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Covert Theonomists

One of the amusing facts I frequently encounter is the fact that many who are very much opposed to theonomy are in fact ready to insist on the validity of God’s law — when it suits them!

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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Chalcedon Report No. 223, February 1984

One of the amusing facts I frequently encounter is the fact that many who are very much opposed to theonomy are in fact ready to insist on the validity of God’s law — when it suits them!

Thus, a law I find strictly enforced in many churches where the pastor rails against theonomy is Deuteronomy 22:5, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” The law is not repeated in the New Testament, and thus it does not meet the “test” of the antinomians that only laws repeated in the New Testament are binding on Christians.

The law against bestiality (Exod. 22:19; Lev. 18:23) is not repeated in the New Testament. Why, then, is it observed? It is clearly a “civil” as well as “moral” law. For that matter, if any civil law is immoral, it surely cannot be law in God’s sight. The distinction between civil and moral law is not Biblical.

Homosexuality is clearly condemned in both Old and New Testaments. Homosexuals declare that such texts are now invalid because grace supposedly invalidates the law.

The point by now is clear. The opponents of theonomy affirm law after law in the Old Testament. They are at a hundred and one points covert theonomists. Their position is an awkward and untenable one, because, having rejected the law in principle, they sneak it back in piecemeal.

There is, however, another and more serious consideration. Dr. Cornelius Van Til has stated it very simply in declaring that the choice is between theonomy and autonomy. Theonomy (theos, God; nomos, law, the belief in and submission to God’s law) cannot be reconciled with autonomy (auto, self; nomos, law, self-law). Autonomy is the logical development of Genesis 3:5, every man as his own god, choosing, determining or making his own law and deciding what is good and evil for himself. Theonomy and autonomy cannot be reconciled: they represent Christianity versus humanism.

The covert theonomists are actual humanists, because they sit in judgment on God’s law and decide which laws are right in their own eyes. Such a position is a surrender of the sovereignty of the triune God.


R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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