1981 [Reply to Chantry’s God’s Righteous Kingdom] Covenant Media Foundation, 800/553-3938
In my book, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (Craig Press, 1977), I argued that God’s word is authoritative over all areas of life (the premise of a Christian world-and-life-view), that within the Scripture we should presume continuity between Old and New Testament principles and regulations until God’s revelation tells us otherwise (the premise of covenant theology), and that therefore the Old Testament law offers us a model for socio-political reconstruction in our own day. Walter Chantry made it clear that, in his opinion, this theonomic or “reconstructionist” position was horrifying “legalism” (The Banner of Truth, nos. 175 & 178: April & July, 1978); in personal correspondence he had further recriminations against it, despite my expressed belief that our two positions on ethics were not greatly different I called upon Mr. Chantry to offer substantiating argumentation from Scripture for his denunciation of the theonomic (reconstructionist) perspective, but at the time he offered none. In 1980, however, the Banner of Truth Trust published Mr. Chantry’s new book, God’s Righteous Kingdom, in which he argues against the idea of “social reconstruction” modeled on the Mosaic civil code – although he declines to tell his readers who his opponents are so that the readers can check out the two positions for themselves (p. 11). He says that those who are familiar “with the true currency of heaven” need not study “the counterfeits” (p. 12)!
And what a counterfeit the reconstructionist position is in Chantry’s eyes! Although every charge he levels is corrected in either Theonomy or my personal correspondence, Chantry proceeds to charge reconstructionists with smothering the inward, spiritual dimension, shifting attention from purity of soul to externals, and turning aside from a conscious walk with God in prayer, meditation, and evangelism (pp. 17, 21, 23, 25, 26, 29, 54). Persisting in these false accusations is an inexcusable attempt to poison his readers’ minds; in a word, it is slander. The personal attacks on the piety of reconstructionists is matched by the vehemence of the theological denunciations of their position as perverse, deformed, twisted, a mutilation, sinister, and aberrant (pp. 9, 10, 11, 47, 123). Those who hold it are said to be unlearned (p. 87), and Chantry comes very close to asserting that they do not belong to God’s kingdom at all (p. 18). The “law-enthusiasts” are accused of promoting a “new legalism” (p. 100). In the face of this kind of uncharitable and unscholarly lambasting of reconstructionist thought, we might expect a refutation of it whose cogency is commensurate. But it is not forthcoming.
Chantry’s book makes a number of unnecessary mistakes which betray a lack of thorough reflection. He says that Christ’s kingdom (His victorious reign, p. 8) is nowhere in the New Testament identified with the millennium (p. 18) – despite the obvious connection of the millennial age in Revelation 20 with reigning with Christ on thrones! Although he has a commendable plea for commitment to the church in our day, Chantry wants to make “church” and “kingdom” practically interchangeable as synonyms (pp. 142-143) – despite the difference in their denotations (Matthew 13:38, 41) and connotations (Acts 28:23). Chantry mistakenly claims that the New Testament never says that the kingdom was in existence prior to the Messiah’s advent – contrary to Matthew 21:43. Moving away from Paul toward Plotinus, he overstates his case (equivocating at points on terms like “spiritual”) by stating that the kingdom does not concern the temporal, the material, the social, or the external (pp. 15, 18, 51, 62) – even though the New Testament says that it comes on earth (Matthew 6:10; Revelation 5:10), brings preeminence to Christ in all things (Colossians 1:13-20), is profitable for “the life that now is” (I Timothy 4:8; Matthew 6:25-33), and touches on everything, even our eating and drinking (I Corinthians 10:31). Connected with this same neoplatonic tendency is Chantry’s view that sin and salvation can be understood in terms of the subservience of the spiritual to the animal, physical aspect of man, and vice verse (pp. 20-21, 59), his view that evangelism is far more important than the cultural mandate (p. 27, rather than the two being equally necessary to each other), and his evaluation that – because the Holy Spirit was not yet given in gospel measure – the Mosaic age necessarily emphasized matters which were external, outward, material, or national (pp. 50-53, 87, 94, 95). The “Spirituality” of the New Covenant, however, pertains to the work of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 8:4), not to a de-emphasis on the whole man or the goodness of God’s creation (e.g., I Corinthians 15:20-27; Hebrews 2:5-9; I Timothy 4:4-5; I Peter 1:15); the profound inwardness of New Covenant religion must be made visible in public righteousness (James 1:27; 2:16-17). The Old Covenant did not lack ethical concern for inward purity (e.g., Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Leviticus 19:17-18) – as we see from Jesus citing its spiritual requirements (Matthew 22:37-40, and which even Chantry must admit, p. 95) – but did not enjoy the Pentecostal power of the Holy spirit in the New Covenant. Chantry is thinking in the wrong categories.
Unwittingly Chantry argues in a way and takes a position at many points in his book which is identical with theonomic ethics. What makes this so odd is his insisting in personal correspondence that the difference between us is not minor, and his published animosity toward the position renders his pervasive agreement with it mystifying as well. Chantry says that a vague subjectivism cannot guide us in defining our unchanging moral duties; they must thus be found in the Bible – indeed, in the Old Testament law (pp. 77, 79, 80-81; cf. Theonomy, chapters 1, 14, 15). Chantry sees Matthew 5:17 as teaching the “validating and confirming” ministry of Jesus regarding the Old Testament (p. 44; cf. Theonomy, chapter 2); Jesus did not deliver a new standard of ethics but rather a clear exposition of the old statutes (pp. 81, 95; cf. Theonomy, chapter 3). Chantry states: “Since his own upright character is the immutable foundation, the requirements made by God’s righteousness must be constant and unchanging” (p. 69, also pp. 65-69, 85; cf. Theonomy, chapter 5). With respect to Christ and the law, Chantry observes that “his death for ever establishes the inviolability of the moral law” (p. 71; cf. Theonomy, chapter 6). Moreover, the Holy Spirit empowers believers to keep the moral law, according to Chantry (pp. 72-73; cf. Theonomy, chapter 7). Chantry appeals to the unity of the covenants in Scripture (p. 103), so that the New Covenant does not invalidate the Old Covenant (p. 45); he is against divorcing the covenants (rendering morality merely temporary requirements for temporary ages) since there is a unity of revelation concerning the character and moral law of God throughout Scripture (pp. 46-47, 73; cf. Theonomy, chapter 8). The New Testament repeatedly endorses the Old Testament law by citing it as authoritative, without disclaimers (pp. 84-86, 92; cf. Theonomy, chapter 12). Moreover, the moral law is harmonious with the New Testament message about the kingdom, love, and salvation by grace, observes Chantry (pp. 89-92, 97; cf. Theonomy, chapters 4, 11). When the Old Testament expectation is seen in conjunction with all that the New Testament says about the statutes of the Old Testament, finally, we understand the necessity of distinguishing between types of laws, like moral and ceremonial (pp. 113-114; cf. Theonomy, chapter 9). Having offered something of a synopsis of the argumentation in the first half of Theonomy in Christian Ethics, it is not surprising that Chantry can say – in good theonomic spirit – that sin is identical in all ages (p. 74). What Chantry has not perceived is that the very same arguments which he has utilized in support the validity of the Ten Commandments (which is his narrow aim in the above considerations) are equally supportive of the validity of the case (judicial) laws of the Old Testament as well. To put it another way: his arguments prove the validity of the Decalogue to be sure, but they do not prove that only the Decalogue is valid today. Chantry has proved more than he realizes or wants to prove by arguing in the way that he has. One example will suffice: he points out that the New Testament appeals to the authority of laws from the Decalogue, and he (correctly) concludes that the Decalogue is binding in the New Testament. Since the New Testament also appeals to the authority of the case laws (e.g., I Corinthians 9:9; Mark 10:19) and the penal sanctions (e.g., Matthew 15:4; Hebrews 2:2), Chantry should consistently accept the validity of the case laws and penalties as well. We will later see that such consistency does not characterize his reasoning.
Before coming to Chantry’s argumentation against the judicial laws of the Old Testament, we need to pursue just a bit further the evidence for his extensive agreement with the theonomic position – even regarding the judicial laws themselves! Despite his neoplatonic glorification of the superiority of “spirit” over matter (inward over outward, eternal over temporal, spiritual over physical, etc.) Chantry at places in his book says we should not sharply divide sacred and secular (p. 60) or be against the material world in ascetic fashion (p. 18). God is (after all) interested in matters of the present life, like citizenship concerns (p. 17). Along with reconstructionists Chantry says that Christians must think through the bearings of righteousness upon all issues of life and of our day (p. 37). Light is needed even in the realm of politics or government (p. 38). Retreat from the world, Chantry says, is not the Lord’s will (p. 33). Instead, believers are gradually to bring the world under the sway of Christ the King (p. 36) – in which case the impact of holiness will be felt even in civil government (p. 38). A reconstructionist could not be happier with such acknowledgments! But Chantry’s theonomic sentiments do not end even there. He goes on to recognize that the judicial laws of the Old Testament show “in principle” how the gospel message should influence civil laws (p. 122). He concedes that perhaps Christianity does have some useful advice for the crises of modern Western civilization after all (p. 25). Chantry goes so far as to assert: “we find a general wisdom of God imbedded in the judicial system of Moses which can counsel us in modern affairs of state” (p. 121). He recommends that we re-examine Western civil laws in the light of the “theocratic” laws of the Old Testament, even in such a penal issue as restitution (p. 122)! As we can see, Chantry has to admit at isolated points in his book that the reconstructionist (or theonomic) goals and models are not wrong in principle after all.
Chantry has argued for the continuing validity of the Mosaic law in the same fashion as does the reconstructionist theonomist). Chantry has conceded that in principle the judicial laws of Moses set forth political wisdom which should guide our civil practices today. Now, if Chantry says just about everything that a reconstructionist finds crucial to his position, why has Chantry elsewhere denounced the position as a perverted and sinister mutilation of Biblical doctrine? Why the emotional vehemence, the uncharitable name-calling, and the wild charge of “new legalism”? Why should Chantry fuss so much about an ethical perspective which is so very close to his own (especially when one scans the near horizon of other evangelical approaches to ethics, and then the far horizon of secular philosophical options in ethics)? I have no good answer to these questions – no justification for his severe words – but I might have a likely explanation. Although there is no excuse for it, it might seem that the reason why Chantry advocates the reconstructionist position in large extent but condemns it in name is that he does not actually know what the position is that he has decided to criticize in print. I would not want to advance this explanation were it not for the fact that there is so much overwhelming evidence in his book that he does not understand the reconstructionist position sufficiently well to portray it accurately. (Back in 1978 it was necessary for me to correct a long list of misrepresentations of the theonomic position which Chantry had suggested in The Banner of Truth: see no. 178: July, pp. 30-31). In his book Chantry maintains that the reconstructionist does not see any distinctions between the Old and new Covenants (p. 47). Nothing could be further from the truth (Theonomy, pp. 189194, 207-216, p. 366: “radical differences”). Chantry claims that the reconstructionist, like the ancient Jews and modern liberals, hopes for a material paradise (p. 61) which will be created by “lifting” the judicial laws out of the Mosaic code and directly writing them on the law-books of modern laws out of the Mosaic code and directly writing them on the law-books of modern states (pp. 99, 111), thereby bringing back the “life style identical to that of Moses’ day” (p. 43). But this is a preposterous representation; the theonomist recognizes the cultural differences between modern Western nations and ancient Israel (who doesn’t?!), maintains that it is the principle illustrated by the judicial laws which is binding today – not the literal case (Theonomy, pp. 260, 313-314, 540-541)—knows that modern application of the Mosaic law is not a simple issue (Theonomy, pp. xiv, 470). Chantry says that reconstructionists aim to create a church-state (p. 52) – despite my entire chapter against the notion (Theonomy, chapter 20)! Chantry charges that reconstructionists want to “impose’ the judicial laws of Moses on modern states “with carnal weapons of war” (pp. 37, 100, 111). The misrepresentations move from the silly to the malicious here. Theonomists repudiate the imposition of a new standard by force on an unwilling populus, advocating instead the methods of preaching and persuasion (Theonomy, pp. 257, 382, 386, 391-392, 414-417, 427, 475-479, 524); the church’s use of the sword is utterly repudiated (Theonomy, pp. 2, 411, 414-423, 416, 521, 575). The evidence seems abundantly clear, then, that Chantry has been criticizing a counterfeit position, one which nobody maintains – least of all the reconstructionist. He is jousting with a straw-man, the erection of which cannot be warranted from the literature of reconstructionist writers.
If Chantry does not understand the position he attacks, then many will conclude that he is in no position to publish his criticisms and can be justly ignored. This may be so, but I choose to carry on with this reply, for the misrepresentation of the reconstructionist position which is advanced most often by Chantry and which may be most telling for his difference with the position has yet to be given. According to Chantry, the reconstructionist wants to follow all of the Old Testament regulations for all times, to keep the Mosaic code in its entirety, to adopt Old Testament regulations wholesale (pp. 11, 100, 123). He imagines that the reconstructionist attempts “to bind the Christian conscience to live by the entire system of Moses in its exhaustive detail” (p. 122). The problem with this portrayal is that it is easily corrected by reading Theonomy, where it is taught that the ceremonial laws, certain regulations tied to the land of Palestine, and the outer cultural illustration of the judicial laws have been laid aside; moreover, these points were detailed to Mr. Chantry in my personal correspondence with him between April and July of 1978. He has no defense for this misleading portrayal of the reconstructionist viewpoint. Jesus spoke of the validity of the Old Testament law down to the jot and the tittle of it, and the theonomist rightly reiterates that principle; however, the principle offers us the presumption which we should follow regarding Old Testament laws until New Testament revelation qualifies or sets them aside. Chantry’s overlooking of the many qualifications and changes which the theonomist finds in the New Testament is inexcusable. The reconstructionist (theonomist) does not believe all of the Old Testament regulations in their entirety are to be followed today wholesale. Such is a gross exaggeration. Nevertheless, this claim by Chantry (especially as given on p. 122) may be the key to the genuine difference between him and the reconstructionist regarding the validity of the judicial laws of Moses. We have already noted that Chantry is willing to apply the wisdom of some of these laws to the modern state. Although the theonomist does not advocate applying each and every one of them, as Chantry claimed, he probably expects that the theonomist would be committed to applying more of them that he would. Moreover, given the use of Chantry’s phrase “bind on the conscience,” I would imagine that he might represent his position as seeing good advice in the Mosaic judicial laws, while viewing the theonomist as finding in them binding obligation (regarding the illustrated principle). This construal of the difference between Chantry and the reconstructionist gains warrant from the wording used by Chantry when he is speaking favorably of the judicial laws and when he is denouncing the reconstructionist position. It is further warranted by the one example given us by Chantry. He indicates a willingness to “re-examine’ our civil laws regarding the punishment of a thief – and appears to advocate the “greater wisdom” of restitution – but he presents the execution of blasphemers as out of the question (pp. 120, 122). Thus he finds good advice in the laws of restitution, but he would not also advocate following the penal requirement regarding blasphemy. This suggests that, in his eyes, the theonomist is wrong (perverse and sinister) to be willing to follow more of the judicial laws than he would and to follow them as binding obligations, rather than as just good advice. (If it should turn out that this is not the way Chantry actually sees the difference between himself and the reconstructionist, then I frankly do not know if any sense can be made out of the two conflicting tendencies in his book; it would then appear that Mr. Chantry has no clear and consistent understanding of the issue before us.)
Since Mr. Chantry believes that we would do well to follow some of the judicial laws of the Old Testament, but that it would be perverse and sinister to follow other judicial laws, we will quite naturally need to know when a judicial law used to discriminate between these two classes. How do we know when a judicial law is to be advocated and when another should be repudiated? Does Chantry tell us what this discriminating principle would be? Given the emotional denunciation of those who endorse more of the judicial law than he would, it would seem quite crucial for him to tell his readers the standard by which they can judge the acceptability of the various judicial laws of the Old Testament. Once we discover what, if any, objective standard Chantry proposes we use, a second question that must be answered is, does Scripture teach or support this discriminating standard? Finally, we will want to ask whether the accurate application of that (Scriptural) standard demonstrates that reconstructionists accept too much of the judicial law, for it could rather be that Chantry accepts too little of it according to the standard (when properly used).
Our problem, however, is that Chantry gives us no guidance as to how we must discriminate between the judicial laws of the Old Testament. We know that he disagrees with the position of Jon Zens, that an Old Testament law is canceled unless repeated in the New Testament (pp. 43, 73-74). The theonomist holds that Old Testament laws continue to be binding unless further revelation teaches otherwise (Deut. 4:2; Ps. 119:160; Matt. 5:19; 2 Tim. 3:16-17), with the result that most the judicial laws – having not been modified or canceled by Scripture – are held to be binding in their principles today; but Chantry has denounced the theonomic (or reconstructionist) position as a mutilation of Biblical doctrine and as a “new legalism.” As much as they disagree, Zens and the reconstructionists at least agree that one must have an objective, Scripture-based way of discriminating between laws from the Old Testament which are to be advocated and which are to be laid aside. Not agreeing with either the dispensationally-oriented position of Zens or the covenantally-oriented position of theonomists, Chantry has offered no objective alternative in his book.
How, then, does Chantry know that his choice of which judicial laws to follow is true to the mind of God? How can Chantry even check his own reasoning, to be sure that it leads him to God-honoring conclusions about the judicial laws? Can he have any justification for advocating (or rejecting) the laws which he does? In light of Jesus’ warning, you would expect that Chantry would make a point of advancing a justification of his discrimination: “Therefore whoever breaks one of these least commandments and teaches men to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). If the word of the Law-giver does not warrant the rejection of a judicial law’s requirement today, what basis could a person have for presuming to lay aside God’s law? Chantry’s position appears to be this: instead of approaching the Mosaic law with the presumption that it is binding in exhaustive detail (until further qualified by God Himself), we should read the Mosaic law looking for whatever general wisdom might be found within its various provisions (see pp. 25, 121-122). For instance, in comparing the Mosaic law of penal restitution to the modern world’s practice of imprisonment, Chantry finds “greater wisdom” in God’s law than in present penal practice. Nevertheless, he does not endorse following everything prescribed by the Mosaic judicial law. Presumably, the reason he would reject one of the judicial laws is that he personally finds in it less wisdom. Less wisdom than whose? Either less than his own or than his modern society’s. But can we not se how arrogant this is! Moses told God’s people that “all these statutes” would be “your wisdom in the sight of the peoples” (Deut. 4:6-8); indeed, “whosoever keeps the law is a wise son” (Prov. 28:7). How can any Christian think that he is wise enough to lay aside a law from God without specific warrant from God? Do we, or does our society, really have the wisdom to improve upon the wisdom revealed in all of the Mosaic statutes? Experience as well as revelation tell us plainly that sinful creatures are in no position to challenge the wisdom of God’s directives – at any point. “Let God be true, though all men are liars” (Romans 3:4). Those who are committed to the Reformed principle of sola Scriptura must not allow Chantry or anyone else to abrogate a law from God where God’s word has not taught its abrogation or modification. If we do not see the “greater wisdom” of all of God’s commandments, then we need to be changed – not God’s law. Thus the discriminating standard which Chantry has exemplified (choosing which judicial laws to follow on the basis of personally perceived wisdom in those to be advocated) cannot be accepted without sacrificing the objective foundation of Christian theology. He would in effect place the word of man in a judging position over the word of God – contrary to James’ warning that we not become those who “speak against the law” (James 4:11).
Chantry’s subjectivism is a disconcerting lapse in his theological method. When Chantry asks in his book which commandments constitute God’s unchanging will for mankind (that is, the “moral law,” pp. 69, 73), he immediately insists that the question cannot be adequately answered on some imprecise, vague, subjective standard, for we would then be “adrift, without a definitive objective standard by which to judge righteousness” (pp. 77-81). Why, then, does Chantry turn around and take a subjective, selective attitude toward the judicial law of the Old Testament? The answer is this: Chantry presumes that he can pick and choose among the judicial laws (on the basis of personally perceived wisdom in some of them) only because he first assumes that as strictly binding commandments they have all been canceled. According to his thinking, the conscience is not bound by the judicial laws (p. 122); they are merely “counsel” and “advice” (pp. 25, 121) – the rejection of which in favor of other (uninspired) advice does not in any way incur divine wrath. Thus for Chantry were to say that God will, after all, punish those who turn aside from the “advice” of His judicial laws, then Chantry would simply be advocating theonomic ethics with a different vocabulary.) Chantry puts it bluntly: the “judicial law has been abolished by Christ’s work on Calvary”; “with the Spirit’s effusion, the saints have matured. Thus our Sovereign canceled the judicial law of Moses” (pp. 115, 123).
These bold declarations raise some immediate questions, of course. Does Chantry hereby suggest that those who have been redeemed by the work of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit are “mature” enough to set aside the earlier wisdom of God’s Spirit in revealing the judicial law? Would that not be simply another form of the same theological error which Mr. Chantry elsewhere roundly condemns when found in Pentecostalists – the view that the post-Pentecost experience of the Holy Spirit can lead saints to contradict what the Spirit has revealed in Biblical doctrine (cf. Chantry’s Signs of the Apostles, esp. chapter 7)? Lacking Biblical support for their opinions, some Christians appeal to the inward work of the Spirit as explaining the “wisdom” of their personal insights; Chantry is quick to call this down in those who oppose his revered doctrines, but slow to find the same theological method in himself. Just about every conceivable belief can be (and has been) defended by appealing to the “maturity” or “wisdom” which the Holy Spirit has allegedly given some individuals, even though that belief contradicts the Spirit-given Scriptures! Chantry boldly says that because of Spirit-given maturity the Spirit-given judicial law has been canceled, implying that Spiritual maturity leads to different ethical judgments than those founded on inspired law (since the former is endorsed, while the latter is canceled). Paul taught, however, that Spiritual maturity leads believers to keep the law (Romans 8:4). Another question arises when we consider all of the judicial laws as binding obligations (and accordingly nobody will be punished for spurning the “advice” in some of them – which ones we cannot be sure), is it wise or mature for Chantry to advocate any divinely abrogated judicial law? Since God has seen fit to repeal all of those laws, why would Chantry support the modern enactment of any of them (as he does in his book)? Why should anyone pay any special attention to these repealed laws when it comes to drafting modern legislation since they are both ancient and without theological endorsement? If they now deserved special consideration, presumably God would not have canceled them in the first place and would surely punish the spurning of them in the end. Thus the various elements of Chantry’s attitude toward the judicial law just do not seem to comport with each other. Subjectivism and inconsistency are conspicuous.
Putting aside the above criticisms, we need to focus specifically on Chantry’s key thesis now. He maintains that the judicial laws of the Old Testament have been abolished, and that only the Decalogue continues to be morally binding in the New Testament. This thesis is contrary to Biblical teaching and practice in the most obvious ways. Jesus warned against dismissing even the least Old Testament commandment (Matthew 5:19), and Paul taught that every Old Testament scripture instructs us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Not a single law, word, or stroke can be violated with impunity (James 2:10; Matthew 4:4; 5:18). In endorsing the Old Testament law the New Testament never stops to make a special exception for the judicial laws. Indeed, when Jesus summarized the entire law He quoted not the Ten Commandments, but two extra-decalogical laws about love (Matthew 22:37-39; cf. Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18). Laws outside of the Decalogue are quoted on a par with the Ten Commandments (Mark 10:19). Even the lighter demands of the law are not be left undone, said Jesus (Luke 11:42). Thus Jesus condemned the setting aside of the death penalty for incorrigible children (Matthew 15:4-5). Paul enforced the extra-decalogical prohibition against incest (I Corinthians 5:1). The case law against homosexuality is upheld in the New Testament (Romans 1:26-32). The judicial rules of legal evidence are cited in the New Testament (Matthew 18:16; I Timothy 5:9). Paul authoritatively quotes the case law, “You shall not muzzle an ox as it treads,” twice in the New Testament (I Corinthians 9:9; I Timothy 5:18). James applied the judicial law about prompt pay for one’s employees (James 5:4). The key New Testament injunctions about not avenging oneself, about going to an offending brother, and about caring for one’s enemies are all taken from the judicial laws of the Old Testament (Romans 12:19; Matthew 18:15; Romans 12:20; Matthew 5:44). The New Testament cites the judicial laws of the Old Testament too often, and without apology or disclaimer, to accept at face value the bald claim that they have been abolished by the death of Christ and the coming of the Spirit. Chantry is simply not convincing when he makes such claims, for he comes into direct conflict with clear assertions and conspicuous appeals of New Testament teachers. He is certainly correct to say that the Decalogue had a unique place among the various laws which were revealed in the Old Testament (pp. 87-88), but he is mistaken to think that the uniqueness of the Decalogue is that it alone remains morally binding with the coming of the New Covenant. “Not one jot or one tittle will pass away from the law until heaven and earth pass away,” said our Lord (Matthew 5:18).
What, then, was the uniqueness of the Ten Commandments? That God “added no more” to the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:22) certainly does not mean that no other laws were revealed through Moses, or that no other laws were truly obligatory. How could the Decalogue be comprehensive and complete as a moral code, then, given the historical fact that numerous other commandments were actually added to it by God through Moses (and other Old Testament writers)? The answer is not hard to find (or even to imagine): Scripture tells us that the Ten commandments were a summary expression of God'’ entire moral requirements. Because the case laws (judicial laws) of the Old Testament are applications (illustrations and qualifications) of the Ten commandments, the further revelation of these laws did not add anything to the essential moral demands of the Decalogue. The “ten words” were part for the whole (synecdoche), being the microcosmic epitome of the entire covenant with its stipulations; the “ten words” written on “two tablets” of stone stood for “the words of the covenant” as a whole, thus being called the “tables of the covenant” itself (Exodus 34:28; Deut. 4:13-14; 9:9-11, 15). Chantry seems to recognize quite clearly that the Decalogue had this summary function and character. He repeatedly calls it a summary, a synopsis, a concise digest, a brief compendium, a compact expression of our comprehensive duties (pp. 80, 82, 83, 84, 86, 96). The uniqueness of the Ten Commandments was this summarizing nature. The Decalogue simply said, “Thou shalt not kill.” The case laws defined further what this meant: for example, protecting life with a railing around your patio-roof (Deut. 22:8), distinguishing between manslaughter and premeditated murder (Numbers 35:10-34), and executing murderers (Exodus 21:12). The Decalogue merely prohibited stealing, whereas the judicial laws defined economic integrity as returning lost property (Deut. 22:10, prompt pay for your workers (Deut. 24:14-15), and not muzzling the treading ox (Deut. 25:4). The judicial laws, then, expounded what the summary laws in the Decalogue meant. Chantry seems to understand that the judicial laws administered the regulations of the Decalogue and were thus anchored in it (pp. 118-119). It is strange, therefore, that he does not think through the implications of this insight and come to recognize that he cannot endorse the continuing validity today of only the Decalogue.
We have observed that the judicial laws exposit or define the meaning of the Ten (summary) Commandments. Thus in the Old Testament “Thou shalt not commit adultery” was a generalized requirement of sexual purity, including (among other things) the duty to avoid incest, homosexuality, and bestiality (cf. Lev. 20:11-16). Obedience to the summary command meant, then, not committing bestiality in the Old Testament. Now Mr. Chantry maintains that the judicial laws have been abolished by Christ, and we know from examination that the New Testament does not have a prohibition against bestiality. Thus on Chantry’s terms, one’s conscience is not bound by any prohibition against sexual relations with animals today. If we follow out Chantry’s view of the law, then, we find that the same words – “Thou shalt not commit adultery” – require somewhat different things, depending on whether they are used in the Old Testament (where they prohibit bestiality) or in the New Testament (where they permit bestiality). On Chantry’s thesis the meaning of the seventh commandment has changed from Old to New Testaments! The scope of its requirement has been somewhat altered. By holding that we are bound only to the Ten Commandments today – and not to the judicial laws which define them – Chantry ends up endorsing a Decalogue for the New Testament which is not the same in requirement as the Decalogue of the Old Testament. So not even the Decalogue retains its original validity within Chantry’s system of thought? The seventh commandment, for instance, which Chantry endorses has the same words but a different meaning than the seventh commandment in the Old Testament; he is equivocating by saying that he upholds the validity of the Decalogue, then. “The material world is comprised of atoms” is a statement which would have been made by both Democritus and Einstein, but given their different meanings for “atom,” the statement would have been false for Democritus (who said these bits of matter were uncuttable) but true for Einstein (whose conception allowed for the splitting of the atom). To say that Democritus and Einstein agreed would be to make a big mistake, overlooking the different claims being made by means of the same word, “atom.” Likewise, when Chantry cancels the judicial laws which define the Decalogue’s requirements, it would be a mistake to think that when he endorses “Thou shalt not commit adultery” he is talking about the very same thing as those words meant within the Old Testament setting. This enables us to see that Chantry’s thesis cannot in the nature of the case be true, for it calls for an equivocation. If only the Old Testament Decalogue remains binding today, then it is not really the Old Testament with the cancellation of judicial laws. By insisting that only the Ten Commandments retain moral validity in the New Testament, Chantry ends up maintaining that not even the Ten Commandment retain their (same) validity. Chantry’s thesis is defeated by its own internal logical impossibility.
What we have seen of Chantry’s discussion so far would not incline us to agree with his viewpoint. He does not understand accurately the position which he denounces, and he fails to recognize how close he himself comes to expressing that very position. In setting forth his own views Mr. Chantry has made regrettable mistakes about the Bible’s teaching. Arguments he uses to support the Decalogue equally support the judicial law which he rejects. There seems to be nothing but a subjective standard employed regarding those judicial laws which he finds wise enough to follow today. And his basic thesis turns out to be logically impossible. Such problems as these do not render Mr. Chantry’s discussion persuasive. Mr. Chantry has insisted that believers bring to bear on politics the light afforded by Christianity, but given his commitment to only the Decalogue and new Testament, it is difficult to see how Chantry could very significantly bring specific light into the dark world of modern government. If God’s laws regarding rape and the civil treatment of rapists have been abolished, as Chantry says, then what wisdom would Chantry offer in its place to the legislators, police, and judges in our many cities which face staggering rates of this heinous and degrading crime? “Christ is the answer” is not the answer. So what could someone who repudiates the judicial laws of God advocate (based on scholarship, logic and __________________.
Despite these flaws in Chantry’s book, as Christians committed to sola Scriptura we would, nevertheless, be willing to heed Chantry’s conclusion that the Mosaic judicial laws have been abolished, if (and only if) he could set forth a Biblical case for the abrogation specifically of those judicial laws. Chantry claims to find just this kind of Scriptural substantiation in Galatians 3:15-4:11 (pp. 100-102). We must ask ourselves, then, whether this passage of Scripture teaches that the judicial laws of Moses have been repealed. In that passage Paul teaches that the judicial laws of Moses have been repealed. In that passage Paul does not appear to be concerned with questions of political ethics in the slightest, and nothing he says there alludes to the judicial laws. Indeed, the historical setting and literary context of this passage in Galatians have nothing to do with that portion of the law in particular. It would seem, then, that in all honesty we could not apply this passage to the abrogation only of the judicial laws; that would be beside the point in the passage. When Chantry introduces the question of politics into his discussion of Galatians 3-4 (p. 104), he is not taking any lead from the Biblical text. When Paul says that we are no longer under the law as a tutor (or guardian, guide: Gal. 3:23-24), if the law is meant absolutely and generally, then of course the judicial laws would be included. But Chantry does not want to say that at all! Even he knows that not all of the law can be dismissed, and so he does not want to say that Paul released his readers from the law in general (e.g., the Ten Commandments). Chantry recognizes that in Galatians 3-4 Paul was not dismissing everything in the Mosaic law, for that would contradict things taught in the rest of Scripture (p. 106). The Mosaic law contained different elements (cf. p. 112), some permanent but some peculiar to the Mosaic setting. Thus Chantry asserts: “Only the features unique to Moses’ administration of the grace principle were temporary and done away at the coming of Christ” (p. 107). With this statement I perfectly agree: only the uniquely Mosaic elements of the law were temporary (which is virtually true by definition). However, which elements were indeed unique to the Mosaic administration? That is the question (and has been from the start of our discussion).
Why would the Decalogue not be part of the unique and temporary aspect of the Mosaic law according to Chantry? Because Scripture elsewhere teaches us that the Decalogue is still binding (with which I agree). But Scripture elsewhere also teaches that the judicial laws continue to be binding today (as Theonomy in Christian Ethics demonstrates in a large variety of ways), and thus Chantry has no reason – until he refutes the argumentation in Theonomy – to hope that Galatians 3-4 repeals the Mosaic judicial law. So we see that Chantry’s appeal to this passage cannot be in the nature of the case definitive for establishing his point. Yet Chantry treats it as though it were. Let us see why, and see the logical errors to which one is driven in attempting to make Scripture echo one’s own preconceived conclusions.
In Galatians 3:24-25 Paul says that we are no longer under the schoolmaster. What part of the law was he thinking about as the schoolmaster? Chantry says: “All that was restrictive, repetitive, worldly, harsh and rigid is no longer appropriate for the heirs of God’s house” (p. 111; cf. pp. 108, 110). That is, ancient schoolmasters were stern and restrictive, and thus the stern and restrictive aspects of the law were being denoted by Paul. The judicial law, Chantry now says, was intended for Israel in a “childhood stage,” but “full grown sons must be managed differently” (p. 112). If we are to believe Chantry’s analogy (and I do not), modern nations have outgrown the childish regulations of the Mosaic civil law; we are too mature for them today, even as a teenager is too mature for a three-year-old’s discipline (pp. 111-112). At its heart, Chantry’s argument against the continuing validity of the Mosaic judicial laws comes to this: We are not under the “schoolmaster” aspects of the Mosaic law, and which are these?
1. The schoolmaster for immature children was harsh and rigorous.
2. The Mosaic judicial laws were harsh and rigorous.
3. Therefore, the Mosaic judicial laws were the schoolmaster for immature children (which we are no longer under) (p. 117; cf. pp. 108-110, 121, 123).
The first major problem with this argument is that the second premise is a false evaluation. The judicial laws were not harsh, stringent, and stern according to God’s word; they were “sweet,” a “delight” which “rejoices the heart,” and given for our “good” (Deut. 10:13; Psalms 1, 19, 119). To use them today is lawful and good (I Tim. 1:8-10); they are not a burden for us (I John 5:3). So we cannot accept Mr. Chantry’s personal evaluation of the judicial laws in premise #2. But even if we gratuitously granted both of the premises in the in the argument, Chantry would be far from making his case against the validity of the judicial laws.
The critical difficulty in Chantry’s argument – one which cannot be repaired – is that it is logically fallacious: the conclusion just does not follow from the premises. The form of Chantry’s reasoning is this: (1) A is B, (2) C is B, (3) So C is A. Or to use an illustrative parallel:
1. Red is a color.
2. Green is a color.
3. Therefore, green is red.
As the reader can readily see, then, Chantry’s argument from Galatians 3-4 cannot be accepted. Its key premise is inaccurate, and its form is illogical anyway. Chantry has not shown that this Pauline pericope nullifies the judicial law in particular. What was the actual object of Paul’s discussion, then, is this passage? Contextual, historico-grammatical exegesis (exercised under the analogy of faith – the consistency and harmony of Scripture as a whole) leads to the answer, that Paul was dealing with the ceremonial law specifically. The moral law (either Decalogue or case-law applications) did not serve as a “tutor unto Christ,” leading to the truth that we are “justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24); it simply condemned us for our infractions. The ceremonial law, however, was a foreshadow of the Messiah and His redeeming work, applied to the Jews (and us) by faith. The “rudiments” of Galatians 4:3, 9 would likewise point us to regulations which, in the Old Testament setting, were a “shadow of the things to come” (Col. 2:16-20, where such regulations were syncretized with pagan asceticism). Historically, Paul’s opponents in Galatia were Judaizers, who emphasized salvation through obedience to the ceremonial laws of Moses (e.g., circumcision, feast cycles). Finally, at the end of his pericope in Galatians 3-4, Paul gives an illustration of the laws about which he has spoken: the ritual feasts of the ceremonial law (4:10). Context thus demands that we see Paul’s “schoolmaster” – whom we are no longer under in our Christ-connected maturity – as the Mosaic ceremonial law. Anybody who wishes to include more than this in Paul’s designation will need some strong textual and theological argumentation, which Mr. Chantry has not supplied.
Chantry’s other line of argument is to claim, based on Ephesians 2:15, that the judicial laws “shut out the rest of the world from faith” and are thus abolished today as the Gentiles enter the kingdom (pp. 117, 118, 121). This too is preposterous. How did the requirement of a patio-roof railing or the prohibition of rape, e.g., bar Gentiles from faith? Chantry has simply misunderstood Ephesians 2. In the first place, the erection of the Israelite commonwealth did not prevent outsiders from coming to saving faith; the Old and New Testaments both testify to the fact of salvation coming to Gentiles in the Old Testament period. In the second place, the judicial law did not erect the commonwealth of Israel – as Chantry assumes by assigning it the same function as that of the commonwealth: “By the erection of ‘the Commonwealth of Israel’ all other nations were made ‘aliens’ and ‘strangers’ (Eph. 2:12). Judicial law kept all Gentiles ‘far off’ (Eph. 2:13). Civil regulations built a ‘wall of partition’ shutting all others out from the gospel to which the Jews were shut in (Eph. 2:14)” (p. 117). But the judicial laws did not create or define the commonwealth; they merely governed life within the commonwealth as it was created and defined by the sovereign historical work of God. So Chantry has made another crucial mistake in his reasoning. The judicial laws did not erect the commonwealth. Aliens from the commonwealth were not prevented from gaining faith and salvation. And the judicial laws in their specific nature did nothing to preclude Gentile salvation. What, then, was Paul talking about in Ephesians 2? “The law of commandments in ordinances” referred (again) to the ceremonial law, as I have discussed it in Theonomy. The judicial laws bound all mankind (think, for instance, of Sodom and the later prohibition through Moses of homosexuality; cf. (Romans 1:26-27, 32); they did not as laws separate Jews from Gentiles, for only the medium of revelation regarding them was different (i.e., only the Jews received the “oracles of God” in special revelation, Romans 3:2). What God specially revealed to the Jews and not to the Gentiles was the way of salvation of clean from unclean meats (Lev. 20:22-26). With the coming of Christ the ceremonial laws have been made inoperable (Heb. 8:13); the symbols of separation have been laid aside (e.g., Acts 10:11-15). By His self-sacrifice Christ has removed these laws which placed a partition between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14-15); the kingdom of Christ is now one body, an international organization made up of Gentiles on an equal footing with Jews. This, again, had (and has) nothing whatsoever to do with the judicial laws – laws which were not reserved for Israel alone (Deut. 4:6-8). Therefore, even if (contrary to fact) Israel was a “theocracy” in the sense of identifying church and state (as Chantry claims, p. 120), the fact that no political body today is a nation of God’s people (as Chantry argues, p. 112) would by no means imply that the judicial law has passed away today. Even in the Old Testament the judicial law was obligatory on nations outside of Israel(the alleged church-state nation). If nations which were not God’s people back then were obligated to follow all of the commandments, then nations today which are not God’s people may be just as obligated to obey those commandments.
Theonomy in Christian Ethics points out that those laws are still binding today (as Jesus said, Matthew 5:17-19), and that civil magistrates still need them in order to carry out their God-given duty to execute God’s vengeance on criminal evil-doers (as Paul said, Romans 13:1-4). It is a lawful use of the law to use it in the restraint of public, civil unrighteousness (I Timothy 1:8-10), even to the point of its undeniably just penal sanctions (Hebrews 2:20. Mr. Chantry has yet to present any refutation of this thesis which is both exegetically and logically acceptable. Given his confusions, misrepresentations, and failed arguments, it would appear that his book has not made any significant contribution to the discussion of reconstructionism in our day. His denunciation of it, in fact, has proven unfounded.