I did theonomy files on my old blog and it did help some make headway of the movement. It was more focused on why I didn’t agree with theonomy, yet why most of the Reformed responses to it were incompetent. This will focus on the actual strengths of the old Reconstruction movement and what the church can expect from them today.
But let’s get to the main part: why did it seem to not go anywhere? The movement was never really organized, and it never had support from any of the churches. That doomed it to parachurch status, always a terrible situation. I can identify at least three different strands of the Reconstructionist movement
- The Tyler Group
- The Bahnsen Group
- The Rushdoony gruop
The Tyler Group
While it had its own nuttiness at times, the damage was never long-term. After Chilton fell ill and died, and Jordan moved to Florida, and Sutton became Anglican, I think Gary North just put an end to it. And while North may have lost some credibility on Y2K, he has done productive work at the Mises Institute.
The Bahnsen Group
This is Gentry and a few others who either stayed in the OPC or stayed relatively good churchmen. The irony is that while they were violently rejected among bourgeois Presbyterians, they voted Republican and did strict grammatical-historical exegesis. In other words, they were normal where it mattered. These guys are more interested in theonomy as a sub-discipline of ethics. In other words, whether or not theonomy is true doesn’t depend (nor does it cause) postmillennialism or Christian Reconstruction.
The Rushdoony group
Sure. Rushdoony is a great speaker and his early output is impressive. In fact, I think he wrote one of the better books on Van Til the theologian. But where he went wrong, he went wrong. It’s not so much the dietary laws that bother me. It’s the over-emphasis on the family. Today when feminists accuse someone of patriarchy, they mean any male who hasn’t committed suicide. But in Rushdoony’s case, it really is patriarchy. I think Gary North refuted him here.
And after the mid 1970s his literary output wasn’t of the same quality as before. You just don’t see books on the same level as The One and the Many (probably his best book). And I think North is right: God put judicial sanctions on Rushdoony because R. began giving himself the Lord’s Supper.
And his disciples haven’t done much today. Doug Phillips started a movement, but it has (praise be to thee, O Christ) collapsed do to his fornicating on one of his servant-maids. Faith for all of Life runs the same rotation of articles–gubmint bad, beware of statism, etc. All good points, mind you, but we need to move to the level of analysis.
Yes, I hear you say, but what about the Federal Vision guys? Here is where it gets interesting. James Jordan, the godfather of FV, represented only one branch of the early Recons. And the FVers today who venerate Rushdoony only do that because they recognize his influence. The Young Turk FVers do not care, if they aren’t openly hostile. And as an aside, I don’t think Jordan’s typological method necessitates Federal Vision.
So where do I fit in? I don’t know. I reject FV. I like the 5 Point Covenant Model. I’m not much enamored of current calls to “Reconstruct the Republic.” Maybe they will work. I hope they do. But they won’t work as long as the FED is still up and George Soros is calling the shots. I don’t consider myself a theonomist, though most of the criticisms of theonomy are bad. I don’t know if I am postmil. I don’t think I am. Right now I am a tentative partial-preterist.