A few days ago, a reader asked about the best way to respond to a critic of Theonomy / Dominion Theology, etc. He posted a link to a gotquestions.org article, “What is dominion theology / theonomy / Christian reconstructionism?” in which the authors describe us as “a great threat to biblical Christianity.”
A “great threat”? Really?
While I find the brief article too simplistic to be helpful for the topic, the site is popular enough it probably needs addressing. Here is a brief response.
A few good points
Let’s acknowledge up front that the article in question is intended only as a brief summary. We can give it grace in that regard. It was not intended to be thorough, and it suffers the shortcomings which any theological issue will suffer when treated in an overly-brief manner.
We can also acknowledge that it contains a good bit that is laudable. Quite often people accuse theonomists of desiring to impose all of Mosaic law today, including ceremonial laws. This article avoids that:
Theonomy is a post-millennial view believing that all of the moral laws contained in the Old Testament are yet binding today. . . . (the sacrificial and ceremonial laws having been fulfilled in the New Testament).
Likewise, how often have we heard critics accuse us of scheming for some kind of Christian Ayatollah or Taliban, or the popular understanding of dreaded “theocracy” like “sharia,” etc.? Unlike these critics, GotQuestions gets it right:
This is not a government system ruled by the church, but rather a government conformed to the Law of God.
These more accurate representations are great advances over many critics.
I do have a couple of quibbles. For example, consider the claim, “The principal goal, then, of dominion theology and Christian reconstructionism is political and religious domination of the world through the implementation of the moral laws, and subsequent punishments, of the Old Testament. . . .” The word “domination” carries a negative connotation that is unnecessary. Even if some careless Reconstructionist somewhere may have used it, it would hardly characterize the “principal goal” of any, let alone of the whole theological position or movement.
Secondly, even if we ironed out the rhetoric to something more acceptable, the second part of the statement comes across as inaccurate. The means of dominion is not law first. It must always and ever be made clear that the Gospel comes first.
Every one of the main authors of the movement has made this clear at some point, and some on multiple occasions. Rushdoony said it multiple times in many places. North said it. I have said it. Chilton said it. Others have, too. No widespread “dominion” or reconstruction of society in accord with God’s laws will occur unless there is first successful mass evangelism and/or revival.
That all said, GotQuestions does get close to this truth about us, too, in its opening paragraph: “Christian reconstructionism reasons that society will be reconstructed by the Law of God as preached in the gospel and the Great Commission.” Again, I am thankful for this much.
It’s the eschatology
So, with all of this mostly-right view, what in the world could they have against us as a major criticism? Why would they go on in the same very brief article to call our views “clearly unbiblical” and “a great threat to biblical Christianity.” Here is why:
Scripture clearly teaches a premillennial view of the Kingdom of God (Zechariah 14:4-9; Matthew 25:31-34), the “covenant of grace” is an extra-biblical construct, Israel and the Church are distinct throughout biblical history and prophecy, and God never commanded the Church to revamp society.
In short, this author/organization is strictly dispensational in theology. On those grounds, theonomy or Christian Reconstruction must be wrong. The present nature and outworking of Kingdom of God taught in Christian Reconstruction directly conflicts with the dispensational outlook. In their view, any social outworking of the Kingdom can only occur after Christ returns and sets up the “millennial reign.” We could note other differences as well, but this one is the most glaring.
This doctrine is so central and so crucial to the Dispensational Premillennial school of thought that any other doctrine which sees anything occurring today as a social outworking of the Kingdom of God must be interpreted as a strike against Christ himself. Therefore, it is a great threat to the church.
This single factor probably accounts for well over half of the hostility Christian Reconstruction has endured during its more recent expressions. The vast majority of Bible-believing Christians are either taught, or have absorbed through ecclesio-cultural osmosis, the premillennial outlook of things. We should expect no advance of the Kingdom in society today. We must only work to save souls while the world degenerates all around us. Kingdom advance can only take place when Christ physically returns.
Of course, if Reconstructionism is “clearly unbiblical” and “a great threat” for the reasons listed, so must every other view that does not share these dispensational distinctives. Every mainstream conservative view that accepts even basic covenant theology should fall under the same condemnation.
A powerful force
We can leave the full Scriptural refutation of this view to our broader work. Here it is only necessary to note it. In fact, it is my intention in this article to illustrate to you just exactly what a powerful force the mere thought of it really is. It is so pervasive that GotQuestions, a very popular Christian teaching forum, finds it sufficient merely to mention the doctrine in passing in order to refute Christian Reconstruction as “clearly unbiblical” and “a great threat to biblical Christianity.”
That point alone should alert you to the nature of the task before us. The vast majority of the conservative Christian world has some form of this “the kingdom is not yet” attitude. It need not be fully developed in doctrinal details or labels, and indeed in most cases it is not. Yet the vast majority of people influenced with this mentality will simply react to Reconstruction or Theonomy at the most fundamental level from their most basic understanding: “That can’t happen until Jesus comes back.”
This is part of the reason American Vision has put considerable effort into the eschatological question. Dispensationalism and premillennialism in general, much of amillennialism, and all watered-down forms of them, tend in the same direction. A giant biblical wake-up call is needed to inform millions of Christians, “You’ve been misled.” We need to show them the simple, but profound, nature of the deception:
Christ is on his throne now (Acts 2:32–36; Eph. 1:18–23; Heb. 1:13; 10:13). We are seated with him (Eph. 2:6). He has made us priests and kings, and we rule with him (Rev. 1:6; 5:10). The Great Commission includes discipling the nations, teaching them all his commandments (Matt. 28:18–20). Israel and the church are not separate, but Israel was the “church” in the Old Covenant, and the New Covenant church is the Israel of God in its fulfillment, both Jew and Gentile. We have come (already, now) to Mt. Zion (Heb. 12:22–24). Jesus now sits on his throne, waiting until his enemies are all defeated. He will not leave that spot to return one moment before that last enemy is destroyed (1 Cor. 15:25–26; Heb. 10:12–13).
For most theonomists and reconstructionists, these are very basic and old questions. For many newer ones, these are probably helpful points both to ponder for oneself and also to help with the interaction with others. Those influenced by the popular premillennial or dispensational outlook may want to ask themselves why the basic perspectives just outlined are so frequently neglected in what they’ve been taught.
Overall, GotQuestions provides far too simplistic a criticism of our views, but it will resonate strongly with people already influenced by their persuasion. While they get several things more correct than most critics, their main point of refutation is also their main shortcoming: they are wed to dispensational thinking. This thinking itself has crucial flaws. For us, that is a positive thing in a way. If your only problem with theonomy and Christian Reconstruction is on those grounds, that is very easy to fix. Let’s get busier fixing it!