Chuck Colson bent over backwards yesterday defending Rick Perry from the dreaded label “theocrat.” He says,
“Theocrat,” and related words like “Dominionist” and “Christianist,” are the latest in a series of epithets directed at Christians who insist that their faith is not merely a private matter. Suggesting Christians want to impose biblical law on civil society is an attempt to make a comparison between us and people like the Mullahs in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
I couldn’t applaud him more for a critique of the left’s abuse of epithet. The problem is, he’s got a few things terribly backward. He in fact is promoting a convenient lie in the process.
Those who read my article on Seven Mountain Dominionism (7MD) yesterday will understand the problem. Especially when they understand that Perry’s campaign welcoming party—the great Texas prayer rally called “The Response”—was planned, organized, and executed by 7MD leaders as a 7MD/NAR event.1
Therefore, the journalists and other leftists are rightfully in this case applying the charge of theocrat (as Colson uses the term) to Perry and those with whom he has chosen to associate religiously. These are the very guys to wish to capture the top seats of power throughout culture and then superimpose their version of values on society. To the degree that Perry is milking the support of the leaders of the Seven Mountain Dominion plot, and especially if he actually agrees with them in their agenda, he deserves the label more than anyone.
This 7MD, with its generic label of “Dominion Theology” can easily get confused with traditional “Dominion” as taught by us Christian Reconstructionists. That’s why I wrote exposing the tyrannical side of 7MD yesterday.
But Colson—an old evangelical enemy of traditional Christian Reconstruction, or theonomy—tries to deflect the criticism of Perry & Co. by insulting his old scapegoat once again. He writes,
Now, there are such things as Christian theocrats, usually called “theonomists,” but they’re a tiny fringe. The people being labeled “theocrats” and “Dominionists” by the press today don’t want the United States governed by a Christian equivalent of sharia law.
But Colson has got things backwards and upside down. As I explained yesterday, it is the 7MD people—the Perry event-planners—that are indeed close (if anyone is) to a Christian version of sharia, the Mullahs and the Taliban.2 Theonomists, on the other hand, desire less civil government power—less intrusive government.
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I also mentioned yesterday how these 7MD leaders try to hide their true agenda behind a happy face, openness, and lots of warm-fuzzies. This is exactly the game Colson plays for them here: for him, Perry and Co. “simply believe that their religious positions and moral convictions don’t disqualify them from the public square” and “insist that their faith is not merely a private matter.” But as I showed yesterday, the devil is in the details. We need to look beyond the happy face in order to see it, even if this means questioning the integrity of public statements made by accepted evangelico-political leaders.
Heck, what am I saying? Especially if it means questioning the integrity of statements made by accepted evangelico-political leaders!
Colson vs. Colson
Colson has a history of split-personality in regard to theonomy and God’s law. Gary DeMar documented two difference faces of Colson in regard to theonomy and Christian Reconstruction. Colson was quite nasty, I thought, when interviewed by Bill Moyers’ God and Politics.3 In fact, I thought Moyers was much fairer to the movement than was Colson and another evangelical leader who was interviewed, Norm Geisler. We were informed by Colson that theonomists, for example, believed in salvation through legislation—an absurd and uninformed charge.
Yet consider how Colson himself advocates exactly what theonomists have always called for:
Recently I addressed the Texas legislature. . . . I told them that the only answer to the crime problem is to take nonviolent criminals out of our prisons and make them pay back their victims with restitution. This is how we can solve the prison crowding problem.
The amazing thing was that afterwards they came up to me one after another and said things like, “That’s a tremendous idea. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that?” I had the privilege of saying to them, “Read Exodus 22. It is only what God said to Moses on Mount Sinai thousands of years ago.”4
DeMar provides other examples where Colson argues for “revealed law” (not “natural law”) as the supreme standard for civil legislation.5 And note above that Colson says such recourse to the Mosaic case laws is “the only answer” to the problem.
Granted, Colson was certainly unaware how theonomic he was being in this appeal to Exodus 22. So he continues to think like us when it benefits him, and yet he takes swipes at us—even though by now he surely knows better—when it benefits those he supports politically.
Nevertheless, if theonomists are to be called theocrats as Colson states, then he simultaneously brands himself with that label, for he has promoted the exact same legal standard we have in these cases.
Mr. Colson, you can’t have it both ways. Either change your standard of law, own up to the label, or quit trying to use theonomy as your public scapegoat. Any other course of action on your part is false witness.
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Will the real freedom fighters please stand up?
Another problem—and theonomists have been quite consistent in stating this (I among them)—is that there really is little difference in the degree of centralized, top-down government control between Republicans and Democrats in general. Thus, it is equally easy for each to swipe at the other as tyrants like the Taliban. Colson does this to Millbank (the author of the “theocrat” label) at the end of his article:
I guess it’s the Taliban and the secular elite who are alike in one way; that is, they believe some ideas are too dangerous to express in public.
Funny, this is the exact same likeness Millbank himself finds in Perry: “the supposedly libertarian Perry . . . informs us that ‘Sometimes the rules must protect society at large at the expense of individual expression when that expression is deemed harmful to others and society at large.’”
It appears, then, that the Taliban, the secular elite, and the Republican elite are all alike in the same way. This is why Colson has to paint his man as a loving caring servant just trying to preserve his faith against a secular onslaught in the public square; and he finds a convenient scapegoat in Christian Reconstruction in order to facilitate this public swindle.
The problem is, he has to bear false witness in order to do it.
Ironically, Millbank’s article really isn’t even about theocracy so much, though he did throw out the label (wrongly for what little he dug up). Colson seems to have missed the real point of the article, which is that for all of the talk of libertarian principles among supposedly TEA-Party friendly Perry, he is hardly a libertarian. Indeed, much the opposite—he is an establishment neocon-Republican of the Bush stripe and beyond. I think Millbank was self-gratuitous in applying the label “theocrat” based upon the evidence he presented, but whatever Perry may be in reality, he is definitely not a TEA-Party-type libertarian-conservative. Not even close. And that was Millbank’s main point.
Not only did Colson not even acknowledge that point, but he went so far as to throw the label “theocrat” onto the one dominionist group that does support the principles of liberty based on Scriptural exegsis and argument, and has done so for nearly forty years.
Let me be open: theocracy is an inescapable concept. The source of law in any given society is de facto that society’s God—whether it be the God of the Bible, Allah, or “the People,” or a dictator, or secular humanist elites. It doesn’t matter, whoever defines your legal code and the punishments and/or rewards for adhering to that code is inescapably your supreme being. So we are all theocrats, even leftists and atheists, and even evangelicals like Colson—we just argue over the correct theos and what His law is. Choose this day whom you will serve.
Meanwhile, Perry also appropriates the 7MD language of a “tipping point,” in which they believe all they need is to gain a tipping point of between three and five percent of key positions of influence in the nation and they can control policy, etc. “Though he speaks now as a small-government conservative, Perry argues in his book: ‘We are close to a tipping point in American society.’”
So, if by “theocrat” we are to understand someone who wants to grab seats of power in order to superimpose their view on society by force, then there’s no better candidate for that label than Perry, except maybe Obama. Colson seems to think Perry’s version is better. I think it would be a different piper with the same general sheet music.
After all, it was Colson, not theonomists, who advocated the possibility for violent revolution, overthrow of rulers, and revolt against against the government not so long ago. We theonomists, Christian Reconstructionists, theocrats, whatever you will call us, have not gone that far.
And before you ignore these truths once again, Mr. Colson, please consider how far we have gone in the opposite tendency—toward the advocacy of peace, preaching, and peaceful social change. The following was published in 1988:
Our position is not that we take over the world for Christ. Let us get this clear. It is not the Christian Reconstructionist view that you take over anything for Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ said in Matthew 28 that “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
Sure Moses suffered, but then God delivered all the spoils of Egypt into his hand and delivered Israel out of the land.
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We were given the example of Daniel. Yes, Daniel didn’t go in to try to take over everything by force. But on the last night of the existence of Babylon, who was senior in command? Who was the one they had to come to, the only one with the answers to what MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN meant? It was Daniel. And when he said what it was, and he prophesied what would happen, he had the chain of authority—as second in command in the nation—put around his neck.
That’s the basis of the Reconstructionist position. Faithfulness. Preaching the gospel. Understanding in a world of confusion what the principles of righteous action are. Faithful preaching of those righteous rules. And as best we can, to spend our lives and our talent and our money to be good testimonies before the world in the name of Jesus Christ as His representatives. That’s all we’re calling for. Righteousness in the name of Christ before this fallen world.6
That’s the basis of Christian Reconstruction: Faithfulness. This has always been true. The 7MD guys are trying to present themselves as that, but underneath I don’t believe they are. Colson is trying to present Perry as that, and in the process he’s throwing theonomists under the bus. But too bad for him, he’s already got so much of his own baggage under there that we theonomists won’t fit.
- The original website for the event appears to have been blocked (scrubbed) from web, so it is difficult now to verify the organizers of the event. There are, however, enough secondary sources out there to be certain.(↩)
- They are in fact worse in that they are charismatic and seek charismatic legislators and rulers who are informed by their private revelations—not objective biblical law.(↩)
- I saw this on an old VHS copy. I have not seen it anywhere online, except in a small excerpt which does not include the Colson interview.(↩)
- Charles Colson, “The Kingdom of God and Human Kingdoms,” James M. Boice, ed. Transforming Our World: A Call to Action (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1988), 154–55. Quoted in Gary DeMar, “Theological Schizophrenia,” in Greg Bahnsen and Kenneth Gentry, House Divided: The Break-up of Dispensational Theology (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), 357.(↩)
- See “Theological Schizophrenia,” in House Divided, 356–9.(↩)
- Gary North, quoted in Gary DeMar, The Debate Over Christian Reconstruction (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, and Atlanta, GA: American Vision Press, 1988), 211–212.(↩)