PCA Historical Center

Archives & Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church

PCA Digest: Position Papers, 1973 - 1993

7th General Assembly, 1979, 7-49, III, 22, p. 115

THEONOMY

22. The definition of and recommendations regarding theonomy:

a. That since the term "theonomy" in its simplest definition means "God's Law", the General Assembly affirms the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 19, and Larger Catechism, Question 93-150, as a broad but adequate definition of theonomy.

b. That no further study on the subject of theonomy be undertaken at the General Assembly level at this time, but that individual Christians, sessions, and presbyteries having particular interest be encouraged to study the subject in a spirit of love, kindness, and patience.
c. That the General Assembly affirm that no particular view of the application of the judicial law for today should be made a basis for orthodoxy or excluded as heresy in so far as this is in accord with paragraph "a" above.
d. That the General Assembly encourage pastors and sessions to instruct their people in the law of God and its application in a manner consistent with out confessional standards.

Adopted


1983, 11-36, III, 29 p. 96-97

CONSTITUTIONAL INQUIRY ON WCF 19-4
29. That the following interim advice of the SCJB in response to Reference 2 from Gulf Coast Presbytery (p. 50f), dated October 16, 1982, be ratified:
QUESTION 1: 'Is the Presbytery denied the right to examine a man and to judge him to be in error or heretical on the basis of Chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and particularly on the basis of Chapter 19, paragraph 4?'
ANSWER: No. The judicial decision of the Tenth General Assembly did not deny this right of the Presbytery. Such a judgment should be supported by specific evidence so that the error or heresy might be demonstrated and proved. It should be noted that both judicial decisions and in thesi statements are alike in that they are interpretations of God's Word made by a court of the Church. While they do not supersede the Constitution, they must be submitted to unless they contradict the Constitution and the Word.
QUESTION 2: 'Are all views defining themselves by the term 'theonomy' excluded as a basis for examination for licensure or ordination?'
ANSWER: The Statement of the Seventh General Assembly notes that theonomy has a varying definitions. 'There is no single well-defined school of thought known as 'Theonomy'. The term simply means 'God's Law'. Great difficulties arise in defining the term in our present theological climate because it has been used in a great variety of ways by thinkers as liberal as Paul Tillich and as conservative as Herman Ridderbos.' (M7GA, p. 194). Neither the Statement of the Seventh General Assembly on 'theonomy' nor the judicial decision of the Tenth General Assembly eliminated views of 'theonomy' from theological examinations. No view of the application of the judicial law contrary to Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 19, paragraph 4, is acceptable.
QUESTION 3: 'Are all views of the applicability of God's judicial law for today to be regarded as acceptable in the Presbyterian Church in America?'
ANSWER: All views of the application of the judicial law not contrary to Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 19, paragraph 4, are to be regarded as acceptable within the Presbyterian Church in America.
QUESTION 4: 'How is the directive that Gulf Coast is 'to give direct guidance to Mr. Fell concerning any difficiencies of theology in reference to specific Biblical and confessional matters prior to his examination for ordination' to be related to current procedures prescribed in the BCO concerning examination for ordination?
ANSWER: The judicial decision of the Tenth General Assembly was not intended to add to the normal procedures, but simply to remind the Presbytery of its ordinary responsibilities of candidate oversight (see BCO 18-1, 18-4, and M9GA, p. 142 -- Only the one year of licensure requirement of the new procedures has been exempted for candidates or seminarians already in process.
QUESTION 5: 'Are the penal sanctions of the judicial laws of the Old Testament, such as those found in Deuteronomy 13, part of the general equity and, therefore, are they to be applied today as they were to the State of Israel, assuming the government as a righteous government according to the truth of God?'
ANSWER: All laws of the Old Testament were equitable for the era for which they were designed. But great care must be taken to determine precisely how they apply to the present era. In the case of Deuteronomy 13, in which the state is directed to execute any individual who attempts in private to lead someone to worship another god, and to annihilate all members of a community that worship another god, it is the interpretation of the Eleventh General Assembly that the legislation applies to the distinctive era in which Israel was established by specific divine revelation as His theocratic nation, and should not be enforced by the state in the present era.

Adopted

Since there are differences of opinion with regard to the application and 'general equity' of the various penal
sanctions, this declaration shall not be used by the courts of the Church to bind the conscience of elders in the PCA.

Adopted

NOTE: See also Judicial Cases number 16 and 86 in PCA Digest, Part III JUDICIAL CASES


The relevant section of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 19, is provided here as a convenience:
I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.[1]
1. Gen. 1:26-27; 2:17; Eph. 4:24; Rom. 2:14-15; 5:12, 19; 10:5; Gal. 3:10, 12; Eccl. 7:29

II. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables:[2] the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.[3]
2. James 1:25; 2:8, 10-12; Rom. 3:19; 13:8-9; Deut. 5:32; 10:4; Exod. 34:1
3. Exod. 30:3-17; Matt. 22:37-40

III. Beside this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits;[4] and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties.[5] All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.[6]
4. Heb. 10:1; Gal. 4:1-3; Col. 2:17; Heb. 9:1-28
5. Lev. 19:9-10, 19, 23, 27; Deut. 24:19-21; see I Cor. 5:7; II Cor. 6:17; Jude 1:23
6. Col. 2:14, 16-17; Dan. 9:27; Eph. 2:15-16; Heb. 9:10; Acts 10:9-16; 11:2-10

IV.
To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.[7]
7. Exod. 21:1-23:19; Gen. 49:10 with I Peter 2:13-14; I Cor. 9:8-10

V. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof;[8] and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it.[9] Neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.[10]
8. Rom. 3:31; 7:25; 13:8-10; I Cor. 9:21; Gal. 5:14; Eph. 6:2-3; I John 2:3-4, 7; Rom. 3:20; 7:7-8 and I John 3:4 with Rom. 6:15 9. Deut. 6:4-5; Exod. 20:11; Rom. 3:19; James 2:8, 10-11; Matt. 19:4-6; Gen. 17:1
10. Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31; I Cor. 9:21; Luke 16:17-18

VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned;[11] yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly;[12] discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives;[13] so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin,[14] together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience.[15] It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin:[16] and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law.[17] The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof:[18] although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.[19] So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.[20]
11. Rom. 6:14; 7:4; 8:1, 33; Gal. 2:16; 3:13; 4:4-5; Acts 13:38-39
12. Rom. 7:12, 22, 25; Psa. 119:1-6; I Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:14-23
13. Rom. 3:20; 7:7, 13
14. James 1:23-25; Rom. 7:9, 14, 24
15. Gal. 3:24; Rom. 7:24-25; 8:3-4
16. James 2:11-12; Psa. 119:101, 104, 128
17. Ezra 9:13-14; Psa. 89:30-34; Gal. 3:13
18. Exod. 19:5-6; Deut. 5:33; Lev. 18:5; 26:1-13; Matt. 5:5; 19:17; II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 6:2-3; Psa. 19:11; 37:11
19. Gal. 2:16; Luke 17:10 20. Rom. 6:12-15; cf. I Peter 3:8-12 with Psa. 34:12-16; Heb. 12:28-29

VII. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it;[21] the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.[22]
21. Rom. 3:31; Gal. 3:21; Titus 2:11-14
22. Ezek. 36:27; Heb. 8:10 with Jer. 31:33; Psa. 119:35, 47; Rom. 7:22