On Christian Reconstructionism: A Retraction

It has been a long time since I have posted here, so I thought that I would get the ball rolling by posting a retraction of previous statements that I have made regarding the movement Christian Reconstructionism. Though I still think what I do about how Christians should interact with the government, it is appropriate for me to publicly “take back” what I said about something I only distantly understood.

When I previously wrote about Christian Reconstructionism, I did so without even giving its proponents the courtesy of a fair hearing on YouTube, let alone reading any of their books explaining the fundamentals of what they are about. I sort of chased around the edges, read articles by their most vocal detractors, and moved to condemn them on this blog. Here are a few of the names that turn up when you look into Christian Reconstructionism (ripped from the Wikipedia article):

John Rousas Rushdoony
Greg Bahnsen
Gary North
Gary DeMar
David Chilton
Kenneth Gentry
Adam Sandlin
Howard Ahmanson, Jr.

Though he was not himself a Christian Reconstructionist, the Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til inspired the movement with his views on presuppositional apologetics, which is a particular strand of Christian apologetics that works from the notion that thinking from the Christian worldview is the only rational way to think.

Some American politicians claimed to be linked to the movement include:

Rick Perry
Michele Bachmann

Christian Reconstructionism is a ghoul that some people in the news media like to pull out to make the Republican Party seem really scary. While I have no particular love for the Republican Party myself, the biggest problem the GOP faces is probably self-aggrandizement rather than infiltration by Christian splinter groups with wacky views of the end times. To be perfectly frank, everyone already knows that the Republicans want to take over the country, and American Christianity definitely has problems with wacky views of the end times.

To return to the subject at hand, I did not come to praise Christian Reconstructionists but to bury them — that is, bury them under a mound of apologies and requests for forgiveness for not dealing with their ideas or the application of their ideas more thoroughly. While I still have not completed a thorough examination of their materials (i.e. I have yet to read a whole book written by a Reconstructionist), I have done a little more examination of what they believe and I have found myself in the wrong about just how it is that they intend to take over the world, if you will pardon the expression.

I suppose one way to summarize what I have found is that they believe that lots and lots of people are going to come to Jesus, and they will voluntarily bring all of their culture and society into obedience to God. Here is a YouTube video from a time that Rushdoony defined Dominionism (a concept related to Reconstructionism). What you will find is that Reconstructionists believe in being politically active and in keeping government from becoming too powerful while seeking to peacefully spread Christianity. Have you ever heard of evangelicals before? They try to do that too.

While I still subtly disagree with Christian Reconstructionism, Reconstructionists have some rather edifying things to say to Christians about living for God in real life. While I take issue with some of the things that they say, they are not a pernicious evil to be rooted out of conservative circles.

In sum, I just want to say this: Christian Reconstructionists, while I may write in the future to disagree with some of your ideas, I promise to engage with your thoughts more charitably than I have previously. Because I have been so vocal in the past about the nastiness of Christian Reconstructionism, I thought it proper to be equally public with my retraction. Reconstructionists, while a minority, are not crazy, nor are they bent upon world domination. Though I would not wholeheartedly buy into their ideology, I never wholeheartedly buy into anyone’s ideology, be that intellectual pride, standoffishness or some other such thing.

I hope that is a satisfactory beginning. Thanks for reading.

  1. That is most charitable of you. This makes you one of only a few detractors (John Frame and James B. Jordan are the only ones that spring to mind) I’ve ever found to have interacted with Christian Reconstructionism in a balanced, civil way. Of course, Christian Reconstructionists themselves have not made this easy: their approach has largely been a polemic one, denouncing every Christian disagreeing with them as “anti-nomian.” I am of course over-generalizing, to be sure.

    I’m not a Reconstructionist myself, but I’m currently making a thorough study of them because I think they are a bigger influence than they appear to be both in conservative and libertarian circles. If you ever want thoughts on them from someone who has read thousands of pages of their reading material and is working on producing short summaries of the history of Christian Reconstructionism’s more significant figures, just let me know.


    Mitchell Powell

    • Hi Mitchell,

      I don’t check up on the blog much, but sometimes I like to see whether anyone has posted a comment. This time, it turns out that someone has! Good to hear from you.

      I think I would definitely be interested in seeing what you have on Christian Reconstructionism. That’s at your fontwords.com blog, right?

      One thing that makes charitable discourse hard is that people often use words as weapons, not simply as communicative devices. Libel is a case in point: it matters not what people do with the precise allegations made in a smear campaign as long as the target’s reputation is destroyed.

      How long have you been looking into Christian Reconstructionism?

  2. I’ve been looking into Christian Reconstructionism in earnest for about a year now. I’ve probably read about thirty books by Christian Reconstructionists (averaging five hundred pages), skimmed another thirty, and read somewhere in the neighborhood of one thousand to two thousand short articles by the main writers. Right now, I’m working on producing a short history of the movement, composed of biographical sketches and bibliographies for each of the major authors in the movement and associated characters.

    Given the other things I have to keep up with, my history of the movement is probably at least three months from being print-ready, and it could take years. I don’t know. I study reconstructionism as a sort of hobby, because they are by far the most interesting group I’ve yet found within what could broadly be described as the American right wing.

    It’s hard to give a simple summary of the movement, but if you have a specific question about them, I can almost always answer it or get an answer pretty quick, because I’ve got a pretty good feel for all the major characters, works, and institutions of these people.

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