From Reconstructionism to Dominionism, Part 1
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Fri Nov 25, 2005 at 04:16:32 PM EST
After listening to Gary North's interview with Paul Pressler, I was interested in learning about Gary North.  I quickly learned that he was the son-in-law of Rousas John Rushdoony who was the founder of a movement called Christian Reconstructionism.

The name Rushdoony was familiar to me, but the movement was unknown.  Rushdoony was frequently quoted by Francis Schaeffer.   Schaeffer and Rushdoony studied together under Cornelius Van Til.  Van Til was a Presbyterian scholar of Christian apologetics.  

Apologetics is a term that is used to describe how Christians defend the credibility of their faith to each other and to non-believers.  Cornelius Van Til developed an apologetic method known as presuppositionalism.  It is based on the presupposition that the Bible is inerrant and infallible and that it reveals God's absolute truth for every area of reality.

While I attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, I learned a little about Van Til and read nearly every book that Francis Schaeffer published.  Schaeffer's books were texts in the philosophy and apologetics classes of many conservative members of the faculty.  His contribution to apologetics was a, then, new emphasis on the influence of Christianity on culture.  He often cited Rushdoony as an authority on the influence of biblical law on modern law.

After graduating from seminary and entering the pastorate, I decided to investigate the thought of R. J. Rushdoony and his son-in-law Gary North.  I quickly discovered that the worldview reflected in Rushdoony's writings is virtually identical with that of Francis Schaeffer.  Even their tone in voicing their piety is similar.  Most people who read Schaeffer will find numerous resonances in the writings of Rushdoony.

Rushdoony, however, was less reserved than Schaeffer in talking about a perceived clash between Christianity and democracy.   Before he published his Christian Manifesto (1982), you could tell that Schaeffer was no friend of church-state separation, but he did not write explicitly about Christians influencing government by concerted political action.  In my opinion, without saying so explicitly, Schaeffer's Christian Manifesto was a tract that was intended to rally Evangelical Christians to the Reconstructionist cause.

To understand the Reconstructionist movement, you have to know something about the thought and writings of R. J. Rushdoony.  His magnum opus, published in 1973, is an 800 page tome patterned after Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion that Rushdoony entitled The Institutes of Biblical Law.   On page 294, Rushdoony gives an indication why he believes that the American system of pluralistic democracy is heresy.  He wrote, "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."

[To hear a 3.14 minute podcast (mp3) of Bill Moyers introducing Rushdoony and talking to him about biblical law as a blueprint for civil society, click here and give it time to download]

If Rushdoony and his disciples have their way, democracy will be abolished and a Christian theocracy will be established.  A theocracy based on the Bible along the lines of John Cotton's Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Rushdoony wrote, "The only true order is founded on Biblical Law.  All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion." (p. 113)  He also made it clear that he expects that force will be necessary to impose such order, "Every law-order is in a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare." (p. 93)  

[To hear a 1.10 minute podcast (mp3) of Bill Moyers talking to Rushdoony about the heresy of democracy, click here and give it time to download]

At its root, Reconstructionism is a militant Biblicism.  In many ways, it is a revival of the holy war theology of the Hebrew Bible under the guise of Christianity.  The chief difference being that Reconstructionists believe they have a mandate to claim more than the land of Palestine, they believe they are commanded to conquer the entire world and exercise "dominion" over all its peoples.  

Tomorrow, part 2 of From Reconstructionism to Dominionism.

Note: The audio excerpts are from Bill Moyers 1989 documentary on God and Politics: On Earth as it is in Heaven.

This is the third of six essays. Here are the links to the other essays in the series:

On Restoring America
Learning to be Patient Revolutionaries
From Reconstructionism to Dominonism, Part 1
From Reconstructionism to Dominionism, Part 2
SBC Takeover Leaders and the CNP
Reconstructionism, Southern Baptists & Education




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It's very interesting you mentioning Christian Reconstructionism being a revival of "holy war" thought.

I can mostly speak for my own experience (with pente/charismatic groups involved in dominionism per se) that as the particular theology called "spiritual warfare" has become more popular in those circles (in a lot of those circles, actually, it WAS always popular) the more blatantly dominionist those congregations have become (in the sense of being politically active dominionists, that is).

("Spiritual warfare", for those unfamiliar with the term as specifically promoted in pente/charismatic groups, is the idea that quite literally the entire world is demonised and that the world "must be won for Christ" by "soldiers of Christ".  In the pente/charismatic churches in particular, this is an outgrowth of beliefs in "deliverance ministry"--that the world is demonised and "everything is ungodly" and can be "doorways to Satan"; one of the more popular movements embracing "spiritual warfare" is the Brownsville/Toronto/Kansas City Prophets "third wave" theology.  Ted Haggard's New Life Church is one of the larger churches promoting this--to the point their "spiritual warfare" included stalking homes of neopagans and "prayer gangs" going around performing "exorcisms" on areas of town believed to be possessed by "territorial spirits".  Marguerite "God Warrior" Perrin is another good example of the "charismatic" flavour of "spiritual warfare".  I wish I could say they were abberations.)

Some of the "spiritual warfare" stuff that's been big in the AoG and Vineyard churches for the past fifty years (yes, folks, it's been around that long; the ultimate point of origin is Yoido Full Gospel Church and Paul Yonggi Cho) is even infecting the Southern Baptist Convention, too.  (Those more familiar with the SBC situation are free to comment; I'm mostly familiar with dominionism in, say, the AoG and Vineyard and "independent charismatic" churches.)

by dogemperor on Fri Nov 25, 2005 at 07:26:20 PM EST

Thanks Mainstream Baptist and dogemperor for continuing to expand and inter-connect our knowledge about various Christian groups with dominionistic tendencies. I was curious about Schaeffer since I am not very familiar with his work and have not read much about him lately. I found a speech he gave in 1982 at Kennedy's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. It is interesting how defensive he was about being a theocrat. A quote:

We must absolutely set out to smash the lie of the new and novel concept of the separation of religion from the state which most people now hold and which Christians have just bought a bill of goods. This is new and this is novel. It has no relationship to the meaning of the First Amendment. The First Amendment was that the state would never interfere with religion. THAT'S ALL THE MEANING THERE WAS TO THE FIRST AMENDMENT. Just read Madison and the Spectator Papers if you don't think so. That's all it was!

Now we have turned it over and we have put it on its head and what we must do is absolutely insist that we return to what the First Amendment meant in the first place -- not that religion can't have an influence into society and into the state -- not that. But we must insist that there's a freedom that the First Amendment really gave. Now with this we must emphasize, and I said it, but let me say it again, we do not want a theocracy! I personally am opposed to a theocracy. On this side of the New Testament I do not believe there is a place for a theocracy 'till Jesus the King comes back. But that's a very different thing while saying clearly we are not in favor of a theocracy in name or in fact, from where we are now, where all religious influence is shut out of the processes of the state and the public schools. We are only asking for one thing. We are asking for the freedom that the First Amendment guaranteed. That's what we should be standing for.

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