Theonomy in Christian Ethics

Modern theonomy was primarily the work of two men, Rousas Rushdoony and Greg Bahnsen in applying Van Tillian thought to first the socio-political sphere and then more broadly.[1]  Bahnsen was to reflect on this seminal work:

Theonomy in Christian Ethics argued that God’s word is authoritative over all areas of life (the premise of a Christian world-and-life view). It argued that within the Scriptures we should presume continuity between Old and New Testament moral principles and regulations until God’s revelation tells us otherwise (the premise of covenant theology). It argued therefore that the Old Testament law continues to offer us an inspired and reliable model for civil justice or socio-political morality (a guide for public reform in our own day, even in the area of crime and punishment)”.[2]

A concise summary and application is found in Bahnsen, Theonomic Position.  The locus classicus of the position is found in Bahnsen, Theonomy with the theological groundwork laid by Rushdoony, Biblical Law.  The position was a direct application of Van Tillian thought, Rushdoony having written the first exposition of Van Til’s thought in his By What Standard?  It is of note that the original preface to Bahnsen’s Theonomy was written in 1971 by Rushdoony but a sequence of events had delayed publication until 1977, see North’s preface to Bahnsen, No Other Standard.  This was a detailed tightening of his argument and a full response to the critics which he had been unable to give because of publisher restrictions in subsequent editions of Theonomy.  The intense and hostile reception to Theonomy elicited this book length response.  Bahnsen had prepared a ‘simplified’ summary of the position with reference to the responses to critics and the political application of the principles which was republished posthumously in Bahnsen, By This Standard.

Theonomy is a key component of Dominion Theology which I studied in my Masters dissertation found here.

[1] See North (ed.), Foundations.

[2] Bahnsen, No Other Standard, 3–4.

Further Reading

Bahnsen, G. (2008). By This Standard – The Authority of God’s Law Today. Powder Springs: American Vision.

Bahnsen, G. (2002 (1977)). Theonomy in Christian Ethics. Nacogdoches: Covenant Media Press.

Bahnsen, G. (1989). The Theonomic Position. In J. H. White (Ed.), Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government (pp. 21-53). Phillupsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed.

Macneil, M. (2016, June 1). Dominion Theology – Its Origin, Development and Place in Christian Thinking. doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.10543.02722

North, G. (Ed.). (2001 (1976)). Foundations of Christian Scholarship – Essays in the Van Til Perspective. Vallecito: Ross House Books.

Rushdoony, R. (1974 (1958)). By What Standard? Fairfax: Thoburn Press.

Rushdoony, R. (1973). The Institutes of Biblical Law. Phillupsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed.

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