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  • « The "Unbelieving Christian" | Main | Our Poisoned Culture of Libel and Defamation »

    Why don't you still put to death people who break God's law like in OT Israel?

    Why don't you still put to death people who break God's law like in OT Israel? Wouldn't you establish a theocracy and take over the state mechanism if you had the opportunity? Multi-tiered answer.

    1) the death penalty still stands for the same sins committed, but with the coming of Christ there is now a delay in carrying out judgment as He holds out pardon in advance of His invasion for those who ally themselves with Him. When he bore the sin of many on the cross He died the death we all deserved. He paid for the sins of the Christians now living...and for those sheep he still intends to gather. So now is a time of mercy, today is the day of salvation ... but when Christ comes again such offers of clemency will cease forever .. and then their death sentence will be carried out.

    2) As Christ grafted in the Gentiles into His olive tree (Rom 11), we no longer live under a direct theocracy but are cast and dispersed all over the world, called to live as pilgrims and exiles like Israel in the Babylonian captivity. In whatever country we live we are called to seek the welfare of the city where the Lord sends us, pray on its behalf (Jeremiah 29: 4-7) and obey the laws of the governing authority (Roman 13:1-7).

    3) Even assuming that Christians wanted to take over the state-mechanism, in a democratic republic at least, if Christians are in the majority, then they aren’t “taking over” the state mechanism. Rather, majority rule is built into our form of governance. It's called popular sovereignty. Of course laws which more closely conform to justice would be established in a way that most honored God. In just the same way when secularists are in the majority they also establish the laws they think are just according to their worldview. That is largely what we see now. Also Christians have a huge range of views on on governance, viz., Lutherans (two-swords), Anglicans (Erastianism), Amish, theocrats, royalists, libertarians, social conservatives, disestablishmentarians, You name it ... you can’t generalize at all about Christian politics. Most Christians I know think that the free market of ideas is a good thing because it allows the best arguments to win in the court of public opinion. but that is far from what we have now in the US at least. But most importantly, politics is not very central on most Christian's radar sceen. it is not what gives us purpose. Life is meaningful because of God and things like church, family and friends. (Thanks to Steve Hays for some points on #3)

    Posted by John on October 31, 2013 07:03 PM


    A good response to this question.

    Still, God asked this rhetorical question when referring to the merit of the Mosaic legislation: "For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?" Deuteronomy 4:7-8

    It's hard to argue that we Christians, even under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, could develop laws and penal sanctions that are more righteous or just than the one's specifically given by Yahweh himself.

    Of course, this essentially theonomic approach must always have in mind a bottom-up approach. Change will come by the preaching of the word, followed by the circumcision of men's hearts, and ultimately the changing of popular opinion to delight in God's law - at least temporarily (I'm not making any postmillenial assertions here). Otherwise, Christians end up sounding like Muslims who want Sharia law.

    However, even in our society where we clearly are in the minority, I think it's a grave error for Christians to view the Mosaic legislation as overly harsh, instea of exceedingly wise - since God is love and he wrote it.


    The Mosaic law and its sanctions are not overly harsh, but based on justice in their purest form... thus my point #1 which details that all those laws broken WILL indeed be punished with the same deserved death penalty when Christ returns. A punishment Jesus endured for his people in the present age.

    Also we are not living under a direct theocracy ... but are scattered citizens in whatever country the Lord has sent us and as such we are under the law of the exile and pilgrim. If we now instituted the sanctions of the laws of the OT it would means ANYONE who did not worship YAHWEH would be put to death. Such a coercive evangelistic policy is nowhere found in the NT -- instead, As noted in the above post, they WILL indeed suffer death but NOW Christ has endured that very punishment in order to secure a time of mercy to gather up his people until He returns and carries out THIS VERY judgment.

    It seems to me that the view which declares that we are to put people to death for not worshiping YAHWEH now fails to take into account what Christ actually accomplished on the cross and what this means for the present era.

    Thanks John,

    I hope I didn't sound like I was critiquing your response - I liked it. But in a sense it still seems like we're avoiding the opportunity to explain to Christians and non-Christians alike - not just the justness of the Mosaic legislation, but also the glory and wisdom of it - when we answer these types of questions with anything other than "because we don't currently live in a country with a Christian majority". If we had a Christian majority in America, should we not pass laws that resemble the wisdom of the laws that God has so clearly revealed to us? And if not, then what does that say about our view of God's law?

    And just to clarify, I am unaware of any Mosaic law that required the death penalty for privately worshiping other gods in OT Israel. However, publicly sacrificing and worshiping idols were capital offenses which, in my opinion, did not nor does it now function in conflict with personal evangelism. It seems to me that (if we currently lived in a country with a Christian majority) outlawing the worship of false gods in the public square is a wonderful idea. Would you disagree? And if so, why?

    And please know I appreciate your work on this site and, they have both been sources of immense blessings and sanctification for I am in no trying to simply give you a hard time here.

    Issac, Thanks for your response... and don't worry about giving me a hard time..:)

    You said, "If we had a Christian majority in America, should we not pass laws that resemble the wisdom of the laws that God has so clearly revealed to us? And if not, then what does that say about our view of God's law?"

    Is that not what was said in my point #3?

    As for outlawing false gods from the public square.. 1) I don't think you understand how impractical and impossible this would be. Who would you put in charge of what false worship was? Pat Robertson? Most denominations would simply overrule you and put you in prison or perhaps give you the death possibly for simply being a Calvinist. The sinfulness of man alone (without a direct theocracy) means that man's sin cannot handle this, even professing Christians. I think you are naive to think otherwise.

    Next as for a biblical response... my #1 already answered your question. I believe you do not take into account what Christ has done. The sins these people commit will indeed be punished... but now is a time where Christ calls all people to himself. He took the punishment for us in his body on a tree. That is the whole point. He is coming with his armies and will trample underfoot all who disobey, not just those who worship false gods in the public square but those who worship false gods in private as well. Your coercive view is simply unbiblical and misunderstand Christ and his mission, in my view.

    The first table of the law was not meant to be a blunt instrument for New Testament believers to forcefully coerce by legal means those who are outside the covenant of grace ... to those outside the visible church. Some teach that if unbelievers don't worship the true God and openly worship false gods they will be imprisoned or put to death (citing 2 Chronicles 15:13 and the like) if Christians are in the majority... as if such EXTERNAL obedience to his law by the uncircumcised pleased him AT ALL. It doesn't. With the coming of Christ there is now a delay in carrying out this judgment as He holds out pardon in advance of His invasion for those who ally themselves with Him. He fully absorbed the punishment for disobeying the first table of the law in His body on a tree for His people. So now is a time of mercy. But behold his offers of clemency will soon end and justice will be established on earth.

    But frankly Isaac, I have discussed this issue round and round with theonomists forever and there is never any agreement between us. I simply believe you have the present age wrong and have an over-realized eschatology. I have heard all the arguments until people's face was blue... and so don't think you we are going to have a fruitful discussion if we continue so perhaps we move on and be happy about where we do agree. Thanks for your encouragement about the site otherwise.

    Thanks John,

    I don't want to belabor the point but I am truly trying to understand as much as I am challenging this may not be as fruitful for you as it is for me, but I appreciate your responding so far. I would like to just clarify a couple of things and then if you wish to leave it at that then OK.

    1.) I apparently misunderstood your #3 above. I guess we agree that the moral equity of the OT (and possibly the penal sanctions of those specific laws) could - nay, should - guide a Christian majority in passing appropriate and righteous civil laws for modern civil government. Right?

    2.) I don't think an unbelievers external obedience to God's law is be pleasing to Him (it wasn't in OT Israel either)...however, I do think that a government that outlawed the public external disobedience to his law would be upholding righteousness in a much better manner than a government who did not. That seems like a really biblical thing to say. The specifics may get sticky, difficult, and worrisome...but that shouldn't prevent us from asserting that its true.

    3.) I am amil, just for the record.

    If these statements are true:
    1. There is a single, overarching covenant of grace such that the different covenants of the OT were actually different administrations of the same covenant.
    2. Believers in the OT were members of the church.
    3. The 10 Commandments are a summary of all ethical responsibilities.
    4. Laws without consequences are merely good advice, suggestions, potential options among other potential options.

    Then how can we avoid these conclusions:
    1. Christians who are called to an involvement in politics are under obligation to use means to help others obey all the 10 Commandments today including the first four.
    2. All Christians are called to political action to some degree as a faithful stewardship of their citizenship.
    3. The laws of the state should punish offenders of Commandments, 1-5, 7, and 10 as well as 6, 8, and 9 which most states already observe.

    Personally, I don’t hold to the first or third conclusion because I don’t hold to some of the original statements. But many godly friends of mine do hold to those first four presuppositions. On what authority do they set aside or abrogate the case laws of Exodus (for example) while they champion the inherent unity of the covenants?

    Or, to give an example from contemporary literature which has a similar sense albeit from a different perspective: How can we defend Scripturally Grudem’s position in Politics that homosexuality should be against the law (breaking Commandment 7) but not Islam (breaking Commandment 1)?

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