Full Text for American Religious Scene- Volume 21 - Reformed Church (Video)

No. 21. >> All of us have made references to the faith groups that surround our own congregations. Here in Cleveland I constantly meet Christians whose belief system has been heavily influenced by the Reformed Church. Calvinism abounds. As I speak with such folks, I'm amazed at the distance between Calvinism and Lutheranism when it comes to the affairs of state. Lutherans appear to avoid mixing matters of faith with issues of government. But just the opposite seems to be true for the Reformed. Many of my Reformed brothers and sisters advocate growth in the influence of the church to the point that one day we would have a Christian world government. I'm sure this question is out of order, but would you be so kind as to comment on this? >>DR. THOMAS E. MANTEUFEL: Calvinism is characterized by the view that the glory of God should be manifest in the state. And that God should be glorified by enacting laws in Christ's name. Church and state are more closely allied in Reformed theology than they are in the Lutheran theology. Now, if you go back to John Calvin and his great book, "The Institute of the Christian Religion," he devotes Part IV of it to what he calls "The Aids By Which God Calls Us Into Communion with Christ." And he says these aids are the church, the sacraments and the state. And then in describing the role of the state, he says that both heathenism and the Old Testament make religion and divine worship the business of civil government as well as the church. He says that no government can be happily constituted unless its first object be the promotion of piety. And the state is to share in the care of divine things. Now, furthermore, in Reformed thinking, the state is to govern according to guidelines that are set forth in the Bible. One of the Reformed documents of modern times, "The Living Confession of the Church of the Netherlands," expressed the Calvinistic view that the church and the state have a joint responsibility to extend the kingdom of God by applying revelation to social problems. Now, we are going to talk about an eschatological view called reconstructionism, which is basically a Calvinistic development. And reconstructionism actually goes to an extreme in proposing that government should govern nations according to the laws of the Bible. And in fact, here is the extreme part, in fact, according to the Old Testament political laws. So then there is an idea called reconstructionism. And I think that's what your question is referring to. There is the idea of a hope that the millennium will come about by the work and the influence of the Christian church so that Christians will be able to control the government. And reconstructionism takes all of that a step further and says that Christians will dominate the earth, also in the government, in such a way that it will be able to -- they will be able to reconstruct society according to the -- according to the biblical laws, including the Old Testament political laws. This viewpoint has sometimes been called Dominion Theology because it emphasizes that Christ and his church will dominate the world prior to his return. It also is sometimes called Theonomy from the Greek words for God and government. Meaning that it aims to set up the government of God upon earth. This movement was actually started by a man by the name of R.J. Rushdoony. He stated it in a famous book that he wrote called "The Institutes of Biblical Law." And his disciples have carried on this movement and this idea. Like, for example, David Chilton, who wrote "Days of Vengeance" and also "Paradise Restored." And another disciple of his, Gary North, has written "Backward Christian Soldiers" and so forth. Now, there are even independent reconstructionist congregations that have been formed to promote this viewpoint. As I said, these congregations have a Calvinistic background because reconstructionism is basically a Calvinistic movement. But also, this reconstructionist idea has been adopted by some people in the charismatic movement. There are reconstructionist charismatics who sometimes adopt the whole post millennialists point of view. Because reconstruction is really a post millennialists idea. It is saying that the church is going to gain political influence upon earth so that it can reconstruct society to be governed according to biblical laws, including the Old Testament political laws. But also in some cases, people of other eschatological viewpoints, that is to say premillennialists, have also adopted reconstructionist ideas. There's another idea, also, that's very closely connected with this idea of political reconstruction and this kind of extension of post millennialism and of the of idea of the church influencing the course of history and influencing the development of world government. I am referring toes what is offer called Manifest Destiny. Meaning the Manifest Destiny of the country of America, of the United States. Manifest Destiny technically means the destiny of America in God's plan to become ever more powerful and prosperous. For centuries there were some post millennialist leaders in this country who have claimed that this country has a divinely given purpose. To take the lead in bringing about the golden age of the millennium. Jonathan Edwards, for example, the great Calvinist preacher, viewed America as a God favored land with the mission of perfecting and displaying the fullest fruits of the Protestant Reformation. As an example of a truly godly society and thus, hastening the coming of the millennium. This trend of thinking became very prominent in the 19th Century in what is often called civil millennialism. And the most complete statement of it was a book called "The Hand of God in History" by a man called Hollis Read. That argued that God's millennial purposes were finding fulfillment in America. And that the Golden Age would spread out from here. He favored American imperialism as a way to advance Christianity's influence. And this post millennial type of thinking was popular among the Protestant denominations in America at that time. Civil millennialism is not taught very much today. But it's revised in some form or another from time to time. In the 19th Century, this idea of civil millennialism and especially of Manifest Destiny was often expressed in a form of nationalism, which claimed divine sanction for territorial expansion of the United States. The actual term "Manifest Destiny" was first used in connection with such nationalism in 1845 in a journal called "The US Magazine and Democratic Review". And that spoke of, quote, "Our Manifest Destiny to overspread the American continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our multiplying millions." With all of that bloated language he was talking about the plan to annex Texas to the United States. It was a Manifest Destiny for it the author was saying. And this notion, Manifest Destiny, was also used to defend the annexing of Mexican territory and Oregon and Cuba and the Philippines, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam. And these nationalists showed a fondness for military conquest and glory. Winthrop Hudson in his book "Religion In America," describes an exchange in Congress concerning acquisition of the Philippines that really brought up this subject for debate. That is the subject of Manifest Destiny. According to this report, Senator Albert Beveridge said: We will not renounce our part in the mission of the race as trustee under God of the civilization of the world. He has marked the American people as his chosen nation to finally lead in the redemption of the world. This is the divine mission of America. And then Senator George Hoar replied that another view of American policy could be found in the Bible. And then he quoted from Matthew 4:8 and 9: The devil taketh him up into an exceedingly high mountain and showeth him all of the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them and sayeth unto him: These things shall be thine if thou wilt fall down and worship me. So in other words, not all were in favor of Manifest Destiny. And it was debated in the halls of Congress even. And some considered the hankering after territorial possession and expansion to be not biblical but demonic. Now, this idea of Manifest Destiny sometimes appears simply as a political idea not connected with post millennialism. But it also has been connected with post millennialism. Also, the idea of Manifest Destiny has been taken up by premillennialists and also by certain cults, millennialistic cults. So in answer to your question, I think it has to be said that the idea that a Christian world government will develop is actually based upon faulty assumptions that cannot be really rooted in Scripture.