LET'S DEFINE OUR TERMS
"How do you define reconstructionism?" This question was asked of Dave Hunt by Peter Waldron, host of the syndicated radio program, "Contact America," on August 12, 1987. Dave Hunt's response may astound some of our readers:
I haven't defined thatterm.'We barely touch on it in the last two chapters of those last two books. 1 In fact, I had to really work hard to get the publisher to allow it in, because the publisher said, We don't think this is really part of the topic. We think it ought to be left out."2
In response to his publisher's reaction, Hunt said, 'Wait a minute. This is very important." Yes, it is important. But it deserves separate treatment in a full-length book.
Consider what Mr. Hunt has said. He comments on a significant theological movement that has world-wide appeal and respect ,s but it has only been since August 12, 1987, that he has ac
1. The last chapter of The Seduction of Christianity and the last chapter of Beyond Seduction.
2. As this chapter and other chapters will show, the publisher was correct. Any mention of Christian reconstruction within the context of Dave Hunt's critique of the New Age Movement and particular theological errors within certain popular Christian groups is a serious mistake. Hunt's readers assume guilt by association.
3. Some might argue that the familiar version of Christian reconstruction was completed with R. J. Rushdoon/s book, The Institutes ofBiblical iaw(Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1973). The groundwork of Rushdoon/s ideas can be seen in his first published work in 1958, By What Standard?: An Analysis of the Philosophy of Cornelius Van Til (Nutfey, NJ: Craig Press, 1958).
tually defined what he and others have already criticized, This is where most of the confusion lies with those who had never even heard of Christian reconstruction until they read Dave Hunt's books, listened to him on a three-tape interview with Peter Lalonde, or watched him on Rev. Jimmy Swaggart's television program "A Study in the Word." Those who link Christian reconstruction with the New Age Movement, Manifest Sons of God, and aberrant theological views that are coming from the fringes of charismatic teaching do not have a definitional handle on what re-constructionists believe. Because reconstructionists are sometimes listed with these other groups solely because of their victory-oriented gospel message, it's assumed that agreement can be found on many points.4 This simply is not true. There is no organizational or common theological tie. Even Dave Hunt belatedly agrees that Christian reconstructionists should not be linked with these groups.
Peter Waldron in his interview with Dave Hunt wants to drive home this important point for his listeners. Hunt criticized the views of certain leaders in segments of the charismatic movement, but Waldron interrupted:
Peter Waldron: "Let's be careful. I am familiar with Dr. Rush-doony. He's not teaching this." Dave Hunt: "Right."
Peter Waldron: "Gary North is not teaching that." Dave Hunt: "Right."
Peter Waldron: "Neither is Gary DeMar or any of the other people who are often identified as the philosophical foundation of the reconstruction movement Dave Hunt: "Right. Right."
Before evaluation takes place, terms must be defined. Many critics take the straw man approach to debate, that is, forming "an argument against a view that the opponent does not actually hold, which, perhaps, no one actually holds."5 Albert James Dager, for
4. For example, Albert James Dager, "Kingdom Theology, Part II,"Media Spotlight (July-December 1986), pp. 8-20.
5. John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God: ATheology of Lordship (PhU-lipsburg, NJ: Presbyterial and Reformed, 1987), p. 324.
example, builds his straw man from a remarkable misreading of Christian reconstructionist literature. He maintains that recon-structionists want to "establish the Kingdom of God through politics and other societal strategies."6 He does not quote one book or article to prove his assertion. In fact, if Mr. Dager would read any of the approximately one hundred books and scholarly journals plus the two decades of newsletters written by Christian recon-structionists, he would quickly learn that reconstructionists believe just the opposite.
One of the distinctive of Christian reconstruction is its aversion to the use of politics as the method to bring about social change. In reconstructionist social theory, politics plays a minor role.7 We've made this clear with our writings on government.8 But why all the attention to politics in reconstructionist literature, and, we might add, in the literature of many evangelical and
6. Dager, "Kingdom Theology: Part II," p. 19.
7. R. J. Rushdoony has insisted that the Bible teaches a "minimal State," that is, government means more than the State and politics. He writes: "Tragically, today when we say government we mean the state, the federal government, or some other form of civil government. And, more tragically, civil government today claims to be the government over man, not one government among many, but the one over-all government. Civil government claims jurisdiction over our private associations, our work or business, our schools and churches, our families, and over ourselves. The word government no longer means self-government primarily and essentially; it means the state." Law and Liberty (Fairfax, VA: Thobum Press, 1971), p. 59.
8. The assertion that government is broader than the State and politics is developed in Gary DeMar, God and Government, 3 vols. (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1982-86) and Ruler of the Notions (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1987). Jimmy Swaggart Ministries purchased 1,500 copies of volumes 1 and 2 of God and Government and offered them for sale in its 1984 "Gift Selection" catalog accompanied by the following advertising copy: "Finally here is a series that will give you an understanding about the foundation of our country on God and His Scriptures. The God and Government Series contains two [now three] workbooks (over 400 pages [now over 650 pages]) divided into easy-to-understand lessons. Also included is a dramatized cassette and workbook that detail America's spiritual foundations. This is the best series for you to learn about this all-important area. Every Christian needs to understand about America's spiritual history . . . and future."
charismatic groups?9 The answer is very simple. Politics has become the savior of the people. Reconstructionists write about politics and civil government in order to call Christians and nonChristians back to their only Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, because the State is not "the order of man's salvation."10 We will quote Gary North, a prominent Christian reconstructionist to make our point:
Because the humanists have made the State into their agency of earthly salvation, from the ancient Near Eastern empires to the Greeks to Rome's Empire and to the present, Christians need to focus on this battlefield, but we must always remember that political battles are important today primarily because our theological opponents have chosen to make theirfirst and lost stand on the political battlefield. Had they chosen to fight elsewhere, it would not appear as though we are hypnotized with the importance of politics Christian reconstructionists are not hypnotized by politics; humanists and pietists are hypnotized by politics. Nevertheless, we are willing to fight the enemy theologically on his chosen ground, for we are confident that God rules every area of life. He can and will defeat them in the mountains or on the plains (1 Kings 20:28), in politics and in education, in family and in business. 11
This emphasis runs through all Dr. North's writings. But Mr. Dager creates a caricature of Christian reconstruction and dominion theology when he writes that the "central doctrine of all, how
9. 'The Bible is replete with references to government and its rightful place under God, with Daniel noting that God'removeth kings and setteth up kings' (Dan. 2:21) and appointeth over it [i.e., the kingdom of man] whomsoever he will' (5:21). ... Is the Lordship of Jesus Christ in American Government a dream? Not if I can help it!" Donnie Swaggart, "The Lordship ofjesus Christ in American Government," Judgment in the Gate, ed., Richie Martin (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1986), pp. 80 and 89.
10. R. J. Rushdoony, The Nature of& American System (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1965), p. vii.
11. North, "Editor's Introduction: in George Grant, The Changing of the Guard-Biblical Principles for Political Action (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1987), p. xx.
ever, is that Jesus cannot or will not return to the earth until the Church has taken control of at least a significant portion of human government and social institutions.He leaves the impression that Christian reconstructionists equate the kingdom with political advances. This is patently false. He goes on to write that the goal of dominion theology advocates is the 'subjugation of individual secular states to the authority of the Church."13 Where is this doctrine found in the many writings of Christian reconstructionists? Christian reconstructionists are looking for the transformation of all of society, including families, churches, business establishments, the legal profession, education, economics, journalism, the media, and civil government through personal redemption and adherence to the Bible as the standard for godly rule. This is a far cry from calling for the "subjugation of individual secular states to the authority of the Church."14
Clearing Up the Confusion Mr. Hunt's books take issue with some of the teachings of several loosely organized "movements." These are known by various names: dominion theology, kingdom theology, and Christian reconstruction. The best way to handle these topics is to begin with definitions. A lot of confusion can be cleared up by the simple exercise of defining terms. As with all attempts to describe something, however, there is the danger of leaving out some aspect of the position that some people might hold or adding a distinctive that others do not. We have tried to stay with the foundational elements of these beliefs, as we understand the concepts. Of course, we are speaking for ourselves, and so the definitional limitations lie with us.
12. Albert James Dager, "Kingdom Thology: Part III," Media Spotlight, Vol. 8, No. 1 (January-June 1987), p. 8. Emphasis added.
14. Mr. Dager is describing an'ecclesiocracy." See pages 321-25 for a definition of the term and the different uses of the term "church."
Dominion theology is best understood by first looking at the dominion that God, through Jesus Christ, exercises in the world. Jesus has dominion because he is "the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16). A synonym for dominion is lordship. 15 The Bible states in numerous places that dominion belongs to Jesus: "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen" (Jude 24-25). Those who hold to a dominion theology believe the Bible when it states that the dominion of Jesus is "before all time and now and forever," God exercises His dominion now. His lordship is over all things, in time and in eternity.
Because Jesus has dominion, His people, who are united to Him by faith, also have dominion. The Bible says we are adopted "children of God" and "fellow-heirs with Christ" (Rem. 8:17). As Christians, created in the image of God and restored in Jesus Christ, we inherit what was given to Jesus. We therefore share in His dominion.
But the exercise of this dominion is ethical. It does not come automatically, nor is it imposed top-down by a political regime or by an army of Christians working frantically to overthrow the governments of the world. 15 Such a concept of dominion is rather the essence of secular humanism: the religion of revolution. 17 God's people exercise dominion in the same way that Jesus exercised dominion — through sacrificial obedience and faithfulness to
15. For an extended discussion of dominion, see Gary DeMar, God and Government: Issuesin.BiblicalPerspecßVe(Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1984), chapter 3.
16. Gary North, Mosesand Pharaoh: Dominion Religion Versus Power Religion (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985). Rushdoony writes: Those who render unto God the things which are God's, believe rather in regeneration through Jesus Christ and the reconstruction of all things in terms of God's law. In such a perspective, a tax revolt is a futile thing, a dead end, and a departure from Biblical requirements." R. J. Rushdoony, "Jesus and the Tax Revolt," 7Ä; Journal of Christian Reconstruction, ed., Gary North, Vol. II, No. 2 (Winter 1975), p. 141.
17. David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators (3rd rev, ed.; Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), pp. 3-16.
the commandments. Dominion comes through service. The Gentiles, those outside of Christ in Jesus' day, 'lord it over" the people, looking to the power of the State to grant favors and protection to loyal subjects (Luke 22:25). It's something of a master-slave relationship. As a result, these lords are described as "benefactors. " They, through force, work to "benefit" some of the people for their own political ends. This is not the way the dominion-oriented Christian rules with Christ. Again, service is the prescription for dominion: "But not so with you, but let him who is greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves" (w. 26, 27). It is idolatrous to seek dominion primarily by political means, whether by domination or anarchic revolution.
When Christians "serve" the world, they will be seen as "benefactors," wanting nothing in return but to bring glory to God. Dominion will then be established progressively over time, not through oppression, but through faithful service. Notice the goal in Jesus' statement. He does not say that Christians should not have authority, that they should not be the leaders. To the contrary, He asserts that Christians ought to do things differently in order to reach results that are much better than anything the Gentiles can offer. The task for the Christian is to be "light" in a world of darkness. How does he do this? Again, he serves. For what purpose? To extend the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ into every area of life, a dominion that is His by divine right, a dominion that He shares with His subordinates.
The dominion of Christians is a benefit to the world only because Christ works in and through them. The benefits do not come ultimately from Christians, those who do the nitty gritty work of service in the world, but from Christ. How then are nonChristians pointed to Jesus as their true "Benefactor"? Through our works of service: "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16, emphasis added). David Chilton comments on the service aspect of dominion and its relationship to work:
The biblical method of attaining dominion is through diligent labor. When Adam rebelled, he chose instead to have dominion by playing god, rejecting God's leadership over him. He wanted power over the creation, not legitimately, through God-ordained work, but by becoming his own god. The world doesn't work that way, of course; and man was driven into slavery, losing dominion. But sinful men still seek power outside of the pattern God has commanded. 18
An important principle is at work in history. It is this: God is continually at work to destroy unbelieving cultures and to give the world over to the dominion of His people. (That, by the way, is what is meant by those verses about God uprooting the rich; see Leviticus 20:22; Deuteronomy 28; Proverbs 2:21-22; 10:30). God works to overthrow the ungodly, and increasingly the world will come under the dominion of Christians- not by military aggression, but by godly labor, saving, investment, and orientation toward the future. For a time, ungodly men may have possessions; but they are disobedient, and become dispossessed [Job 27:16-17; Prov. 13:22; Eccl. 2:26].19
The effects of the gospel go beyond the individual and his personal relationship with Jesus. Those who hold to a dominion theology believe that there are cultural or societal effects to the gospel. The world is affected by the lordship of Jesus as Christians take personal dominion and seek to live in all facets of life in obedience to Christ and in the power of the gospel. The transformation that takes place in the individual believer has an effect on family, church, education, entertainment, business, law, joumal-
ism, the media, art, music, civil government, communication, economics, and every and any good gift created by God (cf. Gen. 1:31).
All Christians agree that Jesus' finished work on the cross has freed us from the dominion of sin in our lives: "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rem. 6:14, KJV).21 Sin is no longer our master, our lord. We have a new Master who has broken the bonds of sin and death, who has freed us from the curse of the law. The language in Remans 6 is very important. The New American Standard Version uses the word "master" instead of "dominion": "Sin shall not be master over you" (Rem. 6:14). We are no longer 'slaves of sin" (v. 17). We have been "freed from sin" (v. 18) and have been made "slaves to righteousness" (v. 19). Paul says it differently in Colos-
20. Some of the most ardent critics of dominion theology are using the fruits of dominion to get their views across. Think where the church would be without the audio cassette, satellite television, and the growing Christian publishing industry. How would the spread of the gospel fare if we decided that the airplane and automobile were products of a demonized religion? This is dominion in action, dominion that did not flourish in a religious vacuum. These inventions developed in the Christian West. For example, it was Gutenburg's printing press that energized the Reformation of the 16th century. The first work to come off Gutenburg's press was the Bible. See Gary North, Dominion and Common Grace: The Biblical Basis of Progress (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987).
21. Many Christians misunderstand the meaning of Paul's statement, "For you are not under law, but under grace." Paul is not saying that the Christian is no longer obligated to keep the law. Rather, he is telling us that the law no longer condemns those who are in Christ, who took upon Himself the condemnation of the law: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). The law still remains as a standard of judgment and righteousness for Christians and non-Christians. This statement in Remans 6:14 "is widely taken to mean that the authority of the law has been abolished for believers and superseded by a different authority. And this, it must be admitted, would be a plausible interpretation, if this sentence stood by itself. But, since it stanch in a document [the Book of Remans] which contains such things as 3.31; 7.12, 14a; 8.4; 13.8-10, and in which the law is referred to more than once as God's law (7.22, 25; 8.7) and is appealed to again and again as authoritative, such a reading of it is extremely unlikely. The fact that [under law] is contrasted with [under grace] suggests the likelihood that Paul is here thinking not of the law generally but of the law as condemning sinners." C. E. B. Cranfield, The International Critical Commentary on the Epistle to the Remans, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark Limited, 1975), vol. 1, pp. 319-20.
sians but with the same intent: "For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins"
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