There is a religio/political movement in America that is becoming prominent within the
Evangelical community. It is known as “Theonomy”, crafted to soften the severity of the more-
critical term, “Theocracy”, the belief that people should live under the governance and law of God.
Theonomy breaks with Divine governance but expresses the belief that modern people, although
living under human governance, should be forced to be obedient to the law of God. Thus, a
nation’s laws must be changed to reflect select biblical moral precepts.
Despite the splitting of hairs, the terms are essentially identical. They both support a biblical
basis for governance. Theonomy surfaces as populist legalism, enforcement of changes in
behavior outside the regenerative work of Christ. It is the breeding ground for Christian
The Apostle Paul deals with this in 1 Cor 10. He speaks of ancient Israel as a people “under the
same cloud; all baptized into Moses; all eating of the same spiritual food; drinking the same
spiritual drink, yet, with most of them, God was not pleased, and they were laid low in the
wilderness. (vv. 1-5). That doesn’t speak well for Theonomy, does it?
Christians on the Broad Way:
We might wonder, from the record of the history of ancient Israel, how a culture embedded in
idolatry to the ethic of prosperity and success, as was Israel and now is America, could escape
the wrath of God. As we Christians compete in novel schemes to increase numbers of followers
as evidence of God’s blessing on a faithful people, following Jesus demands exactly the opposite
– the death of self. That is the “narrow way”. The “broad (populist) way” is a losing proposition.
Legalism functions outside the transformative message from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt
5-7). Legalism leaves little room for loving your neighbor, especially when that neighbor is your
enemy, is caught up in a lifestyle contrary to your preferences, and/or has no interest in the
things of God.
Paul helps us out here in 1 Cor 10. He states that all things are lawful but not expedient (v. 23). I
looked up the word “expedient” and found it to be interesting: “Based on or offering what is of
use or advantage rather than what is right or just; guided by self-interest; politics.” He suggests
that there is a higher standard for our relationships with our neighbor than the written law.
God’s standard is that we are to modulate our behavior on the basis of its effect on our
relationship with Him and with other people. Abandoning our short-term political agendas
Standing Up for Love:
The Church has to stand up for love alone, and it begins in the household of faith! That’s the
goal; that’s the end game! When we stand up for love, we demonstrate by our actions that we are
not living by expediency but are living by hope in the grace of God in awareness of our own sin.
The world that the Theonomist is trying to change to his political benefit is lost in the natural
state of expediency. The test of our standing with God is whether we can love the guy who just
can’t seem to keep our favored rules. We who are in Christ Jesus have been freed from
righteousness through the rules. Grace has left us with an infinitely higher standard but free of