Last night I returned from Dallas, where Tommy Ice and I debated Gary North and Gary DeMar on the subject of "Christian Reconstruction: A Deviant Theology?" Video or audio cassette tapes should be available soon for those interested. Tommy is an Austin, Texas pastor and a former Reconstructionist who knows their beliefs inside and out. North is co-founder (with his father-in-law, R.J. Rushdoony) of the Reconstruction movement, and DeMar is co-author of the book, The Reduction of Christianity: Dave Hunt's Theology of Cultural Surrender.
Tommy concentrated on the Reconstructionists' failure to support with a single Bible verse their postmillennial eschatology (that we are now in the Millennium with Satan bound and the church gradually taking over the world). Ten years ago, when he was one of North's admirers, Tommy had asked North what scriptures he had to support his eschatology. North made no reply and continued to stare at the floor without answering as Tommy repeated the question. Tommy suggested that Reconstructionists still have no biblically based eschatology. North's response at the debate was that he has published David Chilton's Days of Vengeance, which purports to show that the Olivet Discourse and almost the entire Book of Revelation were fulfilled in A.D.70 with the destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Titus. Rather than attempting to support this incredible thesis with a verse-by-verse exegesis, however, Chilton simply imposes upon the Bible the reconstructionist presuppositions, which could never be derived from the text by any reasonable interpretation.
My approach was to show that their view of "dominion" is not only deviant but the sandy foundation upon which the entire structure of reconstructionism is built. In Genesis:1:26-29, God tells man that, as a higher order of creation made in God's image, he has been given dominion over the earth and everything upon it: the trees, herbs, fish, fowl, animals and all other life forms. Reconstructionists draw four false inferences from these verses—inferences that simply do not follow from the text:
Upon this faulty foundation of "dominion theology" (of which Rushdoony is said to be "the father"), the entire reconstruction movement has been erected. Yet Psalm:8:6-8 confirms what we each know by experience (we still swat flies and eat chicken, etc.): that even after the Fall man retains his God-given dominion, which is simply a stewardship responsibility to care for the earth. Moreover, this scripture reaffirms what is also clear from Genesis:1:26-29—that "dominion" has nothing to do with ruling over other human beings, but is limited to the things God has made ("the works of thy hands...sheep and oxen...beast...fowl ...fish....").
Although Adam did not lose "dominion," he lost his relationship to God and his place in Eden. Our hope, however, is not for a return to that paradise. As "new creations in Christ Jesus" (2 Cor:5:17), we have been promised something far better—life in a new universe of absolute perfection into which sin and death can never enter. In contrast to Adam who died, we have eternal life and can never perish; and in contrast to the earthly God-visited paradise which Adam lost, we will dwell forever in the very presence of God in heaven—in the "Father's house of many mansions" (Jn:14:2), from which we will never be expelled. Therefore, to teach, as do the Reconstructionists, that Christ's redemptive work restores what Adam lost," is the very "reduction of Christianity" which they decry.
It is a further "reduction of Christianity" to suggest that the Great Commission calls us to reassert the allegedly lost "dominion" over this earth and its lower creatures. And it is a gross perversion to turn the Great Commission into a "cultural mandate" which assigns to the church the task of taking over the world to establish the kingdom of God before Christ returns. Yet this "dominion theology" is rapidly gaining ground among charismatics and evangelicals alike. One of the most disturbing examples is the Coalition on Revival (COR), which we mentioned in the February 1987 newsletter.
The false assumptions of "dominion theology" are built into the very foundation of COR. Its steering committee not only includes Reconstructionists such as North, Rushdoony and DeMar, but other dominion-oriented factions, including Earl Paulk-type kingdom/dominion advocates such as Maranatha's Robert Weiner, pastors John Giminez and "Bishop" John Meares; and shepherding leaders such as Bob Mumford and Dennis Peacocke. Their strong influence upon COR is quite evident. Oddly, the rest of COR's roster reads like a who's who of evangelical leaders, many of whom are probably not aware of the heavy reconstructionist/kingdom-dominion/shepherding influence in the COR Manifesto to which they have committed themselves. North boasts that although much of the COR leadership still profess to be premillennialists, they have in fact become what he calls "operational postmillennialists."
Going back to the debate, North and DeMar (because they cannot support postmillennialism with solid biblical exegesis) adopted the tactic of insisting that eschatology (the interpretation of prophecies concerning the last days) was not the issue at all, but that our real disagreement was over ethics. On the contrary, we believe as firmly as they that every area of the Christian's life belongs under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and that the conduct of Christians must be above reproach. We do not believe, however, that the unsaved world can be "Christianized" by getting it to "conform to biblical standards." Paul's explanation of why Israel failed to conform is conclusive: "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh..." (Rom:8:3). Moreover, even if this were possible, it would tend to provide sinners with a veneer of self-righteousness that would make it all the more difficult for them to see their need of Christ as Savior and Lord. Yet COR declares that the church has a "biblical mandate" to play a "leadership role with the world...transforming the world and influencing it to conform to biblical standards ...before Christ returns."
There were serious ethical problems we might have raised at the debate, such as Gary North's misrepresentations in his September 1987 ICE Newsletter. In it he stated that DeMar had sent me the manuscript for Reduction, offering me the opportunity to respond to it, and that I had "prudently declined." Yet North knew that it had been impossible for me to respond by the deadline they had set of August 12 (I only returned from a trip to the East Coast the night of August 11 and had to get ready to leave for three weeks in Europe on the 13th).
In his March 1988 American Vision newsletter, Gary DeMar named two large and prominent churches in Southern California in which he declared the debate would be held on April 12 and 16, when in fact neither church had ever agreed to host the debate. Then in his April 1988 newsletter DeMar wrote that "the debates we were going to have in California" had "been cancelled" because "the large churches and ministries that initially agreed to host the debates [there were no such "churches and ministries"] backed down after they saw the book [The Reduction of Christianity], because they realize that their position is biblically weak." Such fabrications stand in sharp contrast to the impressive talk at the debate in Dallas about ethics and Christianizing secular institutions through inspiring the ungodly to imitate the godly lives of Christians.
The attempt to fit Scripture into the false mold of "dominion theology" has created strange theories and contradictions. We are accused of "defeatist eschatology" and gross "pessimism" for believing that Christ will soon rapture His bride home, marry her in heaven, then return with her and the armies of heaven to rescue Israel, conquer His enemies and rule this earth in righteousness and peace for 1,000 years. Yet their teaching that it will require a minimum of 36,600 years (and perhaps hundreds of thousands of years) of continuing ungodliness and billions dying without Christ as Christians gradually take over the world before our Lord can return is called "an eschatology of victory." They will not allow Christ to be present to rule over the millennial kingdom. Although He was personally humiliated, rejected and crucified upon earth, they will not allow Him to be exalted, honored and triumphant upon earth by personally reigning during the Millennium. Since "dominion" is our "assigned task," it would be "defeat" for Christ to intervene personally from heaven; only if we do it all in His absence is it "victory," by their definition.
In fact, they say, Christ has already come. His promise to "come quickly" was the comforting assurance to the Christians in A.D.65 that He would return in the person of the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem! Nor is the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19 a future event for Christ's bride to eagerly anticipate, but a symbolic expression of the new meaning in the Eucharist since Israel's excommunication by God when "Christ" destroyed Jerusalem in A.D.70. Israel has allegedly been replaced by the church.
Gary North would have us become excited about the prospect that by the year 2000 "Christians and [non-Christian] conservatives will be swept into most elective U.S. offices by ridiculous margins." There is such enthusiasm about the next Christian march on Washington and the hope of taking over this world that the church has lost its vision of heaven. I think it is high time that the bride of Christ became excited about that heavenly marriage and the prospect of seeing and being with her Bridegroom forever. Oh, that a great cry would arise from the church: "We love you, Lord Jesus! Please come and take us home! The Spirit and the Bride say, Come! Come, Lord Jesus, come!" TBC