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Dr. Warren Throckmorton Christian Blog and Commentary

The Institute on the Constitution's God and Government Project: A Call to Abandon the First Amendment

  • Dr. Warren Throckmorton
    Dr. Warren Throckmorton
    Warren Throckmorton, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at Grove City College (PA). He co-founded the Golden Rule Pledge which advocates bullying prevention in evangelical churches. His academic articles have been published by journals of the American Psychological Association and he is past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. He is the author with fellow Grove City College professor, Michael Coulter, of the book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. Over 200 newspapers have published his columns. He can be reached at ewthrockmorton@gcc.edu.
  • 2013 Oct 12
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Yesterday, the Institute on the Constitution dropped a press release about their God and Government program. From the Christian Newswire release:

The "Institute on the Constitution" has launched "The God And Government Project" the purpose of which is to remind elected officials, and those who seek civil government offices, that government is from God and their first duty must be to obey God and His Word (Romans 13.)

The folks at IOTC want citizens to use open mic time before city council meetings to tell officials that they need to use the Bible as the basis for civil law. IOTC encourages followers to use IOTC-prepared scripts.  See an earlier post on the subject and this article for more on what IOTC encourages their followers to do.

The GaG (appropriate) program is consistent with IOTC's Christian reconstructionist worldview. During his course on the Constitution, Peroutka twists history to make it appear that the founders deliberately created a biblical form of government in line with IOTC views. In a current commentary on his IOTC website, Michael Peroutka makes a case that civil government officials are obligated to govern in accord with his view of the Bible.

Since civil government is ordained by God in order to protect God-given rights, then the function of civil government is to obey God and to enforce God’s law – PERIOD.

It is not the role of civil government to house, feed, clothe, educate or give heath care to…ANYBODY! (Or to operate a Panda-cam at the National Zoo.)

According to Peroutka, government can only do what he thinks God says government can do.

The IOTC website enshrines Rousas Rushdoony, the father of Christian reconstructionism. IOTC's Director of Communications, John Lofton, calls Rushdoony his "theological mentor" on more than one occasion.  Rushdoony's articles on theocracy and dominionismpoliticstaxation, and religion in law are available along with many others. Mark Rushdoony's (son of Rousas) speech on Christian reconstructionism is cited approvingly as well.

According to Mark Rushdoony, Christian reconstructionism sees the church as Israel.

In 1987 Ross House Books (which is now part of Chalcedon) published a book on covenant theology by Charles D. Provan called The Church Is Israel Now.That title sums up the heart of covenant theology, that the Christian church is heir of the promises to and the responsibility of the Hebrew nation of old.

Thus the proper society is ruled by an Old Testament style regime where the Christian reconstructionist's understanding of the Bible is the basis for civil law. This is exactly what IOTC's God and Government program promotes as the message followers should tell elected officials.

Even after his death, Rushdoony's views are controversial. IOTC does not back away from this. On the IOTC website, readers are directed to an interview given to Bill Moyers in 1988 by Rousas Rushdoony.  In this interview, Rushdoony affirms that civil government should be based on the Bible, including injuctions that would lead to the death penalty for 15 crimes, including adulterers, homosexuals, and truly incorrigible sons.  :

(Click the link to view the video) Christian Reconstructionism in a Nutshell

Listen to the entire segment to get the context. The section on the death penalty is as follows:

Moyers: You've written that the Bible calls for the death penalty, and I'm just running down a variety of things as you can see. You've written that the Bible calls for the death penalty of some 15 crimes: rape, sodomy, adultery.

Rushdoony: Adultery because in the Bible the basic institution is the family. There's no law of treason against the state. The Bible doesn't even imagine anything remotely like that. But the basic institution is the family. And so, several of the death penalties are associated with the family and its life.

Moyers: So adultery was considered a theft of the family.

Rushdoony: It was, yes, it was treason to the family.

Moyers: Homosexuality.

Rushdoony: Yes, it was treason to the family.

Moyers: Worthy of the death sentence?

Rushdoony: What?

Moyers: Worthy of the death sentence?

Rushdoony: Yes.

Moyers: Deserving of the death sentence?

Rushdoony: Yes, that's what Paul says.
...
Moyers: But you would re-instate the death penalty for some of these or all of these Biblical crimes?

Rushdoony: I wouldn't---

Moyers: But the reconstructive society--

Rushdoony: I'm saying that this is what God requires. I'm not saying that everything in the Bible, I like. Some of it rubs me the wrong way. But I'm simply saying, this is what God requires. This is what God says is justice. Therefore, I don't feel I have a choice.

Moyers: And the agents of God would carry out the laws.

Rushdoony: The civil government would, on these things.

Moyers: So you would have a civil government, based upon--

Rushdoony: Oh yes. I'm not an anarchist. I'm close to being a libertarian. But--

Moyers: But the civil law would be based on the biblical law. And so you'd have a civil government carrying out a religious mandate.

Rushdoony: Oh yes.

Given their reverence for Rushdoony and the link to this interview, I think it is a fair assumption that IOTC is in sympathy with these views. Since they won't answer my requests for information, I will ask here publicly - IOTC leaders (Peroutka, Lofton), do you agree with Rushdoony here? Would you, in the government you are calling for, put people to death for adultery, homosexuality and the other crimes delineated by Rushdoony?

One thing I don't need to ask about is the IOTC view of public schools. In the citation above, Peroutka says civil government has no role in education. Historically, reconstructionists have been strong supporters of Christian schools as alternatives to public education. One of the leading reconstructionists, and Rushdoony's son-in-law Gary North, said this about the relationship between Christian schools and religious liberty (for a longer quote and commentary, see this article).

The major churches of any society are all maneuvering for power, so that their idea of lawful legislation will become predominant. They are all perfectly willing to use the ideal of religious liberty as a device to gain power, until the day comes that abortion is legalized (denying the right of life to infants) or prohibited (denying the “right of control over her own body,” after conception, to each woman). Everyone talks about religious liberty, but no one believes it.

So let us be blunt about it: 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. Murder, abortion, and pornography will be illegal. God’s law will be enforced. It will take time. A minority religion cannot do this. Theocracy must flow  from the hearts of a majority of citizens, just as compulsory education came only after most people had their children in schools of some sort. But religious anarchy, like “democratic freedom” in ancient Greece, is a temporary phenomenon; it lasts only as long as no single group gets sufficient power and accepted authority to abandon the principle. Religious anarchy, as a long-term legal framework for organizing a society, is as mythical as neutrality is. Both views assume that the institutions of civil government can create and enforce neutral law. They are cousins, and people believe in them only temporarily, until they make up their minds concerning which God they will serve.

While I doubt this will ever happen, it seems clear that the IOTC and like-minded reconstructionists will keep on trying to make it a reality. For IOTC supporters who love the First Amendment, you have a rude awakening coming. As Peroutka and Lofton proclaim, civil law should obey and enforce God's law, and by that they mean their interpretation of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Someone's religion must be obeyed according to Rushdoony, and the folks at IOTC want to make sure it is their religion. For now, they will use freedom of speech and religion at city council meetings to get their voices heard but if ever they get their way, one cannot count on these rights remaining. If you really believe in freedom of conscience and religious liberty, then you cannot fully embrace IOTC's GaG program. While the folks at IOTC want freedom of religion to speak at public meetings, they very openly proclaim that they want civil government to obey their religious views to the exclusion of all others.

In contrast, I want the reconstructionists to be able to speak their mind, but I don't want civil officials to use one religion as the basis for their governing. In contrast to Peroutka's odd construction, using one religion as the basis for civil law is prohibited by the First Amendment. Gary North says no one really believes in religious liberty. He is wrong; the framers most certainly did.