Have you encountered Christians in your walk who have used confusing language and concepts about "taking dominion" of the earth? Who have talked about having a mandate from God to capture certain designated realms of the culture in order to "reclaim" them for God? Who have talked about the hope of one day on this earth living under a "Theocracy?" If so, you may have been dealing with Christians who are Dominionists. Dominionists are Christians who have a misunderstanding of Bible verses which talk about mankind taking physical dominion of the earth. They misunderstand these verses to mean that Christians are meant to take spiritual dominion of the earth, and not just physical dominion. The verses typically used by Dominionists as proof-texts are Genesis 1:28 and Psalm 8:
"God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'" (Genesis 1:28)
"What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made themd a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas." (Psalm 8:4-8)According to those Christians who refute this movement, however, it's a big leap to take God's commands for us to subdue the earth to mean that our dominion should include the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm. It is only the physical realm that is explicitly mandated by God for us to control. I actually think that we live in a peculiar time in history in that we don't really even have to think much about taking physical dominion, due to the fact that past generations have already done it so successfully for us. But taking physical dominion is no small thing. Remember the Laura Ingalls books? Those were hard, perilous times, and those books were written just a little over a hundred years ago. From our perspective today, however, I think it's hard to imagine living in a world in which we have to fend off bears, and battle droughts and floods and whatnot in order to eek out enough food just so that our families might survive.
So what does Dominionism look like today? In the Christian realm, Dominionists typically align themselves with one of two prominent Dominionist movements: (1) the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) or (2) Christian Reconstruction/Theonomy. As noted, the NARs misinterpret the Bible verses above as meaning that they a mandate from God to take spiritual dominion of the earth. Out of this mistaken belief, the NARs have developed a teaching known as "Joel's Army," an elitist, end-times movement that exhorts families to raise up youth and children to be a "New Breed", who will be the "Manifested Sons of God." The movement has a decidedly militant edge to it, and those in it believe they will raise up a generation who will take back this world for God.
|Some of the teaching materials and imagery associated with "Joel's Army"|
1 - Business
2 - Government
3 - Family
4 - Religion
5 - Media
6 - Education
7 - Entertainment
But flip the Dominionism coin, and you will find Christian Reconstructionism/Theonomy, a much more theologically buttoned up form of Dominionism. Some leaders in the Christian Reconstruction movement include R.J. Rushdoony, Doug Phillips, Joel McDurmon, Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, Greg Bahnsen, Gary North and Doug Wilson. Ministries associated with Christian Reconstruction are American Vision and the now defunct Federal Vision. Christian Reconstructionists, who have a lot of influence in the Christian homeschooling movement, work very, very hard to distinguish themselves from the New Apostolic Reformation, with its wackadoodle services where adherents sometimes shake, quiver, bark like dogs, and deceive themselves into believing angel feathers, gold dust and "glory clouds" are manifesting. Christian Reconstructionists eschew all this nonsense, and rightly so. Christian Reconstructionists are also, as previously noted, much more theologically buttoned up and biblically grounded, with some of them being highly regarded in the Presuppositional Apologetics department (Greg Bahnsen comes to mind here). But like their NAR counterparts, Christian Reconstructionists also believe they have a mandate from God to reclaim the culture, and the world. There are of course varying views within the Christian Reconstruction camp, but many of them believe that Christians are supposed to take dominion of the world and re-institute the Old Testament laws into all the world's governmental structures. I am personally of the opinion that these errant views flow out of the eschatalogical view held by most Christian Reconstructionists, which is the Post-Millennial view, and which posits that we are already in the Millennial kingdom, i.e., the Kingdom of God, spoken of in Revelation 21. The reason I think that Christian Reconstruction/Theonomy flows out of this eschatology is because it's not a far leap to look around at what (they believe) is the Kingdom of God, recognize what a mess it's in, and extrapolate out that they must roll up their sleeves and start doing their part to make this world look more like God's kingdom, since it is obvious to any observer, saved or lost, that the world is very far from millennial perfection in its current state.
Christian Reconstruction/Theonomy appear to me to be largely (but not entirely) a young person's movement (perhaps a bit of "zeal without knowledge" [Prov 19:2] there?). These young Christian Reconstructionist/Theonomy guys are smart, and passionate, and full of vim and vigor. And while I do appreciate their passion and energy, they come across as seeming to think the Christian life is all gleaming swords and prancing horses as they march with flags flying to the sound of trumpets into Christian battle. They are so wrong on this point. Yes, the Christian cause is the most noble of all causes. There's truth there. But the Christian life is hard and bloody and brutal, and they will never emerge from their battles victorious in the way that they think, having taken back this world completely. And lest we forget, Jesus plainly taught"My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). If these men, many of whom are young now, get to the end of their lives with their families intact, and their children solid in the faith, with just a few faithful friends who have stayed the course with them, they should consider themselves blessed beyond measure. They will suffer painful persecution in long, drawn out ways they cannot even imagine, persecution that will sometimes make them wish for death (and thus heaven). I'll check back in with those guys in a few years, after the joy of riding into battle has worn off a little, and they have been in the bloody, muddy trenches for many months, even years, and have lost comrades right and left. We'll see how they feel then, after the bloom is off the rose.
There is a majestic, triumphant fervor that comes through loud and clear in that hymn. But Christian Reconstructionists are kidding themselves if they don't realize where their theology ends up. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, it would mean men (albeit Christian men) taking over and ruling this world with Christian virtues. But can we not see the fault line in this thinking? How are Christians, who all must struggle and fight against the remnant of indwelling sin that remains even after conversion, going to rule this world? Who among us has not witnessed ugly church splits even amongst true believers? And what about the silly church splits, over things as mundane as carpet color and music? No, this world will be made right only when Christ returns to make all things new, and that does not include a world rampant with church splits, spiritual abuse, wars, sex trafficking, corrupt politicians, broken families, drug and alcohol abuse, disease, death and sorrow.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5)
Judicial Warfare: The Christian Reconstruction Movement and its Blueprints for Dominion (critique by former Christian Reconstructionist Greg Loren Durand)
Theonomy: A Reformed Baptist Assessment (Sam Waldron)
What Is Dominionism? (Derek Gilbert interviews Sarah Leslie of Herescope, beginning at 1:08:00 mark)
Moses' Law for Modern Government: The Intellectual and Sociological Origins of the Christian Reconstructionist Movement (Ligon Duncan)
Christian Reconstructionist Leader Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Resigns, Cites Moral Failure [UPDATED]
Doug Phillips, Repentance and Justice (Sola Sisters)
Hall of Shame: Doug Phillips and Vision Forum (Mennoknight)
Rethinking Vision Forum
How God Saves Us In Christ (And Why Legalism Can't Help Us) (Pastor Jeff Crippen)
Why The Law Cannot Sanctify (Romans 7:5-6) (Pastor Kevin Williams)
What Is The New Apostolic Reformation? (And Why Should We Be Concerned About It?)
Signs and Wonders Training Camp for Kids? (Stand Up For The Truth)
A Tale of Two Kingdoms (Stand Up For The Truth)