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!

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)

Israel and the Church: Two Sides of the Same Coin–or Two Different Coins?

Does the Bible teach an Israel-Church distinction?

Gary Demar says NO.

Back when I cut my spiritual teeth as a fairly new Christian in the mid-1980s (when I was in my early 20s), dispensationalism and premillennialism were all the rage. In fact, in my Pentecostal-Fundamentalist world, they were running at a fever pitch.  Books, tapes, prophetic conferences, radio, TV, evangelistic ministries, etc., were all talking about the “end times”, the “last days”, the coming Rapture, imminent return of Christ to the earth and the Great Tribulation.

One theme that kept cropping up was what the Bible had to say about Israel in “prophecy” as it relates to what it says about the Church in prophecy, and especially the (apparent) scriptural divide that exists between “the Church”–meaning God’s New Testament body of Christian believers–and “Israel”–meaning God’s Old Testament body of Jewish believers.

In standard dispensational-premillennial theology, these two entities are not the same, and they never will be.  The Church, since the day of Pentecost and the book of Acts, has been and always will be a New Testament phenomenon.  The nation of Israel has been and always will be an ethnically-genetically-geographically-defined group of Old Testament-centric folks who are the physical descendants of Abraham.  And ne’er the twain shall meet, except in heaven, and in the coming earthly, literal “millennial” kingdom (and, of course, in “heretical” Covenant/Reformed theology!)

The crux of the confusion surrounding this controversy involves what the Bible says about the Church and Israel, and hinges on its use of the word “church.”

Church (“ekklesia”) was not a new word invented in the 1st century A.D by Greek-speaking writers of the New Testament to describe believers in Christ in any exclusive sense.

Rather, Ekklesia was a word that had already been in common usage “for several hundred years before the Christian era” in a much more broad, inclusive sense.  Hence,…

There is no Church-Israel distinction in the Bible because the Greek word ekklēsia is not an invention of the New Testament writers. Ekklēsia is a common word that is used to describe an assembly or congregation. It is used this way in the Greek translation of the Old Testament — the Septuagint (LXX) — and the Greek New Testament. This common word is use by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel (the most Jewish of the gospels):

  • “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church [ekklēsia]; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18).[3]
  • “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church [ekklēsia]; and if he refuses to listen even to the church [ekklēsia], let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17).

It was a very generically used word that could apply to both O.T. and N.T. assemblies of God’s people.  Moreover, “promises made to Old Testament Israel are said to be fulfilled in the so-called church age” to New Testament believers.

“For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, andthey shall be My people. . . . And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:16, 18). How can this be when Paul is citing a verse that originally applied to Israel? How can the church be the temple? The temple is strictly Jewish. Second Corinthians 6:18 is a direct citation of Exodus 29:45: “And I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God.” Then there is the statement to the Corinthian ekklēsiato “come out from their midst and be separate.” This, too, is an Old Testament reference to Israel, as is the reference not to touch “what is unclean” (2 Cor. 6:17b; Isa. 52:11). Finally, Paul tells the Corinthians that God will be a Father to them, and they will be “sons and daughters” to Him (2 Cor. 6:18). Once again, Paul draws on passages that were first applied to Israel (Isa. 43:6; Hosea 1:10).

Demar’s point is that Scripture makes no distinction between Israel and the Church, they’re one and the same, but that dispensationalism MUST make this distinction in order to harmonize its teachings with the Bible.

To read the full article, click here.

http://americanvision.org/5637/does-the-bible-teach-an-israel-church-distinction/