Theonomy: What Have We Learned?

John Haverland

Extracted from Ordained Servant vol. 4, no. 2 (April 1995)

Theological controversy can bring out the best and the worst in the Church. If handled correctly, it will sharpen our understanding of the message of the Scriptures and its application to our contemporary world. The Church can emerge from a period of theological discussion and debate with a much greater clarity on the issue at hand. However, if badly handled, contention over a point of doctrine can be destructive and harmful for the Church. It can lead to unnecessary division and ill-feeling between brothers and sisters in both blood families and the family of God.


In New Zealand the debate over theonomy has seen both of the above. When the issue first arose, there was polarization and misunderstanding. But as the denomination settled down to make a thorough study of the matter the air cleared and there was a greater measure of clarity and unity.

The German philosopher Hegel spoke scathingly of our ability to learn from the past when he said, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” Unfortunately, that is too often true. Many of us are not familiar enough with the past to learn the lessons of history. We are usually so busy with the present and so concerned about the future that we don’t have the time (or should we say, we don’t make the time) to look back at what has happened.

Yet there are important lessons to be gained from a study of history. This is why I have entitled this essay: “Theonomy: What Have We Learned?” For it is my hope and prayer that as Churches we may have learned and grown through our discussion of this issue, not only about the Scriptures, but also about how to handle points of disagreement. This has certainly been so for me, and I know for many others in the Church.

This chapter traces the general origins of the theonomy movement, how these ideas came to New Zealand and a general definition of “theonomy.” I then examine some of the issues this raises: Biblical, theological and confessional. A key element of theonomy is the application of Biblical law by the civil magistrate. In view of this we also need to look at the relationship between the Church and the State. I conclude with some general observations.


The father of the theonomy movement is Rousas John Rushdoony. He was raised in a minister’s family, his father serving in the Presbyterian Church in Armenia. The family fled to the United States during World War I to escape from the Turks who had turned on the Armenians. Rousas Rushdoony was born in the US and as a child read the Old Testament constantly. Following in his father’s footsteps he too became a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He led mission work among the Chinese-Americans and the American Indians. Very influential on his thinking were the writings of Cornelius Van Til, as was reflected in the publication of By What Standard, a defense of Van Til’s philosophy.

About this time he led some of the members of his Church out of the Presbyterian Church into the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He stepped up his lecturing around the country and also began to write more. Later he left the pastoral ministry to spend more time on these areas. In October 1965 he sent out the first issue of the “Chalcedon Report,” a newsletter which was designed to promote the Christian Reconstruction of society according to Biblical law. In 1970 he left the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. [1]

Rushdoony’s thinking greatly influenced two men who have become leading proponents of theonomy. One was Gary North who completed a doctorate in economics and has written prolifically on a Christian approach to that subject. The other was Greg Bahnsen, who studied at Westminster Theological Seminary and then completed a doctorate in philosophy. In 1976 Bahnsen took up a position lecturing in apologetics and ethics at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He rewrote and expanded his Westminster Masters thesis into his main work, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, which was published in 1977.

While teaching at the Reformed Theological Seminary Bahnsen strongly influenced the thinking of a number of students. They included David Chilton and James Jordan, both of whom later became part of the Chalcedon organization.

Bahnsen’s tenure at the Reformed Theological Seminary was marked by controversy over his theonomic views. Some sided with him as ardent supporters, others opposed him. During 1978 this debate became intense among both students and faculty. In view of this tension the Seminary Board offered Bahnsen a year’s paid leave, at the end of which his contract expired. No grounds were cited for this decision.[2]

Theonomy in New Zealand

Among the students studying at the Reformed Theological Semirtary at this time were Richard Flinn, Bruce Hoyt, Jack Sawyer and Dick VanderVecht. A native New Zealander with a Baptist and Navigator background, Richard Flinn was attending the Reformed Theological Seminary to gain a theological training for the ministry. While there he “converted” to a Calvinist and paedo-Baptist position. On returning to New Zealand he sought entry into the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, served a vicariate in Tokoroa/Kerepehi and was then appointed as a Home Missionary on the North Shore in 1979. The Church was instituted in April of 1980.

Bruce Hoyt was a pastor in an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Tennessee, and was then brought to New Zealand in 1981 by the Reformed Church of the North Shore. He was subsequently called by the Silverstream Congregation to work as a home missionary in Masterton.

Dick VanderVecht completed his study at the Reformed Theological Seminary and was then called by the Reformed Church of Penguin, Tasmania, Australia. After serving there six years he was called to be the pastor of the Reformed Church of Avondale in 1983.

Jack Sawyer left the Reformed Theological Seminary following Bahnsen’s departure, and continued his study at Westminster Seminary. He was called to serve the Reformed Church of Silverstream in 1984 following the departure of Rev. G. I. Williamson. So these four men, who had some familiarity with the theonomy debate in America, found themselves in the Reformed Churches of New Zealand.

In his ministry on the North Shore Richard Flinn devoted himself to preaching, church planting and the promotion of the Reformed faith. He did all this with great energy, zeal and ability. Through his study at the Reformed Theological Seminary and his own reading he had become a convinced adherent of the theonomic position. In the course of his ministry he presented his views on this matter in an articulate and forceful manner through sermons, writings and lectures in camps and conferences. Many in the North Shore congregation became sympathetic to his views.

Two of his major goals were to challenge thoughtful Christians to think more deeply and to apply the Christian faith to all of life. The North Shore congregation sought to pursue these goals by means of an extensive tape library (Issacharian Tapes), by importing and selling serious Christian books (Issacharian Books) and through a monthly newsletter entitled the Issacharian Report.[3] Prominent among the many topics covered in these Issacharian Ministries were the ideas of theonomy.

Bruce Hoyt and Jack Sawyer also held to some of the basic tenets of theonomy, but it was primarily Richard Flinn’s speaking ministry and the various Issacharian ventures of the North Shore that disseminated the theonomy viewpoint through the Reformed Churches of New Zealand. As it had done in the USA the issue began to generate a great deal of discussion and some controversy in the Reformed Churches of New Zealand. Many in the Church felt threatened and uncomfortable with these new ideas. However, debate centered in the Auckland presbytery where the most enthusiastic exponents of theonomy were.

By 1983 there was so much tension over this issue in the Reformed Churches of New Zealand that the Synod meeting that year decided that the matter should be looked at more closely. Synod agreed “that a committee be instituted to study the ethical teaching commonly known as theonomy in order to: (a) attempt to define what it is and, (b) determine whether such views are consistent with Scripture and Confessions.”[4]

This committee did not meet in the inter-synodical period and so could not present a report to the next Synod. Instead the Synod meeting in 1986 in Mangere received three papers by the members of the committee (i.e. Rev. Richard Flinn, Mr. Martin Kuitert, Rev. Hone Phillips) giving their own personal views on the issue. Synod decided “to receive the information as an interim study and to appoint a committee with a similar mandate to carry on the work.”[5]

That committee was made up of Rev. John Haverland (Bucklands Beach, Convener and Reporter), Rev. Dick VanderVecht (Avondale Reporter), Rev. Richard Flinn (North Shore), Mr. Martin Kuitert (Avondale). Due to various circumstances Richard Flinn and Martin Kuitert could not continue on the committee. Their places were taken by Rev. Michael Flinn (Pukekohe) and Rev. William Wiersma (Hamilton). Rev. John Steenhof (North Shore) also served on the committee for a brief time. This meant that the committee included most of the ministers in the Auckland Presbytery (allowing for the coming and goings that took place during the inter-synodical period). This allowed for a good representation of viewpoint, a broad basis for discussion and so a greater possibility of achieving a consensus in the Church. Rev. Neil Benfell (Wellington) and Rev. Dirk Van Garderen (Bishopdale) served as correspondence members in the Wellington and Christchurch Presbyteries respectively.

The whole process of preparing the report proved to be very time consuming. A lot of time was spent in discussion. Yet those involved found the time well spent. The discussion and study deepened their own grasp of the Scriptures and also drew them closer together as pastors. The clarity and understanding that came out of these meetings took much of the heat out of the debate and brought about a greater unity both within the committee and in the wider Church.

When the report was presented to the 1989 Synod meeting in Silverstream, Synod decided to “endorse the hermeneutical principles and conclusions of the report, to publish the report separately from the Acts of Synod and circulate it to the Churches for information and as pastoral guidance on this issue, and to dismiss the committee with heartfelt thanks for their work.”[6]

What Is Theonomy?[7]

The term theonomy is difficult to define because it means so many things to so many different people. The word simply means God’s law (theos = God, nomos = law). All Reformed believers could be described as being theonomists in a broad sense in that all Reformed believers believe that God’s law is authoritative for all of life.

Yet in the debate outlined above, the word has taken on a narrower reference. In this technical sense theonomy holds that God’s word is authoritative over all areas of life, that within Scripture we should presume continuity between Old and New Testament principles and regulations until God’s revelation tells us otherwise, and that therefore the Old Testament law offers us a mode for sociopolitical reconstruction in our day, and that this law is to be enforced by the civil magistrate where and how the stipulations of God so designate.[8] One of the key features of this definition is the presumed continuity of all of Old Testament law unless the New Testament specifically abrogates that law. The other significant emphasis is that the Old Testament law provides us with a model for social and political structures today. This conviction prompts theonomists to seek the reconstruction of the family, church and state. They seek to bring these structures into conformity to God’s law. In the US this goal is promoted through various organizations such as the Chalcedon Foundation, the Institute for Christian Economics and Geneva Ministries. The Reconstruction Movement includes such men as Rousas J. Rushdoony, Gary North, Greg Bahnsen, David Chilton, James Jordan, George Grant and Ray Sutton.

Yet we should not assume that those holding to theonomy and pursuing the reconstruction of society form a unified body. Theonomists are not agreed on the precise interpretation of Old Testament law, nor on some other matters (notably ecclesiology, the doctrine of the Church). These often significant differences of interpretation amongst the proponents of theonomy make the movement difficult to define and evaluate.

Misunderstandings and Misconceptions

A real difficulty in understanding the whole movement arises from the tendency of some theonomists to overstate their case in order to make a point. The movement has also been accused of a “censorious mind-set”[9] and some proponents have certainly used extreme and even harsh language.

On the other side of the fence some opponents of theonomy have been too quick to jump to conclusions about what theonomy does or does not mean. For instance, some have thought that a concern for the detail of the law would lead to a works righteousness, a conclusion that does not necessarily follow. In others the fear of new ideas has prompted a knee-jerk reaction rather than a carefully throught-out response. And for still others the lack of a considered alternative to the theonomy position made them feel vulnerable and therefore defensive.

In an attempt to clear away misunderstandings and misconceptions, the study committee discussed and defined areas of agreement with respect to the law. These may be summarized as follows:

  1. We are saved by grace through faith and not by works of the law.
  2. There is no conflict between law and love.
  3. There is no conflict between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law.
  4. All believers should be concerned to know and obey the law of God.
  5. All believers should have a concern to study the details of God’s law, both in the Old and New Testament.
  6. All believers should seek to apply God’s law in their own lives and in society.
  7. The ceremonial and sacrificial laws were fulfilled in Christ and no longer need to be practiced by the New Testament believer.

Continuities and Discontinuities

Having said this, we now turn our attention to the question that lies at the heart of the theonomy debate: the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Much of the discussion in relation to theonomy centers on the continuities and discontinuities between the Testaments. Reformed theology has always assumed a continuity between the Old and New Covenants. This is the heart of covenant theology over against a dispensational understanding of the Bible. The real issue in relation to theonomy is how this works out in terms of Old Testament law.

Bahnsen argues for “the abiding validity of the law in exhaustive detail.” Yet this puts his case too strongly. This type of overstatement has muddied the waters and hampered a proper understanding of the issues. A close reading of his book reveals that many of the details of the law do not carry through. His statement, therefore, needs careful qualification.

In defining the way the Old Testament law carries through we should “presume continuity between the ethical principles of the Old Testament and those of the New.”[10] The key word here is the word principles. While the principles continue through, many of the details do not.

The Committee spent a lot of time trying to define just which details did not continue and eventually agreed that most of the aspects of the Old Covenant which are not authoritative for today could be covered under the following:

  1. Localized Imperative. These are the commands God gave to Israel for specified use in a concrete situation. For instance: the command to go to war and gain the land of Canaan by the sword.
  2. Cultural Details. Cultural details are mentioned in many of God’s laws so as to illustrate the moral principle it required. What is of permanent authority is the principle and not the cultural detail used to illustrate it. This means that we are not bound to the literal wording of the Old Testament case laws.
  3. Administrative Details. Certain administrative details are not normative for today. For instance: the type of government, the method of tax collection, the location of the capital.
  4. Typology. These Old Testament types were fulfilled by being replaced with the realities they typified. The laws God gave Israel included ceremonies and symbols that prefigured the graces, actions, suffering and benefits of Christ, as well as containing various moral instructions. These ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament, “so that the use of them must be abolished among Christians; yet the truth and substance of them remain with us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have their completion.”[11]
  5. Geographical Changes. Israel as a nation was promised the land of Canaan, and they lived as a political body within the borders of their land. However, the people of God in the Church inherit the whole world as it is redeemed by Christ. This means that laws relating to the political and geographical organization and administration of Israel are no longer applicable to the Church. For instance: the division of the land according to tribal and family groups; cities of refuge; the levirate institution.

The committee felt comfortable affirming the continuity of the principles of Old Testament law while laying aside the details described above. Yet they were conscious that to interpret the Old Testament law, distill the principles out of all the detail and then make a modern day application is not a simple matter. Much careful exegetical and interpretative work needs to take place if we are to understand the central principles of God’s law and their application to our situation.

Theonomy and the Confessions

Of the four Confessions and Catechisms of the Church it is the Westminster Confession that deals most explicitly with the issue of Old Testament law. Chapter XIX makes various statements about the law of God, distinguishing between the moral law which was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai in ten commandments (Art ii) and the ceremonial laws which God gave to the people of Israel, all of which are now abrogated under the New Testament (Art iii).

Article iv goes on to say: “To them also [i.e. Israel], as a body politick, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people, not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.”

Here the Westminster Confession is upholding the continuity of the general principle of Old Testament law (the general equity). Yet it also recognizes that there are significant discontinuities in that “sundry judicial laws” have “expired together with the state of that people.” These specific judicial details no longer bind the New Testament believer.

In adopting the report on theonomy the Reformed Churches of New Zealand agreed that to speak of the continuity of the principles of Old Testament law was entirely scriptural and that this was in harmony with the confessions of the Churches. However, this does not endorse the views of all theonomists as being in harmony with the confessions. As stated earlier, there are significant differences of interpretation and emphasis among those espousing theonomy. Not all would agree with the formulation arrived at in the report, nor do all agree with the formulation of the Westminster assembly. For instance, R. J. Rushdoony accused the Westminster Confession of Faith in Chap XIX, Art iv, of being “nonsense.”[12]

In view of this divergence of viewpoint among theonomists, the committee concluded that it was “not possible to make a blanket endorsement or denial of theonomy with respect to the confessions.”[13] We believed the conclusions reached in the report to be in harmony with both Scripture and Confessions, yet we could not say this of all the various shades of theonomic opinion.

Theonomy, Church and State

One of the important issues in a discussion of theonomy concerns the relationship between church and state and the responsibility of the civil magistrate with respect to God’s law.

Bahnsen regards Old Testament Israel as a theocracy in the sense that Israel was a country under the moral rule of God. He contends that all nations today should be under the moral rule of God except that in the New Testament this has become the moral rule of Christ—a Christocracy. He speaks of “the Older Testament Theocracy becoming in the New Testament a Christocracy with international boundaries.”[14]

He then argues that the magistrate today “is required by God’s abiding law to enforce justice and righteousness in social affairs.”[15] In line with his general thesis he says: “Every detail of God’s law has abiding validity from the time of Christ’s advent to the time of his return.... Just as the magistrate of the Old Testament has divine imperatives which he was responsible to carry out, so also magistrates in the era of the New Testament are under obligation to those commands in the Book of the Law which apply to civil affairs and social penology.... Because the penal sanctions of God’s law are imperatives delivered with divine authority and approval the follower of Christ should teach that the civil magistrate is yet under moral obligation to enforce the law of God in its social aspect.”[16]

In light of the complexity of this subject it is important to review the major views that have been held in history regarding the relationship between the Church and the State.

Historically the Roman Catholic Church has held that the State should be subordinate to the Church. This view, which was dominant throughout the Middle Ages, maintained that the Church was the supreme power and that the civil ruler is the servant of the Church. The Church, and especially the Pope as head of the Church, should have authority and control in civil matters.

The Erastian view holds that the Church ought to be subordinate to the State. The Church is regarded as being part of the State with ministers of the Church being officials of the State. Under this view the Church has no right to bar people from the Lord’s Table nor any right to excommunicate anyone. This view began to be influential following the establishment of a state religion by the Emperor Constantine. It gained ground in England and Scotland following the Reformation and is held today by Anglicans in Britain and the Lutherans in Scandinavia.

Those holding the Voluntary view believe that the Church and State should be entirely separate. Civil rulers should not use their influence or power to interfere in religious matters, nor should they use their position to promote the cause of the Church or kingdom of Christ. This was the view of the Anabaptists after the Reformation. It is advocated today under the concept of pluralism; i.e. we live in a pluralistic world with many different opinions. The State should not promote any one view or religion. This view of the relationship of Church and State has until recently dominated the evangelical Church in the West.

None of these views do justice to the biblical teaching regarding the relationship between the Church and State. In placing the State under the power of the Church the Roman Catholic view does not give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but rather takes away from the civil authorities what rightfully belongs to them. In subordinating the Church to the state the Erastian view does not give to God what is God’s. The Voluntary view denies the sovereignty of God over the affairs of all people in the world.

Historically Reformed and Presbyterian people have argued that the Church and State are essentially different and rightfully independent authorities. They should be kept distinct and separate from each other. Yet “it is both possible and right for the Church and State to meet in amicable alliance, for the purpose of friendly cooperation.”[17] Most Reformed and Presbyterian theologians have held that civil rulers have an obligation “to aim at the promotion of the honor of God, the welfare of true religion, and the prosperity of the church of Christ.”[18] This is the view of the Reformed Confessions.[19]

This view “gives to God what is God’s in the Church, and to Caesar what is Caesar’s in the State, while also acknowledging the supreme sovereignty of God over all the affairs of men and the obligation of all men to keep his law.”[20]

Comparing Bahnsen’s views with the historic Reformed view it is clear that there is a basic agreement about the relationship between Church and State. “The debate does not center around whether or not the magistrate should apply God’s law, but to what extent God’s law applies in its detail.”[21]

The committee believed it was both beyond their mandate and their ability to offer a definitive solution to a problem that has exercised the minds of able Reformed theologians and thinkers through the centuries. Instead they formulated statements regarding the Church, the State and God’s law which they could all agree with. The areas of agreement are as follows:

  1. That the Church and State are separate and distinct authorities both instituted by God.
  2. That the authority of the Church is spiritual (i.e. the keys of the kingdom, cf. Heidelberg Catechism Q. 84 and 85), being confined to the exercise of spiritual discipline. The ultimate exercise of that discipline is excommunication.
  3. That the authority of the State is physical (i.e. the power of the sword, Rom. 13:4). The State may use physical means to enforce obedience to the law. Its ultimate exercise of that authority is the use of capital punishment. The sphere of its authority is that of justice. It must punish social violations of God’s law. The State is not an agent of evangelism and must not use its power to that end.
  4. That civil authorities are set up by God and are responsible to Him. To oppose them is to oppose God (Rom. 13:2). They have a duty to rule according to the law of God. God’s law is the ultimate standard for all mankind.
  5. That all societies should honor God and obey His law, and that we ought to pray and work towards this as salt and light in society, irrespective of how far we expect to see this realized before the return of Christ.
  6. That the means the Church must use in promoting godliness and righteousness in the nation is the preaching of the gospel of Christ. Only through the working of the Holy Spirit and faith in Christ will people begin to live according to His laws (Rom. 8:1-14). The Church should speak prophetically to our nation about injustices and evils in society. Christians should seek to persuade men and women in society from Scripture by reason and argument of the value and good sense of God’s laws.

These statements did not answer all the questions regarding the relationship between Church and State and the application of God’s law to our present society. Yet it was hoped that these statements would draw the Church together on this issue and give us sufficient common ground as a Church to interact with the world and the State concerning God’s law.

What Have We Learned?

As pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, the study of history can be extremely valuable. There are lessons to be learned from what has happened in the past.

Having looked at the theonomy issue in New Zealand, one of the first observations we could make is that there is nothing new under the sun. Long ago the writer of Ecclesiastes reminded us of this (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Through all the centuries of Church history and theological debate Christians have discussed the relationship between the Testaments, the respective roles of the Church and State, and the application of God’s law to society at large. In the 17th century in particular the English Puritans invested a great deal of time and energy unto discussions on God’s law. Our own study in New Zealand in the 20th century is but a small and humble contribution to the ongoing work of the Church in coming to understand God’s word and its application to the contemporary world.

We also need to say that even after all this discussion the last word has not been said. As we came to the conclusion of our report we had to confess that areas of disagreement still remained. The two principal matters were those of the penal sanctions of the Old Testament law and eschatology (between the amillennial and postmillennial positions).

Perhaps it is a good thing to have points of theology that need further discussion. It will keep us from pride—from the conceit that we have mastered everything. It should also keep us from complacency—from sitting back as though there was nothing more to think about. Differences of opinion will force us to continue to study and search the Scriptures.

This theological debate reinforced some lessons in basic principles of communication. In any conversation, including theological discussion, there are the dangers of jumping to conclusions; of being defensive; and of labeling our opponents and so dismissing them. No one was completely free of these errors in the discussions on theonomy. Yet thankfully, as we continued to reflect on the issues we were able to sit down together in meaningful conversations, listening carefully, making every effort to understand what the other person was saying.

A further lesson to be learned concerns the sufficiency of the Scriptures. In the Bible God has given us all we need for doctrine and life. This is one of the great foundation stones of Reformed belief: Sola Scriptura—the Scriptures alone. The Reformed Churches of New Zealand have expressed that belief in their motto: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). It is our conviction that in the Scriptures God has revealed all we need to know in order to live with Him and with each other in this world.

A final lesson concerns these Scriptures and the way we read them. The Reformation established the principle that all believers ought to be able to read the Bible for themselves and be able to understand its basic message. However this does not mean that Christians are to interpret the Bible in isolation from each other. No, it is “together with all the saints” that we are to grasp the full extent of its message about the love of Christ. This is why God has put us together in the Church and linked us together as Churches—so that together we may explore the meaning of God’s word and its relevance to our lives, our society and our world.

The Church’s discussion regarding theonomy is part of this exploration. It is a discussion that needs to go on as we sit together around an open Bible with listening ears, alert minds and hearts of faith.


[1] The above information on Rushdoony was taken from David K. Watson, “The Christian Reconstruction/Theonomy Movement” (Part 1), The Outlook, September 1988, pp. 14-15.

[2] David K. Watson, “The Christian Reconstruction/Theonomy Movement” (Part 2), The Outlook, October 1988, p. 11.

[3] The term Issacharian comes from the description of warriors from the tribe of Issachar who joined David after he had become King: Men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do, 1 Chronicles 12:32.

[4] Acts of Synod of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, August 1989, Minutes, Art. 128.

[5] Ibid., Art. 82.

[6] Ibid., Art. 36.

[7] Most of the material in the rest of this chapter follows the substance of the Report on Theonomy to the 1989 Synod, Acts of Synod, Report 1, section 4-1 and 4-12.

[8] G. Bahnsen, “Chantry on Law and Reconstruction,” a mimeographed essay.

[9] David K. Watson, “The Christian Reconstruction/Theonomy Movement,” The Outlook, November, 1988. p. 12.

[10] Report, ibid., section 4-4.

[11] Belgic Confession, Art. 25.

[12] R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 551.

[13] Report, ibid., section 4-11.

[14] Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, New Jersey: The Craig Press, 1979, p. 432.

[15] Ibid., p. 432.

[16] Ibid., pp. 317-318. This emphasis on the relevance of penal sanctions for a postmillenial society has been the most controversial point of theonomy and has aroused the strongest feelings against the movement.

[17] Bannerman, James, The Church of Christ, vol. 1, London: Banner of Truth, 1980, p. 96.

[18] Cunningham, William, Historical Theology, vol. 2, London: Banner of Truth, 1960, p. 560.

[19] See Belgic Confession, Art. 36; Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 23, Art. iii.

[20] Report, ibid., section 4-9.

[21] Ibid., section 4-10.

This material was originally written as a chapter for a book entitled Trust and Obey: A Forty Year History of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, which was published recently, and is used by permission. Rev. John Haverland is a son of the original Christchurch congregation of the Reformed Churches. He studied at the Reformed Theological College in Australia and has served two congregations in New Zealand: Bucklands Beach, a suburb of Auckland, and Bishopdale, in the city of Christchurch.