Turretin: The Middle Ground re: The Law

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Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
I have noticed a great many threads lately (and some quite intense) regarding Theonomy and more radical two kingdom theologies. The problem is, these threads often make it appear there are only two options: you either think the magistrate is only concerned with the second table of the Law, or you are a Theonomist. Not to start another debate on the topic, but I feel it somewhat important to inform those who may be confused by these threads that there is another major historic position: the one which Turretin refers to as the one held by the orthodox (X.XXVI.II). We are not Theonomists.

For this position, I'll start with a quote graciously provided by Benjamin Glaser (Backwoods Presbyterian):
God, as Creator and Governor of the world, is the author of all civil government. Nor have either subjects or magistrates the smallest degree of liberty or power, but what they derive from Him, and for what they must be accountable to Him. Not, therefore, the will of subjects, or the the consciousnesses of magistrates, but the Law of God, as Supreme Governor, must be the real standard of all laws enacted by men. Nor must men's civil interests, but the Glory of God, as Founder and Supreme Governor of nations, be intended as their chief end, in all civil subjection and government. To maintain the contrary, necessarily involves in the depths of atheism. John Brown, Systematic Theology, 23

Also, for further elucidation, Brown later states:
As magistrates derive their whole power and authority from God himself, and are bound as his deputies to exercise it for his honor...they cannot establish any religion but that which is of God, --they cannot authoritatively tolerate a false religion. ibid, 27

Brown is an excellent representative here of the orthodoxy claimed by Turretin (but note: these are not Theonomic statements). Brown also claims the following:
Except in the case of the Jewish nation, God permits civil societies to establish what particular form of government they find most agreeable to their circumstances, if they be not contrary to his law. ibid, 24

For further explanation, let us turn to Turretin, the master himself. He sets up three parties of thought respecting the Jewish civil law (Note, not the ceremonial law). 1.) The antinomians or anabaptists who say it is abrogated simply; 2.) Those who think it is still in force and that states should be governed as the Jewish state: these, he claims, go too far. 3.) And finally, that middle ground which he claims the orthodox hold, which will be elaborated below. That Turretin claims this is very important: he is not a theologian to go off the deep end, but consistently and thoroughly represents the mainstream Reformed orthodoxy of the period. The fact that he attaches the following interpretation (and not the Theonomic interpretation) is quite telling. [The following is a summary of Topic 11, Question 26 of his Institutes.]

Turretin begins by recognizing the spiritual type of the kingdom of Christ which was the Jewish state: note, this does not mean that Israel was a type of the church -- Israel, in fact, was the church; but, as a civil body politic, it was a type of Christ's Kingdom. Turretin therefore holds that the orthodox claim that "the Jewish polity having been taken away, whatever had a peculiar relation to it must also necessarily have ceased."

Thus he further explains:
"In the laws founded upon the common right or the law of nature, the substance of the precept must be distinguished from its circumstances...The former are perpetual in all parts; the latter on the other hand, only relatively."
What does this mean?
Thus in the laws concerning the punishment of crimes, the substance of the punishment is of natural right, but the manner and degree of punishment is of particular right and on that account mutable.
The above is a highly important statement. The orthodox, to Turretin, held that the laws of a state were not to mirror those of Israel; rather, they were founded upon the general equity, without necessarily the same effects. Rather,
The polity having been abolished, the laws must necessarily be abolished upon which that polity was founded. They are of positive right and referred simply to the Jewish state....[t]he forensic law as to general determinations, founded upon the moral law, is not abrogated; but as to special determination, which concerned the state of the Jews, is abrogated.
The laws of a state, he claims, must be based upon the equity of the moral or natural law; but do not have to reflect those of Israel, nor have the same provisions and punishments.

Further, he claims that, though the Jewish law "were sanctioned by God, it does not follow that on this account they ought to be perpetual." He explains his meaning:
God, from positive and free right, could give them for a certain time and for certain reasons, to some one nation, which would have not have force with respect to others. What is good for one is not immediately so for another.
This is why he could claim that other nations' laws, such as Roman law, could be more appropriate for a nation than Jewish law, without also deprecating the Jewish law or making man wiser than God. The good parts of Roman law arise because they are founded upon God's law (that is, the natural law which is expressed in the 10 commandments); and as such, so long as they are so founded, can be "better" than the Jewish law, as "being derived from natural and common right they can be more suitable to places, times and persons."

We see represented here a two-table Theocratic understanding of the magistrate and law which is not Theonomic, and which Turretin claims to be the orthodox Reformed position. In other words, a position in which the magistrate is duty-bound to enforce the natural law of God, which is expressed by both tables of the 10 Commandments; he is to establish the church and protect it, and to not authoritatively tolerate the public worship of other religions; in the midst of all this, however, the laws are not to be duplications of the Jewish civil law, which was enacted specifically for the circumstances of that nation.

I realize this was lengthy, but I hope it will help assuage some confusion that may arise on the part of those new to the issue -- Theonomy and "not Theonomy" are not the only two possibilities; nor are all (or most!) historic Reformed Theocrats also Theonomists.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
We see represented here a two-table Theocratic understanding of the magistrate and law which is not Theonomic, and which Turretin claims to be the orthodox Reformed position.

Good post, Paul. It was also John Owen's assessment that "most think we are freed" from the judicial law as law, while still recognising its moral principles as binding (Works, 8:394). I recommend the whole of that sermon for its soberness in dealing with the magistrate's duty in relation to Christ's kingdom.

Historically, the view of the abiding validity of the judicial law is traced back to the Brownists, not the Reformed. Hence its inflence in the New England colonies.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Good recommendation. (For those who may have the electronic version of Owen's works published by AGES, it is Sermon 9, Christ's Kingdom and the Magistrate's Power, and begins on p. 409.)
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Since the old poll of "Are you a Theonomist?" has been resurrected, I thought I would bring this one back, too, with some extra information regarding the orthodox Reformed position in response to Theonomy, by bringing forth some more from Turretin. Consider this short post no more than an elaborate "bump."

I thought that this time I would include a bit of information which is more foundational and is the ground of the above post. This is the Two-Kingdom theology of the historic, orthodox Reformed churches. Now, despite what some rhetoric may seem to suggest (I'm hopeful and trust that the Theonomists out there don't actually think this) -- to speak of the Two Kingdoms does not make one an Anabaptist. The orthodox, indeed, hold that there is a twofold Kingdom of Christ -- 1.) The natural, or essential Kingdom, which belongs to him by right as God; and, 2.) His Mediatorial Kingdom, which extends to the church, and is governed purely by spiritual means. As Turretin says,
The mode of this administration [of the Mediatorial Kingdom] is entirely spiritual, not by might or by power, but by his Spirit. XIV.XVI.IX
Thus, while we acknowledge that the Magistrate is to be subject to the law of God (which is the law of nature, the law of Christ, the 10 Commandments, etc.), we do so in a manner so as not to confound Christ's twofold Kingdom.
 

Reformed Rush

Puritan Board Freshman
Since the old poll of "Are you a Theonomist?" has been resurrected, I thought I would bring this one back, too, with some extra information regarding the orthodox Reformed position in response to Theonomy, by bringing forth some more from Turretin. Consider this short post no more than an elaborate "bump."

I thought that this time I would include a bit of information which is more foundational and is the ground of the above post. This is the Two-Kingdom theology of the historic, orthodox Reformed churches. Now, despite what some rhetoric may seem to suggest (I'm hopeful and trust that the Theonomists out there don't actually think this) -- to speak of the Two Kingdoms does not make one an Anabaptist. The orthodox, indeed, hold that there is a twofold Kingdom of Christ -- 1.) The natural, or essential Kingdom, which belongs to him by right as God; and, 2.) His Mediatorial Kingdom, which extends to the church, and is governed purely by spiritual means. As Turretin says,
The mode of this administration [of the Mediatorial Kingdom] is entirely spiritual, not by might or by power, but by his Spirit. XIV.XVI.IX
Thus, while we acknowledge that the Magistrate is to be subject to the law of God (which is the law of nature, the law of Christ, the 10 Commandments, etc.), we do so in a manner so as not to confound Christ's twofold Kingdom.

Paul,

Forgive what is probably a dumb question . . .

But is this teaching of "Two Kingdoms" simply distinguishing between the visible and invisible churches?

Or something more?
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Jim,

This is not a dumb question at all! The "natural" kingdom is that which Christ rules over all creatures, equally with the Father and Son; he rules this as he is God. The Mediatorial Kingdom is that which "belongs to him from the free institution of God because he constituted him King over the church."
 

Reformed Rush

Puritan Board Freshman
Jim,

This is not a dumb question at all! The "natural" kingdom is that which Christ rules over all creatures, equally with the Father and Son; he rules this as he is God. The Mediatorial Kingdom is that which "belongs to him from the free institution of God because he constituted him King over the church."

Agreed and understood!

Patience to explain these matters, by the PB teachers, is most appreciated!

Thank you!
 

Cranmer1959

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm not a theonomist. Also, quoting the Puritans' views on state and church does not override the fact that today we live in a democratic republic, not the old state church system.

I am as upset by postmodern attacks on Christianity as everyone else. I would also favor a general equity upholding the moral law. However, enforcing which religion a person may hold is going too far. We are pilgrims passing through this world and any post millenial theology bent on utilizing force as a means of evangelism is a bit misplaced and naive. Election and everything else is sovereignly and providentially controlled by God. Even the wicked are under God's absolute control. I prefer to preach the law and Gospel rather than to enforce religious law upon the rest of society.

-----Added 6/14/2009 at 11:41:24 EST-----

Ten Commandments are not derived from "natural law" but from direct revelation from God. Natural law is based on man's ability to reason from his own human nature, which we know is totally corrupted by sin or tainted by sin in every area to one degree or another.

-----Added 6/14/2009 at 11:45:07 EST-----

Article VII
Of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
We are pilgrims passing through this world and any post millenial theology bent on utilizing force as a means of evangelism is a bit misplaced and naive.

One should distinguish between the use of force for maintaining civil order to the glory of God and the use of force for evangelism. The Puritans clearly distinguished the power of the sword and the power of the keys, as an examination of George Gillespie's 111 Propositions in the light of WCF 23 will clarify.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Ten Commandments are not derived from "natural law" but from direct revelation from God. Natural law is based on man's ability to reason from his own human nature, which we know is totally corrupted by sin or tainted by sin in every area to one degree or another.

The 10 Commandments are understood by the Reformed to be the same as the moral law, which is the law of nature, or the law written on the heart of every man. The clarity of the law of nature was indeed much obscured by the fall, but this does not change the law. The two differ respecting mode of propagation, clarity, and accidents, but are the same in substance and command.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
Ten Commandments are not derived from "natural law" but from direct revelation from God. Natural law is based on man's ability to reason from his own human nature, which we know is totally corrupted by sin or tainted by sin in every area to one degree or another.

The 10 Commandments are understood by the Reformed to be the same as the moral law, which is the law of nature, or the law written on the heart of every man. The clarity of the law of nature was indeed much obscured by the fall, but this does not change the law. The two differ respecting mode of propagation, clarity, and accidents, but are the same in substance and command.

For proof of Prufrock's first sentence see WCF 19:1-3a,5. For detailed exegesis of WLC 98 which also speaks to the question see posts 31 and 36 of this thread: http://www.puritanboard.com/f54/trying-understand-law-42305/
 
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