In one of those amazingly rare events that keep people believing in miracles, NPR made sense for about fifteen seconds. In an interview with Rachel Tabachnick, NPR’s Teri Gross covered an Evangelical movement called “The New Apostolic Reformation” (NAR). In discussing the most prominent campaign of that neocharismatic movement—the “Seven Mountain Dominion” (7MD) movement—Gross’s guest correctly noted the following:
The Apostles and Prophets [NAR] have an interesting spin on [dominionism]. They’re not the only dominionist movement out there. Some people may be familiar with Rushdoony and Christian Reconstructionism. This [7MD] is a different brand of dominionism.
Boy is it ever! I would like to thank Mrs. Tabachnick for her good and proper distinction, but I must insist that it goes much further than what she indicated. And the differences are important enough that they must be stated clearly and openly for everyone to see. 7MD must not be confused with Christian Reconstruction, traditional Dominion Theology, or Theonomy.
Before my critical remarks, however, let me note a couple of great acknowledgements and key teachings associated with the 7MD movement. First, there is generally an emphasis on making disciples and not just converts. The church has too much focused only on “saving souls” and not enough on training those souls in obedience to all the teachings of Christ. This I affirm and applaud.
Second (and based on the first point), the leaders almost all make a point to acknowledge that the gospel and the Great Commission are so much greater than just the visible church itself. Rather, the gospel applies to every area of life, and the Great Commission is a renewal of the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:28. Thus, we should apply God’s Word to things like business, economics, government, family, media, art, etc., with the goal of dominion throughout the earth.
With these things—generally stated—I wholeheartedly agree. But there is much to be concerned with in the 7MD version of Dominion Theology. For this reason, we must announce clearly and maintain a stark distinction between 7MD and the traditional Christian Reconstruction movement, or traditional Dominion Theology.
The First and most concerning point is that the 7MD version does what critics of traditional dominion theology have falsely accused us of doing the whole time: planning to grab the reins of influence through whatever means necessary, usurp the seats of political power, and impose some tyrannical “theocracy” upon society from the top down with a “whether you like it or not, it’s for your own good” mentality.
We have responded, consistently, that our blueprint is about the rollback of tyranny, not the replacement of it—the removal of unjust taxation, welfare, warfare, government programs, etc. We favor privatization, local control of civil and criminal law, hard and sound money, and private charity for cases of poverty, all led by families, businesses, and churches—not large, centralized, top-down solutions. Yes, we would properly recriminalize sodomy, adultery, and abortion, but in a decentralized world like we want, you could leave easily if you didn’t like that.
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We have also said, consistently, that such a world will never exist without successful evangelism ahead of it. If there is no personal revival and recourse to God’s Word, there will be no free society, no Christian Reconstruction, no godly dominion in the land.
We have said all of this, mostly to no avail in the ears of even our closest kin-critics—Reformed Christians like the boys at the White Horse Inn, and prominent evangelicals like Chuck Colson, and others—who continue to imply and sometimes openly state that we theonomists and donimionists desire to grab power and execute everyone who disagrees with us. This is utterly false and slanderous.
There is no doubt, however, that the 7MDs do have a goal of top-down control of society. This is explicit in their literature in many places. The exception to this is when they are in PR mode: then they downplay and even completely deny that they believe in dominion. But otherwise they give our old critics the ammunition they need to continue their slander. Let us view the facts:
The 7MD vision comes from a 1975 lunch meeting between Bill Bright of Campus Crusade and Loren Cunningham of YWAM in which God allegedly gave each, separately and privately, a message to give the other. Turns out, allegedly, the message was the same! It was that Christians have for too long been too churchified and not engaged in culture. The remedy is for Christians to pursue dominion in seven separate “mountains” of culture influence: church, family, education, government, the arts and entertainment, media, and business.
(As a side note, I find it funny how this 1975 meeting came two full years after the original “dominionist,” R. J. Rushdoony, published his magnum opus The Institutes of Biblical Law (1973), calling Christians to get involved in the same areas a life. This book was in development for five long years while Rushdoony preached through the Mosaic law, applying it to every area of life. Bright and Cunningham were in the same area of California at the time.
It’s funny to me how God’s alleged extra-biblical revelation to these men seems to have taken some key notes from Rushdoony’s earlier publication, two years after the fact. Perhaps open-theism is correct after all, and God has to learn His own theology after the fact.)
The Bright-Cunningham message is now most clearly expounded in their disciple Lance Wallnau’s 7MD “mandate.” The top-down control message is clear. He outlines the seven mountains to be captured, and says, “He who occupies the top of those mountains can literally shape the agenda that forms nations.” The intent and means are clear.
Perhaps the most prominent spokesman is former Fuller Seminary professor C. Peter Wagner. Wagner is a radical charismatic and an open theist. He addressed NAR and 7MD program in a letter he wrote to his followers a few years ago. He wrote, “We want to see whole cities and regions and states and nations transformed to support the values of the kingdom of God.” Transformation, of course, is not what I object to. It’s how he intends to accomplish this transformation of whole nations that bothers me: “This will happen only as kingdom-focused saints become the head and not the tail of each of Lance Wallnau’s seven mountains or molders of culture.”
This “head and not the tail” phrase is a recurring themes among this movement. But it is not used biblically. In the biblical covenant, becoming the head and not the tail is the outcome of obedience, not the path to it (See Deut. 28:1, 13, 44). It is an end and not a means. The means is obedience to God’s law revealed in scripture. In other words, we should preach and teach obedience to the law first, and only once we see such a revival in Christian obedience can we expect anything like social blessing and cultural ascendancy.
But Wagner does not see it this way. He thinks we must do “whatever is necessary” in order to capture the tops of those seven mountains—the seats of power in each area:
Our theological bedrock is what has been known as Dominion Theology. This means that our divine mandate is to do whatever is necessary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to retake the dominion of God’s creation which Adam forfeited to Satan in the Garden of Eden. It is nothing less than seeing God’s kingdom coming and His will being done here on earth as it is in heaven. This includes the need to govern apolitically, as well as to embrace spiritual warfare techniques that neutralize the control of our adversary within the functional and territorial spheres of authority to which we have been assigned. To do this, we know that we must be in communion, we must receive revelation, and we must apostolically and prophetically proclaim that revelation.
Note the further means: governing “apolitically”—whatever that may entail—and receiving revelation.
Another promoter, Johnny Enlow, has written a relevant book entitled The Seven Mountain Prophecy. He is quite open about capturing the seats of power—the “top of the mountain”—of government. In article on “the Mountain of Government,” he writes,
The Mountain of Government, or politics, is a mountain that the Lord is beginning to position His children to invade and take. . . .
Because of the enemy’s firm grip on this mountain, it’s a very dangerous mountain to take if one is not spiritually prepared for it. Yet we must take it. The Elijah Revolution will begin to displace the forces of darkness from this mountain and establish righteous government on its top. . . .
Enlow says that “there are three levels of a mountain: the top, the middle, and the base.” But the lower levels must be stepping stones, for, “The top of the mountain is our objective.” And while the top of the mountain can sometimes refer to local and regional governments, the national level is the prize in focus. And it’s clear that by “top of the mountain” here Enlow has (among other things) the Presidency and Congress in mind, with these as a means to leverage the whole world:
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Though it’s a widespread field that extends far, the top of the mountain is occupied by a relatively small handful of people. In the United States, the president is the physical person at the top of the mountain, with senators and congressmen also high on our national mountain. Because our nation is the lead nation of the world at this time, it automatically places our national leader at the top of the world Mountain of Government.
It is also clear that he is somewhat prescient of the “theocracy” bludgeon, so he hides that cake, and yet tries to eat it, too:
The only government that will never have any corruption is the theocratic Kingdom of God. Here on earth, there will always be something less than a perfect government. We can (and should), however, insist on high ideals, principles, and individual character—people who can help manifest a form of government that is a blessing to a nation. We cannot instill a theocracy in a human government because theocracy is transcendent to humanity. The Kingdom of God can be superimposed on people through influence, but only God Himself can be “theo.” . . . A government can potentially function as a virtual theocracy, but only as the individuals in power allow themselves to be puppets (i.e. servants) of the theocracy (God’s rule and reign).
The important parts to note here are that a government can function as a “virtual theocracy,” but more importantly that “The Kingdom of God can be superimposed on people through influence. . . .” The first aspect is notable depending upon how you define “theocracy.” But the second should be absolutely terrifying to everyone. The idea of any admittedly “less than perfect government” being “superimposed” as a “virtual theocracy” by fallible men who think they are puppets of God should rattle every human being to their bones.
Further, in a video message, Enlow says that 7MD means, “In order to see a nation transformed, we are going to have to reform . . . the head sectors of society.” In order to be the head and not the tail, we must “recognize what is the head in society, and we have to displace the darkness that is there.”
Yet another popular spokesman, Rick Joyner, affirms the top-down control model, going so far as to endorse the necessity of a temporary totalitarianism as an alleged transition to freedom in God’s Kingdom.
The kingdom of God will not be socialism, but a freedom even greater than anyone on earth knows at this time. [I like that part. However:] At first it may seem like totalitarianism, as the Lord will destroy the antichrist spirit now dominating the world with “the sword of His mouth” and will shatter many nations like pottery. However, fundamental to His rule is II Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Instead of taking away liberties and becoming more domineering, the kingdom will move from a point of necessary control while people are learning truth, integrity, honor, and how to make decisions, to increasing liberty so that they can. . . .
The kingdom will start out necessarily authoritative in many ways, or in many areas, but will move toward increasing liberty–so do all true churches and movements that are advancing toward the kingdom.
From these quotations and many more it is clear to me that these men would embrace any top-down system of control as long as they could get their guys in the seats of power. They seek power first, and reform of society through power. Perhaps I have misread them. If so, I would like to see them demonstrate exactly how in each case.
Smile and Say “I Love You”
Yet, despite being so explicit in their literature, many of these guys are extremely sheepish in expression when presenting their views to a general public audience. Some, I understand, have even denied that they believe in anything like “dominion.” Some desire merely to replace the label “dominion” with “influence.” At any rate, with literature like theirs, they have a pretty stout PR issue.
The 7MD version (or should I say perversion) is the mirror-opposite of traditional Dominion Theology in essence. It also ends up with a mirror-opposite PR problem which leads it into open dishonesty. Whereas traditional Dominionists have often been open about our long-term vision (perhaps to a fault), and have had to spend a lot of time explaining the defusing details, the 7MDs on the other hand bury their warts in the details in their literature and put a “peace, love, and happiness” smiley-face on their front.
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Wagner is front-and-center most recently, arguing that NAR “is definitely not a cult,” emphasizing that “Those who affiliate with it believe the Apostles’ Creed and all the standard classic statements of Christian doctrine.” He conveniently leaves out his embrace of open-theism, which none of those statements would sanction. See, they’re really just your average, classical, standard Christians?
Enlow’s colleague, Os Hillman, presents the pretty face at it prettiest. He says that 7MD is nothing more than “a strategy to be more effective Christians in the culture.” And this is merely to “influence culture, not to dominate the culture.”
This public façade is the classic Campus Crusade tactic: warm, friendly, seeker-sensitive, not challenging or demanding at all. This warm-and-fuzzy approach, however, must compromise God’s dominion mandate—all in the name of “dominion”! Indeed, Hillman literally says that the mandate for dominion in Genesis 1 is “unrealistic.” Since “all people are not going to become Christians,” and “there’s always a free choice, . . . God doesn’t force you to believe, nor should we.” Thus, he assures his viewers, “God calls us . . . to accept different lifestyles, to accept people the way they are, different faith persuasions. . . .”
Indeed, Hillman goes out of his way not to challenge anyone with the Gospel: “If you’re not a Christian, please consider what Christ has done, whether it might be something you want to investigate. But if you don’t, you don’t have to believe, and we just want to bless you and say that God has called all of us to live together.”
(Can you image Christ or His apostles standing before a group of unbelieving Jews or Gentiles begging them “to consider . . . whether it might be something you want to investigate,” but never mind, really, “you don’t have to believe”? Seriously? I seem to recall Jesus offering the Gospel much more starkly: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).)
Thus, the 7MD mandate merely means that we should pray the Lord’s prayer so that “we can bring the love of God and the power of God on earth as it is in heaven. . . . We will be able to solve problems in culture and serve the culture. It doesn’t mean that we control the culture.”
You see, 7MDs are really about nothing more than the love of God and serving their fellow man.
That should settle all questions about their desire to grab the seats of power and install a temporary totalitarianism for your own good which they think will usher in the messiah, now shouldn’t it?
If you buy all that, I’ve got a Kingdom in Siam I’d like to sell you.
Other Driving Issues
There are some other concerning underlying issues involved in this movement. While I have already quoted the leaders enough to show how differently they approach “dominion” than we traditionalists, I wish very briefly to add the following:
First, the vision is driven by a radical version of charismaticism. This, of course, contradicts the position of Sola Scriptura upon which traditional Reformed Dominion Theology is based. We derive our program and especially our ethics from an established text; they have no end to what they may be inspired to say.
Enlow says that his vision is based on charismatic revelation—particularly “ongoing revelation . . . there’ll be more that keeps coming, both from myself and from many others.” Indeed, he expects us all to join him in “a whole new level of dreaming with God. . . . in these last days.”
When once you introduce just a hint of subjectivism into the equation of God’s law, you open the floodgates to mass tyranny and social devastation. I am currently completing my doctoral dissertation on mosaic law during the Reformation, 1517–1536. Most people don’t know that such charismatic-fueled government takeover is EXACTLY the recipe which fomented the Peasant Revolt, 1524–1525, following Thomas Müntzer, and then the Anabaptist tragedy in the city of Münster, 1535–1536. In both cases, men claiming the end-times were upon us, that they had charismatic revelation from the Holy Spirit, and that the people must arise and make ready for the return of Christ led people to spark revolution. After all was said and done, the smoke of war and siege warfare settled and 100,000 people lay dead. While I don’t expect this as an outcome of the modern 7MD movement, I do see the grave danger posed by a group of people who think they deserve control of civil government because they have dreams and visions “from God.”
Secondly, 7MD cannot take the proper dominion of civil sovereignty seriously because it does not take God’s sovereignty seriously. These men are nearly all extreme Arminians—something that derives from and is exacerbated by their debt to Campus Crusade and YWAM. Hillman is so afraid God may seem too demanding that he says “you don’t have to believe.” Free choice is sacrosant. Some—like C. Peter Wagner, as we saw—have taken the free will doctrine to its logical conclusion of open theism. God is robbed of omniscience at the expense of man’s free choice.
But since they don’t properly value sovereignty, they can’t properly value authority or its limits, meaning representative government and federalism. Thus, their determination to do “whatever is necessary,” including “govern apolitically”—which we can only assume means above and beyond the means of the rule of law if deemed necessary. Secret societies here we come!
Third, combined with this lack of understanding of sovereignty and authority, and related certainly to the goal of charismatocacy, is one of the most glaring defects: the lack of any clear standard of godly law. Nowhere do any of these leaders state what these alleged godly, Christian, or biblical “values” happen to be. They certainly have not identified anything objective like we traditional theonomists have, nor even anything general like the Ten Commandments. The fear should be that they expect to grab seats of power and then rule according to a stream of their extrabiblical revelations and prophecies.
But meanwhile, we can rest assured they do indeed have legislation in mind. This is the main goal for reaching the top of the mountain of government. For as Enlow says, “The Mountain of Government is perhaps the most important of the mountains because it can establish laws and decrees that affect and control every other mountain.” Yet they won’t tell you up front what laws and decrees they intend to put in place. Would you vote for a politician who refused to tell you what platform he stood on or intended to promote? No? And would you not be persuaded when he promised you he was personally informed by God?
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Fourth, there is considerable eschatological confusion. While Wagner seems to have embraced something like partial preterism, most of the others remain premillennialists of some sort or other. Enlow, for example, argues that only true Apostles should gain seats of power, and these must be distinguished by absolute deference in their foreign policy to Israel:
Do they understand God’s redemptive plan for Israel in these last days? Do they understand that “if you touch Israel, you touch the apple of His eye”? (Zechariah 2:8). Entire nations will be severely judged or highly blessed and favored based on this issue alone.
Can you imagine John Hagee as Secretary of State?
This is exactly the threat—top-down threat, totalitarian threat, eschatological holocaust threat—that 7MD presents to us.
American Vision is not that; they are not us; we are not them.
Perhaps more should be written on these guys and the threats they pose to society. They may have a few better political ideas, but they are just as dangerous in degree as the most radical of the left.
Perhaps I am wrong about them. Perhaps I have misread them as national-power grabbers when they are not. If not, they should disavow everything I have quoted here clearly and unequivocally in print, and provide their viable limited-government, free-market alternative.