Where many Christians are today in their worldview thinking can be traced back to some adverse theologizing. We did not get here overnight. Seemingly divergent theologies have created a downstream effect of cultural indifference in the name of biblical Christianity. The late Andrew Breitbart observed that “politics is downstream from culture.” Change the culture, change everything. Ignore a comprehensive biblical worldview, you will get an anti-Christian worldview imposed upon you. There is no neutrality.

I’ve been working on a new book with the tentative title How Evangelicalism Lost Its Way, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Christians supporting Donald Trump. It deals with how popular and influential Christian worldview thinkers compromised the comprehensiveness of the Bible’s mandate for holy living and something called the cultural or dominion mandate.

Consider the following from Robert M. Bowman’s article “Are Christians Supposed to Take Dominion?” that was published in 1988 in the Christian Research Journal:

A careful reading of the Bible indicates [that there is no such thing as a dominion mandate]. Simply put, the Bible never commands Christians to take dominion. A search for such a mandate proves fruitless. The Bible never even hints that this is to be the responsibility of the church between Christ’s first and second comings.

It is often claimed that the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18–20 is a directive to fulfill the “Dominion Mandate” of Genesis 1:28, in which God commanded man to subdue the earth and have dominion.

First, Mr. Bowman should have informed his readers that Reconstructionists aren’t the first group to claim a “dominion mandate” based on Genesis 1:26–28. It is interesting that Henry Morris, a dispensational premillennialist, teaches a very similar view of dominion in his book, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science. According to Morris, the “dominion mandate” (his usage) includes science, technology, the humanities, commerce, law, civil government, and education, in short, every facet of human culture. Morris notes that:

long before [the Great Commission] another great commission was given to all men, whether saved or unsaved, merely by virtue of being men created by God in His image. It also had worldwide scope, and has never been rescinded. It had to do with implementing God’s purpose in His work of creation, just as Christ’s commission was for implementing His work of salvation and reconciliation. (Henry M. Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984), 41.)

Morris says that the command to subdue the earth means “bringing all earth’s systems and processes into a state of optimum productivity and utility, offering the greatest glory to God and benefit to mankind.” (Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science, 41.) So then, there is nothing unusual about advocating dominion based on Genesis 1:26–28. Even some dispensationalists support it.

Second, contrary to Bowman, non-Reconstructionists have seen a relationship between the “dominion mandate” of Genesis and the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18–20. Dr. Harold John Ockenga, in his Introduction to Carl F. H. Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, wrote the following in 1947:

A Christian world- and life-view embracing world questions, societal needs, personal education ought to rise out of Matt. 28:18–21 as much as evangelism does. Culture depends on such a view, and Fundamentalism is prodigally dissipating the Christian culture accretion of centuries, a serious sin. A sorry answer lies in the abandonment of social fields to the secularist. (Harold J. Ockenga, “Introduction,” in Carl F. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1947), 14.)

As you probably know, there is a lot more literature on this topic. The above two sources immediately come to mind. With a little more research, I could find a lot more. (For example, J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity and Culture,” originally published in The Princeton Theological Review, Vol. IX, 1913 and Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1959). But, of course, this does nothing to refute Mr. Bowman’s assertion that there is no such mandate. Just because other theologians believe the Bible teaches a doctrine does not make it true. It’s a bit misleading, however, in leaving the impression that the dominion mandate is a manufactured doctrine of Reconstructionism.

The Christian Culture Builder

The Christian Culture Builder

In working towards the victory of Christ's kingdom, Christians have the obligation (and the privilege) to create a civilization distinct from the rest of the world—our own living, breathing culture equipped with biblical standards for subduing this Earth to Christ's commands, excelling at everything we do, and escaping the snares this world has laid for us

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Third, dominion is an “inescapable concept.” Dominion will be exercised. The question is: “What standard will be used to “take dominion”? Rushdoony writes: “Dominion does not disappear when a man renounces it; it is simply transferred to another person, perhaps to his wife, children, employer, or the state. Where the individual surrenders his due dominion, where the family abdicates it, and the worker and employer reduce it, there another party, usually the state, concentrates dominion. Where organized society surrenders power, the mob gains it proportionate to the surrender.” (Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1973), 448.) Mr. Bowman asks whether Christians are “supposed to take dominion.” The fact that dominion is being taken is some evidence that dominion is an attribute of man who created in God’s image. Since God is a dominion God, we should expect man, created in God’s image, to reflect an aspect of His dominion attribute. When Reconstructionists talk about “taking dominion,” they mean exercising dominion according to biblical norms rather than humanistic norms.

Bowman continues with another misconception:

[The claim of a dominion mandate] does not bear close scrutiny of the texts. In Genesis 1:28 God gives dominion over the animal kingdom to man.

Mr. Bowman did not scrutinize the first few chapters of Genesis very carefully. God created the earth for his image-bearers to live and act on their special status. He didn’t create earth for the plants, minerals, and animals to dominate the world. God gives dominion over the entire creation to man, not just the animal kingdom. These created entities were given to serve God’s highest creation: “And God blessed them [Adam and Eve]; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28). There are two aspects of God’s command relating to dominion: Fill and subdue the earth and rule over the animals. So then, all the earth’s potentialities are legitimate, even mandated, domains for our activity. This is why the “dominion mandate” is often described as the “cultural” or “creation mandate.” Culture is in mind. This includes art, music, literature, technology, and the sciences. The Bible is the standard for mining these potentialities.

Another criticism, not voiced by Bowman but certainly implied in his critique, is that the dominion mandate of Genesis does not give dominion to man over other men. We should not expect to find such a mandate in a pre-fall command. Some men dominate other men only in a sinful world. Sin adds to the difficultly of what would have been an already arduous dominion task. This is seen in Genesis 9:5–7 where the dominion mandate is repeated with the addition of giving man the authority to exercise civil and punitive restraint of criminal activity.

Some will claim that only the command to be fruitful and multiply is repeated. By this we are to conclude that man’s mastery of the creation is no longer in effect because of the fall. There is nothing in Scripture that indicates that the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:26–28 has been rescinded. The creation was good before the fall (1:31) and after the fall (1 Tim. 4:1–4). We believe in progressive revelation not regressive revelation. Psalm 8 reiterates the dominion mandate of Genesis by telling us that “Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands” (8:6). Included in the works of man’s hands, but not limited to them, is the animal creation. In his commentary on the Psalms, Leupold writes of Psalm 8:6: “How much [‘the works of Thy hands’] involves neither this statement nor Gen. 1 specifies, but it certainly cannot indicate a mere nominal control, for the parallel statement of v. 6 … extends man’s authority to ‘everything’ and … claims that these things may be said to have been ‘put under his feet.’” H. C. Leupold, Exposition on Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, [1959] 1977), 104–105.)

With the fall, a further dimension is added to the dominion mandate. Man himself must be subdued ethically. Without a fall, there would have been no need to establish guidelines regarding punishing those who might steal. But because of sin, some men will steal and kill other men to secure wealth for themselves. This sin must be subdued or ruled over. But what standard should man use? Scripture tells us that because of the transgression the law was given (Gal. 3:19). The standard has not changed.

The Bible gives instructions on each of the following subjects, all considered the domain of Christians: civil government, the judicial system, economics, indebtedness, the punishment of criminals, foreign affairs, care for the poor, animal husbandry, ecology, journalism, science, medicine, business, education, taxation, inflation, property, terrorism, war, peace negotiations, military defense, ethical issues like abortion and homosexuality, environmental concerns, inheritance, investments, building safety, banking, child discipline, pollution, marriage, contracts, and many other worldview issues. (For a comprehensive discussion of most of these topics see Gary DeMar, God and Government, one-vol. ed. (Powder Spring, GA: American Vision, 2011).) This is the dominion mandate. If God instructs us on an issue, then we are mandated to follow those commands according to His Law in every area of life. This is true for non-believers as well.

God and Government

God and Government

With a fresh new look, more images, an extensive subject and scripture index, and an updated bibliography, God and Government is ready to prepare a whole new generation to take on the political and religious battles confronting Christians today. May it be used in a new awakening of Christians in America—not just to inform minds, but to stimulate action and secure a better tomorrow for our posterity.

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