Chapter 6: The World-Scope of God's Law
Though many may at this point feel convinced about the theonomic thesis in private use, the general controversy occurs during the discussion of scope. Many may accept the application of the Mosaic law in their private life, home and even church while still struggling with the global ramifications of the theonomic argument.
This is where I have found myself personally over the last couple months. This chapter is good but simple.
God's Law and Israel
The first and strongest argument against the scope of God's law always deals with Israel. The Mosaic law was quite clearly given to the people of Israel. It can even be said it has been given exclusively to the people of Israel. But that isn't the same as saying the scope is limited to Israel.
There are multiple different ways that this argument is presented. Many of these arguments are fleshed out more and answered directly by Greg Bahnsen in a series on Theonomic Critics. In particular lectures three and five contain strong arguments that involve God's special relationship with Israel during the Old Testament.
Mosaic Law and the Nations
This sections consists of five responses to this general argument. Three of them will be discussed today and two will be discussed later. There is also a fine exposition at the end of the chapter that deserves some special attention.
1. Confusions of Moral Commandments and Covenant Form.
This is almost the same as saying one must maintain the distinction between the moral commandments given to Israel and their special ceremonial commandments given under the Mosaic Covenant. Mr Gentry cites a few moral commandments that transcend the covenants: murder (Exo 20:13; Rom 1:29), theft (Exo 20:15; 1 Cor 6:9-10), etc..
The continuation of these is not in question for most Christians. But the confusion comes with where the Judicial commandments fall. Do they belong to the ceremonial/covenant commandments that are fulfilled in Christ? Or are they an explication of the moral commandments?
There are multiple passages that affirm this distinction in the law and God's preference towards one over the other (Hose 6:6; 1 Sam 15:22; Psa 51:14-17). The Theonomic thesis claims that the Judicial laws are part of God's moral commandments that have not change in the New Covenant era. If these are moral commandments then one cannot expect the scope to be solely limited to Israel.
2. God's Law is in Fact Designed to be a Model for the Nations.
This one is for all the BCVs people out there: Deuteronomy 4:5-8.
So in fact the model God gave in Israel was suppose to provoke the nations to copy it. There are two distinct thoughts that can come out of this. The first is that the church is now the better model. But this doesn't make sense since a nation can't copy the church (especially Baptist churches lol).
The second thought is that the this model would only accomplish this promise as it was fulfilled in Spirit-filled Christians who truly kept the law out of love for God. The promises of the New Covenant and the law being written on hearts seems to point to this perspective (Jer 31:33).
In either case it is clear that God desired for Israel to follow this commandments for blessing. And not a temporary blessing but one of longevity (Deut 4:40; 12:28; etc). It is hard to argue that God gave a model for national success but does not desire any modern nation to follow it or receive similar blessing. In fact disobedience of this law brings curses and destruction (Deut 28:15, 49-50, 63-65). The Old Testament model does not seem to leave middle ground for another source of law. Mr Gentry had much more to say in this section but I've got to cut it off somewhere! :-)
3. The Nations are Often Judged for Disobeying the Law.
This is a collage of Book-Chapter-Verse arguments. The first is simple: Lev 18:24-27. The people in the land before Israel were expelled because they did not obey the law. Likewise, in a couple places the prophets pronounce condemnation upon foreign nations for disobeying things found in the law (Amos 1:6; Hab 2:6). The greatest of these is found in Sodom and Gomorrah (Deut 19:4-8; Jude 1:7; Gen 19:13, 24). One can even add the fear of Cain to the list that points to "non-Israelites" needing to conform to the law before it was explicitly given (Gen 4:14).
It in fact is Leviticus 18 in conjunction with Rom 1:32; 2:12-16 that convinced me of this portion of the theonomic thesis. But we'll address more of Mr Gentry's arguments later.