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What Is Christian Reconstructionism?

by Frederick Clarkson




While Rev. D. James Kennedy of the Coral Ridge teleministry appears to represent "soft dominionism," he is a borderline case. Some of the political agenda he, Moore and their allies pursue strikes me as hard dominionist. And by this I mean rooted in Christian Reconstructionism, a theology that arose out of conservative Presbyterianism in the 1970's. It asserts that contemporary application of the laws of Old Testament Israel should be the basis for reconstructing society towards the Kingdom of God on earth.

Led by the movement's seminal thinker, the late Rev. R. J. Rushdoony, Reconstructionism argues that the Bible is to be the governing text for all areas of life, art, education, health care, government, family life, law and so on. They have formulated a "biblical worldview" and "biblical principles" to inform and govern their lives and their politics. Reconstructionist theologian David Chilton succinctly described this view: "The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God's Law."13

It has been difficult for many Americans to accept the idea that a theocratic movement could be afoot, let along gain much influence in 20th century America, but Robert Billings, one of the founders of the Moral Majority once said, "if it weren't for [Rushdoony's] books, none of us would be here." This does not, of course, mean that everyone influenced by Rushdoony's work is a Reconstructionist. Rather, as Billings indicated, it provided a catalyst and an ideological center of gravity for the wider movement of ideas that have percolated throughout evangelical Christianity, and parts of mainline Protestantism and Catholicism for the past three decades.

The original and defining text of Reconstructionism, is Rushdoony's 1973 opus, The Institutes of Biblical Law – an 800-page explanation of the Ten Commandments, the Biblical "case law" that derives from them and their application today. "The only true order," he wrote, "is founded on Biblical Law. All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion." In brief, he continues, "every law-order is a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare."14

The Chalcedon Foundation, a Reconstructionist think tank under whose auspices Rushdoony did most of his writing, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with a conference on the life and work of Rushdoony.

Interestingly, the Chalcedon Report, the journal of the Chalcedon Foundation, recently reported that Roy Moore's Foundation for Moral Law is preparing "to hold seminars that will teach judges, lawyers, and law students about Biblical Law as the basis of America's laws and Constitution." "There is a lot more being written and said about this than there was a few years ago," Moore told Chalcedon Report. "The truth that's been cut off for so long is being brought out into the open, and it will prevail."15


 

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