This blog is part 2 in a series titled: “Theonomy: A Reformed Baptist Assesment.” To read part 1, you can click here: https://cbtseminary.org/theonomy-a-reformed-baptist-assessment-sam-waldron/
Theonomy: A Reformed Baptist Assessment
The Sources of Theonomic Development
It is not my goal to provide a thorough overview of Christian Reconstruction. Others have done this well. ((For a personal, interesting, and much more extensive introduction to Christian Reconstruction, see H. Wayne House’s and Tommy Ice’s Dominion Theology: Blessing or Cuse, (Multnomah, Portland, 1988), pp. 13f. )) Something must be said, however, about the basic sources of this movement (and of this assessment) and the major tenets of Theonomy or Christian Reconstruction.
I. Basic Sources
A. Rousas J. Rushdoony
Theonomy, or as it is also called, Christian Reconstruction, has for its father R. J. Rushdoony and his prolific pen. Among his many books, the most important ones are, first and foremost, The Institutes of Biblical Law and his brief treatment entitled, The Meaning of Postmillennialism: God’s Plan for Victory. Rushdoony ascribes to Cornelius Van Til the greatest influence on his thinking. Rushdoony is the master influence in three Theonomic organs: The Chalcedon Foundation, “The Journal of Reconstruction,” and a newsletter entitled “The Chalcedon Report.” ((Peter J. Leithart, “An Interview with Dr. R.J. Rushdoony,” The Counsel of Chalcedon (Sept. 1985): 14-17))
B. Greg Bahnsen
It is probably due to Mr. Bahnsen that Christian Reconstructionism owes the name, Theonomy. His Theonomy in Christian Ethics, with a foreword by Rushdoony, is perhaps the single most influential and controversial of the Theonomic literature. He is also well-known for his book, Homosexuality: A Biblical View. This book illustrates what is best from the Theonomic perspective. Mr. Bahnsen is now an Orthodox Presbyterian Church minister in California. He graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary and was formerly the Professor of Apologetics at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Jackson, Mississippi. Though a fine apologist in the presuppositional school of thought, he was dismissed from RTS in a dispute over Theonomy. The Covenant Tape Ministry distributes tapes of his teaching.
C. Gary North
Gary North was formerly editor of the “Journal of Christian Reconstruction.” He is the editor of numerous works, including, The Theology of Christian Resistance and The Tactics of Christian Resistance. He is the author of a popularization of Christian Reconstruction entitled, Unconditional Surrender: God’s Program for Victory, as well as Backward Christian Soldiers and volume 1 of an economic commentary on the Bible entitled The Dominion Covenant: Genesis. He also contributed to The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, edited by James B. Jordan.
These are probably the most well-known Christian Reconstructionists. There are, however, several other prolific spokesmen for the Theonomic movement. Among them may be mentioned David Chilton, Gary Demar, Peter Leithart, Ray Sutton, Joe Kickasola, Joseph C. Morecraft III, and at one time James B. Jordan.
II. Major Tenets
The Christian Reconstructionists have defined the major tenets of their system. They are presuppositional apologetics, predestination, their view of the abiding validity of the law in exhaustive detail, and postmillennialism. North writes,
Mr. Clapp lists three key doctrines of the Reconstructionists: presuppositional apologetics, biblical law, and postmillennialism. He left out one crucial doctrine: predestination. These were the four that David Chilton and I listed in our essay. “Apologetics and Strategy” in Christianity and Civilization 3 (1983). ((Gary North, Honest Reporting as Heresy: My Response to Christianity Today (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), 7. North and the Tyler Theonomists have attempted to add a fifth major tenet, the covenant concept as the key to the Bible, history, and Christian living, but there is not general agreeemtn among Theonomists about this. Cf. the citation in this footnote.))
As we begin a preliminary assessment of Theonomy, we will comment further on these self-confessed distinctives of Christian Reconstruction.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.