Christian Reconstructionism

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Modern Christian Reconstructionism (sometimes called Dominionism) was founded by Rousas J. Rushdoony, a writer and theologian whose 1973 book The Institutes of Biblical Law denounced the modern conception of democracy as “heresy” and called for the imposition of a Calvinist government similar to that of the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where “"In colonial New England the conventional concept of church and state was applied. Everyone went to church, but only a limited number had voting rights in the church and therefore the state, because there was a coincidence of church membership and citizenship. The others were no less believers, but the belief was that only the responsible must be given responsibility. One faith, one law, and one standard of justice did not mean democracy. The heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state, and it has worked towards reducing society to anarchy." [1]

In accordance with Levitical law, capital crimes in a Christian Reconstructionist society would include homosexuality, adultery, abortion, blasphemy, disobedience to one’s parents, idolatry and violation of the Sabbath. Rushdoony told Bill Moyers in 1988 that "The Bible identifies 15 crimes against the family worthy of the death penalty. Abortion is treason against the family and deserves the death penalty. Adultery is treason to the family; adulterers should be put to death. Homosexuality is treason to the family, and it too, is worthy of death." [2] This point was confirmed by Christian Reconstructionist Gary DeMar on an Atlanta Radio show during which the following exchange took place:

Gonzales: If, indeed the Reconstructionist movement ever made it in America, would you advocate these biblical principles being carried out: the execution of the adulterer, the abortionist, and the homosexual? DEMAR: I'm saying that they could be implemented, yes.[3]

Many Christian Reconstructionists advocate the reinstitution of slavery as a punishment for non-capital offenses. Rushdoony has written, "The law here is human and also unsentimental. It recognizes that some people are by nature slaves and will always be so. It both requires that they be dealt with in a godly manner and also that the slave recognize his position and accept it with grace.” What this “position” would involve is explained by David Chilton in his book, “Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt.”

“Slaves have no economic incentive to work, since they cannot improve their situation regardless of how hard they labor. Therefore the master is allowed to provide that incentive by beating them (Exodus 21:20-27); the law limited the master, however. If he murdered his slave, he was executed (Exodus 21:20). On the other hand, if the slave survived a beating and died a day or two later, there was no punishment (Exodus 21:21); there was no evidence that the master had actually intended to murder him. Again, this risk was a serious incentive against enslaving oneself. God did not want men to heedlessly abandon their freedom, and this law would tend to keep men working hard and living responsibly in order to avoid the threat of losing their liberty and civil rights. Relatively minor but permanent injuries (such as the loss of an eye or a tooth) resulted in the slave's freedom (Exodus 21:26-27). This was also an economic incentive to keep the master from hitting the slave in the face, since a heavy blow could mean the loss of his ‘investment.’ Naturally, this law protected slaves from severe mutilation.” [4]

The current concept of American citizenship would change drastically in a Christian Reconstructionist America and become contingent on whether or not an individual adhered to CR Doctrine. As Christian Reconstructionist writer and activist Gary North has written, “The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church's public marks of the covenant--baptism and holy communion--must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.[5] Christians who reject Christian Reconstructionism could very well find themselves charged with the capital offense of Idolatry, as R. J. Rushdoony defines it:

“All who are content with a humanistic law system and do not strive to replace it with Biblical law are guilty of idolatry. They have forsaken the covenant of their God, and they are asking us to serve other gods. They are thus idolaters, and are, in our generation, when our world is idolatrous and our states also, to be objects of missionary activity. They must be called out of their idolatry into the service of the living God. ‘Christian’ man is thus doubly a sinner when he is antinomian and despises God's law: he has denied the law in Adam, and now, with consummate profanity, he denies it in the name of Christ. He thus doubly denies the everlasting covenant, and doubly transgresses the laws.” .[6]

“Idolatry is thus not only punishable by law as socially detrimental, it is in fact a capital offense. It constitutes treason to the King or Sovereign, to Almighty God.” .[7]

NonChristians would be forced to navigate the perilous line between the practice of their private convictions and the CR definition of “proselytizing.” The stakes would be quite high, since according to The Institutes of Biblical law, “proselytizing” could very well be defined as a form of “blasphemy,” one of the crimes punishable by death:

“The seventh principle thus forbids the unbelieving testing of God: God's law is the testing of man; therefore, man cannot presume to be god and put God and his law-word on trial. Such a step is a supreme arrogance and blasphemy; it is the opposite of obedience, because it is the essence of disobedience to the law. Hence, it is contrasted to a diligent keeping of the law. This obedience is the condition of blessing: it is the ground of conquest and of possession, in terms of which the covenant people of God, His law-people, enter into their inheritance.[8]

“When someone comes and proselytizes for another god or another final authority (and by the way, that god may be man)--when someone tries to undermine the commitment to Jehovah which is fundamental to the civil order of a godly state--then that person needs to be restrained by the magistrate. However, this does not mean that individuals should be punished for holding heretical views, the views that Baptists think are heretical or Lutherans think are heretical and so forth. It simply means that those who will not acknowledge Jehovah as the ultimate authority behind the civil law code which the magistrate is enforcing would be punished and repressed. You would, therefore, be open, I believe, to hold Muslim views or Hindu views in the privacy of your own home, provided it was not a Christian home that you've now come into to subvert and draw away from Jehovah. You would be able to hold these views as a private conviction. But you would not be allowed to proselytize and undermine the order of the state..” .[9]

As Christian Reconstructionist John Stoos admitted to a Jewish member of a panel in which he was participating at a 1995 forum, Jews “would not have total acceptance. You would feel more at home in Israel.” .[10]

The manner in which Christian Reconstructionists hope to achieve these drastic changes in how the United States approaches religious freedom is through what is currently described as “stealth candidates,” using the very religious freedom that they are intent on denying others.

“So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.” [11]

Prominent Christian Reconstructionists who are either Christian Reconstructionists or say they have been strongly influenced by Christian Reconstructionist thinkers include John E. Stoos, a political consultant who served as Chief Consultant for California Republican Senator Tom McClintock, R. E. McMaster, Jr., a top commodity expert, and founder and president of the Coalition on Revival, Jay Grimstead.


  1. The Institutes of Biblical Law, R.J. Rushdoony, P. 100
  2. Bill Moyers interview with RJ Rushdoony, PBS, 1988
  3. From the radio show “Sound Off”, WSB Atlanta, Georgia, hosted by Paul Gonzales, 1991
  4. Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, pp 61—62, David Chilton
  5. Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism, Page 87
  6. Law and Society: Volume II of the Institutes of Biblical Law, R. J. Rushdoony, pp 468, 316
  7. The Institutes of Biblical Law, R. J. Rushdoony
  8. The Institutes of Biblical Law, R. J. Rushdoony
  9. ”An Interview with Greg Bahnsen,” Calvinism Today, Jan. 1994
  10. Forum sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Social Policy of Berkeley, California’s Graduate Theological Union, 1995
  11. “The intellectual Schizophrenia of the New Christian Right” in Christianity and Civilization: The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, No 1, 1982