Category Archives: theonomic stuff

Divorce and the “OT” versus the “New”

Divorce Decree

Supposedly, God only temporarily tolerated divorce, but then ended that tolerance after Jesus came. I do believe that it is possible for norms to change as humanity matures in Christ, but I don’t think the typical (i.e. John Murray’s) argument holds up.  The argument derives from Deuteronomy 24.1-4:

When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

The argument is that this law does not grant a right to divorce, but puts controls on a pre-existing practice. “When a man does x he is limited in what he can do next” is not the same as saying “A man may do x.”

OK, the grammar makes such an interpretation possible, but I still think the position is lacking.

First of all, lots of things were already followed and yet are still part of God’s law and included in the Mosaic legislation. The Sabbath was observed, circumcision was practiced, and some form of the Law of the Levirate was acknowledged as binding. We ought to consider that divorce was practiced in that same tradition.

Secondly, Deuteronomy 22.19 and 22.29 specify circumstances where a man can lose his right to divorce a wife. So if God had to tolerate divorce because the Israelites wouldn’t give it up, then how was he able to control them enough to prohibit divorce in some cases?

Third, we know the Law is a transcript of God’s character. The theory is that the actuall permission to divorce was not part of that Law. But how then does God himself follow this law?

Thus says the Lord:
“Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce,
with which I sent her away?
Or which of my creditors is it
to whom I have sold you?
Behold, for your iniquities you were sold,
and for your transgressions your mother was sent away (Isaiah 50.1).

If a man divorces his wife
and she goes from him
and becomes another man’s wife,
will he return to her?
Would not that land be greatly polluted?
You have played the whore with many lovers;
and would you return to me?
declares the Lord (Jeremiah 3.1).

So, how can something God actually does, and in so doing, appeals to the very law in question, not be a true part of the Law? This is no mere concession. And further, Isaiah and Jeremiah show that the sort of thing that is in view in the Law is actual adultery. Jesus was not adding anything to the Law or inventing anything new when he stated the “except for immorality” qualification (Matthew 19.9).

So what about the statement in Matthew 19.8?

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

“Hardness of heart” began when Adam and Eve sinned. “Hardness of heart” is involved in all marital infidelity. Before they sinned, there was no provision for divorce because no one was going to be unfaithful.

Finally, one of the planks in the argument for the “concessive” view is that, normally, an unfaithful spouse was always executed. Thus, the divorce provisions have to be for some lesser reason. I won’t take up space here arguing the point, but I don’t think that is true. The death penalty was an option, but not mandatory for such cases. An injured spouse could extend mercy to the guilty but end the marriage.

Finally, I’ve been using quotation marks for “OT” and “NT,” because neither one exists.

Is there such a thing as Christian economics? 2

Mark Horne » Blog Archive » Is there such a thing as Christian economics? 1.

Where next?

This is a blog, so I’m not going to be embarrassed to be a bit stream of consciousness about this. So the fact that I just got to experience a lovely Jamie Soles Concert has got me thinking…

There must be such a thing as Christian economics because the Bible is a book about managing this world.


The Bible’s first book is about how God made the world, how the world was put under the management of the human race, and how they botched that management. The rest of that book and all the other books of the Bible, is about how the management is restored.

But the rule of the world is the point. Under God. For his glory. But still this world.

In the Bible we read about Elijah being taken up in a chariot of fire (“a horse named blaze” as Jamie would say). That seems as “otherworldly” as you could get doesn’t it?

So what does Elisha say as he witnesses this ascension?

“Wow. We’re being visited from the other world”?


And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” (2 Kings 2.12).

Israel was a nation. It had kings who were visible and known to the other nations. It had an army. It had national resources and wealth that others could covet. And it had fiery horses and chariots.

Elisha knew what he saw because he had read about it before.

Jacob saw them first.

When Jacob went out from the Promised Land he prayed for “earthly” blessings:

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”

Give us this day our daily bread.

But God did better than bread and clothing. When Jacob re-entered the Promised Land he prayed again:

And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”

Two camps? Jacob has just divided his family, servants, and property into two camps to protect them. But that was a contrivance. The meaning of “two camps” is a few verses earlier:

Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

I wish the translators had not reverted to Hebrew when they have the name. “Mahanaim” means two camps. Jacob named the place two camps because the camp with his wives, children, servants, and livestock, and camp of God’s servants were both his camps. He had become two camps by God’s blessing.

This is one reason the term “the spirituality of the Church” is so offensive. Not because the Church isn’t spiritual, but because spirituality is not Spiritual. The slogan presupposes Biblical nonsense as the definition of “spirituality.”

God wants this world managed, claimed, ruled by him through human beings. He wants the humans who have joined with His human son to manage the world together (or the parts over which they have been given management) in such a way that everyone else can see and recognize as the work of the Spirit (John 17).

Oh but this world is not our home. Excrement passing itself off as piety. This world is the only one that is and it will be our perfect home as it and we are transformed.

But that doesn’t happen until the resurrection. True but only if you acknowledge that your resurrection is an commendation of your management of this world in this life. You are a steward and your stewardship right now is going to be reflected in the glory you are graciously given. (And if you think that last sentence contains a contradiction, please feel free to stop reading this blog post and pick up a Bible some time and read it; come back when you’re done.) God promises to praise you for your management and for your learning to manage. According to Paul, trusting God to praise you is the essence of inward spirituality and true faith (Romans 2.29).

The Spirit hovered over the empty, dark, shapeless, creation and filled it, enlightened it, and shaped it. We as Spiritual people should take that as our model. We are two camps in this life.

Not only do we live in a religious culture (we Reformed and even we broadly Evangelical) that suppresses the Bible, but we do it by hiding in plain sight.

The Church is called “a colony of heaven.” Ask the native Americans what that analogy should imply (which, included much sin, I am sure, but the point still stands). But this term is used to support amillennial defeatism. So I have to now come up with a new word whose obvious meaning hasn’t been yet subverted.

The Church is Jesus’ beachhead. It is a part of this world meant to be a start, not a waiting room.

Jesus the human ascended into heaven in order to rule this world. And thus he gave us his marching orders:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Again, Amillennial books are written about this Great Commission in order to subvert its plain meaning. If we create a culture of misinterpretation we can denude the force of God’s word.)

Of course, many individuals (all, ultimately) are not given the management they want. Many are given none that they expect. Our children die early and many other tragedies befall us.

But what does that change? Jacob’s life was Hell on earth and yet he was instrumental in saving the world and blessed the Emperor.

Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh.

The management of this world is a group project directed by a mysterious providence. Dominion comes through the way of the cross. I’m not denying any of that.

Pretending I am doing so is a strategy of suppression at best.

But the Bible is still about the management, stewardship, rule of this world. It is a story about the building of a city, which the LORD Himself is building, for otherwise the laborers would labor in vain (Psalm 127).

But refusing to labor is still treason. And real earthly children are still an asset (Psalm 127)

And the Bible is all about economics. There cannot fail to be Christian economics.

Either there is Christian economics or Christianity is unrelated to the Bible.

Is there such a thing as Christian economics? 1

Where to start?

Why don’t we start with people?

Are they a good idea or a bad idea? Are they valuable or a drain?

I was looking at the content for the “new” version of Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, and I noticed that, despite a great deal of backtracking about claims as to what will happen, he still refuses to let go of the myth of the population explosion. We are supposed to help other people, and that means making sure that no more come into existence to eat “our” pie. I assume Evangelicals for Social Action (or whatever organization fulfills its functions now) is pretty much against immigration laws (and they should be!). But the most draconian immigration control is the one guarding married couples from having (“too many”) children.

From Psalm 127:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

As with Genesis 1:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

I don’t think the fact that modern technology allows for couples to decide when and how many children is necessarily a bad thing (assuming no abortion is involved or even risked!). But whatever decisions husbands and wives make as those recently granted new powers of stewardship, if your economic theory says that people are a drain on resources and that population growth is a problem, then the problem is you.

In my opinion this is a modest proposal: If you think the growth of the human race is a curse, you are pretty much telling us the Bible is a misleading document.

And, if you write a book that demands that the planet’s population be curtailed, then the economic theory behind your proposal is properly labeled unbiblical and non-Christian.

Yes, you may be a Christian espousing this error, just like John Lennon was not a Christian but showed more Christian generosity to generations to come. But it is still an error and a serious one.

And it demonstrates the impossibility of “neutral” economics. Viewing resources as “just there” is the hallmark of static, oppressive, pagan societies. Christianity says the future is open and people (not things) are the source of good. These are competing value claims that result in differing economic theories.


It was the end of the world as they knew it

Jesus said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

But then multitudinous iotas and dots began to pass. Circumcision for example. So Paul wrote to the Galatians: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” But he had told the Galatians and others that love was the fulfillment of the Law. And the Law commanded circumcision. So how could one say that one could fulfill the Law and yet circumcision was no longer commanded?

Answer: new heavens and earth: “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6.15).

How does Jesus “fulfill” the Law in Matt 5: A glance back at the Theonomy debate

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Revisiting David Chilton’s Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators is throwing me into some seriously far back time travel.

So I’m thinking about Greg Bahnsen’s thesis tonight.

Bahnsen argued that taking “fulfill” in a way that exclusively referred to Jesus’ own behavior or work in what he did for the Law and the Prophets. As a result, he felt another meaning should be assigned: Jesus was saying he came to confirm the Law.

Not many people find this convincing, despite the context which, to my mind, does indeed focus on the behavioral expectations for Jesus’ disciples, rather than Jesus himself.

(For the record, even though it is something of a diversion from the point of this post, “Theonomy” is not at stake here for me personally. I’m convinced that when Jesus referred to the passing of heaven and earth he was referring to the significance of his own crucifixion and/or the destruction of Jerusalem. So the reference, as far as I’m concerned, is about how people were to behave in Israel during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Here’s how I described my thinking back in 1992.)

I think that we can understand how Jesus “fulfilled” the Law and the Prophets in a way that seems more natural to the word and yet involves the behavior of the disciples in a way that leads to a convergence with Bahnsen’s thesis (allowing my parenthetical caveat above).

The Law and the Prophets, were not addressed only or exclusively to individuals, but to a covenant nation. The point of the law was to produce a community that reflected God’s glory. As we read in Exodus 19:

On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

So the Law is fulfilled when it is fulfilled in a nation or kingdom of priests. And what has Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount right before talking about the iotas of the Law and the Prophets?

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

You are a new Jerusalem with the covenant of salt of the true priesthood. Jesus will fulfill the Law and the Prophets by bringing about the nation that God desires. His community of disciples within Israel is the true embodiment of the Law.

Thus, Jesus’ own fulfilling of the Law entails a challenge to his hearers who would be his disciples to obey the Law and not disregard one iota of it.

Evangelical anti-statism… or is it pro-statism?

Evangelicals, if they are anywhere on the sliding scale of “the religious right,” believe in free market economics and that the government should provide for the national defense.  In some circles, part of the free market public policy is justified on the basis that the Bible never authorizes the state to take money from some people and give it to others because the ones from whom the state takes are better off than those to whom the state gives.

I actually subscribe to a similar argument, though I now think you need to add some steps to it, and perhaps make some other changes.

Still, it has got to look jolting to anyone who is Biblically literate to encounter this ideological sub-culture for the first time.

When you consider how much space in the Bible is devoted to condemning state welfare programs compared to how much is devoted to condemning military spending, the “religious right” becomes even more of a mystery. When you consider how much space in the Bible is spent forbidding the government to engage in military build-ups or foreign entanglements (that is the point of horses and wives), the political slogans of the “religious right” look positively perverse.  How can we oppose “welfare” programs (in quotes because I don’t think they result in real welfare) and be so exuberant about huge amounts of (totally unaccountable) military spending?

As I was thinking about these things, I heard Gary DeMar’s substitute on the American Vision podcast read from First Samuel:

Continue reading

Moral, civil, ceremonial?

The Bible’s laws can easily be assigned to three categories. I use them and teach them.

But in doing serious Biblical analysis, they can be misleading.

For example, I’ve read people claiming the decalogue contains “only moral” law. Since the civil penalty for murder goes back to Noah, I have doubts about this. But apart from that, what about the ceremonial law? How are laws about images (2nd command) and Sabbath (4th command) not ceremonial?

The answer seems to be that “ceremonial” laws are viewed by some as only temporary. Therefore the decalogue must contain no ceremonial laws. But this gets to be a circular definition.

And what about the dietary prohibition on drinking blood? That goes from Noah (where meat eating is first permitted) to Acts 15 and laws for the Gentiles.

And what is the Biblical penalty for the civil crime of involuntary manslaugher? One had to flee to a city of refuge and stay there until the High Priest died. Is that civil law or ceremonial?

And when Reformed exegetes argue from circumcision to baptism, aren’t they agreeing that the principles of the ceremonial law still apply by analogy? Don’t the ceremonial laws have “direct equity”?