Dominion Theology, Blessing or Curse? An Analysis of Christian Reconstructionism, by H. Wayne House and Thomas D. Ice (Multnomah, 460 pp.; $15.95, hardcover). Reviewed by Richard V. Pierard, professor of history at Indiana State University, and the coauthor of Civil Religion and the Presidency.

It is thousands of years in the future, and God’s rule has been firmly established in America in every sphere of life—family, church, business, and government. Court systems adjudicate matters according to Mosaic law. Schools are operated by families or churches, not the state. All welfare functions are carried out by individuals, churches, and voluntary associations. Unrepentant sinners are punished by the state. The death penalty, to be carried out by stoning, is in effect for murder, gross negligence resulting in the death of another, rape, adultery, homosexuality, apostasy, incorrigibility in children, and idolatry. A complete free-market economy is functioning. Paper money and long-term credit no longer exist, and the gold standard prevails. Voluntary slavery is permitted for those making restitution for crimes. Religious pluralism is forbidden, and heresy is equal to treason.

This far-fetched scenario is not the product of a science-fiction writer; rather, it is deduced from the writings of a determined group of conservative theologians who espouse a belief system that is known as “Christian Reconstruction” or “theonomy.”

Wayne House, a theology professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and Thomas Ice, a Dallas graduate, pastor in Texas, and former Reconstructionist, have joined forces to produce a bold and incisive critique of Reconstructionism from the perspective of dispensational premillennialism. Their thesis is that Reconstructionist eschatology is the chief factor in shaping the distinctives of dominion theology. (A second determining factor should also be mentioned, namely, economic and political conservatism. Most of Christian Reconstruction’s program is fully consistent with the extreme right-wing agenda in American public life.)

The authors have deeply immersed themselves in the literature of the movement and take it quite seriously. They see its beliefs as an outgrowth of orthodox Calvinism; they acknowledge its strengths and the sincerity of the advocates, and then systematically dissect it. They go into its use of Mosaic law, its postmillennial vision of the future, its emphasis on “kingdom theology” and “dominion” over the earth, and its handling of Scripture. They also examine the linkages developing between Calvinistic Christian Reconstruction and the charismatic/Pentecostal movement and point out specific correlations in the teachings of key figures in both groups. Also provided are helpful discussions of the major personalities and a useful bibliography.

House and Ice show conclusively that Reconstructionists do believe the task of the church is to Christianize the world and usher in the kingdom.

Never-Never Land

The world of Christian Reconstruction is a theological never-never land of contorted beliefs bound together by a common longing for a future world presided over by a hard-nosed King Jesus. Certainly many evangelicals are drawn to Reconstructionism because they are sympathetic to its political, economic, and social agenda and its emphasis on developing a distinctly Christian world view. Still, there is plenty of room for criticism.

First, House and Ice show that the biblical foundations for the system are extraordinarily shaky. The Reconstructionists so confuse the Old Testament’s ceremonial, moral, and “case” law that our freedom in Christ becomes almost meaningless. They would place us under a pharisaical, bureaucratic order that is tantamount to a return to the bondage under sin. The dangers of subjectivity and adding to God’s Word are very real, as the group de-emphasizes both post-Mosaic divine revelation and the fulfillment of the law in the New Testament.

Their postmillennialism calls for Christian penetration of worldly institutions that would enable these to function in a way pleasing to God. House and Ice respond that it is not Christians but sinners who are responsible for an immoral society, and God does not promise us victory if we try to take over the world and establish a godly society. Our calling is not to Christianize but to evangelize the world, and we cannot bring about a heavenization of the earth by our own efforts at social reconstruction. It is one thing to function as salt and light in a sinful world, but something far different to bring in the kingdom of God—especially when that new order turns out to be suspiciously similar to our political, economic, and social preconceptions.

Sparking Controversy

The moralistic nature of dominion theology blunts the church’s effort at world evangelization. Even if a society were to develop a consciousness of biblical rights and wrongs, still it would fall short of the spirituality that God requires and freely gives to those who trust in him. As the authors put it: “God’s law found in general revelation and special revelation may provide proper guidance for any people, and as Christians we should seek to have justice and righteousness prevail.” Yet “there is no call to make a modern Israel in America or in any other nation.”

Article continues below

Dominion Theology could have been more adroit in its handling of political theory. The authors give too much credence to theonomist assumptions, such as their antipathy to democracy, belief that God “sovereignly appoints” specific rulers (would they credit God with Hitler or Stalin?), and the dubious view of America as once being a great Christian nation. Also, they do not take seriously enough the anti-Semitic character behind some of the beliefs of Reconstructionism (especially its hostility to Judaism and the State of Israel).

Although the book bogs down in its defense of dispensational premillennialism, we do receive a spirited and insightful introduction into Christian Reconstructionism, one that will surely spark vigorous controversy.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.