Theonomy vs. Autonomy in the civil realm.

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Conner

Puritan Board Freshman
The reason I chose to create this thread in this sub-forum rather than theonomy is because I am seeking a response from my two kingdom friends (particularly those who are Van Tillian in their understanding of the myth of neutrality and it's relation to the Lordship of Christ over all i.e. Apologetics etc...). I have been influenced by Greg Bahnsen quite a bit, and agree with much of what he has to say in regard to the Law of God as it is to be applied in the civil realm. With that in mind, I confess that I am no expert on the issues which divide 2k advocates and theonomists, which is why I have a question for those of the two-kingdom persuasion, who are committed to Van Tils apologetic methodology. I am thinking here of learned men such as James White and R. Scott Clark (the latter of whom I have seen here on the board). Why should we be accepting of the Lordship of Christ in the realm of apologetics, and yet deny His Lordship in the civil realm. I am thinking here of the famous quote from Cornelius Van Til where he says there is no alternative to theonomy or autonomy. Why be theonomic in your apologetic, and autonomous in your view of the civil magistrate by replacing Gods word with natural law?
 

One Little Nail

Puritan Board Sophomore
Magistrates should not only uphold the First Table of the Law, in Light of the New Testament like no Blaspheming of The
Name of The Lord Jesus, but should be in Good standing with a particular Church with regards to personal profession of the
Faith also should be required to submit to a Religious Subsription test to attain Office & uphold the True Protestant & Reformed Religion.

The Lord Jesus Christ is Prophet, Priest & King in His Domain, having " All Authority in Heaven & Earth".
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
One important thing to remember is that sound-bites such as "Theonomy or Autonomy" are only sound-bites, and thus they are useless for determining which view is theologically correct. I reject both modern "Theonomy [Reconstructionism]" and sinful "Autonomy"; hence it is too simplistic to argue that it is either a case of "Theonomy or Autonomy".

autonomous in your view of the civil magistrate by replacing Gods word with natural law?

Does natural law come from God or man? Could it be the case that both Reconstructionists and R2Kers have created a false dichotomy between the law of nature and the law of scripture?
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
The civil laws weren't given to Adam in the Garden or even after he sinned. Cain murdered but was spared death. Even by the time of Noah, the only instruction we have re the civil realm is Genesis 9:6.

They were given to the Church under age, their body politc being partly typical of God's eternal kingdom, to be their criminal and penal law and also to instruct them about the Curse.

God was perfectly just to impose these laws on Israel, but they weren't natural/ moral law as such. They were a civic expression of the moral law that was appropriate for the Church at that period in her redemptive history.

I'm not an R2K but an establishmentarian who believes we should learn from the general equity of the civil law as it says in WCF 19:4. Provisional and temporary lessons for a church under age should be recognised in the civil law.

By the way, Van Til wasn't a theonomist.

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Conner

Puritan Board Freshman
"They were a civic expression of the moral law that was appropriate for the Church at that period in her redemptive history.".

Was there a radical shift in redemptive history which demands that we change the way we view such a civic expression of the moral law?
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Yes. Christ's perfect antitypical sacrifice replaced the imperfect typical sacrifices of animals.

The Mosaic sacrificial system was so provisional - and in that sense imperfect, although it was just what the Lord intended for that time - that there was no sacrificial animal victim provided for presumptuous sins. See Numbers 15. See also Psalm 51.

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Toasty

Puritan Board Sophomore
WCF 19:4 says "To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any to her, now, further than the general equity thereof may require."

Just because the judicial laws of the Law of Moses have expired does not mean that God does not have Lordship in the civil realm. Civil governments today are supposed to permit and prohibit what God wants them to permit and prohibit. Civil governments are supposed to learn from the general equity of the judicial laws.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
"They were a civic expression of the moral law that was appropriate for the Church at that period in her redemptive history.".

Was there a radical shift in redemptive history which demands that we change the way we view such a civic expression of the moral law?

It is possible to believe that most of the penal sanctions still apply today without being a Reconstructionist Theomomist in the modern sense, i.e. believing in "The abiding validity of the law of God in exhaustive detail."

Here are some sources which may or may not be of help to you: http://reformedcovenanter.wordpress.com/category/judicial-laws-and-common-equity/
 
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Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
An important and very enlightening contribution to the rather voluminous material on theonomy is Puritanboard's own Chris Coldwell and Rev. Matthew Winzer's articles in "The Confessional Presbyterian" journal Volume 5. They clearly show that the Westminster Divines did not believe in theonomy as espoused by Bahnsen et al, and did not interpret general equity as he did.

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timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
An additional resource you might find helpful is:

How Firm a Foundation?
An Exegetical and Historical Critique of the “Ethical Perspective of [Christian] Reconstructionism" Presented in Theonomy in Christian Ethics
by Timothy R. Cunningham

This book helps today’s Christian voter and politician think through two perennial questions. Are we required to apply the judicial laws of the Old Testament to our present-day political contexts. And if we are required to apply these laws, how should we do so? Against the historic Protestant consensus that posits Christians as bound to advocate and apply laws that are in conformity with the moral principles under the Mosaic laws, Christian Reconstructionists have recently argued that obedience to and promotion of all divinely unamended civil laws remains the Christian’s new covenant duty. After testing the most thorough statement of the Reconstructionist view – that presented by the late Greg Bahnsen in his Theonomy in Christian Ethics – against Scripture and the Westminster Confession, How Firm a Foundation? demonstrates that the Reconstructionist perspective is unbiblical, unConfessional, and ultimately unhelpful, while the historic Protestant position of the Westminster Confession of Faith remains the biblical and fruitful perspective Christians need to guide contemporary use of the Mosaic judicial laws.

From a pre-publication review:

“I am deeply impressed by your accomplishment. Without question, you have
gone far beyond what others have done who engaged the theonomists from a biblical
and theological perspective. Greg Bahnsen's disciples will certainly attempt to refute
your work; but, as I see it, the field is yours; the case you make is unanswerable.
– Dr. John R. DeWitt, Faculty Member of Reformed Theological Seminary at the time of the “Theonomy” controversy (1978).

Available at either of the following links:

https://wipfandstock.com/store/How_Firm_a_Foundation_An_Exegetical_and_Historical _Critique_of_the_Ethical_Perspective_of_[Christian]_Reconstructionism_Presented_in_Theonomy_in_Christ ian_Ethics

How Firm a Foundation?: An Exegetical and Historical Critique of the "Ethical Perspective of [Christian] Reconstructionism" Presented in Theonomy in Christian Ethics: Timothy R. Cunningham: 9781608994618: Amazon.com: Books
 
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