Continuing my critique of current theonomic trends.
In the last post I asked if 1 Samuel 8 condemned all monarchies (the critique presumed a theonomic reading of the Pentateuch). I think I demonstrated it did not. In my beginning post on theonomy, I listed a broad outline of the way this critique would proceed. To be sure, no one post will be overly thorough nor will it constitute the last word on theonomy. However, I am not trying to refute theonomy to the hilt; indeed, it captures many valid points. I am simply saying that 1) theonomy in its current position is inadequate, and 2) current theonomists are not capable of leading the vanguard against (post)modernity. In other words, Gary North, despite all of his wackiness (Or maybe because of it!), could capably dissect erroneous ethical and statist positions. There was a reason why he could do that: he took his epistemology seriously. This meant that North knew that philosophical questions are not easily ignored. By contrast, many of today’s theonomists not only do not take philosophical training seriously, they actually ignore it or even work against it (whenever I debate theonomists on Christology–their inadequate Christology–they simply accuse me of ignoring Scripture and elevating philosophy over God’s word).
It’s not fair to theonomists to say they aren’t up to Bahnsen’s mental level. Who is? But there are a few things Bahnsen said that I–and other Van Tillians–have taken quite seriously: one cannot simply parrot one’s masters. You actually have to *think*. This means understanding today’s situation and knowing enough about one’s own philosophical commitments to consistently answer the spirit of the age. Today’s Theonomists really don’t do this. They focus on a few issues (which are largely irrelevant to 99% of the Christian world) along the lines of refuting Westminster California and proving that the Confession vindicates theonomy after all (I think the Confession is deliberately silent on that issue).
Here’s where this becomes dangerous: because of such a myopic focus theonomists are generally incapable of dealing with challenges to the faith that are not directly related to narrow applications of God’s law. Compare this to Rushdoony, Bahnsen, and North–men who were capable of intellectually meeting different attacks on the faith.
There is another danger theonomists are running into. Most theonomists are descendants of Van Til (including yours truly at a time). Despite Van Til’s fairly awful reading of philosophical history, he was right on a lot of important issues: the need to presuppositionally argue from your opponent’s own philosophical position, and Van Til’s rejection of the Clarkian nonsense.
But today’s theonomists really can’t claim Van Til, and one of the reason’s is understandable. CVT was hard to understand, even to those with a philosophical background. However, Van Tillians generally went in two directions: 1) they began reading philosophy more seriously and went into various analytical and continental philosophical models (I took the latter route via James K. A. Smith’s reading of Radical Orthodoxy) or they went Federal Vision. Theonomists are justified (perhaps for the wrong reasons) or rejecting the latter.
As a result, I conjecture, today’s theonomists have embraced Gordon Clark. Okay, I grant Clark said things about social ethics that really aren’t that bad, and are certainly preferable to the nonsense on the West Coast. And he is a good writer, but when you openly champion the Nestorian heresy it really doesn’t matter what you get right. And then theonomists have to face up to the fact that Clark has his own bizarre view of epistemology (the only things we can know are what are justified and deduced from Scripture).
Intellectually, the future doesn’t look too bright for the younger generation of theonomists. The have (often deliberately) not continued in their teachers’ legacy and have saddled themselves with a group of Calvinists who not only have often ridiculed theonomy but champion heretical and bizarre notions as well.