Defending Theonomy Against “Two Kingdom” Theology
“But we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.”
The Humanist Manifesto II (1973).
This quote from the second Humanist Manifesto hints at the danger professing Christians from the “Two Kingdom” camp seem oblivious to in abandoning an enormous chunk of God’s created order to the humanists. The humanists oppose Christianity at every point of doctrine, not only on the question of origins, but also on that of salvation and sanctification. Their faith, religion, and worldview is a holistic, interconnected fabric with their view of salvation tying intricately with their view of politics and law. This is not a characteristic, however, unique to humanism. It is a characteristic true of all faiths, of all religions, of all worldviews. Because it is built on a view of God, the Creator of all reality.
As God is the Author of all reality, He has a purpose, a design, for all He has made. As the creation functions in sync with His intended purpose, it experiences success. As it fails to function in sync with that purpose, it inescapably experiences defeat. We would as soon attempt to drink from a hammer or cut a piece of wood with a china doll as attempt to self-consciously violate God’s purpose with His creation.
While God has given man a great deal of discretion on how to implement His design, He does reveal in His Word how His creation is to function. This Word which we call “the Bible,” serves (among other things) as the instruction manual from our Maker on how His creation is to function. Although it is not nearly as voluminous in its instructions as the U.S. Code or even the Georgia State Code, we still hear people gripe and complain that its instructions are too burdensome.
When God revealed His plan of redemption to mankind, it was not merely to save man from a future destruction, but also from the present destruction being wrought by the presence of sin in the world, a sin which leads man to violate God’s creation purpose. The humanists are looking for salvation from this present destruction, but they refuse to acknowledge that its cause is sin and that it is due to a failure to follow God’s creation purpose. As they state in the quote above, they are trusting in their own works for salvation rather than in God. However, even among those who profess to be followers of God’s only begotten Son Jesus Christ, there are ones who seek to persuade us to believe that much of God’s explicit instructions in how to operate His created order should be disregarded. One such group is those who promote what has been come to be called “Two Kingdom theology.” This group presents us with a type of dualism that separates God from at least a third to possibly the vast majority of His creation order.
With God out of the picture, the only view left to prevail in the West on how creation should function is the humanist view. So while these Two Kingdom proponents might not intend it, they are unwittingly helping to serve the advancement of humanism and its view of family, education, art, science, law, politics, and much more. To suppose that humanism’s view on these things in harmless, that it occupies some type of neutral ground with Christianity, is the height of naïvety. Nay, it is to deliberately stick one’s head in the ground like an ostrich and pretend that if the danger is not seen, no harm will come.
Proponents of Two Kingdom theology are unwittingly giving aid to the humanists in their efforts to find salvation apart from God. In this article I will explain why this is true. The negative consequences of this are not only spiritual and eternal but also social and immediate.
For it is the efforts of humanists to find salvation apart from God that has in the previous century alone caused world wars, led to agricultural famine and the starvation of millions, contributed to the outbreak and rampant spreading of disease and suffering, fueled ethnic cleansing, bolstered totalitarianism. In our own nation alone it has sanctioned the murder of millions through abortion, and created a pathetic educational system and record-breaking national debt.
Answering T. David Gordon
One of the spokesmen for Two Kingdom Theology is T. David Gordon, and in his article Critique of Theonomy: A Taxonomy, he presents a number of false representations and faulty deductions of the view that God’s explicit instructions for all creation must be heeded for creation to succeed. The body of that article presents three specific arguments, and it is my object to answer each of these three arguments, but in reverse order. Before doing that, it would be helpful for us to lay a better foundation for the response.
The Scriptural principle that God has made creation with a purpose and made man to superintend that revealed purpose is called by many “dominionism” because it is first presented to us in the Bible at the Dominion Mandate found in Genesis 1:26-28. This is the passage where God commands man to procreate and superintend the rest of creation. The implication behind the command is that God will be glorified through man’s obedience to it and creation will thrive.
After man fell into sin, however, he lost his ability to naturally perceive how to run God’s creation order. This loss is part of what God has to save man from, but first God has to identify to man that such a loss has occurred. As Sir William Blackstone, the English jurist who instructed the founding fathers in the eighteenth century, noted,
“[I]f our reason were always, as in our first ancestor [Adam] before his transgression, clear and perfect, unruffled by passions, unclouded by prejudice, unimpaired by disease or intemperance, the task would be pleasant and easy; we should need no other guide but this. But every man now finds the contrary in his own experience; that his reason is corrupt, and his understanding full of ignorance and error.
“This has given manifold occasion for the benign interposition of Divine Providence which, in compassion to the frailty, the imperfection, and the blindness of human reason, hath been pleased, at sundry times and diverse manners, to discover and enforce its laws by an immediate and direct revelation. The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to found only in the Holy Scriptures. … [W]e are not  to conclude that the knowledge of these truths was attainable by reason, in its present corrupted state; since we find that, until they were revealed, they were hid from the wisdom of the ages.”
1 William Blackstone, Commentaries 38-35 (1765).
So as history progresses, God speaks with increasing specificity about how exactly He intends for man to superintend His creation. God began to reveal His will for family government from Genesis 1. After the Flood, God reveals to man the need for civil government particularly to guard against murder.
Beginning in Exodus and going through Deuteronomy, God speaks especially with specificity through His people chosen to ambassador His will to the rest of the creation. That these commands are not only to this people in Israel, but to the whole human race is made clear in many key verses such as Deuteronomy 4:5-8, seen here (emphasis added):
“Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments[.] … Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?”
Note how this passage characterizes the whole of these “statutes and judgments” as possessing universal moral qualities. It describes “all these statues” as “wisdom” and “righteous.” It is saying that foreign nations and peoples outside of Israel will describe these statutes and judgments by such universally moral terms. “Wisdom” and “righteousness” are unchanging attributes of God. If these statutes and judgments reflect such unchanging moral attributes in God, then the logical implication is that they always possess moral authority.
The idea that God has revealed His universal, moral Law throughout the Bible, from the Old to the New Testament, including the Pentateuch, is what we call theonomy. Theonomy literally means “the law of God” as the Greek root theos means “God” and nomos means “law.”
What Part of the Old Testament Law is Still Obligatory?
Many scholars have divided this portion of God’s revealed direction for His creation order found in the Old Testament into three categories: (1) God’s moral laws; (2) God’s ceremonial laws; and (3) God’s civil or judicial laws.
The first of these three categories is in plain contradiction to the passage we just quoted above, which described the whole of this law as reflecting God’s morality. All of the statutes and judgments revealed to Israel were called “wisdom” and “righteous” so they are all moral. Thus, to classify some of the law as moral and to suggest that other portions are not is to directly contradict the Scriptures. For this reason I believe this particular classification to be invalid and will not entertain it further.
So the remaining two classifications are both moral: the ceremonial laws are moral, and the civil laws are moral. Furthermore, both Two Kingdom adherents and theonomists agree that the ceremonial laws are no longer applicable under New Testament conditions. They represented foreshadows of a more complete fulfillment of the Law accomplished in Christ’s atonement on the cross.
Dr. Greg Bahnsen explained that “we presume our obligation to obey any Old Testament commandment unless the New Testament indicates otherwise.”  As the New Testament does directly communicate that the ceremonial laws are no longer applicable (such as the temple rules, the dietary laws, and the requirement of circumcision), these laws we no longer apply.
The remaining controversy is over what to do about the civil laws found in the Pentateuch. Dr. Greg Bahnsen defined the “civil laws” as those that required a “social sanction,” such as payment of restitution or the death penalty. Reformation Christians during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries sometimes proclaimed an uncertain message about what to do regarding these civil laws. In the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession, they stated that these laws were applicable insofar as “general equity” may require, seeming to leave open the extent to which these laws may reflect “general equity.”
Passages such as Deuteronomy 4:5-8 appear to suggest that these laws are always equitable, but especially when compared to the humanistic alternatives. Which of these appears on its face more equitable, sending a criminal to prison to earn a degree with free room and board at the expense of the victim of the crime and other innocent citizens through taxes, or to require the criminal to pay restitution to the victim of the crime? The former is our modern practice based upon humanistic assumptions. The latter is the patently equitable practice specified in what have been called “the Sinai laws.”
In fact, contemporary adherents and interpreters of the Reformed confessions of the seventeenth century have made it clear how they understood the confessions to be affirming the on-going applicability of the “judicial laws.” For example, the leading theologian and most persuasive authority at the Westminster Assembly, the Scottish Commissioner George Gillespie, affirmed this view.
In 1644, while attending the Westminster Assembly, which was producing the confession and catechisms, Gillespie published a tract in London entitled, “Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty” (reprinted in Anthology of Presbyterian and Reformed Literature, Vol. 4, ed. C. Coldwell [Dallas: Naphtali Press, 1991], 178ff).
Asking “whether the Christian magistrate is bound to observe the judicial laws of Moses, as well as the Jewish Magistrate was,” Gillespie declared that “he is obligated to those things in the judicial law which are unchangeable, and common to all nations; but not to those things which are mutable, or proper [particular] to the Jewish Republic” (such as Jubilee year remission of debt, the levirate institution, etc.)—thus drawing the exact distinction between cultural form or peculiarity and the underlying equity of the judicial laws.”
Dr. Greg Bahnsen in analyzing the wording of these confessions makes these observations:
“Notice, next, that the writers of the Westminster Confession were quite precise in their declaration about the judicial laws of Moses. According to them these laws were not “abrogated,” which is the language used of the ceremonial law (19.3), which was set aside due to the change of covenantal administration from Old to New Covenants, (7.5-6). The Confession teaches us, not that the judicial laws were abrogated, but rather that they “expired” due to expiration of Israel as a “political body.” … Only the underlying principle (“equity”) of those historical illustrations continues to be obligatory.”
Again, it appears that this is how contemporary adherents of the confessions understood them, because when they travelled across the ocean to the New World to set up colonies, they often stated plainly their intent to enforce the judicial laws of Moses. Take, for example, the New Haven Colony which testified on March 2, 1641-42, that “the judiciall law of God given by Moses and expounded in other parts of scripture, so far as itt is a hedge and fence to the moral law, and neither ceremoniall or typical nor had any reference to Canaan, hath an everlasting equity in itt and should be the rule of their proceedings.” On April 3, 1644, the New Haven Colony also made this declaration: “Itt was ordered thatt the judiciall lawes of God, as they were delivered by Moses… be a rule to all the courts in this jurisdiction in their proceedings against offenders.”
In his book Theonomy and the Westminster Confession, Martin A. Foulner presents more documentation suggesting the writers of the confession believed in the on-going authority of the judicial laws, including their penal sanctions, to contemporary society. Not only they, but also many of their successors held this view, asserts Foulner. He concludes:
“In light of the wealth of evidence presented in the foregoing extracts (and a very small selection of the material written at that), it is clear that the theological position known as theonomy is by no means a novel one, indeed, one can appeal to some of the greatest theologians the Church has ever known for validation of the theonomic thesis.”
So we may easily accept that theonomy has been consistent historically with Reformed theology. Moreover, this history supports the idea that the civil or judicial laws are still applicable today as communicating transcendent principles of social equity.
Answering T. David Gordon’s Third Argument on Covenant Theology
In spite of these historical records presented above about the Reformers, their confessions, and their applications of the civil or judicial laws of the Old Testament, T. David Gordan in his Critique of Theonomy asserts that theonomy is foreign to Reformed Christianity’s covenantal perspective. Gordon devotes half of the 20 pages in his paper to arguing that theonomy is not covenantal.
He makes two assertions against the compatibility of theonomy with covenantal theology: (1) Historical-theological considerations; and (2) Covenant theology in theonomy as “mono-convenantalism.”
First, for his historical assertion, Dr. Gordon alludes to some reports from Samuel Bolton on the varied opinions of the Westminster divines on how the Sinai administration fit into the covenantal system since it has characteristics that appear both works-oriented and others that appear grace-oriented. Was Sinai a covenant of works or of grace? Gordon says that Reformed theologians from Bolton to Charles Hodge to Robert Lewis Dabney addressed that question.
Dr. Gordon asserts that Reformed theologians only began to deny the legal character (the covenant of works) of the Sinai administration as a reaction when dispensationalism arose in the latter half of the nineteenth century. He goes on to assert that John Murray further developed this switch with his writings.
Little is examined in Dr. Gordon’s paper on how varying historical eschatological viewpoints might affect one’s view of theonomy, but he does wonder if what he perceives as Murray’s deviation from the rest of the Reformed tradition had to do with a difference in eschatological perspectives. He asks, “Was the [Israelite] theocracy a model for all civil government, or was it a type of the eschatological kingdom?”
Dr. Greg Bahnsen, who was a Reformed champion of theonomy in his lifetime, wrote that theonomy was “a position in Christian (normative) ethics. [It] do[es] not logically commit those who agree with [it] to any particular school of eschatological interpretation. Premillennialists, amillennialists, and postmillennialists can all harmonize this normative perspective with their views of history and God’s kingdom.”
While Dr. Gordon insists that the view of latter Reformed theologians such as Murray and Dabney deviated from that of the earlier Reformed covenantal theologians in the seventeen century, he does not address any of the historical evidence presented above about the views of the Sinai civil laws held by George Gillespie, the wording of the confessions, or the documentation of Martin A. Foulner. His only connection to the seventeenth century Reformers is Samuel Bolton, and he quotes Bolton as documenting a diverse opinion on the subject. His four general observations from Bolton appear to completely disregard Gillespie’s direct application of the Sinai civil laws to this New Testament era.
In the final sentence of his paper, Dr. Gordon further admits that theonomy is a set of “ideas already germinal in some dimensions of the Reformed tradition.” How could this have been if theonomy was pressupositionally in conflict with the Reformed view of the covenants?
In yet another section of the paper he mentions in passing that “Theonomists are not the first to abstract legislation from the Sinai covenant. The Westminster Assemby appears to have done it beforehand” — a passing comment that seems in conflict with this first historical assertion. If the historical Reformed view of covenant theology would seem to preclude the possibility of continuing the application of the Sinai laws in the New Testament, then how did so many Reformed, covenant theologians in history defend the application of the civil Sinai laws?
Second, in asserting that theonomy is what he calls “mono-covenantalism,” Gordon asserts that covenants must be between specific parties and only those specific parties. He asks, “Do covenants have parties, or do they not? … If a covenant has parties, how is it that non-parties are obliged to its duties?” Since the Sinai administration is considered a covenant with the nation of Israel, Dr. Gordon infers that the terms of that covenant only apply to the Jewish people, and not the Gentiles.
Dr. Gordon appears to believe the Gentiles cannot be obligated to the Sinai laws (including even the Ten Commandments) because they were not parties to the Sinai covenant. He does not appear to see these laws as a reflection of the holy nature of God, part of the “glory of God” that we have “fallen short” of as Romans 3:23 tells us. I John 3:4 says that sin is the violating of the law of God, and Romans 7 says that we would not have realized our sin guiltiness except the law had said, “Thou shalt not covet” (verse 7), a quotation from the Sinai law.
If the entire law given at Sinai reflected the “wisdom” of God and the “righteous” character of God as is asserted in the divinely inspired Word at Deuteronomy 4:5-8, then that law is the expression of God’s nature in particular human circumstances that anyone in the human race could have experienced, not merely a list of arbitrary rules strictly for the Jews.
If we are to believe that covenant at Sinai was only for the Jews and not an expression of God’s holy nature for all mankind, then why would it have been necessary for Christ to have shed His blood not only for the Jewish saints, but also for the Gentile saints? It is the Sinai laws that reveal to us that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” of sins (Hebrews 9:13-22), and this is presented as a universal principle of life.
In Romans 2 the Apostle reveals that God will judge the Jews and Gentiles without partiality according to the same standard.
“But to every man that doeth good, shall be glory, and honor, and peace, to the Jew first, and also to the Grecian. For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without the Law, shall perish also without the Law, and as many as have sinned in the Law, shall be judged by the Law, (For the hearers of the Law are not righteous before God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles which have not the Law, do by nature the things contained in the Law, they having not the Law, are a Law unto themselves, Which shew the effect of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts accusing one another, or excusing.)”
Romans 2:10-15 (Geneva Bible).
This passage reveals that God has placed His laws expressly revealed to Israel on the heart of all men in their conscience. Why would this be unless these laws reflect the holy character of God and rather than unique rules for Israel?
Even before the revelation of the laws at Sinai, we observe examples of characters in Genesis appearing to have a sense of the morality they taught. For example, both King Abimelech and the Egyptian Pharaoh who interacted with Abraham knew that adultery was not just a sin but a capital offense. (See Genesis 12: 17-20; 20:3-7.)
These laws are, as Dr. Gordon says in criticism, a “timeless, ‘covenant-less’ expression of God’s moral will.” Dr. Gordon grates at this description for the laws of the Ten Commandments and the civil laws. He points to Romans 5:13, which says that “sin was indeed in the world before the law,” to suggest that the Sinai laws cannot be a reflection of universal morality because sin came prior to the giving of these laws. This logic does not makes sense, however, under closer inspection.
Gravity has always existed for the entire human race as a universal principle of physics. Sir Isaac Newton identified and articulated the law of gravity for the rest of the human race to understand and appreciate, but Newton did not create the law of gravity. He merely discovered it. Nor did the law of gravity only become true for England because Newton was of the nation of England. By the same token, Israel merely discovered God’s universal moral laws by direct special revelation. The moral principles had existed before the laws were articulated at Sinai, and they were not only true for Israel because they were revealed through Israel.
In addition to the revelation, the people of Israel also covenanted to set an example to the world in obeying these laws, but we must distinguish between the revelation and the covenant of parties.
As we mentioned before, the entire human race was placed in a covenant of obedience to God when the Lord commanded the first man in the Dominion Mandate to “[b]e 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” (Genesis 1:28). The laws given at Sinai expounded upon what God intended by this general mandate. Thus, their duties apply to the whole human race by the covenant made with Adam.
Moreover, if all believing Gentiles are grafted into Christ, and through Him into Israel (the chosen people of God) as Romans 9 seems to indicate, then the Gentile Christians have been made heirs to the Sinai Covenant. By this means Gentile Christians would be made direct parties to the covenant, and they would have the on-going duty to set an example to the world in obeying these laws.
To summarize our answer to Dr. Gordon on this point: First, yes, it is true that God’s Law has a timeless, universal moral authority because it is a reflection of the timeless, holy nature of God, a holy nature which existed before the Lord created anyone else with which to covenant. It is objective. God has in the covenants simply applied this objective moral authority to certain subjective parties, but it has authority apart from these covenants. To measure whether a man is being holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:16), we look to see if his life matches the holiness of God sampled from God’s Law.
Second, however, all of mankind is subject to the Law of God in the covenant made with Adam at Genesis 1:27-29 and with Noah at Genesis 9. This is why God judged nations in the Old Testament outside of Israel for violating commands only specified at Sinai, from Egypt, to Canaan, from Edom to Moab, from Assyria to Babylon and Persia, etc. Third, Gentile Christians who have been grafted into God’s chosen people by Christ (Romans 9) have entered into the covenant with Israel at Sinai, and so are also accountable to God’s Law for this additional reason.
Answering T. David Gordon’s Second Argument on Matthew 5:17-21
In his second argument against theonomy, Dr. Gordon devotes special analysis to the passage in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus makes mention of the Old Testament Law. He believes as does his fellow critic Paul Fowler that Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s case for theonomy rests on this passage alone. “[I]f Bahnsen cannot make his case from this text, his case is not made.”
This passages says,
“Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy them, but to fulfill them. For truly I say unto you, Till heaven and earth perish, one jot or one tittle of the Law shall not escape, till all things be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall observe and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said unto them of the old time, Thou shalt not kill; for whosoever killeth shall be culpable of judgment.”
While Matthew 5:17-21 is a very valuable passage in revealing to us the continuing application of the Old Testament Law under New Testament conditions, it is hardly the only text that establishes this doctrine. Many other New Testament passages would be just as valuable, such as Matthew 7:12; 22:34-40; I Corinthians 9:8-11; and I Timothy 1:8.
However, Dr. Gordon’s exegetical critique of Matthew 5:17-21 begins with an examination of the phrase “the law and prophets” which occurs frequently in the New Testament (although in this passage is actually rendered “the Law, or the Prophets”). Dr. Gordon writes: “It is very unlikely that ‘law and prophets’ can be taken as a reference exclusively, or even primarily, to the ‘ethical stipulations contained in the canon of the entire Older Testament.’ … [T]here is no evidence that the prophets were ever thought of as legislating, but there is evidence, within Matthew’s Gospel, that the law was conceived of as prophesying[.]”
It is true that the Sinai laws often do serve a prophetic function. (See John 11:13.) The laws on sacrifices at the temple, for example, prophesied of Christ who was the ultimate sacrificial lamb. The Sinai laws were given through Moses, and yet he is called “a prophet” rather than a legislator. (See Deuteronomy 34:10.)
But to admit that prophetic function in the Law does not mean that the messages of the prophets did not serve an ethical function as well. Throughout the Old Testament, we see the prophets explaining how Israel and the other nations had failed to follow the laws of God and would therefore be judged by God. They served indictments for violating the law. Their condemnation for breaking the law was the foundation laid for offering a sense of hope in prophesying of the Christ to come. So these ethical and prophetic functions in the law and prophets were complimentary.
Dr. Gordon then examines the phrase from Matthew 5:17-21 that says the Law would not terminate “till heaven and earth pass away.” He asserts that heaven and earth did pass way figuratively with the Flood before, and II Peter 3:5-7 even says that the former world “perished.” This passing away, says Dr. Gordon, is simply figurative language to refer to a judgment of God. “I believe there is a sense in which [another judgment of this kind] took place with the death of Jesus … At Christ’s death, God’s judgment came upon the Representative of those under God’s wrath.”
II Peter 3:5-7 may appear to be somewhat figurative because we know that the earth as a planet was not destroyed and replaced by a new planet. It did not pass away or perish in this sense. But to characterize the judgment of the Flood as truly figurative is misleading. When the heavens and earth that existed before the Flood perished, the earth was fundamentally altered. The Flood actually caused a dramatic geographic transformation, not merely a judgment. Whole continents of the earth shifted from one end of the globe to another. The waters of the deep erupted from the earth, and many creation scientists believe a protective water canopy in the sky collapsed. The earth that Noah and his family walked out to after the Flood was in many ways a very different terrestrial atmosphere. The Flood was a literal, scientific passing away of a totally different kind of geographic earth for a new kind.
To equate this kind of geographic transformation to a figurative spiritual judgment accompanied by a few earth-quakes and loss of sunlight at Christ’s crucifixion does not match even close. Moreover, prophesies in the New Testament given after the resurrection of Christ still spoke of a yet to come new heaven and new earth. (See Revelation 21:2, which was written according to most scholars at least 37 years after Christ’s resurrection.)
Dr. Gordon also takes the New Testament Scriptures that speak directly to certain Old Testament laws not having application now as a sign that the law has passed away. As we acknowledged before, theonomists do believe that many aspects of the Sinai laws need not be followed under New Testament conditions, such as the laws on circumcision, because these laws were directly singled out as no longer necessary. This does not mean that these laws have “passed away,” but that they are simply now applied differently in Christ.
If we were to presume that the entire Sinai code was passed away as Dr. Gordon seems to believe, then we might ask ourselves why the Apostle Paul appealed to the Sinai law in I Corinthians 9 in arguing for paying ministers? Why do we presume that bestiality is still a sin even though only the Sinai laws identify it as such?
Answering T. David Gordon’s First Argument Against Necessity
Dr. Gordon’s first effort to refute theonomy comes in his answer to an argument from necessity. “The argument from necessity is essentially this: we need to know how to function in the civil arena, and therefore the Word of God must provide us with such instruction. This leads quickly to embracing the Mosaic legislation for such guidance, since all parties agree that the only place where statecraft of any sort is comprehensively recorded in the Scriptures is in the Sinai legislation.”
He writes how theonomists point to Reformed statements in historic confessions such as the WCF 1.6, which says: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for [H]is own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.”
“Theonomists,” says Dr. Gordon, “often argue that it is ‘necessary for … man’s … life’ that humans have revealed directives for statecraft.”
But Dr. Gordon doesn’t understand why statecraft should be singled out as needing special, explicit instruction from God. “Where does the Bible address other matters, such as … science, or medicine? Does the Bible contain a cure for cancer? Does it contain a solution to the long-standing debate between engineers and mathematicians regarding the stability of suspension bridges? And if it does not, why is statecraft any different from these areas? Is a well-run state more necessary than efficient agriculture?”
Dr. Gordon concludes on this point: “[Theonomists] have not demonstrated why the solution to statecraft is more pressing than the solution to these other matters.”
To clarify, it’s not about how “pressing” the solution to statecraft is; it’s about how God has revealed his social order in His Word.
Medicine, mathematics, agriculture, etc., are all equally important aspects to God’s creation order, and Christians certainly have a responsibility to master them with similar excellence under the Dominion Mandate just as they should statecraft. But God in His Word does not speak to those disciplines in the same way that He speaks to statecraft.
This is because statecraft is not just another discipline or field of study among many. The state or civil sphere is one of only three divinely appointed institutions presented in the Word of God. It is one of only four God-ordained jurisdictional spheres addressed in the Bible. It is one of only four social authority structures God’s Word gives detailed commands directing.
The three institutions God has appointed for man were the family, the state, and the church. The four jurisdictional spheres God appointed were the individual or personal jurisdiction, the family jurisdiction, the civil jurisdiction, and the ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The four social authority structures God spoke to were the spousal/parental authority structure within the family, the master/servant authority structure, the civil authority structure for a nation, and the church authority structure.
When seen in this light, as one of the basic foundational institutions of created society, one can hopefully appreciate more clearly the importance placed in the Christian worldview over political affairs. To disregard God’s instructions concerning law and civil government in the Bible would be like disregarding God’s instructions concerning the family. What if Christians were to say that the laws concerning children obeying their parents, wives honoring their husbands, and husbands providing for their families should be dismissed as ancient rules only applicable to the Jews under the Old Testament Sinai covenant?
We need to know how to function in our families, and therefore we reason the Word of God must provide us with such instruction. But what if some well-educated doctor of religion were to ask us, “Why single out the field of family studies? Where does the Bible address science or medicine? Is a well-run family more necessary than efficient agriculture?”
Of course, the family is not more important than agriculture. But agriculture is not one of the only three basic institutions of God’s created order! All other fields of study fall under the purview of these three, and so God must speak to them with greater specificity.
It should also be noted that while the Scriptures may not speak to other fields such as agriculture, economics, or medicine as directly, specifically, and thoroughly as it does statecraft, many of the case laws given in the Sinai commands do relate to principles governing questions of agriculture, economics, and medicine. The Sinai laws speak to farming and that affects agriculture. (See, for example, Deuteronomy 20:20.) The Sinai laws speak to property and that affects economics. (See, for example, Deuteronomy 25:13-16.) The Sinai laws even reveal that a baby in the womb is not just a part of a woman’s body, but a separate human being while in the womb — an issue that pertains to the field of medicine. (See Exodus 21:22-25.)
So to abandon God’s laws for civil affairs expressed through the Sinai administration is to also abandon God’s laws for fields like agriculture, science, and medicine as well.
As Dr. Cornelius Van Til wrote:
“The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything. We do not mean that it speaks of football games, of atoms, etc., directly, but we do mean that it speaks of everything either directly or by implication. It tells us not only of the Christ and his work, but it also tells us who God is and where the universe about us has come from. It tells us about theism as well as about Christianity. It gives us a philosophy of history as well as history. Moreover, the information on these subjects is woven into an inextricable whole. It is only if you reject the Bible as the word of God that you can separate the so-called religious and moral instruction of the Bible from what it says, e.g., about the physical universe. This view of Scripture, therefore, involves the idea that there is nothing in this universe on which human beings can have full and true information unless they take the Bible into account. We do not mean, of course, that one must go to the Bible rather than to the laboratory if one wishes to study the anatomy of the snake. But if one goes only to the laboratory and not also to the Bible one will not have a full or even true interpretation of the snake.”
Likewise, if one does not go to the Bible, one will not have a full or even true interpretation of civil government. Those who do not consult with the full counsel of God’s Word (including the Sinai laws) will be ignorant as to God’s full revealed purpose for civil government, what it’s limitations should be, and how its objectives should be carried out.
Instead of following the instructions of God’s Word for statecraft, Dr. Gordon proposes that we approach politics the way that Enlightenment and evolutionist humanists proposed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. An approach of pragmatic experimentation, of trial and error. “When we are observing physical realities, we then propose theories for dealing with them, and we test those theories by trial-and-error. It is not different in the field of statecraft.”
This approach is built upon evolutionist presuppositions. It is presenting an idea that politics may evolve through this trial and error, and that the best political systems will rise to the top. It is a type of survival of the fittest within political theory. If only the best political societies rise to the top, then how do we account for terrible regimes such as Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, which held great power and influence at the top?
Dr. Gordon’s approach sounds fairly in sync with Humanist Manifesto III where it says: “Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Have a peek at these guys – WebDesign499 for more information. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies.” (emphasis added)
Dr. Gordon says, “We observe human nature, and especially human nature in society (sociology, anthropology, political science, psychology and social psychology, history). From our observations we propose theories, and test them by trial and error”. Yet the Christian view of human nature and psychology should be influenced much more by Scripture than by these kinds of scientific studies. One wonders by this language if Dr. Gordon believes the Bible is as silent about universal human nature and psychology as he claims it is about universal political principles. Reformed Christian doctrine has historically been very firm in proclaiming the radical depravity of man’s nature apart from grace. This view of depravity should have tremendous impact on Christian psychology and social theory, but it is a doctrine the humanist does not acknowledge. That has broad implications on the humanist’s view of sociology, which is built on his view of human psychology.
Furthermore, Dr. Gordon’s proposed approach to statecraft effectively makes nations of people guinea pigs for social engineers testing out their latest political theories. If a system works, great. If not, start over. Maybe it doesn’t sound so bad to someone like Dr. Gordon, but when you consider that in France alone this approach to statecraft led to more than five upheavals in government in a span of less than one hundred years, the consequences of this approach should startle. What did France go through as a result of this approach? Two bloody revolutions, and two major European wars. Vacillation from a monarchy, to an anarchy, to a tyranny, to a monarchy, to a tyranny, to an anarchy, to a republic. These missteps costed hundreds of thousands of lives not only for the French through starvations from sieges against them and bloody revolutions, but also from the deaths of other neighboring countries in needless wars. All this within the span of one hundred years precisely because of this approach to statecraft.
Who would want to live in a country like that? What kind of security and stability does that provide? It’s a formula for chaos. Dr. Gordon may point to exceptional societies in history that enjoyed a limited amount of success for a time while seeming to apply this approach, but we are hard pressed to find the success stories amidst dozens of examples of terrible, destructive failures. Even Rome does not make a good example of this approach because Rome began as a republican law system that in many ways reflected the principles of the Bible in its framework. The further it deviated from this framework, the worse it got until it finally imploded on itself.
Who would want to live in Rome where the national ruler placed Christians on pikes and lit them up like torches? Does even Rome make a good role model for statecraft?
Under this approach suggested by Dr. Gordon, it’s okay to try Communism. It’s okay to try Nazism. We can experiment with totalitarianism and anarchy, and we really have no right to criticize those who dabble in them because we have no moral standard to evaluate these by and determine whether they are actually good or not. While Dr. Gordon may not endorse Josef Stalin or Adolf Hitler, in an approach to studying statecraft through this kind of experimentation, how can he possibly say that these men did anything morally inappropriate with how they governed? Why would he not see them as social engineers who simply experimented with their political theories as they thought best?
Is it all right for humanity to experiment in statecraft with eugenics? Ethnic cleansing? Inflation? Anarchy? Totalitarianism? Abortion? Sodomy? If not, then why not under this approach? The theonomist knows why experimenting with these things would be wrong because he knows that God’s Word speaks expressly against these things, but Dr. Gordon’s approach would appear to provide no adequate basis for opposing them.
By encouraging Christians to put themselves in a neutral position concerning statecraft, Two Kingdom theologians such as Dr. Gordon are making Christians vulnerable to the political agenda of the humanists. These humanists are not interested in merely experimenting with politics. They have a very particular political agenda they hope to build. Under the approach to statecraft that Dr. Gordon proposes, the Christian has no reason to oppose the humanist’s agenda. Under his approach, Christians should give the humanist the chance to experiment and try their agenda to see if it works. Christians don’t accept divorce, although a lot of couple need to separate so they contact Cairns family lawyers to solve any legal issue.
What are some of the particular agenda items of the humanists?
According to the 14th tenant of the Humanist Manifesto I, humanists have made socialism a critical part of their agenda. “The humanists are firmly convinced that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be instituted. A socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible. … Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world.”
According to the 6th tenant of the Humanist Manifesto II, “The right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized. … [N]either do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults [apparently including sodomy].”
While the humanists claim to believe in democracy, they also assert a politcal goal to achieve a one-world government. What if some democratic nations don’t want to be a part of the one-world community? What if push comes to shove between these two objectives? The Humanist Manifestoes are forebodingly silent on that question. “We deplore the division of humankind on nationalistic grounds. We have reached a turning point in human history where the best option is to transcend the limits of national sovereignty and to move toward the building of a world community in which all sectors of the human family can participate. Thus we look to the development of a system of world law and a world order based upon transnational federal government.”
This world community, according to the Humanist Manifesto II, “must engage in cooperative planning” to address “excessive population growth.”
These are just a few of the alarming political objectives being pursued by humanists, political objectives that are an outflow of their theology and their view of salvation. “We are responsible for what we are or will be,” says the closing of the Humanist Manifesto II.
Dr. R.J. Rushdoony summarized well the complete clash between humanism and Christianity’s view of law and salvation when he wrote:
“For political religions, for humanism, evil is in the environment, and the state’s power to change that environment is its saving grace. The state must remake man’s physical and spiritual environment in order to change and save man. Social change in terms of the state’s plan is statist grace in operation. The bad environment must be destroyed in order to free man. … Those persons remaining must be ‘re- educated’ in terms of the new creed and out of Christianity.
“For Biblical Christianity, the answer to the problem of evil is God’s grace, the grace of God through Jesus Christ and the restitution of all things. Man’s problem is not his environment but sin, man’s desire to be his own god, his own law and principle of ultimacy. Man cannot save himself, either by politics, works of law or morality, or by any other means. Jesus Christ is man’s only savior. Man must live under God’s law order in order to live freely and happily, but the law order cannot save man, nor will that law order long survive, if there be not a sizeable body of believers whose life is the law of God. Basic to true order therefore is grace. Without grace, man lacks the character to develop his potentialities, capitalize his activities, and order his life.”
In asking Christians to ignore what the Bible says about one-third of God’s created social order in the passages that deal most directly with that third, Two Kingdom theologians such as Dr. T. David Gordon ask Christians to abandon society to the secular humanist’s presuppositions for society and culture. Effectively, Dr. Gordon asks Christians to adopt a type of political deism, for although he appears to acknowledge that God created society and instituted civil government, he also believes that God has no involvement, no revelation, concerning this huge chunk of worldview.
Dr. Gordon’s Two Kingdom theology puts Christians in the awkward (to say the least!) position of working with the humanist to promote their worldview and alternative hope for salvation—a salvation without God.
Christians must by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit embrace God’s sovereignty over all of life, including politics. They must embrace what all of His Word directs about civics, including much of what is contained in the Sinai laws which have continuing New Testament application. Doing so will allow the Church to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5) and live out the full implications of the Gospel.
To read this essay in pdf format, click here.
 In my article posted by American Vision entitled Salvation for Society: Who’s Going to Save Us from Us? I explain this truth in greater depth and defend it from the Scriptures. Abraham Kuyper in his speech “Sphere Sovereignty” expressed this truth when he said: “Neither Pharisee nor disciple understood that [Jesus Christ’s] cry “It is finished!” entailed, beyond the salvation of the e lect, also a soteria tou kosmou [salvation of the cosmos], a liberation of the world, a world of freedoms. But Jesus discerned it. … As its Sovereign He contended with the usurping “Prince of this World” for authority over that world.” James D. Bratt, "Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader" 469 (1998, Wm. G. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
 The reader may read Dr. Gordon’s article in full at the Theological Studies’ web site.
 It was from Blackstone that the phrase “laws of nature and of nature’s God” was borrowed for use in the Declaration of Independence.
 King James Version.
 See Dr. Greg Bahnsen, By This Standard 2 (American Vision Press, 2008).
 That is not to say that these laws are not binding morally; only that they need not be applied today under New Testament conditions because Christ has fulfilled them in every way necessary.
 Dr. Bahnsen, By This Standard at 6-7.
 See Dr. Joel McDurmon, Rejections of Mosaic Civil Law by the Magisterial Reformers, 1520-1536 (University of Pretoria, 2012).
 Chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Section 4 provides, “To them also, as a body politic, [God] 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.” Chapter 19 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession, Section 4 says, “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.” However, both of these confessions immediately after these statements affirm the obligation of the “moral” laws. The extent to which there is “general equity” in these judicial laws is unclear from these statements.
 Dr. Greg Bahnsen, “The Westminster Assembly and the ‘Equity of the Judicial Law,’” Penpoint, Vol. 4, No. 7 (Southern California Center for Christian Studies, CA: October, 1993).
 Charles Hoadly, ed., Records of the Colony and Plantation of new haven from 1638 to 1649 (Hartford: for the Editor, 1857), p. 69.
 Foulner, Theonomy and the Westminster Confession 62.
 Dr. Gordon writes, “With the arrival of dispensationalism an interesting thing happened to covenant theology, at least in some circles. Properly alarmed over the total discontinuity alleged to exist between the Sinai administration and the New Covenant by dispensationalists, covenant theologians became shy about the ‘works’ dimension of the Sinai covenant, which had been candidly (though not unanimously) conceded within the covenant theology before.” T. David Gordon “Critique of Theonomy: A Taxonomy” at 36 (Westminster Theological Journal, Spring 1994).
 Id. at 38.
 Dr. Greg Bahnsen, By What Standard? 5-7 (American Vision Press, 2008).
 Dr. Gordon, Critique of Theonomy at 43.
 Id. at 40.
 Id. at 40.
 Id. at 28.
 The 1599 Geneva Bible translation.
 Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics at 50.
 Dr. Gordon, Critique of Theonomy 29-30.
 Id. at 25.
 Id. at 27.
 Id. at 27.
 Gary W. Fick, Professor of Agonomy at Cornell University published an article called Farming By the Book in December 2005 that documents many of the biblical instructions pertaining to agriculture.
 See Dr. Conelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics at 2 (1939).
 Dr. Gordon, Critique of Theonomy at 26.
 See Humanist Manifesto II at tenant 8.
 Id. at tenant 12.
 Dr. R.J. Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order 222-223 (Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1978).