Category Archives: Family

The Incorrigible Son and the Implications for our Modern Era, Introduction

As a theonomist/theocrat, nothing is more critical than establishing a Biblical view of ethics. Throughout the Reformation, sermons were preached in Geneva 1 and in other parts of Europe attempting to establish an ethical system that would faithfully represent all of the Bible. In early American history, the Puritans developed a Biblical view of law and applied it to the society they built. If we are to believe that all Scripture is profitable 2 then we are not to deny the richness of ethical case laws in the Older Covenant. It is not my purpose in the days to follow to make an exegetical and theological case for the permanent validity of Biblical Law for modern society, since many in my tradition have already done so, 3rather I want to focus particularly on one case law found in Deuteronomy 21. This case law refers to the incorrigible Son. Here is the text in the English Standard Version: 18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Many evangelicals in both Reformed and non-Reformed camps have assumed that God’s holy and righteous laws bear no significance to our contemporary society. To borrow the words of an evangelical ethicist, “the law of God is irrelevant today.” This attitude enters even into those who are committed to a Reformed approach to life. But if the law of God is irrelevant, then how shall we then live (to quote Schaeffer)? Shall we borrow the ethics of the Book of Mormons or Muslims? Shall we as Christians seek refuge in the nebulous natural law of the philosophers? Or should we as Christians rely on the Scriptures for our guide; as our rule book for faith and practice? I will presuppose that the readers in this series will  assume the latter option, for if you deny the centrality of Scriptures in the ethical dimensions of life, then this article will make no sense.

I am well aware that this short article may cause some to feel uncomfortable with the Bible and perhaps even embarrassed in how the Bible treats certain case laws. Nevertheless, I will presuppose that the Bible contains the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is often in the ugly that we learn how to produce the good.

Most opponents of theonomy have used the case law concerning the incorrigible son to mockingly say: “See, how absurd this law is! Therefore, the law of God in its totality cannot be applied.” This attitude is not valid. After all, we worship a God who killed His own Son. 4 Does this sound reasonable to the modern ear? But if we fear Jesus’ words that every jot and tittle of the law is to be taught and applied, then these laws take on greater significance.

For those who are theonomic and do not agree with my conclusions on this short piece, I ask that you at least read through this series. The esteemed John Murray, who I consider a moderate theonomist, did not believe in the application of this case law to modern society. 5 For those who are of a Reformed persuasion, but yet deny the applicability of the case laws, I ask that you at least consider my arguments. Many times, this passage has been poorly treated and given only a quick glance. However, my contention is that a proper study of this passage will enhance our view of the law and see its rightful place in our society.

Theonomy means God’s Law. I believe in it; and because of this conviction, I am led to deal with the most troubling passages and give it the attention it deserves. This paper is a weak, but honest attempt to deal with a difficult and sometimes horrifying text to the modern reader.

This series is based on a paper I wrote for a class on Ethics at Reformed Seminary/Orlando where theonomy is generally despised. I have divided it into four sections because it will give you the opportunity to interact with me bit by bit. When the series is over, please feel free to e-mail me and ask for a copy of the article in word format. As always be attentive to the footnotes. It is there where I place personal notes and helpful reflections and sources for further study. As Gary North has once said, “you gotta footnote them to death!” I always do my best.
Note: Tomorrow I will post the first section of this paper.


  1. Calvin preached over 200 sermons on Deuteronomy [↩ back]
  2. II Timothy 3:16 [↩ back]
  3. Greg Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics is one of the most comprehensive treatment on the Law of God in the 20th century; also R.J. Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law. Both of these books make up almost 2,000 pages [↩ back]
  4. Acts 4:27-31 [↩ back]
  5. See Principles of Biblical Conduct by John Murray [↩ back]



    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: Analysis and Application Part XIII, Lewis and Charity

    Lewis’ discussion on charity is captivating and simple. It is in essence the summary of the law. Love is that great attribute of God that spurs us to love others and to obey God. This point is worth stressing. Love is never meant to be set in contrast to obedience. Love as John Murray once wrote is “feeling that impels to action… if it does not impel to the fulfillment of the law, it is not the love of which the Scriptures her speak.”[1]If ever charity leads to disobedience, then it has betrayed its Biblical purpose.

    Love impels to action, but to be overly introspective about whether we love is unnecessary. Since all our thoughts and actions will be in some way marred with our corrupt natures, the remedy to love is to love. As Lewis writes:

    Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbour, act as if you did.[2]

    This is similar to the gospel account of the father who asked two sons to accomplish a certain task. One said he would, but did not. The other said he would not, but he did. Who in the end fulfilled the command to love? The one who did. Whether his initial response was erroneous, that is beside the point. The actual proof of love is that he did do it.

    When husbands wonder if they love their wives properly and yet do nothing about, they are being foolish. Instead of thinking, do some lovely thing, buy some flowers, take her to a nice restaurant, and spend time with her. If we men consider all the time we spend thinking about how to love, we have wasted royal time.

    Some will choose to hate (whether out of their depraved nature or satanic influence) and will never taste of how great it is to love. According to Lewis this is a deadly cycle:

    The more cruel you are the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become—and so on in a vicious circle for ever.[3]

    According to Titus, hate is descriptive of our former nature[4] and should not resemble our Spirit-led lives. If indeed hate resides within us, we are to seek deep repentance.


    [1] John Murray, Principles of Conduct, pg. 22.

    [2] Mere Christianity, pg. 116.

    [3] Lewis, 117.

    [4] Titus 3:3.

    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: Analysis and Application Part X, Lewis on the Role in the Home


    Feminism is defined as the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. Those of us in the 21st century are inheritors of the 1960’s. The despicable state of the family is in large part due to that despicable stage in American History. Sex, drugs and Rock n’ Roll and “human rights” formed the goals of that agenda. But beyond the vast array of feminist literature, nothing has proven more successful than those who have written concerning equality. 

    When feminism and their agenda is in the secular realm, it is possible to give a proper Biblical response to their pagan non-sense, but when that movement begins to masquerade itself in Christian clothing, the church is in peril. The untouchable idea of the patriarchal society has now been transformed into a matriarchal home. We are all aware of the abuses of the early church in respect to the women and their roles, nevertheless, what has happened has not been an attempt to fix those wrongs but a complete transformation of the social and Biblical order. Wives submit to your husbands has become husbands and wives, you are both spiritual leaders in the home and God has not placed any of you above the other. The Pauline logic has been altered to fit into preconceived ideas that have slowly and subtly injected itself into the church of Jesus Christ. According to C.S. Lewis, in every marriage there must be a head. Lewis writes:

    If marriage is permanent, one or other party must, in the last resort, have the power of deciding the family policy. You cannot have a permanent association without a constitution.[1]

    Decisions of course have to be weighed in the process of conversation and discussion, but if one is not above the other in these matters, then who determines what?  Lewis argues that the man is the natural head of the home because women will not want to assume certain responsibilities. The reason the husband is the head is because he is to protect the family, spiritually guide the family, and resemble that cosmic relationship between Christ and His bride. 

    God created them male and female in his image. There was no degree of difference when it related to their image before God.[2] But the man is created first so that he may lead his seed into glory and the woman as help-meet is to ensure that man fulfills his duties.[3]

    [1] Mere Christianity, pg.102.

    [2] The Imago Dei.

    [3] The woman at the same time has immense responsibilities while ensuring this familial success.

    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: Analysis and Application Part IX


    The Greeks divided the idea of love into “eros,” fileo,” and “Agape.”[1] The concept of “eros” is not found in the Bible though, fileo and agape are. These latter two terms tend to be used for brotherly love and a divine love. It is usually common to make a sharp distinction between these two terms, but in reality the Greek New Testaments seems to use them interchangeably.  The idea of love has been a pervasive concept in poetry and philosophy alike. As a result it has tended to be misused in certain contexts.

    For Lewis, the idea of love was an insufficient reason for the maintaining of marriage. He writes:

    The idea that “being in love” is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all. If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.[2]

    Professor of Ethics, Dr. Mark Ross, illustrates that if marriage does not resemble the sacrificial love of Christ for His bride, then every reason given for sustaining a relationship is futile. According to C.S. Lewis, the idea of “love” should never encapsulate our entire marriage relationship. There is also an element of a promise or a vow, by which both partners can look upon with security knowing that this is meant to last a lifetime. Our modern commitment to marriage is a horrific demonstration of how Christian virtues can be influenced by secularism and romanticism– both fatal philosophies.

    [1] Some add a fourth word storge. It refers to natural affection in Modern Greek.

    [2] Mere Christianity, pg. 98.

    Christianity Today on Children

    Leslie fields has written a marvelous piece in defense of large families though she admits: ” I am not a proselytizer for large families…” I am not so sure how that is possible, nevertheless this is a fantastic article. Here are a few sample quotes:

    When large families make it to the movies and television screen, in shows like Yours, Mine, and Ours, Cheaper by the Dozen, and the Brady Bunch, children fare better. But comedy, it seems, is all that can be expected of a pack of kids. Chaos generally rules, with Disneyesque household destruction following in the wake of an errant animal or child, a riotous bedlam that miraculously concludes with everybody fed and dressed and out of the door each day looking nearly normal.

    What happens in larger families? Children are more tolerant. They learn that they are part of a whole much larger than themselves and that the common good usually takes precedence over their particular desires.

    So why do we have children at all? So much is against the whole enterprise. Children cost too much hmoney. They cost too much of ourselves. Children undo us. They show us how much and how little we’re made of. They come, it often seems, only to break our hearts. And we let them. We invite it all. We admit perfect strangers through our doors and decide before we even know who they are to love them wildly, without condition, for as long as we live.

    Intelligent Design in Public Schools?

    The media has been replete with news on the Intelligent Design debate. This time however, the issues have taken a more serious nature. Intelligent Design advocates believe they can make a strong enough case for allowing certain features of design to be taught in Public Schools alongside the untouchable theory of evolution. Though I have much sympathy for the Intelligent Design Movement, I have maintained for the last three years that to attempt to implement a theistic world view into a system that is overwhelmingly pagan is an exercise in futility. Though not a popular view, my proposal as well as a growing consensus of evangelicals and confessional Christians (Presbyterians) is that children are entitled to a thoroughly Christian education.

    The Chalcedon Foundation has recently published a small but telling approach to the Intelligent Design Controversy. I wholeheartedly support their commitment on this area. Here is the section from their discussion.

    For Chalcedon, Intelligent Design (ID) is moot because we believe a Christian child should not participate in the humanistic institution of public education. Parents and churches must work together to raise godly children that can discount the theory of evolution as scientifically and philosophically untenable.

    My prayer is that Christian parents will respond to the Dover case as a further confirmation that their child’s education is their responsibility, not that of the state. Groups like the Discovery Institute could be of great benefit to Christian parents by creating resources to be used by homeschoolers and Christian academies. Let the Christian community work to create alternatives.

    The future prosperity of the Kingdom of God is not contingent upon public schools teaching ID. After all, were Judge Jones to rule in favor of ID would Christian families begin sending their children BACK to public schools?

    The Christian world view is a system and must be taught as such. Prayer in school to the god of your choice, or science classes that grant equal time for ID as well as evolution, are not solutions. In fact, they are hindrances. Uninformed Christian parents may leave their children in the public school system simply because of 60 seconds of silent prayer to the “marvelous upstairs person.”

    They will not be taught that the Triune God created the world by His powerful Word in the space of six days and declared all, very good. They will not be instructed in the application of God’s law to every area of life and thought. Even worse, they will grasp the ungodly concept of neutrality — that 2+2=4 even if God doesn’t exist.

    They will lose sight of the centrality of the church and the family; and will likely send their future children to the same godless institution. Education is the responsibility of parents. And parents do not control the public school system. The state controls education; and in doing so, they control the future. Let’s take that power back. Let’s use what’s left of our liberties and resign from this system. Millions of Christians have already done so. Millions more should. Choose ye this day whom you will serve, God or the state?

    Questions for Heads of Household

    As I have noted before, covenant headship (or federal headship) defines the glory of the family. A lost head causes a dismembered and chaotic body. The same is applied to the covenant family. Redeemer Presbyterian has a challenging set of questions for the head of the household that has and continues to challenge me. Gentleman, true covenant succession begins by faithful headship. Take a deep breath and be ready to be challenged.

    Would the people who know me best say that I am a “slave of righteousness” (Rom 6:18)? That I seek God’s kingdom and righteousness (Matt 6:33) and am zealous for the good works He has redeemed me to do (Titus 2:14)? Am I more aware of my sin and God’s grace in Christ both for forgiveness and walking in obedience? Am I growing in my passion and love for God? (Deut. 6:4; Matt 22:37-38) Are there things in my life (use of time, money, etc) that are inconsistent with such a passion and love? Continue…

    Economic Chaos?

    by Dan Denning

    Contrary to what you see in the press, though, the average Frenchman or woman is not that different from you, except, perhaps, at the dinner table. The French take their food seriously. A cup of coffee or a three hour dinner is not just about the quality of the food or the wine. Eating is a social experience in France. What’s more, serving food is a serious profession for which men and women go to school in France
    Click to continue

    The Constitution Party on the Family

    Strong families are the essential building blocks of a strong, moral and just community. But America’s families today are under constant attack by federally funded programs that are dangerous and unconstitutional. Government schools are drugging and “dumbing-down” our children making them dependent and compliant.

    The Constitution Party encourages faithful fathers and mothers to train their children to love God and serve others according to their own conscience and without the interference of unConstitutional federal programs

    A Brief Response to a friend concerning Christian Liberty and Evangelism

    You wrote:

    You did not respond to my conjecture that you are referring merely to the abuse of something as an excuse for avoiding it. If someone was falsely assured, it is the preacher who is in condemnation as a teacher (James 3:1).

    First, you have now and before misquoted the statement. It goes as follows: “The abuse of something is not an argument against its proper use.” By the way, I am not the originator of that quote. It was written by someone (perhaps Luther) who certainly understood the extremes taken by some in order to avoid certain freedoms that we have in Christ.
    Let me give you an example as to how that quote plays well with certain situations. One clear example is the often pulpit cry that drinking is associated with pagans therefore, as Christians we should not drink. This concept was also coincidentally an essential message of Charles Finney and other revivalists of the early 19th century. In this case, I plug in that quote immediately and say that since the Scriptures many times endorses or even demands the people of God to drink, then for the sake of Scriptures, drink (Psalm 104:15; Ecclesiastes 9:7). The abuse of some is not an argument against its proper use. In the case you used, I suggest that the quote cannot be used in that context. It contradicts its purpose. In other words, the abuse of something that is found in the Scriptures is not an argument against its proper use. However, I do not believe whether it be the invitational system, raising hands, walking down the aisle, or any of these Finneistic novelties in American evangelicalism are Scriptural, but rather are used to lead many to a false profession of faith and furthermore to guilt-bound “christianity.”

    You went on to say:

    Oh yeah, and my Dad was saved in an ice cream shop by a man who used the simple gospel via the four spiritual laws. Even though I have a pastor at my local body, he has been my pastor for almost 23 years. Indeed the four spiritual laws are the Truth and the gospel is simple, but it’s not merely an action one can claim to have taken, and we agree.

    To this I would simply reply that I am not in any position to judge anyone’s conversion experience. The Four Spiritual Laws from my perspective do not contain an accurate representation of the gospel (though I am convinced it has been used for good, after all there are Scriptural quotations in them). It misleads the Christian to think wrongly of the concept of the Lordship of Christ by confusing categories of Christian experience (the false idea of “carnal Christianity is one o them). Thus, my contention is that this approach completely distorts Paul’s meaning in I Corinthians 3.

    Finally, just a few corrections in order to help further dialogue. You mentioned a few strongly Reformed categories and distinctive such as Family Worship and Home Education. I deeply admire your parents for a strong emphasis on family and education. As I have come to know you and your family, it is evident that all of you have a strong passion for our Lord. However, family and education devoid of Reformed confessions and a strongly covenantal view of family denies the Reformed faith. As you may know Mennonites, the Amish, and others, also have a strong view of courting, family and so on; but yet they clearly deny the Reformed perspective on God’s sovereignty and Covenant Theology.
    I hope this helps our future interaction…
    Your brother in Christ.