From Wikipedia,

Theonomy, from theos (god) and nomos (law), is the state of being governed by God or in accord with divine law.

It's also essentially the view that all types of government should adhere to, use, and operate on the Bible and biblical principles. See the Goals of the wiki page for some practical applications of that.

What is the biblical basis for this?

  1. Direct biblical support?
  2. Logical deduction from passages or reasonable reasons for it?
  3. Traditional view of theonomy by church?
  • 6
    Doctrinal scope? Witnesses avoid politics. And as an ex-Christian atheist, I find 1 Corinthians 5:12 to be one of my favourite scriptures.
    – TRiG
    Commented Apr 15, 2012 at 22:51
  • Isaiah 9:6 says that "the government shall be upon his shoulder"...but Jesus said that His kingdom "is not of this world" (John 18:36). One view subscribed to is that Jesus returns to set up the millennial kingdom, then it will be a true Theonomy.
    – user1539
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 2:35
  • John 18:36 is the subject of the question TRiG linked to.
    – user1539
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 2:37
  • This should be 'What is the Biblical basis for Theonomy'; just 'basis' is ambiguous.
    – user304
    Commented Apr 17, 2012 at 21:44
  • 2
    @RiverC no, it shouldn't. I clarify the basis, so it's not ambiguous: I ask for biblical, logical, and traditional basis. I rolled it back because I'm not just asking for the biblical basis (though that is the most important part), i'm asking for other Christian basis for the view. Commented Apr 17, 2012 at 22:55

2 Answers 2


Creator and Lord

  • I suppose the Biblical basis for Theonomy begins with the fact that God created everything and everyone, and is therefore Lord of all creation.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1, NASB)

"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Revelation 4:11, NASB)

  • Indeed, all creation is charged with acknowledging Him as Lord and praising Him.

"Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD... all His angels... all His hosts... For He commanded and they were created... Praise the LORD from the earth... Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth" (from Psalm 148:1-11, NASB)

Authority to Rule

  • As Lord, He has the authority to "call the shots." The proper response to His Lordship is submission to His will. These roles become immediately apparent when He takes His newly formed creature (man) and begins informing him of His requirements.

"Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying,..." (from Genesis 2:15-16, NASB)

  • After "the fall" of Genesis 3, God began the process of redemption. After some time of working with men on an individual basis, He chose to work through His friend Abraham, and set apart a nation of his descendents (Israel) who could serve as a light to the rest of the world.

"Now the LORD said to Abram,'Go forth from your country... To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you,... And so you shall be a blessing... And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.'" (from Genesis 12:1-3, NASB)

"Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens... gives breath to the people... And spirit to those who walk in it, 'I am the LORD... I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations... I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another...'" (from Isaiah 42:5-8, NASB)

"'O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. 7 Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?'" (2 Chronicles 20:6-7, NASB)

God's Law

  • As part of the establishment of His new nation, God gave them a "law" - but not just any law - the most righteous law ever given.

"...what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" (from Deuteronomy 4:8, NASB)

  • Although this law was given to Israel, it is important to remember that Israel was supposed to be an example for the other nations. This law was not just for Israel - it was for all mankind, and even Gentiles will be judged by their intuitive knowledge of its precepts. The law is important for all of mankind, because it is only by this law that we have an awareness of sin, and so the law is what shows us our need for Christ.

"...when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law,... [they] are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts,... their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them..." (from Romans 2:14-16, NASB)

"...I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet.' But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind..." (from Romans 7:7-8, NASB)

"Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ..." (from Galatians 3:24, NASB)

Intended Government

  • It is important to understand that God's original intent was that He be King of all creation. After mankind turned away, part of His redemptive plan was to be King over Israel, as an example to the other nations. Sadly, even Israel rejected Him from being their King. They demanded a human king, and became like "all the other nations" (with human-run government.)

"...Israel gathered together... and they said to [Samuel], '...Behold, you have grown old... Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.' ...The LORD said to Samuel, 'Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods...'" (from 1 Samuel 8:4-8, NASB)


  • Of course, the vast majority of nations throughout history have rejected God and His law (as have the vast majority of people.) This has led to various treatments throughout history ranging from complete destruction of all inhabitants to displacement or some other form of judgement.

"'Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant... All the nations shall serve him... It will be, that the nation or the kingdom which will not serve him... I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine and with pestilence,' declares the LORD, 'until I have destroyed it...'" (from Jeremiah 27:6-8, NASB)

Justice and Restoration

  • Inevitably, Jesus, the Lord of Creation (John 1:1-3,14) will be given His rightful place as King over all the earth and will rule all of the nations.

"I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed." (Daniel 7:13-14, NASB)

"And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war... He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God... From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron... And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (from Revelation 19:11-16, NASB)

"then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet... For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET." (from 1 Corinthians 15:24-27, NASB)

  • Justice will finally be served. The original divine order (which we are presently failing at upholding) will finally be restored by the power of God.

Simply stated, theonomy is God's law or the rule of God (Deut.27:26). Israel is the only nation ever to live under the theonomy of the living God. It is to be compared with autonomy - self rule, and heteronomy - rule by another. Concerning the Church of Jesus Christ, theonomy is an ethical mandate. It is not a political rule as such but rather the basis of the ethical norm. Christian ethics are theonomic. There is a movement today to impose the rule of God (including all of the ritual, dietary and cerimonial laws found in the Pentateuch) upon the whole world. These folks are so called "Theonomists". Upon the 2nd coming of the Lord (from the dispensational point of view) the universal rule of God will finaly be established (Dan.7:14).

  • donZ, as I understand it, Jewish eschatology also contains expectations of a Messianic age such as in Isaiah 2:3 where it says "And many people shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD...". How does this fit in with Christian eschatology? How does the millennial reign of Revelation fit in with this Messianic age?
    – user1539
    Commented Apr 17, 2012 at 2:46
  • @1539 - I married into an Orthodox Jewish family and I have two very knowledgeable brothers in law. I have enjoyed many lively discussions with them over this topic. Their take on the messianic kingdom is quite different from that of Christians. First of all Messiah is not divine and his kingly rule, if it is to be taken literaly at all, will be limited to his natural lifetime. Rather the emphisis is on Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the new Temple of the Lord wherein the Divine presence will dwell and rule over all the earth from His Holy Mountain. See the footnotes in a Jewish Study Bible.
    – donZ
    Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 0:18
  • I see, thanks for your explanation! That's very interesting. Despite the differences, there're still alot of similarities between these two interpretations.
    – user1539
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 6:01

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