An Eastern Orthodox Critique of Christian Reconstructionism/Theomony

Over at Orthodox-Reformed Bridge. Here’s a slice:

Christian Reconstructionism has been labeled “Neo-Calvinism,” a form of Dutch Calvinism initiated by Abraham Kuyper.  The beginning of its ideas can be traced to Kuyper’s 1898 Stone Lectures at Princeton Seminary where he spoke of the cultural mandate or “primordial sovereignty.”  In Lecture 3, “Calvinism and Politics,” Kuyper asserted:

In order that the influence of Calvinism on our political development may be felt, it must be shown for what fundamental political conceptions Calvinism has opened the door, and how these political conceptions sprang from its root principle.

This dominating principle was not, soteriology, justification by faith, but, in the widest sense cosmologically, the Sovereignty of the Triune God over the whole Cosmos, in all its spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible. Aprimordial Sovereignty which eradiates in mankind in a threefold deduced supremacy, viz., 1. The Sovereignty in the State; 2. The Sovereignty in Society; and 3. The Sovereignty in the Church. (Emphasis added.)

The notion of a cultural mandate is fairly new to Reformed theology even though early Reformers like John Calvin were concerned not just with the reform of the church but with reforming civil society as well (See Calvin’s Institutes 4.20).  What Neo-Calvinism has done is to elevate the political, governmental and especially legal element to an unprecedented degree. [ . . . ]

But what is especially striking is the absence of biblical exegesis that shows how Genesis 1 supports the notion of the dominion covenant and the cultural mandate. This is a criticism made by a number of critics.  Among them is Bob De Waay who wrote “The Dominion Mandate and the Christian Reconstruction Movement.”  Reconstructionist theology is popular even in Southeast Asia where it also met with criticism.  Sze Zeng noted that basing the cultural mandate on Genesis 1 is problematic being based on eisegesis.  He notes:

Kong Hee is reading into the text. Genesis 1 – 2 has nothing to dowith the broad mandate to cultivate ‘culture’ in the world. These passages concern the specific agricultural work of the primitive family for their sustenance and not about “taking the raw material God has given to man, and creatively nurturing it to its fullest potential,” as Kong Hee stated.(Emphasis added.)

If the Reconstructionist reading of Genesis 1:26-28 is in error then we need to ask what the correct reading would be.  For that we look at three sources: (1) the magisterial Reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin; (2) the early Church Fathers, John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine of Hippo; and (3) recent biblical scholarship.

In his commentary on Genesis 1 Martin Luther found that God giving “dominion” to Adam and Eve referred to authority over animals.

And in the next place we must view the matter in an absolute sense, thatall animals, nay, the earth itself with all created living things and all generated from them, are subjected to the dominion of Adam, whom God by his vocal and expressed command constituted king over the whole animal creation (p. 121).

John Calvin in his commentary on Genesis similarly found dominion to refer to human authority over animals:

And let them have dominion.  Here he commemorates that part of dignity with which he decreed to honor man, namely, that he should have authority over all living creatures. He appointed man, it is true, lord of the world; but he expressly subjects the animals to him, because they having an inclination or instinct of their own, seem to be less under authority from without. (Emphasis added.)

When we look at the early Church Fathers we find a similar emphasis in their exposition of Genesis 1.  John Chrysostom, considered one of Christianity’s greatest preachers, in his homilies on Genesis noted:

What in fact does the text go on to say?  “Let them have control of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, and all the reptiles creeping on the earth.’” So “image” refers to the matter of control, not anything else, in other words, God created the human being as having control of everything on earth, and nothing on earth is greater than the human being, under whose authority everything falls. (John Chrysostom p. 110)

I would note, though, that neo-Calvinism is not the same as Christian Reconstructionism. (I suspect Kuyper would disagree with Rushdoony on many issues.)


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