I previously posted “Five things Postmillennialism is not.” I then began to dispel five similar myths about Dominion Theology. This post is the completion of those five points.
1. Dominion Theology is not a bad word
Point one is so long it got its own post, here.
2. Dominion Theology is not about top-down control
Many recoil at the term “dominion” because it conjures images of what may better be called “domination”: a taskmaster with a whip, a dictator in total control, forcing agendas on an unwilling populace, or perhaps even something worse. But this confusion is cultural or personal; it has nothing to do with what the Bible teaches about “dominion.”
Dominion refers, as we said in point 1, to our works in the land, in business, and in the family. It will involve government, too, but please note that the biblical view is that government is supposed to be almost totally personal and family government. In the quintessential “dominion mandate” passage reviewed in point 1 (Gen. 1:26, 28), God expressly gives man dominion over creation, but expressly does not give him dominion over other men. This means that whatever else in Scripture can be said about the institution of civil authority and power (the top down part), it is separate and apart from the original dominion mandate given before the fall (it is also greatly limited, as we shall say in a moment).
Proverbs 16:32 says, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” The meaning here is clear: self-government is far superior to civil or military government. The original dominion mandate given to Adam and Eve prelapsus was one of self-government. This is also the call for the Christian, and the goal of Christian society. It absolutely must be, therefore, a vision that starts from the bottom up.
Christian Reconstruction, Dominion Theology, starts with the regeneration of the individual soul. Until some level of critical mass is reached here, culture cannot be changed because individuals will not be self-governable according to God’s law (Rom. 8:7).
There were (and maybe still are) some in the movement who believe the path forward is to have a “revolution of the elites”— to capture the seats of power by those in favor of Christendom. This is the old Constantinian model in which the emperor—or the powers that be in general—declare that the laws shall be Christian and force everyone to live outwardly by them.
This view not only produces mass hypocrisy (among masses and leaders alike), but is expressly condemned by Jesus himself (Matt. 20:25–28). For more on this, read my response to Rev. Dewey, particularly my comments about Gary North and James Jordan’s “elitism” in Healer of the Nations (1987, p. 301). It is also a critique that can fall upon some of those who see “Kuyperianism” as the way forward. There are certain good things about Kuyper’s teachings, but our views must be delimited by a purely biblical social theory as well.
Dr. North further elaborates the view in a more down-to-earth way in his essay, “The Dogcatcher Strategy,” which is nothing more than bottom-up thinking applied, as well as a good critique of why all the focus on the presidency is radically counterproductive for Christians.
3. Dominion Theology is not about political power
Related to the last point, too many people think the goal of Dominion Theology is to capture political power and then impose some agenda. But again, not only is the biblical perspective of dominion not “top down,” it is not even primarily political. It is not even political first. Dr. North has a motto, in fact, that goes, “Politics fourth.” I agree.
Since Dominion Theology must begin from the bottom-up. It begins, again, with self-government. If you can’t make progress here, what point would it make to sit in power over others? What biblical sense does it make to control others when you can’t control yourself? Granted, all men will remain sinners, and thus all leaders, whether ecclesiastical or political, will be to some degree imperfect, but the point stands as the broad generality that it is.
The point goes much further, though. The biblical view of politics demands a civil government vastly reduced in size, scope, and power than what we have. The purpose of the bottom-up Christian revolution Dominion Theology envisions is that self-government, family government, church governments, private organizations, private businesses, and private charities replace the vast majority of civil government agencies we have.
This reduction would not only include the things most Christians today see as tyrannies, like Federal overreach in religious liberty, marriage, abortion, etc., but also the vast array of tyrannies that most Christians today cannot see are tyrannies: public education, publicly-funded police, social security and medicare, a large standing army, fiat money and banking, administrative (executive) law, government regulations, protectionism, taxation in general, and much more. Most of these things, in fact, Christians today accept as good and right. We need to progress to a vision of an even freer society that sees these things for the tyrannies that they are—according to biblical standards.
Far from being about political power, Dominion Theology is about the virtual elimination of political power for everything except a very small scope of criminal and civil justice. Instead, it is the Christians who demand the status-quo tyrannies that we have now who are the real proponents of “top-down” political power and a focus on politics to solve our problems. Dominion Theology wants a better way: the way of freedom and small government.
4. Dominion Theology is not about personal prosperity
I have covered this under point 1 of Five things Postmillennialism is not. The same point applies here to social theory as to eschatology. We could say that the answer here is both yes and no. Some people—whole theological movements, in fact—treat the Bible’s teachings about prosperity as radical individual promises. But this is the “no.” Just as with eschatology, Dominion is not about every individual personally getting rich. It is instead a covenantal—corporate—reality. But since it is a corporate reality, this means there is an element of “yes” here, too.
I think this “yes” has two features: first, it means that in a society exercising godly dominion, everyone in general will be better off. Just as socialistic societies in the long run make everyone poorer overall, and often leave entire nations totally impoverished, so godly Dominion leads to just the opposite. In general, in a godly society, everyone will be elevated. In successful cases, the poor will be as well off as even the middle and upper classes (if there can be said to be that) in socialistic societies.
The second feature is that the corporate reality of covenant blessings creates a general environment for prosperity in which some people will in fact get wealthy, and some fabulously so. A godly society will be marked by certain levels of “income inequality,” but the general blessing and general godliness of the people will not produce the type of sniping and backbiting against “the rich” found in socialistic mindsets. Instead, you will see the general acceptance and even thankfulness for the wealthy among us: for we will be thankful for what we have, thankful for others even better off than ourselves (for they will have gotten it without corruption), and thankful for the general environment in which everyone benefits—even if at different levels. In such an environment, you will also see a dramatic increase in private charity from the wealthier individuals.
5. Dominion Theology is not hastening the return of Jesus
This last point is also something of a reiteration. Critics from premillennial viewpoints have for a long time caricatured Postmillennialism as the belief that Christians must create the kingdom of God on earth by the works of man before Jesus will come back. These same critics, and others like them, level the same charge against Dominion Theology.
This error not only ignores virtually everything we have written on the subject, it also ignores the simple teachings of Scripture about Dominion (see point 1). Dominion Theology teaches and emphasizes the original dominion mandate given to Adam, and later reinstated in the Great Commission.
Further, Dominion Theology does, and always has, viewed the work of Dominion as a work of the Holy Spirit through the members of the body of Christ. This is the same way most believers view evangelism in general: it is a work that is carried out through the members of the body, but the success of evangelism cannot be said to be done by them. The rest of the Dominion mandate—the reconstruction of every area of life according to the law of God—is exactly the same. Men are involved, but only as regenerated and led by the Holy Spirit. (I have a section in The Bounds of Love on this point as well, pp. 101–110.)
With Postmillennialism, we believe that Christ will not return one moment before all His enemies are destroyed (1 Cor. 15:21-25; Heb. 10:13). Therefore, He will not return one moment before the Christian Reconstruction of the entire cosmos. But nothing that any man can do will hasten that day. It is entirely in the hands of the sovereign God, and can only come about through the advance of His Spirit.
Until then, it is our job to preach and teach the whole counsel of God, especially to His people who are greatly lacking in a total biblical worldview, and who have been deceived with a much more limited scope of the Kingdom. But we must also evangelize others to turn to the comprehensive Christ, and teach them everything He has commanded us. This means teaching Dominion Theology.