Friday, June 5, 2009

A Refutation of Theonomy Part 1

Theonomy is the position that there is a presumed continuity between the Mosaic covenant and the New Covenant of Grace. This presumed continuity entails that all Mosaic laws that are not abrogated in the New Covenant ought to be carried over. The theonomists would of course see the ceremonial laws as completely abolished in Jesus Christ because this is what the New Testament teaches according to orthodox Christianity. The intended result of theonomy is to allow for a great deal of judicial laws and some other laws to be carried into the New Covenant. A judicial law is a law that ought to be carried out by the magistrate or the state. This would be like economic laws and laws concerning the death penalty. Basically, these laws govern what the state ought to do. Here is an example of one such law in the Mosaic covenant:

Exodus 22:18 "You shall not permit a sorceress to live.

In the Mosaic economy one of the judicial laws was that all Sorceresses were to be executed and so now, says the theonomists, the law should be to execute all sorceresses.

I will argue that theonomy is taught against in Bible and I will refute all of the verses that theonomists uses to establish his/her position. This a rather large task so this will take me about three posts to flush out.

My position, to be clear, is that there is a presumed discontinuity between the Mosaic and the new covenant of Grace. My principle: A Law is to be carried over to the New Covenant if and only if it is repeated in the New Testament which is the entire context of the new covenant inauguration. To put it more simply: If the Law from the Mosaic covenant is not repeated in the New Testament then it is abrogated or abolished.

In This post I will seek to establish my position which entails the denial of the theonomic position and then in the next post I will refute all of the verse that the theonomists uses to positively support his/her position.

Argument 1:

Hebrews 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.


Here in Hebrews 8 the author is commenting on the New Covenant spoken by the prophet Jeremiah and he is saying that when Jeremiah even spoke of the New Covenant the Mosaic covenant was obsolete and growing old which is going vanish away. Theonomists try to say that this is only referring to the ceremonial law. However, Jeremiah or the author of Hebrews never makes this distinction in the text and he is speaking of the Mosaic covenant as a whole (Heb. 8:7-10).

Argument 2:

2 Corinthians 3:9-13 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. 12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.


Here Paul is saying that both the glory and the Mosaic covenant was being brought to an end once the permanent surpassing glory of the New Covenant comes. Notice again, the text does not bring up distinguishable elements of Mosaic economy such as the ceremonial laws and sacrifices and so we ought to assume that this is referring to the entire Mosaic covenant as a whole.

Argument 3:

Romans 6:14 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Explanation: When the word law or nomos in the Greek is used here it cannot be in reference to the believer following God’s moral laws or the third use of the law because Paul elsewhere in the book of Romans tells us that we ought to follow God’s moral commands as a guide for sanctification (Rom. 3:31). This also cannot be referring to the covenant of works made with Adam because there was no sin prior to the fall in which the first covenant of works was made prior to the fall. It seems then that nomos or law here can only be referring to the Mosaic covenant. This suggests that we are no longer under the Mosaic covenant as a whole or in part, but only under the New and if we are under the New then there is no reason to follow the laws of the old mosaic covenant unless of course they are repeated in the New.


I have shown that given these three biblical texts that theonomy is not biblical. Because it is taught against in God’s word the church should teach against it. We should strongly teach against the theonomists notion that the abolished Mosaic covenant laws are binding on the New Covenant believer.

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