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Moral Law Gymnastics and Theonomy

April 12, 2012

The position that the Ten Commandments are the moral law is an inarguable tenant of Reformed Theology. In the 1689 2nd London Baptist confession it refers to the Ten Commandments as “this law, commonly called moral” (19:3) and declares that in contrast to it the Jewish “judicial law” has “expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution”(19:4). The reformed consensus about the moral law as being the Ten Commandments and not the judicial law of the Old Testament is based on irrefutable biblical truth.

In a simple but telling way we are told that Peter being a Jew lived as a Gentile (Gal 2:14). And that while there were those in the early church who made the claim about believers that it was “necessary to direct them to observe the Law of Moses” (Acts 15:5), it was a claim rejected by the Jerusalem counsel and throughout apostolic writing and example. Paul argues for the liberty of meat sacrificed to idols (arguably a capital crime under Jewish law) and exhorts believers to let no one act as their judge in regard to “food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” (Col 2:16). Nor can be overlooked his manifesto in Galatians in which among other things, he points out that Abraham himself did not even have the Mosaic law which came 430 years later (Gal 3:17).

Then there is the position of Theonomy. No fourteen year old Russian girl gymnast ever held a position as contorted as theirs on the moral law. From an Olga Korbut like vantage point they claim that what Reformed Theology calls the judicial (or civil) law and views as “expired” is in fact, in its entirety, the moral law -and still binding. Those who hold the Ten Commandments alone to be the moral law are, they say,  “antinomian.”

The death penalty they claim should today be imposed on children who rebel against their parents, anyone who worships a false god, adulterers, sabbath breakers etc. The mixing of seeds in the vineyard, the combining textiles in garments and much more are all moral violations by which the land is defiled. When we object to any of this as no longer applicable in the age of the church they allege that we are endorsing everything forbidden in Jewish civil law. The irrationality of such a statement is obvious.

The idea that the apostles were seeking to see capital punishment inflicted on idolaters and adulterers is laughable and absurd. The apostolic mindset was one of operating in a society of religious pluralism not a state church theocracy patterned on the Mosaic economy.

We can hardly be surprised that certain elements of the paedo-baptist churches move in this direction but what can be said of some who call themselves Reformed Baptists and yet hold these views? It is sad how the truth is being attacked in our day even under the false flag of Reformed Baptist self identification.


From → Theonomy

  1. George W. Seevers, Jr. permalink

    Good article. I deal with this issue by way of contexts: the context for the civil law was the physical nation of Israel, and the context of the ceremonial law was tabernacle and temple worship. God has removed both those contexts, so those two aspects of the law are no longer in force. The context for the moral law — the Ten Commandments — has always been the human heart. Consequently, that element of the law remains.

  2. Yes quite right. And it’s in that connection that the Moral Law is addressed to its audience in the 2nd person singular, i.e. to the individual.

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