Dominion Files (3) Recon world in meltdown

Every now and then the Christian Reconstructionist world goes crazy on whether Bojiday Marinov is a false teacher (he is) and a danger to the church (he is).  I never could figure out why Recons defend him.  His articles about God’s law and Christendom aren’t really unique.  Recons write on little else, so it’s hard to see what makes him special.  He doesn’t have leadership qualities, as he blocks anyone who might disagree with him. So why does everyone rally behind him?  And this isn’t just the average facebooker.  Established institutions like American Vision not only have not condemned him and warned the faithful, they still promote his articles.

And then it dawned on me.  There is no visible leadership in the Recon world, and that is important.  Recons need a few strong figures to keep the group from splitting every six years.  There just isn’t someone on the level of Bahnsen or North or Rushdoony (and Rushdoony, being under God’s judicial sanctions, hadn’t written anything of note after 1980).  Yes, Gary Demar has written good books. But I’m talking about the younger generation.  You will see a few primers published, and they might even be good, but that’s not on the level of the earlier generation. (To be fair, it isn’t intended to be).

They have to defend Marinov because there is no one else.

The North-Rushdoony Split on Church Membership (Dominion Files: 2)

My good friend Kevin Johnson correctly challenged some reconstructionists on church membership.  They are devotees of Rushdoony, accepting even the worst aspects of his position.  That reminded me of an old North book, Westminster’s Confession, where he identified the basis of the split in Christian Reconstructionist circles.

Mr. Rushdoony always gave me a nearly free hand regarding what went into it. Here is what really happened. I submitted to his Chalcedon Report my monthly essay. It relied on an insight regarding biblical symbolism in James Jordan’s 1981 Westminster Seminary master’s thesis. My essay discussed the background symbolism of the Passover.  Rushdoony sent it back and insisted that I rewrite it, saying that it was heretical, and even worse. I refused to rewrite it. I did not insist that he publish it; I just refused to rewrite it. He…had rejected one other article of mine in the past, so I was not too concerned.
He refused to let the matter rest. He challenged me to make my theological position clear, to prove to him that it was not heretical. I then wrote an extended defense. He still said it was heretical. He then said thatJordan and I would have to recant in writing, and also agree in writing never to publish our essays in any form, before he would agree that we were no longer heretical. When we refused, he submitted a protest to our church elders informing them of our heresy, and asking them to discipline us both. When the church sent the essay (and my extended defense of it) to other theologians, including Westminster Seminary’s John Frame, they replied that it was somewhat peculiar but certainly not heretical. The then elders asked Mr. Rushdoony to submit formal charges against us regarding the specific heresy involved. He refused. They also reminded him that he was not a member of any local congregation, and therefore was not subject to discipline himself should his accusations prove false. He blew up when challenged on this. He then publicly fired me and Jordan from Chalcedon, announcing our dismissal without explanation in the Chalcedon Report. This surprised Jordan, since he was not
even aware he was employed by Chalcedon, not having received money from Chalcedon in years.
My full essay, “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb,” was later published in Geneva  Ministries’ Christianity and Civilization, No.4 (1985), and sank without a trace. I have never received a single letter about it, pro or con. The “crisis ofthe essay” was clearly a tempest in a teapot. But it points to the underlying tension which Mr. Clapp refers to. What is this disagreement all about? It is Tyler’s disagreement with Mr. Rushdoony about the requirement of local church attendance and taking the Lord’s Supper. We think all
Christians need to do both. The Tyler church practices weekly communion. In contrast, Mr. Rushdoony has refused to take Holy Communion for well over a decade, nor does he belong to or attend a local church. This underlying difference of opinion finally exploded over a totally peripheral issue (334-336).



Dominion Files, no. 1 (the break up of the recons)

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

  1. The Tyler Group
  2. The Bahnsen Group
  3. 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.