[The following article appeared in the June 2015 issue of Tabletalk magazine. It is reproduced here with permission.]
“What is truth?” Pilate’s question reflected a jaded skepticism toward the very idea of truth rather than a serious philosophical inquiry. How tragic that a man entrusted with matters of life and death should express such a cynical attitude. And how very different should be the attitude of Christians, whom Jesus described as those who are “of the truth” (John 18:37).
The supreme value of truth is evidenced by the presence of the ninth commandment in the Decalogue: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Ex. 20:16). The commandment is most immediately concerned with truthfulness in a judicial context. Deuteronomy 19:15-21 gives instructions about witnesses in a criminal case. A single witness is insufficient to establish a charge; there must be two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6; see also Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19). If there is any question about the integrity of a witness, the judges must “inquire diligently,” and if the witness is found to be a “false witness” (Heb. eid-sheker—the same term used in Ex. 20:16), he must receive the very penalty that would have been applied to the accused. Thus, perjury carried a maximum penalty of death under the Mosaic law.
Occasionally sermon illustrations are handed to you on a plate. Here’s a gift for any pastor preaching on the Tenth Commandment:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
From today’s edition of The Telegraph:
With her culinary wizadry, [sic] melt-in-your mouth voice and Rubenesque figure, Nigella Lawson has made a career out of turning heads.
But while many husbands might resent such flirtatious behaviour, Charles Saatchi yesterday revealed his pleasure at his television chef wife’s appeal — declaring “who would want to be married to someone who nobody coveted?”
In extracts from his new book, the outspoken adman turned art collector also described the Ten Commandments as an “overrated lifestyle guide” which only succeed in “making people confused and guilty”.
Mr Saatchi, who has been married three times, insisted that the tenth commandment in particular was “obviously a no-hoper” because “coveting is all everyone does, all the time, every day.”
No kidding. Saatchi makes the right observation, but draws entirely the wrong conclusion. Let the apostle Paul set the record straight:
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. (Romans 7:7-12)
In a previous post I posed some questions about David VanDrunen’s defense of Two-Kingdom (2K) doctrine and raised a general objection to his position (and to similar 2K views). In response to a comment on that thread, I tried to boil down the objection as follows. On my reading, VanDrunen seems to be committed to all of the following claims:
(K1) When living as citizens of the common kingdom, people should observe the moral standard of that kingdom.
(K2) The moral standard for the common kingdom is natural law (and only natural law).
(K3) When living as citizens of the common kingdom, Christians should observe the distinction between the two kingdoms.
(K4) It is not a deliverance of natural law that Christians should observe the distinction between the two kingdoms.
In a nutshell, my objection is that these claims form an inconsistent set: they can’t all be true. So the question is whether 2K advocates really are committed to all four claims, and if not, which do they reject.
I recently read David VanDrunen’s A Biblical Case for Natural Law and Living in God’s Two Kingdoms. VanDrunen’s is the most scholarly, articulate, measured, and irenic defense of Two-Kingdom (2K) doctrine I’ve encountered. However, I have some questions about its application and a possible objection to it in principle.