Bringing the world under the rule of Divine Law, beginning with the United States, was the supreme goal and, presumably, the promise of holy Scripture — that is, the inspired and inerrant Word of God assured us that this world would eventually, providentially, grow into an authentic theocracy, and that, indeed, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2. 10-11, CSB)
Not that my parents were exactly Christian Reconstructionists, but this school of thought, propounded by theologian and philosopher Rousas John Rushdoony, who also happened to be an acquaintance of my father, did deeply influence our family. Not too surprisingly, then, I bought into it in my early adulthood, seeds having been planted during my teen years, and I found precious little resistance to this; rather, some in my circle even encouraged me, especially, of course, those who had already taken the plunge into what is also called theonomy, or dominion theology.
But what, more precisely, is Christian Reconstructionism? One good, succinct explanation is offered by the Apologetics Index, as follows:
Reconstructionism argues that the Bible is to be the governing text for all areas of life — such as government, education, law, and the arts, not merely ”social” or ”moral” issues like pornography, homosexuality, and abortion. Reconstructionists have formulated a ”Biblical world view” and ”Biblical principles” by which to examine contemporary matters. Reconstructionist theologian David Chilton … describes this view: ”The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God’s law.”
Since evangelical, Protestant Christianity, particularly of the Reformed Calvinist brand, was most certainly right, while all other strands of the Christian faith, and especially other religions, were decidedly wrong, dominion theology with the goal of “theocratic republics” under the rule of God’s law was very appealing to me. After all, if we were right in what we believed — that is, in what we knew to be truth — then of course we ought to work toward bringing the whole of the earth under divine lordship. And what was even more exciting was knowing I was part of this favored movement predestined to unmitigated success and glorious victory, especially since it would all be for the ultimate and greatest benefit to humanity.
There was one major problem with all this, however, and that was the sad but undeniable fact that the overwhelming majority of the world did not share this most desirous goal. Point in fact, the world was resistant … even steadfastly opposed. So what were we to do to overcome this resistance? Evangelization, at least in the traditional sense, was largely out of the question because, when all the cards were on the table, the only people who would really eventually convert to the Christian faith were those predestined by God to become Christian, i.e. to be saved. Those who were not predestined were, of course, doomed to an eternity in hell, and there was really nothing we could do about that, no matter how much we may wanted.
What else was left to do, then, except work toward imposing Biblical law by any and all means necessary, even without the consent of the majority of people? Well, there was no room for democratic principles in God’s kingdom anyway; after all, theocracy is just divinely glorified, absolute monarchy, which has nothing whatsoever to do with democracy. And it’s interesting to note at this point that because of this, democracy itself was (and is) usually demonized within dominion theology-Reconstructionist circles. Constitutional republicanism, as a form of governance, seemed to be an acceptable precursor to “theocratic republics,” but not democracy, and this led us straight into the American political arena in an effort to restore decidedly “Constitutional republican norms and virtues” as the first, necessary step toward bringing the world under divine rule. Thus the advent of the Christian right.
Most folks probably don’t realize just what a profound influence Reconstructionism has had on the Christian right — and, for that matter, neo-conservatism, the alt-right, and other radical conservative groups, which often overlap, by the way — but the impact actually goes down to the very roots. Of course, not everyone in the Christian right has been, or is, an avowed Reconstructionist. In fact, some may not even know what Christian Reconstructionism is (exactly), or theonomy or dominion theology … but this doesn’t change the fact that the Christian right was born out of an ideology that had (and still has) as its goal the complete subjection of the nation and, eventually, the whole world to Judeo-Christian laws and principles. And I was definitely there, no doubt.
It might be enough to say I eventually made my exodus when I realised the sheer impracticality of it all, but more than this, I came to the honest-to-god recognition that I myself would really not want to live under the thumbs of any of the Reconstructionists I knew! Far from it, in fact! The thought of what it would probably be like living under their authority, especially as they ruled in God’s name, was absolutely abhorrent. This then led me to another conclusion, which should have been obvious to me all along, and that is: It is always, always dangerous and horrific to live in any society at any time in any part of the world, no matter the particular culture or religion, which claims to be divinely ruled, i.e. theocratic.
This has been tried before. Hell, it’s being attempted now! But it has never worked, it doesn’t work, and it will never work, no matter how good and pure the intentions of those involved. Which eventually led me to another conclusion: This is, perhaps, why God has given humanity free will. Even the Most High God knows it’s not worth compelling people to love him (or her), if that were even possible, or to obey… It has to be a choice freely made, and it has to naturally lead into an authentic, personal relationship, formed by the individual human person as much as it is by God. In other words, it must be genuinely divinely-human and humanly-divine.
At any rate, it was not too long after this awakening, if I may call it such, that I began rethinking some other deeply-held beliefs and perspectives, too … but that’s another story for next time.
5 thoughts on “Ignoble Confessions 2: Undoubtedly Right About Being in the Right”
Interesting post — I need to follow up on the history of reconstructionism, which I don’t know much about. Calvinist ideas about law I do know — have you seen the historical work by John Witte and others on various Protestant ideas about law, and how they interact with medieval precedents? There’s a lot of good literature out there.
Hey there! I’m so sorry to be so long in replying, but thanks so much for stopping by, reading and commenting. Actually, I haven’t read John Witte, but I just looked him up on Amazon. His “Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment” looks interesting. Have you read it? Anyway, your remark about Protestant ideas on law and how they interact with Medieval precedents made me think of Russell Kirk’s “The Roots of the American Order.” Are you familiar with that one? Blessings to you!
I have read some of Witfe, and I own that book, and mean to get to it and review it soon, but I keep getting delayed. Kirk’s name I know, but I admit that I haven’t read him. Do you recommend it?
Yes, and I believe you’d really find Kirk interesting, informative and compelling. Great resource to have on your shelf, IMHO!
OK! I’ll check him out. His name comes up often enough in political histories.