Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Judicial Laws of the Old Testament and the Westminster Confession

If you read through the laws of the Old Testament, you probably find yourself thinking about their relevance and obligation in the present day. You are not the first person to consider that question. It has been a topic of study and discussion throughout the ages. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) gave a mature and thoughtful framework for us to use in its chapter 19, "Of the Law of God." It speaks of the moral law (rooted in creation and summarized in the Ten Commandments), as well as the ceremonial laws and judicial laws which God gave Israel. It argues that the moral law forever binds all people and the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament have been abrogated in the New Testament. But its handling of the obligation of the judicial laws on modern nations is more nuanced. It states,
"To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require."
To explain this statement, I have written an article which has been published on The Daily Genevan, "The Judicial Laws of Moses and General Equity." In short, I argue that the "general equity" of the judicial laws refers to the universal and moral basis for those laws, in contrast to other factors such as Israel’s unique position in redemptive history and the context of ancient times. These laws do not oblige nations today except to the extent that they express this basis - to that extent, they remain binding.

I note at the beginning that there is a debate on whether the position known as "Theonomy," such as articulated by Greg Bahnsen, fits within the parameters of this statement. I do not answer that question in the article, since it would take another article to define "Theonomy" and its variations, but my short answer is that it does. But understanding this statement is not just important with regard to that debate - it has many practical ramifications whether you identify with Theonomy or not, as I point out by referring to the debate over women in combat. You can read the article here:

No comments: