Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The natural consequence of moral absolutism
I've been told over and over that moral absolutism is necessary to be a Christian. Without absolute moral authority how do you know what's right and wrong? As much as conservative Christians like to talk about moral absolutism, I don't think many of them are really absolutists. The problem for people living in the real world is that absolutism is pretty much untenable for anyone living in a diverse society.

The unfortunate reality for absolutists is that not everyone agrees with their set of moral principles. That creates a problem for absolutists because not following those moral principles is wrong. Like burn in hell for all eternity wrong. Like God will smite you, wrong. But after they've converted the half-dozen people in the world who will easily change their minds they're still stuck with the rest of us who aren't going to change.

So what are the absolutists going to do? I think that ultimately they don't have a lot of choices. Choosing to let people be is basically implicit moral relativism (which is very, very bad). So what's left? Locking people up or killing them. Throwing people in prison works well for certain crimes - like those based on behaviors or actions. But what about crimes of the mind? Locking up heretics and apostates doesn't do much. If you think about it, what other avenue does a serious moral absolutist have to deal with an unrepenting dissident?

Thankfully I'm not making this stuff up. I have recently been reading about Christian Reconstructionism. Related concepts are Dominion Theology and Theonomy. Religious describes the concepts this way:

Christian Reconstructionism - Followers believe "that every area dominated by sin must be 'reconstructed' in terms of the Bible."

Dominion Theology - Dominion theologians believe that that this verse [Genesis 1:26] commands Christians to bring all societies, around the world, under the rule of the Word of God.

Theonomy - Thus, each of the 613 laws given to Moses and recorded in the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures) are binding on people of all nations, cultures, and religions forever, except for those laws which have been rescinded or modified by further revelation.

Here is another summary of Christian Reconstructionism. This is from an article by Edd Noell, a professor at Westmont College, titled "A Reformed Approach to Economics: Christian Reconstructionism."

Reconstructionists follow Calvin in seeing man’s task as fulfilling the dominion covenant through devotion to God’s particular calling.

Reconstructionists understand this task in terms of bringing the whole world under the rule of God’s law. This understanding is derived from two other principle doctrines associated with Reconstructionism: ts postmillennial eschatology and its theonomic approach to ethics. Postmillennialism contends that prior to the Second Coming of Christ, his kingdom will be manifested in a worldwide conversion
to Christianity. The theonomic doctrine affirms that every detail of God’s law as given through Moses is explicitly binding on Christians today. Reconstructionists who espouse theonomic postmillennialism assert that worldwide victory for the gospel will result in adherence by all nations to the standards found in Biblical law.

Advocates of theonomy believe that bringing back Mosaic law also requires bringing back the death penalty. They believe the following crimes worth of death (based on the Old Testament): adultery, blasphemy, heresy, homosexual behavior, idolatry, prostitution, evil sorcery. From "Christian Reconstructionism" at The Public Eye, "The Biblically approved methods of execution include burning (at the stake for example), stoning, hanging, and "the sword." Gary North, the self-described economist of Reconstructionism, prefers stoning because, among other things, stones are cheap, plentiful, and convenient."

Now this is moral absolutism. If you reject their ideas (i.e. heresy), they'll kill you (or just wish that they could). I would argue that this is the natural consequence of moral absolutism. Eventually you get to the point where there is no other alternative than killing people who disagree with you.

Thank God there aren't very many true moral absolutists out there.

Here are some links on Christian Reconstructionsim, Dominion Theology, and Theonomy. Some in favor, most opposed.

Moral Absolutes?

Religious - Christian Reconstructionism

Religious - Recent developments

Religious Movements Homepage Project

Christian Reconstructionism

"Avenging Angel of the Religious Right" - Originally published at

Free Books from The Institute of Christian Economics (founded by Gary North)

Christian Reconstructionism - The Foundation of Modern Conservativism

The Despoiling of America

R. J. Rushdoony - One of the main guys behind Christian Reconstructionism



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