Comments On An Old-New Error -- By: Meredith G. Kline

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 41:1 (Fall 1978)
Article: Comments On An Old-New Error
Author: Meredith G. Kline


Comments On An Old-New Error

Meredith G. Kline

A Review Article

Greg L. Bahnsen: Theonomy in Christian Ethics. Nutley: The Craig Press, 1977. xvii, 619. Paper. $14.95.

The temper and teaching of the Chalcedon school1 find typical expression in this product of the over-heated typewriter of Greg Bahnsen, currently a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. With its gifted and energetic leadership this movement held promise of great good. The tragedy of Chalcedon is that of high potential wasted-worse than wasted, for its most distinctive and emphatically maintained thesis is a delusive and grotesque perversion of the teaching of Scripture. Unhappily too, in agitating for their peculiar set of ideas, the Chalcedon crusaders have quickly earned a reputation for a cult-like fanaticism, censoriously disruptive of the Reformed community, ecclesiastical and academic.

In Theonomy in Christian Ethics (hereafter, Theonomy) Bahnsen resumes the program of Rotisas J. Rushdoony’s The Institutes of Biblical Law.2 Their special thesis is that the Mosaic law, more or less in its entirety, constitutes a continuing norm for mankind and that it is the duty of the civil magistrate to enforce it, precepts and penalties alike. To put the matter in a comparative perspective, this theory of theonomic politics stands at the opposite end of the spec-

trum of error from Dispensationalism. The latter represents an extreme of failure to do justice to the continuity between the old and new covenants. Chalcedon’s error, no less extreme or serious, is a failure to do justice to the discontinuity between the old and new covenants.

At the same time it must be said that Chalcedon is not without roots in respectable ecclesiastical tradition. It is in fact a revival of certain teachings contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith—at least in the Confession’s original formulations. These particular elements in the Confession, long since rejected as manifestly unbiblical by the mass of those who stand in that confessional tradition (as well as by virtually all other students of the Scriptures), have been subjected to official revision. The revision, however, has left us with standards whose proper legal interpretation is perplexed by ambiguities, and the claim of Chalcedon is that it is the true champion of confessional orthodoxy. Ecclesiastical courts operating tinder the Westminster Confession of Faith are going to have their problems, therefore, if they should be of a mind to bring the Chalcedon aberration under the...

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