Is Theonomy On Life Support?

by David Leach


Theonomy/Reconstructionism which seemed to be so significant in the thinking, preaching and writing of a number of (mostly) Reformed believers seems to be waning. Some seem to be giving the hermeneutics of theonomy a more critical look and are becoming less persuaded of it’s foundational claims, while others who are still relatively comfortable with theonomic presuppositions are just not as inclined to chase the sometimes outlandish implications of that approach into all the projects and concerns that they once were. Doubtless there are yet diehards here and there, but no one can dispute that he influence of theonomic thinkers which eventually spread from Reformed into Charismatic and Evangelical circles has dissipated into a shadow of it’s once august standing.

One could argue the partial demise of the Reconctructionist movement has been tied to the death of two of three of it’s leading figures. Rushdoony, in many ways it’s primary architect and essentially it’s founder has been dead a few years. Likewise it’s intellectual champion, the brilliant Greg Bahnsen – the gifted apologist and philosopher has moved on to his eternal reward. That leaves the sometimes churlish and bombastic (nevertheless brilliant) Gary North as the sole remaining member of the once mighty triumvirate. Interesting figure though he is, it’s hard to see a movement coalescing around the elderly North.

The movement has also suffered from the death of a thousand qualifications. Reconstructionists simply don’t even agree with each other. Now certainly that is true in some measure with any school of thought or with any theological movement. As time moves along, fresh ideas surface, old ideas are challenged and viewpoints get modified. And along the way, ideally, the focus becomes more clear and tertiary issues get resolved or left behind. But the theonomic movement seems genuinely fractured into countless fiefdoms. The reconstructionist egg has come out of the broken shell, and into the pan to be scrambled. It is unlikely it will return to the unity of the egg.

Perhaps the movement is not even on life support, it may be dead. Whichever it is – dead or sick – I expect no future resurrection to theological prominence. It will, it seems, simply go the way of the late General MacArthur and just fade away.