Rev. Van Baren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.
Reconstructionism is a view which might be called “Presbyterian or Reformed Post-millennialism.” R.J. Rushdoony is considered the “father of Reconstructionism” while Gary North is recognized as one of its leading proponents. The Dallas Times Herald, December 23, 1987, in an article on this movement, gives a brief summary of the views set forth:
Chilton says Reconstructionism is “‘an attempt by a segment of the Christian church to bring the church, as a whole, back to using the Bible as a rule of life—all aspects of life.”
This Old Testament-centered society would have several hallmarks, including:
•Restitution: Instead of jailing criminals, Reconstructionists would have them pay back the cost of their crime: through labor. Chilton says this relates to the biblical idea of indentured servitude, and it should last no more than six years.
•Welfare and Social Services: In the Reconstructionist view, the state should exist only to protect and defend citizens. Taxes would be replaced by tithing, and churches would provide social, educational and legal services.
•Capital Punishment: The Bible advocates the death penalty for murder, rape, sodomy, homosexuality, Sabbath breaking, witchcraft, blasphemy and incorrigibility in children. Reconstructionists say the death penalty should be imposed only on unrepentant offenders and that “incorrigible children” refers not to disobedient 5 year-olds but to teenagers who repeatedly commit serious crimes.
Chilton and Rushdoony say they do not expect to see a society based on Reconstructionist principles during their lifetimes, conceding it will take generations for their brand of Christianity to take hold.
This movement, which purports to be Calvinistic and Reformed in character, is now seeking closer ties with charismatics. This is nothing short of astounding, and the inconsistency of it all has been pointed out by a number of writers in recent articles.The Christian News, January 4, 1988, states:
Joseph C. Morecraft III writes in the December, 1987 Counsel of Chalcedon concerning the “Christian Reconstruction Dialogue” held this past October 14-17 in Dallas which brought together 100 leaders of the Christian Reconstruction movement.
Charismatics were in high profile at this gathering. Speakers included such individuals as Bob Mumford and Earl Paulk, as well as Dennis. Peacocke, whom Morecraft calls “one of the most important charismatics in America.” Morecraft then adds:
“Two distinct but overlapping groups comprised the attenders of the dialogue—charismatics and Calvinists. About two-thirds of those present were charismatics, and one-third noncharismatic Calvinists . , . . This was the first time these two groups have come together on common principles for fellowship and dialogue . . . . God is mixing the LIGHT of the Reformed Faith with the HEAT of the Charismatic Movement . . . . One leading charismatic stated what many are experiencing and willing to confess, that ‘God is blending Presbyterian theology with charismatic zeal into a force that cannot be stopped. ‘ I pray God that it is so, and I believe it is. I particularly pray that Calvinists and charismatics will influence each other in their doctrine of worship. “
The article continues by pointing out the fundamental error of this activity—and the gross inconsistency manifest in this unholy alliance:
A fundamental plank in Christian Reconstructionism is that the Old Testament Jewish civil law provides a “blueprint” for us to “reconstruct” society.
reads, “But the prophet who presumes to speaks a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak; or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.” The civil penalty was death—putting it in the same category as murder, bestiality, kidnapping, and homosexuality—as heinous offenses in the sight of God. Yet modern claimants to fraudulent revelation are warmly greeted as allies in a movement which seeks to have modern society reflect that law! Either modern charismatic claims are false, which would merit their death by the Law’s standard; or at least some of them are true, which would totally obliterate sola Scriptura; or the leaders of Christian Reconstructionism are double minded and hypocritical by welcoming them into the Reconstructionist fold. I challenge any Reconstructionist to present me with any other suitable alternative.
Another article written by Kevin Reed appears inThe Presbyterian, the excellent little magazine published by Mr. Tony Horne in Bristol, England. He claims that this Reconstructionist Movement which insists on obedience within the realm of government of all of the Old Testament laws, nevertheless has revealed a certain antinomian streak. He writes:
For several years, this writer has been troubled by an antinomian streak in the theonomic movement. While many antagonists have falsely branded the movement as “legalistic,” I am convinced that there is actually a more serious problem in the other direction.
“What, you can’t be serious?” some may respond. “How can you accuse reconstructionists of an antinomian tendency, when their expressed purposes continually support the law of God?”
. . . These theonomic positions share a common characteristic. They are all directed against practices in contemporary culture which are popularly denounced by the larger “evangelical” community as a whole. As such, they gain much attention. Further, these concerns are rooted in the second table of the law—the last six commandments which deal principally with man’s duty toward other men.
So what’s wrong with this emphasis? Nothing, per se, unless it becomes the occasion for neglecting other vital parts of God’s law. And that is my fear, brethren. I believe reconstructionists have adopted a selective use of the law. In other words, many theonomists exalt popular second table issues, bring injustice to first-table matters which contain man’s preeminent duties toward God. . . .
The writer continues by pointing out that the reconstructionists are ignoring the first table of the law, and, specifically, the first and second commandments thereof. While proclaiming the necessity of obeying all of the law of God, the reconstructionists are seeking common ground with papist and charismatic:
. . . Today, we have a new breed of Reformer. There are theonomists who seem bent on patronizing Papists and Charismatics (the modern Anabaptists), while pursuing an agenda of social and political reconstruction.
The question of common ground is bound to arise. For example, pro-life Protestants often find themselves together with Roman Catholics in opposition to abortion. So a dilemma is created. What principles should govern our dealings with Roman Catholics who share our opposition to abortion, homosexuality, etc.?
. . . This lawlessness does not stop with a tolerance of false religion, It also includes laxity toward corruption of worship: second commandment issues. . .
. . . But the time has come to raise these uncomfortable issues, for the sake of the church and the sake of the movement. The reconstructionist movement includes many trends which are both antinomian and unconfessional. We call upon the leaders of the movement to address these issues: how do you integrate the first commandment into your reconstructionist appeals to heretics? How does purity of worship fit within your agenda of reform? How should the fourth commandment be upheld in the contemporary situation?
We will be listening for answers to these questions. Yet, until these issues are addressed, in conformity with the whole counsel of God’s Word, the reconstructionist movement remains seriously flawed.
Meanwhile, contemporary readers would do well to remain wary of a movement which is like the “double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”