In the closing years of the second millennium since the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, His church stands at an unprecedented cross roads in human history. Seldom has the Church of Christ possessed such opportunities to advance the Kingdom. With the death of humanism, the fall of Communism, and the utter hopelessness of modern life, a vigorous Christian Faith, rooted in the unchanging truths of God’s infallible Word, could usher in a great new era of covenantal blessings.
Yet, at this providential opportunity, the church of Christ is largely ineffectual, impotent and irrelevant. Sapped by pietism, undermined by liberalism, tainted with sensationalism and experientialism, when the church ought to be gathering her resources for the great counter-attack, an attack that could render the Adversary’s forces a resounding defeat in history, instead we are either licking our wounds, or worse yet, giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
The long-term prospects for Christian Reconstruction are, of course, sure. Christ does reign, and over time, the Gospel will advance, the nations will be discipled, the effects of the curse will be rolled back, and the blessings of Almighty God will cover the earth. But the question is whether we who live at this crossroads will take the steps necessary to advance the Greater Reformation, or whether it will fall to another generation to reap the blessings from obedience to God’s Law. Jan Hus and John Wycliffe lit the torch of the Reformation, and were burnt for their troubles. It was in God’s providence for Luther and Calvin a century later to build upon their work and usher in one of the greatest periods of Kingdom advance in history.
Therefore, it behooves those who call themselves Christian Reconstructionists carefully to consider their strategy and tactics over the next fifty years. God is sovereign; He will do according to His will whatever contributes to His own glory. But it may be that in His providence. He has set before us an open door that no one can shut if we wisely use the opportunities and resources He has given us to meet the needs of the next millennium. With that in mind, I would like to identify several key areas that Christian Reconstructionists need to consider for the next few decades.
Government begins with Self-Government
There is perhaps no more slanderous canard repeated against Christian Reconstruction than that our goal is a top down takeover of the political system. Many, many people, both Christian and pagan alike, fear that Christian Reconstructionists advocate a heavy-handed dictatorship based on Old Testament Law, with secret police lurking in everyone’s bedroom, executing adulterers, homosexuals and disobedient teenagers at the drop of a hat. Since this is an antinomian age, characterized by sin, vice and rebellion to God in every sphere, they intuitively know that as law-breakers, they are under judgment. Right now, they can safely ignore God’s judgment because His minister of justice, the state, caters to their whims. They therefore rightly fear a time when the state assumes its proper role as a minister of God to inhibit evil.
Christian Reconstruction has lost the propaganda war because too many of our authors, speakers and teachers have wistfully looked to a future time when the present wickedness would be punished by the state. But we are not there yet; and we won’t be there for a long time to come. Therefore, let me be really radical and troublesome; let’s refocus our efforts and attentions to other areas.
The fundamental sphere of government, as Rushdoony has repeatedly taught us, is self-government. The world will be Christianized, and society reconstructed, not by some top-down imposition of Mosaic Law by a police state, but rather from the bottom up as God gives grace, men embrace the Gospel and are discipled to live stable, responsible, godly lives. The state will become Christian, when the people become Christian. People get the sort of state they deserve. If the state is oppressive and lawless today, it is because the people are slaves to sin. Therefore the challenge is for Christians to work consistently on the little things in life, the small “r” of Christian Reconstruction. We need to separate in the public mind. Christian Reconstruction and the police state by focusing on how dominion comes through a godly life lived self-governed under God’s Law. It is significant that in the first few centuries of the church. Christians did not openly oppose Caesar, engage in civil disobedience, form militias, and threaten violence against the state. We won the Empire by faithful men and women’s doing the work of dominion on a day-by-day, person-by-person basis.
Therefore, we need more practical teaching on how to live self-governed lives under God’s Law. If we cannot deal with our own petty sins, foibles, idiosyncrasies and failings, how can we ever expect to see God’s blessing in the broader areas of life? When we have learned how successfully to deal with temptation, put our brother before ourselves, become men and women of prayer, be gracious in our manner, gentle and kind to one another, taking personal responsibility for the areas God has already given to us, then we can expect God to open new areas of dominion. And if we become a movement known and respected for the way we treat one another, and serve one another and offer practical ways of implementing the Christian Faith to real-world problems, at least two things will happen. First, the pagans will ask us why we are different. Rather than fearing us, they will be drawn to us (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15ff).
Second, if they do not fear us, they are unlikely to be very consistent in their persecution of us. They will need us because we are doing the work they cannot and will not do. This is both the experience of the early church, and the modern one under Communism. Furthermore, by focusing on what all Christians agree is important. Christian character, we open the door for them to consider the broader application of the Christian Faith.
Dominion Comes Through Service
Jesus is quite clear that those who would be great in the Kingdom must become servants (Mk. 10:45). Biblical leadership in the home, church, community, etc., must be based on the self-sacrificial example of the King of kings Himself, who emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant (Phil. 2:8ff). God will entrust Christians with power and dominion, when we demonstrate that we can handle that power responsibly. And we are not there yet. When the most common characteristic of church leaders in this age is personal empire-building, the Greater Reformation is still a long way off. To facilitate reconstruction. Christians must demonstrate that we have answers, real answers for the very real problems that come from godlessness and rebellion and that we are willing to work, sacrifice and serve God’s people by putting those answers to work.
Rushdoony has pointed the way by demonstrating in the Institutes of Biblical Law the very practical application the Law has for every-day life and by giving us a picture of a Christian social order. The next generation needs to build on that foundation by extending his work in every area of life. Therefore we must create parallel institutions to the humanists’ dying ones. We need to offer practical programs for the poor, build Christian schools that work, train men to live self-governed under God’s Law. Many broad evangelical Christians do not like to admit it, but they are desperate for the kind of theoretical and practical instruction that only Christian Reconstructionists are offering. They may not like the theology that undergirds it, but they need the answers that only we are providing. Therefore the challenge is to look at our culture through the lens of God’s Word and continue to offer practical demonstrations of the efficacy of God’s Law.
We are now living in the third generation of dysfunctional, accommodated families. Our culture was so heavily influenced by Christian presuppositions for so long, that we had an enormous amount of spiritual capital upon which to draw. That capital is now almost gone, our culture is now consistently humanistic in its orientation, and the family is under increasing attack. Since the family is the most basic unit of any society, when the family falls, the culture falls soon after. The problem, of course, is that even when God brings pagans to faith, most still continue to live like pagans in many fundamental areas because they have not been trained how to live godly lives. Many Christians unconsciously continue to think and act like pagans in many ways (cf. Eph 4:17ff). What we should have learned at home, we now have to learn somewhere else; and meanwhile, the work of dominion is impeded. Men no longer live responsibly because their culture has taught them the exact opposite. Women do not find their Biblical roles fulfilling because the culture has given them conflicting values. Christian children are often not raised in a loving, disciplined environment because their parents don’t know how to teach and train them.
Therefore, for Christian Reconstruction to advance, for the next half century we are going to have to go back to the basics. The home is a child’s first school, church and state. Men cannot be proper leaders in the community or church unless they can rule their homes according to Biblical criteria. Therefore we have got to train up husbands and fathers especially in basic domestic skills. It is not enough to give a man a couple of good books and tell him to change his life. Granted, some men can do that. But most of us will need the practical model of a godly figure (that our own fathers should have been, but were not) to train us in living.
This is a crucial task. Take any 20 Christian Reconstructionists and examine their personal fives. Often they are well-educated, brilliant, articulate and passionate about God’s Law. But a significant number will also be cantankerous, rude, critical, judgmental, divisive, rebellious, self-righteous and ego-centric, unable to get along with others. The reason is that often, even the ones that came from Christian families had fathers who did not understand how properly to govern their homes. Consequently, their children are more influenced by the world than the Word. This is perhaps the greatest challenge we face; to raise up dominion-oriented children. The Puritans, in part, lost New England just because they failed in this area. We have their experience to learn from, and we must do better.
Alternative Christian Education
Because of the seminal work by Rushdoony and others. Christian education, both in private and home schools, is now well-established in this country. And in the earliest grades, we have developed an excellent curriculum. Christians of every theological stripe are increasingly getting on the Christian and home school bandwagon; this is a very hopeful and exciting development. The problem comes when our children finish their grammar-school education and attend high school and college. We need to rethink our whole approach to upper-level Christian education. Why invest 12 years in a child’s life to give him a sound Christian education, only to make him run the humanist gauntlet in college?
Most of us still think of a college education as a ticket into the upper middle class. And for most of this century this was true. But the flood of college graduates, the enormous amount of time and money college education requires, the vehement anti-Christian bias of almost all secular universities, and the worldly accommodation of even the best Christian ones ought to make us consider other options.
First, for most children, a college education may not be necessary. Living in the Information Age requires new skills. The old mid-level management jobs that made up the middle class are no longer available. Instead, for the average Christian, some sort of technical skills are now necessary. Therefore trade schools may well be a better alternative for most students. We need to recapture the practice of apprenticeship, giving children real-world skills, taught by accomplished masters in a craft.
Secondly, we need Christians who can think logically and Biblically. If further education after high school is necessary, then we are going to have to offer a thoroughly Christian alternative. Rather than build buildings and institutions that cost fortunes to construct, and make it necessary for a child to move away from home (and be quickly taken over by humanists and liberals), the computer revolution now makes it possible to offer a high-quality education right through graduate school at home. Therefore Christian Reconstructionists need to design, develop and start Christian colleges using the Internet. The kids stay at home, are not exposed to needless temptation, save a fortune in having expenses, receive a high-quality education and can therefore advance the Kingdom in their own lives. This is an idea whose time has come.
Taking Advantage of New Technology
One of the reasons why in God’s providence, Hus and Wycliffe were unable to start the Reformation in their own time (even though their ideas were instrumental a hundred years later) was due to technology. When Luther posted his 95 Theses, a new invention, the printing press, was all the rage in Europe. The printing press allowed both Luther and Calvin to publish their ideas throughout Christendom. Thousands eagerly read their books and pamphlets regarding the state of the church, and the Great Reformation began.
Today, the computer offers the same kind of technological advance. The Internet can be used for a variety of publishing purposes. Every Christian with a word processor and a few clipart files can now produce his own newsletter. But computers can do even more. With the right software and a little savvy, multi-media presentations of basic Christian Reconstructionst doctrines can be professionally developed and packaged cheaply and easily. The possibilities are endless, especially in light of the fact that many modern men will not read the huge tomes that we love to write and publish. The need for big books will always be there, but now, entire libraries can be put on CD-ROM, with fantastic search capabilities. Computers and the cheap publishing costs will also allow us to target specific niches in the market. We can identify specific needs, create multimedia presentations aimed at that need, and put the information directly into people’s hands.
The Importance of Christians “Networking”
Right now, those committed to Christian Reconstruction are in a tiny minority. We are separated by time and distance. Most Christian Reconstructionists do not attend, and most Reconstructionist pastors do not minister in, Reconstructionist churches (of the 100 teaching and ruling elders that expressed an interest in a seminar on “Theonomy and the PCA,” not one could offer his church as a place to meet!). The Chalcedon Report is one of the most important theological publications available and does a fine job. But the task is too great for any one publication or organization. We need seminars in every major city where the troops can be encouraged and trained for their task. We need Reconstructionist societies operating in every state, targeting specific issues and ministries. We need ways of networking together, sharing the vision, assisting one another. At the present time, God has spread us out. One way to keep the fire hot is to create myriad lines of communication and keep them going.
Though not a paranoid sort of person, I believe the church may well be in for some persecution in the coming decades (it’s happened before in other lands and other times, and there is no good reason to think it cannot happen here). The more effective the church becomes in challenging the false gods of this age, the more virulent and nasty will be the attack by statists and humanists. Creating and maintaining these lines of communications may well be the means of keeping the Adversary at arm’s length. Wickedness loves darkness and hates the light.
Reconstructing the Local Church
Reconstructing the local church, especially in terms of self-sacrificial love, resolving problems and conflicts with each other, effective diaconal ministries, personal works of charity, etc., is absolutely fundamental to our future. Christianity must work in our own lives, and it must work in our churches. That means that churches have got to become less social clubs and more training centers for warfare. If we have answers, and we can apply those answers, broad evangelicalism will eventually have to come to us.
If I may prognosticate for a moment, I see the death of denominationalism and the rebirth of a new way of relating to other local churches. Without sacrificing crucial doctrines, local churches can form associations with each other to adjudicate problems, work together for common causes, without giving up their unique differences. I have stood on a picket line with Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Baptists, etc., to protest abortion. I would stand with them to exert pressure on local civil governments to remove pornography, outlaw sodomy, or clean up a vice-ridden street corner. And by encouraging our Christian brothers, and working with them, they might not know that the operating theology that helped them get out of their pews and into some kind of activism had its origins in weighty theological books written thirty years ago by an Armenian immigrant. They don’t need to know yet. It is sufficient that we have them acting like postmillennialists. Eventually they’ll come around.
In the mean time, they allow me to train their pastors to do Biblical counseling. They call me in to help them adjudicate touchy problems in their churches. They ask me to lecture them on the Christian basis of our national history. And I get a chance to put a few good books into some very dedicated men’s hands. And they read those books and start putting into practice what Rushdoony has so eloquently studied. Nope, I haven’t managed to make a single Presbyterian out of any of them yet. But some have come to embrace the Reformed Faith, some have reconsidered the doctrine of the rapture, many are teaching the Reformed doctrine of sanctification in their churches (often far larger churches than I have ever pastored!). We build bridges and allow God the time to work on them according to His decree, not ours.
The fundamental principle of dominion is that power comes through service. Thus there is a great future for this present movement of God if we focus on glorifying Him and serving His people. Right now, much of the exegetical and theoretical work has been done. Other men will build on the foundation that Rushdoony has given us, extending his thinking and advancing his work. But I see the real challenge of Christian Reconstruction to promote the practical application. When we give answers to the questions men are asking, and can demonstrate that we sincerely want to serve the broader church by helping them obey God, then I believe we are on the verge of the Greater Reformation. The task is too grand, too wonderful, too life- and world-transforming to be restricted to one man, one institution, one movement.
But I believe that Chalcedon will continue to be influential in the next millennium if we provide practical, workable answers to real-life problems.
Therefore let us cultivate a gracious, kind, gentle manner, not swerving from the truth, clearly and boldly confronting sin, but demonstrating our commitment to Christ by our love for one another and obedience to His Law. Let us not be dismayed by the futile schemes and foolish conspiracies of wicked men and evil angels, for their time is short. Let us look beyond the immediate problems, controversies, and trials to the glorious day to come, when the whole earth will be full of His grace and glory. Though there is much hard work ahead of us, and undoubtedly pain and grief and self-sacrifice, the future belongs to us, and our children, because God Almighty Himself has promised.
- Brian M. Abshire
Rev. Brian Abshire, Ph.D. is currently a Teaching Elder associated with Hanover Presbytery. Along with his pastoral duties, he is also the director for the International Institute for Christian Culture, has served as an adjunct instructor in Religious Studies at Park University and is a visiting Professor of Comparative Religion at Whitefield College.