Dominion Theology

I don’t move in circles where dominion theology is at work, but many today are deeply concerned about the rise of dominion theology – or Christian Reconstructionism – and one such person is Paul C. McGlasson and he has written No! A Theological Response to Christian Reconstructionism to describe it and respond to it – with finesse, charity and clarity.

Are you seeing dominion theology? Where? Are you concerned? What do you think is the best response to dominion theology? But this leads to this: What is the difference between dominion theology and Jesus’ vision of a theocratic kingdom (Kingdom of “God”)?

So what is it? McGlasson sees four major themes at work in dominion theology, but perhaps I should mention that he sees Rick Perry (I presume Michelle Bachmann) as an instance of this set of beliefs; he sees C. Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation as another example. The major theologian at work is Rushdoony, and McGlasson thinks there is a widespread embrace of Rushdoony and dominion theology in the homeschooling movement. Again, our question: What is it?

First, dominion theology operates with epistemological dualism. Only those who already presuppose the Bible’s truth are capable of understanding it; so there is no common ground between the Christian and the non-Christian. [As a late college student and seminary student I read some Van Til; this stuff is connected to Van Til by McGlasson.] It’s all about God’s self-defined reality or human autonomy: no middle ground. The Bible vs. Kant. Bible vs. Science. Submission to God or compromise. The truly biblical person, the spiritual person, submits; the fleshly, secularist, autonomous individual reasons himself/herself, which is a sign of non-submission.

Second, dominion theology is all about a direct application of Mosaic law to our society. The law of Moses contains abstract and moral principles, and should be applied to our society. It is for all of society, not just ancient Israel or for modern Christians. Rushdoony thinks Luther, Calvin … all the way to FF Bruce are antinomian in rejecting the mosaic law. The issue here is the relation of the Law of Moses to Christian ethics, from Jesus and the apostles into our world today.

Third, dominion theology holds a logic of totals so that the drive is to create cultural Christianity. Christianity creates an all-embracing, all-encompassing worldview as a form of national renewal. It seeks to create a complete Christian culture: government, schools, families … everywhere. It is believed by many that at one time Christian was the culture but is now in a battle to find justification in our world. The problem is secular humanism. The best example here is Francis Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto. It fired up the Moral Majority and the Religious Right in different ways.

Fourth, the aim of dominion theology is Christian political domination (Gary North, Gary DeMar). With humans cut into believers and unbelievers, following the mosaic law or secular law, and the mandate to shape all of culture — call this theocracy at some level — the aim of the Christian is evangelism of all. God’s call is to establish dominion in this world through the Christian. The means is confrontation not consensus.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.sojournintoexile.com Nithin Thompson

    I have deep problems with Dominion Theology, but I have been incredibly blessed by many of the men within the movement. Mostly because their influence also overlaps with other movements. For instance, C. Peter Wagner’s work in the area of prayer and spiritual warfare has been extremely helpful to me, as a pastor. While some of it is focused on dominion (praying for dominion over the earth), I just filter that out and apply it more to the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of man.

  • http://whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog Andrew Wilson

    I think dominion theology is bunk – but I think the way you’ve summarised epistemological dualism is actually fairly close to some very non-scary and measured Reformed writers, and in some ways, Paul in 1 Corinthians! Autonomous human reason does reject God; those made alive by the Spirit do submit to him. That doesn’t mean you have to choose science or God etc, of course, but I think the distinction between the noetically fallen and the noetically redeemed does hold. Babies and bathwater, by the sounds of things.

  • T

    To me, the last two points, the third and fourth (and especially the last line), is what makes dominion theology worthy of the name and concern. Unfortunately I’ve seen several folks think that any theology that insists that the reign of God is a valid and central gospel articulation is “dominion theology.”

  • http://abcwesterville.org Mark Farmer

    Thanks for this, Scot. Gem of a summary to give folks in the pews to help them identify the rhetoric and its sources.

  • http://jesus.scilla.org.uk/ Chris Jefferies

    Applied as you describe, dominion theology is really quite similar to the Muslim idea of the ‘nation’ of Islam and the application of shariah law in place of secular law. It’s also much like Judaea and Galilee 2000 years ago or the extreme Orthodox Jewish movement today.

    I agree with Andrew – it’s bunk. And quite alarming and dangerous bunk at that. Not only does it contribute to conflict within society, it also dulls the spiritual senses and removes personal responsibility.

    Jesus says, ‘Love the Father, love one another, love your neighbour, love your enemy’. Love is sufficient religious law for me.

  • Robin

    I don’t know if most Jesus Creeders, or you Scot, actually know any dominionists, but I did have a few problems with the 4 points. If we are talking about Christian Reconstruction, emphasizing Rushdoony, then the central concern that needs to be addressed is the nature of the Law. Their perspective is that the law is good, that it is from God, and that Christians should be in favor of incorporating biblical law into societal law wherever possible.

    Furthermore, since they are post-millenialists, they believe that one day the entire world will be Christian. So, since they are post-millenialists, guys like Rushdoony have asked “when the entire world is Christian, what will the law look like?” and their answer is that it will look like an updated version of the Mosaic law.

    This means at a basic level that they would advocate for all of the ten commandments, but Rushdoony takes it a step further and asks “how would the requirement to have a railing on your roof so others don’t fall off, apply in a society that was entirely Christian?” They talk about how the laws for gleaning and jubilee would apply, etc.

    One important distinction here is that all of the reconstructionists I have known might advocate all sorts of laws now, but they are really just laying a groundwork for the future. They understand that the only way their vision gets implemented is through evangelism and conversion.

    So in essence, I think it is important not to sever their reconstruction from their post-millenialism.

  • Robin

    I think a little thought experiment is also in order. Reconstructionists basic question is, “what type of legal system will we have when 98% of the country/world are confessing/born again Christians?” Whatever that type of law is, let’s start evangelizing to reach that mark, and let’s start advocating for laws in keeping with where we will end up.

    I don’t see this as very different from your recent round of discussion on gun control laws, so I will turn the question back at other Jesus Creeders.

    We have 300 million people in this country. Let’s say that God was merciful and gracious and within the next decade 280 million of that total became converted Christians who were fully focused on following the Jesus Creed.

    If that was the case, do you think any of the laws of our country would be changed to reflect the values of the Jesus Creed? If God really did that work, what changes in law would you advocate for? Would there still be a 2nd amendment, would we still have a standing army? What would the tax rate be?

    These are all the types of questions that reconstructionists ask because they believe, firmly, in postmillenialsm. And their basic answer to all of them is “We would start with God’s law, and work from there.” Which I think would be your answer as well Scot, but the things you emphasize from God’s law and Christ’s commands (pacifism, progressivity, jubilee, and gleaning) might have a slightly different focus.

  • Robin

    4 last points…

    1. reconstructionists are pre-suppositionalists, but that doesn’t mean pre-suppositionalists are reconstructionists.

    2. Perry and Bachmann are not part of this movement, any more than Dennis Kucinich is part of the Jesus Creed. Just because you happen to advocate for some of the same things (gun control) does not mean you share any deep foundations. They have their own party, the Constitution Party I believe it is called. You can look up Joe Morecraft’s political positions if you want a flavor of what a real dominion ticket would advocate for.

    3. I have never heard them say a cross word about Calvin or most of the reformed throughout the ages. I mean, Rushdoony titled his massive work after Calvin’s Institutes as a show of respect. Most reconstructionists are OPC and follow in the tradition of Van Til, Machen, etc. They are thorough Westminsterites. I have heard one of their preachers cry when discussing the sacrifices made by people who followed that confession (martyrdom in Scotland mostly). I don’t buy that line that they view all their forefathers as antinomian.

    4. The real presence of this movement in homeschool circles is Doug Wilson and the Classical Christian homeschool movement, though this would be a toned down version. It might also be related to the quiverfull movement, but from a philosophical underpinning I see it most closely related to Wilson.

  • scotmcknight

    Robin, the connection in #7 is a bit of a reach, but remember I’m summarizing McGlasson’s book. I’m thinking this is a fair-minded summary of dominion theology and not just Rushdoony himself. Some of the things you are emphasizing are what the author of this book emphasizes, though it comes off as your disagreement… making me read your comments a few times today seeking for the point you are making.

    I don’t want this to be just Robin commenting, but do you think the four points are a fair summary of dominion theology?

  • http://theupwardcall.net Mike Donahue

    That’s an important point Robin, post-millenialism and reconstructionism are closely tied. This is what I have been decrying at the Reformed school I’m at, but to little avail. Adopting a post-mil position will quickly lead to an attempt at political domination and all the corruption that goes along with it. However, we as believers should be attempting world wide evangelism, but in the pattern that Jesus left us – suffering and then glory.

  • Sue

    First of all, from what I’ve read and heard about Dominionism, it just about denies the gospel., ISTM. What happened to the upside-down-ness of God’s kingdom revealed in Christ, where power is revealed through turning the other cheek and loving even enemy? When the kingdom of God is reconfigured into a confrontation in which “Christians” must create situations in which others must submit to their idea of “biblical law,” we’ve lost the thread. What happened to having died to the law, and being made new to live according to the law of the Spirit of life? Instead, dominionism seems to offer the security of s system where everyone knows their place, and those who rebel must be taught or forced to submit. This vision of what it means to be Christian has escaped the lab, and many people who don’t know much about Jesus are rightfully afraid of Christianity because they think this Taliban-esque vision is what it Is about, making real evangelism all the harder. Are there people who believe in some of the underpinnings of this philosophy who wouldn’t force anyone to do anything, who truly want their neighbors to know Jesus? Sure. But that doesn’t mean that the “theology” itself isn’t off-base and, IMO, doing damage.

  • Robin

    Scot,

    I think the 4 points are fair, but I think they cannot be separated from postmillenialism. The bottom line is that if all of the sudden 95% of the world becomes Christian, our world, and our approach to government would be a lot different. Whether you follow Yoder or Rushdoony.

    The second thing I want to emphasize is that Christian Reconstruction is not Moral Majority politics. There tends to be a blurring of the lines above, implying that Perry, Bachmann, Schaeffer, and the entire Republican Party is in on the game. This is not the case. They may share some goals, they may even support one another. But most reconstructionists are NEVER going to vote for a Republican, or any other candidate that compromises on other values they hold dear.

    I would think of Francis Schaeffer as someone who understood their concerns, but was willing to compromise in order to reach political goals. They would rather have a fully consistent position, do the work of evangelism, and pray that one day enough people can be converted that someone who actually shares their values could get elected.

    To clarify also, the Constitution Party is not THEIR political party, it is the party that they have agreed is the most thoroughly Christian, and therefore the one they typically support.

  • Isaac Larson

    What’s the alternative? If there is one, being brought up in conservative evangelical circles, I’ve never seen it.

  • joel g

    Christian Reconstructionists in the strict sense have defined their own position (in their own various writings) as:

    [1] Calvinist soteriology
    [2] Covenant theology
    [3] Presuppositional apologetics
    [4] Postmillennial eschatology
    [5] Theonomic ethics

    It seems to me that these are jointly necessary and sufficient conditions for being one of them and function in a mutually reinforcing way.

    For example, by combining Calvinism and postmillennialism, you get a very strong sense that you are on the inevitably winning side of history. Combining covenant theology (of a certain sort) with theonomic ethics, you get a strong social ethic for family, church, and state.

    “Theonomy” here means, roughly, applying all of the bible to all of life. The peculiar twist is here is hermeneutical: applying the Law of Moses to modern nation-states. This distinguishes a theonomic approach from the natural law approach that is typical of most of the Christian tradition. The result is a recommended polity that is strongly socially conservative, suggesting very Mosaic penalties against sexual sins, blasphemy, etc., while embracing a classical liberal (or libertarian) economics that is very close to Austrian views.

    As for the contemporary significance of the movement, I don’t see any real resurgence in Christian Reconstructionism at all. In fact, in my experience, almost every person I know who was once a Reconstructionist, or deeply sympathetic with the movement, has moved away from it significantly.

    What there might be is a growth of a certain sort of right-wing politics that is both socially conservative and economically libertarian, and thus has a certain sort of affinity with Christian Reconstruction, but without its peculiar theological and theoretical underpinnings.

  • scotmcknight

    Joel G,
    Do you think McGlasson’s sketch is adequate? I don’t see Calvinist soteriology at work in his categories, but I think it is operative in his work in other ways — if not just by assumption.

  • Holly

    Wow. Yes, I DO know dominionists in real life, and yes….they are homeschoolers. :)

    Robin is right – no way are Bachmann and Perry dominionists. Most dominionists that I know are Ron Paul supporters.

    Along with Doug Wilson, you need to throw in Vision Forum and RC Sproul, Junior. I do NOT think the Dominionists are as powerful as the author states. They *think* they are powerful and are set to rule the world….but in reality it’s a rather tough life to adhere to. It’s odd – because while they control a large portion of the curriculum, and people do use it – most people that use it don’t actually adopt it into their lives. It’s a hard and restrictive life to live. (The books are incredibly dry and boring, for one thing. :) )

    I appreciate this post – because I find myself thoroughly confused by the whole thing. There are times I can give a hearty “thumbs up” to the thoughts expressed by my Dominionist friends, because they sound rather like NT Wright (but I realize that is only while I am wearing blinders and filtering out a lot of things.) Other times (usually when they link to Rushdoony) I feel nauseous – but I’m not always sure why nor where the lines lie. :)

  • Holly

    Joel G.,

    Thoughtful and brilliant analysis. Thanks! You make sense…

  • joel g

    As you’ve summarized it, the sketch seems far too broad to me in a way that would end up capturing too much under its categories, but without the most distinctive theoretical and policy features of genuine Reconstructionism.

    I worry that “Dominion Theology” is being used as a bogeyman against all sorts of politically conservative Christians. I’m a moderately liberal Democrat and have very little sympathy for that sort of politics, but I don’t think it’s fair to paint with such a broad brush, especially when the effect is to foster a kind of guilt-by-association. There’s enough wrong with the politics of someone like, say, Michele Bachmann on its own terms, that there’s no need to further tar and feather such folks with additional political epithets.

  • Andy

    This is interesting. I see two streams of dominion thinking that share similarities but are often different in application imo….
    There’s the religious right/ moral majority kinda crowd
    then there’s the kingdom now pentecostal crowd…..
    One is trying to force morality upon society through policy the other is trying to dominate the evil forces of the world through holy spirit power and miracles…
    I don’t think this list truly relates to the kingdom now crowd…Here are some differences that I see…..#1 – Many Kingdom now proponents veer towards semi pelagianism in looking for God’s goodness in everyone…and on the other hand seeing the possibility of full demon possession of passionate christians….the spiritual battle is very black and white but other areas in relating to non-christians may become a bit more complex…
    #2 Most kingdom now proponents aren’t as passionate about political transformation…but see this as a secondary impact from spiritual power and force as the spirit filled army are unleashed…..

  • Tony Springer

    Scot,
    I do think that McGlasson’s sketch is a good working model, but would agree with Robin’s note to bring in a postmillennialism. Margeret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale loosely imagines points 2-4.

  • http://www.bibleprophecy.com Don K. Preston D. Div.

    First of all, Scott, I love your book, A New Vision. Great stuff! I have incorporated it into some of my own books.
    As to Reconstructionism. I engaged Joel McDurmon, Head of Research at American Vision (Gary Demar’s organization) in a formal two day debate. (July 19-21– included a two hour Q and A session on Saturday).
    One of the key elements of that debate was the Dominionist insistence on the future imposition of the Law of Moses. Gary North, (McDurmon’s father in law) says that Deuteronomy 8 is really the template for Reconstructionism, and that is remains as “judicially binding” in the New Testament era.
    Historically, postmillennialists have affirmed that God was through- covenantally- with Old Covenant Israel in the first century– with the caveat that they saw Romans 11:25-27 as an eschatological promise fulfilled at the parousia.
    Radical changes are taking place within Dominionism however, as many of them now see Romans 11 fulfilled in AD 70.
    Even more remarkable is the fact that McDurmon now says that God Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel will remain valid and binding until the end of time.
    Thus, McDurmon is, of logical necessity, affirming a dual covenant paradigm.
    Thought I would add these few thoughts to demonstrate the current state of the Dominionist movement.
    Oh, final thought, Scott. McDurmon is, like many Dominionists, strongly Calvinistic, and expressed the connections between his eschatology and Calvinistic soteriology.

  • Robin

    I appreciate Joel G’s balanced and informative approach. His concern was mine as well. I have no doubt that some people like Perry and Bachmann are trying to borrow some aspects from Reconstructionism, intentionally or unintentionally, but they are not the same.

    So just as I wouldn’t look at the modern anti-war movement and say “look, this is what a Yoderian movement looks like” I think we need to be careful linking reconstructionists to other groups which appear similar on the surface and deal with them on their own temrs. Terms which Joel G. layed out well.

  • kierkegaard71

    The closest person to a Dominionist that I know is a 70-year-old Dallas Seminary graduate who has become a leader in the movement to encourage Christian parents to pull their kids out of public schools. His theology is not Reconstructionist, but there is overlap of interests in policy as it relates to the government. What has surprised me (from my initial ignorance) in my survey of Dominion Theology as it is applied in our country is how little interest these folks have in pushing electoral politics, legislation, and the like (I would have thought they would be interested in immediate passage of Mosaic legislation and the like; perhaps that’s a few steps farther down the road in their vision). They are focused on creating and sustaining a countercultural movement based on the family and the church. I am curious to know how people would see these folks as a threat when what they are doing is actually receding from the public square (e.g. public school withdrawal).

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    Joel g #18

    “I worry that “Dominion Theology” is being used as a bogeyman against all sorts of politically conservative Christians.”

    This is my concern as well. As someone who is right of center, I know there is likely some overlap between my position and reconstructionists. But what I see too often is a narrative by reconstructionist critics that suggests that churchgoers with conservative political/economic positions are the fruit of reconstructionism. They imply that most of these conservatives who are religious are latent reconstructionists that just don’t know it. I don’t buy it. I don’t think reconstructionism has that much influence. I’ve run into the occasional reconstructionist but by far my most common experience is conservative Christians who have adopted political philosophies formed outside the church (including reconstructionism) and have not nuanced their positions in light of Scripture and the Kingdom of God.

    I haven’t read McGlasson’s book … (and I see he is Presbyterian so he has to be pretty good guy ;-) ) but my guard is high with this topic.

  • Paul D.

    As a former enthusiast of Reconstructionism, I very much agree with the assessments by Robin and Joel G. The movement and its theology are rather different from Wagner-style Dominionism, which seems to be a vaguely premillennialist Pentecostal movement that craves government influence. Reconstructionism ultimately led to deep moral soul-searching and my becoming a libertarian.

    Reconstructionism may be doomed by its dedication to deep biblical study combined with its insistence on extreme biblical literalism, something that is less and less tenable in light of modern scholarship. Dominionism, on the other hand, is driven by charismatic leaders and has
    low regard for serious biblical study.

  • Patrick

    Which of the people here expect the secular state to help achieve some spiritual goal we all hold?

    After reading this website for a while, I imagine it’s 85%. So, why is it a concern for these dominionists( who probably = 10% of the US Church) to consider the state God’s agency to advance His kingdom and it isn’t for us?

  • Robin

    I was curious about Patrick’s question as well. From a basic standpoint what is the difference between the two following statements?

    1. Christians should work to prohibit adultery because God wants us to be blessed by the wives of our youth and his law prohibits adultery.

    2. Christians should work to advocate for stricter gun control because God says that swords shall be turned into plowshares and Christians are commanded to turn the other cheek.

    Both seek to impose Christian values on society at large. Both seek to justify that imposition based on scriptural directives.

    I understand that people in the latter category might have additional justifications for advocating gun control, but these were the types of justifications provided over the last week. And while the focus of the two directives is different, they appear equally theonomic to me.

  • Norman

    As I have pointed out before that postmillinealism often has some strange bedfellows practically speaking for some of their adherents. N. T. Wright in my estimation is essentially a postmillennialist and some of these Calvinist reconstructionist/federal vision adherents think somewhat similarly regarding state and church compatibility. Wright coming from the Anglican background likely has a more tolerable view of church/state than the typical American Protestant does. Another adherent of the Reconstructionist “Federal Vision” view of Gary Demar is Peter Leithart whom Scot has critiqued his book regarding “Constantine” in the past. I believe we have seen Leitharts propensity toward a favorable view of Constantine regarding state involvement and Wright I believe favorably agreed to some extent again.

    We simply can’t categorically lump all postmillennialist together but concerning the ones under consideration in this post, their literal propensity toward a utopian Christian society is a huge offshoot of what I continually point out as an inconsistent hermeneutic by so many today. Most of these but not all are going to be inclined toward a literal reading of Genesis and are YEC and thus apply that hermeneutic toward their eschatology as well. They would decry Postmillennialist who are not YEC because they see Genesis in the same vein as they see Revelation. This is why I keep pointing out that if you are going to debunk Genesis from a theological understanding of not being literal then you can’t have your cake and eat it too in Revelation regarding eschatology no matter how you slice it. ;-) Most Genesis adherents that are seeing that it should not be taken literally haven’t grasped yet that millennialism when applied literally develops some of the same extreme problems that Literalist typically run into that are constantly causing problems.

    I often ask postmillennialist how they reconcile Jesus words about the nature and reality of the coming Kingdom but generally have few serious takers. I don’t think Christ envisioned a theocracy in the mold of Physical Israel even thousands of years later.

    John 17: 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
    John 19: 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

  • CGC

    Hi Scot,
    Thanks for engaging a topic that is often not discussed anymore except for maybe on the internet :-) Dominon theology, theonomy, and reconstructionism has taken different forms and made major shifts over the last few decades. For those who are concerned about a kind of guilt by association, is certainly well-noted. It seems that Reformed theology has historically created things like reconstructionism and possibly full-preterism to name a few. The way modern Reformed theologians talk today about theological heresy and extremes, you would think these come from the Arminian side rather than the Reformed side.

    Obviously, Christians are as confused or more confused on issues like this since we don’t even have for example ‘four views’ on “law and Gospel” but a five views book (where Greg Bahnsen has probably emerged as the leading scholar on reconstructionism or a Reformed theonomic approach to law and gospel today.

    As far as McGlasson’s four points, it seems his first point is really about modernity’s epistemological dualism in general rather than dominion theology in particular. I suspect the postmodern turn is having its effects on reconstructionists just as much as any other particular theologians. Later theonomists are much more looser and less tight about things than in its inception (one only has to look at the early writings of Bahsen to what he is writing today to see some interesting changes). Our changed cultural situation and hermeneutics of application are leading some to softening it to others even leaving it as some have already suggested.

    Two is a good point and three, although I agree with McGlasson of a cultural Christianity, some of them I’m sure would simply say they are creating a more biblical Christianity as they go back and apply the Mosaic law to today. The fourth point may have sounded true at the beginning but really is not true for those who are scholarly promoting it (even if there are some out there that really do want to “take over government,” by Christians of course). Even Gary Demar believes in a kind of decentralization of government and theonomy should be embraced by the bottom up (through the democratic process) and not forced from the top down.

    Lastly, since N. T. Wright speaks about a kind of heaven on earth, Wright’s approach is very different as a spiritual approach versus the kind of setting up a Christian government on earth (I’m reminded of the conversation between Pilate and Jesus who although were talking “kingdom talk” nevertheless meant something very different by it).

    Rather than critigue, here are two good points to learn from thinking about the social and political implications of dominion theology (1) Wright has pushed the conversation is the right direction setting forth again what Christians (especially in America need to hear) that God’s kindgom is not of this world (not in the ways the world defines power and authority) and (2) I would hope that dominion theology would make Christians study large portions of the Old Testament which they often ignored or glossed over. Can we learn to love all of God’s law in possibly a Christological way today rather than thinking in ways that our nation should fuction once again as a theocracy as Israel once did in the OT?

  • Robin

    CGC,

    You said “one only has to look at the early writings of Bahsen to what he is writing today to see some interesting changes.”

    Bahnsen has been dead for 17 years. Did you mean to juxtapose his early writings to some of the writings before his death, or are you juxtaposing Bahnsen’s writings with some other reconstructionist who is still alive?

  • AHH

    Interesting that now Patheos is giving me prominent ads for “Michele Bachmann for Congress”. Those allegedly smart dynamic generators of ads (presumably based on the mentions in the post and comments) are interesting to watch sometimes.

    I don’t suppose there is any way to ask that Jesus Creed not get political ads? I remember a successful elimination of Mormon ads a while back, but I think that was pre-Patheos.

  • Bill Crawford

    For more than you ever wanted to know about theonomy and the main proponents, take a look at http://theonomists.blogspot.com/

    McGlasson, by referencing Rushdoony and North (Ruchdoony’s son-in-law), is looking at two formerly prominent folks whose influnce has waned greatly. Doug Wilson, on the other hand, is probably the new standard-bearer but carefully avoids using traditional theonomist/Reconstructionist language.

    Also, even though Reconstructionists are mostly post-millenial, originally post-millenialism was about transforming the world through the gospel and evangelism. Many of the early modern Christian missionaries (18th and 19th c.) were post-millenial. It isn’t necessarily about politics.

  • Patrick

    Norman,

    I don’t think NT Wright would agree he is a post millenialist. Unless I have misunderstood him, he sees eschatology as follows:

    BOOM! Resurrection of all humanity, judgment and eternal status all the sudden and quick.

    He doesn’t believe in a literal 1000 year millenium on earth.

  • MatthewS

    Of the people used as illustrations, do any of them self-identify as dominionists? It’s essentially a pejorative term, correct?

    When a name is being pressed onto people, the risk would be settling for caricature over characterization, which I guess is the same complaint as above about the bogeyman. Dominionism isn’t so much a school of thought being defended and attacked, seems to me, rather it is effectively a rhetorical tactic that is used to discredit; a sort of Bulverism.

    Having said that, I see a lot of #3 in the rural midwest, though not as stout as presented here. Boycotts, letters to editors, protests, calling representatives, David Barton seminars, etc., all in an attempt to pull culture back towards (or at least bemoan) the presumed glory days.

  • Norman

    Patrick #33

    He may not think of himself in that manner but everything I’ve read from him resonates mostly with a postmillennial view. The 1000 year period is not considered literal in most post and amillennialsim views and so a literal application is not the determining definition ultimately.

    Excerpts from Wright and articles stating his thoughts.

    “An awful lot of ordinary church-going Christians are simply millions of miles away from understanding any of this,” Wright said.
    Wright and Morse work independently of each other and in very different ideological settings, but their work shows a remarkable convergence on key points. In classic Judaism and first-century Christianity, believers expected this world would be transformed into God’s Kingdom — a restored Eden where redeemed human beings would be liberated from death, illness, sin and other corruptions.”

    “Once the Kingdom is complete, he said, the bodily resurrection will follow with a fully restored creation here on earth. “What we are doing at the moment is building for the Kingdom,” Wright explained.”

    huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/17/nt-wright-christian-heaven-is-wrong

    If that above statement isn’t classical postmillinealism I don’t know what would be and is hardly different from the progressive growing of the kingdom as professed by say a Gary Demar. It would be interesting to sit Wright down beside Gary Demar and see how they nuanced things differently. I doubt there would be much difference ultimately.

    I actually don’t have a lot of problems with Demar and some postmillennialist as they come across as respectful Christians but I simply differ on some of their political implications for Christians due to their historical interpretations of working the law into Christ Kingdom. I tend to be a purest concerning Christ explanation of the Kingdom not being a physical entity as Demar appears to embrace radically.

  • http://jensgems.wordpress.com Jen

    Scot, interesting article. Yes, I most certainly know many dominionists and reconstructionists and yes, the Constitution Party is their political party. Doug Phillips, of Vision Forum, and the de facto leader of the Christian homeschooling movement, is one whom I would credit with pushing this theology along at a fairly rapid pace. He is the son of Howard Phillips, who is the founder of the Constitution Party. While I was a member of Doug Phillips’ church, I was told to vote for the (then) Constitution Party candidate, Peroutka, but when I voted for Bush instead, I was excommunicated for doing so. My incredible story of the logical implications of dominionism and reconstructionism can be found at my blog, http://jensgems.wordpress.com.

    I also wrote quite extensively on this movement. A couple examples are the series I wrote on why the “Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” (an in-depth statement of faith written by Doug Phillips) are not biblical — http://jensgems.wordpress.com/category/biblical-tenets-of-patriarchy-series/ ; and another series refuting theonomy (necessarily incorporated into dominionism) — http://jensgems.wordpress.com/category/theonomy-series/ .

    Yes, it is right and good to speak out against this movement, and thank you for doing so.

  • Holly

    There is a harsh side (from my opinion, of course) to DeMar and North. There is also a huge mantle of American exceptionalism or America as the new Israel in their line of thinking. You certainly can’t say that about NT Wright. (Heh.)

  • Holly

    Also – would they call themselves dominionists? Good point – I need to correct myself on that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone refer to themselves as that. It’s usually Christian Reconstructionist, or Theonomist.

  • CGC

    Hi Robin,
    It spent some time studying this issue back in the late 80′s and early 90′s. Yes, I was speaking of Bahsen’s earlier writings when he kind of viewed himself as a guardian of “every jot and tittle” of God’s laws. His later writings lighted up as he matured and were more flexible in his understanding of the application of God’s laws to his day. I have not kept up on all this stuff like you and some others so I appeciate your take and updating some of these issues for me. Thanks!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Robin#27 (I hope that this does not take this off topic),

    When you are asking what the difference is between the two statements you made, I scratch my head and wonder what you are asking. “Prohibit adultery” and “advocate for stricter gun control” are hardly close to equal statements. Further, the justifications for each are not birds of a feather either.

    Although both are seeking to impose Chrisitan values, I don’t think anyone would ever argue either of those issues in that manner.

  • Robin

    DRT,

    My larger point are that we are all theonomists. Theonomy just means “God’s law” so when any Christian tries to impose something on society BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE IT IS WHAT GOD WANTS they are being a theonomist.

    Some people are pure theonomists (the only reason they advocate for something is because of religious convictions) and some people are convenient theonomists (they believe something is right or wrong and use religious arguments to bolster their points) but almost all Christians are theonomists.

    This goes whether we are talking about conservatives opposing abortion and gay marriage, Jonathan Merritt advocating creation care, Scot working for gun control, religious abolitionists of the 19th century, prohibitionists of the 20th century, or pacifists throughout the ages. If you are trying to make something a law for society and one of your justifications is “this is God’s law” or “this is what Jesus would want” or “this is the duty of Christians” then you are a theonomist to some degree.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Thanks Robin, that helps me understand what you are saying. It just seems like the scenario you were painting was of two proof texting people arguing, and that is a sad sight to be seen.

  • scotmcknight

    Robin, when everybody’s a theonomist, no one is … and the theonomists would never agree with your statement. It’s a package deal, and you began today with that idea and have now shifted — almost like you’re just getting grumpy about a book that doesn’t like doiminion theology — from asking that one more factor be added (postmillennialism), then the package is complete, to now finding everyone a theonomist.

    Let’s leave it with a pastor theologian who knows the stuff pretty well, and who has concerns, and let’s agree that there is a recognizable body of folks who like this theology — dominion and reconstructionism — and that they are not “mainstream” theologians but have a fairly unique and recognizable set of teachings.

    There is something to your observation that one kind of cause is like the other cause, inasmuch as they take God’s will and want it in the public sector enough to become customary. Yet, where Rushdoony comes from and where I would come from on gun laws (pacifism and a kind of Torah from Jesus that does some serious things with the very laws Rushdoony thinks are permanent) and where Jon Merritt comes from on green laws… well, putting us all into one heap makes no more sense than saying Palin and Romney and McCain are all libertarians because, after all, they want freedom.

  • Robin

    Scot,

    I think you are mis-interpreting me. The conversation has moved. My basic point regarding the post still stands. You cannot separate reconstruction from postmill theology unless it is just your intention to label guys like Perry as dominionists.

    Over the course of the day the conversation moved. Someone else brought up something else and I asked a follow-up question.

    On a practical matter I don’t think it is OK to chastise theonomists for trying to bring their view of God’s law to bear on society without realizing that all of us do it, but I wasn’t trying to say they are equivalent.

  • Patrick

    Norman,

    I share NT’s views. I consider myself amillenial.

    I am probably not good on the various designations. I assumed post millenial meant you believed in a 1000 year millenium literally.

    I’m fairly sure Wright thinks the restoration can come at any moment.

  • Bev Mitchell

    I’m learning a lot from this discussion and don’t have the personal experience or the background from reading to make a specific comment. I do recall reading “The Christian Manifesto” the year it was published and thinking this is the wrong direction to go. Not being able to make a specific contribution will not prevent me from making a general observation, however. Hopefully it helps in some way.

    The great mission of the chosen few always seems so righteous to the chosen few. Rule by human authority (even by Bible believers) is permitted only to keep us from killing ourselves, it is not the way Christ would rule. From the New Testament perspective, this issue was settled in the wilderness forty days after Jesus was baptized by John and given the Father’s blessing. Jesus made the right choice. The deceiver still tempts us with the same lie, but the followers of Christ are supposed to have gotten the message by now. It is one of the world’s great mysteries that apparently sincere searchers of the Scriptures can miss the basic idea that Christ’s Kingdom is and will always be one of love. When we all bow down to him, it will be because all finally see how love really is more powerful than law and forceful authority. Until that day, known only to the Father, we will continue to see all kinds of attempts to subvert Christ’s way by falling for the universal lie. 

    We should wonder how far the Father will let us go this time around. We are on the verge of making the mother of all messes, probably even worse than ancient Israel. With them, God even had to take the unprecedented step of letting his Spirit leave the temple. Will we one day have someone write about our dry, bleached bones (metaphorically of course) suddenly making a great clattering as the Spirit prepares his loved but wayward children for another round? 

    One wants to say maranatha, but something tells me we have not learned our lessons well enough yet. I surely hope I’m wrong.

  • scotmcknight

    Robin,
    Your point lacks nuances; it is unfair to theonomists and everyone else to lump all attempts at agitating for what is perceived to be God’s will as a kind of theonomy. I conceded that there is something similar at work, but it comes from totally different places.

  • scotmcknight

    Norman, Tom Wright is not a postmillennialist — in any way, shape or form. He’s a NT historian seeking to comprehend NT eschatology, and he’s not at all tied into the postmill hermeneutic. Your quote is stolen from his context. Believe me, he’s not posmill.

  • Robin

    Scot, I agree that I lack nuance. As these conversation unfold my mind wanders and for that I apologize.

  • Roger

    I am not a Jesus Creed regular but drop in every once in a while to hear from folk coming from a little different position than I – and often find that I see something from a way I had not considered before.

    I have been a Pastor in Reformed/Presbyterian churches for about 15 years – circles in which Dominion theology has flourished in the past. For what it’s worth, I think McGlasson does a fair job at describing it (as Scot summarized it). To me, point #2 has been the most historically distinctive feature – particularly advocating the sanctions of Mosaic law and having what seems to me to be a covenant theology that does not allow for the full flower of the new covenant (imo).

    I am surprised at the concern that it is growing in influence. Though it may be, I have not noticed it as such in my denomination (PCA). I wonder if it is not losing some of its theological nuance (since Rushdoony & Bahnsen have passed from the scene) and descending into a more secular and blunt form in places it remains influential?

    Good conversation.

  • Douglas C Pierce

    Is this the same theology being promoted by Gothard these days. Seems to a big influence amd entry point in this area.

  • http://www.debatingobama.blogspot.com greg metzger

    Well, I am pleased as could be to see this post and to see the stimulating discussion it has provoked. I can’t wait to read this book and am at work on a book for the same publisher that will develop Wagner’s notion of dominionism. You know, it is always fascinating to me to see people speak about Wagner and dominionism without seeming to have read his book Dominion where he explicitly embraces Rushdoony and presents himself as building on Rushdoony. Now, obviously close readers of Rushdoony, including current followers of him, argue that Wagner is not truly a Reconstructionist, but the point is that Wagner is in no way ashamed to call himself a dominionist and a Rushdoony Reconstructionist and yet often people try to act as if it is ridiculous to call him such. The harsh truths are this:
    1) A major figure from the heart of evangelicalism/Pentecostalism has evolved into a full-blown supporter of Dominionism and he wrote his book explaining it with Baker/Chosen–that should give us pause to consider how marginal this way of thought really is.
    2) Governor Perry did in fact launch his campaign for president with a massive prayer rally that Wagner himself admitted was coordinated by an extraordinary number of *postles and prophets” from his New Apostolic Reformation. Many of these people, including Cindy Jacobs, have a track record theologically/spiritually that is deeply troubling and very much consistent with Wagner’s vision of Charismatic Dominionis. What that makes Perry, I don’t know, but it is again an indication of how acceptable these views have become that he would not blink at welcoming key proponents of them to lead his rally.

    “Guilt by association” is a legitimate fear in any discussion of controversial ideas, but it can also be an excuse to not do the careful work of naming and resisting movements that are deeply dissonant with the Gospel. I appreciate Scot’s willingness to “with charity and clarity” address this subject and to Robin and others who wonder about the difference between what those who say they are Reconstructionists envisions for the world and what people who support gun control envision I would invite you to ponder the fact that Wagner regularly holds up as an exemplary model the “bonfire of the vanities” that enveloped Florence during the Renaissance and involved the burning and destruction of countless works of art and literature. Pretty scary stuff and Wagner says it regularly and proudly. Its not regular Christian discourse where I live and saying that it is levels the playing field in a way that favors the radicalization of Christian ethics.

  • Norman

    Scot,

    With all due respect I’ll let Wrights own words speak for himself. The line between Amillennialism and postmillennialism is at best blurry and not that significant anyway at this juncture in history IMO. You of course are welcome to your opinion as well. More to the point Classic postmillennialism has a restored earth just like Wright projects and that is ultimately what I’m comparing Wrights view with that is like Demar’s and company variety of postmillennialism.

    I nuanced my posting by presenting my observations concerning Wright in wording like this: “He may not think of himself in that manner but everything I’ve read from him resonates mostly with a postmillennial view.”

    The emphasis upon a redeemed physical world to a paradisiacal world are from Wrights own mouth and is quite a common utterance of his.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/nt-wright-asks-have-we-gotten-heaven-all-wrong/2012/05/16/gIQAD4lTUU_story.html

    “First-century Jews who believed Jesus was Messiah also believed he inaugurated the Kingdom of God and were convinced the world would be transformed in their own lifetimes, Wright said. This inauguration, however, was far from complete and required the active participation of God’s people practicing social justice, nonviolence and forgiveness to become fulfilled.
    Once the Kingdom is complete, he said, the bodily resurrection will follow with a fully restored creation here on earth. “What we are doing at the moment is building for the Kingdom,” Wright explained.”

    http://ntwrightpage.com/sermons/Earth_Heaven.htm
    “But the point of God’s split-level good creation, heaven and earth, is not that earth is a kind of training ground for heaven, but that heaven and earth are designed to overlap and interlock (which is, by the way, the foundation of all sacramental theology, with the sacraments as one of the places where this overlap actually happens), and that one day – as the book of Revelation makes very clear – one day they will do so fully and for ever, as the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to earth.”

    Scot you said … “He’s a NT historian seeking to comprehend NT eschatology, and he’s not at all tied into the postmill hermeneutic.”

    Yes and he also has written commentary upon eschatology projecting his understanding just like many other “pan millennialist do”. I’m simply pointing out his ideas that resonate with some of these folks you have highlighted in this article; people should be able to draw their own conclusions.

    My guess is that N. T. Wright doesn’t have it all nailed down either yet; realizing this might be a heretical statement. :)

  • http://www.bibleprophecy.com Don K. Preston D. Div.

    A word here about how at least some in the Reconstructionist camp want to be called. Joel McDurmon specifically asked me not to refer to him as a postmillennialists, but, a Dominionist.
    As to theology, during our debate, McDurmon emphatically posited a yet future, physical resurrection of Abraham so that he could physically rule the world.
    When I noted that Jesus himself rejected the offer of a physical kingdom, and that Jesus and the Jews had different concepts of the nature of the kingdom vis-a-vis– physical versus spiritual, McDurmon claimed that Jesus and the Jews did not disagree on the nature of the kingdom, but, that in John 6 the timing simply was not right, and that is why Jesus rejected their offer. (Which certainly brings up the issue that the kingdom was declared, by Jesus himself, to have drawn near (Matthew 4:17). So, if Jesus said the kingdom was near then, why was the timing off in John 6?)
    It was more than apparent from our debate that Dominionists-at least Joel as one of their top representatives– have now adopted the dispensational paradigm of a yet future earthly utopia. Hope it is okay to note that DVDs of the debate will be available shortly.

  • Norman

    Scot,

    With all due respect I’ll let Wrights own words speak for himself. The line between Amillennialism and postmillennialism is at best blurry and not that significant anyway at this juncture in history IMO. You of course are welcome to your opinion as well. More to the point Classic postmillennialism has a restored earth just like Wright projects and that is ultimately what I’m comparing Wrights view with that is like Demar’s and company variety of postmillennialism.

    I nuanced my posting by presenting my observations concerning Wright in wording like this: “He may not think of himself in that manner but everything I’ve read from him resonates mostly with a postmillennial view.”

    The emphasis upon a redeemed physical world to a paradisiacal world are from Wrights own mouth and is quite a common utterance of his.

    washingtonpost dot com/national/on-faith/nt-wright-asks-have-we-gotten-heaven-all-wrong/2012/05/16

    “First-century Jews who believed Jesus was Messiah also believed he inaugurated the Kingdom of God and were convinced the world would be transformed in their own lifetimes, Wright said. This inauguration, however, was far from complete and required the active participation of God’s people practicing social justice, nonviolence and forgiveness to become fulfilled.
    Once the Kingdom is complete, he said, the bodily resurrection will follow with a fully restored creation here on earth. “What we are doing at the moment is building for the Kingdom,” Wright explained.”

    ntwrightpage dot com/sermons/Earth_Heaven
    “But the point of God’s split-level good creation, heaven and earth, is not that earth is a kind of training ground for heaven, but that heaven and earth are designed to overlap and interlock (which is, by the way, the foundation of all sacramental theology, with the sacraments as one of the places where this overlap actually happens), and that one day – as the book of Revelation makes very clear – one day they will do so fully and for ever, as the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to earth.”

    Scot you said … “He’s a NT historian seeking to comprehend NT eschatology, and he’s not at all tied into the postmill hermeneutic.”

    Yes and he also has written commentary upon eschatology projecting his understanding just like many other “pan millennialist do”. I’m simply pointing out his ideas that resonate with some of these folks you have highlighted in this article; people should be able to draw their own conclusions.

    My guess is that N. T. Wright doesn’t have it all nailed down either yet; realizing this might be a heretical statement. 

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Robin #49, you made my day (I don’t see this kind of humillty displayed very often—–thanks :-)

    Norman, there is a huge difference between Wright sounds like a postmillenialist and Wright is a postmillenialist.

  • Norman

    CGC,

    That’s an interesting observation. How so? ;-)

    I refer you to the old quip… “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

  • Robin

    Norman,

    My understanding has always been that postmillenialism has a renewed earth prior to Christ’s return. The guys I knew who were postmill in college (and they followed postmillenialism.com and chalcedon) were very explicit that people would be converted, culture would be transformed and all the earth would know Christ, and then there would be 1,000 years of basically utopia, then Christ would return and heaven would literally come down to earth. Think about the Puritans. They were postmill, they believed they were setting up a new Jerusalem that would begin the 1,000 year reign of Christ and then he would return and the full picture of heaven come down to earth would be revealed.

    My recent background has been amillenial, and while I couldn’t debate the merits of it, that basic framework has included Christ coming back to earth with a shout, then ushering in heaven on earth, just like Wright, but no renewal prior to his return. Most of the amill folks I know have a very pessimistic view of what the earth will be like prior to his return.

    Based on all of this, I have always assumed that Wright, like Randy Alcorn (another amillenialist with a heavy emphasis of heaven on earth post Christ’s return) is some form of amillenialist.

  • Norman

    Robin,

    As I stated above in a post the differences between amill and postmill are becoming more blurred as time goes on. Often it is subtle differences as people start picking and choosing eschatological aspects that they like. My point in all of this though was to recognize the similarities between these proponents of postmillinealism and their literalizing hermeneutic with Wrights version of eschatology. We could get into what really defines the various millennial perspectives but a restored physical earth in both amill and postmill camps generally is considered to occur after some form of the millennial reign. The post mills are all over the board regarding what constitutes the millennial reign.

    My bone of contention with any post millennial physically restored earth perspective is for them to hermeneutically prove that is indeed what scriptures are talking about. It’s all about consistent hermeneutics instead of picking and choosing what fits your bill at the moment IMO. I believe in the future someday the church will look back upon all this eschatological mess we currently profess and ask why we also don’t believe in the flat earth and the pillars of the earth. However we are moving away from a literal hermeneutic in Genesis but we haven’t really started thinking about the implications of what we do in Revelation and its eschatological language ramifications. It’s like we stop thinking about our hermeneutic ramifications when we get to certain subjects just like the flat earthers did and some still do.

    A big clue to people should be that most advanced Genesis students don’t adhere to a physical Garden where physical death begin 6000 years ago or a universal flood wiped humanity off planet earth 4700 years ago and we are all descendants of Noah’s three sons. If we can figure those are not to be taken literally then why do we think Isaiah 65 and 66 and Rev 21 & 22 should be understood literally about the new heavens and earth? Especially when plenty of scholars already recognizing that language is messianic in nature and was fulfilled through Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom. Why do many when they see the prophecies toward a reestablishment of King David and the land recognize that it was not to be taken literally as King David coming back to life but was typologically pointing to Christ and His Kingdom spiritual land expectation? Paul and the apostles interpreted it figuratively but many still want to interpret it literally. Or why did so many Jews and some of Jesus followers think Jesus was Looney when he said they would need to eat his flesh and drink His blood. It’s because they didn’t have ears to hear with faith what Christ was implying concerning that language. Biblical language has always been a problem and it continues to be so, especially when we default to a literal understanding of biblical imagery.

  • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann Voskamp

    Indebted and grateful, Scot, for your voice.
    I’m reading McGlasson’s book right now.
    *Thank you.*


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