Folks on the religious right who defend themselves against the secular left's attack mantra, "the dominionists are coming!" -- the theme of many current books and articles -- are quick to point out that typical evangelical conservatives are not Dominionists/Reconstructionists, most of them have never heard of RJ Rushdoony, and that virtually all of Rushdoony's followers have left the Republican Party and vote for the Constitution Party candidates.
Well yes and no. The dominionists are the far right wing of the religious right. As with the far left wing of the Left -- the "Progressives," the folks who write in "The Nation" magazine -- some of them are still connected with the Democratic Party; some find the DP too "conservative" and vote Green. Likewise, some dominionists are still connected with Republican politics; some find the Republicans too "liberal" and vote Constitution or Reform. D. James Kennedy's group, I think, aptly qualifies as "dominionist" and they are far more concerned with Republican politics than with 3rd party. Likewise David Barton and Wallbuilders, also "dominionists" are intimately connected with the Republicans.
At Falwell's Liberty University, a university at the heart of the religious right, it turns out that the Chair of the History Department -- Dr. Roger Schultz -- is a follower of, or at least appears intimately connected with Rushdoony and the Reconstructionists. Indeed, I found a new article of his, which praises Rushdoony, featured in the new edition of Rushdoony's Faith for All of Life, published by the Chalcedon Foundation. And the footnotes reveal that he has written for the Chalcedon Report and The Journal of Christian Reconstruction.
He's also a Reformed Presbyterian, and their theology tends to be "dominionist" and covenantial. Interestingly, my recent research shows that many prominent Reformed Presbyterians were anti-US Constitution because of its godlessness, lack of religious test, lack of covenant with the Triune God of the Bible, and "infidels" who played leading roles in getting it passed. Somewhere along the way, the Reconstructionists convinced themselves that we really did have a covenant Christian Founding. But not all of them. Gary North seems to be the only honest one of them who hasn't engaged in historical revisionism.
And speaking of which, that's the topic of this article. It really has an amusing premise: The Marxists are right. Since all history is really ideological, "Christian Historians" are justified in engaging in their revisionism. Or as he puts it:
Historians do have presuppositions. Some will candidly acknowledge the framework that informs their research and colors their perspective. Historians readily note the philosophical and cultural commitments of other historians. Some have researched the cycles of historical interpretation and the shifting topical approaches in textbooks.22 Everyone approaches the past with basic assumptions and judgments.
But the Christian historian is unique. He readily admits that he views history from the lens of faith. He can be clear about his presuppositions, the commitments of his worldview, and the scriptural source of his standards of justice and truth. He believes that there is a sovereign God who rules over nations and their destinies (Acts 17:26). He believes that all history works toward God’s foreordained ends and that history culminates at the judgment seat of Christ (Acts 17:31). He believes that history is meaningful because it is ordained by God for His purposes and His glory.
Here is how he deals with those who debunk the "Christian Nation" thesis:
Over the past quarter century, Christians have become more active, writing about the past and reclaiming their history. The Internet has made primary sources widely accessible. Homeschooling has allowed students to learn history without a secularist cant. Excellent resources are now available.
Secularists now disparage Christian historians as “revisionists.” Christians rewrite history, secularists charge, to sacralize the past, bolster “American exceptionalism,” and promote a Christian “city on a hill.”
Yet, as he must deal with, it's not just "secularists" who debunk the "Christian Nation" thesis.
Evangelicals on the left have also attacked America’s Christian history. In 1983, three leading historians collaborated on The Search for Christian America. They argued that “early America does not deserve to be considered uniquely, distinctively or even predominately Christian.” They further argued that “the idea of a ‘Christian nation’ is a very ambiguous concept, which is usually harmful to effective Christian action in society.” Eager to separate themselves from the Christian Right (the Reagan administration, the Moral Majority, and Jerry Falwell), the evangelical-lefties became vocal advocates of an unChristian America.15
They were especially hard on John Witherspoon, who was something of a hero to the Christian Right. Because Witherspoon was a Christian patriot, unChristian America historians berated him as a hyper-patriot whose political zeal eclipsed his interest in the gospel.16 “In his zeal for American rights Witherspoon was making the new American nation a supreme value in violation of the Christian’s obligation to put first the Kingdom of God. He allowed self-righteousness to triumph over charity.”17
I never knew that Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch, George Marsden, the authors of The Search For Christian America, were leftists (they are not; and they also happen to be the three most prominent evangelical scholars in the nation).
And I want to stress as I did in this past post, many conservative Christian scholars teaching at conservative Christian schools engage in superb scholarship, well worth reading, and don't otherwise engage in such propagandistic revisionism as Mr. Butler apparently does. Indeed, they have done, I have found, some of the best work on the history of religion and the US Founding. Some notable ones include Dr. Gregg Frazer of The Masters College, Dr. Gary Scott Smith, Chair of the History Dept. at Grove City College (author of this new book) and Dr. Robert Kraynak, of Colgate University.