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#34802 Sat Jan 06, 2007 7:10 PM
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Since "bassbum" posted a really good question on books, I thought I'd ask one about the well-known authors R.J. Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, and Cornelius Van Til. Never having read much by them, I was wondering: were these guys influenced by each other, and did they know each other? Or were they independent of each other in their thought?

I was just wondering if there was an inter-relationship among them something like the one with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the "Inklings".

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Van Til's [influenced by Kuyper and Bavinck] students included Francis Schaeffer, R.J. Rushdoony, and Greg Bahnsen. I am assuming you are looking into FV and/or Reconstruction. Thus, even though Reconstructionists often claim Dutch Reformed theologian Cornelius Van Til as the forerunner of their movement, the true “father” of Reconstructionism was the late Rousas John Rushdoony, a former ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church who published the “bible” of the movement — Institutes of Biblical Law — in 1973. About the same time, Greg L. Bahnsen wrote his Th.M. thesis entitled "The Theonomic Responsibility of the Civil Magistrate," which was later published as Theonomy in Christian Ethics. This work caused an uproar throughout the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, of which body Bahnsen was also an ordained minister. Both Rushdoony and Bahnsen are now deceased, but their work is continued by The Chalcedon Foundation in Vallecito, California, The Southern California Center for Christian Studies in Placentia, California, and The Bahnsen Theological Seminary, which offers theological degrees through its correspondence courses. (Judicial Warfare)


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J_Edwards said:
Van Til's [influenced by Kuyper and Bavinck] students included Francis Schaeffer, R.J. Rushdoony, and Greg Bahnsen. I am assuming you are looking into FV and/or Reconstruction. Thus, even though Reconstructionists often claim Dutch Reformed theologian Cornelius Van Til as the forerunner of their movement, the true “father” of Reconstructionism was the late Rousas John Rushdoony, a former ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church who published the “bible” of the movement — Institutes of Biblical Law — in 1973. About the same time, Greg L. Bahnsen wrote his Th.M. thesis entitled "The Theonomic Responsibility of the Civil Magistrate," which was later published as Theonomy in Christian Ethics. This work caused an uproar throughout the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, of which body Bahnsen was also an ordained minister. Both Rushdoony and Bahnsen are now deceased, but their work is continued by The Chalcedon Foundation in Vallecito, California, The Southern California Center for Christian Studies in Placentia, California, and The Bahnsen Theological Seminary, which offers theological degrees through its correspondence courses. (Judicial Warfare)

Hi Joe,

I enjoy reading Van Til quite a bit, but I have never associated him with FV and/or Reconstruction. What you wrote seems to indicate that that is correct (is it?), but I find it interesting that two of his students, Rushdoony and Bahnsen, were supporters of theonomy (reconstruction=theonomy??). Since they must have been heavily influenced by Van Til's thinking, what aspect of Van Til's theology do you think had an influence to point them towards theonomy? Or, what part of Van Til's theology might have theonomic leanings?

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Joe, thanks for your reply and link.

Who are the Judicial Warfare people? Are they overall, credible? The front page only references a couple. Did they write the quote in your reply, or was it from a book written by someone else?


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Hey Joe,

Thanks VERY much for that informative response! I had certainly not known that about Schaeffer. Both John and John C asked good questions, and I'd be interested in knowing the answer to those as well when you have time.

Theo

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Theo said:
Hey Joe,

Thanks VERY much for that informative response! I had certainly not known that about Schaeffer. Both John and John C asked good questions, and I'd be interested in knowing the answer to those as well when you have time.

Theo
Sorry, it has taken me a while to answer – time is limited.

For more on how Van Til “influenced” the movements please see Gary North’s Westminster's Confession: the Abandonment of Van Til's Legacy and Greg L. Bahnsen’s No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics. They explain how they got from VT to Recon... However, please note that Van Til himself NEVER became a theonomist to my understanding. According to Gary North, Van Til argued that,

Quote
There is no philosophical strategy that has ever worked, except this one; to challenge the lost in terms of the revelation of God in His Bible. . .by what standard can man know anything truly? By the Bible, and only by the Bible.'' This idea that the correct and only way to view reality is through the lens of a Biblical world view is known as presuppositionalism.
But, according to Gary North, Van Til stopped short of proposing what a Biblical society might look like or how to get there (from the best I can deduce VT used the term "theonomy" to categorize the view which sees God as revealed in the Bible, as the sole source of one's ethics. Thus, using the term in this sense VT recognized that there “is no alternative but that of theonomy or autonomy." (Christian Theistic Ethics p.134)). What of the interpretation then of the term "ethics"? That is where Reconstructionism begins. While Van Til states that man is not autonomous and that all rationality is inseparable from faith in God and the Bible, the Reconstructionists go further and set a course of world conquest or ''dominion,'' claiming a Biblically prophesied ''inevitable victory (Apologetics Index). Thus, IMO North, Bahnsen and a host of others have stretched Van Tils’ teachings [note I agree with presuppositionalism] to what “they consider” its logical end, but others [such as myself] see errors to “this logical end” as IMO it does not consider the entire height, length, and depth of the word of God. John Frame I believe does an excellent job in Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought in helping us somewhat here.

Someone asked how we get from VT to Reconstuctionism and I suggest to read the books, but briefly, VT ethics pits the moral commandments of God against other ideas held by non-believers. Ideas always have consequences. Since ideas are intrinsically moral in nature, they will either glorify God or they will glorify human beings in their fallen, sinful state. Ideas that do not glorify God are a product of human autonomy or self law. Moral commandments that come from God himself may be termed as "theonomy" or God's law. However, if we ignore certain scriptures and apply VT thoughts to OT ethics we will end up where North, Bahnsen, and others have entered into another manger [note: this is not to say they are not Christian, but have deviated IMO from the foundational teachings of Christ]. Jay Rodgers comments and says it about as clearly as I have heard it expressed,

Quote
There are two schools of theonomic ethics derived from three of Van Til's students. Even as Van Til was a protégé of Kuyper and took his ideas to new heights, three of Van Til's students saw the implications of presuppositionalism in the area of Christian ethics. Rousas John Rushdoony and Greg Bahnsen coined the term "theonomy" to describe the antithesis of autonomy. This school of thought is also called Christian Reconstructionism because theonomy provides the blueprint by which Christians should seek to reconstruct society. Christian Reconstruction includes several prolific Christian authors including Gary North, Gary DeMar, David Chilton and Kenneth Gentry.

Another of Van Til's students, Dr. Francis Schaeffer has had an even wider influence. Schaefferism is not "theonomic" in the strictest sense, but resembles some of the ideas of Rushdoony and Bahnsen. Schaeffer's philosophy is sometimes called "soft theonomy." Schaeffer's protégés have included Christian ministers, authors, well-known politicians and social activists including Jack Kemp and C. Everett Koop. He has also greatly affected the thinking of the so-called "Christian Right" especially Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Chuck Colson, Cal Thomas and Randall Terry.

The main difference between the two schools of thought is that the Christian Reconstructionists see an immediate application of the laws of Moses and the penal sanctions of the Old Testament as applicable to modern society. … The latter group influenced by Francis Schaeffer tends to be more oriented toward a campaign for Christian social ethics to have an equal place in public debate. These thinkers take principles from the Bible and apply them to social and political ethics, but do not necessarily advocate imposing the sanctions of biblical law on offenders.
As far as my original statement "as referenced" that came mostly from Greg Loren Durand who authored, Judicial Warfare: Christian Reconstruction's Blueprints.


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Thanks Joe,

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Joe quoted:
the Reconstructionists go further and set a course of world conquest or ''dominion,'' claiming a Biblically prophesied ''inevitable victory (Apologetics Index).

All of this is quite confusing to me with an added, nearly unfathomable complexity. It is very hard for a layman such as I to try and understand where any of these reconstructionist are coming from. As you said, "Ideas have consequences", and their ideas (reconstructionist adherents) are causing great consternation, sometimes vicious opposition and confusion in the public sphere as well as in our churches. Personally, I don't see any sort of "Political Mandate" in Scripture.

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They explain how they got from VT to Recon...

I'm very afraid the reconstructionist explainations would go over my head also. So, I have three questions, and I hope they're not just rhetorical.

How do the reconstructionists consolidate their ideas with; "My kingdom is not of this world"?

Is it a postmillenial eschatology (or something else) that might be driving these reconstructionists in the first place?

I do believe that premillenial dispensationalism has had a devastating and destructive impact on American foreign policy. Might not this "reconstructionism" have the same negative and damaging impact on American internal affairs?

It's very hard for me not to say that this reconstructionist movement appears to me to be very suspiciously Roman Catholic in nature.

Denny

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May I ask a silly question.

How does one become known as a student of Van Til? Didn't everyone who passed through the seminary at (was it Princeton or Westminster) took classes from Van Til?

Oh, I was asking about the website Judicial Warfare, not the specific article.


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Adopted said,

How do the reconstructionists consolidate their ideas with; "My kingdom is not of this world"?
The foundation of dominion theology is a misconstruction of Genesis 1:28 to apply man’s dominion over the creatures of the world to include other humans and their secular governments and institutions, etc. What they fail to account for is the fact that this was at that time “a no-sin” universe! The truth is that Adam was to rule [under-shepherd] a theocratic kingdom – had not sinned entered in – however after sin entered in, a human theocracy even under God proved to fail (i.e. Israel), not because of God, but man (Heb 8:8). However, this was part and parcel of God’s eternal plan and not until the second and last Man Adam (Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. 15;45, 47) came to inaugurate His kingdom do we see it in its fuller form (different and perfect administration, Heb. 8:6ff). We are now in the continuation phase of His Kingdom [without a physical sword] and we are to look forward to “His” consummation of the Kingdom. Thus, right now we are in the “now, but not yet” phase of the Kingdom (same Kingdom in parallel spheres) and not the “now, yes now” Reconstruction of the Kingdom.

But to be fair, Bahnsen answers your question directly,

Quote
In this famous passage from John's gospel [John 18:36] Jesus was speaking of the origin of his kingdom and authority, as the careful reader can clearly see from the end of the verse cited. Explaining that his servants do not take up arms to fight in his defense, Jesus said "thus my kingdom is not from here." The kingdom of Christ does not originate – like that of Pilate or Rome itself – from the created order, nor is it based upon the mere authority of men. It is "not of this world," but rather a kingdom granted from above, by God Himself. This kingdom does not advance by means of military power and threats, but through the power of preaching and bearing witness to the truth (John 18:37; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
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Adopted said,

Is it a postmillenial eschatology (or something else) that might be driving these reconstructionists in the first place?
Though many in the post-mil camp embrace Recon, and Bahnsen states, “Its essential optimism for the present age. This confident attitude in the power of Christ's kingdom, the power of the gospel, the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of prayer, and the progress of the great commission, sets postmillennialism apart from the essential pessimism of amillennialism and premillennialism” (“The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism," in The Journal of Christian Reconstructionism, Vol. III, No. 2, (Winter, 1976-77), pp. 66-67.) the Post-Mil Camp are not the only ones deluded by it.

J. Ligon Duncan III I believe answers your question more fully saying,

Quote
….Its most common form, Theonomic Reconstructionism, represents one of the most extreme forms of Fundamentalist Christian thought. It originated in the United States from the Reformed or Calvinistic tradition. Its goal is the peaceful conversion of the United States government to a theocracy, which is based on the Mosaic Law of the Hebrew Scriptures. They intend to achieve this by using the freedom of religion in the US to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools. Later, their graduates will be charged with the responsibility of creating a new Bible-based political, religious and social order. One of the first tasks of this order will be to eliminate religious freedom. Their eventual goal is to achieve the "Kingdom of God" in which the entire world is converted to Christianity.

They feel that the power of God's word will bring about this conversion. No armed force or insurrection will be needed; in fact, they believe that there will be little opposition to their plan. People will willingly accept it if it is properly presented to them.

All religions other than Christianity would be suppressed. Nonconforming Evangelical, main line and liberal Christian institutions would no longer be allowed to function. Society would revert to the laws and punishments of the Hebrew Scriptures. Any person who advocated or practiced other religious beliefs would be tried for idolatry and exterminated. Blasphemy, (defined by them), adultery and homosexual behavior would be criminalized; those found guilty would be executed. To our knowledge, this is the only religious movement in North America in which many of its members advocate genocide for followers of minority religions. Ralph Reed, the executive director of the conservative public policy group of the Christian Coalition has criticized Reconstructionism as "an authoritarian ideology that threatens the most basic civil liberties of a free and democratic society.”
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Adopted said,
I do believe that premillenial dispensationalism has had a devastating and destructive impact on American foreign policy. Might not this "reconstructionism" have the same negative and damaging impact on American internal affairs?
I believe the answer is yes, and not only yes, but YES! As much evil, downtrodding, and mistruth that the systems of dispensationalism and other such views have corroded the true fabric of Christianity, Reconstructionism, FV, Theonomy (yes, there are minor differences to some) corrode not just the fabric, but are strangling what truth is left in the Reformed Community. I believe if the present course of the church continues without taking strict discipline on these and other issues [i.e. worship] the very framework of the truth will continue to be undermined to such an extent that the “waxing worse and worse” portion of Scripture will come to its total fulfillment in our generation (1 Tim 3:13)! Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Though I am not a Piper fanatic I like his answer here:

Quote
The closer we get to Dominion Theology the closer we get to living by the sword. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world my disciples would fight." This seems to mean that we are not moving toward a true understanding of the kingdom of God in this world as we move toward a greater and greater use of the sword to authorize kingdom values.

It is not the priests who are given the sword but the magistrates. And the magistrates rule not by virtue of their claim to revelation but by virtue of their claim to providential authorization. In some cultures this providential authorization has been through a line of kings, in other cultures through various contests, and in our own culture through a democratic representative process.

It seems that the theocratic ideal of Israel in the Old Testament was specifically abandoned in the New Testament as the Gospel ceased to be focused on an ethnic and political reality called Israel (Matt. 21:43) and became a multicultural, multiethnic worldwide movement without ethnic or political definition. It will be fitting, when Christ returns, that he be given the right to establish a kingdom of more specific political boundaries. But in the meantime we do well to exert our influence in ways that do not put the sword into the hands of the priests.

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If you desire to study Van Til (and I believe this to be a good thing, I studied him under John Frame at RTS) you may begin here at WTS [search phrase "Van Til"] and at Logos Bible Software (this is excellent). Studying Van TIl is a positive thing, going too far with him or misinterpreting him is just as dangerous as misinterpreting Scripture …..


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Denny,

There are a couple of excellent articles on The Highway that critique "Theonomy/Reconstructionism":

1) Moses Law for Modern Government, by Ligon Duncan.

2) Another Look at Theonomy, by Raymond O. Zorn.


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Joe,

Thank you for your in-depth answer to my questions. I'd sure like to have you as a next-door neighbor! And thanks also to Pilgrim who has given me some reading and contemplating to do. <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/BigThumbUp.gif" alt="" />

Denny

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Theo said:
Since "bassbum" posted a really good question on books, I thought I'd ask one about the well-known authors R.J. Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, and Cornelius Van Til. Never having read much by them, I was wondering: were these guys influenced by each other, and did they know each other? Or were they independent of each other in their thought?

I was just wondering if there was an inter-relationship among them something like the one with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the "Inklings".

Theo


Father Rushdoody of the modern Christian Reconstruction movement condemns amillennialism and amillennialists.

Quote
Amillennialism ... (is) in retreat from the world and blasphemously surrender(s) it to the devil. By its very premise that the world will only get worse ... it cuts the nerve of Christian action.... If we hold that the world can only get worse ... what impetus is left for applying the word of God to the problems of this world? The result is an inevitable one: amillennial believers who profess faith in the whole word of God ... are also the most impotent segment of American society, with the least impact on American life. To turn the world-conquering word of the sovereign, omnipotent, and triune God into a symbol of impotence is not a mark of faith. It is blasphemy ("Postmillennialism versus Impotent Religion," Journal of Christian Reconstruction, pp. 126, 127).


William's <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/my2cents.gif" alt="" />

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Hey William,

Thanks for that MOST interesting quote. I had no idea Rushdoony had written something like that; although I have not read his writings, this shows me how he could indeed be a polarizing figure. It looks as though no one is neutral about him--either one likes him or one dislikes him.

Theo

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Theo,

I have just found a quote on the internet that fits into this thread like a glove. According to this quote, Dr. Van Til is not all that impressed with Dr. Rushdoony either.

"What does Cornelius Van Til think of his former student Rushdoony and his son-in-law Gary North on their perversion of the Gospel?

'Then too I am frankly a little concerned about the political views of Mr. Rushdoony and Mr. North and particularly if I am correctly informed about some of the views Gary North has with respect to the application of Old Testament principles to our day. My only point is that I would hope and expect that they would not claim that such views are inherent in the principles I hold.'

From a letter to Gregg Singer, May 11, 1972, in Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), p. 133n."

Denny

Romans 3:22-24


Denny

Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." [John 6:68]
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