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Christian Reconstructionism: Biblical Law, Theocracy, and Rule by Christians

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Origins of Christian Reconstructionism:


Christian Reconstructionism took off during the early 1970s in part as a disillusioned reaction to the failure of America’s government to solve various social issues like poverty. Reconstructionism offers an appealing solution to all of society’s ills: human laws cannot govern human institutions, therefore we must return dominion over human institutions to God. Submission to the moral principles of the Bible guarantees that everything will turn out well because God and the Bible are perfect.

Basic Beliefs of Christian Reconstructionism:


Christian Reconstructionists agree on these principles:
  • God’s sovereignty over all humanity and the world
  • Postmillenialism
  • Application of Old Testament laws to modern society
  • Presuppositionism in apologetics

For Reconstructionists, the Christian Church is the New Israel: Christians, not Jews, are God’s chosen people and are those with whom God has a special covenant. If Christians keep the covenant, they will be rewarded; if they don’t, they will be punished — as will the whole nation.

Christian Reconstructionism, Dominion Theology and Theonomy:


In Christian Reconstructionism, a great deal is made of the distinction between autonomous human dominion over human institutions and God’s sovereign dominion over humanity. Humans, being sinners, are unable to accomplish anything on their own — autonomy is a recipe for disaster. According to Dominion Theology, God is already sovereign over all humanity. According to Theonomy, all human institutions must be brought under the dominion of God and controlled by God’s representatives: Christians.

Christian Reconstructionism & Post-Millennialism:


Most evangelicals are pre-millennialists, believing that Christ will return before establishing a utopian 1,000 year reign of believers. Reconstructionists believe that this 1,000 year reign must be come first, and only after this will Christ return. Jesus is literally waiting for Christians to establish a Christian theocracy. Christian Reconstructionism is thus more optimistic than evangelicalism and fundamentalism because it teaches that a perfect Christian society is possible.

Christian Reconstructionism & Old Testament Law:


Christian Reconstructionists believe that the whole law of God is binding on all of humanity. The “whole law of God” includes the 613 laws given by God to Moses and recorded in the Old Testament. “Binding” means both in a personal sense (individuals must strive to keep the law) and in a public sense (civil laws must enforce God’s laws). The consequence would be capital punishment for homosexuality, disobedient children, blasphemy, idolatry, adultery, etc.

Christian Reconstructionism & Presuppositionalism:


Presuppositionalism is an apologetic stance which teaches that the truth of God’s existence, the nature of God, and the truth of the Bible must all simply be accepted as truth — they are presuppositions from which all reasoning must proceed. They cannot be proven and Presuppositionalists don’t try to prove them true. For Reconstructionists, the presuppositionalist rejection of neutral grounds for debate and reasoning is extended to the political and religious spheres.

Christian Reconstructionism & Calvinism:


Christian Reconstructionism is an explicitly and self-consciously Calvinist movement. Christian Reconstructionists don’t look to 1st or 19th century Christianity for inspiration, but 17th century Geneva under John Calvin. Reconstructionists accept that there should be separate spheres under governmental and church control, but that the government must submit to biblical precepts as defined and interpreted by the church. There is little practical distinction between this and theocracy.

Christian Reconstructionism and American Christianity:


Most mainline Christian denominations explicitly reject both the doctrines and policy proposals of Christian Reconstructionism. Even many Reformed Churches, descendants of the original Calvinist churches where Reconstructionism first started, have official statements opposing Reconstructionist ideology. At the same time, Christian Reconstructionists are active in many denominations, seeking to change and mold their theologies from within and bring them into line with Reconstructionism.

Christian Reconstructionist Vision of American Society:


What will a “reconstructed” American society will look like?
  • Decentralized government within a Christian, theocratic framework
  • Death penalty for all capital crimes in the Old Testament (homosexuality, adultery, etc.)
  • Restitution as part of the criminal justice system
  • Slavery
  • Strong national defense until the rest of the world is Christianized
  • Strong private property rights
  • Laissez-faire capitalism and free market economy
  • Gold-based monetary system with little or no debt

Christian Recontructionism and the Christian Right:


Christian Reconstructionism and America’s Christian Right are linked in many ways. Both developed around the same time and in reaction to the same social problems. Both see the same sorts of things as being wrong with society, and although the Christian Right doesn’t fully endorse all of the policy proposals of Christian Reconstructionists, they do accept the same basic solution: to turn society and government over to God, Christians, and the moral principles found in the Bible.

The lines between Christian Reconstructionism and the Christian Right are very blurred and the difference between them perhaps more a matter of degree than kind. Few on the Christian Right would explicitly call for an end to religious liberty outside Christianity, but at the same time what they do argue for would effectively use the power of the government to promote Christianity and favor Christians over all other religions.

Christian Reconstructionists don’t hide their true goals, but they have been effective in leveraging their influence with Christian Right leaders to make their views more widely acceptable and discussed than would otherwise be the case. By promoting select aspects of Christian Reconstructionist doctrine without discussing the full implications of what they might mean for American society, Christian Right leaders have become advocates for Reconstructionism without acknowledging it and without most of their supporters ever realizing it.

It is argued that the Christian Right promotes a “soft” form of Reconstructionism because they embrace the underlying theories and premises, even if they don’t advocate the same conclusions. By popularizing the ideas that America’s problems are due to a lack of Christian influence, that America was originally founded as a Christian Nation, and that greater promotion of Christianity by the government will solve our social ills, the Christian Right is laying the possible groundwork for wider acceptance of a Christian theocracy in America.

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