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Thread. Theonomy/Reconstructionism (overlapping movements, with distinguishing interests but sufficiently similar to be treated as one thing) is a controversial ideology, which has been rejected by most orthodox Reformed churches and people.
Nevertheless, it has succeeded in gaining adherents for two reasons: 1) it seems biblical on the surface; 2) it offers clear-cut answers and certainty to difficult questions.
The most controversial feature of theonomy is its conviction that the Mosaic civil laws and penalties should be reinstated. this view contradicts Westminster Confession 19. 4.
The heart of Reconstructionism is its belief that there is a coming social collapse out of which Christians will reconstruct society along biblical lines. they have written a great deal about what this future society should look like.
what unites both aspects of this movement (theonomy & reconstructionism) is their belief in a postmillennial eschatology, that the world is/will be mostly Christianized/converted before the return of Christ.
Postmillennialism is difficult to support from the NT so they tend to argue from the OT in a way that is not much different from the way Premillennialists do. Both anticipate earthly golden ages.
Since the Reformed/Presby have mostly rejected their hermeneutic (way of reading Scripture) & conclusions, they thrive sociologically by recruiting new converts from the fundamentalist world. They are like fly traps for socially conservative Christians in transition.
Conservative Christians who have discovered the doctrine of predestination oftem seem to discover theonomy/reconstructionism at the same time. It’s a toll-booth through which many converts pass.
It’s attractive bec it’s a short-step from where they are, it scratches itches, it promises positive social changes but doesn’t ask much change in assumptions or outlook. It’s a halfway house for fundamentalists.
Eg many (not all) theonomists/reconstructionists are paedocommunionists (ie, practice infant communion). This is attractive bec it allows Baptists who are becoming Reformed to continue a familiar thought pattern: conflating the signs of initiation & renewal.
Eg, those emerging from fundamentalism are leaving a cocoon of formal & informal rules, which provides structure & comfort. TheonomyRecon has lots of rules (mostly for those bad people out there). It’s a new cocoon.
Fundamentalism features authoritarian leadership structures. Theonomy/Recon iffers the same. Theo/Recon communities tend to gather around strong leaders w/all the answers. Eg Rushdoony, Bahnsen, North, DeMar, Chilton, Wilson.
Ex-fundamentalists want to “do something” about society & the theo/recons have a plan. They have even set up their own alternative communities, most famously in Tyler, TX & Moscow, ID. The former collapsed notoriously but the latter continues to grow.
Source for the latter: moscowid.net
The alt comm being created in Moscow is a cocoon. It’s safe, mostly homogenous. They have a plan, to take over/transform Moscow, to establish the American Redoubt (fortress) against the secularists.
Fundamentalists like to fight. The adjective “fighting fundy“ used to be common. they are attracted to heroic figures who “fight back.“ This is the attraction of people like Rushdoony, Bahnsen, & Wilson.
Ditto for satellites like Apologia Church. They are “doing something” (socially, eg re abortion). They fight back. The name of the church signals their orientation: defense. This is attractive to migrants from fundamentalism.
Like fundamentalists, however, they are suspicious of existing institutions and procedures, e.g. traditional schools/educational process. Apologia is typical. The pastor & most visible elder have circumvented the traditional process.
So, in the eyes of fundamentalists, who are suspicious of traditional institutions, they are untainted by “liberalism.“ For them a nontraditional approach to education and ordination is a feature not a bug.
This is also true for leaders in the movement such as Rushdoony (who himself followed a traditional educational path through UC Berkeley etc.) who decried public education as liberal and “Messianic” (he wasn’t entirely wrong about that).
From a Confessional Reformed/Presby point of view, however, the whole enterprise is a cul-de-sac. There is at least one Theo/Recon Presby denom but the confessional churches (NAPARC) aren’t Theo/Recon. We’re also not liberal (eg WCC/NCC) socially or theologically.
We also believe in traditional educational structures and paths to ordination. We expect our ministers to be educated properly, with a BA or BS from recognizable school and and MDiv from a seminary (preferably accredited).
For fundamentalists, this might make us “compromised“ because our schools do cooperate with (here comes a scare word) “secular” authorities. But that cooperation is not compromise and opting out of the system isn’t necessarily a virtue.
The educational tradition our churched follow was not set by Dewey but by the medieval & Reformation church.
I first encountered the TheoRecon when I first met a Reformed congregation. my experience was typical. I was in the RC US and I watched them argue over TheoRecon as they absorbed a group of ex-fundy ex-Baptists into their ministry.
None were sem-educated. Most were heavily influenced by TheoRecon. The RCUS had to do seminary in their assemblies re bible translations & theorecon.
They produced this report:

More later.
Back briefly. Theonomy is attractive in the way Romanism is attractive. It offers a place to put implicit faith. The Romanist can't explain the contradictions of Romanism (e.g., popes v anti-popes) but he need not. He has implicit faith in the church.
TheoRecon offers a similar sort of authority/certainty and location for implicit faith. The average laity doesn't know North from DeMar. He does know that Bahnsen defended the faith against unbelievers and opposed secularism.
He doesn't quite understand the theory or the assumptions on which the whole enterprise is based but the rabbis (Gary, Gary, Rousas, David, Doug et al) seem to know and that's good enough for him. He trusts them.
After all, as I just read in an Amazon review, Bahnsen graduated summa cum laude and earned a PhD from USC, ergo his arguments must be right. This, of course, is not only a non sequitur but more fundamentally, it's the same sort of appeal to authority we find in Romanism.
In place of popes he has rabbis and even a sort of Talmud in Rushdoony's Institutes of Biblical Law. So, in that way, it's also like some forms of Judaism. It has lots of answers and rules and all that gives certainty, comfort.
This is quintessential QIRC - the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty, the conviction that someone must know THE answer what ails us. We CAN know. If we just did x (apply Mosaic judicial laws) then...
The rabbis have their own definition of "general equity," which, of course, have nothing to do with how the term was understood in the 16th and 17th centuries but to the laity it all has the veneer of learning about it.
Remember, in fundamentalism, credential replace actual learning. That's why they have their own (mostly unaccredited or self-accredited) schools. It gives folk a place, which looks legit, in which to place their implicit faith. Thus "Dr So and So" is important.
Never mind whence the "doctorate" (or the MA or the BA for that matter). Don't look to closely. Don't ask too many questions. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"
More later. Perhaps.
Here's a great example of the "doing something" mentality:
"Have you been out with Mr. Durbin watched any videos of him or his flock out fighting the “Culture Wars” in the midst of the mission field? "
Not linking/quote-tweeting bec that's not the point. Background: I was marching against abortion in 1987-88. In front of clinics and hospitals. Been there. Done that.
Done graciously, it's fine. Not opposed at all. I favor the death penalty, btw:

But like most traditional Reformed theologians, I defend it on the basis of *natural law* rather than the OT judicial laws. Most TheoRecons are about as adverse to natural law as most Barthians. It's a feature of the system.
There's a lot more to be said. I'll return later to talk about the distinction between theocracy and theonomy.
*too* closely
On theocracy and theonomy. It is a favorite argument of theonomists to equate the two. They are two distinct things. Virtually every Christian, with a few exceptions, prior to the 18th century, was a theocrat of some sort.
By theocrat I mean one who seeks state enforcement of religious orthodoxy. The magisterial Reformers in the 16th century were theocrats. Their orthodox successors were theocrats. Even some Anabaptists were theocrats, when it suited them.
Most Americans don't think much about the English Civil War, the Dutch Eighty Years War (with Spain), and the general European Thirty Years War but they were devastating. They gave opportunity for those who stayed and those who left (e.g., Pilgrims et al)
to think about alternatives. It took away for those alternatives to coalesce but they did. By the mid-18th century, alternatives were developing, principled religious pluralism became a genuine alternative. It became the American answer to endless religious wars.
Theonomy, however, isn't just theocracy. It's a very specific sort of theocracy. It seeks the (re)imposition of the Israelite Judicial laws, the very laws which even the (theocratic) Westminster Divines confessed to be "expired" except for the (natural law) general equity thereof
The American experiment may be wrong but the TheoRecons haven't shown it, from Scripture, to be wrong. What they are selling (BTW, this is true of both right-wing TheoRecons and left-wing, yes, there are left-wing theonomists) is an eschatology, a vision of the future.
Like Marxism, this eschatological vision is intoxicating. It doesn't exist. It's never existed but it might, if a sufficient number of people did/said/prayed x (whatever, x is, it doesn't matter). It's a vision of something bigger than one's self and better.
It's not otherworldly and in that respect it's particularly attractive to Millennials, who, after 9/11 (like the generation after WWI) want to change *this world* It's a vision of a renewed earth. That's a powerful vision.
Left-wing theonomy? Yes. There's a certain coalescence happening. heidelblog.net/2015/11/refuge…

It's all about a highly-realized eschatology. This is another reason (forgive me Baptists), Baptists are attracted to it.
Their ecclesiology is driven by a highly-realized eschatology. One cannot really participate in the church until one already has what the church offers (new life). That's all about eschatology. Now, transfer that to the state/civil life.
It wouldn't seem like a very Baptist thing to do, since they have a long history of persecution (of which they are quick to remind us) but in America, where history doesn't seem to matter, Baptists are attracted to a highly-realized eschatology applied to the state.
But this isn't just a state-church we're contemplating. It's the state-enforcement of the OT judicial laws/punishments. I doubt that most have given this a lot of thought but the theonomists have. They have a plan for your rooftop or whatever the modern equivalent might be.
"General equity" understood historically (as opposed to the innovative definitions employed by the TheoRecons) is going to be messy. It's not going to satisfy the QIRCy desire for absolute certainty on difficult questions. It's a framework, a question more than an answer.
General equity/natural law means that faithful, well-intentioned, Christians are going to disagree on legislative and policy solutions.
Recognizing the distinction between OT Israel and every other state means that we can't identify post-canonical states (which identification was done commonly under theocratic assumptions) with God's Israel. It means that we live in-between the 1st & 2nd advents.
It means a fair bit of muddling through and getting things wrong and trying to do better. That's a much tougher eschatology to sell than an earthly glory-age.

Finis (I think).
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