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Dominionism and the rise of Christian imperialism

January 1970 | by Sarah Leslie

Dominionism and the rise of Christian imperialism

There has always been a vein of ‘dominionism’ embedded among the strata of Christian doctrine. Historically, this seam has sometimes been submerged, but when exposed it has given rise to serious abuses committed in the name of Christ.
Dominionism is an aberration of true Christian theology and a remnant of believers has always opposed it – often suffering martyrdom as a result.

These articles provide an overview of the three main dominionist movements operating today within evangelicalism and which are now converging around a global ‘kingdom’ agenda.

What is dominionism?

Traditional evangelicalism teaches that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and his shed blood. The emphasis is upon the repentance, faith and regeneration of individuals.

The kingdom of God in this age is a spiritual kingdom that grows through biblical evangelism. It is ‘not of this world’ (John 18:36) but is the spiritual rule of Christ in the hearts of men (Luke 17:20-21) – and thence in his spiritual body, the church (Ephesians 1:20-23). Only when Christ returns to Earth will he establish a literal and physical reign.

Christ never taught that his gospel should be propagated by the sword, or righteousness imposed by edict. Christ’s victories are won by spiritual means (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Dominionism, by contrast, teaches that the gospel of salvation triumphs by setting up the kingdom of God as a literal and physical kingdom to be ‘advanced’ on earth in the present age. Some dominionists liken the New Testament kingdom to Old Testament Israel – so justifying taking up arms or exercising repression in the fight against their enemies.

Dominionists generally teach that men can be coerced or compelled to enter the kingdom. They assign to the church duties and rights that belong scripturally only to Jesus Christ. This includes the esoteric idea that believers can themselves ‘incarnate’ Christ and function as his ‘body’ on earth to establish his kingdom rule.

The new dominion mandate

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 retrieve dominion 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.1 [emphasis added].

Dominion theology is rarely presented as openly as this. Outside of the Reconstructionist camp, evangelical dominionism has packaged itself cleverly so that few Evangelicals recognise the word ‘dominionism’ or know what it means – alternative terminologies have been developed which conceal the full scope of the agenda.

Many Evangelicals (and even the more conservative fundamentalists) adhere to titbits of dominionism without realising it – dominionism has ‘crept in unawares’ (Jude 4) to seduce an undiscerning generation.

There are three main movements that propagate dominion theology within evangelicalism today.

Spiritual warfare

The first of these movements is the spiritual warfare prayer movement which teaches that the kingdom of God must be advanced on earth through hyper-spiritual ‘warfare’ activities against the devil.

A veritable supermarket of verbal and physical techniques such as chanting, walks and marches are employed and believers are told that their prayer power creates spiritual ‘canopies’ over regions, preparing the way for revival.

In this sense, prayer warfare is seen as preparatory work enabling the other two movements (see below) to build the kingdom. Recently, the contemplative prayer movement (which includes meditation, fasting and labyrinth walking) has become part of the spiritual warfare prayer arsenal.

All Christians are committed to prayer, but the dominionist movement uses prayer as a cloak for covert operations. For example, it uses massive statistical databank resources (e.g. the World Prayer Centre in Colorado Springs) and sophisticated psycho-social assessments and group manipulations in its efforts to forge kingdom ‘transformation’.

One key leader is Cindy Jacobs, who is closely associated with C. Peter Wagner (see below). Her website ( epitomises the militant doctrines and practices of the spiritual warfare sect.

New Apostolic Reformation

Promoting these prayer warfare activities are hyper-charismatics from the ‘signs and wonders’ movement. They include self-appointed ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’ who are preparing to govern the world through their ‘New Apostolic Reformation’.

This dominionist stratum is a direct offshoot of the Latter Rain cult (also known as Joel’s Army or Manifest Sons of God)2 and its chief architect for the past two decades has been C. Peter Wagner, President of Global Harvest Ministries.

His spiritual warfare teachings have been widely disseminated through mission networks such as AD 2000, which was closely associated with the Lausanne Movement. A prominent individual connected to this sect is Ted Haggard, former head of the US National Association of Evangelicals.3 Here is a sample of Wagner’s teaching:

‘Since 2001, the body of Christ has been in the Second Apostolic Age. The apostolic/prophetic government of the church is now in place. … we began to build our base by locating and identifying with the intercessory prayer movements. This time, however, we feel that God wants us to start governmentally, connecting with the apostles of the region.

‘God has already raised up for us a key apostle in one of the strategic nations of the Middle East, and other apostles are already coming on board. Once we have the apostles in place, we will then bring the intercessors and the prophets into the inner circle, and we will end up with the spiritual core we need to move ahead for retaking the dominion that is rightfully ours’4 [emphasis added].

Mission as transformation

The second main dominionist movement is the mission as transformation movement. The words ‘revival’, ‘reformation’ and ‘transformation’ now often carry embedded dominionist connotations.

Fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) no longer means spreading Christ’s kingdom by proclaiming the gospel message. The dominionists focus on the phrase ‘make disciples’ – with a false exegesis that carries disconcerting overtones of compulsion.

Traditional missionary Bible evangelism is being replaced by a slew of corporate ‘kingdom building’ activities targetting cities, regions and nations. The disingenuous phrase ‘bless the nations’ is often used to conceal dominionism.

Among the chief architects of this movement are Dr Bill Bright (now deceased) of Campus Crusade for Christ International, and Ralph Winter, founder of the US Centre for World Mission and editor of the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement curriculum (which has taught dominionism to an entire generation of missionaries).5

Expressed plainly, dominionism supplants biblical evangelism. By way of example, consider the two following quotes:

Dale Neill, president of the International Christian Chamber of Commerce, declares: ‘The Church must grow past the “gospel of salvation” message and understand that it is only when we begin to implement the principles of the “gospel of the kingdom” that we will really begin to see change in lives and cities and nations. The Church has no understanding of this realm … The Church must grow up’6 [emphasis added].

Again, the Disciple the Nations Alliance claims: ‘God’s concern goes beyond the salvation of individual people. His redemptive plan encompasses the healing and transformation of entire nations … Nations are discipled as the church makes the invisible kingdom visible by faithful obedience to God’s Word throughout culture – in every area of life, and every realm of society including the family, the community, the arts, sciences, media, law, government, schools or business’7 [emphasis added].

Patriotic America

The third strand in the dominionist triad is the Patriotic American movement. Patriotic dominionists (most of whom are not Reconstructionists) teach that political action will advance the kingdom of God in America.

Using the vehicle of Christian media, they have taught for the past three decades that America is a Christian nation and needs to return to its roots. Almost every Evangelical in the pew has been influenced by this group.

Patriotic dominionist leaders and their organisations have been closely interlocked financially and politically with the political Right. Secular conservatives purport to uphold morality, which appeals to Evangelicals, and the combined forces of conservatives and Evangelicals flex their political muscles in Washington.

One powerful leader is James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Patriotic dominionism was also widely disseminated by Jay Grimstead, founder of Coalition on Revival (COR). From its earliest inception, COR succeeded in bringing together key leaders from all three dominionist groups (including the Reconstructionists) to promote the most stringent doctrines of dominionism.8

To exemplify this, here are three extracts from Grimstead’s COR Steering Council letter dated May 1993: 9

‘The kingdom of God was inaugurated and the King was installed and seated in the First Century AD and we need not wait for the King’s second coming to get the kingdom started here on earth’.

‘At this moment of history, all humans on earth, whether Jew or Gentile, believer or unbeliever, private person or public official, are obligated to bow their knees to this King Jesus, confess him as Lord of the universe with their tongues, and submit to his lordship over every aspect of their lives in thought, word and deed.’

‘Biblical evangelism according to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 is not truly accomplished unless that message of Christ’s lordship … is given to the person being evangelised, so that they know that an attempt at personal neutrality before King Jesus is sin and treason in this universe’ [emphases added].


1. Al Dager, Vengeance is ours: the church in dominion (Sword Pub., 1990), p.87. This book is a historical ‘encyclopedia’ of the history of modern dominionism, and is available through
2. Sandy Simpson, The New Apostolic Reformation: What is it and where is it going? See also, Strange Fire: the rise of Gnosticism in the church by Traverse & Jewel van der Merwe (Conscience Press, 1995) and Joel’s Army by Jewel Grewe

4. Global Link newsletter 11/01/05, Global Harvest Ministries.

5. Al Dager, The World Christian Movement, (Sword Publ., 2001). Available at
6. Speech at an International Coalition of Workplace Ministries banquet, Oct. 2004. For more information about ICCC and its explicit ‘kingdom agenda’ see
7. Disciple Nations Alliance (DNA) Online Course;

8. Vengeance is ours, pp. 235-258.

9. The author has a copy of this letter.

The author is a researcher, writer and publisher with the Discernment Research Group.

To be concluded

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