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Published on January 8th, 2013 | by Dr. Joel McDurmon

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Friel group politics part II: dominionism hypocrisy

I am rarely surprised when Christian teachers denounce us “dominionists” for promoting and practicing political applications of our biblical worldview, only to turn around and use phrases like “the Gospel applies to every area of life.”

What, except politics, economics, social theory, and law?

I am, however, sometimes surprised at just how far some people will cross that line and perhaps not realize it. Take for example, the following teachings:

God put us on the earth to make culture, to be culture-makers, to create art and society and economics and transportation and all those things.

He put us on the earth to do that as his deputy rulers. So He would be the one in authority and we would be ruling under His authority.

God is not going to scrap creation. In fact, He’s remaking it . . . and the way He’s brought that about is through Jesus Christ.

If we put our faith in Him, trust Him, retiring from our sins and our rebellion, and trust Him, He remakes us new and renews our vision for the world and enables us to fulfill our calling in the world.

[product id="1145" align="left" size="small"]So you ought to believe in Jesus because Jesus is the one through whom God is restoring everything.

A Christian is self-consciously looking to see how the implications of the Gospel work themselves out in their daily life. Believing the Gospel isn’t something that simply is the doorway of the Christian life or the first step on the ladder, but it is the whole ladder, it is the whole stairway, it is the whole house. And it’s growing in our understanding and application of that to all areas of life that really marks out a Christian.(1)

Amen! “All areas of life.” It’s almost like a motto here at American Vision. But I was so shocked to hear these words from Rev. Bob Glenn because he was one of the three guys complicit in Todd Friel’s attack on “Reclaiming America, “Rushdoonyites,” and “Dominionism.” Shocking. It would seem from the above quotation that he was instead one of us. What’s going on here?

Why is it that a Christian leader can in one setting espouse applying the Gospel to all areas of life as that which “really marks out a Christian,” and then in another setting, smile in agreement with guys running down Christian political activism as “pharisaical moralism” and “legalism,” and say of the concept of reclaiming America, “I’m still unclear of even what that means. . . . I feel like I can’t even speak to it”?

Why does “every area of life” always seem necessarily to exclude politics, government, economics, and law for such guys? Whence the disconnect?

I am not going to speculate as to these guys’ motivations. They are all decent and talented Christian men, I have little doubt. I will point out that 1) it seems like some of these guys on various occasions want to have their cake and eat it, too; and 2) the basic tension inherent in such apparent “flip-flopping” stems from a combination of theological dualisms and eschatological presuppositions.

The basic “have you cake and eat it too” problem is this: none of these guys would deny that God’s Word applies to every area of life. Not one of these guys will deny that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of Lords, that He is seated at God’s right hand and that there is not a single inch of this universe in which His word is not sovereign and which is not subject to His will. We all have to say that God’s Word must rule every area of life.

But this necessarily has implications for politics and related areas. And this means God’s Word has real, concrete applications in these areas. But this means there are particular stands Christians must take on particular issues, and specific things Christians must do. True, we are not saved by works, we are saved by faith alone. But we are not saved by a faith that is alone. Good works must follow that faith or else we determine that the faith was not genuine.

Considering this fact for that “area of life” called the political realm causes all sorts of discomfort for some Christians. We must hold certain beliefs, we must take certain stances, and we must, therefore, do certain works that follow from those beliefs and stances. We must be at least vocal about certain issues, if not actually involved as boots on the ground, donors of time and/or money, and more.

It is the discomfort that comes—both doctrinally and practically—that impedes so many Christians from political activism. In some cases, the doctrinal is used as a pious excuse to cover the practical (laziness, disinterested, lack of zeal, football game, etc.). In other cases, the doctrinal is a direct cause of a refusal to engage. This is particularly true of pessimistic eschatology: some of these teachers and their followers expect the world to degenerate into sin and satanic control. This is true of all premillennialists and even many amillennialists. Why engage in a futile fight? It could even be considered disobedience.

Nevertheless, such a person will also believe that there will be no time in the future in which Christians will not be surrounded and outnumbered by unbelievers. The unbelievers will always have the upper hand in politics, and Christians will therefore always be in the position of having to compromise, possibly even their faith itself, in order to make political headway. Thus, the pessimistic eschatology must reason.

So we have this tension hinged between the belief that Christians must pronounce the Lordship of Christ over all areas of life, and the belief that Christians should not pronounce the Lordship of Christ in politics, and certainly must not work for it, and even if they do it will be futile because Christ will lose in this age of history.

And out of this situation come confused statements like this one from Phil Johnson: “I’m all in favor of laws that are moral as opposed to laws that are immoral, but that’s not my calling as a Christian.” Then why be in favor? If that’s outside of your calling as a Christian, then how can any laws be judged moral or immoral? According to what and why?

It is this very attitude among Christians which left Germany to Hitler. How can any Christian say that’s outside of our callings as Christians? It is not outside of our callings. And if that was true when Hitler was murdering masses, it is just a true when our government promotes abortion of babies, fights unnecessary wars, redistributes wealth, inflates the money supply, miscarries justice on a daily basis.

[product id="1505" align="right" size="small"]When Christ teaches that His followers are “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13–16), according to Johnson, He is doing so under the following distinction: “he’s talking about how we live, not what political stance we take.”

Even those at that table could not accept this statement. They asked, doesn’t “how we live” in itself include taking political stances? How can you separate the two?

Johnson then mitigated his argument to say only that political activism “is not the key thing” or “central” thing. He summarized his newly qualified position: “It is not your goal as a Christian to see whatever laws enacted.”

Instead, “You have to live as the early church lived. They lived under Nero. . . . You don’t see them organizing political protests or doing boycotts. . . . Demonstrations, boycotts like that lack any kind of biblical warrant.”

Not only is this not true (See Rushdoony’s little book The Atheism of the Early Church), it doesn’t consider the fact of why it’s not like that anymore. The answer comes in three words: Christian political activism.

Friel notes that Christians who do believe in political activism often point to William Wilberforce as an example of doing it right and successfully. No one at the table was willing to criticize Wilberforce’s political activism. Who would dare, right?

But why is William Wilberforce allowed as a Christian to fight fiercely as a political activist against slavery in England? And why was Wilberforce successful? And why is he not condemned by these Gospel-only leaders?

Rev. Glenn argued that it’s only because Wilberforce “had a political vocation.” I just don’t understand. Does this mean it’s OK for Christians to advance Christian positions only if they are professional politicians? Or does this mean there is a special gift of “political vocation” given by God for which we must wait? I am not sure what Glenn means, but I am absolutely sure God has already given each and every one of us such a vocation in both senses:

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (Rev. 1:5–6).

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth (Rev. 5:9–10).

We could point to more. So, I don’t think we have an excuse notto be politically vocal and active. As Trevin Wax commented during the discussion, “Jesus Christ is King. That necessarily has political implications.” I agree.

I disagree, however, when Wax calls upon Christian activists to “temper your expectations,” and states, “Abortion may never be outlawed in the United States again, Roe v. Wade may never be overturned.” These kinds of comments are expressions of a pessimistic eschatology.

Friel asks if Wilberforce can be an example for modern Christians in politics today. Wax thinks there’s none better. Glenn, however responds, “I don’t think it’s analogous, you’re comparing apples and oranges.”

But Glenn’s point was never adequately explained. Why is this not analogous? Because one must have a “political vocation”? I don’t see anything like that in Scripture.

It doesn’t matter, Johnson implies, because, “We don’t have any William Wilberforces today.”

And why not? Could it be that Christian leaders have been oppressing Christians for decades, preaching at them not to get involved in politics? The church—churches just like Johnson’s—have preached all the potential William Wilberforces into extinction, battering them into silence with threats of “legalism.”

In fact, in addition to Glenn’s “culture-creators” discussion above, Friel himself also starts to answer this question for us. Immediately after the re-election of Barack Obama, Friel did a segment on his show Wretched. He argued that Obama is not the problem, the beliefs of the electorate are. We must change people’s beliefs. He walks his viewers through very well thought-out, logical steps to make this point. It is diagramed on a chalk board. It is effective at making the point.

But note what he says in the process: “If our beliefs change, thinking will change, voting will change, people will change, the politicians and our nation will change.” Moreover, “If we want a better country, if we want a better society, we need to have better beliefs.” He goes on to reason that we need correct teachers, which means we need correct churches. Sounds here like he’s OK with the idea of improving society, voting, politicians, etc., all from a Christian perspective. And I assume by “better beliefs” he’s endorsing a Christian worldview in every area of life.

But then he closes by short-circuiting in a false dichotomy: “Instead of reclaiming America, it is time to reclaim our churches.” But who said the two are totally separate and mutually exclusive missions?

And why does Mr. Friel stop his segment with this mere point. Yes, if we want to have a better society, we must begin with the churches! Yay! And how . . . . ?

Ok, that’s a wrap. New show tomorrow.

Why didn’t he spend the next five-minute segment telling those churches exactly what to say, specifically in this regard? What newbeliefs that it’s not teaching currently should the church teach its members in order for the church to have godly influence in society? Silence.

Silence, because there’s that same old tension again.

Too many Christians and too many churches want to pretend like the church is a cultural force—a body of God’s vice-regent “culture-makers” in this world. Yet when we them ask for specifics, we get turned away, shut down, dodged, ignored, mocked, misrepresented, ridiculed, and even called heretics.

[product id="1518" align="left" size="small"]If you don’t like politics, and don’t think Christians should be involved, then be consistent and quit pretending like the church has answers to social issues. It’s all going down. Don’t even pretend like better beliefs will make for better politics, or that God has put us here to be culture-builders. And don’t voice your opinion in favor of moral laws as opposed to immoral laws, because law doesn’t enter into your equation, does it?

But if you do believe the church has answers to social issues, then speak up, let’s hear those answers. Let’s hear why and how. And if better beliefs make for better society, and better beliefs come from correct teaching in correct churches, then it is incumbent upon you to say what those teachings are, and to start teaching those particular beliefs along with their implications for social, political, and economic theory and practice.

American VIsion has been honing these beliefs for the last thirty plus years, we have answers. If you need help with any of this, we encourage you to begin with the resources that we’ve created hereEndnotes:

  1. Here’s the whole video. The reader/viewer will note that nothing has been taken out of context. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RVP03_Kz5jE.()
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About the Author

Dr. Joel McDurmon

Joel McDurmon, Ph.D. in Theology from Pretoria University, is the Director of Research for American Vision. He has authored seven books and also serves as a lecturer and regular contributor to the American Vision website. He joined American Vision's staff in the June of 2008. Joel and his wife and four sons live in Dallas, Georgia.



17 Responses to Friel group politics part II: dominionism hypocrisy

  1. Mark Rouleau says:

    Terry,

    I don’t think that dispensational eschatology needs to be changed to have a view of dominionisim. Adam was given dominion and Jesus told us to “occupy till I come.” All we need is obedience. The point is that God does suceed and restores all things. I personally find it hard to see this done merely by fallen defective men, Jesus (Yeshua) on the other hand is a man who is neither fallen nor is he defective. We just need to be obedient, it is like with the great commission, we know from Jesus’s own words that not one whom the father has given to him will perish (John 10:28-29) son one could reasonably ask what is the purpose in preaching the Gospel (Mark 16:15) to every creature. The answer is because we were commanded to do so just like occupying until he returns. Obedience.

  2. Mark Rouleau says:

    It is interesting to see learn that there are those that believe that the eschatological viewpoint causes some to see the eventual decline of society in preparation for Christ’s return while missing how much predetermininsim saps the will of many to be active in the culture wars believing that it has all been predetermined. Isaiah 46:10 KJV I personally find that in the pews it is those without a dispensational escatology who are least likely to get involved in the culture wars and politics.

    When Johnson was asked “how do you separate the two” someone should have brought out James 1:8 KJV A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

    Isn’t checking your Christian beliefs and morals at the door when it comes to politics and social polices being “double minded”?

    I had to share this passage with a judge (Jewish) about a year ago when he told me that when considering the legal matter of “civil unions” in the context of our State Bar Association that I should separate my religious views from those as a lawyer. My point is how do I separate myself from my views.

    Not only did Christ give us the “salt and light” command but also the parable of the nobleman and the vineyard (Luke 19). Where before going to a far country to receive for himself a kingdom the nobleman commanded his servants to “occupy till I come.” He didn’t tell the servants to let the towns folk overrun the vineyard. Most people focus on the investment and use of the talents and miss the command to occupy till he returns. The point being that even if we will be overrun (which I believe to be the case and that which we are witnessing at this very moment in history) we are to be obedient to his command and we should occupy the vineyard till he comes.

    Your point on political vocation is well stated however we should not look past the fact that in America “We the People” are the sovereign (political authority) and therefore “We the People” have a political vocation which must be exercised (misuse of talents and what has been given to us) as part of the rights which we are endowed with by our Creator (the Declaration is the US’s organic document, the Constitution is not – long discussion there). If “We the People” fail to exercise our right to vote in a manner consistent with the Bible we are worse than the servant that buried the talents.

    I think that Friel’s point on beginning with heart change in the populous and starting with the Church is correct for any long term real change. Top down morals enforcement of morals don’t really work without the heart change.

    The issue with the Churches in large part is that they have become a reflection of society instead of being salt and light. I would start with hard Church discipline and expulsion (1 Corinthians 5 Matthew 5:13 KJV Matthew 5:29 KJV) of those who practice ungodly things and bring in damnable heresy (2 Peter 2:1 KJV). We really need to be trying the spirits. (1-john 4:1-3) The Church is not a place to convert unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) or for people who want to do good but deny the power or the Lord. (2 Timothy 3:5 KJV 2 Corinthians 11:14 KJV). If this were done there would be sound teaching in the Church not merely itching ears of those who listen. (2 Timothy 2:1-4) Merely, having sound teaching in the church is not enough although it is the beginning. You have to have mature Christians or the Church will never be the salt that it was intended to be and it will be case out and trodden under foot. (Matthew 5:13 KJV)

    Are you arguing that our government can alone with a top down approach make this nation moral?

    What suggestions do you have for reclaiming the churches?

  3. Dark Puritan says:

    As a chistian with the worldview of AV I am in a Reformed church where 99% of the belivers when they find out where I stand/believe disagree with me but when they prey for our leaders, homeschool there kids and when they go to the abortion mills live and speak as a Reconstructionist. As long as this blessed sckisoftinia persist I can be patient but soon and very soon the logical inconsistencies must be cleared up or the church will not have the full culture changing power of the Gospel at its disposal to disciple the nations.

  4. Jon Speed says:

    The question of why this happens has to do with training at the Bible college and seminary level in dispensational institutions.

    I went through four years of training in a dispensational Bible college. We were taught hermeneutics, homiletics, Bible, theology, and more. But never: 1) a devoted class on dispensationalism or 2) Biblical ethics. A glance through most dispensational seminaries reveals the same on the ethics front, but even where dispensationalism is taught, there is no teaching about its history. It would be self defeating.

    The issue here is ethics. Dispensationalists cannot teach a consistent Biblical ethic because of their rejection of the Law. Combine this with the defeatist eschatology and they don’t feel obligated to provide Scriptural support for their statements because it’s axiomatic in their world view.

    Historically, dispensationalism has been “easy believism\free grace” in its view of soteriology. The Lordship of Jesus Christ has no role in their thinking until the Millennial Kingdom. The MacArthur crowd, of course, rejects easy believism, but they fail (epically) to see how the traditional dispensational exegesis of the parables, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Kingdom have direct bearing on how you view the effects of sanctification in a society. Sanctification in a traditional dispy view is pietistic, which is why many have been connected with Keswick theology. While MacArthur & Co., may reject easy believism, they have inherited the laissez-faire attitude of the traditional dispensationalists because of their failure to connect the dots between dispensationalism’s rejection of the Law, its weak view of sanctification, and its utter inability to provide a consistent ethic to its followers.

    As a result, the inner tension that’s being played out here is that Friel goes from reading his Bible (when he makes some good points) to defaulting to his world view (when he does things like this round table discussion on this issue).

  5. chris brudi says:

    Joel way to GO!
    I know that this article isn’t about Ray Comfort. However because Comfort and Friel work together so much you would think Friel would see what Ray is doing different from the typical dead head Evangelical leader. To Ray’s credit he has written a great article on homeschooling. (I know its short and funny, but he gets his point across) IF you read it on his website, Living Waters, you won’t be disappointed. I have listened to Friel a few times on his radio show, and find him really good with his man on the street type interviews (street evangelism type stuff) but i don’t think he would ever have a show that talks about homeschooling, or promote it as much as Rays article did. (but maybe he did and i missed it) Ray comfort is one of the most influential Christian leaders of our day. His DVD on Abortion is really good, the way he presents that subject and in a few minutes, young folks living totally in the world, really change their mind on it. Ray encourages folks to just go out on the streets and hand it out to kids walking home from school. Most Christian leaders will hardly even mention doing something like that. What about homeschooling? Most Christian leaders of today are very careful to take a stand against public education like Ray did, and promote homeschooling, they are too afraid of offending. I know Ray and Friel both love the Left Behind series. I think they both believe we are about to see WW III, but i will tell you that Ray is doing much to really change the hearts and minds of the church here in the states, and its not just teaching his street evangelism (although that is really cool!). I just wish Friel would wake up and see what Ray is doing and admit it.

  6. It’s an interesting article. I think though that Mr. Friel’s video about reclaiming churches in more in your camp than you give credit. Clearly he’s saying that change will only come from the bottom up, which I believe is what you advocate. The current system of government we have is due in large part to the faith of the people (or social pressure to life within the tenants of that faith) and less in the activism of said people. I think that is what Mr. Friel was getting to. Change your local community, really implement church discipline and the change will happen eventually, organically. Listening to your interview on apologia radio, it seemed that this is what you are advocating.

    Also, in these types of discussions (on both sides) I would love to see more quotations from scripture to support your points. For instance, I was reading through Exodus the other day and came to 30:15 which reads “The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.” NASB. It seems to me that this is a very good case for even taxation. Now, whether or not you agree with taxation is irrelevant, it is just an example. At least this way, argument can be made from scripture.

    I’m interested in your points and look forward to reading more of your material here on the site.

  7. Isaac says:

    Mr. McDurmon,

    Excellent article.

    I went and listened to the audio of the discussion, and I wouldn’t say Friel was in agreement with everything that was said, he merely wanted to play “devil’s advocate” in the discussion and see where it went. However, if he wasn’t, he should have put the record straight.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said that dualism and pessimistic eschatology were why there’s this tension. They seemed fine with politics when it came to “prophetic” issues, like abortion or slavery, but also maintained – without saying as much – that those “non-prophetic” parts of civil government were neutral.

    I think that so many in the church have ignored politics for so long that they have no context for the idea of Christian activism other than the compromising, partisan type that has often been exhibited in America of late. When they think of Christians involved in politics they can only conceive of people joining the Republican party, because they’re “closer to what I believe as a Christian” rather than working through a Biblical paradigm. In the former case, the charge of moralism is probably valid. But for the group to generalize and throw Dominionists into this category shows, as you pointed out, that they are ignoring what you actually practice and teach, because it much easier to take on a straw-man during the course of a short discussion over dinner.

    Has AV contacted Friel on the possibility of Wretched giving them a fair shake, and letting someone – like you or Mr. DeMar – come on the show and accurately present the Dominionist viewpoint?

    Also, has AV connected with the Abolitionist movement, particularly Abolish Human Abortion? It seems like they understand a lot of what you guys have been talking about, and are working to see it implemented.

    • Arrow says:

      Most Dispensationalists seem to think that involvement in politics is fine so long as you plan to lose.

      • Isaac says:

        Is Friel himself a dispensational, or is he merely friends with people who are?

      • Dr. Duckenheimer says:

        @ Isaac Though not consistent, Friel believes that Israel is somehow going to be important for the “last days”. He is dispensational. It also shows that he is when he speaks politics.

  8. JoelW says:

    Dispensationalists and other various non-dominion thinkers, much like semi-pelagians, are continually talking out both sides of their mouth. You said it right; they want their cake and eat it too. I remember the morning I was driving to work and listening to Rick Perry’s pastor on the radio, who, much to my surprise in view of his recent outspoken comments in endorsing Perry for President, was roundly condemning the idea of Christians “getting involved in politics”. But then he closed his broadcast with an admonition to “get out and vote and elect Christians”. I couldn’t believe the degree of his self-contradiction. The fundamental/evangelical monastic orders have surely painted themselves into a theological corner.

    • Dr. Duckenheimer says:

      “…get out and vote and elect [Republicans].” Because that’s all that they want. It has nothing to do with what any of the Bible says about submitting to government or being peaceful Christians. It’s everything to do with sit there, shut up, listen to the part of the Gospel that says about “you can do nothing”, and obey government. It’s cynical really.

      • Arrow says:

        When you get into a on-on-one discussion with most of these people, it is absolutely astounding how little they know about civil government and politics.

  9. Arrow says:

    This is a very excellent and useful analysis!

    It’s one thing to have a “position”, and another thing to actually implement a plan to do something about it. I could be wrong, but it seems that these guys like to talk as though they have the answers, but become hostile when faced with anything that would cause them to have to act. I’ve seen it over and over.

  10. Thanks Joel. When will Christians realize that the Bible really applies to all of life? After a few generations of baptized humanism, many Christians wouldn’t recognize a Biblical worldview if it hit them on the head. We find ourselves carrying so much baggage from the culture around us and our own upbringing. It’s time for a fresh start based on God’s Word. Thanks for the work you all do at American Vision.

  11. Terry Morris says:

    Great article. I need to see more articles like this. I agree completely it is their eschatology of defeat that causes most of their confusion. We need the framework of an eschatology of victory to be able to see a need for dominion. Gary North’s book, Unconditional Surrender is great on this subject. I would like to see more published in this area. I would love to see examples of churches who are operating in these principles. Keep up the good work.

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