An Interesting Biographical Note On One Man’s Exodus From The TheoRecon Movement

Jacob Aitken, sometime author at the HB, left the TheoRecon movement. What is that? TheoRecon is a shorthand word I coined (as  far as I know) for the theonomic-Christian reconstruction movement. Now you know why I use TheoRecon instead. Short story: the movement anticipates the coming collapse of civilization and they expect to reconstruct into a Christian theonomic theocracy using the Mosaic judicial laws (hence “theonomic”) as the legal standard in their new nation. Their postmillennial eschatology expects the gospel (in which most of them include the sacerdotal, self-described Federal Vision theology) to result in the conversion of most of the world so that they anticipate a future, earthly glory-age on the earth to greet Christ’s return.

It is a seductive movement for fundamentalist Baptists who only have to trade in their literal millennium for a figurative (but still glorious and earthly) millennium. They get to keep much of their way of reading the Old Testament and they easily trade their legalistic piety for the extensive theonomic applications of the Mosaic judicial law. Rushdoony wrote three volumes on the biblical law alone.

It is also an attractive movement for young people looking for apologetic heroes (here is a typical example) or for culture warriors. TheoRecon postmillennialism gives them an earthly hope for the future. It inspires them to fight “the enemy” (i.e., the pagans, who become de facto Canaanites vs. the theorecon Israel). It is populated with ostensibly masculine figures who “fight back” against the bad guys, seek to take over small towns in Moscow, ID or, failing that, set fire to fields and barns on the Palouse.

Like Thomas Roche’s older biographical history of the theorecon movement, Jacob’s is both personal and well informed.

My only quibble with his analysis of the TheoRecon movement is to say that there is strong evidence (from his son David, who lists 9 exhibits) that one of the major leaders in TheoRecon movement, Greg Bahnsen, strongly supported Norman Shepherd, the theological founder of the Federal Vision movement. As Roche noted, many of the folks that we now associate with the self-described Federal Vision theology we originally met as part of the theorecon movement. There has been some dissent from within the theorecon movement against the FV theology but the FV theology is the ecclesiastical wing of the theorecon movement. For more on these questions see the resources below.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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7 comments

  1. Thank you, Dr Clark. If I could pin it down to one ultimate reason, it was simply reading the sources in history. I remember in Ligon Duncan’s covenant theology class I was reading passages from Cocceius and others and they were tying in elements of the covenant of works with natural law. As a theorecon, that started making me uncomfortable.

    Even when they, particularly Rutherford and Gillespie, said theocratic-sounding things, they were never using Bahnsen’s hermeneutic.

  2. Yes, you are correct on the David Bahnsen angle. I actually have documented somewhere where Greg explicitly affirmed Shepherd’s reading of James 2. I forgot to update it on that point. It’s in Bahnsen’s talks on Calvin’s Institutes.

  3. We are a small group that started going into Reconstruction! We left when we learned the movement (not all) is heavily into Federal Vision! Federal Vision borders on “doctrines of demons!”

  4. I got the impression that most Scottish Reformed were into postfuturemilleniallism (though the famous story about M’Cheyne shows that he was aware of the big problem with it). Was I wrong?

    • John,

      The story of the various British Reformed eschatologies is complicated. There were Reformed chiliasts at the end of the 16th century and by mid-17th century there were what we would today call “postmillennialists” but some that have been called postmil were really amil, were we using modern categories.

  5. Scott,

    This is very helpful. Thank you for sharing it.

    My understanding is that Van Til who coined the term “theonomy,” also explicitly disavowed any connection to Rushdoony and North’s theonomic project. Is that correct?

  6. It’s been said before, but bears repeating. After being enrolled in RJR’s Reconstructionist Children and before signing on with Norm Shepherd’s Covenant Children, the same actors were all pretty much charter members of John Frame’s Worship Children. The last as defined by his obligatory fundamentalist read of the Second Commandment.
    Which is also in unconfessional, but let’s not sweat the details.

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