Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A CRITIQUE OF THEONOMY, part 2

Finally, I am back. So sorry this has taken so long. My family and I have been very busy moving, dealing with our sick children, etc. Finally, here is the long awaited part 2.

QUESTIONS FOR THEONOMISTS

I have decided that, instead of directly critiquing theonomy, I would be on the safer side to ask some questions of theonomists which, at this point, keep me as a non-theonomist.

*What sort of case would you make to prove that God desires that, in the New Covenant era, the civil magistrate enforce His Law, along with the Old Covenant penal sanctions? In other words, how do you know this is the case?

*How would a theonomic state not lead to a kind of outward formalism when it comes to religion? In other words, if the laws were based on the Old Covenant civil sanctions and crimes, then would one have to be a Christian? How would this relate to idolatry if you would say they would not have to be?

*In the Old Covenant, apostasy was punishable by death, as was idolatry. How would theonomy not be very similar to the kind of Muslim states that we have now? Would it be different? How?

*If you don't believe that apostasy or idolatry are applicable as civil and capital crimes in the New Covenant era, then why not?

*Would Christianity be considered the "state religion" in theonomy? Granted that most theonomic literature says this is not the case, how would it not be the case, or why not? If it should, then how would you guard against an outward formalism in religious matters?

*Granted that there is a difference between the theonomic thesis and the application of it, nonetheless, when all is said and done, and where the rubber meets the road, we must ask about application now. Having said that, can you tell me what a theonomic society would look like, with specific applications, and tell me why you think so? Can you tell me why you don't think certain other serious applications (particularly apostasy and idolatry) would not be upheld?
___________________________________

The above questions I recognize are not a direct critique of theonomy, but perhaps they are indirect critiques, inasmuch as I do not think theonomists have yet adequately dealt with these important concerns. These are a few of my concerns, but we can see why, at this point, I remain unconvinced of theonomy.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Josh,
As you well know I am not read enough in this area to offer a "Theonomist" answer, and I certainly dont speak for those who do. However, I do understand the Thesis in a "round about way." SO here are some questions I have to your questions in hopes of having a better understanding.




*What sort of case would you make to prove that God desires that, in the New Covenant era, the civil magistrate enforce His Law, along with the Old Covenant penal sanctions? In other words, how do you know this is the case?


B.J.: Josh, are you asking if God has abbrogated the nature and character of His being in the New Covenant, or God forbid, changed His mind about Himself?


*How would a theonomic state not lead to a kind of outward formalism when it comes to religion?

BJ: Isnt this part of the outward appearance of the Post Mil "Golden Age?"

In other words, if the laws were based on the Old Covenant civil sanctions and crimes, then would one have to be a Christian?

BJ: Does one have to be a Chrisitan to be judged by God's unchanging law? Is that what you mean?



How would this relate to idolatry if you would say they would not have to be?


BJ: Oh...I see what you are getting at. A non-Chrisitan would be held accountable for the crime of idolatry; Thus, for fear of punishment they would be forced to obey a Christian law, and this looks like outward formalism to you? How about if two men are fighting, and they bump into Angela and force her into premature labor and the baby dies. God forbid this ever happen, but would it sit well with you if the two men were unbelievers, and the kangaroo courts of this land give them 3 to 5 years with possibility of early parole for good behavior?
Or do you think and eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, Life for Life is a better sentence? Why or why not?


*In the Old Covenant, apostasy was punishable by death, as was idolatry. How would theonomy not be very similar to the kind of Muslim states that we have now?

BJ: well for starters ours would be the true religion, right?



Would it be different? How?

BJ: Well, if ours is the true religion, and God's law does reflect His nature and character, and not some arbitrary coin flip by God concerning moral issues, it would be totally justified, right?

*If you don't believe that apostasy or idolatry are applicable as civil and capital crimes in the New Covenant era, then why not?


BJ: Josh, it seems that you are just showing that Theonomist disagree on application. But I ask...is this an argument?

*Would Christianity be considered the "state religion" in theonomy?

BJ: Who cares if it is? Will it not be the case in the Golden Age? I am all for applying God's Moral Law (His unchanging nature and character)to some pagans who dont know any better.

Granted that most theonomic literature says this is not the case, how would it not be the case, or why not? If it should, then how would you guard against an outward formalism in religious matters?

BJ: Are the answer to these questions going to make you a Theonomist?

*Granted that there is a difference between the theonomic thesis and the application of it, nonetheless, when all is said and done, and where the rubber meets the road, we must ask about application now. Having said that, can you tell me what a theonomic society would look like, with specific applications, and tell me why you think so? Can you tell me why you don't think certain other serious applications (particularly apostasy and idolatry) would not be upheld?


BJ: R.J. Rushdonney has a great little series that address this.:)
Unless you think disagreements about apllication is a strong enough argument to throw out the thesis. Ifso....good luck with autonomy...Let me know how that turns out for you:)
___________________________________

The above questions I recognize are not a direct critique of theonomy, but perhaps they are indirect critiques, inasmuch as I do not think theonomists have yet adequately dealt with these important concerns. These are a few of my concerns, but we can see why, at this point, I remain unconvinced of theonomy.


BJ: So you are saying you are unconvinced of theonomy, but convinced of autonomy?

Paul Manata said...

Josh,

You told me to come here and read the Q's, but these are all things you asked on the phone and were answered. You were silent. i could of helped you then. At any rate:

1* This is bad. Maybe the interrogator should read the
theonomic literature. I'd start with Theonomy in Christian Ethics. The case has been made, you're asking a pre-70's question, Josh.

Furthermore, I don't know what you mean by "how do I know this is the case." Since you're an internalist, and I reject internalism, we have disagreements as to what it consitutes for a cognizer to 'know' something.

At any rate, simply, God requires the government to give just laws and enforce moral punishments. Now, where do we get said morality from? What standard? The stars? Some may say, "Natural Law." But this is a multifarious term. Sometimes that is taken to mean, "the ten commandments." Sp, it has a specifically Christian understanding. And, therefore, I can now ask, "how to you make the case that God wants governments to enforce His law." So, if you don't thinkGod wants governments to "enforce His law" (whatever that law is), and you also think that God wants governments to enforce *laws,* then you must, by the logic of the case, think that God *wants* governments to *not* enforce *His* law.

And so what is the case from your side that "God *desires* for the governments to *not* enforce His law?" And, who's law? Anyone's? Hitler's Josh Brisby's?

2* No Josh, one would not have to be a Christian. The OT civil laws were enforced against Jew AND non-Jew. Did you know that there were non-Jews living in OT Jerusalem, Josh? Do you think they were all killed on their first day as a citizen of Jerusalem? Since they were not Jews, and since all men have a god, then these non-Jews in Israel were wither put to death the second they joined Israel, or they were not. If they weren't, why would today be different? Why the special pleading?

Furthermore, don't you think we should have laws today? For example, do you think our government should have the *Christian* law of, say, "do not murder?" And the *Christian* punishment of death? If so, then how do you avoid formalism? You have the same problem, Josh.

3* There are three questions here.

a) Many reasons. One is that Muslim states have a joined church and state. The military leader is also the spiritual leader. Another is that they aren't enforcing God's holy laws, Josh! Sheesh. These questions remind of the kind of questions unstudied atheists ask about Christainity.

Josh, let's say for arguments sake that God commanded you to fly an airplane into a building. Let's say that you could know that God commanded this of you. No doubt. Now, would you do it? So, how are you different than Muslims?

b) Yes.

c) Same way Israel was different.

4* One can easily be a theonomist while claiming that *the Bible* tells us that these laws are not to be punished anymore. This is still consistent with the theonomic thesis. In fact, if you believe that *the Bible* tells us that the civil magistrrate is not to enforce this alw or its punishment, then you've not noted *anything* contradictory to the theonomic thesis.

So, I ask you "why not?" And, when you give your answer, you could still be a theonomist., Thjerefore this is not a question that should "keep you," from theonomy.

5* No. The sword doesn't change hearts, contra Islam. it would not be the case because it's not the *finction* of the civil magistrate to ensure that this ios the case. The magistrate doesn't judge hearts, they judge outward civil crimes.

6* This is ridiculous. One could write a book on this, and you wanst it answered in your comebox??/

Anyway, since *you* are a postmillennialist, it would "look like" your postmillennial state.

It would have punishments that fit the crime, i.e., eye for eye, tooth for tooth.

It would have a far lesser prison population. This would help the economy and reduce taxes in this area. Many criminals would have to work for their punishment, this would also infuse money into the economy. So, it would have economic benefits as well.

Anyway, you got something better? I'd love to hear it. ;-)

~PM

P.S. It's obvious that you're not even familiar with what you're critiquing. Don't you get mad when atheists critique the Bible but show they've obviously never read it or studied Christian theology? If so, do you think you're being a bit hypocritical, my brotha?

Josh Brisby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh Brisby said...

Brothers B.J. and Paul,

I will respond to brother B.J. first, and then I will post to brother Paul.

B.J.: Josh, are you asking if God has abrogated the nature and character of His being in the New Covenant, or God forbid, changed His mind about Himself?

Josh: No, because all Reformed Christians agree that God does not change His mind, being, and nature. Theonomists assert that, unless you hold to theonomy, then you supposedly have to believe what you asked above, but they have not shown this; they have merely asserted it.

BJ: Isn’t this part of the outward appearance of the Post Mil "Golden Age?"

Josh: I think it is different, because the outward formalism of the postmil golden age comes after men’s hearts get hard because of the riches of the gospel blessings; my question had to do with an outward formalism in religion, if people would be forced to become Christians in a theonomic state.

BJ: Does one have to be a Christian to be judged by God's unchanging law? Is that what you mean?

Josh: When did I say that people should not be judged by God’s unchanging law? Furthermore, you dodged the question.

B.J.: Or do you think and eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, Life for Life is a better sentence? Why or why not?

Josh: Of course, if someone killed the baby in Angela’s womb, 3-5 years would not be eye for eye, tooth for tooth. I absolutely agree with the principle of eye for eye, tooth for tooth. But, (1) you assume that only theonomy can give that principle, which is the whole subject up for debate, and (2) why do I need theonomy to have general equity?

BJ: Well, if ours is the true religion, and God's law does reflect His nature and character, and not some arbitrary coin flip by God concerning moral issues, it would be totally justified, right?

Josh: Again, that is the whole question up for debate. So are you saying, then, that it would be justified to execute idolaters? Would it be justified to execute those who apostatized from the Christian faith? I don’t see, then, how you can avoid a church-state union. Would not people be forced, then, to be Christians? How would there be very many true Christians, then?

BJ: Josh, it seems that you are just showing that Theonomist disagree on application. But I ask...is this an argument?

Josh: I think that it is, because, as G.I. Williamson has said in his “Some Thoughts On Theonomy”, if you cannot tell how a particular case law applies, then it is neither here nor there to me that you are a theonomist. You see, it is one thing to say you have an idea, and a whole other thing to carry it out. Imagine if I came to you and said, “Hey brother B.J., I have a great idea for a home-based business. I made this medicine that is very practical, and if you take it once a month, you won’t get cancer ever in your life.” You would rightly respond by saying, “OK. How does the medicine work?” I say, “Well, I have discovered it from the timeless, unchanging principles of pharmacology, and have put it together.” You say, “OK, that’s fine; but how are we to run the business? And how will this work?” What if I were to just say, “Well, I’m not sure how to work it out all yet, but give it a while. Besides, there is a difference between theory and application.” Would you buy into this? I hope you see that it would be neither here nor there to you that I offered this home-based business.

BJ: Who cares if it is? Will it not be the case in the Golden Age? I am all for applying God's Moral Law (His unchanging nature and character)to some pagans who dont know any better.

Josh: So you admit that you have no problem with a state religion. Of course, this goes against all the principles of our founding fathers and this country, but besides that, my concerns are only proven: Christianity would be forced upon people. How would there be true Christians? Do you think that Constantine was a Christian? You are an excellent history studier. I know I don’t need to remind you of whether or not it was a good idea for Constantine to make Christianity the state religion.

BJ: Are the answer to these questions going to make you a Theonomist?

Josh: So far, your answers are only proving my concerns as to why I am not a theonomist. :0)

BJ: R.J. Rushdooney has a great little series that address this.:)
Unless you think disagreements about application is a strong enough argument to throw out the thesis. If so....good luck with autonomy...Let me know how that turns out for you:)

Josh: I have shown that they are at least enough to strongly question the theonomic thesis. By the way, good luck with showing how a denial of theonomy leads to autonomy. This is the assertion of the theonomists. That’s quite an assertion. Care to back it up? Let me know how that turns out for you. ;0)

BJ: So you are saying you are unconvinced of theonomy, but convinced of autonomy?

Josh: No, I am saying that I am unconvinced of theonomy. I am trying to be intellectually honest. Theonomy does not deliver what it offers. It offers an objective ethic, but we have seen that it is subjective indeed. Furthermore, you are committing an either/or type of fallacy. It is too simplistic to say “either theonomy or autonomy.” Again, this is the assertion I here all the time from my theonomic brethren, but they have yet to show it. :0)

Thanks for taking the time to input your thoughts bro.

Anonymous said...

Josh,
just a couple of things and you and Paul can go at it.





Josh: When did I say that people should not be judged by God’s unchanging law? Furthermore, you dodged the question.

BJ: you say it implicitly every time you say Theonomy (God's Law) is wrong.



Josh: Of course, if someone killed the baby in Angela’s womb, 3-5 years would not be eye for eye, tooth for tooth. I absolutely agree with the principle of eye for eye, tooth for tooth.


BJ: Why? Appearently, You dodged my question.


Josh: But, (1) you assume that only theonomy can give that principle, which is the whole subject up for debate,

BJ: 2 things. (1)You are charging with begging the question. I will show later that this charge, if applied, will undermine your faith. (2) What ethical system do you accept that gives ths law besides God's Law? Theonomy or bust my friend.


Josh: and (2) why do I need theonomy to have general equity?


BJ: What else can you appeal to? Ooops... That seems like I am baiting the question. Your only answer, as a Christian, could be God's Law, but as you pointed out, that begs the question.


Josh: Again, that is the whole question up for debate.

BJ: Another petitio principi charge.



Josh: I have shown that they are at least enough to strongly question the theonomic thesis. By the way, good luck with showing how a denial of theonomy leads to autonomy. This is the assertion of the theonomists. That’s quite an assertion. Care to back it up? Let me know how that turns out for you. ;0)

BJ: Well, I will try. In the history of the world men have tried to come up with a system of ethics with which we can live by. These laws or systems are based on the perspective of man(Autuonomy). As Chrsitians we have God condescending, and providing us with His Law (Theonomy). Unless you think some other organism has provided a way for men to live, you will have to grant me my either/or aspect. Furthermore, you "assert" it is to simplistic to narrow the field to Theonomy, or Autonomy. Basically you are saying it is to simplistic to say God's law, or man's law. So then, Josh, for your charge of an either/or fallcy to stand you must argue as to what the alternative is, or else I am free of the charge. Note however, that any alternative you give will be autonomous do to the fact that God has already given His Law, and you are a man giving yours(Autonomy). So then, if you are sucessful in proving your charge of a "false dilemnia" you would have to first undermine God's Law which in turn would undermine God Himself if you think His law is a reflection of His character an Being. Thus, destroying your precious worldview.


Josh: No, I am saying that I am unconvinced of theonomy. I am trying to be intellectually honest. Theonomy does not deliver what it offers. It offers an objective ethic, but we have seen that it is subjective indeed.



BJ: Lets edit this last response. "Theonomy" will be equal to "God's Law."


Josh: No, I am saying that I am unconvinced of God's Law. I am trying to be intellectually honest. God's Law does not deliver what it offers. It offers an objective ethic, but we have seen that it is subjective indeed.

BJ: Hmmm....interesting view for a Christian.

Josh Brisby said...

BJ: you say it implicitly every time you say Theonomy (God's Law) is wrong.

Josh: I do? Prove your assertion. Again, this is the whole question up for debate.

BJ: Why? Apparently, You dodged my question.

Josh: I did? I thought I answered it. You asked me if I agreed with eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and I said yes. How did I dodge your question?

BJ: 2 things. (1)You are charging with begging the question. I will show later that this charge, if applied, will undermine your faith. (2) What ethical system do you accept that gives ths law besides God's Law? Theonomy or bust my friend.

Josh: As to (1): OK. I’ll wait for you to show that. As to (2), I am saying, God’s Law is my ethical system. Your mistake is that you try to say that God’s Law = the theonomic thesis. But I don’t think that it does.

BJ: What else can you appeal to? Ooops... That seems like I am baiting the question. Your only answer, as a Christian, could be God's Law, but as you pointed out, that begs the question.

Josh: You are trying to say that God’s Law = the theonomic thesis, but I don’t think that it does.

BJ: Another petitio principi charge.

Josh: Yes, so answer it, my friend. :0)

BJ: Well, I will try. In the history of the world men have tried to come up with a system of ethics with which we can live by. These laws or systems are based on the perspective of man(Autuonomy). As Chrsitians we have God condescending, and providing us with His Law (Theonomy). Unless you think some other organism has provided a way for men to live, you will have to grant me my either/or aspect. Furthermore, you "assert" it is to simplistic to narrow the field to Theonomy, or Autonomy. Basically you are saying it is to simplistic to say God's law, or man's law. So then, Josh, for your charge of an either/or fallcy to stand you must argue as to what the alternative is, or else I am free of the charge. Note however, that any alternative you give will be autonomous do to the fact that God has already given His Law, and you are a man giving yours(Autonomy). So then, if you are sucessful in proving your charge of a "false dilemnia" you would have to first undermine God's Law which in turn would undermine God Himself if you think His law is a reflection of His character an Being. Thus, destroying your precious worldview.

Josh: (1) Why do I need to show what ethical system? As I have noted, I am trying to be intellectually honest when it comes to a theology of the state, and I am saying that it is a lot more difficult for us than theonomists make it out to be. (Granted, Bahnsen admits the difficulty, but I think that even he can be simplistic sometimes. Yikes, did I dare say that? :0) ) So, the burden of proof indeed still does lie upon you to prove that it has to be either the theonomic thesis or autonomy. Besides, is it not autonomous man, even in the theonomic thesis, who decides how to apply the OT civil case laws?

BJ: Lets edit this last response. "Theonomy" will be equal to "God's Law."

Josh: You are trying to say that God’s Law = the theonomic thesis, but I don’t think that it does. (I should just cut and paste this statement here, or save it to a file to have ready for every time I talk with a theonomist online. :0) )

BJ: Hmmm....interesting view for a Christian.

Josh: Let’s do better than that. What if I were to say to a theonomist, “Hmmm….interesting view for a Christian”?

Let’s cut and paste to summarize my position on our whole dialogue here:

You are trying to say that God’s Law = the theonomic thesis, but I don’t think that it does.

You gotta prove this, my brother! :0)

BTW, could you address my home-based business analogy either here or over the phone? I at least thought it was a nice analogy. :0)

Thanks again for taking the time to write your responses.