Does Darrow Miller and Friends Promote Theonomy?

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.

theonomy is the belief that government should be forced to follow God's lawsNo, 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

  
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9 Responses to Does Darrow Miller and Friends Promote Theonomy?

  1. Very well put, Darrow.

  2. Randy says:

    Wow, it seems to me that you missed the mark in the first phrase of your answer. Theonomy does not believe in “the top-down imposition of God´s law on a society”. That is not what they say. That is what people assume, that have done a cursory reading of the works of Theonomic writers.

    But, on the other hand, what we now have is much much worse. We now have a “Fiat Law” system, based on the Top Down imposition of judicial and legislative fiat, forced upon us all. We have humanistic autonomous (auto (self) + nomos (law)) law that changes with every wind of popular sentiment. This has led to a “salvation by law system.” The legislative branch of government assumes that it is really getting the people´s business done when it passes more and more laws. It is messianic in nature and seeks to save society by law. It makes the Pharisees in there worst moment look like libertarians. No-one now knows the law! And ignorance of the law should now be a very plausibly good excuse! Since now even the legislative branch says we should pass the law to see what´s in it!

    Now if you want to know the God, or better for the West, the “god” of a system, ask yourself what or whom is the source of it´s law. There you will find the God or gods of the system. We have the legislative system of Satan… “you will be like gods “determining” (knowing results in determining) for yourselves good and evil.” That is how Abraham Kuyper interpreted Genesis 3:5. And that is exactly what we now have, fallen would-be gods legislating for reality from their own darkened and desperately evil hearts. (Jeremiah 17:9; Ephesians 4:18). Our law system has almost no transcendent base left.

    Isaiah 33:22 says it all: For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us. All law comes from the moral and religious rudiments or organizing principles of a social order. All law is religious at it´s root. This is inescapable. The question is, what are the religious roots of a law system? They are never neutral and they always arise from a peoples beliefs about the nature of ultimate reality.

    Since our whole Western system has become totally Kantian to the core we should expect to see the imposition of fiat law. Kantian ethics are in the end imposed by the mind the newly transcendent god who legislates over both the “noumenal” and the “phenomenal” spheres. We now have a “new epistemological man” cut off from God above and from objective reality below. He is closed up in the jail cell of his own mind with, as Jean-Paul Sartre showed in his famous existentialist play entitled: “No Exit”.
    The evangelical church has long a ago forgotten about the “lawful use of the law”. And what is that? “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites (homosexuals), for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.” (1Ti 1:8-11 NKJ) IT IS VERY INTERESTING THAT PAUL CLOSES HIS SHORT TREATISE ON THE LAWFUL USE OF THE LAW SAYING THAT IT IS “ACCORDING TO THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF THE BLESSED GOD”.

    I so appreciate your books and this great blog. Keep up the great work.

    Respectfully

    Randy

    • Darrow says:

      Hello Randy
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment on the blog. I agree with most all of what you have said in substance and style. I had not heard your term “Fiat Law” before, but speak of tyranny and sometimes use Francis Schaeffer’s term of “arbitrary absolutes.”

      The question is “Who is sovereign?” When the individual is sovereign, anarchy is the result. When the state is sovereign, the result is tyranny, as you have argued so well. When God is sovereign, and humans live within the framework of His laws, they are most free.
      From my understanding R.J. Rushdoony, and other Reconstructionist, want to make O.T. laws the civil law of the land. I confess that I am not a student of Rushdoony and the Reconstructionist movement, so my understanding certainly has limits.

      Having said this, God’s moral law- the Ten Commandments – is foundational for justice and civil law and thus free and flourishing societies. But this foundation is brought to a society through a long process of the transformation of minds and hearts which is to lead to a reformation of culture. As culture is reformed, the laws and institutions of society may be rebuilt on Biblical foundations.

      Darrow

      • Jon says:

        “Having said this, God’s moral law- the Ten Commandments – is foundational for justice and civil law and thus free and flourishing societies. But this foundation is brought to a society through a long process of the transformation of minds and hearts which is to lead to a reformation of culture. As culture is reformed, the laws and institutions of society may be rebuilt on Biblical foundations.”

        I would call that “Theonomy.”

        Although I also am relatively new to Rushdoony and Company. I don’t know how far they take it all (applying the law). I don’t know all of the principles they follow.

        So far, I haven’t read much that they (Gary North, Joel McDurmon, Gary Demar, Bodijar Marinov) write that I disagree with.

        One of these days I’ll actually have to read one of those big, thick books written by Rushdoony to find out if I am one of them or not.

        ;-)

  3. Jon says:

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    I am still in a learning process about “Theonomy” and “Christian Reconstruction” and other ideas out there about how to apply the Bible to all of life.

    One thought: the few people that I know of who claim to support Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction strongly assert that they do NOT support “the top-down imposition of God’s laws on a society.” Many are actually Christian Libertarians.

    In fact, this quotation from your article would be a great description of what they believe:

    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.

    I’ll keep reading and observing. Eventually I will understand.

    :-)

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