Opposites Attract: A Marriage, but not one made in heaven….
By now you should have concluded that John Rushdoony’s Calvinist views and his postmillennial views stand in stark opposition to Arminian views on salvation and premillennialism.
Your probably thinking at this point – Uh, get to the point! How in the world then did some Calvinist doctrine that is so radically different from many Arminian held beliefs make it’s way into their camp? Those familiar with the subtle, sometimes not so subtle, and often contentious doctrinal differences, between different Christian denominations, know it’s not common for any one group to give up or compromise doctrinal territory. Here is brief rundown of how it all happened, followed by own thoughts on why mutual interest between the two sides brought them together.
Enter, Francis Schaeffer, who’s ideas are often credited as the spark behind the rise of the Christian Right in America. Schaeffer was introduced to the writing of Rushdooney in the 1960’s. While Rushdooney’s writings had a profound impact on Schaeffer’s beliefs, there was one major problem. Schaeffer was a premillennialist. This is where things get a bit hairy. He was firm believer in Rushdooney’s idea of Christian values prevailing in society and in all aspects of life, but he was opposed to the idea of Old Testament Law being enforced as civil law in America. He claimed that he did not find scriptural evidence under the new covenant in the New Testament that we should ever expect or work toward a Theocratic society, where God’s law became civil law. He made it very clear in most of his work that he was opposed to that idea. The most well known work by Schaeffer is probably his film series “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?”, which became very popular in the 1980’s.
Not surprisingly, much of Schaeffer’s work was criticized by those who still held close to Rushdooney’s postmillennial ideas. Those most critical of his work were Gary North, and David Chilton. It was apparent that the movement somehow needed to reunite all of the disparate views on “dominionism” under one umbrella. By this time some (NOT ALL) Charismatics and Pentecostals had largely jumped in with both feet to the dominionists movement, but were still functioning as outsiders. Regardless of their doctrinal differences the core members of the dominionists needed to find a way to rally all troops together under one flag. In 1984, Dr. Jay Grimstead did just that when he formed the Coalition on Revival. Under Grimstead’s leadership 17 “Christian Worldview” documents were produced that outlined a strategy on how to unite “evangelicals” for one common cause – To take dominion in government, law, education, the arts, science and technology, and many other spheres of society. In the end, COR (Coalition on Revival) was a major win for the Calvinist, postmillenial camp within the dominionist movement. They had won over, mostly Charismatics and Pentecostals, by causing them to doubt their long held beliefs. The article that I referenced in Part 1  on this topic lays everything out in much more detail. I would suggest reading the whole thing if you want more information.
Gary North, who is the son-in-law of Rushdooney, and a major proponent of the dominionist movement, wrote an open letter to Charismatics. In the letter he argues (in a condescending fashion) that the long held premillennial views of Charismatics were nothing more than an excuse for Christians not changing the world. The following quotes from that letter are copied from the referenced article:
“To mentally justify this failure, millions of Christians have adopted eschatology of earthy failure – an eschatology which teaches that in time and on earth, God’s people will be persecuted, defeated, bankrupted, ridiculed, imprisoned, and generally made to feel as though God is voluntarily impotent to implement His principles on earth through the effort of his faithful servants. This doctrine is called premillennial dispensationalism. It is radically pessimistic.
Most charismatics say that they still believe in premillennial dispensationalism , even though they also say they believe in biblical principles of successful living. This baffles me. Are they pessimists or optimists?”
Charismatics say that God can heal bodies and does. They say that God can heal churches and families, and does. They say that God can heal the whole world, but won’t. Why not? Is there something the matter with God? Or is there something the matter with premillennialism?
Here’s a very insightful excerpt from the article that sheds more light on the inner-workings of how they persuaded Charismatics and Pentecostals to join them:
“In 1994, Frederick Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility, the Struggle between Theocracy and Democracy and co-founder of Talk2action.org, wrote the following. The quotes are from an article titled “No Longer Without Sheep,”
“Since 1980 much of Pentecostalism has begun to adopt aspects of Reconstructionism or dominion theology. This is not an accident.
Reconstructionists have sought to graft their theology onto the experientially oriented, and often theologically amorphous, Pentecostal and charismatic religious traditions. Following a 1987 Reconstuctionist/Pentecostal theological meeting, Joseph Morecraft exclaimed: ”God is blending Presbyterian theology with charismatic zeal into a force that cannot be stopped!”
Clarkson continues by explaining that this means hundreds of thousands of Pentecostals and Charismatics moved from apolitical into the activist camp. Clarkson, a long term veteran in the effort to expose Reconstructionism and its impact on the Religious Right, continued in the same article,
“As recently as the early 1990s, most evangelicals viewed Reconstructionists as a band of misfits without a following. All that has changed, along with the numbers and character of the Christian Right. The world of evangelicalism and, arguably, American politics generally will never be same.”
Clarkson was right, the Christian world hasn’t really been the same since. Christ and Paul’s warnings from John 17 and Romans 12 were no longer “in style” or “relevant”
“John 17: 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”
“Romans 12: 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, those words really became an afterthought amongst Christians. The postillennial views of Dominionists mixed with Charismatic zeal created a perfect and volatile coctail of the exact opposite. There was no room left for an eternal minded disposition, or laying up of treasures where rust and moth can’t destroy, or “waiting” as Christ instructed until the end was near – when ” two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.” – Luke 17:34 , or for suffering persecution for the glory of Christ while waiting to be rescued in the rapture. No way! The new battle cry of these “Warriors for Christ” (this is dominionist jargon – See part 3) was that “Heaven was ours for the taking right now!” That is actually a slight variation/offshoot on Dominion Theology known as Kingdom Now Theology. Why wait for a heavenly environment in eternity when heaven could be had right here on earth? Why allow the world to defeat us, if we can fight back and take it over for ourselves? Seems harmless right?
As I explained in Part 1 of this series, it took me quite some time myself to recognize the importance of doctrine. I think the importance of doctrine is shown clearly and by example in the above story. Charismatics and Penetcostals were coerced and co-opted by postmillennial dominionists by not sticking to their guns (or scripture) when it came to doctrine. Author Hal Lindsey may have put it best in his 1989 book titled the “The Road to the Holocaust” (Subtitled: “Unchecked the Dominion Theology movement among Christians could lead us – and Israel – to disaster.”). Lindsey, who was a premillennial dispensationlist had the following to say about how and why dominionists made friends with Charismatics:
“To everyone’s amazement (including the Reconstructionist’s), they have become the `intellectual shepherds’ of the Charismatic leaders… But when Gary North and the Reconstructionists won some converts among the Charismatics, they saw a new dynamic for spreading their doctrine – one that already possessed a vast means of mass-media communication. Yet, as we will see, the Charismatics and Reconstructionists are strange bedfellows indeed.”
Stay tuned for Part 3…………