Undermining the Theonomist Syllogism

It seems to me that the Theonomist argument can be boiled down to the following Syllogism:

P1) God does not change.

P2) If the Law has been abrogated, then God has changed.

C) The Law has not been abrogated.

The Reformed Libertarian objection is with P2. This is not necessarily true. If the purpose for giving the law in the first place was so that it would be a typological and eschatological foreshadow of things to come with the intention all along that it would be abrogated when those things came to fulfillment, then it is not a matter of God changing for him to abrogate the law now that those things have come to be. Rather it is a symptom of God NOT changing that he would be faithful to fulfill that plan.

For example, when Israel committed the sin of the golden calf at Mount Sinai and God was going to wipe them out, Moses interceded for them. He reminded God of his promises, and God appears to change his mind. It almost looks like God is a nearly unhinged human person who Moses talks sense to until he calms down. It even uses a word that is very similar to “repent” for what God does here.

So did God change? Certainly his course of action did! Does this mean he is no longer immutable? No longer simple?

Of course not. It meant that his purpose all along was to evoke this intercessory ministry from Moses. He never really intended to destroy Israel because he knew and sovereignly ordained what would happen. One major reason for this was because it gives us an amazing picture of Jesus’ intercessory work for us.

The same idea or pattern holds here. The judicial/civil Mosaic Law for Israel was meant, in large part, to foreshadow the coming greater Kingdom of Christ. That Kingdom is now here in a different sense, and that sense clearly does not involve using the sword against outsiders (1 Corinthians 5).

So the theonomist argument is not proven by this syllogism. Rather it begs the question of whether God’s purpose was for the law to be a type/foreshadow or whether it was intended to be set in stone for all ages.

And the answer to that question will inform our interpretation of what Jesus means by what he says in Matthew 5:17-18.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

What is meant here by these words “abolish”, “fulfill” and “accomplish”? What we understand the original purpose of the Law to be will inform the definition of those terms, won’t it? It will lead us to a certain view about whether and to what extent Christ’s life, death and resurrection fulfilled and accomplished some or all of it.

The Reformed Libertarian position, from considering the whole of Scripture and especially the whole of the New Testament, is that yes the Law is typological. It has indeed NOT been abolished, but has been, in large part, fulfilled and accomplished by Christ and the New Covenant which it was foreshadowing. There are nuances to this view, but the overall point is the same: The New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace, the Old Covenant (including Abraham’s) were all Covenants of Works with Grace coming retroactively from the New as a foreshadow. All the preceding Covenants were typological of the New and all must be interpreted in light of that typology, including elements like the Law of Moses.

No the Law has not been abolished. Certainly the moral principles of the Law (the standard of God’s holiness it sets forth for all people and especially his covenant people) is very much the same today as it was then, and the Law is inestimably valuable at teaching it to us, for it is God’s holy, infallible, inerrant, and sufficient revelation of it.

Yet it’s application to the New Covenant must take into account the ways in which Christ has fulfilled and accomplished the typology of the way it was applied in the Old Covenant. Therefore the practical application will of necessity look different today (1 Corinthians 5 gives us a hint of this).

And whatever else we believe about baptism or sabbath keeping or the second commandment or whatever…. One thing is crystal clear to us Reformed Libertarians: the standards of the Law are no longer to be enforced in exhaustive detail with the sword by the civil magistrate. For God’s covenant community no longer takes the form of a civil nation. Instead, the purpose of the sword bearing magistrate is to defend the life, person and property of those who “do good” (Romans 13).

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The Theological Reasoning Behind Reformed Libertarianism

This is a cross post from Facebook, but I thought I would preserve it. Somebody asked me for the Theological Reasoning Behind Reformed Libertarianism. So here it is:

1) Man was made in the image of God, the primary characteristic of this being the dominion mandate, meaning that God has given men a stewardship responsibility over their lives and the portion of creation under their control. We are to exercise this dominion in accordance with God’s law and for his glory.(Gen 1, Matt 25)

2) Since other men are conspicuously absent from the rather exhaustive list of things man is to have dominion over, and seeing as how men are to consider the lives (Gen 6:9, Ex 20:13) and property (Ex 20:15,17) of other men to be off-limits, and since God holds each person individually accountable (Matt 25, Ezek 18, 2 Cor 5), it can therefore be concluded that the dominion mandate falls on each person individually.

Therefore each person has the individual responsibility of self-stewardship (which the secularists call self-ownership). This grants each person the duty and human right to exercise the authority incumbent in the dominion mandate over his own life, person and property. To restrict a man’s dominion over such is to offend against the image of God in him, which is really to offend against God. (psst: this is the Non-aggression Principle)

Because sinful men love to offend against God and therefore have no respect for their neighbors, God communicated these standards, first in seed form as part of the Noahic Covenant (Gen 9:6) and later in fuller detail in Exodus 20-24 (though they were clearly in force by the first generation after the fall (Gen 4) though we have no inspired record of them being communicated).

In doing so, God set forth a principle of justice for this fallen world that those who do wrong to their neighbor should be harmed in equal measure to the harm they caused (Ex 21:23-25).

Thus property rights are to be seen as the foundational principle on which the apparatus of justice in a civil society is to be constructed, and by which justice in a civil society is to be measured and evaluated.

As part of that apparatus, God has instituted the role of magistrate in society. The magistrate is anyone who serves other men by bearing the sword against those who wrong their neighbor. (Romans 13:3-4). In doing so, he is not to be “a terror to good conduct”, meaning he is only to bear the sword against those who do evil, as God has defined his role.

Thus, the very maximum any government has theological authorization to do is to serve citizens by aiding them in defending their life, liberty and property and bringing vengeance upon those who agress against them.

Any government that uses its power to break God’s law is a corrupt and invalid government in God’s eyes. Any government that abuses its position to take away the rights of those who’s rights it is tasked with protecting, is no true government at all, but a criminal organization.

We Christians are still called to be ordered under such a government (even Nero), but that does not make such government valid. And in as much as we have influence in the government, as officials or as voters, we ought to use our influence to direct government to follow God’s standard.

The only governments God considers morally valid are the ones who use their sword against wrong doers and only against wrong doers.

Ultimately the only government that will prefectly meet that qualification is King Jesus.

Justice under the sun is always going to be imperfect. However that should not stop us from upholding the perfect standard as the target we are aiming for in our political action.

Now, as stated here, this is a very broad tent under which many forms of government might fit including certain forms of theonomy and a constitutionally limited republic (provided that the constitution is actually founded on these principals and the republic is actually limited by such constitution.)

I believe further logical and exegetical analysis would swing the balance around to favor anarcho-capitalism much more strongly, but I’ll save that for a future post.

For now, it is not so much my aim to convince the world to be Anarcho-Capitalists, though I would love it if that were so. For the time being, it would be sufficient if everyone could simply agree to the founding theological framework I have described here as the grounding for all analysis of government. I think MOST Christians, certainly Reformed ones, DO agree to this, though many have not fully thought through the logical implications of it, and thus are not Anarcho-Capitalists. I think the primary reason for that is a lack of knowledge and clarity about what Anarcho-Capitalism actually IS and what it is not. See Al Mohler for an example of such confusion.