A Sabbath Moment with Bahnsen

Published Sunday, September 27, 2009 4:22 PM
"Nobody argues, for example, that the ancient case laws governing fenced rooftops, goring oxen and flying ax heads are themselves directly applicable today. Instead, theonomists argue, they have a literary character which requires us to discover how the general principles illustrated by those ancient laws should be applied in contemporary culture. [Critics] have asked for examples of practical application of theonomic ethics today. Let us close with a few, and with a challenge of our own. Here are a few suggestions; study God’s Word and see if you agree. · Homosexuality is not a civil right (Lev. 20:13). But readers should be careful here. No one should claim this part of God’s law to be applicable today if he is not willing to claim the same for the rest of the Biblical context. · Prisons should be replaced with a system of restitution (Exo. 22:1-4, 7-9). · Compensation should be made for industrial pollution (Exo. 22:6). · Malicious malpractice charges against doctors should be punished with a fine equal to that the doctor would have had to pay (Deut. 19:16-21). · Elective abortion is not a constitutional right (Exo. 21:22-25). · Skyjackers should be executed (Exo. 21:16), as should rapists (Deut. 22:23-27). · Loan sharking to the poor should be forbidden (Lev. 19:9-10; 25:35-43), along with favoring the rich in the courts of the land (Exo. 23:6, 8; Lev. 19:15). · Debased, inflationary currency should be forbidden (Isa. 1:22) so as to gain just weights and measures (Deut. 25:13-15). If critics of theonomic ethics find these requirements inapplicable, on what other basis do they presume to speak to such social ills today? If critics object to this choice of examples because they are so obviously just and right, we ask: What else would you have expected from the Lord? Let us go on with the rest of His law, applying its rich details to all our lives. And if critics feel that some of the law’s provisions are binding, but not others, then it is their task to explain the principled basis on which they pick and choose among God’s righteous commands (Deut. 12:32). What did Jesus mean when He warned believers against teaching the breaking of even “the least of these commandments”? We cannot get to the heart of the issue until serious attention is paid to the extensive Scriptural support, theological reasoning and confessional insights set forth by advocates of theonomic ethics. Critics of the position have not responded in kind, at either the book or the article level. Until they do, what professor John Frame wrote in his review of Theonomy in the Journal (Aug. 31, 1977) still holds: “For those who disagree with Bahnsen’s position – well, the ball is in their court.”


# WesleySonofCornelius said on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 2:15 PM

I'll be honest, I read Calvin and Spurgeon's comments and thought: "Wow!"  Then I read Bahnsen's comments and thought: "Oh my!" (shaking head)

The ball might be in my court, but the point is over because Bahnsen hit it out.

# Bahnsen8 said on Thursday, October 01, 2009 10:23 AM

Wesley, glad to hear from you. Hope you are well these days. "Bahnsen hit is out" is a clear conclusion, but, as usual, unsupported. Bahnsen said it best, "We cannot get to the heart of the issue until serious attention is paid to the extensive Scriptural support, theological reasoning and confessional insights set forth by advocates of theonomic ethics. Critics of the position have not responded in kind, at either the book or the article level." The thumbing of the nose, "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" argumentation method continues to be simultaneously unconvincing, unbiblical and unbecoming. Again, good to hear from you. Sincerely hope you and yours are well. B8

# Bahnsen8 said on Thursday, October 01, 2009 11:21 AM

Bahnsen's comments above are nothing more than the application of the Calvin Sabbath Moment quote you seem to have liked.

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Thursday, October 01, 2009 2:51 PM

I am convinced that Bahnsen has a misunderstanding of God's Law and its place today.  My clear conclusion is not unsupported; have you not read what I have written for the last several months (almost 2 years now)?

Bahnsen makes good points, the ball was close to being in, and some referee may have initially thought it in.  But at closer examination, he would find that it was actually out.

Why do Bahnsen's comments seem to be in?  My guess is because of the thought by some that our government should do this or that because the Bible says so.  Yet they are unwilling to require their government to do other things apparently required by the Bible.  So Bahnsen calls out their error.  Could there be a fundamental misunderstanding that comes right of the Middle Ages?

I am convinced that Bahnsen has a skewed and watered down view of the New Covenant.  Why so?  He like many Reformed throw this New Covenant into the mix of an umbrella called the Covenant of Grace.  And these covenants in this umbrella are seen as one and the same, just clearer revelations.  Hence, the role and place of the Law is seen as not changing much.  Add in a second misunderstanding, that the children of believers are apart of this umbrella covenant automatically makes them bound to the Law.  Therefore, as people move from location to location, the Law of God becomes a Nation building manual.  Was this the Law's intent?

However, I am convinced that the Law of God is for building up only one Nation, the Kingdom of God.  A Nation that transcends all man-made national borders.  Yahweh did not give His Law to just any nation or to every nation (Deut. 7:6-11).  see also (1 Peter 2:9-10)

So let us take Bahnsen's theonomy.  What do we gain?  Those bound for Hell get to live in a nation that is blessed because it followed the Law.  Yet a theonomy won't bring a man to his knees voluntarily (more likely involuntarily).  He dies and then spends eternity in blazing Hell.

However, let us apply the Law as intended.  The fulfillment of the Law is when a believer (with the Law in his heart) loves (which is the fulfillment of the Law).  The sinful man will be convicted of his personal deep dwelling sin.  He will repent because the Law showed he was unworthy, yet he was still loved by a believer and, more importantly, Jesus Christ.  This man will then be filled with the Holy Spirit who will reveal to him the depths of the Law now in his heart.

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Thursday, October 01, 2009 11:24 PM

The Law is spiritual, holy, and righteous.  Can we say the same of the law of the land?  I hope not.  So what is the difference?  The law of the land can be borrowed from the Law, at best.  It cannot be an exact replica of it, nor should it be.  For the Law came as a unit.  I think we do a disservice to the Law when we start to disect it too cleanly.  The civil, religious, and moral aspects of the Law do not fall out into well defined areas.  The Law as a whole was given to Israel.

So can all questions political be answered by the Law?  If you say yes, I have some interesting questions to ask you about nuclear weapons.

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Friday, October 02, 2009 3:55 PM

Let me back up.  I don't like how some of my comments came across.  This evening when I get home I want to state clearly what I see about the New Covenant ...

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Saturday, October 03, 2009 10:29 AM

I did have something written up.  But I decided that it was repetitive of what I have said clearly in the past.  

Bahnsen makes this clear statement:

“That written law was intended as a model for all nations.” – G. Bahnsen

This assumption, with which I disagree, goes to the root of why I believe Bahnsen to be in error.

His theonomy is an arm-chair theory in my mind.  It is academic and, therefore, you are infatuated by it.  "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. ... Fear God and keep his commandments."  If you believe God has commanded us to form a theonomy, so be it.  Obey.

So, how do you see nuclear weapons in this theonomy?  Real topic.

# Bahnsen8 said on Saturday, October 03, 2009 11:16 AM

"10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;

be warned, O rulers of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear,

and rejoice with trembling.

12 Kiss the Son,

lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him."............................How do you say the rulers of the earth should "serve the Lord with fear"? How do you say the rulers of the earth should "rejoice with trembling"? How do you say the rulers of the earth should "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry"?

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Saturday, October 03, 2009 2:15 PM

Serving, rejoicing and submitting are all heart issues.  Nebuchadnezzar said, "I lifted my eyes to heaven ... and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever. ... Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just."

Many years before, the King of Ninevah said, "Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands."

Before this, the Queen of Sheba after inquiring of what she had heard said, "Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness"

All three of these rulers recognized the authority of the God Most High.  God's wrath was quickly kindled against N'nezzar and the King of Ninevah, and they did not perish.

The same can not be said of Belshazzar, who did not humble his heart even though he knew of the testimony of N'nezzar.  The same can be said of Ninevah through the prophet Nahum.  Assyria was oppressive, cruel, and given into idolatry.

I cannot find "they did not form a theonomy" or "they did not obey all the commands of God's Law."  Actually, would you not agree that the national laws of Assyria and Babylon were pretty just, especially if they adopted Codes like that of Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi?  While often intense, they did put the fear of obediance into the people.

In terms of modern settings, the laws of the United States are quite good in general.  Yet it is the pride and intent of our representatives (their heart) (which reflects the hearts of the people) that is the problem.  With our economic problems, why haven't our leaders cried out to God?  We need a changed N'nezzar as leader, not a theonomist!

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Saturday, October 03, 2009 10:58 PM

CORRECTION: God's wrath was not* kindled

# Bahnsen8 said on Monday, October 05, 2009 10:57 AM

Your understanding of theonomy and its applications continues to be unbalanced and inaccurate. Until you understand and accept the ACTUAL definition of theonomy, you will continue to fight against a position that does not really exist. By producing a non-theonomic position and falsely labeling it "theonomy", you CONTINUE to set up a STRAW MAN. Now, why you do this is a mystery to me. I do not think you are dishonest and doing this just to distract from an argument you know you cannot win. I can only guess that your firmly entrenched presuppositions do not allow you to perceive or accept the simple definition of theonomy. And, as I read other critics of theonomy, they tend to have the same problem. I wonder why this is.

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Monday, October 05, 2009 10:58 PM

B8, don't you think the same can be said of you that your firmly entrenched presuppositions do not allow you to see the difficulties I see in theonomy.  A very basic definition of theonomy is this (would you not agree):

Theonomy is the governing of God's Word over the individual, the family, the church and the civil realm.

No true Bible believing Christian would have a problem with this statement in its generality.  It is when it comes to the application that causes the divide.  Here are questions that I have:

1.  Why do theonomists always uphold Covenant Theology?

2.  Why do theonomists not worship on the last day of the week?  Did the new covenant do away with this law requirement?

3.  Is theonomy all that important to the common man?  or is it just a theological construct in academia?

I have other questions, but these are the primary ones.  Finally, is all of this just an argument to you--an argument you wish to win?  If so, then I'll conceed and say you won.  Now I sit and watch to see you carry out this theonomy.

# Bahnsen8 said on Tuesday, October 06, 2009 11:15 AM

"Theonomy is the governing of God's Word over the individual, the family, the church and the civil realm." If you agree with this accurate definition of theonomy, then you, too, are a theonomist. A simpler, more accurate definition of theonomy is "all of Gods Word governing all of life." I hope you do not agree with the premise of a recent bad book called, "The Insufficiency of Scripture."

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Tuesday, October 06, 2009 11:02 PM

First of all, you know that theonomy carries with it a little more than this basic definition.  If this was all Bahnsen meant when he said theonomy, all God's People would be theonomists.  However, genuine God fearing men question the validity of Bahnsen's constructs.  They are smarter men then me.

In this situation, praise God I associate with the Southern Baptists.  So you have Meredith Kline, Greg Bahnsen, John Frame, T. David Gordon, Gary North, Cornelius Van Til, Kenneth Gentry, and RJ Rushdoony.  What do they all have in common?  They are all covenant theologians.

Haven't read the book, don't plan to.  Scripture is sufficient; it becomes insufficient when men use it how it was not intended.

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Tuesday, October 06, 2009 11:08 PM

This topic of theonomy is starting to bore me.  This is my last word on the topic:  B8, if you truly believe this stuff, carry it out.  I'll meet you on the other side and ask you how it all worked out for you.

# Bahnsen8 said on Wednesday, October 07, 2009 8:30 AM

"Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish."

Any child of God will be saddened to hear that another child of God is bored with the God's Law. You, as a professing follower of Christ, are called to submit all that you are to all that He says, and this will inevitably lead to the implementation of God's Word in every sphere you touch. Call it whatever name you want to call it.

# Bahnsen8 said on Wednesday, October 07, 2009 9:57 AM

Rather than "it becomes insufficient when men use it how it was not intended", I would say the Word of God is never insufficient. Our ways and reason are insufficient to the task of deciphering personal, family, ecclesiastic and civil decision-making. We must rightly divide the Word of God to avoid applying principles from one area of life to another area of life, but the problem here is not with the Word of God, rather with us.

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Wednesday, October 07, 2009 12:21 PM

I'm very surprised by your comment.  I'm not sure how to interpret it.  (I am also surprised with your "fluid" use of words.  Especially since in the past you have been a stickler for exactness.  You seem to blend God's Law, God's Word, and theonomy as if they are synonyms.)  I have a book on my shelf called "Fives Views on Law and Gospel."  The five views are by far not all that exist.  Theonomy is specific to one or two views, that held by the Reformed.  To be bored with theonomy, therefore, is not equivalent to saying one is bored with God's Law.  If that was true, we would have to say that the dispensationalists dislike God's Law.  But do they really?  No.

I love God's Law (you may disagree).  God's Law has been implanted into my heart (as described in the New Covenant), and the Holy Spirit is my guide in applying the Law that is within my heart.  However, I do what I do not want to do, and I don't do what I ought to do.  The law of sin is at battle.

So when I say I am bored with theonomy, I mean that I am bored with the Reformed, covenant theology deep, view of the Law.  It leaves me unsatisfied.

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Wednesday, October 07, 2009 12:31 PM

I agree the problem lies with us not the Word of God.  And the Word of God is never insufficient: Hallelujah.  When we use the Word how it was not intended, it is insufficient because it is no longer God's Word.

So I have a question.  God is all-powerful and all-knowing; however, there are things God cannot do.  He cannot sin, for example.  Using this line of thought, is there things the Bible cannot do?  Or are there things the Bible should not be used for?

# Bahnsen8 said on Wednesday, October 07, 2009 2:56 PM

To say that God "cannot" is inaccurate. God WILL NOT violate His holiness. This in no way compromises his ALMIGHTY nature. Thus, the premise of your question is not true, so the question is misleading. Nevertheless, I will answer the question. We should only apply the Bible's principles where the Bible instructs us to apply them. This is the concept of rightly dividing God's Word. And, God's Law is part of God's Word. Not all of God's Word is Law, but all of God's Word is to govern all of life. Law is different than precept and pattern, which are also to be our guide in life.

# WesleySonofCornelius said on Thursday, October 08, 2009 11:39 AM

Your answer seems to simple: "only apply the Bible's principles where the Bible instructs us to apply them."

So let me give you a scenario.  I am a scientist.  No book in the Bible was intended to be a science book.  Therefore, if I use the Bible as a science book, I am in danger of using it how it was not intended.  This does not mean that good science is not contained within Scripture.  Also, great science has come from men who either rejected a personal God or rejected God completely.

Taking this scenario let us move to a more challenging profession: a legislator.  Is the Bible intended for a political theory textbook?  Once again, I am not asking if good political theory is contained within Scripture.  Right to bear arms, freedom of speech, and trial by jury does not come out of the Scripture explicitly.  Furthermore, some of our good constructs in the US are due to men like John Locke.  Just as in science, a nonChristian can introduce good theory.

In an article by Gentry, he says that theonomists do not believe the Bible to be exhaustively specific.  I am not asking if the Bible is exhaustive in the civil realm, I am asking if the intent of God's Law (or God's Word in general) was for forming national governments?  Or was God's Law intended for one "government" only?  Therefore, if we use it for forming a specific type of national government and it was not intended for such, are we at danger of misusing Scripture?

I have a feeling you are going to misunderstand my distinctions because of our differences in understanding the Church and State issue as well as our differences in how we view the covenants.