Saturday, October 16, 2010

Theonomy does not Promote Salvation by Works: Part 2: Guilt by Association Attacks

(posts in this series: part 1, part 2, part 3)

While critics of theonomy (here we refer to the second and third definitions of theonomy as discussed in part 1) have not been able to refute it, some resort to guilt by association attacks, saying, “see all those theonomists within Federal Vision (FV) circles! This proves theonomy promotes salvation by works!”

But linking theonomy with the FV heresy is fallacious for several reasons:

1. As we mentioned, it is a guilt-by-association argument, and such arguments are logical fallacies.

2. There will be heresies within the circles of even the most legitimate theologies. The Apostle Paul warned, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29, 30)

Paul, in short, warns that wolves would come in among the legitimate flock itself. And so the problem would not be with the legitimate flock’s doctrine of salvation, which was salvation through faith alone, but the wolves’ false doctrine of salvation (e.g., salvation by works).

If consistent, those who resort to guilt by association attacks against theonomists would also accuse Paul of promoting heresy, since wolves would emerge within the very church he taught.  But the problem was not with Paul's doctrine, but simply with the wolves themselves.  Similarly, the problem is not theonomy, but the fact that the FV advocates are wolves.

3. There are several heresies within non-theonomic circles: the seeker sensitive movement, Arminianism, “carnal Christianity,” baptismal regeneration, the word of faith movement, and the emergent church, just to name a few.

So if one is going to say that theonomy promotes salvation by works for no other considerations than that the Federal Vision heresy is in theonomic circles, then logical consistency demands that not holding to theonomy leads to the aforementioned heresies.

4. The Federal Vision is rampant in non-theonomic circles as well. In light of this, the argument can be reversed against theonomic critics, this time to say that not holding to theonomy leads to the Federal Vision heresy.

5. The Pharisees, in holding to salvation by works, were the Federal Visionists of their day, and no one would argue that the Old Testament (O.T.) laws that theonomists hold to today weren’t legitimate during the days of the Pharisees, prior to the New Covenant era.

And so since the perversion of O.T. law (to teach salvation by works) prior to the New Covenant era didn’t invalidate the legitimacy of O.T. law then, then there is no reason to assume the perversion of O.T. law today (such as by FV theology) necessarily invalidates the legitimacy of certain O.T. laws today.

6. The Protestant Reformation sprang up within Roman Catholic circles. Does that then mean that the heretical Roman Catholic theology naturally lead to orthodox Protestantism?

Of course not. And neither can we say that the theonomic movement that holds to an orthodox view of salvation leads to the heretical FV movement. Orthodoxy doesn’t lead to heresy, and heresy doesn’t lead to orthodoxy; a positive does not lead to a negative, and a negative does not lead to a positive.

7. The ordinance of water baptism has been perverted throughout church history to teach the soul-damning heresy of baptismal regeneration/remission. Does this then invalidate water baptism? Of course not.

8. It is wicked to blame sin, such as the Federal Vision heresy, on God’s commands. Adam blamed the ordinance of marriage on his sin; we can’t blame legitimate laws of God (such as upheld by theonomists, not to say that theonomists get all laws right) for man’s perversions of them.

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