The term theonomy implies nothing more than the application of God’s Law to all of life. It is true that the sundry laws of the Old Testament expired with the state of that people, but the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly teaches that the general equity of the Old Testament law did not expire with the state of Old Testament Israel. This general equity is normative and regulative not only for the church today, but also for the civil magistrate since he is a minister of the same God as the God who rules the church.
In the recent article, The Shadowy Nature of Theonomy (Nov. 22, 2022), Nicolas T. Batzig takes to task that grand old nemesis of post-modern and Reformed churchmen: Theonomy. He draws the conclusion that the judicial laws of the Old Testament are ecclesiocentric rather than theocentric, i.e., that the judicial laws of the Old Covenant are fulfilled in the New Testament Church alone. As a shadow of the future, their application was limited to the church only. The earthy Old Testament laws are spiritualized and solitarily find their home in the ecclesia. This thinking fits well with the radical two-kingdom theology prevalent at Westminster Seminary in California. The assertion is that these Old Testament laws have nothing to do with the realm of the modern civil magistrate today; the church is spiritual and she only becomes soiled when dealing with politics.
However, God’s Kingdom not only includes the church, but also extends beyond the church. The God of the Bible is sovereign and the center of the universe. All of life (including the civil magistrate) is under him and his law, thus the term theocentric.
I know Mr. Batzig’s arguments well since I was once in his camp. I studied at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (when there was only one) during the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s. I came out of Seminary teaching Mr. Batzig’s views to the churches where I pastored.
Eventually, I concluded that Christ Kingship extends beyond the church into all areas of life. If Christ is not King over all, then he is not King at all. I became a student of Rushdoony, North, Bahnsen, Gentry, and DeMar. I was delivered from my “dogmatic slumber.”
The term theonomy implies nothing more than the application of God’s Law to all of life. It is true that the sundry laws of the Old Testament expired with the state of that people, but the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly teaches that the general equity of the Old Testament law did not expire with the state of Old Testament Israel. This general equity is normative and regulative not only for the church today, but also for the civil magistrate since he is a minister of the same God as the God who rules the church (Rom. 13:4).
Because of this silence of the church, many Christians today are struggling to find a way to push back against what they see as the deterioration of America. Hence, the rise of the conversation about Christian Nationalism. The modern church and her ecclesiocentricity has left a vacuum, and many Christians are looking for something to fill that vacuum. I have spoken against the use of the term Christian Nationalism (see my article on Christian Nationalism – Dump the Term While We Still Can), but I have also spoken for the concept of Christendom and the concept of a Christian Nation (e.g., here, here and here).
The Apostle Paul was an apostle to the church and not to the Empire of Rome. The early church was a persecuted church in embryonic form, and Paul did apply the Old Testament laws to the church (like not muzzling the ox, excommunication, and the necessity of two or three witnesses), and rightly so.
However, just because Paul limited their application to the church in her nascent form does not negate their regulatory purpose in the world outside of the church at other periods in history. The same general equity of these laws also applies to every other institution of life, especially the civil government. The experience of the New Testament church with the civil magistrate is not normative for all ages. Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 is the standard! The civil magistrate is to promote good and mitigate evil. The definition of good and evil is found only in the Bible, and the general equity of the Old Testament judicial laws have much to add to our knowledge of good and evil.
For example, in the Old Testament there was a law that demanded a parapet be put around the roof of a house. There was also a law that a kid shall not be boiled in its mother’s milk. In specificity, these laws are irrelevant to our society today, except where the general equity does apply. The law requiring parapets teaches us to love our neighbors by taking every precaution to preserve their life. My neighbor has a fence around her swimming pool. The boiling-milk law teaches us that mothers are to give life to their children and not death.
Christ told us that when we pray, we should ask that his Kingdom come. His Kingdom is clearly seen by God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. We do not pray that his will be done only in the church today, but rather on the whole earth in every part of life. The Lord’s Prayer is not ecclesiocentric. It is theocentric.
The consequences of ecclesiocentricity have been devastating for our nation and will likely bring a curse upon our children and grandchildren. This is not mere academics, but real life in a real world. Ideas have consequences. When Christians stopped believing in a theocentric world where God’s law reigns supreme in all areas of life, we, de facto, delivered the realm of the civil magistrate (and all other institutions) over to the religion of Neo-Marxism. Our silence to speak to the issues of our society helped create the lawless world in which we live today. Unlike John the Baptist, we failed to confront the king with the law of God. We neglected our duty as prophets.
America has been de-Christianized over the last 50-70 years, and consequently abortion and homosexual marriage are now legal. Men dress like women and dance before our youth. Young children are being groomed into changing their gender by surgical mutilation. Laws (e.g., the Respect for Marriage Act) are presently being promoted to silence all opposition coming from Christians in the public square. This is because what our enemy desires in the end is not toleration but domination.
We are in a war, and ecclesiocentricity is no option for Christians.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.