strange fire

Dominion Theology/Kingdom Now/Reconstructionism
Blessing or Curse?*

– There is a movement about that is casting a long shadow for its size. It is known as Reconstructionism, Kingdom Now theology, Theonomy, and/or Dominion theology, and it is a curiously skewed blend of Reformed/Calvinist theology and Charismatic influence. While there are relatively few who would call themselves Reconstructionists, a number of the movement’s ideas have infiltrated the thinking and actions of many professing believers, often without them knowing it. The movement is led by such theologians as Rousas J. Rushdoony; Gary North; Ray Sutton; Greg Bahnsen (deceased); David Chilton, and by Charismatic leaders such as Earl Paulk. But their ideas are often reflected by non-reconstructionists such as Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, John Whitehead, Franky Schaeffer, and Jerry Falwell. [In spite of the fact that many Dominionists-Reconstructionists-Theonomists are hyper-Calvinists, yet at the same time they write and speak as if they believe that they must help God get things under control down here on earth, so that the kingdom (their version of it) can be set up in order that the King Himself can reign properly (through them, of course!).]

– Dominion theology (the belief-system behind the Reconstructionist movement) teaches that through the coming of Christ the believer has dominion over every area of life. We are now in the Kingdom of God (note the similar view of the Kingdom that the Vineyard movement takes, as well as the plethora of Christian songs being written implying that we are in the Kingdom at the present time), and as a result, we should be reigning with Christ over the earth (as Rev. 5:10 says). The question is when we will reign. If the Kingdom is on earth now, then we should have dominion now, so say the Dominionists. Many of us non-reconstructionists proclaim this same thought when we sing the popular Charismatic song “Majesty” (written by hyper-charismatic Jack Hayford), which invites us to “Come glorify Christ Jesus, the King” — after all, “Kingdom authority flows from His throne unto His own.” With this authority from the King, we are to reclaim the earth for Christ, not just spiritually, but socially, economically (it is no accident that one of the Reconstructionists’ organizations is called “The Institute for Christian Economics”), and politically. The dominion of the earth is accomplished not only through prayer and evangelism, but through political process and social reformation. [The Dominion/Reconstructionist organization Coalition on Revival (COR) was established for this purpose.] Christ will not (and cannot) return to earth until the church has accomplished this task, so say the dominionists.

– Dominion theology is predicated upon three basic beliefs:
(a) Satan usurped man’s dominion over the earth through the temptation of Adam and Eve;
(b) The Church is God’s instrument to take dominion back from Satan; and
(c) Jesus cannot or will not return until the Church has taken dominion by gaining control of the earth’s governmental and social institutions.
More specifically, what does Dominion Theology (DT) teach? Here are the highlights:
(a) The Old Testament (OT) Law is our rule of life for today. Although DT teaches that keeping of the Law is not a condition for salvation, it is a condition for sanctification. (However, some of the COR’s official statements appear to specifically condition salvation upon OT Law-keeping!)

(b) In addition, the OT Law is to govern over society as well. Since we are called to subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28), DT teaches that God’s Law should rule (or dominate) all aspects of society. This view is known as Theonomy (or God’s law), and is described by Greg Bahnsen as: “The Christian is obligated to keep the whole law of God as a pattern for sanctification and that this law is to be enforced by the civil magistrate” (Theonomy, p. 34). This would mean that Christians would be obligated to keep the whole OT Law except in a case in which the New Testament (NT) explicitly cancels a command, such as the sacrificial system;

(c) A central piece of DT is its belief in covenant theology. As a result, it makes no distinction between the church and Israel (i.e., the church has become “spiritual Israel”). However, DT goes beyond traditional covenant theology and teaches that the church is to be governed by the same laws, is subject to the same curses, and is promised the same blessings as Israel;

(d) DT teaches a high level of social and political activism. If the Kingdom of God is to gradually take dominion over the earth, it only makes sense that Christians should be attempting to change society through the changing of laws and through social action;

(e) Followers of DT, like many charismatics, especially the Latter Rain Movement, look for a great end time revival in which the masses will turn to Christ. As a result, DT does not believe in the rapture of the church. According to DT, the world should be, and is becoming, a better place through the efforts of Christians (cf. 2 Thes. 2:1-12);

(f) As with many others who follow the teachings of George Ladd, DT believes that we are in the Kingdom age, but the Kingdom in another sense is yet to come. We are in the Kingdom, and have Kingdom authority, but on the other hand, we are ushering in the Kingdom through our efforts. “The Kingdom is now, but not yet,” is a popular DT slogan;

(g) DT is postmillennial in its eschatology. It is believed that as a result of the reconstruction of society by Biblical principles, that the final aspect of the Kingdom of God will be established on earth. Christ cannot return until a certain amount of dominion is achieved by the church. It is believed that the curse will slowly be removed as the world is won over. Even disease and death will be all but eliminated before Christ returns to the earth;

(h) DT is preterist in its interpretation of prophecy. This means that they teach that virtually all prophecies which most Christians believe are still future, have in fact been fulfilled already, mainly between the years A.D. 30 and 70. In David Chilton’s book, Days of Vengeance, he says that the book of Revelation “is not about the Second Coming of Christ. It is about the destruction of Israel and Christ’s victory over His enemies [during the first century]” (p. 43); and

(i) DT uses an allegorical hermeneutic, especially in reference to prophecy. So we find that the Great Tribulation took place at the fall of Israel in A.D. 70; the Antichrist refers to the apostasy of the Church prior to the fall of Jerusalem; the Beast of Revelation was Nero and the Roman Empire, etc.;
– One of the most important distinctive of DT is its belief in Theonomy. DT teaches that Christians are under the Law as a way of life, and are obligated to ultimately bring the world under that Law. This concept is based on several passages. First, Gen. 1:28 commands Adam to subdue the earth. Adam lost his ability to do so to Satan as a result of sin. The church should now be in the process of reclaiming from the devil what Adam lost. (You will note a hint of the Spiritual Warfare movement here.) Secondly, the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) commands the followers of Christ to disciple all the nations, which we are told, goes beyond personal salvation and sanctification to the reformation of society;

Matt. 5:17-19 is the passage upon which the system hinges. DT claims that the word “fulfill” actually means “confirm.” Thus, Christ did not in any sense fulfill, or complete, or do away with the Law, rather he confirmed it as our rule of life today. The normal and best translation of plerosai is “fulfill” not “confirm.” Besides this, however, we have the weight of the NT teaching concerning the Law. The epistles clearly teach that believers are no longer under the Law of Moses (Rom. 6:14; 7:6; 8:2-4; Gal. 3:24,25; 5:18), having been set free from that bondage to serve under grace and the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2);

And besides, if the Christian is still under Law, why do we not keep the OT ceremonial laws? DT’s answer is that the Law was divided into three sections: civil, moral, and ceremonial. The ceremonial law, it is claimed, has been fulfilled by Christ and is no longer incumbent upon the believer, but not so the moral and civil parts of the law. Therefore, we are to live under the moral law and seek to establish, in our society, the civil system of OT Israel. The problem with this view is that nowhere in the Bible is the Law broken into these three sections; this is something invented by men. Whenever the Law is mentioned, the Scriptures are speaking of the whole Law as a unit. The Jews were as obligated to keep the sacrificial system and commandments concerning food and dress (ceremonial law) as they were the Ten Commandments (moral law). If the NT says that Christ fulfilled the Law, and that as Christians we are no longer under the Law, it means the whole Law. Church age saints are no longer obligated to any aspect of the OT Law. No one has the right to arbitrarily claim that we have been set free from some of the Law (the parts we don’t like), but that the rest of the Law is obligatory. Either the believer has been released from the whole Law (Rom. 7:4,6) or none of it. [As Thomas Ice reminds us, “The Law of Moses was given to a specific people (Israel), to be followed in a specific location (the land of Israel), to deal with their specific situation. Therefore, the Law cannot simply be obeyed today by the Church, as was expected of Israel when it was given to that nation” (Biblical Perspectives, Vol. II, No. 6). On the positive side, Ice comments, “Paul teaches in Galatians 3 and 4 that Christ has set us free from the bondage of the Law, not so that we can be lawless as the Reconstructionists insist, instead, so that we can walk in the newness of the motivation of the Holy Spirit” (Ibid., p. 2).]

– There are many negative effects that the teachings of DT are having on evangelical Christianity today. Four of these would be:
(a) Reconstructionists teach that the mission of the church goes beyond the spiritual transformation of individuals, to a mandate to change society, a “moral patriotism,” if you will, in opposition to secular humanism. For Christ to be pleased with Christians, thereby, they must become political and social activists. We must change the laws of the land, gear up to elect Christians to office, and generally seek to take dominion over our world and bring it under the Law of Moses. We see the influence of this thinking even in those who may know little about DT — James Dobson, Larry Burkett, the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson, Promise Keepers, Charles Colson and the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document (ECT), and Operation Rescue, are but a few of the evidences that reconstructionist thinking is beginning to dominate the so-called evangelical world;

(b) Motivation for godly living, based upon the blessed hope — the return of Christ (Titus 2:13) — is replaced with the task of restructuring society. This cultural mandate to restructure/restore society is a task that may take thousands of years, even by the DT’s own admission (approximately 36,000 years, according to David Chilton);

(c) If we are in the Kingdom of God now, then the Charismatics are correct to teach that health and prosperity is the right of every believer today. This is why “Reconstruction” Calvinists and “Kingdom Now” Charismatics have formed at least a loose unity — they both have the same world view. They are not looking for Christ to return and set up His Kingdom; they are attempting to set it up for Him; and

(d) A theological anti-Semitism exists in the Dominionist plan to replace of Old Testament Israel with the Church, often called the “New Israel” (i.e., “replacement theology” — the church replaces the Jews as the new or true Israel, and Israel has no future as a distinct nation within God’s plan). They believe that Israel does not have a future different from any other nation. Historically, replacement theology has been the theological foundation upon which anti-Semitism has been built within the confines of professing Christianity. While reconstructionists do believe that the individual Jews will be converted to Christ in mass in the future, almost none of them believe that national Israel has a future, and thus, the Church has completely taken over the promises of national Israel. (Reconstructionist David Chilton said that “ethnic Israel was excommunicated for its apostasy and will never again be God’s Kingdom. … the Bible does not tell of any future plan for Israel as a special nation.” Reconstructionists believe that the Church is now that new nation, which is why Christ destroyed the Jewish state. Reconstructionists DeMar and Leithart have said, “In destroying Israel, Christ transferred the blessings of the kingdom from Israel to a new people, the church.”
* Unless otherwise indicated, some of the material in this and companion reports has been excerpted and/or adapted from three sources: (1) “Dominion Theology,” Pastor Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel, January, 1996; (2) Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse?, by Thomas Ice and H. Wayne House; and (3) Vengeance Is Ours: The Church in Dominion, by Albert James Dager.

Dominion theology refers to a line of theological interpretation and thought with regard to the role of the Church in contemporary society. Dominion theology is also known as Christian reconstructionism and theonomy. Dominion theology states that biblical Christianity will rule all areas of society, personal and corporate. Christian Reconstructionism reasons that society will be reconstructed by the Law of God as preached in the Gospel and the Great Commission. Theonomy is a post-millennial view believing that all of the moral laws contained in the Old Testament are yet binding today. Although these might sound somewhat disparate, they have all been closely linked together to the point that people often use the terms interchangeably.

Those who hold these views believe that it is the duty of Christians to create a world-wide kingdom patterned after the Mosaic Law. They believe that Christ will not return to earth until such a kingdom has been established. The principal goal, then, of dominion theology and Christian reconstructionism is political and religious domination of the world through the implementation of the moral laws, and subsequent punishments, of the Old Testament (the sacrificial and ceremonial laws having been fulfilled in the New Testament). This is not a government system ruled by the Church, but rather a government conformed to the Law of God.

Dominion theology / Christian reconstructionism is largely based upon a post-millennial view of covenantalism. Post-millennial refers to the belief that Christ will return to earth after the thousand year reign of God’s kingdom, and covenantalism refers to the belief that biblical history is divided into three major covenants supposedly described in Scripture—of redemption, of works, and of grace. Adherents believe that we currently exist under the covenant of grace, and that the Church has replaced the nation Israel, and are now in the millennial Kingdom of God. Man, under the covenant of grace, is responsible to rule the world, to hold dominion over it, in obedience to the Laws of God.

The problem with these beliefs is that they rest upon a distorted view of Scripture. Scripture clearly teaches that God never commanded the Church to revamp society. Instead, believers are commanded to preach the Gospel as in Matthew 28:19, 20), but God clearly intends to implement world-wide reform Himself (Revelation 19:11-20:4). Though it is clearly unbiblical, dominion theology persists. It is, in fact, a great threat to biblical Christianity. Once at home solely within Reformed circles, dominion theology and Christian reconstructionism is now creeping into many Protestant churches and is making a large impact on the beliefs of Charismatic churches in particular.

As with any new teaching we are exposed to, we need to be like the Berean believers of Acts 17:11: “And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to check up on Paul and Silas, to see if they were really teaching the truth.” Dominion theology / Christian reconstructionism doesn’t align with what we read in the Scriptures. Although this is just a “nutshell” summary of dominion theology, the points made are very clear. Dominion theology is not a theology for a believer to live by, but rather one to avoid.

  1. Charles S. says:

    This is by far one of the best articles on the subject of Dominionism and Kingdom Now theology I have read. Good work!

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