By This Standardby Greg L. Bahnsen
Length: Approximately 8 hours to read (245 pages).
Buy on Amazon
Millions of Christians, Greg Bahnsen asserted, have failed to “recognize the continuing authority of God's law today or its many applications to modern society.” Neglecting Christianity's tool of dominion, “they have thereby reaped the whirlwind—cultural and intellectual impotence.”
Who should read this?
By This Standard, was written for all Christians seeking a greater understanding of the importance and applicability of God's law to all areas of life. It is for those who like King David, cry out, “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97)
This book is also for those who have not given much thought to how God's law may encompass a broader spectrum in the lives of everyday Christians beyond that of a personal, inward moral law.
Do you, dear reader, wonder how your faith applies to all areas of life? Then this book is for you.
David Bahnsen, the author’s son, writes in the prologue:
“The goal of By This Standard was to provide laymen readers a synopsis of the great exegetical and ethical claims of its predecessor (Theonomy in Christian Ethics): that God’s law is a reflection of His character, that God’s character never changes, and consequently, His eternal expectations for His people never change.”
Christianity is more than a personal religion: it is also capable of cultural transformation. The natural outworking of a changed people is a changed culture.
The pages of By This Standard reflect Greg Bahnsen’s own love for God’s law. His book is divided into three parts. In The Authority of God’s Law, Bahnsen makes his case from Scripture and explores the importance of God’s law, as a reflection of God’s character, and how His people are given a standard upon which to model their lives.
In part two, Application of God’s Law to Political Ethics, he addresses how biblical law was applied in both the Old and New Testaments and how it can be applied today. Part three, Antagonism to God’s Law, addresses common objections to the law’s general validity and its political use.
“A common working assumption is that New Testament believers are not expected by God to live according to Old Testament stipulations. It is erroneously thought that their ethical attitude and standard should be limited to the New Testament, almost as though the Old Testament is now nothing but a historical curiosity—rather than a revelation which is still profitable for “instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Greg Bahnsen wrote the above in the forward to By This Standard. It is the heart of the issue and the pages of his book are filled with passionate pleas to look upon the law of God with renewed delight and an increased desire to walk in its precepts. Too many Christians look elsewhere for guidance and authority on matters of law. God’s law is perfect, and as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 attests, it is there to equip us for EVERY good work.
By This Standard was written “to stimulate Scripture-guided reflection on the question of whether the Old Testament law is still binding as a moral standard for today.”
Bahnsen continues: “My prayer is that through these books Christians will become convinced of the wisdom and authority of God’s commandments, learning to say from the heart: “Oh how love I thy law.” (Psalm 119:97)
By what standard? This is the common refrain reverberating throughout Bahnsen’s book. Are we to live by God’s revealed word or the law of self-proclaimed autonomous man? And whose word is sovereign, God’s or man’s?
These are important questions that must be addressed and taken seriously by Christians today. How we view God’s law will grossly affect how we live. Not just in our personal lives, but in the workplace, community, church, government, and culture at large.
The church has largely retreated today and because it has, the light and salt Christians are called to bear have been removed from culture. We are reaping its rotten fruit. Bahnsen calls us to carefully consider the ramifications of relegating God’s law to a corner in the basement. We dishonor God when we dishonor His law.
My copy of Greg L. Bahnsen’s By This Standard, is well-worn, dog eared, and highlighted extensively. It is one of my favorites, not only of his works, but of all the books I’ve ever read. To say I enjoy his work is an understatement.
Bahnsen’s love for God and His word is palpable. He reasons from Scripture and implores his readers to do the same. This particular book is easily digestible in its parts and it is best to be consumed this way. Chew on it. Delve into the Scriptures. Pray over what you’ve read and ask for wisdom.
Repeat for the entirety of the book. And keep By This Standard on hand for future reference, discussion, and writing.
I do and it’s served me well. I cannot recommend this book enough. It is my hope that every Christian would read it once and consider its claims that God’s law is our ethical yard stick. No other standard comes close. No other standard is perfect, reflecting the character of a just and holy God.
Gresham Machen stated, “The gospel does not abrogate God’s law, but it makes men love it with all their hearts.” Bahnsen, in By This Standard, helped me to see the truth in this. And it is with this in mind that I offer up this review.
By This Standard is exceptional. It is written in such a way that you’ll find yourself highlighting its pages as a Calvinist would Romans 9. Bahnsen’s words are quotable and concise. His words are crafted in love and concern for God’s law and his desire for the believer to see how beautiful and beneficial the law of God really is.
One of the many reasons why Greg Bahnsen’s work and ministry has greatly affected me is because in him I saw a man who loved the LORD with such passion until God called him home. He esteemed Christ highly and encouraged others around him to do likewise. Such is the legacy of Greg Bahnsen. And it is this legacy that springs from the pages of By This Standard.
His focus is on God and His law-word, a reflection of His holiness. God’s holiness is our permanent standard of morality. Autonomous man seeks his own way, cleverly devising way to be like God, determining good and evil for himself.
But we know the end result. The stench of its rotten fruit flows downward from the streams of culture.
The law of God is perfect and just, our standard of righteousness in our personal and public lives.
Would that more Christians realize this and begin to seek out the law of God, loving it with all their hearts and learning to apply their faith to all areas of life.
By This Standard is a great introduction to the woefully neglected topic of the validity and applicability of God’s law today. It is not an extensive treatise—it doesn’t address many specifics (as his earlier Theonomy in Christian Ethics would) but it serves an important function nonetheless.
Christians need to return to the topic, pick up this book, and resume a much needed discussion. By what standard are we living today? Why do many look upon God’s law as harsh and tyrannical but at man’s law as just and acceptable?
We have it backwards!
I implore you, my reader, to pick up a copy of Greg Bahnsen’s By This Standard, if only to sit down and prayerfully reflect on the implications of neglecting God’s perfect law. This book is a good starting point. It is concise enough for the average layperson and meaty enough for the learned theologian.
Bahnsen stated, “we find that a man’s attitude toward God’s law in an index of his relationship to God Himself (Ps. 1; Rom. 8:l-8).” Where are you at?
“The entire Bible is our ethical yardstick for every part of it is the word of the eternal, unchanging God; none of the Bible offers fallible or mistaken direction to us today. Not one of God’s stipulations is unjust, being too lenient or too harsh. And God does not unjustly have a double-standard of morality, one standard of justice for some and another standard of justice for others. Every single dictate of God’s word, then, is intended to provide moral instruction for us today, so that we can demonstrate justice, holiness, and truth in our lives.” (17)
“We need a perfect yardstick by which to measure holiness in our lives. The Bible teaches us that the Lord has provided this guide and standard in his holy law (cf. Rom. 7:12). The law is a transcript of the holiness of God on a creaturely level; it is the ultimate standard of righteousness in any area of life, for it reflects the moral perfection of God, its Author. (36)
“Whether the Christian strives to imitate the holiness of God, to model his behavior after the life of Christ, or to be led by the Spirit, he will invariably be directed by Scripture to heed the law of God; the law is a transcripts of God’s unchanging holiness, the standard of righteousness followed by the Saviour, and the pattern of sanctification empowered by the Spirit. (63)
“As a Savior from sin, Christ is interested in every aspect of life infected by sin at man’s fall. ‘He comes to make his blessings flow, Far as the curse is found.’ Just because man’s social existence and his political efforts have been cursed by sin, Christ the King proves His righteousness in the realm of human politics, even as he reigns over every other department of man’s thoughts, life, and behavior.” (153)