Introduction – Gary DeMar

Gary North and Gary Demar

Narrated By: Daniel Banuelos & Devan Lindsey
Book: Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t


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Chapter Text

In truth, “prolific” is hardly adequate to suggest the veritable flood of publications from these writers. It seems unlikely that anyone, and certainly not this writer, could honestly claim that he keeps up with every article, monograph, and tome laying out the latest advances and revisions of theonomist teaching.[1]

As the above quotation demonstrates, Mr. Neuhaus admits that he does not keep up with Reconstructionist publications. After reading his critique, one comes away with the impression that Mr. Neuhaus has read little of what has been published by Reconstructionist authors, and what he has read or heard seems to be secondhand. These secondhand sources are easy to spot. It seems that with contemporary Christian scholarship, one heresy hunter’s misrepresentations are simply copied by other heresy hunters and passed off as facts. This is not scholarship. Christians who write highly critical review essays should take seriously the words of the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Ex. 20:16). This is especially true when the neighbor is in print on the particular topics involved. It leaves the critic vulnerable to the negative sanction against perjury: “Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you” (Deut. 19:19).

Neuhaus comments that he cannot keep up with “the latest advances and revisions of theonomist teaching.” What he describes as “advances and revisions” are nothing more than the basic premises of Reconstructionism restated again and again because our critics fail to read the existing material. Here is how the process works: a critic goes into print with unsupported accusations; we respond in print within six months, sometimes in 30 days, sometimes in a full-length book; the original critic fails to respond or even acknowledge our refutation; and then a new critic picks up the original criticisms and repeats them. In Hal Lindsey’s case, he allowed The Road to Holocaust to be reprinted in a paperback version without even correcting misspelled names, e.g., “John Rousas Rushdoony” for the actual Rousas John Rushdoony. Gary North offers the suggestion that the actions of the original published critics reveal that they are not involved in a quest for truth; they are involved in a quest for royalty checks, and sensationalism sells.

The flood of critiques of Christian Reconstruction by popular writers[2] began in earnest in 1985, twelve years after Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law appeared. The initial attack came as a series of brief comments in Dave Hunt’s book, The Seduction of Christianity, and was followed by Beyond Seduction[3] and Whatever Happened to Heaven?, all published by Harvest House.[4] The last-named book was a direct attack on Christian Reconstruction. Then came House and Ice’s Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse? This seemingly scholarly attempt at refutation was itself refuted in great detail by two prominent Reconstructionist authors.[5] Hal Lindsey continued the attack with his poorly researched and badly reasoned The Road to Holocaust.

Most critics of Christian Reconstruction do not read carefully what we have written; even fewer acknowledge to their readership that comprehensive answers have been given to their attacks. For example, Hal Lindsey’s The Road to Holocaust levels a charge of “anti-semitism” against Reconstructionists and all other groups that do not espouse a dispensational premillennial eschatology. In my book The Debate over Christian Reconstruction, two appendixes were included that answered this charge, one written by a Reconstructionist who happens to be Jewish! Lindsey nowhere in his book mentions this material. The charge of “anti-semitism” is a lie.[6] But it sells.

How to Play the Sensationalism Game

As Peter Leithart and I point out in The Legacy of Hatred Continues, and as I argue in Question 10 in Part II of this book, by using a bit of “Lindsey-logic,” dispensational premillennialism can be made to look “anti-semitic.” This is how it’s done. It takes very little imagination. The more trusting one’s readers are, the less imagination it takes. There are two targeted groups of victims: one’s opponents and one’s overly trusting -readers. We begin with a factual historical statement regarding the postmillennial view of the Jews. We begin with the truth.

Postmillennialists have always taught that the Jews have a prominent place in God’s prophetic plan prior to the so-called “rapture”: a great number of Jews will come to Christ before Jesus’ return. Long before dispensationalism came on the scene in the early nineteenth century, the conversion of the Jews was a pillar of postmillennial thought and still is. The Westminster Assembly’s Directory for the Publick Worship of God, published in 1645, nearly 200 years before anyone even heard of dispensational premillennialism, contains the following instruction on “Publick Prayer before the Sermon”: “To pray for the propagation of the gospel and kingdom of Christ to all nations; for the conversion of the Jews, the fullness of the Gentiles, etc.”

Next, we move to modern dispensationalism. We also report only the facts. No misrepresentations at this stage:

In contrast, dispensationalism does not have a prophetic role for the Jews until after the “rapture.” After the church is raptured, according to dispensationalism, “Two thirds of the children of Israel in the land will perish.”[7] (There is nothing in postmillennialism that consigns Jews to this horrible fate.) The rapture immediately precedes the beginning of the Great Tribulation, in which Armageddon will occur, and Armageddon brings the slaughter of the Jews. Thus, anyone who preaches the imminent rapture also necessarily preaches the near-term massacre of Jews. To want the rapture to take place in one’s own lifetime is to accept the inescapable slaughter of the Jews a few years later.

Third, we begin to sensationalize. We defame our opponents, not directly, but by innuendo. We make an unwarranted leap: from theology to supposedly inevitable implications – implications that foster anti-semitism. The sin begins here.

Dispensationalists need the near-term slaughter of the Jews, if they want to escape life’s problems in the rapture. They desperately want this escape, as the popularity of Dave Hunt’s books testifies. It is obvious that the dispensationalist doctrine of the coming slaughter of the Jews leads inevitably to anti-semitism. Of course, not all dispensationalists are anti-semitic. But the fact remains, their system creates an attitude favorable to the destruction of Jews. Whenever we see such an attitude, even among those who publicly profess their support of national Israel, we are close to anti-semitism.

We know why the dispensationalists support the nation of Israel: self-interest. Without the state of Israel, there can be no attack by the Antichrist against the Jews. Such an attack is prophetically inescapable, dispensationalists teach. It will take place shortly after the rapture, they say. We know that dispensationalists long for the rapture. They therefore long for the slaughter of the Jews. These two imminent events – the church’s rapture and Jews’ slaughter – are separated by no more than seven years. If a dispensationalist prays “Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” he is also implicitly praying, “Come slightly less quickly, Antichrist, to slaughter the Jews, after I’m out of here!” So, the whole mindset of dispensationalism inevitably leads to anti-semitism.

What is wrong with these two paragraphs? Surely not the theological specifics of dispensationalism. This really is what the system teaches about the Jews during Armageddon. What is wrong is this: an attempt to link a theological interpretation of prophecy with a particular set of conclusions about the inevitability of anti-semitism in our day. We imply (or even state openly) that a particular millennial viewpoint or approach to Bible interpretation necessarily leads to a particular mental attitude towards others, or at least a subconscious attitude. (How does someone consciously refute an accusation regarding his subconscious?) This makes our targeted victims the implicit accomplices of anti-semites. “After all,” we have them say, “what good does it do to oppose the inevitable?”

The problem with dispensationalism’s view of the Jews is theological, not emotional. Dispensationalists are seldom anti-semitic, but they do not interpret biblical prophecy accurately. Theirs is an intellectual error, not a racist evil. Dispensationalism has taken a first-century fulfillment of prophecy, when many Jews did perish at the hands of the Roman armies (the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70),[8] and has projected this event nearly 2000 years into the future: to what is described as the coming “Great Tribulation.” They teach that this event will follow the rapture of the church. A series of false interpretations then leads to sensational expectations about the immediate future. The dispensational system creates an emotional demand for sensationalism. Book sales prove it. The most successful Christian theological books today (as distinguished from self-help books on the family) are all linked to current events in relation to

Bible prophecy: the New Age, demons, last-days cults, etc. It all began with The Late, Great Planet Earth. There is big money and personal fame in making millennial predictions, even when they do not come true (and they never do). When they do not come true, the author then can write another sensational book showing that they really will come true. Like an addiction, sensationalism feeds on itself, both for the pusher and the addict.

History has recorded for us the fulfillment of this prophecy concerning Jerusalem and Old Covenant Israel.[9] But because dispensationalism sees this as unfulfilled prophecy, an escalation of anti-semitism in these “last days” becomes a “sign” of the end. Anti-semitism becomes a prophetic inevitability under dispensationalism. So, they go around looking for anti-semites under every eschatological bed except their own.

What the sensationalists neglect to mention is that the existence in the Bible of an anti-Old Covenant Israel prophecy, fulfilled or unfulfilled, in and of itself tells us nothing about the intent or attitude of the person who believes it. Only the specific content of his exposition tells us what he thinks about the proper interpretation. That a Bible expositor faithfully refers to an anti-Old Covenant Israel prophecy says nothing about his attitude toward Jews, either as a group or as individuals. But to admit this is to reduce the moral legitimacy of sensationalism.

What is the result? The Road to Holocaust.

The Roots of Genocide

“Anti-semitism” has nothing to do with eschatology. There are as many reasons for “anti-semitism” as there are reasons for all types of national and racial hatred. Dozens of religious, racial, and ethnic groups have been persecuted over the centuries. The martyrdom of Christians began as soon as the gospel called upon people to repent, and it continues to this day (Acts 7:54-60). Few historians write about the Turkish massacre of the Armenian Christians, described as “the first genocide of the twentieth century.”[10]

Maxim Gorky, the leading Soviet writer under Joseph Stalin, invented the following formula to justify genocide: “If the enemy does not surrender, he must be destroyed.”[11] Stalin spoke openly about the “liquidation of the kulaks as a class.”[12] “It was the green light for a policy of extermination, more than three years before Hitler came to power, twelve years before the ordering of the ‘final solution’.”[13] And who was a “kulak”? “Anyone who employed hired labor…, anyone who owned two horses or two cows or a nice house.”[14] How many “kulaks” were executed? No one knows for sure. Winston Churchill wrote that Stalin told him that ten million peasants had been dealt with: One-third murdered, one-third in concentration camps, and one-third transported against their will to Siberia or central Asia.

A large percentage of the generation that knew Joseph Stalin died as a result of his directives. These were purely political killings, “exterminations,” “liquidations” of “the enemy class” and “undesirable elements. “How many were involved? Solzhenitsyn’s estimates reach as high as sixty million. Robert Conquest, author of The Great Terror, fixed the number at well into the millions. It is doubtful if we will ever know the true total – God alone knows.[15]

Religious persecution dominated both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Not a few lost their lives in systematic purges. Stalin and Hitler “had done everything in their power to destroy the Polish Church. Hitler had closed its schools, universities and seminaries and murdered a third of the clergy.”[16] A study of the history of Nazi Germany will show that Hitler had designs to eliminate Christians if they got in the way of his socialist-inspired millennium.

Adolf Hitler’s disenfranchisement of the Jews in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s is a prominent theme in any study of World War II, Germany, and political tyranny. The Jews were methodically and efficiently barred from economic, educational, and political participation. Eventually they were driven from the nation, and millions died at the hands of power gone mad. What many people do not know is that the Christian church was put on notice either to follow the Nazi Party line or be closed down. Under the leadership of Alfred Rosenberg, an outspoken pagan, “the Nazi regime intended eventually to destroy Christianity in Germany, if it could, and substitute the old paganism of the early tribal Germanic gods and the new paganism of the Nazi extremists. As Bormann, one of the men closest to Hitler, said publicly in 1941, ‘National Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable.'”[17] William Shirer, an eyewitness to Hitler’s rise to power, would later write: “We know now what Hitler envisioned for the German Christians: the utter suppression of their religion.”[18]

Hitler’s anti-semitism was probably associated with his adoption of pagan gnostic beliefs.[19] But Hitler was as anti-Christian as he was anti-semitic. The same can be said for Lenin and Stalin. But Hitler was as anti-Christian as he was anti-semitic. The same can be said for Lenin and Stalin. So, not only does Lindsey egregiously misrepresent the views of fellow Christians, but he distorts history with sophomoric scholarship. He has not done his homework.

Witch Hunt

The front cover copy of Witch Hunt, a book critical of the methodology used by a number of self-proclaimed heresy hunters intent on exposing every hint of error in the Christian community, describes the contemporary theological climate: “Christians are attacking Christians; charging one another with heresy. But are the accusations fair? Is the reasoning valid?”[20] The book you now are reading is about fairness. There is certainly no doubt that Christians disagree on numerous issues. At this point in history the Christian church has not attained theological consensus. When disagreements arise over variant theological positions, it is incumbent upon opposing sides to at least represent the opposing doctrinal opinions accurately. Has this been done? For the most part, it has not.

Honest Reporting as Heresy

Probably the most infamous attack on Christian Reconstruction was “Democracy as Heresy,” published in Christianity Today.[21] I have seen its conclusions repeated in numerous articles critical of Christian Reconstruction. In many cases this is a subsequent article’s only source of information for its critique. Are the author’s conclusions reliable and his assessments fair? In most cases they are not, and there is no way that they could be, since Mr. Clapp stated that “he had not had time to read our books in detail, for the Reconstructionists publish too much.”[22] There seems to be a pattern here. Self-proclaimed heresy hunters have become “experts” without reading an adequate number of the published works of Reconstructionists, and their false reporting gets picked up by others who fail to check the reliability of their sources. While Reconstructionists certainly do publish quite a few books each year, they are all indexed! There is no excuse for sloppy scholarship.

The misrepresentations of the “Democracy as Heresy” article are too numerous to list. A single example, however, will give you some idea how bad this article really is. On the first page of “Democracy as Heresy” the author asserts that Reconstructionists would abolish democracy and reinstitute slavery.[23] But nowhere does the author define democracy[24] for his readers, and it is only later in the article that slavery is defined, not as “chattel slavery,” as was practiced in the United States, but as “biblical slavery” (Exodus 22:3b).[25] “Biblical slavery,” more appropriately described as “indentured servitude,” would “allow impoverished persons to labor away their indebtedness, or criminals to make restitution.”[26] The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution supports “involuntary servitude… as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted” (Section 1). This is the Reconstructionist position. It is also the position of Prison Fellowship president Charles Colson, a strong advocate of biblical restitution. As one letter to the editor in response to “Democracy of Heresy” stated: “[T]o claim that a major proposal of the Reconstructionists is the reinstitution of slavery, only later clarifying that this means a form of indentured servanthood, is misleading and prejudicial.”[27] We agree.

Categorizing the Critics

After reading every supposed refutation that has come across my desk, I have been able to put them into one of five categories: (1) Gross Misrepresentation, (2) Eschatology as the Test of Orthodoxy, (3) Anti-Biblical Culture, (4) A Combination of Gross Misrepresentation and No Alternative, and (5) Honest Disagreement but Appreciation and Benefit.

  1. Gross Misrepresentation

The first category of critics so misrepresents Christian Reconstruction that the authors either have not read what we have written or they have purposely distorted our position. Hal Lindsey’s The Road to Holocaust is in this category, although he is not alone. There are so many factual errors, logical fallacies, chopped quotations, and blatant misrepresentations that one wonders if Lindsey read any of the books written by Reconstructionist authors.[28]

In doing further research on Lindsey’s critical analysis of Christian Reconstruction, after the publication of The Legacy of Hatred Continues, I came across an issue of Passport Magazine January-February 1988). After reading its critique of Christian Reconstruction, I noticed that it contained many of the same errors I found in Lindsey’s The Road to Holocaust. For example, Rousas John Rushdoony is listed in the footnotes of both the Passport article and The Road to Holocaust as John Rousas Rushdoony. Obviously, neither critic has read Rushdoony’s books.

There are more serious errors than a reversal of first and middle names. Lindsey writes of Rushdoony’s view of the law (the only quotation from Rushdoony’s 849 pages of The Institutes of Biblical Law): “The love affair the Reconstructionists have with the Law permeates their writings. Rushdoony adds, ‘So central is the Law of God, that the demands of the law are fulfilled as the necessary condition of grace.’ In other words, we earn grace by keeping the Law.”[29] But Lindsey only quotes half of Rushdoony’s sentence. Here is Rushdoony’s full statement with the missing section in italics: “So central is the Law of God, that the demands of the law are fulfilled as the necessary condition of grace, and God fulfills the demands of the law on Jesus Christ.”[30] This same chopped quotation can be found on page 4 of the Passport article, footnote number 14.

Either the author of Passport copied Lindsey’s errors from a previous article written by Lindsey or another unnamed source, or else Lindsey copied the Passport material, errors and all. Either way, the errors are identical and teach the opposite of what Rushdoony actually wrote and still believes. This type of “scholarship” is not uncommon. Numerous errors of this variety were pointed out to Mr. Lindsey soon after the publication of The Road to Holocaust; therefore, it is inexcusable that a reprint edition was issued in 1990 with none of the errors corrected. But it is also typical.

  1. Eschatology as the Test of Orthodoxy

The second group of criticisms falls into the category of making a single ‘eschatological position a test of orthodoxy. Dave Hunt’s books fit into this category, especially his Whatever Happened to Heaven’ Hunt is a dispensational premillennialist who believes that the pre-trib rapture is imminent. In addition, he teaches that a regard for the earth and the biblical evaluation and rescue of institutions of law, economics, education, and civil government are a denial of the Christian’s sole task to preach the gospel and proclaim that the rapture is near. Our hope is heaven, Hunt says, not earth.

There isn’t a Christian alive who would disagree that heaven is the Christian’s hope and home. But the Reconstructionist asks, as did Francis Schaeffer and many others before him: “How should we then live prior to our being taken to heaven either in death or at the return of Christ?”[31] Hunt offers little that would satisfy the millions of Christians who believe that God has called His redeemed people to be stewards of the world, whether He comes tomorrow or in a thousand years. The imminent return of Christ has captivated Hunt, as it has countless others before him, always to the detriment of God’s kingdom work and for the advance of humanism.

The effect of the teachings rising out of these years was a drastic pessimism which precluded the courage to face liberal defections (indeed, such defections were expected and inevitable) or to undertake long-term projects for the church. For example, F. W. Newton declared that the imminent return of Christ “totally forbids all working for earthly projects distant in time:’ Social and political endeavor was no longer seen as legitimate.[32]

Should a single eschatological position, especially dispensational premillennialism, which had its beginnings in the late 1820s, be used as a test for orthodoxy? This would mean that the church was ill-informed on eschatological issues for over 1800 years until J. N. Darby (or possibly Margaret Macdonald) came on the scene with the pre-tribulational rapture doctrine! As even dispensational scholars admit, the church knew nothing of this doctrine until its advocacy by Darby. While history is not authoritative, it can teach us some valuable lessons. Reformed scholar R. C. Sproul writes:

Although tradition [or history] does not rule our interpretation, it does guide it. If, upon reading a particular passage, you have come up with an interpretation that has escaped the notice of every other Christian for two thousand years, or that has been championed by universally recognized heretics, chances are pretty good that you had better abandon your interpretation.[33]

Reconstructionists are not the only ones who believe Hunt’s dispensationalism is not taught in Scripture and has not been taught in the church until the early nineteenth century. Dispensational premillennialism has always been thought of as aberrational if not “heretical.” Amillennialist scholar R. B. Kuiper, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, wrote in 1936 that two grievous errors were “prevalent among American fundamentalists, Arminianism and the Dispensationalism of the Scofield Bible.” The General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church described Arminianism and Dispensationalism as “anti-reformed heresies.”[34]

John Murray, also of Westminster Seminary, wrote that the ” ‘Dispensationalism’ of which we speak as heterodox from the standpoint of the Reformed Faith is that form of interpretation, widely popular at the present time, which discovers in the several dispensations of God’s redemptive revelation distinct and even contrary principles of divine procedure and thus destroys the unity of God’s dealings with fallen mankind.”[35]

Premillennialism of the covenantal variety was not under attack by these men. Kuiper made this crystal clear:

It is a matter of common knowledge that there is ever so much more to the dispensationalism of the Scofield Bible than the mere teaching of Premillennialism. Nor do the two stand and fall together. There are premillennarians who have never heard of Scofield’s dispensations. More important than that, there are serious students of God’s Word who hold to the Premillennial return of Christ and emphatically reject Scofield’s system of dispensations as fraught with grave error.[36]

How can we avoid the pitfalls of “orthodoxy by eschatology,” especially when that eschatology is the aberrational dispensationalism? If we all stick with the historic creedal formulation that Jesus will “come again to judge the quick and the dead” a lot more understanding will take place among those who differ on eschatological systems of interpretation.[37] Christian Reconstructionists have been unjustly criticized by a novel millennial view for holding an eschatological position that has both scriptural and historical support.

  1. Anti-Biblical Culture

Even a cursory reading of historical records will show that for many centuries, the church, both individually and corporately, has been involved in applying the Bible to society. Take the United States as a singular example. The first colleges in America were started by Christians – Harvard, Yale, and Princeton being the most well known. Our nation’s political system cannot be understood without an understanding of the Bible. State constitutions were explicitly Christian. Our nation’s laws presuppose the Christian religion. In 1892, the United States Supreme Court determined, in the case of The Church of the Holy Trinity vs. United States, that America was a Christian nation from its earliest days. The court opinion was an exhaustive study of the historical and legal evidence for America’s Christian heritage. After examining hundreds of court cases, state constitutions, and other historical documents, Justice Josiah Brewer, who delivered the opinion of the Court, concluded with these words:

This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation….These and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.[38]

The list could go on. These facts have been documented so many times that there is no need to chronicle them here.[39]

Since the rise of dispensational premillennialism in the mid-nineteenth century – which is Hunt’s operating interpretive methodology – the church has steadily turned the culture over to those who deny Christ and His law. Society has become progressively worse because Christians have abandoned culture. The resultant decline of culture has added further fuel to the heightened millennial fires of a near-return of our Lord.

  1. A Combination of Gross Misrepresentation and No Alternative

The fourth group of critiques is a combination of the first category (Gross Misrepresentation) and the lack of a specific biblical alternative. This category differs from that of eschatological critiques because the rapture does not playa role in the evaluation. Although there are disagreements over eschatology, they usually focus on the nature of the kingdom of God and not the timing of the rapture. Reconstructionists are easy targets for this category of criticism because we attempt to offer specific, Bible-based answers to today’s specific problems. We take God and His law seriously. This irritates our critics. Consider this summary of what Rodney Clapp perceives is wrong with Reconstructionist distinctives:

Is God really nothing more than the abstract, impersonal dispenser of equally abstract and impersonal laws? And is the objective of the Christian church, and its hope for the world to concentrate on the Law itself – or to come to know the Lawgiver?[40]

This is nonsense – an egregious example of a false dilemma. The laws that Reconstructionists tum to as the standard for righteousness for self-government, family government, church government, and civil government are the same laws given by Noah (Genesis 9:6-7), Abraham (18:19; 26:5), Moses (e.g. Exodus 21-23), Jesus (e.g., Matthew 5-7; 28:18-20), and Paul (Romans 13:9). Was God “nothing more than the abstract, impersonal dispenser of equally abstract and impersonal laws” to these men? Of course not. Did their love for God’s law (Psalm 119:97a, 113b, 119b) mean that they did not “come to know the Lawgiver”? Read Psalm 119 and try to separate the Psalmist’s love for God from his love for God’s law. Jesus said that if we truly love Him we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Paul writes that loving one’s neighbor is the fulfillment of the law. But Paul does not allow us to define love in our own way. He cites the law: “You shall not commit adultery [Exodus 20:14], You shall not murder [20:13], You shall not steal, You shall not covet [20:17]” (Romans 13:9).

My files are filled with numerous other attempts at refutation of the distinctives known as Christian Reconstruction. None of the critics offers what I would call a comprehensive, worked-out alternative social theory. The closest anyone comes is Norman L. Geisler. His answer is a variant of Greek natural law theory. Geisler maintains that the Bible cannot and should not be used by the nations as a blueprint for living.[41]

Others such as Charles Colson are a bit schizophrenic in their rejection of Christian Reconstruction. For example, Colson says that Reconstructionists are wrong in their application of the Mosaic law to contemporary society. But it is Colson who turns to the Mosaic law (Exodus 22) as the only hope to resolve our nation’s crime problem. He asserts that the only solution to the crime problem is “to take nonviolent criminals out of our prisons and make them pay back their victims with restitution. This is how we can solve the prison crowding problem.”[42] Richard Chewning, a sometime critic of Christian Reconstruction, discusses some of the advantages of a seven-year limit on debt as set forth in Deuteronomy 15:1-5.[43] Why can Colson and Chewning legitimately go to the Old Testament for instruction while Reconstructionists cannot? Is it because these men pick and choose what they like and ignore what they don’t like? This is convenient, but it is hardly a biblical approach.

The debate is over how the Christian should live and by what standard he should govern his life. Should the Christian turn to the Bible as his rule book? Should the world look to the Ten Commandments as laws or “suggestions”? It seems that most of our critics view God’s laws as “mere suggestions.” Ted Koppel, host of “Night Line,” has a better handle on the nature of God’s law than do many Christians:

What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions. They are commandments. Are, not were. The sheer brilliance of the Ten Commandments is that they codify in a handful of words acceptable human behavior, not just for then or now, but for all time. Language evolves. Power shifts from one nation to another. Messages are transmitted with the speed of light. Man erases one frontier after another. And yet we and our behavior and the commandments governing that behavior remain the same.[44]

Reconstructionists say that the Bible is the standard, both for salvation and holy living. Most of our critics say that while the Bible is our standard, it does not give us specific guidelines on economics, law, politics, and other secular matters, although few are ever consistent on this point. It does not offer “blueprints.” For example, Christians protest abortion and the legalization of homosexuality because the Bible is against these practices. As we saw above, Charles Colson believes the Bible is the only solution to prison reform: restitution in place of imprisonment. Who among us would support bestiality? The New Testament does not have a law against bestiality.[45]

For years conservatives have been opposing those who claim that while the Bible may be authoritative on matters regarding salvation, it is not necessarily inerrant and infallible on matters of science and history. The battle within the Southern Baptist Convention is over this very point.

“Conservatives” and “moderates” within the SBC part paths essentially on their fundamental views of Scripture. Both sides believe the Bible as originally written was infallible insofar as it tells the story of salvation. Conservatives maintain additionally that the original autographs were inerrant in all matters, including history and science.[46]

If conservatives want to maintain that the Bible is authoritative “in all matters, including history and science,” then why not economics, law, and civil government? All talk about an inerrant and infallible Bible goes down the drain if these so-called secular disciplines are categorized along with the liberal assessment of “history and science.”

  1. Honest Disagreement but Appreciation and Benefit

A fifth category of criticisms has done a fair job in evaluating Christian Reconstruction and has found the position helpful and insightful, although there are still disagreements on a number of issues. Keep in mind, however, that no two theologians agree on every point of any doctrine. This is why we have Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Pentecostals, and numerous other theological traditions.

John Frame, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California, writes that it is “necessary for us to do careful exegetical study in the law itself in order to determine its applications, rather than simply trying to make deductions from broad theological principles.” He writes the following about Reconstructionists and others who are attempting to do the necessary exegetical and applicational work:

A number of writers have made good beginnings in this direction. See James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1984); Gary North, Economic Commentary on the Bible, so far in three volumes: The Dominion Covenant: Genesis; Moses and Pharaoh; and The Sinai Strategy [and the most recent Tools of Dominion] (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1982, 1985, 1986, [1990]); [Vern Poythress], Understanding [the Law of Moses]; Rousas John Rushdoony, Institutes {of Biblical Law}; Gordon Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979). The conclusions of these books are not always consistent with one another, and the authors’ exegesis is of uneven quality. But they are attempting to do what most needs to be done in this area.[47]

Not all of the writers listed in the above quotation would call themselves Reconstructionists, but they are wrestling with the same issues. While a dispensationalist would dismiss the Mosaic law in its entirety – it’s Jewish law – theologians guided by the distinctives of the Reformation believe that all of God’s law, even those laws given specifically to Israel, have some application for today.

In the same issue of The Westminster Theological Journal, another author acknowledges the contributions made by Reconstructionists in the area of biblical ethics.

One positive contribution of theonomy[48] is a renewed interest in the validity of God’s law as an ethical standard. The question of the continuity of the Mosaic law as a binding code for Christians is receiving attention from a growing segment of the evangelical community. This increased concern for God’s revealed moral standards is a healthy sign, much in need during these times.[49]

John Jefferson Davis acknowledges that the “theonomy movement has generated a good deal of discussion and controversy” and that “some of the initial criticism appears based on a misreading of the true intent of the position.”[50] He specifically mentions the charge of “legalism” as a common misrepresentation. Davis lists a number of positive contributions: “Theonomy certainly represents a significant attempt in the contemporary scene to apply a comprehensive biblical world view”; “Theonomy certainly represents a comprehensive challenge to secular humanism in American life today, on all fronts, on the basis of biblical theism and biblical authority”; “The theonomic movement also represents a call to the church to demonstrate principled, God-centered action in the midst of a decadent and permissive society. Not pietistic retreat but, a confident and aggressive attempt to extend[51] the kingdom of Christ in the world is the proper response to the social crises of the day”; “The theonomists have correctly seen that the humanistic faith at the foundation of Enlightenment culture is now in the process of crumbling, and must be replaced with biblical foundations”; “Even those who disagree with the details or even the central thesis of the theonomists can agree that our major institutions need to be reconstructed along more biblical lines.”[52]

Cal Beisner in Prosperity and Poverty makes extensive use of Reconstructionist authors Bahnsen, Chilton, Grant, North, and Rushdoony, so much so that he has added an appendix to explain why he is not a Reconstructionist. He writes in an end note to the appendix “Methodological Note on the Use of Biblical Law”: “While I quote some of these authors here, my doing so does not imply that I endorse their whole system of thought. While I disagree with them on some points, some of their exegetical and ethical arguments are persuasive on others. It would have been intellectually dishonest to have produced their ideas without giving them credit. Much criticism of their thought in mainstream evangelical circles is, I think, based on misunderstanding and caricature.”[53]

Additional forms of appreciation can be found even in pre-millennial circles. Walter C. Kaiser quotes approvingly Reconstructionist author R. J. Rushdoony and his Institutes of Biblical Law more than he quotes any other single author, including himself.[54] Even some dispensational writers cannot avoid Reconstructionist distinctives. J. Kerby Anderson edited a series of articles written by Christian leaders presently or formerly affiliated with Dallas Theological Seminary.[55] While the articles are a mixed bag, some of them would fit quite easily into the Reconstructionist mold. One article in particular caught my attention: “The Purpose of Penology in the Mosaic Law and Today.” Keep in mind that the title of the book is Living Ethically in the ’90s, not Living Ethically under the Old Covenant 3,400 Years Ago. The author, Gary R. Williams, writes:

It is the purpose of this chapter to compare the objectives of modern penology with those of the God-given Mosaic Law in order to shed some light on the direction in which penological philosophy should be moving to solve some of its current conundrums.[56]

His article could have been written by a Reconstructionist. Since it was written by a dispensationalist, no one bats an eye, except maybe those authors in this same book who espouse a different position. I have in mind Robert P. Lightner’s “Theonomy and Dispensationalism” and Norman L. Geisler’s “A Dispensational Premillennial View of Law and Government.”


Being a good critic of contemporary religious movements is a risky business, especially a “movement” like Christian Reconstruction. For example, the sheer volume of material put out by Reconstructionists necessitates at least a few years of study and interviews. There are additional pitfalls in being a critic. Since a number of people have taken it upon themselves to be judges of Christian Reconstruction, they should be reminded what Scripture says: “Do not judge lest you be judged yourselves. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it shall be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2, NASB, which I use throughout my essays).

Jesus is not telling us to refrain from evaluating a theological position held by Christians who are making an impact in the Christian world. Jesus was in the business of evaluating the thoughts, words, and actions of His critics. In another place we are warned not to “believe every spirit”; instead, we are to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). The warning in Matthew 7:1-2 is designed to make the judge aware of a possible counter judgment that might prove damaging. The passage is not a command to remain silent when error is perceived to be rampant in the church.

Our criticism is not with our critics’ attempts to deal with a view that they disagree with. Our argument is with the poorly reasoned approach and the failure to study the existing material.

The critic opens himself to a counter critique by those he criticizes. This was Jesus’ warning to those who set themselves up as judges. In the case of our critics: How does their theology compare to the Bible and any other criteria they have used to call a rival theological position like Christian Reconstruction aberrational? The assumption of every critic is that his belief system is orthodox while the position he is examining is unorthodox. His methodology is equally on the line. It is indeed possible that Reconstructionists have theological “specks” in their eyes, but it may be equally true that after careful scrutiny we might find a few theological “logs” in the eyes of our critics (Matthew 7:3-5).

[1] Richard John Neuhaus, “Why Wait for the Kingdom?: The Theonomist Temptation,” First Things, No.3 (May 1990), p. 14.

[2] The debate over Christian Reconstruction has being going on for quite some time. See Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, 2nd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, [1977] 1984), pp. xi-xxvii.

[3] The Seduction of Christianity (1985) and Beyond Seduction (1987) were answered by Gary DeMar and Peter Leithart in The Seduction of Christianity: A Biblical Response to Dave Hunt (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1988).

[4] Harvest House also published Satan’s Underground by Lauren Stratford. This book and its author were exposed as frauds by an article appearing in Cornerstone Magazine, “Satan’s Side Show” (Vol. 18, Issue 90, pp. 23-28). While Dave Hunt does not perpetrate the same kind of fraud as Stratford and her book, his work is still fraudulent in that he never accurately describes Christian Reconstructionist distinctives. Nor does he inform his readers that there are various eschatological positions that have had wide acceptance in the church long before dispensational premillennialism gained a foothold in the nineteenth century.

[5] Greg L. Bahnsen and Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., House Divided: The Break-Up of Dispensational Theology (TyIer, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989).

[6] Steve Schlissel and David Brown, On Hal Lindsey and The Restoration of The Jews (Edmonton, Alberta: Still Waters Revival Books, 1990). Steve Schlissel pastors Messiah’s Christian Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York. Rev. Schlissel is a Jewish-born Christian Reconstructionist.

[7] John F. Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan/Academie, [1962] 1988), p. 108.

[8] David Chilton, The Great Tribulation (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1987).

[9] Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews or The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem in The Works of Josephus, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987), pp. 543-772. For an excerpted reading of the material pertinent to Jerusalem’s AD. 70 destruction, see David Chilton, Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1985), pp. 237-90.

[10] Mikhail Heller and Alexsandr M. Nekrich, Utopia in Power: The History of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the Present (New York: Summit Books, 1986), p. 236.

[11] Idem.

[12] Idem.

[13] Paul Johnson, Modem Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties (New York: Harper Be Row, 1983), p. 271.

[14] Heller and Nekrich, Utopia in Power, p. 234.

[15] Lloyd Billingsley, The Generation that Knew Not Josef A Critique of Marxism and The Religious Left (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1985), p. 37.

[16] Johnson, Modem Times, p. 699.

[17] William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), p. 240.

[18] William L. Shirer, The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940 (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1984), p. 156.

[19] Dusty Sklar, The Nazis and the Occult (New York: Dorset Press, [1977] 1989).

[20] Bob and Gretchen Passantino, Witch Hunt (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1990).

[21] Rodney Clapp, “Democracy as Heresy,” Christianity Today, (February 20, 1987), pp.17-23.

[22] Gary North, “Honest Reporting as Heresy: My Response to Christianity Today” (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), p. 3.

[23] Clapp, “Democracy as Heresy,” p. 17.

[24] For a biblical and historical understanding of democracy, see Gary DeMar, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei?,” The Biblical Worldview (February 1990).

[25] For a comprehensive study of slavery, see Gary North, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), pp. 111-206.

[26] Clapp, “Democracy as Heresy,” p. 20.

[27] Christianity Today (April 3, 1987), p. 8.

[28] For an analysis of The Road to Holocaust, see Gary DeMar and Peter Leithart, The Legacy of Hatred Continues: A Response to Hal Lindsey’s The Road to Holocaust (TyIer, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989).

[29] Hal Lindsey, The Road to Holocaust (New York: Bantam Books, 1989), p. 157.

[30] Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973), p. 75.

[31] Francis A Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? In The Complete Works of Francis A, Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, 5 vols. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, [1976] 1982), vol. 5., pp. 83-277.

[32] Greg L. Bahnsen, “The Prime Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism,” Symposium on the Millennium, The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, ed. Gary North, 111:2 (Winter 1976-77), pp. 51-52.

[33] R. C. Sproul, “A Serious Charge,” The Agony of Deceit: What Some TV Preachers are Really Teaching, ed. Michael Horton (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1990), p. 35.

[34] R. B. Kuiper, The Presbyterian Guardian (September 12,1936), pp. 225-27. Quoted in Edwin H. Rian, The Presbyterian Conflict (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1940), p. 101.

[35] The Presbyterian Guardian (February 3, 1936), p. 143. Quoted in ibid., pp. 236-7.

[36] The Presbyterian Guardian (November 14, 1936), p. 54. Quoted in ibid., p. 31.

[37] Carl Henry wrote the following in 1947:

Furthermore, there is a noticeable shift in eschatological thinking. On the one hand, there appears a return to a more conservative type of premillennialism, such as that of Alford and Trench, with an accompanying tendency to discard dogmatism on details; if this continues, the eschatological preaching of next generation Fundamentalists will concentrate on the proclamation of the kingdom, the second coming, the bodily resurrection of the dead, and the future judgment, and will not concern itself too much with lesser events (The Uneasy Conscience of Modem Fundamentalism [Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1947], p. 51).

[38] Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of The Church of the Holy Trinity v. The United States (143 United States 457 [1892]).

[39] Gary DeMar, God and Government, 3 vols. (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth” Hyatt, 1990); Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for Government (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1987), pp. 225-40; “The Theonomic Response to National Confessionalism,” God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government, ed. Gary Scott Smith (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1989), pp. 200-12; Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), pp. 383-97.

[40] Clapp, “Democracy as Heresy,” p. 23.

[41] Norman L. Geisler, “Natural Law and Business Ethics,” Biblical Principles and Business: The Foundations, ed. Richard C. Chewning (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1989), pp. 157-78.

[42] Charles Colson, “The Kingdom of God and Human Kingdoms,” Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, ed. James M. Boice (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1988), pp. 154-55.

[43] Richard C. Chewning, “Editor’s Perspective,” Biblical Principles & Business: The

Practice (Colorado Springs, co: NavPress, 1990), pp. 247-48.

[44] Ted Koppel, Commencement Address at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (May 10, 1987). Emphasis added. Quoted in Robert H. Bork, The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of Law (New York: The Free Press, 1990), p. 164.

[45] A noted dispensational professor and author stated that bestiality should not be considered either a sin or a crime because the New Testament does not condemn it. For the consistent dispensationalist, only those Old Testament laws repeated in the New Testament are valid. You can read more about this in Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., “Must God Stutter?,” Dispensationalism in Transition, 111:5 (May 1990).

[46] “Southern Baptist Schism: Just a Matter of Time?,” Christianity Today (May 14, 1990), p. 47.

[47] John M. Frame, “Toward a Theology of the State,” The Westminster Theological Journal, 51:2 (Fall 1989), p. 204, note 11.

[48] “Theonomy” (God’s law) is often used as a synonym for Christian Reconstruction. In reality, however, theonomy, the application of God’s law to all aspects of society, is simply one pillar of the system.

[49] Douglas O. Oss, “The Influence of Hermeneutical Frameworks in the Theonomy Debate,” ibid., p. 228.

[50] John Jefferson Davis, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984), p. 267.

[51] Notice that Dr. Davis does not charge Reconstructionists with trying to “bring in the kingdom.” As a postmillennialist, Davis understands that the kingdom came at Christ’s first coming. See John Jefferson Davis, Christ’s Victorious Kingdom: Postmillennialism Reconsidered (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986.

[52] The above quotations can be found in Davis, Foundations, pp. 267-68.

[53] E. Calvin Beisner, Prosperity and Poverty: The Compassionate Use of Resources in a World of Scarcity (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), p. 277, note 4.

[54] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward Old Testament Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1983), pp. 73, 88, 117, 144, 145, 147, 148, 149, 154, 155, 157, 164, 165, 169, 196, 198, 199, 213, 229, 231, 256.

[55] J. Kerby Anderson, ed., Living Ethically in the ’90s (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1990).

[56] Ibid., p. 124.