Theological Perspectives on Theonomy Part 2: Nondispensational Responses to Theonomy -- By: Robert P. Lightner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 143:570 (Apr 1986)
Article: Theological Perspectives on Theonomy Part 2: Nondispensational Responses to Theonomy
Author: Robert P. Lightner


Theological Perspectives on Theonomy
Part 2:
Nondispensational Responses to Theonomy

Robert P. Lightner

[Robert P. Lightner, Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary]

Greg Bahnsen, in the second edition of his Theonomy in Christian Ethics, reflected on responses to his extensive and influential work.

The “theonomic perspective” has been studied by two presbyteries, made the crux of an ordination battle, examined by the 1979 general assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, and publicly debated at the 1981 Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Toronto. In each case the strength or acceptability of the viewpoint, reflecting the modern defense of traditional Reformed and Puritan sympathies, has been evident. Enthusiastic conviction and emotional criticism have both accompanied this book, making it a center of informed (and sometimes uninformed) ethical discussion in Reformed circles.1

Definitions and broad general overviews of theonomy and dispensationalism were presented in the first article in this series.2 The present article sets forth the major responses of nondispensationalists to the theonomic structure, and the third article in the series will present dispensational responses to theonomy.

Theonomy has been under considerable study and attack from those of nondispensational persuasion. In fact they have been far more vociferous in their opposition than have dispensationalists, many of whom have ignored theonomy. But this is not much of a surprise.

After all, theonomists have been more critical of traditional Reformed theology than of dispensational theology. The criticisms have been directed against the inconsistencies in covenant theology’s and amillennialism’s failure to conform to and be consistent with the Westminster Confession of Faith, to which they purport to give full allegiance.

Also Reformed theology, not dispensational theology, has most to lose from the expanding popularity of theonomy and the new postmillennialism. Dispensationalism has from the very beginning distinguished God’s program with Israel from His program with the church and argued that as a rule of life the Law of Moses was done away when Christ died. That, it should be noted, is the exact opposite of what theonomy is saying and what classic as well as contemporary Reformed thought has said and is saying. Both theonomy and covenant amillennialism reject dispensationalism’s distinction between Israel and the church and its insistence that the Law of Moses has been done away as a rule o...

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