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Theonomy

I do not fully understand the inner workings of Facebook. When folks tag me on my timeline I get these posts I have to either publish or hide. And when I do so, I end up with a page of stuff going back years. I keep hitting “hide” and then it happens the next time, with more stuff, even older. Maybe someday I will get through it all, but I doubt it.

Anyway, I was just doing the “hide, hide, hide” stuff, currently back in 2017 somewhere, when I ran across an article about theonomy, and as I scanned through it I discovered a huge block quote of…me. Well how about that? You never know what you will dig up when you aren’t even looking for something. Anyway, here’s the quote:

“In regards to the term theonomy, that is a hot button as well for many reasons; partially because there’s so many different definitions of that term and there’s so many different kinds of theonomists; and partly because unfortunately when someone starts talking about these things, you end up getting people very quickly taking sides and building their walls and getting behind their walls and start shooting each other and you get in trouble…. It gets difficult to get folks to calm down and think about it.
[…] Theonomy simply means ‘the law of God’ and the idea that God’s law should be the standard for mankind… and I would think Biblically that would not really be an overly controversial issue but it is for a lot of folks. If… the law of God reflects His holy nature, then you’re going to have a very high view of God’s law and you’re going to basically say that man’s law will reflect God’s creative purposes most closely when it reflects the law that God has revealed to us concerning how men should behave. Obviously at that point the question becomes: ‘how do we differentiate between that which is an abiding moral principle in the law of God and that which specifically had application to the people of Israel? Can anyone in this life come up with the perfect way that would convince everybody that ‘this is how we do this…?’ I don’t know if in this life it is ever going to happen. But I can agree with Greg Bahnsen who said [White is paraphrasing here] ‘just because it is a difficult and challenging task doesn’t mean that we should not be pursuing it.’”

Somehow the mobs did not descend on me at that point in time. Must have been busy doing the mob thing somewhere else? Or maybe 2017 was just such a more peaceful time? Hard to tell. In any case, I really have not changed my view. Anyone who listened to my 38 sermon series on the Holiness Code knows that by many definitions of “theonomy,” I would fit in quite nicely. Very high view of the abiding moral validity of the Mosaic law, its revelation of God’s character, its usefulness as a revelation of God’s intentions for all of human society. But (and here’s the issue), by other definitions, I don’t fit at all, since clearly I identify the penal sanctions as part of the theocratic structure of the people of Israel and incapable of being transported out of that context and that time frame. Of course, even then we can learn from the nature of those penal sanctions, but you simply cannot transport them lock, stock and barrel outside of their original context. So, for some, that not only precludes me, but makes me an “anti-nomian!”

What does this illustrate? First, that the autonomy/theonomy question is quite valid. It only grates on us because we have been so completely inundated by “not under law but under grace” a-contextual citations that we no longer even see the centrality of the law in the moral discussions in the NT. Autonomy is rebellion, theonomy is submission. It really IS that simple.

But, of course, that isn’t really the debate amongst serious Christians. If you can get folks to lay aside all their prejudices and just think clearly for a while, no one is going to say, “Yes, it is much better to allow mankind to figure out the basis of law and ethics without reference to God’s revelation.” Disastrous indeed. So the real issue is how we interpret the Mosaic code, how we understand its own innate and necessary divisions and distinctions, how this is passed down into the prophets and applied, even in the denunciation of external nations, and most importantly, how the Apostles then took that law, which they called good, and made application in the days following the coming of the Holy Spirit and the spreading of the gospel in the Roman Empire. And that, my friends, is tough work–made all the tougher by the constant bent of American evangelicalism especially toward autonomy in all things, moral, ethical, and soteriological (a synergist has a foundational bent toward autonomy and against theonomy).

So, here’s my suggestion. Recognize that many of us inherit a bias against the term theonomy (even my computer underlines it in red!). That bias may come from our synergistic traditions. It may come, as it did for me, from the 1980s when the term was associated with wild-eyed recons running around wanting to stone rebellious children at the city gates (if one could find such a location). It may come from Reformed fundies who are into associationalism—“That guy was a bad guy and he spoke at a conference once with another guy whose daughter married an open theonomist!” Recognize we live in a day where labels carry the mental power that careful, truthful arguments used to carry back in the day when everyone recognized that emotions were not in and of themselves carriers of objective truth.

So, if you ask me, “Are you a theonomist?” I will say “Yes!” and will immediately ask, “Are you an autonomist?” After a few moments of blinking I can then say, “So, you recognize that the creature is insufficient grounds for morals and ethics, that as Christians we recognize God has revealed His will in His law, in the New Covenant that law is written upon our hearts, and is not some radically different law than the one Jeremiah would have known, and that God’s law is just and good and right. So, the real question becomes, do we know that law well enough to tear President Bartlet to shreds in the West Wing Episode and hence make consistent applications in light of the gospel and the church’s mission in the world today?”

Here is the link to my 38 sermon series on the topic, starting six years ago, and here is the link to the West Wing episode I just referenced. May I suggest that any self-respecting Christian needs to be ready to respond to this kind of diatribe with something more than “Well, that’s just OT law for the Jews”? Remember, the Holiness Code also includes “love your neighbor” and “honor the elderly” and “pay the worker his wages,” so we need to do a lot more in-depth thinking than you might think.

Quick G3 Report, the NWT, then Open Phones on Lots of Topics

Talked a bit about our time at G3, then up in NY at New Hyde Park Baptist Church, talked a little about the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and then started on calls, with discussions of 2 Cor. 5:21 as well as the eternal generation of the Son taking up most of the time.

The Dividing Line is on YouTube video. Our YouTube channel also provides videos of most of the debates that Dr. White has done over the years. Take some time and browse it to see if there is something there of interest to you. If you are looking for the next upcoming show be sure to subscribe to the blog as we post show announcements the morning of the show.

The Importance of Knowing God is Being Worshiped Upon His Throne

Goodness the world is a mess. Wars and rumors of wars, dangers abound. Yet how many are in any way truly seeking the Lord at times like this? In times of trouble in the past men prayed. How many pray today? How many acknowledge God’s kingship, His purpose?

I am working on my G3 sermon, which is coming up fairly quickly. We are speaking about worship this year, and I hope and pray everyone who will be attending is preparing their hearts to truly worship. I am afraid many of us will just come stumbling in, expecting a miracle, and it is exactly a miracle that would be required, since our minds will be filled with worldly thoughts and cares, if we are not careful! In any case, consider the fact that in Scripture a few times we are given a glimpse of heavenly worship. How often do we thank the Lord for these revelations? What if we had no idea? Think about Isaiah 6, and the glorious vision given to John in Revelation 4 and 5. Have you ever considered what it means that while men are murdering and plotting and scheming upon earth, the greatest creatures God has ever made are enthralled in constant and uninterrupted worship of Yahweh in heaven? There is no tumult, no turmoil, in the presence of the thrice holy One. All the schemes and weapons and atrocities of men do not interrupt the worship of God upon His throne. Think about all the things this should communicate to us. Just a few to ponder:

If God were actually in the job of reacting to mankind rather than working out His sovereign decree, would He not be most disturbed at what man is doing, most distracted?

The priorities of the greatest of God’s creatures are the proper ones: they recognize their creatureliness, and hence the necessity of their worship of their Creator. Does this not tell us how far removed we are from a true and proper recognition of ourselves as God’s creations, and hence He, as our Creator?

There is so much more, but tonight as I hear of tumults and attacks and war, I am reminded that in the heavenly realms all is calm, and is as it has been since the dawn of time. Turn off the television, shut down the Internet, and see if you cannot hear, with the ears attuned to Scripture, the echoes of glory itself:

Ἅγιος ἅγιος ἅγιος κύριος σαβαωθ, πλήρης πᾶσα ἡ γῆ τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ.

Holy! Holy! Holy! Yahweh of Hosts! All the earth is full of His glory!

Amen and amen, let it ever be.

Alexanders and the Church

When Paul wrote his last epistle to Timothy he knew his time was short. I have often commented that what you include in your last communication with a dear friend will reflect what weighs the most heavily upon your heart as you stand on the brink of eternity. So it is important to see that though he did not wax on about it, Paul was a hurt man. I do not have time today to fully unpack the section, but take a look at 2 Timothy 4:14-18. Paul says that at his first apologia “no one showed up.” He was alone. Why? The older I get, the more I experience false brethren and the strife and hatred they sow, I think I know why. Can you imagine what the private Facebook group for the former members of the churches of Galatia was like? Oh my. The slander. The railing. The lies. Former members who have been put out of a fellowship can be like that, as everyone actually involved in ministry knows—at least those who still practice church discipline and call for repentance and restoration. Paul surely did, and can you imagine what vilification he was subject to on a daily basis?

But here’s the point: I am sure many recognized the lies that were hurled at the Apostle, but that is why slander is so vociferously condemned as sin in Scripture: it works. It distracts. It divides. It poisons. It destroys, both the one against whom it is directed as well as the one producing it (it is poison to one’s soul, but it is often a slow and very fatal poison). But it is easy to make the calculated decision to “stay away” when the incoming fire is heavy, and hence, was that why “no one showed up” at Paul’s first apologia?

But notice that even in this, his last word to Timothy, he “names names.” Alexander the coppersmith. Alexander did Paul much “kaka,” evil, harm. God allows that to happen. I wish He didn’t, but He does. Evil men can harm even apostles of the Lord. Godly ministers have had to endure Alexanders throughout the history of the church. They have been sanctified by the suffering these men have brought into their lives. But notice as well. “The Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” There’s actually a variant here. Either, “the Lord WILL repay him” (statement of fact), or “the Lord repay him” (expression of desire or wish). God may use these Alexanders, but oh my, the judgment that awaits them will not tarry, and it will be harsh.

Then Paul warns the next generation: you will have to be on guard. This will not stop with Paul’s passing. No, the Alexanders are tireless. They stay up at night digging for dirt and lies and slander. They wake in the morning hatching plots and scheming schemes. This is their life, and a miserable one it is, but oh how they love it! Power over others! They do not care about money—they want to destroy, divide, draw men away, all to their own advancement and position. So Alexander will keep going like the Energizer Slanderer, so watch out, Timothy! He will come after you as well, for “he strongly stood against our words,” i.e., our teaching. Whether Alexander was a false brother or just a pagan opposer, we cannot know for certain. But one thing we do know: Paul had to endure him, and Timothy did as well.

It has never been God’s intention that His church should sail through calm waters with ease. Each generation has its battles, and one of the most severe comes from within, from false professors, false brethren, who sow division and strife. The opposition of the world we can abide, but when it comes from those professing the name of Christ, there is little more draining, more challenging. But we can with Paul have his confidence: even though no one showed up, “the Lord stood with me and strengthened me,” and as a result his faith was strong: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and will (literally) save me into His heavenly kingdom.” In the end, we have to put it all in the Lord’s hands. He knows our hearts. So many times we cannot even defend ourselves (as we are prohibited by Scripture, and others would be destroyed by our defense) against the lies and slanders of the modern day Alexanders. But God knows, and God will save, and God will judge. There is a far greater court than that of twenty first century social media, and as long as you know you can stand before that judge with a clear conscience, all is well.

A Study in Projection: Responding to JD Hall

Tis the season to have to respond to another low in internet “polemics,” and so we did, responding to JD Hall’s show, which featured a picture he trolled from my social media feed, “James White is What Would Happen if Ignorance and Arrogance Had a Love Child.” Yep, that’s the title, and the substance matched the same level of childishness. It is particularly worrisome that JD’s memory is becoming twisted by his insistence upon being RIGHT about everything. He is now making things up as he goes along. In any case, we demonstrate the massive holes in his diatribe and continue to stand against his efforts to bully and slander others with impugnity.

The Dividing Line is on YouTube video. Our YouTube channel also provides videos of most of the debates that Dr. White has done over the years. Take some time and browse it to see if there is something there of interest to you. If you are looking for the next upcoming show be sure to subscribe to the blog as we post show announcements the morning of the show.