Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Creed of Christian Reconstructionism

UPDATE OCT. 14 below

In an earlier post, I pointed out that there is a group of fundamentalist christians who wish that the Constitution of the United States would be recalled and, in its place, the Mosaic Laws of the Old Testament. These right-wing christians believe in the philosophy of Dominionism, that is, to seek influence or control over secular civil government through political action—aiming either at a nation governed by Christians or governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law.

The umbrella term applied to such a radical coup of the government of the United States is Reconstructionism. Many fundamentalist and evangelical christians either do not know or pretend not to know of the radical ends of this movement.

Rev. Andrew Sandlin, former executive vice president of Chalcedon and editor of the Chalcedon Report, was an important voice in Christian Reconstructionism. He wrote the following summary outline to help understand the idea of Reconstructionism. I find this piece quite enlightening and frightening.

The Creed of Christian Reconstructionism

Rev. Andrew Sandlin

A Christian Reconstructionist is a Calvinist. He holds to historic, orthodox, catholic Christianity and the great Reformed confessions. He believes God, not man, is the center of the universe--and beyond; God, not man, controls whatever comes to pass; God, not man, must be pleased and obeyed. He believes God saves sinners--He does not help them save themselves. A Christian Reconstructionist believes the Faith should apply to all of life, not just the "spiritual" side. It applies to art, education, technology, and politics no less than to church, prayer, evangelism, and Bible study.

A Christian Reconstructionist is a Theonomist. Theonomy means "God's law." A Christian Reconstructionist believes God's law is found in the Bible. It has not been abolished as a standard of righteousness. It no longer accuses the Christian, since Christ bore its penalty on the cross for him. But the law is a description of God's righteous character. It cannot change any more than God can change. God's law is used for three main purposes: First, to drive the sinner to trust in Christ alone, the only perfect law-keeper. Second, to provide a standard of obedience for the Christian, by which he may judge his progress in sanctification. And third, to maintain order in society, restraining and arresting civil evil.

A Christian Reconstructionist is a Presuppositionalist. He does not try to "prove" that God exists or that the Bible is true. He holds to the Faith because the Bible says so, not because he can "prove" it. He does not try to convince the unconverted that the gospel is true. They already know it is true. They need repentance, not evidence. Of course, the Christian Reconstructionist believes there is evidence for the Faith--in fact, there is nothing but evidence for the Faith. The problem for the unconverted, though, is not a lack of evidence, but a lack of submission. The Christian Reconstructionist begins and ends with the Bible. He does not defend "natural theology," and other inventions designed to find some agreement with covenant-breaking, apostate mankind.

A Christian Reconstructionist is a Postmillennialist. He believes Christ will return to earth only after the Holy Spirit has empowered the church to advance Christ's kingdom in time and history. He has faith that God's purposes to bring all nations--though not every individual--in subjection to Christ cannot fail. The Christian Reconstructionist is not utopian. He does not believe the kingdom will advance quickly or painlessly. He knows that we enter the kingdom through much tribulation. He knows Christians are in the fight for the "long haul." He believes the church may yet be in her infancy. But he believes the Faith will triumph. Under the power of the Spirit of God, it cannot but triumph.

A Christian Reconstructionist is a Dominionist. He takes seriously the Bible's commands to the godly to take dominion in the earth. This is the goal of the gospel and the Great Commission. The Christian Reconstructionist believes the earth and all its fulness is the Lord's--that every area dominated by sin must be "reconstructed" in terms of the Bible. This includes, first, the individual; second, the family; third, the church; and fourth, the wider society, including the state. The Christian Reconstructionist therefore believes fervently in Christian civilization. He firmly believes in the separation of church and state, but not the separation of the state--or anything else--from God. He is not a revolutionary; he does not believe in the militant, forced overthrow of human government. He has infinitely more powerful weapons than guns and bombs--he has the invincible Spirit of God, the infallible word of God, and the incomparable gospel of God, none of which can fail.

He presses the crown rights of the Lord Jesus Christ in every sphere, expecting eventual triumph.


Here is a bit more information about this 'secret' agenda of the Calvinist-Reconstructionists. It is from the essay, Dominion Theology: The Truth About the Christian Right's Bid for Power by Sara Diamond

Many Christian Right activists have never even heard of reconstructionism, whose advocates call for the imposition of an Old Testament style theocracy, complete with capital punishment for offenses including adultery, homosexuality, and blasphemy.

• Christians alone are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns--and there is no consensus on when that might be. Dominionist thinking precludes coalitions between believers and unbelievers, which is why many Christian rightists will have a hard time compromising with some of the very same Republicans they recently helped elect.

• The idea of taking dominion over secular society gained widespread currency with the 1981 publication of evangelical philosopher Francis Schaeffer's book A Christian Manifesto. Schaeffer and his wife Edith ran a retreat center in Switzerland, where young American "Jesus freaks" came to study the Bible and learn how to apply Schaeffer's dominion theology to the political scene back home.

• Since humanists place human progress, not God, at the center of their considerations, they pushed American culture in all manner of ungodly directions, the most visible results of which included legalized abortion and the secularization of the public schools. At the end of A Christian Manifesto, Schaeffer calls for Christians to use civil disobedience to restore Biblical morality, which explains Schaeffer's popularity with groups like Operation Rescue.

• Christ will return only after Christians have been in charge for 1,000 years. The Coalition on Revival, founded by Jay Grimstead, consistent with post-millennialism, was the development of position papers, called "world view documents," on how to apply dominion theology to Christian Right activism in more than a dozen spheres of social life, including education, economics, law, and even entertainment. Grimstead and his colleagues advocated running stealth candidates in selected counties as early as 1986. [I know of one of those 'stealth candidates who ran for a school board position in the Toledo area]

• The Reconstructionists are theologically committed to Calvinism. They shy away from the Baptists' loud preaching and the Pentecostals' wild practices of speaking in tongues, healing and delivering prophecies. To secular readers, the minutiae of who believes what--or which group of characters likes to dance on one foot--might seem trivial. But some of the details and divisions of Christian Right theology are politically relevant.

• Reconstructionism's leading proponent has been Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony, an obscure figure within the Christian Right. Born in 1916, the son of Armenian immigrants to the U.S., Rushdoony was strongly influenced by Westminster Theological Seminary professor Cornelius Van Til, a Dutch theologian who emphasized the inerrant authority of the Bible and the irreconcilability between believers and unbelievers. A recent issue of Rushdoony's monthly Chalcedon Report noted his Armenian background. Since the year 320, every generation of the Rushdoony family has produced a Christian priest or minister. "There was Armenian royalty in the Rushdoony blood, and a heritage of defending the faith, often by sword and gun, against Godless foes bent on destroying a people of faith and works."

• It was Rushdoony's seminal 1973 tome The Institutes of Biblical Law that articulated Reconstructionists' vision of a theocracy in which Old Testament law would be reinstated in modern society. Old Testament law classified a wide range of sins as punishable by death; these included not only murder and rape but also adultery, incest, homosexuality, witchcraft, incorrigible delinquency by youth, and even blasphemy. In the Reconstructionists' vision of a millennial or "kingdom" society, there would be only local governments; there would be no central administrative state to collect property taxes, nor to provide education or other welfare services.

• It is the Reconstructionists' religion of Calvinism that makes them unlikely to appeal to most evangelicals. Calvinism is the by now almost archaic belief that God has already preordained every single thing that happens in the world. Most importantly, even one's own salvation or condemnation to hell is already a done deal as far as God is concerned. By this philosophical scheme, human will is not involved in changing the course of history. All that is left for the "righteous" to do is to play out their pre- ordained role, including their God-given right to dominate everyone else.

• One of the classic works of sociology, Max Weber's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, links the rise of Calvinism to the needs of budding capitalists to judge their own economic success as a sign of their preordained salvation. The rising popularity of Calvinism coincided with the consolidation of the capitalist economic system. Calvinists justified their accumulation of wealth, even at the expense of others, on the grounds that they were somehow destined to prosper. It is no surprise that such notions still find resonance within the Christian Right which champions capitalism and all its attendant inequalities.

• Calvinism is an essentially reckless doctrine. If God has already decided what's going to happen, then the Dominionists do not have to take responsibility for their actions. (They can kill abortion doctors "knowing" it is the right thing to do.)

• The Christian Right wants to take dominion and collaborate with the existing political-economic system, at the same time. Liberal critics, who also endorse the ruling system, can recognize only the Christian Right's takeover dimension. Radicals can see that the dominion project is dangerous because it is, in part, business as usual.

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