Theonomy’s Academic Indifference to Western Civilization

Last post on theonomy (for a while).   The title of this post seems odd, given that Christian Reconstructionists seek to “reconstruct” America, and I believe that is sincerely their goal.   (Despite the confusion of terms, I am using theonomy and Christian Reconstruction as synonymous.  I know they really aren’t, but I don’t feel like getting into semantics).

As Serge Trifkovic noted, Western Civilization didn’t come from the West.  It came from Christianity.   And Christianity came from the East.  (I had a theonomist challenge me on this point; I then asked what town Christ was born in.   Where were the apostles first called Christians?   It wasn’t Geneva or Scotland).  And if Christianity shaped Eastern culture, then the typical Western responses to “Byzantinism” or “early Church apostasy” lose some force.   (This is a very interesting point, but I won’t pursue it now).

In one of my monarchist discussions on a theonomy message board, in responding to the standard charge (Moses forever instituted theocratic republicanism for all time and all places), I asked why the early church, the medieval church, and even Calvin (for what it’s worth) all viewed monarchy with more or less primacy? (To be fair to the theonomists, I’m not entirely sure to the answer.  I think it has something to do with Romano-Byzantinism, but I really do not know enough to answer that question; I do know that the historical church’s position on this matter was NOT the reconstructionist position).

And so we have something like the following conclusions:  in their best moments (Bahnsen, North, Morecraft et al) theonomists will advocate something like “reconstructing” society or defending Western civilization.  Most astute Christians know that Western Civilization is tied to Christianity.  Here’s the problem:  it’s rather odd to say that you are defending Western civilization’s cultural legacy while at the same time trashing what it’s fathers said about the following:  the visible church, politics, art (e.g., icons), kingship, and economics (they weren’t free market capitalists).

While I moderate comments, I will allow any interested theonomist to comment.  I moderate the comments to keep trolls out.

6 comments on “Theonomy’s Academic Indifference to Western Civilization

  1. SLIMJIM says:

    I agree with much you have to say here, in particular with the kingship; what is your thought on Christian economics look life if it wasn’t free market?

    Concerning icons, would you say it’s actually biblical?

  2. tesla1389 says:

    Hi,
    Good question. My economic position is largely that of Hillaire Belloc and GK Chesterton. It rejects state socialism on one hand, protects the property of the “little man” on the other hand, while all the while protecting the little man from the greedy corporate giant.

    It works more in an agrarian society than it does in an urban society.

    As to icons, I believe they are biblical. But to forestall any “Yeah, but…,” I need to reveal my cards.

    I do not hold to the RPW, so I don’t find RPW reasoning convincing appeals to the contrary. Secondly, along with Calvinist Robert Letham and Evangelical Daniel McClendinnen, I think iconoclastic arguments have major Christological problems.

    And finally, I don’t find Reformed arguments sufficient enough evidence to overturn the history and practice of the universal church prior to the 16th century.

  3. tesla1389 says:

    Wait, is this Jimmy from Facebook? This is Jacob.

  4. Jeremy White says:

    I hope I can offer some insight into the mind of a theonomist. When stating that they are “defending Western Civilization’s cultural legacy,” most theonomists (who would state it in that manner) are usually speaking most specifically with reference to the following ideas: that a government’s authority, the nation’s moral code, and governments obligations should be derived from God’s Word.

    You state, “[m]ost astute Christians know that Western Civilization is tied to Christianity.” Most theonomists would take issue with that statement, in that it is far too generalized. Indeed many, including Bahnsen and North, would not view the United States (as a “portion” of Western Civilization) as having been tied very strongly to Christianity. Rather, on the heels of the French Revolution, the zietgeist of the United States’ founding years was tied strongly to enlightenment ideology, with some Christian verbiage here and there.

    In summary, when we (as theonomists) would speak defending the cultural legacy of Western Civilization, we are speaking of defending those portions of it that are biblical – there are always aspects of a time period, even the most biblical, that are not in line with God’s word. Therefore, I believe most theonomists would prefer to say what you stated in a manner like this: we seek to defend the cultural legacy of Western Civilization insofar as it is in line with biblical principles, abandoning those things such as icons, kingship, or socialistic tendencies that may have existed.

  5. tesla1389 says:

    Jeremy,
    I appreciate your comment. I hope to offer a more thought out response later.

  6. tesla1389 says:

    Okay, my thoughts:

    ***Most theonomists would take issue with that statement, in that it is far too generalized.***

    It is generalized, I know, but for the sake of space and time I have to do generalizations. Notwithstanding, though, it is nothing different than what Rushdoony and Morecraft have said.

    As to whether the US is tied to Christianity, you are correct on North. Bahnsen, in the 300 or so lectures of his I have listened to, had a give or take approach to America’s alleged Christian history. Rushdoony thought America was built as a theocratic Christian republic. In this sense, I agree with North over Rushdoony. I also agree with you on the French Revolution spirit.

    ***Therefore, I believe most theonomists would prefer to say what you stated in a manner like this: we seek to defend the cultural legacy of Western Civilization insofar as it is in line with biblical principles, abandoning those things such as icons, kingship, or socialistic tendencies that may have existed.***

    Well, I believe, along with the Church and the councils and all of the fathers, that icons are biblical and the denial leads to problematic Christological heresies. But I won’t really debate that here, except to summarize highpoints.

    Kingship was the norm for almost all of Western (and Eastern Christian) history, minus a few blips on the radar. I’ve defended–and am in the process of defending–the idea of sacred monarchy and liturgical kingship on this blog. That’s why I decided to address the theonomic objections to kingship and deal with the “mythical” theocratic republic they seek and have yet to see (at least longer than a few generations).

    I reject socialism–well, state socialism anyway. I am free market while rejecting gangster corporate captialism.

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