Theonomists and the Gospel

St Stephens Cathedral interior

Dominion comes through service … It is idolatrous to seek dominion primarily by political means, whether by domination or anarchic revolution.

From the archives of David P. Field’s blog, Thursday, August 24, 2006.

davidfieldDoug Wilson’s line, “True postmodernism is theonomic postmillennialism” prompts me to dig up a little heap of quotations which I extracted, in 1993, from some of the theonomist books, mostly published in the previous ten years or so. Theonomists were accused of abandoning evangelism and the church, being obsessed with politics, and seeking to ‘impose’ the kingdom and this series of quotations left me wondering whether the theonomists’ critics were being altogether fair (!).

That was a long time ago. You may not believe it but in those days the evangelical gate-keepers, the self-appointed guardians of the tradition were quite often guilty of not-reading, mis-reading, or mis-representing the works of those they declared a danger to the church even though the theonomists’ entire appeal was to Scripture. I don’t suppose anything like that could happen these days.

These are the books from which the quotations come:

The Changing of the Guard – George Grant
Calvinism Today
Healer of the Nations – Gary North
House Divided – Greg Bahnsen & Kenneth Gentry
Theonomy: An Informed Response – ed. Gary North
Inherit the Earth – Gary North
The Institutes of Biblical Law – R.J. Rushdoony
No Other Standard – Greg Bahnsen
Paradise Restored – David Chilton
Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators – David Chilton
The Reduction of Christianity – Peter Leithart & GaryDeMar
Theonomy in Christian Ethics – Greg Bahnsen
Tools of Dominion – Gary North
Westminister’s Confession – Gary North

And the quotations may as well sit on blogger as on my hard disk …

  • It must be stressed that the creation of a Christian nation could be accomplished only as a result of the widespread work of the Holy Spirit, not through some bureaucratic top-down, coercively imposed order on a non-Christian majority by a Christian minority. Healer p.34
  • It is the missionary … who is best equipped to begin the bottom-up process of evangelism that ultimately leads to the establishment of a covenanted confederation of Christian nations. Healer p.157
  • We must seek reform first in the Church, not in the State. The focus on the State as the primary institution of life is the humanist myth of the age. It must not become the myth of Christian reconstruction. Healer p.287
  • What is God’s historic means of making the world better ? The preaching of the gospel. Reduction p.xx
  • One of the distinctives of Christian reconstruction is its aversion to the use of politics as the method to bring about social change …. But why all the attention to politics in reconstructionist literature … ? The answer is very simple. Politics has become the saviour of the people. Reconstructionists write about politics and civil government in order to call Christians and non-Christians back to their only Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Reduction p.21f
  • Christian reconstructionists are looking for the transformation of all of society, including families, churches, business establishments, the legal profession, education, economics, journalism, the media and civil government through personal redemption and adherence to the Bible as the standard for godly rule. Reduction p.23
  • Dominion comes through service … It is idolatrous to seek dominion primarily by political means, whether by domination or anarchic revolution. Reduction p.25
  • Evangelism is the starting point of social transformation. Reduction p.189
  • The key to remedying the [present] situation is … regeneration. There is no hope for man except in regeneration … True reform begins with regeneration and then the submission of the believer to the whole law-word of God. Institutes, pp.113, 449, 627
  • The chief blessing of the kingdom is forgiveness of sins. Reduction p.217
  • It is through the Spirit-filled church, proclaiming the gospel, that the kingdom of Christ extends throughout the world. Reduction, p.220
  • The negative reaction to social reform comes from secularized attempts to do what only the gospel can do. This reaction is legitimate but it should not deter Christians from being truly evangelical in their attempts at reform. Reduction, p.286
  • The church, not the family or the state is the central institution in history. Informed, p.204
  • If we really do need a graduate school in theology, let us finance one. But let us no longer fool the donors into believing that this sort of rarified academic institution is necessary or even useful for training pastors … For now, let us get on with the task at hand: the evangelization of the world. Informed, p.340f
  • The authors of this book … know very well that Christian faith centers on the saving work of Jesus Christ. They profess to love the Savior with all their heart. They know that their new life in Him, their new status of being right with God, and their hope of eternal life have been granted to them by the grace of God. They have nothing of which to boast. With Paul they would say, ‘Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified unto me and I unto the world’. Having been saved from the world, their concern is to love their Lord with all their heart, soul, strength and mind. They now want to walk in those good works which God intends for them. They make a sincere effort to heed the words of Christ to ‘seek above all the kingdom of God and His righteousness’. They know that this kingdom, for which they pray regularly, will not be consummated until after the return of Jesus Christ and the final judgment, when all believers will then rejoice in a new heaven and earth wherein righteousness dwells. In the meantime they seek to perfect personal holiness in the fear of God and to make all the nations disciples of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is only in the light and context of these beliefs and practices that they see and understand their Reconstructionist position in ethics and eschatology. House, p.3f
  • It must be understood the Reconstructionists believe that evangelism is the absolute pre-condition to worldwide, postmillennial, theocratic success … We insist that cultural influence and change are to be promoted by God’s people – who are saved by grace alone – at large in their callings, not by the institutional Church as such. House, p.194
  • Evangelism, leading to baptism, comes first. House, p.194
  • Christian Reconstructionists do not believe that man can be fundamentally changed by changing the conditions of society. Instead we believe that society will be changed when men are first changed inwardly by the Gospel and then seek to apply that change to the spheres of life in which they are involved. Tony Baxter, CT I.4 17
  • First and foremost, our emphasis is on the proclamation of the saving power of God through Jesus Christ; and then the regenerate man applying the whole word of God to every sphere of life. Rushdoony, CT II.1 14
  • The message of the kingdom of God rests on a concept of salvation which is supernaturally imparted, not politically imparted. Tools, p.38
  • The primary need today, as always, is the need for widespread personal repentance before God. Tools, p.39
  • The basis for building a Christian society is evangelism and missions that lead to a widespread Christian revival, so that the great mass of earth’s inhabitants will place themselves under Christ’s protection, and voluntarily use His covenantal laws for self-government. Christian reconstruction begins with personal conversion to Christ and self-government under God’s law, then spreads to others through revival and only later does it bring comprehensive changes in civil law, when the vast majority of voters voluntarily agree to live under Biblical blueprints. Tools, p.55
  • The key to cultural transformation is the gospel. Productive, p.234
  • My slogan is ‘politics fourth’ … it is my concern after individual salvation, church membership and family membership. Westminster’s, p.158
  • Politics is not central. The worship of God is central. Changing, p.xx
  • What Christians should say in response to humanism’s political theology is that God’s Church, as the institution entrusted by God with His Word and His sacraments, is the central institution of history. Changing, p.xx
  • Christian Reconstructionists categorically deny that politics is central to social change. The reformation of the Church is central; every other positive social change will flow from this one. Changing, p.xxi
  • The goal of Christian political action then is not to usher in a theocracy but to acknowledge the theocracy that already exists …. Christian political action is not supposed to impose a messianic kingdom from the top down. Only God can lawfully control the hearts of men by imposing His rule …. Christian political action is therefore a bottom-up and inside-out process. Changing, p.11
  • The orthodox Christian faith cannot be reduced to personal experiences, academic discussions, or culture-building activity – as important as all these are in varying degrees. The essence of Biblical religion is the worship of God …. True Christian reconstruction of culture is far from being simply a matter of passing Law X and electing Congressman Y. Christianity is not a political cult. It is the divinely ordained worship of the Most High God. Paradise, p.215
  • I forthrightly reject any reduction of the sacred message to moralism or politics … the central thrust of the bible is recognized to be the accomplishment and application of salvation to God’s people. Theonomy, p.33f
  • I don’t disagree that the issues taken up in Theonomy are of subordinate importance in the Christian life, preaching of the church, range of theological loci etc … Surely the fact that some Christians take up the question of God’s law and its relation to modern penology – and that some write on the subject – does not mean that they believe that subject is the most vital issue for all believers (or even for themselves). No Other, p.43
  • We may readily grant that socio-political reconstruction has less urgency than personal spirituality or the church, but this does not bear whatsoever upon the truth or error of the theonomic standard for politics. No Other, p.51
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