Is every Christian in politics a "Dominionist"?

US Capitol Building at nightI read Joel’s review of The Politics of Witness by Allan Bevere (I have not read the book) in the light of his strident attacks on so-called “dominionism”. I was glad to see Joel’s agreement that Christian involvement in right-wing politics should be judged by the same standards as Christian involvement in left-wing politics. The post opened up for me the question about whether Christians should be involved in politics at all, of whatever colour. In the words of the alleged “dominionist” Peter Wagner:

The rules of the democratic game open the doors for Christians … to move into positions of leadership influential enough to shape the whole nation from top to bottom.

But is it evil “dominionism” for Christians to move into these positions of political influence? Here is the comment I made on Joel’s post, which he has yet to respond to despite having posted at least eight times since that post:

I guess there is an issue here which I still need to resolve with you. Does Bevere help us to resolve it?

Is it right and good for Christians to get involved in politics? If it is right, in what way? Is it wrong, for example, for a Christian to stand as President, because by doing so he or she is “bent on taking over the American Government in the name of God”? Or what about standing as Congressman or Senator? Or is it only wrong if he or she does so as the representative of some kind of Christian organisation? What, then, if the group is not explicitly Christian but its policies and nearly all its members are Christian? What if that group is the one of the two main parties, and the candidate has won that party’s support for more or less Christian policies?

Or if all Christian involvement in politics is wrong, what is the logic and what are the consequences of Christians, even if in the majority, handing over all the business of governing to non-Christians?

Do you have answers to these questions? Does Bevere? After all, they strike at the root of our rather fundamental disagreement about “dominionism”.

Joel doesn’t seem to have any answers, at least yet. Does anyone else reading this?

My own position is clear: it is right and proper for us Christians to be involved in politics at all levels, provided that we use honest and democratic means to do so. Indeed this is what I have done myself, at a low level. If any Christians do gain power, they will naturally want to use that power to promote policies generally in line with their faith, but they should not use it to oppress others or to enforce Christian practice or morality. I do not believe that any church as an institution should be involved in politics or endorse any candidate. I would consider Christian political parties legitimate, but at least currently here in the UK I would not choose to promote one.

The alternative to Christian involvement in politics would be, it seems to me, to hand over our nations as gifts to the powers of evil – either to liberal secularists or to fundamentalists of other religions. Is that what Joel and his fellow anti-dominionists want?

So it is interesting to see that Joel has also provided evidence which could suggest, at least to conspiracy theorists, that the Dominionismism conspiracy is an Islamic plot to undermine Christianity and present the USA to those powers of evil. He quotes from an article Exposing religious fundamentalism in the US published by Al Jazeera, best known as apologists for Osama Bin Laden and friends, which claims that

The US media has been downplaying a radical Christian theology that is increasingly influential in the Republican Party.

In fact what happened is that some in the US media, such as Lisa Miller of the Washington Post, realised that other media reports had been grossly overblown and inaccurate, and offered much more balanced analysis of the issues. But this new analysis did not suit the Islamist agenda, and so not surprisingly Al Jazeera weighed in with its own detailed but tendentious article. At least they did manage to lay to rest the lie that Peter Wagner is anti-democratic with this quote from him:

If a majority feels that heterosexual marriage is the best choice for a happy and prosperous society, those in the minority should agree to conform – not because they live in a theocracy, but because they live in a democracy. The most basic principle of democracy is that the majority, not the minority, rules and sets the ultimate norms for society.

Indeed, although the Al Jazeera article is right to balance this with a mention of minority rights which even a majority should not take away.

Now I accept that some Christians in politics have put forward extreme policies which I find highly distasteful. That is their right in a free and democratic society – although when it comes to recent horrors such as the call to let uninsured patients die I don’t see how such policies can be reconciled with any form of Christian faith. But the existence of such abuses on the right, and perhaps also on the left, is no argument for Christians to keep out of politics. Instead what is needed is for large numbers of sensible Christians with moderate policies to get involved, to defeat by democratic means both the extremist Christians and the secularists, and to acquire the influence needed to mend the world’s broken political systems and governments.

0 thoughts on “Is every Christian in politics a "Dominionist"?

  1. Actually… I was hoping that the good doctor would answer it…. I’ll see what he says. No worries, I wasn’t ignoring you, Peter. Just hoping to get it straight for the horse’s mouth, to use a properly butchered Queen’s English.

  2. As publisher, I’d love to see your comments on the book, even though it is slanted to the American market. I can have my UK printer send you a copy, if you e-mail me (pubs@energion.com) your snail-mail address.

  3. Peter, I recently visited a Pentecostal church where I’m working with a pastor on a case. A rare visit. Not my primary church home. Far, far away from my home church circuit. Ché Ahn spoke. Ahn is buddying up with Peter Wagner. Ché Ahn spoke for a long time about the Pentecostal need to motivate Pentecostal college students to enter politics and public service. Exhibit “A, ” an honors student from China. Studying law at Stanford (or some other biggie). I talked to the young student after the sermon. Affable. Smart. Kind. He wants to focus on international trade (like that’s a big surprise). He justified this with a Paul Samuelson-esque phrase – he’d rather ‘author’ international trade relationships than write national laws. Dominion is as dominion does. ~ Jim

  4. So, Jim, are you suggesting that it is wrong for a Christian to want to work in international trade, and to have ambitions to be successful at it? Where does that argument lead? What are Christians allowed to do? Only to be pastors and missionaries? Or should we all cut ourselves off from society on self-sufficient farms in the wilderness?

  5. Pingback: If I want to run for School Board, does that make me a Dominionist? | Unsettled Christianity

  6. Hi Peter,

    I am glad that my book has generated a little interest on this continued subject of the Christian and politics.

    I do not question whether Christians should be involved in politics, but in the book I ask how they should be involved. At its heart the gospel is political. The difference for me is that I take the Anabaptist view that the church is the true politic for the Christian and that the church is where the primary political action is, not the state. Thus the primary way that the church is political is to live radical and faithful lives as followers of Jesus and bear witness to the nations what God expects of them.

    We have made the mistake of thinking that our primary way to be political is to seek the power being wielded by the nation state, which I believe undermines the character of the church and its mission. I do not reject completely that Christians cannot be involved in nation state politics as a Senator et al, but I suggest that the calling to such politics is so seductive that the church should confirm a believer’s call to politics, as we confirm the call to pastoral ministry. I reject the characterization of my view as withdrawal; for such a view betrays the presupposition that the nation state is where the political action is and not the church.

    I am glad to hear you will be reviewing my book. I look forward to reading it.

  7. Peter, the opposite. I’m lauding him. The compliment to the young student for his Paul Samuelson-esque thinking was that – a compliment. Peter, I’ve supported your support of Wagner. I’ve already posted at your blog on how Wager is mischaracterized. I’ve noted how Wagner is nuanced in his hiring of Margaret Paloma to do objective studies on his apostolic registry to make sure the movement isn’t ‘hierarchical’ and that it stays grass roots and ‘relational.’ I’m not a Wagner follower. The most judicious criticism (balanced pros and cons) of Wagner is by fellow Pentecostal, Vincent Synon (see if I can find the title). IMHO. I’ve severely criticized James McGrath and Tony Jones for their bias and flatlander ignorance of nuances of Pentecostal realities and scholarship. And I’ve deleted some of my critical posts because some of these bibioloblogs are not for me. Some (not all) biblioblogging ends up in dueling assertions. Attended by adoring followers. It’s not for me. The young Pentecostal student I met is an example of a profoundly nuanced and intelligent Pentecostal who can speak multiple-languages. Spirit-languages (of the heart) and academic languages of international economics. He’s no fool.

    Peter, the biblioblog junkets (dueling assertions) aren’t my interest or style. I’m charismatic/Pentecostal – with a liberal Quaker academic streak. I’m more with Bradley Wright in his statistical and sociology of religion interests – Wright has a Vineyard Pentecostal background. Like mine (in part). I’ve attended a few apostolic rallies because my Hispanic poor clients have invited me – to see Hector Torres. Torres formerly worked with Wagner. Maybe still does. Was a blessing.

    I overall admire you, Peter, for asking other bibliobloggers to reconsider Wagner. Like you, I know it’s a waste of time for some who are more interested in Voltaire-esque satire than differential diagnosis on the state of Pentecostal realities. I recently wrote on one academic blog that the non-charismatic and ‘rationalist’ evangelical churches (faux-rationalist, really, see Mark Noll) are really in symbiotic pair-bond system states with the charismatic/Pentecostal ‘irrational’ evangelicals. That’s because some of ‘switchers’ from non-charismatic to charismatic churches are those who feel that the faux-rationalism of evangelical churches is a dead end and they want more ‘action.’ This isn’t an evaluative comment. It’s a descriptive one. Switching works both ways: when charismatic stuff becomes abusive or too anti-intellectual and stupid. And people want more calm. The charismatics and non-charismatics are really a single state-space. Pair-bond partners. They think they’re not. But they are. IMHO.

    Peter, sorry about the confusion. I’m re-reading my post. I can’t quite see where I conveyed hostility. Hope this clears it up.

    Jim

  8. .. if I could only spell .. ‘inpute’ is my novella incomplete form of ‘impute’, for which no dynamical translations exist, other than there must be a difference between imputed righteousness and inputed (whatever that is) righteousness, and I don’t wanna get into it .. though in-pute could be a form of C.S. Peirece’s ‘in-formed,’ where true ‘in-forming’ is a Spirit-work … which makes me hope I’m not un-in-formed, while I’m mis-in-formed … something like this is at work, somewhere in the world …

    Jim

  9. Dr Bevere, thank you for commenting here, and for summarising your view on this issue. It is not one that I can accept immediately, although I have a great deal of respect for Anabaptist thinking. Clearly I need to read your book before commenting further. So I look forward to the opportunity to do so.

  10. Jim, thank you for your comments. Sorry if I misunderstood you before. I agree with you that Pentecostal theology gets a bad rap among bloggers, especially from Scott Bailey but at least he has good reasons, because of the way his sister has been treated. I am trying to put the story right, telling the truth about what Pentecostals and charismatics are teaching, and find myself being called “delusional” for my pains.

    By the way, I think you really meant “input”, not “impute”. I don’t think I want inputted righteousness.

  11. One more quick response to Allan Bevere’s comment: it is one thing for Christians to choose, out of personal conviction, “to live radical and faithful lives as followers of Jesus and bear witness to the nations what God expects of them”, and quite another one for them to spread false accusations against Christians who make different personal choices, such as that they are attempting to take over the country in unconstitutional ways.

  12. Wading in from a completely different standpoint, Peter I completely agree with your basic themes:
    “My own position is clear: it is right and proper for us Christians to be involved in politics at all levels, provided that we use honest and democratic means to do so. Indeed this is what I have done myself, at a low level. If any Christians do gain power, they will naturally want to use that power to promote policies generally in line with their faith, but they should not use it to oppress others or to enforce Christian practice or morality. I do not believe that any church as an institution should be involved in politics or endorse any candidate. I would consider Christian political parties legitimate, but at least currently here in the UK I would not choose to promote one.

    The alternative to Christian involvement in politics would be, it seems to me, to hand over our nations as gifts to the powers of evil..”

    I also think that unless one particular party is self-evidently bad, e.g. the Nazi party, the BNP, or anti-Christian, e.g. Stalin’s Communist party, Hamas, I don’t think churches or clergy should identify themselves too closely with a political party. It unchurches those who don’t agree with them. Is it the message that anybody who doesn’t vote for the DUP a sinner, heretic, idolator or apostate?

    It’s also saying, ‘I am a man (or woman) of God. If you don’t rank issues in the same order of priorities as I do, you are wrong’.

    Two other things, though.

    1. Why must people repeat statements like “issues a call to the Church to regain the position of prophetic witness”. Prophecy is not just being outspoken or controversial. It is mediating the voice of God. So that terminology is saying, ‘either you agree with me or you are refusing to listen to God’. I doubt that is likely to apply even to arguments about Medicare, incomprehensible though it is to me how any thinking Christian can do anything other than encourage its expansion.

    2. Although there’s a lot one can regret about the post Constantine settlement, I think its abandonment has a dilemma people ought to recognise and take seriously. The church might have been better, purer, freer for not getting entangled with kings, princes, despots, papal courts and presidents. But that has happened, and it happened a long time ago. What are the implications for society of the state choosing to become apostate?

  13. Thank you, Dru. I completely agree with the first part of your comment. On your numbered points:

    1. I’m in two minds about this one. There is a place for Christians to speak out prophetically against evil in our society. And I think the church should do this in a general sense. But I don’t think it is the church’s place to propose to the government specific policies to right those evils. To take your Medicare example, I think the church should speak out against the evil that uninsured people are, or might be, left to die, but should not take a position on whether the best way to right that is for example through a state controlled health service, compulsory insurance, or an expanded charity sector.

    2. This is indeed a dilemma. The pre-Constantinian church was always a minority and so cannot give a good model for a church which is, at least nominally, large enough to have real political influence. While I respect the Anabaptist model of separation from the world, I would prefer to look for an alternative. After all we look forward to Jesus reigning as king, and I believe our calling includes preparing for that in some way.

  14. Peter, I wasn’t disagreeing with the church or individual leaders speaking out about things, or even backing what they say with good. exegesis. What I object to is the use of the word ‘prophetic’. To my understanding, prophecy is enunciating the specific message of God to a situation, speaking on his behalf. It involves either a claim or an acknowledgement that the speaker knows the mind of God, and has God’s instructions to pass it on. Merely being trenchant, daring or even perceptive, does not make a person’s words prophetic. To me, the adjective ‘prophetic’ should be restricted to that which is prophecy.

    It is a very dangerous thing to claim to be a prophet, but not to be one. I haven’t read Dr Bevere’s book but there’s no reason to suspect him of having made any such claim. He makes no such claim in his post here.

    I’d query, though, whether it is a good idea for a reviewer to use a phrase such as ‘prophetic witness’ unless he or she thinks they are recognising that someone, who hasn’t necessarily made such a claim for themselves, nevertheless does have that charism. It doesn’t just mean being outspoken or daring.

  15. Dru, thank you for the clarification. I guess the issue here is what is meant by prophecy, in the modern world. We mustn’t confuse it with prediction, or suggest that only predictive messages are prophetic. I know some call all kinds of preaching prophetic, but that seems too broad to me. I would reserve “prophetic” for what people discern to be a rather specific message from God, rather than generally enlightened Christian wisdom. I would never claim that this blog Gentle Wisdom is in general prophetic, although I might post specific messages I would describe as prophetic.

    I don’t know who wrote the words you quoted, so I don’t know what they meant by “prophetic”. But it may be that they discerned within this book a specific message from God to his people, or to the world, today. Until I read the book I cannot comment.

  16. Pingback: The Dominionism Debate Continues « Threads from Henry's Web

  17. Brother Peter, the issue is not about dominionist (following Peter Wagner) or Anabaptist beliefs, but those of the doctrine (or teachings) of Jesus Christ.

    The reason the early church did what they did was because the Apostles taught them the teachings of Christ and they obeyed (“teaching them whatsoever things I have commend you… Mt 28-19-20). They understood and believed that Jesus IS King already and that when we choose to follow Him, we come out of service to other kingdoms/earthly governments and enter into His service.

    This is what Jesus taught and the apostles followed. It was only during and after Constantine that this all changed dramatically. But has Christ approved of the change of His will or His teachings?

    In the Old Testament, God’s Kings and Kingdom was on the earth, and His people were not to serve in or give allegiance to the other kingdoms of this world. In the New, Christ took His seat on the everlasting throne of David as the Son of God (the Son of David). Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. “My Kingdom is not of this world.” We are citizens in Heaven.

    Yes, while we live in these nations, we are pilgrims and strangers therein.

    Do we fight? Yes! With prayer and fasting, and certainly we proclaim the deliverance through the blood of Christ to those who don’t know Him. But do we not think that prayer and fasting are powerful enough? Must we resort to fighting flesh and blood?

    America and all the rest of the kingdoms of this earth are of the world, and are not to be redeemed in this Age. But there is already a Kingdom that needs no reform, no better leader, no politicking, etc. We have the King Who’s scepter is righteousness, Who’s Kingdom has no end, Who is currently reigning and victorious. We are more than overcomers in Christ. Because He has overcome the world, we live (or die) as a witness of this established new world order of the Kingdom of God.

    Btw, the only thing that is preventing Christ’s return and the end of the Age, according to Jesus’ own words, is the preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Then, the end will come. Which gospel is this? The gospel of the Kingdom of God – now, for those who are willing to enter into this peace.

    Which gospel has been preached to the ends of this earth? Almost every other type. Limiting the gospel to the cross, or to reformation theology, or to post-Constantinian theology, or any other such thing, is not the same as what Jesus, Phillip, Peter, Paul, John, PolyCarp, Turtullian, Origin, and others taught.

    And during the time (33AD – roughly 300AD) when Christians unanimously refused to serve in the governments of this world, nor to bear the sword, nor to swear oaths, etc., the world saw unprecedented peace (Pax Romana). However, when Christians took up the sword, began to become entangled with the affairs of this world, and began fighting flesh and blood instead of principalities and powers, Christians started killing other Christians, and wars began to rage. It has been this way ever since.

    I ask you: when do you see any of the apostles getting involved in or urging others to involve themselves in governmental affairs of this world? Instead, I see that Paul keeps reminding us of the Kingdom of God an that we are bought with a price and our life is no longer our own, but that we might serve our King and His people, first. Then, try to bring others out of this world system and into the greatest Kingdom that has ever existed!

    This from Origin, in response to Celsus, a Roman critic of these faithful Christians, admitting that the Christians do not engage themselves with the world. Origin explains why:

    “For the men of God are assuredly the salt of the earth; they preserve the order of the world; and society is held together as long as the salt is uncorrupted. . . . And as we by our prayers vanquish all demons who stir up war, and lead to the violation of oaths, and disturb the peace, we in this way are much more helpful to the kings, than those who go into the fields to fight for them. . . . We do not indeed fight under him [the emperor], although he requires it; but we ‘fight’ on his behalf, forming a special ‘army’-an army of piety-by offering our prayers to God . . . Christians are benefactors of their country more than others. For they train up citizens, and inculcate piety to the Supreme Being; and they promote those whose lives in the smallest cities have been good and worthy, to a divine and heavenly city. . . . And it is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices, but that they may reserve themselves for a divine and more necessary service in the church of God-for the salvation of men.”

  18. Jeff, thank you for that. It is an interesting argument, with support from Origen, linking the Pax Romana to the presence of the church in the empire, but separate from it. But what are the practical implications for today? All Christians withdrawing completely from politics, not even voting, and turning elections into competitions between atheists and Muslims?

  19. Peter, my first thoughts are to simply do as Jesus did. He went about establishing, promoting, and laboring in and for the Kingdom of God (about His Father’s business). I would see it as serving two masters if we remain in the system of this world.

    Btw, Origen’s (thanks for correcting my spelling) writing on this is representative of a solid witness from Ante-Nicene fathers, those taught directly by the apostles, that the Christians were not engaging in governmental offices nor taking up the sword because of the teachings of Jesus and them understanding the two Kingdoms (Light/Darkness).

    However, in that time (90ad-300ad), if a man came to faith in the Roman army, they were usually unable to get out of their mandatory “contracted” time. Therefore, the soldier would serve in some way that would not further the killing of enemies, refused to take up the sword, but would labor in any other way that would not contradict the apostolic teachings. Often, upon refusing to take up the sword, they were swiftly killed on the spot, or tortured. In one case, several soldiers came to faith and refused to take up the sword. The commanding officer stripped the soldiers of their clothes and forced them out in the middle of a frozen lake. They were singing and praising God in the midst of this. As one man succumbed to the cold, a pagan soldier was overcome with the non-resistant testimony of these believers, and took the place of the deceased man’s place – professing His faith by this very action.

    If a man was found in office, he resigned. However, if it were theoretically possible to stay in office, could a Christian actually execute the demands of his/her office without transgressing the Law of the Kingdom of God (Jesus’/Apostles teachings)?

    At issue would be:

    1. For most Kingdom Christians in the Early Church, and today, taking an oath would be the first stumbling block. Of course, some might be comfortable with an affirmation.

    2. Then, could we agree to the substance of the oath? If you take the time to read the required oaths, it would be impossible for a senator/congressman to pledge their full allegiance in good conscience to another nation for the purposes of serving them in a similar capacity.

    3. Furthermore, in the details of everyday governance, how do we keep the commands of “not judging those who are outside” (contrary to much teaching in the US, we ARE to judge those in the Body, not the world… 1 Cor 5)? With the call in 2 Cor 6 to have no fellowship with anything other than the pure Light of the Kingdom and of Christ, how could we vote on or support legislation that could contain anything that is evil? Often I hear the argument that we vote for the lesser of two evils. If we would meditate on those words in Light of the command to BE HOLY AS I AM HOLY, we should tremble at ever trying to convince another Christian of this.

    4. If we could govern without transgressing Christ’s commands, would that time be commendable to the Lord? After all, He had the power to bring earthly governmental conduced social and economic reform, but had a better plan – that of calling those who would out of the one and into another.

    5. As to atheists controlling government, isn’t that exactly the environment Jesus and the Apostles found themselves in, yet never attempted to change or reform Rome? In fact, it is smack dab in the middle of this pagan, idolatrous, atheistic environment (the Christians were actually accused of being atheists by the Roman officials; we have the proconsul accusing Polycarp of this in the early second century, where Polycarp sweeps with his hand to the crowds and says ‘away with the godless’) that Paul wrote “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13), “honor the King”, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities” (Titus 2), etc. But from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (including John the Baptist, through the writings of the Apostles, we see a theme of attending to the governmental affairs of the Kingdom of God, and service unto our King.

    If “bettering” America or Canada, or any other earthly kingdom of darknesss, is good for the Kingdom and the Gospel, why is it that in such an oppressive and anti-Christian government such as New Testament Rome, that Christianity flourished? Reportedly, Ephesus had 250,000 Christians in the city, but totally separate from the affairs of Ephesus and Rome. Yes, they were business people, etc., but now were about the Father’s business, just as Paul was commending the Christians in Thessalonica.

    Why is the underground house church movement growing in leaps and bounds under a repressive, cruel anti-Christian government? Why in India, with Muslims and Hindus violently burning, persecuting, and even killing Christians, do we find a mushrooming population of Spirit-filled Christians? Yet, in “free” America, with all our religious freedoms and evangelistic liberties, we find many leaving the faith or in it but lukewarm or even dead?

    I used to be of this ilk – “God and Country” or “We have to maintain religious liberty to propagate the Gospel” or “We have to return to a Christian nation”. But, the Lord was so faithful to show me that we have never been a Christian nation, nor could we have ever been (there is ample evidence of this).

    No, according the scriptures, there is only one Christian nation, the holy nation of priests and kings under the banner of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ. This is the testimony of the early Christians that truly turned the world upside down.

    I really appreciate your blog and am sincerely open to hearing your objections or questions. And thank you for allowing me to share my understanding of this issue on your forum. And I do apologize for such a long post. So much I wanted to share, and even at this, I cut much out.

    With much love in our Christ toward my brother Peter.

    Brother Jeff

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