This is the second counterresponse to a response from Davis Carlton over at Faith and Heritage, who has been responding to some of my work on Kinism. His latest article was entitled A Question of Christian Ethics: A Further Response to Truth Tribune. I had started working on this response quite a while ago, but was delayed by the holidays, real life responsibilities, etc. Plus, as this portion deals largely with historical Christian doctrines, I wanted to make certain that I had researched enough to present a case that would be beneficial both to the reader, and honoring to Mr. Carlton’s own time and person. (I’ve never been a big fan of the “write a quick response in twenty-four hours” strategy some bloggers have.)
If you’re just joining us, I would suggest going back and starting from the beginning, as you will otherwise be lost, or lose something in the discussion.
Unlike previous articles, this will not be a piece-meal, “blow-by-blow” style, but rather will focus initially on one main topic, and then cover a variety of other topics at the end. However, so that nobody accuses me of simply quote-mining and attempting to misrepresent Mr. Carlton’s position, I encourage my readers to go over and read his article first (if you haven’t already done so), then come back here, so that you will know the full context of what I’m discussing.
As before, direct quotes from the article will be in purple.
At the beginning of his article, Mr. Carlton brings the focus of the conversation towards the topic of “general equity.”
Truth Tribune (TT) has responded to my article, in which I responded to some of the content on his blog regarding Kinism. As I read his response it occurred to me that our primary difference of opinion is one of applied Christian ethics. Both the questions of interracial marriage and kin rule are answered by our understanding of the epistemology of Christian morality: what is right and wrong, and how we know it. Kinism, in applying the concept of theonomy, views all morality as being founded upon God’s revealed law. Kinism accommodates the standard of ‘general equity’ to precepts in the laws that were given to Israel in a particular historical context that have general principles that are applicable in all times and places. Many of the laws of the Bible in general, and of the Mosaic Law in particular, were stated in terms specific to a particular time and place, but that should not prevent us from seeing general (or natural law) principles at work in these laws.
Two examples bear this principle out. The Israelites were required to build barriers around the roofs of their houses in order to prevent unnecessary injury or even death (Deut. 22:8). The reason for this is that the rooftop of a house was often used as a gathering place for people to congregate. In that instance there was a foreseeable risk that someone could fall off the roof and become injured or die. Today this is not the case in most homes, since rooftops are not used as gathering places any longer. Does this mean that this particular law has no application for our modern context? No. We can apply the underlying principle of this law and other laws to our present circumstances. In this case we can infer from this law that buildings should be safe for ordinary human occupancy. This approach is the same as the apostles who apply the precepts of the Mosaic Law in the same manner. The Apostle Paul uses the language of Deut. 22:9-11 (cf. Lev. 19:19) to denounce unequal yoking with Christians and unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). Likewise Paul cites Deut. 25:4 as teaching the principle of just recompense for labor (1 Cor. 9:9, 1 Tim. 5:18).
In a footnote for this section, Mr. Carlton cites chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession of Faith (specifically section 4), which reads: “To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require.”
We must remember, however, that the Westminster Confession (1649) outlines three major sections of the Law: the Moral, the Ceremonial, and the Civil. The Moral Law, contained within the ten commandments, is considered by the Confession to be “the perfect rule of righteousness” (19:2). The Ceremonial Law, dealing with “several typical ordinances, partly of worship,” are “now abrogated, under the new testament” (19:3). It is the Civil Law in which we are told are “not obliging any further now, further than the general equity thereof may require” (19:4).
This statement is repeated by other Reformed confessions. The Savoy Declaration (1568) states regarding the Civil Law that it “expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution, their general equity only being still of moral use” (19:4). The London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) repeats much of the Savoy and the Westminster, declaring that the Civil Law “expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution, their general equity only being for modern use” (19:4). The Thirty-Nine Articles (1571) goes into even greater specification, saying that the Civil Law is not “of necessity to be received in any commonwealth,” and contrasts this with the fact that “no Christian man whatsoever is free” from obedience to the Moral Law (Article 7).
AA Hodge, in his commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith, writes:
These sections teach… that both the ceremonial and judicial laws of the Jews have ceased to have any binding force under the Christian economy. That on the other hand the moral law continues of unabated authority, not only because its elements are intrinsically binding, but because, also, of the authority of God, who still continues to enforce it. And Christ, instead of lessening, has greatly increased the obligation to fulfill it. [taken from here]
Later he writes:
That the judicial laws of the Jews have ceased to have binding obligation upon us follows plainly, from the fact that the peculiar relations of the people to God as theocratical King, and to one another as fellow-members of an Old Testament Church State, to which these laws were adjusted, now no longer exist. [ibid]
Samuel Waldron, regarding the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith’s own version of this section, writes:
The confession makes two balancing points regarding the judicial law, speaking of its ancient expiration and its modern application. This paragraph (which is substantially the same in the Westminster Confession) is clearly based on Calvin’s treatment of the judicial law in the Institutes. This treatment is very relevant in the light of the idea of the abiding validity of the judicial law being espoused in our day. The expiration of the judicial law is suggested by the destruction of the Old Testament theocracy initially by Babylon and finally by Rome under the judgment of God. When the state expired, it is reasonable, according to the Confession, to conclude that it formal civil order expired with it. […] Though the judicial law has expired, yet as an inspired application of the moral law to the civil circumstances of Israel it reveals many timeless principles of general equity, justice, goodness and righteousness. As much as it remains relevant not only to modern states, but also to modern churches and Christians (1 Cor. 5:1; 9:8-10). [Waldron, 238-239]
One must also look at the use of the moral, ceremonial, and judicial laws, as they were interpreted throughout Reformed history. (Not in a broad sense, but in the way they were discussed in the Westminster Confession.) John Calvin wrote on the divisions of the Law, at great length, in his famous Institutes:
We must attend to the well known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law, and we must attend to each of these parts, in order to understand how far they do, or do not, pertain to us. Meanwhile, let no one be moved by the thought that the judicial and ceremonial laws relate to morals. For the ancients who adopted this division, though they were not unaware that the two latter classes had to do with morals, did not give them the name of moral, because they might be changed and abrogated without affecting morals. They give this name specially to the first class, without which, true holiness of life and an immutable rule of conduct cannot exist.
The moral law, then (to begin with it), being contained under two heads, the one of which simply enjoins us to worship God with pure faith and piety, the other to embrace men with sincere affection, is the true and eternal rule of righteousness prescribed to the men of all nations and of all times, who would frame their life agreeably to the will of God. For his eternal and immutable will is, that we are all to worship him and mutually love one another. The ceremonial law of the Jews was a tutelage by which the Lord was pleased to exercise, as it were, the childhood of that people, until the fulness of the time should come when he was fully to manifest his wisdom to the world, and exhibit the reality of those things which were then adumbrated by figures (Gal. 3:24; 4:4). The judicial law, given them as a kind of polity, delivered certain forms of equity and justice, by which they might live together innocently and quietly. And as that exercise in ceremonies properly pertained to the doctrine of piety, inasmuch as it kept the Jewish Church in the worship and religion of God, yet was still distinguishable from piety itself, so the judicial form, though it looked only to the best method of preserving that charity which is enjoined by the eternal law of God, was still something distinct from the precept of love itself. Therefore, as ceremonies might be abrogated without at all interfering with piety, so, also, when these judicial arrangements are removed, the duties and precepts of charity can still remain perpetual. But if it is true that each nation has been left at liberty to enact the laws which it judges to be beneficial, still these are always to be tested by the rule of charity, so that while they vary in form, they must proceed on the same principle. Those barbarous and savage laws, for instance, which conferred honour on thieves, allowed the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, and other things even fouler and more absurd, I do not think entitled to be considered as laws, since they are not only altogether abhorrent to justice, but to humanity and civilised life.
What I have said will become plain if we attend, as we ought, to two things connected with all laws—viz. the enactment of the law, and the equity on which the enactment is founded and rests. Equity, as it is natural, cannot be the same in all, and therefore ought to be proposed by all laws, according to the nature of the thing enacted. As constitutions have some circumstances on which they partly depend, there is nothing to prevent their diversity, provided they all alike aim at equity as their end. Now, as it is evident that the law of God which we call moral, is nothing else than the testimony of natural law, and of that conscience which God has engraven on the minds of men, the whole of this equity of which we now speak is prescribed in it. Hence it alone ought to be the aim, the rule, and the end of all laws. Wherever laws are formed after this rule, directed to this aim, and restricted to this end, there is no reason why they should be disapproved by us, however much they may differ from the Jewish law, or from each other (August. de Civit. Dei, Lib. 19 c. 17). The law of God forbids to steal. The punishment appointed for theft in the civil polity of the Jews may be seen in Exodus 22. Very ancient laws of other nations punished theft by exacting the double of what was stolen, while subsequent laws made a distinction between theft manifest and not manifest. Other laws went the length of punishing with exile, or with branding, while others made the punishment capital. Among the Jews, the punishment of the false witness was to “do unto him as he had thought to have done with his brother” (Deut. 19:19). In some countries, the punishment is infamy, in others hanging, in others crucifixion. All laws alike avenge murder with blood, but the kinds of death are different. In some countries, adultery was punished more severely, in others more leniently. Yet we see that amidst this diversity they all tend to the same end. For they all with one mouth declare against those crimes which are condemned by the eternal law of God—viz. murder, theft, adultery, and false witness; though they agree not as to the mode of punishment. This is not necessary, nor even expedient. There may be a country which, if murder were not visited with fearful punishments, would instantly become a prey to robbery and slaughter. There may be an age requiring that the severity of punishments should be increased. If the state is in troubled condition, those things from which disturbances usually arise must be corrected by new edicts. In time of war, civilisation would disappear amid the noise of arms, were not men overawed by an unwonted severity of punishment. In sterility, in pestilence, were not stricter discipline employed, all things would grow worse. One nation might be more prone to a particular vice, were it not most severely repressed. How malignant were it, and invidious of the public good, to be offended at this diversity, which is admirably adapted to retain the observance of the divine law. The allegation, that insult is offered to the law of God enacted by Moses, where it is abrogated, and other new laws are preferred to it, is most absurd. Others are not preferred when they are more approved, not absolutely, but from regard to time and place, and the condition of the people, or when those things are abrogated which were never enacted for us. The Lord did not deliver it by the hand of Moses to be promulgated in all countries, and to be everywhere enforced; but having taken the Jewish nation under his special care, patronage, and guardianship, he was pleased to be specially its legislator, and as became a wise legislator, he had special regard to it in enacting laws. [source]
Jonathan Edwards, while speaking on the moral law, writes on this distinction:
The next thing observable in this period, was God’s giving the typical law, those precepts that did not properly belong to the moral law. Not only those laws which are commonly called ceremonial, which prescribe the ceremonies and circumstances of the Jewish worship, and their ecclesiastical state; but also those that were political, for regulating the Jewish commonwealth, commonly called judicial laws, were many of them typical. The giving this typical law was another great thing that God did in this period, tending to build up the glorious structure of redemption. There had been many typical events of providence before, that represented Christ and his redemption, and some typical ordinances, as particularly those two of sacrifices and circumcision: but now, instead of representing the great Redeemer in a few institutions, God enacts a law full of typical representations of good things to come. By these, that nation were directed every year, month, and day, in their religious actions, and in their conduct, in all that appertained to their ecclesiastical and civil state, to something of Christ; one observance exhibiting one doctrine, or one benefit; another, another; so that the whole nation by this law was, as it were, constituted in a typical state. Thus the gospel was abundantly held forth to that nation; so that there is scarce any doctrine of it, but is particularly taught and exhibited by some observance of this law; though it was in shadows, and under a vail, as Moses put a vail on his face when it shone—To this typical law belong all the precepts which relate to building the tabernacle, set up in the wilderness, and all its form, circumstances, and utensils. [source]
Edwards writes elsewhere, while commenting on Exodus 20:15:
This is one of the ten commandments, which constitute a summary of man’s duty, as revealed by God. God made many revelations to the children of Israel in the wilderness by Moses: but this made in the ten commandments is the chief. Most of those other revelations contained ceremonial or judicial laws; but this contains the moral law. The most of those other laws respected the Jewish nation; but here is a summary of laws binding on all mankind. Those were to last till Christ should come, and have set up the Christian church; these are of perpetual obligation, and last to the end of the world. God everywhere, by Moses and the prophets, manifests a far greater regard to the duties of these commands, than to any of the rites of the ceremonial law. [source]
Charles Hodge writes on the divisions of the law in his Systematic Theology. Though he divides and adds to the general division, it is within the same spirit, with nothing theologically changed. He adds at the beginning the laws of nature (meaning more so universal evils such as malice, greed, etc.). He adds after this the moral law, and then gets to this the judicial or civil laws.
A third class of laws have their foundation in certain temporary relations of men, or conditions of society, and are enforced by the authority of God. To this class belong many of the judicial or civil laws of the ancient theocracy; laws regulating the distribution of property, the duties of husbands and wives, the punishment of crime, etc. These laws were the application of general principles of justice and right to the peculiar circumstances of the Hebrew people. Such enactments bind only those who are in the circumstances contemplated, and cease to be obligatory when those circumstances change. It is always and every right that crime should be punished, but the kid or degree of punishment may vary with the varying condition of society. It is always right that the poor should be supported, but one mode of discharging that duty may be proper in one age and country, and another preferable in other times and places. All those laws, therefore, in the Old Testament, which had their foundation in the peculiar circumstances of the Hebrews, ceased to be binding when the old dispensation passed away. [Hodge, 268]
Charles Hodge adds afterward:
It is often difficult to determine to which of the last two classes certain laws of the Old Testament belong; and therefore, to decide whether they are still obligatory or not. Deplorable evils have flowed from mistakes as to this point. The theories of the union of Church and State, of the right of the magistrate to interfere authoritatively in matters of religion, and of the duty of persecution, so far as Scriptural authority is concerned, rest on the transfer of laws founded on the temporary relations of the Hebrew to the altered relations of Christians. Because the Hebrew kings were the guardians of both tables of the Law, and were required to suppress idolatry and all false religion, it was inferred that such is still the duty of the Christian magistrate. Because Samuel hewed Agag to pieces, it was inferred to be the right to deal in like manner with heretics. No one can read the history of the Church without being impressed with the dreadful evils which have flowed from this mistake. On the other hand, there are some of the judicial laws of the Old Testament which were really founded on the permanent relations of men, and therefore, were intended to be of perpetual obligation, which many have repudiated as peculiar to the old dispensation. Such are some of the laws relating to marriage, and to the infliction of capital punishment for the crime of murder. If it be asked, How are we to determine whether any judicial law of the Old Testament is still in force? the answer is first, When the continued authority of such law is recognized in the New Testament. That for Christians is decisive. And secondly, If the reason or ground for a given law is permanent, the law itself is permanent. [Hodge, 268-269]
Charles Hodge adds another grouping of laws, related to the previous one.
The fourth class of laws are those called positive, which derive all their authority from the explicit command of God. Such are external rites and ceremonies, as circumcision, sacrifices, ad the distinction between clean and unclean meats, and between months, days, and years. The criterion of such laws is that they would not be binding unless positively enacted; and that they bind those only to whom they are given, and only so long as they continue in force by the appointment of God. Such laws may have answered important ends, and valid reasons doubtless existed why they were imposed; still they are specifically different from those commands which are in their own nature morally obligatory. The obligation to obey such laws does not arise from their fitness for the end for which they have been given, but solely from the divine command. [Hodge, 269]
Francis Turretin went greatly in depth on this topic in his own discussion on the abrogation of the Civil Law. He begins by highlighting two potential extremes: one which said that all of the Civil Law was abrogated (as some Anabaptists of Turretin’s time claimed); and the other, which said that none of the Civil Law was abrogated, and hence “Christian states should be governed like the Jewish” (Turretin, 166). The orthodox position, as Turretin himself puts forward, is to “relieve the matter by a distinction, both according to what has been abrogated, and what is still in force” (ibid). In other words, each element of the Civil Law must be understood under the circumstances and time it was passed. Those parts of the Civil Law unique to “the genius and reason of the Jewish polity” are “made useless to Christians living under a different polity,” and hence “not ought to be observed any longer”; as an example, Turretin cites the laws concerning the division of the land of Canaan among the Jews, and “this having been taken away, they can have no further use” (Turretin, 167). That of the Civil Law which is “found to be conformed to the precepts of the decalogue and serves to explain and conform it” can be accepted as binding upon Christians (Turretin, 166-167).
With all this in view, some important considerations about our application of the Law become apparent:
First, the Moral Law is still bound upon us, and we are still obligated to obey it. It did not disappear with the coming of Christ. It is this portion of the Law which is, as John Calvin put it, “the testimony of natural law… which God has engraved on the minds of men,” and which “alone ought to be the aim, the rule, and the end of all laws.” It is this portion of the Law, as Edwards puts it, which features “a summary of man’s duty, as revealed by God.” The command “thou shall not steal” is just as relevant during our day as it was in the time of Moses.
Second, the Ceremonial Law has become completely abrogated, and everything related to it has seen its ultimate fulfillment in Christ and His work. The completed work of Christ on the cross is precisely why we do not shed the blood of lambs in Jerusalem (let alone why the Papist mass is so horrendous), and the reason there is no sacramental priesthood today is because Christ has usurped the Levitical priesthood as our better priest.
Third, the Civil (or Judicial) Law, while still relevant as a potential guide, is no longer a binding Law, and can only be influential insofar as it is either relevant to individual Christians in individual circumstances, or when it sheds light upon the Moral Law. Furthermore, some discernment must be made in regards to just how far a Civil Law can be applied, if at all. As Turretin said, certain parts of the Civil Law may be completely irrelevant for modern day believers, for theological or situational reasons; as Calvin elucidated, though the Moral Law may be the same for all believing nations, aspects of their judiciary may be varied, depending on the situation, and will not violate, nor require to be bound by, the Civil Law of Moses. Vlad Dracula had thieves and brigands impaled because medieval Romania had become like modern-day Detroit; other nations which did not have as extensive a problem of crime would not have to resort to such extremes, nor would they be required to by the Law of God.
From this, we immediately find a dilemma in the Kinist position, for they have argued, in application, that Civil Laws concerning race are binding, and to violate them is sin and God’s blueprint – in this regard, it is treated as binding as the Moral Law. Mr. Carlton cites Deuteronomy 22:8, and says it can be applied because the “underlying principle” is one that “buildings should be safe for ordinary human occupancy.” However, the Kinist arguments we reviewed initially in this series did not speak of something as merely an “underlying principle,” let alone anything that maybe would be just good advice or common sense. Rather, they were spoken of as God’s binding Law, and God’s blueprint. For example, intermixed marriages were placed alongside sodomy as an “unnatural sin” and called “intrinsically immoral” (source); they are likewise called an “unlawful association” within “God’s national blueprint” (source). Furthermore, Kinists have argued that to violate the “Law of Kin Rule” would “be lawlessness and treason to the nation, and ultimately to God Himself” (source; emphasis mine). Is Mr. Carlton likewise telling us that buildings which are not “safe for ordinary human occupancy” are likewise treason to God? Is it “intrinsically immoral” to have improper railings on a building? Could OSHA rightfully claim that, in performing their task, they are merely doing God’s work?
I’m not attempting to debate via argumentum ad ridiculum, however what we find here is that Mr. Carlton falls into a false equivocation by taking one affirmation (that intermixed marriages or societies are sinful and offensive to God) and placing it on equal footing with another, not-so-extreme affirmation (it’s good to have underlying principles to guide society). This is also the sort of dilemma many Theonomists and Hebrew roots movements fall into: a gross confusion over binding, non-binding, and temporal laws. Under the old dispensation, all groups of Laws were just as binding; under the new dispensation, such an equality does not exist. Those who cite the law against homosexuality (Lev 18:22) as a command for modern governments to execute homosexuals forget that nobody in the New Testament church seemed concerned with executing former homosexuals who came their way, but rather welcomed their repentance (cf. 1 Cor 6:9-11). The moral decree that homosexuality is a moral abomination is still binding upon the church; the judicial decree that those guilty of homosexuality should be executed is not.
As stated before, this distinction is seen in the historical Reformed view, and yet – while running to the historical Reformed view to give his opinion validity – this sort of distinction is not seen in Mr. Carlton’s presentation. Whether he intended to do so or not, he appears to argue the extreme which Turretin warned against, which was to say that denying any Civil Law was to deny the Law in toto. He writes near the end of his article that if people followed my conclusions, then “we would be forced to determine that there is actually very little that is required of civil magistrates for any nation today… civil governments have virtually no standard by which they can be judged and called into account.” Hence, because I insist that many passages appealed to by Kinists are no longer morally binding upon believers today, I am accused of revoking the entirety of the Law, and creating a libertine free will upon all states. Aside from being a terrible straw man of my position, such a view is not even one believed by the Westminster Divines and those who influenced and adhered to their standards, as the research provided has shown.
We might here turn to those passages that have been discussed between Mr. Carlton and I; namely, the ban against intermarriage in Deuteronomy 7, and the supposed “Law of Kin Rule” in Deuteronomy 17. I have gone at length to expose those passages as being irrelevant to our modern day, for a variety of reasons. Deuteronomy 7 dealt with a specific circumstance and a specific group of people living in Canaan, and the only concern of God seen directly in the text was in regards to theological issues resulting from the intermixed marriages. (That is, believers marrying unbelievers and being influenced by them.) This is also precisely why the idea of Rahab being a Gentile was never offensive to historical, orthodox Christianity – she was a believer by the time she married an ethnic Jew. Again, in past posts, I have gone into length about why Deuteronomy 7 can be seen as a temporal command; I have not thus far seen a detailed response from Kinists in regards to it, going verse by verse. The most we have seen is a repetition of argument, or an appeal that it might be interpreted as such, with no authority cited by Kinists except the Kinist interpretation itself.
Deuteronomy 17 dealt with the Kings of Israel, as all the specific laws given were relevant at some point to Israel. They were also ultimately fulfilled in Christ; the Messianic prophecy in Jeremiah 30:18-24, especially in verse 21, clearly has Deuteronomy 17 in mind. (Again, I’ve gone into detail on this in the past, so I present only a brief summary of it here, and point the reader elsewhere for a further discussion.)
In fact, Mr. Carlton cannot even maintain consistency with his own position on the dismantling of the Law. Later on in this article, he is forced to backtrack upon his earlier contention regarding Deuteronomy 17, for he had said Kinists believe kings are to follow “all of these requirements,” adding later: “The requirements for kings listed in Deuteronomy 17 apply to all kings, not just those of ancient Israel.” However, when pressed on the pagan nature of the Roman government which Paul told Christians to obey, he admits that “the requirement to personally write the law on scrolls in the presence of Levitical priests is obviously specific to ancient Israel.” So, while I myself dared to challenge the notion that Deuteronomy 17 was senseless when applied to all nations, and was accused of inviting evil into society, now we see the Kinist is permitted to admit that some parts of the Law which they themselves declared as binding upon all nations… well, may actually not be binding upon all nations.
Can something be gleaned from those Civil Laws? Perhaps. However, we would have to again understand the situations and contexts of those Laws; we must, as Turretin says, “relieve the matter by a distinction.” God’s main concern in Deuteronomy 7 was for his people not to marry unbelievers, and as faith and ethnic identity were, at that time, synonymous, (again, something I’ve discussed in previous articles,) of course He told them not to marry certain groups of people; the closest we might get to this in a new covenant application is Paul’s command for believers to not be bound together with unbelievers (cf. 2 Cor 6:14). Likewise, I would agree with Mr. Carlton that some of the parts of Deuteronomy 17 (regarding horses and gold) could be gleaned by modern leaders, but the question again is are we bound by this? Kinists argue that we must follow the Law of Kin Rule, and that interracial marriage is immoral – not that either are just related to a general civil principle which, as John Calvin and others admit, may actually differ from nation to nation. Yes, there may be moments when having a foreigner rule over you is unwise, and yet to say that this is a Law which must be obeyed enters not into general equity, but rather category error.
There were other passages discussed, of course, such as those from Nehemiah and Ezra, yet these were not part of the Law, and even if we attempted to appeal to them as the Law in application, I have demonstrated that the concerns there were either theological in nature, or irrelevant to the discussion.
One final note I may make is that Rushdoony, a man seen by many as a sort of “founder” of Kinism (although I’m certain many would contest that), and one whom Kinists are quick to cite and appeal as one of their own against Non-Kinist Theonomists, held the opinion that the Westminster Confession of Faith was wrong on their section regarding the Law.
Rousas Rushdoony, the founder of modern Theonomy believed modern Theonomy differed from the Westminster Confession on one point. He believed that “one of the errors of the [Westminster] Confession” [was holding in 19:4], without any confirmation from Scripture… that the ‘judicial laws’ of the Bible ‘expired’ with the Old Testament,” a view he believed “makes the Confession is guilty of nonsense.” [sic] [Cunningham, 147]
Rushdoony not only held the Confession’s view of the Law to be more in line with what Kinists accuse me of, but he saw it as a reason to accuse it of being “guilty of nonsense.” This was most likely because, as we’ve already seen in detail, the historical Reformed view was never that all the laws are still in application, but that some have indeed been done away with, with others being seen only as guidance, but not binding.
This is why Kinists believe that we ought to apply the principles of ethnonationalism from the laws of Israel’s civil code to nations today. Nations exist because God created them and have a purpose in God’s plan of redemption. Kinists see no reason to believe that the protection of Israel’s national and tribal identity was unique to Israel. All nations have a right and duty to protect their own national identity by applying the principles that God revealed through the Mosaic Law. The underlying principle of these laws is not merely to protect Israel’s religious identity; rather these laws also demonstrate the value of distinct tribal and ethnic identity itself.
Again, it would be nice if this could be shown from the text itself. As I wrote before, no sort of exegesis is seen from the Kinist camp. Similar to a cult-like mindset, it appeals instead of the authority of God to the organization’s interpretation.
Certainly if Mr. Carlton is speaking against leftist, Marxist views that say national or ethnic identity has absolutely zero value in any sense, I would agree with him. If he stopped there, I might stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him. However, the dilemma with Kinists is not only that it takes itself to an opposite extreme, but it does so while attempting to read such doctrine into scripture. In attempting to undue the theological errors of Marxists and Social Justice Warriors, Kinists unintentionally commit the exact same errors, albeit from the opposite extreme. I have noticed this among various camps of Kinists I have interacted with, both here on my blog and on Twitter: this false dichotomy is always presented, where you’re either a pro-ethnostate Kinist, or you’re a Neo-Marxist. The idea that one can oppose Neo-Marxist ideas about race while avoiding an opposite extreme seems to not even be entertained.
We must also remember the application that Mr. Carlton is trying to come from: the old laws are still applicable to modern believers as underlying principles. However, we find here more clearly the equivocation dilemma within the Kinist camp: are these just underlying principles which may or may not be applicable to a believer? Or are these “God’s blueprint”? Are these laws which, if not followed, are treachery to God Himself? Are violating “tribal and ethnic identity” equivalent to committing sodomy, as Kinists have argued? If so, then Carlton’s earlier comparisons to health codes are misplaced; furthermore, his appeal to the Westminster’s “general equity” is completely erroneous and unhistorical.
This can be demonstrated by observing the laws of inheritance and of marriage for females heirs, given concerning the daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 27 and Numbers 36. These delineate and preserve the collective property inheritance of the tribes of Israel. There are some instances of some men of specific tribes apostatizing while others remained faithful, but all of the tribes were equally under the covenant that they had inherited from Abraham, so a provision to keep tribal inheritance separate cannot be considered as a religious concern. This reveals that the distinction of tribes is a good unto itself that ought to be preserved. Tribes and nations should erect laws to ensure that tribal inheritance is preserved across the passage of time and generations. This is but one example of how the Bible reveals to us the importance of ethnonationalism.
Inheritance and marriage laws do not equal the modern views of ethnonationalism as preached by those within Kinism or some sectors of the Altright. This a common exegetical fallacy in which modern day world views are read backwards into past times. Certainly we do not see anything from scripture which would warrant, say, the view by some Kinists that, if Rahab had been a Gentile or Ruth an ethnic Moabite, then Christ would have been seen as having impure blood, and hence lose His Messianic status, regardless of all other conditions and factors (including His divine personhood). Indeed, I would encourage my reader to look through Numbers 27 or 36 and tell how one can draw ethnonationalist conclusions from simple family inheritance laws. Numbers 36 is especially problematic when one considers that this is in reference to the allotment of land by God to the various tribes within Canaan (Num 26:53-55; Jos 14:5), and is meant to prevent one tribe taking land from another (Num 36:7).
It is also interesting that Mr. Carlton cites this as an example of a civil law which must still be obeyed, when one considers that most historical commentators on the division of the various Laws cite the land inheritance laws as an example of those which are no longer binding upon the Christian. Again, the Kinist position suffers dilemmas when both the context of scripture and actual orthodox Christian history are examined.
One amusing portion of Mr. Carlton’s article states:
Most Christians today believe precisely that interracial marriage is not only normatively acceptable, but also something that ought to be celebrated. I’m not quite sure of TT’s own opinion on the question of interracial marriage, because he doesn’t state it. I would ask him if he believes interracial marriage to be generally unwise but not inherently sinful, or if he, like most Christians today, considers interracial marriage to be neutral or even positive. Kinists like myself argue that interracial marriage is wrong precisely because it is not normatively acceptable. There are several arguments given on Faith and Heritage against interracial marriage, and in favor of the normativity of intraracial and intraethnic marriage. I don’t believe that our overall case is weakened even if certain statements made about Rahab could be conceded as an overstatement.
The careful reader will note that Mr. Carlton is committing some obfuscation here. He says that the Kinist case is not weakened “even if certain statements made about Rahab could be conceded as an overstatement.” However, what “overstatements” are these, as made by Mr. Carlton’s peers at Faith and Heritage and fellow Kinists? That if Rahab were a Gentile, the Gospel of Christ would be null and void, as would the doctrine of the incarnation. This is more than just an overstatement – this is heresy. This is another Gospel entirely. Least anyone accuse me of mishandling the Kinist position, here is, again, one of those “overstatements”:
It is impossible to deny the purity of Christ’s pedigree and yet retain any Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. Christ, quite simply, had to be the pure-blood heir apparent in order to be the prophesied Messiah without [racial] spot or blemish. [source]
…if the genealogies didn’t prove His lawful descent from Jacob and claim to the heritage of David, their inclusion to that end in the text would be a work of sublime futility – undermining the whole of the gospel and, thereby, revelation in general. […] But the modern challenge to Christ’s genealogy comes, most shockingly, from many who actually claim to follow Him, otherwise known as Alienists. They allege that Rachab of the royal genealogy was no Hebrew, but a Canaanite. [source]
And these weren’t the only “overstatements” made It was said the charge Rahab was a Gentile came from “tradition” and “popular opinion,” as if it were in the same vein as KJV-Onlyism or Pop Dispensationalism. As I demonstrated in another post, this is Kinist double-speak: the true matter is that the identification of Rahab as a Gentile goes all the way back to the earliest Church Fathers, and has been upheld by the vast majority of Patristics, Reformers, and great teachers of God throughout time. If by “tradition” and “popular opinion” we mean “historical Christian orthodoxy,” then that would be correct.
Another Kinist statement made – and one by Mr. Carlton himself – was that it was possible the “Rahab” of Matthew 1:5 is another, completely unidentifiable woman, as if we are to truly believe that Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, and citing women that Jewish readers would have immediately recognized, decided to use this completely unidentifiable woman who just happened to share a name with one of the most well known women in the history of Ancient Israel. Again it must be noted that Kinists, who love to attach the label “Historical Christianity” to their doctrine, make this assertion despite the fact that everyone who has looked at Matthew 1:5 has identified that Rahab with Rahab the Harlot. (See my other article where this is touched upon.)
There’s a scene in Kill Bill Part 2 where Uma Thurman’s character meets up with Bill, who shot up her wedding and then put a bullet in her head. Recalling the episode, he laments to her in an absolutely casual tone, “I overreacted.” That scene comes to mind here. It’s as if Kinists get nervous and semi-embarrassed when their own words and conclusions are used against them, or presented bare to the public for what they are. If Mr. Carlton wishes to now backtrack and admit “certain statements” made by Kinists about Rahab have been “overstatements,” then I would ask him to be honest and come out and own those statements for what they are, and who said them.
Regarding my response to Mr. Carlton’s appeal on Ezra 2:59-62, he writes:
The issue is that Levitical priests and their families were required to take wives from among the nation of Israel (Lev. 21:13-15, Ez. 44:22). Whatever other exceptions there were that could be made for other Israelites, this did not apply to the priests. This means that that their lineages would be quite pure. It could be argued that a priest may have had non-Israelite ancestry if one of their ancestors had married someone of another tribe who had ancestors that had married a war captive, as provided by the accommodation in Deut. 21:10-14. However this would be so remote that no one would recognize this ancestry as being “mixed” in any meaningful sense.
This response has nothing to do with I wrote. I had pointed out that merely the identity of being with the tribe of Levi was called. Because there was no record of lineage, the men were removed. No issue of purity came up, therefore the citation was erroneous. What Mr. Carlton essentially did here was merely repeat his argument. The careful reader will also note that I quoted the passage in full, and in context, and showed where I came to my conclusions from those passages. Mr. Carlton has not done that here. In fact, he has not done that with any of the passages he deals with.
Regarding my contention that Mr. Carlton avoided dealing with my quotation of John Calvin on Deuteronomy 17:15, he writes:
Of course this isn’t the case. I merely point out the reason that Calvin’s beliefs about national identity preclude any idea that he was ambivalent on the question of kin rule. We have every reason to doubt that Calvin would have approved of the nations of Europe being ruled by ethnic foreigners, and virtually all of Calvin’s contemporaries would have considered the suggestion to be absurd. None of them would have interpreted the presence of ethnic, racial, and religious foreigners in the governments of Europe to be anything other than judgment, and I see no compelling reason to disagree. Other Reformed thinkers like Samuel Rutherford certainly deduced the principle of kin rule from verses like Deut. 17:15, so this is hardly the product of an overactive Kinist imagination.
This is all well and good, but I must once again ask, what did this have to do with my citation of John Calvin regarding Deuteronomy 17? Would Calvin have opposed a foreigner ruling other people? Probably (although I’m curious what his opinion was of Spaniards ruling Germany and Holland at the time). As I said in the previous article, I’ve nowhere argued John Calvin was a squishy Evangelical, or didn’t hold a high view of nationhood. To continually speak as if I’m affirming such things is to argue via straw man.
The issue is how did John Calvin, looking at Deuteronomy 17, interpret the passage? He did not see the Kinist teaching on ethnonationalism. Remember, Kinists teach that this passage prescribes a clear Law, not a friendly guideline. Calvin did not look at this passage and cite it against foreigners ruling other lands; rather, he saw religious reasons behind the appointment of fellow kin (as he did with much of the Civil Law). If Calvin – one of the greatest exegetes to ever live, and whom Kinists claim held as high a view of ethnostates as they do – did not see a clear teaching of a “Law of Kin Rule” in this passage, and did not think to even mention it in passing, why should we presume he would have interpreted the verse as such?
Therefore, I repeat again that to jump to another exegesis by Calvin of an entirely different passage to read it back into an exegesis where Calvin says nothing of the sort is a complete mishandling of Calvin’s words, and a complete non-answer to my citation of him. It was really a crocodile-style debate tactic, hoping to drag an opponent to a sphere where you believe you have greater advantage, similar to a crocodile that drags its prey into the water where it too has a greater advantage.
One brief note: the reference to Samuel Rutherford is a bit misplaced, as Rutherford was not quite the ethnostate advocate that Kinists like to portray him as. I would suggest people go to this post where I examine the quotations used by Mr. Strickland to make such a claim.
At another point in the article, Mr. Carlton refers to my criticism of his claim that Deuteronomy 17 was an “extension” of Deuteronomy 1.
TT quibbles with my appeal to Deut. 1:13-16 by noting that this simply repeats what Moses’s father-in-law tells him in regard to governing the tribes. These standards were originally given to Moses by his father-in-law, but there is no reason to believe that these standards constitute mere advice. Would anyone wish to contend that leaders in civil government are no longer required to be wise, understanding, experienced, and righteous judges to both strangers and resident foreigners? Of course not! We all recognize these requirements as permanent, so why should the requirement that civil leaders be descended from the tribes they govern be considered any different?
This contention only works if one forgets the flow of thought in our argument. Mr. Carlton had claimed that Deuteronomy 17 was an “extension” of Deuteronomy 1:13-16. I pointed out that they dealt with different contexts and purposes: one dealt with a secular source offering a suggestion to resolve a specific situation Moses had to deal with; the other involved direct commands from God regarding Israel’s future monarchy. In other words, one was hardly an “extension” of the other.
Mr. Carlton asks: “Would anyone wish to contend that leaders in civil government are no longer required to be wise, understanding, experienced, and righteous judges to both strangers and resident foreigners?” Nobody would want to contend that, but neither was any such argument being put forward. As I wrote before, to try to cite Deuteronomy 1 as a divine command for all governments everywhere is the same error committed by Cavalry Chapel for citing Deuteronomy 1 as their “Moses model” for church leadership. Likewise, to try to connect it to Deuteronomy 17 as if God were “expanding” on what was said in Deuteronomy 1 is completely erroneous.
As stated earlier in the post, Mr. Carlton’s appeal to the historical Reformed view of “general equity” and the use of the Law only works if one ignores what the historical Reformed view of the Law actually is. The historical Reformed view does not say, as Mr. Carlton has argued, that to say some laws are no longer binding invites evil and wickedness from rulers and commoners alike; rather, it says that the Law must be understood as divided between those which are binding, non-binding, and irrelevant. Even the Kinist must confess this when they themselves are placed into a corner with obviously antiquated laws or ordinances, hence making their entire position not only unhistorical, but inconsistent. The Kinist will accuse their critics of dismantling the Law, while at the same time freely picking and choosing just what parts of the Law must be followed or can be disregarded.
What we’ve also witnessed here is a further minimizing of the Kinist strength in regards to the testimony of scripture. I would put forward to the reader that, in this back-and-forth dialogue, we have the seen the Kinist position degrade thus:
First, it was presented, before Kinist audiences, that these teachings are not only historical Christianity, but they are clear teachings of scripture. This becomes problematic, either with a simple study of church history (eg., nobody until the rise of Kinism questioned Rahab’s Gentile identity), or with an honest study of scripture (eg., looking at Deuteronomy 7 in its fullest context).
Second, since this became a problem, the Kinists had to declare that these are possible “secondary concerns” or “secondary teachings” within the text. This likewise proves problematic, because a reexamination from the text shows that no such “secondary concerns” exist; one cannot reach such “secondary concerns” unless one goes to the text and eisegetes them.
Now, we are presented with the basic idea that these are general principles which can possibly be gleaned from the text, based on the wording of the Westminster Confession of Faith. As we’ve seen, not only does the historical application of the phrase “general equity” contradict the Kinist use of it, but even some historical Kinists (eg., Rushdoony) saw the Westminster Confession as agreeing with those the Kinists attack. (In fact, Kinists will appeal as “general equity” certain passages which Reformed theologians throughout history have given as examples of what aren’t “general equity” passages.)
Once again we find that the Kinist contention that their position is a Biblical one, let alone historical, falls apart once it is placed under a microscope. We have clearly seen that Kinism cannot stand under the scrutiny of exegesis, but must run, once the light is turned on, to philosophy or, in this case, a loose definition of “general equity.” This is again only a confirmation that Kinism is not an exegetical doctrine, which can be rightfully gleaned from scripture through clear teaching. It is rather an erroneous teaching, and one that I would encourage those in its camps to move away from, and those who might be interested in it to avoid.
Cunningham, Timothy R. How Firm a Foundation? Wipf and Stock, 2012.
Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, Volume III. Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.
Turretin, Francis. Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume II. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1994.
Waldron, Samuel E. A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. Evangelical Press, 2005.