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Theonomy, from theos (god) and nomos (law), is the idea that Mosaic law should be observed by modern societies.[1] Theonomists reject the traditional Reformed belief that the civil laws of the Mosaic Law are no longer applicable.[2] This idea is not to be confused with the idea of "theonomous ethics" proposed by Paul Tillich.[3]


  • Goals 1
  • Origin of modern theonomy 2
  • Relation to Reformed theology 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Various theonomic authors have stated such goals as "the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics",[4] exclusion of non-Christians from voting and citizenship,[5] and the application of Biblical law by the state.[6] Under such a system of Biblical law, homosexual acts,[7] adultery, witchcraft, and blasphemy[8] would be punishable by death. Propagation of idolatry or "false religions" would be illegal[9] and could also be punished by the death penalty.[10][11]

According to theonomist Greg Bahnsen, the laws of God are the standard which Christian voters and officials ought to pursue. Civil officials are also not constrained to literally enforce every Biblical law, such as one-time localized imperatives, certain administrative details, typological foreshadows, or those against envy and unbelief. "Rulers should enforce only those laws for which God revealed social sanctions to be imposed"[12]

Origin of modern theonomy

In the terminology of Christian Reconstructionism, theonomy is the idea that, in the Bible, God provides the basis of both personal and social ethics. In that context, the term is always used in antithesis to autonomy, which is the idea that Self provides the basis of ethics . Theonomic ethics asserts that the Bible has been given as the abiding standard for all human government — individual, family, church, and civil; and that Biblical Law must be incorporated into a Christian theory of Biblical ethics.

Theonomic ethics, to put it simply, represents a commitment to the necessity, sufficiency, and unity of Scripture. For an adequate and genuinely Christian ethic, we must have God's word, only God's word, and all of God's word. Nearly every critic of theonomic ethics will be found denying, in some way, one or more of these premises.
— The Theonomic Antithesis to Other Law-Attitudes [13]

Critics see theonomy as a significant form of Dominion theology, which they define as a type of theocracy. Theonomy posits that the Biblical Law is applicable to civil law, and theonomists propose Biblical law as the standard by which the laws of nations may be measured, and to which they ought to be conformed.

Relation to Reformed theology

Theonomists reject the position of traditional Reformed theology that the civil and ceremonial laws of the Mosaic Law are no longer binding on Christians, though useful as guidance. Theonomists, on the other hand, argue that only the ceremonial laws are no longer applicable, and that the civil law code remains in effect in exhaustive detail. Further, theonomists argue that the case law found in the Old Testament is to be applied in a non-circumstantial way, rather than as particularly relevant to the circumstances of Israel.[2] Some in the modern Reformed churches are critical of this understanding,[14] while other Calvinists affirm Theonomy.[15]

See also


  1. ^ English, Adam C. (2003). "Christian Reconstruction after Y2K". New Religious Movements and Religious Liberty in America. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press. pp. 113–114. 
  2. ^ a b  
  3. ^ Neuhaus, Richard John (May 1990). "Why Wait for the Kingdom? The Theonomist Temptation". First Things. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  4. ^ , Appendix AParadise Restored: A Biblical Theology of DominionChilton, David,
  5. ^ Political PolytheismNorth, Gary, , p. 87
  6. ^ By This Standard: The Authority Of God's Law TodayBahnsen, Greg, , pp. 346-347
  7. ^ Ruler of the NationsDeMar, Gary, , p. 212
  8. ^ Unconditional Surrender: God's Program for VictoryNorth, Gary, , p. 118
  9. ^ An Interview with Greg L. Bahnsen
  10. ^ Rushdoony, R.J., The Institutes of Biblical Law, (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1973), pp. 38–39.
  11. ^ Schwertley, Brian M., "Political Polytheism"
  12. ^ Bahnsen, Greg L. By This Standard: The Authority of God's Law Today, p. 10. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985
  13. ^  
  14. ^ See, for instance, Theonomy: A Reformed Critique published by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary and Westminster Seminary California. Also "The Westminster Confession of Faith: A Theonomic Document?" by Ligon Duncan.
  15. ^ See Theonomic Ethics and the Westminster Confession by Kenneth Gentry, The New Puritanism: A Preliminary Assessment of Christian Reconstruction by Robert Bowman, Jr., Theonomy and the Westminster Confession by Martin Foulner, The Theonomic Precedent in the Theology of John Calvin by Christopher Strevel, and Calvinism and the Judicial Law of Moses by James Jordan, and The Theonomic Thesis in Confessional and Historical Perspective by Greg Bahnsen. Biblical Ethics and the Westminster Standards by Dr. W. Gary Crampton

Further reading

Primary sources by theonomists
  • —————— (1985). By This Standard: The Authority of God's Law Today. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics.  
  • —————— (1991). No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 
  • —————— (1989). House Divided: The Breakup of Dispensational Theology. with Kenneth Gentry. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 
  • —————— (1994). "'"What is 'Theonomy. New Horizons (April, 1994). 
  • Einwechter, William (1995). Ethics and God's Law: An Introduction to Theonomy. Mill Hall, PA: Preston/Speed Publications. 
  • —————— (2010). Walking in the Law of the Lord: An Introduction to the Biblical Ethics of Theonomy. Stevens, PA: Darash Press. 
  • Clauson, Marc A. (2006). A History of the Idea of "God’s Law" (Theonomy): Its Origins, Development and Place in Political and Legal Thought. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press. 
  • Gentry, Kenneth (1993). God's Law in the Modern World. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed. 
  • ——————— (2006). Covenantal Theonomy: A Response to T. David Gordon and Klinean Covenantalism. Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Foundation. 
  • Jordan, James B (1984). The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21–23. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 
  • North, Gary, ed. (1991). Theonomy: An Informed Response. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 
  • Rushdoony, R.J. (1973).  
  • ——————— (1978). The Politics of Guilt and Pity. Fairfax, VA.: Thoburn Press. 
  • Ritchie, Daniel F.N. (2008). A Conquered Kingdom: Biblical Civil Government. Saintfield, Northern Ireland: Reformed Worldview Books. 
  • Halbrook, Stephen C. (2014). God is Just: A Defense of the Old Testament Civil Laws. Theonomy Resources Media.  
  • Halbrook, Steve C., "Proof that Modern Theonomy Advocates the Historic Understanding of the Judicial Law" (Theonomy Resources, 2015). Retrieved March 13, 2015.
Secondary sources and criticisms
  • Barron, Bruce (1992). Heaven on Earth? The Social & Political Agenda of Dominion Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.  
  • Estelle, Bryan (May 2007). "Covenantal Theonomy"Review: . Ordained Servant 16 (5). Archived from the original on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  • Gordon, T. David (1994). "Critique of Theonomy; a Taxonomy" (PDF). Westminster Theological Journal 56 (Spring, 1994): 23–43. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 August 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  • Kidd, Reggie M. "Theonomy and Pauline Theology". Third Millennium Ministries. Archived from the original on 20 August 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  • Strickland, Wayne, ed. (1994). Five Views on Law and Gospel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.  
  • Smith, Gary Scott, ed. (1989). God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed.  
  • ————————— (1992). "The Ethical Authority of the Old Testament: A Survey of Approaches: Part II" (PDF). Tyndale Bulletin 43 (2): 203–231. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 January 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 

External links

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