Archive for the ‘Natural Law’ Category

Rule of Faith and Life

March 10, 2010

A reader (who I’m not naming to protect the reader’s privacy) wrote the following comment, to which I will respond, line-by-line:

“Turretinfan, you have espoused the view that for an act to be considered immoral, we must find the condemnation of such an act in Scripture.”

This seems like an accurate description of my position, although (as discussed below) certain implications you have drawn from this are not correct.

“Scripture is not only your rule of faith regarding theological positions, but moral ones as well.”

The moral law is one important branch of theology. We say that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are our supreme (and the only infallible) rule of faith and life. We see this same sentiment in the fathers as well, especially those who preceded the scholastics.

Scripture itself teaches this:

Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Deuteronomy 5:33 Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.

Proverbs 4:4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.

Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.

Proverbs 2:20 That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.

Psalm 143:8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

The Westminster Confession puts it this way:

Under the name of holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testament, which are these: [list of 66 book canon is presented, but I have omitted it] All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.

– Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Section 2

Augustine similarly speaks of the rule of life (vitae regulam).

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):

The man, then, who is temperate in such mortal and transient things has his rule of life confirmed by both Testaments, that he should love none of these things, nor think them desirable for their own sakes, but should use them as far as is required for the purposes andduties of life, with the moderation of an employer instead of the ardor of a lover.

Latin text:

Habet igitur vir temperans in huiuscemodi rebus mortalibus et fluentibus vitae regulam utroque Testamento firmatam, ut eorum nihil diligat, nihil per se appetendum putet, sed ad vitae huius atque officiorum necessitatem quantum sat est usurpet utentis modestia, non amantis affectu.

Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 21 (Section 39)

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):

What of justice that pertains to God? As the Lord says, “You cannot serve two masters,” [Matthew 6:24] and the apostle denounces those who serve the creature rather than the Creator, [Romans 1:25] was it not said before in the Old Testament, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve?” [Deuteronomy 6:13] I need say no more on this, for these books are full of such passages. The lover, then, whom we are describing, will get from justice this rule of life, that he must with perfect readiness serve the God whom he loves, the highest good, the highest wisdom, the highest peace; and as regards all other things, must either rule them as subject to himself, or treat them with a view to their subjection. This rule of life, is, as we have shown,confirmed by the authority of both Testaments.

Latin text:

Quid de iustitia quae ad Deum pertinet? Nonne cum et Dominus dicat: Non potestis duobus dominis servire [Matthew 6:24], et Apostolus redarguat eos qui creaturae potius quam Creatori [Romans 1:25] serviunt, in Veteri Testamento prius dictum est: Dominum Deum tuum adorabis, et illi soli servies [Deuteronomy 6:13]? Sed quid opus est hinc plura dicere, cum sententiis talibus ibi plena sint omnia? Hanc ergo iustitia vitae regulam dabit huic amatori de quo sermo est, ut Deo quem diligit, id est summo bono, summae sapientiae, summae paci libentissime serviat ceteraque omnia partim subiecta sibi regat, partim subicienda praesumat. Quae norma vivendi, ut docuimus, utriusque Testamenti auctoritate roboratur.

Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 24 (Section 44)

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):

This discipline, then, which is the medicine of the mind, as far as we can gather from the sacred Scriptures, includes two things, restraint and instruction. Restraint implies fear, and instruction love, in the person benefited by the discipline; for in the giver of the benefit there is the love without the fear. In both of these God Himself, by whose goodness and mercy it is that we are anything, has given us in the two Testaments a rule of discipline. For though both are found in both Testaments, still fear is prominent in the Old, and love in the New; which the apostle calls bondage in the one, and liberty in the other. Of the marvellous order and divine harmony of these Testaments it would take long to speak, and many pious and learned men have discoursed on it. The theme demands many books to set it forth and explain it as far as is possible for man. He, then, who loves his neighbor endeavors all he can to procure his safety in body and in soul, making the health of the mind the standard in his treatment of the body. And as regards the mind, his endeavors are in this order, that he should first fear and then love God. This is true excellence of conduct, and thus the knowledge of the truth is acquired which we are ever in the pursuit of.

Latin text:

Haec tamen disciplina de qua nunc agimus, quae animi medicina est, quantum Scripturis ipsis divinis colligi licet, in duo distribuitur, coercitionem et instructionem. Coercitio timore, instructio vero amore perficitur eius dico cui per disciplinam subvenitur, nam qui subvenit, nihil horum duorum habet nisi amare. In his duobus Deus ipse cuius bonitate atque clementia fit omnino ut aliquid simus duobus Testamentis, Veteri et Novo, disciplinae nobis regulam dedit. Quamquam enim utrumque in utroque sit, praevalet tamen in Veteri timor, amor in Novo; quae ibi servitus hic libertas ab Apostolis praedicatur. De quorum Testamentorum admirabili quodam ordine divinoque concentu longissimum est dicere et multi religiosi doctique dixerunt. Multos libros res ista flagitat, ut pro merito, quantum ab homine potest, explicari et praedicari queat. Qui ergo diligit proximum, agit quantum potest ut salvus corpore salvusque animo sit, sed cura corporis ad sanitatem animi referenda est. Agit ergo his gradibus, quod ad animum pertinet, ut primo timeat deinde diligat Deum. Hi mores sunt optimi, per quos nobis etiam ipsa provenit, ad quam omni studio rapimur, agnitio veritatis.

Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 28 (Section 56)

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):

But why say more on this? For who but sees that men who dare to speak thus against the Christian Scriptures, though they may not be what they are suspected of being, are at least no Christians? For to Christians this rule of life is given, that we should love the Lord Our God with all the heart, with all the soul, and with all the mind, and our neighbor as ourselves; for on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Latin text:

Sed quid hinc plura? Quis enim non videat eos qui contra Scripturas christianas haec audent dicere, ut illud non sint quod homines suspicantur, certe tamen non esse christianos? Nam christianis haec data est forma vivendi, ut diligamus Dominum Deum nostrum ex toto corde, ex tota anima, ex tota mente 91, deinde proximum nostrum tamquam nosmetipsos 92. In his enim duobus praeceptis tota lex pendet, et omnes prophetae 93.

Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 30 (Section 62)

“Therefore, the God given faculty of rational thought which separates man from beast cannot in any way condemn an act as immoral unless it has scriptural warrant to do so.”

This does not follow. One’s innate knowledge of God’s law may lead one to condemn certain things as immoral without being taught from Scripture. However, of course, all those who understand original sin must also see the danger of treating one’s conscience as though it were infallible. One conscience is, therefore, a bound on what one is permitted to do, but it does not serve as a rule by which we are to condemn others. To condemn others, we need a higher authority than our own conscience.

“Is this your position?”

Not quite. See the distinctions above.

“Why is homosexuality immoral?”

Why it is wrong may be different from how we know it is wrong. It is wrong because it contrary to the moral law of God. Whether God’s nature necessitated that or whether it was a voluntary law is an interesting question that’s not really germane to our discussion.

We know it is wrong both from Scripture and (for many of us) from conscience.

“Is it simply because the Bible condemns it as such?”

See above. We know it is wrong from the Bible. The reason that it is wrong is the moral law, which is revealed to us clearly through the Bible and less clearly through the light of nature.

“If the Bible were silent on the issue of homosexuality, would it have been moral to engage in it?”

It wasn’t moral prior to Scripture being written. Scripture reveals God’s law to us – it is not itself the basis of morality. Rather Scripture is the revelation of God’s law. The Bible would have been silent on the issue of homosexuality, if it were a matter of indifference. It speaks against the sin because one of the purposes of Scripture is to show us the way we ought to live.

“Why has God condemned homosexuality; is this something that He has communicated to us?”

We might argue over whether God has communicated the reason for his condemnation clearly. It should be apparent that God created Eve (not Steve) for Adam. Consequently, we might reasonably infer that one reason for the prohibition on homosexuality is is contrariety to the Creation ordinance of marriage. This looks like a voluntary law (as opposed to a natural law), but again whether it is or not is not really germane to this discussion.

“What are the inherent principles involved?”

I don’t know what this comment refers to.

“My position is that the natural law is the rational agent’s participation in the eternal law.”

It looks like the commenter’s position is borrowed from Aquinas: “It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law.” (Summa Theologica, 1st part of the 2nd part, Question 91, Article 2)(link)

I do not know whether the commenter would also agree with Aquinas:

Article 6. Whether the law of nature can be abolished from the heart of man?

I answer that, As stated above (4,5), there belong to the natural law, first, certain most general precepts, that are known to all; and secondly, certain secondary and more detailed precepts, which are, as it were, conclusions following closely from first principles. As to those general principles, the natural law, in the abstract, can nowise be blotted out from men’s hearts. But it is blotted out in the case of a particular action, in so far as reason is hindered from applying the general principle to a particular point of practice, on account of concupiscence or some other passion, as stated above (Question 77, Article 2). But as to the other, i.e. the secondary precepts, the natural law can be blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions, just as in speculative matters errors occur in respect of necessary conclusions; or by vicious customs and corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Romans 1), were not esteemed sinful.

– Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1st part of the 2nd part, Question 94, Article 6 (link)

Such an admission tends to undermine the use of “natural law” standing alone as a rule for others, even if it is an individual’s participation in the eternal law (whatever that is supposed to mean). The light of nature leaves the individual without excuse, but it can be obliterated (variously) as to many details, and consequently is not an infallible authority from which to build a system of morality by which we condemn others.

“Please explain your position.”

Hopefully the explanation above suffices.

– TurretinFan

GreenBaggins on Theonomy – A Response

April 6, 2009

Lane Keister at GreenBaggins has a post in which he argues that “Theonomy is Biblically-Theologically Wrong” (link). I can summarize it thus: “redemptive-historical theology removes the O.T. civil laws while natural law replaces them.”

1) Limited Agreement on the Church-State Distinction

I agree that the church and state are not one and the same thing in the New Testament.

a) However, I should note that Mr. Keister (because of his Redemptive-Historical framework) has failed to notice that church and state were not one and the same thing in the Old Testament. A redemptive-historical approach is so focused on the earthly ministry of Christ that it tends to lose sight of the original context of Old Testament passages. While there are redemptive-historical themes and a significant amount of typology in Scripture, we must never permit these themes to prevent us from understanding the literal sense of Scripture.

b) Additionally, I should note that Mr. Keister has failed to notice that even in the New Testament the civil government (whether that be king, governor, or whatever) is considered a “minister of God” (just as in the Old Testament, see Exodus 24:13 and Romans 13:4). In fairness, Mr. Keister does mention Romans 13 (and even mentions that the magistrate is ordained by God), but argues that there is nothing in Romans 13 that cannot be argued on the basis of natural law, which brings us to the second point of limited agreement.

2) Limited Agreement on the Natural Law

I agree that God has provided information about himself through the created order and especially through the conscience, which we can refer to as “Natural Law” and that we must not go contrary to Natural Law any more than to any other divine revelation.

a) However, Mr. Keister overlooks that the Natural Law is necessarily universally applicable. That is to say, God’s revelation of himself through Nature and Conscience was also applicable to Old Testament Israel.

b) Additionally, Mr. Keister overlooks that the Natural Law tends not to be propositional. Thus, for example, Natural Law can tell us that crime must be punished, but it may not be able to tell us whether theft should be a capital offense. This actually brings us to a point of disagreement with Mr. Keister.

3) Mr. Keister’s Arguments Against Capital Punishment for Violation of Second-Table Commandments are Unsupported and Unsupportable Either from Scripture or Natural Law

Mr. Keister states:

However, it is not the civil magistrate’s job to execute a boy for cursing his parents (as was true in the Old Testament civil laws). It is the church’s job to instruct and to exercise church discipline.

There are two problems with this claim:

a) Mr. Keister is arguing for church discipline to handle the affairs of civil government. Although he doubtless does not intend to do so, Mr. Keister is violating the two-kingdoms principle that civil affairs are within the authority of the civil magistrate: attempting to take this away from the civil magistrate and give it to the church. However, the church is not charged with punishing crime: that is not within its sphere of authority.

b) The issue of insubordination of children to parents is an issue of civil law, as is recognized by the Old Testament and in the Natural Law. The Old Testament explicitly ordains the death penalty for cursers of parents and places it, contextually in this list:

i) Regulation of Slavery (Exodus 21:1-11);
ii) Capital Punishment for Premeditated Murder and Relief for Accidental Homicide (Exodus 21:12-14);
iii) Capital Punishment for Battery of Parents (Exodus 21:15);
iv) Capital Punishment for Kidnap (Exodus 21:16);
v) Capital Punishment for Cursing of Parents (Exodus 21:17);
vi) Restitution for Battery (Exodus 21:18-19);
vii) Application of (ii) and (vi) in the case of slaves (Exodus 21:20-21);
viii) Punishment for Battery of Pregnant Woman (Exodus 21:22-25);
ix) Further application of (vi) in the case of slaves (Exodus 21:26-27);
x) Punishment of Homicide by Chattels (Exodus 21:28-32);
xi) Punishment for Damage to Chattels by Pit-digging (Exodus 21:33-34); and
xii) Punishment for Damage of Chattels on Chattels (Exodus 21:35-46).

Within that context it should be fairly clear that cursing one’s parents is part of the civil code of Israel, and it is the responsibility of the civil magistrate (the “judges” mentioned, for example, in Exodus 21:6) to address these issues. It is not a matter governed through the church (i.e. through the priests) and it is not a matter connected with the ceremonial law or with an issue unique to the nation of Israel (as, for example, the land of Canaan).

c) It is worth noting that, in this instance, Mr. Keister has gone beyond even many fairly radical non-theonomists in suggesting that a second table offense should not be governed by the civil government.

d) Mr. Keister does not provide any real argument from the Natural Law in support of his contention that the Natural Law does not suggest such a penalty. On the contrary, Natural Law teaches that men must obey their parents, that parents deserve a special dignity, and that the greater the dignity of the offended party the worse the punishment should be on the offender. In short, while someone might argue that the specific punishment of death for cursers of parents cannot be gleaned from the Natural Law (given the inspecific nature of Natural Law), nevertheless the Old Testament civil law provides an example well within the bounds of Natural Law and fully consistent with it and certainly Mr. Keister’s opinion that death penalty is inappropriate cannot be supported by natural law, even if the natural law does not clearly require such a penalty.

4) Mr. Keister’s Situation-Specific Dismissal Is Too Unspecific

Mr. Keister asserted: “Now, the theonomist will probably reply that the civil law of Old Testament Israel is of a piece with and is the outworking of the moral law given in the Ten Commandments. True, it is. But it is an outworking of the Ten Commandments for a particular place and people.” (emphasis in original)

I certainly agree that it was for a particular place and people. That’s a very true statement, and yet it does not follow that therefore the civil law of Israel would not be a good law for other places or peoples. There’s nothing in the Bible or in the Natural Law to suggest that the hearts of post-Pentecost men are less hard than the hearts of the Jews from the time of Moses to the time of Pentecost (or till A.D. 70 or whenever it is alleged that the civil law of Israel ceased to have effect by those who reject what they refer to as “theonomy”). Furthermore, the Bible does tell us that the civil laws of Israel were given good laws:

Nehemiah 9:13 Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:

In fact, they are set forth in Scripture as the paragon of all laws for governing nations:

Deuteronomy 4:8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

In principle, I agree that where the judgments are specific to Israel they are naturally not applicable to us – but judgments like those on honoring one’s father and mother are not specific to Israel.

5) Mr. Keister Overstates His Point in Abandoning Old Testament Principles

Mr. Keister stated:

In other words, Jesus Christ is the apex of the trajectory of Old Testament Israel, and the church is in Christ. Therefore, it does not make sense to say that modern-day governments should run themselves according to principles that were given to Old Testament Israel as Old Testament Israel.

Surely, Mr. Keister is right that Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Bible. It does not follow, however, that the good laws given to Old Testament Israel are not based on principles that must be followed by any government that wishes to follow the law of God.

Mr. Keister has plainly overstated his point here, since Mr. Keister acknowledges the role of Natural Law. Nevertheless, since God cannot be inconsistent with Himself, and since the Natural Law is a Creation ordinance (at the latest, upon the Fall and the obtaining of the knowledge of good and evil), therefore the “principles” of the civil law of Israel must be the same principles found in the Natural Law (otherwise the civil law of Israel would not be good laws).

6) Mr. Keister’s Redemptive-Historical Framework Causes Him to Conflate Categories

We see a conflation of categories in Mr. Keister’s comment:

And yet the principles in the New Testament for church government say nothing of the sword. Instead, the weapons are spiritual, for we fight not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual enemies. Ephesians 6, by the way, is one reason why I believe the application of Old Testament Israel’s holy wars draws a straight line to spiritual warfare today in the church.

(emphasis in original, link omitted)

Mr. Keister is right in one way: the church (either of the Old or New Testament) was not entrusted with the sword. That’s the duty of the civil magistrate – the king, governor, judges, etc. depending on the applicable form of government. On the other hand, in both the Old and New Testament the civil magistrate does bear the power of the sword (See Romans 13:4).

The roles and duties of the church and the state are different, just as the roles and duties of the parents and the state are different and the roles and duties of the parents and the church are different (although there are various overlaps at pints).

This leads me to the final point (prior to the conclusion).

7) Mr. Keister’s Conflation Actually Undermines the Proper Two(or Five) Kingdoms Distinctives

Elsewhere I’ve discussed how there are not just two, but actually five, kingdoms (link). Each has its own proper sphere of authority, and the existence of one sphere of authority does not negate or invalidate the other spheres. Mr. Keister’s emphasis on the duties of the church with respect to sin (i.e. church discipline) seem to suggest that because the church has some responsibilities with respect to sin “X” that therefore the civil government does not also, and in parallel, have responsibilities.

Specifically (so the argument seems to go), because the church is called on to excommunicate those who curse their parents, the civil government has no responsibility to put such villains to death. This flawed reasoning would seem to destroy the proper multiple kingdoms distinctives and cause the church to usurp the roles of the other spheres, especially the civil sphere.

Let me give some illustrative counter-examples.

Example 1: Man commits adultery, two witnesses observe this, and the offended wife brings the matter before the judges.

Reaction by State: It would be appropriate for the state to punish this man for his crime. I see no reason (notwithstanding the Pericope Adulterae) why that punishment must not be death.

Reaction by Church: Discipline, up to and perhaps including excommunication (upon following the appropriate protocols).

Reaction by the Adulterer’s Father: Condemnation of his son’s misdeed, and exhortation to repentance.

Reaction by the Adulterer’s Spouse: In this case, the offense has destroyed this particular sphere of authority. Thus, the woman is not required to “submit” to the adultery, although she ought to seek to forgive this man who has sinned against her.

Reaction by the Adulterer’s Employer: Condemnation of his employee’s misdeed, and exhortation to repentance.

Example 2: Man (out of hate) kills someone who works for him, two witnesses observe, and the family of the deceased brings it before the judges.

Reaction by State: Death for the murderer.

Reaction by the Church: Discipline, up to and perhaps including excommunication (upon following the appropriate protocols).

Reaction by the Murderer’s Father: Condemnation of his son’s misdeed, and exhortation to Repentance.

Reaction by the Murderer’s Spouse (if applicable): Exhortation to Repentance.

Reaction by the Murderer’s Employees: Exhortation to repentance.

We could go on and on with other examples. The point of these examples would simply be to show that each sphere of authority generally can react to any given sin. That reaction may be different in one sphere of authority or another. Thus, the fact that the state is going to execute the death penalty for murder does not preclude the church from acting to discipline the man, perhaps even excommunicating him if the circumstances warrant. Likewise, a father need not remain silent when his son does something wrong, but can condemn him for his sin and exhort him to repentance.

In some spheres, the ability to exhort to repentance may be limited: for example, one may be able to exhort one’s employer or husband to a godly life of repentance largely through example. Nevertheless, each violation of God’s law should provoke the appropriate reaction from each of the sphere’s of authority.


Accordingly, I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Keister’s contention regarding theonomy (in general – as opposed to a specific flavor of theonomy) being Biblically and/or Theologically Wrong. I must, of course, qualify that disagreement. If theonomy causes one to lose sight of the preeminent role of Jesus in the Bible, then theonomy (in that instance) is wrong. If one is so focused on the duties of the civil magistrate that one commits the opposite error from that identified above, and places all the responsibility for reacting to sin in the hands of the state, then that species of theonomy is wrong.

But a true, Biblical theonomy embraces the multiple (two, five, or however many) kingdoms and the ministers of each of those kingdoms: the father has his duties, as does the parent, the spouse, the employer/employee, the elder/deacon/layman, and the king/subject. One does not trump the other, and one does not usurp or supplant the other. The King must be honored, so must the master, the father, the husband, and the elder. Each is to be honored and obeyed and each has certain responsibilities. God has given these spheres of authority, and each should be governed according to the word and law of God, as revealed both in Nature and Conscience but also in Scripture.


What If Natural Law Teaches Theonomy?

October 31, 2008

Let’s grant, for the sake of the argument, some of the apparent theses of the “Two Kingdoms” folks, and assent to the idea of “natural law” as being the normative principle for civil governments. What if, just as the light of nature points us to find the revelation from God and read it in things spiritual, so also the light of nature points us to find the revelation from God and read it in the moral aspects of civil law?

Is it possible that natural law leads to theonomy?


P.S. I want to be very clear: I hold to the tri-partite division of Old Testament law: the moral law is constant, the civil law is abrogated but relevant as to its general equity, and the ceremonial law is fulfilled in Christ. This is the “Confessional” position and different from the novel position espoused, it seems, among “two kingdoms” folks that the civil law was essentially ceremonial and consequently fulfilled in Christ.

Natural Law, Theonomy, and Homosexual Marriage

October 27, 2008

R. Scott Clark has an interesting blog post up on the issue of Homosexual Marriage (link). RSC approaches the issue from the standpoint of “two kingdoms theology,” a viewpoint that I’m not sure I can fully embrace. Instead, I tend to self-identify with “theonomy” (a term that’s perhaps even more liable to confusion than “two kingdoms theology”). Accordingly, I’ve prepared some thoughts on the issue in parallel to those of RSC, but with an emphasis on the civil law of Israel.

Issue: how, from a “theonomic” perspective one should think about the question of whether the state should sanction homosexual marriage? Beyond the ambiguity over what constitutes “theonomic,” there’s some ambiguity in the question, since “sanction” can mean either “approve” or “enforce a penalty against.” Thus, we’ll consider the issue as broadly as possible.

1. Explicit Old Testament Law
A. The Old Testament specifically condemns homosexual behavior:

Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

B. The Old Testament also specifically prescribes the death penalty to both parties to a homosexual act:

Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

2. New Testament Light

A. The New Testament confirms that the disapprobation of homosexual behavior was not merely a matter of ceremony:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

1 Timothy 1:10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

B. The New Testament also draws an equivalence between Male and Female homosexuality:

Romans 1:26-27 and 32
26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Romans 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

3. Resolution of the Issue

Therefore, the most fitting rule for the King to implement is not only to prohibit so-called homosexual marriages from recognition as marriage, but also to punish capitally those who engage in these abominable practices.

4. Objections Answered

A. It may be objected: “The moral law of God has been revealed in creation and re-stated, in the context of the national covenant with Israel. For the purposes of deciding deciding post-theocratic civil questions, the national covenant having been fulfilled by Christ and thus having expired and having been abrogated, it is proper to appeal to the natural revelation of the moral law in creation.” (source, R. Scott Clark)

We answer: that although the national laws of Israel are expired and abrogated, and though the ceremonial aspects of the national laws of Israel are fulfilled in Christ, the moral aspects of the national laws of Israel remain. As demonstrated above, the prohibition on homosexual behavior is a matter of moral law, not mere ceremony. Furthermore, where the moral law is explicit, there is no need to appeal to the natural revelation of the moral law in creation, since it is not proper to interpret the more clear by the less clear. We acknowledge, however, that general revelation is from God, and that consequently – in principle – natural law, as derived from general revelation, is not rendered completely illegitimate, simply because it is not completely clear.

Furthermore, even examining such a scholarly source as R. Scott Clark, we cannot find a very rigorous argument from natural law alone (i.e. without recourse to special revelation) to determine what path should be taken.

B. It may be objected, that “Some scholars however, e.g. John Boswell, have argued over the last twenty-five years that earlier periods in church history were more approving of homosexuality than once thought.” (noted by RSC with disapproval)

We answer: since our rule of faith does not depend on the customs of men, we do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the historical battle over whether previous generations of Christians were more or less approving of homosexuality.

We note, however, that if we are to return to the apostolic and Old Testament periods of church history, the clear evidence is severe condemnation.

C. It may be objected, that “in contrast to our own times, most of the ancient Christian writers were not, by contemporary standards, very explicit about homosexual behavior. Doubtless some will attempt to capitalize on the rhetorical restraint of earlier times as a sort of tacit approval of homosexuality.” (noted by RSC with disapproval)

We answer: again, for the same reasons as above, we do not have a vested interest in this historical battle. We note, however, that a reasonable alternative explanation for such guarded language among the ancients is shame because of recognition of the sinfulness of the acts:

Ephesians 5:12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

D. It may be objected, that “Romans 1:27 indicates that those engaging in homosexual activity were ‘receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.'”

We answer: it seems most natural to view this phrase as referring not to the reception of the reward for the error of homosexual behavior, but for the error of worshiping the creature more than the Creator. There are several reasons to believe that this reading is more natural and the proper reading:

1) the point of the passage is to emphasize that God is punishing the wicked for sins against himself; and
2) in general, in the passage a system of punishments are laid out for us:
vss. 20-21 punishment for refusing to act on the obvious knowledge of God = darkening of the mind
– further impact: vs. 22-23 punishment for claiming to be wise = that they become fools
— yet further impact: vs. 24 – punishment for dishonoring God by images = that their own bodies are dishonored among themselves
— still further impact: vss. 25-27 – punishment for worshiping the opposite of what they should = that their bodies’ lusts are unnaturally reversed
– parallel impact vss. 28-32 – punishment for being unmindful of God = a reprobate mind.

Nevertheless, even if the point of vs. 27 is merely to identify the impact of homosexuality, and even further assuming that the impact is simply the laws of nature (sexually transmitted diseases and so forth, as opposed to execution by the King) being applied to homosexual acts, we would not therefore conclude that the King is forbidden to impose a prohibition on the wicked acts of men, since among the list of things resulting from a reprobate mind are murder, which the King must not tolerate.


%d bloggers like this: