Vos Group #26 — The Organization of Israel: Theocracy

We continue our #VosGroup series by opening pages 124–126 of Vos’ book Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments to consider Israel as a theocracy. We cover important ground, including the theocracy’s role in redemptive-history, God’s purpose for civil government, and the differences between theonomy and two-kingdom theology.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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John-Anthony Martinez

4 years ago

Dr. Lee Irons gave a lecture on Meredith G. Kline’s view of cultural mandate. His lecture ties in nicely with the later portion of this episode. Here is the link:

Would love to hear some feed back.

Robert A Lotzer

4 years ago

You argued that theonomy disrupts the uniqueness of the covenant arrangement by imposing civil commands, along with punishments, on nations other than Israel which are not divinely ordained theocracies. Then at the end you argued that Christians today can, since those nations are under God’s divine authority still today, sit down with civil authorities and come to an arrangement of mandating special revelatory commands of God’s Word on society. But aren’t you back in the same place as the theonomists by separating the commands of God from their covenantal context in the New Testament and obligating civil authorities to enforce special revelation commands without a God ordained theocracy in place? For example, let’s say we can set up a government today with a legislature that will make its statutes based on informed New Testament laws. But without the covenantal context of the New Covenant in place in that government then that state will be enforcing biblical commands in a state that is not divinely ruled by Jesus Christ the King. I don’t see how you have escaped your criticism of theonomy here.

Robert A Lotzer

4 years ago

Another quick point, if all life is covenantal (i.e., Noahic common grace) then call it what you will: “natural law,” “law written on the heart,” or “conscience,” it is God’s law within a common grace covenantal context and revealed by the Logos of creation. Why would we not appeal to it? It is God’s revealed will and law for His world. I don’t know of a non-redemptive “guiding principle” for the state contained in the written Word of God. If there is, then again, aren’t we divorcing the ethics of the redemptive realm/Word from their redemptive context/structure and trying to impose them on a common grace state?

Jesse Cook

4 years ago

I don’t see how the proposed middle ground works? Can anyone help me understand the starting point for developing this middle ground?

Camden Bucey

4 years ago

As I recall, our previous episode on Nature/Grace Dualism touched on some of the issues raised toward the end of the conversation.


Christopher Lee

4 years ago

Very interesting podcast regarding Dr Tipton’s and Dr Bucey’s analysis of Vos’ understanding of things in this section.

I would have to demur over your premise that theonomy attempts to bring a merging of church and state (whatever this means).
I have read and heard of this objection for years and I can never quite understand why this charge keeps coming up.

As a matter of fact, I can never find anywhere where this is exactly fleshed out. What does it exactly mean to say that theonomy wants to have church and state become one? This is never actually defined during the podcast.

If in Israel, church and state were one, as you maintain:
(1) Does this mean that the king was able to perform the cult functions as the priests do?
(2) Does this mean that the priest was able to act as the king did in having Israel go to war?
(3) Does this mean that the king could enter the holy of holies once a year?
What exactly does church and state being one actually mean?

Beyond the chapter in “Theonomy in Christian Ethics” which directly deals with this issue (in which Bahnsen is absolutely crystal clear on the distinctions between church and state), other theonomic literature (e.g. Rushdoony) makes it very clear that there is a distinction (while there is certainly an interaction) between the various forms of **govt** (not just church and state), and yet they are still distinct from each other.

Theonomy in the vein of Bahnsen and Rushdoony has NEVER advocated a merging of the civil govt and the church as you are asserting they do (which is still not actually defined what that exactly means BTW). And the different governments as theonomy understands them is a far more involved concept that what is presented in this podcast.

In other words, I would submit that you are fundamentally misunderstanding a basic tenet of theonomy’s understanding of “church and state”, and that you don’t show an awareness that this concept really is an extension of the larger involved discussion over governments in general…. (civil govt, church govt, self govt, family govt, school govt)…

You might disagree with theonomy as a system, but at the very least, you must understand that what you think theonomy is advocating regarding church and state is not what theonomy actually advocates.

In this article linked below, Rushdoony is crystal clear on his understanding of the distinctions between the different “governments”. He never once advocates a “merging” in the sense that you have been saying in your podcast.

From the article: “The various spheres are interlocking and interdependent and yet independent.”

Interlocking and interdependent does NOT mean that they are one or identical. As an example, you interlock and are interdependent with your wife, but that doesn’t mean that you and your wife are one, or identical etc….




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