Failure of Christian Right

The Christian Right made a big impression for a very short amount of time. Many Christian activists got involved in trying to address and correct the many issues that were destroying America's culture. However, the movement proved short-lived because it was never founded on a solid biblical foundation. The leaders of the Christian Right had a fantastic opportunity to start a national movement of cultural redemption. Yet, they never provided the activists at the grassroots level with the biblical foundation nor direction for the movement.

As a result of the lack of solid biblical reasoning for the movement, it dissolved. Its leaders abandoned the project once the backlash came from their enemies and they wilted like a flower on a hot summer day. Their leaders missed a golden opportunity to promote a movement of cultural redemption because they did not have this knowledge themselves. It was truly a case of the blind leading the blind. Many got frustrated and believed God was telling them to drop the project and focus on evangelism. The continued decay of our culture since that time shows that the renewed efforts toward evangelism have been a complete failure. Perhaps it is time to revisit the biblical view toward cultural redemption before we totally lose this nation to the pagans.

Gary North offers a solution to the problem in the following article.


What Went Wrong with the ChristianRight

ByDr. Gary North

January/February 2006

The answer is simple: theChristian Right has refused to break with the worst assumptions of thepre-Christian Right.

Before discussing what iswrong, we should discuss what is right. What is right is Biblical covenanttheology.

Biblical Covenant Theology

Covenant theology has fivepoints.

First, God is absolutelysovereign. That is, He has predestinated everything. He is different fromthe creation, yet He has entered into the creation, above all through theSecond Person of the Trinity’s incarnation as Jesus Christ.

Second, God rules in historycovenantally, meaning hierarchically and judicially, primarily throughmankind. After the Fall of man, God has dealt with redeemed men in a specialway, which includes granting to them the lawful authority to impose judgmentsin history, including civil judgments.

Third, God has revealed His lawfor mankind in the Bible, though also in nature. Bothman and nature are fallen, which places the Bible, God’s Word, as the centralsource for wisdom and ethics. It alone is trustworthy.

Fourth, as the providentialsustainer of the universe, God judicially imputes meaning and thenbrings salvation (healing, deliverance) to individuals, societies, and nature,based on the comprehensive judgment brought against Jesus Christ at Calvary. Weare therefore to think God’s thoughts after Him, subordinating our thoughts tothe Bible.

Fifth, the new heavens and newearth, announced by Isaiah, will progressively replace Satan’s kingdom inhistory before Jesus comes in final judgment. To put these points inone sentence, the Bible teaches predestination, theocracy, theonomy,presuppositionalism, and postmillennialism.

Covenanttheology is an inescapable concept. It is never a question of covenant theologyvs. no covenant theology. It is a question of which covenanttheology.

Having summarized the Bible’sdoctrine of the covenant, I will now summarize the covenant theology of thepre-Christian Right.

American Covenant Theology

First, God is not absolutelysovereign. Man’s free will acts as a retarding factor on God’s decree.God’s decree is not comprehensive. God may or may not know the futureperfectly, but men are surely sovereign in accepting or rejecting the gospel,and therefore sovereign over less important matters as well.

Second, God ruleshierarchically through mankind, but He no longer has selectedredeemed men to exercise special authority in civil affairs.

Third, God’s revealed law isconfined to the Old Testament, which is no longer binding.Mankind is to be ruled by means of natural law, which is common to all men. Manand nature are fallen, but this has not seriously impaired the operation ofnatural law, as discovered by fallen man.

Fourth, God imputes meaning toall things and then salvation to individuals, but He does not save societies.Salvation is souls-only. So, in order to maintain society apart from specificredemption, truth must be available to all men on a common-access basis.

Fifth, because God saves soulsonly, and because the souls saved will remain a minority throughout history, societywill remain unredeemed until Jesus comes again.

To put these points in onesentence, the Bible teaches free will, democracy, natural law theory,common-sense rationalism, and pessimillennialism (premillennialism oramillennialism).

We now turn to the area ofapplied theology. Each of these rival covenant theologies has undergirded aspecific way of looking at the world. Each has produced a rival social outlook:in education, economics, politics, psychology, and popular culture. Each hasproduced a rival program of reconstruction.

Christian Reconstruction

ChristianReconstruction (capital R) can be said to have appeared as a developedtheological system with the publication of Rousas John Rushdoony’s book, TheInstitutes of Biblical Law in 1973. That marked theresurrection of a lost Protestant tradition: a 300-year hiatus since thepublication of Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory,published in 1673. Baxter’s book was a work of Protestant casuistry: theapplication of Christian principles to society.

Rushdoony’sfirst book was on Cornelius Van Til’s philosophy: ByWhat Standard? (1959). Van Til was a strictpresuppositionalist philosopher — unique in church history. He was a trueradical. Rushdoony explained and affirmed Van Til’s approach: a rejection ofnatural law theory and all common-ground systems of rationalism. This offeredRushdoony a strategy of reconstruction: education.

Hissecond book — not counting a short extract of ByWhat Standard? published as VanTil (1960) — was Intellectual Schizophrenia (1961),a defense of Christian education and a rejection of public (tax-funded)education. He began with a strategy: replace the public schools. Do not attemptto reform them, he warned. De-fund them. This was a radical position forChristians in 1961. It still is. It is consistent with Van Til’s presuppositionalism:no common-ground reasoning. Rushdoony extended his critique of publiceducation, as no one had before or has since, in The Messianic Character of AmericanEducation (1963). Here, he showed that humanism has a rival theology,which is redemptive. The public schools serve as an established church for thepriesthood of humanist education.

His strategy of reconstructionfor education was simple: “Replacement, not capture.” Thisrequires the development of separate Christian schools, programs, andcurriculum materials, financed by Christians, not the State. He understood thisancient principle: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” And this one: “Ifyou take the king’s shilling, you do the king’s bidding.”

He maintained this stand withrespect to all of his recommended reforms of society’s institutions. He did nottrust the State to be a positive force. He did not believe in taxation for thepurpose of passing out positive sanctions. Again, this had to do with pointfour of the covenant: evaluation, imputation, and sanctions.

“Youcan’t beat something with nothing.” This traditional political maxim applies toevery fallen institution. Criticism of evil is not enough. Criticism alonemakes you a gravedigger, Rushdoony said on numerous occasions. But Van Til’scritique of humanist philosophy was negative. Van Til was like a demolitionexpert, blowing up the epistemological foundations of humanism’s institutions.Rushdoony therefore looked for a way to reconstruct these logically demolishedfoundations. He turned to ethics: Biblical Law. He began a multi-year series ofsermons in 1968, which became Institutes of Biblical Law.

Unlike Van Til, anamillennialist, Rushdoony was optimistic that the Kingdom of God willinevitably replace the kingdom of Satan in history. Pointfive reinforced points four and three, and thereby reinforced the generalstrategy of Christian Reconstruction: replacement, not capture.

Rushdoony’s Calvinism repelledthe Arminians in the Creation Science movement. Thiswas true also of the developers of the Christian curriculum movement: Bob JonesUniversity Press, Pensacola Christian School (A Beka), and AcceleratedChristian Education. These movements are anti-presuppositional, common-groundmovements. Creation Science wants “neutral” facts to convince evolutionists.Fundamentalist educators baptize humanistic conservative ideas, modify theirtextbooks’ content slightly, and present the jumbled mess as “a Christian worldand life view.”

Finally, there is the issue oftheocracy. Point two’s hierarchicalism is only partially acceptable tofundamentalist Christians. Oath-bound covenants must be Trinitarian, theyinsist, to secure individual salvation, family authority, and church authority.But the State must always be neutral with respect to the God of the Bible.Natural law or common-sense rationalism must dominate. Biblical civil law hasbeen annulled.

If common-ground rationalismand common-ground ethics are morally mandatory, then common-ground politics isalso mandatory.

This leads us to the ChristianRight.

The Christian Right

Theyear 1973 was a crucial year in the development of the Christian Right. InJanuary, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade,legalizing abortion on demand. Rushdoony had warned that this was coming in theJuly 1970 issue of the Chalcedon Report. NoChristian leader paid any attention.

It took several years forProtestant evangelical leaders to become active in the anti-abortion movement.I once heard Tim LaHaye give a speech to a group of pro-life activists inTexas. He admitted that he had for years paid no attention to the ruling.

Abortion brings into the publicarena a Van Tilian fact of life: an aborted baby is either dead or alive. Thereis no neutral ground, no halfway condition, in between dead or alive. Theabortion issue was the wedge of Van Tilian self-consciousness for millions ofChristians. They gained the first glimmer of awareness regarding a Van Tiliantruth applied to civil law: the State is not neutral.

We began to see placards:“Abortion is Murder.” But then Christian Reconstructionists (alone) asked thatterrifying judicial question: “What is the proper civil penalty for murder?”The answer was obvious: execution. The anti-abortionist leaders all began towaffle, and they have waffled ever since.

The pro-life movement hasbecome almost invisible today, a pale reflection of what it was in 1985. Itsleaders refuse to deal with the obvious judicial implication of those earlyplacards, which we rarely see today.

In a world governed by a 5–4vote of the U.S. Supreme Court, pro-life activists seek deliverance by aconstitutional amendment. But this is not going to happen, and theleaders know it. “Thus saith the Court” has more authority today than “Thussaith the Lord.” The pro-life leaders refuse to go to Exodus 21, the onlypassage in the Bible that clearly provides a judicial answer to abortion, thepassage that Rushdoony cited in 1970.

If men strive, and hurt a woman withchild, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shallbe surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and heshall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shaltgive life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:22–25).

“Eye for eye? Why, that’s OldTestament stuff!” Indeed it is. And so the pro-life movement has become justone more special-interest political fundraising group. Its leaders refuse tooffer Biblical support for their proposed constitutional reconstruction. Why?Because if you cite Exodus 21 as morally binding on America, you are stuck withExodus 22.

Thou shalt not suffer a witch tolive. (Exodus 22:18)

Whosoever lieth with a beast shallsurely be put to death. (Exodus 22:19)

He that sacrificeth unto any god,save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed. (Exodus 22:20)

The pro-life leaders are notabout to get pulled into Exodus 22. So, they send out fund-raising letters andpropose strategies that have failed before and will fail again. They proposemore of the same. But the longer this holocaust goes on, the larger the numberof Christians who have nieces and granddaughters who have had an abortion. Theoldsters therefore begin to accept abortion “in special circumstances,” whichall boil down to this one: “Pregnancy of someone related to me.”

Leader by leader, issue byissue, the Christian Right turns to political alliances with humanists in theRepublican Party. They are now facing the situation that Blacks face in theDemocratic Party: “When you are in a political Party’s hip pocket, you will besat on.”

The Christian Right wants ahalfway house between democracy and theocracy. It also wants a halfway housebetween theonomy and autonomy, revelation and rationalism, creationism andevolutionism. It wants equal time for Jesus, which means equal time for Satan.

Their allies, the humanists,want no time for Jesus. They want the votes and donations of the faithful, butnothing more. They generally get what they want.


We see the outworking of tworival Christian covenants: two rival strategies. The ChristianReconstructionists want replacement, not capture, of tax-supportedinstitutions. The Christian Right wants capture, but with shared power as theprice — shared power with Republican Party humanists who hate the idea ofChristian civilization far more than they hate the Democrats. Then theChristian Right seems amazed when power is not shared.

The Christian Right isterminally naive. For politics, this is always disastrous.


Dr. Gary North is thenoted author of numerous works on economics and history (including Mises on Money and An Economic Commentary on the Bible) and is aco-founder of Christian Reconstruction. He continues to pour out a steadystream of writing and commentary and you can learn more about his work at