Part 3: Question 13: What Is the Proper Response?

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

What is the Proper Response? 

Gary North

“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. I f a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; 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. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.”

Deuteronomy 19:15-20

Our critics have repeatedly misrepresented us. This includes Christian critics. They claim that we are heretical. Why? Mainly because we proclaim biblical law. We say that biblical law is Christianity’s tool of dominion.[1] We believe in social progress.[2] We therefore believe in the need for social change and the legitimacy of Christian social action.

Christians today think just as humanists do regarding social change. When they hear the phrase “social change,” they automatically think to themselves “politically directed change.” This is humanism’s view of social change, not the Bible’s. This reveals the extent to which modern pietism has been influenced by contemporary humanism’s worldview. When pietists hear the words “Christian Reconstruction,” they, like the humanists, think of a theology based on the ideal of political action through legislative reform – a narrow ideal, indeed. This would mean the rule of biblical law. They oppose Christian Reconstruction for this reason. There has developed a kind of unstated operational alliance between them. They are united against biblical law.[3]

There are times when I think that Christian Reconstructionists are today the only people who think that political action is not primary. But no matter how many times we say this in print, our critics refuse to listen. They interpret our words in their own way. They systematically refuse to understand what we have in mind, meaning what we have repeatedly written. (One reason for their confusion is that they refuse to read what we write.)

This book is a short, concise, and representative example of what Christian Reconstructionism is, and also what it isn’t. It is short enough and cheap enough to give even the laziest critic an accurate survey of Christian Reconstructionism. There will be no further excuse for misrepresenting our position.

Will this end the misrepresentation? Not a chance! Misrepresentation sells almost as well as sensationalism does. Therefore, this book is not merely a positive statement of our position. It is also a rebuttal. We are tired of the lies and misrepresentations. We intend to leave the liars without excuse.

This presents us with a dilemma. Should we respond at all? Or should we remain passively quiet, as if we had not been attacked, and not merely attacked, but misrepresented and in some cases even slandered? Should we give our followers the impression by our silence that we are incapable of answering, thereby giving credence to our attackers’ accusations? Or should we present our case forcefully, which of necessity means refuting our opponents’ cases forcefully? If we do, our opponents will wrap themselves in the swaddling clothes of humility and call us confrontational, uncharitable, and unchristian. They place humility at the top of the list of desirable Christian attributes in modern political pluralism’s naked public square – far, far above the Ninth Commandment, which they ignore with impunity when discussing Christian Reconstruction.

Fools Rush In

Because I am heavily involved in promoting a very controversial variety of Christianity, I receive my share of criticism, mostly from other Christians. Non-Christians for the most part pay no attention to us: one non-profit Public Broadcasting System TV documentary by Lyndon B. Johnson’s former press agent, one Wall Street Journal editorial page essay by a theologically liberal sociologist, and that is about it. Nothing of any consequence happened after either event, so I assume that no one is paying much attention to us in humanism-land.

Not so in Christian circles. Christian leaders recognize the obvious: if we are correct in our views, then they are incorrect. Not only incorrect: they are hindering the expansion of the kingdom of God by their narrow definitions of what constitutes evangelism, Christian social service, and personal responsibility in such areas as education, abortion, and public policy. They have so narrowed the range of legitimate Christian concern that they have become operational allies of secular humanists. In the name of God, they have rented out about 98% of His world to Satan’s earthly representatives, using a lease contract that reads: “Irrevocable until the Second Coming of Christ.”

They do not see the obvious: kingdom means civilization. God’s kingdom is a cosmic civilization linking heaven and earth. He is the King of both realms. But their view of kingship is flawed. They believe that God is indeed king of heaven, but on earth He is a king only of the regenerate heart, the Christian family, and the local congregation. In their view, God is king in name only over everything else. To them, “civilization” means the devil’s realm, and they make it clear that Christians should not set foot in it. The focus of their concern has been the personal vices of liquor and tobacco. In the doggerel that used to be applied to the fundamentalists (and still should be), “I don’t drink, and I don’t chew, and I don’t go with the boys who do!” Demon rum is still their primary enemy, not demon public education.

The more books I write, the more letters I receive from critics who call themselves Christians. These letters are for the most part rational and coherent. This is probably because Christian Reconstruction is still a comparatively small intellectual movement with only a few thousand regular readers per organization. (The publicly announced estimate of some 20 million Christian Reconstructionists was made by an overly optimistic gentleman whose non-profit foundation, I can assure you, is not being sent a dollar a year by each of these supposed 20 million disciples.) The percentage of certifiable crazies in any population is limited, so I get only moderate amounts of mail from them. Those people who write to me are often donors who just want clarification. I usually answer donors’ questions, even silly ones. Sometimes, I am downright civil.

A few of these letters are sent by people who, if they are not fools, certainly do a passable imitation. If I were to answer every critical letter, it would only encourage the crazies. They would just write more letters, demanding more responses. In the name of Christian humility, they always demand my immediate detailed response. Any leader in any field who gets involved in writing detailed letters to the crazies on his mailing list (let alone outsiders) places a low value on his time. His written replies will only encourage the nuttier of the letter-writers. It makes them feel important. They are not important. They are loonies. (The ones who enrage me most are the racists, who implicitly place genetics above the covenant as an explanation for social change. They are a fading influence today, but they still exist in right-wing circles. I am not charitable with these people. They belong on someone else’s mailing list. The sooner they are off of mine, the better.)

Question: Should the President of the United States or the prime minister of some nation answer every letter from every critic? No? Then neither should any other leader. You have to pick and choose which letters get answered. If you don’t do this, it interferes with your productive work. What is true for political leaders is true for theological innovators, too.

The “Experts” Among Us

But it is not the letter-writers who are our main problem. It is the “experts” who go into print with their criticisms. The Christian newsletter field is open to anyone, including theological basket cases. Sometimes I think, especially theological basket cases.

What I have noticed over the last three years (when the critics finally discovered us, about fifteen years too late) is that the more outraged the critic, and the more inflamed his rhetoric, the less intellectually competent he is, and the less informed about the worldview that he is criticizing. Men put their names on typeset nonsense in the hope that their efforts will pass for responsible criticism of Christian Reconstruction. Unfortunately, in their theologically and educationally limited Christian circles, it very often does pass for responsible criticism. The Christian reading public on the whole still moves its collective lips when it reads. Jim Bakker didn’t get where he is today by appealing to sophisticated people. Neither did Hal Lindsey.

These critics do not understand or respect the enormous moral and intellectual burden associated with the printed page. When I write, I do so in constant fear of including an erroneous footnote reference or date, let alone some obvious misrepresentation of another person’s intellectual position. But our critics are so sure that they are doing God’s work that such things as getting their opponents’ positions straight are regarded as minor details not worth bothering about. The Ninth Commandment means little to them. Polemics does. They would rather impress their poorly informed readers than present serious theoretical or practical objections to our position.

Question: How should we Reconstructionists answer them? Should we answer them at all? If we refuse to answer them, what are the likely consequences? Will a challenge from us be viewed as unchristian? Will silence be interpreted as a sign of weakness, both by our opponents and our followers?

Answering Fools

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him (Proverbs 26:4).

Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit (Proverbs 26:5).

Well, which is it? Answer the fool or remain silent? Or is there a third alternative?

These are probably the two most visibly contradictory verses in the Bible, yet Proverbs lists them one after the other without explanation. It can hardly be because the author somehow failed to notice that they are visibly contradictory. There has to be another explanation.

First, I do not think they are antithetical in the way that the familiar English proverbs, “Out of sight, out of mind” and “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” are antithetical. I think they deal with two different situations. The trouble is, we do not know for certain what these situations are. We have to do our best to figure out the intention of the author by a careful investigation of his language, in order to discover what the fundamental differentiating factor is.

Second, the two proverbs have a single underlying message: in this life we must deal with fools. We are required to recognize them as fools. Developing the ability to evaluate people biblically is fundamental to wisdom: distinguishing the fools from other kinds of critics.

In one of the most important postmillennial passages in Scripture, Isaiah 32, we are given this prophecy regarding the coming millennial era of blessings: “The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful” (Isa. 32:5). In our day, as in Isaiah’s day, vile people are called liberal. I offer as a classic recent example the defensive responses of the highly paid functionaries of America’s National Endowment of the Arts. Critics had identified as reprehensible such taxpayer-financed “works of art” as the “piss Christ”: a photograph of a crucifix in a glass case filled with urine. (Who says the U.S. government cannot lawfully use tax money – $15,000 – to promote religious symbols? The symbols just have to be submerged in urine first.) When U.S. Senator Jesse Helms protested this use of taxpayers’ money, he was liberally attacked in the liberal press as a censor and potential book-burner. Who is the liberal? Who is the churl? God tells us to make such distinctions.

Avoiding Folly

The differentiating factor in the two proverbs is the spiritual condition of the responder. “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him” (Proverbs 26:4). Any Christian who has a tendency toward foolishness – shooting from the lip, for example – should keep his mouth tightly shut (Proverbs 17:28). If the churl is sarcastic, the targeted victim should not be sarcastic. This strategy, by the way, is a very good debate technique. It may be that the most important public debate of modern times was lost because an anti-Christian honored this rule, and his Christian opponent didn’t.

The story comes down to us of a crucial 20-minute debate at Oxford University in 1860 between Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and Thomas Huxley. The subject was Darwinian evolution, a theory first presented to the public in 1858 with zero effect,[4] and presented again the following year in The Origin of Species with revolutionary effect. (The book and its sequel offered the most important intellectual defense of racism ever written; they laid the theoretical foundations of modern racist theory.)[5] Huxley was taking Darwin’s place at the podium, as he did for the remainder of Darwin’s life. Darwin never appeared in public debate; this legendary hypochondriac avoided all such distasteful confrontations.[6] But Huxley became a mighty representative.[7] He became known as Darwin’s Bulldog.

Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, son of the great Christian social activist William Wilberforce, was not a scientist, yet he agreed on a few days’ notice to debate the man who would develop and promote the Darwinian position tirelessly over the next generation. Presenting his 10-minute negative case first, the Bishop referred to Darwin’s theory of mankind’s simian ancestors, and then he made a seemingly clever remark to Huxley, asking him whether it was through his grandmother or his grandfather that he traced his simian ancestry. Huxley is said to have turned to a colleague and said, “The Lord hath delivered him into mine hands.” Huxley took the podium and declared that he would not be ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be “ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth.”

This story comes to us from The Macmillan Magazine, published almost 40 years after the event, in an article called “A Grandmother’s Tales.” It was hardly a primary source document. We need not accept it as a faithful account of what happened. Nevertheless, it has come down to us as a true account of what took place. Listen to a modern historian’s summary of what happened, and bear in mind that this account is accepted as fact by most historians:

The sensation was immense. A hostile audience accorded him nearly as much applause as the Bishop had received. One lady, employing an idiom now lost, expressed her sense of intellectual crisis by fainting. The Bishop had suffered a sudden and involuntary martyrdom, perishing in the diverted avalanches of his own blunt ridicule. Huxley had committed forensic murder with a wonderful artistic simplicity, grinding orthodoxy between the facts and the supreme Victorian value of truth-telling.[8]

Huxley did not answer Wilberforce according to the Bishop’s folly. He did answer him, however. Whatever else he actually said in those ten minutes is long forgotten. It was probably forgotten by the next day. What was remembered was his effective countering of the Bishop’s failure to grasp the vulnerability of an overly clever sarcastic remark. Sometimes it is better to play the wounded lamb than to play the wounded water buffalo, let alone the clever comic.

Do not answer a fool according to his folly. Except, of course, when you should.

Knocking the Stuffings Out of a Stuffed Shirt

“Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit” (Proverbs 26:5). There are times when a direct response is just what the doctor ordered. You can legitimately use ridicule in order to identify the ridiculous. This is Solomon’s implicit advice, and it was Augustine’s explicit advice.[9] Nevertheless, you have to know how and when to exercise this skill. You must also calculate the risk. Bishop Wilberforce apparently neglected to do either.

What I have learned over the years is that we Christian Reconstructionists are constantly confronting people with minimal intellectual abilities and minimal professional training, as well as (very occasionally) people with considerable intellectual abilities who have decided to rush into print without first doing their homework. They are not the type of fool identified in the Bible: people who have said in their hearts that there is no God (Psalm 14:1). Darwin was a fool. Huxley was a fool. Marx was a fool. Freud was a fool. Our published critics, in contrast, are for the most part just not very bright. And when they are bright, they have been lazy. They let their less intellectually gifted peers do their initial homework for them; then they cite as authoritative these half-baked published reports.[10] It is wiser to do your own homework; that way, you avoid sticking your finger (or worse) into a Reconstructionist buzz saw.

There is another aspect of the critics that must be confronted. Some of them really are intellectually corrupt. They lie. They cheat. They steal (other people’s footnotes). Hal Lindsey, who multiplies ex-wives the way Reconstructionists multiply books, is one such critic. They have adopted this rule: “Thou shalt not bear false witness, except against other Christians.”

Dealing With Lightweights

Actually, these people are easy to handle. In the summer of 1989, Lindsey’s book, The Road to Holocaust, appeared. The book accuses Reconstructionists and all other non-dispensationalists of anti-Semitism. If you are not a premillennial dispensationalist, Lindsey writes, you are a latent anti-semite. To say that this thesis is absurd is not doing it justice. It really is one of the stupidest Christian books ever published, in a field in which there is heavy competition. The book did not achieve much success, although a paperback version is now available, one which Lindsey refused to revise, even when he knew that he had spelled people’s names incorrectly and had made other equally obvious misstatements of fact.

How did we deal with him? First, his publisher (Bantam) erred in releasing the book a month early, in June of 1989, instead of July, as Bantam had previously announced in trade publication advertising that it would. This was a major mistake. The Christian Bookseller Association’s summer convention was scheduled for July. So, with his book in our hands in June, we wrote a 75-page book in response, had it typeset, printed, and delivered to the CBA convention on the day it opened.[11] We had previously rented a book table there. We then handed out hundreds of copies of the book free of charge. We de-fused Lindsey’s book before it hit most Christian bookstores.

Was Lindsey upset? I think so. He indicated as much at the convention, as did his outraged secretary. He had not understood our mastery of the wonders of microcomputer technology. More to the point, he had never taken on anyone in print with academic training in his whole career. He simply cannot “duke it out” intellectually with the big boys, which is why he refuses to debate any Christian Reconstructionist in public. He got his head handed to him, but only a few Reconstructionists know of The Legacy of Hatred Continues. He prefers to keep his wounds relatively private. (He may also suspect that the very first question I would ask him in any public debate is this: “On what legal basis did each of your wives gain her divorce?”)[12] Unlike Dave Hunt, who really is a glutton for punishment, Hal Lindsey knows that he was beaten, and beaten soundly. He has not written a reply. He has not revised his book. If he does reply in print, we will respond again, but in far greater detail. He knows this. So far, he has confined his comments to local radio talk shows, where we have difficulty calling in, although on one occasion, Gary DeMar did get through. Was Lindsey surprised! The show was being broadcast locally in Texas, and DeMar was in Atlanta. (A local listener had tipped off DeMar.)

Here is my strategy at ICE. Every critic who writes a book-length criticism of Christian Reconstruction gets a book-length reply within six months, if his book was not self-published. This is guaranteed. Our reply may be released within three months. In Hal Lindsey’s case, it took only 30 days. If the critic replies to us in another book, he will get another book-length response. In the case of Westminster Theological Seminary’s remarkably mediocre and unfocused book, which took the sixteen authors about five years to get into print, we produced three volumes of replies within a few months.[13] Microchip technology and a comprehensive paradigm make this possible. I had one chapter written and typeset in one day and the book to the printer’s within three weeks: only two weeks after the Westminster book was officially released to the book-buying public.[14]

Remember the tar baby in the Uncle Remus story?[15] That is my working model. Punch me once, and you won’t get out. This strategy works. It is costly, but it works. When the critic wearies of the exchange and fails to reply to our latest book-length reply, we then tell the world: “See, he couldn’t answer us. He clearly has no intellectually defensible position.” Tactic or not, it really is true: the critics cannot defend their position. It just takes some of them a long time to figure this out. There are some amazingly slow learners out there.

Just how seriously should we take critics who begin their articles, as both Richard John Neuhaus and Errol Hulse began theirs, with the frank admission that we Reconstructionists have written too much for any critic to be expected to read?[16] Then they attacked us anyway!

As the Critics Multiply

Consider Richard John Neuhaus. He is liberal theologically, but he has the reputation of being somewhat conservative culturally. He is also, by neo-evangelical standards, a scholar. (At the time he wrote his critical essay, he was still in the neo-evangelical camp. A few months later, he joined the Roman Catholic Church.) Previously, he had been unceremoniously booted out of his former employer’s New York offices.[17] In First Things’ third issue, he attacked Christian Reconstructionism. His attack was not a book; it was merely a short essay in a new, unknown journal, written by a man in theological transition. It had very little impact even before he switched churches.

Here is our problem. We freely acknowledge that Rev. Neuhaus is a literate man. He is vaguely conservative socially. He has his own small-circulation magazine. What is the proper response? Write a whole book? But hardly anyone in the evangelical Christian world has ever heard of him. Wouldn’t a whole book be overkill?

Should we answer him line by line? Where? In a newsletter? This would be boring to most of our readers. Also, he is not exactly skating on thick theological ice. He calls us heretics, yet he himself does not believe that Jews need to accept Christ as Savior in order to be saved. Calling us heretics demonstrates, to put it bluntly, considerable chutzpa on his part.

A few of the more literate of our followers nevertheless worry about what Rev. Neuhaus has said. I received exactly one letter that asked, basically: “What do you say in response to Dr. Neuhaus?” Mainly I say this: I wrote a 700-page book refuting Neuhaus’ civic theology of political pluralism, Political Polytheism. I specifically identified his position as intellectually and theologically indefensible, and showed why it is.[18] Did he respond to me in his 1990 article? Hardly; he did not refer once to the book. Just how seriously should I take Mr. Neuhaus? Not very.

Besides, how many Neuhauses are there in the world? How many Anson Shupes?[19] How many times must we answer the same unsubstantiated accusations, the same misrepresentations, and even the same misspellings, repeated endlessly? What profit is there in replying to people who freely admit – as Neuhaus admitted – that we Reconstructionists write too many books for them to read. They still go into print with their unsupported accusations.

Some of our followers have a bad case of “What have I gotten myself into?” They are in tight little groups of antinomian pietists, and they have identified themselves as Reconstructionists. Now the little group’s spokesman has publicly called us heretical, or worse. What to do? They feel they must respond, but they don’t feel competent to do it. So, they expect one of us to respond to the little group’s critic. They see this as our duty. They do not recognize that we are increasingly coming under fire from late-responding leaders of lots of little groups. We dare not waste time responding to every newsletter attack, yet each member of each little fringe group expects us to respond.

Residents of Dispensational Ghettos

Those who have still not made the break from dispensationalist churches (mainly charismatics who have become postmillennial) may even worry about what Dave Hunt has said recently, even though Mr. Hunt is arguably the world’s second-worst debater,[20] even though he has steadfastly refused to reply to two volumes of detailed material aimed directly at him,[21] even though he is an accountant rather than a theologian, even though the man is too lazy to provide indexes for his books. I had one person write to me telling me that I just had to write a reply to Hunt’s Whatever Happened to Heaven?, as if Gary DeMar’s two volumes had not already publicly disemboweled Hunt. Why should I? It is not written only about Reconstruction. He refuses to respond to DeMar, just as Ronald Sider’s second edition of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger failed to reply to David Chilton’s Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators. It should be clear to anyone who has read both sides who won each of these debates. It was not our critics. If they refuse to respond to our arguments, why is it our responsibility to repeat them again?

Ron Sider has had the wisdom to stop writing about world hunger and the need for a “graduated tithe.” He writes today mainly about the evils of abortion and homosexuality, which is why he has become a pariah among his former Sojourner colleagues. But Dave Hunt refuses to go away quietly. He writes his book-length dispensational tracts as if he had somewhere answered DeMar’s point-by-point refutation. “Gary who?”, he asks. He pretends that he was not repeatedly and in full public view taken apart theologically. He can get away with this only because his followers do not read serious books. Now he needs to answer the Passantinos’ book, Witch Hunt (I suggested the title), which went through three printings in four months. I will not hold my breath waiting for his reply.

Dave Hunt’s problem is that he is intellectually incompetent in matters of theology, a fact he freely attests to by his constant refrain during public debates when he is losing the argument: “I’m not a theologian, but….” He surely isn’t, no “buts” about it. He systematically refuses to respond, line by line, to our previous published criticisms of his “facts,” his logic, and his outright lies.[22] What is our appropriate response? We have written two full-length books against him. He has yet to respond. What now?

I’ll tell you what. We will go on down the road, presenting a comprehensive positive alternative to Hunt’s ever-predicted, never-fulfilled rapture. The best defense is a good offense. Dave Hunt can’t beat something with nothing. The best answer to bad negative theology is good positive theology. The best answer to historical despair is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This Book Is Our Answer

In my section of this book, I stated the Christian Reconstructionist position on the kingdom of God in history, which is the major target of the critics. DeMar in his section answered eleven of the most frequently asked questions about Christian Reconstruction. We have kept the book simple – so simple that even a Christianity Today editor will be able to follow it.

It is our hope that readers will take these answers seriously. It is also our hope that our future critics will think carefully about these answers before going into print to tell people what we believe. We exercise faith that they will do this. You know what faith is: “…the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). After all, we are postmillennialists. Optimism in the face of contrary recent evidence is basic to our eschatological perspective.

To all of our dedicated but nervous readers, we implore you to make sure that before you get the heebie-jeebies the next time you read some criticism of our movement in the pages of yet another obscure little Christian newsletter or magazine, written by someone who has yet to write his first book, you get out your dog-eared copy of this book and see if the critic has read it. See if he is responding to what we have written here. See if he even knows what questions to ask.

Our critics so far have been utterly incompetent. How do I know this? Because I know the “soft underbelly” of the Christian Reconstruction position. Every insider knows where the weak chinks are in his movement’s armor. The best test of a critic’s mastery of his opponent’s system is his ability to go straight for his opponent’s weakest spots. He will not be side-tracked. If he can do this, he will draw blood. He will create consternation and confusion within his opponent’s camp. This has not happened so far, yet Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law was published in 1973, and Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics appeared in 1977. If the critics had answers, we would have heard by now.

Our critics have been remarkably easy to refute, usually by citing verbatim what we have already published that they never read or at least forgot. It is safe to say that they have not known what they were doing. Critics who expose themselves publicly to refutations as thorough and as specific as DeMar and Leithart’s The Reduction of Christianity or Bahnsen and Gentry’s House Divided need not be taken seriously.

Why Are We So Confident?

Because we have already won the intellectual battle. Our critics waited too long to respond. When a movement has been given time to get over a hundred books and scholarly journals into print, it is too late for its critics to begin responding. The critics now have too much to read, and they refuse to do the necessary work. When the new movement has already made converts in the major rival organizations, in some cases the next generation of leaders, it is way too late. When the critics keep repeating as the gospel truth both facts and opinions that have been refuted, line by line, in previous Reconstructionist responses, usually in book-long responses, the critics are admitting in public two things: (1) they have no answers to our position and (2) they have not bothered to read our detailed replies. This is the case today. When the critics think they can defeat the new movement by attacking the leaders’ styles or personalities rather than their ideas, it is way, way too late. The main theological battle is already over. We are now in the “mopping-up” phase.

There is something else. Our ideas are now in wide circulation. They no longer depend on the skills or integrity of any one person. We Christian Reconstructionists practice what we preach. We are a decentralized movement. We cannot be taken out by a successful attack on anyone of our institutional strongholds or anyone of our spokesmen. Our authors may come and go (and have), but our basic worldview is now complete. We have laid down the foundations of a paradigm shift.

Our critics are so deeply committed to the prevailing Establishment – political and religious pluralism – that when the humanist order self-destructs, it will take down the critics. They have all built their institutions on the sand of humanist social theory and humanist social order.[23] What today appears to be their great advantage – their acceptance of and by the prevailing social order – will become a distinct liability in and after a major crisis. That crisis is coming, long before Jesus does.

Running for Cover

When Wayne House refused to debate Greg Bahnsen in public, having bragged previously that none of us would meet him in a formal debate, and after he left the prestige of Dallas Theological Seminary for the obscurity of Western Baptist College, it was obvious who had won the theological debate. Neither House nor Ice is ready today to defend himself in formal debate from the devastating responses in House Divided. They are both back-peddling (e.g., in their traditional dispensational assertion, known by every church historian to be false, that postmillennialism was invented by Unitarian Daniel Whitby in the early 1700’s, despite the obvious postmillennialism of Puritanism in the 1600’s). Dispensational theology is in sad shape. Worse: it is in terminal shape.

John Walvoord’s remarkably embarrassing attempt to respond to House Divided[24] only adds to our conviction that dispensationalism is an intellectually dead system whose own supporters refuse to defend its details in public. They are now redesigning the whole system. When the leading theologian of the movement (Walvoord) says in print that an entire book is needed to reply to House Divided, which is itself a response to the one attempted defense of dispensational theology in a generation,[25] and then says he does not intend to write such a book, you know the dispensational movement is in its final stages. The movement has yet to respond to O. T. Allis’ 1945 book, Prophecy and the Church. Wait until John Gerstner’s gigantic critique becomes available! Dispensationalism is now intellectually terminal. Rigor mortis has visibly set in. It is only a matter of time before it becomes institutionally terminal. When faith in Marxism faded in the Soviet Union, the system was doomed. So shall dispensationalism fade. Ideas do have consequences. A headless movement cannot survive long.

Unserious Spokesmen

A serious author takes care to get things correct. I do not want to make mistakes in my writing. A critic may point out a serious error, or even a messed-up footnote. I always revise my books when they are reprinted. I am serious. Our critics seldom are. When Hal Lindsey repeatedly attacks books written by a “John Rousas Rushdoony,” when the man’s name is Rousas John Rushdoony, he shows that he is not serious. When he allows a paperback version of The Road to Holocaust to appear a year later without any corrections, despite our detailed response, he shows that he is dishonest. We knew that from the beginning. Yet this man is the spokesman for an entire theological movement, rivaled only by Dave Hunt. Dispensationalism is no longer a serious theological movement.

I can appreciate a diatribe that draws blood, having written my share of them. I am a scholar by training, and I respect good scholarship even among my ideological foes. There is so little competent writing out there that I am always happy to read something accurate, even if it is critical of me. But what is obvious to all of us in the leadership of this little movement is that the most competent of the theologians and scholars who do not share our perspective are either content to remain silent or have themselves quietly adopted considerable portions of our position. In some cases, they have become Reconstructionist “moles.”

I remember in the mid-1970’s when a few pastors in the Presbyterian Church of America approached F. N. Lee, the denomination’s most articulate and scholarly theologian, asking him to refute Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law. Lee was already a postmillennial theonomist by that time. (Rushdoony had persuaded Craig Press to publish Lee’s Communist Eschatology.) This sort of thing has happened more than once. The critics call in their big guns, and the big guns then proceed to blow a hole in the critics’ defenses. It must be very discouraging to them. If it isn’t, it should be.

Here is the plight of our institutional opponents: we keep picking off the best and the brightest of their disciples. The best and the brightest people want to make a difference in history, and they are attracted to a theological position that teaches that Christianity can and will transform world civilization. They are not instinctively attracted to eschatological positions that proclaim progressive Christian impotence as a way of life.[26] When they see a theological alternative, they adopt it.


It boils down to this: our critics can’t beat something with nothing. We have offered, and continue to update, a consistent, comprehensive, Bible-based alternative to a collapsing humanist order. What do our critics offer as their workable alternative? If it is just another round of “Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” then they are not offering much. That prayer is legitimate only when the one who prays it is willing to add this justification for his prayer: “Because your church has completed her assigned task faithfully (Matthew 28:18-20), and your kingdom has become manifest to many formerly lost souls.” This is surely not a prayer that is appropriate today. (It was appropriate for John because he was praying for the covenantal coming of Jesus Christ, manifested by destruction of the Old Covenant order. His prayer was answered within a few months: the destruction of Jerusalem.)[27]

One last note: for those who still think my style is intemperate and unnecessarily personal, please read Mark Edwards’ two scholarly books on Luther’s polemics. Get a feel for what a master polemicist and pamphleteer did, and why he successfully launched the Protestant Reformation. Then re-read Calvin’s Institutes. When it comes to invective, I am a piker.[28]

[1] Gary North, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (TyIer, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990).

[2] Gary North, Dominion and Common Grace: The Biblical Basis of Progress (TyIer, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987).

[3] See Chapter 9, above.

[4] In a co-authored scholarly essay (with Alfred R. Wallace).

[5] Its subtitle is The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for life. We learn in his Descent of Man (1871) of the “mongrel population of Negroes and Portuguese” (Modern Library edition, p. 535) and of the fact that Negroes make excellent musicians in civilized societies, “although in their native countries they rarely practice anything that we should consider music” (pp. 878-79). All that is missing is a discussion of their natural rhythm.

[6] Perhaps he was sicker than we think. This, at least, is the theory of John P. Koster in his book, The Atheist Syndrome (Brentwood, Tennessee: Wolgemuth Be Hyatt, 1989), ch. 3.

[7] Huxley had become a Darwinist after having been sent a copy of Origin to review in the London Times. He was the second reviewer to be asked to review it. The first reviewer had sent it back, claiming that he did not have sufficient knowledge of the field. What if the first reviewer had reviewed it? Would Huxley and his famous descendants have made a difference in history?

[8] William Irvine, Apes, Angels, and Victorians: The Story of Darwin, Huxley, and Evolution (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1955), p. 7.

[9] City of God, XVIII:49.

[10] An example of this is provided by Dr. Peter Masters, who occupies Charles Spurgeon’s pulpit. Dr. Masters promotes the book by House and Ice, Dominion Theology: Bussing or Curse’, as if Bahnsen and Gentry had not demolished it in House Divided. See the two-page promotion of the book in Masters’ critical essay, “World Dominion: The High Ambition of Reconstruction,” Sword & Trowel (May 24, 1990), pp. 19-20.

[11] Gary DeMar and Peter J. Leithart, The Legacy of Hatred Continues (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989).

[12] Some readers may wonder why I keep returning to this marital fact of Hal Lindsey’s life. I do so because he holds the public office of minister of the gospel. The Bible is very clear about the requirements of this office: a man is not to serve as an elder unless he is the husband of one wife (I Tim. 3:2). This does not mean “one wife at a time.” Unless he brought biblical grounds of divorce against his ex-wives, and then proved these charges in a church court, Lindsey is an adulterer, according to Jesus (Matt. 5:31-32). But adultery has become a way of life in modern Christian circles, so my accusation is shrugged off as bad etiquette on my part. It is in such a moral environment that a man such as Lindsey can become a national spiritual leader.

[13] William S. Barker and w. Robert Godfrey (eds.), Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Academie, 1990). The replies are: Gary North, Westminster’s Confession, Greg Bahnsen, No Other Standard, and North (ed.) Theonomy: An Informed Critique.

[14] North, Millennialism and Social Theory (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), ch. 9: “The Sociology of Suffering.”

[15] He became the glue bunny – non-racial – in a recent Disney book version.

[16] Richard John Neuhaus, “Why Wait for the Kingdom?: The Theonomist Temptation,” First Things 3 (May 1990), p. 14; Errol Hulse, “Reconstructionism, Restorationism or Puritanism,” Reformation 1Oday, No. 116 (July-Aug. 1990), p. 25.

[17] The Rockford Foundation.

[18] North, Political Polytheism, ch. 2.

[19] Anson Shupe, “Prophets of a Biblical America,” Wall Street Journal (April 12, 1989).

[20] After Tommy Ice. For proof, see the 1988 debate: Gary DeMar and Gary North vs. Dave Hunt and Tommy Ice. Institute for Christian Economics.

[21] Gary DeMar and Peter J. Leithart, The Reduction of Christianity: A Biblical Response to Dave Hunt (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1988); DeMar, The Debate over Christian Reconstruction (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1988).

[22] I refer here to his retrospective misdating, in his newsletter, of the dates and circumstances of our request that he read The Reduction of Christianity and offer any rebuttals, a courtesy that he did not show his targets in The Seduction of Christianity. It was a courtesy that Ice and House also refused us, and which Hal Lindsey refused us, even when we asked to see their respective manuscripts. Who, I ask, are the “mean, vindictive, uncharitable” authors, and who are the victims?

[23] North, Millennialism and Social Theory.

[24] Bibliotheca Sacra (July-Sept. 1990). For my response, see “First, the Head Goes Soft,” Dispensationalism in 1Tansition, III (Aug. 1990).

[25] H. Wayne House and Thomas D. Ice, Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curser (Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 1988).

[26] North, Millennialism and Social Theory.

[27] David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of The Book of Revelation (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1987); Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating The Book of Revelation (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989).

[28] Mark U. Edwards, Jr., Luther and 1M False Brethren (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1975); Luther’s Last Battles: Polities and Polemics, 1531-46 (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1983).