Like many obviously correct religious phrases, the soothing and very centered one about being gospel-centered, or Christ-centered, or Bible-centered is obviously correct. But it only soothing because we have not yet connected it to anything that we (or others) might actually care about. And what is more, we don’t need to connect it to anything because it is so obviously beyond criticism. It stands alone, and has a luminous aura, and only an sheer infidel would dare to question it. It is kind of like a Precious Moments figurine of the Infant Samuel at Prayer, and only someone with half-inch calluses on his heart would dare to wonder what would happen if it got dashed into the fireplace.
Okay, so we are gospel-centered already, but here’s the question: the center of what?
The Center of What?
There are many Christians who believe that Jesus is in their life, but they have unfortunately attached an additional stipulation that He better stay there. Christ belongs behind the eyes between the ears, and for the especially devout, He may also go down in your heart. Where? Down in your heart . . . excuse me. Where was I?
To have faith in Christ at the very center of your existence, if that central place is not connected and engaged to every other aspect of your life, and to every other thing in the world, is a truncated faith. At best it is a feeble pitiful thing, and at worst it is simply refried Gnosticism.
In order to be orthodox, our confession must be that Christ is the center of all.
The fundamental Christian confession is that Jesus is Lord. So let me pose my question another way. Lord of what? The scriptural answer is Lord of lords. King of kings. So if Christ is not the Lord of all, He is not the Lord at all.
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
Colossians 1:18 (KJV)
My argument here is pretty straightforward. It is that “all things” means “all things” and “preeminence” means “preeminence.” Christ is Lord. He is the Lord of economics, the Lord of navies, the Lord of auto mechanics, the Lord of novel writing, the Lord of banking, the Lord of sanitation, the Lord of law schools, the Lord of all. That in all things He might have the preeminence.
But too many Christians have been taught that He is the Lord of two kingdoms, such that whenever He visits one of them, these Christians can hide in the other one.
Christians who want the blessings of a Christian culture but who do not wish to invoke the name of Christ—and there are many such—want a world in which God can be mocked. But God cannot be mocked and there is a strong correlation between what you plant in the ground and what comes up out of the ground (Gal. 6:7). And so Christians have been planting Canadian thistle right alongside the secularists, but with this difference. The secularist plants thistle because he wants thistle. The Christian has been to a Christian graduate school, which enables him to think of more than one thing at a time. This is how he can plant thistle while dreaming of barley,
They remind me of that time the chimp got a little tipsy, and put on some silver hoop earrings, and some bright red lipstick, inaccurately applied, and then went to the mirror expecting to see Galadriel looking back out of it.
So This Makes You a Reconstructionist, Eh?
So Crawford Gribben has written a fair-minded treatment of Christian “survival and resistance” here in the Pacific Northwest, and one of the communities featured in that book is ours. The book was published by Oxford University Press, which means that it has gotten some attention, such that some people are already yelling about it.
One small caveat about the book though. He describes us as recons with some of the rougher edges sanded off, while I would prefer to think of us as plain spoken evangelicals who went in for the distressed look—like a shabby chic Carl F. H. Henry. No, not Carl F. H. Henry with big cushions, but Carl F. H. Henry as new furniture that was beat up with chains, and then painted with the kind of paint that flakes off right away. Try to imagine Carl Henry with a tattoo and talking out of the side of his mouth. Okay, never mind.
Many years ago I had a conversation with Greg Bahnsen, in which I told him that I was not a reconstructionist. He then made a distinction that has stuck with me ever since. He said that there was a difference between a movement and a school of thought. When you have a movement, the movement needs a leader, which means that somebody gets to be the leader, and that is where we got the card-carrying recons, not to mention the factions (Tyler, Vallecito, etc.)
But a school of thought is broader and more informal than that, and doesn’t require a leader. It doesn’t have a formal membership. When we say that Leibniz and Spinoza and Descartes were all rationalists, we do not mean that they put out a newsletter together. But they did belong to a general school of thought, and we can talk about them in the same semester together, but they did not form any kind of coordinated faction or party.
In that sense, with that distinction made, I believe that every Kuyperian Christian is now a part of the reconstructionist school of thought. If you believe, as we do, in “all of Christ for all of life,” then in principle that means that the entire conservative Reformed evangelical world is now reconstructionist or reconstructionist lite—from World magazine to Crossway Books to Patrick Henry College to Alliance Defending Freedom, and maybe even to a small town in Idaho. And if you are postmillennial, then that makes you self-consciously reconstructionist. Now I grant that not one of these entities wants to stone that high school gal to death for wearing spaghetti straps to the prom, despite very clear instructions from the principal not to, but that doesn’t change the principle of the thing.
There are some exceptions. There are some who used to be in this category above who decided, for various reasons, to go in the woke direction instead. That really is a repudiation of the project, whether recognized yet or not. But enough about Joel.
But the question remains. Does the authority of Jesus Christ, does the lordship of Christ, extend in practical ways over every field of human endeavor?
If you say yes, you are some kind of a reconstructionist. If you say no, you will need at least three years of graduate level seminary courses to help you explain how Christ’s authority isn’t really authoritative, and how His very spiritual reign is going on—even now—in the 17th dimension somewhere, into which realm the angels long to look, but which has absolutely no impact on our earthly affairs. Fortunately, for those who want them, such seminary courses are available.
So picture the hard core reconstructionists—you know, Gary North before his morning coffee—as being a set of wind chimes that are hanging on your front deck. We here in Moscow would be the breeze that plays lightly through those chimes, reminding the people inside of better times to come. Did I say breeze? I meant zephyr. Christ is king. Aslan is on the move.
“Better times?” our opponents sneer. “Better times?” They mock, and their mordant laugh sounds like glue being poured out of a jug. Have they not seen The Handmaid’s Tale? Do they not know how this ends? Do they not know of a “dead cert” that as soon as we seize power—bwa ha ha!— we are going to make all the ladies wear head coverings and veils and whatnot? Well, no, actually. One of the first things I would do, were I privileged to be in that position, is tell all the secular ladies that they were free to take their masks off. And burn them.
Before we leave this point, I would like to ask you to please let it sink in. The party that is freaking out about our involvement in public affairs is warning everyone that if we had our way we would make all the women bundle up their heads. In the meantime, they are engaged in a global campaign to make everyone . . . bundle up their heads.
The New Line of Attack
Now judging from some of the shouts that have erupted in the aftermath of Gribben’s work, I have come to the conclusion that this critique represents the new 2021 Fall Lineup of Critiques. We are going to see a barrage of accusations that we here in Moscow are trying to establish a theocratic republic, and that we are, wait for it, reconstructionists.
What do I have to say about that? Well, I will only observe, somewhat mildly, that if we had listened to Rushdoony back in the day we wouldn’t be all muddled up about which bathroom to use. If we had listened to Bahnsen, we wouldn’t be sending male weightlifters off to the Olympics to compete in the women’s division, and then to lose there. If we had listened to Scary Gary, we wouldn’t be outraged and astonished that our public schools were teaching Critical Race Theory. Rather, we would have been astonished that it took them so long to admit what they were up to.
So no, I am not a card-carrying reconstructionist. But I will say that people should stop trying to scare me with things that would be way better than what we have going on now. If the Christian world had listened to the recons, we would have pulled all our kids out of the government schools back in the eighties. And if we had done that, if we had done that all at the same time together, your grown children wouldn’t have voted for Bernie, your nineteen-year-old son wouldn’t be getting those breast implants, and your job wouldn’t be on the line because you told a co-worker that the Washington Redskins shouldn’t have changed their name.
To point out the obvious, the old America is currently being dismantled. That means that somebody is going to rebuild it, someone is going to reconstruct it. We are all reconstructionists now. The basic choice lies before us, and it is pretty stark. Will that reconstruction be conducted by the totalitarians who tore the old one down?
Or will it be done by Christians who think like Christians should?