Applying the PlumbLine of God's Word
Cancer is a deadly foe. Left untreated, it metastisizes, and rapidly spreads throughout the body, attacking vital centers of life and rendering them increasingly useless, unable to perform the job they were designed for. Eventually, vital organs shut down, and the body dies, withering away to a pale shadow of its former self.
There is a cancer that is assaulting the Body of Christ, His Church, and that cancer is known as Dominion theology. While it takes on many names and forms, and varying degrees of application, there are certain elements that are central to Dominion theology.
Dominion theology is not new, having begun in the 4th century with the rise of the Roman Catholic Church. When Constantine officially recognized the Church as the sanctioned religion of the Roman Empire, Church control of governments began in earnest. For over 1200 years, the RCC attempted to control every aspect of life on this earth, exercising "dominion" over society, government, religion, economics and literally everything they could get their fingers into. The purpose? To convert all the earth, to exercise the "dominion" originally given to Adam, and thus "fulfill" God's original plan. The result? The "Dark Ages," 1200 years of ignorance, war, disease and pestilence, and a world largely unconverted.
Current Dominion Theology is actually a rather loose grouping of systems that share the belief that society (and thus governments) should be exclusively governed by God via application of the laws given in the Bible. There are two main lines of Dominion theology known as Christian Reconstructionism and Kingdom Now, but they are widely divergent in their procedural matters, while still having the same end goal in sight. That goal is that the Kingdom of God will be established on earth via political and military means, and only AFTER this complete control of the earth is established BY THE CHURCH can Christ return.
Christian Reconstructionism began in the 1960's and '70's under the teaching influence of R. J. Rushdoony. His theology contended that all society should be governed according to the laws that governed Israel, and codified in the Old Testament. Reconstructionism, in general, is heavily Calvinistic and Reformed, and cessationist (gifts of the Spirit are no longer in effect).
Kingdom Now is the antithesis of Reconstructionism, in that it is based in the Charismatic movement, and relies heavily on the leadership of "restored" apostles and prohets manifesting all of the gifts of the Spirit, including "new" revelation and prophecy. As such, any who do not submit totally to the pronouncements of the apostles and prophets are considered heretics and carnal who must be punished, but it still shares the ultimate goal of world dominion.
While most of the "mainline" Christian denominations rejected Dominion Theology for many years, the last decade has seen an increasing acceptance of much of this theology in many denominations and churches, especially in the "Christian Right".
It has been during the past 10 years that so many groups have arisen worldwide pushing for unrestrained acceptance of practices that are anathema to God and His Word. Homosexual behavior and marriage, "freedom of choice" in the slaughter of unborn children, increasing restriction on religious freedom and a general lack of moral certitudes have resulted in either a "backlash" among believers, or a "dumbing down" of absolutes and tolerance and acceptance of such behavior. In either case, whether by backlash or by acceptance, the general trend has been to attempt to gain more control in the political arena, and thus begin exercising more control and "dominion" over virtually every aspect of society.
Basis of Dominion Theology
Dominion theologists, regardless of which path they follow, regard three separate scriptures as the basis of their reasoning. Gen. 1:26-28, Gen. 9:1-5 and Mat. 28:18-20 are those scriptures, and we'll examine each separately.
"Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
According to Dominionists, this scripture sets out a covenant that God made with man, through Adam, and this covenant covers every aspect of man's rule (dominion), and specifically establishes dominion over the four governments mandated by God; individual, family, church and civil (societal). Adam, by sinning, lost his right to that dominion, and gave it away to the satan. However, Christ won it back, and has given it to His Church. Therefore, whenever a person is "born-again," he is restored to the pre-adamic nature, and dominion is given back, and it is then incumbent upon the born-again believer to begin exercising that dominion in all spheres.
I must note here, however, that the text clearly stipulates that man...AND woman were given dominion over animal life, and the earth (flora)..but not over each other. This is not to discount subsequent direction from God concerning societal priorities (Eph. 5:22 - marriage; Romans 13-1 - government), but the Genesis text does not concern itself with empowering some people with the task of subjugating other people.
"And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the terror of you shall be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man."
According to dominionists, this scripture echoes the original "mandate" given to Adam, including a cultural mandate of subjugation. However, it still follows that with the original mandate being non-existent (except in the tortured minds of dominionists), no mandate exists here.
"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Dominionists see this passage as extending, once again, the original "mandate" to exercise dominion by miscontruing the meaning of "disciple" from individuals to governmental authorities, and to the teaching of God's laws (theonomy) to all social institutions for the pupose of Christianizing everyone and everything.
The key to understanding this scripture lies in the use of the word "nations." While dominionists take this to be a generic reference to governmental institutions, the scripture itself uses the word "ethnos," which simply means a grouping of people living in the same area, or together. As such, it just means individual people of the same genus, ie: humans. That it cannot be construed to mean a governmental entity is born out by Paul's referring to government in Romans 13 when he uses "exousia" to refer to governmental authority (higher powers) and "archon" to refer to the heads of state (rulers) that run the governments.
Some dominionists (Gentry, Bahnsen, et al) argue that discipleship means teaching the nations (governments) the laws of God, and they in turn exercise those laws in such a manner as that all people within their purview are saved. Thus, if the government is "saved" by application of God's will (and law) then the people existing under that will and law are also saved. Unfortunately, this then brings into view the universal aspect of salvation (see this study on Universalism).
A further problem arises in considering the words "baptizing them...." How does one go about baptizing a governmental entity? Can we baptize the government of the United States of America? or Canada? or England? Suppose that the President of the United States believes, and is baptized. Does that automatically include all of his cabinet, every member of Congress, all judges, and all government employees? I thought not.
It would seem (to me, at least) that if a golden age of Christian domination of the world were in view, or at least expected to come about, God would have imparted that knowledge to Paul when he was writing an epistle to the Thessalonians. The context of 1 Thess. was to correct a series of misunderstandings that the Thessalonians had concerning the return of Christ and His establishment of the Millennial Kingdom. In this context, it seems only reasonable to assume that Paul would have exhorted them to begin, or continue their efforts to either replace or convert governmental rulers. However, Paul simply said "And to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need..." (1 Thess. 4:11). In 2 Thessalonians, Paul repeats this dictum by saying "For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread." ( 2 Thess. 3:10-12). In both of these passages, Paul makes one thing crystal clear...that believers are to be (a) quiet; (b)keep your nose out of others business; (c) behave properly, as befits a follower of Jesus Christ.
If it were not enough that Paul didn't have a clue as to this "mandate to domineer," then apparently Peter didn't either. In 1 Peter 2:11-13 we read "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution." What is Peter saying? For one, that Christians are not a part of this world system. For another, that for being a Christian we can expect to be slandered and spoken ill of by others who ARE a part of this world system. And lastly, that we are to be SUBJECT and SUBMISSIVE to HUMAN INSTITUTIONS (governmental agencies). No where does Peter say "take 'em over...it's your God-given right and job."
I would like to make note here that nothing in scripture PRECLUDES a Christian from being involved in the political arena (although many today would like to see Christians banned from office). This article from Wallbuilders clearly delineates the opinion of John Witherspoon, a clergyman and signer of the Declaration of Independence, concerning the rights and obligations of any citizen of this country as regards holding political office.
Following is a listing of the essential elements of Dominion teaching, recognizing that each branch or offshoot of Dominionism has and will modify some of these elements to suit their own fancy.
- 1. Adam (mankind) was given dominion over all aspects of life on this earth, including civil institutions.
- 2. God operated on this earth through Adam.
- 3. Adam (mankind) gave away that dominion when he sinned.
- 4. When Adam gave dominion away, God no longer had any business here on earth, and was powerless to operate here.
- 5. God somehow snuck Jesus in so that He could get authority back on the earth.
- 6. Jesus didn't atone for sin on the cross (any mortal could have done that), but only by going to hell where He was born-again.
- 7. When Jesus was born-again, He bought back dominion, and gave that dominion to the Church.
- 8. Jesus and God the Father are stuck in heaven until the Church exercises that dominion.
- 9. Only AFTER the Church has reclaimed the entire earth can Jesus return.
- 10. The time while the Church is gaining dominion will be a time of a great revival, as all people everywhere will become believers.
As you can see, that's quite a mouthful. And, I must admit, a lot of it sounds like a pretty good deal. It gives the Church a great deal of hope, and definitely sets out an agenda that can be followed that mirrors to a certain degree how the Church is supposed to be in this world...a witness to righteousness. One thing I know for sure is that every true Christian has a desire to see as many people as possible come to salvation through Jesus....however, every true Christian is also supposed to be a Berean, is supposed to be obedient to the Word of God, and is supposed to NOT lean to their own understanding. God has miraculously preserved His written Word for us through 2 millennia...doesn't it make sense that we should pay attention to what it does say, instead of what it doesn't say?
So What's Wrong With Sausage?
Sausage, that beloved staple of breakfast, is an amalgam of stuff. A little meat, a lot of fat, and a whole bunch of spices to give it flavor, all stuffed inside a thin skin...except, of course, pan sausage. Many people consider sausage to be garbage, while others think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.
The problem is really pretty simple...and that is that the essential teachings of Dominionism as reflected above do NOT correspond to what the Bible says, unless one wants to completely do away with the literal approach, and substitute allegorism. This happens to be the same problem that beset the RCC under the Augustinian influence, and resulted in wholesale changes to the clear intent of God.
Let's take a close look at each of the items listed, and compare it to scripture. As we will quickly see, Dominionism falls into the category of "sausage" religion...very little meat, LOTS of fat and spices stuffed into a very thin skin of truth.
1. Adam (mankind) was given dominion over all aspects of life on this earth, including civil institutions.
The first part is the skin....Adam (and Eve) were told to exercise dominion. However, the fat and spice that goes inside that skin is the last part of the statement. Civil institutions (family, government) are not mentioned by God in this or any other context. As noted early on, scripture refers ONLY to fish, birds, cattle, the earth (land, seas) and everything that creeps upon the earth. I do not think Gods intent here was to describe mankind (which He created) as something that creeps...although I have to admit that there are plenty of creepy people! As a matter of fact, the Hebrew "remes" is most often used to describe reptilian animals (alligators, snakes, etc.).
2. God operated on this earth through Adam
This certainly gives the impression that the only way God could be found on this earth was via the agency of His creation - Adam. As a matter of fact, there are many Dominion/Faith teachers that state exactly that. It also begins to set up the notion, later expounded on by many Dominionists, that man is (on this earth) the essence, and therefore the equivalent of God. However, my Bible says that while Adam (& Eve) roamed the Garden, God was there too...and visited with Adam on a regular basis. It also says that when Adam sinned, he tried to hide from God. Most of all, the Bible tells me that God created everything...including Adam. God had already created all the birds and animals when He told Adam to name them. That doesn't sound to me like the omnipotent creator "operated through" Adam.
3. Adam (mankind) gave away that dominion when he sinned.
In the Bible, we are told that God placed a curse on the ground, and declared that Adam would have to till the soil. We are told that Eve was going to have trouble in child-bearing. We are told that Adam and Eve were banned from the Garden to prevent their access to the tree of Life. I fail to find a place where God tells them that their "dominion" over the earth, etc. was removed, or that they were excused from that command. I also fail to find that in the fall, Adam "executed a contract" with the devil, thus ceding the earth (and dominion) to him. This "legal" matter is made a great deal of within Dominionism. However, it doesn't seem to exist, except in the minds of those who love to twist and torture scripture into meaninglessness.
4. When Adam gave dominion away, God no longer had any business here on earth, and was powerless to operate here.
It never ceases to amaze me how some can so arrogantly set scripture aside, and replace it with their own interpretation to try to prove a point. God is omnipotent, which means there is NO limit to His power. He is omnipresent, which means He is everywhere, all at the same time. IF God were to have been shuttled aside by Adam's importunate actions, then WHY do read that God poured out plagues upon Egypt? If God had no business here, then how come He led the Israelites as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire at night? How did He manage to write with His finger on the tablets of stone? If He was powerless, then who was it that parted the Red Sea? Who caused the ground to open up under Korah? Who smote Jacobs thigh? Do I need to go on, or is that enough?
5. God somehow snuck Jesus in so that He could get authority back on the earth.
Wow! Apparently the devil has more power than God, according to Dominionists, and is capable of thwarting Gods plans, power, or authority, so God had to resort to trickery. However, according to scripture, Gods plan existed from before creation (Mat. 13:35; Mat. 25:34; Heb. 4:3; Rev. 13:8; Rev. 17:8). In addition to that, we have over 600 years of prophecies from Isaiah to Malachi telling of the coming of Messiah, how, why and when. Doesn't sound like much of a "sneaky" thing to me.
6. Jesus didn't atone for sin on the cross (any mortal could have done that), but only by going to hell where He was born-again.
There is NO scripture that supports the contention that Jesus was "born-again" in the same manner that orthodox Christianity understands it. Man is naturally sin, through Adam, whereas Jesus was "without sin". (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:22). He who is without sin does not have to be regenerated, or born-again. Many of the Dominion/Faith teachers state emphatically that Jesus' death on the cross did NOT suffice to atone for sin...indeed, some say that ANY mortal man could have died on the cross and done the same thing, and that the ONLY way the atonement was completed was by Jesus going to hell, and being tortured by the devil for three days. There is one scripture that says "Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" (Eph. 4:9). While this is taken to mean a descent into hell, it staggers the imagination to move from that into a period of days of profound torture and a born-again experience. Since the context of Paul's letter here is that Jesus freed those (previously dead) bound and waiting on Him from the confines of Sheol and took them to heaven with Him, it is a real stretch to propose torture, a born-again experience, and final atonement occuring only then. This kind of twisting of scripture to make a point also shows a complete lack of understanding on the part of these teachers as to what the Jewish understanding of Sheol was...or a conscious decision to ignore those differences.
Finally, we understand emphatically from scripture that sin is not remitted (purged, done away with, paid for, covered, cast away) without the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22). Jesus shed His blood ON THE CROSS, therefore it is ON THE CROSS that He paid the price...in full. Add to that Jesus' own statement...the last thing He said (while on the cross); "IT IS FINISHED". (Jn. 19:30). That means it is done, accomplished, nothing more to do, it has all been done, it is complete, it's over with.
7. When Jesus was born-again, He bought back dominion, and gave that dominion to the Church.
What can I say? Beginning from a concept (Jesus being born-again) that has no basis in scripture, the Dominionists then reach back to another concept (loss of dominion), tie the two together, then turn it into a legal "contract" that also has no basis in scripture. They then take that straw-man and "give" it to the Church, claiming it is their "legal" right and obligation.
8. Jesus and God the Father are stuck in heaven until the Church exercises that dominion.
Let's see. Jesus told a parable (Mat. 25:1-13) about a bridegroom, and the foolish virgins. Of utmost importance in understanding this parable is the parallel to the Jewish wedding concept. Under this concept, the bridegroom (Jesus) returns WHEN THE FATHER SAYS GO, and Jesus ended the parable (vs. 13) by saying "watch out, because you DON'T KNOW when I'm coming" (paraphrase mine). In Mat. 28:18 Jesus said "ALL power is given unto me IN HEAVEN AND IN EARTH". Ephesian 1:21 reiterates this by saying that "[Jesus is ] far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:" Accordingly, it doesn't seem to me that Jesus and God the Father are stuck anywhere, anytime, for any reason.
9. Only AFTER the Church has reclaimed the entire earth can Jesus return.
Again, this reduces the power of God to nothingness. He can't do anything until we do. Jesus can't come back until we exercise absolute rule. God is dependent upon US. What a joke! I'd laugh if it weren't such an egregious manifestation of the Luciferian sin of self-elevation (see Isa. 14:13).
Jesus answered His disciples question about what the signs would be of His coming, and of the end of the world (Mat. 24-25). The picture painted by Jesus was not one of a "converted" world, full of goodness and peace, of people living under the rule of God and according to His wishes, but was instead a picture of an unrepentent world full of pestilence, disease, sin, war, death and heartache. Jesus said that because "sin doth abound" (that means there is a whole bunch of it all over the place), the love of many (for Him and for God) would wax cold (be minimal, disappearing, without zeal). In Thessalonians, Paul paints the same kind of picture when he tells of the fact that before the day of the Lord comes, there will be great apostasy (the love of many waxing cold) and that the man of sin will be revealed. How can there be a man of sin if the world is converted? How can it be, in the face of these scriptures, that a leader of the Dominion movement can state the Church will become so powerful, and the Gospel so wide spread that "even the devil will hang up his horns and be converted."
Pan sausage....without even a skin of truth.
10. The time while the Church is gaining dominion will be a time of a great revival, as all people everywhere will become believers.
I have no doubt but that every true believer everywhere desires to see revival break out, and people converted, doubters convinced, back-sliders restored and for the Church to once again become a light to the world. However, the clear and plain words of God do not echo the fulfillment of this desire. Indeed, God "who will that all men should be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth "(1 Tim. 2:4) is the author of this desire. But God does not say that all men WILL be saved, even though that is His perfect will. He certainly recognizes that there are many who will NOT, who will reject His truth and salvation, and by doing so consign themselves to hell.
Even after Jesus returns and establishes the Millennial Kingdom, and perfect justice and righteouness reigns on this earth, there will be those during that period that will rebel, as born out by Rev. 20:8.In Mat. 24:35, Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33 Jesus said "heaven and earth shall pass away: but MY WORDS SHALL NOT PASS AWAY." What Jesus says is the ONLY thing that counts, and it is not subject to change, modification, sluffing off or acting like it doesn't exist....and yet that is exactly what the Dominionists have done by building houses that are so far out of plumb they can't possibly stand.
And yet...millions flock to them, and buy in to the deception they spout. Truly, the people "heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears." And like the people of old, they "perish for a lack of knowledge."