Q – What can you tell me about the Reconstructionist Movement?
Jim – Briefly, the Reconstructionist Movement probably got its start with the Barmen Declaration in 1934, among the Confessing Church in Germany. But, the leading voice in modern Christian Reconstruction is R.J. Rushdooney, with Greg Bahnsen and Gary North close behind. The Christian Reconstruction Movement breaks down into a few essential elements:
1) Theonomy. Essentially, that word is a combination of “Theos,” the Greek word translated “God,” and “nomos,” the Greek term for “law.” So, “God’s law” looms very large in their primary theology. Reconstructionists do not see any change in the status of the Law of Moses once the Church was instituted. In fact, they argue that Christ confirmed the Law at the Lord’s Supper and that the Law of Moses is as binding on the Christian conscience and conduct today as it ever was on Israel.
In order to adhere to that position, they sidestep the book of Hebrews with its references to the Old and New Covenant and the multiple proofs that the Old Covenant was faulty and fading away.
2) Reconstruction. This position states that Adam was given dominion over the Earth. But, he lost it in the fall. Therefore, God has assigned men to retake that dominion. Successively, He instructed Noah, Abraham, Moses, the nation of Israel and ultimately the Church to take control over the Earth and subdue it under the dictates of Theonomy. Here’s a quote from Gary North that sums up this position:
“[Reconstruction is] a recently articulated philosophy which argues that it is the moral obligation of Christians to recapture every institution for Jesus Christ. It proclaims “the crown rights of King Jesus.” The means by which this task might be accomplished — a few CR’s [Christian Reconstructionists] are not convinced that it can be — is biblical law. This is the “tool of dominion.” We have been assigned a dominion covenant–a God-given assignment to men to conquer in His name (Gen 1:23; 9:1-7).”
According to Rushdooney, the goal is: “the developed Kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem, a world order under God’s law.”
As such, they believe that the Church will – by the power of the Holy Spirit – restore all society to Godly living through the imposition of God’s righteous Law. Once that has happened, Jesus will return to Earth to accept the Kingdom that has been prepared for Him. This is called “post-millennialism.” It means that Jesus will return after (“post”) the 1,000 years spoken of in Revelation 20. The 1,000 years is defined as an expanse of time – not necessarily equal to 1,000 years – during which the church will grow and establish its rule and then Christ will return at the end of that successful period.
3) Dominion. This follows on the heels of the first two, inescapably. This part of the Reconstructionist Theology says that the Church will rule and regain the Earthly dominion that Adam lost. Rather than the world growing progressively worse until Jesus appears on the stage of history a second time, returning in judgment and sending the inhabitants of the world running for cover, the society and people of Earth will grow progressively holier until they are suitable for His return.
Unfortunately, Dominion Theology has also gotten a foothold in modern Pentecostal and Word of Faith circles. TBN, for instance, believes that once their satellites have covered the globe with their brand of the Gospel, Jesus will return to accept the renewed, repentant world. The primary notion behind Dominion Theology is the concept that the Church will reign triumphant one day and Jesus will not return until it does.
Now, the reason Christian Reconstructionism comes up in our circles is that they also claim to be Calvinistic in their soteriology (the study of salvation). So, when we say that we adhere to some area of Calvinistic or predestinarian thought, it’s easy for people to lump us in with the other groups who also adhere to that aspect of our theology. However, we are worlds away from Reconstructionist thought.
John Calvin, when he moved to Geneva and attempted to create the Christian society, mixed the power of the state with the authority of the Word. That’s called “Sacralism.” He used the Law of Moses as the standard for his civil laws (not unlike America’s foundations, really). However, Calvin used the power of the State to induce people to accept his theology and anyone opposed to that theology could be coerced or even punished by the civil laws. That’s wrong. It’s an abuse of power and an encroachment on the individual conscience of men and women. But, it was Calvin’s approach, for better or worse. He had come up on the tail of 1,000 years of Roman Catholic dominance where the Church and State were intertwined and he knew no other form of ecclesiology. So, it’s easy to look back and criticize, but he came by his errors naturally.
So, seeing as how Calvin mixed God’s Law and civil life, the Reconstructionists follow both his soteriology as well as his Sacralism (rule by the State to defend the Church). Calvin was an advocate of the Law of Moses and used it to set fear in the hearts of his listeners in order to drive them to Christ for their redemption. Reconstructionists attempt the same approach, but often end up simply imposing legalistic rules on their adherents in order to control them.
So, while I admire Calvin’s (and Luther’s and Knox’s and Zwingli’s, etc. etc.) theological development, I don’t believe that the Church will triumph over the evils and ills of society by imposing the moral codes of Mt. Sinai on them. There will be no peace until the Prince of Peace returns. He will return in judgment to set up His kingdom that will never be defeated. That’s the Biblical paradigm.
It’s a good question. Thanks for asking.
Yours in Him,