Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hart to Hart

I’ve been having a heart to heart with Robert Wagner and Todd Pedlar over at Green Baggins. On second thought, maybe the Hart I’ve been debating over there isn’t that Hart, but another Hart. Only Stefanie Powers knows for sure.

In any event, here’s my side of the argument. I realize that this gets to be dry and tedious. However, if Christians are going to criticize the policies of an Obama administration (to take one example), then we need to have a moral platform from which to level our criticisms. We can’t just wing it by the seat of our pants.

steve hays said,
November 6, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Todd said,
“Some interesting thoughts, but I think you need to ask some questions, such as, why don’t the Apostles ever address the sins of Rome?”

i) I think you’re overlooking the Book of Revelation, a major theme of which is a scathing indictment of imperial Rome (as almost all commentators acknowledge).

ii) Beyond that, this also goes to a traditional dispute between the Magisterial Reformation and the Radical Reformation.

Anabaptism makes the same point you do, and takes it to a logical extreme.

The traditional Reformed response is to say the silence of the NT in this regard is an incidental consequence of its pre-Constantinian situation, and we can fill the gap by supplementing the NT with the OT.

steve hays said,
November 7, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Todd said,
“Sure there is. All God’s laws are just because he spoke them, but again, you are not taking into account that biblical laws are conditioned by covenant. Just because something is proper for one covenant does not mean it is proper for all of them…It was just for Israelite widows to be required to marry one of her husband’s brothers after her husband’s death, if he died childless, in order to continue the family line of the dead husband (Deut 25), but I don’t see a lot of theonomists continuing this practice today. Of course, you can always file this into the ‘ceremonial’ pile and be done with it.”

Do you really think that’s a serious response to the opposing position? Why would that injunction be “conditioned by covenant”? It would be more reasonable to say that this provision was conditioned by the socioeconomic situation of the ANE. That’s why it doesn’t apply today.

Of course, even in that instance, the NT is also concerned with the welfare of widows. It simply takes a different form. So there is an underlying principle which carries over into the new covenant.

It’s just a straw man argument to suggest that we insist on the identical application of specific provisions. That was never the issue. The issue is whether some of the civil laws exemplify general norms. Try to refocus your attention on the actual position you presume to oppose.

“It was just for the Israelites to kill every man, woman, and child Canaanite because of their idolatry and because they were defiling the Land, but it is improper and sinful to do this to idolaters in the new covenant age.”

You have a habit of jumbling everything together. That injunction presupposes the cultic holiness of Israel. So that would be ceremonial, IMO.

At the same time, the Mosaic laws of warfare aren’t purely ceremonial. Like any nation-state, Israel needed to defend herself against external enemies.

“The law of Israel was the law of the land of Canaan, a land that typified heaven.”

That’s a gross overstatement. Israel was a national-state. As such, many of her laws were laws regarding social conduct, of the sort every nation-statement must legislate.

Feel free to explain how all the Mosaic laws and penalties regarding sex crimes, property crimes, and crimes of violence typify heaven.

steve hays said,
November 7, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Todd said,
“So theonomists get to pick and choose which laws they can apply directly and which they can use only the general principle for statecraft. So since the death penalty was applied to homosexuals we can apply that directly, but since it would be awkward to apply Deut 25 directly we can just use the general principle. Very convenient, but how do you justify these distinctions Biblically?”

i) You’re not debating theonomists in general. At the moment, you’re debating me. It would behoove you to focus on my arguments.

I notice that you employ the tactic of deflecting objections to your position rather than answering them. But you have your own burden of proof to discharge. Punting to what you think is problematic in the opposing position does nothing to vindicate your own.

ii) Marriage is a creation ordinance Levirate marriage is not. Levirite marriage is adapted to a tribal society with clan ownership of property, which, in turn, selects for endogamy.

This is a case of drawing principled distinctions based on the underlying rationale for a given law. For you to call that “picking and choosing” is not a rational counterargument. It’s just an invidious characterization. If you can’t do any better than that, then you must not have a defensible position.

iii) I already discussed the issue of criteria in answer to Lane. Try to keep up with the debate:

“Who decides which OT civil penalties are valid as written, and which ones we should only take a general principle from?”

“Who decides” is an exercise in misdirection. That’s the line of argument that Catholics and Orthodox use to attack the right of private judgment.

It comes down to which side has the better of the argument. If you have a problem with that standard, then you’ve disqualified yourself from arguing for your own position. After all, “who decides” that your position makes more sense than theonomy or 2K? It would behoove you to avoid self-refuting objections.

“That was easy. In your opinion that law is ceremonial so you don’t need to obey it as written. And you say we are autonomous in our application :-)”

Once again, I didn’t say that. You’re not responding to me. Instead, you’re deflecting the objection rather than answering the objection. If you can’t defend your position by honest means, then that’s a tacit admission that your position is indefensible. Your evasive maneuvers betray the weakness of your position.

“The entire Mosaic Law presupposes the cultic holiness of Israel. “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it” (Deut 6:1). The Law of Israel was the Law of the special Land.”

And even if it was not a “special land,” it would still need many of the same laws.

“Maybe not ceremonial in the strict sense, but those laws only made sense under a God-ordained theocracy in a typological setting. There were many times God required Israel not to fight her enemies, but to allow the Lord to fight for them, would you apply those requirements to the state also?”

You continue to employ a mindless all-or-nothing approach. Even if Israel was not a “special land,” she would still need to defend herself against external enemies.
Israel didn’t need to defend herself merely because she was a holy nation. Rather, a national which happened to be holy needed to defend itself.

“Surely a modern magistrate may find wisdom and help from the Mosaic Law in general, as well as from Greek and Roman law, but the laws of Israel were for the special, theocratic nation that typified the church.”

Laws against theft and murder (to take two examples) aren’t “special” to Israel. Israel didn’t have laws against theft and murder because she was “special.”

A blind man is special. And it’s against the law to murder a blind man. But not because he’s special. His visual impairment is incidental to the crime.

“Because in heaven there are no sex crimes, property crimes, and crimes of violence; and each individual, or Christ for them at the cross, will/have been legally judged at the justice seat in heaven for these sins.”

i) Typology doesn’t prefigure nonentities. In a type/antitype relation, both relata exist.

ii) More to the point, Israel had laws regarding sex crimes, property crimes, and crimes of violence, not because they “typified” anything, but because every nation-state needs laws to regulate certain forms of social behavior. Otherwise, social life is impossible.

iii) Unless you believe in universal atonement or even universal salvation, Christ did not atone for every criminal.

iv) Likewise, the atonement does not absolve a thief or murderer. He is still liable to punishment here and now. Even if God forgives me for murder, that doesn’t amount to pardon. You’re confusing crimes with sins.

steve hays said,
November 9, 2008 at 11:55 am

D G Hart said,
“Mr. Glaser, thanks for the reference to pastor Bret’s use of Rom. 13 to justify civil disobedience. I wonder if that’s how Paul, the apostles or early Christians read it. The historical record would seem to indicate they did not since they did not resist a state that is far more tyrannical than the U.S.A. So quite possibly, Paul meant it the way that most Christians have read it, as a directive not to take matters into our own hands because it is God who established and ordained the magistrate.”

I’m not going to discuss the details of Bret’s exposition. Instead I’ll simply respond to Hart’s reply:

i) Let’s step back a few paces. To my knowledge, Green Baggins is a Reformed blog. Theonomy is well-represented in the Reformed tradition. The 2K position of someone like Meredith Kline is not. Kline was a theological innovator. He held very eccentric views on common grace and statecraft.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with questioning Reformed tradition. But it’s not as if the onus is on theonomy to disprove 2K. 2K is not the default position, which theonomy must overcome.

At a minimum, both sides have their respective burden of proof to discharge. Kline (and variants thereof) does not supply the standard of comparison.

ii) Hart was general editor of the Dictionary of the Presbyterian & Reformed Tradition in America. His own position is unrecognizable in relation to Reformed tradition if you compare it to the entries on “American Revolution, Presbyterians and the” (18ff.) or “Politics, Presbyterians and” (192f.).

That doesn’t mean his position is wrong. But let’s keep in mind which side of the debate is arguing from the Reformed viewpoint.

iii) Does Hart take the position that the Apostles were pacifists?

iv) He begs the question of whether the NT is the only relevant source of information on statecraft. But that’s the very issue in dispute.

Under the Mosaic law, the king was a constitutional monarch. By implication, he could be deposed if he strayed too far from the terms of the covenant. And that wasn’t purely theoretical. Under the reign of Athalia, the high priest did, in fact, stage a successful coup d’etat.

v) The Reformed tradition developed a theology of revolution. That was necessary because Catholic monarchs, at the instigation of the papacy, were attempting to extirpate the Protestant movement.

Does Hart repudiate the Reformed theology of revolution? Are there absolutely no circumstances in which Christian citizens are entitled to rebel?

We wouldn’t even be here today, having this discussion, if our Protestant forebears hadn’t found it necessary to take up arms and defend their freedom of religious expression.

vi) Notice that Hart doesn’t actually attempt to exegete Rom 13. As Jewett points out in his recent (2007) commentary, there’s a conditional element to Rom 13 (802-803). The Roman magistrate was not an absolute monarch.

Now, we can have a debate over when civil resistance or revolution is called for. At the moment I’m only interested in Hart’s general or hypothetical position.

steve hays said,
November 9, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Todd said,
“Well, I was debating self-proclaimed theonomists and you stepped in challenging me. Forgive me for not being able to keep up at one time with the multiple nuances of those against the 2k position; chalk it up to my subversive education at WSC.”

It doesn’t take anything to keep up with what *I* said to *you*.

And I said nothing about your WSC education, so that’s yet another diversionary tactic on your part.

“Since you seem to be angry…”

You’re in no position to know my psychological states.

“Well, I stand by my criticism of picking and choosing. My point is that it ends up being subjective and convenient which laws and penalties theonomists want to enforce in modern society and which they only want to only glean a general principle from, since the Law does make these distinctions itself.”

To the contrary, some of the laws are specifically adapted to the socioeconomic system of ancient Israel.

“What standard? If you have an exegetical challenge to my position then let it fly.”

Which is exactly what I’ve been doing all along.

“I’m sorry if you think you can jump in in the midst of an on-going debate and expect me to remember your posts from days ago.”

Every comment on this thread is a named comment. Pretty easy to know who said what.

And it’s not as if you have difficulty distinguishing comments by Hart from comments by Ritchie (to take one example).

“The Bible decides - c’mon, keep up with the debate - just kidding.”

I was responding to you own your own grounds. I see you have no counterargument.

“I gave the example of Deut 25, and you dismissed this law as ceremonial, though an argument could be made that this is a very moral thing to do.”

No, I didn’t “dismiss” it. I gave a reason. Pay attention.

And I didn’t say it was ceremonial. I said it was adapted to the socioeconomic conditions of the ANE in general and Israel in particular. That’s not ceremonial. The ceremonial law is concerned with categories of ritual purity and impurity. Pay attention.

I also said the underlying principle is still valid—which would not be the case if it were ceremonial. Pay attention.

You don’t really listen to your opponents. You simply operate with your preconception of what the opposing position amounts to, and you then reply with stock answers that are unresponsive to what your opponent actually said.

“My point is, theonomists want to require others, by law, to submit to the Mosaic code. But get three theonomists together and ask them which codes and penalties are to be enforced as written, and which are ceremonial and the principle only should be enforced, you rarely find agreement, even among themselves.”

You could say the same thing about any theological disagreement.

“It ends up being very subjective which laws and penalties you decide are ceremonial and typological and which ones are not.”

You continue to use a self-refuting objection. If mere disagreement entails subjectivity, then that relativizes your own alternative as well.

“I disagree that the Law itself separates these categories in a way you can use them for modern statecraft.”

Because you disregard the historical context, even when that lies on the face of a given injunction.

“Yes, but even those laws are covenantal, even those warfare, criminal, etc…laws presuppose the preamble to the Ten Commandments, that Israel is a special, redemptive theocracy unto the Lord, which cannot be translated into the NC state.”

The fact that they’re bundled into a covenant doesn’t mean they have no validity apart from the covenant. To the contrary, if they had no intrinsic merit, they wouldn’t be codified in the first place.

Israel is not a purely cultic entity. Rape, theft, murder, sodomy, bestiality, &c, weren’t illegal because they were ritually impure, but because they were morally impure.

Of course many of the laws can be translated into the NC state. Moral injunctions are transcultural.

“Again, the same criticism. Just because Israel had laws dealing with warfare, criminals, social welfare, and NC states have laws dealing with warfare, criminals, and social welfare, does not mean that Israel’s laws were given as an example of how all states outside the OT theocracy should be run.”

Why not? It’s an inspired law code. It gives you a window into God’s moral evaluation of social conduct. Rape, theft, murder, sodomy, bestiality were wrong then, and they’re wrong now.

Moreover, this is not merely a matter of personal ethics, but social ethics, which is directly germane to any nation-state, with its civil and criminal law code.

“Right, the OT theocracy the type, the church the anti-type. Canaan the type, the new heavens and earth the anti-type, the death penalty against Sabbath breakers the type, the Final Judgment the anti-type.”

No, you said these laws were a type of things that *don’t* happen in heaven. Types don’t prefigure nonentities or nonevents. “Antitype” doesn’t mean the *opposite* of the type.

Moreover, it’s a reductio ad absurdum for you to say that a law against rape or murder or sodomy or bestiality prefigures heaven. Your typology makes the most fanciful allegorist look sober-minded by comparison.

The function of a civil or criminal law code is not to prefigure the eschaton. Rather, the function of a civil or criminal law code is to regulate social conduct in a fallen world. It has no purpose in the Consummation. It’s purpose is for the here and now.

“Okay, now you’re just getting silly. Surely you understand I didn’t imply universalism.”

That’s the logic of your statement. And I wouldn’t take anything for granted at this point.

“Of course he is liable to punishment now, that doesn’t mean the penalties of the Mosaic Laws were given to inform us today how they are to be dealt with.”

i) You’ve been casting the issue in terms of eschatological judgment. Now you’re shifting gears.

ii) And what punishment do you think he is liable to now? What source and standard assigns a just punishment?

steve hays said,
November 9, 2008 at 3:24 pm

D G Hart said,

“Greenbaggins is an American Reformed blog. In case you didn’t notice, the American revisions of the Westminster Standards have taken a lot of grief at this blog in the last several weeks.”

i) In case you didn’t notice, that’s irrelevant to my response to you.

ii) In addition, the American revisions to the Westminster Standards are also irrelevant to Klinean 2K. Klinean 2K is not interchangeable with the revised standards. Not even close.

“For that reason, theonomy is much more an oddity in the U.S. among Presbyterians and Reformed than is the 2K view.

Which is why I’m putting this debate in historical perspective.

“Now the same people who supported the American revolution were the same Presbyterians who revised the Standards. I actually think they are different points, one having to do with the duties of the magistrate, the other with legitimate rebellion. But let’s not forget that both the Puritans and the Presbyterians were not keen on English rule, especially when it meant an aggressive Anglican church.”

Which doesn’t mean they held a position that bears any resemblance to Klinean 2K.

“As a Presbyterian, I do not follow the revolutionary Presbyterians in their justification for American independence.”

I’m not debating the theological justification (or not) of the Revolutionary War. But the fact that they were political activists, to the point of fomenting insurrection against the crown, puts them on a very different side of the 2K debate than your position. Whatever else they were, the Founding Fathers, and the Presbyterians who supported them, weren’t pacifists.

That doesn’t establish who is right or wrong in this debate. But let’s not treat something like Klinean 2K (or variations thereof) as the norm, of which theonomy is the deviation.

“I respect the wisdom of those deist founders.”

To say all the founding fathers were deists strikes me as a gross oversimplification of the historical record.

“It sure looks like the Apostles were pacifists personally, except maybe for Peter in the Garden. They didn’t rebel, they didn’t encourage Christians to rebel, and they willingly suffered for their beliefs. No, they were Anabaptists. They believed the state and the sword are legitimate institutions of God’s providential control. But they weren’t rebels. And they didn’t obey the state (obviously) all the time.”

i) I think it’s good to see you go on record as saying that 2K is committed to pacifism. And imputes pacifism to the Apostles. That helps to clarify the alternatives.

ii) Of course, I don’t agree. There’s an obvious reason the Apostles didn’t incite revolution. It would have been futile. I wouldn’t expect them to urge Christians to commit mass suicide by fomenting open rebellion against the military might of the Roman authorities.

iii) Does this mean the Apostles didn’t believe in the right of self-defense? Do you yourself deny to Christians the right of self-defense?

There may be occasions when it would be futile or counterproductive to exercise your rights, but do you deny, even as a matter of principle, the right of Christians to practice the true religion if that entails passive or active disobedience?

If an armed burglar broke into your home and threatened your wife and kids, would you repel his aggression with lethal force if you had the opportunity? Or would you practice “personal pacifism”?

What if Muslim-Americans begin to impose Sharia law in American cities where they are dominant? Should the authorities resist that imposition?

iv) In the long run, Rome didn’t succeed in stamping out the Christian movement. But the story doesn’t always have a happy ending. It didn’t have a happy ending in France. Or England under Bloody Mary. Or in the Muslim conquest of the Mideast and N. Africa.

“But for Christians I would imagine that the NT needs to be taken into account.”

Can you quote any theonomist who denies that?

“And that the different order that comes after Christ with the abrogation of the theocracy, is more decisive for Christian reflection on politics than is Deuteronomy.”

Of course, you’re simply assuming a radical discontinuity between OT social ethics and NT social ethics. But to take your own example, “It has often been pointed out that the list of sins in [1 Tim 1:9-10] not only recall the so-called ‘vice lists’ found in ancient moralistic writings, but follow topics in the Ten Commandments (Deut 5:6-21),” W. Liefeld, 1 & 2 Timothy/Titus (Zondervan 1999), 64.

So Paul sees continuity between Deuteronomic ethics and NT ethics at the very point where you assert discontinuity. You can have Plato and Aristotle—I’ll take Paul.

BTW, how would you argue against an ethicist like Peter Singer? What moral leverage would you use?

“I think you need to be careful in asserting that Reformed theology developed a doctrine of revolution. For starters, those who did not submit developed a doctrine of “resistance.” But many, including Calvin, counseled against resistance, and advised submission.”

It naturally varied with the threat level and the historical circumstances of the individual Reformer. While she was alive, Calvin had the support of Jeanne d’Albret. And they were both hoping that her son (Henri) would side with the Protestants if and when he became king. That didn’t take their side, although he did promulgate the Edict of Nantes—which was better than nothing.

steve hays said,
November 10, 2008 at 9:03 am

D G Hart said,

“Steve Hays: that’s fine. You appealed to the tradition of American Presbyterianism and it didn’t work out for you. Those Presbyterians were good colleagues of deists and other ‘idolaters’ by theonomic standards. They were also responsible for revising the Westmisnter Standards in ways that theonomists and Covenanters loathe. I guess that’s your bad.”

You’re deliberately ignoring the context in which I cited them. You have suggested that while the original Westminster Standards supported theonomy, the American Presbyterians who revised the Westminster Standards took a position far closer to your own.

But, as you’ve now made clear, your opposition to theonomy is based on your quasi-Anabaptist interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount. That simply reinforces the contrast between 2K (as you conceive it) and the Presbyterians who revised the Westminster Standards.

Therefore, my appeal works out just fine for me. This serves to confirm the very point I used to illustrate. Try again.

Let’s also keep in mind that the original purpose of the Establishment Clause was to preserve the religious monopoly in certain states of the Union which already had an established church.

“Yes, I see that they were activist, and yes, I see that my disagreement with that activism means I give them two cheers rather than three. But I’m not sure how many cheers you have for them, other than that they resorted to arms. They certainly didn’t do so for the reasons you advocate.”

Whether intentionally or not, you have a penchant for missing the point. Did I indicate approval of their actions? No. I didn’t render a value judgment on their actions.

Rather, I explicitly cited their example to draw a historical contrast between their Presbyterianism and yours. And my point still stands. Try again.

Whenever we debate someone, it’s helpful to clarify at the outset how much common ground we have with that individual. How much can we take for granted? Every position assumes a prior position. So how far back in the series do we need to go?

If this is an intramural debate between one Calvinist and another, then there’s less that either side has to prove or disprove (as the case may be). However, your position isn’t much different than Ron Sider’s, at which point this ceases to be an intramural debate where both sides share the same Reformed framework.

At this juncture, based on your own representations, the case for 2K is predicated on Anabaptist hermeneutics, which, in turn, entails a radical discontinuity between OT ethics and NT ethics.

Fine. Anabaptism (and variations thereof) is entitled to a respectful hearing. But it also means that the split between theonomy and 2K occurs much lower in the tree.

“By personal pacificism I meant that I and the apostles (I guess) believe that Christians should turn the other cheek. (Talk about discontinuity.) The logic of turning the other cheek would seem to be a speed bump to armed insurrection. It would also appear to go against self-defense. In cases where my wife’s life, or those who needed assistance, were at stake, I’d do something physical (not sure what since I don’t own a gun). That’s why I’m not a real pacifist. I also believe the state bears the sword legitimately and that Christians may serve in the military or police. But if it were just my own life, I think the NT ethic is clear.”

You keep citing the Sermon on the Mount without bothering to exegete it. Quoting Scripture and understanding Scripture are two very different things.

Your appeal to the Sermon on the Mount is flawed in at least three basic respects:

i) On a general note: as NT scholars like France (2007 commentary on Matthew) point out, Jesus deliberately uses hyperbolic and paradoxical examples to drive home his point. By contrast, you’re as woodenly literal as Tim LaHaye.

ii) On another general note, as France also points out, the Sermon on the Mount is set in the context of a shame culture where certain words and actions were an affront to the injured party’s personal honor. This could even be an actionable offense, although no physical harm was inflicted.

iii) On a specific note: many commentators have noted that, since most folks are right-handed, a blow to the right cheek would involve a backhanded slap. As such, this is not a case of assault and battery. Rather, this is a slight to the injured party’s honor.

Jesus is rejecting the honor code which would justify personal retaliation for public humiliation. It has nothing to do with self-defense.

I don’t see any evidence that you’ve done your exegetical homework. If you have, it doesn’t show. Quoting chapter and verse is no substitute for grammatico-historical exegesis.

“(I don’t think the NT is clear that tea tariffs warrant rebellion.)”

A diversionary tactic, since that was no part of my argument.

“And as far as theonomists not using the NT, your allie Daniel Ritchie has had a devil of a time finding support for theonomy in the NT. By asking him for NT texts, he accused me of being a Reformed Dispensationalist. Apparently the NT is a stumbling block to some theonomists (not to mention the Sermon on the Mount).”

i) Another diversionary tactic, where you try to deflect attention away from my argument. When you resort to these decoys, that merely betrays the weakness of your own position.

ii) And, once again, you haven’t exegeted any NT text. So you haven’t established your claim on the NT. I already corrected your erroneous appeal to Rom 13 (where I cited Jewett). And I countered your rejection of Deuteronomy by citing 1 Tim 1:9-10, along with a reference to Liefeld’s commentary on that passage.

For a more detailed discussion of this passage, see Towner’s analysis (2006 commentary on Timothy/Titus, 124ff.), where he also draws attention to the OT background, viz. the 5th and 6th commandments, as well as the Levitical proscriptions against sodomy.

When are you going to shoulder your burden of proof by actually mounting an exegetical argument for your position rather than assuming what you need to prove?

steve hays said,
November 10, 2008 at 9:56 am

Todd said,
“You’ve mentioned that Revelation criticizes Rome, and that you believe some of the Mosaic laws are culturally informed and therefore not directly applicable in our culture; any other exegesis I have missed from you on this thread?”

And you’ve not demonstrated any flaw in my appeal to Revelation, which was in direct response to your erroneous claim regarding the silence of the NT concerning the Roman regime.

“Again, my disagreement with you is that I believe it is invalid to use the Mosaic law in the way you are suing it, to try to discern the principles or the direct applications and use them for modern statecraft.”

Your belief is not an argument.

“That’s funny, I was thinking that about you.”

Document where what I said was unresponsive to what my opponent said.

“How so? Demonstrate the inconsistency of the 2k position. I don’t have the conundrum of trying to discern which Mosaic laws apply to modern statecraft directly, which only in principle, and how they apply. How is that relativistic?”

I don’t have to demonstrate inconsistency since I was responding to you on your own terms, and that was not your argument. Your argument for subjectivity was based on mere disagreement.

And, of course, it’s not as though the 2K proponents agree with each other. Lee Irons and Scott Clark are both 2K proponents, but they fundamentally disagree over the role of natural law as the alternative source and standard of social ethics. And I seriously doubt that all 2K proponents share Darryl Hart’s denial of the right of self-defense.

“This is where we disagree. The similarities between the civil laws of Israel and NC state laws are only formal similarities. The OT laws had intrinsic merit for God’s holy, theocratic people. I could make the same case for a NC law, as in Paul’s command not to marry unbelievers. The law is a covenantal law for God’s covenantal people, with no real correspondence to any civil law of modern government. That is how I believe the Mosaic Law in its entirety is to be understood.”

You act as if you’re a theological voluntarist, according to which a divine command is an arbitrary fiat. What was immoral yesterday is moral today, while what was moral yesterday is immoral today.

The covenant is not what makes something moral or immoral. Rather, the covenant codifies (to some extent) the moral law. Sodomy is not immoral because it’s illegal; rather, sodomy is illegal because it’s immoral (“illegal” according to Mosaic Law).

“Well, I would say both. They were also ritually impure because they defiled the land, God’s special presence.”

If you say they are both, then you’re admitting that they are illegal under OT law because they are immoral. And if they were immoral then, they remain immoral now.

Hence, you admit that, to some degree, the Mosaic law codifies the moral law. And the moral law is transcultural.

“Yes, and 2k disagrees with this theonomic premise. The Mosaic laws and penalties were never meant to be translated into the NC state. We believe that is a misuse of the OT law.”

Stating your opinion is not an argument.

“Now of course the underlying natural law realities discerned in the Mosaic law, such as the general idea of penalties for crimes, punishing harm of neighbor, etc…will be codified at some level in every NC state, but these ideas were already codified in societies before the Law came.”

In that event, they can be translated into the NC state.

And these ideas were not uniformly codified in pagan societies. To some extent, the Mosaic law is countercultural. In many respects it’s an explicit repudiation of heathen social ethics.

“There is a difference between saying the law reveals what is sin in God’s eyes, and that the penalties prescribed in the Mosaic code are apt penalties to be used for NC, non-theocratic states. The former we affirm, the latter we deny. For example, the Law makes clear God’s views of idolatry. But we deny the penalties against idolatry in Israel can be used in NC non-theocratic states, or that a theocratic state is a goal NC Christians should attain to.”

You try to use one example to discredit every example. That’s an argument from analogy minus the analogy. You would have to show that sodomy and idolatry (to take one example) are equivalent. Given the cultic holiness of Israel, it’s easy to see why idolatry would be a capital offense—for Israelites.

Remember, there were resident aliens in Israel who worshipped false gods. That, of itself, was not a capital offense. It was a capital offense for a member of the covenant community. That is quite different for something like bestiality.

“Yes, I was using too much already/not yet thinking in a short sentence, which does look confusing. Point being, the Law is being fulfilled in the church, which is filled with God’s Spirit from heaven, which lives in God’s heavenly presence through Jesus, so the positive requirements of the Law have an already dimension (besides the forensic element of imputed righteousness). The Mosaic penalties for sin will be fulfilled at final judgment, which I think is one of the points of the Sermon on the Mount. They have already been fulfilled at the cross for the elect.”

You’re confusing justification with sanctification. Christians are justified in Christ. But Christians are still under the moral law. Your position sounds antinomian.

And Paul’s statement in 1 Tim 9:9-10 involves an application of Mosaic law to unbelievers. So unbelievers are also subject to the moral law (in this case, codified in the Decalogue and Levitical proscriptions against sodomy).

“Have you considered Hebrews 2:1-4? I’ll let a good 2k Texan, Lane Tipton, respond better than I ever could.”

Tipton’s conclusion doesn’t even follow from his own premise. If the Mosaic sanctions represent a “semi-realized eschatology,” then they would have both historical and eschatological manifestations. They would be exemplified in the here-and-now as well as the hereafter.

And we don’t need to turn to the NT to find a distinction between “now” and “not yet.” The OT has a Day of the Lord. Evildoers who escape justice in this life will receive their comeuppance in the afterlife. So there’s no dichotomy between temporal penalties and eternal penalties. Try again.

Moreover, the fact that Mosaic sanctions anticipate the final judgment doesn’t mean that Mosaic sanctions exist solely to anticipate the final judgment, as if they had no other function. A nation-state needs to outlaw certain forms of social conduct.

“I’m sorry, I believe the Bible refuses to answer that question for you. I do not believe the Bible is interested in granting the political solutions for happy, peaceful, religious political kingdoms of man in the new covenant, so I answer that question the same way I answer the husband who wants to know why God doesn’t tell us how to cure his wife’s cancer, and how is a doctor to know how God might want him to heal her.”

Now you’re ducking the consequences of your own position. You admitted that a criminal is liable to punishment now. But you deny that Scripture tells us what punishment he’s liable to.

Okay, so what’s your alternative? What would be a just punishment? If 2K can’t even begin to answer that question, then civil and criminal penalties are utterly arbitrary. Is that the cash-value of your position?

steve hays said,
November 11, 2008 at 9:58 am

Todd said,
“Well, being A-mil and not prone to partial preterism, I may have a different view of Revelation than you do.”

I take the same position as Beale and Poythress: amil/modified idealism. Try again.

“But I think the picture of the state in Revelation much more supports the 2k position. The state being criticized in Rev. is not just Rome, but all states and government authority. Rev. demonstrates that state authority is never Christian, and through the church age this human authority will at some level persecute believers. The kingdom of man will always be the kingdom of man this side of the consummation. I do not think this picture in Rev. nullifies the argument that the Apostles never verbally criticize or attack the civil authorities or their policies, or ever command the church to.”

Now you’re moving the goalpost. This was your original question, which you posed as a challenge to theonomy:

“Some interesting thoughts, but I think you need to ask some questions, such as, why don’t the Apostles ever address the sins of Rome?”

Even on the view of amil commentators like Beale and Poythress, the Roman regime is a target of John’s censure. The fact that John uses the Roman state to illustrate a general principle (“not just Rome”) doesn’t subtract from the fact that Revelation involves a very pointed criticism of the sins of Rome—with special reference to the Roman magistracy.

I answered you on your own grounds. If you were honest, you’d acknowledge the point and withdraw your original objection.

But no, you now indulge in special pleading to salvage your original claim even though you have to modify your original claim in the process. In Revelation, John clearly criticizes the civil authorities and their policies. Amil commentators have no difficulty recognizing that fact.

I’d add that Revelation doesn’t demonstrate that state authority is “never” Christian. There were no Christian states or governments at the time it was written. The immediate setting is the Roman Empire, with historical allusions to pagan nations in the past.

“True, but we are not disagreeing over special revelation, but how to apply general revelation to civil law, which we admit is difficult because we do not have direct prescriptions. The accusation against using general revelation to guide civil law is usually that it is arbitrary, yet I see theonomists using the Law in the same way, arbitrarily.”

So, by the logic of your objection, 2K is just as “subjective” as theonomy, in which event your objection was self-refuting. Try again.

“No, I think I have answered this many times. A sin can be a sin in any covenant administration, but the specific penalties for that sin in a certain covenant administration may not be appropriate for different covenant administrations. That is biblical theology, not moral relativism.”

Unless you think the Mosaic penalties were unjust, then what was just then is just now. A just penalty is a moral norm. A universal. Justice is transcultural.
If you deny that, then your denial commits you to moral relativism.

At best you could argue that we are free to be more merciful. But a just penalty still sets a moral threshold of what a crime deserves. It deserves no less than this (possibly more), whether or not we give the criminal what he deserves.

“Yes, homosexuality is immoral. But that doesn’t mean because the death penalty was prescribed for homosexuals under the Mosaic law, that that is the expected standard punishment governments outside the theocracy should implement. Do you?”

It means that capital punishment is a just penalty for sodomy. So it wouldn’t be wrong to execute sodomites.

As I’ve also pointed out, in my response to Keister, under OT laws, some penalties could be commuted. And the Mosaic law also distinguishes between penitent and impenitent sinners.

I’ve already been over this ground before. Pay attention.

BTW, sodomites have a habit of seducing underage minors. How do you think that crime should be punished? Or should it be a crime?

“Besides homosexuality being sinful, Paul tells me to seek to associate with them (I Cor 5), not seek to establish a society where we may put them to death. I think we’re beginning to go around in circles on this issue.”

You’re confusing the duties of the church with the duties of the state. Do you think we should treat all crimes as cases of church discipline? In that event, you’d repeal all laws against all sex crimes, property crimes, crimes of violence, &c.

“Immoral and illegal are not the same thing. Many sins were illegal under Moses that cannot be illegal in NC states.”

Now you’re evading the force of your own statement. You have a dishonest streak.

You admitted that in some cases, the Mosaic civil law overlaps the moral law. Where they intersect, why wouldn’t we continue to outlaw those actions which violate the moral law? Isn’t the moral law transcultural?

“I don’t remember saying uniformly, but yes, many societies already contained laws against murder, theft rape, etc…before the Law. That’s all I meant.”
And they also contain immoral laws.

“That argues for my position. The fact that they were in many respects counter cultural is due to their theocratic nature, which was unique to OT Israel.”

No, it’s due to the fact that paganism is morally depraved. As such, pagan nations often had laws that violate the moral law of God. Take child sacrifice.

Or do you think we should decriminalize child sacrifice? After all, the prohibition against child sacrifice was just a unique, theocratic prohibition, right?

We wouldn’t want to impose a unique, theocratic law like the prohibition against child sacrifice on a NC state, now would we?

“Right, I understand that theonomists are not suggesting a righteous state would persecute everyone who didn’t believe the established religion based upon the distinctions you mention above. Yet I have my doubts whether that would hold up in practice. History has not left a good record of what Christians do when they are given political power to establish or enforce religion.”

I see. Does history have a better record of what unbelievers do when they are in power? Do you think that Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot or Idi Amin has a better track record than Abraham Kuyper?

“I said the Law was being fulfilled in the life of the Christian. Anti-nomian?”

No, you’ve said they were fulfilled in the life of Christ, not the life of the Christian. I can quote your own words back to you verbatim if you can’t remember what you said.

“The same Paul who in Romans said the purpose of the Law was to expose sin and drive people to Christ? Yes, the Law is for unbelievers, but is the Apostle suggesting in I Tim that unbelievers are subject to the OT civil penalties of those particular laws, or that they as unbelievers still need the Law to expose their sin before God?”

In Reformed theology, there are three uses of the law. Do you reject Reformed theology in tha respect?

“Yes, as Lane wrote, the here and now is the cross (for believers), the hereafter is the Judgment Seat (for unbelievers).”

Tell that to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5,10), or Herod (Acts 12:23). Even in the church age, divine judgment is manifested in the here-and-now as well as the hereafter.
“I don’t know, what is the best treatment for cancer?”

That is hardly analogous. In penology and jurisprudence, the question at issue is a moral question, involving moral norms. Universals.

What social behavior is wrong? What social behavior should be outlawed? What’s a just punishment for a particular crime?

That involves a question of justice. Timeless norms. Moral absolutes.

The best treatment for cancer is not a question of abstract, universal truths about right and wrong. It’s a purely contingent, person-variable issue.

What works for one cancer patient may not work for another.

How’s that comparison the least bit relevant to the just punishment for child rape (to take one example)?

If you really think that penology is analogous to medicine, then that commits you to moral relativism since medication is person-variable.

You don’t show much evidence of having thought through your position.

“If your answer to my question on cancer is utterly arbitrary, then I guess my answer would be ‘yes,’ but I still like the category of wisdom and natural law for politics and legal penalties, just like I do for curing cancer.”

Fine, let’s see you apply natural law to actual cases. According to natural law, are the following actions right or wrong?

Therapeutic abortion
Eugenic abortion
Elective abortion
Voluntary euthanasia
Involuntary euthanasia
Virtual child pornography
Birth control
Therapeutic cloning
Surrogate motherhood
Negligent homicide
Defensive warfare
Preemptive warfare
Civil disobedience
Remedial punishment
Retributive punishment
Capital punishment
Corporal punishment

Which actions are morally licit, and why? Which actions are morally illicit, and why?

Assuming that you regard one of more of these actions as wrong, which of them should be outlawed?

After you identify which actions would be crimes, also state what just penalties natural law would assign to these crimes, and why.

steve hays said,
November 11, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Todd said,
“The law is being fulfilled in the church, God’s people (not only Christ, as you asserted I wrote.)”

I see you can only remember one thing at a time. Before you said that, you also said this, in which you used an either/or formulation:

““Because in heaven there are no sex crimes, property crimes, and crimes of violence; and each individual, or Christ for them at the cross, will/have been legally judged at the justice seat in heaven for these sins.”

Therefore, on your formulation, the individual doesn’t have to keep the law.

“Seeing your responses in this debate, you use some standard rhetorical debating techniques. You try to make your opponents look bad by constantly accusing them of deliberate dishonesty, as if you know their hearts, and then you speak to them like children to try to make them look ignorant. But if you think it works, go ahead.”

And you use some standard evasive maneuvers. When someone answers you on your own grounds, and you move the goalposts, that’s dishonest.

“As for the OT penalties, I don’t know how many times I can answer the same questions, so this will be my last time with you.”

That’s because all you have are prepared answers. And when someone poses a question for which you have no prepared answer, all you can do is repeat the same unresponsive answer. You’re unable to advance the argument beyond your formulaic replies.

“But you may want to get a hold of L. Tipton’s full exegetical paper on this point, for he does a wonderful job of refuting theonomy concerning the OT penalties.”

If you’ve read his paper, and he does such a wonderful job of refuting theonomy, then you should be able to reproduce that refutation in response to me.
“Again, the OT Mosaic penalties are just, in that all sins deserve death, and Final Judgment will be just against all sins. The OT penalties typify Final Judgment, they are not appropriate for this NC age.”

Bad answer. Not all sins are crimes. The Mosaic law criminalized some sins, but not others. That’s because it’s a legal code for a nation-state, and not all sins are the proper subject matter of a civil or criminal law code. Rather, the Mosaic law singles out a number of sins which are most germane to social ethics.

“The OT penalties typify Final Judgment, they are not appropriate for this NC age.”

i) That’s an incoherent objection. If they typify the final judgment, then they typify the final judgment under the OC age as well as the NC age. So, by your logic, they were equally inappropriate for the OC age.

ii) Moreover, you fail to distinguish between crimes and penalties. Even if, ex hypothesi, the penalties typify the final judgment, this doesn’t mean that the crimes typify the final judgment—as if the only purpose of criminalizing these activities was to typify the final judgment. Rape wasn’t outlawed because it typifies the final judgment. It was outlawed because it’s the sort of sin which destroys the social fabric, and that’s impermissible in a nation-state (or any society).

iii) You also have an odd habit of oscillating between heaven and the final judgment, as if these were interchangeable. At an earlier point you said these crimes typified heaven because such crimes don’t exist in heaven.

But that’s a very different argument. And at other points you say they typify the cross, or they typify the church.

For you, they typify just about everything except the state.

“As for that long list of sins (is birth control a sin?) in your previous post, I would be fascinated to read what you think you believe the just biblical, civil penalties should be for each.”

I’ve been blogging on social ethics for several years, so you’re behind the curve. And the fact that you try to shift the burden of proof is a backdoor admission that you can’t begin to offer a constructive alternative.

“As for me, given man’s sin nature, I think the Lord has done a pretty good job of preserving society for thousands of years through natural law, so I am content with this type of preservation until he returns.”

i) Both the OT and NT contain scathing indictments of pagan morality.

ii) And when, once again, I challenged you to make good on your own claims, you drew a blank. You were the one who said that you turn to natural law for guidance, as an alternative to OT ethics.

Very well, then. Let’s put that to the test. How does that abstraction cash out in specific cases? As soon as I ask you to state how natural law actually applies to a raft of real world examples, you wimp out.

So, by the way you respond in silence as soon as I list some concrete examples, and ask you how many, if any, natural law would classify as wrong; how many, if any, natural law would criminalize; and what just penalties natural law would assign to each, your appeal to natural law turns out to be a vacuous placeholder which offers no specific moral direction on the most fundamental questions of penology and jurisprudence. Thanks for illustrating the utter bankruptcy of your 2K alternative. Once we peel back the label, there’s nothing underneath.

iii) Oh, and birth control is an excellent test-case. Natural law theorists typically oppose birth control on the grounds that contraception is unnatural or contrary to nature since the natural purpose of sex is procreation, which contraception deliberately impedes.

So, if you’re going to invoke natural law as your source and standard of ethical guidance, then feel free to mount a natural law justification for birth control.

“And Luther’s warning about a theology of glory verses a theology of the cross transcends all traditions and denominations; they are warnings every Christian needs to heed.”

They constitute a frontal assault on Reformed theological method.

steve hays said,
November 11, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Todd said,
“So I answer that question the same way I answer the husband who wants to know why God doesn’t tell us how to cure his wife’s cancer, and how is a doctor to know how God might want him to heal her.”

That comparison involves a fatal disanalogy. You’re comparing God’s revealed will (i.e. preceptive will in the OT) with his decretive will.

The fact that we don’t know the mind of God in matters where he keeps his own counsel is irrelevant to the debate over the degree of discontinuity between OT ethics and NT ethics—where he has disclosed his will, at one time or another.

“Again, the OT Mosaic penalties are just, in that all sins deserve death, and Final Judgment will be just against all sins. The OT penalties typify Final Judgment, they are not appropriate for this NC age. If that is moral relativism in your eyes, so be it.”

Many Mosaic crimes didn’t rise to the level of capital offenses. Therefore, if you think the death penalty typifies the final judgment, and many Mosaic crimes didn’t carry the death penalty, then, by your own logic, many Mosaic crimes and penalties don’t typify the final judgment. So their justification is more mundane.

“Most of the laws already on the books against murder, rape, theft, arson seem fine to me.”

On what basis do they seem fine to you? How would you argue down an ethicist like Peter Singer, whose moral intuition is very different from yours?

Keep in mind that, even in our secularized culture, many of our criminal laws reflect a Christian legacy.

steve hays said,
November 11, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Todd said,
“I think natural law argues well against abortion (murder is wrong, we can see, especially with modern science, that the fetus is a child).”

Seems to me a natural law theorist could argue for abortion, or infanticide. Traditionally, natural law theory has been the province of Catholicism, so the results of natural law theory have a way of coinciding with Catholic moral theology.

But what about a secular natural law theorist? In the animal kingdom, a mother may reduce her litter by killing the runts. Or the stronger siblings may kill the runts. This improves the chances of survival for the remaining offspring since they don’t have to share the food.

Likewise, a natural law theorist might argue that exposing the child of a large family is for the common good. Better to have a few well-fed kids rather than many malnourished kids.

Biblical ethics would forbid this ruthless utilitarianism, but I don’t see how natural law theory does so.

Likewise, what are the results if we apply natural law theory to the rationing of medical care?

Todd said,

“I think Scott Clark has well demonstrated that natural law is historically reformed, and I am convinced of his research, so we may leave that as one of our many disagreements.”

i)Which misses the point. I didn’t say that natural law theory is at odds with Calvinism. What I said, rather, is that natural law theory has a way of rubberstamping the ethical presuppositions of the natural law theorist. If he’s a Catholic natural law theorist, he will “discover” that natural law underwrites Catholic moral theology. But if he’s a secular ethicist, he will “discover” that natural law underwrites secular ethics, of one variety or another.

ii)Moreover, there’s a difference between claiming that natural law can supplement God’s preceptive will, and claiming that natural law should supplant God’s preceptive will.

“But the Bible teaches that men, apart from the Mosaic Law, through conscience know God’s moral law (Rom 1:32), so if abortion is morally wrong I can appeal to the conscience, as well as science.”

Of course, this is very hypothetical since all your doing is to appeal to the generic category of natural law rather than mounting an actual argument against abortion based on natural law.

What I see is some 2k proponents make these vague, promissory claims about the moral resources of natural law theory, but I don’t see them go beyond their purely programmatic claims to do the actual spadework. As I’ve already said, it’s a 3-step process:

i) Show, from natural law theory, what forms of social conduct are wrong
ii) Show, from natural law theory, what wrongful forms of social conduct should be outlawed.
iii) Show, from natural law theory, what just penalty should be assigned to unlawful forms of social conduct.

Point me to a 2k proponent who has done this. If you can’t, it’s a vacuous appeal.

“I could appeal to the Bible also if he was willing, but I would make the point that his conscience backs the Bible on this.”

What part of the Bible could you appeal to? You’ve already written off OT ethics in toto. If you’re going to limit yourself to NT ethics, then you need to repeat the same 3-step process:

i) Show, from NT, what forms of social conduct are wrong
ii) Show, from NT ethics, what wrongful forms of social conduct should be outlawed.
iii) Show, from NT ethics, what just penalty should be assigned to unlawful forms of social conduct.

“How would following the law of God written on the conscience hurt people this way?”

i) If you’re alluding to Rom 2:14-15, I incline to the view of scholars like Cranfield, Gathercole, Jewett, Wright, and Zahn that this has reference to Christian gentiles rather than pagan gentiles.

ii) In real world situations, we’re often confronted with apparent ethical dilemmas. Appeal to conscience is useless to resolve these quandaries since the problem is generating by conflicting intuitions. When intuition is divided against itself, intuition can’t be its arbiter. You need more tools in your ethical toolkit.

“Except that I consider NC statecraft outside God’s decretive will, like I do the curing of cancer, so the comparison works for me.”

i) A Calvinist doesn’t regard anything as outside of God’s decretive will. Did you mean preceptive will?

ii) So you think the NT is silent on statecraft?

iii) The issue is larger than statecraft. It goes to the general issue of Biblical ethics, whether OT ethics or NT ethics. Statecraft is a subset of Biblical ethics.

For example, whether the Bible speaks to the moral status of abortion is a separate issue from whether the Bible speaks to church/state relations.

“Well, I don’t relegate those more mundane laws as completely outside the realm of typology concerning Canaan as a picture of the new heavens and earth, but in my view even the smaller Mosaic penalties were not written to be used as guides to NC statecraft.”

i) Once again, you’re moving the goalpost. You originally said that Mosaic laws are typical because the death penalty typifies the final judgment.

When I answer you on your own terms by pointing out that many Mosaic penalties felt short of capital punishment, you shift grounds. That’s not an honest reply.

ii) And it’s silly to say that every Mosaic law typifies the final state. That turns the Mosaic law into an elaborate allegory of heaven—which results in any number of fanciful, arbitrary, and mutually exclusive allegorical interpretations of what a given law typifies.

iii) As I’ve mentioned on several occasions now, many of these laws have a completely practical, down-to-earth purpose.

iv) And as I also pointed out, you keep oscillating over what the Mosaic laws typify. They typify the church. No, they typify the final judgment. No, they typify the consummation.

These are not convertible propositions. If Mosaic laws typify the church, then they apply to the church age, not the consummation.

You seem to have a very ad hoc notion of what they typify. The only thing they have in common is to avoid at all costs ever allowing them typify the state. It’s a purely reactionary position, driven by your distaste for theonomy.

“I would argue that past history and common sense aptly demonstrates that throwing millions of more dollars at Africa will not solve their problems, as one example.”

I’m not discussing foreign aid. I’m discussing Singer’s position on issues like abortion, infanticide, eugenics, euthanasia, &c.

Peter Singer appeals to common sense, too. He’s a utilitarian, and invoking the common good is often intuitively appealing. Killing 50 to save 100. That sort of thing.

“What would be the point of using biblical arguments if he, or those listening to such a debate, didn’t even accept the innerancy of Scripture?”

i) To begin with, Christians need a principled position for themselves. Regardless of what the world does, we are answerable to God for our own actions. So we need to be clear on what God requires of us as individuals, regardless of whether we can convince or compel other men and women to do right.

ii) We also need a principled position to demarcate the permissible limits of cooperation or compromise with the unbeliever. Up to a point, it’s okay to seek common ground. But what we share in common with the unbeliever must be grounded in God’s moral law for mankind, and not mere expediency.

iii) A Christian natural law theorist will be arguing from (and for) a theistic version of natural law theory. In many cases that will already involve him in a debate over the religious foundations of morality. As long as we have to argue for theistic ethics, why not argue for Christian ethics?

1 comment:

  1. If I might offer a couple of responses since some of what I'm seeing in the argument from your opponents seems to be running along the lines of some of the NCT arguments not just against theonomy but traditional Reformed Baptist Covenantalism.

    “Sure there is. All God’s laws are just because he spoke them, but again, you are not taking into account that biblical laws are conditioned by covenant. Just because something is proper for one covenant does not mean it is proper for all of them…It was just for Israelite widows to be required to marry one of her husband’s brothers after her husband’s death, if he died childless, in order to continue the family line of the dead husband (Deut 25), but I don’t see a lot of theonomists continuing this practice today. Of course, you can always file this into the ‘ceremonial’ pile and be done with it.”

    Actually, even if we restrict this law to the covenant community, we still practice a form of leverite marriage insofar as:

    a. The church is to care for the widows and orphans. Orphans aren't merely parentless children, they are fatherless children. The men of the church are to become the de facto fathers to the young men in particular and the women are to help mentor the widow who is mothering a daughter. The church as a whole cares for the family. In this way, assuming at least one or more of the children comes to Christ (and remains in Him), the family line is, no this law is not void today.

    2. God also calls us to take His law into every area of life. In the civil realm do we strip widows of their property rights, do we subsume them under the headship of the next male kinperson. No, we allow her by virtue of marriage inheritance rights due to spouses. In this way, the family line is maintained. There's one prong of an argument for traditional marriage.