I was recently sent a video clip featuring a Protestant theologian, author, and apologist by the name of Gary DeMar concerning his opinion as to why evangelicals are not appointed to the Supreme Court. His rationale was that, unlike Catholics, evangelicals tend to be piece-meal in their application of Divine Revelation. On the other hand, Catholics have historically understood the dominion mandate, both in its meaning and extent. It is all too unfortunate, according to DeMar, that modern evangelicals have a tendency to be so focused on "saving souls" that they forget that there is still a life to live and a world to disciple once one has been born again. To paraphrase my father, "they are too heavenly minded to be any earthly good." Add to this the belief that the end is moments away, and you have about as much reason to reconstruct a Christian social order as you would shining the brass on a sinking ship.
Understanding DeMar's remarks requires one to have a basic knowledge of the distinction he makes between the modern (and typically American) run-of-the-mill evangelicals as opposed to the Protestant school of Dominion Theology that he would identify with. Prior to my conversion, I also believed much like DeMar & Co. DeMar's works in the field of what has become known as Christian Reconstruction ranked up there with notables like Greg Bahnsen, R.J. Rushdoony, David Chilton, and, most importantly for me, Gary North. All of these men are "black coffee" Calvinists, adhering rigorously to Sola Scriptura, Covenant Theology, TULIP, Van Tilian apologetics (i.e. presuppositionalism), and postmillennialism. And all of these men have a strong conviction that by our applying kingdom principles to every sphere of human life we will bring about the kind of justice and peace that fulfills the Great Commission though subjecting all thoughts to Christ and by being the instruments through which King Christ takes dominion over all people in all nations, until the only enemy remaining is death.
The above mentioned convictions, when combined, create a holistic worldview. This school of thought literally touches on every area of human life. Sola Scriptura provides, at least it is believed, a normative standard by which Christians must live. Their form of Covenant Theology, over against the theological dinosaur known as Dispensationalism, places a special emphasis on the Torah. They see within God's law principles from which we can formulate political, legal, economic, and even environmental policies. Gary North and R.J. Rushdoony have written a myriad of economic commentaries seeking to draw out those theonomic principles underlying the case law of the Old Covenant, as well as those principles that can be found in New Covenant texts. James Jordan, who prefers to be called a theocrat rather than a theonomist, takes this further by including the ceremonial laws and historical narratives in his search for a truly authentic Christian order. And their postmillennialism provides the kind of optimism, not to be confused with triumphalism, that spurs them and their adherents to living this faith diligently in their daily lives, holding fast to the belief that such efforts would do more than save their souls, but would also works towards the reconstruction of a truly Christian order.
It is not my intention here to hold these men or their works as standards of hermeneutical excellence that ought to be emulated by faithful Catholics. Rather, it is in an effort to renew within the mind and heart of the faithful Catholic the age-old conviction that our faith is neither piece-meal nor meant to be lived out on Easter and Christmas. Instead, the orthodox faith handed down to us over the past 2,000 years is, and always has been, meant to be applied on a personal level, to the family unit, and to the political-economy as a whole. It is, by its very nature, holistic.
Distributists, in common with most all groups or schools of thought ending with an -ism, tend to ride hobby horses. It has been brought to my attention that I tend to overemphasize foreign policy and international trade at the expense of many other pressing issues. For others it may be the Fed. For others it might be guilds and localism. Still for others it could be a mixture of all these things at the expense of the "other" topics typically getting little more than a passing glance. At any rate, most of us are guilty. And while the principle of the division of labor may be applicable here, at least to a certain extent, it should not be seen as a justification for our enthusiasm for certain teachings at the expense of others.
All of this poses a particularly sticky problem for those wishing to embrace and live out the fullness of Catholic social and moral teaching. Life isn't just about money, nor is it merely concerned with the ownership of land or family farms. Catholic Social Teaching, of which distributism most accurately reflects, deals with people as they are and life as it is. This requires the distributist to at bare minimum to familiarize himself with the entirety of Holy Mother Church's social, moral, and dogmatic teaching. As She is concerned with life in its entirety, so ought we. We must, therefore, become at least respectfully acquainted with those issues which may not be most appealing to our special interests. In short, it means becoming Catholic in the fullest sense, with the devout life as our aim, and the realization of Christ reign as Lord and King of Heaven and Earth as our primary objective.
Do I believe any of this to be possible? Apart from the grace of God and the works of Our Lady that result from a life of prayer, no. Do I believe that this revolution will happen overnight, or that progress will always be seen in leaps and bounds? No. The distributists of old, in harmony with the teachings of Mother Church, were as much realists as they were pragmatists. The theory of one brick or one step at a time, regardless how small or insignificant it may initially appear, is at the heart and soul of Catholic social reconstruction. But none of this can be done without a more comprehensive study and application of the kingdom principles laid out for us in the Holy Scripture, the writings of the saints, the papal encyclicals and the catechisms. Still, prayer is an absolute essential. Pray we can, and pray we must. For without prayer our most valiant efforts will be of little to no avail.
Gary DeMar was right. Historically, Catholics have been holistic in their application of their religion to each and every area of human existence. It is for this reason that the Catholic faith and Mother Church are seen as the one's who shaped and preserved Western civilization. So let us pray that we too can live up to that high calling and standard of excellence provided for us by the saints of old. Then, and only then, will we see the dominion of King Christ manifest within the world and the affairs of those God chose to create in His most sacred image.
NOTE: I am now on Twitter. http://twitter.com/Paleocrat and Plaxo
NOTE: I am now on Twitter. http://twitter.com/Paleocrat and Plaxo