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Christian Reconstructionism

From Academic Kids

Christian Reconstructionism is a religious and political movement within Protestant Christianity. It calls for Christian dominion over government and the enforcement of the general principles of Old Testament and New Testament moral law, as expounded in the case laws and summarized in the Old Testament Decalogue.

It is best known in the United States of America, where a noted advocate was Rousas John (R. J.) Rushdoony. Other leaders include Gary North, Gary DeMar, Greg Bahnsen, Kenneth Gentry, and Andrew Sandlin.

Christian Reconstructionism, the largest branch of the relatively small Dominion Theology tendency in Protestantism, has played a major role in promoting the trend toward Dominionism in the larger U.S. Christian Right. Christian Reconstructionists see themselves as theonomic, while their critics tend to label them theocratic.

Christian Reconstructionists generally hold to a form of Postmillennial Christian Eschatology, though the distinctive tenets of the movement (generally referred to as Theonomic Ethics) are purported to be compatible with other eschatological viewpoints within mainline Christianity and the primarily premillennial evangelical and fundamentalist movements.

The movement is unrelated to Reconstructionist Judaism.

Contents

Views of Supporters

The social structure advocated by Christian Reconstructionism would have the clergy, laity and government, individually and corporately, to be in ultimate submission to the moral principles of the Old Testament, while retaining their separate scopes of authority and roles in society as designated in the Old Testament. It is the claim of Christian Reconstructionism that even as under the Davidic administration of the Israelites, the Priests (Levitical line) and Kings (Davidic line) were distinguished by their scopes of authority (e.g., the King could not offer sacrifices for others and the Priests could not pass or enforce legislation) and their roles in society (e.g., the King maintained the social welfare and the Priests maintained personal welfare), so it should be in a modern Christian Reconstructionist society.

Christian Reconstructionists argue that they do not intend to establish social laws to regulate beliefs, instead they wish to establish social laws to regulate actions, and more specifically, public actions (where public denotes a demonstrable corpus delicti or mens rea).

Christian Reconstructionists are opposed to most of the common forms of religious tolerance, but adherents of the movement are equally opposed to Erastianism (State-Church) and Papalism (Church-State), so they tend to support a modified form of religious tolerance -- what might be called "denominational tolerance", or "tolerance within the bounds of Christianity". Christian Reconstructionists claim that because of the distinction they draw between legislating beliefs and legislating actions, religious tolerance is not principially ruled out by the movement. What are ruled out on principle are those forms of religious tolerance where public actions, which are contrary to their understanding of general principles of the moral law (e.g., blasphemy, dissemination of idolatry, homosexuality), are encouraged or entail no negative sanctions (which lack of sanctioning is taken to be a form of encouragement because it is seen as the removal of the action from the category of moral precept to the category of personal preference). Thus supporters say it is unfair to call their ideology totalitarian.

Supporters maintain that the Old Testament law is the embodiment of perfect morality and that, by that same count, no other moral authority is able to stand in judgment over it.

Views of Critics

Critics are skeptical of the pragmatic value and actual viability of the proposed Christian Reconstructionist social structure, claiming that an overly authoritarian civil society would be a very real threat if such a structure were to be adopted. They observe that Christian Reconstructionism would entail abandoning a popular interpretation of the principle of separation of church and state. Critics also argue that Reconstructionism would in practice result in the domination of the church by the state (or vice versa), contrary to the stated goals of Reconstructionists.

Some prominent advocates of Christian Reconstructionism have made it clear that, according to their understanding, Old Testament law sometimes approves of the death penalty for active homosexuals, adulterers, and perhaps even recalcitrant children (or teenagers). Critics have accused such a view of being rigid and-or cruel.

Some critics categorize the Christian Reconstructionist movement as a form of totalitarianism or even a form of theocratic neofascism. Karen Armstrong, for example, sees a potential for fascism in Christian Reconstructionism, and notes that the system of dominion envisaged by Christian Reconstructionist theologians R. J. Rushdoony and Gary North "is totalitarian. There is no room for any other view or policy, no democratic tolerance for rival parties, no individual freedom," (Armstrong, Battle for God, pp. 361-362). Berlet and Lyons have witten the movement is a "new form of clerical fascist politics,"(Right-Wing Populism in America, p. 249).

See also

External links

References

  • Rushdoony, Rousas John. 1973. The Institutes of Biblical Law. Nutley, NJ: P & R Publishing (Craig Press). ISBN 0875524109.
  • North, Gary & DeMar, Gary. 1991. Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn't. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. ISBN 0930464532.
  • Barron, Bruce. 1992. Heaven on Earth? The Social & Political Agendas of Dominion Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan. ISBN 0310536111
  • Clarkson, Frederick. 1997. Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage. ISBN 1567510884
  • Armstrong, Karen. 2001. The Battle for God. New York: Ballantine.
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