Friday, August 13, 2010

John W. Robbins was a Theonomist

While the late John W. Robbins was very critical of theonomy, he was, at least at one point in his life, a theonomist himself. 

Whether Robbins was always a theonomist but he just didn't understand the true meaning of the word "theonomy," or whether he once was a theonomist but later rejected it, we are not sure.  But his theonomic views are clearly seen in his excellent theonomic piece, The Sine Qua Non of Enduring Freedom, originally published in 1992.

Consider the following excerpts:
"The Old Testament, in particular the book of 1 Samuel, is the oldest textbook in political freedom. Absent from its pages are the communism of Plato, the fascism of Aristotle, and the democratic totalitarianism of Rousseau. Written about 1000 bc, the book of 1 Samuel may be the first handbook in republican political theory. 
"God established a model government in ancient Israel, and it is the only government for which he gave explicit rules. While many of those rules applied solely to ancient Israel – cities of refuge, for example – others apply to all governments. The judicial laws of Israel expired with that nation, but it is possible to discern general principles in the Old Testament laws that may be applied to modern governments. ...

"While 1 Samuel 8 establishes the limits of governmental power in a negative way by warning against the consequences of rejecting a republic and establishing a monarchy, Exodus 21-23 and some other important passages establish the limits of governmental power in another way, by telling rulers what they are permitted and required to do. As one examines these chapters, one is struck by the preponderance of laws about domestic and internal affairs. There are laws about murder, accidental killing, kidnapping, assaulting and cursing one’s parents, negligence, stealing, trespass, seduction and rape, witchcraft, idolatry, lying, bribery, and the treatment of foreigners. There is little mention of either foreign or commercial relations. ...

"It is not to Plato’s Republic nor to Aristotle’s Politics, not to the Greek city-states nor the City and Empire of Rome, and not to the Code of Hammurabi or Solon that we must look for a model of good government and a competent defense of a free society, but to the Bible and the Hebrew republic. Because the Bible is divinely revealed information, it furnishes us with the principles we need to defend a free society."
In the article, Robbins also favorably quotes influential theonomist Gary North:
"In his book Honest Money, The Biblical Blueprint for Money and Banking, Gary North makes an excellent point: “There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that gold and silver became money metals because Abraham, Moses, David, or any other political leader announced one afternoon: ‘From now on, gold is money!’...the State didn’t create money.” [1] This is quite true. The Bible is the oldest and most reliable history book we have, and there is nothing in it to indicate that the State originally created money. Rather, the evidence is that money originated in the market, when merchants offered their own coins and weights of metal in trade."

[1] Gary North, Honest Money, The Biblical Blueprint for Money and Banking, 22.
John W. Robbins, The Sine Qua Non of Enduring Freedom, "The Trinity Review," July-August 2010 (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation).  Originally published in 1992, in A Man of Principle: Essays in Honor of Hans F. Senholz.


Anonymous said...

I think John Robbins would be spinning in his grave if he knew some were claiming he was a theonomist. He was writing against the theonomy/recon movements since the early '80's. Another way to put it, a point of agreement here and there with Gary North doth not a Theonomist make.

Steve C. Halbrook said...

Sean, how do you define "theonomy"?

If you define it as the abiding validity of the civil moral case laws to the state, then he indeed was a theonomist. This can easily ascertained by both this piece and his piece "The Bible and the Draft." He arrives at the abiding validity of the case laws the same way Bahnsen does:

Steve C. Halbrook said...

Maybe the issue is the definition of terms, not whether Robbins affirmed the abiding validity of the moral case laws.