Theonomy, the Only Biblical Government

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Theonomy, the Only Biblical Government
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VII. Practical theonomy


Once you accept the principle of theonomy, donít shy away from its implications.  Donít let the fear of man and the fear of being politically-incorrect intimidate you and relegate you to comfortable inconsistency.  Of course, good Christians can disagree with the implications of a society ruled by the Holy Bible and we can disagree civilly on the role of the O.T. commandments in N.T. governments, but we should never let the fear of man or pragmatism affect our faith in the teachings of Scripture.


1. Godís criminal justice system


A. Government leaders are commissioned by God to punish criminals.


A theonomy would not only assure the people that the state would restrain themselves from violating God-given rights, but they would also restrain others from violating God-given rights.  The government is the God-ordained agent of vengeance to punish those who commit crimes against others.


Romans 13
3   For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4   For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5   Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.


An attribute of love is justice.  Government leaders have been specifically ordained by God to punish criminals.  According to Deuteronomy 19:12-13, civil leaders are forbidden to extend mercy to criminals.  Letting murderers and rapists go free is not a loving thing for the government to do, Iím sure you all will agree.  The loving thing for the government to do to murderers and rapists is what the Bible says to do to them, because man cannot improve on God, and God in His love and wisdom said that murderers and rapists should be put to death.  And he commissioned government leaders to execute this penalty.  Only God can set aside the penalty that criminals deserve. 


Not all sin is a crime according to Scriptures Ė not all sin has a civil sanction.  Lust, for instance, is a sin, but according to the Bible it is not a sin worthy of a civil punishment in this life.  The eternal sanction for the sin of lust is hell, according to Matthew 5:27-30, but God did not instruct governments to sanction those who break the tenth commandment in coveting someone who is not their spouse.  But premarital sex is not only a sin, it is a crime as well, with a specific civil punishment in Scripture.  The punishment for premarital sex was that the man had to pay the womanís father a fine, and he had to marry the woman and could never divorce her for any reason.  The reason for this is obvious, to keep sex between one man and one woman for life, the way God designed it to be.  This sanction keeps the young manís hormones in check, and keeps young womanís heart from being broken by careless varsity studs!  How often does it happen that the woman consents to sex with a man who says he loves her and promises to marry her, only to find out that heís already told a half a dozen girls the same thing?  How often does this happen and the woman finds out years later that she is still wanting to marry her live-in boyfriend, but the low-life wonít commit?  Godís Word would protect the womanís honor by forcing them to marry if they indulge in sex before marriage.  Furthermore, the penalty assures children that they will be born into a family with both a father and a mother in the home, which is the God-ordained environment for the nurture of children.  The enforcement of this sanction and the sanction for other sexual sins would eliminate all sexually-transmitted diseases in society within one generation.  Godís ways are best!


Law cannot be divorced from sanction.  The precept and the penalty go hand in hand.  The law of God not only protects our right to life by forbidding murder, but it also secures us in that right by endorsing a particular punishment against murderers.  Law without penalty or sanction is not law at all, only advice or suggestion.  The sanction, or civil punishment, is the teeth of the law.  The severity of the sanction should be equal to the value of the precept transgressed.  Who is more qualified to know the value of the commandment that the Author, God Almight?  Likewise, who is more qualified to determine how transgression of that commandment should be punished in this life but God?  A law with a penalty insufficient to promote compliance is a mockery of justice and a threat to a free society.  But the penalty our justice system proposes for crimes is not the penalty which God's law proposes. 


B. Four types of punishments for civil crimes according to God's law:


1) Retribution - thieves were to pay back 4 to 5-fold of what they stole, depending on the object stolen.  Thieves who turned themselves in only had to pay 2-fold the value of what they stole (Godís law encourages thieves to turn themselves in.)  In this form of punishment, the victim is appeased and the criminal can go back and care for his family.  The prison system in America does not appease the victim of the thief like Godís law does, but rather our system financially benefits the attorneys at the expense of the victims and the criminals.  Those who could not afford to pay back what was due were sold into slavery to pay their debt.  Slavery would be a form of punishment for crimes in a godly society, similar to labor camps we presently have in some prisons, only they would be operated and run not by the government, but by private industries.


2) Public flogging (Deut. 25:1-3) Ė this would replace the typical malpractice suit that we have today, where a wealthy business like McDonalds pays eight million dollars to a woman because she spilled hot coffee on herself.  If there was malpractice, then the person responsible would be publicly flogged.  Thereíd be no rich payout for lawyers, and therefore no frivolous lawsuits.


3) "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" Ė If a man injures another man through unjust assault, he must pay for the manís medical bills and lost salary until the man is thoroughly healed.  If permanent injury ensues from the assault, ďan eye for an eye, and a tooth for a toothĒ Ė what he did to the victim is done back to him!  (Jesus forbade using this principle to take vengeance for personal grudges, but all governments endorse some kind of sanction against those who assault others, and Godís way is best)


In accordance with this ďan eye for an eyeĒ principle, perjury is punished in the manner that the perjurer tried to injure his neighbor.  Since the testimony of witnesses carries so much weight in Godís criminal justice system, perjury must be severely punished.  If someone perjures themself in a trial in order to get an innocent person convicted of a crime they didnít commit, then the perjurer is punished by how he tried to get the innocent person punished.  If a witness falsely testifies that she saw the accused shoot the victim to death, then the witness would face the death penalty if caught.  This would be a very strong disincentive to perjury. 


4) Execution Ė murder, kidnapping, homosexuality, incest, pedophilia, adultery, witchcraft, youth who cannot be corrected with chastening, etc.  Itís God's will that such sins be crimes in society and that they be punished by execution.  


The God-ordained punishment upon these sexual sins is designed to maintain the sanctity of the sexual union.  God designed sex for the marriage bed between one man and one woman for life.  This severe sanction provides a strong impediment against sins that are particularly addictive and destructive to society (Have you ever noticed that Saudi Arabia doesnít have an AIDS crisis?  A lot less homosexuals die in countries where homosexuality is outlawed.) 


Ezekiel 13:

19   Will ye pollute Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save souls alive that should not live...?


Slaying the innocent and letting the shedders of innocent blood live are both an affront to God.  The Bible says that the killing of the innocent brings a curse upon the land and its people.  It also says that the curse can only be lifted by executing the shedder of innocent blood. 


Numbers 35:

30 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.
32 And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.
33 So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.
34 Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel. 


Deuteronomy 19:

11 But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities:
12 Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.
13 Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee...
20 And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.
21 And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. 


Exodus 21:

12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death..
22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her (premature labor), and yet no mischief follow (the baby and mother are okay): he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
23 And if any mischief follow (baby or mother are injured or killed), then thou shalt give life for life,
24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. 

(i.e. killing preborn babies is a capital crime)


Jesus affirmed the death penalty directly in Matthew 15:3-9, and indirectly in Matthew 5:17-19, and Matthew 23:2-3, and Paul in Romans 13, quoted above, and in Acts 25:11.


Common rebuttal #1 against the death penalty: "But in John 8, Jesus did not stone the woman caught in the act of adultery". 

Response: As a matter of fact, Jesus did tell those holding the stones to throw them. "Cast the first stone!" he ordered to "him that is without sin".  This was no new concept - the God of the Old Testament also forbade hypocritical judgment.  Convicted in their own consciences, the stones dropped to the ground and Jesus was left alone with the woman.  "Where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?" he asked her, to which she responded, "No man, Lord."  She didn't justify her sin, and confessed Christ to be Lord.  He then forgave her on condition of her repentance: "Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more." 


First of all, this was no great new dispensationalist way to deal with penitent sinners.  God forgave repentant capital criminals in the Old Testament, too (King David, murderer of Uriah and adulterer with Basheba).  Secondly, it would have been unlawful for Jesus to put her to death even if she was still impenitent.  Executions were to take place publicly and the witnesses were to be the first to put her to death - the witnesses had left and Jesus was alone with the woman.  Furthermore, Leviticus 20:10 says, "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death."  The Pharisees claimed that the woman was caught in the act, so where was the man?!  One of the Phariseesí sins was not executing Godís judgment properly!  So the law of Moses did not demand her execution in this instance and Jesus, therefore, did not neglect it by pardoning her on condition of repentance.  I conclude, therefore, that this passage does not undermine, but rather affirms the God-ordained sanction against adultery in Godís criminal justice system. 


Common rebuttal #2: The rebuttal comes, "Turn the other cheek", "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven", "Love your enemy", and "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord."

Response: These passages are indeed reconcilable with the concept of justice aforementioned.  We have an obligation to be slow to judge and quick to forgive, to have a merciful, generous, and longsuffering disposition toward those who offend us.  You may forgive someone who is killing you, but you have no obligation nor right to forgive someone who kills someone else.  You may even forgive a thug who is raping you, but you have no right to forgive one who is raping a little baby to death with a sharp surgical instrument while he is yet in his mother's womb!  Murderers should be executed according to God's Word, our refusal to hold a personal grudge and willingness to feed our enemy when he's hungry notwithstanding. 


C. Godís criminal justice system provides an adequate disincentive.


There would not be many capital criminals in a society where capital criminals were executed.  The disincentive is sufficient to keep people from committing capital crimes.  Godís Word gives us this promise: after God commands a capital punishment upon capital criminals, God says,


Deuteronomy 13:

11   And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.


Capital punishment means less capital crimes according to the God of the Bible, the standard of righteousness and justice! That's good not only for the would-be victims, but also for would-be capital criminals who would be effectively discouraged from acting out their lust to the detriment of their neighbor. 


D. Executions were a public matter.


One of the reasons that the disincentive was so strong was that the executions are to take place publicly.  The purpose of execution according to God was that Israel would witness it, and be motivated to fear God and obey.  Furthermore, the people were to participate in the execution.  There wasnít any ďprofessional executioners.Ē  The Bible says that the witnesses to the crime were to be the first to throw the stones of justice.  That the people witnessed and participated in the execution of justice firmly impressed upon their minds the disincentive that God wanted these executions to be. 


E. The laws would be simple and clear. 


The amazing thing about the law of God is how few moral laws there are.  The Jews under the Law of Moses enjoyed great liberty.  We, on the other hand, have thousands of pages of laws and regulations, some contradictory, which govern every single aspect of our lives, from where we can fish to what we can drive to what we can eat to what we wear to how much water your toilet must drain with every flush!  The multitudes of laws and regulations turns everybody in America into a criminal in one way or another.


F. Prisons are unbiblical.


There would be no prisons if a society enforced the law of God.  The principle behind these criminal training centers is wrong - tax-subsidized groceries, utilities, weight benches, television, etc.  That the law-abiding citizens, that the victims, should have to pay taxes to pay the groceries of the criminals, pay to keep them warm in winter, cool in summer, pay to educate them, medicate them, legally defend them, entertain them Ė all of this is fundamentally wrong, and a poor impediment to crime.  The sanction for a crime should be an impediment to crime.  But life in prison is better than life on the streets for many homeless drug-addicts, rapists, and murderers, and is therefore a poor impediment to crime.


G. Executions would take place quickly.


Delayed justice is injustice.  When we do execute a criminal in America, we do not do it in accordance with God's law.  Men that are executed are often done so 10-20 years after the crime was committed.  One of the aims of the punishment was to leave the distinct impression upon society that those who commit the crime that was fresh on everybodyís memory would get this punishment.  But by the time they execute capital criminals in our society, people forgot all about the crime!  This dilutes the disincentive effect of Godís criminal justice system.


Ecclesiastes 8:

11   If the sentence is not executed speedily, then the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil"


H.  Attorneys are unbiblical. 


There would be no professional lawyers according to God's law, only judges and witnesses.  There would be no purpose for court lawyers if a society enforced the law of God.  Lawyers discriminate against the poor, who cannot afford them, and equal justice is impossible.  Godís justice would never favor the rich over the poor.  Lawyers are masters of perverting the laws and the judgments thereof, concealing evidence, clouding the issue, giving emotional appeals, defending those they know are guilty, for the sake of money, and this can never be right. 
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