Last week, we discussed a podcast from Brannon Howse regarding homosexuality and criminal law. That post was well received, and has elicited a response from Mr. Howse, which we will review here.
In my last article, I concluded with some advice for Mr. Howse and his guest, Jesse Johnson:
My suggestion for Howse and Johnson would be actually to read some theonomic books and commentaries, and to sit down and write an outline of the Pentateuch with criminal sanctions highlighted.
Instead of reading some theonomic books to ascertain biblical law, it appears that Mr. Howse has instead gone to something the equivalent of A Year of Biblical Womanhood. His latest interview with Dr. Jimmy DeYoung criticizes us Reconstructionists. It is so replete with the worn misrepresentations we have always suffered that I wonder if he has done any study on the issue at all.
Considering that Gary DeMar used to speak at Mr. Howse’s conferences years ago, I wonder if he secretly does know the truth (surely he’s heard it), but doesn’t want his audience to hear it in full from the horse’s mouth.
(Please, no jokes about the other end of the horse, either.)
Now, I have always complained against the critics of theonomy and Christian Reconstruction that (and you’ve heard this before):
1. They don’t name us.
2. They don’t quote us directly.
3. If they do quote us, it’s out of context.
4. They misrepresent us and attack straw men.
5. Yet they won’t stop addressing us in this way.
Howse’s latest segment/interview is no different, and in fact may go beyond others for the pure strawness of its strawmen. With boogeyman-style tactics and frightening thoughts of “613 commandments” and the like as we shall see, he has entered Rachel Held Evans territory in regard to understanding God’s Law.
First, let me establish that Howse is with virtual certainty responding to my article, although, again, without naming me. In the podcast he said, “We have those who are Reconstructionists who think we are going to reconstruct a Christian nation. They follow people like Rushdoony and others.” He soon added, “We have some of these Reconstructionists criticizing me in an article recently because I’m not in favor of us being under the Mosaic Law.”
He then tosses a strawman softball to his friend Dr. DeYoung:
BH: If you’re under the entire Mosiac Law then you’re under 631 [sic] rules?
BH: 613, OK. What would our everyday life be like if we were under the Mosaic Law as Christians today?
The thrust of Howse/DeYoung’s criticism is that there are no distinctions in Old Testament Law: you are either “under” (governed by) all of it, or none of it.
(As an aside, be aware that the count of 613 commandments is derived from one Talmudic tradition. It is widely repeated today, but has no authority. It is not in the Bible, even many Jewish scholars dispute it, and even those who accept it quarrel about what all 613 actually are. When Christians begin to wave this number around, especially for polemical reasons, there is usually some ignorance or some grandstanding going on.)
These gentlemen apparently think no theonomist has ever confirmed any distinction in the law, that we unwittingly do not recognize that the sacrificial system is fulfilled in Christ, or a host of other foibles. This is, of course, why I asked them to review our writings before addressing our position again: they would have spared themselves any embarrassment.
But they didn’t even need to read any books: all they needed to read was the very article they purported to be answering. In it, I wrote very clearly in response to where Johnson highlighted the New Testament rejections of Mosaic ceremonial laws:
Most of these arguments are in regard to ceremonial laws, which all theonomists agree have been fulfilled in Christ and apply no longer to society. But to think this applies in blanket fashion to all the Law, civil and moral alike (or however we desire to classify them) misses too much of Scripture. . . .
Why is the New Covenant itself not described as the removal and inapplicability of the Law, but rather as, “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts” (Heb. 8:10). What Laws? Obviously not priestly/ceremonial (Heb. 7:12), but it is nevertheless God’s Law.
Reading that would have prevented about 80 percent of the Howse/DeYoung critique. Nevertheless, Dr. DeYoung responded as if none of this had ever been noted already:
First of all, you’d have to be involved in the sacrificial system, and for the church, for the body of Christ, there are no sacrifices; but in order to stay in fellowship with God under that Mosaic Law you would have to abide on a daily basis in going to the temple or going to the tabernacle after it was established during the wanderings in the wilderness, offering a sacrifice to stay in fellowship. Once a year, Yom Kippur would be a responsibility where you would fast for 24 hours—25 hours to make sure it was 24 [a Pharisaical practice, btw, not biblical—JM]. So you’d have to live by what God had put in place. A number of other things would have to happen that would be very restrictive as far as you’re concerned. . . .
It would have been so helpful if these men mentioned the distinctions we made, and then represented our position accordingly. None of this would apply today, and these men probably already know this is our position—in regard to the sacrifices, it is close to the same position they have.
But perhaps they really believe, contra our position, that you really must only accept or reject Mosaic Law as a whole. Perhaps? Well, it doesn’t seem that way.
We certainly can look to the Ten Commandments as the standard for our civil code in America . . . . but the Mosaic code contains more than the Ten Commandments. . . .
Again I have no problem with, obviously, our civil code being based on the Ten Commandments. . . .
They want to be reconstructionists. . . . They want to reconstruct a Christian nation. Now I’m not saying I’m opposed to Christian . . . uhhh . . . ideas and philosophies and principles and precepts within a nation. You know: righteousness exalts a nation; sin is a reproach thereof.
I had to chuckle when I heard this. At the long pause “uhhh” I really think he almost said “law,” but caught himself. He then said instead, “ideas and philosophies and principles and precepts.” Anything but “law”!
But the real point is his belief that we can indeed draw from the Ten Commandments in determining our civil code in America. And in fact, Howse thinks that in the past this was indeed the case and supports it.
First, what does Mr. Howse think Mosaic civil law is? It was little more than case laws applying the Ten Commandments to concrete civil and criminal scenarios, and then assigning penalties to in proportion thereof. There is an intimate relationship between the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic civil code. So why is one valid for Howse and the other not?
Second, why does he recognize these distinctions in Mosaic Law when speaking of his own theories, and then pretend Mosaic Law must be accepted as a whole—sacrificial rites and the whole shebang—when discussing mine? Double standard, anyone?
Keep in mind, guys, we are talking about civil law, not justification and regeneration. This is about what are the standards for social order in regard to coercion by the civil government—not individual salvation, family, or church. Yet by immediately running to the “sacrificial system” argument and appeals to Judaizing in Galatians, this is exactly how the debate which they began about civil law gets turned on its head when they can’t answer me straightly in regard to the topic they brought up. Dr. DeYoung argues,
Paul got all over Peter in the book of Galatians about trying to Judaize gentiles, to let them become Jews before they became Christians. So it’s totally non-biblical. It’s dangerous.
Paul jumped all over Peter and others for adding requirements of sacrificial and ceremonial system works to the gospel of salvation—not the civil order, which is by definition about justice between individuals. In other places, Paul had no problem citing Mosaic case law for such purposes. For example, as noted in my last article, 1 Corinthians 9:8–9 and 1 Timothy 1:8–11 (both also ignored by Howse).
Perhaps worst of all is that Dr. DeYoung is supposed to be Howse’s expert prosecutor here, but the magnitude of his misrepresentations comes in second place only to that of his cluelessness. At one point, as he turned his critique from law to eschatology (I will deal with this tomorrow), he argued (I believe honestly) that we are closet Postmillennialists trying to masquerade under a different name. He said, “They may not call it ‘Postmillennial eschatology,’ but they’re living out practically what that was.”
I mean, where do you start in responding to that? Perhaps we could note that one of our chief eschatological exponents has been Kenneth L. Gentry, who maintains a website called Postmillennialism.com? Or that Ken’s book He Shall Have Dominion is subtitled A Postmillennial Eschatology? Or that Ken contributed to the book Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond the chapters defending “Postmillennialism”? Or his book Postmillennialism Made Easy?
Or what about Gary North openly identifying as such in Millennialism and Social Theory?
Or what about Greg L. Bahnsen’s book, The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism?
Or what about the festschrift written for R. J. Rushdoony himself entitled Thine is the Kingdom: A Study of the Postmillennial Hope, in which several authors identified openly with that label?
How clueless is this guy? And how wrong is it to pretend we’re part of some crypto-postmillennial conspiracy? No, sorry. We’ve been in the open for several decades now, and we’ve made no secret of the fact we are indeed postmillennial. And you should have known better.
But the cluelessness doesn’t stop there. Dr. DeYoung says, “These guys that want to live under the Mosaic Law, want to being the earth and the world, the people, the earth-dwellers to Christianity—and you know, it’s not only Rasmussen and some of the guys you talked about, a guy like Rick Warren is into that as well.”
As if bringing the world and the people in it “to Christianity” is a bad thing. But nevertheless, I had to scratch my head for moment: why was he referring to the public polling agency “Rasmussen.” Then it dawned. He meant to say the name Howse had mentioned to him earlier: Rushdoony.
He didn’t even know.
Yes. That is clueless.
Now be sure, I don’t think the guy is incompetent. I am certainly not calling him stupid. I just think he is clueless as to the basic nature of the subject matter.
If you are going to take a position as a public critic of theonomy, and you don’t know who Rushdoony is, you might want to remain silent until you know something about the movement.
If you intend to criticize a theological opponent in public, whatever that position is, you owe it to yourself and your audience to do your homework first.
If you intend to bring in an expert witness to expose the guy who exposed you, you might want to vet his grasp of the subject matter first.
Now in all of this, I fear Mr. Howse not only wasted all of our time with these straw men, but also missed the central point of my last article. I wrote,
And that is the central issue at the heart of this anti-Mosaic Law discussion: what is the source of civil Law and civil sanctions? Is it God? If not, then it can only be man’s imaginations, emotions, reasonings, revenge, etc. It is man’s law versus God’s law.
We hear from Howse that Mosaic Laws are not required, but he gives no defense of relinquishing the civil law realm to humanistic laws and theories. He feels this, so he says we should look to the Ten Commandments for civil code. Then why not the extensions of the Ten Commandments known as Mosaic case law? Your laws either reflect God as their God, or man as their god. Choose ye this day.
No answer from Howse.
Finally, in regard to the misrepresentation issue, I have always advocated the maxim: If you have a problem with the man, go to the man.
If Mr. Howse intends to respond to me, all he has to do is quote from my article and address point for point, in my own words. He can always give me a call, drop me an email, whatever. But instead, he brings on some alleged prophecy expert who has no idea even who we are or what we believe, who can’t even remember one of our names for more than ten minutes, who is hostile to whatever he perceives our position to be, and Howse lets this guy represent our position for us.
How’s that for a concern for truth and veracity?
For contrast, I want you to note the response of Mr. Howse’s previous guest, Jesse Johnson, to my last critical article, in which I named, quoted, contextualized, and responded directly to Mr. Johnson. In the comments section of my article, he began his questions to me with this compliment:
Thanks for accurately representing what I said. I appreciate critiques from those that do it well, so thank you for that.
You’re welcome. Perhaps you can show that article to Mr. Howse and Dr. DeYoung as an example of how to do it. They apparently need to read it again anyway.