Aren’t All Christians Supposed to Be ‘Reconstructionists’?

CorneliusVanTilThis past week there has been some discussion about Van Til and his worldview and whether it was more in line with Christian Reconstructionism and theonomy than previously thought, or (more to the point) whether his privately held views were a true reflection of his stated positions of amillennialism and an apolitical Christianity.

Joel McDurmon talks about this in his two articles:

Cornelius Van Til’s ‘Spirit of Reconstruction’

When Van Til Got Crazy Political

‘Spirit of Van Tillianism”

Lots of Reformed Christians consider themselves spiritual heirs of Van Til.  The Reformed world and evangelical Christianity owe him an enormous debt for his path-breaking work that established the philosophical framework for what would later become “presuppositional apologetics.”

Likewise, the philosophical and exegetical framework for Christian Reconstruction would never have gotten off the ground without his pioneering efforts.

So, why is it that Reformed Christians who embrace the philosophical and epistemological views of Van Til are loathe to embrace similarly held views when they are expressed by Christian Reconstructionists?

By Which Double Standard?

At their core, are they really that much different?  In their expression, yes, perhaps.  But not in their presuppositions.

Christian Reconstruction as espoused and promulgated by Rushdoony, North, Bahnsen, Chilton, et al., was a radical departure from conventional Christian thought — even Reformed Christian thought — at the time (mid-1960s).  But it was based squarely on the philosophical foundations of Van Til.

To paraphrase the old adage from the Reformation:

Rushdoony and North hatched the egg that Van Til laid.

The Greatness of the Great Commission

The title of Dr. Kenneth Gentry’s excellent book leads us to the larger issue at hand, and really puts our mandate as believers and followers of Christ into perspective: our commission as the body of Christ in the world is to take the Gospel to all peoples and all nations and to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded.

Modern evangelical Christians until the 1980s have sought to keep this a personal, private, home-based matter.  Fundamentalism institutionalized the thinking: “Save souls, not cultures!”  That is beginning to change.

But “making disciples” doesn’t simply mean making more church-goers and Bible-readers.

It means a Holy-Spirit-caused radical transformation that begins at the bottom and works its way up.  It starts out individually, privately, but it ends up collectively, publicly.  Transformed lives leading to transformed families.  Transformed families leading to transformed communities and transformed societies.  Then, transformed cultures, transformed nations and, ultimately, a transformed world.

Isn’t this what we are supposed to be striving for and praying for (“thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”) (“Go ye into all the world…”)?  Should that not be the earnest desire of our Christ-loving, Holy-Spirit-converted hearts for our fallen race, a humanity comprised of many of our fellow sinners yet-to-be-saved by grace?

You would think so.

Theonomy and Reconstruction: A Reformed Response

R. C. Sproul, Jr. has weighed in on this topic of Christian Reconstruction vs. biblical Reformation and the Great Commission before:

Let’s begin with what we all ought to agree on- that discipling the nations and teaching them to obey whatsoever Christ commanded should include some understanding of the Lordship of Christ over the cultural and political spheres. Jesus is bringing every enemy under captivity, causing every knee to bow, including the knees of princes, judges and kings who will not kiss Him, who will not acknowledge Him as Lord.

No argument there.  He then asks:

So how do we make known the reign of Christ over all things? We begin by bringing our own sinful natures under submission.

No argument there. That is where all true ‘reconstruction’ must begin.

He concludes with this:

What we are called to is neither to huddle in the corner because Jesus is coming back tomorrow, nor to hang out in back rooms cutting deals to hurry His return. Instead we ought to be about our own callings, raising up godly seed, voting for and supporting honest and honorable candidates that submit to the Lordship of Christ. Is this reconstruction, or is this faithful stewardship of our time? Is this reconstruction, or is this seeking first the kingdom of God? Is this reconstruction, or is this making visible the invisible reign of Christ over all things? In the end, it doesn’t much matter what you call it. We are to obey Christ, to train up our children to do the same. This is loving your neighbor and this will change the world. (emphasis added)

Amen, brother.

Nine days after posting that, he reposted another article that had been published two years prior, which was even more amicable to Christian Reconstruction.  It ended with this kind word of solidarity:

Theonomists, like the rest of us, long to see justice in the political realm. They long to see the nations discipled. They long to see the kingdom made manifest. They long to see every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Who, within His kingdom, could ever argue with that?

Who, indeed?

Sproul 2.0 (“Did I Really Say That?”)

More recently, however, Sproul seems to have lost his spirit of solidarity with theonomists and reconstructionists in a podcast and an accompanying article.

It is chock-full of back-handed compliments, like these:

These good folks have the wisdom to not be embarrassed by the Law of God. Every time somebody tries to discredit the Bible stance on sodomy, based on its stance on slavery, unlike the rest of the Christians, these guys don’t blush. They’re perfectly comfortable with slavery because they aren’t slaves to popular opinion. This movement, sometimes called Theonomy, sometimes called Reconstructionism, is the stuff of nightmares to the liberal left. These guys are well-educated, articulate, and medieval.

I see.  Well-educated, articulate, and medieval.

No matter.  What Sproul said in his previous two articles stands as sufficient testimony to the general agreement that exists between what “Christian Reconstructionists” want for the world and what other Bible-believing Christians want.

“WHAT DO WE WANT?”  A redeemed and reformed world.  If not for ourselves, at least for our children and their children and their childrens’ children.

“WHEN DO WE WANT IT?”  Later!  (After Jesus comes back bodily to fulfill the responsibilities of His church–right after we are air-lifted out of the global mess we left behind!)

This is where premillennialists and postmillennialists part company.

They’re looking for the lifeboats.  We’re building a whole new shipping company!

But Sproul sounds far more in congruence with the latter group in his eschatology than the former.  For that we are grateful.

This, friends, is the very progress of history, the making of God’s enemies into his footstool. And this is the very trajectory of history. Here we are told, not that things must get really bad before He comes again, but that they must get really good. He is now at the right hand of the Father, there He will stay until all His enemies are defeated. I confess that I don’t know exactly what this will look like, it won’t mean that everyone on the planet will serve Christ. It won’t mean that there will be no more sin and no more death. That will await his final return. But it does mean this, that every pretender to the throne of Christ will be brought low.

At least he is laboring — grudgingly alongside his theonomist provocateurs — toward the same worthy goal.

Is Biblical Christianity ‘Reconstructionist’?

Let’s take the familiar critics’ question and turn it around.

It is a fair question: “Is Christian Reconstruction ‘Biblical’?”

So we ask the converse of it: “Is Biblical Christianity ‘Reconstructionist’?”

An equally fair question.

Let’s wrap up this article by asking and answering it.

Does biblical Christianity see history as the progress of Christ’s kingdom on earth advancing before He returns? In other words, is it optimistic about the future before His Second Advent?

Do fish swim?

Does biblical Christianity see all of Scripture as self-authenticating and the inviolable basis for presupposing that ALL of its utterances and pronouncements are true, and that it is the authoritative rule and standard over ALL of life and ALL people and places at ALL times, by which ALL things are judged?

Do birds have feathers?

Does biblical Christianity see the Gospel as a comprehensive message of salvation to be preached to ALL the world, so that MANY souls (collectively and individually) may be saved and many cultures redeemed, to the glory of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Do cows give milk?

Is biblical Christianity a faith that is intended to affect everything in our lives and in our world, for good and for God’s glory?

Are these questions obviously rhetorical (and the answers self-evident)?

Yes!

An Informed Response

So, the next time somebody asks you, “Is Christian Reconstruction ‘biblical’?”, or they tell you that it isn’t biblical, ask them if they know what reconstructionists really want.

Tell them they want the same thing that all Bible-believing Christians around the world want.

A world won for Christ, the redemption of Adam’s fallen race, and the coming (and growth and advancement and ultimate victory) of His Kingdom!

You Can Lead a Horse to (Reconstructionist) Water, But You Can’t Make Him THINK It

Boys Pushing & Pulling Stubborn Mule

Someone on Gary North’s discussion forums this past week posted that he had recently “converted” to Christian Reconstructionism from premillennial dispensationalism.  This, of course, now makes him a contrarian in almost every sense of the word.  He said he is now the only member of his circle of family and friends to hold this position theologically and eschatologically.

His dilemma (and his question) is this: how to persuade members of his family and at least some of his friends that their position is wrong and his position is right?  Ah, yes…

“How to Lose Friends and INFURIATE People!”

Hmmm.  Sounds like a similar dilemma and question when one becomes a new, evangelically-born Christian.  Suddenly, you have (by God’s grace) awakened from a deep spiritual slumber.  You’ve been raised from the dead and rescued from certain everlasting damnation, and given new life and a new purpose.  You feel (and think) like a new man.  That’s because you are.  You know you have a truth that is THE truth (and not just “your” truth.)  The Gospel becomes like a fire shut up in your bones. You can’t keep it to yourself.  You have to tell others.  You want to tell EVERYBODY within earshot.  JESUS is LORD and Savior and King!  Believe in Him and be saved, too. Have peace with God, forgiveness of sins, everlasting life and joy and fellowship with all the redeemed in Christ and joy and peace and radiant and abundant personal fulfillment in spite of your evergreen and enduring Adamic affinities in this life, and so much more.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Well, my fellow Calvinistic, sovereign-election-embracing, total-depravity-acknowledging Christian, not everybody!

In the same way that non-Christians whom God has not been pleased to grant an irresistible attraction to the Gospel of grace in Christ are not all that interested or enthused by your new-found, let-me-tell-you-all-about-what-God-did-for-me-through-His-Son-Jesus “fanaticism,” likewise, non-Reconstructionists, whom God has not been pleased to grant — well, anyway — who are not only not interested in your new-found, “unorthodox,” borderline-heretical, overly optimistic, evangelically-incorrect belief system and worldview, they are incensed by it.

You have gone to the dark side.  You have defected from the safe haven of Rapture-and-tribulation-focused, eschatologically emasculated, piously pessimistic, conservative, culturally-defeatist, evangelical Christianity.

In other words, you’ve been a BAD boy!

At least, that’s how it looks when they are in the majority and you are in the minority — a teensy-weensy (but slowly growing) minority.  Their sense of validation and biblical superiority is based solely on the fact that they outnumber you.  Their favorite Bible teachers and preachers all teach some form of pietism-premillennialism-dispensationalism.  All the Christian radio and TV stations they tune into teach it. Probably, their pastors all teach and preach it.  Therefore, most (if not all) of their Christian friends — and relatives — believe it.  Therefore, it MUST be true.

For the most part, folks who hold to dispensationalism do so because that’s been the prevailing alternative to the anemic amillennialism of most reformed, liturgical protestant and Roman Catholic churches.

Regardless of what tradition you came out of, when you become a “Bible-believing” conservative evangelical or mainline pentecostal committed to biblical inerrancy, premillennial dispensationalism is pretty much what you are expected to believe — otherwise, you’re a LIBERAL!

And even if you’re a dedicated, conservative Calvinist, chances are you’ve shed dispensationalism and adopted a more robust covenantalism, but you have still retained the pessimistic eschatology of premillennialism (i.e., Satan reigns now, Jesus will reign later).

The Question

Anyway, here is the question, verbatim, posted by this person:

I was recently “converted” to the reconstructionist/postmillennial view of Scriptures. I am the only only person in my family who holds this viewpoint. All of my family and Christian fellowship from the past are the dispensational types. For the most part they are all heavily invested into thinking about the “end times.”

I am not really one who likes to debate and argue, but at the same time, I do not like seeing them being affected by this subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) worldview of defeat. Most of them are just “hunkering down” and waiting for Christ to return. They have no ambitions for productivity. They wouldn’t say that, but that’s how they live.

What are some good ways to be an influence on my family and friends in trying to help them see the hope that is in the Reconstructionist view of scripture and life? What are some good questions to ask to get them thinking about their assumptions?

The Answer

Here is Gary’s answer.  Pay close attention to the action steps prescribed here.  They can be applied to virtually any situation where you hold to a certain set of beliefs and the majority of people around you hold to another.  He does not say to marshall your forces to do intellectual and rhetorical battle with your ideological (but not spiritual) foes.  Rather, he says, put your theology where your mouth is.  That includes your eschatology.  Live it out so that others — especially the ones you’re trying to persuade and hoping to convince — can and WILL see the real, visible difference that it makes.

Hunkering down is the preferred way of life for the vast majority of people. This will not change. It’s Pareto’s law: the ineffective 80%.

You perceive that their eschatology is a root cause of their lack of initiative. But is it? It may be the other way around. They are just normal people, hunkered down, and their eschatology comforts them. It tells them that this is all they should expect. You want to take this excuse away from them. You will encounter resistance. If you are not rich or famous, they will say to themselves: “What does he know?” What is your answer?

So, the best way to handle this is by word and deed.

First, achieve some obvious success.

Second, produce materials that show how you did it. This includes your views on eschatology. Write a short a book on eschatology and success. Explain why eschatology does not promote or justify a lack of success. Aim this book at somebody who is about 15 years old. Do not target your relatives. Your relatives do not want to hear it. Your relatives do not want to be reminded by you that they are underachievers due to their eschatology. Publish this book by print-on-demand.

Third, produce a series of video lessons that could be used in a Sunday school. Explain your position. Post these on YouTube. I recommend a 12-week series of lessons, each about 25 minutes long. Use a screencast program to do it, with a presentation graphics program such as the one in Libre Office. Buy a good lapel microphone. Buy a good webcam for $70 or so.

Fourth, set up a WordPress.com site. Post the videos on the site as embeds.

This way, when somebody asks you what you believe, hand him a book, and then hand him a short link created by Bitly.com or TinyURL.com that takes the person to your video series on eschatology. If the person is interested, he can find out what you believe at his own pace. He can listen, review it, or ignore it. He does not have to listen to you tell him face to face.

He listens to you teaching teenage kids, which is a completely different positioning. He does not feel threatened. You are not targeting him because he is a failure. You are targeting young people to help them not become failures. The positioning is completely different. Everybody wants kids to be successful. It is just that few people want to pay the price personally to be successful and to be a role model for kids. He expects his own kids to do what he has not done, despite the fact that he has taught his kids erroneously.

If you are positioning the materials to help teenagers do better in their lives, it is very difficult for anyone to criticize you. Ignore your relatives. Why? Because they surely ignore you. Treat them in exactly the same way. Target a completely different audience, and then, if a few of your relatives are curious about what you have been doing, you can hand them the book and a link to your blog site, which has your YouTube videos embedded in it.

Again, there’s no strategy of full-spectrum theological dominance here.  Just a practical program of, “Don’t tell me, show me!”

To subscribe to Gary North’s website, click HERE!)

Forum question and answer reprinted by permission.

Reconstructionism vs. Dispensationalism: 25 Years Later, the Debate Still Hinges on the Role and Responsibility of Christians, Not the Return of Jesus

88 Reasons

Younger Christians may not remember this, but 25 years ago, in 1988, millions of Bible-believing Christians all over the world were anxiously awaiting and breathlessly watching for that glorious event to take place, in which the hopes and dreams of generations of believers would be fully realized and instantly confirmed and consummated in the physical, earthly return of our Lord Jesus Christ at the moment of the “catching away” of His bride into the clouds of the air in a biblically predicted event known as “The Rapture.”

I was one of those anxiously awaiting, breathlessly watching Christians that year.

And when 1988 came and went, and I was still here — and Jesus wasn’t — I became even MORE anxious and breathless!

Talk about not getting what you wanted on Christmas morning.

Talk about disappointment and disillusionment.  Our Deliverer was a no-show.  And, here we all were — breathless, anxious and now demoralized Christians — still stuck in our day jobs, still stuck with the world’s problems to solve and Satan’s wickedness (and our own sinfulness) to contend with.

In other words, same old same old!

But the next 2-3 years were a time of transition and reexamination for me.  Reexamining my theology, my eschatology, and my underdeveloped biblical worldview.  Providentially, that was also the time during which I discovered R. J. Rushdoony, Dr. Gary North, Calvinism, the Reformed faith and Christian Reconstructionism.

The more I read and learned and developed my newly-emerging, Calvinist Christian Reconstructionist biblical worldview, the less relevant and less biblical I saw the doctrine of an imminent Rapture and imminent, literal, physical return of Jesus to set up his earthly, millennial Kingdom (with bureaucratic headquarters in Jerusalem) really was.

I moved on and left it behind.

Fast forward.  Yesterday, Gary North published an article asking the question: “Whatever Happened to the Rapture?”

It reminded me of the bigger question: whatever happened to Christians rebuilding and redeeming civilizations and cultures and preparing them for the return of their Savior-King, instead of abandoning civilization and preparing themselves for “stand-by” status on the next flight to heaven?

That article commemorates the 25th anniversary of a debate Gary had, along with Gary DeMar, against Dave Hunt and Tommy Ice — two well-known figures in the world of evangelical pop prophecy and Dispensationalism during the 1980s — on the subject of Christian Reconstruction.

Earlier this year, North and DeMar sat down for a followup video discussion of that debate and of the debate that is still going on about what Christians should be doing in this world while Jesus reigns from heaven and before His return.

Their discussion is not even about eschatology per se– the last days and end times — as you might expect.  It is more about, as they emphatically point out, ETHICS and ACTION.  How Christians can and should be applying their faith in the various areas of education, politics, economics, religion and the family, etc..  Eschatology may have been the “hook” that North and DeMar used to launch and frame the debate, but it was never the crux or essence of it.

Their concern is and has always been about the practical application and implementation of the Christian faith, not theoretical, hermeneutic speculation and rhetorical argument.

Watch the discussion here (opens a new window).

The original debate is here:

The hair has changed. The issues have not!

An Easy Way to Remember the Basic Tenets of Christian Reconstructionism

The Five Points of Christian Reconstruction cover

Acronyms are helpful little things. Especially when you’re trying to remember the main ideas of a particular teaching or the basic tenets of a certain body of thought.

I’ve “memorized” (meaning, I remembered them just long enough to pass an exam or a class!) plenty of acronyms in my day.  Different subjects and disciplines.  I’m sure you have, too.

Theological acronyms are useful that way.  As long as you remember that they’re NOT meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive in any way.  They’re just memory aids.

And they’re not meant to win arguments, either.  In fact, they’re usually formulated as a response to an argument, as a way of clarifying a position regarding a certain matter or a system of belief.  They’re meant to answer (or rebut) specific questions or criticisms that have been raised, sometimes by the opposition, and sometimes by
dyed-in-the-wool advocates of that position or system, who maybe have been clamoring and hankering for some handy-dandy little rhetorical device like this to arm themselves with.

So, Calvinism has its T.U.L.I.P.  Covenantalism–the five-point biblical covenant model explored and explained by Dr. Ray Sutton and Dr. Gary North–has a really cool acronym: T.H.E.O.S.

But, what do Christian Reconstructionists have as their own unique little memory aid to help folks in remembering the main points, the basic tenets of what it teaches?  Something that easily and accurately conveys its most important theological “fundamentals” and distinctives?

“Everything’s Coming Up R.O.S.E.S.

Mark D. Brown a few years ago came up with a good one.  It pretty well touches on the main highlights of what Christian Reconstructionism is all about.  Again, it’s not comprehensive or exhaustive.  It’s only meant to be a “snapshot” of a very far-reaching and comprehensive biblical system of thought.  And, again, you won’t win any arguments with it (but you might win some “converts” from other, less robust biblical systems of thought!”).

Happily, it fits the standard, five-point format of Received Acronymology that Reformed Christians know and love so well!

Here it is:

R – Regeneration

O – Obedience to God’s Law

S – Supremacy of Scripture

E – Eschatology of Victory

S – Separation of Governments

Those of you who have been drinking from the deep (and diverse) wells of Reconstructionism for a while can appreciate the simplicity and accuracy of this short list.

Let’s take a look at each one of these.

REGENERATION.  If you have read anything at all written in the last 40-50 years by Rushdoony, North, Bahnsen, Sutton, Gentry, Jordan, etc., or any of the other Reconstructionist-leaning writers that have covered this topic, you know that, just as in business, “nothing good happens until there is a sale,” in the world of Christian Reconstruction, nothing good happens until there is a soul saved All of what CR teaches and preaches hinges on and emanates from this most fundamental and crucial principle. Anti-Christian Reconstructionist critics never seem to grasp this.

OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S LAW.  This is our theonomic side showing.  We LOVE God’s law (as all Christians ought to)!  We believe in the continuing moral validity of God’s law.  Not because it condemns or confronts us, but because it sanctifies and instructs us!  Good grief, read Psalm 119 (again), for heaven’s sake!  God’s law is a beautiful thing!  It should be our meditation day and night.  It’s only ugly when you see it from a sinner’s perspective, or from an ANTI-nomian point of view (not a good thing).

SUPREMACY OF SCRIPTURE.  No brainer.  God’s Word, the Holy Bible, the Scriptures Contained in the Old and New Testaments, is our final and sole authority on matters of faith, morals, practice, etc..  Period.  We take that for granted, like the existence of God.  In theological circles, this is known as presuppositionalism.  (One thing Reconstructionists have always been good at is wielding lots of multi-syllable, intellectually intimidating theological terms!)

ESCHATOLOGY OF VICTORY.  What’s not to like?  One of the foundational tenets of Christian Reconstruction is the biblical eschatology of postmillennialism.  Jesus is reigning right now as sovereign king from His throne in heaven at His Father’s right hand ever since His ascension, patiently building His Kingdom, slowly but surely, steadily transforming Satan’s corrupt and counterfeit realm here on earth into God’s “reconstructed” Christ-centered Civilization on earth.  The Gospel’s historical success is a foregone conclusion, the ultimate, predetermined outcome of the work of the church in this world before our Lord Jesus returns.  So, all you amillennial and premillennial Christians, STOP being fatalistic, pessimistic, pietistic and defeatist in your theology!  Jesus IS coming–He’s just not coming until He FINISHES what He started here.

SEPARATION OF GOVERNMENTS.  Here’s another area of Reconstructionism that is routinely, wantonly and grossly misrepresented.  Again, real Reconstruction starts with the SELF-GOVERNMENT of the redeemed, born-again individual under God’s law.  Which is then reflected in how that individual goes about implementing and doing government in his other spheres of life.  Family government.  Civil government.  Church government.  All separate, all governed by God’s law.  Anti-reconstructionists, look up “theocracy.”  It means GOD rules.  Not Christians. Not the church. Not a band of crazed fanatics with rocks in their hands (and heads).  God’s LAW governs.  I really wish the critics would read (and more thoughtfully interact with) more of what they endeavor to criticize before they open their mouths!

So, there it is.  A very useful little acronym and rhetorical memory device all our own.

But, of course, Christian Reconstructionism by any other name would smell as sweet.

If you want to read Mark D. Brown’s brief little booklet on R.O.S.E.S., click here.

Millennialism, and Why It May Be Crucial to the Salvation of Billions of Souls over the Next 2-3 Generations

Twenty-two years ago (1990), Gary North wrote a book, Millennialism and Social Theory.

He gave it an academic-sounding title, hoping (he says) that “there may be a few secular academics who decide to read it.”

Well, I’m not a secular academic.  But after reading the book, I can tell you it is not a detached intellectual treatise on a dry academic/theological subject.

It is more of an impassioned plea to the Church of Jesus Christ to re-examine and rediscover its mission to the world: intensive gospel evangelism and comprehensive, covenant-driven discipleship of the nations.  (That would make a great title for Gary’s next book: The Covenant-Driven Church!)

There’s a definite evangelistic undertone running through it.

Gary makes it clear why he’s writing. He doesn’t make any bones about it.  A lot is at stake.  It is not to settle any theological scores or to engage other millennial views in a friendly (or unfriendly) debate.  Rather, it is to get the Church to get a grip on itself and see just how unbiblical (and unresultful) its approach has been in its attempts over the last 2,000 years (of fits and starts) to fulfill the Great Commission–owing mainly to a defective understanding of God’s Covenant and of the nature and timing (and global impact, in history) of Christ’s earthly kingdom.

Gary is deeply concerned for the spiritual destiny and salvation not only of the five billion people inhabiting the planet at the time of his writing (1990), but also of the six and perhaps ten billion people who will quite possibly live and die without Christ during the next 75-80 years.

He says only a widespread, global move of the Holy Spirit in the very near future can stop the demographic disaster, spiritually speaking, that is currently taking place.

And the Church is totally unprepared for such a massive influx of new converts, who must be discipled and trained in the way of righteousness so that the institutions of society and the culture at large can likewise be (progressively) transformed.

The Kingdom of God: Christ’s New World Order

Gary’s operating thesis is this: the kingdom of God is the civilization of God.  And the Bible–the Old and New Testament scriptures–are the “blueprints” and basis on which that civilization is to be built.

The Church is called to the task of rebuilding a fallen civilization–to replace Satan’s counterfeit kingdoms and empires–according to those blueprints, thereby facilitating the widespread, Holy Spirit engendered salvation and sanctification of multitudes of presently unsaved persons and nations around the world–God’s promised response of widespread, corporate blessing for widespread, corporate, covenantal obedience.

But, because of the modern Church’s predominantly pessimistic, escapist/defeatist/pietist theology and eschatology, a truncated version and vision of evangelism, and the lack of a comprehensive, covenant-based approach to discipleship, pastoral training, church planting and societal/institutional restoration and reconstruction–well, that job–which is of eternal significance–is just not getting done. And the world at large is suffering massive cultural and spiritual consequences for it.

And that is why Satan and his counterfeit New World Order/humanist social order is (or appears to be) winning.

This glaring defect in the Church’s worldview and its inability to carry out its divinely appointed mission properly, Gary says, can be traced to its recent (19th-20th century) abandonment of the robust, covenantal (“social/judicial”) postmillennialism of the 17th-century Puritans of New England, and its embracing a more “pietist/individualist”, non-covenantal (non-Calvinistic) theology.  Also, its adopting (by some) of an aberrant, dispensational understanding of God’s revelation in Scripture, that has led to its current premillennial (or amillennial) misinterpretation of prophecy and Scripture and of the Church’s role and mission in the world prior to the Lord’s return.

Gary focusses on millennialism rather than the larger area of eschatology (doctrine of last things) because, for the most part, Christian eschatology is not in dispute.  The Church’s understanding of Christ’s earthly kingdom (i.e., his reign during “the Millennium”), how it is realized, how it impacts the world and the role we play in it, however, is.

Premillennialism and amillennialism he frequently refers to, jointly, as pessimillennialism, because both views agree on the historical failure and increased persecution (or “exile”) of the Church during the present age before the Second Coming (or Rapture), as well as agreeing on the “futility” of trying to change institutions and cultures by the Gospel using biblical laws and standards.

He defines the three major millennial views (mentioning briefly dispensationalism, which some consider to be a fourth view apart from historic premillennialism), comparing and contrasting them.  He spends a little more time discussing the problems of amillennialism since that is the de facto view of most Reformed/Calvinist churches as well as most mainline liturgical churches (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal/Anglican).  Premillennialism is embraced by most evangelical Protestant and Pentecostal churches.  Postmillennialism is the odd man out here, currently the minority view and essentially out of vogue in most churches, but is gaining more of a hearing these days (as is Christian Reconstructionism in general) despite its being, historically, the predominant millennial view of most Presbyterian churches up until the late 19th/early 20th centuries.  He cites the Westminster Confession and Catechisms (Q. 191) as proof of this.

Millennialism and the “Social” Gospel

All along the way, Gary is careful to point out the impact that millennialism has on the success and failure of evangelization and discipleship by the Church and by Christians throughout the world and throughout history.

He relates it to “social theory” (hence, the title of the book), which deals with understanding how a society operates and what “holds it together”–its laws, its institutions, its system of sanctions and rewards, its time perspective, etc..

And that is the crux of his biggest complaint and criticism against the modern Church: its failure to construct a biblically-based model, a comprehensive, cultural, covenantal alternative to the humanist social order and secular/non-Christian social theory.

He sees this failure as a direct result of its unwillingness to see the whole of Scripture as a covenantal historical document–one with a revealed (inspired) system of sanctions and rewards, laws and precepts–blessings and cursings for obedience and disobedience–that are predictable and reliable because they are based on God’s promises (his law-word).  Also, that the Christian faith provides all of the tools necessary–spiritual and temporal–to reconstruct society and rebuild civilization, one soul at a time “in the image of God”, using a Bible-based set of laws and principles to govern every institution, and a biblical time perspective (linear and upward in progress) to rally everyone around and “bond” them together, united towards a common goal: the “healing of the nations” through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gary covers an enormous amount of ground in his 300+ page book.  I’m only giving the barest of outlines to sketch the major themes of it.

Here are the topics covered in his 13 chapters (followed by a Conclusion, Appendix and indexes):

  1. Eschatology and the Millennium
  2. What is Social Theory?
  3. Covenantal Progress
  4. Pessimillennialism
  5. The Society of the Future
  6. Time Enough
  7. Denying God’s Predictable Sanctions in History
  8. Historical Sanctions: An Inescapable Concept
  9. The Sociology of Suffering
  10. Pietistic Postmillennialism
  11. Will God Disinherit Christ’s Church
  12. Our Blessed Earthly Hope in History
  13. What is to Be Done?

The entire book, Millennialism, is intensely practical.  The last chapter, “What is to Be Done?”, even offers a game plan and “road map” to follow that answers the question, ‘Okay, so now what?‘  Here, Gary gets down to brass tacks (as only he can) and gives it to you straight.

I could fill page after page online with quotable material from this book.  Gary North is a master of rhetoric (as well as grammar and logic), with enough training and experience as a historian, theologian, economist and writer to easily qualify him and position him as the official scribe, editor and spokesman (as well as co-founder… and economist!) of the modern Christian Reconstruction movement.

Here is one of the more sanguine yet blunt of his statements, taken from pages 310-311, that reflects the heart of Gary on this matter of millennialism and why it matters so much to him:

My concern is with evangelism. I am not willing to write off automatically (prophetically) the souls of five-plus billion people. God has this prerogative; I do not. Again, let me say it as plainly as I can: my hostility to amillennialism and premillennialism is not based on my disagreements with their interpretations of this or that verse in Scripture. Good men have disagreed for a long time over the proper interpretation of Bible verses. My hostility is to the mindset that has to underlie any Calvinist who says that God will not move large numbers of souls into His kingdom at some point in history. He is saying, in no uncertain terms: “To hell with the whole world. I’m in the Book of Life, and that’s what counts for me.” It is a bad attitude, but it underlies all pessimillennial Calvinism. The Arminian pessimillennialists have an excuse: they do not believe in God’s irresistible grace. But the Calvinist who thinks in pessimillennial terms has necessarily adopted an elitist attitude: a world in which he assumes, and sometimes even says publicly, that “God will not fill up heaven with the people of my generation. But I’ve got mine!”

My attitude is different. I think: “Oh, God, if you were willing to let me in, why don’t you let billions in? It’s no more difficult for you to let five billion more in than to let me in.” I can pray in confidence that God might do this in my day because I know he will do it someday. Pessimillenialists do not pray for the conversion of the world with my degree of confidence…

I wholeheartedly recommend Millennialism and Social Theory to all, especially Christians, who want to know, (a), why it matters, and, (b), what to do about it.

Buy it (cheap!) here, or download it for free from the author himself.

Either way, READ IT! (carefully, prayerfully)

‘A New Way of Thinking’ for Christians: Positive, Optimistic

Sometime back in the early 1990s, I read Gary North’s Backward Christian Soldiers: An Action Manual for Christian Reconstruction.

It was one of several of Gary’s books that I began to acquire and read one by one as I began to “reconstruct” my worldview as well as my theology and eschatology.

It is one thing to be a conservative evangelical Christian and have hope for the future.

It is quite another to be one and have hope for the present.

That’s where the majority of evangelical and Reformed Christians find themselves.  It’s where they found themselves three decades ago.

Stuck somewhere between waiting for the Rapture and waiting for the world to keep on sliding into the cultural and moral abyss, with the Church doing its best to hold on to its not-so-solid ground.

In 1984, Gary offered the Church something better.

An ‘action manual’ for VICTORY on the field of battle.

A small book introducing Christians to a “positive, optimistic way of thinking” about the world around them.  An alternative to the doom-and-gloom, prophetically-challenged pessimism that ruled the airwaves–and printing presses–almost exclusively back in the 1980s.  I remember it so well!

Recently–as recently as the last two weeks–I acquired several (10) fresh copies of this book, Backward, Christian Soldiers, which I plan to give away.  “Fresh” is a relative term, though.  These are original editions left over from the second printing of the book: 1986.  So they’ve been around awhile. Unsold. (Until two weeks ago.)

That, by the way, is a testimony to the overall reticence and reluctance of evangelical Christians en masse to heed such a “positive, optimistic” message of “victory” for the Church–especially one that posits this victory as taking place, progressively, prior to the Lord’s return.  Eschatological heresy!

I’ll be taking a closer look at Gary’s book here, unpacking its contents and pulling out whatever nuggets of proactive, biblically-based optimism that I can.

Don’t let the title fool you.  Gary knows how to wield a catchy headline (or book title).  It’s meant to startle Christians into realizing that, for the last century or more, we’ve been marching backwards, away from the conflict and out of the war, culturally speaking, the entire regiment beating a retreat in the face of humanism’s relentless onslaught.

The victory spoken of in this book is not just the victory over indwelling sin that all believers agree has already been won.  It’s the victory over the effects of sin in every area of life.  

It can be done. Not perfectly, of course. Perfect victory over personal sin comes only on the day of a person’s death, or on the day of resurrection, whichever comes first. Perfect victory over the effects of sin throughout the universe comes only at the day of judgment. But progressive victory over sin in the individual’s life can and should be mirrored in the progressive victory over the effects of sin in the society.

As Gary points out, this is the message of Deuteronomy 8 and 28:1-14. (Take a look at those passages. They’re still relevant.)  The victory of the one in Christ as well as the victory of the many.

He talks in his introduction about “social sanctification.”  Something we individualistic Christians tend to find a foreign-sounding phrase.  It is the “leavening influence” that the presence of believers exerts on a culture.

As godly people begin to restructure their behavior in terms of what the Bible requires, the world about them begins to change. They serve as leavening influences in the whole culture. As more converts are added to the rolls of the churches, and as these converts begin to conform their lives to the Bible’s standards for external behavior, all of society is progressively sanctified- set apart by God for His glory, just as He set apart Israel in Old Testament times.

That last point underscores where Christian Reconstructionists sometimes part company with others in the evangelical camp, finding some (but not much) comraderie and kinship with those in the Reformed camp through covenant theology: the continuity of the ethical and moral precepts of the Old Testament, with their commensurate blessings and curses for corporate and individual obedience and disobedience.

That is what our victory is based on.

More on Backward, Christian Soldiers in the next post.

Growing Pains: Evangelical Celebrity Kirk Cameron ‘Outed’ by Critics as a Reconstructionist.

Kirk CameronOutspoken Christian actor Kirk Cameron was already in the doghouse for recent remarks he made on Piers Morgan’s program concerning homosexuality.

But now, he has not only further alienated his detractors on the issue of gay marriage, he may also have offended some of his conservative brethren, those of his own evangelical household.

You see, once upon a time, in an industry not so far, far away, Kirk Cameron was a talented, likable, conservative, born-again Christian TV actor, movie star and media evangelist.  Now–as some of his ideological critics are pointing out–he is a talented, likable, conservative, born-again Christian TV actor, movie star and media evangelist,… with Reconstructionist tendencies.

The horror of it! Not only does Kirk strongly disapprove of gay marriage, now he’ll probably want to campaign and run for president, whereupon his first executive order after being sworn in will be to round up all known and suspected homosexuals and send them straight to Guantanomo Bay for “enhanced interrrogation,” “indefinite detention” (and worse)!  No judge, no jury.  This is, after all, a theocracy!

Anyway, that’s how the fertile imaginations of certain “anti-reconstructionists” would envision it.

What has put Kirk in the crosshairs of the media for the second time in as many months is this: the release of his new film Monumental, and the accompanying hoopla and media scrutiny it has generated, have brought to light some of Kirk’s recent “ties” to well-known Reconstructionists like Gary DeMar, president of American Vision and sponsor and speaker at numerous Reconstructionist events, and Herb Titus, constitutional lawyer and former dean of Regent University law school (and public admirer of Rousas J. Rushdoony), among others.

And the list, i.e., “friends of Kirk”, keeps getting longer, now with this “new” group of folks.

Julie Ingersoll, religion professor, has written an article for the Huffington Post on Kirk Cameron’s “growing circle of Reconstructionist friends.”

She says it like it’s a bad thing.

In fact, so does this guy.

And this guy.

They can all be forgiven for getting it wrong about what Christian Reconstructionism really teaches.  They’re just parroting the same distortions that have been around for the last 40 years.  Which is easier than engaging in close, scriptural and historical examination, thoughtful research and reflection.  In other words, they’re being theologically correct!

Ingersoll makes a valiant attempt at explaining Reconstructionism in her review of Monumental. She makes this observation, which is accurate for the most part:

Reconstructionists, unlike many Christians read the Bible as a coherent whole; both Old and New Testaments. They believe that the Trinity was present at creation and that while some parts of the Old Testament are no longer applicable, most of them are, giving them a somewhat different notion of the character of God than most contemporary Christians have.

Christianity Today did a feature article on Cameron and his new movie, without ever mentioning the “R” word. Not once. Must be an evangelical media blackout or something. Sort of like the secular media blackout on that other “R” word… Ron Paul.

Cameron has moved from the mainstream of conservative evangelicalism to its outer “fringe.”   Let’s hope he can influence other believing Hollywood media stars into joining the fray and widening the fringe!

I would love to see Kirk produce and star in a series of Christian films that would offset the peculiar eschatological views he held (and which are still widely held) back when he appeared in the Left Behind series.

Now, that would be MONUMENTAL!