A City Set On a Hill
Surviving the Seventieth Week by Reforming Fundamentalism and Establishing Cities of Refuge
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Copyright 2010 by Raul E. Lopez, MD, MDiv

As we saw above, God promised the Jewish nation great blessings if they obeyed God's law. This passage is so important that it is worth repeating. "Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance to possess it: Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day. For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee." (Deuteronomy 15:4-6) These blessings were to be material and social as well as spiritual. However, much of the law is punitive in nature and can only be carried our by a properly instituted government.

The term theonomy has been defined in different ways by different people. It actually means God's Law and refers to the attempt to make the laws of civil government conform as closely as possible to the pattern revealed by God through Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Bible. There is also a newer popular use for this term. It is currently used as another name for a point of view also called Reconstructionism. Reconstructionists are Postmillennialists. They believe that we can bring in the millennium by instituting God's law in a world wide fashion. That is not what this book promotes. We believe that every Christian offensive will be met by a Satanic counteroffensive and that only when Satan is bound in the bottomless pit and Jesus Christ sits on a physical throne on Earth will we have worldwide utopia. However, we think that Christians should do everything they can to make the laws of their home countries conform as closely as possible to the biblical pattern.

Notice that even though the promises related to keeping the law of Moses was given specifically to Israel, Paul states that the blessings associated with obedience are available to all. A true Jew is one who obeys from the heart even if he is born a gentile.

(For not the hearers of the law [are] just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)" (Romans 2:13-15).

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither [is that] circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he [is] a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision [is that] of the heart, in the spirit, [and] not in the letter; whose praise [is] not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:25-29)

A government based on the principles of theonomy is not a theocracy. In fact, it can be considered the opposite of a theocracy. A theocracy is a government where God is the direct ruler. The million dollar question is how to make God come to rule directly over us. In modern practice, theocracy describes a government by a human being who claims to be God's direct representative on Earth. He claims that God speaks directly through him and that what he commands others to do has the weight of being the word of God. A theocracy by its very nature is an absolute dictatorship. If God speaks directly through an individual and this individual says, in the name of God, that such and such must be done, then that is what must be and that is that. A person who is opposed to the supreme leader faces one of two options, he can oppose God and become an instrument of God's adversary or claim that the one who is speaking in the name of God is a charlatan, a liar, a madman or is sincerely self-deceived. During the true theocracy during the time of Moses there were some who become opposed to Moses' leadership and God confirmed that He indeed spoke through Moses by causing the ground to swallow up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, the leaders of these rebels along with their families (see Numbers 16:30-33). Opposing God's real rule has serious consequences.

The government during the middle ages was a false theocracy. The pope claimed that God, at least on certain occasions, spoke through him. In the eyes of the Roman Catholic church, to oppose the Pope and his doctrines is tantamount to opposing God. Pentecostalism in many of its most popular forms, at least in Latin America, is also a theocracy. It also claims that God speaks directly through its pastors, through supposed prophets, and even through self-proclaimed apostles both male and female. The individual who claims "God told me to tell you" or "I have a word from the Lord for you" puts himself at the level of an absolute dictator. Such an individual forces those around him to make a decision: accept him as a true prophet of God and obey him or completely reject him as a charlatan and false prophet. There is no happy medium. That is why the great majority of self proclaimed theocracies have been cruel and bloody governments. The Islamic theocracy in Iran is a good modern example. This is because they have been false theocracies. They have been autocracies, that is, absolute human dictatorships, masquerading as theocracies. By definition a false theocracy is an anti-theocracy. If the one who claims to speak for God is not truly speaking the words of God, then he is a mere man, a usurper, and to the extent that what this man proclaims is not what God desires, to that extent he is opposed to the true kingdom of God. In a sense, the leader of a false theocracy is placing himself in the place of God as an antichrist. A true theocracy is a perfect government; however, a false theocracy is the rule by an antichrist.

A secular government can also act as a theocracy. If such a government does not recognize the existence of a supernatural God, then man takes the place of God as the source of law. Man can take the form of a collective as large as all of humanity itself put together in the form of the state, such as in the communist system. It has also taken the form of a segment of humanity, a race which claims to be more intelligent and evolved than the rest of mankind, with a superman at its head, such as the Nazi system of government. Therefore, secularism is not the opposite of theocracy. The opposite of theocracy is theonomy.

In almost every respect theonomy and theocracy are opposites. Since God is invisible, a theocracy must elevate a man to the status of mediator between God and man. The apostle Paul under inspiration said "For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (I Timothy 2:5) Since Jesus ascended to heaven and is no longer present with us in a physical sense, the New Testament implies that a true theocracy is not possible at this time. At some point Jesus Christ will return to set up a true theocracy and before that man will try to set up an absolute false theocracy under the antichrist and the false prophet. However, theonomy is founded on the doctrine of cessationism, the belief that God no longer speaks directly to mankind. This is suggested by verses such as (I Corinthians 13:8-10) "Charity never faileth: but whether [there be] prophecies, they shall fail; whether [there be] tongues, they shall cease; whether [there be] knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." Cessationists believe that the perfect thing spoken of in these verses is the completed cannon of scripture. There is also historical evidence for this conclusion, since, historically, the supernatural gifts of the spirit ceased after the death of the last apostles in the first century. Church history teaches that there was a gap of several centuries before anyone started again claiming to possess the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. This gap makes those subsequent claims suspect.

In contrast, theonomy postulates that a book, a text of scripture, is God's completed revelation to us at this time. Theonomy recognizes that God does not speak to men directly at this time. He came and left us instructions for us to follow and He will not give us any more instructions until it pleases Him. He might be waiting for us to first put the current instructions into practice before giving us more instructions. Since theonomy has a text, a constitution, as its foundation the whole population has equal access to this truth. Therefore, theonomy is intrinsically democratic. Notice that the medieval autocratic theocracy sought to hide this text from the masses.

Since a fixed text cannot foresee the infinite combination of possible situations which might arise, it is necessary to extract basic principles that can be applied to specific situations. Furthermore, God used human languages as the vehicle for this revelation. Since human languages are by their very nature somewhat imprecise, it is possible to interpret passages in more than one way. Therefore, passages must be first interpreted and then applied. Since both steps are preformed by fallible humans theonomy recognizes that they are both steps are open to debate. Consequently, these interpretations and results must be submitted to a process of consensus. Solomon says "Where no counsel [is], the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors [there is] safety." (Proverbs 11:14). Therefore, unlike theocracy, which ultimately promotes absolute dictatorship, theonomy promotes the democratic ideals of equality and debate and unity through consensus based on a common foundation.

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