1. National covenanting – This is where the name “Covenanter” comes from. Their belief is that a covenant must be made nationally acknowledging Jesus Christ as King and vowing to be God’s people while being lovingly obedient to his laws. This includes not working with evil nations and protecting the true Christian religion. Reconstructionists don’t think national covenanting is necessary or commanded in scripture. Some believe the U.S. Constitution is acceptable and there is no need for another covenant.
2. Establishment principle – Covenanters believe there should be a separation between church and state but there is some overlap and cooperation with each other. Reformed Presbyterianism must be the established religion of the nation, with the Westminster Standards as the subordinate authority over the church. Reconstructionists want an absolute separation but both are under the authority of God’s word. Some believe there should be no established religion and allow religious pluralism. Others are in favor of establishing Christianity as the national religion with no specific denomination or confession.
3. Enforcement of both tables of the law – Covenanters uphold both tables of the law for punishing crime. This includes punishing idolatry, blasphemy, heresy, breaking of the Sabbath, etc. Reconstructionists believe in punishing only the second table of the law, except for blasphemy and some heresies and some idolatry depending on the individual. Joel McDurmon is against the civil government enforcing the first table of the law (commandments 1-4). Gary North and R.J. Rushdoony are examples of Reconstructionists who do not believe in the continuation of punishing violators of the weekly Sabbath (see The Economics of Sabbath-Keeping by North and The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 1 by Rushdoony). Greg Bahnsen is an example of a Reconstructionist who believed in enforcement of both tables of the law, although he had no issues with images of Jesus.
4. Regulative Principle of Worship – Covenanters hold to the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) strictly. This is the guideline for corporate, family and private worship. That includes Exclusive Psalmody, no instruments, and rejecting all religious holidays except for the Sabbath. Reconstructionists are not as strict on the regulative principle. It is acceptable to sing uninspired songs, use instruments, and allow the celebration of various religious holidays.
5. Eschatology – Generally, Covenanters are historicist classical Postmillennialists and Reconstructionists are partial-preterist Postmillennialists (see also 7 Differences Between Partial Preterist and Historicist Postmillennialism).
6. Two-Kingdoms – Covenanters have a historical Two-Kingdom theology view. God has always been King over the entire creation but specifically Christ rules over the church as it was given to him in his humanity for his mediatorial dominion. Reconstructionists have a Kuyperian, one-kingdom view of the kingdom of God.
7. Political Dissent – Covenanters practice political dissent. This means that if the government is wicked, we must not participate in voting, military involvement, hold political office, or any other action that will require an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the ungodly U.S. Constitution. Reconstructionists do not practice political dissent but political involvement. Christians must vote and hold political office in order to bring a reformation to the wicked government.
8. Natural Law – Covenanters hold to Natural Law, which they articulate as the reflection of God’s moral character and the moral order of creation (sometimes referred to as the secondary law of nature) as designed by God, which is written on the human heart (Rom. 2:14-15), and is no different in substance than the ten commandments (which are a summary of the entire moral law cf. WLC 98). Reconstructionists think Natural Law is too ambiguous and prone to be used in opposition to biblical Law. If something isn’t explicit in Scripture then it is unhelpful.