Posted by Christine Pack
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 hold to Dominionist theology, which often has overlapping views with Theonomy, Christian Reconstructionism (CR for short, going forward) and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).
Or, have you ever had an encounter with another Christian in which he walked you through a carefully worded Question and Answer script, at the end of which, if you played along, he announced to you that you have been a Theonomist all along, and never knew it?
Do you love God? Answer yes or no.
Do you think His laws are just? Answer yes or no.
Do you think sin should be punished? Answer yes or no.........
Or, have you attempted to have a discussion with a self-proclaimed Theonomist, only to be told that you don't "understand" Theonomy enough in order to comment on it, and that in order to do so, you must first read the 50 volume set of the collected works of Gary North, 25 scholarly articles by Gary DeMar, and four thousand articles by Greg Bahnsen before you are allowed to interact with them? (The reality is that the Christian walk is not Jesus + The Collected Canon of Theonomist Works. All Bible-believing Christians have the right and privilege to interact on any subject, including Theonomy.)
If you have ever had an encounter with another Christian that played out like one of the encounters described above, you will find this article helpful. And hopefully, this article will briefly demonstrate how Dominionism often outworks itself in ways never prescribed by Scripture.
Please note going forward that there are often very varied beliefs among Christians who hold Dominionist views. In this article, I will mention and/or link to Christian Reconstructionism, Patriarchal, Quiverfull, and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), even while I understand that these streams and ideologies often vary in many ways. For instance, not all Theonomists will be Christian Reconstructionists, not all Christian Reconstructionists will be Patriarchal, not all Patriarchals will be Quiverfull, not all Quiverfulls will be NARs, etc. However, what undergirds all of these movements or ideologies is their Dominionist worldview, and because of this, there is often a natural dovetailing of ideas between these groups and ideologies.
Theocracy is defined as a system of government in which priests (or rulers) rule in the name of God. So a Christian Theonomist would be someone who wants to impose the Old Testament form of civil government upon the world.
Theonomists 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 Theonomist 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)
I have had my own experiences with Christians who hold to Dominionist views. Some years back, I began to realize that some friends of mine held some views that I found to be unorthodox, to say the least. They were (are) members of a Presbyterian-PCA church, which is typically closely aligned to the Reformed Baptist view (which my husband and I hold). Some of our friends' views came to light during a conversation, and once I began to understand where they were coming from, I remember saying to the husband, So are you saying, we're already in the Millennial Kingdom? and if so, well, have you watched the news lately?
His response was, Oh yeah, we're in the Kingdom, and the world will only get better and better through God-given blessings, those being primarily the gospel and the spread of the gospel message, but also through science, medicine and technology.
I was processing this statement, when he said the kicker that really got my antennae up: "This is the standard Presbyterian-PCA view."
Well, I knew that wasn't true, because my father, who has mentored me for years, has been a Presbyterian-PCA elder for almost 30 years. And I knew for a fact that he did not hold these views, nor did any of the other church officers in his church.
Taking Dominion: Physically or Culturally?
That conversation with my friend sent me on a researching quest over the next decade to find out where these errant views were coming from. And yes, my Dominionist friend also used the scriptures quoted above to "prove" his Dominionist views. It is a big leap, however, 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. The fact is that we live in a peculiar time in history in that we don't really even have to think much about taking physical dominion of this earth, due to the fact that those who lived in the past have already done it so successfully for us in previous generations. 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, we often struggle to understand the difficulties endured by those in the past in what it meant for them to take dominion. For the most part, we don't ourselves have to personally fend off bears or survive droughts or fight pestilence or battle floods in order to eek out enough food to keep our families alive; we nip out to the grocery store and get all that we need, often with nary a thought to what a luxury such conditions are, and the fact that such luxuries were virtually unknown to the vast majority of humans who have ever lived on this earth throughout history, and are even now only enjoyed by the relatively few numbers of humans today who have the blessing of living in highly industrialized nations.
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"
The NARs have also developed a theology known as the "7 Mountain Mandate" which is also about taking spiritual dominion of this world (rather than simply having physical dominion, which is the biblical mandate) and which names specific areas of the culture they have targeted to reclaim. The realms they have designated are:
1 - Business
2 - Government
3 - Family
4 - Religion
5 - Media
6 - Education
7 - Entertainment
But flip the Dominionism
coin, and you will find Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction (CR)
, much more theologically buttoned up forms of Dominionism (and the flavor of Dominionism held by my fellow Christians). Theonomic/Christian Reconstruction leaders exert tremendous influence through the Christian homeschooling movement
, and through the Patriarchy
movements. Some leaders in the Theonomy/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 Theonomy/Christian Reconstruction are Canon Press, CrossPolitic, fight-Laugh-Feast American Vision
, Crown Rights Media
and the now defunct Vision Forum (Vision Forum's president, Doug Phillips, resigned in 2013 due to a moral failure
Theonomic/Christian Reconstruction dominionists work very hard to distinguish themselves from Dominionists of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)
variety, the latter with their wild worship services where adherents sometimes shake, quiver, bark like dogs, and deceive themselves into believing angel feathers, gold dust and "glory clouds" are manifesting
. Theonomists/CRs eschew all this nonsense, and rightly so. They are also, as previously noted, much more theologically buttoned up and biblically grounded, with some of them being highly regarded, and for good reason, in the Presuppositional Apologetics department (Greg Bahnsen and Sye Ten Bruggencate come to mind here). But like their NAR counterparts, Theonomists/CRs also believe they have a mandate from God to reclaim the culture, and the world.
Understanding the Theonomy views on reclaiming the culture and world helps make sense of why the Reconstructionist views dovetail so well with Patriarchy and Quiverfull views.... got to have lots of babies, you see, through embracing the "quiverfull" teachings (which are based on a misinterpretation of Psalm 127:3-5
), if you're going to have any shot at taking Dominion of the world, right? There are of course, as I noted in the opening paragraph, varying views within the Dominionist camp. But they all
believe that Christians are supposed to take dominion of the world, with there obviously being varied views about how to get there. Theonomists as noted believe and teach that Christians are meant to re-instate the Old Testament civil laws into all the world's governmental structures. These Old Testament laws include the stoning of Sabbath breakers, disobedient children, and unrepentant homosexuals (and yes, you did read that right).
However, the reason we are not under the Old Testament civil laws, and should not seek to place ourselves back under them, is simple: Jesus fulfilled the laws perfectly, all of them, on our behalf. And thus, we're no longer bound by the Old Testament civil and ceremonial laws, but only the moral Law, which is a picture of God's character and nature, and thus stands eternally, and which serves for us as believers as a curb and guide in our Christian walks.
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17)
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4)
In fact, in the book of Romans, Paul teaches that those who live by the Law, will die (and be judged) by the Law.
"All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law." (Romans 2:12)
Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction 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 folks 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 might sometimes make them wish for death (and thus heaven). Let's 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. Perhaps they will feel differently then, after the bloom is off the rose.
There's a reason "Onward Christian Soldiers," a hymn penned during the late 1800s that invoked American triumphalism, was quickly adopted by Theonomists. Christian Reconstructionist Kenneth Gentry, who writes for American Vision, also specifically mentions "Onward Christian Soldier" as being representative of the Post-Millennial view in his book He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology
. There is a majestic, triumphant fervor that comes through loud and clear in that hymn. But Theonomists/CRs are kidding themselves if they don't realize where their theology ends up. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, it would mean that men (albeit Christian men) would ultimately take over, and rule, 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, pornography, domestic violence, 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)
Dominionism? What Is Dominionism?
(Dr Warren Throckmorton)
Judicial Warfare: The Christian Reconstruction Movement and its Blueprints for Dominion
(critique by former Christian Reconstructionist Greg Loren Durand)
Theonomy: A Reformed Baptist Assessment
What Is Dominionism?
(Derek Gilbert interviews Sarah Leslie of Herescope, beginning at 1:08:00 mark)
A Biblical Examination of the Dominion Mandate and the Christian Reconstruction Movement
Moses' Law for Modern Government: The Intellectual and Sociological Origins of the Christian Reconstructionist Movement
Christian Reconstructionist Leader Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Resigns, Cites Moral Failure [UPDATED]
Doug Phillips, Repentance and Justice
Hall of Shame: Doug Phillips and Vision Forum
Rethinking Vision Forum
What Is The New Apostolic Reformation? (And Why Should We Be Concerned About It?)
Pastor Carl Trueman: Concerns With Quiverfull/Patriarchy
R.C. Sproul Jr Says that the Scandal of Josh Duggar Having Had An Ashley Madison Account Is None of Our Business
- Then Responds When his Own Visit to the Ashley Madison Site is Discovered
(RC Sproul Jr website)
Ligonier Suspends R.C. Sproul Jr Over Ashley Madison Adultery Website Visit
What Are The Quiverfull and Patriarchy Movements?