With Presbycast On Theonomy

In its narrow, strict sense theonomy is the belief in the “abiding validity” of the judicial laws of the old (Mosaic) covenant “in exhaustive detail.” It is, as W. Robert Godfrey writes, an appealing movement, which is strongly supported by their Postmillennial eschatology—the view that the gospel will gradually (or perhaps suddenly) convert a great number of people leading to a time when, e.g., the USA is predominantly Christian and there will be a golden age on the earth prior to the return of Christ. Theonomy’s appeal, Godfrey says “is its simplicity and apparently biblical character. The great complexities and frustrations of the secular, modern world lead many to look for easy solutions. But in a fallen world solutions to great political problems are not always easy. The approach of theorem is a novel one in the Reformed community and uses the Scripture in a way that is alien to Reformed Christianity.”1 Nevertheless, that fact has not prevented theonomy from becoming a sort of toll-booth through which new converts to the Reformed faith often pass as they leave evangelicalism and/or fundamentalism looking for a theology, piety, and practice with more substance. Despite the fact that one of the godfathers of the Theonomic movement, Rousas J. Rushdoony, denounced Calvin’s rejection of the “abiding validity” (Bahnsen) of the Old Testament civil or judicial laws as “heretical nonsense,” proponents of Christian Reconstruction and Theonomy often portray, particularly to the uninitiated, their movements (Christian Reconstructionism and theonomy) as traditional Reformed theology.2 Those of us who actually understand and believe the historic Reformed theology, piety, and practice as confessed by the churches are portrayed as compromised or antinomian. In Recovering the Reformed Confession I categorized theonomy as a manifestation of the Quest for Illegitimate Certainty (QIRC). Last night the Presbycast guys and I talked about the theology, piety, and practice of theonomy and how it relates to the Reformed confession of Scripture.

Here is the episode in its native environment.

Here is the HB audio archive.


1. W. Robert Godfrey, “Calvin and Theonomy,” in William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey ed. Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990). 312.

2. On Rushdoony see Michael J. McVicar, Christian Reconstruction: R. J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Press, 2015).


  1. The HB Library on Theonomy
  2. The USA is Not OT Israel (1)
  3. The USA is Not OT Israel (2)
  4. The USA is Not OT Israel (3)
  5. What Does “General Equity” Mean?
  6. The WCF on the Abrogation of the OT Judicial Laws
  7. Calvin Contra Theonomy (1536)
  8. The Theonomy of the Christian Left
  9. What Is The Federal Vision?
  10. Meet The Theonomists
  11. Federal Vision and Theonomy: Separated at Birth?

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!

Posted by R. Scott Clark | Wednesday, September 26, 2018 | Categorized in Theonomy. R. Scott Clark. Bookmark the permalink.

About R. Scott Clark

R. Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. Read more» He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.


  1. Another view of some theonomists, including James Jordan, John Barach, and Peter Leithart, that I find bazaar, is that in addition to claiming the abiding validity of the Mosaic civil law, they want to revive the sacrifices of the temple as the pattern for a liturgy of Christian worship! I have even had conversations with some FV who believe there will be a literal restoration of the temple and its animal sacrifices in the end times.

  2. Dr. Clark: Theonomy and Federal Vision being relatively recent innovations which have a certain level of kinship, what factors do you think have given rise to these unorthodox beliefs?

    • Bob,

      Hit refresh and see the resources at the end of the post. There’s an essay on theonomy & the FV.

      Why do they exist? In RRC I call them both specifies of the QIRC, the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty. It’s the desire to know more than God has given us to know, to set up an ethical system (theonomy) that gives us more certainty than God does and a system of salvation (FV) that sets up a machine whereby so long as one pulls the right levers consistently enough, one may be saved.

    • Hi Greg,
      This is encouraging. What was the cause of your beginning to question theonomy? I need a few seeds to plant.

Comments are closed.