by God to his people of Israel, no man, we think, doubting, but it must be the best so far as it goes, being given by God. The Queensferry Paper.

Cargill assumes that the civil law is perpetually binding as it was given by God; an obvious covenantal and Bahsen-like conclusion to come to.

James Durham (Covenanter):

The judicial law is for regulating outward society, and for government, and generally (excepting what was peculiar to the people of Israel) agrees with the moral law. Exposition of the Ten Commandments.

Note Durham says the judicial law (except for what is circumstantial to Israel) is also part of the moral law - again a conclusion Greg Bahnsen would have agreed with.

George Gillespie (Covenanter and Westminster Divine):

Christ’s words (Matt. 5:17), Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill, are comprehensive of the judicial law, it being a part of the law of Moses. Wholesome Severity

This is the same interpretation as that offered by Greg Bahnsen i.e. that Matt. 5:17-19 presumes continuity between the Older and New Testaments and is thus inclusive of Biblical penology unless the Lawgiver declares otherwise. This is clearly the position of the Westminster Confession as it quotes Matt. 5:17 to show that the general equity (justice) of the judicial law remains binding today.

Henry Barrow (Separatist Puritan):

But the statutes and judgments of God which are delivered and expounded unto us by his holy prophets, endure for ever; the pure wisdom, the upright justice, the true exposition and faithful execution of his moral law: which laws were not made for the Jews’ state only but for all mankind, especially for all the Israel of God, from which laws it is not lawful in judgment to vary or decline either to the one hand or to the other.

Biblical penolgy is deemed to be part of the moral law; again this is a Bahnsen-like conclusion.

Walter Brute (Wycliffite Reformer):

“to be wondered at, why thieves are, among Christians, for theft put to death, when after the law of Moses they were not put to death. Christians suffer adulterers to live, Sodomites, and they who curse father and mother, and many other horrible sinners; … So we neither keep the law of righteousness given by God, nor the law of mercy taught by Christ.”

He assumes the law of Moses to be perpetually binding upon Christians; again this is a Bahnsenite conclusion.

John Knox (Scottish Reformer) as considered by Thomas McCrie:

held that idolatry might justly be punished by death. Into this sentiment they were led in consequence of their having adopted the untenable opinion, that the judicial laws given to the Jewish nation were binding upon Christian nations, as to all offenses against the moral law.

Again, Biblical penal sanctions are considered to have been part of the moral law of God. Another Bahnsen-like opinion, shunned by modern Calvinists.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I would agree with the sentiments of theonomists, there is only one standard of justice. But hermenuetically, it can't be the Isrealite theocracy and mosaic covenant. That was for Israel and expired with Israel. It was never intended to be perpetual, but point forward to the new covenant. Only the moral law is binding upon all men. We can't go back to types and shadows. Christ has come. But I've argued this elsewhere on the Board and need not get into again now. I just wanted to clarify that you don't have to be a Theonomist in order to believe the civil magistrate must enforce the entire 10 commandments (though we would certainly disagree as to how that may be enforced), and the Theonomy as we know it today is clearly an innovation, it's new. :2cents:

This confuses the judicial law with the ceremonial law, the civil law had nothing to do with types and shadows, that was the ceremonial law. The civil magistrate is not to enforce the Ten Commandments per se, but only breaches of the Ten Commandments that constitute crimes.
The author of Hebrews would disagree with you.

Hebrews 2
1Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
2For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
3How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

Here OT penalties are types of the judgment to come. :2cents:


The quote from Hebrews 2 proves that the penalties of the Mosaic law were just and equittable. And since God's standards of justice transcend national boundaries then they should be applied today.

Moreover, all God's judgments in history - whether directly through the civil magistrate, or in His providential judgment of the nations that rebel against Him - point forward to the final judgment. This does not however prove that those just, righteous, holy, infallible, perfect and inerrant penal sanctions should not be enforced today. On the contrary, if they are not enforced then God's providential judgments will fall upon the nations that refuse to apply Biblical penolgy.

Nevertheless, your reference to types and shadows implied that the Mosaic penalties were part of the ceremonial law; this is contrary to the WCF which distinguishes between them.

Let me ask this question: were Older Testament penal sanctions morally right or morally wrong?
 
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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I would agree with the sentiments of theonomists, there is only one standard of justice. But hermenuetically, it can't be the Isrealite theocracy and mosaic covenant. That was for Israel and expired with Israel. It was never intended to be perpetual, but point forward to the new covenant. Only the moral law is binding upon all men. We can't go back to types and shadows. Christ has come. But I've argued this elsewhere on the Board and need not get into again now. I just wanted to clarify that you don't have to be a Theonomist in order to believe the civil magistrate must enforce the entire 10 commandments (though we would certainly disagree as to how that may be enforced), and the Theonomy as we know it today is clearly an innovation, it's new. :2cents:

Right so what is the standard of civil justice today? What is the just and equittable punishment for sodomy outside of the borders of Israel?

Moreover, Theonomists believe that the civil laws (which cannot be shown, on the basis of sound exegesis) to have been circumstantial to Israel are also part of the moral law, and thus they are perpetually binding upon all men and nations. Before anyone starts up about the WCF's 3-fold division of the law, the Divines clearly believed that there was overlap between the civil and moral law, so that a law could fall into both categories, hence they quote the penal sanctions in the footnotes of the WCF and Larger Catechism as perpetually binding moral laws.

However, I am not saying that the Reformers and the Puritans were exactly the same as modern Theonomists. They did not adhere to the Biblical distinction between sin and sins that are crimes; moreover, they allowed the state to get involved in all sorts of things which are none of its business (education, welfare, the economy etc).
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
A fortiori arguments are only valid if the minor premise is still valid. If it is not valid, then you can't reason from the lesser to the greater.

The author of Hebrews thinks it's valid :)

You made a logical jump somewhere. You asserted that they are *merely* types.

If what you are saying is true, then your argument implodes. Watch.

1. Lesser premise: Old Testament penal crimes are assumed to be true by the author of Hebrews.
2. If (1), then how much greater is God's ultimate punishment.

However, you deny half of (1).
If you deny (1), how can you reach (2)?

1. Lesser premise: The author of Hebrews assumes the civil penalties to be part of the old covenant.
2. The old covenant typified and was fulfilled by the new covenant (a major theme in Hebrews).
3. The penalties of the old covenant are surpassed by more severe new covenant penalties.

To go back to the old covenant penalties is to make the same mistake the apostates of Hebrew 6 and 10 would make in returning to Judaism. Their pedagogical purpose is done. Political and social ethics have to be grounded in something bigger than the Mosaic adminstration. Hope that is clearer. :)
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
how does the law about not having sex with a woman in her period point to Christ? How does a law about a husband pleasuring his new wife on their honeymoon point to Christ? Remember, all laws in OT point to Christ.

Is a woman still considered morally unclean today if she has her menstrual period? You gonna keep her out of church that week like they did under Moses?

Perhaps there was something instructional going on there in the old covenant? Perhaps God was using the natural bodily emissions and the whole concept of ritual uncleaness/purification to teach us something like "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Mt. 15:1,11)? :2cents:

And which honeymoon law are you refering to? I'm sure that one is perpetual and part of the moral law ;)
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
The author of Hebrews thinks it's valid :)

You made a logical jump somewhere. You asserted that they are *merely* types.

If what you are saying is true, then your argument implodes. Watch.

1. Lesser premise: Old Testament penal crimes are assumed to be true by the author of Hebrews.
2. If (1), then how much greater is God's ultimate punishment.

However, you deny half of (1).
If you deny (1), how can you reach (2)?

1. Lesser premise: The author of Hebrews assumes the civil penalties to be part of the old covenant.
2. The old covenant typified and was fulfilled by the new covenant (a major theme in Hebrews).
3. The penalties of the old covenant are surpassed by more severe new covenant penalties.

To go back to the old covenant penalties is to make the same mistake the apostates of Hebrew 6 and 10 would make in returning to Judaism. Their pedagogical purpose is done. Political and social ethics have to be grounded in something bigger than the Mosaic adminstration. Hope that is clearer. :)


Again, you are in opposition to the Westminster Standards at this point as the WCF asserts that it was the ceremonial law (not the penalties of the civil law) which was given to Israel "as a church under age".

So what has replaced the civil penalties of the Older Testament today as the objective standard of socio-political justice? Please show me from Scripture precisely which penal sanctions are more just, righteous, equatible and holy than those prescribed in the word of God.

Your argument from Hebrews proves too much, because if true then the civil magistrate would be forbidden from punishing any crimes at all. However, Paul clearly tells us that the civil magistrate is still to execute God's wrath (note it is God's wrath, not the magistrate's own wrath) upon the evil-doer.

Moreover, by arguing that those calling for Biblical penal sanctions to be upheld today are committing the same mistake as those in Hebrews 6 and 10 you are, by implication, accusing Theonomists of being apostates. Is this a position you are prepared to defend?
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
You made a logical jump somewhere. You asserted that they are *merely* types.

If what you are saying is true, then your argument implodes. Watch.

1. Lesser premise: Old Testament penal crimes are assumed to be true by the author of Hebrews.
2. If (1), then how much greater is God's ultimate punishment.

However, you deny half of (1).
If you deny (1), how can you reach (2)?

1. Lesser premise: The author of Hebrews assumes the civil penalties to be part of the old covenant.
2. The old covenant typified and was fulfilled by the new covenant (a major theme in Hebrews).
3. The penalties of the old covenant are surpassed by more severe new covenant penalties.

To go back to the old covenant penalties is to make the same mistake the apostates of Hebrew 6 and 10 would make in returning to Judaism. Their pedagogical purpose is done. Political and social ethics have to be grounded in something bigger than the Mosaic adminstration. Hope that is clearer. :)


Again, you are in opposition to the Westminster Standards at this point as the WCF asserts that it was the ceremonial law (not the penalties of the civil law) which was given to Israel "as a church under age".

WCF 19.4. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired [17th century English, expired= kaput, gone, done way, no longer in effect] together with the State of that people, not obliging any other, now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

So what has replaced the civil penalties of the Older Testament today as the objective standard of socio-political justice? Please show me from Scripture precisely which penal sanctions are more just, righteous, equatible and holy than those prescribed in the word of God.
They function for instructional purposes only. Otherwise you have to put up a railing around your roof.

Your argument from Hebrews proves too much, because if true then the civil magistrate would be forbidden from punishing any crimes at all. However, Paul clearly tells us that the civil magistrate is still to execute God's wrath (note it is God's wrath, not the magistrate's own wrath) upon the evil-doer.
The civil penalties were made for ceremonial crimes, like apostacy. And capital punishment was not given through Moses but through Noah and the covenant of preservation, a truly global covenant, unlike the Mosaic covenant.

If you want a biblically based penology and social ethic you need to build on what covenant administrations are still in force. The Mosaic is not one of them. :2cents:
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I've been reading this thread, and have a couple observations to make about some of the arguments and statements made:

A fortiori arguments are only valid if the minor premise is still valid. If it is not valid, then you can't reason from the lesser to the greater.

The author of Hebrews thinks it's valid :)

You made a logical jump somewhere. You asserted that they are *merely* types.

But at the same time, Jacob, Patrick was directly responding to Daniel's statement that "the civil law had nothing to do with types and shadows."

If what you are saying is true, then your argument implodes. Watch.

1. Lesser premise: Old Testament penal crimes are assumed to be true by the author of Hebrews.
2. If (1), then how much greater is God's ultimate punishment.

However, you deny half of (1).
If you deny (1), how can you reach (2)?

As Patrick implied in his above (three-part) clarification of the premises, in Hebrews 1-2, isn't the only assumption directly made about the OT penal crimes spoken of in the past tense, namely that they had reliable and punishable under the Old Covenant? (I realize that does not necessarily mean only in the Old Covenant, but of course whether or not it is "only" is a separate issue for the purposes of the premises and conclusion of this particular argument - since Premise 1's relation to the conclusion only depends on what is directly stated in Hebrews 1-2, namely the penal crimes' reliable and punishable nature under the Old Covenant.) If so, he would not be logically denying part of Premise 1 as he stated it.

Notice here that Tim does not bother to answer the question of who determines whether or not something is a crime or what constitutes a just and equitable punishment? If the answer is anyone other than God alone, then that is Arminianism as it denies that God alone is Sovereign in civil law.

{Moderate}

Daniel, it is simply theologically inaccurate and dishonest to associate Arminianism with every category in which you see the sovereignty of God as being logically negated; Arminianism as a specific historical system of doctrine was a denial of God's sovereignty in salvation and the providence of events, and has been universally declared as serious error by all Reformed churches and theologians since Dort. So while it is perfectly acceptable to argue that a position on the enforcement of civil law philosophically undermines God's sovereign supremacy over that categorical realm, a charge of Arminianism when dealing with such issues is unacceptable, and I would ask you to withdraw that accusation to Tim.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
Daniel, Theonomy is not the only position that consistently holds that God and His law-word is sovereign in civil law.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie
No, Theonomy is the only position that consistently holds that God is the only Lawgiver to the state. Other positions - by rejecting Biblical penal sanctions - deny this. All other views deny that God ALONE has the sovereign right to determine what constitutes crime and what constitutes a just penal sanction. Others may tip their hats to the sovereignty of God in civil affairs, but they deny it by their rejection of Biblical law.

One of the things I have found in discussing these matters in the last 7 years is that Theonomists almost invariably misunderstand the historic reformed position at both epistemological and historico-theological levels and attack straw men versions of it. The classical Reformed view does not reject Mosaic civil stipulations: while it recognizes that they have expired as the law code for Israel, a nation state in national covenant with God, it does not draw the false conclusion that those laws are irrelevant for today. Rather, it specifically recognizes that any Mosaic civil stipulation may or may not be valid depending on whether or not general equity will apply in that case.

Notice here that Tim does not bother to answer the question of who determines whether or not something is a crime or what constitutes a just and equitable punishment? If the answer is anyone other than God alone, then that is Arminianism as it denies that God alone is Sovereign in civil law.

Daniel if you read HFAF, and I think I made the point on other posts on this list, you will find that for the CW hermeneutic, the crime and just punishment thereof are determined by the equity of the Moral law/decalogue applied to situation in question. That is how the Divines laid things out for us at Westminster.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Daniel, Theonomy is not the only position that consistently holds that God and His law-word is sovereign in civil law.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie
No, Theonomy is the only position that consistently holds that God is the only Lawgiver to the state. Other positions - by rejecting Biblical penal sanctions - deny this. All other views deny that God ALONE has the sovereign right to determine what constitutes crime and what constitutes a just penal sanction. Others may tip their hats to the sovereignty of God in civil affairs, but they deny it by their rejection of Biblical law.

One of the things I have found in discussing these matters in the last 7 years is that Theonomists almost invariably misunderstand the historic reformed position at both epistemological and historico-theological levels and attack straw men versions of it. The classical Reformed view does not reject Mosaic civil stipulations: while it recognizes that they have expired as the law code for Israel, a nation state in national covenant with God, it does not draw the false conclusion that those laws are irrelevant for today. Rather, it specifically recognizes that any Mosaic civil stipulation may or may not be valid depending on whether or not general equity will apply in that case.

Notice here that Tim does not bother to answer the question of who determines whether or not something is a crime or what constitutes a just and equitable punishment? If the answer is anyone other than God alone, then that is Arminianism as it denies that God alone is Sovereign in civil law.

Daniel if you read HFAF, and I think I made the point on other posts on this list, you will find that for the CW hermeneutic, the crime and just punishment thereof are determined by the equity of the Moral law/decalogue applied to situation in question. That is how the Divines laid things out for us at Westminster.

Then specifically answer the question as to how the civil magistrate should now punish homosexuality (for instance) in a manner which is just and equitable and prove your position from Scripture?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
{Moderate}

Daniel, it is simply theologically inaccurate and dishonest to associate Arminianism with every category in which you see the sovereignty of God as being logically negated; Arminianism as a specific historical system of doctrine was a denial of God's sovereignty in salvation and the providence of events, and has been universally declared as serious error by all Reformed churches and theologians since Dort. So while it is perfectly acceptable to argue that a position on the enforcement of civil law philosophically undermines God's sovereign supremacy over that categorical realm, a charge of Arminianism when dealing with such issues is unacceptable, and I would ask you to withdraw that accusation to Tim.

Sorry, I am not accusing anyone on this board of being a theological Arminian; however, I am saying that their application of the principle of God's sovereignty to civil law is autonomous and thus more in line with Arminian theology than consistent Calvinism. I hope this clears things up.

However, I do not see any calls for withdrawal on the statement comparing Theonomists to apostates.
 
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Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Erring in this matter impacts Christian political activity. Lacking an agreement on the correct hermeneutic, Reformed and Evangelical Christians working in politics will have to fight a two-front war; while trying to persuade their electorates to take a righteous position on second table commands, they will have to deny that they have a hidden agenda to institute Mosaic first table crimes and penalties while Theonomists proclaim the contrary, a confusion that will hinder effective Christian political witness.
Despite claiming to uphold the Reformed view of the judical law, Tim clearly shows his opposition to the Reformers and Puritans as they believed that the civil government was to uphold the first table of the law. Moreover, the framers of the Westminster Standards had to swear a national covenant in order to enter the Assembly.


Given that almost all major Reformers, a majority of the Puritans, and the WCF clearly utilize a different hermeneutic from that of Bahnsen, as documented in How Firm a Foundation, the issue is both epsitemological and historico-theological.
This is utter nonsense as the Westminster Confession utilizes Matt. 5:17 as a proof-text for the general equity of the judicial law being binding today. Tim is reading the Reformers and Puritans through post-enlightenment spectacles.

Finally they will be liable to God's rebuke (Prov. 30:6) for adding to His word the thesis that obeying and promoting all non-amended OT civil laws is part of Christians’ New Covenant duty when God has not so demanded it.
This totally flies in the face of Christ's words in Matthew 5:17-19, and it is a Dispensational hermeneutic as it means God has to say something twice before it can be considered as binding.

Bahnsen says that Calvin was a theonomist, however if you read Rushdoony you will find that he bashes Bahnsen on this idea.

Also, have you read the WCF? Chapter 19.3; 19.4; 23.3? Clearly 3 fold division of law being talked about as well as saying that ceremonial/civil law has been done away with. I could go on...See the following link on the WCF and Theonomy: Providence PCA Church Plant- Fayetteville, NC
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
WCF 19.4. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired [17th century English, expired= kaput, gone, done way, no longer in effect] together with the State of that people, not obliging any other, now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

Again, you have committed the mistake of equating the judicial law along with the ceremonial law. The ceremonial law is said to have been abrogated, as it was given to Israel as a church under age, this is not said of the judicial law. The reference in WCF 19:4 refers to aspects of the law circumstantial to Israel which do not pertain to the general equity (underlying moral principle/justice/fairness); hence the reference to Israel as a "body politick" and "the state of that people". Your reading of the Westminster Confession makes the Divines inconsistent as they quote the penal sanctions in the footnotes of the WCF and Larger Catechism as being perpertually binding. Again, this is another example of Americans reading their post-Enlightenment presuppositions into the Westminster Standards.

They function for instructional purposes only. Otherwise you have to put up a railing around your roof.

What instrutional purposes be specific. You can't have it both ways. If they have been abrogated, then they are in no sense binding. The argument about putting fences round roofs is irrelevant as that law was never enforced by the civil magistrate. It shows us that we need to make safety provisions, however, it is not comparable with the penal sanctions which are matters of unchanging justice.

The civil penalties were made for ceremonial crimes, like apostacy. And capital punishment was not given through Moses but through Noah and the covenant of preservation, a truly global covenant, unlike the Mosaic covenant.

If you want a biblically based penology and social ethic you need to build on what covenant administrations are still in force. The Mosaic is not one of them.

No penalty was made for unbelief, but instead the death penalty was required for blasphemy and idolatry. Moreover these penalties were to be inflicted upon both Jews and Gentiles who sojourned in Israel. According to this logic about the Noahic covenant, you would have to say that it was illegitimate to appeal to the Mosaic law in order to distinguish premeditated murder from manslaughter. Furthermore, it is clear from Rom. 1-3 that the Mosaic law remains in force today; not to mention the fact that the civil stipulations were meant to be an example to the surrounding nations of justice and righteousness in civil ethics (Deut. 4:6-8).

Please answer this question: were the civil penalties of the Older Testament morally right or morally wrong?
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Erring in this matter impacts Christian political activity. Lacking an agreement on the correct hermeneutic, Reformed and Evangelical Christians working in politics will have to fight a two-front war; while trying to persuade their electorates to take a righteous position on second table commands, they will have to deny that they have a hidden agenda to institute Mosaic first table crimes and penalties while Theonomists proclaim the contrary, a confusion that will hinder effective Christian political witness.
Despite claiming to uphold the Reformed view of the judical law, Tim clearly shows his opposition to the Reformers and Puritans as they believed that the civil government was to uphold the first table of the law. Moreover, the framers of the Westminster Standards had to swear a national covenant in order to enter the Assembly.


This is utter nonsense as the Westminster Confession utilizes Matt. 5:17 as a proof-text for the general equity of the judicial law being binding today. Tim is reading the Reformers and Puritans through post-enlightenment spectacles.

Finally they will be liable to God's rebuke (Prov. 30:6) for adding to His word the thesis that obeying and promoting all non-amended OT civil laws is part of Christians’ New Covenant duty when God has not so demanded it.
This totally flies in the face of Christ's words in Matthew 5:17-19, and it is a Dispensational hermeneutic as it means God has to say something twice before it can be considered as binding.

Bahnsen says that Calvin was a theonomist, however if you read Rushdoony you will find that he bashes Bahnsen on this idea.

Also, have you read the WCF? Chapter 19.3; 19.4; 23.3? Clearly 3 fold division of law being talked about as well as saying that ceremonial/civil law has been done away with. I could go on...See the following link on the WCF and Theonomy: Providence PCA Church Plant- Fayetteville, NC

Notes on Theonomy
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Bahnsen says that Calvin was a theonomist, however if you read Rushdoony you will find that he bashes Bahnsen on this idea.

in my opinion, Rush was a bit bombastic in his treatment of Calvin at times (though I would accept some of his criticisms).

Also, have you read the WCF? Chapter 19.3; 19.4; 23.3? Clearly 3 fold division of law being talked about as well as saying that ceremonial/civil law has been done away with.


Have I read the WCF? I can assure you I have. Not only that, but I have also extensively documented the Westminster Standards use of Older Testament penology. You should note that the 3-fold division of the law is not as rigid as modern Presbyterians like to pretend. The Divines believed that a law could be both judicial and moral; hence the penal sanctions are quoted in the Larger Catechism's exposition of the Decalogue and the civil penalties against blasphemy and idolatry are quoted in the WCF. Moreover, the WCF does not say that the civil penalties are no longer binding in the News Testament (read chapter 7 and chapter 20 where we are only told that the ceremonial law has been abrogated); therefore, when 19:4 says that "sundry judicial laws" have expired, it is speaking of aspects of the civil law that were circumstanial to Israel as "a body politick". Note that there is not one word in WCF 19:4 about the penalties being abrogated; and so the idea that this teaches that nations are not bound to uphold Biblical penology is built on conjecture.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
Tim-First off, I am Canadian not American, would you like to be presumed to be English? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ;-)

Well, Canada is part of North America isn't it ;)? .

Let's not use equivocation. The Theonomy debate has been marred by too many examples of that ill.

And just because I don't agree with the WCF on Baptism and church govt. does not mean I reject it on the contemporary use of the Mosaic judicials where, as it happens the WCF and the 1689 Old London Confession are substantially identical.
I would be willing to bet that your research only looked at whether the Divines shared certain Theonomic outcomes with Bahnsen and did not address the question of whether they got to the same results by the same reasoning process. Every published Theonomic writer I have read presumes that because the Divines anticipated Bahnsen's stances on a number of civil laws, that all involved shared the same hermeneutic for getting there. But the key Puritan figures, critical Westminster Divines and a number of those who followed flatly dissent from critical elements of Bahnsen's hermeneutic.

As for your differences with the WCF, the fact that you are a Baptist means that you have a different way of looking at Scripture and covenantal continuity, therefore, you are not qualified to understand how Presbyterians look at these issues.

The only thing your response proves is that you neither answered my implied question "did your research compare Bahnsen's heremeneutic with that of the Reformers and Divines? nor did you either read or understand the proof that your reiterated objection is invalid. I am enough of a covenantalist if not a fully covenantal theologian to know that the hermeneutical axiom of CT is continuity is presumed between the testaments except wherre Scripture mandates it. Now it is a simple fact, and documented by HFAF that the principal Reformers, the major English Puritans, the Westminster Divines and their major followers were all united on the premise that there is a significant measure of discontinuity in the civil laws and that they adopted a hermeneutic in WCF 19:4 that allows us to test for continuity by determining whether a law remains equitable in the changed covenantal circumstances obtaining today.


Did the Westminster Divines come to the same conclusions as Greg Bahnsen and others by means of the same reasoning process? This is a pretty pointless question as they came to the same conclusions. After all you can argue for infant baptism on the basis that the children of believers are in the covenant of grace, or, alternatively, you can argue that since they are part of the visible church then they are entitled to receive baptism. Thus two different reasoning processes are employed, but both lead to the same conclusion (i.e. the children of believers should be baptised).

Hardly pointless but rather highly significant. And your illustration is not a parallel. For instance: what is a Christian magistrate to do when the two approaches yield different results. Assume a state where a majority of citizens are Reformed Christians, presently engaged in a just war. Some of the pagans in the state are engaging in crimes injurious to the war effort. May the state follow Calvin and institute stricter penalites for such crimes at such times or must it follow Bahnsen and not amend the Mosaic punishments (already instituted)? And how will the Christian citizen know how to assess the decision the executive makes here to accept it or protest it?


Moreover, since they clearly differ with you on the civil application of the first table of the law, then you are removing the speck from Greg Bahnsen's eye while you have a beam of difference with the Reformers and Puritans in your own.

I have no insuperable objection to instituting 1st table crimes or Mosaic punishments for them provided that the hermeneutic used to justify such actions is biblically consistent and exegetically sound. As HFAF demonstrates, Bahnsen's hermeneutic is neither.

However, let us consider how some Reformers, Puritans and Covenanters reasoned in favour of Biblical civil law:

Donald Cargill (Covenanter):

Moreover we declare, that those men whom we shall set over us, shall be engaged to govern us principally by that civil and judicial law (we think none will be so ignorant as to think, by the judicial law we mean that which is ceremonial or typical) given by God to his people of Israel, no man, we think, doubting, but it must be the best so far as it goes, being given by God. The Queensferry Paper.

Cargill assumes that the civil law is perpetually binding as it was given by God; an obvious covenantal and Bahsen-like conclusion to come to.

James Durham (Covenanter):

Note Durham says the judicial law (except for what is circumstantial to Israel) is also part of the moral law - again a conclusion Greg Bahnsen would have agreed with.
George Gillespie (Covenanter and Westminster Divine):

Neither Cargill nor Durham was a Westminster Divine or commissioner. And it is the extent of what is cirucumstantial to Israel that is at issue. You ommitted your Gillespie quote, but Gillespie is someone who like Calvin gave the state the Biblically unauthorized ability to alter penalties for Mosaic crimes without authorization to do so. In doing this, Gillespie has done something Bahnsen's hermeneutic prohibits. Since hermeneutics control outcomes, Gillespie's action proves that he was using a different hermeneutic than Bahnsen. Here's the data; in the midst of arguing for state enforcement of Mosaic penalties for religious heretics, Gillespie writes that certain kinds of toleration are acceptable, among which the

…fifth and last is that kind of toleration whereby the Magistrate when it is in the power of his hand to punish and extirpate, yet having to do with such of whom there is good hope either of reducing them by convincing their judgments, or of uniting them to the Church by a safe accommodation of differences, he grants them a supersedeas [forbearance]; or though there be no such ground of hope concerning them, yet while he might crush them with the foot of power, in Christian piety and moderation, he forbears so far as may not be destructive to the peace and right government of the Church, using his coercive power with such a mixture of mercy as creates no mischief to the rest of the Church.
I speak not only of bearing with those who are weak in faith (Rom. 15:1), but of sparing even those who have perverted the faith, so far as the word of God and rules of Christian moderation would have severity tempered with mercy: that is (as has been said) so far as is not destructive to the Church's peace, nor shakes the foundations of the established form of church government, and no further… (Gillespie, George "Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty," London, 1644, now online at Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty, by George Gillespie. (30 August 2004 )

That Gillespie regarded such false teachers as guilty of a biblically defined offense and thus liable to lawfully punishment is shown by the fact that, to avoid punishment, a forbearance needed to be granted. Here, the magistrate, who has it in the power of his hand to punish and extirpate, may lawfully grant forbearance in cases where he hopes to win the offenders back to orthodoxy, or he may not execute the proper Mosaic punishment without bringing great danger to the church’s peace. Such exemptions are nowhere provided for in the Mosaic civil laws. So even Gillespie, who, was probably the Assembly's most “thoroughgoing” advocate for continuity of the OT civil laws, “…does not simply adopt the viewpoint that the Mosaic penology can be applied without reference to general equity and Christian moderation and mercy.” If the hermeneutic he used to justify contemporary use of the Mosaic Law was that of Bahnsen, Gillespie could never have justified his conclusion that such forbearance was legitimate. It is unfortunate that Bahnsen did not interact with Gillespie’s statement because it clearly excludes the Scottish Divine from the Theonomic camp.

This is the same interpretation as that offered by Greg Bahnsen i.e. that Matt. 5:17-19 presumes continuity between the Older and New Testaments and is thus inclusive of Biblical penology unless the Lawgiver declares otherwise. This is clearly the position of the Westminster Confession as it quotes Matt. 5:17 to show that the general equity (justice) of the judicial law remains binding today.

Tim-That the Divines used Matt.5:17 to justify general equity I affirm, but it is almost certain that they meant the reference to justify general equity of the moral law alone. Calvin's "Institutes" was the main theological text of the age and if you check his commentary on Matt. 5:19 I believe you will find that he implicitly limits "the law or the prophets" to the moral law alone.

Henry Barrow (Separatist Puritan):
Biblical penolgy is deemed to be part of the moral law; again this is a Bahnsen-like conclusion.

Walter Brute (Wycliffite Reformer):

“to be wondered at, why thieves are, among Christians, for theft put to death, when after the law of Moses they were not put to death. Christians suffer adulterers to live, Sodomites, and they who curse father and mother, and many other horrible sinners; … So we neither keep the law of righteousness given by God, nor the law of mercy taught by Christ.”

He assumes the law of Moses to be perpetually binding upon Christians; again this is a Bahnsenite conclusion.


Barrow through Brute are not Divines and their opinions are irrelevant. And I don't think Bahnsen would accept a law of mercy taught by Christ as amending any Mosaic judicial.


John Knox (Scottish Reformer) as considered by Thomas McCrie:

held that idolatry might justly be punished by death. Into this sentiment they were led in consequence of their having adopted the untenable opinion, that the judicial laws given to the Jewish nation were binding upon Christian nations, as to all offenses against the moral law.

Again, Biblical penal sanctions are considered to have been part of the moral law of God. Another Bahnsen-like opinion, shunned by modern Calvinists.

Again Knox was neither Divine nor commissioner.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
I have no insuperable objection to instituting 1st table crimes or Mosaic punishments for them provided that the hermeneutic used to justify such actions is biblically consistent and exegetically sound. As HFAF demonstrates, Bahnsen's hermeneutic is neither.

So do you hold to the Reformed view that the civil magistrate should in fact institute both tables, but just disagree with how Bahnsen justifies such, or do you not hold to the Reformed view but wish to show that Bahnsen also deviates from that view in certain ways?

Also how does one get a copy of HFAF?

CT
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
I have no insuperable objection to instituting 1st table crimes or Mosaic punishments for them provided that the hermeneutic used to justify such actions is biblically consistent and exegetically sound. As HFAF demonstrates, Bahnsen's hermeneutic is neither.

So do you hold to the Reformed view that the civil magistrate should in fact institute both tables, but just disagree with how Bahnsen justifies such, or do you not hold to the Reformed view but wish to show that Bahnsen also deviates from that view in certain ways?

Also how does one get a copy of HFAF?

To date I have seen no proponent of the pro side of the question interacting with Rush's point that covenant status determined the first table penalty for sabbath breach (and by parity of reasoning all other first table commands). Until I do see an attempt that both engages Rush's point and is both consistent with Scripture and exegetically sound I must hold the point "Not proven".

One gets a copy of HFAF by emailing me offline at [email protected]

CT[/QUOTE]
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
A lot of this discussion is becoming too pedantic for my liking, so I won't answer everything:

…fifth and last is that kind of toleration whereby the Magistrate when it is in the power of his hand to punish and extirpate, yet having to do with such of whom there is good hope either of reducing them by convincing their judgments, or of uniting them to the Church by a safe accommodation of differences, he grants them a supersedeas [forbearance]; or though there be no such ground of hope concerning them, yet while he might crush them with the foot of power, in Christian piety and moderation, he forbears so far as may not be destructive to the peace and right government of the Church, using his coercive power with such a mixture of mercy as creates no mischief to the rest of the Church.
I speak not only of bearing with those who are weak in faith (Rom. 15:1), but of sparing even those who have perverted the faith, so far as the word of God and rules of Christian moderation would have severity tempered with mercy: that is (as has been said) so far as is not destructive to the Church's peace, nor shakes the foundations of the established form of church government, and no further… (Gillespie, George "Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty," London, 1644, now online at Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty, by George Gillespie. (30 August 2004 )

That Gillespie regarded such false teachers as guilty of a biblically defined offense and thus liable to lawfully punishment is shown by the fact that, to avoid punishment, a forbearance needed to be granted. Here, the magistrate, who has it in the power of his hand to punish and extirpate, may lawfully grant forbearance in cases where he hopes to win the offenders back to orthodoxy, or he may not execute the proper Mosaic punishment without bringing great danger to the church’s peace. Such exemptions are nowhere provided for in the Mosaic civil laws. So even Gillespie, who, was probably the Assembly's most “thoroughgoing” advocate for continuity of the OT civil laws, “…does not simply adopt the viewpoint that the Mosaic penology can be applied without reference to general equity and Christian moderation and mercy.” If the hermeneutic he used to justify contemporary use of the Mosaic Law was that of Bahnsen, Gillespie could never have justified his conclusion that such forbearance was legitimate. It is unfortunate that Bahnsen did not interact with Gillespie’s statement because it clearly excludes the Scottish Divine from the Theonomic camp.

Gillespie held that teachers of error (who were not damnable heretics) could receive lesser punishments by the magistrate. However, this is a point I have never contested as the Westminster Divines did hold that breaches of the moral law, outside of Biblical civil law, could be punished by the magistrate. Here modern Theonomy differs with them. There should be no question about that. Nevertheless, this has nothing to do with the abiding validity of Older Testament penalties for capital offences.
Tim-That the Divines used Matt.5:17 to justify general equity I affirm, but it is almost certain that they meant the reference to justify general equity of the moral law alone. Calvin's "Institutes" was the main theological text of the age and if you check his commentary on Matt. 5:19 I believe you will find that he implicitly limits "the law or the prophets" to the moral law alone.

So even though you claim that WCF 19:4 refers to the judicial law, you also claim that general equity refers only to the moral law. If that is the case, then as the Westminster Divines cite the OT penalties as expositions of the moral law, then they must have regarded the penalties as part of the moral law and thus perpetually binding upon all.

As George Gillespie says:

Christ’s words (Matt. 5:17), Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill, are comprehensive of the judicial law, it being a part of the law of Moses. Wholesome Severity

The whole problem with historical arguments is that no-one reads history from an entirely neutral or objective standpoint; one's reading of history will be clouded by his Theonomic or anit-Theonomic presuppositions.
 
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clstamper

Puritan Board Freshman
God ALONE has the sovereign right to determine what constitutes crime and what constitutes a just penal sanction.

This where I start waving my hand and saying, "NOW wait a minute!" God delegates to the civil magistrate power to punish criminals and keep social order, to preserve humanity and allow Christians to live in peace. I don't consider it usurpation if the state wants to mandate wearing seat belts or issue drivers' licenses.
 
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