Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Charles Hodge's Theonomic Hermenuetic

by Daniel F. N. Ritchie

Although much in Charles Hodge's exposition of the Decalogue is inconsistent with Theonomic ethics (i.e. his view of the penal sanctions reflects post-enlightenment assumptions), nevertheless, when arguing in favour of the Mosaic Law's prohibition on incest, the beautiful inconsistency of this great divine may be seen in full-bloom. 

While some of us may be familiar with the argument that modern Theonomy's insistence that a law must be repealed before it can no longer be of binding force is a departure from earlier Reformed hermenuetical principles, we find that Dr Hodge uses the same methodological approach as contemporary Theonomists: 

'5. The continued obligation of the Levitical law on this subject [incest] is also recognized in the New Testament. This recognition is involved in the constant reference to the law of Moses as the law of God. If in any of its parts or specifications it is no long obligatory, that is to be proved. It contains much which we learn from the New Testament was designed simply to keep the Hebrews a distinct people; much which was typical; much which was a shadow of things to come, and which passed away when the substance was revealed. It contained, however, much which was moral and of perpetual obligation. If God gives a law to men, those who deny its perpetual obligation are bound to prove it. The presumption is that it continues in force until the contrary is proved. It must be hard to prove that laws founded on the permanent social relations of men are intended to be temporary.' 
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (repr. London, 1960), iii, 411-12.    

This piece was originally posted on the Confessional Puritan Board     

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