By P. Andrew Sandlin
Published May 1, 2008
For both friend and foe, for both the curious and the critical, I am setting forth in simple, brief, and clear terms what Reconstructionists believe. Some inquirers may want such a presentation of Reconstruction. And for the critics, we want them to understand what they are criticizing. We do not want them attacking straw men. This brief essay will explain the bare elements of Reconstruction. My goal in fact is not to prove Reconstruction from Scripture, though that could easily be done. This is not an apologetic for Reconstruction. Rather, it is an introduction to, an explanation of, Reconstruction.
What Reconstructionists believe
1. Reconstructionists are Calvinists. In fact, we hold that Reconstruction is nothing more than the most consistent expression of the historic Reformed Faith. The fundamental belief of Calvinism is the sovereignty of God. That means simply that, God is God. He is the supreme Ruler of the universe. He does whatever He pleases. His will cannot be thwarted by man or any other creature. He is self-exhaustive. There is nothing He does not know, for He has made everything what it is. He rules over but transcends He creation. He exists apart from time but wills to work within time. He does not need His creation. He does not need anything. But He has pleased Himself to create and sustain the universe, and to redeem a fallen world.
Because we are confessional Calvinists, we Reconstructionists are orthodox Christians. We hold to the Apostles, Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds. We therefore embrace catholic orthodoxy. We are committed to the historic Calvinistic doctrines as expressed in the Reformed confessions and catechisms-Westminster, Dordt, etc. We believe God saves sinners; He does not help them save themselves.
Since we are Calvinists, we believe the Christian Faith applies to all of life. True Calvinists are not Pietists. Pietists believe Christian responsibility is limited to the individual and family, or at most the church. They believe we Christians just need to pray, read the Bible, practice charity, and fight sin more within our own hearts. They do not believe we should try, by the power of the Holy Spirt, to oppose sin wherever we find it. Pietists do not believe it is the Christian obligation to bring all areas of life and society under Christ’s authority. They often believe the world belongs to Satan-and that he holds it by right.
Reconstructionists are dominionists, not pietists. We hold that to limit God’s authority over all of life is to deny His sovereignty. We believe Christ is Lord over all things. We believe we are called like the first Adam and mainly in the strength of the second Adam, our Lord, to exercise dominion in His name throughout the earth.
2. Reconstructionists are presuppositionalists. Presuppositionalism is a long word but its meaning is fairly easy to understand. It means that we believe the Bible is true because God says it is true-in the Bible! This is what some people charge as “circular reasoning.” And we plead guilty to the charge. In fact, we believe that all reasoning is eventually circular. Everybody has views he assumes are true without proof. The most basic assumptions about life (that we exist, that we have a mind, that the world is real) cannot be “proven.” Even more basic than these unprovable beliefs is that God exists. If God does not exist we could not exist. The Bible is true because it is the word of God, not because we can prove it is the word of God. When we preach the gospel to sinners, we do not try to prove Christianity. The problem with sinners is not that they lack proof of God, but that they lack submission to God.
Therefore, we Reconstructionists do not spend time arguing about whether the Bible and Christianity are true. We argue that they are true, and that therefore all humanity should repent, place faith in Christ, and submit to His Lordship.
3. Reconstructionists are theonomists. Theonomy just means the law of God. It equals the requirements found in His written word. This is just the most consistent expression of historic Calvinism. Calvinism holds that there are three uses of the law. First, the law is the external regulation of society. It keeps external sin in check. The civil magistrate thus is required to enforce God’s law. Second, the law is the tool that drives sinners to Christ. In the law, we see our own sinfulness. We learn that we can never perfectly conform to its demands in our present state. Therefore it goads us to Christ, the One kept its demands perfectly. By trusting in Him, His perfect law-keeping becomes ours. His righteousness is imputed (marked down) to our account, and we are treated as righteous by God in the heavenly courtroom. Third, the law is the standard of sanctification. It is true that Christ merited salvation for His people by keeping the law, and thus released us from its penalty and condemnation. But God never intended to replace the law as a reflection of His character. The law cannot save us, but it will forever remain a perfect reflection of God’s character. For that reason, we strive to keep the law, not as a means of justification, but as the standard of sanctification. The Spirit has been given to us to assist us in keeping the law.
Reconstructionists do not believe there is some “higher” (or “deeper”) law than the law of the Bible. We do not believe that to be led of the Spirit means anything more than simple obedience to the Bible, the Book the Spirit wrote.
Therefore theonomists believe God’s law governs all of life. It must govern society no less than it governs our individual lives, families, and churches. We resist attempts by any individual, group, or sphere to usurp God’s lawful authority. For instance, we firmly oppose the increasing encroachments of the secular state on Christians, churches, and society as a whole. We do not oppose these encroachments because we are political troublemakers. We oppose them because they represent the attempt of the state to play God. For the same reason, we oppose tyranny in the church, family, or any other sphere. We fully support lawful authority under God’s rule, but oppose anybody’s attempt to usurp that authority. We believe the family, church, and state are all essential, though limited, spheres of lawful authority.
4. Reconstructionists are postmillennialists. We believe that Christ established His mediatorial kingdom at His first coming. We believe that the “Great Commission” is the marching orders of the church. We believe that Christ’s kingdom will advance in history by the Spirit-empowered preaching of the gospel and the obedience of the people of God. We believe, in fact, that the main reason God gave the Holy Spirit to the church in a special empowering way was so the church could do even greater works than Christ did while He was on earth, so it can fulfill the commission given to it, bringing all nations and peoples under the authority of Christ and His gospel and word. We believe the church has tremendous latent power. We believe our calling as individuals and families and churches and civil governments is to take godly dominion in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We believe Christ will remain at the right hand of God until “all His enemies are made His footstool.” We believe the kingdom advances slowly and incrementally-like the growth of a grain of mustard seed. We believe it may yet be many years-even centuries-before the kingdom fully advances. But we believe it will advance. It cannot be stopped. It has God’s irresistible power behind it.
Because we are postmillennial and look to the future, we lay heavy stress on sound Christian education in all forms. We strongly support Christian day schools and home schools. We believe teaching is one of the main obligations of the church. We believe in laying a strong foundation of instruction so that our covenant heirs can go even farther than we have gone in advancing the Faith.
What Reconstructionists Do Not Believe
1. We do not believe in the union of church and state. Some people believe we affirm the union of church and state. It seems they cannot understand how civil government can operate under God’s rule without being linked to the church. But we Reconstructionists are God-centered, not church-centered. We believe the church is but one (though an important) institution among others. Many people-especially modern liberals-have misunderstood Thomas Jefferson’s statement about the “wall of separation” between church and state. We agree-we fervently support-the separation of church and state. But we do not believe in the separation of the state ( or any other institution) from God. God by His law must govern the state just as He governs the individual, family, and church.
Some charge that we Reconstructionists believe the kingdom is advanced by law, or by man’s efforts. We certainly do not believe the kingdom grows by forcing the law on the unregenerate. They are indeed subject to the law like all of God’s creatures are, but the kingdom advances as the gospel is preached, men are regenerated, and submit themselves to God’s law-word. We do not believe the kingdom advances through man’s efforts. We are accused of believing man will “bring in the kingdom.” In the first place, the Man Christ Jesus has already “brought in the kingdom.” It is by means of His efforts and the efforts of His Spirit imparted to the church that we Reconstructionists work for the kingdom. We know that without Christ, we can do nothing.
2. We do not believe in the forced overthrow of wicked societies. We believe in regeneration, not revolution. We do not bear the arms of revolution, but are armed with the invincible sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
- 3. We do not believe in limiting American freedoms.* Some critics say our views would destroy the freedoms we Americans have. Some say we want to replace the Constitution. That is utter nonsense. It is true that the Constitution-like everything else-must be subordinate to God’s word, but we have never advocated replacing the Constitution. We do not believe God’s law limits freedoms. In fact, we believe a denial of God’s law limits freedoms: it sets up a situation in which there is no impediment to tyranny. For this reason, to the extent that America has departed from the law of God, she has suffered increased tyranny.
Of course, if by “freedom” the critics mean “freedom” to murder, rape, steal, and blaspheme, then, no, we do not believe in that form of “freedom.” But any law is a limitation on this sort of “freedom.” If we have no law, we soon will have no society, and certainly no true freedom. For Reconstructionism, true freedom comes in obeying the law of God.
Some critics accuse us of neglecting or denying the New Testament. That charge is false. We hold that the Old and New Testaments are equally inspired, authoritative, and binding. These critics seem to think that if we affirm the authority of the Old Testament, we cannot also affirm the authority of the New Testament. Perhaps this is because they think the New Testament contradicts or is antithetical to the Old Testament. But we Reconstructionists do not agree. The New Testament is the expansion and culmination-not the abrogation or reversal-of the Old Testament. God’s word is one word; it does not contradict itself. Therefore the New Testament is just as authoritative as the Old Testament.
Of course, the New Testament revises and amplifies some of the Old Testament law. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that some of it is fulfilled in Christ. One thinks immediately of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. It was simply a series of types and shadows pointing to Christ. Now that He has come and accomplished His redemptive work, the types and shadows pass away in practice, though certainly not in value. This is a chief message of the epistle to the Hebrews. Christ Himself amplified the claims of the law. He did not attack or rescind the law.
Reconstruction is not new. Of course, its name is new. But its tenets can be found in prominent places in historic Christianity. Perhaps it would be accurate to say that the Puritans are the predecessors of the Reconstructionists. All of the Reconstructionist ideas have a prominent place not only in the Bible, but also in places in the history of the church. True, many in the history of the church who held these views were not always consistent (neither are Reconstructionists today always consistent). But we judge the men by their views, not the views by those who hold them.
Reconstruction is not a monolithic movement. We disagree over secondary issues. Some Reconstructionists are Baptists; some are paedobaptists. Some practice presbyterian church polity; others are independent. Some are charismatics; others are strict cessationists. Some meet for worship in huge cathedrals; others meet in simple homes.
No one leader dominates Reconstruction. There is no dictator who determines what the beliefs and policies of Reconstructionists are. Reconstructionists are found in a number of denominations and independent churches.
We are united by our beliefs in Calvinism, presuppositionalism, theonomy and postmillennialism.
This, in bare outline, is the Reconstructionist view.
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“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
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