A Critique of Dr. Joel McDurmon's Cherem Principle as Put Forward in His Book, The Bounds of Love

Spirit of the Law: A Critique of Dr. Joel McDurmon’s Cherem Principle as put forward in His book, The Bounds of Love

For whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet faileth in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Thou shalt not commit adultery, said also, Thou shalt not kill. Now though thou doest none adultery, yet if thou killest, thou art a transgressor of the Law.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 James 2:10-11

 

I have had more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancient, because I kept thy precepts”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Psalms 119:99-100

 

Forward by Rev. Andrew Sandlin

 I appreciate having been asked to comment on this critical review. I will refrain from making comments on the substance, since I have not had the opportunity to read Dr. McDurmon’s book. Instead, I’d like to emphasize and applaud the gracious spirit of this response, which, unfortunately, contrasts starkly with much (not all) of the theonomic literature of the past, both pro and con. That debate, on both sides, was often prosecuted in such acrimonious terms that many devout observers understandably walked away. The spirit of this present response is not to be classified that way, and if it helps to move the discussion about theonomy forward, not just in a credibly substantive, but also in a dispositionally winsome, way, it will have proved valuable.

 Andrew Sandlin

Founder & President

Center for Cultural Leadership

 

 Forward by Richmond Reformed Bible Church

“Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The Lord saith: and the Lord hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word.”                                                                                                           — Ezekiel 13:5-6

 

This is a day and age where men and women in the Church are not standing in the gaps. Paganism and humanism are having their way in the pulpits of many Churches in America. It is for this reason that the Reformed Church is so important. Being a Reformed Church is all about seeking what God requires for our lives and our church order. In a Christian Reconstructionist assembly, we take the mandate to go into all the world and make disciples of the nations to heart. It is imperative for us to uplift God, the old true doctrines, and to not compromise ourselves and our doctrines to better conform to the latest whims of societal decadence.

It is for this reason, when someone comes along with a new doctrine or a new idea for the Church that we stop and take stock in our foundations. We cannot be like the modern American Church and blend paganism and Christianity together because it tickles the ears of the hearers. God has very condemning words for pastors and teachers who fail to uphold what He requires.

This paper comes at such a time and in such a place where this is happening more frequently. New ideas are being presented to the Reformed Theonomic Church. The orthodox standards passed down by our forbearers and the historic church are being called into question. This could be a time of monumental change for the worse; or this could be a time of reformation. We must be careful to not be led away from the walls. This is a time for rebuilding and reconstructing and we cannot be led away by new ideas that do not comport with God’s Word. It is in this spirit and with this intent that this paper is put forward to the Church.

“God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”                                                                                          –Romans 3 4

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”                                                                                     –Isaiah 40:8.

 Eli Jones

Elder, Richmond Reformed Bible Church

 

 Preface

 “For whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet faileth in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10

Any discussion concerning law, is never a question of “law” or “no law” but rather “whose law?” If man can decide what is righteous, just and equitable he becomes the lawmaker. However, as a result of the fall, mankind,[1] in his natural state, cannot properly determine what is right or wrong since he is both fallible and rebellious to everything that is holy, just and good. Natural man is theologically and philosophically flawed when it comes to accurately identifying good and evil since he is enmity against righteous God. His operating motive is selfish with no regard to God’s will for justice since he desires to be as God knowing good form evil.[2]

This is especially true in the area of penology. How can man know what is the proper response to crime if he is unable to define right and wrong? Without this knowledge, how can man restore order through a just penal system? The answer is, he cannot.

R.J Rushdoony perceptively observes,

“Over the centuries, virtually all heresies have been hostile to the Old Testament, or have decreed that it is now an ended dispensation, or in one way or another have down-graded it in part or in whole… Down-grading the Old Testament is a way of re-writing the New because the meaning of the New is destroyed if the Old Testament is set aside in any fashion. As a result, the “New Testament Christianity” of such heresies winds up being no Christianity at all.”[3]

Sins and crimes are clearly spelled out in Scripture. While all sins are not classified as crimes, all crimes however are sins, and they are clearly spelled out with God’s commanded restitution penalty attached. Whenever a crime is committed societal chaos results. God’s penal law of righteous restitution, when it is applied accurately, restores order out of that chaos. The penology of Scripture restores the culture God-ward by commanding Biblical restitution which is perfectly just and equitable because it comes from the Divine Lawgiver, Who is Himself holy, just and equitable.[4]

Once God’s moral law and His carefully prescribed penology is perverted, changed, or ignored, the culture devolves into chaos resulting in God’s negative sanctions.

In Robert Hoyle’s critique of Dr. McDurmon’s “Bounds of Love” where McDurmon asserts that some of God’s moral laws are now to be understood as “ceremonial in nature” and therefore some of God’s penology is not to be enforced. Hoyle offers this as a prelude to his disagreement;

“Throughout the history of the Church there have always been many ongoing debates, not the least of which is the validity and applicability of Biblical law to contemporary society. This being the case, it is from time to time necessary to remind both the Church and society at large of the necessity of maintaining laws and a system of justice which is in accord with the will and law of God.”[5] Holye’s argument is quite compelling and his hermeneutical approach to the Scriptures is scholarly and well thought-out. What makes this work so unique, however, is the spirit of humility in which his argument is undertaken. Hoyle says this,

“One of the men who has proven to be a most dedicated and sound defender of our Lord’s revealed directives for righteous governance has been Dr. Joel McDurmon. Doubtless everyone who reads this will have been, at some point, profoundly impacted by Dr. McDurmon’s many works on the topics of apologetics, Biblical law, eschatology, and epistemology; and his generosity in providing most of his works for free online has only served to make his impact and accessibility so much more apparent. Recognizing these things, it can only be with a spirit of humility and brotherly exhortation that I now present this criticism of Dr. McDurmon’s several theses regarding the application of certain elements and aspects of Biblical law as presented in his 2016 publication, The Bounds of Love: An Introduction to God’s Law of Liberty.”[6] Holye’s honorable approach to this critique is refreshing especially during this age of slanderous assaults, personal insults, and the vicious arguments commonly conducted on Facebook, mostly by men who really should know better. And yet, Hoyle does not stand alone in his critique. It is shared by many other well-known and well respected theologians. All of this aside, whether you agree with Mr. Hoyle or Dr. McDurmon is not the issue here. A much more serious issue is at hand. The pressing issue is not so much as to which side of the theological debate you are on, but rather how the theonomic community is going to come together in brotherly love in order to apply God’s commandments to our culture. A culture which is crumbling around us mostly due to the infighting amongst Reformed Christians. This debate is a test to see how the saint, or those so-called, respond to one another. The manner in which one responds to this and other position papers will no doubt reveal whether they are in fact Christ’s disciples indeed.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Joh 13:35”

Regnum enim Christi, Deo Vindice!

Rev. Dr. Paul Michael Raymond

 

Introduction

 Throughout the history of the Church there have always been many ongoing debates, not the least of which is the validity and applicability of Biblical law to contemporary society. This being the case, it is from time to time necessary to remind both the Church and society at large of the necessity of maintaining laws and a system of justice which is in accord with the will and law of God. In his providence, God has seen fit to bless us with a particularly robust number of men who have been given the call to defend His righteous and just statutes over the last two generations and it is only from a devout and fervent desire to see this necessary work grow and develop that I do now submit these humble petitions.

One of the men who has proven to be a most dedicated and sound defender of our Lord’s revealed directives for righteous governance has been Dr. Joel McDurmon. Doubtless everyone who reads this will have been, at some point, profoundly impacted by Dr. McDurmon’s many works on the topics of apologetics, Biblical law, eschatology, and epistemology; and his generosity in providing most of his works for free online has only served to make his impact and accessibility so much more apparent. Recognizing these things, it can only be with a spirit of humility and brotherly exhortation that I now present this criticism of Dr. McDurmon’s several theses regarding the application of certain elements and aspects of Biblical law as presented in his 2016 publication, The Bounds of Love: An Introduction to God’s Law of Liberty.

Specifically, I should like to give a further examination and counter argument to his thesis regarding the Cherem Principles and their alleged relation to “First Table” offenses, and his Seed Law theory and its connection to adultery and land inheritance. Dr. McDurmon’s recent writings on these topics provide a new perspective on the issues with which he deals and he himself has admitted that his conclusions are a break with the Reformed tradition and the historical understanding of Christian theologians on the subject. Thus it seems only right that a certain amount of perspective should be given here before his theses can be duly and properly evaluated.

Before we begin, it seems prudent to bring to the reader’s attention a few rules which should always preside over any disagreement or debate betwixt Christian brethren. Those being that we must always be charitable and humble towards those who disagree with us as long as it is possible to rationally accept that they may, in good faith and will, genuinely believe the positions to which they hold are correct. No man is perfect and he ought not to act as such. We all have our shortcomings and it is foolish to think otherwise. The wise Christian should always remember that it is only as a body, as a collaborative group, that we can properly hold and maintain the true Christian faith.

John Frame, a man known for his charity and graciousness, gives a concise recommendation when he tells us that many of our disagreements and contentions could be avoided if “theologians showed a bit more love toward their opponents and their readers, a bit more humility about their own level of knowledge, a bit more indulgence in pursuing the truth, a little more simple fairness and honesty.”[7]

He then summarizes several ways in which unnecessary misunderstanding and animosity can be brought into a situation, he begins with one of the worst: “the practice of taking an opponent’s view in the worst possible sense, without first seeking to find a way of interpreting him so that his view is more plausible or even correct.”[8]

Further down he tells us that “In expounding his opponent’s views, the theologian may present only the most controversial or objectionable features of his opponent’s position[9], thus pretending that his opponent is making a less cogent or orthodox case than what he actually is. And one last significant deficiency which Frame cautions us to avoid is to “correctly identify a weakness in the view of another but…play that weakness for far more than it is really worth.”[10]

Healthy and oft-times spirited debate is one of the primary methods of advancing the cause of truth in any age. With this have no problem, yet there is too often today a spirit of contrariness for contrariness’ sake which tends to detract from the meaningful conclusions that might otherwise be drawn from conversation and even disagreement. This is a very wearying reality and an attitude which I hope to both avoid and transcend with the publication of these petitions. It is with these prerequisites before us that we now proceed.

With love and sincerity, Robert J. Hoyle

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Part 1

Cherem and the Purpose of Law

Dr. McDurmon on Cherem 

 

Part 2

A Ministry of Death?

Arguments from Silence: Dr. McDurmon’s Abridgment Theory

5th Commandment

7th Commandment

 

Part 3

God’s Judgment: McDurmon’s Paradox

None Dare Call it Treason

Conclusion

 

 

 

 Cherem and the Purpose of Law

 In his work on God’s law, Dr. McDurmon takes the time to introduce the reader to the historic division of Old Testament law into three sections; ceremonial, judicial (or civil), and moral. He then challenges the traditional separation of judicial/civil and moral commands, saying that “the commandment against murder is certainly moral, but it also certainly has civil ramifications. We ought therefore to inquire of the converse, and we will find that virtually all of the civil side of the equation is just as much moral as it is civil – including the level of punishment described.”[11]

This means that every civil crime, by nature of its being a crime, has civil ramifications (prescribed punishments from the magistrate) which are also spelled out by Scripture. On this point we totally concur with Dr. McDurmon. The connection between any act which transgresses the law, and the punishment thereof, cannot be broken. If God has declared some act (such as theft or murder) to be a crime, He has not then merely left man to his own devices to discern how this crime ought to be punished.

Furthermore, God’s revealed Word not only communicates to us what actions He hates and expects to be punished by the duly invested authorities (whether they be familial, ecclesiastical or civil) but also how those illegal actions are to be punished. That this theme of revealed law and justice is a prominent one throughout Scripture cannot be denied, for Jesus Himself tells us that:

Till heaven and earth perish, one jot or one tittle of the Law shall not escape, till all things be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall observe and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”[12]

The thrust of Christ’s message here is that His law is eternal and binding and for men to abridge or forego any “jot or tittle” of it without express Biblical warrant is a grave offense. This gives us a rule of interpretation, or hermeneutic, by which we might evaluate any point of continuity or abridgment in matters of God’s law.

Protestants have always held that the ceremonial aspects of Old Testament law have now passed away. The Scriptures plainly tell us that observance of days, washings, and keeping of feasts held a temporary position until their realization, Christ, arrived. However, there has been continuous debate as to what extent the moral and judicial elements remain. One side claims that almost no continuity exists between New Testament moral commands and the Old Covenant law, while more conservative theologians argue for a great deal of continuity between Older and New Testament law.

The chief aspect of law which we must always keep before us is its unavoidable religious underpinnings. There is a great deal of confusion amongst many Christians today about the validity of inherently religious, and especially Christian, law. Listening to the political commentators and historians who guide much of the thought in our fair land, one would come to the conclusion that the ultimate standard for law is one of total objectivity and neutrality towards any religious affinity.

The elephant in the room which this “neutral” or pluralist view overlooks is the inescapably religious nature of law itself. Law must always be derived from some source; there must be a foundation for the standards and statutes which will govern a society. That source will always be the god of that society. Amidst their torrent of cries for toleration, humanists themselves reveal a dogged intolerance toward any law code which sniffs of even a faint whiff of Christianity. In the same vein, Muslims also work tirelessly to implement their own laws in a society where members of their religion are plenteous.

Why is it that seemingly every non-Christian faction works to see its laws implemented while Christians are left calling for fairness and objectivity? Why can’t all the parties agree to play nice? Christians look back to the “good-ole days” when our enemies played nice and everyone could be religiously “neutral” when it came to politics and governing the nations. The wake-up call for Christians today is that those good-ole days never actually existed! “What fellowship hath light with darkness?” the Bible asks us. For Christians, the source of law is not some innate common sense in man or the general consensus or common will of the people. Instead, it is the revealed will of God, His word and the law therein.

God’s law is a covenant treaty. God is a conquering warrior and His law is the standard by which He demands that His people live and govern themselves. Thus the law, whether it be a law which we commonly classify as moral, such as “Thou shalt not covet,” or civil, “Any man that smiteth another that he die, shall be put to death,” serves the purpose of protecting the people from the wrath of God. Being holy, God cannot tolerate a society which tramples upon His righteous expectations and standards. He will visit judgment upon them, He commands us to “Be ye holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”[13] 

This command repeats itself in Scripture and it is the underlying theme of Biblical law. Law is designed not to save us from our sins for it is not the instrument of justification. It was believing erroneously in salvation by the law which merited Jesus’ continued rebuttals of the Pharisees and Jewish culture in His day. However, law does reveal the standard by which God expects us to live, as individuals, as a church, and as a nation. Christ’s atoning work purchases our forgiveness for when we do fall short of God’s law, and fall short all men do. That does not mean we are not to try, but rather that we must run the race with endurance!

So we see that law is treaty, God’s hook in the jaws of the nations so-to-speak. If they break God’s law He will destroy them. If they obey God’s law He will bless them. It’s a simple proposition. Rushdoony comments on the concept of law as treaty, when he tells us:

Law is in every culture religious in origin. Because law governs man and society, because it establishes and declares the meaning of justice and righteousness, law is inescapably religious, in that it establishes in practical fashion the ultimate concerns of a culture. Accordingly, a fundamental and necessary premise in any and every study of law must be, first, a recognition of this religious nature of law.

Second, it must be recognized that in any culture the source of law is the god of that society…Third, in any society, any change of law is an explicit or implicit change of religion. Nothing more clearly reveals, in fact, the religious change in a society than a legal revolution. When the legal foundations shift from Biblical law to humanism, it means that the society now draws its vitality and power from humanism, not from Christian theism.”[14]

This is an important point for us to bear in mind: any change away from God’s clearly revealed law-order is an act of revolution against God, and thus the introduction, whether implicit or explicit, of some other religious source for law. God’s law is a like a peace treaty with man, a plain publication of the things which we must not do lest He avenge Himself upon us. To stray to another law code is to stray from God Himself, break His “treaty”, and ultimately reveal that a new religion has supplanted our professed Christianity. Christians would do well to keep that in mind as they survey the world around them and the problems that we face in society. If we accept laws and standards of justice which run contrary to what the Bible tells us God demands, we must brace ourselves for God’s judgment.

Understanding that God’s law is a divine revelation, or treaty toward a covenanted nation, the second big point we must remember about law is that it is a form of warfare. Any law-system is going to be explicitly at war with all other law-orders. There can be no neutrality between Sharia law and Humanistic law. There can be no neutrality between English Common Law as theorized by Edmund Burke or John Locke and Christian law as spelled out in Scripture. Now, they may share some “common ground” as this is almost unavoidable but there is no neutrality.

Natural Law, Biblical law and Sharia law all agree that murder deserves capital punishment. Humanist law not so much. But the commonality betwixt the systems will cease there, for Christians execute murderers because God commands it whereas Muslims execute murderers because Allah tells them to, and a good adherent to Natural Law because it is the “common sense” thing to do. Every one of these systems of law have their differing source and standard and thus there can be no neutrality amongst them. Rushdoony again neatly summarizes the idea of law as war:

Fourth, no disestablishment of religion as such is possible in any society. A church can be disestablished, and a particular religion can be supplanted by another, but the change is simply to another religion. Since the foundations of law are inescapably religious, no society exists without religious foundations or without a law-system which codifies the morality of its religion.

Fifth, there can be no tolerance in a law-system for another religion. Toleration is a device used to introduce a new law-system as a prelude to a new intolerance. Legal positivism, a humanistic faith, has been savage in its hostility to the Biblical law-system and has claimed to be an “open” system … Every law-system must maintain its existence by hostility to every other law-system and to alien religious foundations or else it commits suicide.”[15]

As can be seen, these two points go hand in hand. For the society or the individual chosen by God to be His own, His law is their treaty. For the individual or society which perseveres in hardness of heart and apostasy, the law is warfare. The law, when properly used in the hands of God’s people with the guiding aid of His Spirit, is the ultimate form of warfare against the ungodly. It is not primarily a physical form of war for the Christian’s war is primarily spiritual, but God’s law is the basis of the ethical/judicial warfare that exists between covenant keepers and covenant breakers within history.

In this way the law is also a dividing line, a form of separation between good and evil; between lawful obedience and lawlessness. The course of history is the progressive ethical separation of the elect and the reprobate. Wheat becomes more “wheat-like” and tares become more “tare-like”.[16] It is this idea of law as the bar of separation which introduces us to the idea of “cherem”, and Cherem law.

Cherem is a Hebrew word and like most Hebrew words it can carry a few different meanings over into English. Strong’s concordance defines it thus: “to seclude; specifically (by a ban) to devote to religious uses (especially destruction); physical and reflexive, to be blunt as to the nose; make accursed, consecrate, (utterly destroy), devote, forfeit, have a flat nose, utterly (slay, make away).”

We see cherem employed when God commands Joshua to destroy Jericho. The entire city was to be placed under the ban, utterly destroyed, and thus the word cherem is used. In Judges 1:17 we are told that Judah and Simeon utterly destroyed the Canaanites dwelling in Zephath; here utterly destroyed is in the Hebrew the word “cherem.” The cherem theme of all law is that law is a form of separation between God’s people and rebellious mankind. For the Hebrews settling in a new land the law was a tool of separation.

The whole law implied that separation by declaring that wickedness was to be cherem, or devoted unto destruction. The covenant-keeping Israelites were not to tolerate covenant-breaking actions within their midst. To do so was an illegitimate mixture of clean and unclean and was explicit treason against God’s law-order.

The same is true of us today. The law is cherem in that it pronounces God’s total intolerance of covenant-breaking actions and demands that God’s people be separate from such wickedness. There must always be a wall of separation between covenant-keeping and covenant-breaking. This principle of separation is given full manifestation by the law’s “cherem” nature. Dr. Joseph Morecraft III, in studying the cherem aspects of Jericho’s destruction comments ably on cherem. His thoughts are lengthy but so valuable that the reader will forgive us for listing them nearly unaltered.

Toleration of evil in ourselves, our homes, our churches, our schools, our usinesses, our courts, our communities, and our nations is intolerable, and displeasing to God. A society that tolerates evil collapses under the righteous judgment and anger of the God who “hates all workers of iniquity.” Good and evil cannot peacefully co-exist. They are arch-enemies always out to destroy the other. Religious and ethical pluralism in a society are impossibilities – one religion and ethics will prevail over the other.

In our American culture, the issue is not WHETHER religion and ethics will influence and dominate culture, but WHICH religion and ethics will dominate culture: biblical Christianity or some form of anti-Christianity…Because Jehovah is a God who separates his people from the pagan world by his Covenant Law and Promises, separation is not only a basic element of salvation, it is also a basic principle of biblical law with respect to religion, morality, and society.

As R. J. Rushdoony has written: “Every attempt to destroy this principle is an effort to reduce society to its lowest common denominator. TOLERATION is the excuse under which this leveling is undertaken, but the concept of toleration conceals a radical intolerance. In the name of toleration, the believer is asked to associate on a common level of total acceptance with the atheist, the pervert, the criminal, and the adherents of other religions as though no differences existed.

The believer has a duty of lawful behavior toward all, an obligation to manifest grace and charity where it is due, but not to deny the validity of the differences which separate believer and unbeliever, (Israelite and Canaanite). In the name of toleration, the believer is asked to tolerate all things because the unbeliever will tolerate nothing: it means life on the unbeliever’s terms. It means that biblical order is denied existence, because all things must be leveled downward. The basic premise of the modern doctrine of toleration is that all religious and moral positions are equally true and equally false. In brief, this toleration rests on a radical relativism and humanism.””[17].

Here is reiterated for us in a very concise form all of which we have been trying to convey. The law is treaty, the law is warfare, and the law is separation. As assuredly as God’s “called out ones”, or ekklesia, are called out, they are called unto something. Not called unto nothing, or unto something which is just a baptized form of what the world is practicing. God has a radically different plan for His chosen people; a difference realized ultimately in heaven and hell.

In history, these two people groups are always separated: in religion, in worship, and in law. One group is consecrated to life and the other consecrated to destruction. This consecration is the embodiment of cherem and it is with this understanding of the “Cherem Principle” that we shall next examine Dr. McDurmon’s unique thesis.

 

Dr. McDurmon on Cherem

Over against the fundamental characteristic of law as separation we previously found that Dr. McDurmon posits a new perspective, which he labels the “Cherem Principle”. For the purposes of his thesis, Dr. McDurmon equates cherem, or the Cherem Principle, with certain elements of Biblical law which he proposes are now passed away.

He says, “Cherem is peculiar to the Old Testament administration because it functioned only in the context where God’s presence was in the physical temple/tabernacle, in the alter fire, the land itself was holy and was an agent of sanctions, and the inheritance of God’s covenant promises was through blood descent and external possession of the Holy Land. As we have seen, all of these realities have been drastically altered by the New Testament economy. The civil penalties based upon the Cherem Principle must be considered in this light as well.[18]

Moving from this position, Dr. McDurmon directly relates the first four commandments of the Decalogue, commonly grouped together as the First Table, as well as the Fifth and Seventh Commandments, to the Cherem Principle and then declares them to have either lessened or no civil sanctions in the New Covenant era.

He says, “It is my conclusion that civil governments no longer have authority to apply cherem punishments in the New Covenant. So which laws does this cover? In general, these are all First Table offenses: false worship, apostasy, idolatry … The cherem principle indicates that certain other death penalties related to the First Table would also no longer apply. It would include laws relating directly to inheritance in the land, even when it crosses into family matters”.[19]

And further down he adds, “We cannot stress enough how intricately God’s cherem presence was tied to the priestly, temple, land, separation and inheritance laws…There are other death penalties involved in such overlap as well. These include the death penalty for certain types of adultery as well as bestiality and homosexual sodomy.[20]

The crux of Dr. McDurmon’s thesis is that any “cherem” elements of the law indicated a temporary increase in severity of punishment because of their supposedly symbolic and ceremonial nature. In his study of the Hebrew term cherem, he shows that it was a devotion to total destruction. With this we have no qualms. However, his selection of just what is and what isn’t cherem law is rather arbitrary and the conclusion reached, that any laws which he chooses to connect with cherem are now rescinded from civil enforcement is a conclusion which has precious little Biblical support and less or even no historical precedent.

This being as it is, Dr. McDurmon’s “Cherem Principle” is largely a thesis, or more accurately a series of intertwining theses, which still need a great deal of refining work. It should be noted here that the burden of proof lies with Dr. McDurmon throughout. His “findings” run contrary to all orthodox standards and understandings of cherem in history.

Rather than view cherem as the eternal barrier which exists between that which God has called unto Himself and that which He has purposed for destruction, Dr. McDurmon founds his “Cherem Principles” upon the idea that a greater standard of holiness was demanded by God while His physical presence was in the temple, the land a direct agent of sanctions, and inheritance was of directly physical descent. Thus, since these three things no longer hold true, the Cherem Principle has passed away.

“Why this change?” Dr. McDurmon asks. He answers for us: “The discontinuity encountered in regards to the cherem principle is directly related to the difference in nature of the Old Covenant compared to the New.”[21] Note here that by classifying only certain laws as cherem and by further claiming that the enforcement of these laws was of ceremonial administration and therefore temporary, Dr. McDurmon is quietly denying the law one of its fundamental qualities.

If, as we saw earlier, cherem embodies the separation which God sets down between His called out people and the sons of perdition, then all of Biblical law is cherem in principle. It is the law which places all wickedness under the curse, or ban. It is the law (and more particularly obedience to the law through faith in Christ) which shows God righteous rule over those whom He has devoted unto Himself.

The point which we must remember is that the law has an inescapable characteristic of devotedness. Every person that lives, has lived, or ever will live, is either devoted to righteousness in Christ (Christ’s imputed righteousness made possible by Christ’s perfect law-keeping) or devoted to destruction under the curse of the law’s sanctions against unrighteousness. The concept of “no neutrality” is an inescapable fact of law. By attempting to limit the scope in which cherem manifests itself within Biblical law, Dr. McDurmon is fundamentally altering the very nature of the law itself.

In conclusion, Dr. McDurmon sees cherem as being connected to three things: the “alter fire presence” of the Spirit of the Lord in the Temple/Tabernacle, the continuation of an undefiled seed within Israel, and the perpetuation of the inheritance of the land from one generation to the next. Next we will examine the veracity of this claim and the arguments made for the cessation of earthly enforcement of these laws.

 

[1] Genesis 2:17; Gen 3:6-8,13; Gen 6:5; Gen 8:21; Ps 51:5; Acts 17:26; Rom 5:6; Rom 8:7; WCF Chapter 6:sec 1 &

[2] Gen 2:17

[3] Roots of Reconstruction, R.J. Rushdoony, Vallecito CA Ross House Books, 1991, pg. 325

4 Isaiah 33:22

5 The Spirit of the Law: A Critique of Dr. McDurmon’s Cherem Principle as put forward in his book The Bounds of Love pg. 6

 

[6] Ibid

 

 

[7] John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1987) p. 324

[8] Ibid, p. 324

[9] Ibid, p.325

[10] Ibid, p.327

[11] Dr. Joel McDurmon, The Bounds of Love: An Introduction to God’s Law of Liberty (Braselton, GA: American Vision, inc, 2016) ch. 2

[12] Matthew 5:18-19

[13]Leviticus 11:44, 19:2 20:7 & 1 Peter 1:16

[14] R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Copyright 1973) pp, 4-5

[15] Ibid. pp. 5-6

[16] Matt. 13:24-30

[17] Dr. Joseph Morecraft III, Joshua: Taking Possession of Our Inheritance (unpublished study guide) pp. 111-112 (emphasis in original)

[18] Dr. McDurmon, Bounds of Love: ch. 3

[19] ibid

[20] ibid

[21] ibid

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