Who’s the Radical?

It was fascinating to witness the shock on the Internet among theonomists and some Neo-Cals over a suggestion I made a few years ago that as a political libertarian I leaned toward the government not seeking to punish sexual perversity such as adultery, homosexuality or bestiality; that some things are better left to God to judge. My point was simply to say there is freedom for Christians to disagree on how government should enforce against these types of perversions.

When one does a little research one learns that Americans have always sought criminal enforcement when human beings are physically harmed or forced against their consent to engage in sexual related activities. But in matters of adultery, fornication, homosexuality and bestiality, that has not been the case.

Often conservatives lament how far we’ve come from the time in America when sins like sodomy and the like carried swift penalties, even the death penalty. But a look at the actually history paints a very different picture. Though laws in the colonies usually did prohibit perversions like sodomy and bestiality, rarely were these laws enforced. It seems in the U.S. there has been a libertarian zeitgeist when it comes to sexual matters; though these sexually-related sins remained on the books for a few centuries, and in some states they still remain, they were rarely, if ever, enforced.        

Historians can only find five to ten instances of executions for sodomy or bestiality throughout the entire seventeenth century in the Untied States, even though the penalty for both was often death. And it was not because townspeople were unaware that there were men sleeping with other men, or being perverse with animals; the literature shows the people of a town knew something fishy was going on between Frank and Henry. But both government authorities and local people were more content to gossip about it than seek to enforce any civil penalties. 

Americans in the 18th century were even less likely to enforce sodomy laws. I could find only one known case during the entire 18th century of death for sodomy – a slave named Mingo  was convicted of “forcible buggery.”

As Yale historian William Eskridge notes “After the Revolution all thirteen states revoked the death penalty for sodomy convictions, although all adopted laws criminalizing anal sex (whether the recipient was male or female, adult or child, man or beast). Those laws were maintained into the nineteenth century, when they were used in cases in which the sex enacted was either violent or extremely public. Immigrants and men of African descent were most commonly charged with the crime. But the general pattern was non-enforcement. In practice police rarely enforced sodomy laws against anyone before 1880, even when such illegal activities were notorious in the community.”

Georgia is an interesting case also.  Georgia did not include the sodomy laws of South Carolina (where Georgia received its charter) when Georgia received her charter in 1732.  But local authorities could still punish sodomy if they desired because there was disagreement in Georgia over what laws they were really under. But there were only two known cases of punishment for sodomy, one in 1734 and the other in 1743. The first resulted in a whipping in a local settlement that was theocratic in nature; the second resulted in the death penalty. There are no other records in the colonial period of any enforcement of sodomy, and sodomy was never listed as a crime on the books until 1816, where Georgia adopted its first anti-sodomy law.

One write notes –  “This sexual freedom (in Georgia) lasted into the 19th century. A criminal code adopted in 1816 included Georgia’s first sodomy law, which provided a compulsory sentence of life imprisonment at labor. For some reason, this code never was enforced.” (George Painter)

Though penalties for sodomy laws varied from state to state, records from every state reveal that few had the desire to actually enforce those laws. Maryland for example, only recorded three sodomy convictions in its first 160 years.

All this to say, in American Christendom, modern 2kers that are bent toward political libertarianism when it comes to government enforcement against sexual perversions are anything but radical. This in itself does not necessarily make the position correct. The correctness of the position will depend on one’s view of the relationship of the Bible, church and state.

But the historical evidence does reveal that those who label the libertarian view as radical need to do their historical homework, and see that both Christians and non-Christians in America, from the colonial period on, have valued privacy in these sexual matters over government involvement and punishment. It is those who would seek enforcement of actual criminal penalties, even the death penalty, for such sexual perversions as sodomy or bestiality, who would be considered unusual, or even radical, against the tradition of our nation which has historically desired as little government intrusion as possible in what they considered private sexual matters.  

Todd Bordow

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28 Responses to Who’s the Radical?

  1. Brad B says:

    Hi Todd, been reading your Defense of E2K paper, I’ll want to engage in some question/answer regarding this topic since you have offered. I am somewhat unfamiliar with the pro/con sides of this, and to be quite honest from what little I have exposed myself to and the tones of conversations I have seen–mostly at OLT, I have got the impression that this quarrel has more to do with seminary affiliation or jealousy to determine which side one comes down on. Your paper has been a help…not completely finished with it yet, so as I get up to speed, I hope you entertain some questions from someone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight [although my Pastor went to WTS So.Cal, and David Van Drunnen was a guest Pastor yesterday], and I’m willing to check my presuppositions at the door. Anyway, here is my first question after the quote from your paper:

    “He rules over unbelievers also, but by his providence. And since America or any other nation is not called to be a holy theocracy, we must see ourselves as sharing the country with unbelievers. Thus against Frame above, it is illegitimate to demand that unbelievers make civil laws based on our Scripture which they do not accept as their own, any more than it would be appropriate to demand unbelievers obey God’s law by giving financially to a local church.”

    Since the civil magistrate is a minister of God for good, and per 1 Peter 2 it’s commission is to punish evildoers, and praise the righteous….

    How can unbelievers ground any moral judgement such that it could be said to have authority over all men? Along with this, how does providence sustain objective moral standards without special revelation provided by those alone who can provide justification by virtue of having eyes that see and ears that hear? To be clear, I’m not at all suggesting this is to come from the pulpit, but from Christians being salt and light and following the great commission. btw, maybe you’ll see postmil tendencies as I frame questions, but like I said, I’ll inspect my presuppositions as we go along.

  2. RubeRad says:

    Along with this, how does providence sustain objective moral standards without special revelation provided by those alone who can provide justification by virtue of having eyes that see and ears that hear?

    I don’t understand that sentence, you’re packing way too many words into it. But if you stop the question at ‘…revelation’, I would answer ‘conscience’. Rom 2.

  3. Brad B says:

    Thanks for the reply RudbRad, I’m going to think a bit on your answer…not because I have any main objection to it as a premise, but more because I like systems, like most Reformed thought. I think this is why Reformed faith and practice appeals to me. I’m thinking that I will need to finish Todd’s paper and maybe I’ll pick this up again…probably by laying out a list of presuppositons I hold to the provides foundation that may or may not agree with E2k. I wouldn’t even be asking except the backlash I’ve seen is a little alarming.

  4. Brad B says:

    whoops…RubeRad

  5. RubeRad says:

    No worries, I’ve suffered a lot worse misspellings!

    What’s the relationship between Todd’s “Defense of E2k paper” and this blog post? Hopefully Todd will show up and join the conversation he started as well…

  6. Todd says:

    Brad,

    Thanks for the questions. You wrote, “How can unbelievers ground any moral judgement such that it could be said to have authority over all men?”

    Are you referring to legal authority, as in writing and enforcing laws? I want to make sure I understand you correctly. If so then God himself (Rom 13) grants government the right to make moral judgments over others, defining moral judgments as civil laws of nations.

    “Along with this, how does providence sustain objective moral standards without special revelation provided by those alone who can provide justification by virtue of having eyes that see and ears that hear?”

    To say God rules over unbelievers by his providence means among other things that unbelievers cannot thwart his sovereign will, and though God rules his redeemed people by his word and Spirit, he accomplishes his purposes through sinners that have no interest in his word or Spirit, through his providential actions. He is ruling all the kings of the earth now whether they recognize it or not, by his providence.

    “To be clear, I’m not at all suggesting this is to come from the pulpit, but from Christians being salt and light and following the great commission.”

    The Great Commission concerns building the eternal kingdom of God. The visible church preaches the gospel, baptizes, and teaches God’s people how to walk before him, obeying Christ’s commandments. There is no second tier commission concerning social transformation or instructing governments on policy. Though many assume salt and light refers to cultural and social engagement, I don’t think Scripture allows this. What does it mean that Jesus is the light of the world? Light in the sense that he came to give laws for governments to enforce? Light in that his presence solves poverty? No, light to open eyes blind in sin; it refers to the light of the gospel.

    And when Jesus speaks of Christians as light in Matt 5, he is speaking an indicative, not an imperative. In other words, He did not command them to go be light in a social or cultural sense; he said they were lights – yet all they were doing was sitting listening to Jesus. They were lights simply by virtue of believing the gospel; now holding forth the Word of Life to a dark world. It particularly refers to ministers who preach the gospel. Calvin on Matt. 5- “We are all the children of light, after having been enlightened by faith, and are commanded to carry in our hands “burning lamps, (that we may not wander in darkness,) and even to point out to others the way of life… But, as the preaching of the Gospel was committed to the apostles above others, and is now committed to the pastors of the Church, this designation is given to them, in a peculiar manner, by Christ. They are placed in this rank on the condition, that they shall shine, as from an elevated situation, on all others.”

    And as members of local churches believe the gospel and follow Christ, especially in their love for one another, they are lights; witnesses of the gospel that is preached there. (Phil 2:14-16a) “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”

    Salt has a similar connotation. As churches preach the gospel and members follow Christ, we are salt.

    But of course we are to be good neighbors to unbelievers also, but that is different than saying Christians must instruct unbelievers in areas of law, or medicine, or social policy, or seek to change or transform society. God does use his people to better others lives, even unbelievers, but that is at his discretion, depending on where he puts you.

    Does that help?

  7. RubeRad says:

    Regardless of indicative or imperative, presuppositions about what ‘salt and light’ means certainly play a large role. Does it mean that Christians (the church) preaches the gospel to the world? Or does it mean that it (also) transforms the world’s culture? Backing up even further, it matters whether the presumed definition of ‘gospel’ is soteriological, or (also) culture-redeeming.

  8. Brad B says:

    Hi Todd, I havent had time to get back to your paper, on page around 13/14 or so but I wanted to acknowledge your response, also RubeRad’s. As RubeRad noted, and is often my tendency I pack a lot into one thought that provokes both long responses and answers that widen the scope of discussions. In order to reign this in a little, I would hope at this point to put some focus on just one issue in your response—that of rulers/providence. Are you suggesting that God immediately oversees the actions of rulers, or by secondary/contigent causes? Or both? Btw, I’m aware of and have no problem with any answer you give. WCF V 4

    “The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as has joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceeds only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin”.

    Would want to note that [it seems to me] in the confession here, these are contigent causes as means of providential ordering.

    Just a quick question…any can answer please. What do you make of John Knox’s involvement with Queen Mary at Hollyrood. If not familiar, you can see the testimony here. Does it violate tenets of 2k, R2k, or E2k as you understand it?

  9. Brad B says:

    Quick note, I dont know why I misspelled contingent 2x above, anyway I wanted to answer RubeRad’s question. On Green Baggins, a thread was getting off topic and Reed reigned it in with threats to stay on topic, so Todd left a link to his E2k paper, and gave offer to answer questions, I think the offer was for either by e-mail or as I did, I just came to this site and saw what looked like a topical post. Hope that answers your question. Now off to read a little more from “Defense of E2K”.

  10. Brad B says:

    Hi Todd, could you please link to your E2K paper here, it isn’t on the GB site anymore, and I cant seem to find it again. btw, one sentence above did not come out as I wanted, here it is as it was supposed to be “Btw, I’m aware of WCF V 4, and have no problem with any answer you give.

  11. toddbordow says:

    Brad,

    The paper is here http://www.mediafire.com/view/6gccg31a8ea9bio/

    And yes on God using both immediate and second causes in his providence. As for Knox, he held the common view of church and state of the early reformers that Kuyper repudiates, and our 2k would depart from. And I don’t think we can deduce from Scripture that women ruling in the civil realm is monstrous. Think of Solomon recognizing and honoring the Queen of Sheba.

  12. Brad B says:

    Thank you for the link, I finished reading…kind a feel like I did it as a chore, I will go back when I have time to give it a more careful reading. In the mean time, I want to do a little work on what salt and light mean. I think there’s more to it than what was described upstairs. What do you make of Psalm 149?

  13. toddbordow says:

    Brad,

    That’s the first time I’ve seen a former post referred to as “upstairs.” Kinda like it. As far as Psalm 148, I assume you are asking about:

    “to inflict vengeance on the nations, and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them— this is the glory of all his faithful people.”

    The a-mil interpretation of this psalm would be that this refers to final judgment. Revelation 19 reveals how the OT prophecy passages of Christ ruling the nations with a rod of iron are fulfilled, though this Psalm adds that believers are included somehow in final judgment, maybe judging as agreeing with God’s verdict (I Cor 6:2&3). Anyway, the NT uses this language for final judgment, not some type of political or cultural victory over the nations in this age.

    (Rev 19:11-15) “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.”

  14. Brad B says:

    Hi Todd, I’m pretty intersted in the whole psalm, I’ve heard serveral sermons from Reformed pastors on it. My question about what do you think about it had more to do with “who” it is written to, and by what means do the last verses come to be. I’ve not heard anyone suggest that “sons of Zion do not include new covenant Christians, Hebrews 12 calls us this. I think the last verses you dealt with are spiritual

    Sing a new song, suggests possibly escatalogical timing, although I think most believe this psalm fits the time of Nehemiah where they built the walls with a trowel in one hand and sword in the other, the phrase can connotate something like a new phase has begun.

    I think the wording “two edged sword” isn’t accidental, and more than hints at the Hebrews reference of the word of God being “sharper than a two edged sword”, it seems to infer from Revelation references and the one in proverbs that it is a weapon that cuts deeper than just flesh, possibly inflicting a bitter wound to the soul. I dont think that a two edged sword is a physical sword- by use of analogy of scripture. Spiritually, the word of God is our sword, and Hebrews tells us it cuts deeper than any two edged sword-the biblical definiton, not a man made steel blade. The fact that the psalm in a repeating kind of format has this linked with “let the high praises of God be in their mouth” language pushes this further from a physical sword. I’m not alone in this, I’ve heard Reformed sermons suggest this also. It is not unreasonable to treat the latter verses in this light.

    You, I think quite rightly stated, that all are under Christs authority…He rules now as King over the whole creation. All are called to obey[believe]. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, babtizing them in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. I dont know, but I dont think this prohibits warring in the spriit,

    2 Cr 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,

    2 Cr 10:4 or the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

    2Cr 10:5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

    2Cr 10:6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

    , the language is compatible with Pauls Acts 17 Areopagus confronting the Epicureans and Stoics. Think Sproul’s “The Consequences of Ideas”, philosphy has been behind all kinds cultural practice. The superiority of the truth of God, offered in the marketplace of ideas against the non Christian worldview is demonsterable, and undercuts imaginary foundations from false worldviews.

    I have more to say, but this is getting a little long but I hope you get my point. I’d hope to have you comment on Job 34, Elihu’s comments regarding God’s dealings and desires toward men, he mentions that wicked men should not rule.

    BTW, I’m not expecting you to break down everything, I just want to lay out my thinking. I still want to go back to light and salt at some point. You may feel free to govern the speed of this dialogue since I would not want to cause you to feel burdened with this and my hope is that you put your congregation as a priority, and that your preparations for service as God’s minister are not hindered by this. I appreciate you time. and acknowledge your position as authority, even as I question what you say/write I hope it is received as respectful. Thank you, Brad

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  16. Matthew says:

    Todd, I have a reply to your point about the lack of enforcement of these sexual laws particularly in America. I’ve studied under a theonomist for many years and I’ve been instructed from many portions of Gary North’s Tools of Dominion. Yet, my pastor is very 2K and my church leans that way. Basically, I can argue from both sides but I don’t know which side I believe yet. haha How theonomists would respond to your point (and I think it’s a legitimate response) is that these laws aren’t for suspicions or private acts. In Israel, a crime had to be attested to by witnesses. At least 2 or 3 witnesses were required for a conviction (Deut. 19:15). Therefore, under Jewish law, homosexuals practicing in private could not be convicted of homosexuality. So your suspicions about Frank and Henry may be accurate, but you can’t seize or condemn them without some evidence of their actions. That’s how it would have worked under Jewish law and I think that’s likely how the Colonists carried out those laws. Something for you to consider.

  17. Todd says:

    Matthew,

    Thanks for your comment. A few thoughts in response. The Israelites rarely carried out the penalties of the Mosaic legal code, especially when it concerned the death penalty. And there is no evidence that the colonists forbid against sodomy because of the Mosaic legal code; more likely because of natural law. But it would be a real stretch to suggest that colonies and states failed to enforce the sexual laws only because they never actually possessed the evidence from witnesses. When it was said that everyone knew about Frank and Henry in the colonies, that meant more than people were only guessing, but really had no idea. They knew. And if they wanted, family members, friends, neighbors, employers could report them, and if the authorities wanted to, they could have enforced the laws, but that didn’t happen. So while the Mosaic law may call for witnesses before prosecution, that does not mean the early Americans were ready and willing to enforce the mosaic sanctions against sexual sins only if they were prosecuted correctly. The evidence and first-hand accounts say otherwise; that they had little if any interest in enforcing against homosexuality and adultery.

  18. Matthew says:

    Thank you for your reply! I have a disagreement with you on a couple points.

    “The Israelites rarely carried out the penalties of the Mosaic legal code, especially when it concerned the death penalty.”

    I don’t really think this is an argument. If the Israelites failed to carry out God’s law, that would be a sin and a violation of their covenant with God. The fact that they disobeyed God’s law shouldn’t discredit God’s law. If you’re wanting to argue against enforcing the case laws, then I don’t think it helps to point to the fact that the Israelites weren’t faithful at carrying them out. That’s my initial reaction.

    “And there is no evidence that the colonists forbid against sodomy because of the Mosaic legal code; more likely because of natural law”

    I don’t believe this is true. The Puritans (who I’m mainly dealing with) saw themselves as almost a second Israel. I don’t think they went quite that far, but they danced on that line. They put the case laws onto their civil codes and embraced them, not as natural law, but as the revealed Law of God. Puritans had a rather different view of natural law than we currently do. It was much closer to the revealed commandments of God.

    “When it was said that everyone knew about Frank and Henry in the colonies, that meant more than people were only guessing, but really had no idea. They knew. And if they wanted, family members, friends, neighbors, employers could report them, and if the authorities wanted to, they could have enforced the laws, but that didn’t happen.”

    This is what I said couldn’t happen. Under Jewish Law, and the Puritans fancied themselves carrying on that legacy, you couldn’t do that. Suspicions weren’t enough. It wasn’t enough if “Oh, everyone knows Frank and Henry are pretty gay.” That was no legal grounds for detainment and conviction. There had to be actual evidence in the form of witnesses. In fact, under Jewish law, it would be very hard to convict a homosexual! I believe that is the reason it was carried out only rarely, because the law wasn’t nearly as tyrannical as it’s made out to be.

    I hope this doesn’t come across as confrontational. I’ve invested a lot of time in the 2K-Theonomic debate (almost 2 years of study now) and I’m still struggling through these concepts at the same time. I enjoy that we’re able to discuss this together.

  19. Todd says:

    “I don’t really think this is an argument. If the Israelites failed to carry out God’s law, that would be a sin and a violation of their covenant with God.”

    Agreed. Sorry if i wasn’t clear. I wasn’t arguing that it was good that they failed to obey the Law, just that for whatever reason they had no stomach for penalizing against sexual sin, regardless of witnesses.

    “The fact that they disobeyed God’s law shouldn’t discredit God’s law. If you’re wanting to argue against enforcing the case laws, then I don’t think it helps to point to the fact that the Israelites weren’t faithful at carrying them out. That’s my initial reaction.”

    Right, that wasn’t the point.

    “I don’t believe this is true. The Puritans (who I’m mainly dealing with) saw themselves as almost a second Israel. I don’t think they went quite that far, but they danced on that line.”

    Yes, the American Puritans saw themselves as the fifth kingdom in Daniel, so yes, a second Israel, or maybe, the promised land that will begin the world-wide post-mil reign.

    “They put the case laws onto their civil codes and embraced them, not as natural law, but as the revealed Law of God. Puritans had a rather different view of natural law than we currently do. It was much closer to the revealed commandments of God.”

    Yes, but the Puritans, once you get beyond New England, were a minority in the colonies, and once we hit the 1700’s the Puritan ethos had all but disappeared. There is little if any evidence that the colonies after the 1600’s were using the Mosaic law as their guide for civil penalties.

    “This is what I said couldn’t happen. Under Jewish Law, and the Puritans fancied themselves carrying on that legacy, you couldn’t do that. Suspicions weren’t enough.”

    You missed my point here. People knew homosexuality was occurring because they saw it. They knew it. It wouldn’t be difficult to prove, if one wanted to, that Henry was sneaking off and visiting Frank late at night at Frank’s house.

    “In fact, under Jewish law, it would be very hard to convict a homosexual! I believe that is the reason it was carried out only rarely, because the law wasn’t nearly as tyrannical as it’s made out to be.”

    One conviction and sentence in a hundred years is more than just rare or difficult to prove, it is purposeful. Imagine a scenario like that today. There are some states and counties where sodomy is still illegal according to the law; and yet nobody is jailed for homosexual behavior. Is it because it cannot be proven; that there are no witnesses to the relationship? No, it is because even though many still believe it wrong, there is little interest in our culture to actually enforce against it. The same is true a hundred years ago.

    “I hope this doesn’t come across as confrontational. I’ve invested a lot of time in the 2K-Theonomic debate (almost 2 years of study now) and I’m still struggling through these concepts at the same time. I enjoy that we’re able to discuss this together.”

    No at all. I enjoy the discussion and how you interact.

  20. RubeRad says:

    If there was popular/political will to enforce anti-sodomy laws, then police departments would go to judges and get warrants signed to install spy cameras, or audio taps to know when to bust through the door and catch violators in flagrante delicto. Likewise in the old days, if it were known that two particular men would sneak off to somewhere and do some things, it would not be hard to stage a raid and provide sufficient witnesses.

  21. Matthew says:

    I believe I better understand the thrust of your argument. If I’m correct, you’re arguing from a general reluctance to enforce any sort of legislation against various forms of deviant sexuality to show that men inherently understand that it ought not to be done and it’s out of the government’s jurisdiction? I think you may have point. However, I’d like to run this by you. Couldn’t that reticence to enforce laws against sexuality be out of sin? Here’s the deal. If laws of that sort began to get passed and enforced, that hits awfully close to home. A man’s actions in the bedroom are his most jealously guarded actions. Supporting those sort of laws could open up an inquiry upon HIS private dealings! It’s rather like protecting everyone’s right to free speech. One of the reasons to protect everyone’s right to free speech, regardless of whether you agree with it, is to protect your own freedom of speech. Once their right is compromised, so is yours. I think the sinful heart may be acting in a similar way in this instance. “I don’t want to be accountable for my own sexual misconduct, I’d better cut others some slack.” I guess it just comes down to this: won’t the sinful heart always buck against any sort of accountability, especially in the area of sexual ethics?

  22. Todd says:

    Matthew,

    I wasn’t really making an argument for or against the practice of early America, just reporting it. Theonomist types have been saying for years how the nation has declined from her Christian, religious (or whatever you want to call it) moorings, evidenced by states taking sodomy and the like off the books as illegal crimes. My point was that in saying this they really hadn’t done their homework; that when it comes to private, consensual, sexual matters, no matter what the majority believed was right or wrong, the nation as a whole, both past and present, were very libertarian when it comes to enforcing against these things. The slouching toward Gomorrah narrative is not as simple as theonomists make it sound.

    Now as a libertarian, I do not want the government interfering and policing private, consensual, sexual matters. Why would I trust big government to do this? While some may want the government out of this, as you said, because they despise any accountability for their actions, there is also an argument that the libertarian impulse of the colonists on these matters were good ones; it arose from a distrust in an overbearing, over-authoritarian government.

  23. Matthew says:

    In relation to your first paragraph, I would fall much closer to your camp. I do feel that the general theonomic attitude of bewailing how far we’ve fallen from the godly start our country received is rather naive. It can certainly be proven that the vast majority of the colonists were Bible believer Christians, and many of them consciously allowed that to shape their views of government, but I think they failed to capture this in their legal documents and practice. This became all the more prevalent at the time of the actual founding of our country. There was almost nothing legally binding that was written during our founding that any deist couldn’t hold to comfortably. And we certainly weren’t God’s chosen nation on earth! In that sense, I don’t subscribe to the view of America as once being God’s chosen country and she has drifted away from her God.

    However, I am concerned with your second paragraph. My chief concern is how you categorized the government that theonomists are advocating as “big government” or “authoritarian government.” Theonomists are in fact mostly staunch libertarians, at least, all the theonomists I know are. Also, you’ll see this if you read any of Gary North’s writings. The theonomist view of government is far closer to the libertarian view than you portray. Theonomists stand for lassiez-faire capitalism, they oppose inflation, high taxation, the federal reserve, and fractional banking. They passionately hate socialism. Theonomists are some of the worst enemies of big government you’ll find! haha Keep this in mind. The situation theonomists are calling for is not to have the current American government breathing down your neck and looking into your bedroom. They have some serious issues with our current government before they would ever consider pursuing legislation of the nature they often propose.
    It seems to me that you’re letting your idea of modern libertarian philosophy color your views. You say “I do not want the government interfering and policing private, consensual, sexual matters”
    1. I understand that you don’t want it to (and believe me, I do understand the libertarian argument for this), but that isn’t really an argument for whether the government ought to or not.
    2. You said “private, consensual, sexual matters.” Now, as a libertarian myself (although perhaps you may not consider me one), I understand this phrasing and that is political theory lingo for something that ought to be off limits. I realize that private and consensual really are hot words for the libertarian that can be used to justify any form of immorality that isn’t directly affecting others. I understand this. However, I fail to see how this is biblical. Is this a biblical distinction as to what the government ought and ought not address? Because to me, these categories are a product of enlightenment thinking. My counter question is this, why ought the government NOT address sexual ethics? Paul says that the government ought to punish the wicked and praise the righteous. I guess I have a hard time finding the “private, consensual” distinction in Scripture.

    Also, a last point. You were discussing earlier how easy it would be for people to obtain search warrants and gather evidence against those committing homosexual acts. But I realized there is an issue with that. That notion seems to be a product of a view of government that sees it as the government’s job to seek out and destroy crime where it is. Isn’t a libertarian view, and more importantly, a biblical view, of government one that takes a hands off approach until the problem is brought up? I guess I see a biblical form of government addressing issues once they get dropped on their desk, not tapping wires to find sinners. After all, this seems to be the pattern paid out in the Mosaic Economy. Over and over it says that the issue is actively brought to the elders and officials before any sort of action is taken. The elders and officials aren’t out scouring the streets to find those sneaky homosexuals. If things stay quiet, well, they stay quiet. A biblical view of government would address the issue only once it was brought to its attention. I would think a libertarian would be a fan of that view.

  24. Todd says:

    “My chief concern is how you categorized the government that theonomists are advocating as “big government” or “authoritarian government.” Theonomists are in fact mostly staunch libertarians, at least, all the theonomists I know are. Also, you’ll see this if you read any of Gary North’s writings. The theonomic view of government is far closer to the libertarian view than you portray.”

    Matthew, I understand theonomists suggest they advocate for freedom, but I don’t buy it. They want to have their cake and eat it too. Yes, they are for some libertarian economic principles, but you cannot enforce the true religion by law and suppress heresies and have freedom of conscience at the same time. And since the Mosaic economy was governed by a king, it was not a representative democracy, they are not consistent in their application of the Law to modern society. And given how authoritarian theonomists tend to be in their church and families, I highly doubt it would be any different if they were given political rule.

    “The situation theonomists are calling for is not to have the current American government breathing down your neck and looking into your bedroom.”

    If you outlawed homosexuality, fornication, etc… that’s exactly what would happen. Ask homosexuals in Iran about freedom.

    “I understand that you don’t want it to (and believe me, I do understand the libertarian argument for this), but that isn’t really an argument for whether the government ought to or not.”

    Nor was it meant to be. I was simply expressing my political view.

    “However, I fail to see how this is biblical. Is this a biblical distinction as to what the government ought and ought not address?…Paul says that the government ought to punish the wicked and praise the righteous. I guess I have a hard time finding the “private, consensual” distinction in Scripture.”

    Scripture does not tell us what sins governments should punish. Since God is not calling for a theocracy in the new covenant age, the evil in Rom. 13 cannot be defined by religious categories, but natural law categories that apply to all. Paul says this is what governments do, not what they should do ideally if those governments were following God’s revealed laws. So it would need to be proven that fornication outside of marriage should be illegal; how it threatens the commonwealth or violates individual rights, not whether it is right or wrong according to Scripture. Simply stating something is a sin is not enough to prove the government should outlaw it.

    “You were discussing earlier how easy it would be for people to obtain search warrants and gather evidence against those committing homosexual acts.”

    Actually, Rube Rad made that point, but I concurred.

    “Isn’t a libertarian view, and more importantly, a biblical view, of government one that takes a hands off approach until the problem is brought up?”

    you keep using the phrase, “biblical view of government.” As a non-theonomist, where are you finding this biblical view of government?

    “A biblical view of government would address the issue only once it was brought to its attention. I would think a libertarian would be a fan of that view.”

    Depends on the issue. Since the Israelites rarely enacted the civil law, we cannot really use them as a test case to see how it would work. Where in history to you see the punitive repression of consensual, sexual practices not advance into tyranny? You might consider C.S. Lewis’ fear of rulers ruling in the name of religion:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” (Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology – Making of Modern Theology)

  25. Matthew says:

    Hmmm. I hear your points, Todd. I understand them. The E2K view simply leaves me empty and smells like enlightenment thinking. My feelings obviously aren’t a valid argument, but I hope you can understand my reservation in holding to the view. I guess I’d be happier if E2K had a comprehensive biblical case made for it. Because it appears E2K seems to be a view based on a lot of libertarian principles (which aren’t bad in and of themselves), but the lack of a biblical, theological case worries me. I see theonomists pouring over Scripture and spilling a lot of ink to defend their views. And then I see E2K mocking the theonomists and failing to make a comprehensive response. The biblically comprehensive part is key. E2K often responds point for point, and often argues back with libertarian lingo and concepts instead of building an opposing theological framework. I think that at the heart of the Theonomist/E2K debate are two divergent hermeneutics of Scripture. Theonomy and E2K are clashing over a fundamentally different comprehensive theological framework. The problem is, I don’t quite understand what framework it is that E2K is working off of. I’m well aware of Theonomy’s, but I want to see E2K’s theological case. I guess I just want to see more Scripture! haha I hope you can understand what I’m saying. btw, I’ve read David Van Drunen’s “Living in God’s Two Kingdom’s.” I wish Van Drunen would hurry up and write the E2K magnum opus so I could sit down and puzzle over it for a while. haha

  26. Todd says:

    Matthew,

    First, both E2k and theonomists vehemently dislike each other’s position, and make no bones about that. I don’t think it is quite fair to suggest that only one side is mocking the other. And most E2k folk I know are not libertarian, most conservatives, a few on the liberal side. I just happen to be libertarian. If the question of government law and policy is a question special revelation answers, then yes, one can pour over the Scriptures seeking a comprehensive view of these matters. That’s why I asked you as a non-theonomist where in the Bible you found your view of government policy, and look forward to your answer. If government law and policy is a question general revelation answers, then one does not have to make excuses for not pouring over the Scriptures for the answer. I don’t go to the Bible for a cure for cancer, diet plans, building construction, or how to conduct a war; and I don’t go to the Bible expecting to find out what constitutes a criminal act, penalties for that act, government trade policy, etc. It is as you stated about a difference in hermeneutics, but even more, it is a difference concerning the purpose the Bible was written.

  27. Matthew says:

    I apologize for painting with too broad a brush. I am speaking from my own personal experience with the people I’ve known. That is an insufficient text group, so you’re right, E2K is not the only guilty party. I’ve seen a lot of emotion be involved with this debate. That is all.

    If you’d like my thoughts as to how I find a biblical view of government in Scripture, I can show you an example. I’ll use the case of what we were talking about earlier. I believe that a biblical government would take a rather hands off approach for a number of reasons. I think that it wouldn’t deal with things until those things are brought to its attention because that is how Israel’s government worked. Israel had a graduated court system that was proposed by Jethro. Under this system, problems were brought to the elder’s attention, rather than the elders seeking out the problems to deal with. The Law continually says that they will bring the problem to the elders. I believe that this argument holds weight because it mirrors Christ’s instructions in Matthew 18. In Matthew 18, the problems are first attempted to be dealt with in a private setting. Many situations are in fact dealt with in this way. Only a few cases ever make it to the church government and those cases are brought by the people involved. There seems to be a precedent in scripture of authority being exercised at the request of the people involved. That’s why I believe that Scripture’s support that view of government. I realize that the argument can be made that that pertains only to church government and ought not to reflect civil government, but this scriptural graduated court system was what inspired the founding fathers to create America’s graduated court system. Therefore, that system has become inextricably related to our own civil government.

    I hope I’ve given you a sense of how I go about analyzing Scripture for what is has to say about government (that is, a biblical view of government). I wouldn’t go into Scripture expecting to find a Constitution that we should copy and paste into our law books. It’s like most things in Scripture, it requires understanding various texts, and making necessary connections.

    I realize that Scripture does not contain a nutritional guide or directions to build bridges, but it isn’t exactly silent on these subjects. It seems that the E2K view takes such a narrow view of Scripture. I believe that God speaks to every aspect of our lives, not always in details, but always in principles. For example, there is no God-given curriculum or syllabi to teach from. But God teaches us that He is the beginning of knowledge and must therefore be inextricably involved in education. Or, we may never receive a pattern for a dress or the color coordination wheel from Scripture, but God speaks to how we ought to think about modesty. Again, we may not be given how many years a senator’s term ought to be, but I think Scripture speaks to how that Senator ought to behave himself, how he ought to view his job, and how he ought to go about thinking about the laws put before him.

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. Why do you think Scripture was written? That is, what is its purpose?

  28. Todd says:

    “I realize that the argument can be made that that pertains only to church government and ought not to reflect civil government, but this scriptural graduated court system was what inspired the founding fathers to create America’s graduated court system. Therefore, that system has become inextricably related to our own civil government.”

    Matthew, this is where we would disagree. Once you say “I realize that the argument can be made that that pertains only to church government…” you should stop there. If you expand the Scripture beyond its intended purpose you are not really doing exegesis, but eisegesis. It would be like me saying, “I know the OT dietary laws were typological and pointed to inward uncleanness, but I think we should look to these as dietary principles to follow today.” You can follow them if you want, but that is not why those laws were there. The OT civil law was religious in nature; and the church, not America, is the fulfillment of Israel. And I have read enough of the founding fathers to know that it was not their reading of the OT or Matthew 18 that inspired their views on the court system, but even if I am wrong, it wouldn’t make such an application a legitimate application of the law of God.

    “But God teaches us that He is the beginning of knowledge and must therefore be inextricably involved in education.”

    Or you making a case against public education? Not sure where you are going with this.

    “Again, we may not be given how many years a senator’s term ought to be, but I think Scripture speaks to how that Senator ought to behave himself, how he ought to view his job, and how he ought to go about thinking about the laws put before him.”

    Just so I understand, how does the Scriptures teach ought a senator to view his job? Do you mean a Christian senator?

    “Why do you think Scripture was written? That is, what is its purpose?”

    Scripture is a kingdom book. It is written to God’s kingdom people for eternal matters; it concerns the salvation and sanctification of God’s people; the establishment and advancement of his eternal kingdom. It is not handbook on common grace matters; a so-to-speak driving manual for life.

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