Whose kingdom is it anyway?
Is dominionism gaining ground in Western churches? The US-based Discernment Research Group, author of the Herescope blog (http://herescope.blogspot.com), is one of a number of groups that thinks so, and has sounded an alarm.
Since the turn of the 21st century, there has been a rise in ‘prophecies’ purporting to show that the Christian ‘army of God’ will arise and gain power, ushering in a kingdom of God on earth in the here and now.
Yet the roots of these ‘prophecies’ are embedded in dominionist error. This error is dangerous not just because it is based on a wrong understanding of Scripture, but because it seems so attractive.
Since the 1970s, dominionist theories have attracted many evangelical churches in the US and are starting to gain ground in the UK, and elsewhere.
What is dominionism?
The edifice of dominionism, or dominion theology, rests on a wrong interpretation of Genesis 1:28 – ‘Go forth and multiply and cover the face of the earth’.
Dominionism means politically active Christian groups seeking ‘influence or control over secular civil government through political action – aiming either at a nation governed by Christians, or a nation governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law’.
This at first sight seems laudable, but those Christian sociologists who have defined this philosophy as an extreme belief, that Christians alone are biblically mandated to govern all secular institutions until Christ returns, are surely nearer the mark!
The dominionist approach was crystallised during the 1970s by the American theologian Rousas Rushdoony. In many ways a penetrating and helpful thinker, Rushdoony along with theologians like Gary North developed a flawed theology now called Reconstructionism.
Reconstructionists (or theonomists) believe that Mosaic Law in its moral and civil aspects remains biblically normative for all secular governments. For example, they maintain that homosexuality and witchcraft should be punishable by death (some even advocate death by stoning).
Dominionism implies that Christians are the only ones fit to run a nation’s political, financial and civil institutions. Such a view is extremely naive as to the abilities God endows Christians with through conversion. But, even more seriously, it makes man not God the epicentre of this new kingdom on earth.
As Paul and Philip Collins wrote in 2008: ‘Dominionists distort Genesis 1:28 to legitimise a purely political agenda. Dominionists politicise the gospel, thus marrying Christianity to secular institutions.
‘Once it is wedded to secularism, Christianity adopts the same man-centred premises of secularism. One such premise of secularised Christianity is the notion that man must save himself. This was a core contention of communism and fascism.
‘With dominionism, this contention is given a marginally theistic interpretation: man fully embodies and facilitates the march of God on earth’ (‘Their kingdom come: dominionism’s quest for political capital in the emergent world order’; www.conspiracyarchive.com/Commentary/Dominionism_New_World_Order.htm)
Dominionism not only impacts political arenas, it is a phenomenon within the global financial and business spheres. Wealthy dominionists aim to establish businesses across the world with the ultimate goal of proclaiming their new business empires as an extension of God’s earthly kingdom.
This corporate crusade of ‘kingdom finance’ aims at a financially led Christian influence spreading the kingdom of God through the world. It’s like colouring in a map from the old days of Empire or planting a Christian flag on the factory roof!
Dominionism believes that once Christians gain positions of influence in education, politics and finance, then the restoration of a Christian kingdom on earth is nearly a reality. All spheres of activity, economic or political, will be the domain of God’s people and the world will be subjugated to a biblical legal system in place until the Lord returns.
But this highly flawed vision confuses law with gospel and scissors out great sections of biblical eschatological teaching (e.g. Matthew 24, where Jesus talks about the tribulation, not earthly rule, of believers).
On the surface, the idea of bringing in the kingdom of God, right here, right now, is thoroughly desirable; Christians indeed long to see an end to all wickedness. But the kingdom is only Christ’s to bring, when he wants to bring it. And when it comes, it will be new – not the old one wearing its Sunday best.
True, it is incumbent on Christians to pray for wise and godly leaders. However, when Christians try to bring God’s kingdom on earth forcibly, they are in danger of replacing God’s glory with the tendentious theory of a Christian’s ‘moral right to govern’.
While we must seek godliness in all spheres, we must never forget the main responsibility God has given to his people is to praise him and disseminate the gospel message of salvation through Christ (Matthew 28:16-20).
Christians’ mandated responsibility is not to rule the earth politically until Jesus returns. They are only servants. They do not have an automatic power to usher in and govern the kingdom of heaven.
The government of this world rests on Christ’s shoulders (Isaiah 9:6-7). Moreover – and crucially – Jesus said to Pilate, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ (John 18:36).