Friday, February 3, 2012

Christ Shall Have Dominion / Music: Critical Mass


Dominion. Not only is it an awesome word, but it's a word with a freight-train size load of theological connotations that are- to be simplistic- rather controversial.

And rather awesome.

So let's start at the beginning.

"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Gen. 1:28, KJV)

Here we see the initial command given to man. Rule the earth. Man tends the earth and brings it into obedience to God.

This is, of course, much harder after the fall- in fact, it can only be accomplished apart from God's Grace.

But that doesn't mean that we should not still strive towards it- and pray for the Grace that it necessitates.

Some will say that we are no longer "under" this initial mandate, since we are now under the New Covenant. To these, my reply is threefold:

  1. This is our initial created purpose. It doesn't just go away- it's what we were made to do.
  2. Both our Lord Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul refer back to creation order. ("From the beginning, it was not so.") Why do we retain the model for things like one-man-one-woman marriage yet reject the Dominion Mandate?
  3. This objection arises from what I believe to be a dangerous misunderstanding of the New Covenant. The New Covenant was the fulfillment of The Law in Christ. The ceremonial and sacrificial laws are done away with in Him. The New Covenant is not a "liberation" from the moral laws of God, nor is it a repudiation- an abolishing- of all the things contained in the Old Testament. This includes the Dominion Mandate.

So what does this dominion-taking look like, practically? In a nutshell, it looks like applying all of God's Word to all of life.

Instead of seeing this world as a lost cause, "going to hell in a hand-basket," we should see this world as God's. He owns it. We are His ambassadors come to claim His domain back from those who have usurped Him.

"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Matt. 28:18)

Scripture paints a picture, not of a monastic separation from the world, nor of an antinomian revelry in sin, but of an aggressive expansion, an in-this-world-but-not-of-it march forward which calls every area of life- politics, art, culture, education, all of it- to submit to Christ.

Which leads to discussing eschatology- what we think about the end-times. The dominion worldview can seem inherently postmillenial. Postmillenialists believe that there will be no tribulation- the church will obey God more and more and His Kingdom gradually will advance and fill the earth. "All the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD."

But for someone who believes that the earth will get worse and worse until Jesus comes back, it might seem like dominion is a silly and irrelevant idea.

It's not.

Though it does kinda make better sense from a post-mil standpoint.

My point with this post, however, isn't to start a debate on eschatology. I'd rather leave that for another time. My point here is that this world is God's. His Kingdom will reign. Perhaps that reign will be inaugurated by Divine fiat, where the world gets worse and worse and then BAM. Christ returns and brings justice. Perhaps it will indeed be by the faithfulness of the remnant.

Either way, His Kingdom is inevitable.

Either way, it is for us to obey. To live as if all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ. Because it has.

Christianity isn't another part of our life. It is our life. It's not the thing we put in the "religion" box on Facebook. It's the foundation, the worldview, the root of everything that we do. It must be so.

And it gets bigger. The dominion-minded believer desires to see things like politics and the arts conquered for Christ. This does NOT mean using physical force to overthrow governments, but it does mean striving for the conformation of the institutions of this world to The Word of God.

Yes, I firmly believe that our national legal system should be built on The moral Law of God. What other option do we have as believers?

The retort may come back, "you're advocating saving the nation through politics!"

Not at all. Nations are lost or won one soul at a time. Politics cannot save. But, as has been said- if Christians are faithful, and God is willing, politics will be saved.

So the dominion-minded believer isn't just "waiting at the bus stop" for Jesus' return. He is actively striving to expand the real-life Kingdom of God on this earth.

"Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven." (Matt. 6:10)

That's what I see Scripture exhorting us to. This earth belongs to Christ. Let's act like it.

I hope that this woefully short epistle attempting to define dominion proves helpful and edifying to some. I might have inspired more questions than I answered, but that might be a good thing. Please ask the questions below, though I can't guarantee that I'll be able to answer them. Oftentimes, my answers aren't even necessary- others will pitch in and answer the questions for me, and sometimes better than I could've. I enjoy learning from you all, so thanks again for the discussions.

Speaking of dominion, here's one of my latest dominion-taking endeavors in the area of music. I think it's fitting to the topic at hand, both in title and in genre. Because God's Kingdom, one way or another, will reach Critical Mass.

Critical Mass by gabrielhudelson

"Christ shall have dominion, over land and sea,
Earth’s remotest regions shall His empire be;
They that wilds inhabit shall their worship bring,
Kings shall render tribute, nations serve our King."

69 comments:

Dan S. said...

Very interesting. I have heard about dominion theology, and after last years SAICFA, I met alot of people who like to use that word ALOT, but I haven't heard much about what it means theologically. It sounds to me like it's a form of covenant theology that sprung up in answer to the passive Christian who doesn't feel a pressing need to evangelize and be a good steward. I can't say that I agree with any of the covenant theology/eschatology parts of it, but I absolutely agree with the need to be a good steward and take responsibility. We are ambassadors for Christ and it's our job to be in the world "beseeching" others to "be ye reconciled to God." Whether those efforts will eventually bring in the kingdom, or if it will come regardless, in God's timing, is still to be debated. (and I would debate it ;)

Good post Gabriel!

Gabriel Hudelson said...

I don't doubt that you would debate it, brother. ;-)

Yes, I think it does have strong ties to covenantal theology, though I don't know- haven't thought about that.

Thanks for stopping by!

Bailey said...

This was an excellently written post, Gabriel. I'm amillennial myself and dominion-minded in a sense, though I would differentiate between dominionism and Christian reconstructionism as advocated by people like R. J. Rushdooney. I'm so sick of the shallow "Christianity" that treats anything other than evangelizing as polishing brass on a sinking ship. I don't believe that we should usher into a kingdom on earth, as Christ explicitly said His kingdom was not earthly, but that is no excuse to not bring every single "material" aspect of our lives under His control -- talents, interests, theology, entertainment, etc. And if it rubs off on other people for the glory of Christ, amen!

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Hey Bailey. :-)

Could you explain- *checks spelling against your post*- amillenialism to me? I don't really understand it.

Also would you elaborate on the difference that you see between dominionism and reconstructionism? Are you with Mr. Rushdoony or against him? (My spellchecker is going nuts.)

Oh, and I haven't forgotten that debate we were having on Num. 30. I shall return. *evil cackle*

Jennifer said...

What a stunning picture! Love it!

Racheal said...

"Christianity isn't another part of our life. It is our life."
What a good way to put that. It is also very thought provoking.

Also, I like the way that you tie the Old and New Testament together. We cannot fully understand the one without the other.

Bailey said...

My spellchecker's going nuts too. Apparently it's ignorant of basic theological terms.

Amillennialism. Basically it means "no millennium" -- at least not a literal millennium that will occur at some future period. It states that we're in the last days/tribulation now, that Christ is reigning now in heaven and that when Christ returns, judgment happens immediately and then the new heavens and earth are established. Amillennials interpret Revelation cyclically and figuratively -- to wit, that it's not describing specific future events but that it's an allegory of the last days written to encourage the church. The events will repeat over and over again (apostasy, judgment, etc.) until Christ returns. Some amillennials believe that the world will worsen as Christ's return gets closer. Monergism.com has theology FAQs and articles on amillennialism with better analysis and definitions. ;o)

I haven't actually studied out dominionism and reconstructionism fully, so all opinions are my own and possibly not rooted in reality. I'm Reformed, so I don't reject our original created purpose, which was to glorify God and subdue the earth. I do think that this is played out differently in the new covenant than the old. I believe that the old covenant, with its theocracy, pointed to a newer, better covenant which was spiritual in nature -- the Church. So I disagree strongly with Rushdoony that we should reconstruct culture back into a theocracy; I don't see that as God's aim with the new covenant and the Church. While I support Christian exploration (dominion, if you will) of the arts, sciences, homes and whatnot, I do not view it as part of larger goal to reconstruct society but a personal effort to bring oneself under God's sovereignty and work to His glory. The differences aren't always substantial between my version of dominionism and reconstructionism on some points, but I find them necessary to make.

Rats. I thought your silence on the Numbers 30 post meant I won. :o)

ACR said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Gabriel, for such an excellent encapsulation of dominion!

Essentially what we are saying is that God is relevant to and authoritative over all of life.

Though modern Christianity recoils in horror at such a position, what is now called "Dominion theology" was the established teaching of the Reformed church until the rise of "Reformed dispensationalism" and its secluded, marginalized (if you'll permit me to use an original yet eminently expressive word) very wimpified view of the relevance of God and Christianity.

Bailey: There's no difference between Dominion Theology and what Mr. Rushdoony taught. Mr. Rushdoony merely took covenantal theology the complete authority of the word of God to its logical conclusions-and I say bully for him!

Gabriel, it's good that you pointed out that the whole point of Christ's work is to restore man to what he was created to be. All of modern Reformed Christianity will acknowledge this-but many do not want to take responsibility for its implications!

In regards to the law, isn't it most illuminating that Paul refers to the civil and moral parts of OT law multiple times to make points about Christian conduct? (This was one of the major issues in that great big discussion on women's roles a couple of posts ago.) I think it would be good if you did a post explaining the way that the New Covenant relates to Old Covenant law. It might clear up a lot of the misconceptions out there.

I think it's kind of impossible to avoid eschatology, because the monastic and antinomian lines of thought come right out of dispensationalism, and dispensationalism is the interpretive framework from which modern premillenialism arose, whereas Covenantal Christianity, because of its interpretation of the OT prophets and its understanding of the relationship between national Israel and the Church universal almost always winds up being postmillenial or amillenial. It's all connected. There was an older premillenialism to which some of the church fathers, particularly Justin Martyr, ascribed, but it eventually proved itself to not have substance.

Besides, (i think this is the point you were hinting at in your post) if we are going to borrow the eschatological position of pessimistic dispensationalists, then that means that the ship is sinking. So why should we be polishing brass on a sinking ship? Why should we bother with politics and arts and education when God has promised us that our efforts in reclaiming society and culture will fail?

If you're going to understand the bible consistently, I think you ultimately will wind up with Calvinistic, Covenantal, Dominionistic, and Postmillenial/Amillenial Christianity. That being said, I can understand why you would want to keep this topic "packed" for a later time, so I won't engage in discussion on it yet-although I must say, it will be glorious fun to get a discussion on eschatology going once you get up a post or two on the subject!

ACR said...

Oh, BTW, Gabriel, I'm listening to your modal suites right now on Youtube. Awesome! I particularly liked your work in the Lydian and Phrygian modes. I think it's regrettable how uncommonly those modes are used. Once you get used to the different harmonic structures, there's a lot you can do with them.

I'm currently a hymn-writer, not a soundtrack composer, but you're making me want to learn the soundtrack-composing skills.

(You ought to try some epic stuff in mixolydian mode sometime. Particularly because the seventh major in mixolydian mode can have a very powerful sound. I also want to know, have you ever tried anything in Dorian?)

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

Dan S. said...

I don't know... I'm very dispensational, and my personality and theology is about as optimistic as you get!

Corey P. said...

Y'know one of the things I love about your blog, Gabriel? You're not afraid to be controversial. :D You know whatcha believe, and why you believe it: something many Christian young men - heck, many Christians grown-ups - can't say for themselves.

Keep up the good work. I can't wait to see the discussion this post stirs up... *mwahahahaha*

Oh, and excellent job on the music. :-)

Racheal said...

"if we are going to borrow the eschatological position of pessimistic dispensationalists, then that means that the ship is sinking. So why should we be polishing brass on a sinking ship? Why should we bother with politics and arts and education when God has promised us that our efforts in reclaiming society and culture will fail?"

And that is exactly why not only our country but also our churches are in such a state of disrepair!
Because there is no reason to polish brass on a sinking ship, dispensationalists just withdraw from the world, bemoan the evil, and "wait for Jesus" (this is of course a general statement and doesn't necessarily cover every single dispensationalist.) When Christians do not strive to take dominion in all areas of life (science, film, music, writing, etc.) then who will take over? That's right. The pagan. Any wonder why false philosophies and their logical outworkings are rampart in our land--even in the Church?

I'm post-mill, by the way, if you can't tell :) And as my sister says, "Don't polish the brass on a sinking ship. Fix the hole!!"

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Thanks for the definitions, Bailey.

"So I disagree strongly with Rushdoony that we should reconstruct culture back into a theocracy; I don't see that as God's aim with the new covenant and the Church."

Well then I disagree strongly with you. ;-)

What would you suggest that we should reconstruct culture into?

"Rats. I thought your silence on the Numbers 30 post meant I won. :o)"

Nope. Not yet, at least. If you did win, I hope I would tell you. :-D

Andrew- thanks, brother!

No, I started going through the modes but haven't yet finished. :-)

And I myself am not set on any eschatological position. I lean post-millineal, but I'm not declared any of the above.

Just thought I'd throw that out there and see what bounces back.

:-D

(It irks me when people from any eschatological camp act as if their interpretation is the only one with any Scriptural basis- as if the others are heretics. In a study of Scriptures full of symbolism and might-have-been-fulfilled prophecies, I think it's dangerous to be so dogmatic. Anyway. Pet peeve.)

Bailey said...

ACR, then evidently I'm not a dominionist at all, because I find Rushdoony's theology extreme, not logically extended.

Gabriel, I think the question ought to be whether we should reconstruct society in the first place. Israel the theocracy was under a different covenant than the Church is now. Our salvation is not tied to ethnicity, heritage, a temple or a strip of land. Israel's was. Israel was not called to make disciples of all the nations. We are. Indeed, Israel spent much time purging the surrounding land of paganism. The Church is not authorized to take up arms for Jesus. There are very clear distinctions between government, church and family -- all instituted by God and ultimately controlled by Him. Israel didn't really have those distinctions. And every time the Church has tried to "reconstruct" society, disaster followed.

In defense of Dan, I think it's unfair to describe dispensationalism as despairing. While some gloomy eschatologies (and wackos) use dispensationalism as a base, it's really just a way of understanding how God worked at different times.

You know...I better go study out reconstructionism to make sure I know what I'm talking about. ;o)

Gabriel Hudelson said...

"Israel was not called to make disciples of all the nations. We are."

Exactly. Thusly, dominion. Cultural transformation founded upon God's Word.

:-)

Rebekah said...

Good post, Gabriel! I really enjoyed reading it!

As to Critical Mass; it's waaay to short, but I really like it! I saw someone else mentioned that it reminded them of the Doctor Who soundtrack. It reminded me of the same.

I've haven't been commenting much lately, I've been so busy, but I have been reading your blog. You've posted some great posts over the last few weeks! :)

To the KING be all the glory!
Rebekah

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Hey Rebekah! Thanks. I might release a longer version sometime...

Racheal said...

About theocracy...
What do you mean by that?
Recently a brother and I have gotten into some very serious arguments about this very topic. He takes it so far as to claim that establishmentarianism (that is a gi-hugic word)is the proper form of government. And then he went on to assert that my Dad (and that also means me) holds to a 'two-kingdom' view, simply because we do not want a government that ultimately decides what is and is not heresy and "punshishes the heretics".

I do not hold a two-kingdom view. The world and all its fulness belongs to God and He alone is sovereign. There is no 'secular' realm where one's faith is not a difining factor. While I would love it if those who governed us were all strong Christians, I do not wish for there to be an established Church. (The aforesaid brother assumes that Reformed folks would be in charge.)

Establishmentarianism leads to tyranny too. All you have to do it look back towards the Reformation. This is why I see that the way our Founding Fathers ordered our governmental system is the best humanly possible. I fully understand that there have been changes over the years and even at founding it wasn't perfect; but we are still the freest country on the earth! Even with the abuses of power and surrender of the church--the checks and ballances built into our system (which by the way are based on the Presbyterian church government form) have enabled us to stay free.

On this earth there is no perfect government or governmental system. God alone is King--His Word is the fianl say in all matters. If I must disobey my King to obey my government--screw the government! I won't do it. I will obey God the King over the president. Amen. May God give me strength.

(Forgive me if this comes across as a rant--I am extremely passionate about this issue. I do not see establishmentarianism in Scripture.)

Gabriel Hudelson said...

You bring up a great question, Racheal! I would say thus: That nation is freest whose laws are most in alignment with The Law of God.

How that all plays out in the nitty-gritty, I'm not quite sure, honestly.

Do I think that the fed should punish, for example, paedo-baptists, or non-trinitarians (not to compare the two, one of which is still within the purview of orthodoxy)?

No! Not at all.

Do I believe that in the ideal nation mosques would be allowed? I don't think so. Does that make sense?

What exactly do you mean by establishmentarianism?

Jennifer said...

"In regards to the law, isn't it most illuminating that Paul refers to the civil and moral parts of OT law multiple times to make points about Christian conduct?"

Of course God's expectations of our conduct are all always the same, but the old law's consequences for disobeying them and exact restrictions on the Jews to keep them in place clearly changed.

amy said...

Thanks for posting this, Gabriel!

I'm subscribing to comments right now--I'll be back to comment later :-)

Racheal said...

Establishmentarianism is when a nation has an established or national church. (A state-supported denomination.) While those who hold to establishementarianism claim that the church would be the one to say what is or is not heretical, in reality, it doesn't really work that way. (Like the Anglican church--the monarch is the head of the church. I don't know if they are still that way, but I know historically that is how it was.)

So basically, I precive that the discion as to heresy (or anything else) is really quite arbitary...no matter the trapping you put it in..."Truth" hangs on what one man (or group of men) claim with no real recourse for argumentation and discussion about it.

I definitely agree that a nation striving to live according to the Law of God is the freest. Funny isn't it how lawfulness is so much more free (and freeing) than lawlessness...

I hope that all made sense...it's 10 p.m. my time and I'm tired. So good-night all! I look forward to seeing the continuation of this discussion on Monday. :)

Gabriel Hudelson said...

'Night. :-)

Bailey said...

Come now, don't equivocate on me. ;o) Making individual disciples isn't the same thing as making nations disciples. Christ shall have dominion -- and I would argue He has dominion now -- but not in the way you're advocating. :o)

ACR said...

Bailey:

-Christ said to make disciples of nations, not out of nations.

-The scripture doesn't teach us that the salvation of Israel was dependent upon ethnicity or a strip of land or a temple or any such things, or striving to obey a law that every man has broken.

Hebrews 10:4 says, "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins." The temple sacrifices atoned for nothing; they were merely prophetic of Christ.

Every soul that will live forever in the new heavens and new earth will be there for only one reason: faith in the sacrifice of Christ, whether it was faith when Christ's work had only been promised, or when it had been consummated. Only Christ's bearing of God's righteous wrath on the cross could save a soul from eternal punishment to right relationship with God and all of the good fruits that come from right relationship with God. There is no other way to God. This is why it was necessary that the Jews at the time of Christ convert to faith in Christ. If Israel could be saved apart from Christ, then why must Paul and Peter and James and John and all of the others who first followed Christ be converted?

-Modern Christianity seeks to escape from the responsibility of spiritual warfare (which rightly deals with taking all thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ) in every sphere of life by drawing distinctions between which spheres God is relevant to and which spheres God is not relevant to. The simple fact is that the Earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, and that every thought is to be taken captive to the obedience of Christ, which means that every thought must be relevant to the obedience of Christ. This is what Christian Reconstruction is all about; We reform all of life to Godliness because God is relevant to every area of life and authoratative over all of life.


Stand Fast,

Andrew R.


Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

ACR said...

Bailey,

-In regards to theocracy, my understanding is that God is the giver of all objectively legitimate law, because He is the only objective standard of what is right and what is wrong, what should be done and what should not be done. That is true in family, church, and state. Theonomy does not suppose that God will speak to us from a mountain; He has spoken, and He doesn't need to speak again. Granted, we have to see the law through Christ. The sacrificial and ceremonial parts of the law, which were fulfilled in Christ, no longer stand, but God's moral and civil law do still stand. And whoever a nation recognizes as the giver of law is that nation's deity. Every nation is theocratic in a sense; the question is not, God or no God, but which God? The living, triune Jehovah, imaginary deities, nature, the People, or a perhaps a conglomeration of dead philosophers?

Should states worship God, or are they exempted from obedience to the first commandment? If so, why? Should we also exempt states from obedience to the sixth or eighth commandments?

God is Lord of family, church, and state. He's called the King of Kings because He is King over all kings. There is no such thing as a secular institution. The state is different that the church, but it is not secular because of that.

This is one of my big problems with modern Christian thought; it holds that the Church is the only really Christian institution. The family is a Christian institution, and a Christian institution only; The state is a Christian institution, and a Christian institution only. These were created to be Christian institutions just as much as the Church. Neither of these institutions have any legitimacy but for the fact that God ordained them. And because God ordained them, they are His, and we have no more right to surrender them to the pagans than we have right to surrender the Church to the pagans.

There are Christian institutions, and anti-God institutions, but there's no in-between. Because of this, saying that God has governing principles and laws which states should obey and enforce is not blurring jurisdictional or institutional distinctions; The state is just as much a religious institution as the church, it just has a different function.

Modern Christianity has done exactly the same thing that Roman Catholicism did, say that "church" and "Christianity" are the same thing. Church is a part of Christianity, but Christianity is much broader than church.

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

ACR said...

Bailey,

A few more thoughts:

-Romans 13 holds that the only reason why we are required to obey civil authorities is that their authority comes from God. To me, it doesn't make sense to think that the civil authority's rightful power would come from God, and yet that their authority to make laws and enforce them is entirely independent from God's written law. If the civil authorities are legitimate only because God has appointed them, then shouldn't they be stewards of His law, not whichever law they like?

-I think we chould be cautious against making an antithesis between being extreme and logical; There are many times when we are called to obey the commands of God extremely. For example, we are to obey the command of God against adultery extremely. Extremeness, from a biblical perspective, is not inherently wrong or illogical. Think about it. We as Christians are extreme on many, many things. Everybody is extreme on some things. Even the postmodernist, who tries to be extreme about nothing, winds up being extremely postmodern, because he evaluates everything from a postmodern worldview.

-About dispensationalism, I'm not saying that every dispensationalist is a pessimist. I'm speaking in generalities. Dan doesn't sound like a pessimist; I certainly don't want him to be! But dispensationalism, when it is entirely logically consistent in its biblical interpretation, winds up being pessimistic in its eschatology. That's really a separate discussion, however.

-In regards to your statement that every time Christians have tried to reconstruct society, disaster has followed, what, precisely do you define as a disaster? How do you determine what society is a disaster and what isn't...by God's law or man's?

Again, there's a difference between Christians reforming society and the institutionalized Church reforming society. The former I am for, the latter I am against. I make a distinction between Christendom and the institutionalized Church because Christendom is the people of God, while the local church is a distinct institution which the people of God are called to engage in. The Roman Catholic Church tried to merge state and church, and yes, it was a disaster. But the foundation for the Roman Catholic Church's actions was their believe that the institutionalized Church and Christendom were one and the same thing.

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

ACR said...

Jennifer,

I think we ought to continue the discussions from previous comment windows here, since our discussion has kind of shifted to the OT law.

This summarizes my position on Old Testament law: Are we going to evaluate the culture by God's word, or God's word by the culture? What's our ultimate standard? If the culture is our ultimate standard, we our recognizing the culture as deity and making an idol out of the culture. If God is our ultimate standard, then we evaluate the culture by His word, not vice versa, and when the commands of God conflict with the way that we have been taught to think, we follow God, not the culture.

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

ACR said...

Gabriel,

I think I'm just going to have to irk you!

Just kidding. In reality, I agree with you-partially. I think on the interpretations of certain symbolizations and representations there is a lot of room for disagreement, but when it comes to your "macro" understanding of the relationship between the progress of God's kingdom and the return of Christ, the basics are issues worth standing on and fighting over.

That being said, I agree that stigmatisms of heresy are not good. Heresy is denial of doctrines of the faith that are necessary to salvation; eschatology has nothing to do with saving faith. I look at baptism similarly; I am personally paedobaptist; I have many credobaptist friends, and we never fight over doctrines regarding baptism. I'm OK with that. In regards to government involvement in church doctrine and practice, that's called usurpation, and I think the eighty priests who confronted King Uzziah give us the best example of proper Godly response.

There's a difference between the State getting into matters of Church doctrine and the State upholding the first commandment with the same authority as the sixth commandment. That's the distinction we need to draw-the difference between institutionalized Church and the people of God in general.

I'm not settled on an eschatological position myself, but I know I'm not premillenial. If you're going to exegete the Bible from the Bible rather than from the newspapers, the way we understand Revelation has to harmonize with covenantal theology and our interpretation of the OT prophets. It makes more sense to interpret Revelation postmillenially, in particular, when you understand passages like Isaiah 9: which talks about there being no end to the increase of God's kingdom. I don't think a premillenial interpretation of Revelation harmonizes with the rest of biblical prophecy and vision statements regarding the advance of God's kingdom. Most of the premillenial interpretation is based upon date-setting and newspapers rather than upon sound biblical exegesis.

I stand so strongly on this position not because I want to beat brothers and sisters in Christ over the head with inconsequential theology, but because the Church needs a vision of victory in order to be motivated to do God's work on earth.

The postmillenialists have done a lot more in foreign missions and reclaiming the culture and society than anybody else. Meanwhile, the dispensationalist record of taking dominion for God's kingdom is mostly miserable. Does that tell you what it tells me? Where there is no vision...the people...perish.

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

Bailey said...

Andrew, I actually agree with most of what you said. I do not deny at all that Israel was saved by faith alone. However, Israel was tied to the temple, to their land, to their ethnicity -- to their covenant community, basically. Judaism was not merely a faith but also a geo-political system. Christianity is not. The earth is the Lord's, certainly, because God is sovereign and the hearts of kings lies in His power. God is definitely in control -- but that doesn't meant He granted power to the church to control it in His name.

I also think your interpretation of the Great Commission is a bit of a stretch. ;o) The point was that God's covenant community was formerly open almost exclusively to the Jews -- now it is open to all who come, of all nationalities. That was God's plan in the first place -- that through Abraham's offspring, all nations should be blessed. There is now no Jew or Greek.

I believe that Jesus fulfilled all of the law and that both the ceremonial and civil laws were done away with: Christ's kingdom is spiritual in nature and God's covenant community is bound up in His church. Paul didn't say to stone the immoral Corinthian Christians: he said to throw them out of the church until they repented. Under theonomy, the offending brother would be executed, annulling grace and church authority.

I think of the crusades, the Salem witch trials and even John Calvin's Geneva as examples where Christians tried to legislate morality beyond church and family discipline. As a positive example, the biggest national success is America, which was founded on Judeo-Christian principles but not on the entire Mosaic law.

I agree that the only law is God's law because there's only one God in the first place. No government's going anywhere if murder isn't punished and property isn't respected or whatever. I'm not arguing that the Bible is irrelevant to society or that Christians are to twiddle their thumbs until Jesus comes back.

But God only set apart one nation -- Israel. God fashioned the Mosaic civil law for only one nation -- Israel. He now calls individuals of all nationalities to be made into His spiritual kingdom, which will one day be established on the new earth.

And another thing...who's going to run this new theonomy? God's Word doesn't operate by itself. Not even Bible-believing Christians can agree on everything. Where do we draw the line between church and state in this system? If a government is given power to stone blasphemers per Mosaic law, it must have the authority to determine what's blasphemy -- so anyone who disagrees with the state's definition better take cover.

If I know men and history correctly, that's going to be an ugly sight.

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

Bailey-brilliant.

Andrew, her post covers my response to you. I'm not continuing a debate here, and there's no confusion for me in matters of OT law.

Racheal said...

Bailey's response covers the bases with what is dangerous about Establishmentarianism. Since the nation of Israel was the Church underage, I do not see why or how, all the civil laws should be carried out literally into our society. I do not disagree that the only foundation of true and just law is the moral law. Any 'law' that violates the moral law, is invalid and not to be obeyed.

As an example of a New Testament response to an Old Testament civil law...remember the woman caught in adultry? What did Christ say? "Stone her!" No. Rather His response was one of lovingness and forgiveness, "Let the one among you without sin throw the first stone."

In such a case in the church, the person (unless truely repentent) should be excommunicated (symbolic of death). I do not believe that the Fed should put them to death.
The sum of the 10 commandments must be used and interpeted together and each individual case must be considered in its circumstances. (By the way, The Westminster Confession of Faith, particularly the Larger Catechism is very helpful in forming a better understanding of the Law of God.)

Dan S. said...

Rachael,

"dispensationalists just withdraw from the world, bemoan the evil, and "wait for Jesus"

Do you actually know any dispensationalists like that? I am one and am involved in numerous circles of people who are and I can't think of one person who acts or thinks like that. Most of the dispensationalists I know (including myself) are strongly involved in evangelism, music, film, books, discipleship, pastoring, politics, ministry, etc...

You may infer from our eschatology that we find "dominion" futile, but when you actually see a true dispensationalist in action you'd realize that you were wrong.

I believe the major flaw in your view of Disp. is that instead of "polishing brass" and quietly waiting for the ship to sink, we're telling everyone to get onto the ship that isn't sinking. We're not so much concerned with saving the boat, but the people on it.

The boat has more than a leak in it. It is foundationally damaged. The floor boards are rotted, the cabins are moldy, there are holes, leaks and old patches all over the hull. We'll keep it afloat as long as we are on it. We'll clear the rubble from the passageways so we can walk through, and continue to patch the recurring leaks but ultimately God's promised us a new glorious and incorruptable ship. So we're not fixing the boat in order to keep it forever, but only to be good stewards of it until God's promise is fulfilled.

The view of a passive Disp. may be true for some immature believers, but it has no place in Biblical Dispensationalism.

Racheal said...

Yes, Dan, I do. My own Granddaddy for one. I also have other relatives that show at least one or more of these tendencies.

It is possible that what I described is more a characteristic of an older generation. It just seems to me that having a dispensationalist eschatological view would lead to passiveness. I am very pleased to hear that it is not always that way!

(By the way, my previous comment was from nothing more than observation and it was not intended to come across as mocking or disperaging. I am sorry if it did.)

Gabriel Hudelson said...

"I think of the crusades, the Salem witch trials and even John Calvin's Geneva as examples where Christians tried to legislate morality beyond church and family discipline."

OK. That's totally not what I (or Mr. Rushdoony) am advocating. Totally not.

Wait a sec- what's wrong with Calvin's Geneva? (I don't know enough about it to know either way.)

Dad just preached a sermon on economic dominion. It was awesome.

"If a government is given power to stone blasphemers per Mosaic law, it must have the authority to determine what's blasphemy -- so anyone who disagrees with the state's definition better take cover."

Actually, no, that's the beauty of a government founded on the Law of God. While I'm sure there would be kinks to iron out, the point is that the laws come from God, not man, and no man gets to make up any ol' law he likes.

What we have now is far more dangerous.

Dan- eloquent! I might very well disagree with you, but, nevertheless, well said!

Andrew- wait, what are we disagreeing on, exactly?

Bailey said...

I'm convinced you would not set an inquisition going on those who disagree, Gabriel, but Rushdoony wasn't so lenient. In his theonomy, "antinomian" dissenters such as myself would be under the death penalty: "All who are content with a humanistic law system and do not strive to replace it with Biblical law are guilty of idolatry. They have forsaken the covenant of their God, and they are asking us to serve other gods. They are thus idolaters, and are, in our generation, when our world is idolatrous and our states also, to be objects of missionary activity. They must be called out of their idolatry into the service of the living God....'Christian' man is thus doubly a sinner when he is antinomian and despises God's law: he has denied the law in Adam, and now, with consummate profanity, he denies it in the name of Christ. He thus doubly denies the everlasting covenant, and doubly transgresses the laws" (Law and Society).

"Idolatry is thus not only punishable by law as socially detrimental, it is in fact a capital offense. It constitutes treason to the King or Sovereign, to Almighty God" (Institutes of Biblical Law).

At least Rushdoony's consistent in this respect. I'm honestly confused here. While I see you're not advocating a crusade to institute a theonomy, there's nothing stopping Biblical law from conducting witch hunts and burning heretics. Indeed, I'd argue that consistency demands it.

This is what I meant about deciding what's blasphemy or not. It's not a cut-and-dry issue like what's adultery. Somebody's got to decide what's idolatry and blasphemy -- and I don't clearly see rejecting reconstructionism as idolatry, like Rushdoony. Obviously I don't feel very comfortable with his ideology determining what "Biblical law" means. ;o)

By the way, if I remember my history correctly -- which is dubious at times -- John Calvin did advocate the death of a heretic based on his heresy and sort of controlled Geneva in that respect. Ironically, he severely denounced theonomy, so it's possible I misunderstood my history lesson.

I'm sorry if I come across as obnoxious. I mean this with all humility and sincerity -- I just started exploring theonomy/reconstructionism/dominionism, after all.

Racheal said...

"By the way, if I remember my history correctly -- which is dubious at times -- John Calvin did advocate the death of a heretic based on his heresy and sort of controlled Geneva in that respect. Ironically, he severely denounced theonomy, so it's possible I misunderstood my history lesson."

Bailey, if you mean Servitus, it was the Genevan government that condemned him and burned him at the stake. John Calvin did not approve of the burning. Also, he did not control Geneva...in fact they kicked him out once (I forget the reason why--but for some reason I think it was because he was preaching against the libertines...)

Jennifer said...

You're not obnoxious, Bailey. And it wouldn't matter if the law WAS only defining blasphemy as God did: we are no longer under such severe laws, laws that give death for blasphemy.

Jennifer said...

"dispensationalists just withdraw from the world, bemoan the evil, and "wait for Jesus"

That is in fact similar to what some dominionists believe, ironically: many more or less advocate creating their own societies, apart from the world, yet still speak of Christians taking over the outside world.

Corey P. said...

"... if you mean Servitus, it was the Genevan government that condemned him and burned him at the stake. John Calvin did not approve of the burning."

Well said, Racheal. I was going to point that out, but you beat me to it. :)

Dan S. said...

You were fine Rachael. :)

Thanks Gabe and Bailey for her earlier comment!

Bailey said...

Thanks for pointing that out, Racheal, and for thinking about it, Corey. John Calvin is cleared, Geneva indicted. Exeunt stage right.....*cough*

Corey P. said...

:D

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Bailey, first off, thanks for quoting that whole bit with context. In that very quote Mr. Rushdoony expressly states how he would deal with the idolatrous antinomians.

"They... are... to be objects of missionary activity. They must be called out of their idolatry into the service of the living God."

That's how he suggests dealing with them.

Come now, Bailey, your argument doesn't have to rely on Mr. R. being villainous. Doesn't an honest reading of just those two passages of his work that you quoted show clearly that he's talking about two different things?

"I'm sorry if I come across as obnoxious. I mean this with all humility and sincerity -- I just started exploring theonomy/reconstructionism/dominionism, after all."

Naw, not at all! You come across as quite knowledgeable, though. Especially for just starting. You're making me think, as usual, and I appreciate that. :-)

"This is what I meant about deciding what's blasphemy or not. It's not a cut-and-dry issue like what's adultery."

It's a very good question that you bring up. I think a gooder question, however, might take us a step back.

Let's take adultery.

What do you think should be done- by the executive branch of the state- about adultery, and why?

amy said...

I’m thinking I shouldn’t be seen around this corner of the web anymore. Y’all are too knowledgeable for me. Seriously.

:-)

Once again, thanks for taking the time to write about this! I really appreciate it, Gabriel. I can’t say yet whether I agree with everything you said here or not; but mostly, I’m glad to actually understand what you mean in the mentions of taking dominion of the earth

One of the biggest questions this brings up in my mind is what place do you think the OT law (specifically thinking Mosaic Covenant here) holds in the life of believers under the new covenant? Included in this, are we under the Ten Commandments?

Regardless, however, of whether believers now are under the Mosaic Law, I don’t believe this affects whether we are under the Dominion Mandate of Genesis. Men still obtain bread by the sweat of their face, so to speak, and women still have pain in childbirth. Why then would a change of covenants annul the Dominion Mandate, when other things (occurring after this was instituted) are still in effect? (Yeah, I’m just thinking ‘aloud’ here.)

Jamie T said...

Very good post, Gabe. It's always great to go over the ground level stuff again.

Oh, and the music is awesome. I agree with Rebekah, it's much too short. :) Sorry for saying that so often. I must sound like a broken record....

~Jamie

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Jamie- I'd rather you want to hear more than to hear less! :-)

"One of the biggest questions this brings up in my mind is what place do you think the OT law (specifically thinking Mosaic Covenant here) holds in the life of believers under the new covenant? Included in this, are we under the Ten Commandments?"

I believe that the Mosaic Covenant is not binding on us at all. The Mosaic Law, so to speak, is- to some extent.

The moral law (ten commandments included) is still binding on believers (with the exception of the Sabbath law which was specifically rescinded in the NT. I do believe that the principle still applies, however).

The sacrificial and ceremonial laws are done away with in The Perfect Sacrifice, Christ.

Does that make sense?

Bailey said...

You make me think too, Gabriel. Someday we're going to agree totally on something. I just know it. ;o)

Actually, Rushdoony said that since the states and world are idolatrous now, non-theonomists should be objects of missionary activity. It's clear he doesn't view us as Christians in the proper sense, it's clear he still views the death penalty on idolaters to be just, and I'm not convinced his theonomy would be kind to us were the states not as "idolatrous" as currently. Should the state ever come under theonomy, would he advocate showing mercy to non-theonomist idolaters but not to pagan idolaters? Perhaps he meant to use sensationalist language about "Christian" non-theonimists and had another definition of idolatry in mind. It's possible, but I'm fairly sure he's talking about one thing here -- idolatry -- though of course he advocates different dealings now since there's currently no theonomy. I don't meant to paint him as a villain: if applicable Biblical law says stone idolaters, then he's on target.

I don't think the the executive branch should do anything about adultery -- it falls under the family and church government. Whereas under the Mosaic Law adulterers would be purged out from the community by death, the object of this new covenant of grace is to restore the member -- not kill him. We see this with Jesus' compassion to the adulterous woman and with the church discipline rules regarding immorality. If Jesus were bent on upholding the Mosaic Law of stoning adulterers (which the Jewish leaders still had authority to do at that time, as I understand it), why didn't He demand her death?

amy said...

Okay :-)

So you’re saying, the OT & Mosaic laws are still binding on believers today with the exception of the ceremonial and sacrificial laws (which would be things such as feasts, sacrifices and offerings, etc.) and the keeping of the Sabbath. The Covenant is done away with through the New Covenant instituted through Christ, but the Laws are still to be followed.

?

Where do the laws regarding such things as purification, punishment for sin, etc. fall?

ACR said...

My apologies for being so late in this reply; I've been busily engaged in discussions with a friend over at my own blog.

Jennifer,

I wanted you to know that I am willing to continue with our previous discussions, and that my not responding in the previous comment windows is not concession to any of your points. I have more to say, but I only want to continue the discussion if you want to continue it. I don't want you to think that you have to keep responding to my points in order to not concede the discussion.

If you don't want to continue the discussion, not because you concede, but simply because you think it's not profitable, then I'm willing to simply let it go, and now and forevermore I won't hold my disagreements with you between us.

Bailey,

You have made some rather insightful responses, better than much of what I have seen from an anti-theonomic position; I still find disagreement with your responses, however, as you will see.

My first and foremost response to all of your points on the dangers of theonomy is this: The only dangerous thing about a Christian establishment is what ungodly men might do to pervert it. The humanistic establishment is inherently dangerous; it is responsible for the 95% fornication rate, the murder of millions of unborn children, rampant adultery, rape, and drug abuse, murderers running around on the streets and killing more people after a two-year prison term, etc, etc. You tell me which establishment is more dangerous! Now, I know that you're not defending the humanistic establishment, but you might not realize that there's really no middle ground.

America didn't remain as upright as it was created because, at its inception, America was trying to sit on the fence of the antithesis between God's law and natural law, and the wonderful dream of neutrality couldn't last forever. Either God makes the laws or man makes the laws. If God makes the laws, the laws are objective, just, and unchangeable. If man makes the laws, anything can be law. We had to choose one side or the other, and we chose humanism. Look where we are now! I don't call the state of our nation sucessful at all. Forty million plus unborn children murdered? Rampant homosexuality, adultery, and fornication? Government-subsidized euthanasia coming down the pike, along with a host of immoral genetic manipulation? Really. Our morality and civil justice statistics are worse than those of Nazi Germany.

Every problem that you have with theonomy becomes much, much worse under non-theonomy. The state can, for example, make a capricious definition of treason and kill millions upon it. You say, that's wrong, because it's murder. Which is an appeal to which commandment? The sixth. Theonomists are the ones who are supporting God's law as an evaluative standard for man's laws. You already are partially theonomic; I just want you to be consistently theonomic. You're for the civil enforcement of the sixth commandment; why the sixth but not the first?

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

ACR said...

Bailey,

In regards to "legislating morality," Any law that a civil government ever makes is legislating morality. You just admitted that the government should have murderers punished. What is non-moral about the question of murder? Anti-theonomists are just as much for legislating morality as I am-but only so much of it. Nowhere in Jesus' teaching did He recuse the authority of God's law, notably the first, second, and third commandments, from the political and geographical. We don't get to pick and choose.


But, some would object, it's not for government to decide whether men are worshiping God from sincere hearts, thus government can't enforce the first commandment. Those who make this objection are precisely correct in their statement that government is encapable of ensuring that men will worship GOd from their hearts-but in the same way, it's not for government to decide whether a man wants in his heart to kill his neighbor, or whether he is lusting after another man's wife in his heart. If the man kills somebody, he is to be punished. If the man commits adultery, he is to be punished. In the same way, if somebody makes a pagan altar, he is to be punished. The civil law deals with external disobedience. It is only granted to civil governments in the biblical case laws to deal with external acts of disobedience. That is as true with the first, second, and third commandments as with the other seven. It's not for government to determine whether a man is worshiping God in his heart; it is for government to deal with external acts of pagan worship.

Now, if someone hates his brother in his heart or lusts after a woman not his wife, he is still morally guilty and deserving of an eternal punishment for infraction against God's moral law (Mat. 5:28), but he is not yet civilly guilty and therefore not deserving of a civil punishment until he actually commits the evil act.

Christianity is indeed a geo-political system, because Christianity is a system of religion which encompasses every area of life. Could you please refer me to a scripture passage that says that Christianity is not geo-political? Even Dispensationalists and non-theonomic Covenantalists believe that Christ will someday politically reign over all of the earth's geography, don't they?


The reconstructionist Covenantal position, however, sees this reign of Christ as both present and future. Here's a good quote:

"When was the Lord Jesus seated at the right hand of God? At His ascension. Jesus is not merely the Lord of the heart; He is the Lord of history. He is reigning from Heaven now. Dozens of Scriptures affirm this (Ephesians 1:20-23 for starters). Jesus does not need to wait until He returns to earth to begin reigning on earth. Does the owner of a worldwide corporation need to be physically present in each of his company's local offices to make
his authority known? Of course not. He runs things from the corporate office from which he dictates letters, makes calls, hires and fires managers, workers and trainees, etc. He sends out employees to expand his business. Though he works with representatives, he never ceases to be the boss."-Mark D. Brown, ROSES: The Five Points of Christian Reconstruction from Biblicalblueprints.org

So the point is, Christ is King now. His kingdom will be perfectly established at His return, but for now, we are his vice-regents over the earth. This is what man's role was from the beginning; a steward of God's authority over the earth. The gospel restores man to his created purpose. Those who are not saved cannot be vice-regents, because they have not been restored to right relationship with God; they will either submit to the law of God from a wrong heart, or they will resist.

Stand Fast,

Andrew

ACR said...

When Christ said that His kingdom was not of this world, what that statement means is not that His kingdom is not on this world, or has nothing to do with this world, or is not over this world, but that its authority and might does not proceed from this world, and therefore his servants did not need to fight wars to ensure its coming or its legitimacy.

But how does the fact that Christ's kingdom is spiritual make it irrelevant to civil government? After all, civil government, if you really think about it, is an entirely spiritual thing built upon spiritual principles, the most important of which is justice! (In fact, anything which relates meaningfully to human life has a spiritual aspect and spiritual significance, because human life itself is a spiritual thing, and not merely a physical thing, as evidenced by the fact that there is no life in a dead physical body. What we do with and feel with our physical bodies is ultimately spiritual, because it is our spirits that do and feel. Dead bodies do nothing and feel nothing.)

I didn't say that God granted power to the church, but that Christians have the duty to see that God's authority is held preeminent in church, state, and family. The church doesn't usurp the other institutions; all three institutions come under the authority of God. Again, you fail do distinguish between the institutionalized and the universal church.

In my book, there's no problem with a geo-political reign of Christianity. There is a problem with a geo-political reign of the church. The church is the local relational community of Christians engaged together in fellowship to the end of mutual edification, as well as various acts of Christian duty, who publicly assemble on the first-day Sabbath for the worship of God.
Christianity is much broader and all-encompassing than church; the church is the child of Christianity, not the other way around. Christian principles apply in science, business, art, the family, and much, much more, beyond the covenant community of the church.

Bailey, you have to reckon directly with the words of the Great Commission. My argument was that the great commision tells us not merely to make disciples out of nations, but to make disciples of nations. Whatever you think God's motives might have been, the words still say the same thing, and that's our rule.

The fact that a law or command or social order statement can be misinterpreted and misapplied with dangerous results proves nothing about that law's validity. It merely means that Christians need to be wise and vigilant. This is my response to your point about blasphemy. Churches could be just as careless and capricious with their definition of blasphemy as states could.

The same is true of, say, a woman's duty to submit to her husband. If some man took that to mean that he had the right to beat his wife, then the monster needs to be dealt with. But this does not mean that we now have the right to deny a woman's duty to sumbit to her husband.

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

ACR said...

Dan,

First of all, I'd like to complement your intellectual acuteness; it's very refreshing.

My thoughts on your question to Rachael: Yes, I do know a good many dispensationalists of that sort. Hundreds. Far too many to count. Perhaps the presuppositions of your brand of dispensationalism support vigorous Christian action; that's fine and well, and we're certainly not criticizing your action. I am in fact quite grateful that you haven't succumbed to inaction.

But my point to your position would be this: you're not taking dominion over the earth; You're saying that since the earth is going down, you need to get people out of it. That is fundamentally different than taking dominion over the earth. The Christian engagement of doinion involves restoration of all created things to God, not resigning God's creation to destruction and trying to save as many people from the destruction as possible. I'm not saying that we shouldn't seek to save men from the destruction that is due them if they are not reconciled to God (all good Reformed theology granted). I'm just saying that there's another driving purpose for dominion beyond that.

So the question is this: is God going to have His creation be destroyed completely and then build a new one, or is He going to restore His creation?

Yes, the earth will be purged with fire, just as it was once purged with water. But that doesn't mean that the earth will be obliterated. There's a very significant difference.

You think the boat's going down. We're thinking that God is going to purify, repair, and restore the boat. In our view, God is victorious in every sphere; In your view, the enemy has succeeded in destroying God's creation which was created very good.

That's why, while as a dispensationalist, you may not be inactive, but you're not taking dominion over the earth, because in your view, true Genesis 1 dominion would in fact be polishing brass on a sinking ship. You're not completely pessimistic or defeatist, but in regards to your understanding of the reconciliation of creation to God, you are still pessimistic and defeatist. This is our problem with dispensationalist.

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

Bailey said...

I don't think there is a middle ground on what's right and wrong, because morality is defined by God. I'm not arguing that there's a secular morality and a Christian morality: there's just morality. But the sum and substance of morality is not bound up in the Mosaic law. It was a crime to kill before Moses ever came along. Hammurabi came up with his code against theft, murder and adultery before Exodus was written. Did these civil leaders, these Gentiles, who did not have the benefit of the law, then pull their moral code from thin air? Not at all -- they had consciences, they had natural law, they knew in their hearts that there was a God and that certain things were right and wrong. That has been the standard Christian position since Jesus ascended into heaven, a position laid out eloquently by Paul (Romans 1:18-32). Paul would not agree that the law lay in Moses: "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts ..." (Romans 2:14-15).

The reason America is falling is not because it wasn't based on the Mosaic Law but because man is sinful and in need of a Savior. And it didn't look like the Mosaic Law did much to govern Israel: they were stiff-necked and idolatrous all throughout their history.

Law is unable to govern human hearts, Andrew. The law was instituted, Paul says, so that sin would become evident so that we could then be set free. It's so explicit in Scripture that the law is null and void, having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ: "[Y]ou also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code" (Romans 7:4-6). The Bible makes no distinction between civil, ceremonial and moral laws -- they were all rescinded because they were unable to bring life.

Was morality rescinded? Absolutely not. Morality -- murder is wrong, adultery is wrong, etc. -- existed long before Moses because morality is morality.

You may then argue that, "Well, righteous men will be able to keep the law" but that flies in the face of Scripture: the law was added because of transgressions. It's not for the righteous, for the sons of God, but for the unrighteous.

Bailey said...

In all that long comment, I didn't even address your specific question. Whoops. You'll have to bear with my long-windedness a bit longer. :D

I can't point to a verse that specifically says, "Nope, Christianity isn't a geo-political system." But can you point to a verse where it does say that Christianity is a geo-political system? I see the Christians being exhorted to look after their own affairs (1 Corinthians 5,6), both their personal lives and the body of Christ, not reconstructing culture. As far as I know, the NT doesn't delineate between the "church" and "Christianity." The church is the body of believers -- the body of Christ. It isn't made up of local churches or a church hierarchy. If we have a political system where only Christians can be in office, where only Christianity can be taught and practiced, where, indeed, everyone must be Christian (or pretend to be), then the church is in charge. The state is the church then: the church is a government unto itself, and if the state is the church, then the church is the state.

I absolutely believe that all three branches of government (church, state and family) fall under God's authority. That's not theonomy -- that's Calvinism. ;o) Romans 13 states that all authority comes from God, that the civil government is God's servant. There's no qualification that he must be Christian in order to have proper authority.

ACR said...

Bailey,

You're dead right about the conscience of man, but my point is that man's conscience is not enough. The conscience of man has been able to tolerate things like abortion and the holocaust. Even our good friend Hammurabi made provisions in his law for prostitution in temple worship...We need law from a purer source, the mouth of God. You say that morality is defined by God. Where, then in His word does He define it? Well, quite frankly, in almost every word.

You are also right that the hearts of men cannot be governed by law; as one who spent a long time trying to be a self-made saint before coming to true faith in Christ, which was not all that long ago, I know this by experience. We need the love of Christ to govern our hearts. Granted, if professed Christians live a life of wilful and unrepentant rebellion to God's moral law, then their profession is obviously false. Any good Augustinian theologian will tell you this.

But the purpose of civil justice, which is what we are talking about here, is ultimately to prevent evildoers from doing evil which is damaging to society. You have to have an established law to do this. If you don't have an established law, the unrighteous in a society will run wild. Society needs a restraint upon evildoers, for the protection of the non-evildoers, and if you don't have an objective, unchangeable law standard, then, well, anything goes! That's the reason I am a theonomist. I don't want to give the children's bread to the dogs, and neither do I want use the dog's whip to scare the children, to use an old Puritan expression. I don't want to bring Christians back under oppression, who are supposed to walk righteously as sons, not as slaves, set free from the fear and condemnation of the law by the perfect life and atoning work of Christ, but thankfully, not from its guiding of our steps, which the Psalmist praises unceasingly. But I also don't want the unrighteous running around in society with no objective law to restrain them.

(As a side note, chapellibrary.org has a really great treatise by Robert Murray McCheyne on the subject of sanctification and the love of Christ which I think every Christian should read. I can give you a link if you want, it's been a real blessing to me).

There is a sense in which what you say about differentiation between parts of the law is true, and a sense in which it is not...I might do a blog post on this, because to communicate this concept in short is rather difficult.

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

ACR said...

Bailey,

As far as the church/Christianity differentiation goes, you might not understand what I am saying. You stated that all three institutions, church, state, and family are under God's authority. I would say that God is a Christian God, and Christianity makes all of these institutions function as they ought. But there is more under God's authority, and therefore more to Christianity, than just the local institutionalized church! The church universal (or Christendom) encompasses all of the people of God; it is not an institution. It is God's covenant people. The local church is a specific and marginalized institution. The latter ought to be separated from the state, while the former certainly ought not. Does this make sense?

I think it's good to point out again here that God's kingdom, as Gabriel pointed out, will not come by top-down conquest, but by the Spirit of God regnerating and sanctifying the hearts of men.

Theonomy is not works righteousness or the belief that we obey God's law because it will somehow earn us worthiness in His eyes. Theonomy is just good Calvinist theology on Law and Gospel; Calvin, Knox, Bucer, and agood many other reformers, as well as the Scottish Covenanters, were theonomists.

There might still be some misconceptualizations in your mind about what theonomy really is. Here's a quote by G. I. Williamson that might help: "With the coming of Christ, the Mosaic system was set aside once and for all. If theonomy sought to put us under that system again, I would certainly oppose it. But does it? I have seen no convincing evidence that it does. Yes, I have heard opponents of theonomy allege this, but that is not what theonomists say for themselves. So we are really faced with one basic question: shall we still "use the testimonies taken out of the law ... to confirm us in the doctrine of the gospel, and to regulate our life in all honorableness to the glory of God, according to His will" (Belgian Confession, 25, emphasis added)? I believe the answer can only be yes, and that this applies to civil rulers."

I would encourage you to read Calvin's commentary upon Matthew 5:17-19, here:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/calvin/cc31/cc31051.htm

On Romans 13: before I address that point, I want to know-do you believe that there are ever legitimate ground for Christian resistance against a tyrannical government, and if so, what are they?

Thanks very much for carrying on this discussion, it's sharpened my mind a lot and I hope it has yours too.

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

I know I look like I've totally ignored your posts, but I haven't. They're still sitting in my inbox waiting patiently, and I must ask you to do the same.

Well, except for the inbox bit.

;-)

ACR said...

I completely understand, Gabriel. I'm a busy young man myself ;).

Question: Are you going to be a t this year's Family Economics Conference (hosted by Generations with Vision)?

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

amy said...

I find myself to be busy, as well. Take your time, Gabriel--there's no rush. But thanks for the heads up.

Bailey said...

Your theonomy is starting to sound different than what I've read of Rushdoony, Gary North and Greg Bahnsen. If you're arguing that true morality ought to be drawn from God's Word, then I agree totally, for where else can we get clear revelation? It's absolutely obvious that natural law and one's conscience is not enough to govern one's conscience according to proper morality or unto salvation. I see nothing wrong with saying, as a Christian, "Look here, culture -- can't you see it's obvious that there's a God and that His morals are good and just and would make for a better society?" That's acknowledging that man does have a conscience and that even sinful man, while at times suppressing the truth, can understand basic morality and truths about God.

But that's entirely different from arguing that the full Mosaic law (minus the ceremonial aspects) ought to be in full effect -- e.g. death penalties for adulterers, the practice of stoning, requiring all citizens to serve God alone. I'm not sure anymore if you're completely arguing that, so forgive my confusion.

I also see your point on the separation of church and state -- after all, we have Christians in government and it's not church rule. Perhaps I was splitting hairs too much on that point, though I do see a dangerous blurring of the lines between church and state which does no man good.

I'd like to point out the reconstructionism is not "proper Calvinism": it's based on a Van Tilian worldview that flatly denies common grace, natural law and man's conscience; Calvin thought it entirely stupid: "[T]here are some who deny that any commonwealth is rightly framed which neglects the law of Moses, and is ruled by the common law of nations. How perilous and seditious these views are, let others see: for me it is enough to demonstrate that they are stupid and false ... ."

Major Reformed confessions say that the civil law has been revoked with the ceremonial law (which Rushdoony rejected). Gary North, a theonomist and reconstructionist, admitted that reconstructionism wasn't historically held among Reformed thinkers: "This is why the Christian Reconstruction movement does represent a major break with recent church history. On this point — and just about only on this one — Reconstructionism's critics are correct. We represent a discontinuity in church history. Christian Reconstructionists alone have gone to the Bible's legal passages in search of permanent authoritative guidelines ("blueprints") for what society ought to do and be. In this sense, we Reconstructionists are theological revolutionaries."

Rushdoony also said that "salvation is by the grace of God through faith; sanctification is by the law of God.... Those who are in the covenant are in a covenant of grace which is also a covenant of works. The grace enables them to perform the works which are required of them...." That undergirds his philosophy on law and totally contradicts Reformed teaching and the Gospel. It is hardly good Calvinism.

Bailey said...

Oh, boy...resistance. ;o) To be honest with you, I've avoided a full confrontation with this issue, so I never thought it out thoroughly. It's clear that we obey God first: if a government asks us to quit preaching the Gospel or disobey God, then yes, Christian resistance is not only permissable but also imperative. If we're talking about another American revolution...well, I don't see that as "Christian resistance." Christians participating in the establishment of a new government or fixing an old one or caught in the throes of revolution does not, to me, seem to be violating the command to try to live peaceably with all men in a time where there is no peace. It doesn't violate Scripture, I think, to protest against breaches of justice, like abortion. But if the church is being persecuted, I don't see any grounds for "Christian resistance" by means of martial revolution. It seems that we are to work from the bottom up in matters of politics and government, instead of top-down, which Christian revolution would be.

Daniel R. said...

This will probably be controversial. Just warnin' y'all.

"remember the woman caught in adultry? [sic] What did Christ say? "Stone her! No."

(That is actually what He said, but with one important condition.)

"Rather His response was one of lovingness and forgiveness, "Let the one among you without sin throw the first stone."

"We see this with Jesus' compassion to the adulterous woman and with the church discipline rules regarding immorality. If Jesus were bent on upholding the Mosaic Law of stoning adulterers (which the Jewish leaders still had authority to do at that time, as I understand it), why didn't He demand her death?"

This is a very common interpretation of this passage nowadays, but it completely overlooks several critical issues.

First, why did the Pharisees bring the woman to Jesus in the first place? They were trying to catch Him going against the Law. (John 8:6) If He did exactly what they wanted, stepping into their trap, why did they slink away instead of arresting Him as a heretic?

Would they really be convicted if Jesus was saying that civil magistrates have to be completely sinless in order to execute justice? The Law doesn't say so. (This would also contradict Romans 13 and would lead to anarchy.) They would have grounds to accuse and arrest Him.

I believe Jesus told the Pharisees to stone the woman ("let him cast the first stone") provided they weren't guilty of the *same* sin themselves. (See Hosea 4:14, Deut 19:15, Romans 2:1,22.)

Jesus wasn't a civil magistrate (see Luke 12:13-14) to pass judgment, nor was he a witness as the law required (Deut 17:7).

Next, women can't be guilty of actual adultery (see John 8:4) without somebody else being implicated. So where was the man guilty of adultery? (see Lev 20:10, Deut. 22:22)

Whether the Pharisees were simply showing partiality or actually set the whole thing up themselves in order to try to catch Jesus, they are really stuck. If they stone the woman, they will also have to stone the adulterous man (most likely one of them) or break the law against partiality (Deut 16:19) (Also, Rome forbade Israel's magistrates from carrying out capital punishment). If they don't, they will either trap themselves the way they were trying to trap Jesus, or have to admit to at least hypocrisy or lying about being witnesses, if not implication in this particular criminal event. They were caught regardless of what they did. Jesus proved He knew the law better than they did, and that He knew their hearts and actions.

(For a more thorough explanation of Biblical death penalty law, read Philip Kayser's pamphlet "Is the Death Penalty Just?" at http://www.biblicalblueprints.org/pamphlets/is-the-death-penalty-just/)

Daniel

ACR said...

Bailey,

Sorry that I've been so terribly tardy in my response...Things have been quite busy. I would like to continue this conversation if you're willing, and I do have some thoughts I'd like to share in response to your last comments, but as I don't want you to feel like you have to carry on this conversation any further if you're not so inclined, I'm going to wait until I get a go-ahead from you to post my responses.

Thanks!

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

David Terry said...

Hey Gabe enjoyed your post. I have so missed you Bro.

As Douglas Wilson is so fond of saying..."Its not whether, but which?"

It's always Theocracy...but who will be Theo? We are perfectly comfortable with our current national theocracy whereby the "State" and or "democracy" gets to be Theo. So long as we all exhibit good manners and taste and no one actually call's it what it is.

SSSHHHH! the Christians are sleeping...please dont wake them.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Thanks for stopping by, Mr. T.!

It's so good to hear from you. I miss you too. Always love hearing from you.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for your nice words, Andrew. I was going to say I'd just watch the discussion here, but that's past.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Bailey! I'm back!

I had forgotten about this.

:-b

"But that's entirely different from arguing that the full Mosaic law (minus the ceremonial aspects) ought to be in full effect -- e.g. death penalties for adulterers, the practice of stoning, requiring all citizens to serve God alone. I'm not sure anymore if you're completely arguing that, so forgive my confusion."

Yes, that's what I'm arguing. :-)

Let me turn the question around. Why would we not apply God's civil Law in the civil realm if we were to reach the point of having that kind of authority?