Will the church be all-conquering?
Two different and opposite theological systems both see the church as coming to assume a dominant position over the nations; but is this view biblical? Al Dager takes a look at it all.
first published 22/10/2011
Ed preface: On important points of Bible interpretation, hyper-Calvinist and hyper-charismatic theologies stand poles apart at the opposite ends of these systems. Yet – as a very real irony – both of these have a worldview which would see the church as coming to reign supreme prior to Jesus' return.
Christian Reconstructionism subscribes to a theonomic view which sees the job of the church as being to oblige nation-states and their people to conform to God's laws.
Meanwhile the concept of 'Dominion Theology' within Kingdom Now teaching holds that Jesus cannot or will not return until the Church has taken control of the earth's governments and social institutions.
Al Dager who publishes the Media Spotlight magazine offers the following view.
A Brief Review of Dominion Theology
by Al Dager
There are two basic elements within Christianity that espouse some form of Dominion theology [aka Kingdom Now: Ed.]. These are charismatic dominionists, who have adopted the Latter-Rain teachings of last-days apostles and prophets, and Christian Reconstructionists, who believe that Christianity will eventually come to dominate the world through the proclaiming of the Gospel.
The former are much more mystical in their approach than are the latter, and the latter look down on the former as somewhat addled, but are willing to work with them to achieve their dominionist goals.
In my book, Vengeance Is Ours: The Church In Dominion, I quote some dominionists who state strongly how, when Christianity takes over, the Old Testament penal sanctions will be reinstituted. I will quote only a few. Keep in mind that this book was published in 1990, and was three years in the writing. It remains the only book still in print on the subject of dominion theology.
Dominion theology is predicated upon three basic beliefs:
1) Satan usurped man's dominion over the earth through the temptation of Adam and Eve;
2) The Church is God's instrument to take dominion back from Satan;
3) Jesus cannot or will not return until the Church has taken dominion by gaining control of the earth's governmental and social institutions (Note1).
A godly law order will work to disinherit, execute, and supplant the ungodly and to conform the godly in their inheritance. For Christians to work for anything less is to deny God (Note 2).
Because they perceive sin and its consequent evil as ethical issues, Reconstructionists believe that the Old Testament penal sanctions against certain sins are still in effect, and that it is the responsibility of government to implement those sanctions; because government has been usurped by atheists and humanists, it has perverted the role entrusted to it and is about to experience God's judgment. That judgment will come in the form of destruction upon all human institutions that do not comply with God's Law, and their replacement with Christian-oriented leadership.
It is the Church's responsibility to place itself in the forefront of political and social action in order to take the reins of control out of the hands of the ungodly (e.g., the unethical), and implement rule under a theonomic structure (theo: God; nomos: law). This will establish Jesus Christ as Lord over His creation through the ministry of His Body, "the Church," while He remains in Heaven.
David Chilton, a major voice within Christian Reconstruction (the movement to reconstruct society based on God's Law) has this to say about Matthew 5:13-16:
This is nothing less than a mandate for the complete social transformation of the entire world. And what Jesus condemns is ineffectiveness, failing to change the society around us. We are commanded to live in such a way that someday all men will glorify God—that they will become converted to the Christian faith. The point is that if the Church is obedient, the people and nations of the world will be discipled to Christianity. We all know that everyone should be a Christian, that the laws and institutions of all nations should follow the Bible's blueprints. But the Bible tells us more than that. The Bible tells us that these commands are the shape of the future. We must change the world; and what is more we shall change the world. (Childton's emphasis) (Note 3)
Matthew 5:13-16 is not a "mandate for the complete social transformation of the entire world." It is a mandate for personal holiness that will manifest itself as salt and light to the world.
But for dominionists witnessing about Jesus is not enough:
The Great Commission to the Church does not end with simply witnessing to the nations. Christ's command is that we disciple the nations—all the nations. The kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of Christ. They are to be discipled, made obedient to the faith. This means that every aspect of life throughout the world is to be brought under the lordship of Jesus Christ: families, individuals, business, science, agriculture, the arts, law, education, economics, psychology, philosophy, and every other sphere of human activity. Nothing may be left out. Christ "must reign, until He has put all enemies under His feet" (1 Cor. 15:25). We have been given the responsibility of converting the entire world (Note 4).
Here we see the "spheres" of society laid out in a slightly different form from that enumerated by the major players at The Response. This is where the concept originated, whether or not today's proponents realize it or agree with the ultimate idea of world conquest by "the Church" instead of by Jesus at His return.
But how are the kingdoms of the world to be "made obedient to the faith"? Another major voice within Christian Reconstruction, Ray Sutton, tells us it will be through implementation of the Old Testament penal sanctions:
First, Paul's Romans 1:18-32 language indicates that New Testament penal sanctions are similar to the Old Testament. The vast majority of Old Testament penalties should still be instituted. As earlier sections of this book indicate, the proper hermeneutic for determining what carries over into the New Testament is the principle: continue what is not changed in the New Testament. This would apply to the penal sanctions of the Old Testament. The death penalty offenses that should be extended into the New Testament are witchcraft (Deut. 18:10-11), idolatry (Deut. 13:10), murder (Gen. 9:6), blasphemy (Lev. 24:11-23), homosexuality (Lev. 18:22.29), bestiality (Lev. 18:23), rape (Deut. 22:2527), adultery (Lev. 20:10), incest (Lev. 20:14), incorrigibility of teenagers (Deut. 21:18-20), kidnapping (Exod. 21:16), and some instances of perjury (Deut. 19:19-20).
...not every convicted homosexual would have to be put to death according to I Corinthians 6. In the New Covenant Age, only the "unreformable" element would be put to death.(Sutton's emphasis)5
I'd hate to see how many of today's prominent Christian leaders would be put to death for adultery, or how many would have been put to death when they were incorrigible teenagers.
As far as dealing with the "unreformable" elements, isn't that what every religious society—including Christian societies—have done historically? If someone "repents" and conforms to the religious authorities they are spared. If not, off with their heads! Where is the grace of God and love for our enemies in that?
And who among today's Christian leaders could be trusted to administer these penal sanctions without error?
It's been twenty-one years since we published Vengeance Is Ours. That generation of dominionists are still in the background, working to see their agenda achieved. Today's dominionist teachers are more low-key, realizing that the vast majority of Christians would back off from their agenda if they knew its true nature.
1. Albert James Dager, Vengeance Is Ours: The Church In Dominion (Redmond, WA: Sword Publishers, 1990), p. 87.
2. Rouses J. Rushdoony, "Power from Below," The Journal of Christian Reconstruction 1:2 (winter, 1974), pp. 9-10, quoted in Vengeance Is Ours., p. 174
3. David Chilton, Paradise Restored (Forth Worth: Dominion Press, 1985), p. 339, quoted in Vengeance Is Ours., p. 183.
4. Ibid., p. 213, quoted in Vengeance Is Ours., p. 184.
5. Ray7 Sutton, That You May Prosper: dominion by Covenant (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics [ICE], p.189, quoted in Vengeance is Ours., p. 188
Media Spotlight web site states: "One of our major concerns is the religious media which present messages contrary to God's Word. Media Spotlight addresses the impact that religious teachers have upon the believer, for good as well as for evil.
It has escaped the understanding of many Christians that what they believe is more often shaped by the teachings and traditions of religious men than by Scripture. Yet the wisdom of the world is no substitute for God's Word, even if offered from the pulpit or in the Christian media.
A fuller treatment of Kingdom Now teaching can be found here.