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Dominion Theology

Introduction

Should Christians "take dominion" in the world before Christ returns? Two movements within American Christian Church say yes. Both of these movements fall under the classification of "Dominion Theology," which states a Biblical mandate to occupy or control all secular institutions until Christ returns.

Christian Reconstructionism

First is the Christian Reconstruction movement, led by such men as Gary North and R.J. Rushdoony. Almost unknown 30 years ago, Reconstructionsim is now influencing the evangelical Church. Its leadership is aggressive, with a Postmillennialist call for Christians to take over the world before Christ can return. Postmillennialism teaches the kingdom of God is now being extended in the world by preaching the Gospel, so that the world will be Christianized during this nonliteral Millennium. Its goal is for a worldwide conquest by Christianity to take over the world for Christ. In their view, this is to be done by the Church, while Christ the King is absent from the earth, something which the Bible simply does not teach. Associated with a small number of think tanks and book publishers, Reconstructionists advocates call for the imposition of an Old Testament style theocracy, complete with capital punishment for serious offenses like adultery, homosexuality, and blasphemy.

Reconstructionism is the most intellectually grounded brand of Dominion Theology. Its leading proponent has been Rousas John Rushdoony, an obscure figure within the Christian Right. Rushdoony founded the Chalcedon Foundation in California in the mid-1960s. One of the Foundation's early associates was Gary North who eventually married his daughter. Rushdoony and North had a falling out and ceased collaboration many years ago. North started his own think tank, the Institute for Christian Economics in Tyler, Texas. Rushdoony, North, and about a half dozen other Reconstructionist writers have published numerous books and advocating Postmillennialism and "Theonomy" or the application of God's law to all spheres of everyday life.

North has geared his writing for popular audiences, while Rushdoony's writing is more exhaustive and also more controversial. North has also published a series of attacks on believers in Premillennialism. It was Rushdoony's 1973 book The Institutes of Biblical Law that articulated Reconstructionists' vision of a theocracy in which Old Testament law would be reinstated in modern society. Old Testament law classified a wide range of sins as punishable by death; these included not only murder and rape but also adultery, incest, homosexuality, witchcraft, incorrigible delinquency by youth, and even blasphemy. In the Reconstructionists' vision of a millennial or "kingdom" society, there would be only local governments; there would be no central administrative state to collect property taxes, nor to provide education or other welfare services. Reconstructionism boasts a few other prolific writers. These include Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Rev. Joseph Morecraft, David Chilton, Gary DeMar, and Kenneth Gentry.

Kingdom Now

The second group of Dominionists is known as Kingdom Now, led by men such as Earl Paulk and Thomas Reid. "Kingdom Now theology" urges the Church to become united and mature under the rule of charismatic apostles and prophets (such as Paulk), and take control of secular institutions enough to establish that the Church represents the authority of Christ.

The emphasis on the Church's taking "dominion" in both of these movements has led to their being associated together under the label "Dominion Theology." There are significant points of common notions held by the two groups. But there are also more important differences. The Reconstructionists are orthodox Calvinists and are thus solidly evangelical, even if many evangelicals will strongly disagree with Postmillennialism and other distinctive Reconstructionist doctrines. On the other hand, Kingdom Now brings together in one package most of the unbiblical elements of the earlier heretical perversions of Pentecostalism issuing from the "Latter Rain" movement of the late 1940s.

So, these two movements understand "taking dominion" rather differently. The Reconstructionists envision a gradual, pervasive transformation of human institutions in the wake of worldwide conversion to orthodox Christianity, while the Kingdom Now teachers look for a brief display of the Church's power as the basis for Christ condemning the unbelieving world for not listening to the gospel. Both groups are convinced that "taking dominion" means taking control of our government away from the godless is in fact Christ's mandate to the Church. They hope that Christians can take sufficient control of things to set the agenda and course for America into the next century.

Today in the Church there is a changing attitude toward Israel, which is attributed to to the teachings of Dominionists. One of the key doctrines of this movement is the claim that the Church is now Israel, heir to all of her promises, and that national Israel has been cut off from God, and has further no place in the prophetic scheme. The Bible, however, teaches just the opposite. God will never cast off Israel as the Prophet Jeremiah states: If the heavens can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below then I will also cast off all the offspring for Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord (Jeremiah 31:37).

Speaking at Edmond near Oklahoma City on April 11, 1988, Rick Godwin, a popular Christian media speaker delivered the type of anti-Israel rhetoric that is becoming so typical today: They [national Israel] are not chosen, they are cursed!...Yes, and you hear Jerry Falwell and everybody else say the reason America's great is because America's blessed Israel. They sure have. Which Israel? "The" Israel -- the Church...That's the Israel of God, not that garlic one over on the Mediterranean Sea! (Thy Kingdom Come, Nov 87, pg3).

Earl Paulk states: "The hour has come for us to know...that the spirit of the antichrist is now at work in the world... through so-called Holy Spirit- filled teachers who say, 'If you bless national Israel, God will bless you.' Not only is this blatantly deceptive, it is not part of the new covenant at all!" (Earl Paulk, The Handwriting is on the Wall). Paulk obviously cares nothing about the words of Jeremiah with regard to the New Covenant for Israel, nor the Abrahamic Covenant which clearly states that God will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel (Genesis 12:3).

The idea of taking dominion over secular society gained widespread acceptance with the 1981 publication of evangelical philosopher Francis Schaeffer's book "A Christian Manifesto." Schaeffer, who died in 1984, ran a Christian retreat/training center in Switzerland during the 1960's and 1970's. He and his wife worked with young people who were searching for spiritual answers to life, faith and God . They came from all over to study the Bible and learn how to apply Schaeffer's evangelical methodology, which included his version of Dominion Theology, to their cultures back home.

In "A Christian Manifesto," Schaeffer's argument is that the United States began as a nation rooted in Biblical principles. Then as society became more pluralistic, advocates of a new philosophy of secular humanism gradually came to dominate our society. Since humanists place human achievement, not God, at the center of their concerns, they pushed American culture in an ungodly directions, the most visible results of which included legalized abortion and the secularization of the public schools. Schaeffer concludes "A Christian Manifesto" with a call for Christians to use civil disobedience to restore Biblical morality.

Since Dominionists teach that the mission of the church goes beyond the spiritual transformation of individuals to a mandate to change society, they must change the laws of the land, elect Christians to office, and seek to take dominion over our world and bring it under the Mosaic Law. We see the influence of this thinking even in those who may know little about it: James Dobson, The Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson, Promise Keepers, Charles Colson, Operation Rescue, are but a few of the evidences that Dominionist thinking is beginning to dominate the evangelical world.

During the first three centuries of the apostolic Church, which was clearly Premillennial not Postmillennial, "reconstructing society" was never entertained. Christ clearly taught "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). The Bible teaches us that the world will become more corrupt in the last days, then after the Tribulation period Christ will return and establish His millennial kingdom. Reigning over the whole earth from Jerusalem, His Capital, Israel will be made the leader of the nations, and the Church will reign with Him for a "literal" thousand years. The Church is never commanded to subdue the earth on its own, this simply will not happen until Christ returns. The Church's main responsibility is evangelism and discipleship, not political activism. Our call as believers is to change people through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not to change society through social reformation.

Written by Alan Torres

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