September 29, 2014

1 Cor 5:13 is the general equity of Deut 22:21

By In Articles, Theology

General Equity

Merriam-Webster defines equity as “1a: justice according to natural law or right; specifically : freedom from bias or favoritism” or also as “2c: a body of legal doctrines and rules developed to enlarge, supplement, or override a narrow rigid system of law“.

A. Craig Troxel and Peter J. Wallace explain:

As a term, “equity” is used primarily in the fields of ethics and law, where it connotes or invokes the ideals of justice, fairness, equality, mercy, and evenhanded dealing, as well as the idea of “judgment according to the spirit, rather than the letter of the law.” Equity denotes justice which is administered according to what is right and fair as opposed to what is strictly demanded by the rules of common law. In a legal context, equity asks the question, “How do you figure out what to do when the law does not apply?”

Volume: WTJ 64:2 (Fall 2002)
Article: Men In Combat Over The Civil Law: “General Equity” IN WCF 19.4
Author: A. Craig Troxel
(Slightly modified version available here)

This was the legal context of WCF 19.4:

To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

Many reformed Christians today, who have grown tired of today’s moral relativism, turn to WCF 19.4 in an effort to develop a political philosophy. The Law of God, they say, must be our only standard. We must follow God’s law, or man’s law. And God has given a rather detailed list of how that law applies to states in the Mosaic Law. Of course, those laws were particular to Israel, but if we change the details, the laws are still God’s ideal for states. So, we exchange language about the land of Canaan for the land of California, and “voilla!” we’re left with the “general equity” of any give Mosaic law.

GeneralEquity1

The problem, however, is that is not the meaning of WCF 19.4. The 2nd London Baptist Confession helpfully phrases it slightly differently:

To them also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution; their general equity only being of moral use. *1 Cor. 9:8-10

LBCF clarifies that judicial laws do not oblige anyone by virtue of their being part of the Mosaic law. It is only their general equity that is of broadly moral use. But if general equity does not mean swapping “California” for “Canaan”, what does it mean?

The confession’s position followed Calvin, and others.

It is a fact that the law of God which we call the moral law is nothing else than a testimony of natural law and of that conscience which God has engraved upon the minds of men. Consequently, the entire scheme of this equity of which we are now speaking has been prescribed in it. Hence, this equity alone must be the goal and rule and limit of all laws. (Institutes IV.xx.15-16)

Beza said:

Although we do not hold to the forms of the Mosaic polity, yet when such judicial laws prescribe equity in judgments, which is part of the decalogue, we, not being under obligation to them insofar as they were prescribed by Moses to only one people, are nevertheless bound to observe them to the extent that they embrace that general equity which should everywhere be in force. . . . . The Lord commands that a deposit be returned, and that thieves be punished. . . . . Because it follows natural equity, and expounds that perpetual precept of the decalogue, Thou shalt not steal, to this extent all are bound to fulfill them both.

De Haereticis a civili Magistratu puniendis Libellus (Geneva: Robert Stephanus, 1554), pp. 222-23

Richard Barcellos adds:

The equity that an old covenant judicial law might possess does not come from the particular old covenant judicial law itself. It is simply an application of moral/natural/universal law to Israel’s unique, covenantally conditioned national life. So, there may be principles in particular old covenant judicial laws that transcend the old covenant. But the temporary law does not establish what constitutes equity. It is a unique illustration/application of it. Hence, the equity predates and even transcends the old covenant.

http://www.mctsowensboro.org/2010/10/response-to-schreiner-on-the-sabbath-2/

The general equity was the moral law that the judicial laws, unique to Israel, were based on. Thus it is the moral law that continues to be of use. The judicial laws only help provide us with specific examples of how the moral law was applied to Israel. Therefore, we do not reason from Canaan to California (1 step), but from Canaan to moral law to California (2 steps).

GeneralEquity2

This can be better understood by recognizing the distinction between positive law and moral law. This twofold division was abundantly clear from the very first giving of the law where we see a very clear distinction in the text between the law written in stone by the finger of God (Ex 24:12; 32:16; 34:1, 28) and spoken by God (Ex 20:1), and the rest of the laws written by (Ex 24:4; 34:27) and spoken by (Ex 21:1; 24:3) Moses. Only the 10 Commandments/tablets of stone were placed in the ark of the covenant (Ex 25:16; 40:20; Deut 10:1-6; 1 Kings 8:9; Heb 9:4).

While moral law is a reflection of God’s character, positive law is something added to moral law in a given context. 22.7 of the LBCF notes:

As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he has particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s Day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished.

The Sabbath is both a positive and moral law. Moral because the pattern of work and rest in the 4th commandment is moral, positive because the particular day of the week is chosen by God and can be changed.  Samuel & Micah Renihan explain in Recovering a Covenantal Heritage:

Moral law endures throughout all of the covenants, but positive laws do not. A positive law may be generally defined as “something that is dependent on direct revelation for its obligation.”[2] In other words, without some form of special revelation, we would not know of these positive laws and we would not be required to obey them. For example, the civil and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament are positive laws. There was no requirement placed on other nations to follow the same civil laws as Israel. These are not laws that are morally binding on all people in all places at all times. They are binding only for a particular people and for a particular time. This is because they are positive laws.[3]

When it comes to positive laws we should not assume they are in effect unless rescinded. Positive laws, instead, end with the termination of the covenant in which they were given. Positive laws are given in a particular redemptive historical setting and in a particular covenant document. Positive laws only apply to the covenantal context in which they are given. This is why we no longer are obligated to follow the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament.[4]
Positive Law and Covenantal Canon

In Owen’s words:

Positive laws are taken to be such as have no reason for them in themselves –  nothing of the matter of them is taken from the things themselves commanded – but do depend merely and solely on the sovereign will and pleasure of God. Such were the laws and institutions of the sacrifices of old and such are those which concern the sacraments and other things of the like nature under the new testament. Moral laws are such as have the reasons of them taken from the nature of the things themselves required in them for they are good from their respect to the nature of God himself and from that nature and order of all things which he hath placed in the creation. So that this sort of laws is but declarative of the absolute goodness of what they do require the other is constitutive of it as unto some certain ends. Laws positive, as they are occasionally given, so they are esteemed alterable at pleasure. Being fixed by mere will and prerogative without respect to any thing that should make them necessary antecedent to their giving, they may by the same authority at any time be taken away and abolished. Such I say are they in their own nature and as to any firmitude that they have from their own subject matter. But with respect unto God’s determination, positive divine laws may become eventually unalterable. And this difference is there between legal and evangelical institutions. The laws of both are positive only, equally proceeding from sovereign will and pleasure and in their own natures equally alterable; but to the former God had in his purpose fixed a determinate time and season wherein they should expire or be altered by his authority; the latter he hath fixed a perpetuity and unchangeableness unto during the state and condition of his church in this world. The other sort of laws are perpetual and unalterable in themselves so far as they are of that sort, – that is moral. For although a law of that kind may have an especial injunction with such circumstances as may be changed and varied (as had the whole decalogue in the commonwealth of Israel), yet so far as it is moral – that is, as its commands or prohibitions are necessary emergencies or expressions of the good or evil of the things it commands or forbids – it is invariable. And in these things there is an agreement unless sometimes through mutual oppositions men are chafed into some exceptions or distinctions

Unto these two sorts do all divine laws belong and unto these heads they may be all reduced. And it is pleaded by some that these kinds of laws are contradistinct, so that a law of one kind can in no sense be a law of the other. And this doubtless is true reduplicatively because they have a special formal reasons. As far and wherein any laws are positive they are not moral; and as far as they are purely moral they are not formally positive, though given after the manner of positive commands. Howbeit this hinders not but that some do judge that there may be and are divine laws of a mixed nature; for there may be in a divine law a foundation in and respect unto somewhat that is moral, which yet may stand in need of the superaddition of a positive command for its due observation unto its proper end [the Sabbath].

A Treatise on the Sabbath: Exercitation III

This two-fold division between moral law and positive law is foundational to the historic three-fold division, with ceremonial and judicial being subsets of positive law.

We must attend to the well known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law, and we must attend to each of these parts, in order to understand how far they do, or do not, pertain to us. Meanwhile, let no one be moved by the thought that the judicial and ceremonial laws relate to morals. For the ancients who adopted this division, though they were not unaware that the two latter classes had to do with morals, did not give them the name of moral, because they might be changed and abrogated without affecting morals. They give this name specially to the first class, without which, true holiness of life and an immutable rule of conduct cannot exist.

Calvin, Institutes 4.20.14

A General Equity Theocracy

Though the Westminster divines, and reformed theologians in general held to 19.4, they were still establishmentarians. They still believed “The civil magistrate… hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses of worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed” (WCF 23.3).

They even included Leviticus 24:16 as Scripture reference to the above:

Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. (Leviticus 24:16 ESV)

They still used the two-step process, but they interpreted the civl enforcement as part of the moral law (general equity). Samuel Rutherford noted

Judicial laws may be judicial and Mosaical, and so not obligatory to us, according to the degree and quality of punishment, such as in Deuteronomy 13, the destroying the city, and devoting all therein to a curse; we may not do the like in the like degree of punishment, to all that receive and defend idolaters and blasphemers in their city. And yet that some punishment by the sword be inflicted upon such a city, is of perpetual obligation; because the magistrate bears the sword to take vengeance on ill doers, and so on these that are partakers of his ill deeds, who brings another gospel, I John 5:10. . . . . Because the slaying of man, woman, infant, and suckling, ox and sheep, was temporary, and cannot have a perpetually obligatory ground in the law of nature or natural justice obliging us. . . . . No man but sees the punishment of theft is of common moral equity, and obligeth all nations, but the manner or degree of punishment is more positive: as to punish theft by restoring four oxen for the stealing of one ox, doth not so oblige all nations, but some other bodily punishment, as whipping, may be used against thieves.

(A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience (London: R.I. for Andrew Crook, 1649) 298-99)

Note that Rutherford identifies what is perpetually obligatory (general equity) as the law of nature (10 commandments), while the temporary aspect is positive law.

Of course, what must be observed is that he believed punishment of some kind was part of general equity. Much discussion of natural law/general equity assumed a great deal, based on the observation of the practices of all nations (“No man but sees the punishment of theft is of common moral equity”), rather than proving the case from Scripture. These men should be faulted for such an approach. It led them astray from properly interpreting general equity, as will be demonstrated below.

[A]s we have found in numerous citations from contemporary Reformed theologians, there is the notion of equity as general because it is common to several sources of ethical knowledge. Classical Reformed writers isolate in the judicial laws those moral directions which are held in common with natural law and the moral law teaching of Scripture as a whole, in distinction from what is peculiar to the judicial laws and hence does not rise above temporary obligation. The classical Reformed tradition has sought corroboration from other sources for the content of general equity, before accounting a provision of the Mosaic judicial law to be of perpetual obligation. Often the initial point of reference for Puritan writers was natural law, and this is reflected in the Confession’s references to the light of nature [reasoning apart from Scripture], and to the law given to man at creation.

Sherman Isbell The Divine Law of Political Israel Expired: General Equity

Of course, what was considered general and particular in any given judicial law was debated. Because of this “Turretin claims that Roman law may often be preferred to Mosaic law because much of Roman law is ‘derived from natural and common right…[and] can be more suitable to places, times and persons.'” (Wallace).

The problem with this approach is that the stipulation “that some punishment by the sword be inflicted” is not natural (and thus not perpetually obligatory). It was not part of the law written on the heart of image bearers in the Garden. In the words of Irenaeus:

[S]ince man, by departing from God, reached such a pitch of fury as even to look upon his brother as his enemy, and engaged without fear in every kind of restless conduct, and murder, and avarice; God imposed upon mankind the fear of man, as they did not acknowledge the fear of God, in order that, being subjected to the authority of men, and kept under restraint by their laws, they might attain to some degree of justice, and exercise mutual forbearance through dread of the sword suspended full in their view…
Against Heresies, Book V Chapter 24

Commenting on this, Sam Waldron notes:

In this amazing statement Irenaeus distinguishes the nature of the state very clearly. It’s not demonic, but neither on the other hand is it creational or redemptive in origin. It’s rather a divine institution occasioned by the fall with specific and limited objectives.

Likewise, John Robbins explains:

What can Christianity contribute to our understanding of political philosophy? The Christian God, of course, the true God, is quite different from the god of the philosophers. The true God makes a difference in every branch of philosophy, including politics. In the chapter in Romans, 13, we’re told explicitly that government is ordained by God. It doesn’t arise from the consent of the governed. It doesn’t arise from a social compact or contract. It’s not just power (the strongest gang winning – the struggle for power). It’s not a natural institution, as Aristotle said. Before the fall, there was no civil government. There may have been marriage, there may have been a household, which are natural according to Scripture, but there is no civil government…

It was a result of the fall. It’s not pre-fall at all. Civil government is not a natural institution, as Aristotle said.

Samuel Rutherford, in Lex Rex, actually agrees:

QUESTION XIII. WHETHER OR NO ROYAL DIGNITY HAVE ITS SPRING FROM NATURE, AND HOW THAT IS TRUE, ” EVERY MAN IS BORN FREE,” AND HOW SERVITUDE IS CONTRARY TO NATURE.

…I conceive that there be divers subjections to these that are above us some way natural, and therefore I rank them in order, thus:— 1. There is a subjection in respect of natural being, as the effect to the cause; so, though Adam had never sinned, this morality of the fifth command should have stood in vigour, that the son by nature, without any positive law, should have been subject to the father, because from him he hath his being, as from a second cause. But I doubt if the relation of a father, as a father, doth necessarily infer a royal or kingly authority of the father over the son; or by nature’s law, that the father hath a power of life and death over, or above, his children, and the reasons I give are, (1.) Because power of life and death is by a positive law, presupposing sin and the fall of man; and if Adam, standing in innocency, could lawfully kill his son, though the son should be a malefactor, without any positive law of God, I much doubt. (2.) I judge that the power royal, and the fatherly power of a father over his children, shall be found to be different; and the one is founded on the law of nature, the other, to wit, royal power, on a mere positive law

Assert. 3.— Every man by nature is a freeman born, that is, by nature no man cometh out of the womb under any civil subjection to king, prince, or judge, to master, captain, conqueror, teacher, &c. Arg. 1.— Because freedom is natural to all, except freedom from subjection to parents ; and subjection politic is merely accidental, coming from some positive laws of men, as they are in a politic society; whereas they might have been born with all concomitants of nature, though born in a single family, the only natural and first society in the world. Arg. 2.— Man is born by nature free from all subjection, except of that which is most kindly and natural, and that is fatherly or filial subjection, or matrimonial subjection of the wife to the husband ; and especially he is free of subjection to a prince by nature; because to be under jurisdiction to a judge or king, hath a sort of jurisdiction, (argument, L. Si quis sit fugitivus. F. de edit, edict, in S. penult, vel Jin.) especially to be under penal laws now in the state of sin.

Buchanan, George; Rutherford, Samuel (2013-04-22). Lex, rex, or, The law and the prince : a dispute for the just prerogative of king and people, containing the reasons and causes of the most necessary defensive wars of the kingdom of Scotland (1843) (p. 50-51). . Kindle Edition.

Therefore, the stipulation “that some punishment by the sword be inflicted” is positive law, not natural/moral law.

Typology

Francis Turretin explained that this distinction was based on the fact that the Jewish state was a “a type of the kingdom of Christ,” and that therefore the civil law “is simply abrogated because there is no longer any distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles in Christ.”23 Only those aspects of the law that have moral and universal application may be retained. Further, Turretin warns that “in the laws founded upon the common right or the law of nature, the substance of the precept must be distinguished from its circumstances.”24 Therefore care must be used in applying the judicial laws since their distinctive role as types of the kingdom of Christ so frequently is intermingled with the universal principle. Just because God gave these laws to Israel does not mean that these laws are good for every nation.

(Troxel)

This is a very important point that I do not believe was consistently worked out. The simple fact that a moral law was enforced by the civil authorities of Israel does not mean modern civil authorities are obligated to enforce that same moral law. Civil enforcement is a particular, or positive aspect of the judicial laws. It is not part of the general equity. Whether or not a civil authority should enforce a moral law must be established from Scripture in Step 2, not Step 1.

For example, the 1983 PCA “Constitutional Inquiry on WCF 19-4” states:

QUESTION 5: ‘Are the penal sanctions of the judicial laws of the Old Testament, such as those found in Deuteronomy 13, part of the general equity and, therefore, are they to be applied today as they were to the State of Israel, assuming the government as a righteous government according to the truth of God?’

ANSWER: All laws of the Old Testament were equitable for the era for which they were designed. But great care must be taken to determine precisely how they apply to the present era. In the case of Deuteronomy 13, in which the state is directed to execute any individual who attempts in private to lead someone to worship another god, and to annihilate all members of a community that worship another god, it is the interpretation of the Eleventh General Assembly that the legislation applies to the distinctive era in which Israel was established by specific divine revelation as His theocratic nation, and should not be enforced by the state in the present era.

Adopted

Likewise, Rutherford acknowledges that some civil penalties in the Mosaic law serve the purpose of simply teaching members of the New Covenant how much God detests sin.

But sure Erastus erreth, who will have all such to be killed by the magistrate under the New Testament, because they were killed by him in the Old: Why, but then the whole judicial law of God shall oblige us Christians as Carolostadius and others teach? I humbly conceive that the putting of some to death in the Old Testament, as it was a punishment to them, so was it a mysterious teaching of us, how God hated such and such sins, and mysteries of that kind are gone with other shadows… I much doubt if these punishments in particular, and in their positive determination to the people of the Jews, be moral and perpetual…

Rutherford, Divine Right of Church Government (1646), pages 493-494.

 

Israel was a holy nation, unique from all others. They were not a model for other nations to follow. They were a shadow of the eschatological Kingdom of Christ (they were not themselves the Kingdom of Christ). Their nation represented an “intrusion ethic” from the eschaton. Sin was not allowed in this holy land because God’s presence dwelt there externally. In the words of Abraham Booth:

By the latter [God’s divine presence among them], they had a kind of local nearness to God, which conferred a relative sanctity; as appears by various instances. When, for example, Moses with astonishment beheld the burning bush, the ground on which he stood was pronounced holy, because of Jehovah’s peculiar presence there.

…And why was part of the ancient sanctuary called “the most holy place,” but because Jehovah, in a singular manner, and under a visible emblem dwelt there. Hence it is manifest, that the Divine Presence, whether under the form of an august personage, as in the cafe of Joshua ; or under the emblem of devouring fire, as in the bush, and upon mount Sinai ; or under the milder appearance of a luminous cloud f as over the mercy-seat, and at our Lord’s transfiguration, confers a relative holiness. It is also equally plain, that this miraculous presence of God being withdrawn, from the several places to which we have just adverted, they have now no more holiness than any other part of the earth.

So the Israelites, being separated from all other nations for the worship of Jehovah as their God, to the exclusion of all idolatry ; avowing subjection to him as their King, in contradistinction to all other sovereigns ; and he residing among them in the sanctuary, as in his royal palace ; there was a relative holiness attending their persons, and almost every thing pertaining to them. For not only Jehovah’s royal pavilion, with all its utensils and services ; the ministers of that sanctuary, and their several vestments ; but the people in general, the metropolis of their country, the houses of individuals, the land cultivated by them, and the produce of that land, were all styled holy (see Exod 28: 2,4; 29:1; Lev 19:23, 24; 20:26; 25:2, 4; 27:14, 30; Num 16:3, 38; 35:34; Deut 7:6)

…Thus the holiness of the people, equally as that of places, was derived from the external presence of God.” Now, as the Divine Presence had a local, visible residence over the mercy-seat, which was the throne of Jehovah ; as that Presence among the Israelites had such an extensive operation upon their state, both in respect of privilege and of duty ; as the whole nation was a typical people, and a great part of their worship of a shadowy nature ; we need not wonder, that in such an ecclesiastico-political kingdom almost every thing should be esteemed, in a relative sense, holy. Under the Gospel Dispensation, how ever, these peculiarities have no existence. For Christ has not made an external covenant with any people. He is not the king of any particular nation. He dwells not in a palace made with hands. His throne is in the heavenly sanctuary ; nor does he afford his visible Presence in any place upon earth.

-Abraham Booth, The Kingdom Of Christ, p. 30-33

When Christ established His Kingdom, this Old Covenant was abolished and the holy land it governed was made common. The borders of this promised land were not expanded to cover all nations. No, Christ said His Kingdom is “not of this world.” His presence is no longer external, but is only internal. The establishment of this spiritual kingdom as an institution within and throughout physical kingdoms ultimately led to the undoing of the establishmentarian position (even if it was delayed for a millenia by the dark ages).

Rather than civil enforcement being carried over to the New Testament, what we see is civil enforcement (typological) being replaced with church enforcement (antitype). To state the title of this post more accurately: 1 Cor 5:13 is the New Covenant application of the general equity of Deut 22:21.

But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 22:20-22 ESV)

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 ESV)

The church is now considered holy, rather than any earthly kingdom. Thus unrepentant sin is not tolerated in the church and it must be purged. Paul specifically applied a civil judicial law to the church, and in so doing he proved that civil enforcement was a particular/positive aspect of the judicial law, not part of it’s general equity. His first step was to determine the general equity of the judicial law, and his second step was to apply it to the church using new particulars.

But notice what else he says. Paul specifically says that this type of moral enforcement must not be made obligatory on the rest of the world. That would be a misapplication of the judicial laws because it would be a misapplication of the moral law. It is not the duty of the civil authorities to enforce the whole moral law, or even the whole second table. Paul’s explicit statements teach us otherwise: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?”

Modern Application

So where does that leave us? That leaves us with the totality of God’s revelation as the foundation for civil authority. We can have no other foundation. Historically, reformed theologians have greatly erred by mixing man’s reason apart from Scripture (natural law) with Scripture, rather than deducing from Scripture alone. It inhibited proper interpretation of general equity, and thus political philosophy.

We must rightly interpret that revelation and not make unwarranted leaps. While we might conclude that civil authorities should enforce some moral laws, we might also conclude that they should not enforce others. In the context of general equity, though he may disagree with my conclusions, Calvin noted “if this is true, surely every nation is left free to make such laws as it foresees to be profitable for itself.”

My opinion is that a biblical political philosophy finds its roots in the Noahic Covenant, which is God’s promise to preserve the world for the sake of the elect. A biblical political philosophy does not seek to establish or even mimic Christ’s kingdom on earth. Instead, it seeks to establish a society in which the church can be preserved within the midst of an unbelieving world. It does not seek to judge that unbelieving world (cf Luke 12:53) prior to Christ’s return.

It is the Reformed Libertarian position that granting civil authorities the very limited role of protecting property rights best fulfills this goal of preserving the church. And such a position is consistent with WCF/LBCF 19.4.

Addendum

In his lecture “Penal Sanction Criticisms” Bahnsen states

@8:45 All of the evidence is there that the law of God in binding on Jew and Gentile alike. And so, it must be argued by somebody who feels the penal sanctions were not given to anybody but Israel that there is a very strong distinction within the law itself between stipulation and sanction. That God stipulates this kind of behavior and then he lays down a punishment if you don’t follow that stipulation, and that the fact that a law binds Israel as well as the Gentiles with respect to stipulations does not therefore mean that the law with respect to sanctions binds Israel and the Gentiles. You see, the premise then is that there is a difference between stipulation and sanction. Now, is there exegetical evidence for this distinction?… Well, we haven’t been given evidence of that distinction [in the paper I am responding to]…

I believe the above adequately provides the exegetical evidence Bahnsen sought. I certainly wish he were still around to continue this dialogue, as he did not address the argument presented in this article.

Recommended Reading

  • What is Equity? By Rev. Peter J. Wallace
  • The 1788 American Revision of the Westminster Standards
    • Compare the Scripture proofs with the 2nd London Baptist proofs
  • Theonomy and the 1788 American Revision of the Westminster Standards
    • “The implications of this profound sea-change for our interpretation of the general equity clause at WCF XIX:4 are enormous. For even if the general equity of the Mosaic judicial laws may have been interpreted by the Westminster divines as requiring civil magistrates to enforce true worship, the Philadelphia divines have clearly rejected that particular interpretation of general equity as a misapplication of the Word of God”
  • The Divine Law of Political Israel Expired: General Equity
  • The Westminster Confession of Faith: A Theonomic Document? Dr. Ligon Duncan
    • “WCF 19:4 recognizes the ad hoc character of the civil laws when it employs the phrase “as a body politick.”… Now it will be complained that this view makes the civil law “arbitrary.”…that may be so. Nevertheless, it is clearly the view of the Confession.”
  • Moses’ Law for Modern Government Dr. Ligon Duncan
  • Some Problems with Natural Law, John Robbins
    • “Natural law theory is, in the final analysis, a form of idolatry. What has nature to do with law? Nothing. Law is God commanding.”
  • Theocratic Case Laws and the New Covenant Era
    • “We must remember that the case laws, given to Israel in redemptive-history, were given to a “body politic.” They were written to the church-state of the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant, the church is an eschatologically realize spiritual nation.  As Vos says in “The Mosaic Theocracy,” the typical laws given to the typical church-state are eternalized in the New Covenant.”
  • Natural Law State Church
    • “Natural Law Two Kingdoms will not get you to the non-establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. It will land you in Geneva.”
  • The Relation of Church and State, Charles Hodge
    • The relative duties of these several institutions cannot be learned by reasoning a priori from their design, but must be determined from the Word of God. And when reasoning from the Word of God, we are not authorized to argue from the Old Testament economy because that was avowedly temporary and has been abolished, but must derive our conclusions from the New Testament…
      the New Testament, when speaking of the immediate design of the state and the official duties of the magistrate, never intimates that he has those functions which the common doctrine of the Lutheran and Reformed church assign him. This silence, together with the fact that those functions are assigned to the church and church officers, is proof that it is not the will of God that they should be assumed by the state.”
  • I Will Build My Church, Sam Waldron
    • Excellent sermon on Matthew 16:18 demonstrating the New Covenant application of Old Covenant holy war

Written by Brandon Adams

Husband, Father, Son, Saint, Sinner http://contrast2.wordpress.com
  • Greatly appreciate this… As Dr. James White has said in the past, a lot more work needs to be done in this area.

    • Send it over to Dr. White

      • I will, a couple of weeks after he gets back from Africa… otherwise it will fall off his radar. Sent it to some other pastors I know are interested in this subject. Thanks again, Brandon.

  • Patrick T. McWilliams

    Wouldn’t Deut 4:5-6 seem to indicate Israel’s civil law as a righteous and wise standard for other nations to emulate?

    “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”

    Was Matthew 5:18 fulfilled in AD 70?

    • Insofar as Israel’s civil law was an application of moral law, it was a wise standard for every individual in the world. But the issue here is the moral law, not the civil sanctions. I would view it in light of Romans 2:12-24

      Can you elaborate on your Matt 5:18 question?

      • Patrick T. McWilliams

        Would it no longer be wise for nations today to implement the civil laws of Israel as a model nation?

        In Matthew 5:18, Jesus says not a jot or tittle of the law will pass away until heaven and earth pass away. How would you interpret and apply this verse?

        • 1) The point of this post was to demonstrate that general equity does not require nations today to implement the civil laws of Israel.

          2) Personally, based on my interpretation of Scripture, I do not believe it would be wise for nations today to implement the civil laws of Israel. I do not believe their civil sanctions were a model for other nations.

          When Jesus refers to the law and prophets he is referring to it’s prophecy of the Messiah. When he refers specifically to the law he is referring to the moral law. Jesus obeyed the moral law on our behalf and thus fulfilled it.

          • Patrick T. McWilliams

            So “not a jot or tittle” of the moral law? Until heaven and earth pass away?

          • Yes.

            Owen: “It is of the law of the decalogue that our Savior treats, Matt. v. 17-19. This he affirms that he came not to dissolve, as he did the ceremonial law, but to fulfill it; and then affirms that not one jot or tittle of it shall pass away.”

          • Patrick T. McWilliams

            Hmm. I look forward to future posts.

          • Jared Lovell

            “I do not believe their civil sanctions were a model for other nations.”

            Deuteronomy 4:6-8?

            “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?”

          • reformedlibertarian

            Jared, did you see Brandon’s answer to this question as asked by Patrick directly above?

            Brandon wrote: “Insofar as Israel’s civil law was an application of moral law, it was a wise standard for every individual in the world. But the issue here is the moral law, not the civil sanctions.”

            I concur with this.

          • Jared Lovell

            I see that now. Fair point. I just don’t know if that quite does justice to the thrust of the text in Deuteronomy 4. I will have to read this piece more fully.

          • Jared Lovell

            This is not an argument for theonomy. However, to argue that Israel’s civil law was not to be a model for other nations I believe is stretching quite a bit.

        • Note that the 1646 WCF used Matt 5:17 as a Scripture reference for 19.4. The 1788 American revision left 19.4 as-is, but removed that specific proof text (while leaving others). The LBCF does not use that text for 19.4

    • MikeD

      Hello, Patrick. Note that in Deut 4:7 the reason is given for them to have such laws, “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?” In other words, and only in part, those other great nations have gods, not the LORD as their God. That was Israel’s privilege as a geo-political body. Of course, the nation that is the church (that kingdom) has the LORD as their God and Lord willing, the world looks at her, marvels at the wisdom within her gates, and will glorify God in the day of His visitation.

      I do see here, though, that whatever it is in Israel’s civil laws that causes pagans to marvel, it’s something that is common to all men apart from special revelation. The nations have this something in them that serves as a barometer, albeit corrupted by sin, of wise rule, and this we call the moral law.

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    The weakness of Theonomy is that of Protestantism in general: Scripture alone doesn’t work (nor is it biblical). Someone (or a group of someones) will always assert themselves as the authoritative interpreters of Scripture. Scripture and (someone’s) Tradition is inescapable.

    • reformedlibertarian

      What do you mean it doesn’t work? Can you define how you are using “Scripture Alone?”

      It is certainly possible that someone (perhaps the Roman Church) “will always assert themselves as the authoritative interpreters of Scripture,” but of course they are wrong in doing so and their presence doesn’t in anyway show that sola scriptura “doesn’t work.”

  • Pascal Denault

    Just three words: EX-CELL-ENT!

    • Thanks Pascal. I was spelling it in English though

  • Also, I should add that if natural law is simply the moral law written on the hearts of all men, as Calvin notes, then natural law does not itself say anything about civil sanctions since civil sanctions (sword) are post-Fall and natural law is pre-Fall.

  • Particular Voices

    Objection: No one can make laws wiser than the ones God made.

    • Sam, what is that from?

      • Particular Voices

        It’s actually from a defense of the 39 articles. This is an objection (And answer) raised against article VII which is — “Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding no Christian man is free from the obedience of the commandments, which are called moral.”

  • Andrew Lindsey

    I believe that Scripture (by direct implication) allows for greater use of regulatory powers by government than [at least some forms of] libertarianism would admit. Therefore, I’m not sure I can offer a hearty “amen” to the concluding paragraph. Otherwise, I certainly echo Denault’s praise of this article and am very thankful for your work here.

    • Thank you for your kind words Andrew. I’m glad it was helpful. We endeavor to explain the last paragraph from Scripture in future posts. If it can’t be done, then it shouldn’t be held to. I just wanted people to know where we’re coming from.

  • Particular Voices

    As long as I can keep eating bacon, I’m on board.

    • Sorry, I misspoke. RL believes civil authority should be limited to protection of property rights and the prohibition of bacon.

  • Rich Barcellos

    that second quote of me is not me. It’s the Renihans 2.