Theonomy Is Evolving

Back in the 1990s, theonomy and Christian Reconstruction were hot topics in the Canadian Reformed Churches, particularly in northern Alberta. Theonomy is the view that contemporary governments are obligated to uphold the Mosaic civil laws. Christian Reconstruction includes theonomy as one of its tenets, but more broadly promotes the reformation of civil society according to biblical norms. Richard Aasman and others wrote compelling critiques of these views and it seems that its popularity was soon exhausted.1

However, Crawford Gribben’s study of developments in the Pacific Northwest of the United States proves such a conclusion premature. What’s more, one just has to note the ongoing popularity of Douglas Wilson in some corners of the Canadian Reformed Churches to see how the movement is still alive. It’s not the same as it was in the 1990s, though. It’s now tempered, much more subtle, and far more creative.

Dr. Crawford Gribben teaches history at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His previous writings, like this one, focus on the history of Christian movements. Throughout this book, it’s evident that Gribben has an insider’s understanding of Reformed Christianity. This is essential for properly situating Christian Reconstruction in its context.

… Gribben’s argument is that Christian Reconstruction has found new life in “the American Redoubt.” This is area of the Pacific Northwest includes eastern Washington and Oregon, and all of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Gribben lays out the history of how this revitalization took place through migration. Men like Douglas Wilson creatively used tools such as education and media to draw increasing numbers of like-minded people to the Redoubt, and especially to Moscow, Idaho.  This would become a place to withdraw and begin the reconstruction of American society from the ground up. Gribben notes that there has been considerable diversity amongst those drawn to the Redoubt. Some are Christians drawn to Wilson’s brand of reconstruction.  Others are anti-government survivalist types, including racists and kinists.

Gribben mentions in passing a “controversy about pastoral care” (p.146) in Wilson’s church in Moscow. He refers to how Rod Dreher had planned to include Moscow in his book The Benedict Option, but changed his mind after this “serious pastoral problem” arose (p.7). What Gribben doesn’t say, and what is a matter of historical record, is that there’s not just one pastoral problem. There’s a patternand readers can learn about that for themselves from public primary source documents at a website, “The Truth About Moscow.” There are some weighty issues there.

Read More»

Wes Bredenhof | “A Revitalized Yet Tempered Christian Reconstruction” | February 6, 2023

Endnotes

1. Richard Aasman, “Theonomy and Christian Reconstructionism” in Clarion 43.5-7 (March, 11, March 25, April 8, 1994).  Also see Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, eds. William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1990).


Resources

Heidelberg Reformation Association
1637 E. Valley Parkway #391
Escondido CA 92027
USA
The HRA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization


    Post authored by:

  • Heidelblog
    Author Image

    The Heidelblog has been in publication since 2007. It is devoted to recovering the Reformed confession and to helping others discover Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

    More by Heidelblog ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


6 comments

  1. “ Gribben mentions in passing a “controversy about pastoral care” (p.146) in Wilson’s church in Moscow. He refers to how Rod Dreher had planned to include Moscow in his book The Benedict Option, but changed his mind after this “serious pastoral problem” arose (p.7). What Gribben doesn’t say, and what is a matter of historical record, is that there’s not just one pastoral problem. There’s a pattern”

    I never knew about Ms Natalie Greenfield. Poor young lady. Wilson is a real problem. All these guys, Driscoll, Chandler, etc…. It never ends well.

  2. You twice mention Canadian Reformed Churches in the context of Crawford Gribben’s “American Redoubt”, which apparently finds comfortable lodgings in eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. While plenty of Reformed churches (including URCs—inhabit this territory, I am not familiar with a single Canadian Reformed Church in the area he/you have delineated.

    Can you connect the dots? I am a member of one of two congregations affiliated with the federation of Canadian Reformed Churches. Every church (and federation) has defects. But I cannot recall ever (EVER) hearing from our pulpit even a whisper of sympathy for theonomy. So I am curious why you would (even obliquely) link the faults you see in Douglas Wilson to PNW Canadian Reformed churches.

    • Hi Shawn,

      If you follow the “read more” link to the original article or refer to the end of our quotation of the original article, you will see that the author of the piece is the Rev Wes Bredenhof, a long-time CanRef pastor, who is now serving Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania.

    • Hi Shawn, as Scott said, I think you may have to read the book review more carefully. All I said was that Doug Wilson has popularity in some corners of the Canadian Reformed Churches. For instance, he regularly appears in a favourable light in Reformed Perspective as “Reformed pastor Doug Wilson.”

  3. Thank you for clarifying. I’m still a bit in the dark, however, about the connection between the “American Redoubt” and Canadian Reformed Churches. If no connection between the two was intended, why mention both in the same breath (so to speak)?

    Although I’ve no serious attraction to theonomy or to Douglas Wilson, I should like to think I would not consider someone else’s mention of either in a favourable light as something that necessarily warrants suspicion. Similarly, favorably referencing G.K. Chesterton.

    • The review was originally written for Clarion and I was attempting to establish the relevance of the book for a Canadian Reformed audience. Theonomy/CR in the 90s and Wilson today might prove the book to be of interest to CanRC readers.

      When someone is endangering the gospel and compromising the safety of women and children and some just ignore it or argue that it isn’t happening, that’s reason for concern.

Comments are closed.