A Review Of Boot: Were “The Puritans” Theonomists?

The book under review attempts to engage culture effectively using the past, especially the puritans. In what follows I will evaluate whether The Mission of God: A Manifesto of Hope for Society, is successful in its appropriation of puritanism as an antidote for today’s political ills. The book was first published in 2014 by Joseph Boot, a British apologist working in Canada, though my review is of the second edition of the book as it was published initially with the now defunct Canadian publisher Freedom Press International. Boot opted to self-publish his second edition in 2016 with Ezra Press, an arm of his think tank, the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity. Boot is also a pastor at Westminster Chapel in Toronto, a church he founded, and is involved in Britain with the Wilberforce Academy and Christian Concern. Boot’s book garnered him a Doctor of Philosophy in Christian Intellectual Thought from Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida. It is surprising that he would be awarded such a degree, as the book does not meet academic standards for a PhD. In respect to what is on display in The Mission of God, Boot lacks the requisite skills of an historian, which concerns me as my own academic interests have addressed how evangelicals can use and abuse the past.

The purpose of this review is narrower than noting The Mission of God’s overall demerits. Rather, I address one of Boot’s key arguments, which is that the puritans were the prototypes of the modern Theonomic or Christian Reconstructionist movement and that for one to be a true heir of the puritans one must be a Theonomist or Reconstructionist. I am not going to argue whether a case can be made for a relationship between Theonomy and puritanism, rather I am going to look at whether Boot successfully makes that case. In what follows I briefly describe Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction, generally survey some of the book’s aims, addressing his treatment of the puritans with my own criticisms interspersed throughout, and conclude with some general observations of the value of Boot’s book.

Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction

Before engaging The Mission of God’s treatment of the puritans as Theonomists, it is worth describing Theonomy. Christian Reconstruction was developed in the mid-twentieth century by the Armenian-American writer Rousas John Rushdoony (1916–2001), a missionary, activist, author, and founder of the Chalcedon Foundation.[9] The movement gained traction and controversy through its popularization by the apologist Greg L. Bahnsen (1948–1995) and economist Gary North. It is to North that we owe the term “Christian Reconstruction,” which he first used in 1974 for his Journal of Christian Reconstruction. Bahnsen was the most serious Reconstructionist and his works Theonomy and Christian Ethics and By This Standard are erudite treatments of the major themes addressed by Theonomy, particularly the relation of the Old Testament to Christian ethics. North is the late Rushdoony’s son-in-law, though the two had an acrimonious split that saw North move from Vallecito, California, where the Chalcedon Foundation is located, to Tyler, Texas, that became the home of his Geneva Ministries and Institute for Christian Economics. The movement largely dissolved after the North-Rushdoony split and the death of Bahnsen, with thinkers like Douglas Wilson, Peter Leithart, and James B. Jordan, who had varying degrees of relationships to the movement, leaving the fold. Though a number of definitions of Theonomy have been articulated by exponents, for the sake of this review, I will go with Jordan’s. He argued that the movement is concerned with advocating the sovereignty of God under three headings: postmillennial eschatology, the presuppositional apologetics developed by Cornelius Van Til (1895–1987), and the abiding character of Old Testament law (hence, Theonomy). Theonomy is sometimes described as “Dominion Theology,” that relates to their victorious view of postmillennialism, where they argue that society will be Christianized at the return of Christ. Relatedly, presuppositionalism makes the claim that all knowledge must explicitly accept the lordship of Jesus Christ for it to be true knowledge. When Christ returns, society will be governed by the Mosaic law. Hence, these three distinctives are the Theonomists’ way of advocating for the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ over all things. Read more»

Ian Clary | “Puritan and Theonomy Reconsidered” | January 26, 2022


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