Thursday, June 23, 2011

DOMINIONISM

The other day I received a reference to an article:  “Following the Dominionist Threat Through the GOP’s 2012 Candidates” on the website:  http://www.politicususa.com/en/dominionist-gop-2012-candidates, with the comment, “Interesting.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.”

So I checked out the site Politicsusa, which claims to be “Real Liberal Politics – No Corporate Money Masters,” but I didn’t spend a lot of time there.  I did a quick read of the article and e-mailed back, “I’ve known about ‘Dominion Theology’ for a long time.  I’ll have to write some thoughts on it sometime.  Much of what the article says is true but I don’t believe it’s as tight a conspiracy as she implies.”

As usual, once some thoughts get stuck in my brain, they refuse to leave, so I’ve been chewing on them a while and I feel that I’d better write them down.

The following thoughts are both an attempt to critique the article and to critique what the article critiques.  I suppose that if I do this properly, I may offend my friends both on the right and on the left, though I don’t really intend to.

First, the article.  The author is Leah Burton, of whom I know nothing except what she has revealed of herself here.  She is apparently not a regular contributor to the site, but has been invited to submit a series of articles “leading up to the 2012 national elections,” because of her expertise on the topic, the movement which she refers to as “a very dangerous religious-political movement,” “religio-political extremism,” a “sect” and “a Bible-based cult,” among other things.  Ms. Burton is apparently quite concerned about this movement/cult that she says “has co-opted Christianity, the Republican Party” and apparently “conservatism” in general.  This is alarming, if true!

However, her broad brush strokes soon raise suspicions.  In this frightening movement (conspiracy?) which she says is “known broadly as Christian Dominionists,” she tells us, are included some well-known protestant denominations as well as some lesser known.  It is difficult to see how a “cult” can include the largest protestant denomination in America (the Southern Baptist Convention).  I had thought that cults were usually small and well out of the mainstream.  She also includes “the pre-millennialists, the post-mills” and seemingly any school of thought that could be considered evangelical.  And she doesn’t say that the “cult” includes just some from these groups.  Her implication is that it includes all; her use of the word “the” seems to make this clear.

By the time I’d finished reading the third paragraph, I had begun to realize that, by her definition, I would probably be considered a member of this “cult.”  And sure enough, she tells us a bit further on that “you must be ‘born-again’” is “the secret decoder-ring phrase that gets you in this exclusive club.”  (Didn’t Jesus say that this was the requirement for getting into the Kingdom of God?)

As she continues attacking the alleged beliefs of these “radical Christian fundamentalists,” she ends up including just about anyone whom we would consider an evangelical Christian.  She warns us not to confuse these persons with “the majority of Christians in America who are mainline Christians.”  Her math here is inaccurate.  The members she has included in this “cult” make up the majority of Christians in America!

She goes on to attack their “end times” beliefs, their desire to fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28:16-20 and their pro-Israel position, which she says is “schizophrenic,” as they are Jew-haters.  She attacks their anti-abortion views and sees them as only concerned about the fetus and not about the children who are born.

She concludes:  “No longer do we have the luxury of simple partisan politics in America.  After the infestation of the Republican Party by the political wing of the Dominionists we are now unable to think in terms of Democrat vs. Republican, or Liberal vs. Conservative – it is now a matter of freedom versus theocracy.”

This is a poorly written article.  One thing it clearly demonstrates is that the right does not have a monopoly on conspiracy theories!  By including such a broad spectrum of evangelical Christians in this movement/cult, she discredits her own warnings.  Most of us know people who would be involved and as I mentioned, many, myself included, would be considered by her as co-conspirators.

It seems to be a broad attack on any who are evangelicals not only for their political beliefs, but for their exclusivist religious beliefs.

Ms. Burton does, however, have a pretty clear idea of what the philosophy is that she is fighting.  Her definition is pretty clear.  “Defined in its simplest form, Christian Dominionism is a political approach to Christian faith based on a literal interpretation of Genesis Chapter l verses 26-28 of the Christian Bible.  Believers perceive themselves as the ‘chosen’ or the ‘elect,’ commanded by God to ‘subdue’ the earth and ‘have dominion’ over all living creatures.”   I would only disagree with her calling the interpretation of Genesis 1:26-28 “literal.”

And here is where I must confess that I agree with her.  I agree that what I’d call “Dominion Theology” is a real danger.  However – and this is extremely important – it is not a conspiracy, but a philosophy, an insidious philosophy.

Ms. Burton, in her third paragraph, seems to include all the persons in these groups in this vast conspiracy.  A few changes in wording would make it more accurate.  Dominionism as an “umbrella” does not include all the groups mentioned, but as a philosophy has penetrated the thinking of many who are members of these groups, usually without their being conscious of it.

This is not to say that Dominion Theology is not a “movement” with organization.  It is, though I would hesitate to call it a “cult.”  Dominion Theology, also known as Christian Reconstructivism and Theonomy had its beginnings with Rousas Rushdoony, a Christian minister, and his organization, the Chalcedon Foundation, founded in 1965.  It continues to this day through various ministries and newsletters, many of which are scholarly .  While their beliefs cover a broad field, they include along with Ms. Burton’s definition above, the belief that God’s laws as enumerated in the Torah (Exodus through Deuteronomy) were not given just for the nation of Israel, but are applicable today for any nation, especially the USA.

When it comes to eschatology (the doctrine of last things), Dominionists hold, of course to postmillennialism, the belief that we the people of God are to bring on an era of peace under the law of God before Jesus returns.  (Of course, Ms. Burtons’ inclusion of pre-millennialists seems ironic.)

Dominion Theology is best summed up by Gary North, one of the leaders in the movement:

“Adam forfeited his lawful inheritance when he rebelled against God.  Satan appropriated this inheritance as an illegal squatter.  He conquered the world in one day by Adam’s default.

Jesus’ ministry restored the inheritance to His people.  He announced a worldwide ministry of conquest, based on the preaching of the gospel of peace.  Christians are required to pursue the same program of world dominion which God originally assigned to Adam, and reassigned to Noah” (Genesis 9:1-17).
(Gary North, as quoted by House and Ice, Dominion Theology, pages 23, 24.)

Though the movement itself is not large (contra Ms. Burton’s claims) and few actually would call themselves by any of the labels used, its philosophy has, to a greater or lesser extent, influenced the thinking of many evangelicals, primarily, but not exclusively, those on the religious right.  Some evidences of its influence:
·        The attempts to rewrite history to show that America is a “Christian Nation.”
·        The desire to enforce what is perceived as a biblical morality through secular law.
·        The belief that social ills of any sort can be corrected through politics.
·        The resurgence of postmillennial thinking among many evangelicals.
·        The Great Commission is seen as a means to this end, rather than a reaction of love and obedience. 

There are also of course, some serious biblical and theological problems with Dominion Theology:
·        It doesn’t fully take into account the depravity of man.  Humankind apart from Christ can never bring anything near perfection to this earth.
·        It makes the gospel of Christ secondary, almost just a means to an end.
·        It ignores the fact that the Mosaic Law was part of the Covenant that the LORD made exclusively with one nation – Israel.
·        It apparently ignores the biblical history.  The one nation that had the Mosaic Law given to them failed miserably – over and over.
·        The biblical picture of this age is one of increasing depravity, rather than improvement.

I must admit that I have not studied this philosophy extensively.  Many of the above observations would probably be rebutted by Dominionists.  They have written extensively.

But I have studied it enough to know that it is dangerous.  And though I personally am unacquainted with who would refer to themselves as any Dominionists, I have seen this philosophy affect the thinking of many persons I do know.  This is a great danger!

4 comments:

Sherry said...

I know a local businessman who believes it is our job to return jews to Israel so we can usher in the second coming. Very involved in politics (guess which party?).

I agree that it all seems to put personal salvation secondary to bringing in the kingdom or loving our fellow man prior to the kingdom on earth.

Bill Ball said...

Really seems to be a strange way to love Jews. Send them back to Israel so the tribulation can get started and they can suffer. but we'll be raptured first so why should we care?

Sherry said...

Another thought:
In the OT there were 3 different tithes/taxes one of which was to help the poor. Then in addition it was a law to leave some produce in your fields to help the poor.

In other words, it wasn't the government OR the individuals, it was both. And it wasn't optional.

Which is all contradictory to the politics supported by those who support dominionism.

gary said...

nothing much surpises me today. i always understood that a cult was a group that used the bible plus another book as its authority. it seems as these groups that put traditions and experiences on the same level as the scriptures are also becomming very close to the classical defination. so dangerous.