A healthy plea to theonomists

Imagine a scenario.  You and the pastor disagree on one point.  What are your options?  Split the church and have a martyr-complex, obviously.  Attack him.

Or maybe not.

I am trying to let theonomists know that it’s okay to disagree with someone and let that disagreement be just that.  What does “acting like a theonomist” in the church actually mean?  No one has given a clear answer to that.   People say, “Accepting the Word of God.”  Yeah, that means nothing.   Quakers claim they do that.  I kept asking theonomists for clear, concrete details on what this actually looks like.  I haven’t gotten any.

As I’ve told theonomists,

Bahnsen was irenic. Bahnsen was a good churchman. Unlike another prominent Reconstructionist, Bahnsen didn’t sever himself from the church for 8 years and serve himself communion. That’s because Bahnsen knew that theonomy is theonomy *in* Christian ethics, not as. That means one can disagree on theonomy and the gospel, the Reformed, witness, and Confessionalism is not threatened. Bahnsen knew that.

Evolution of a theological hit-man

I’m always wary of doing biographical posts, but this one is sufficiently vague and helps me see from whence I came.   I stole the title from the book Confessions of an Economic Hit-Man.  I haven’t read the book, but that is probably the best title of any book, ever.

In the early 2000s I went from a Baptist mindset to a Reformed Baptist mindset.   From then, as was natural with 95% of Reformed Baptists, I went full Reformed paedobaptist.  As a Presbyterian, I was a student of Van Til and Bahnsen.   Because I majored in American history in college, and had an interest in cultural apologetics, I became a student of Rushdoony (circa 2004 to 2007).

While Rushdoony had problems, he wrote well, exposed Reformed pietism for what it was, and sought to think Christianly about every arena in which he could live his life.   As long as one understands the Christological problems he got into because of his Calvinism, I think one can certainly read Rushdoony with profit.


Between him and Bahnsen I must have listened to over 1,000 lectures on philosophy, law, theology, and apologetics.  I do not boast.  I speak as a fool.

I knew, though, in order to be fully competent in apologetics, I needed to have a good handle on philosophy.   While Van Til specialized in rebutting Hegelian Idealism, and Bahnsen looket at Wittgenstein, and Rushdoony at Berkeley, I thought, whether rightly or wrongly, that my reading would go with the European Continental philosophers.   In order to read them, I started reading Dooyeweerd.  However, since Mellen Press was then selling Dooyeweerd for the cheap price of $400, and that after volume 1 Dooyeweerd was basically incomprehensible, I decided to settle for reading some of his leading interpreters, namely James K. A. Smith.

Smith is an engaging thinker.   He took many of Dooyeweerd’s thoughts, placed them into the Radical Orthodoxy matrix, and mix it with a heavy dose of postmodern liturgical theology.  Much of Smith’s project, while superior to the rest of Calvinism, suffers from most of the bizarre inanity in the Emergent Church movement.  It is one thing to critique George W. Bush and pretend you are the Prophet Jeremiah in doing so, it is another to offer a hermeneutics and ethics that doesn’t deconstruct (pun intended) into literary and ethical relativism.

Fortunately, though, Smith got me reading Robert Webber. Webber introduced me to the idea of Christus Victor.    Around the same time I started reading more of the Fathers and Orthodox guys, though I must admit I didn’t know much of what I was talking about and reading back then.

Transcendental Tradition (part two)

In the previous post, I pointed out some (but not all) of the problems when Calvinists rely on transcendental reasoning in apologetics.    While the argument may not be sound in the end, the TAG does work well (practically) against crass materialists and moral relativists.

One of the questions that was always raised in Bahnsen’s seminars concerned using TAG against groups that have their own religious texts (and make ultimate truth claims):   Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims, and Mormons (while I hate to admit it, Gerry Matatics scored huge points on Bahnsen on this very issue).

On transcendental grounds, what’s to stop the Mormon from claiming that the works of Joseph Smith provide the preconditions for intelligibility?

The TA says you cannot know y unless you presuppose x. X provides the preconditions for intelligibility for y:

  1. You cannot know the Bible’s contents without the canon.
  2. Yet, the Bible doesn’t list the contents of the canon (and probably doesn’t even presuppose the concept of a New Testament canon).
  3. Therefore, to know the Bible’s contents, you must first presuppose the Church.

In fact, the Bible says something like that.

Addendum:  Bahnsen’s article on the canon:

I just read Bahnsen’s article on the canon.   I was a little nervous at first, trembling before the authority of the great teacher.   Unfortunately, Bahnsen didn’t say anything new on canonical studies, and the only real points that hard any force were the quotations by some fathers that acknowledged the Apocrypha as of a different category as the rest of Scripture.

However, Lee McDonald’s book on the canon calls into question almost all of Bahnsen’s arguments:  Jamnia was not the final word on “Old Testament Canoncity” (and even if it were, so what?  These guys murdered Christ and said the Prophet Isaiah is in hell), and the early fathers weren’t too worked up about a canon (see Ignatius).