Dominionism’s Problem: Not Whether but How

Joel McDurmon has been doing a series wherein he critiques Wretched Radio’s discussion of the Bible in politics [discussion starts at around the 5 minute mark]. He has written two articles here and here.

I have decided to address it, because this nasty rhetoric such as “hypocrisy” is being thrown around, and because I think both sides are not understanding each other. First of all, I don’t think that Friel and his guests would want to say that the Bible doesn’t apply to areas of politics. Even if they want to talk about specialization [that is, certain people are called to politics, and others are not], the problem is that we *all* play a role in politics in this country, because, in this country, we have a democratic republic where we choose our leaders through elections. That also means that their decisions will affect our daily lives, and we should be careful to monitor the decisions of who we vote for.

What they seem to be arguing for, however, is the notion of *priority.* That is, politics is important, but it does not have the same priority that the gospel does. The problem with this is that I don’t think you can separate the gospel from politics in the sense that we need to [especially now] be calling our civil leaders to repentance for their sin, and pointing out that they have an obligation to obey what God has said. Nevertheless, there is clearly a distinction between politics and the gospel. Doing politics is not the gospel. We are not dualists, and we are not monists. They are distinct, but related areas.

I think it would be more accurate to say that the political arena is one of the areas in which we proclaim the gospel. Thus, the gospel is still central, but politics is just one particular arena in which we call people to repent of their sin, and have faith in Jesus Christ. In that sense, it is not central [it doesn’t replace the gospel], and yet, it is still important to our everyday life as American Christians.

Now, I need to move on to criticize Joel McDurmon and Theonomy. I really do believe the question for Theonomists is not *whether* the Bible applies to these areas, but *how* it applies to these areas. Modern Theonomists, with their grossly simplistic views of human language, have come up with a ton of bizarre “applications” of the Bible to politics and social theory. To name just a few:

-Patriarchy [in the Vision Forum sense]
-The notion that women cannot run for public office
-The notion that the Bible calls women to be homemakers
-The Quiverfull Movement
-The notion that any model other than the Family Integrated Church is based on “unbiblical, evolutionary, and secular thinking.”
-The notion that you can’t vote for someone, unless they are a Christian
-The notion that you must stone incorrigible children, not recognizing that the law provides *maximum* penalties, not penalties which must be enacted every time an offense is given
-The Stay at Home Daughters movement of the Botkin’s
-Southern Confederate Idealism
-The Interpretive Maximalism of James Jordan and Peter Leithart
-The notion that delay of marriage is a sin
-The notion that there is some sanctifying power in marriage
-The assault on anything other than homeschooling [including Christian day school]

Now, I am not saying that all Theonomists would agree with all these things. However, these are things that have come out of the Theonomic movement, are popular largely in the Theonomic movement, and what they point out is that Theonomy has not developed a coherent theory of *how* the scriptures apply to these areas of life, and have, instead, simply contradicted the culture, and then read that back into the Biblical text. Hermeneutics is vital, and when you don’t have a consistent hermeneutical theory that allows you to get from the Bible to how it applies to these areas, or, you have a grossly simplistic or inconsistent hermeneutical theory of application of scripture, you will get the absurdities listed above.

Again, most of these things involve errors in the linguistic field of pragmatics. Understanding things like the meaning/significance distinction, and the illocution/perlocution distinction is crucial to proper application of scripture. You simply can’t live on the basis of a view of language that sees a one to one relationship between what is said and reality. It results in all kinds of absurdities. There is a way to get from the Bible to its relevance for today, but it requires much more careful thinking than many Theonomists have done.

Furthermore, such a view of application also comes from a lack of wisdom. Wisdom requires us to think deeper than the simple black and white thinking you find in many Thenomists. Wisdom requires that we understand each passage of scripture in the context of the value system of the entirety of scripture, and apply it accordingly. That means that there are going to me many instances in which simply inventing sins, as many Theonomists have done in the above cases, simply won’t work. Sometimes the problem goes much deeper, and the issue goes to the very heart of how we think on a particular issue, which may not cause everyone to have children, have the Family Integrated Church model, etc., but which will change our thoughts, attitudes, and priorities, such that we will value things more highly than we did before. Focusing on externals without considering the value system of scripture is very dangerous, and it can easily lead to the legalism that you find in the above list.

And yes, I think that is what Friel, Johnson, et al. were talking about. When you have a view of application that thinks that you can change culture through making up external commandments, and then imposing them back on the Biblical text, it will tend to result in legalism and Pharasaical thinking. You will tend to become a “whitewash tomb,” as Jesus speaks of in Matthew 23:27. Not recognizing and acting upon the intent of a passage, and, instead, taking the easy way out of problems by erecting externals by brute force of political activism will indeed lead to a lot of people who can obey a lot of rules, but, inside, their hearts are as dead and disgusting as rotting bones. Erecting a lot of countercultural rules that make you look weird to everyone around you might make you look beautiful on the outside. However, if you don’t care to understand scripture’s intent, you will be like a whitewash tomb on the inside. I hope and pray that Theonomy does consider these issues, because, if it doesn’t, it will die.

Again, I don’t say this in order to tear Theonomy down. As I stated at the beginning, I agree with them in principle, that the Bible does apply to every area of life, and that it is relevant to politics and social theory. I also have many dear friends who are Theonomists. However, having a sloppy theory of *how* the Bible relates to these areas is very dangerous, and, I believe, if it is not corrected, it will be the undoing of the movement.


2 Responses to “Dominionism’s Problem: Not Whether but How”

  1. TurretinFan Says:

    “-The notion that you must stone incorrigible children, not recognizing that the law provides *maximum* penalties, not penalties which must be enacted every time an offense is given”

    Indeed, the law often permitted the guilty person to “buy out” the victim. The exception was murder, where the penalty was not a maximum penalty but the only penalty – it was forbidden to let a murderer buy out the victim’s family.

    One of the problems with *some* folks who would be considered theonomists is that they haven’t done a very good job of theonomizing.


  2. Dominionism’s Problem: Not Whether but How | Says:

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