Justification by Law
Theonomy on Steroids
A Theonomic Rebuttal to J.D. Hall

On a recent podcast, J.D. Hall criticized R.J. Rushdoony's slogan, “Justification is by grace through faith; sanctification is by law.” Hall accused Rushdoony of being a "Judaizer," and guilty of "the Galatian heresy." I wonder which is worse, being a "Judaizer" or calling down God's "Anathema" on a Godly Christian man like Rushdoony.

The slogan is admittedly somewhat misleading, for it could be taken to suggest that law plays no role in justification and grace no role in sanctification — a plainly unbiblical idea.

So let's clarify.

It is only through the gracious, undeserved power of the Holy Sprit that anyone can be sanctified. Rushdoony certainly teaches this.

The point of Rushdoony's slogan is that God's Law is the pattern for our sanctification. The more obedient to God's Law one is, the more one is "sanctified." The less obedient to God's Law, the less sanctified. God's Law is the measure of our progress.

Despite the dangers of offering another potentially misleading slogan, I would like to offer a new slogan:

"Justification is by Law"

Now, having stated the slogan, let's see if I can make it beneficially edifying, by writing an explanatory essay.

Consider the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

I'm going to take some Q&A's from the Catechism and give them a decidedly "Theonomic" slant. If you're against Theonomy, please tell me how my editing is not faithful to the Catechism or to the Scriptures.

Let's start with a definition of "sin."

Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

Here are the Catechism's prooftexts:

  • Leviticus 5:17. And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.
  • James 4:17. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. 
  • 1 John 3:4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

"Sin is the transgression of the law."
Sin is a transgression of God's Law ("Theonomy" = "God's Law")
Sin is a transgression of even the smallest jot or tittle of God's Law (Matthew 5:17-20).

The opposite of "sin" is "righteousness."
The opposite of "sinful" is "righteous."
The "righteous" man is the one who is obedient to God's Law.

Are we together so far?

Now, let's define "justification." (For best results, get a copy of your Catechism at your side (or in another window) and see which words I have altered.)

Q. 33. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our [violations of every jot and tittle of God's Law] and accepteth us as [completely obedient to every jot and tittle of His Law] in His sight, only for the [complete and perfect Theonomic obedience] of Christ [to every jot and tittle of God's Law] imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

"Received by faith alone" can be misleading. Nobody has the perfect Theonomic obedience of Christ imputed to their account unless they "repent." Here's proof of that:

Q. 85. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse, due to us for sin?
A. To escape the wrath and curse of God, due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.

Suppose Jones says, "I refuse to renounce my sin and make a commitment to obey God's commands, but I demand that God impute the perfect law-abiding righteousness of Christ to my account." Is this "saving faith?" Will such a scoundrel enjoy the benefits of imputation?

Let's explore the concept of "repentance" a little more -- with a dash of Theonomy thrown in.

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby [anyone who has not obeyed every jot and tittle of God's Law], out of a true sense of his [failure to obey every jot and tittle of God's Law], and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his [non-Theonomic rebellion], turn from [non-Theonomy] unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new [Theonomic] obedience [to every jot and tittle of God's Law].

Please tell me if those additions are theologically errant. You can leave your comment on Facebook.

A Theonomist hates non-Theonomic words, thoughts, and deeds.

Therefore I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right;
and I hate every false way
 Psalm 119:128

Through Thy precepts I get understanding:
therefore I hate every false way.
Psalm 119:104

This is the mark of the man who repents. He loves God's Law. He hates lawlessness.

A person who rejects God's Law does not feel a need to be pardoned for violating God's Law ["sin"]. He feels no "grief and hatred" of his sin against God's Law, and does not want to turn from his "liberty" or "freedom" or "autonomy" and become the Theonomic bond-servant of Christ. He does not want God's justification. He has his own. He feels no need to have Christ's perfect Theonomic obedience imputed to him.

Why would God impute the perfect Theonomic obedience of His Son to such an unrepentant person? He does not want to commit 100% to a "full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience" to every jot and tittle of God's Law. Nobody likes that "obedience" stuff anymore.

Except the Theonomist.

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
Psalm 119:97

Therefore, justification is by Law
Justification is by becoming a Theonomist.

My favorite formulation of this concept is "Justification by Allegiance."