Clash of Orthodoxies

The recent wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Boy Scouts’ interest in changing its policies about excluding homosexuals reminded me that long before social conservatives considered turning on the Boy Scouts for tolerating gays, confessional Protestants were giving the troops a thumbs down for very different reasons. They had nothing to do with sex and everything to do with the civil religion the Scouts wove through their materials and self-identity.

Case in point, the OPC in the 1950s appointed a committee to study whether its congregations might well sponsor Scout’s troops. What these confessional Presbyterians discovered was that the Boy Scouts’ understanding of God was a good bit off from the historic Christian view:

Scouting 1). Holds to a belief in a God. 2). Describes this God as the ruling and leading power in the universe, and the giver of favors and blessings. 3). Maintains that boys must learn to recognize this God, to admit their obligations to him, and to acknowledge gratefully his favors and blessings, if they are to grow into the best of citizens. 4). Requires all Scouts to promise on their honor to do their duty to this God, and feels that in so doing it does no violence to anyone’s religious convictions. 5). Desires to remain strictly non-sectarian in its attitude toward the religious training of the boys. 6). Requires mutual respect of religious convictions among the boys in carrying on Scouting activities. 7). Requires sponsor organizations to attend to the religious life of the boys. 8). Forbids sponsor organizations to force their religious practices on any boy contrary to his faith, because of his membership in a Unit.

Scouting evidently is anxious to insist upon religious training for the boys without telling the boys what religious training they should have. In attempting to do this, it runs into difficulties. To justify religious training it has to speak of a God. But to avoid offence to any religious group it tries to describe God in terms that all will approve. Then it proceeds to require general submission to this God. Since the aim of the movement is to develop the best kind of citizens, it really erects this policy as the ideal for the model citizen.

It might be too much to say that Scouting IS a religion. But it is clear that Scouting HAS a religion. And at the heart of that religion is the acceptance of a God supposedly recognized by Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, and accepted by them all. If this conclusion be correct, then it must be said that Scouting teaches a religion that is distinctly unbiblical and unchristian. A God acceptable to Catholics, Protestants, and Jews does not exist. Those who do not honor the Son do not honor the Father. And the Jews do not honor the Son. (John 5:23, I John 2:23, Luke 10: 16). In requiring the boys to promise to do their duty to a God understood to be acceptable to adherents of these three faiths, the Scout movement seems clearly to require submission to a God that does not exist. This is to teach a form of idolatry.

What the OPC’s report indicates is that social conservatives have a very different understanding from confessional Protestants about when the Scouts went (or may go) wrong. For the former, the issue is mainly about sex, which is not an insignificant consideration but hardly the first sign that the Scouts may not be on the side of the God of the Bible. Confessional Protestants, less hung up over sex (maybe), actually take God-language seriously and inspect an organizations claim’s on behalf of religion. For them, faith is even more important than sex.

In which case, contrary to James Davison Hunter’s argument about the Culture Wars, the “orthodox” party in the United States is actually divided. It is not the case that conservative Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews represent an orthodox counterpart to the liberal party in the culture wars. In point of fact, the believers for whom religion matters most, the truly orthodox, take issue with the sham orthodoxy that informs questions about marriage, homosexuality, and the family. Again, sex and families are important. But they are part of the common culture, not matters of religious orthodoxy.

To fail to see this difference is to have confused the politics of the civil kingdom with the politics of the eternal one. Put differently, civil religion is a poor imitation of ecclesiastical religion.

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127 thoughts on “Clash of Orthodoxies

  1. A Mormon friend of mine was recently telling me that the Boy Scouts offer some kind of God or Religion badge, which is made available in all different flavors; Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, maybe even Muslim.

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  2. The comments in this thread are also true of some of the very small confessional Lutherans, as well, such as WELS and ELS, who prohibit membership in the BSA. Interestingly, the larger LCMS turns a blind eye to this issue (i.e., the Scouting “religion” professed in their oath), because the BSA was wise enough to give scouts an award for being engaged in various activities within the realm of their own denominations (which included RC’s, Jewish, Mormons, and the entire gamut of protestants) called “For God and Country” to make it seem as though they weren’t intruding on anyone’s beliefs.

    It’s a fascinating phenomena because some of those same protestants who acknowledge the BSA and even sponsor troop meetings in their church buildings also prohibit lodge membership, which is similar. Once again it’s 2K confusion all over the place.

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  3. Another excellent post. I assume you had Romans 1 in mind. If not, I sure did. According to Paul, idolatry leads to all manner of debauchery and approval of said debauchery.

    “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

    24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

    26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” -Romans 1:18-32

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  4. True. Still, what are Reformed who just like organized outdoorsery to do? Invent the Calvinist version of Scouts with Cadets and Gems? Ack, more church aping culture. Maybe just drop the organized and enjoy the outdoors.

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  5. When I was growing up, the church I was raised (regular baptist) had a group called *Brigade and Stockade*, a “Christian” version of Boy scouts. I enjoyed it, although it wasn’t as well organized as Boy Scouts of America, we didn’t have anything like “eagle scout” or merit badges. It was basically just a way for christian boys to get together and have fun. We did line up, and march in formations. And go on short trips in some regional parks. It wasn’t Calvinist, however.

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  6. “… Maybe just drop the organized and enjoy the outdoors …”

    Yes, that’s what they should be doing. And for those well acquainted enough with the pioneering, orienteering, and other outdoor skills to pass them along to their off spring so be it.

    But, you see, that’s not really what the BSA is all about; it’s a big baby sitting service. I remember that they used to have a rule that at least three adults were required to go along with the kids on any weekend campout. So one Friday afternoon the parents dropped all of the kids off at the meeting place, but only two adults came. So we waited and waited for the third and finally wound up having to cancel the event at about 7:00 PM. This meant having to call the parents to come and pick up their kids again. Guess what? We couldn’t get ahold of anyone because they were all out having dinner and enjoying their up coming kid-free weekend.

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  7. I was expelled from the Cub Scouts. See, there was just this unbearable tension between the militaristic uniforms and vows on the one hand and, on the other, doing nothing but eating cookies and milk under the supervision of a lispy denmother.

    In an attempt to resolve the ambiguity, I punched another scout. Ambiguity resolved.

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  8. Doug, your comment makes me wonder about a clash of notions of militancy, one spiritual and one political. One gives rise to catechesis and the means of grace, the other to marching in formation and glorified culture war.

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  9. DGH ends with this muddle: “To fail to see this difference is to have confused the politics of the civil kingdom with the politics of the eternal one. Put differently, civil religion is a poor imitation of ecclesiastical religion.”

    Darryl, had you actually tried to teach this theory back in 1706 New England, true Old School Presbyterians would put you in stocks and let their children throw apples at your head for a few days. (in love of course) However if you persisted, you’d get horse whipped till you couldn’t walk for a couple weeks, and that would be your final warning! How can you in all honesty call yourself “Old School Presbyterian?” How about calling yourself a pluralist, since that’s what you are!

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  10. Doug, I am a pluralist, boo! I am also Old School. If you took your history from anywhere other than Bahnsen, you might realize that the Old School existed after the founding of a nation that tolerated pluralism. But if you want to go back and live in Geneva, watch out. The consistory may call you in for disrespecting an officer.

    Doug, you’re a theonomic bad ars. In the OT that would get you in a heap of trouble. But go ahead and mix and match your history in whatever way you need to get you through the night. Sweet dreams.

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  11. I also was in Christian Service Brigade in both the Stockade (analogous to Cub Scouts) and Battalion (analogous to Boy Scouts). Later I helped lead Stockade and Battalion. There were achievements with badges in both programs. Probably the best thing about CSB is the Bible memory part of the achievements. The ultimate achievement in CSB (like Eagle Scout) is “Herald of Christ”.

    Activities and relationships with Christian men in weekly meetings and at summer camps were very encouraging and inspiring. I thank the Lord for this influence.

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  12. Like D.G. I don’t recall the Old School wing of Presbyterianism existing in 1706. There was an Old Side at the time of the first awakening circa 1730-1750. I also don’t recall Presbyterians being numerous enough anywhere to control the government. Part of the reason they got started in Philadelphia is the pluralism that the Quakers allowed in Pennsylvania, I believe. In all seriousness, Doug, you do need to read a lot more about the subjects that you comment on if you hope to be taken seriously.

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  13. I echo your good word towards CSB, Alan, given my good experience of it growing up. I would have no problem enrolling my son someday, and seeing whether he could make it farther than the “Explorer” rank that I made. That’s was at least 6 orders magnitude away from the Herald of Christ. So many good memories of summer camp in Christian Service Brigade, too many to recount!

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  14. Alan, thanks for setting the record straight on CSB merit badges. I only went a few years and evidently didn’t merit any badges, ouch! But it was a good memory for me as well. Although I remember the whittling contest. We were to take a block of wood and whittle a boat. I am not artistic, nor had I ever whittled in my life, and was rather embarrassed at my awkward effort.

    The men who ran CSB at my church, were committed Christians, who loved us boys with a genuine fatherly love, and got a kick out of watching us play games. They were avid hunters for all kinds of game, but my family was not. I don’t remember them stressing memory verses. But our church (Grace Baptist) stressed memory verses in Sunday School. I also thank God for that experience.

    Keep pressing on!

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  15. Darryl, as a theonomically inclined fellow, I concede that some form of pluralism was tragically inevitable in America with the fracturing and splintering of the church. We are often our own worst enemy. If *we* can’t even come into agreement on baptism, how are we going to have unity on enforcing the first table? Bryan Cross has a point, when us Protestants continue to splinter more and more. Not that Rome has any room to talk. And don’t take that observation as agreeing with Bryan Cross on sola Scripura or other controversies. I stand with the Reformers! Moreover I can’t even to begin to accept Romes bazaar unbiblical doctrines, like Mary never having sinned, or her staying a virgin her whole life. Even still I consider Bryan Cross a brother in Christ.

    Darryl, I’ve always argued that theonomy is our ideal, not that it could practically be implemented this second. I’m fighting for the heart of reformed thought and we move forward. lAnd even though we disagree at present let’s have iron sharpen iron. I want God’s law to be the standard for all of us individually, corporately, in state nation and world. God’s law must be something to be reckoned in all realms of society if we move forward in God’s blessings. I just quoted Machen. However, if I’m wrong, (and I could be) then prove me wrong in God’s word, and please stop using arguments from silence.

    Rest in his completed work,

    Doug

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  16. DGH, I hope I was clear, that I am most concerned with the purity of the church first and foremost. Once we (the greater body of Christ) are able to come into unity, of the true knowledge of Christ towards maturity, I believe God will sway the hearts of the general society to accept the Godly moorings found in God’s law with its penal sanctions. But that won’t bring us a panacea; God will always set up the perfect scenarios to challenge our heart personally and collectively, church and state to see if were in the faith.

    I see a difference between the state and the church, in terms of responsibility, and calling, even though the day may come, (and I pray that it does) when virtually everyone is baptized. Would that solve our problems? No, what about the sheep and the goats? That can be tricky too. Even though I’m a Post Mill guy, I believe God constantly sets up the perfect situations to test our hearts, and see if we’re in the faith.

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  17. Doug, your view of the law is odd. If it were the ideal, who could stand in that great day. I’d much rather have a neo-Calvinist tell me about the Lordship of Christ and every square inch because at least Christ is an atoning priest along with being a king (whose burden is light). I don’t see Christ threatening kidnappers the way you do.

    And then there is this bit about the kingdom growing by covenant faithfulness. That’s not what the Reformers taught.

    I do believe your view of the law has warped your Christianity.

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  18. Doug – it’s Luke 18:8 that often keeps me awake at night. Then, I think of what Jesus told his followers in Luke 17:10 in response to their misguided demand in Luke 17:5. I finally drift back to sleep, comforted, when I think of what the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2:8. It’s not about us or anything we’ve done or will do, it’s God’s gift to his elect. Of course, this can be misused in an antinomian kind of way as the Lutherans often do, pointing to their baptisms as a thing that “saves” them in mock imitation of the papists. So rather than resting on a kind of smugness of in an “I’ve got mine!” kind of way, as is common in some denominations, or left to be wondering around second guessing ourselves all the time, whether we’ve done enough, prayed hard enough, etc., we rest in the comfort that God has done for us something we could never do and are grateful to him for it.

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  19. Geeesh! Where was this conversation fifty years ago? All I got from the boys scouts was six days of itching hell in the hospital! On one camp out it rained. On the final day we started sliding down a rain soaked hillside real fast stopped at the bottom by a briar patch full of poison oak! Got home and before morning I was swollen up so bad from head to toe I could not see or pee! Folks, God bless their souls admitted me immediately to the care of doctors and nurses! I vowed never to do a scout camp out ever again if I survived!

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  20. DGH retorts: Doug, your view of the law is odd. If it were the ideal, who could stand in that great day.

    Darryl I said theonomy is the ideal for socio political justice for a given nation, not that the law would save me on the last day! Why do you change categories and misrepresent my words? How can you be so careless?

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  21. George, theonomy does not deal with piety or your eternal destiny. Theonomy asks a far more basic question; when does the punishment fit the crime in a socio political sense? What should society do with a thief? What should society do with a murderer? What should society do with a kidnapper? What should society do with a child molester? What should society do with a sodomite? What should society do with a rapist?

    God’s written law has divine instruction for how a society should view these matters. God knows how do send the right message for society and punish the criminal.

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  22. Doug, that’s a helpful concession, that theonomy has nothing to do with eternity, that it is entirely a project to do with worldly cares. But 2k and the spirituality of the church readily admits that its project is entirely the opposite, that it has everything to do with the gospel and eternal life. Its purpose, in not getting it unduly aligned with any particular social or political assessment, is to let the light of the gospel shine as brightly as possible and not get hidden under the bushel of the traditions of men.

    Darryl has already pointed out your theonomic view of the law has a lot in common with those in P&R circles who talk about covenant faithfulness, etc. In contrast, law and gospel 2kers are those most often associated with opposing this undermining of the gospel.

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  23. Zrim, I would categorize theonomy as a subset of loving your neighbor like yourself. Shouldn’t we as Christians desire our nation to esteem justice for our citizens? Shouldn’t we desire to see your neighbor receive justice? Doesn’t that coincide with loving our neighbor? To even ask the question is to answer in the affirmative.

    The first settlers who landed in New England believed that God’s law set the perfect standard of justice for any nation, were they too concerned with the cares of the world? The Abstract of New England law, it will open your eyes!

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  24. Doug, thanks again. Theonomy, as Kline pointed out, may be the mirror error of Dispensationalism, but to the extent that it wants OT codes codified, it is also the flip side of Protestant liberalism which wants to see NT ethics embodied legislatively. Your problem is that you can’t seem to decide whether you want to champion theonomy or liberalism. But take your pick, since 2k opposes both.

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  25. Zrim suggests Protestant liberalism which wants to see NT ethics embodied legislatively.

    Could you give me an example of Protestant liberalism wanting NT ethics embodied legislatively?

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  26. Kline’s view of old testament law, is the mirror image of dispensationalism. Don’t forget Kline walked away from the WCF, where he brazenly stated the Mosaic law was not part of the covenant of grace.

    Kline and Scofeild are joined at the hip in there repudiation of covenant theology.

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  27. Doug, for an extended study, pick up Washington Gladden’s “Applied Christianity.” The entire liberal project was precisely about applying the second greatest commandment politically and legislatively. So, what’s the difference between theonomy being a subset of the second greatest and liberalism? But my guess is that whatever you say it’ll be a distinction without much difference.

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  28. DGH prohibition was unbiblical! Since God gave wine to men as a blessing! How can a Christian prohibit what God has freely given? Machen should have disabused you of that unbiblical notion. And you are also off topic! I asked Zrim to give me an example of liberalism that made the same so called mistake theonomy makes. And you bring up Prohibition? Darryl, you’re supposed to know history! Prohibition was implemented by fundamentalist, not liberals!

    Zrim, the law is good, if it’s used lawfully; what you are calling the social gospel is unethical in the nature of the case! Thou shall not steal from the rich and give to the poor. So no Christian with a grain of integrity could support government redistribution on biblical grounds. What you call liberal protestant I call unchristian as did J. Gresham Machen. As I suspected, you have confused Christianity with the Liberalism, which is a different religion all together from Christianity according Machen.

    Leave it to Zrim to mix up, Christianity and Liberalism. In other words if you can’t see the difference you shouldn’t be allowed to blog.

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  29. Doug, wrong again. Liberals loved prohibition and barred Machen’s promotion at PTS because he wouldn’t support it. You gotta get out and read more.

    Plus, I’d say your support for toleration of non-Jews in OT Israel is not biblical. It’s the 2kers, those moderates who resist the extremes of liberalism and theonomy, who know their Bibles.

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  30. DGH, who pushed for prohibition? Was it not fundamentalists? Get your facts straight history teacher!

    Who cares if liberals used prohibition to attack Machen, that’s a side issue! Who caused prohibition? Pssst, it wasnt liberals!

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  31. DGH states Plus, I’d say your support for toleration of non-Jews in OT Israel is not biblical.

    Oh really? Perhaps this verse slipped by you, huh?

    Exodus 12:37

    And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock both flocks and herds.”

    You can apologize anytime! The mixed multitude were uncircumscised Egyptians who were NOT Israelites, but were to be treated with kindness.

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  32. But, Doug, blogging isn’t in the Bible–now you’re making up rules about social media using your (gasp!) instincts, puerile as they may be.

    Still, you haven’t made any principled distinction between the tenets of Protestant liberalism and theonomy. You’ve simply thrown the leftist’s social and political Christianity under the bus because it’s not your rightist one. But conservative Calvinism loves to watch you both fight.

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  33. Zrim babbles, but Doug you still, you haven’t made any principled distinction between the tenets of Protestant liberalism and theonomy.

    I certainly have, Thou shall not steal! Liberalism in unbiblical! That’s as principled as it gets! Did you get a kick out of watching Machen battle with Lilberals? He said Liberalism is an all together different religion than Christianity. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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  34. Doug, not really, it’s just a lot of pious blustering. Like Machen once said (I’m paraphrasing), there is a difference between a sentimentality about and an understanding of the Bible. One test is whether one can express disagreement with a stalwart in his tradition, the way Kuyper did with Calvin on the magistrate. You want to claim Machen for theonomy. I don’t think you can show it, but if you did I’d be happy to follow Kuyper’s lead. I wonder if you could when Machen is shown for his 2k. Going by how you grow silent when Kuyper is shown to be anti-theonomic, I’m not holding my breath.

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  35. Zrim, try to follow, I was using Machen to prove Liberalism is not Christianity. My argument just proved that you are incorrect thinking there’s a connection between the two. Liberalism thinks its okay to take from the rich and to give it to the poor, all in the name of loving thy neighbor. Sadly, its both unbiblical and unethical.

    Theonomy is merely enforcing God’s laws for societal justice that Paul says is in accordance with the gospel of Christ. See 1 Tim 1:8-13

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  36. Exodus 12:48

    “If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”

    So Darryl, is it your position, that once Israel took possession of the land, they were to disregard this instruction? But wait! God said the word “land”! Ouch! Sort of nullifies your whole point, eh? So if you’re going to hold to this specious theory, where is the Scriptural warrant for such belief? Did God say once you’ve entered the land, disregard my instruction for strangers and sojourners?

    Who’s not being Biblical?

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  37. Doug, why are you trying to show that liberalism isn’t Christianity? That’s the premise of my point in saying that theonomy is its flip side–theonomy is as foreign to Christianity as liberalism is. You aren’t listening. This is what the Bible must feel like.

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  38. Exodus 12:48

    “If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”

    So Darryl, is it your position, that once Israel took possession of the land, they were to disregard this instruction? But wait! God said the word “land”! Ouch! Sort of nullifies your whole point, eh? So if you’re going to hold to this specious theory, that I have never heard anyone try to make, where is the Scriptural warrant for such belief? Did God say once you’ve entered the land, disregard my instruction for strangers and sojourners?

    Who’s not being Biblical?

    Why not just concede your were in error, and let’s move on!

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  39. Erik, I realize that you don’t see eye to eye with me on theonomy, but I still enjoy your views in general, even when I disagree. However, as a 2K guy, don’t you get a little frustrated reading Zrim’s illogical babble? He equates Bahnsen with a liberal?! Didn’t that make you want to throw a penalty flag, for insanity?

    Disagree with me and Bahnsen fine, but Zrim isn’t making sense! He can’t distinguish the difference between the liberal left, (solidly unchristian) who believe in wealth redistribution and conservatives like Bahnsen (a confessional Christian) who also believes God’s penal sanctions are still valid for societal ethics. In all fairness I don’t believe, that you believe Zrim’s ridiculous assertions. I respect your integrity enough to ask your opinion; do you side with Zrim, equating Bahnsen as the mirror of a liberal?

    Please say it aint so!

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  40. Darryl, why are you unable to interact with the text I just provided? Sojourners and strangers are in a different class than the Philistines. To be an unbeliever was and is not a Capital crime; remember God winked at sin; to a degree.

    The 7 Nations (Philistines) on the other hand were judged by God for their sexual depravity and wickedness. Unbelieving Strangers and Sojourners were to be treated with kindness, to have to point out this obvious distinction is troubling, but not surprising.

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  41. Zrim is not the first to see the connection between theonomy and liberalism. Richard John Neuhaus noted this thirteen years ago with his excellent explanation and critique of theonomy here:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/08/002-why-wait-for-the-kingdom-the-theonomist-temptation-38

    Here is a snippet:

    “The kingdom is now, if we have the nerve for it, and when it is established Christ will be welcomed into his own. Nor should we forget that species of Evangelicalism found on the left of the political spectrum (e.g., the Sojourners group) that is also convinced that there is in fact a “biblical politics” that can and should be implemented now by radically committed Christians. Of course contemporary theonomists, who wish to think of themselves as conservative, resist the comparison with the liberal Social Gospel and with left-wing Evangelicals, not to mention liberation theology. But the analogies are inescapable. The policy specifics may be dramatically different, but the theological rationale is strikingly similar.”

    There is also a deeply American dimension of optimism in theonomy. The distance from Norman Vincent Peale to Rousas John Rushdoony is not so great as may at first appear. Victorious living, positive thinking, possibility thinking, dominion theology—all are entrenched in the can-do tradition of what used to be called muscular Christianity. It is the perduring power of what Luther called “the theology of glory,” as opposed to “the theology of the cross.” Daring to do the seemingly impossible, such as conquering the world for the reconstruction of humanity, may seem like awesome hubris, unless of course, you have the sure word of God that you are commanded and enabled to do it. In that event, audacity is obedience and pride is faith.”

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  42. Todd, nice. Neuhaus also suggests a hint of prosperity gospel in theonomy, which it is for the politically obsessed: legislate God’s way and he’ll be bound to make that nation a shining city on a hill, aymen-ah!

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  43. Doug,

    Surely you’ve abandoned the disco pants, the mullet, and the cell phone that’s as big as a Pepsi bottle. Can you can let the theonomy go, too? Join us in 2013 America. Reformed Theology has moved on since the 1970’s & 1980s, (as glorious as those days were).

    Have you heard that George Lucas made three whole new Star Wars movies?!

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  44. Doug,

    Zrim & Sean are my spiritual blood brothers and D.G. is our big brother who moved out when we were still kids. There is total harmony between us. All is well in our universe.

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  45. Doug,

    You also need to be able to draw distinctions between the different meanings of the term “liberal”. Machen’s liberals were not Ted Kennedy. Theonomists do share things in common with Machen’s theological liberals in how they want to intertwine the church with the government.

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  46. Erik observes Theonomists do share things in common with Machen’s theological liberals in how they want to intertwine the church with the government.

    Come on bro! We have Christians intertwined in government now! Should we withdraw from society and apologize for believing the Bible? The question isnt IF we will draw the line, the question is WHERE will we draw the inevitable line with our laws and views of morality. I’ll stand with God’s perspective, thank you.

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  47. Zrim, you’re the fellow who has no Scripture to support your aberrant conception of R2K. Only arguments from silence which are always fallacious. You don’t have a leg to stand on, because your foundation is shifting sand. It’s DGH and his ilk that are being praised by Queer Nation and the like for his theology, not Bahnsen. As usual you’ve got it bass ackwards.

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  48. Doug,

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard you explain from the top the difference between the Old and New Covenants. That’s not a snide hint that you don’t *have* such a difference; I’ve just never heard you express it.

    What is your understanding of that difference? And in particular, can you explain why you believe that there should be “one law for the native and for the stranger” but males should not “be circumcised”?

    Thanks,
    Jeff

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  49. Erik demurs Surely you’ve abandoned the disco pants, the mullet, and the cell phone that’s as big as a Pepsi bottle. Can you can let the theonomy go, too?

    Erik, I only had one pair of angel flight pants in my life, (given to me) I never liked Disco, in fact I hated it! I did like Steely Dan, though. I would be thrilled to let theonomy go, if someone, anyone, could come up with a warrant in Scripture. Arguments from silence will not move me.

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  50. Erik, I know we are not old Israel, we are the new Israel! But morality and justice haven’t changed. They can’t change because morality and justice are coterminous. It’s illogical to say, ‘well that was moral then, but not now”.

    Let me give it to you as straight as I can: if executing a kidnapper was the “right thing to do” in Israel, then why isn’t it, “the right thing to do” now? Please tell me the morally relevant circumstances that have changed?

    Philosophically speaking, “doing the right thing”, cannot change unless God himself instructs us otherwise.

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  51. Jeff, the WCF teaches that both the Mosaic and New administrations are one covenant of grace, the same in substance. Israel was saved the same we are, by grace through faith, lest anyone should boast.

    There have been marvelous advancements to be sure. Christ broke the power of sin once for all, and took the keys of life and death from Satan, and humiliated him openly. Plus he purchased a people for himself. We no longer sacrifice animals or need a Levitical priesthood, to get right with God, now Christ is our Great High Priest. The Lord Jesus confirmed the ceremonial law which prefigured his saving work. We are now justified once for all by the blood of the lamb. But we still must offer ourselves a “living sacrifice” holy and acceptable to God which is our reasonable service.

    Jeff, I could go on and on with discontinuities, but let’s just suffice to say, we have tremendous advantages. With that being said, it’s basically the same covenant in substance. David was saved at his mothers breasts, according to his testimony in Psalm 22. just like our children normally are at baptism.

    Also, just like Israel we are called to conquer the world, in his strength. We no longer need a puny steel sword, now we have the sword of the Spirit, the gospel of Christ. When we humble ourselves God will lift us up. But how will we conquer? The same way Israel did, by faith! Trusting in God’s promises! Israel didn’t mow down the Philistines because they were stronger or bigger, or smarter, no no. They defeated there enemies by trusting in God. The analogies are stark. They teach us how to fight. But fight we must, if we are going to be true to our calling. Who is the Victorious Warrior? Who is the commanding King of Kings? Is it not the Lord Jesus?

    If God is for us, then who can be against us?

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  52. So to follow up, what does Paul mean when he says,

    For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

    — Gal 3

    And again,

    Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

    — Rom 6

    What is “the curse of the law”, and what does it mean to be “under law”?

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  53. Jeff, to understand Paul in Galatians we need to take a cue from King David “a man after God’s own heart” on how Israel was supposed to approach the law. Here are some key verses from Psalm 119 for consideration.

    “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.”

    Notice David set the law before him in FAITH. This also destroys DGH’s preposterous notion that the law was not to be appropriated by faith.

    “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”

    David knew it was by grace through faith when it came to obeying God’s commandments. Notice how he gives all the glory to God?

    “Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise.”

    Very crucial! David knew he wasn’t saved by the sacrifices, (even though they were sufficient to cover his sin for the time) he knew salvation would come through the promise!!! When David looked at the Jewish sacrificial law, with its ordinances, washings and Sabbaths he saw a tutor pointing to Christ! David saw the law aright!

    Okay now to Paul.

    For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith

    David didn’t rely on the ceremonial law! As I already proved, he looked ahead to the promise. In fact, every Saint in the older testament saw the law through eyes of faith, and understood the power of sin had not been broken! How can I so sure? Because the sacrifices had to be repeated! King David (as all the Saints) was imprisoned (in a good way) by the law, to cover their sins until Christ would come and break the power of sin and death! And death was the curse of the law. So the ceremonial law was a ministry of death, in that the sacrifices had to be repeated. It reminded God’s people that a price had to be paid for their sin, and blood was spilled every day on account of there sin.

    .” But the law is not of faith,

    Paul is using rich irony to put his finger in the eye of the Judiazers who were demanding Gentile Christians to observe the ceremonial rituals to be saved, which is what Paul meant by ‘works of the law’.. The Judiazers had fallen in love with the ceremonies! So Paul was trying to violently shake them out of their stupor. This is why Paul’s language is so harsh. If they were going to hang on to the ceremonial law, that was not of faith!

    rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”

    Once again Paul, dripping with sarcasm is saying, if Christ hasn’t come, (which is what they were unwittingly implying by forcing Gentile Christians to keep the ceremonial rituals) then they are still under the curse of the law.

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  54. What is “the curse of the law”, and what does it mean to be “under law”?

    The curse of the law was death! To be under the law meant that *faithful* Israel, or the Israel of God were under the Mosaic provisions of the ceremonial law for worship and forgiveness on sins. “And your sins shall be forgiven”. To be under the law, was also a tutor to Christ. The ceremonial rituals were the shadow of Christ. So it was good to be under the law as long as it was appropriated by faith! To sacrifice an animal in pretense wouldn’t cover anyone’s sin.. But now that Christ has come, no one will ever be under the law again! Yea!

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  55. So the “curse of the law” was death because of reliance on ceremonies?

    No, the law taught that the price of sin was death. When someone violated the law, death was the penalty, or curse. Someone had to die! And until Christ could come, the Pascal lamb was the vicarious sacrifice prefiguring Christ. In other words the lamb was a type of Christ.

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  56. Jeff, to answer your other question, unbelievers were never forced to pretend to believe. Israel didn’t force Sojourners to be circumcised. It would be akin to people who aren’t believers today, and force them to be baptized against their will.

    The Strangers and Sojourners in Israel still had to obey the law, (as in one law) but they were not allowed to partake of the Passover meal. Yet God commanded that Israel treat them with kindness! Much like an unbeliever living in New England in the mid 1600’s, they had to obey the law of God, but they couldn’t partake of the Lord’s table, because they are not baptized.

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  57. Todd thanks, I really like the last sentence.

    Victorious living, positive thinking, possibility thinking, dominion theology—all are entrenched in the can-do tradition of what used to be called muscular Christianity. It is the perduring power of what Luther called “the theology of glory,” as opposed to “the theology of the cross.” Daring to do the seemingly impossible, such as conquering the world for the reconstruction of humanity, may seem like awesome hubris, unless of course, you have the sure word of God that you are commanded and enabled to do it. In that event, audacity is obedience and pride is faith.”

    I give a hearty AMEN to that last sentence. It reminds me of how Zrim and DGH are accusing me of audacity and triumphalism, when I want to call it obedience and faith. 🙂

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  58. Doug, can you explain how your stress on the law and obedience harmonizes with justification by faith alone (which is the outworking of “the law is not of faith”). Since you think that affirming good works are tainted with sin, I do think you overestimate the works of believers. You don’t need to be Pelagian or Arminian to believe that good works save. Roman Catholics believe that good works are all of grace.

    In fact, Roman Catholics condemned Protestants in the 1540s and at Trent for holding that good works were tainted with sin, which was also why the Reformers taught that our only hope is in the perfect righteousness of Christ.

    In other words, I don’t see a clear affirmation or by implication of justification by faith alone. What I hear in you is a form of neo-nomianism. Good works may not save, but without them you’re not saved. In contrast, the Bible teaches that good works are not the measure of our salvation. That’s why Paul is criticizing the law and more than merely relying on ceremonies.

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  59. So then, Doug, what would be the difference between the spirit of theonomy and the spirit of prosperity gospel? Aren’t both basically about taking the law-prescriptions of the Bible at face value and expecting temporal victories upon successful execution, one for personal abundance and the other national?

    But if you’re consistent, you’ll not see the theonomic parallel to prosperity gospel any better than you do in Protestant liberalism. Chances are pretty good you’ll cast prosperity gospel as only and ever about the uncouth vices of cash and bling and miss entirely that there is indeed a version of it for those inclined toward the virtues of law and justice.

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  60. Doug,

    Can you point to any New Testament passages that say that now that Christ has come we should seek to govern ourselves in the same way that Old Testament Israel did?

    I think you assume things that are not made explicit in the New Testament. I think Catholics make the same mistake, assuming things that are not made explicit (like the fact that there should be one, visible church led by the Bishop of Rome). Some assumptions and inferences are dangerous which is why Reformed people are usually hesitant to make them.

    I think you latched on to some questionable teachings by some otherwise talented men a few decades ago and have held to them after others have moved on.

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  61. Erik honestly asks, can you point to any New Testament passages that say that now that Christ has come we should seek to govern ourselves in the same way that Old Testament Israel did.

    No, and I don’t think America is governing herself like Israel, either. We aren’t a monarchy, are we? I see wisdom in our form of dividing government in three co=equal branches, but I don’t see a biblical mandate on how a nation should govern herself.

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  62. Zrim inquires, Doug, what would be the difference between the spirit of theonomy and the spirit of prosperity gospel?

    Zrim, I don’t know what you mean by the “spirit of theonomy”. But I reject Ken Copeland’s name it, and claim it, prosperity message, because I don’t see that taught in Scripture. I think Copeland takes a few Scriptures out of context, and ignores the passages that speak about suffering. So I would call the name it and claim it message as dangerous.

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  63. Zrim, the so called social gospel, is unbiblical. Should we love our neighbor? Yes, but the last thing society needs, is a secular “Nanny State forcing us to love our neighbor by stealing from one group, and giving it to another. In the immortal words of Tina Turner, “what’s love got to do with it?” In short, the “Nanny State” is unbiblical and immoral.

    Theonomy, on the other hand, just deals with punishing crime the way God wanted crime punished, when applicable. A murderer should get the death penalty in both Israel and California. Why? Because there are no morally relevant circumstances have changed.

    Zrim, can you think of the morally relevant circumstances that have changed? If you can’t, then what’s the beef?

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  64. Doug, Reformed hermeneutics say that the NT interprets the OT, so if you can’t find any NT precedent on how a nation should govern itself then how are you concluding that the OT judicial codes should be embodied by contemporary nations? But WCF 19 looks to the NT to interpret and says all the judicial (and ceremonial) laws have expired, leaving only the moral law binding.

    Re prosperity, as I thought. But why do you make room for personal suffering and not national? And how do you not make the connection that in all your lamenting about our nation’s ills and tying it to not following God’s law-prescriptions you simply take works-righteousness and apply it geo-politically? I know you don’t distinguish between the personal and political, which is another theonomic flaw, but as long as you are conflating them then why is works-righteousness out for people but in like gangbusters for nations?

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  65. Doug, you may not like what you are calling “the nanny state” but what is more important to 2k is the fact that there is no state that God hasn’t established. Your concern seems to be for a biblical state, but 2k is about a biblical posture of believers toward whatever state they are in, which gives rise to believers living under Nero, Mao or Reagan honoring, submitting, and obeying. Theonomy gives rise to discontent, dishonor, judgmentalism, and discord. Show me one NT reference to believers calling their civil authorities “unbiblical and immoral” for the way in which they rule.

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  66. Zrim, your so full of bull! Where pray tell, is the NT instruction that commands us to baptize our babies? What NT rational can you provide? Where is the explicit direction?

    Psssst, the same place we see the validity of theonomy, wink, wink! Hopefully a light will blink on in your bean!

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  67. Zrim I don’t know, pruning Erik’s trees with a dull spoon in a blizzard, the phone ringing with calls from work and your wife simultaneously and a notice from the I.R.S. that you’ve been “chosen” for an audit that same day, should be looking pretty good about now.

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  68. Darryl, Paul said “we *know* the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” What could be an unlawful use of God’s good law? Look at the Judaizers! Forcing Gentile converts to be circumcised and observe the ceremonial ordinances.

    The Judaizers didn’t understand is that by clinging to the shadows which only pointed to Christ; they were implicitly denying that Christ had accomplished redemption! This is why Paul called their unlawful use of the law; not of faith.

    Surely Paul wasn’t contradicting the man after God’s own heart!

    King David saw the law through eyes of faith, listen to some verses from Psalms 119

    “I will faithfully set your rules before me!”

    And,

    “I will run in the way of your commandments, when you enlarge my heart!”

    And

    “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”

    And one of my favorites,

    “Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD your salvation according to your promise.”

    And

    “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”

    And

    “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.”

    David was no legalist, yet he loved the law, because he appropriated the law by faith! When David looked at the law, he saw the character of God!

    This blows your theory that the law was not to be appropriated by faith, to smithereens! And surely you wouldn’t indict King David of failing to harmonize justification by faith, would you?

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  69. Doug, really? So no qualms with the suggestion that, just like the prosperity impulse, the theonomic impulse breeds the opposite of NT virtues like obedience, patience, restraint, submission, and honor? I’ll take that as tacit admission.

    Sean, with Doug my mental image is more him using a blunderbuss to shoot himself in the foot.

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  70. Zrim, as long as a pespective is founded on the Rock of God’s commands, then why look at motives? The faith message in unbiblical, as I already pointed out, theonomy is not. You need to crack open the Bible and read. Discussing this with you, is like sparring with a boxer without arms.

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  71. Doug,

    Can you prove that the passages you cited regarding the law are meant to apply in a public as opposed to a private context? I think you beg the question a lot regarding theonomy. Just as we ask Cross to prove his contentions about Catholicism we ask you to prove your contentions regarding theonomy. You act like theonomy is just obvious. If it is, why are you the only one who “gets” it. There are some pretty smart men here.

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  72. Sean, ha ha! Especially after I skewerd your sacred cow, (the law is not of faith) canard. I have yet to hear anyone at Old Lilfe interact with King David declaring that he will “faithfully” will set God’s law before him.

    Was the law only of faith for David?

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  73. Erik, which passages do you have in mind? My main point with using David, is to prove that the law needed to be appropriated by faith. As you’re probalby aware, DGH doenst think so. Just look at what David says in Psalms 119, and ask yourself, was David contradicting Paul? Was Paul contradicting Paul? These points I’m making are not theonomic proof texts, although a few of them may qualify. I’m just trying to prove beyond a shadow of doubt, that the law, (in general) was to be appropriated by faith.

    I’m not just Johnny one note here, lol! Although it might seem that way. I’m very concerned that good men here at Old Life seem to have bought this dubious premise that Paul was teaching that the law, in general was not of faith. When in other places Paul clearly says, “we *know* the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” DGH imho has real scorn for the law, in a way I can’t put my finger on. And that is very troubling to me.

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  74. Erik how does this sound? Theonomy deals with punishing crime the way God wanted crime punished, when applicable. A murderer should get the death penalty in both Israel and California. Why? Because there are no morally relevant circumstances, that have changed.

    Erik, can you think of the morally relevant circumstances that have changed? If you can’t, then what’s the beef?

    That’s theonomy’s my main point!

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  75. DGH, are you suggesting that King David was denying justification by faith? He loved the law, and it was his meditation all through the day and night! I tried to take great pains to prove David knew he wasnt saved by law, or law keeping. But the point stands, the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.

    I fully affrim justification by faith, and yet like King David, I love the law!

    Both are true!

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  76. Erik, after reading some of my posts, I see that I use “law” in different senses. There are 3 uses of the law. So I apologize if I was unclear.

    The third use of the law, is theonomic, to punish crimianls, and even I don’t think that’s what David had in mind, when he said, “Oh how I love your law! It’s my mediatiation all through the day and night.”

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  77. Doug, since I didn’t pen the “law is not of faith” card, I guess your guffawing at skewering the apostle Paul and the Holy Spirit. Kudos to you?

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  78. DGH, I really did start to attempt to answer your questions, but I was a little unclear what you wanted me to respond too. If you would be more clear, I would be happy to answer you, without any snark. You asked too many loaded questions for me to answer you at Old Life

    I see no conflect between law and grace, and I see no conflict between faith and law, and I believe I’m provided enough Scriptures to prove that Paul was not making a blanket statement about the law in Galatians, lest he contradict not only David, but himself in other passages. In summary, I would love to see your interact with Psalms 119 to maybe get to the bottom of this. Let me be clear, this is not a theonomic argument, this is much more serious! imho

    See? I’m not Johnny one note!

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  79. Doug,

    And without trying to be overly critical, how is the way you interact with people here (with frequent insults), consistent with loving the law? Doesn’t the law say that if we curse our brothers or say “you fool” we are in danger of hell?

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  80. @Sean; Ha ha, especially when your sacred cow (the law is not of faith) just got skewered and hung out to dry. So much for that easy to disprove theory.

    I have yet to hear anyone at Old Life even begin to interact with King David “faithfully” approaching God’s good law; (No not one!) Not DGH, not Zrim, not Sean, not ANYONE! In fact, I can hear a pin drop all the way from California. Why not concede? Oh, and Sean, one doesnt have to be the author to jump on the bandwagon.

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  81. Doug,

    David tried to keep the law, as do many Christians today. So what’s your point? Saying “the law is not of faith” (as in, they are not the same thing). Is not the same thing as saying people don’t need to be faithful to God or faithful to try keep the law. Who is saying this? Have you created a straw man?

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  82. Erik, I don’t *think* I’ve created a straw man.

    Listen to King David in Psalms 119:32

    “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”

    Notice that David understands that his law keeping is accomplished through the power of God, “enlarging his heart”. In other words even our good works (law keeping) are grace.

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  83. Erik soberly asks, And without trying to be overly critical, how is the way you interact with people here (with frequent insults), consistent with loving the law?

    Erik, your a good brother, and your behavior has been excellent, as of late, I’m very impressed! Me? I still have room to improve, not doubt. But the snark that comes my way, makes it hard for me not to respond in kind. What upsets me the most, is having my words twisted, or worse yet, having God’s law ridiculed.

    I will work on my online behavior 🙂

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  84. Zrim throws down the gauntlet; “show me one NT reference to believers calling their civil authorities “unbiblical and immoral” for the way in which they rule.

    Easy, I’ll show you three! John calls the Beast in Revelations (aka Nero) a wicked ruler, who makes war on the Saints and utters blasphemies against God. See Revelations the 13th chapter.

    In 2nd Thessalonians the second chapter Paul warns the church about a wicked leader, who will rear his ugly head before the fall on Jeruslem in 70AD (probably either the High Priest or Nero) and calls him, the man of lawlessness! Psssst Zrim that means unbiblical and immoral.

    And finally John the Baptist rebukes King Herod for taking his brothers wife! John called Herod’s actions “lawless”. Now Zrim, put on your thinking cap; what law do you suppose Herod was breaking? Roman law? LOL! No? Hmmmmm was John the Baptist a dreaded theonomist? Shouldn’t Herod have shot back using (2K logic), we live under Roman law, not Gods law, two different kingdoms! BTW, John sat in prison and was eventually beheaded for daring to call King Herod, “lawless”! Herod violated God’s law!

    There are three examples off the top of my head, see? Easy Japaneezie!

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  85. I’m very concerned that good men here at Old Life seem to have bought this dubious premise that Paul was teaching that the law, in general was not of faith.

    Uh, huh? You mean like when Paul says in Galatians, “But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” If this is a dubious premise then color me ashen.

    The third use of the law, is theonomic, to punish crimianls…

    Double huh? The third use is the normative use, Doug, as in the entire third section of the HC, as in how sanctification of believers is structured. Maybe you are thinking of the first use (the civil use). But even here it’s not theonomic. Per Muller (Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms):

    When the Reformed and Lutheran scholastics talked about God’s moral law (lex moralis), they taught that there are three basic uses of the law (usus legis). They are:

    1) The civil use (usus politicus sive civilis). That is, the law serves the commonwealth or body politic as a force to restrain sin. This falls under the general revelation (revelatio generalis) discussion in most of the scholastics as well as natural law (cf. Rom 1-2).

    2) The pedagogical use (usus elenchticus sive paedagogicus). That is, the law also shows people their sin and points them to mercy and grace outside of themselves. This is “the use of the law for the confrontation and refutation of sin and for the purpose of pointing the way to Christ” (p. 320). This can be found in the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Days 2-4.

    3) The normative use (usus didacticus sive normativus). That is, this use of the law is for those who trust in Christ and have been saved through faith apart from works. It “acts as a norm of conduct, freely accepted by those in whom the grace of God works the good” (p. 321). This can be found in the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Days 32-52.

    All three uses of the law are all subsumed in Reformed understanding under the moral use, not the judicial which is abolished or the ceremonial which is abrogated (WCF 19).

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  86. Erik; examine the proof I’ve given DGH on unbelieving Strangers living in freedom with Israel. Do you remember when I first made the statement? Darryl went apoplectic, inferring I was full of “you know what”!

    Exodus 12:48

    “If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”

    That was instruction for Israel regarding strangers once they arrived at the Promised Land.

    Or how about Deuteronomy 10:19 ESV

    “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

    God commanded Israel to be kind, and to even to *love* the strangers and sojourners because God loves them, and Israel was once a sojourner in the land of Egypt!

    . Has Darryl apologized? Has Darryl admitted that unbelievers could sojourn through Israel? No! He keeps bringing up Goliath and the Philistines, talk about the ultimate straw man!

    Of course God commanded Israel to drive out the 7 nations!! But what about unbelieving Sojourners and Strangers who would travel through Israel? Much like today, the stranger could only partake of Passover if they were circumcised, while we require baptism.

    Darryl will not concede that God’s law gave provisions for unbelievers. Why won’t he concede the point? This has been a constant pattern with Darryl over the years. So yes, sometimes I get a cranky, being talked down too, by men who will not admit when they’re mistaken. If Darryl would concede a point, I would fall on my face and praise the Lord!

    Finally, I have never cursed anyone at Old Life, to my knowledge.

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  87. Doug,

    I don’t think you’re a bad guy and I don’t totally disagree with you. I just think you’re a bit out of balance in your emphases. As Christians we should probably spend more time looking at ourselves and our own shortcomings than trying to reshape society through the Law of God or any other means. That’s what I’m figuring out as I get older, anyway. Most of the time I’m the problem in my life, not anyone else.

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  88. Doug, I well understand you see no conflict. It would take a dope not to understand that about you. But what is not clear is how you speak so often about salvation and the kingdom coming through obedience and then reconcile that with justification by faith alone. Paul was aware of a tension between David and himself if it meant adding anything to faith or Christ’s righteousness.

    And since you scorched me for suggesting that even our good works are dirty rags — a position that the Reformers affirm and Rome denied — I am still not sure you grasp the conflict that you are in even if you don’t see it.

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  89. Doug, your first two examples only demonstrate your penchant for conflating religion and morality. While everything immoral is opposed to God, not everything opposed to God is immoral. NT writers indicating how the powers of the world are opposed to the kingdom of God just isn’t even the same ball park as believers slandering and maligning the authorities God has placed over them as his ministers. Have you read Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-20?

    On the third, the challenge was to find an example in the NT of believers calling their civil authorities “unbiblical and immoral” for the way in which they rule, not for the way in which they live. There’s that political-personal confusion again.

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  90. Jeff, let me expound:

    Galatians 3:23 plus

    “Now before *faith* came”,

    Paul is saying before (the object of our faith came.) Not that the Old Testament law wasn’t to be looked at with eyes of faith.

    “we were held captive under the law, imprisoned

    The ceremonial provisions (offered in faith) were efficacious to forgive sins, allowed God’s people to worship and praise Him, protecting, or imprisoning the remnant from the consequences of their sins (or the curse of the law) which is death.

    “until the coming faith would be revealed.”

    Until the object of King David’s faith could be revealed, Christ incarnate!

    “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came

    The ceremonial law, (Or restorative law) protected, and guarded God’s people from the curse of the law, which was DEATH. Not the moral law, which we all break every day, old and new covenant! But during the “law” only the ceremonial sacrifices with Sabbaths and washings and ordinances, appropriated in faith would cover their sins and make God’s people walk in his blessings!

    , in order that we might be justified by faith.”

    David made it quite clear, that he looked forward to being justified one day in the future! This doesn’t mean David wasn’t regenerate, nor does it mean he didn’t have faith, it mean his faith looked ahead! David saw the law aright!

    Finally in the Mosaic administration, the people of God were not justified. The sacrifices for sins and worship had to be repeated, daily! This is why it was called an administration of death! Blood was spilled everyday for over 1500 years!

    Jeff, give me some feedback!

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  91. Hi Doug,

    Thanks for the extended response. There’s parts that I agree with, so don’t take what comes below as a total rejection, but rather a zeroing in on differences.

    (1) “we were held captive under the law, imprisoned.” The ceremonial provisions (offered in faith) were efficacious to forgive sins…

    There’s one of the problems. Hebrews makes clear that the ceremonial provisions were *not* efficacious to forgive sins (which is why they had to be offered daily). In fact, you make this point later, but you don’t notice the contradiction.

    No, the ceremonial provisions were a shadow of the forgiveness that actually came through the priest of the different order, from the better sacrifice.

    This is not a trivial distinction. Notice how you characterize the ceremonial law as “the restorative law”, and attribute being “under the Law” as being obligated to the ceremonies.

    The mental image conveyed by your words is that the sacrifices themselves actually *did* something, placated God of themselves, and that the Hebrews were in bondage because they had to offer those sacrifices to obtain forgiveness.

    When one puts it like that, it sounds remarkably similar to the RC “sacrament of penance.”

    And again you say, “Finally in the Mosaic administration, the people of God were not justified. The sacrifices for sins and worship had to be repeated, daily!”

    But Paul says,

    However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

    “Blessed are those
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
    Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”

    — Rom 4.5-8

    David *was* justified by faith, and he was not an outlier but a typical example of an OT saint whose justification was not through ceremonies — such as circumcision, as Paul points out in Rom 2 — but through faith.

    So my biggest objection is that you seem to understand the function of the OT law in a way that contradicts Hebrews and Romans.

    (2) And so related to this, I would disagree with your understanding of “under the Law” in Romans. It doesn’t make sense to me how Paul could say

    Romans 6 with Sowers’ lexicon: For sin shall not be your master, for you are not obligated to the ceremonies but under grace.

    Read in this way, Paul seems to be engaging in a non-sequitur.

    But what if “under the Law” means something else entirely. What if it means, as I think it does, that the Hebrews were obligated to keep the Law, and received physical rewards for doing so and physical punishments for not doing so.

    Now several things fall into place.

    * We’ve correlated being “under the law” with the theme of Deuteronomy (keep, be blessed/break, be cursed) and with the history of Israel.
    * We’ve connected being “under the law” with “the curse of the law”
    * Romans 6 now makes sense: Sin shall not be your master because you are not following the law under threat, but instead are under grace.

    And in fact, this has been (correct me if I’m wrong anyone) the historic Reformed understanding of that phrase. Thus Calvin:

    Hence, not to be under the law means, not only that we are not under the letter which prescribes what involves us in guilt, as we are not able to perform it, but also that we are no longer subject to the law, as requiring perfect righteousness, and pronouncing death on all who deviate from it in any part. In like manner, by the word grace, we are to understand both parts of redemption — the remission of sins, by which God imputes righteousness to us, — and the sanctification of the Spirit, by whom he forms us anew unto good works. The adversative particle, [ἀλλὰ, but,] I take in the sense of alleging a reason, which is not unfrequently the case; as though it was said — “We who are under grace, are not therefore under the law.”

    The sense now is clear; for the Apostle intended to comfort us, lest we should be wearied in our minds, while striving to do what is right, because we still find in ourselves many imperfections. For how much soever we may be harassed by the stings of sin, it cannot yet overcome us, for we are enabled to conquer it by the Spirit of God; and then, being under grace, we are freed from the rigorous requirements of the law. We must further understand, that the Apostle assumes it as granted, that all who are without the grace of God, being bound under the yoke of the law, are under condemnation. And so we may on the other hand conclude, that as long as they are under the law, they are subject to the dominion of sin.

    — Calv Comm Rom 6.

    So I would suggest two interrelated corrections. First, that it is better to see the ceremonies as shadows and not as efficacious actions of themselves. Second, that it is better to relate “under the Law” to the reward/punishment aspect of the Law and not the obligation to the ceremonies.
    Thoughts?

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  92. I should add that Calvin above goes a bit further with “under the Law”, viewing (as I do) the curse of the Law as ultimately referring to spiritual, eternal condemnation. So there’s an elegant parallel here:

    ceremonies (are the shadow of) => forgiveness
    physical curses/blessings (are the shadow of) => eternal death/life

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  93. Thanks for the feed back Jeff!

    I’m not so sure that juxtaposing Galatians next to Romans 6 is helpful in discerning the meaning of “under the law. How about this, When Paul says “under the law” he means being under the yoke of the Mosaic administration, in a very broad sense. Can you track with me on that? Remember Paul states, “the law is good, if one uses it lawfully”.

    But “being under the law” can be looked at from different angles. I think Paul is clearly teaching justification by faith in Romans 6 and teaching us what our baptism in Christ means. Our redemption has been accomplished, and Christ has broke the power of sin, and amen!

    But the ceremonial law *also* separated Jew from Gentile which needed to be laid aside in Christ! That aspect of the ceremonial law had been abolished along with the ordinances, so that He might create one new man in place of the two, making peace.

    Ephesians 2:11-16

    Upon further reflection think that’s what Paul is driving concern in Galatians 3:23. The Judiazers were keeping Christ’s body divided by the old order, which Christ had abolished in his own flesh.

    Let me ask you a few questions, was King David under the law?

    Were both reprobate and regenerate Israelites “under the law”?

    Was Moses under the law?

    Or, was only Apostate Israel “under the law”?

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  94. Doug: How about this, When Paul says “under the law” he means being under the yoke of the Mosaic administration, in a very broad sense. Can you track with me on that? Remember Paul states, “the law is good, if one uses it lawfully”.

    Yes, I can track with that. I would ask then for specificity about “yoke.”

    And yes, I can affirm together with Paul and David that the Law is good (and I am not!).

    Doug: But the ceremonial law *also* separated Jew from Gentile which needed to be laid aside in Christ! That aspect of the ceremonial law had been abolished along with the ordinances, so that He might create one new man in place of the two, making peace.

    Yes, that’s very true. I agree with you that the ceremonial aspect of the law is in view in Eph 2.

    Doug: Let me ask you a few questions, was King David under the law?

    Yes.

    Were both reprobate and regenerate Israelites “under the law”?

    Yes.

    Was Moses under the law?

    After Sinai, Yes.

    The Israelites were deliberately placed by God under the Law for the purpose of tutelage. And by “under the Law”, I understand to mean, placed under the ceremonial and judicial provisions of the law, under the blessings and curses of the Law which were typical of God’s judgment of sin.

    So David was

    * justified: Forgiven of his sins and not under God’s eternal condemnation for sin. His guilt was wiped away.
    * under the law: subject to blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.

    I think this framework makes the best sense of the David-Uriah-Nathan episode. David was forgiven, but was also punished.

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  95. Good question, and it doesn’t admit of a clean answer. More No than Yes, but that needs qualification.

    First, in terms of guilt and eternal punishment: Men are born sinners and guilty before God, and are justified by faith in the Son. They therefore do not move from “not condemned” to “condemned” by disobedience and back to “not condemned” by obedience.

    Instead, if they do not believe, they are “condemned already because they have not believed in the only-begotten Son of God.” (John 3). And again, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8)

    In terms of temporal punishments, we do see a couple of instances of God visiting temporal punishments upon those in the visible church for the sake of His glory: Acts 5, 1 Cor 11. But those instances seem to be very, very rare. Much more commonly, God seems to work by normal providence to allow wisdom and foolishness to receive their respective rewards. This is very different from the OT in which national obedience was directly and immediately keyed to national blessing, and national disobedience was directly and less immediately (because of God’s patience) keyed to national suffering.

    Even more so, we see that in the NT economy, the “reward” for faithfulness is frequently persecution. Wealth is not, in the NT, a reward for obedience so much as a material good that carries temptation and requires wisdom and kingdom investment to handle.

    The blessings that Christians receive are in Christ, not in obedience.

    The reason the question is complicated is that Proverbs has not been overturned — wisdom is still wise, and tends to reap reward of a temporal nature. And wisdom and obedience look very similar. But they are not synonymous. The man who avoids the adultress out of fear of consequences has still acted wisely in an inferior sense, but he has not been obedient. He reaps the temporal reward of avoiding bad stuff, but he has done nothing of eternal value.

    To summarize: In the new covenant, our blessings are in Christ, and outside of Christ is only a curse — eternally speaking. In the temporal realm, Proverbs still holds sway, but the reward of wisdom is not the reward of obedience.

    The answer that I’m giving here is attempting to be guided by this:

    VI. Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin, and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof; although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works: so as a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace. — WCoF 19.6

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  96. Jeff, then how do you understand Jesus stern warnings to the 7 churches in Asia Minor? Jesus threatened the church of Thyratira that he would kill there children if they didn’t repent! Why? Because of sexual immorality. Yet for those who conquer in other places Jesus promises they will rule the nations with the same authority that he has.

    In fact, in the new covenant the blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience seem to have increased from the older administration. Give me an overview of Revelations chapter two and three!

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  97. Jeff, I forgot to say I almost fully agree with your post! Yea! Maybe our only disagreement is the temporal blessings and curses Jesus spoke about in Revelations.

    God bless you brother!

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  98. Hi Doug,

    A very thought-provoking question.

    First, about method: Revelation admits to a wide range of frames. Is it to be understood from a preterist or futurist viewpoint? Is it using more literal language or more symbolic language?

    For that reason, I would not use Revelation as a primary text for establishing a general theological principle.

    Just to put my cards on the table, I view ch 2-3 as written to actual churches, and the “angels” are possibly the ministers of those churches, but possibly symbolic representations of the churches themselves.

    The thesis I put forward above is that in the New Covenant, the blessings and curses are eternal and not (generally) temporal.

    Rev 2-3 appears to be consistent with this. The blessings for “persevering” and “overcoming” are eschatological or mystic in nature:

    * To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
    *The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
    * To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
    * The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star.

    etc.

    What about the curses for disobedience?

    *So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
    * And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.
    * Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
    * So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth … Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

    What I am not seeing are direct temporal consequences (“your crops will fail; your lambs will fail to calve”) as in Deuteronomy. Rather, I am seeing Jesus promising to reject the churches — whether in the eschaton or in the near future — using language that is not obviously temporal.

    So what about 2.22 – 23? Here we do see a threat of “great tribulation” for those who commit adultery with “Jezebel.” And there may be a temporal aspect to this. But it is vague enough that we cannot hang a continuation of Deuteronomy onto this.

    What about “striking children dead”? It is not *their* children he threatens, but hers.

    (καὶ τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς ἀποκτενῶ ἐν θανάτῳ, and her children I will kill in death, a Hebraism that intensifies the meaning)

    We could consider the possible meanings for “her children”, but none of those mean “their children.”

    To summarize, there is a lot here that is consistent with the thesis that the temporal curses and blessings of Deuteronomy are not carried over into the New Covenant. You write,

    in the new covenant the blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience seem to have increased from the older administration.

    Yes. Eternal life and eternal death are of greater moment than the temporal blessings and curses of the old covenant. In fact, the latter were a type of the former.

    And eternal life is obtained by faith.

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  99. Jeff admits, “just to put my cards on the table, I view ch 2-3 as written to actual churches, and the “angels” are possibly the ministers of those churches, but possibly symbolic representations of the churches themselves.”

    I agree!

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  100. Jeff, I would encourage you to read and mediate on Jesus messages to the 7 churches, some more. Better yet check out Greg Bahnsen’s teaching of Revelations over at *covenant media foundation*. Van Til sat in on Bahnsen’s teaching on Revelations and was so impressed he said every Christian should hear it! You could pick up his teachings on chapter two and three, for a couple of bucks, and I think you would be very happy you did.

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  101. Well, why don’t you lay out some of the material here? I don’t mind listening to Bahnsen, but then I would have to recommend Beale, and that gets expensive. 🙂

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