Category Archives: Theonomy/Eschatology

My Debt to the Christian Reconstructionist Movement

I came to Reformed theology through a very different door. While many of my friends were coming to it through the mainline Reformational figures–R.C. Sproul, et al.–I came through the doors of Christian Reconstructionism. I had heard and read Gary North before I ever heard of the popular Calvinist names of John MacArthur and John Piper. The first Gary North article I read as a young college student was on six-day creationism. At the time I felt rather offended by the suggestion. There was a type of dogmatism in Gary’s words that left an impression on me. It was not just that six-day creationism was right, it was that it was needed for all of life. Looking back, I think I am today much more sympathetic to that claim than when I first read it. I now pastor a congregation whose denomination embraces six-day creationism. But it wasn’t that which drew my attention. It was the claim that the Christian faith needed a cohesive, all encompassing paradigm. I was used to separating matters. And the thing about matter is that it is composed of atoms. And atoms are happily atomized. Keeping things distant from each other helped create this divided theology. What hath creation to do with eschatology? I answer this question very differently today because of Christian Reconstructionism.

North was on to something. He still is today publishing vociferously. He is filled with youthful vigor as he writes 2-3 essays a day. The man truly redeems the time. It was through North that I heard about Christian Reconstructionism. A friend of mine from college had been engaged with that movement for some time, and so one day he came into my room and offered me his Christian Recons. collection of journals. I took them all. I still have a few today. Most of them are available on-line for free. CR (Christian Reconstructionism) opened a vast world. In it, there was rich Reformed theology. There was the sovereignty of God topic, usually summarized b y the TULIP, but in the CR world that sovereignty spoke to areas like economics, history, education, and more. I had previously been exposed to the sovereignty of God only over individual salvation. I fought that battle for a while, but eventually gave in. It was too persuasive. Thanks to Michael Horton’s Putting Amazing Back into Grace. a But then CR told me that the sovereignty of God needed to be even more prominent in my thinking. How prominent? As prominent as the world. It further taught me that Reformed is not enough. That is, you cannot simply live with your systematic theology tattooed all over your body (metaphorically speaking), but you needed it tattooed all over the world. The law of God needed to be more than a reminder of an objective standard, but a reality lived out by the nations.

In short, CR’s emphasis on the totality of Jesus for all of life consumed me. It still does to this day. Differences aside–and I do have concerns; concerns with how that theology is articulated and pastorally communicated within the vestiges of this movement–the CR movement opened the world to me. I had been isolated for a long time. My denominational loyalties kept me imprisoned to a narrow view of life that lacked beauty and didn’t translate into much tangible fruit. But with CR, I was always struck by how much a small movement had produced. The movement was not new per se. It came from a long line of thinkers. Calvin embraced some of it in his Deuteronomy Commentary–though at other places he seems to contradict himself; I do have a theory as to why–ask me–Bucer spoke unabashedly about theocratic principles, the Puritans thought that the Gospel needed to be far more than a heart declaration, but a declaration that needed to affect its environment in tangible ways.

As the years have passed, I’ve had the privilege to meet many of these modern Reconstructionists, though I never met R.J. Rushdoony. My admiration continues for many of their insights. And many of those insights seem to be even more relevant today as this nation continues to entangle itself morally, socially, and in other ways in a fashion that belittles its glorious Puritan heritage.

CR led me to where I am today. It taught me to see the world in a more wholistic fashion. It taught me to appreciate elements of this world that I never thought would interest me. Paul says we are to give honor where honor is due. As I get a bit older and reflect upon my last 15 years of theological engagement I become more grateful for those early influences. I am learning not to despise them, despite some differences. I am learning to appreciate their incredible hard work in doing, saying, writing, and speaking ideas that were and are so contrary to the current evangelical ethos.

With this in mind, I’d like to offer five Reconstructionist principles that have helped me to think more biblically and that have shaped me today. Many outside of the CR movement may share these same ideas, but they were and are very central to Reconstructionist ideals. And yes, I am aware that CRs differ on a host of issues.

First, I am indebted to the labors of James B. Jordan b who taught me to think about the world through new eyes. Jim has always emphasized a healthy biblicism. He argues that the reason so many in the evangelical world fail to understand the implications of the Bible is because they suffer from a flawed hermeneutic. They have atomized revelation because they have failed to see the thread that runs through all of Scriptures. JBJ says that God’s revelation is not a piece of literature, it is God’s word, which means that it is layered with great mysteries that only the wise can see. Jim argues for the lunacy of unbelief. The reason unbelievers cannot understand the Bible is because without the Bible they are profoundly insane. It’s not that they can’t understand truth nor that they are incapable of saying anything true, but rather that they are theologically insane, and hence incapable of coherently formulating or speaking harmoniously truthful about the world.

Second, I am indebted to Gary North’s principles of economics. Though he has written so much about capitalism and its implications in society, I am more interested in his economic focus for the Church. His writings on tithing and its implication for the Church have shaped my understanding of the centrality of the Church. North argued that the Church is the center of charity.

Third, I am indebted to Rushdoony’s powerful expositions on the nature of education and the necessity of a distinctly Christian understanding of the Lordship of Jesus over the training and nurturing of our children (Deut. 6). Rushdoony says that education is inescapably messianic. Your children are either being nurtured by the true Messiah or a false one.

Fourth, I am indebted to Greg Bahnsen’s powerful ways of communicating Van Til’s apologetic. Were it not for Bahnsen’s popularizing of Van Til, Van Til would have remained a figure at Westminter Seminary’s archives. I know that some have continued Van Til’s legacy without the help of CR, but what was unique about Bahnsen’s popularizing of Van Til was that he saw Van Til’s model of “no neutrality” applying to a host of issues, beyond the apologetics methodology debate.

Finally, I am indebted to Gary Demar’s American Vision ministries (I should add the late David Chilton). It was through Gary’s book, Last Days Madness, that I was awakened to the flaws of Dispensational theology and the richness of Preterism. Gary has dedicated much of his career to awakening the evangelical mind to an alternative eschatology. His words have not gone unheeded. Many have begun to question their understanding of Revelation, and adopting a more consistent biblical method for understanding that glorious book.

For these reasons, and I am certain many others could be mentioned, I am indebted to Christian Reconstructionism. Reformed Theology has been enriched by the contributions of these scholars.

 

  1. The irony here is that Horton is decidedly anti-Reconstructionist  (back)
  2. some of these figures like James Jordan are no longer a part of that movement, though he was a very influential figure in it in the early days  (back)

The Death of Professor Francis Nigel Lee

The news came out today that F.N. Lee has passed away. According to Dr. Lee’s resource page, “in September 2011, Dr. Lee was diagnosed with incurable Motor Neurone Disease, alias Amytropic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease. At 7.50 am Friday 23rd December, 2011, Nigel Lee was taken peacefully to his Lord.”

Dr. Lee was one of those rare scholars. Some have said that he is the most under-appreciated scholar of the 21st century. A committed  Calvinist and Post-Millennialist, Dr. Lee was responsible for opening the theonomic doors–together with R.J. Rushdoony– for me in the year 2000. In 2006 I wrote Dr. Lee the following:

Many of my theological discoveries in that field came due to your lectures on Post-Millenialialism. I am deeply grateful to your ministry. Recently, I have come across your articles on the website and have begun reading one of them a week.

He responded with great delight. I attempted to book him for a Trinity Talk episode. His response was short:

You seem to be in the USA. I am in Australia, and somewhat deaf!   So I don’t think a radio interview would be suitable.    07/01-09

Lee earned a remarkable number of degrees. A quick perusal will shock most readers. He kept up with a work ethic that I have not seen, except in Gary North and Peter Leithart.

I once asked him if Australia would be a good place to pursue a doctorate. His response again short and to the point:

No. Rather go to Germany. 09/27/06

Dr. Lee was remarkably interested in the role of the law in society. Concerning the Ten Commandments he once wrote:

Every one  of them is vital, in all ages. For only by observing them can man live a full life each week; maintain a happy marriage; and function well in his home, his  job, and even in the world internationally.

His artistic skills, his exegetical skills, and his comprehensive view of the world through the lens of God’s special revelation are part of the legacy of  Dr. Francis Nigel Lee. His e-mail signature most clearly summarized his view of the world: “God Triune, at the start, created the tri-universe (cf. Genesis 1:1-3).”

May your body rest in peace until the great resurrection.


Critics of Theonomy and the Eschatology of Victory

Theonomy from its early days in Tyler, TX has changed quite a bit. Did it win the day? In many ways it did. Ministries like American Vision, Vision Forum, Chalcedon, and a host of political and theological ministries were and are largely influenced by the dozens of books written by Gary North, David Chilton, James Jordan, and others. As an example, I recently saw Stephen Mansfield’s list of books that most influenced him. Rushdoony and Chilton were in that list. I could name many other modern thinkers who were influenced by the great Theonomic/Reconstructionist writers.

Over the years, the “movement” has spread all over the country. One critic of theonomy spoke gleefully of the demise of the Tyler group. In the critics’ words, “how could such a utopia continue if even the first leaders couldn’t keep it together.” What this critic fails to understand is that every powerful movement in history undergoes transitions; what we might call “little deaths.” The theonomic movement may no longer be in Tyler, TX, but it has re-emerged more powerfully, and in many ways, diversely throughout the country. They are in Hollywood, at the front of the Homeschool revolution, pioneering a Classical Christian School movement, and powerfully engaged in socio and political discussions.

We may criticize Constantine for not preserving a Christian theocracy in the early church, but how can we overlook the significant impact he would have in the future? Like every work–attempting to return to Biblical standards–we should always expect the future to bring new manifestations, which improve upon the previous. This is the way of Biblical revolution. Christians are called to an eschatology of victory; an eschatology grounded in progress.

Philippus Jacobus Hoedemaker vs. Abraham kuyper

Hoedemaker did not win the day with his theocratic principles, as Reuben Alvarado demonstrates in his 1992 lecture at the BH Conference. Hoedemaker stood firmly against Abraham Kuyper’s political pluralism. Even though Kuyper has been immensely helpful in bringing a thoroughness/completeness to the application of the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life, yet he failed to argue for the thoroughness/completeness of Christ’s Lordship in the political sphere. Hoedemaker, on the other hand, understood that if “antithesis” were faithfully applied then neutrality could not exist. To use Gary North’s terminology, Kuyper held to political polytheism, while Hoedemaker was the true theocrat in the Dutch Calvinist tradition. As Alvarado concludes, the Hoedemakerites are finally addressing the inconsistencies of Kuyper.

The Perfect Recipe…

Take bits of Rushdoony, bits of North, developments of both, disagreements with both, stir well, heat over a thorough-going covenantalism and take the mixture through the Jordan and you’ll find yourself with a combination of presuppositionalism, homeschooling, high-church presbyterianism, opposition to the Iraq War, loathing of the state, and long-termist postmillennialism. Alternatively, just read the Bible properly!

(Thanks to David Field)

Revelation 20: The Triumph of the Church and the Humiliation of the Old Serpent; A Brief Exposition, Part 2

Editor’s Note: The entire paper is available in word format, including bibliography.

Paper: revelation-20.doc

A Defense of Postmillennial Eschatology in Revelation 20

There is a general consensus within the Reformed tradition concerning the beginning of Christ’s kingdom. Amillenialists and Postmillennialists concur that Christ bound the evil one, Satan, in the first century.[1] Further, they both agree that the binding[2] of Satan had a very specific purpose– in order that he should not deceive the nations any longer (Revelation 20:3).[3] The devil roams around seeking to devour as many as possible,[4] but his ability to restrain the gospel from becoming a world-wide enterprise will continually fail.[5] Before proceeding to make a positive case for a Postmillennial eschatology, one must note that in a substantial manner both Amils and Postmils share much in common with one another concerning Revelation 20.[6] As Chilton remarks:

From the Day of Pentecost onward, orthodox Christians have recognized that Christ’s reign began at His resurrection/Ascension and continues until all things have been thoroughly subdued under His feet, as St Peter clearly declared (Acts 2:30-36).[7]

Chilton’s claim testifies to the overall unity of thought from the early church to the present day–defended by Post and Amillenarians alike–that the kingdom of God has come upon confessors of the true Messiah.[8] Further, believers do not wait Christ’s reign in the future, but believe He has reigned from the first century until now, and His kingdom shall reign forever and ever. Arguing for eschatological distinctions, Keith Mathison observes:

…it should be noted that postmillennialism (and Amillenialism), in contrast to premillennialism, does not teach that this single passage, in this highly symbolic book, should be the cornerstone of one’s system of eschatology.[9]

Reformed thought is comprehensive and covenantal in nature. It builds from Old Covenant prophecies and reaches a crescendo in Christ, rather than one particular pericope. Hence, to depend solely on one passage to build a positive case for one’s millennial position–as Premillennialism does–makes Revelation 20 the apex of eschatological discourse and debate. Even George E. Ladd[10] admits that if Revelation 20 were not the vision of the Second Coming, then we would be left with no clear reference to the events of the end.[11]

In contrast, Postmillennialism[12] argues that Revelation 20 gives greater conviction to the Church of Christ that His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. Further, Postmillennialism builds its case from the entirety of sacred revelation: from the promise of the coming seed[13] to the triumph of the Lamb over the Evil One.[14] Unlike other approaches, Postmillennarians believe in a present reign on earth, which will be consummated in the Second Coming of the Lord when He will be all in all (I Corinthians 15:26).

In considering Revelation 20, there are at least two distinct exegetical observations that distinguish the eschatology of hope of Postmillennialism from Amillennialism and Premillennialism.[15] They are:

a) The nature of Satan’s defeat.[16]

b) The nature of the reign of the saints.[17] Continue reading Revelation 20: The Triumph of the Church and the Humiliation of the Old Serpent; A Brief Exposition, Part 2

Revelation 20: The Triumph of the Church and the Humiliation of the Old Serpent; A Brief Exposition, Part 1

The significance of Revelation 20 cannot be underestimated. Scholars have pondered the exegesis of this passage for centuries. Consequently, three positions have emerged. The first position is Premillennialism. The word “millennialism”[1] means a “thousand years” mentioned six times in Revelation 20. “Pre” refers to the time before the “thousand years.”[2] Therefore, Premillennialists[3] argue that Christ will return before the initiation of the aforementioned thousand years. Historically, Premillennialists have been divided over when Christ will return, though they agree it will precede the millennium of Revelation 20. Dispensational Premillennialists[4] contend that Christ will return in two separate stages: first, to rapture His church and second, to end this present world and bring about the prophetic promises[5] of a land of peace and righteousness for a literal thousand years.[6]

Conversely, Historical Premillennialists believe the rapture of First Thessalonians 4 is the same as the “glorious appearing” of Titus 2:13. Therefore, the Rapture and the Second Coming refer to the same event. This position bears much similarity to the Amillenialist viewpoint.

Amillenialism has a long tradition in Reformation history.[7] The “A” negates “millenialist.” Thus, those who defend this position believe that there is no literal millennium. Some consider the term “Inaugurated Eschatology” a more accurate description of this position, since with the First Advent of the blessed Lord; Christ’s millennial reign began in the hearts of believers.[8] Summarily, Amillennialists[9] prefer to see the millennium as a spiritual manifestation of the kingdom of God.[10] During the period from the First to the Second Advent, the Church can expect to see simultaneous growth of justice and injustice, good and evil, Christianity and paganism.[11]

A third position is Postmillennialism.[12] “Post” indicates that Christ will return after the completion of the Millennial Age. This period endures from Christ’s First Coming in the Incarnation to His Second Coming in the Consummation.[13] Unlike Amillenialists and Premillennialists, Postmillennialists believe that the Church can expect to see a great manifestation of the gospel throughout the nations.[14] Nations will be converted to God in abundance, societies will be transformed, and peace and righteousness will reign[15] for a thousand years.[16] Nevertheless, Postmillenarians do not believe in a utopian society where all sin will be banished.[17] Since Postmillennialists are largely Calvinists, they recognize the post-lapsarian results of sin. Continue reading Revelation 20: The Triumph of the Church and the Humiliation of the Old Serpent; A Brief Exposition, Part 1

Apologus Interviews Pastor Paul Michael Raymond, Part 2

Continuing interview…

Apologus:

Your definitions seem quite clear in light of the current political dilemma of the Christian community. Particularly, the Christian conservative movement seems to undermine the Biblical message of Christ’s Lordship by denying the authoritative Word to determine how we are to operate as Christians. In your opinion, what have been some practical failures of our modern church and the conservative movement in the last 20 years?

Pastor Paul Michael Raymond:

The way I see it Uri is that the Modern and Postmodern church of our day have a number of distinct problems.

Firstly, they have failed to understand what Christianity is, and to what vocation they are called to. Christianity is not “adding” Christ to secularism nor is it simply adding Him to an individual’s personal self fulfilling agenda. Christianity is an abandonment of self for the express purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God on earth. As Dr. greg Bahnsen rightly stated, “Christianity is not Christ against culture or is it the Christ of Culture, but rather Christ above Culture.” In other words, Biblical Christianity seeks to Transform Culture by the Preaching of the Gospel, the education of the people and the implementation of Biblical Law, Principles and Public policy. Too many professing Christians believe in a dualism Christianity where they refuse to engage the world since it is so evil. This elitist view is typical of Phariseeism and has no place in the realm of True Regeneration. To be sure Christianity is not to be OF the world. Nevertheless, the Christians ought to be doing battle IN the world and not retreating out of the world. Christ has made that abundantly clear. in John 17. To retreat from the battle the saints face daily in the world is to fall snare to a Manicheanism dualistic heresy.

The vocation of every regenerate is to do the will of Him who sent him in the realm of society. Not just on an individual plane but on a social plane as well, which includes politics, economics, science, philosophy, ecology, law, education et al. He is to take dominion authority by engaging and overcoming the secularism through Biblical arguments casting down every lofty argument and secular philosophy that exalts itself against the knowledge of Biblical Truth. Thus, we are to take every thought captive to the Word of God obeying His precepts and going out into the world declaring the Sovereign Universal Authority of Christ in every realm. Continue reading Apologus Interviews Pastor Paul Michael Raymond, Part 2

Transformationalism…

Chellis writes:

Darryl has been able to give a pejorative name to advocates of Christian civil government: Transformationalist. What a dirty sounding word to anyone who stands upon anti-liberal ground. Surely Christian civil government must be rejected, it is an ideology that seeks to change (transform… yuck) society through politics… to tinker (transform) with human nature to conform to our NAPARC dreams.

But then I ask myself the question. What if the gospel takes root in China? Will China remain unchanged? Will its culture not be… transformed? Not on the basis of politics, but through the impact of souls who have been ordered according to the standards of a Christ and His law.

This is how it was in the West and I am grateful for it. Grateful for our heritage of ordered liberty, economic freedom, and respect for humanity as made in the image of the living God. It has checked the power of the beast; it has made daily life more humane, and given honor to the church as the eschatological Kingdom dwelling in our midst.

Chellis appears to be responding to some level of criticism to his understanding of cultural transformation. My contention over this matter has always been the same for years. Instead of placing Abraham Kuyper versus those who would oppose cultural transformation, (D.G. Hart, etc.) the proper Biblical approach is a both/and. The church needs to preserve her duty to minister bread and wine and proclaim the gospel, while at the same time encouraging, rather, emboldening her people to transform every dimension of society into a repository of Biblical righteousness. There simply is no other option. Anyone who dares assume that the gospel has no transformative power beyond the spiritual change has not properly understood the completeness of Christ’s work to bring all His enemies under His feet.

Merry Postmillenial/Preterist/Eschatology of Victory Christmas to you!

Links to articles: 

David Bahnsen wishes all a Postmillenial Christmas!

My friend Dee’s commentary on Matthew 24.

Justin Martyr’s Eschatology revealed.

Postmillenialism: Wishful thinking or certain hope? By Kenneth Gentry.

Myths “Against” Postmillenialism

My friend Keith Mathison’s: Postmillenialism: An Eschatology of Hope. This was the first Postmillenial book I read 4 years ago. It was instrumental in shaping my eschatology.