There’s no doubt Kinism is an outgrowth of the now-defunct Christian Reconstruction movement, so to understand Kinism, one has to have a grasp on CR and why it imploded. But to properly understand CR, one has to take a step back and look at American history, the history of the Reformed Church, and more broadly, the history of Western Civilization.
I don’t intend to do all that in one post, but lately (in the past year or so) I’ve been wrestling with serious questions concerning Kinism; so, to address them, I’ll try to give a brief overview of why CR fell apart, how Kinism emerged, then pose a few thoughts:
After Christ ascended to Heaven, His disciples spread out, eventually converting the Roman empire. The fall of Rome launched the Christian middle ages, which, in my way of thinking, was the ideal time in Christendom. This is a gross oversimplification but the Faith during this time was genuine and heart-felt. Unfortunately, over time, this Occidental Christian culture began drifting towards the “Enlightenment” when men gave up their genuine Faith in exchange for attempts to scientifically analyze it. Systems of doctrines became more important than the relationship, if not formally, certainly in practice. There was a struggle; the old believers didn’t go quietly into the night. There was a Christian counter-attack from the poets of Europe that lasted up until the early 19th century, but the new “rationalists” won out, either by transforming Christianity into a mere system of doctrines, or by giving it up all together.
The Protestant Reformation, which spawned the likes of Luther and Calvin, was an attempt to rescue the heart-felt Faith of old-Europe, by using the tools of the rationalists. Unfortunately it seems this only further helped the rationalists, although saying so is very controversial among modern Protestants (and Kinists more specifically).
At any-rate, the rationalists like Kant began attacking the old arguments for God’s existence, frightening the now rationalized Christians into retreat. They retreated to pietism and fideism, but they’d never give up their new belief in doctrine and rationalism. Christian rationalist heroes emerged in the Reformed camp, to push back against the likes of Kant. Abraham Kuyper was one of these. Kuyper, Bavinck, and others founded a school of “Neo-Calvinism” that emphasized worldview thinking and provided a significant position from which to attack the new rationalist critiques of the Faith. Van Til, in the 1930’s and 40’s, we might say was the most philosophically consistent expression of this rationalist counter-attack – challenging his opponents to be thoroughly and consistently rational, noting their abject failure to do so, then presenting Christianity as the only consistently rational system available.
This Van Tillian method applied to all areas of thinking and academic life, spawning what was known as the “Reconstruction Movement”, or the attempt by Van Til’s followers to self-consciously reconstruct all areas of academia along consistently Reformed theological lines. His most notable disciples in this regard were Rushdoony, who tried to reconstruct theories of law, politics, and government in accord with Presbyterian covenant theonomy; North, who did the same with economics and history; and Greg Bahnsen, who tried doing so with philosophy.
By the time we get to Rushdoony, North, and Bahnsen, we’re in 1970’s era America and conservatives in the culture, especially the rationalist Evangelicals, begin utilizing Reconstructionist thought to try and counter left-wing hippy and other such degenerate movements from the 60’s. So Christian Reconstruction was very much a Right-Wing American phenomenon, building on the anti-Government angst in the hinterlands. And given the open-ended nature of academic Reconstruction, laymen began trying to reconstruct their favored areas of interest. Soon, for example, Southerners, long accustomed to criticism and animosity from America’s mainstream, began utilizing Van Tillian analysis to support Southern historical narratives and political thought. This lead to the infamous “Neo-Confederate” faction in Christian Reconstruction, which enemies of CR still point at today as a destructive aspect of the movement.
Kinsim arose from this Right Wing populist milieu – a mix of pro-confederates, Southerners, militia-minded patriots, conspiracy theorists, and outright theology “nerds”, who could spend hours discussing the finer points of some Reformed debate from the 1600’s. But as the 90’s rolled around, the cult-like nature of rationalist-based Christianity took its toll on Christian Reconstruction and, as these pseudo-cults often do, began to fracture internally from infighting, clashes of personality, and the deaths of prominent leaders.
Nevertheless, the right-wing populist nature did not die out and found clear expression in Kinism. These days, those still calling themselves “theonomists” or “Reconstructionists” are trying to find populist fuel for their dogmas among left-wing college students and social justice warriors by appealing to anti-racist and politically-correct jargon, while all the old-guard Right Wing populists have either left the movement all together, or are funneled into the Kinist camp.
Admittedly, this is a fast and loose summary, but I have to wonder if Kinism can succeed as a movement as long as it remains tied to the old “cult-like / rationalist” paradigm of Presbyterian ecclesiology. Ethnicity, it seems to me, is the giant elephant in the room of all Presbyterian discussion of theology; how can we have a consistent covenant theology (as Presbyterians want), when the Old Testament was so clearly focused on ethnicity? This, modernist Presbyterians are in no position to answer; they’re floundering around in heresy debates about the Federal Vision and still trying to get their official act together concerning the nature of paedo-baptism.
I realized, very early on, that if I’m going to be a Kinist, I need to seriously wrestle with ecclesiology (the nature and organization of the church). Is the church a separate bureaucratic institution? Or is it an international “Kingdom” of various Christian ethnicities, ruled by tribal elders (similar to the middle ages)?
It’s noteworthy that Rushdoony, himself, seemed to wrestle with similar issues, which, perhaps, lead to his infamous split with son-in-law Gary North. Rushdoony, it’s said, moved Chalcedon headquarters to a small Vallecito town, in the California countryside, as a way to start his own patriarchal “tribe”…and high-church, Scary Gary wanted nothing to do with it. North retaliated with a horrible book “Baptized Patriarchalism” which tries to dissect Rushdoony’s position. It’s a one-way fight because, as far as I know, Rushdoony never responded.
Kinists, because of our emphasis on family unity and bonds of honor, are in a position to salvage whatever good remains from the old Reconstructionist movement. We’re not “cultists” because we’re not strictly organized ideologically. We don’t damn people to Hell over minute disagreements in some doctrine or other. We’re more in line with the old, pre-rationalist Christians in that regard – at least I like to hope so.
Still, serious thought needs to be given to the nature of the church in Kinist circles.