I am curious as to how you feel about “theonomy.” It is a word I come across in my various online discussions. Do you consider yourselves at DNA to be “theonomists?”
One of our most active readers, Jon Davis, recently asked that question, one we considered worthy of a separate post. Thanks, Jon, for the question.
No, we here at Darrow Miller and Friends do not embrace theonomy, the top-down imposition of God’s laws on a society. On the other hand, neither do we subscribe to evangelical gnosticism, i.e. the separation of the gospel from life and the embrace of the spiritual dimension only. We understand that the gospel of the kingdom is for all of life, for each life, and every area of society. But God’s laws are first born in freedom, are manifested in the heart and then applied through Christian, internal self- government. This is liberty!
Neither do we represent a libertine view, life without moral law. This is seen in the individual and governmental lawlessness growing in many of our societies. Nor do we support the tyranny that often comes from civil or religious authorities (think of the Taliban) who want to impose order on a lawless society. Jesus told his followers to disciple the nations, “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded.” This is Christian internal-self-government and leads to free societies.
Our friend, Dr. Elizabeth Youmans has said this as well as anyone: “The Christian principle of self-government is God ruling internally from the heart of the believer. In order to have true liberty, man must WILLINGLY (voluntarily) be governed INTERNALLY by the Spirit and Word of God rather than by external forces. Government is first internal (causative), than extends outwardly (effect).”
James Madison (1751-1836), “Father of the U.S. Constitution” and fourth President of the United States, put the principle this way: “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
The great British Statesman Edmund Burke (1728-1797) said: “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites …. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power be placed somewhere. … It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
The American Statesman and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Robert Winthrop (1809-1894), stated, “All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet. It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State.”
So, Jon, we are not theonomists. We teach that societies are most free when people voluntarily govern themselves within the framework of God’s laws. The alternative of lawlessness—everyone doing what is right in their own eyes—will lead to moral, social, and political anarchy. Lawlessness growing in the West today. Without Christian self government, the only viable alternative to lawlessness is tyranny, a powerful central government crushing anarchy, and with it, liberty.
For more on this see my book on the Great Commission, Emancipating the World.
- Darrow Miller