Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Westminster Confession and Judicial Law: The Anti-Theonomic Misrepresentations of Matthew Winzer: Part 4 (By Vindiciæ Legis)

Critique of the Section Entitled Expiry of the judicial laws in Matthew Winzer’s article: “The Westminster Assembly & the Judicial Law: A Chronological Compilation and Analysis.” Part Two: Analysis, Appearing in The Confessional Presbyterian, volume 5 (2009), 67-70. 

Daniel Featley, Westminster divine and
theonomist: "there will be use of an arming
sword, not of War, but of Justice, to cut off
Superstition and Idolatry on the one side,
and Prophanenesse and Sacriledge on
the other: Heretiques with one edge, and
Schismatiques with the other." Daniel
Featley, The Dippers Dipt (London: Printed
for N. B. and Richard Royston, 1645) A 3.
Finally, we will deal briefly with some quotations that Winzer asserts confirm his “hermeneutic of radical discontinuity.”[1] We can perhaps be forgiven for pointing out that such a term sounds far more like dispensationalism than covenant theology!

Westminster divines Daniel Cawdrey and Herbert Palmer, on the other hand, share exactly the same covenantal hermeneutic as Greg Bahnsen. They write:
the silence of the New Testament concerning a law, expressly and clearly delivered in the Old Testament, is a confirmation rather than an abrogation of it, or [than] an intimation that it has expired…”[2]
And Bahnsen is in complete agreement:
“our presumption must be that of continuity with the standing laws of the Old Testament…”[3]
God’s law is binding in every detail until and unless the Lawgiver reveals otherwise…”[4]
Winzer, however, cites Cawdrey and Palmer to support “radical discontinuity.” His citations are to the effect that an “expired law” [Winzer’s words] is “now out of date,” “manifestly ceased,” and “at an end in respect of obligation.”[5] It is certainly an odd kind of logic that regards tautology as proof!

Thanks to the truly excellent work done by Chris Coldwell in Part I of this article, a few more quotations from Palmer and Cawdrey are appended which tell a completely different story than that attempted by Winzer in Part II―one that is completely consistent with modern Theonomy.

Winzer next cites Anthony Burgess: “And thus for the Judicial Laws because they were given to them as a politick body, that polity ceasing which was the principal, the accessory falls with it.”[6] As explained above, Winzer must show which of Edward’s two senses Burgess is using for the judicial law. Burgess and modern Theonomists are in full agreement if, as one might reasonably expect, he is using it in the first sense. [7]

Rutherford is quoted as saying, “we conceive, the whole bulk of the judicial Law, as judicial, and as it concerned the Republic of the Jews only, is abolished.”[8] Rutherford makes it abundantly clear in the third and fourth clauses of the quotation itself, which of Edwards’ senses he is using for the judicial law. And from the context, his examples are, “the debarring of the leper seven days,” “the boring with an Aule the ear of him that loved his master,” “the man that gathered sticks on the Sabbath”―we saw earlier that Rutherford believed the death penalty to be ceremonial in this case―and “he that would marry a captive woman of another religion.”

Lastly in his evidence of “radical discontinuity,” Winzer quotes Assembly member Daniel Featley, “The ceremonial and the judicial are not now in force; but the moral is.”[9] The same problem arises, we ask in what sense is Featley using the word judicial?

Later in this section of his article, Winzer offers the “further criticism” that the proof texts, Matt. 5: 17 and 1 Cor. 9: 9, 10,[10] for WCF 19.4 are used by Bahnsen in a way that “contradicts” its “fundamental assertion” of “the obliging nature of the general equity in the judicial laws.” Bahnsen is faulted for using the proof texts “to teach that the judicial laws themselves are still authoritative and binding.”[11]

Not only does Winzer overreach by alleging a contradiction when it is obvious that none exists, but he also misstates and misconstrues the teaching of WCF 19.l4. The WCF affirms the obliging nature of the general equity of the judicial law, not “the general equity in the judicial laws.” As Bahnsen rightly says, these are “logically distinct and philosophically different” notions.[12]

In the logic of the divines the substance and equity of the judicial law were inseparably bound up with each other. Non-essential details were called “accessories, accidentals and circumstantials,”[13] etc. Only these, such as stoning instead of other forms of capital punishment, or strictly Jewish elements, were no longer binding.

Edwards has an interesting passage which sheds a very different light on the likely intent of 1 Cor. 9: 9, 10 as a proof text for WCF 19.4:
Weems in his Christian Synagogue… showes, in which cases when the spiritual is fulfilled eminently, the literal is not abolished… I might give many instances, but shall onely name one… Deut. 25. 4. Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the Oxe which treadeth out the Corne. Now though the spiritual sense… be the not muzling the mouth of Ministers who labour in the Gospel 1 Cor. 9. 9. yet the litteral sense holds stil that a man should forbeare to muzzle the mouth of the Oxe which treadeth out the Corne, or at least tis not unlawful to forbeare.”[14]
To Edwards, as to the Scottish divine John Weems[15] before him, the spiritual use of the judicial law in the N.T. was no sign that the literal sense was abolished.

In his sampling of divines, Winzer has misstated the view of John Ley on Matt. 5: 17. His comments about Gillespie are thoroughly misleading and he withholds key information about the context of Rutherford’s allusion to Matt. 5: 18. He also fails to demonstrate that Rutherford, Ley, Lightfoot or Burgess, etc., taught anything more than the expiry or abrogation of those aspects of judicial law which, by their very nature, pertained exclusively to Israel. All modern Theonomists believe in that kind of expiry.

Thomas Edwards, on the other hand, was of the opposite opinion to Winzer about the position of the Westminster divines. He should have known because he was there, in London, at the time.

(posts in this series: part 1part 2,  part 3, part 4)

Read entire series in PDF 

See also the series Theonomy, the Westminster Confession and Antinomianism: The Fallacies of Matthew Winzer (by Vindiciae Legis) (part 1part 2) 

[1] Confessional Presbyterian, 5: 68.
[2] Ibid., 5:29
[3] Greg Bahnsen, By this Standard, The Authority of God’s Law Today (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), 6.
[4] Ibid., 270.
[5] Confessional Presbyterian, 5: 13, 29.
[6] Ibid., 5: 43.
[7] Are we really to expect that Burgess was diametrically opposed to Ames, Gillespie, Cawdrey, Palmer, Edwards and other divines on such an important issue?
[8] Ibid., 5: 36.
[9] Ibid., 5: 25.
[10] The WCF proof text in question is actually 1 Cor. 8, 9, 10.
[11] Confessional Presbyterian, 5: 69, 70.
[12] See Greg Bahnsen, “The Westminster Assembly and the Equity of the Judicial Law.”  Penpoint Vol. IV:7, Oct. 1993. [25 Oct. 2010]. Bahnsen takes Sinclair Ferguson to task for making the same error. Winzer appears to be recycling this and other errors made by Ferguson. [Disclaimer: Regrettably, Covenant Media today promotes Federal Vision, a heresy Bahnsen himself would have rejected.]
[13] Edwards, 82.
[14] Edwards, 170, 171.
[15] Also Weemse, Weemes or Wemyss. 

More Quotes from Daniel Cawdrey and Herbert Palmer
(All are taken from The Confessional Presbyterian, Vol. 5, 2009)

That whatsoever law of GOD, or Command of His, we find recorded in the Lawbook, in either of the Volumes of GOD’s Statute, the N.T. or the Old, Remains obligatory to us, unless we can prove it to be expired or repealed.” (Herbert Palmer, 13)

Every Law of God (though Positive) recorded in the Scripture is Moral and Perpetual, unless it be afterward found Repealed by God, or Expired in the Nature of it.” (Cawdrey and Palmer, 28)

“And so we suppose we may, upon just reason infer, that the silence of the New Testament concerning a law, expressly and clearly delivered in the Old Testament, is a confirmation rather than an abrogation of it, or [than] an intimation that it has expired… we must needs hold, that all the Laws of the Old Testament are perpetuated to this day, if be nothing against them in the New Testament by way of repealing them: or at least in reason, which might plead for an expiration. And if anyone think, that by this assertion, sundry of the laws which are usually counted judaical will prove to be in force still; we answer, that perhaps it may prove so indeed.” (Cawdrey and Palmer, 29)

“Every Law of God, though but Positive, which is Substantially-profitable for all men in all Ages to be obliged unto is Moral, that is Universal and Perpetual, unless a clear repeal of it can be showed in Scripture.” (Cawdrey and Palmer, 29)

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