Gary answers a listener question about theonomy and Leviticus 19.

If there is no specifically biblical blueprint, we are left with a pluralistic blueprint (William S. Barker), no blueprint (John Muether), or a postponed blueprint (dispensationalism). When we read that “religious pluralism within a society is our Lord’s intention for this time in history and hence is biblical,”[1] one gets suspicious. First, what biblical justification does Barker offer? How do we know that it is “our Lord’s intention”? Are we to assume that whatever is, is right? Could the Lord’s intention change at some other “time in history”?

Second, what does this view mean for economics, law, politics, and education? Does toleration for non-Christian religious groups mean that we should also tolerate their law systems? If we tolerate the religion of Islam, must we tolerate their view of economics and civil law? Babylonian law called for the “amputation of the right hand of the physician whose patient died during surgery.”[2] Should this law be placed on the same platter with biblical law? If not, why not?

Someone assessing the merits of theonomy should want to know how theonomy and the views of its critics compare with the Bible, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the views of the Reformers, and books like Van Til’s Calvinistic Concept of Culture. There seems to be no room for ethical pluralism for Henry Van Til. In rejecting Barth’s repudiation of a specifically Christian culture, he assured us that the

Calvinist maintains that the Word of God has final and absolute authority, and is clear and sufficient in all matters of faith and conduct. It constitutes the final reference point for man’s thinking, willing, acting, loving, and hating, for his culture as well as his cultus… [F]or all practical purposes, the church throughout history has accepted the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the Word of the living God. Calvinism, also in its cultural aspects, proposes to continue in this historic perspective, not willing to accept the church or the religious consciousness, or any other substitute in place of the Word. [3]

This is the historic position of the church, Van Til asserted. This is what I was taught in seminary. This is the view that my professors defended. But there was one problem. Even after finishing Van Til’s book, I noticed a glaring deficiency: There were few specifics and even fewer references to the Bible as to how it actually applies to culture. Van Til, however, was a few steps beyond Kuyper, but the plane still had no wings. It was not going to fly.

Theonomy: An Informed Response

Theonomy: An Informed Response

Christendom is a civilization—the kingdom of God in history—that is governed in every area, every nook and cranny, by God: a society whose lawfully anointed rulers govern in terms of God’s revealed law. In this view, God is not in retirement or on vacation; He is a King who has delegated to His officers the authority to exercise command. There are three covenantal institutions: family, church, and state. To deny that God’s covenant law applies to civil government in New Testament times is necessarily to abandon the ideal of Christendom.

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Gary answers a listener question about theonomy and Leviticus 19. Many churches teach, including the listener’s, that Old Testament laws not repeated in the New Testament are no longer binding. But Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:8 that “we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” Paul wrote this BEFORE there was such a thing as the NT and the OT was the only Scripture he had. There is much more to this topic than simply relying on a made-up rule about repetition between the OT and NT.

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[1] William S; Barker, “Theonomy, Pluralism, and the Bible,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, p. 229.

[2] Laws of Hammurabi, 218. Quoted in Gary R. Williams, “The Purpose of Penology in the Mosaic Law and Today,"Living Ethically in the 90s, ed. J. Kerby Anderson (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1990), p. 127.

[3] Van Til, Calvinistic Concept of Culture, p. 157.