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Theonomy vs. Autonomy
The Choice is Simple:
|Theos (God) + Nomos (law) = God's Law
|auto (self) + nomos (law) = self-law
Then one of the scribes came, and asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD
our God, the LORD is one. 30
And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all
your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31
And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Theonomy -- God's Law -- is a blueprint for love. We can build on this blueprint.
Autonomy -- man's law -- is a blueprint for selfishness. Following this blueprint leads
to buildings, societies, and nations that will soon collapse and destroy life.
Click here to learn about the connection between God's Law and Love.
"For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof,
then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods,
knowing (deciding for yourself what constitutes) good and evil."
|"There is no alternative but that of theonomy and
Cornelius Van Til
|The issue . . . is between theonomy (God's Law) and autonomy
(self law). Modern autonomous man is aided and abetted in his apostasy from God by the
antinomianism of the church, which, by denying God's law, has, in theology, politics,
education, industry, and all things else, surrendered the field to the law of the fallen and
godless self, to autonomy.
|"'. . . that He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.'
For from Zion will go forth the Law
Even the Word of God from Jerusalem."
In the Garden of Eden, man was given a choice: Theonomy or Autonomy.
- God offered Theonomy: obey God's Commandments and live forever in paradise with God.
- Satan offered Autonomy: "ye shall be as gods, determining right and wrong for
yourselves." (Genesis 3:5)
Those who love life choose to serve God and His Law. They submit to His government and
receive His blessings.
Those who hate God and His Law choose Autonomy -- self-government -- even if it means death.
As Milton painted the desire of Autonomous Man:
Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
- John Milton, Paradise Lost, I, l 262
Autonomous man would rather be his own god, even in misery and hell,
than to let God tell him what to do, even if paradise, bliss,
are the result.
Autonomous Man is "pro-choice,"
and chooses hell and death:
anything to be rid of God.
All they that hate God love death
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you,
that I have set before you
life and death
blessing and cursing
T H E R E F O R E C H O O S E L I F E
that both you and your children may live;
that you may love the LORD your God,
that you may obey His voice,
and that you may cling to Him,
for He is your life and the length of your days.
LAW: AN INESCAPABLE CONCEPT
Law is an inescapable concept. Every individual has his or
her own ideas of right and wrong conduct. When individuals associate they form a shared standard of
social morality. Their group will reward (bless) conduct which conforms to that standard or penalize
(curse) conduct which is contrary to it. This is "law."
THEOCRACY: AN INESCAPABLE CONCEPT
Social morality -- law -- is the externalization of a
society's religion. The source of a society's morality is the authority by which all rival
moralities are evaluated and judged. This standard is the "god" of that society.
Any religion which claims not to have a
god is denying the existence of a personal god, and affirming an impersonal god. Any society
which in its legal system denies or refuses to affirm the existence of any god is merely denying the
existence of a transcendant personal god and covering up the existence of an immanent
personal god, which is usually the State.
"The rule of god" is called
"theocracy." Theocracy is an inescapable concept.
The question is not, "Should we live
in a theocracy?" but rather, "Which theocracy will we live under?"
the world-wide flourishing of Christian
culture; a Christocracy based on the Torah, the
direction-giving Law of the Bible. Obedience to the Law and the Prophets would return us to the
Garden, with every worker sitting safely under his vine and fig
tree (Micah 4:1-7).
This prospect is unacceptable to the
Amerikan Theocracy of the 20th century, whose god is Man as "truly" incarnated in
military-industrial planners, financiers, scientists, and other academically-credentialed elites.
These would-be gods (and the masses who empower them) prefer a pyramid-style welfare-warfare State
in which they bureaucratically predestine the lives of human cannon-fodder for their own profit. Personalism
is replaced with mindless obedience to bureaucratic regulations rewarded by "personal peace and
SECULAR HUMANIST THEOCRACY
The Modern World is a world of law, lawyers, and legal
systems; our lives are governed by myriad laws and we are kept in line by an army of lawyers and
bureaucrats. Love, forgiveness, service, and
personal responsibility are Christian concepts, hence foreign to the Modern Humanist Theocracy. As
the Secular State grows larger, literacy, safety,
respect for others, discipline, competence, and love become scarce.
Many in our day would denounce government coercion in the
name of individual liberty. These "anarchists" would eliminate the State, but not
"archists," for each one of these "anarchists" seeks to be as god, the governor
of his own world. The chaos and terror many imagine when they hear the world "anarchy" is
really the dictatorship of thousands of little "archists," each seeking the "rule of
god" in their own little theocracy.
Biblical Law is a Blueprint for the Reconstruction of a Personalist
Christian Culture. God's Law is a comprehensive rival law-system which the Prophets declare will
replace all human Empires. God's Law is the total antithesis of man-centered legality. God's Law and
His Prophets present a concept of social order quite opposite that of the Amerikan Humanist
GOD'S LAW vs. MAN'S LAW
Collectivist Totalitarianism and individualist
"anarchism" are both an assault on the Kingdom and Reign of God. Biblical Law is a
blueprint for peaceful patriarchy; the triumph
of secular, man-centered law has resulted in the
bloodiest century in human history.
COMPETING CONCEPTS OF LAW
The Amerikan Theocracy and its prophets (TV, cinema,
"news magazines," etc.) have convinced its citizens that "law" is
(1) a code of vengeance
(2) put into effect only by institutions (the rest of us must not "take 'the law' into our
own hands"), or else
(3) a primitive priestly system of ceremonial blood-letting, ritual cleansings, and repetitive
Citizens of Christ's Kingdom, cleansed by the blood of
Christ (the True High Priest) shed in His execution (the final blood-ritual), hear God's prophets,
and know that God's Law is Love: If I obey God's Law with respect to my neighbor -- his life,
his liberty, his property -- then I truly love my neighbor.
God's Law is Universal and
Non-Institutional: The Bible does not provide a "civil code" for any political/economic
system. The social effect of universal, spontaneous and habitual Law-keeping in the lives of
generations of families is Decentralized Christian Culture, flourishing as each generation of
families is discipled to bear more Spiritual Fruit.
The Source of law and social order is the
Spirit, not armed guards. The Standard of a Godly social order is Biblical Law, not parliaments,
bureaucrats, and university professors.
The Goal of a Godly social order is the
Kingdom of God and His glory, not that of the "fatherland." We are motivated to pursue
such a civilization by faith (not the sight of flags, monuments, and parades), which works through
love (not military might).
CHRISTIANS AS PROPHETS, PRIESTS, AND KINGS
Political scientists, sociologists, lawyers, and
legislators are all concerned about the maintenance of "social order." They look for
"The Rule of Law" in a society, and worry that theirs
might "disintegrate into anarchy and chaos."
Citizens of Christ's Kingdom (Philippians
3:20) do not worry about what they should do to maintain "law and order." They simply obey
God's Law in their own lives. The Spirit uses acts of obedience -- little ones; sacrificial ones --
to build the Kingdom of God.
Those who are afraid that the Law and the
Prophets written before Christ can neither guide Christians nor be relevant to our impersonal,
crumbling culture, are comforted by Jesus' Word in Matthew 5:17-20. There is an
alternative to Humanist Theocracy. The Spirit makes people love the Law of God; God's Law is no
longer a threat to people who have covenanted to turn from idols and serve the Lord.
From Moses to Malachi, God sets forth an
unchanging standard of justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23). The Law itself, and the Prophets
who explicated it, declared that the ceremonial laws of liturgy and ritual bloodshed were not to be
confused with righteousness as set forth in its personal and social precepts, which form
God's blueprint for justice, peace, and harmony.
The essence of God's Law is not a cold
impersonal list of "Thou shalt not"'s, and certainly not the typological priestly ritual
of the shedding of blood following a violation. The "weightier matters" of the Law are
justice, mercy, and faith. That mercy and faith are two-thirds of the Law's weightier matters should
not surprise us. Biblical Law was authored by the Spirit and the Fruit of obedience is the "Fruit
of the Spirit": love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,
temperance; all of which are commanded by the Law of God.
God's Law ("Theo-nomy") is
neither "primitive" nor inadequate for our "complex" civilization. Every area of
life is effectively addressed by the Comprehensive Law-Word of God.
When faithfully taught and obeyed,
observance of the Law of God mends the torn fabric of life. Bringing our lives under the total
jurisdiction of Christ is the key to social renewal, not reforming the lives of others through the
impersonal violence of statist bureaucratic regulation.
Vine & Fig Tree
is Grounded in Theonomy
“For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do—to love
the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him—then
. . . your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the LORD
swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.
and if you keep all these commandments and do them, which I command you today, to love
the LORD your God and to walk always in His ways, then you shall add three
more cities for yourself besides these three,
in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in
His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may
live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which
you go to possess.
But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD
commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His
ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart
and with all your soul.”
And I said: “I pray, LORD God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You
who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments,
And I will delight myself in Your commandments, Which I love.
My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, Which I love, And I will
meditate on Your statutes.
Therefore I love Your commandments More than gold, yes, than fine gold!
And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord,
great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with
those who keep His commandments,
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved
you, that you also love one another.
“If you love Me, keep My commandments.
He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves
Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment,
so I do. Arise, let us go from here.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My
Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,”
“You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,”
and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You
shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good
conscience, and from sincere faith,
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ
and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments
are not burdensome.
And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that
which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another.
This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment,
that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
Love and Law
the Blueprints of God's Law
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