Saturday, November 06, 2004

Theocracy and Christian Reconstruction

I asked: Who wants a theocracy in the USA (apart from Islamo-fascists)? John Gallagher responds by saying that Christian Reconstructionists do. Gallagher sent me to some sites hostile to their point of view. But hostile and polemical sites are of no use to me as objective truth-seeker because they tend to distort the point of view of their opponents. So I put the mighty Google engine to work and came up with an outfit called Chalcedon, previously unfamiliar to me,
which includes the following among their materials. The material highligted in red suggests to me that this outfit at least is not theocratic. Of course, the logically prior question is: What is a theocrat? Only after that has been answered can one arrive at a definitive answer to the question whether so-and-so is a theocrat.

Misconception 2: Political Dominion

Because we believe that the Bible should apply to all of life, including the state; and because we believe that the Christian state should enforce Biblical civil law; and finally, because we believe that the responsibility of Christians is to exercise dominion in the earth for God's glory, it is sometimes assumed that we believe that capturing state apparatus and enforcing Biblical law on a pervasively unbelieving populace is one of our hidden objectives. Our critics sometimes imply or state outright that we are engaged in a subtle, covert attempt to capture conservative, right-wing politics in order to gain political power, which we will then use to "spring" Biblical law on our nation. This is flatly false. We do not believe that politics or the state are a chief sphere of dominion.

It is understandable why many people assume that we do hold this position, however. We believe firmly in social change. Liberals believe firmly in social change. Liberals believe that social change is the effect almost exclusively of politics and state coercion. For example, they believe that we can change society by means of state-financed and governed "public education"; health, education, and welfare programs; and speech codes. In other words, they believe, like communists, that man is essentially a plastic being that can be fundamentally reshaped by external means — education, wealth, health, penitentiaries, and so forth. Since no later than the French Revolution, most civil governments in the West have believed that social change occurs by revolution, not by regeneration. When, therefore, liberals (and even some alleged Christians) see us supporting and working toward social change, they presume that we are interested in political power. In simpler words, because they believe in social change exclusively by means of politics, they assume that anyone who supports social change or gets involved in politics is attempting to gain state power in order to further a social agenda.

This is a serious miscalculation. We believe in regeneration , not in revolution. Men are not changed fundamentally by politics, but by the power of God. Men's hearts are changed by regeneration (Jn. 3:3). They are translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God's dear Son (Col. 1:13). From that point, they progressively work to reorient their lives and every sphere they touch in terms of God's holy, infallible Word. Long-term, pervasive social change is the result of extensive regeneration and obedience by the people of God. This means, of course, that there can be no Christian society of any significance or longevity unless a large number of its members are Christians.

We do encourage Christian political involvement, but not for the reason that many people suppose. In fact, we believe it is important for Christians to get involved in politics because we do not believe politics is too important. The great problem with modern politics is that it is used as an instrument of social change. We at Chalcedon passionately oppose this. The role of the state is in essence to defend and protect, in the words of the early American Republic, life, liberty, and property. It is to reward the externally obedient by protecting them from the externally disobedient (Rom. 13:1-7). Its role is not to make men virtuous; we have a name for civil governments that attempt to create a virtuous society: totalitarian. Biblically, the role of the state is to suppress external evil: murder, theft, rape, and so forth. Its role is not to redistribute wealth, furnish medical care, or educate its citizens' children.

We do believe that the state one day will be Christian, but this no way implies that the role of the state is to Christianize its citizens. The Christian state is highly decentralized (localized). Our objective, therefore, in supporting Christian political involvement is to scale down the massive state in Western democracies, reducing it to its Biblical limits. We do not believe in political salvation of any kind.

BV: I cite this only to cast doubt on the notion that Christian reconstructionists are all of them theocrats. I do not endorse the above statement. Closer analysis and comparison with other texts of theirs may show it to be internally incoherent. One can also legitimately question whether it is intended in good faith. My only point is that, so far, I have no clear evidence of any theocratic threat in the good old US of A. But I have an open mind.