A Sabbath Moment with Bahnsen
"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.”