A Christian leader recently approached me. He has grown acquainted for some time with Christian Reconstruction and Postmillennialism. He wants to know more. He is a pastor and teacher, and leader of a small Christian college. He asked me to provide him a reading list of Reconstructionist literature. I agreed to provide a sort of guided reading list.
Once I had written him back, finally, I realized this may be helpful to a good number of people—leaders and laymen, moms and homeschoolers alike. So, I am going to share a considerable part of what I wrote him.
(Keep in mind, a guided reading list of Christian Reconstruction is a different animal that the listing of “books that have most influenced me”—although some of the books on each list will be the same.)
A Few Considerations
Before I get to the actual list (below), let me make a few notes which may be helpful to the reader.
First, making such a list is difficult mainly because the body of literature is so vast that where to begin and how to proceed in a linear fashion can be difficult to determine. “Converts” usually come in by random association with one book and then just start reading others they seem interested in. Ironically, it seems no one has ever asked for anything like a guided reading list before, so we have to start almost from scratch in making one, and the volume of writings is actually quite enormous. One reason I wrote Restoring America was to try to tie a lot of the thought together in one place. I succeeded to some extent, but there is so much more to do and say.
Further, a reading list will vary for each individual depending upon their background, maturity, and interest. Also, age is a factor. I would give a different intro and track to someone just beginning our literature as a high school kid than say a 50-year old businessman or Christian school teacher or professor. All things considered, what is “Introductory” for some people may be “Advanced” for others, and vice versa.
Then, there are some differences among the major writers in our movement: most differences are slight but a couple are significant. Among the significant differences, at least one is very important. So let me begin with some generalities regarding authors:
R. J. Rushdoony (“Rush”) is the godfather of the Christian Reconstruction movement. He had a very rare and profound intellectual gift. There may never be another like him. Anything he wrote is worth reading, and some books like Institutes of Biblical Law and Foundations of Social Order will be required reading, along with several others. Nevertheless, he was more of an essayist than a systematizer, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it leaves work to be done. Well, one man can’t do it all anyway. More importantly, I think he made a couple important mistakes (I’ll mention in a moment). These “mistakes,” however, detract nothing from the immense and fundamental importance of his main contribution.
Gary North was influenced strongly by Rush. He also has rare intellectual gift but in a little more nuanced way. Rush’s learning was very broad, collective, and thematic; North has tended to be more focused—filling in important gaps left by Rush, going further, making important corrections, and giving more precise application, especially in the fields of economics and history.
The corrections are where I side with North rather than Rush. Rush’s view of family and patriarchy was was one area where he left Old Testament emphases, or perceived emphases, in place and should not have. That view has allowed lots of problems, not the least of which was the extreme version popularized by a couple of ministries which have now brought shame on theonomy and Christian Reconstruction by their association with it. This is the one very important difference I mentioned. It is crucial to get right at the outset, and for that reason, one needs to read North’s little critique Baptized Patriarchalism. Another bad association of this view has been the so-called “kinist” movement, which is a racist. It also gains the attention and admiration of some Christian Identity adherents who are even more overt racists. So we have these damaging associations to deal with. Rush would not have held any of their views, but his theology of the family lent itself to the problem of guilt by association.
The other larger area of difference between Rush and North would be in their views of the Constitution and the framing era of American History. This is important but less crucial, and can be given secondary priority unless it is of express interest to you (as it is to me). Rush still saw the Constitution as belonging fully to the Christian heritage of America; in some ways he is right, but North sees it compromised as a product of America’s departure from that heritage and of the influence of the Enlightenment. I believe North is more correct here, though it is a very unpopular position among Conservatives. You can read North’s work in this regard to this in Political Polytheism which includes an appendix specifically critiquing Rushdoony on the Constitution. You can see some expanded work in North’s Conspiracy in Philadelphia. Either way, it should not distract us from working toward the same goal of restoring America to biblical foundations.
In general, anything from North is important to read.
Greg Bahnsen was also a rare intellect, and while not as original and profound, was probably more intense and detailed than either Rush or North. He took two major emphases in Rush and ran with them to their limits: God’s Law and Van Til’s apologetics. His two big books on those topics are great reading, but are advanced: Theonomy in Christian Ethics and Van Til’s Apologetic. He has more entry-level work for both as well: By This Standard and Always Ready: Direction for Defending the Faith. He also has considerable essays and articles on various topics, and a huge body of audio material on every topic imaginable available through Covenant Media Foundation, www.cmfnow.com.
Gary North published several other authors back in the days of his Institute for Christian Economics (ICE): George Grant, James Jordan, Kenneth Gentry, Ray Sutton, Peter Leithart, and others. What they wrote that was published by ICE is important to read, but since then most of them have turned to pastoral duties or other interests. Some of their non-ICE and later writings I would simply not recommend as Christian Reconstructionist literature for various reasons. Having Gary North as an editor and publisher seemed to make a world of difference.
One “list” I could give you would simply be Gary’s “FreeBooks” website. Look and start wherever you like. All of his books are posted online for free. Some are still available in hard copy if you look around: http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/sidefrm2.htm. In my list below, I link to the books available on Gary’s site.
Since that time, North has completed his economic commentary on the Bible (some of the older versions are on the freebooks page, but the new versions are superior). Trust me, “economic” does not fully describe it. It covers many other worldview topics and is always worth consulting. The series is posted for free here: http://www.garynorth.com/public/department158.cfm. AV is planning on having a much more user-friendly version of these up in the not-to-distant future, to be linked to our Worldview Study Bible (pray for the day!).
Ray Sutton wrote one of the most important books of all, harmonizing biblical theology and systematic theology to produce a true covenant theology. It is called That You May Prosper: Dominion by Covenant, and it has become the foundation of much of what North and I, as well as others, do today. Anyone interested in the movement should start with this.
In addition to the main list below, Gary North published two series of books that are important. The first was a ten-volume series of laymen-level books called The Biblical Blueprints Series. Each volume pertained to one topic like government, money, economics, family, education, political action, wealth and poverty, etc. Each one contained biblical analysis and a second section on practical steps that could be taken in family, church, and state. Some parts of these reflect the 1980s when they were written, but mostly their practical tips are still practical. I won’t list these out separately, but you can find them all on Gary’s FreeBooks site as well and they are indicated as “Biblical Blueprints Series” in their subtitles. (My Restoring America is something like a one-volume version of that earlier project.)
The second series is even more important. It was a 4-volume series entitled Christianity and Civilization. The third volume is the most important, but the others are very good as well. They are all available from FreeBooks or from American Vision’s Store in Kindle, Nook, or iBook as well:
The main list which follows is not necessarily in linear order, although within each main topic the books are roughly in a good reading order. Also, you don’t necessarily need to read all the books at any one level within a topic. If you feel you’ve “got it” and are ready to move on, feel free to so do.
One more thing: there is tons of material besides this list—tons of other books, journals, articles, and old newsletters. I hope all this helps and breeds lots of fruit.
(Books with hyperlinks are available online, though those not linked may be also and I simply have not found the link. A couple books are listed in more than one category because they fit both. Books available in the AV Store had an additional “purchase” link for that purpose.)
Gary North (editor), Foundations of Christian Scholarship
R. J. Rushdoony, “The Nature of the American System,” (Chapter 1), and “Appendix 1: Localism and the Police Power,” and “Appendix 2: Localism, the School and the Church,” in his book The Nature of the American System (rest of the book is less important).
Gary DeMar, God and Government (older 3 vols, or newer one-volume edition) (purchase)
Ray Sutton, Second Chance
Joel McDurmon, “Education,” Chapter 1 in Restoring America
R. J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education
Greg L. Bahsen (Ken Gentry editor), Pushing the Antithesis (from a Sunday School series) (purchase)
Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Direction for Defending the Faith
Joel McDurmon, Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice (purchase)
Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith
Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis