The Essence of Theonomy

Theonomy boils down to this statement, made by an old friend:

If Christ is God, and if Christ is Lord, then His Lordship extends to all areas of inquiry: metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. And so, the assumption, if one affirms ethical absolutes, is necessarily one of “theonomy” broadly construed in opposition to autonomy, as Cornelius Van Til indicated. Therefore, the question is whether one is a “consistent” theonomist or an “inconsistent” theonomist.

…one better presuppose a theonomic ethic (in a broad sense not necessarily ala Bahnsen), or otherwise, one is left without ethics, and therefore, without Lordship. The details of a theonomic ethic need to be determined through careful exegesis. But, what we cannot do is say that God has no claim on how we are to live – whether privately or publicly; he does have a claim, and that claim is a theonomic (God’s law) claim.

And, given Romans 13 and other passages, the notion of justice is never abstracted from God and His character, even if public justice is in view. Consequently, public justice exhibits a theonomic dimension.

Observations while walking


I’ve been walking every day for about three months now. This has given me a wealth of insight into how my neck of the woods functions which I was not aware of when I was more housebound. Here are some of my observations:

* This is a “duh” observation, but being outside and seeing the world in ways that exceed walking to and from a big-box store, a restaurant, or your workplace, gives you a completely different feeling about reality. I’m sure that if I hiked or camped or hunted, this would go up another few orders of magnitude, but since I am an avid indoorsman, that won’t be happening. This is probably as much nature as I’m going to willingly experience. With that said, my subdivision is basically a big forest with lakes and creeks in the middle of it, and I see deer, turtles, vultures and other things as I walk, so this isn’t a heavily suburbanized area.

* Kids don’t play outside much, if at all in 2009. While I don’t want to overplay the “back when I was a kid” angle on things, I think that kids did play out way more back then, and that this number has been progressively declining since the advent of game systems. When I was a kid, I think that my brothers had played outside way more than I did a decade earlier when they lived in the city and did lots of stuff. I grew up in the burbs and was hardly playing outside all the time, BUT, I do remember playing variations of “go fish” with the neighborhood kids, riding bikes, exploring around my subdivision, and so on. When I walk, I almost never see kids of any age on the streets, running around, or anywhere. I don’t walk past our pool, and I know kids go there more than anything, but still, there doesn’t seem to be any version of neighborhood football, baseball or anything going on.

Additionally, lots of folks have big playground-type equipment in their own back yards. These include swings, slides, and that stuff. I have never once seen a single kid on these units. Of course, I’m only walking once a day, often at night, so maybe my timing is just off. But I find it hard to believe that kids are playing on these things all the time and I’m always missing it. I think that kids just can’t be bothered with this stuff and that parents buy it for nothing. The parents think it will be great and it ends up being a gathering place for wasps nests.

On a couple occasions I have seen some teens walking from one place to another, but that’s about it. I guess most little kids play inside, watch TV, play video games, or maybe play in their driveway. I don’t see the old neighborhood pack of kids around.

* I rarely see adults outside either. In most cases when I do see adults, they are working on their yard, working on a car, or messing around in the garage. I have seen some poker games going on in garages, some birthday party crowds, and an occasional porch-sitter, but overwhelmingly people are inside.

It is sometimes eerie how desolate it seems out there. I am walking by homes with people in them, but you almost wouldn’t know it. The streets are deserted, all I hear are bugs and birds, and it’s lonely in the middle of a bunch of houses. A contributing factor is that all the homes are built far back from the street and there are no sidewalks, so there is no sense of community, rather it is isolated homes that have trees between them. It is the quintessentially American idea of “leave me alone” that wants as much land as possible and as much distance from neighbors as possible. And since I know a bit about my neighbors, I can’t say that I disagree in reality with this approach, though it feels wrong.

Acorn

Two years ago, (2007) there were more acorns then I have ever seen on the ground. It was a bombardment from the oaks around us. Last year, no acorns, or next to no acorns, fell. This was a strange juxtaposition. The forest seemed to be preparing for the lean year by the overabundant year. This was not simply a local phenomenon either; I read that it was across the east coast in the New York Times.

I’ve started to see the early acorns falling already this year. I guess I should expect a moderate year after the past two, but who can say? I wonder what’s going on and if it is tied at all to the other weird things going on in the world, such as the honeybee die-off and the bat virus on the east coast? I’ve seen a few bees this summer, but not many. All I seem to see are hornets, wasps and bumblebees. The small honeybees just aren’t around much.

The New Dark Age

Writing in the February 2002 issue of Chronicles, Thomas Fleming says that we are already being ruled by the barbarians:

So the question is not whether American civilization will collapse but when – and what are we prepared to do about it. Until we are willing to give up the fiction that we are living in a decadent period of the Roman Empire – say, the reigns of Nero and Caligula – we can never appreciate our situation. The barbarians rule our world just as surely as they ruled Rome during the sixth century.

Up until a few years ago, I thought that Bubba might have a little fight left in him; but Bubba watches the WWF and the Playboy Channel, and his wife is on Prozac.

Critical Realism

In his book The New Testament and the People of God, N.T. Wright describes a critical-realist approach to reading and understanding texts. He outlines his theory as follows:

We (humans in general; the communities of which you and I, as readers, are part) tell ourselves certain stories about the world, and about who we are within it. Within this story-telling it makes sense, it ‘fits’, that we describe ourselves as reading texts…Within this text-reading activity it makes sense, it ‘fits’, that we find ourselves, at least sometimes and at least in principle, in contact with the mind and intention of the author. Discussing the author’s mind may or may not be an easy task; it is in principle both possible and, I suggest, desirable.

Wright continues:

What we need, then, is a theory of reading which, at the reader/text stage, will do justice both to the fact that the reader is a particular human being and to the fact that the text is an entity on its own, not a plastic substance to be moulded to the reader’s whim. It must also do justice, at the text/author stage, both to the fact that the author intended certain things, and that the text may well contain in addition other things-echoes, evocations, structures, and the like-which were not present to the author’s mind, and of course may well not be present to the reader’s mind. We need a both-and theory of reading, not an either-or one. Similarly, we need a theory which will do justice, still at the text/author stage, both to the fact that texts, including biblical texts, do not normally represent the whole of the author’s mind, even that bit to which they come closest, and to the fact that they nevertheless do normally tell us, and in principle tell us truly, quite a bit about him or her. Finally, we need to recognize, at the author/event stage, both that authors do not write without a point of view (they are humans, and look at things in particular way and from particular angles) and that they really can speak and write about events and objects…which are not reducible to terms of their own state of mind.

Americans hate ritual

Reviewing a book by Lori Branch in Touchstone magazine, Peter Leithart writes:

English Protestants attacked the ceremonies of the Catholic Church and the remnants of ceremony in Prayer Book liturgies because they thought these ceremonies lacked biblical support but also because they believed that set liturgical forms were, in themselves, inimical to religious sincerity. This had the effect of detaching believers from communal actions. Medieval Christians were participants in rituals; after the Reformation, Christians began to see themselves as detached individual selves, desperately ginning up religious passion.
For many Protestants, sacramental rites could not accurately represent or effectively communicate the grace of God. Faced with this “crisis of representation,” Christians looked inward to find a place of communion with God. Not just any experience would do, however. Sincere religious expression had to be the product of the Spirit working on the human soul. Genuine prayer arose from agony, pressed, in Bunyan’s phrasing, from the solitary soul as “blood is forced out of flesh.”

My Commute

A lot of folks have the idea that the entire East Coast is a concrete jungle. When I say that I commute for an hour, people envision cars backed up for miles and hot tempers. But mostly I drive by longhorn steer and horses. Here are some examples:

Vint HillThis is near work, where I turn onto the back roads.

IMG_0015A farm near work, the angle of the cell phone makes the fence look weird.

IMG_0016Trees.

IMG_0018The railroad stop in Catlett, a small down.

IMG_0019A house with a hedge in Catlett.

IMG_0020Fields near Catlett.

IMG_0028Farm living is the life for me.

IMG_0034A hilly road.

IMG_0035A farm near the Rappahanock.

IMG_0041The Kelly’s Ford Equestrian Center.

IMG_0044The Inn at Kelly’s Ford. Kelly’s Ford is the site of a cavalry skirmish during the War Between the States.

IMG_0048A one-lane bridge that I have to cross.