AW Pink was a Theonomist: So Was Mickey Mouse (by Reformed Libertarian)

In a recent post, Joel McDurmon concluded “I do not hesitate to call A. W. Pink a theonomist, for his position as explicated above is nothing short of Theonomy.” Apparently the theonomy tent is growing by leaps and bounds. I imagine it will soon include Marcionites.

McDurmon offers two reasons:

First, A.W. Pink says Matthew 5:17 refers to the “whole Jewish law.” In this he is in agreement with Bahnsen, as are others. However, when Pink and others are allowed to define their terms, they are found to differ with Bahnsen. Bahnsen divided the law into moral and ceremonial and said the moral law had two categories: the 10 commandments and the “case laws” (judicial). Pink does not agree with Bahnsen. Pink follows Calvin and the Westminster Confession in holding to the classic three-fold division of the law: moral, ceremonial, judicial. Contrary to Bahnsen, and in agreement with Calvin (whom McDurmon argues is unbiblical), Pink says “The moral Law is contained in the Ten Commandments.” Pink says the judicial law is abrogated (directly contrary to theonomy) except “as it agrees with the requirements of civic justice and mercy, and as it serves to establish the precepts of the moral law, it is perpetual.” He is simply explaining Calvin and Westminster’s doctrine of general equity. As we have explained before, they used the moral law (the 10 commandments) as a filter. The judicial law is poured through the filter, if anything remains, it is merely the eternal moral law, and thus perpetual. We would encourage those interested to read (or re-read) our Analysis of the Theonomy Debate to unpack this issue.

Second, Pink is a theonomist, apparently, because he believes in lex talionis “What is more equitable than an exact quid pro quo? Surely it is a most elementary and unchanging principle of sound jurisprudence that the punishment should be made to fit the crime—neither more nor less.” Of course, there is nothing uniquely theonomic about that. What is uniquely theonomic is a particular belief about what constitutes a crime. And that particularity is entirely absent from Pink’s writings. Nowhere does he say we must execute idolators and homosexuals because Israel did. And he doesn’t say that because he properly understood the Mosaic Covenant. Pink held to 1689 Federalism (see 1689 Federalism & Theonomy) and extensively quoted Abraham Booth’s An Essay on the Kingdom of Christ, which is one of the most anti-theonomic books you will find.

Compare Bahnsen’s view of the Mosaic Covenant with Pink’s.

The fact is that all of the covenants of the Old Covenant (that is, all of the Old Testament covenants) are unified as parts of the one overall covenant of grace established by God. Paul spoke of Gentiles who were not part of the Old Covenant economy which included the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants as “strangers to the covenants of the promise” (Eph. 2:12)…There were many, progressively revealed aspects to the single promise of God in the Old Testament: many administrations of the overall covenant of grace… Given the unity of God’s covenant throughout history and the Bible, then, is it true that Christians living under the New Covenant are not obliged to keep the Old Covenant law (the commandments of the Old Testament, especially those given by Moses)?…[W]e saw that all of the covenants of God are unified into one over-all Covenant of Grace, fully realized with the coming of Christ in the New Covenant. So if there is one covenant enjoyed by the people of God throughout the ages, then there is one moral code or set of stipulations which govern those who would be covenant-keepers. Therefore, we must answer that of course New Testament believers are bound to the Old Testament law of God. His standards, just like His covenant, are unchanging.

Greg Bahnsen, By This Standard, p. 41-42


The Sinaitic covenant in no way interfered with the divine administration of either the everlasting covenant of grace (toward the elect) nor the Adamic covenant of works (which all by nature lie under); it being in quite another region. Whether the individual Israelites were heirs of blessing under the former, or under the curse of the latter, in no wise hindered or affected Israel’s being as a people under this national regime, which respected not inward and eternal blessings, but only outward and temporal interests…

Thus it is clear that while the Ten Commandments was the most prominent and distinctive feature of the Sinaitic covenant, yet it embraced the entire body of the statutes and judgments which God gave Moses for the government of Israel, as well in their civil as in their religious capacity. They formed one code, in which the moral law and the ceremonial law were blended in a way peculiar to the special constitution under which the nation of Israel was placed. Speaking generally, the civil had a religious and the religious a civil aspect, in a sense found nowhere else. All the particulars of that code were not equally important: some things were vital to it, the violation of which involved the practical renunciation of the covenant; others were subordinate, enjoined because necessary as means of attaining the grand end in view. Yet were they all parts of the one covenant, demanding a prompt and sincere obedience. In the above paragraphs we have purposely gone back to the beginnings of God’s dealings with Israel as a nation, in order to show once more how unique was the Mosaic economy, that there was much connected with it which, in the very nature of the case, has no parallel under the present gospel order of things. The Sinaitic covenant was the foundation of that political constitution which the people of Israel enjoyed: in consequence thereof Jehovah sustained a special relation to them.He was not only the God of all the earth (Ex. 19:5), but, in a peculiar sense, the King and Legislator of Israel. Any attempt on their part to change the divinely instituted system of law, given for their government, was expressly forbidden: “Ye shall not add unto the words which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God” (Deut. 4:2). That code was complete in itself—that is, as considered in relation to the particular condition of that people for whose government it was intended.

“It is of great importance to the right interpretation of many passages in the O.T., that this particular be well understood and kept in view. Jehovah is very frequently represented as the Lord and God of all the ancient Israelites; even where it is manifest that the generality of them were considered as destitute of internal piety, and many of them as enormously wicked. How, then, could He be called their Lord and their God, in distinction from His relation to Gentiles (whose Creator, Benefactor, and Sovereign He was), except on the ground of the Sinai covenant? He was their Lord as being their Sovereign, whom, by a federal transaction they were bound to obey, in opposition to every political monarch who should at any time presume to govern them by laws of his own. He was their God, as the only Object of holy worship; and whom, by the same National covenant, they had solemnly engaged to serve according to His own rule, in opposition to every Pagan idol.

“But that National relation between Jehovah and Israel being long since dissolved, and the Jew having no prerogative above the Gentile; the nature of the Gospel economy and of the Messiah’s kingdom absolutely forbids our supposing that either Jews or Gentiles are warranted to call the Universal Sovereign their Lord or their God, if they do not yield willing obedience to Him and perform spiritual worship. It is, therefore, either for want of understanding, or of considering the nature, aspect, and influence of the Sinai Constitution, that many persons dream of the New Covenant in great numbers of places where Moses and the Prophets had no thought of it, but had the Convention at Horeb directly in view. It is owing to the same ignorance, or inadvertency, that others argue from various passages in the O.T. for justification before God by their own obedience, and against the final perseverance of real saints.

“Again, as none but real Christians are the subjects of our Lord’s kingdom, neither adults nor infants can be members of the Gospel Church in virtue of an external covenant or a relative holiness. A striking disparity this, between the Jewish and the Christian Church. A barely relative sanctity [that is, a sanctity accruing from belonging to the nation of God’s choice, A.W.P.] supposes its possessors to be the people of God in a merely external sense; such an external people supposes an external covenant, or one that relates to exterior conduct and temporal blessings; and an external covenant supposes an external king. Now an external king is a political sovereign, but such is not our Lord Jesus Christ, nor yet the Divine Father.

Under the Gospel Dispensation, these peculiarities have no existence. For Christ has not made an external covenant with any people. He is not the king of any particular nation. He dwells not in a temple made with hands. His throne is in the heavenly sanctuary, nor does He afford His visible presence in any place upon earth. The partition—wall between Jews and Gentiles has long been demolished: and, consequently, our divine Sovereign does not stand related to any people or to any person so as to confer a relative sanctity, or to produce an external holiness.

“The covenant made at Sinai having long been obsolete, all its peculiarities are vanished away: among which, relative sanctity [that is, being accounted externally holy, because belonging to the nation separated unto God, A.W.P.] made a conspicuous figure. That National Constitution being abolished, Jehovah’s political sovereignty is at an end. The Covenant which is now in force, and the royal relation of our Lord to the Church, are entirely spiritual. All that external holiness of persons, of places, and of things, which existed under the old economy, is gone for ever; so that if the professors of Christianity do not possess a real, internal sanctity, they have none at all. The National confederation at Sinai is expressly contrasted in Holy Scripture with the new covenant (see Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:7-13), and though the latter manifestly provides for internal holiness, respecting all the covenantees, yet it says not a word about relative sanctity” (Abraham Booth, 1796).


Jehovah, then, was King in Israel: His authority was supreme. He gave them the land in which they dwelt; settled the conditions on which they held it; made known the laws they were required to obey; and raised up from time to time, as they were demanded, leaders and judges, who for a season exercised, under God, authority over them. This is what is signified by the term theocracy—a government administered, under certain limitations, directly by God Himself. Such a relation as Jehovah sustained toward Israel, condemning all idolatry and demanding their separation from other nations, largely regulated the legislation under which they were placed. So far as righteousness between man and man was concerned, there was of course much which admitted of a universal application, resting on common and unalterable principles of equity; but there were also many enactments which derived their peculiar complexion from the special circumstances of the nation. The most cursory examination of the Pentateuch suffices to show this.

Pink, Arthur W. (2010-03-19). The Divine Covenants (Kindle Locations 2593-2641). . Kindle Edition.

See also A.W. Pink on Moses (& Republication)

Making inaccurate historical claims about theologians and theonomy is a waste of everyone’s time. We would kindly ask McDurmon to stop wasting everyone’s time.

[Editor’s Note: This was first published at Reformed Libertarian by Brandon Adams. Pulpit and Pen also discussed McDurmon’s claim that Pink was a theonomist here: American ReVision: AW Pink a Theonomist? Hogwash.]

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