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Christian Reconstruction Is Not Dead

By Chalcedon Editorial
January 15, 2019

To the critic, Christian Reconstruction or dominionism is a political doctrine in which fundamentalist Christians are encouraged to pursue a takeover of the existing civil government in order to impose Biblical law on an unwilling population. Under the two-terms of George W. Bush this conspiracy theory about the threat of Christian theocracy filled left-wing periodicals and blogs, but has since died down after two-terms of Barack Obama and now the preoccupation with the populist Donald Trump. And since the Religious Right has lost its prowess, should one assume that Christian Reconstruction is dead?

Christian Reconstruction is not dead, and it was never a political doctrine. In fact, the great mistake made by most critics is that since they themselves are statist and politically-driven, they assume all opposing parties have the same goals. And in the case of Christian Reconstruction, they stumble over the stumbling stone of the foundation of Rushdoony’s thought. For example, critics never reference his simple concept of government:

When people today speak of “government,” they mean the state, whereas in truth government begins with the self-government of the Christian man, and government means the family, church, school, our vocation, our society and its many institutions and agencies, and only partially the state.[1]

However, Rushdoony was no anarchist, and he wrote plainly about his views of civil government in his book Christianity and the State in which he focuses on the religious nature of law and government:

Not only is every church a religious institution, but every state or social order is a religious establishment. Every state is a law order, and every law order represents an enacted morality, with procedures for the enforcement of that morality. Every morality represents a form of theological order, i.e., is an aspect and expression of a religion. The church thus is not the only religious institution; the state also is a religious institution. More often than the church, the state has been the central religious institution of most civilizations through the centuries.[2]

Politics Cannot Produce Character

If the critics were honest with themselves, it’s not a Christian politician they fear but rather a strengthening of Christianity itself because they know that at the heart of the culture war is religion. It’s not an issue of church and state but rather that the state as a religious institution disestablished its biggest competitor—Biblical law. The issue, therefore, is the status of Christianity itself. Rushdoony writes,

Any revival of Christian strength will thus precipitate major conflict, in that it will constitute a threat to the humanistic establishment.[3]
The triumph of the modern state will be the death of Biblical faith.[4]

This does not mean that the church has no role regarding the state nor that Christians are excluded from public service. In fact, because all morality is religious in nature, the Christian should not “accept two warring views of justice or righteousness as normative and live in obedience to an alien religion in his civil life.”[5] There is such a thing as a Christian civil government despite the fact that such a possibility is remote at this stage in history. There must first be a population filled with faith and character, and this cannot be accomplished politically:

[P]olitics cannot produce character: Christianity must. The decline of faith is a decline of character and a decline of character is the forerunner of political decay and collapse. Christianity has an obligation to train a people in the fundamentals of God’s grace and law, and to make them active and able champions of true political liberty and order.[6]

In the immediate, the church still has a prophetic role to proclaim God’s law-word to the existing establishment, and in this sense, Christian Reconstruction should follow the example of the Puritans who “revived the older position of confrontation” (Roots, 183). The state is still responsible to Him who has the government upon His shoulders (Isa. 9:6), and the role of the church is not to be preoccupied with its own bureaucracy but to offer God’s Word to the bloated, immoral state. If not, the church is easily absorbed into the bureaucracy of the state:

If the church does not see its authority as a transcendental one, from God and not from man, and in a manner set forth in Jesus Christ, then the church is readily absorbed into the state’s power.[7]

So, what then is the actual work of Christian Reconstruction at this time? If it’s not a political doctrine bent on taking over the existing civil government, and if we limit our function to only a prophetic role to the humanistic state, then how is Christian dominion expressed?

Taking Back Government

Government needs to be reborn. This can only happen as men govern themselves and their spheres under God, as step by step, they take government back from the state and restore to man his responsibility and freedom to be, in every sphere of life, a participating and governing power.[8]

Greater than our prophetic message to the state is our application of God’s law to multiple areas of life. This simple point is overlooked by both critics of Christian Reconstruction as well as Christians themselves. Critics believe our emphasis is on a takeover of the existing Federal system when in actuality we are “taking back” government through Christian self-government. There’s no greater example of this than Christian education. In that instance, there was not a Christian takeover of the public-school system but rather a taking back of responsibility by way of homeschooling and Christian schools.

How was this financed? It certainly wasn’t by taxes. In fact, Christian education required financing over above what a family had to dole out yearly in state taxes, but this worked far better than spending a few decades in political protest over public education!

Opposition does little good without Christian reconstruction in terms of God’s law-word. Tax protestors fail to recognize that what God requires of us is to take back government from the state by our tithing to finance Christian reconstruction, and by our own actions in our spheres of life.[9]

This is why Rushdoony repeatedly wrote about the tithe in relation to the success of Christian Reconstruction. In fact, he went so far as to say, “the tithe must bear the whole burden of Christian reconstruction.”[10] If Christians are to create alternative means of government, education, and the like, then tithing is central to this process:

Christians must once again take over government in education, welfare, health, and other spheres. Basic to this take-over is tithing. (Christianity and the State, p. 187)

This is the true doctrine of Christian Reconstruction, and it can be a hard sell to those whose Christianity is nothing more than “religious self-help” where man is placed in the center and salvation is given so man can “live his best life.”

God does not save man to make man happy but to restore man to his rightful place of service under God.[11]

We are restored to dominion, and that begins with the essential areas of life in which we can exercise it. We’re doing it with education. It’s been done with crisis pregnancy centers. Some are doing it with health insurance. Others have tried it with church courts. But we’re only scratching the surface.

How then can Christian Reconstruction be dead? It’s only as dead as the Christians who refuse to act on it after being aware of it. Financing the work of extending God’s rule in various areas of life cannot die unless Christians stop giving and working. Every person who denounces Rushdoony or Christian Reconstruction, but still homeschools their children, is a practical reconstructionist.

The role of Chalcedon is to proclaim and publish the message, and the calling of this ministry is to be a think-tank for the self-governing Christian. We want to support those who are applying their faith to every area of life, so please join us in this mission through your prayers and financial support. Donate to Chalcedon today. Since 1965, we have labored tirelessly by the freewill giving of our faithful supporters. Thank you.

[1] R. J. Rushdoony, In His Service: The Christian Calling to Charity (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2009), p. 91.

[2] R. J. Rushdoony, Christianity and the State (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1986), p. 7.

[3] ibid., p. 8.

[4] ibid., p. 98.

[5] ibid., p. 38.

[6] R. J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), p. 552.

[7] Christianity and the State, p. 184.

[8] ibid., p. 185.

[9] R. J. Rushdoony, Sovereignty (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2007), p. 32f.

[10] R. J. Rushdoony, Tithing and Dominion (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1979), p. 5.     

[11] R. J. Rushdoony, Salvation and Godly Rule (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1983), p. 486.

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Topics: Biblical Law, Christian Reconstruction, Dominion, Charity, Church, The, Economics, Education, Government, Justice, R. J. Rushdoony, Socialism, Statism

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