Theological Perspectives on Theonomy Part 3: A Dispensational Response to Theonomy -- By: Robert P. Lightner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 143:571 (Jul 1986)
Article: Theological Perspectives on Theonomy Part 3: A Dispensational Response to Theonomy
Author: Robert P. Lightner


Theological Perspectives on Theonomy
Part 3:
A Dispensational Response to Theonomy

Robert P. Lightner

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

The first article in this series pointed out distinctions between theonomy and dispensationalism as systems of theology. Nondispensational responses to theonomy were presented in the second article. The purpose of this final article in the series is to set forth a dispensational response. Some major differences with theonomy will be discussed, with attention to the views of the two systems on the Law of Moses. (The new postmillennialism of theonomy is not included in the discussion.1 ) Then a dispensational view of the Law of Moses in relationship to the present age will be presented.

Major Dispensational Differences with Theonomy

The Meaning of πληρῶσαι in Matthew 5:17-19

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

The theonomists’ interpretation of this passage and the strategic importance of that interpretation to the system of theonomy was presented in the first article in this series. The major point of

difference between theonomy and dispensational premillennialism is over theonomy’s insistence that πληρῶσαι does not mean “to fulfill,” but “to confirm.”2 On the basis of this meaning, Bahnsen and other theonomists proceed to build their theonomic structure on the abiding validity of the Law. In addition to what has already been said in opposition to this interpretation, the following critique is presented.

The crucial question is not, Does πληρόω ever mean “to confirm”? It can and does have that meaning in some instances. However, the more important questions are, What is its most common meaning? and Why is that its meaning in Matthew 5:17–19? Bahnsen’s interpretation has assigned a rather unusual and rare meaning to πληρῶσαι in this passage.

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