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Theonomists and the Gospel

Since 1993, I have posted hundreds of articles on my website concerning Christian Reconstruction. I’ve even written the highest ranked article on “Theonomy” on the Internet. (Google search “theonomy“ if you don’t believe me.) I’ve also produced several video presentations from a Christian Reconstructionist viewpoint.

While there are a lot of other theological passions that drive me, I am more known on the world wide web by quotes from my Theonomy FAQ than any other piece of writing I’ve done. It’s quoted in hundreds of places. It’s far from my best work, and I am not one of the major Reconstructionist writers, so I am surprised at the attention paid to this piece. Since I’ve received more than my allotted 15 minutes of unlikely fame (or infamy?) as a mere chronicler of the Reconstructionist movement, I have a few observations to make.

1. One of the reasons I first became interested in Christian Reconstruction in the first place was because of the distortions by Christians and non-Christians alike. There is a lot of animosity toward postmillennial (that is, optimistic and victorious) eschatology and God’s Law. I understand why non-believers feel threatened by the oracles of God, but I’ve never understood why Christians are so afraid of this association. If I see a theology that is within the pale of orthodoxy which I don’t agree with, I study it so that I can decide exactly why I don’t agree. Often we are most afraid of what we don’t understand.

2. There is little understanding about Christian Reconstruction (and especially theonomy and postmillennialism) among Christians. The most popular refutation is that imposing the Old Testament penal sanctions in capital cases would be “cruel, barbaric and harsh.” Christians often don’t stop to think that the God of the Old Testament who gave these Laws is Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, who was present in the Godhead when the Law was given to Moses. These Christians don’t stop to think that they are impugning Jesus as “cruel, barbaric, and harsh” when they reject the Law out of hand. A more fitting objection would be that the application of the Law has changed under the New Covenant. Ironically, this an aspect of the theonomy upon which virtually all theonomists agree!

3. The other objection is that Reconstructionists are people who want to use politics to enforce the Gospel or that theonomists believe that God’s kingdom can be brought about by killing who we think are “God’s enemies.” Usually a few choice quotes (including some by me) are wrenched out of context in order to make theonomists appear to be the “Christian equivalent of the Taliban.” I even had a former pastor tell me that a society run by biblical law would be no different than an Islamo-fascist dictatorship. How low a view of God’s Law! In fact, Christian Reconstructionists believe that the Law of God is only a tutor to point people to Christ. The Law can never save people. However, we do measure our growth in sanctification by the Law. Codifying the Law of God in a converted society would add glory to the Gospel because it would reflect God’s character in the civil realm.

Below is a more accurate view of theonomy and the Gospel in the words of the leaders of the Christian Reconstuctionist movement.

[Quotes complied by David Field]

“It must be stressed that the creation of a Christian nation could
be accomplished only as a result of the widespread work of the Holy
Spirit, not through some bureaucratic top-down, coercively imposed
order on a non-Christian majority by a Christian minority. —G.
North, Healer of the Nations” [p.34]

“It is the missionary … who is best equipped to begin the bottom-
up process of evangelism that ultimately leads to the establishment
of a covenanted confederation of Christian nations.” —Healer [p.157]

“We must seek reform first in the Church, not in the State. The
focus on the State as the primary institution of life is the
humanist myth of the age. It must not become the myth of Christian
reconstruction.” —Healer [p.287]

“What is God’s historic means of making the world better ? The
preaching of the gospel.” —Gary North, Reduction of Christianity
[p.xx]

“One of the distinctives of Christian reconstruction is its aversion
to the use of politics as the method to bring about social
change …. But why all the attention to politics in
reconstructionist literature … ? The answer is very simple.
Politics has become the saviour of the people. Reconstructionists
write about politics and civil government in order to call
Christians and non-Christians back to their only Saviour, the Lord
Jesus Christ.” —Gary DeMar, Reduction [p.21f]

“Christian reconstructionists are looking for the transformation of
all of society, including families, churches, business
establishments, the legal profession, education, economics,
journalism, the media and civil government through personal
redemption and adherence to the Bible as the standard for godly
rule.” —Reduction [p.23]

“Dominion comes through service … It is idolatrous to seek
dominion primarily by political means, whether by domination or
anarchic revolution.” — Reduction [p.25]

“Evangelism is the starting point of social transformation.” —
Reduction [p.189]

“The key to remedying the [present] situation is … regeneration.
There is no hope for man except in regeneration … True reform
begins with regeneration and then the submission of the believer to
the whole law-word of God.”
—R J Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, [pp.113, 449, 627]

“The chief blessing of the kingdom is forgiveness of sins”
—Reduction [p.217]

“It is through the Spirit-filled church, proclaiming the gospel,
that the kingdom of Christ extends throughout the world.”
—Reduction, [p.220]

“The negative reaction to social reform comes from secularized
attempts to do what only the gospel can do. This reaction is
legitimate but it should not deter Christians from being truly
evangelical in their attempts at reform.”
—Reduction, [p.286]

“If we really do need a graduate school in theology, let us finance
one. But let us no longer fool the donors into believing that this
sort of rarified academic institution is necessary or even useful
for training pastors … For now, let us get on with the task at
hand: the evangelization of the world.”
—Gary North, Theonomy: An Informed Response, [p.340f]

“The authors of this book … know very well that Christian faith
centers on the saving work of Jesus Christ. They profess to love the
Savior with all their heart. They know that their new life in Him,
their new status of being right with God, and their hope of eternal
life have been granted to them by the grace of God. They have
nothing of which to boast. With Paul they would say, ‘Far be it from
me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through
which the world has been crucified unto me and I unto the world’.
Having been saved from the world, their concern is to love their
Lord with all their heart, soul, strength and mind. They now want to
walk in those good works which God intends for them. They make a
sincere effort to heed the words of Christ to ‘seek above all the
kingdom of God and His righteousness’. They know that this kingdom,
for which they pray regularly, will not be consummated until after
the return of Jesus Christ and the final judgment, when all
believers will then rejoice in a new heaven and earth wherein
righteousness dwells. In the meantime they seek to perfect personal
holiness in the fear of God and to make all the nations disciples of
their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is only in the light and
context of these beliefs and practices that they see and understand
their Reconstructionist position in ethics and eschatology.”
—Greg Bahnsen, House Divided, [p.3f]

“It must be understood the Reconstructionists believe that
evangelism is the absolute pre-condition to worldwide,
postmillennial, theocratic success … We insist that cultural
influence and change are to be promoted by God’s people – who are
saved by grace alone – at large in their callings, not by the
institutional Church as such.”
—Ken Gentry, House Divided, [p.194]

“Evangelism, leading to baptism, comes first”.
—Ken Gentry, House Dived, [p.194]

“Christian Reconstructionists do not believe that man can be
fundamentally changed by changing the conditions of society. Instead
we believe that society will be changed when men are first changed
inwardly by the Gospel and then seek to apply that change to the
spheres of life in which they are involved.”
—Tony Baxter, “Theonomy” article in “Calvinism Today” magazine I.4
17

“First and foremost, our emphasis is on the proclamation of the
saving power of God through Jesus Christ; and then the regenerate
man applying the whole word of God to every sphere of life.”
—R J Rushdoony, “Calvinism Today” II.1 14

“The message of the kingdom of God rests on a concept of salvation
which is supernaturally imparted, not politically imparted.”
—Gary North, Tools of Dominion, [p.38]

“The primary need today, as always, is the need for widespread
personal repentance before God.”
—Gary North, Tools of Dominion, [p.39]

“The basis for building a Christian society is evangelism and
missions that lead to a widespread Christian revival, so that the
great mass of earth’s inhabitants will place themselves under
Christ’s protection, and voluntarily use His covenantal laws for
self-government. Christian reconstruction begins with personal
conversion to Christ and self-government under God’s law, then
spreads to others through revival and only later does it bring
comprehensive changes in civil law, when the vast majority of voters
voluntarily agree to live under Biblical blueprints.”
—Gary North, Tools of Dominion, [p.55]

“The key to cultural transformation is the gospel.”
—David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt
Manipulators, [p.234]

“My slogan is ‘politics fourth’ … it is my concern after
individual salvation, church membership and family membership.”
—Gary North, Westminster’s Confession, [p.158]

“The goal of Christian political action then is not to usher in a
theocracy but to acknowledge the theocracy that already exists ….
Christian political action is not supposed to impose a messianic
kingdom from the top down. Only God can lawfully control the hearts
of men by imposing His rule …. Christian political action is
therefore a bottom-up and inside-out process.”
—George Grant, Changing of the Guard, [p.11]

“The orthodox Christian faith cannot be reduced to personal
experiences, academic discussions, or culture-building activity – as
important as all these are in varying degrees. The essence of
Biblical religion is the worship of God …. True Christian
reconstruction of culture is far from being simply a matter of
passing Law X and electing Congressman Y. Christianity is not a
political cult. It is the divinely ordained worship of the Most High
God.” —David Chilton, Paradise Restored, [p.215]

“I forthrightly reject any reduction of the sacred message to
moralism or politics … the central thrust of the bible is
recognized to be the accomplishment and application of salvation to
God’s people.” —Greg Bahnsen, Theonomy, [p.33f]

“I don’t disagree that the issues taken up in Theonomy are of
subordinate importance in the Christian life, preaching of the
church, range of theological loci etc … Surely the fact that some
Christians take up the question of God’s law and its relation to
modern penology – and that some write on the subject – does not mean
that they believe that subject is the most vital issue for all
believers (or even for themselves).”
— Greg Bahnsen, No Other Standard, [p.43]

“We may readily grant that socio-political reconstruction has less
urgency than personal spirituality or the church, but this does not
bear whatsoever upon the truth or error of the theonomic standard
for politics.” — Bahnsen, No Other, p.51

These are the books and magazines from which the quotations come. Most of these can be gotten cheaply as used copies on Amazon.com.

The Changing of the Guard – George Grant
Calvinism Today (magazine)
Healer of the Nations – Gary North
House Divided – Greg Bahnsen & Kenneth Gentry
Theonomy: An Informed Response – ed. Gary North
Inherit the Earth – Gary North
The Institutes of Biblical Law – R.J. Rushdoony
No Other Standard – Greg Bahnsen
Paradise Restored – David Chilton
Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators – David
Chilton
The Reduction of Christianity – Peter Leithart & GaryDeMar
Theonomy in Christian Ethics – Greg Bahnsen
Tools of Dominion – Gary North
Westminister’s Confession – Gary North

Your comments are welcome!

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