Meet the theonomists

Christian reconstructionism - Wikipedia

Christian reconstructionism is a fundamentalist Reformed theonomic movement that developed under the ideas of Rousas Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen and Gary North; it has had an important influence on the Christian Right in the United States. In keeping with the cultural mandate, reconstructionists advocate theonomy .. Annual national meeting of the Social Science History. Items 1 - 8 His Theonomy in Christian Ethics with a foreword by Rushdoony is .. predict the future accurately, plan to meet the needs of consumers with a. "Theonomy" is a subset of hard dominionism — it entails a separation of .. become Disney meeting pseudoscience and (Fundie) Christianism.

Israel], as a body politick, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people, not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

In adopting the report on theonomy the Reformed Churches of New Zealand agreed that to speak of the continuity of the principles of Old Testament law was entirely scriptural and that this was in harmony with the confessions of the Churches. However, this does not endorse the views of all theonomists as being in harmony with the confessions.

As stated earlier, there are significant differences of interpretation and emphasis among those espousing theonomy. Not all would agree with the formulation arrived at in the report, nor do all agree with the formulation of the Westminster assembly. Bahnsen regards Old Testament Israel as a theocracy in the sense that Israel was a country under the moral rule of God. Just as the magistrate of the Old Testament has divine imperatives which he was responsible to carry out, so also magistrates in the era of the New Testament are under obligation to those commands in the Book of the Law which apply to civil affairs and social penology This view, which was dominant throughout the Middle Ages, maintained that the Church was the supreme power and that the civil ruler is the servant of the Church.

The Church, and especially the Pope as head of the Church, should have authority and control in civil matters. The Erastian view holds that the Church ought to be subordinate to the State. The Church is regarded as being part of the State with ministers of the Church being officials of the State.

This view began to be influential following the establishment of a state religion by the Emperor Constantine. It gained ground in England and Scotland following the Reformation and is held today by Anglicans in Britain and the Lutherans in Scandinavia.

Those holding the Voluntary view believe that the Church and State should be entirely separate. Civil rulers should not use their influence or power to interfere in religious matters, nor should they use their position to promote the cause of the Church or kingdom of Christ.

This was the view of the Anabaptists after the Reformation. It is advocated today under the concept of pluralism; i. The State should not promote any one view or religion. This view of the relationship of Church and State has until recently dominated the evangelical Church in the West. None of these views do justice to the biblical teaching regarding the relationship between the Church and State.

The Voluntary view denies the sovereignty of God over the affairs of all people in the world. Historically Reformed and Presbyterian people have argued that the Church and State are essentially different and rightfully independent authorities. They should be kept distinct and separate from each other. The areas of agreement are as follows: That the Church and State are separate and distinct authorities both instituted by God. That the authority of the Church is spiritual i. The ultimate exercise of that discipline is excommunication.

That the authority of the State is physical i. The State may use physical means to enforce obedience to the law. Its ultimate exercise of that authority is the use of capital punishment. The sphere of its authority is that of justice. The State is not an agent of evangelism and must not use its power to that end. That civil authorities are set up by God and are responsible to Him.

To oppose them is to oppose God Rom. They have a duty to rule according to the law of God. That all societies should honor God and obey His law, and that we ought to pray and work towards this as salt and light in society, irrespective of how far we expect to see this realized before the return of Christ.

That the means the Church must use in promoting godliness and righteousness in the nation is the preaching of the gospel of Christ. Only through the working of the Holy Spirit and faith in Christ will people begin to live according to His laws Rom.

The Church should speak prophetically to our nation about injustices and evils in society. As pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, the study of history can be extremely valuable. There are lessons to be learned from what has happened in the past. Having looked at the theonomy issue in New Zealand, one of the first observations we could make is that there is nothing new under the sun.

Long ago the writer of Ecclesiastes reminded us of this Ecclesiastes 1: We also need to say that even after all this discussion the last word has not been said.

As we came to the conclusion of our report we had to confess that areas of disagreement still remained. The two principal matters were those of the penal sanctions of the Old Testament law and eschatology between the amillennial and postmillennial positions. Perhaps it is a good thing to have points of theology that need further discussion.

Differences of opinion will force us to continue to study and search the Scriptures. This theological debate reinforced some lessons in basic principles of communication. In any conversation, including theological discussion, there are the dangers of jumping to conclusions; of being defensive; and of labeling our opponents and so dismissing them. No one was completely free of these errors in the discussions on theonomy.

Yet thankfully, as we continued to reflect on the issues we were able to sit down together in meaningful conversations, listening carefully, making every effort to understand what the other person was saying.

A further lesson to be learned concerns the sufficiency of the Scriptures. In the Bible God has given us all we need for doctrine and life. This is one of the great foundation stones of Reformed belief: The Reformed Churches of New Zealand have expressed that belief in their motto: It is our conviction that in the Scriptures God has revealed all we need to know in order to live with Him and with each other in this world.

A final lesson concerns these Scriptures and the way we read them. The Reformation established the principle that all believers ought to be able to read the Bible for themselves and be able to understand its basic message.

Of this kind was the law, that the brother should raise up seed to his brother, and many such like: Judicials of common equity, are such as are made according to the law or instinct of nature common to all men: Again judicial laws, so far forth as they have in them the general or common equity of the law of nature are moral: A judicial law may be known to be a law of common equity, if either of these two things be found in it.

First, if wise men not only among the Jews, but also in other nations have by natural reason and conscience judged the same to be equal, just, and necessary: Secondly, a judicial hath common equity, if it serve directly to explain and confirm any of the ten precepts of the decalogue: And whether this be so or no, it will appear, if we consider the matter of the law and the reasons or considerations upon which the Lord was moved to give the same unto the Jews.

Now to make the point in hand more plain, take an example or two. It is a judicial law of God that murderers must be put to death: He distinguishes the judicial laws from natural law the decalogue written on the conscience of all men. He then filters all judicial laws through natural law and retains their general equity. It was William Perkins—and thus, since we both relied on his explanation of the distinction, it was the one who understands the judicial distinction in the way Perkins did.

At this point, the Confession is guilty of nonsense. His argument cannot be sustained apart from the rectitude of his twofold division. We should presume that the Old Testament standing laws continue to be morally binding in the New Testament unless they are rescinded or modified by further revelation.

John Owen comments on Hebrews 8: For the apostle having already proved that the priesthood was to be abolished, he proceeds on that ground and from thence to prove that the whole law was also to be in like manner abolished and removed. And therefore the law, as a command, is opposed unto the gospel, as a promise of righteousness by Jesus Christ, Galatians 3: Therefore, if a nation is to be just, they must enforce Mosaic civil laws today. As were the hangings of Quakers and adulterers and witches in that colony.

It was just for God to kill that man and it is just for God to strike any one of us dead today. But the question is not if God is just in striking anyone dead, but if man is just in striking another man dead. The Massachusetts Bay magistrates were unjust in striking Thomas Granger dead, despite how despicable his sin was. This is the Reformed doctrine of the two wills sometimes distinguished as preceptive vs.

Hall argued that God is free to act contrary to the civil laws of Israel by putting liars to death. The truth is, that is precisely what happened under the Mosaic Covenant. God exercised his ability to judge people in history by departing from the universal civil law Gen 9: Israel was a type of the church. Israel was a holy nation, unique from all others.

They were not a model for other nations to follow. They were a shadow of the eschatological Kingdom of Christ they were not themselves the Kingdom of Christ. No land today is holy land. The new earth will be holy, and as such, no sin can remain. Thus all sin will receive its just wages.

The most extreme outward sins were punished with death. The purpose of this was not to set a standard for all nations to follow. It was to teach us how much God hates sin. Consider Rutherford But sure Erastus erreth, who will have all such to be killed by the magistrate under the New Testament, because they were killed by him in the Old… I humbly conceive that the putting of some to death in the Old Testament, as it was a punishment to them, so was it a mysterious teaching of us, how God hated such and such sins, and mysteries of that kind are gone with other shadows… Rutherford, Divine Right of Church Governmentpages Hall was correct to note that civil penalties for sin are not part of the moral law.

They are not written on the hearts of all men. They are positive law added to moral law. Civil punishment, the sword, was not instituted until after the fall. Positive law is changeable.

The civil penalties attached to certain sins in the Old Covenant were positive laws and they were given only for Israel for their ministry of condemnation. What remains, as Rutherford noted, is the truth that these sins are sin and God hates them. The general equity of the judicial laws is therefore of broadly moral use.

Contra theonomy, they are not confined to civil applications. That is precisely why Paul can quote a judicial law in Deuteronomy Make no mistake, Paul was directly applying a Mosaic judicial law. We can see how this applies if we return to the question of Thomas Granger. Massachusetts is not holy land. The Puritans who established the colony thought it was and therefore believed it was their duty to rid the land of sin. New-England being a country planted by a people whose design was to maintain the faith and order of the gospel in evangelical churches, and to transmit them down to posterity; and their commonwealth being looked on as authorized of God to preserve their churches; and the civil rulers esteemed, not only members, but protectors of the churches, there were laws enacted which inflicted punishment on the broachers of pernicious errors, and on them who made invasions on the ecclesiastical constitution, which was esteemed the highest glory, and chief interest of the country.

Look back at Genesis 9: McDurmon grilled Hall with a list of 17th century particular baptists, implying that these men were theonomists. First, he claims there is a difference in meaning between the original LBCF McDurmon mentioned Benjamin Keach. He was absolutely not a theonomist. This leads to step six, the rise to prominence of Christians in every sphere of life, as Satanists become increasingly impotent to handle the crises that their world-and-life view has created.

Seventh, the law of God is imposed progressively across the face of each society which has declared commitment to Christ.

Eighth, this provokes foreign nations to jealousy, and they begin to imitate the Christian social order, in order to receive the external blessings. Ninth, even the Jews are provoked to jealousy, and they convert to Christ.

Tenth, the conversion of the Jews leads to an unparalleled explosion of conversions, followed by even greater external blessings. Eleventh, the kingdom of God becomes worldwide in scope, serving as a down payment by God to His people on the restoration which will come beyond the day of judgment.

Twelfth, the forces of Satan have something to provoke them to rebellion, after generations of subservience outwardly to the benefits-producing law of God. Thirteenth, this rebellion by Satan is immediately smashed by Christ in His final return in glory and judgment.

Fourteenth, Satan, his troops of angels, and his human followers are judged, and then condemned to the lake of fire. And finally, fifteenth, God sets up His new heaven and new earth, for regenerate men to serve in throughout all eternity. If men really believed that this scenario is possible--indeed, inevitable--would they not redouble their efforts to begin to subdue the earth?

The first is its ethical rationale or, at least its intimate ethical association. Theonomic postmillennialists believe their system is demanded or, at least strongly commended by its power to motivate men to keep God's law in every worldly sphere of life.

This is a thread which runs throughout Rushdoony's The Meaning of Postmillennialism. Theonomists reason that since the dominion mandate of Genesis 1 demands that we subdue every area of life to God by means of His law, then that eschatology which most encourages us to do so must be the best and most Biblical eschatology. The second feature which emerges from these quotations is the self-conscious peculiarity of Theonomic postmillennialism.

Though they can cite those like Jonathan Edwards whom they call "pietistic postmillennialists" when it suits them, 22 the quote from Rushdoony above evinces a self-conscious distance from those whom Rushdoony calls "antinomian postmillennialists. Chilton writes in his book, Days of Vengeance, The great defect with the postmillennial revival inaugurated by Jonathan Edwards and his followers in the eighteenth century was their neglect of biblical law.

They expected to see the blessings of God come as a result of merely soteriological preaching. Look at Edwards' Treatise on the Religious Affections. There is nothing on the law of God on culture. Page after page is filled with the words "sweet" and "sweetness. The words sometimes appear four or five times on a page. And while Edwards was preaching the sweetness of God, Arminian semi-literates were "hot-gospeling" the Holy Commonwealth of Connecticut into political antinomianism.

The Theonomy Debate: Analysis – Reformed Libertarian

Where sweetness and emotional hot flashes are concerned, Calvinistic preaching is no match for antinomian sermons. The hoped-for revival of the s became the Arminian revivals of the early s, leaving emotionally burned-over districts, cults, and the abolitionist movement as their devastating legacy.

Because the postmillennial preaching of the Edwardians was culturally antinomian and pietistic, it crippled the remnants of Calvinistic political order in the New England colonies, helping to produce a vacuum that Arminianism and then Unitarianism filled. As North is fond of reminding us, the law is man's instrument or "tool of dominion. North seconds Rushdoony's point. God established His covenant with Adam, and again with Noah. It was a dominion covenant. It was man's authorization to subdue the earth, but under God's overall authority and under His law.

God also covenanted with Abram, changing his name to Abraham, and instituting the sign of His covenant, circumcision. He covenanted with Jacob, Abraham's grandson, changing his name to Israel, promising to bless Jacob's efforts Genesis God covenanted with Moses and the children of Israel, promising to bless them if they conformed to His laws, but curse them if they disobeyed Deuteronomy 8: The covenant was a treaty, and it involved mutual obligations and promises.

The ruler, God, offers the peace treaty to a man or selection of men, and they in turn accept its terms of surrender. The treaty spells out mutual obligations: It also spells out the term of judgement: This same covenant is extended to the church to day.

It covers the institutional church, and it also applies to nations that agree to conform their laws to God's standards. The law of God also provides us with a tool of external dominion.

God promises blessings for that society which surrenders unconditionally to Him, and then adopts the terms of His peace treaty Deuteronomy 8 and Fourth, the blessings of God begin to flow in the direction of His people.

As Benjamin Franklin said, honesty is the best policy. Capital flows to those who will bear responsibility, predict the future accurately, plan to meet the needs of consumers with a minimum of waste, and deal honestly with both suppliers and customers. Again, Deuteronomy 8 and 28 show us the nature of this wealth-transfer process.

This wealth-transfer program is through market completion and conformity to God's law. Satan's kingdom is progressively decapitalized. The third feature of Theonomic postmillennialism which must be underscored, though implicit in the above quotations, is not explicit.

It is their rejection of what Chilton calls "Chiliastic Postmillennialism. They reject the idea that the millennium or at least the future millennial blessings are to be brought in by a single catastrophic event. Chilton in his commentary on the Book of Revelation writing on Rev. It can be either Premillennarianism with the Second Coming as the cataclysm that ushers in the Millenniumor Postmillennarianism with the Social Revolution as the cataclysm. Examples of the first branch of Chiliasm would be, of course, the Ebionite movement of the Early Church period, and the modern Dispensationalism of the Scofield-Ryrie school.

Examples of the Postmillennarian heresy would be easy to name as well: Orthodox Christianity rejects both forms of the Millennarian heresy. Christianity opposes the notion of any new redemptive cataclysm occurring before the Last Judgment. Thus, while Christians have always looked forward to the salvation of the world, believing that Christ died and rose again for that purpose, they have also seen the Kingdom's work as leavening influence, gradually transforming the world into the image of God.

The definitive cataclysm has already taken place, in the finished work of Christ. Depending on the specific question being asked, therefore, orthodox Christianity can be considered either amillennial or postmillennial because, in reality, it is both.

With the rise of divergent eschatologies over the last two centuries, the traditional evangelical optimism of the Church was tagged with the term "postmillennialism," whether the so-called "postmillennialists" liked it or not.

This has had positive results.

The Theonomy Debate: Analysis

On the plus side, it is as we have seen a technically accurate description of orthodoxy; and it carries the connotation of optimism. On the minus side, it can too often be confused with heretical millennarianism. And, while, "amillennialism" rightly expresses the orthodox abhorrence of apocalyptic revolution, it carries both by name and by historic association a strong connotation of defeatism.

The present writer therefore calls himself a "postmillennialist," but also seeks to be sensitive to the inadequacies of current theological terminology. Some have sought to remedy this by styling themselves "optimistic amillennialists," a term that has nothing wrong with it except a mouthful of syllables the term "non-chiliastic postmillennialist" suffers from the same problem.

If we are to take the parables seriously, then we have to begin to think about the continuity of history in between Pentecost and the final judgment. If there is no great break coming which will divide this period into two or more segments, then whatever happens to the world, the flesh, the devil, and the church institutional must happen without direct, cataclysmic intervention, either from God or Satan. The process will be one of growth or decay.

The process may be an ebb and flow, heading for victory for the church or defeat for the church, in time and on earth. But what cannot possibly be true is that the church's victory process or defeat process will be interrupted and reversed by the direct, visible physical intervention of Jesus Christ and His angels. No discontinuity of history which overcomes the very processes of history in one cataclysmic break will take place.

Christians must not base their hopes for collective or personal victory on an historically unprecedented event in history which is in fact the destruction of history. They will sink or swim, win or lose, in time and on earth, by means of the same sorts of processes as we see today, although the speed will increase or decrease in response to man's ethical conformity to God's law, or his rebellion against that law.

Critiqued The time has come to critique the eschatological outlook outlined above. It is unnecessary to delve into the obscure details of biblical prophecy in order to secure an evaluative basis for this critique. We shall limit this critique to examining three fundamental structures in Biblical Eschatology. With this data several aspects of Theonomic postmillennialism may be challenged. Postmillennialism and the Two-Age Structure of Redemptive History A thorough examination of this vital aspect of Eschatology must await the formal treatment it is given in the Eschatology Course in Systematic Theology.

Here the relevant features of it for the issue at hand may be more briefly presented. Those features will be presented by way of an introduction and four propositions. The terminology under discussion, "this age and the age to come," was in all probability developed by Jewish Scribes of the Inter-testamental period in order to give systematic structure to their view of OT Prophecy. They noticed that again and again the present order of sin and distress was contrasted with a future order variously described as the era of Israel's redemption, the age of salvation, or the Kingdom of God.

This contrast they called the distinction between this age and the age to come. Its earliest usage in the extant evidence is, however, by Jesus. Clearly, Jesus and after Him His Apostles adopted this terminology and thereby sealed it with the divine imprimatur as the correct scheme of OT Prophecy. This terminology or parts of it are used 18 times in the NT.

Parallel phraseology adds many more occurrences to this list. This terminology is, therefore, pervasive in the NT and structural to its eschatological perspective. The key word in this terminology is the Greek word. It combines the two ideas, age and world. That is to say, it is at one and the same time both a spatial and temporal designation Gal.

This in itself is intensely significant. For by using the phrase, "the age to come," of the eternal state the Bible clearly designates it as a temporal and spatial existence. Gary North repeatedly avails himself of the phraseology, "in time and on earth," to speak of and insist upon the coming of millennial blessing in this age.

More shall be said about this later, but let it suffice to say here that spatial and temporal existence in the new and redeemed earth does count in the Bible for the fulfillment of the dominion mandate and the historical culmination of God's Kingdom. We agree with North that we need an eschatology of victory in time and on earth. This being said, we come to the first perspective This age and the age to come taken together exhaust all time, including the endless time of the eternal state.

There is a subordinate question that needs to be answered here. When did "this age" begin? I have assumed that this age began with the beginning of human history in the above statement.

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How do I know this to be the case? Let me state clearly, first of all, what I believe the Bible teaches. My point is that "this age" did not begin at the time of Christ's first advent, but was in existence even from the beginning.