Creepier Still

Apparently the Christian Reconstructionist movement, which is the theological basis for the neo-Confederate thinking behind the previously mentioned pro-slavery history booklet, is based on the theology of a Christian Reformed minister named Cornelius Van Til, who, like me, went to Calvin College. Reconstructionism itself was articulated by a fellow named Rushdoony, a student of his. Hip reconstructionists don’t call themselves that anymore, for the same reasons that Amway doesn’t call itself Amway anymore. The name took on a justifiable stink.

I am not sure what relationship the Christian Reformed Church has had with Christian Reconstructionism, historically. I vaguely remember reading an attack on Reconstructionism in some journal of theology when I was a Calvin student.

It’s disappointing to see that my alma mater has borne such evil fruit.

8 thoughts on “Creepier Still”

  1. A good book on Reconstructionism and Dominion Theology is “Heaven on Earth: The Social and Political Agendas of Dominion Theology” by Bruce Barron. It was required reading in Calvin Seminary, and a pretty decent analysis and critique. VanTil’s presuppositional apologetic is only one leg of the stool (perhaps an appropriate term) of Reconstructionism. Its view of Biblical law is outside classic reformed thought, as is its postmillenial interpretation of history and its often odd interpretation of the book of Revelation and the apocalyptic chapters of the Bible. Christian Reformed thinking on that last line has generally been amillenial, while the postmillenial idea of outwardly “conquering the world for Christ” fit nicely with the
    dominance fixation of the Reconstructionists. While Van Til stood, if a little rigidly, within the stream of Kuyperian thought, Reconstructionism is a uniquely American phenomenon. Perhaps the movement would be a little more credible if they could stop fighting with each other about everything.

    Classic right-handed power, baby.

  2. Jeff, I was really hoping to hear from you on this. I figured you’d have the clues. Thanks. :)

    I read about Van Til qua Van Til and I don’t see anything other than cranky (but not creepy) conservative Calvinism…. But the Reconstructionists bow and scrape to him. I’m glad to hear that Calvin [Seminary] makes a practice of dissing Reconstructionism, even as the Reconstructionists claim Calvin [the theologian] for themselves.

  3. The thing is, in Kuyperian thought the antithesis is always balanced by common grace, the idea that God’s benevolence
    and goodness “shines in all that’s fair”, whether or not that fair thing is a “Christian” thing. Loose the
    fine balance between the two ideas and the binary system collapses into the theological supernova that is Dominion
    Theology. If Reconstructionism is truly an “eschatology of hope” as it refers to itself, then why are they
    so angry all the time?

    Dorothy Sayers, of all people, was the one who proposed the “Classical Christian Education” concept. She of the
    detective stories and Lord Peter Whimsy novels. I don’t think she ever thought it would come to this.

  4. Ah, I need to cut it some slack then. Not everyone who raves about Classical Christian Education is necessarily riding the theonomic bus with Doug Wilson! Good to know.

    Clarify this for me: is “antithesis” a Kuyperian thing? Because when I read that brochure I saw the words “the biblical concept of antithesis” and I thought “Biblical?” I don’t remember that Hegelian term popping up in Mark, say. Though I wouldn’t put it past Hebrews.

    It reminded me of the way that as a young Lutheran in a Reformed school I would read the book on _Reformed Doctrine_ and see it lay out various positions on a theological topic: “the Catholic position is…” “the Baptist position is…” “the Lutheran position is…” but “the Biblical position is…” “Biblical” is a code word for “Reformed” among some writers of Reformed doctrine, apparently. Nobody else but Reformed people read the Bible or base their theology on it.

  5. Cut and paste, cut and paste…

    Here, for example is Bahnsen, one of the Reconstructionists, talking about antithesis…The entire Biblical
    message of redemption and the historical establishing of God’s kingdom both presuppose “the antithesis,”
    then, between the people of God and the culture of unbelief, between the regenerate and the unregenerate.
    Therefore, throughout history Satan has tempted God’s people to compromise “the antithesis” — whether by
    intermingling in ungodly marriages (Gen. 5:2), or by showing unwarranted tolerance toward the enemies of God
    (Joshua 23:11-13; Judges 1:21,27-36; Ps 106:34-35), or by departing from the authority of God’s word so
    that “every man does what is right in his own eyes,” (He goes on like this for a while) (snip)

    He draws on Van Til, who leaned heavily on the antithesis side of Kuyper’s idea. Kuyper basically meant, I think
    that no knowledge is religiously neutral. A Christian and a non-Christian, in his thought, start from
    completely different presuppositions and so the conclusions they come to about things will be different.

    But Wilson etc…misunderstand the complexity of the antithesis meme. That’s not all that Kuyper says. And
    I found some helpful comments on a
    website about Dooyeweerd…”The antithesis is the choice of position that we make in our heart’s transcendent
    religious dimension. the choice is of an Origin either in God or in temporal reality. If we choose an origin in temporal reality, we end up absolutizing aspects of temporal reality.

    “The neo-Calvinism of both Kuyper and Dooyeweerd has often been assumed to mean a polemical us-against-them
    division between those who have chosen their direction towards God and those whose thought is apostate. But
    Dooyeweerd himself emphasizes that the line of antithesis runs through the heart of each of us. It is
    certainly not intended as a division between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. Dooyeweerd says that the
    religious antithesis passes transversally through the existence of every Christian personality (NC I, 524).
    The antithesis therefore represents a challenge to each of us to turn in the direction of the true Origin.
    This includes the recognition of the supratemporal selfhood (God) as the root of temporal reality, which for
    Dooyeweerd was the “key of knowledge.” There must be a turning of the personality , a giving of love in
    the full sense of the word, a restoring of the subjective perspective of our experience.”

    For some reason this reminds me of the passage from Alexander Solshehn-whats-his-name about the time he was
    sitting in a Russian prison camp and he realized that the dividing line between good and evil in human life
    passed not through nations or borders or political philosophies, but through every human heart.

    I think I like Dooyeweerd’s interpretation better, myself. Besides, he’s a mystic.

  6. Dooyeweerd better than Wilson or Bahnsen, I mean. Alexander himself is kind of a mystic, too. So it’s all good.

  7. There’s a very interesting piece ‘ The Crusaders: Christian evangelicals are plotting to remake America in their own image’, from Rolling Stone’ magazine, April 7th, 2005, at this page.

    It put me in mind of a very interesting article I’d read earlier on Rushdoony, the ‘founder’ of the Dominionist movement, on the SurvivalistSkills.Com site, at

    But such Christian influence in America is hardly new. Witness the huge array of Christian books for Women on the BeautyAndWomen.Com site, at, and a similar listing of Christian books for men on the ‘New World Order Intelligence Update’ site, at

    Then there’s that classic battleground, creationism vs evolution. See the Toronto Christian Book Centre web page at for an impressive example of how this age-old debate has flared up again under the heading of ‘Intelligent Design’…

  8. As a Calvin College graduate, I too find it disconcerting that the “Reconstructionists” find their inspiration in Van Til. But then again, I find Van Til’s analysis of the “antithesis” to be odd, gloomy, and contrary to proper Christian thought. Reading the gospels, one would have concluded that the Christian antithesis would be a spirit of forgiveness, mercy, and approval in a world of harsh judgment, nonforgiveness and cruelty. But instead, certain Calvinists have simply imagined one more totalitarian system and blamed it on Jesus.

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