“No” to Christian Political Parties and to Theocracy

Today is polling day for local elections here in the UK, in London and in many other areas, but not here in Chelmsford. So the discussion I am having here is primarily about the UK political scene. But the same principles apply in other democratic countries, and so I recommend this post, and the ones I link to here, to all my readers.

Houses of Parliament and CrossA few days ago Gillan Scott caused some controversy by posting an Interview with Malcolm Martin, Christian Peoples Alliance candidate for the London Assembly. In response to this debate, including to some of my own tweets, he asked the question Are Christian political parties really a good idea? Meanwhile Danny Webster responded to the same controversy with Why I don’t think Christian political parties are the best option. Both Gillan and Danny have been posting other good material on faith and politics over the last few days.

I can basically agree with what both Danny and Gillan have written about Christian political parties. I don’t want to condemn those who choose to join or support them, especially in the UK context where votes for them are more likely to be wasted ones than to usher in a theocracy. There is nevertheless a real chance that the CPA candidate will be elected for one of the proportional top-up seats in the London Assembly – and if so that is likely to be because of the party’s stance against gay marriage, an issue which is divisive even in London’s churches.

Gillan makes a good distinction between parties like CPA which “puts faith at the heart of its politics” and those which promote “a whole raft of biblical principles such as the basic human rights of every individual, social justice and the importance of marriage”, but not a specific faith. Neither Gillan nor I object to the latter – but are they really Christian? However, he has some serious reservations about the former:

If a party stands up and says that it represents the Christian faith, then the implication is that all Christians should agree with its policies.  As we all know though, Christians don’t agree on a lot of things and party politics is one of them.  The added danger is that such a party will be perceived as working towards a theocracy where the government subjects its people to what they believe is God’s will and of course because it’s God’s will it can’t be questioned.  Where this is taking place in the world in countries such as Iran, theocracy inevitably leads to oppression.

I’m not saying that theocracy is the CPA’s aim.  But they do want to promote faith in God and put him at the heart of politics. …

There’s nothing I can find in the Bible about Christianity gaining political power.  Israel in the Old Testament was a theocracy, but it was never intended to spread beyond the Jews who lived under the Mosaic law.  Instead in Romans Paul talks about us submitting to the authorities, not usurping them.

Indeed. It is parties like this which, if they become more than fringe groups like CPA, are seen as promoting theocracy, and are rightly condemned as teaching some kind of “dominionism”.

Gillan concludes as follows:

I would suggest that there are two ways God’s values will become prevalent in our society. One is through revival, which I long to see, but will only come through prayer and not politics.  The other is by Christians working their way into positions of power and influence where they can live out kingdom values.  That includes politics.  There are some fantastic Christian MPs and political activists who are doing just that.  They are working through the existing frameworks to influence what happens in government and in our nation.  They haven’t chosen to go up against the existing structures, but work in them and through them and I admire them for that.  Realistically, they will have more effect and do far more good than by looking to do something exclusively Christian and will gain the support of many more people, Christian or otherwise, in the process.

I completely agree. This approach is not “dominionism” and will not lead to a theocracy. But it will help to bring our society to work more according to the principles of the kingdom of God.

Under-Realised Eschatology vs. "Dominionism"

Brian LePortBrian LePort of Near Emmaus writes an excellent post Jesus and the Occupy Movement. There is a lot that I could say in response to this and concerning the Occupy movement. But I am still busy here in the USA, so I only have time for this quote, which is peripheral to Occupy but central to the more basic issue of Christian involvement in politics:

Another approach is an under-realized eschatology wherein all “change” in this age is not worth pursuing. There is no hope for good to prevail until Jesus establishes his Kingdom on earth. If we oppose violence we are trying to “establish” the Kingdom of God. If we oppose greed we are trying to “establish” the Kingdom of God. Often this comes from people who are quite comfortable with the current dynamics of this world. This allows them to ignore Jesus’ Kingdom activities which challenged the systems of the world and that he expected his disciples to continually reenact.

This is certainly an important insight, that those who object strongly to Christian activity in the political world have an “under-realised eschatology”, that is, they don’t understand the extent to which the work of Jesus in saving the world has already been accomplished. These people complain about so-called “dominionism”, which they see as Christians trying to take control of the world, because they fail to see that Jesus has already defeated the powers of evil and set up his kingdom.

Ironically only yesterday I reacted in a comment to the opposite error. Phil Whittall, in his review of When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson, questioned “why God has to invade His own earth and infiltrate governments that He presides over”, suggesting an over-realised eschatology in which God is already in complete control of the world and so Christian activity to take this control is unnecessary. I pointed out how this contradicts 1 John 5:19; it also goes against what we see in our nations today.

In contrast to both of these positions, I would take a middle line, that God’s kingdom has been inaugurated on earth and is already breaking into the world system controlled by the evil one. On this basis the Christian responsibility is to seek to extend this kingdom, not so that the church can take control of the world but so that God can, so that Jesus can truly reign as King.

Of course this raises all kinds of questions about how the kingdom should be extended in practice. Certainly some of the ways that have been suggested, such as the Reconstructionist agenda of imposing Old Testament law on modern society, are sub-Christian and quite wrong. But we must resist the under-realised eschatology which leads to passive acceptance of the wrongs of this world – especially when this is used as an excuse by comfortable and prosperous Christians to refuse to do anything about the evil and the suffering which they see around the world and very often even in their own neighbourhoods.

No, Mr C, that's not the central message of the Bible

As the Guardian reports, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has contributed to the People’s Bible project, a copy of the King James Version handwritten by celebrities and ordinary people. Thanks for the link to David Keen on Twitter.

David Cameron at his home in OxfordshireApparently the PM ignored his office’s suggestions and chose his own verses to write. And this was his choice:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9 (KJV)

Now these are good sentiments for a top politician, who should hopefully not just “think on these things” but also put them into practice. But I am concerned by the following words, a spokesman’s explanation of Cameron’s choices:

The reason he chose those verses is because he’s always liked them.

They contain the central message of the Bible about leading good lives and helping each other as best we can. There is no hidden meaning and I wouldn’t read between the lines.

No, Mr Cameron, that is not the central message of the Bible. So if this is really the whole reason why you chose these verses, then you clearly don’t have much understanding of the Scriptures.

This morning I read this on Google+:

To most Christians, the bible is like a software license. Nobody actually reads it. They just scroll to the bottom and click “I agree.”

It seems as if, apart from a few favourite verses, that is what the Bible is to David Cameron. Without a firm scriptural foundation it is no wonder that his Christian faith, in his own words, “sort of comes and goes”.

But if Bible believing Christians keep out of politics, from fear of “dominionism” or compromise, then of course we can’t expect any better of those do who find their way into high office.

Lance Wallnau on Occupy Wall Street #OWS

Lance WallnauLance Wallnau has just released a new video (21 minutes) on the front page of his website, entitled Seize This Moment in Time. In this video he touches on the Occupy Wall Street situation, while also sketching and referring to his Seven Mountains picture. Here is my transcript (slightly tidied up) of the relevant part of the video (starting at 18:13):

This is the reason why when I started looking at social transformation, and I became frankly fatigued with the realisation that most believers still don’t have a handle on how it happens. Well, you just take a look at what’s going on with the Occupy Wall Street situation. What you have is you have the government creating policies that help to produce a problem in the mortgage market. You have them doing it and then you’ve got the business mountain over here and the banking and the Wall Street deal over here. These business guys fund the politicians. The politicians are helping make these people money.

You know, the people in the streets are actually picking up with a sense of outrage that there is an element of dysfunctional self-interest going on. Where? In the high places of these systems that it’s in a sense taking the rest of the country for a ride it should not be on, over a precipice, a financial collapse.

But we that are the believers have to be able to pray for government and pray for business and start to raise up champions in these areas who can begin to influence these systems, because over here in the church realm, if you’re going to be in the church, in the religion compartment over here, and you do not raise up believers that are in proximity to the tops of these systems, then you wrap these systems up and you give them to the enemy. This is what I have been saying for years.

But never before have I seen so conspicuously the power of media. Now look at this. Government, politicians that are even capitalising on economic unrest, media which is capitalising on the opportunity to get viewership over the phenomena, and economics which is the issue of where our whole system is going – where those three come together, government, media and business, you have the tipping point of the entire dialogue going on in our country right now. Media has the spin control, economic engines are the issue, and government is the legislating player that is trying to capitalise on it.

I say it is time more than ever for believers to get together here and start invading all seven [mountains]. I say take all seven into a new realm, because we are in those mountains, it is time to mobilise and go up those mountains.

Is this “dominionism”? Well, it is certainly better than when “you wrap these systems up and you give them to the enemy”. His final point here is an important one: as Christians we are already in the mountains, because we are in the world. God has sent us into the world, and we shouldn’t seek to be taken out of it, but to be protected in it (John 17:15,18). So it cannot be wrong for us to seek to succeed, to climb to the top, on whichever mountain God has placed us on.

How much power does Satan have in the world?

I was rather surprised by a reaction I received to my post Lance Wallnau’s Apocalyptic Vision of the Kingdom. Rod of Alexandria, who usually posts at Political Jesus, chose Joel Watts’ blog Unsettled Christianity for his post, addressed to me, Thanks, Peter! More Evidence Dominionists Reject Christus Victor.

Rod of AlexandriaIn this post Rod looks at an issue which was not at all in focus in Lance Wallnau’s video or in my post about it, and jumps to an unjustified conclusion about Wallnau’s view of the Atonement. He then compounds his error by generalising this view to “Dominionists”, that extremely ill-defined group who, if Wallnau is to be included, must include anyone who accepts that some Christians should be involved in politics. I wrote more about this in comments on Rod’s post.

My main point here is rather different. It springs from what Rod wrote in his post and his own comments on it. In the post he expounds his own Christus Victor view of the Atonement. He writes that in this model

The Devil is defeated, he has no ground to stand on … Satan is defeated and is stuck here, with only the ability to lie. … Satan is in retreat—this is the message of hope of CV atonement; he cannot hide, he has been exposed.

I would totally agree, although I am not as committed to a specific model of the Atonement as Rod seems to be. And I am almost sure that Lance Wallnau would agree. Although I summarised part of his teaching as “Satan taking his last stand on earth”, I did not mean to suggest that Satan has firm ground on earth on which to take this stand.

But Rod claims that Wallnau’s “views of Satan … contradict the claims of Christus Victor”. When I objected he responded by linking, indirectly, to a YouTube video of Wallnau saying something like “Satan Hand Picks Our Government Leaders”:

Here are some of Wallnau’s actual words in this video (length 2:34):

Satan determines which ones he is going to get the most out of and promotes them to the top (1:10). … And the false prophets and counterfeit priesthood of Satan isn’t necessarily wearing clerical robes. They’re dressed in suits and they have Gucci briefcases, but they are his priests in many cases, because they were hand picked for that assignment at the top of the mind moulders, because he gives it to whom he wills (1:53).

“Right Wing Watch” who posted this seem to expect viewers to be shocked by it. But to me it looks as if Wallnau is hinting at much the same as the Occupy protesters, attributing the ills of our society to a few people “dressed in suits and they have Gucci briefcases”.

Rod seriously misunderstands Wallnau here:

Wallnau also believes Satan has the power to determine who is in power: … he totally is anti-everything Christus Victor, if not a dominionist. No CV affirming Christian believes the Devil has that sort of power.

But Wallnau says nothing about “power to determine” anything at all. Yes, he uses the word “determines”, but in the context he is clearly using it in the sense “decides, chooses”. He clarifies this later with “hand picked”. In other words, he is teaching that Satan chooses which of his followers, his “priests”, are fit for promotion to the top of one of the “seven mountains”, of which, we must remember, government is only one.

Rod clarifies his objection to this teaching of Wallnau by denying that Satan has “the power of election, to choose who is in control of the world”. But he accepts that Satan has “the ability to lie”, and this is the only power that the evil one needs to put his chosen people on the mountain tops – if his followers are in the majority, or even if they are a minority but the others keep out of politics or retreat into monasteries. This is because Satan, the great deceiver, is also the great persuader. He only needs to get a few key people behind him to persuade those who pull the strings of power in our world, or even a whole electorate, to choose his candidates for the highest offices. By the way, here I don’t want to imply that any specific office holders, or potential ones, are Satan’s candidates.

To support his claim that Satan’s power is limited, Rod quotes Hebrews 2:14, in an anonymous version which reads, in part,

so that through death [Jesus] might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.

This reads rather differently in NIV:

so that by his death [Jesus] might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.

Hebrews 2:14 (NIV)

The Greek verb katargeo, rendered “destroy” in Rod’s version, is probably better understood as “make powerless”, hence NIV’s “break the power”. But if it does mean “destroy”, it is clear from other Bible passages that this destruction was not already accomplished when Jesus died and rose again. The cross may have made Satan’s final annihilation inevitable, but it is apparently only at the very end that it will actually happen, when he is thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Meanwhile, as the apostles specifically teach and as I commented on Rod’s post, Satan is alive and active in the world, in our current “church age” after the Resurrection and Pentecost:

Peter: Satan can fill apparent Christians’ hearts (Acts 5:3);

Paul: Satan can scheme and might outwit Christians (2 Corinthians 2:11);

Paul: Satan can block Christians’ way (1 Thessalonians 2:18);

Peter: The devil prowls around and might devour Christians (1 Peter 5:8);

John: The evil one controls the world (1 John 5:19).

Now Rod is correct that Satan has

a power to deceive and over the lives who believe his lies, but nothing more.

But he doesn’t need anything more to exercise his control over the world.

However, the situation is not quite as bleak as I have painted it, because we Christians are in the world. The apostle John writes to us that

the whole world is under the control of the evil one

1 John 5:19 (NIV)

but also that

the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4 (NIV)

Indeed Satan has no power over us, because he can only tell lies and we know the truth. We need to recognise his lies, but we have no reason to be afraid of him. By the power of the Holy Spirit we can proclaim this truth, refute Satan’s lies, and expose his deception. But we can’t do this by hiding in holes in fear. Instead, like Jonathan and his armour bearer in 1 Samuel 14:1-23, we need to boldly climb the mountain, confront the enemy, and take back the world for God.

Is this “dominionism”? Maybe. But surely it is better than letting Satan rule the world through his chosen candidates.

#Occupy Wall St #OWS, or be a Hide-Behind-Wall Saint?

At Red Letter Christians Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes an interesting response to Occupy Wall Street and the worldwide Occupy movements which have grown up in response: Waiting For St. Benedict: Where Does Occupy Wall Street Go From Here? But I cannot agree with Jonathan’s apparent conclusions. I can agree with him that

The world as we know it is coming to an end. We’re all aching for the world-to-come.

But the question is how to get there. …

The Occupy Wall Street protesters may indeed not know how to get to where they want to be – or even exactly where it is they want to be, but on that issue see this great cartoon (thanks to Sam Norton for the link):

The Silent MajorityBut I’m sure they don’t want to go where Jonathan seems to think they should go:

Early in the 6th century, when the Roman Empire faced attacks from without and discontent from within, there came a point when most people knew that things had to change but no one was certain what would come next. About that time, a middle-class young Italian named Benedict left his home in Nursia to go to school in Rome only to find that the Empire which had been centered there was almost completely gone. … Benedict went to a cave, built himself a prayer cell, and so enrolled in the university of the world-to-come. …

The power of Benedict’s Rule was this: in a world that was falling apart, it gave structure to small communities of faith that could experiment in a new kind of community. It did not aim to restore Rome to its former glory or even to reform the church. The Rule simply offered people a way to live a vision of life together rooted in service, humility, and love. Throughout the Dark Ages, the Rule guided communities that existed as points of light in a sea of dark despair.

Yes, “Saint” Benedict’s Rule and the monasteries which sprang from it may have saved some of the treasures of ancient civilisation and provided part of the basis for its Renaissance rebuilding. Meanwhile they became the rich oppressors of the late Middle Ages, which had to be overthrown through a protest movement called the Reformation. This slow process of recovery followed many centuries of the chaos of the “Dark Ages”, and, to quote Tolkien, “some things that should not have been forgotten were lost”.

Wouldn’t it have been better if a talented man like Benedict (c.480–547), instead of retreating into monasticism, had stayed in Rome, like his contemporary Boethius (c. 480–524), to work hard at preserving and renewing its failing civilisation? Boethius, who has been called “the last of the Romans”, lost his life because of his political involvement, and within a generation Rome was devastated and largely abandoned. Benedict kept himself safely out of the way and died peacefully in old age. Could he have prevented the fall of Rome? Probably not, single-handed, but he could have tried.

Our western civilisation is not yet as far gone as the western Roman empire in the early 6th century. It is not yet ruled by foreigners who have seized power by force. It is not yet too far gone to be saved and for its wrongs to be righted. But if Christians, who may well have the best perspective on its rights and wrongs and the best ideas on how to save it, don’t play their part, the future is bleak. Our civilisation looks likely to be torn apart, as Rome was, by those with financial and military might but often lacking goodwill and long term vision.

So, I would plead with my fellow Christians, don’t be thinking at the moment how to retreat into personal sanctity in places of safety, behind walls or in mountain hideaways. Yes, there is a place for Christian community, “a way to live a vision of life together rooted in service, humility, and love”, but it is not in isolation from the world like Benedict’s monasteries. Rather, as Christians we need to occupy our neighbourhoods, if not in the literal way of Occupy Wall Street, at least by being lights of Christian witness within them.

For some of us, as it was for Boethius, the way to be a Christian witness will be political activity of one kind or another. We shouldn’t let scares about “dominionism”, as if there is a real danger that anyone will have enough power to impose Christian morality by force, distract us from our urgent calling to rescue our world from the threatening chaos. Do we want our world to remain under the “Domination System” of the evil one, as expounded by Walter Wink and today by Kurt Willems? Do we really think that is better for our world than it being under the dominion of God?

As Kurt writes, our Christian task is not to join the occupiers, nor to demonise them, nor to flee from them:

Only when we see our oppressors as gifts, as objects of love in spite of their un-love, will we be able to become the kind of just peacemakers that the way of Jesus invites us.  Our task as followers of Jesus, when we understand the dynamics at work in the Domination System, is to humanize our oppressor and in turn become more fully human ourselves. …

… the people of God have a gift to offer the world – the gift of the “third way” between inaction and violence.  The way of Jesus exposes the dehumanizing systems of the world, while seeking to raise the humanity of all parties involved in any conflict – even one dealing with economics.

Lance Wallnau's Apocalyptic Vision of the Kingdom

Lance WallnauLance Wallnau sent me a link to an interesting new video (19 minutes) outlining some of his teaching: Increasing Access to Peace and Glory in Every Shaking. (Sadly the “embed” feature doesn’t seem to work in WordPress, but this link does.)

Lance is infamous in some circles for the leading role he takes in promoting the Seven Mountains Mandate. This has been accused of being “dominionism”, but, as I have argued before, it is nothing of the sort: it is just Christians being urged to play their full part in whatever field of human activity they find themselves in, including politics.

In this video Lance shows how his Seven Mountains teaching fits into a wider picture, an almost apocalyptic vision of the kingdom of God coming to earth. He starts to present this at about 6:53 in the video. He starts by agreeing with N.T. Wright that the future hope is not us going to heaven but heaven coming to earth. Indeed he sees heaven, which he identifies with the kingdom of God, as currently coming near to earth. As a result “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28, NIV).

One small issue I found in this video is that Lance uses the word “literally” about the movements he sees, starting at about 8:45. I am sure he wouldn’t really claim that his third heaven is above the earth, with the second heaven in between, in one of our real physical dimensions. Rather he is talking about movement in some kind of spiritual dimension. In this case it might have been better to avoid the word “literally”.

The result of this process of heaven invading earth, Lance says, is chaos but also new possibilities. He sees Satan taking his last stand on earth. As Christians we are in a place, the kingdom, that cannot be shaken, but to remain unshaken through this we need to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The believer’s edge, advantage for life in this world, is to live in the authority which this gives us, the authority to plunder the strong man’s house.

This picture may not be the same as many of you may be used to. I would accept that some of the details need to be worked out more fully. But I hope the video is enough to show you all that Lance Wallnau is not pushing the “dominionist” message of legalism but has a totally different vision of Christians living the life of God’s kingdom in our world.

Campolo: The future is bright – is this "Dominionism"?

Today we see the final humiliation of Harold Camping, as his prediction of the end of the world today fails to come true – at least it will have failed if you are still reading this tomorrow! Camping may be unlike most evangelicals in offering a precise date for the end of the world. But he is in line with many of them in preaching that the end if nigh, that Jesus will come to rescue his people and destroy an evil world.

Tony CampoloTony Campolo, who has little in common with Camping except for the first four letters of his surname, is one of a growing number of evangelicals, now including Peter Wagner, who take a very different position. Campolo has posted an important article about this at Red Letter Christians: Hope for Despairing Christians In A World That is Getting Worse and Worse. He starts:

For many Evangelical Christians, the normative attitude is to view world history with despair.  Most have been led to believe that forces of darkness are increasingly raising havoc in the world as we move toward the end of history.  Many have grown up believing that evil will become more and more pronounced in the last days, and the demonic forces of darkness more and more evident in the affairs of our lives.

He then gives good biblical arguments against this picture, and shows that it is not true to what is happening in the world as a whole today. He concludes with a very different scenario:

Jesus is coming back and, as it says in the first chapter of Philippians, the good work that He began in us, He will complete on the day of His coming.  The future is bright because we have the promise of Jesus that His Kingdom will grow until the end, and at the end all that is evil and perverse will be destroyed.  His Kingdom will come on earth as it is in Heaven. … Praise God for what the Church and its missionaries have accomplished in His name and through His power.

It is good to see some Christian leaders clearly standing against the unbiblical teaching, dating back only to the 19th century, that the world is going to get worse and worse, and that believers will be snatched away from it before the return of Jesus.

But is this what some Christians, and political commentators, have condemned as “dominionism”? Clearly it is not the “dominionism” of the religious right, as expounded by R.J. Rushdoony and allegedly promoted by presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. After all, Campolo is a leading figure on the so-called religious left. But, as Allan R. Bevere has argued, following James Hunter, in his book The Politics of Witness,

the religious right and the religious left are nothing more than mirror images of each other … both groups are centered on a faulty hermeneutic (method of biblical interpretation). (p. 37, emphasis as in the original)

I agree with Bevere that these groups share a hermeneutic, but, as I explained in my review of the book, I am far from convinced that it is as fundamentally faulty as he claims. This alleged fault is linked to what Scot McKnight has rightly pointed out today, that there is a danger among the religious left of confusing social justice with the work of the kingdom of God. I could equally argue that among the religious right there is a danger of confusing promotion of family values in society with the work of the kingdom of God. But Christians are surely called, as Jeremiah appealed to the exiles in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:7), to seek the peace and prosperity of the place where they are living, in exile from their real home in the kingdom of God. This is what provides a proper theological basis for political action by Christians on the left and on the right.

Moreover, the work that we Christians are doing in the kingdom of this world will not be in vain. Ultimately, when Jesus returns, we will be able to cry out in triumph with the words from Revelation which Campolo quotes (in a different version):

The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 11:15 (NIV)

And this implies that our work for the good of this world will become transformed into work for the kingdom of God. Indeed the good work that Jesus began in and through us he will complete on the day of his coming.

Joel Watts, Peter Wagner and a false dilemma

Joel WattsBlogger Joel Watts is also a student of rhetoric. In fact, if I understand him correctly, he is writing a master’s dissertation on rhetoric in the New Testament. Unfortunately he also seems to mastered a form of rhetoric which is not, I think, found in the New Testament, but is a favourite of politicians and other persuaders of less reputable types: the rhetorical use of the false dilemma fallacy. Here is what one writer has to say about this fallacy:

This fallacy typically involves asking a question and providing only two possible answers when there are actually far more. It seems to be a favourite of politicians, especially when trying to win support for a none-too-plausible policy.

Peter WagnerThis is exactly what Joel is guilty of in his post, in fact just in the title of his post, Is C. Peter Wagner lying or backtracking? Joel presents two statements by Peter Wagner relating to his alleged “dominionism” and asserts that these are contradictory, and therefore Wagner is either deceiving people about his real beliefs or repudiating his older ones.

The problem is that Joel has by no means demonstrated any inconsistency between the statements. What in fact seems to have happened is that Wagner has clarified what he meant by an earlier statement which had been misinterpreted. In 2007 he wrote (as Joel quoted):

our divine mandate is to do whatever is necessary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to retake the dominion of God’s creation which Adam forfeited to Satan in the Garden of Eden.

Some people, especially “dominionismists”, have misunderstood the words “whatever is necessary” as suggesting that Wagner was advocating illegal political action or overthrowing the Constitution of the USA. I’m sure nothing like that was ever in his mind. In that same letter he clarified that the intention was “to govern apolitically”, i.e. that the idea was not a political takeover.

But in view of the recent media furore over “dominionism” some further clarification was needed. I have already quoted from a letter Wagner wrote in August (the original link is now broken but the same text appears at this new link) which offers such clarification. Joel’s even more recent quote, from a TV show transcript, takes the same line as the August letter; the key part describes Wagner’s strategy as

In America, it’s democracy and working with the administrative, judicial and legislative branches of the government, the way they are but to have as many kingdom-minded people in influence in each one of these branches of government as possible.

This is absolutely not a contradiction or repudiation of Wagner’s view as expressed in 2007. This is precisely what he always meant by “whatever is necessary”: Christians exerting influence through their normal democratic rights of persuasion and seeking political office.

So, Joel, Peter Wagner is neither lying nor backtracking. He is simply clarifying what he always meant by “whatever is necessary”. You really ought to consider these matters more carefully before using your rhetorical skills to defame the character of your Christian brother Peter Wagner.

Thomas Hooker and John Eliot's house in England

A few days ago, as part of my temporary work, I found myself making a delivery at a house with a blue plaque on it. I was surprised to read that this old farmhouse was the home, from 1626 to 1631, of Thomas Hooker, described as “The Father of American Democracy”, and of John Eliot, “Apostle to the Indians” (i.e. the Native Americans).

Cuckoos Farm, Little BaddowThe house is now known as Cuckoos Farm, in the village of Little Baddow near Chelmsford – in England, not in Massachusetts. This is officially listed as a 17th century timber-framed and plastered house, although sadly the windows are modern. It is about five miles from my home in Great Baddow.

There is more information about Hooker and Eliot, and their residence on Little Baddow, on the website of the Little Baddow History Centre. I was already aware that Hooker, a Puritan, had been a lecturer at what is now Chelmsford Cathedral, and I had heard of Eliot as a Bible translator. But I did not know that when Hooker was forced to leave Chelmsford he opened a school in Little Baddow, with Eliot as his assistant.

There seems to be some uncertainty about the dates. The school in Little Baddow may not actually have been founded until 1630. By 1633 both Hooker and Eliot had separately emigrated to Massachusetts. But their Puritan heritage lived on in Little Baddow. A Congregational chapel built in 1707 near Cuckoos Farm is still in use, now as a United Reformed Church.

Thomas HookerThomas Hooker was indeed one of the pioneers of American democracy, of which, in John Fiske’s words, he “deserves more than any other man to be called the father”. He is also celebrated as “the Father of Connecticut”, as he was one of the founders of that colony, and a drafter of its Fundamental Orders, a precursor of the Constitution of the USA. It is interesting to see that, although himself a pastor involved in politics, he was also a pioneer in separating church and state: he opposed the practice in Massachusetts of allowing the church to control who was allowed to vote, and this was one of his main motivations for leaving Massachusetts to found a new colony.

John EliotJohn Eliot is in some ways of greater interest to me because he was a pioneer missionary Bible translator. His complete Bible in the language of the Massachusett Indians (Native Americans) was perhaps one of the first ever in the language of a newly evangelised people group. Eliot was also a pastor involved in politics. Indeed, he was the author of “the first book on politics written by an American and also the first book to be banned by an American government”. But his politics were very different from Hooker’s: he proposed a theocracy based on Old Testament models, and might perhaps be considered a forerunner of today’s Christian Reconstructionists or “Dominionists”.

It is fitting that these two pioneers are still remembered in the village where they spent several years. It is sad that their story is not as well known as it might be.