Skip to comments.INVITATION TO A STONING [Rushdoony ties to D. James Kennedy - should Moore be in this list?]
Posted on 11/14/2003 6:47:13 PM PST by Chancellor Palpatine
For connoisseurs of surrealism on the American right, it's hard to beat an exchange that appeared about a decade ago in the Heritage Foundation magazine Policy Review. It started when two associates of the Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote an article which criticized Christian Reconstructionism, the influential movement led by theologian Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony, for advocating positions that even they as committed fundamentalists found "scary." Among Reconstructionism's highlights, the article cited support for laws "mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards." The Rev. Rushdoony fired off a letter to the editor complaining that the article had got his followers' views all wrong: They didn't intend to put drunkards to death.
Ah, yes, accuracy does count. In a world run by Rushdoony followers, sots would escape capital punishment--which would make them happy exceptions indeed. Those who would face execution include not only gays but a very long list of others: blasphemers, heretics, apostate Christians, people who cursed or struck their parents, females guilty of "unchastity before marriage," "incorrigible" juvenile delinquents, adulterers, and (probably) telephone psychics. And that's to say nothing of murderers and those guilty of raping married women or "betrothed virgins." Adulterers, among others, might meet their doom by being publicly stoned--a rather abrupt way for the Clinton presidency to end.
Mainstream outlets like the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post are finally starting to take note of the influence Rushdoony and his followers have exerted for years in American conservative circles. But a second part of the story, of particular interest to readers of this magazine, is the degree to which Reconstructionists have gained prominence in libertarian causes, ranging from hard-money economics to the defense of home schooling. "Christian economist" Gary North, Rushdoony's son-in-law and star polemicist of the Reconstructionist movement, is widely cited as a spokesman for free markets, if not exactly free minds; he even served for a brief time on the House staff of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the Libertarian Party presidential nominee in 1988, when Paul was a member of Congress in the '70s. For his part, Rushdoony has blandly described himself to the press as a critic of "statism" and even as a "Christian libertarian." Say what?
An outgrowth of Calvinism, modern
Reconstructionism can be traced to Rushdoony's 1973 magnum opus, Institutes of Biblical Law. (Many leading Reconstructionists emerged from conservative Presbyterianism, but as with so much of today's religious ferment, the movement cuts across denominational lines.) Not one to pursue a high public profile, Rushdoony has set up his Chalcedon Institute in off-the-beaten-path Vallecito, California, while North runs his Institute for Christian Economics out of Tyler, Texas.
As a "post-millennialist" school of thought, Reconstructionism holds that believers should work toward achieving God's kingdom on earth in the here and now, rather than expect its advent only after a second coming of Christ. Some are in a bit of a hurry about it, too. "World conquest," proclaims George Grant, in what by Reconstructionist standards is not an especially breathless formulation. "It is dominion we are after. Not just a voice... not just influence...not just equal time. It is dominion we are after."
Well, OK, it's easy to laugh. Yet grandiosity does sometimes get results, especially when combined with an all-out conviction that one is historically predestined to win (the Communist Party in the '30s comes to mind). Reconstructionism has a record of turning out hugely prolific writers, tireless organizers who stay at meetings until the last chair is folded up, and driven activists willing to undergo arrest (Reconstructionist Randall Terry founded Operation Rescue, the lawbreaking anti-abortion campaign) to make their point.
Politically, Reconstructionists have been active both in the GOP and in the splinter U.S. Taxpayers Party; but their greater influence, as they themselves would doubtless agree, has been felt in the sphere of ideas, in helping change the terms of discourse on the traditionalist right. One of their effects has been to allow everyone else to feel moderate. To wit: Almost any anti-abortion stance seems nuanced when compared with Gary North's advocacy of public execution not just for women who undergo abortions but for those who advised them to do so. And with the Rushdoony faction proposing the actual judicial murder of gays, fewer blink at the position of a Gary Bauer or a Janet Folger, who support laws exposing them to mere imprisonment.
Among other ideas Reconstructionists have helped popularize is that state neutrality on the subject of religion is meaningless. Any legal order is bound to "establish" one religious order or another, the argument runs, and the only question is whose. Put the question that way, and watch your polemical troubles disappear. If we're getting a religious establishment anyway, why not mine?
"The Christian goal for the world," Recon theologian David Chilton has explained, is "the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics." Scripturally based law would be enforced by the state with a stern rod in these republics. And not just any scriptural law, either, but a hardline-originalist version of Old Testament law--the point at which even most fundamentalists agree things start to get "scary." American evangelicals have tended to hold that the bloodthirsty pre-Talmudic Mosaic code, with its quick resort to capital punishment, its flogging and stoning and countenancing of slavery, was mostly if not entirely superseded by the milder precepts of the New Testament (the "dispensationalist" view, as it's called). Not so, say the Reconstructionists. They reckon only a relative few dietary and ritualistic observances were overthrown.
So when Exodus 21:15-17 prescribes that cursing or striking a parent is to be punished by execution, that's fine with Gary North. "When people curse their parents, it unquestionably is a capital crime," he writes. "The integrity of the family must be maintained by the threat of death." Likewise with blasphemy, dealt with summarily in Leviticus 24:16: "And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him."
Reconstructionists provide the most enthusiastic constituency for stoning since the Taliban seized Kabul. "Why stoning?" asks North. "There are many reasons. First, the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost." Thrift and ubiquity aside, "executions are community projects--not with spectators who watch a professional executioner do `his' duty, but rather with actual participants." You might even say that like square dances or quilting bees, they represent the kind of hands-on neighborliness so often missed in this impersonal era. "That modern Christians never consider the possibility of the reintroduction of stoning for capital crimes," North continues, "indicates how thoroughly humanistic concepts of punishment have influenced the thinking of Christians." And he may be right about that last point, you know.
The Recons are keenly aware of the P.R. difficulties such views pose as they become more widely known. Brian Abshire writes in the January Chalcedon Report, the official magazine of Rushdoony's institute, that the "judicial sanctions" are "at the root" of the antipathy most evangelicals still show towards Reconstruction. Indeed, as the press spotlight has intensified, prominent religious conservatives have edged away. For a while the Coalition on Revival (COR), an umbrella group set up to "bring America back to its biblical foundations" by identifying common ground among Christian right activists of differing theological backgrounds, allowed leading Reconstructionists to chum around with such figures as televangelist D. James Kennedy (whose Coral Ridge Ministries also employed militant Reconstructionist George Grant as a vice president) and National Association of Evangelicals lobbyist Robert Dugan.
In recent years, however, the COR has lost many of its best-known members; former Virginia lieutenant governor candidate Mike Farris, for example, told The Washington Post that he left the group because "it started heading to a theocracy...and I don't believe in a theocracy." John Whitehead, a Rushdoony protégé who, with Chalcedon assistance, launched the Rutherford Institute to pursue religious litigation, has moved with some vigor to disavow his old mentor's views.
Prominent California philanthropist Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., who has given Rushdoony's operations more than $700,000 over the years, may also be loosening his ties. According to the June 30, 1996, Orange County Register, Ahmanson has departed the Chalcedon board and says he "does not embrace all of Rushdoony's teachings." An heir of the Home Savings bank fortune, Ahmanson has also been an important donor to numerous
other groups, including the Claremont Institute, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and--just to show how complicated life gets--the Reason Foundation, the publisher of this magazine (for projects not associated with its publication).
The continuing, extensive Reconstructionist presence in fields like the home schooling movement poses for libertarians an obvious question: How serious do differences have to become before it becomes inappropriate to overlook them in an otherwise good cause? The printed program of last year's Separation of School & State Alliance convention constituted an odd ideological mix in which certified good guys such as Sheldon Richman, Jim Bovard, and Don Boudreaux alternated with Chalcedon stalwarts like Samuel Blumenfeld, Howard Phillips, and Rushdoony himself.
Lest such relations become unduly frictionless, here's a clip-and-save sampler of Reconstructionist quotes to keep on hand:
On the link between reason and liberty: "Reason itself is not an objective `given' but is itself a divinely created instrument employed by the unregenerate to further their attack on God." The "appeal to reason as final arbiter" must be rejected; "if man is permitted autonomy in one sphere he will soon claim autonomy in all spheres....We therefore deny every expression of human autonomy--liberal, conservative or libertarian." Thus affirmed Andrew Sandlin, in the January Chalcedon Report.
Intellectual liberty (other religions department): Hindus, Muslims, and the like would still be free to practice their rites "in the privacy of your own home....But you would not be allowed to proselytize and undermine the order of the state....every civil order protects its foundations," wrote the late Recon theologian Greg Bahnsen. Bahnsen added that the interdiction applies to "someone [who] comes and proselytizes for another god or another final authority (and by the way, that god may be man)."
Intellectual liberty (where secularists fit in department): "All sides of the humanistic spectrum are now, in principle, demonic; communists and conservatives, anarchists and socialists, fascists and republicans," explains Rushdoony. "When someone tries to undermine the commitment to Jehovah which is fundamental to the civil order of a godly state--then that person needs to be restrained by the magistrate...those who will not acknowledge Jehovah as the ultimate authority behind the civil law code which the magistrate is enforcing would be punished and repressed," wrote Bahnsen.
On ultimate goals: "So let us be blunt about it," says Gary North. "We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God."
Contributing Editor Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of The Excuse Factory: How Employment Law Is Paralyzing the American Workplace (The Free Press).
Visit Walter Olson's official Web site
What any of these three have in common is the belief that homosexuality is wrong. Other than that this posting is absurd. None of them have ever advocated death for homosexuality or alcoholism. In fact, this looks like a piece from the Onion - a satire on people and issues.
Stoning Disobedient Children
If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother ... all the men of the city shall stone him with stones, that he die ....(Dt. 21:18, 21)
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 contains what is, perhaps, the most vilified law of the Old Testament. It is widely believed that this law authorizes the stoning of children who disobey their parents. Accordingly, this law is used to prove how harsh, severe, and unworkable Old Testament law is in "the New Testament age of love and grace." When theonomists advocate the use of the case laws as the standard for ethics and civil law today, often one of the first remarks they hear is something like, "So you advocate the stoning of children who disobey their parents." The supposition is that by merely referring to this "harsh" law, they have proven that the theonomic view is absurd and cannot possibly be the standard for Christians today. Detractors of theonomy believe that the mere mention of the law of "stoning children" in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 will silence the theonomist, and prove to all thinking Christians that these "cruel" Old Testament case laws should not govern our lives in this "age of grace."
But as with most attacks on theonomic ethics, this objection to the use of the Old Testament case laws is based on a shallow reading of the law, a misunderstanding of the actual case law requirement,1 and an attachment to sentimental impulses as opposed to a commitment to the high ethical provisions of Biblical law.2 When this case law, which applies the moral law of the Fifth Commandment to a specific circumstance, is understood it will prove to be "holy, just, and good," a delight to the heart of God's true people (Rom. 7:12, 22).
This law is given in the standard case law formulation of "if . . . then." The genius of the case laws is that they establish justice (or duty) in a specific case so as to enable us to know how to proceed (act righteously) in all such related cases. The particular case at hand involves a "stubborn and rebellious" son who will not heed the admonitions of his parents, nor submit to their discipline (v. 18). It is vital to proper interpretation and application that the precise nature of the case be ascertained.
A Grown Son
First, the person in view is a not a small child but a grown "son." The Hebrew term for "son" (ben) employed here is indefinite. It is sometimes used of children of both sexes (Ex. 21:5) but most often of the male offspring of parents, and that is clearly the sense in this text. Of itself, the word "son" does not give any indication of age. It can refer to a child or a young man (cf. 1 Sam. 4:4; 19:1; 1 Kg. 1:33); age must be determined from the context. In this case, the son in view is not a child, for the sins brought forth in testimony to show his contumacious manner are gluttony and drunkenness (v. 20), hardly the sins of the average 6 or 10 year old! The case also indicates that the parents have tried to restrain their son, but all their efforts have failed (vv. 18, 20); specifying that he is physically beyond their control. Furthermore, the parents bring their son to the magistrates to judge the matter (v. 19); hence, the son would have opportunity to speak on his own behalf. All of this indicates that the "son" in question is no mere child, but, rather, a young man at least in his middle teens or older. As Wright observes, "The law is not talking about naughty children but about seriously delinquent young adults."3
Second, the problems associated with this son are severe. This is not the case of a child who has failed to do his chores, spoke back to his parents, or even committed a serious act of disobedience, but of a son of dissolute character who is in full rebellion to the authority of his parentshe holds them and their word in contempt. The text says that the son is "stubborn" and "rebellious" (vv. 18, 20). Both of these descriptive terms are active participles, thus indicating habitual action. The son does not display a stubborn streak now and then, or act rebelliously from time to time, but is continuously stubborn and rebellious. The word "stubborn" refers to one who is obstinate in his resistance to authority. It is used in the Old Testament of a wild, untamed heifer (Hos. 4:16); of a immoral woman who has cast off restraint and indulges in lust (Pr. 7:11); and of Israel as a stubborn people who will not submit to God's authority (Ps. 78:8; Is. 1:23). The word "rebellious" means, literally, to strike or lash, and is used of those who contend against authority and refuse to heed their words. The "rebellious" individual lashes out in contempt against those who have authority over him verbally, and perhaps even physically. In light of this, it is important to note that the law of the covenant prescribes death for anyone who strikes his parents (Ex. 21:15) or curses his parents (Ex. 21:17). There is, therefore, reason to suppose that the son in this case law has broken the law of the covenant in one or both of these ways. The parents also describe the character of their son as being a "glutton" and a "drunkard." These sins are put forth as examples of a life lived without restraint.
In the case of such rebellion and riotous living, and after all attempts at discipline and control have failed, the parents are to bring their son before the magistrates for judgment. If the magistrates concur in the parents' estimate of the situation, they are to order the men of the city to stone the rebel with stones so that he dies (vv. 20-21). The purpose to be served in the execution of the rebellious son is to "put evil away from among you" and that all will "hear and fear" (v. 21).
The Real Meaning
Therefore, the law of Deuteronomy 21:18-21 is not about stoning disobedient children. The Bible does not instruct parents to use stoning in dealing with the rebellious nature and disobedience of their children, but to use the rod and reproof (Pr. 29:15). Children are to be trained from a young age by consistent and loving discipline so that the foolishness that is bound up in them can be driven out (Pr. 22:15), and they will learn to honor and obey their parents and all those whom God has placed in authority over them. The case law in discussion does not apply to young children during the formative years, but applies, instead, to a grown son (and by extension to a daughter as well) who, for whatever reason, has rebelled against the authority of his parents and will not profit from any of their discipline nor obey their voice in any thing. It is a case of habitual contempt of parental authority characterized by a young adult living a life without moral restraint who lashes out verbally and/or physically against his mother and father. It is a case where the evil character of the son is apparently set, and there is no reasonable hope of his ever changing.
The kind of rebellion against parental authority described in this case law is called "evil" (v. 21). It is evil because it holds both God and his law (i.e., the command to honor parents) in derision. It is evil because it threatens the very existence of the family, and therefore, of society itself. It is evil because it signals the rejection of all God-ordained authority and leads to civil and ecclesiastical disorder. God considers it such a dangerous evil that it must be extinguished by death at the hands of the civil magistrate.4
Those who consider death as a horrible punishment here must realize that in such a case as described in Deuteronomy 21:18-21, "death" is inescapable. Contempt of parental authority, if left unchecked, is the death of the family, law, and order. The question then is: Who or what should die? The rebel, or family and society? Furthermore, the life of a rebel inevitably leads to the grave (sheol; cf. Pr. 30:17); he will die an early death, and probably take others with him. Finally, God himself declares that even if such a rebel against parental authority escapes the judgment of man, his curse is upon that man and he shall be cut off (DT 27:16; Pr. 30:17). Therefore, the execution of the rebel in view is just, merciful, and preventive. Just, in that the transgressor deserves to die; merciful, in that his quick death prevents the destruction of the family, society, and others; preventive, in that it strikes fear in the heart of other would-be rebels and restrains them from taking a similar ruinous course.
Theonomists must not be embarrassed by the law of Deuteronomy 21:18-21, nor should they be chagrined when others try to use it to discredit the case laws of the Old Testament. Properly understood, it displays the wisdom and mercy of God in restraining wickedness so that the righteous might flourish in peace. It is those who reject this case law that should be embarrassed, for they have cast reproach on God and his law, cast aside the testimony of Christ,5 and have substituted their own imaginations (Jer. 7:24) for the blessed word of God.
1. To understand and properly apply the case laws of the Bible requires diligent work. The Lord anticipates this need by repeatedly reminding us of the need to "meditate" in the law of the Lord "day and night" (cf.Ps. 1:2; 119:15, 97-99; Jos. 1:8). The wisdom and justice of God's law is perceived by those who diligently search for it as for hidden treasure (Pr. 2:1-9).
2. By nature, we are bent to reject the standards of a just and holy God for "that which seemeth right in our own eyes."
3. Christopher Wright, Deuteronomy (Peabody, MA, 1996), 235.
4. The family does not have the power of the sword. Only the state has the authority to execute those who are worthy of death. Therefore, if a state refuses to follow the law of Deuteronomy 21:18-21, parents are left only with the option of covenantal death (i.e., disinheritance by the family and, where applicable, excommunication by the church).
5. Jesus himself specifically endorsed the death penalty for cursing parents (Ex. 21:17) in Matthew 15:4.
Orthodox Christians should be afraid, very afraid. Some of these so-called Christian groups don't believe you are truly "christian" unless you handle snakes, are baptised in one direction only and using one TWO syllable name in reference to God as diety ONLY... Three times forward, or one time back may not get it... and as for sprinkle baptisms, which to them, are something you would more appropriately put on sugar cookies... forget it.
I have a better Idea...
Let's let God Build his own church, instead of letting his phony phollowers use the aegis of a corrupted human government, to try to recreate a nation in the image of their own cultist leadership. AKA: The abomination that makes desolate
Cults should be illegal, islamic or christian. and a primary determiner for establishing a religious sect as a cult?
Does it seek ANY political power, coercion or enforcement of it's own creeds? Or does it give pre-eminence to a God-given, free human will?
the joys of theocratic governance!