also known as: Theonomy
An extremist movement in Christianity, that advocates the modern-day application of Old Testament law in ''reconstructing'' the Kingdom of God (lost with the Fall) on earth. Constructionism is advocated by individuals, groups, organizations, and churches collectively known as the ''Christian Right.''
Constructionism is also known as ''theonomy.'' In includes elements of Dominion- or Kingdom Now theology
the state of being theonomous : government by God
governed by God : subject to God's authority
1 : government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided
2 : a state governed by a theocracy
What is Reconstructionism?
Reconstructionism is a theology that arose out of conservative Presbyterianism (Reformed and Orthodox), which proposes that contemporary application of the laws of Old Testament Israel, or ''Biblical Law,'' is the basis for reconstructing society toward the Kingdom of God on earth.
Reconstructionism argues that the Bible is to be the governing text for all areas of life--such as government, education, law, and the arts, not merely ''social'' or ''moral'' issues like pornography, homosexuality, and abortion. Reconstructionists have formulated a ''Biblical world view'' and ''Biblical principles'' by which to examine contemporary matters. Reconstructionist theologian David Chilton succinctly describes 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.''
More broadly, Reconstructionists believe that there are three main areas of governance: family government, church government, and civil government. Under God's covenant, the nuclear family is the basic unit. The husband is the head of the family, and wife and children are ''in submission'' to him. In turn, the husband ''submits'' to Jesus and to God's laws as detailed in the Old Testament. The church has its own ecclesiastical structure and governance. Civil government exists to implement God's laws. All three institutions are under Biblical Law, the implementation of which is called ''theonomy.''
The Origin of Reconstructionism
The original and defining text of Reconstructionism is Institutes of Biblical Law, published in 1973 by Rousas John Rushdoony--an 800-page explanation of the Ten Commandments, the Biblical ''case law'' that derives from them, and their application today. ''The only true order,'' writes Rushdoony, ''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.''
Gary North, Rushdoony's son-in-law, wrote an appendix to Institutes on the subject of ''Christian economics.'' It is a polemic which serves as a model for the application of ''Biblical Principles.''
Rushdoony and a younger theologian, Rev. Greg Bahnsen, were both students of Cornelius Van Til, a Princeton University theologian. Although Van Til himself never became a Reconstructionist, Reconstructionists claim him as the father of their movement. According to Gary North, Van Til argued that ''There is no philosophical strategy that has ever worked, except this one; to challenge the lost in terms of the revelation of God in His Bible. . .by what standard can man know anything truly? By the Bible, and only by the Bible.'' This idea that the correct and only way to view reality is through the lens of a Biblical world view is known as presuppositionalism. According to Gary North, Van Til stopped short of proposing what a Biblical society might look like or how to get there. That is where Reconstructionism begins. While Van Til states that man is not autonomous and that all rationality is inseparable from faith in God and the Bible, the Reconstructionists go further and set a course of world conquest or ''dominion,'' claiming a Biblically prophesied ''inevitable victory.''
Reconstructionists also believe that ''the Christians'' are the ''new chosen people of God,'' commanded to do what ''Adam in Eden and Israel in Canaan failed to do. . .create the society that God requires.'' Further, Jews, once the ''chosen people,'' failed to live up to God's covenant and therefore are no longer God's chosen. Christians, of the correct sort, now are.
Rushdoony's Institutes of Biblical Law consciously echoes a major work of the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. In fact, Reconstructionists see themselves as the theological and political heirs of Calvin. The theocracy Calvin created in Geneva, Switzerland in the 1500s is one of the political models Reconstructionists look to, along with Old Testament Israel and the Calvinist Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Epitomizing the Reconstructionist idea of Biblical ''warfare'' is the centrality of capital punishment under Biblical Law. Doctrinal leaders (notably Rushdoony, North, and Bahnsen) call for the death penalty for a wide range of crimes in addition to such contemporary capital crimes as rape, kidnapping, and murder. Death is also the punishment for apostasy (abandonment of the faith), heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, ''sodomy or homosexuality,'' incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and, in the case of women, ''unchastity before marriage.''
According to Gary North, women who have abortions should be publicly executed, ''along with those who advised them to abort their children.'' Rushdoony concludes: ''God's government prevails, and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them.'' Reconstructionists insist that ''the death penalty is the maximum, not necessarily the mandatory penalty.'' However, such judgments may depend less on Biblical Principles than on which faction gains power in the theocratic republic. The potential for bloodthirsty episodes on the order of the Salem witchcraft trials or the Spanish Inquisition is inadvertently revealed by Reconstructionist theologian Rev. Ray Sutton, who claims that the Reconstructed Biblical theocracies would be ''happy'' places, to which people would flock because ''capital punishment is one of the best evangelistic tools of a society.''
Christian Reconstructionism : Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence by Frederick Clarkson, co-author of ''Challenging the Christian Right: The Activist's Handbook, (Institute for First Amendment Studies, 1992)
Chalcedon : Profile (Contra) A critical profile of the Chalcedon Foundation, by the Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.
Christian Reconstructionism: Beyond Arrogance (Contra) by Rev. James W. Watkins
Christian Reconstructionism : Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence (Contra) by Frederick Clarkson, co-author of ''Challenging the Christian Right: The Activist's Handbook, (Institute for First Amendment Studies, 1992),'' and author of Eternal Hostility : The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy
The Creed of Christian Reconstructionism (Pro) by Rev. Andrew Sandlin. Concise outline.
The Debate over Christian Reconstruction [Part 2] (Pro) Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen's foreword to Gary Demar's book by the same title
Dominion Theology: The Truth About the Christian Right's Bid for Power by Sara Diamond
Is Reconstructionism Merging with ''Kingdom Now?''
Chalchedon Foundation (Pro) An ''educational organization devoted to research, publishing, and promoting Christian reconstruction in all areas of life.'' Headed by R.J. Rushdoony. Critical profile
Christian Reconstruction Debate Page (Pro) ''A critique of web materials on Christian Reconstruction.''
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