Sunday, November 07, 2004

From the Mail: Christian Reconstruction

Brian Besong (whose e-mail address suggests an affiliation with Calvin College) writes:

I continue to thoroughly enjoy your blogging, and instead of forcing you to Google a movement that I know firsthand, I will give you a brief introduction to Christian Reconstruction.

BV: Thanks! I really appreciate it.

The movement began with the work of Abraham Kuyper (although he, himself, didn’t endorse the view). Kuyper's vision was that Christians would begin to redeem every aspect of this fallen world - including politics. Christians would bring their Christianity with them into the workplace, and this would influence, and in the end redeem, each and every part of the world (especially culture). This view was later understood by Reformed writers in America such as Greg Bahnsen and RJ Rushdooney to have a more dramatic implication. The Reformed view of scripture (capital "R"- as in, arising in the protestant reformation) is that there is significant continuity in what the Bible teaches. This is radically opposed to the fundamentalist/dispensationalist view of scripture that it is dissonant: that the new and the old testaments are, in a sense, opposed to each other. Bahnsen et al. assume continuity in the positions scripture takes, unless otherwise stated.

Old Testament law can be divided into three sections: Civil, moral, and ceremonial. Christian Reconstructionists say that the only part of the law which was "fulfilled" (likewise, no longer applicable to our daily lives) was the ceremonial law. This includes eating pork and getting circumcised, among other things. However, the moral and the civil law are still normative commands given by God.

Hence, the Christian Reconstructionist movement describes its position not as a theocracy, but a theonomy. The idea is that the nation's *law* should be wholly determined by the commands of God found in the Old Testament (e.g. stoning adulterers) but the rulers themselves can be and are men.

BV: Here is where the problems start. (1) Does 'wholly determined' mean that all and only the O.T. commands are to be the law of the land? (2) Isn't the N.T. brought in to soften the extremism of the O.T.? (3) Does the CR position entail that one can simply read the OT and know what God's will is? I myself reject sola scriptura (at least as I understand it): Biblical sayings must be interpreted and appropriately modified in the light of sound philosophical principles which, of course, cannot be gotten from the Bible. Athens (philosophy/science) must keep Jerusalem (religion) in check; and vice versa. (4) Do these CR people really mean that if they had political power they would enact a law that made adultery a crime punishable by stoning? (5) What of the NT verse, "He who is without sin may cast the first stone"?

This movement is biggest in Presbyterian denominations, particularly the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and Reformed Presbyterians. The view is loosely associated with the view “Post-millennialism,” that the world will experience a long era of Christian hegemony before Christ returns to earth. This hegemony will not be oppressive, and is usually accompanied by Burkeian conservativism, such that the world will get more and more Christian voluntarily before this era, and theonomy, is ever attained. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

BV: How can the hegemony not be oppressive if adulterers are to be stoned to death? It appears that what you are saying is that the CR people are willing to use state power to enforce a narrow interpretation of OT morality. How can that fail to be oppressive to nonbelievers in that particular sect? How does it differ (in principle) from Sharia, Islamic law?

We didn't beat the Commies to become socialists over here. Do the CR people want to beat the Islamo-fascists so that we can become OT-fascists over here? Or am I missing something?