What is Christian Reconstructionism? – forsaking domination for service

What is Christian Reconstructionism?

by Paul McGlasson

You may not be familiar with the terminology, but you know the ideas.

Christian Reconstructionism is a powerful mix of religious and political ideas gaining enormous strength in the American church and society. Ideas like:

  • Christians have a unique “worldview” with unique access to universal truth
  • “Christian laws” should be put in place at local, state, and federal levels
  • Christianity and American culture are two sides of the same coin
  • The proper, God-given role of Christians is to dominate the earth

Ok, let me explain.

As a pastor in a local congregation I began to notice the growing buzz surrounding these ideas, along with serious confusion about what it all means. As a theologian, I began to consider the possibility that the time had come for serious theological testing of these main ideas.

I was still thinking about the possibility when Governor Rick Perry of Texas launched his candidacy for the presidency of the United States with a prayer rally in Houston, Texas, in August 2011. It was called “The Response.” It was designed as a Christians-only effort to call on divine support for the candidacy, and to “claim” the United States for Christianity. What is not so well known is that it was organized by a group associated with Christian Reconstructionism: The New Apostolic Reformation.

So, here are some—brief—responses to the above ideas (for a more in-depth theological critique, see my new book No! A Theological Response to Christian Reconstructionism).

Do Christians really have a “worldview” that includes everything? The friends of Job certainly thought so. According to their “worldview,” if Job suffered, it must be because he did something wrong. Why else would God punish him? But when God comes onto the scene at the end of the book, he doesn’t merely correct their false worldview, he condemns the very notion that faithful people have a worldview to begin with. God exclaims: Why, they can’t even explain the exotic grandeur of a hippopotamus (Job 40: 15 ff.); how are they going to claim to know every fact in the universe? The fact is, according to the Bible, faithful people don’t know everything.

Do Christians really have a biblical mandate to turn the judicial code of the Old Testament into the civil law of society? This would mean the death-penalty for homosexuals and adulterers; this would mean only Christian judges and congressional representatives. In fact, only Christians could vote. Christians could get reduced loan rates, while non-Christians must pay full price, and so forth and so on. Now, the issue is not the authority of the Old Testament for Christians, which I affirm along with the mainstream church. The issue is the twofold rule of love for God and neighbor, which Jesus himself, the true Interpreter of the Old Testament, gives to guide us in applying it to daily life.

Is Christianity American, and America Christian? I am not convinced. First of all, the early puritans did not leave a secular country to found a Christian nation; they left a Christian nation to found a free nation. And what about the miraculous growth of global Christianity, perhaps the miracle of our time? Christianity is not American; it is Ghanaian, Nigerian, Chinese, South Korean, Chilean, Mexican, Polish, etc. It is all of these, and none of these; because it is centered in the risen Christ alone, not in any geographical center. Try telling a faithful servant of the risen Christ in Botswana that Christianity belongs to America!

Are we as Christians really here to dominate?  This one was the easiest question to answer of all, because the entire earthly life of Christ cries out differently. We are here to serve, only to serve, until we have nothing left.

Paul McGlasson is the author of No! A Theological Response to Christian Reconstructionism (https://wipfandstock.com/store/No_A_Theological_Response_to_Christian_Reconstructionism) and pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Sullivan, Indiana. He received his MDiv from Yale Divinity School, and his PhD from Yale University in Systematic Theology. Before entering the parish ministry, McGlasson taught theology for several years in college and seminary.

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  • Peter Kirk

    I agree with Paul’s theological concerns about Christian Reconstructionism, the movement pioneered by Rushdoony and North. But I don’t agree that it is serious current threat. That is because the New Apostolic Reformation is by no means ”
    a group associated with Christian Reconstructionism”. Their theologies and political agendas are entirely different. It is a lie put about by political enemies to suggest that the NAR and those associated with it are seeking the exclusion of non-Christians from public life.

    The confusion comes about because of the multiple senses of the word “dominionism”. Christian reconstructionists use this in the sense of Christians seeking political dominion over the world. But this is not how the NAR use the term. See the criticism at Wikipedia and on my own blog, the latter referring to the views of Peter Wagner, founder of the NAR. See also this post at my blog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/derek.rishmawy Derek Rishmawy

    I don’t think Christian Reconstructionism is Biblical or realistic. It doesn’t properly deal with covenant history and the distinctiveness of Israel’s life and the life of the Church in the world. Some of it is just silly. 

    At the same time, I don’t think the author’s comments are entirely on point, specifically with regard to the idea that Christians don’t have a “worldview.” He seems somewhat confused on the subject. A “worldview” isn’t necessarily a view of the world that is all-encompassing in the sense that it has every detailed aspect of reality nailed down tight within a rigidly-constructed system. Christians who have been shaped by the Drama of the Gospel, the history of Redemption, do have a unique view of the world that forms and informs all that they know and do. Or at least it ought to. For instance, Christians believe that the world is not just “nature”, but God’s good, fallen, and being redeemed creation. That is a unique view of reality. They also believe that there is a radical difference between God and the things that he makes. God is not the universe and the universe is not God. That is a distinct insight on reality that shapes the way we interact with it. They also think that because of that, the world is a certain way, there are creational rhythms to the natural order, the moral order, and the socio-cultural order that God has written into the fabric of reality that are violated only at great harm and in rebellion to God. Reality, as malleable as it might be in our hands, is not ultimately malleable. (This has implications for our ability and responsibility to practice science.) We are answerable for what we do with it. We cannot simply take it and form it at will, as we see fit, without reference to our Creator’s intentions are purposes. (We cannot practice science in whatever way we feel fitting. There are boundaries, such as the sacredness of human life.)These are just a few worldview distinctives that come from understanding the world as the Christian God’s creation and not in some other fashion. One could go on to speak of the implications of the doctrine of the Imago Dei, the notion of a covenantal reality, God’s redeeming activity in the world, and the future consummation that ought to exercise a formative influence on the way we Christians know and interact with the world across various domains of knowledge such as philosophy, the hard sciences, the social sciences, humanities, etc. 

  • Bob

    In that case, what is the authority of the Old Testament for Christians?

  • http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/ Robert Martin
  • A Saint In Christ

     I normally refrain from commented on articles such as this one, but I have considered to do so now, though I hope my comment does not cause for misunderstanding. True that, I have no idea what “Christian Reconstructionism” is, so I won’t tough that mindful notion in detail, it is not in my vocabulary. I do agree that Christianity and American culture are mostly one in the same. And also, Christianity and other cultures with Christianity are somewhat one in the same. “Is Christianity American, and America Christian?” Not all persons in America are Christians. Christianity originally was not American, but found its birth in Europe, under the rule of an emperor of Rome named Constantine. Christianity is a fusion of paganism, patriotism and the Scriptures to greater the Roman empire by creating a Roman belief system called Christianity. In and by this system, citizens of the world could join in membership and be held to the notions, laws, and religious rule of the humans in the offices of power in the “church” given to them by the Roman empire authority. Though, throughout time this human-made belief system prospered in America and in others nations as well. I don’t think it matters what nations call themselves Christianity. Christianity is worldwide, a person can hear about it in the news, movies, newspapers, and throughout many cultures. It is very abundant in the nation of the United States of America. It is merely a religious system of the human perspective usually fueled by the unrenewed do-good mentality, or do the lesser bad, whichever, all the same thing. I suggest that Christianity can belong to whoever claims it. I see two different things in this article:  1) Christians are ‘usually’ those who are part of the Christianity belief system as citizens in that kingdom called Christendom.  2) Saints are those who are in and part of Christ as heaven born-citizens in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God being the authoritative presence of God, who is Christ Jesus. The authority of God is Christ, and Christ lives in us. The authority reigns from within us, and is Christ. We are no  longer in the age of the external Law of the First Old Covenant, but we are in the New and Second Covenant. The Kingdom of God rules by Life Himself inside us. The old has gone and the new has come. The letter kills, but Christ is our Life and dwells in us. Christ Jesus is the ruler, and he rules from within and transforms from within. Changing external “things’ without the inner transformation is merely dead works and avails us nothing but rearranging dead things.

  • A Saint In Christ

     I normally refrain from commented on articles such as this one, but I have considered to do so now, though I hope my comment does not cause for misunderstanding. True that, I have no idea what “Christian Reconstructionism” is, so I won’t tough that mindful notion in detail, it is not in my vocabulary. I do agree that Christianity and American culture are mostly one in the same. And also, Christianity and other cultures with Christianity are somewhat one in the same. “Is Christianity American, and America Christian?” Not all persons in America are Christians. Christianity originally was not American, but found its birth in Europe, under the rule of an emperor of Rome named Constantine. Christianity is a fusion of paganism, patriotism and the Scriptures to greater the Roman empire by creating a Roman belief system called Christianity. In and by this system, citizens of the world could join in membership and be held to the notions, laws, and religious rule of the humans in the offices of power in the “church” given to them by the Roman empire authority. Though, throughout time this human-made belief system prospered in America and in others nations as well. I don’t think it matters what nations call themselves Christianity. Christianity is worldwide, a person can hear about it in the news, movies, newspapers, and throughout many cultures. It is very abundant in the nation of the United States of America. It is merely a religious system of the human perspective usually fueled by the unrenewed do-good mentality, or do the lesser bad, whichever, all the same thing. I suggest that Christianity can belong to whoever claims it. I see two different things in this article:  1) Christians are ‘usually’ those who are part of the Christianity belief system as citizens in that kingdom called Christendom.  2) Saints are those who are in and part of Christ as heaven born-citizens in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God being the authoritative presence of God, who is Christ Jesus. The authority of God is Christ, and Christ lives in us. The authority reigns from within us, and is Christ. We are no  longer in the age of the external Law of the First Old Covenant, but we are in the New and Second Covenant. The Kingdom of God rules by Life Himself inside us. The old has gone and the new has come. The letter kills, but Christ is our Life and dwells in us. Christ Jesus is the ruler, and he rules from within and transforms from within. Changing external “things’ without the inner transformation is merely dead works and avails us nothing but rearranging dead things.

  • James

    Shouldn’t strict application of OT law to modern America result in the majority of Christians becoming less privelaged, given that they come from Gentile as opposed to Jewish ancestry? :) 


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