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.

Jesus didn't mean 'nation-state' – nor does Wagner

When I was working as one of a Bible translation team in a former Soviet republic, one of the local team members questioned the use in an Old Testament draft of a word meaning “nation”, referring to Egypt. She told me that she had learned, no doubt in her Soviet era political classes, that the concept of “nation” was a modern one. I asked her what she thought were the characteristics of a “nation”. She mentioned such things as a single ethnic group and language and secure and stable borders. I could truthfully point out to her that ancient Egypt had all of these characteristics for thousands of years (in fact for longer than any modern nation state except possibly Japan). She withdrew her objection.

The first part of the title of this post, “Jesus didn’t mean ‘nation-state'”, comes from a comment by Joel Watts on one of his own posts, and refers to these famous parting words of Jesus:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV 2011)

The United NationsIndeed the “all nations” of which we are called to make disciples are not to be identified with nation-states in the modern sense, or with the currently 193 member states of the United Nations. This is clear when we note that the modern “Westphalian system” in which land areas are divided into nation-states dates back only to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 – and so after the word “nations” was used in the 1611 King James version (and probably in earlier versions) of Matthew 28:19. In the ancient world there had been some nation-states, even more or less according to modern definitions, such as Egypt and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, but well before the time of Jesus these had been swallowed up by larger empires. So Jesus certainly didn’t mean “make disciples of all nation-states”.

But Joel, in the same comment, referred to

the urinating-poor translation of that section of Matthew.

He didn’t specify exactly what his objection is to the translation, nor for that matter which translation he was objecting to. But clearly at least part of his issue is with the word “nations” in verse 19, used in 22 of the 27 English versions at Bible Gateway. He seems to suggest that Bible readers will understand “nations” in this verse as a reference to modern nation-states. Well, perhaps some might. But the Google definition of “nation” does not imply the political organisation or single government characteristic of a modern nation-state:

  1. A large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory
    – leading industrialized nations
  2. A North American Indian people or confederation of peoples

Joel’s problem with the word “nations” seems to stem from a quote in his post from Peter Wagner:

Formerly, I thought my task was to go to as many nations of the world as possible and save as many souls as possible and plant as many churches as possible. Now I take the Great Commission more literally when it tells us not to make as many individual disciples as we can but to disciple whole social groups—such as entire nations. This is kingdom theology.

Joel’s fellow-blogger RODOFA (aka “Rod of Alexandria”) commented on the latter part of this quote:

See, this is exactly the problem with reading our views of the nation-state into scripture; its just not there.

C. Peter WagnerBut who exactly is “reading our views of the nation-state into scripture”? Certainly not Wagner, who is not at all referring to states or governments, but explicitly to “social groups”. The problem here seems to be that Rod and Joel are reading their views of the nation-state into Wagner’s words, whereas Wagner, a Bible scholar with an M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary, was using the word “nations” in the same sense that Jesus was using it. And he surely knows very well that Jesus didn’t mean ‘nation-state’.

Joel blames bad translations for Wagner’s supposed misunderstanding of “nations” in the Bible. I blame Joel’s and Rod’s misunderstanding of the English word “nations”, as always meaning “nation-states”, for their misunderstanding of Peter Wagner’s theology, and their culpable misrepresentation of him as a “dominionist” with an interest in taking over governments of nation-states.

In fact, as I made clear in my previous post about him, Wagner has entirely repudiated the idea of the church running any nation-state. Rather, I’m sure he would agree, as I do, with Kay Sharpe’s words in a comment on Joel’s post:

Discipling nations starts with people getting saved, healed, delivered, set free – God lays it out there pretty nicely in Isaiah 58 and 61. In order to disciple someone, one must have their heart. In order to disciple nations, we must gain the heart of the nation. We do that by setting individuals free… who in turn set more individuals free… who in turn… until it becomes neighborhoods and people groups and states and then nations.

Peter Wagner isn't a "Dominionist" either

Peter WagnerYesterday I demonstrated that Francis Schaeffer was not a “Dominionist”, despite the conspiracy theories of the Dominionismists. Today (thanks again to Jeremy Pierce for the link) I can write that the other main alleged conspirator, C. Peter Wagner, is not a “Dominionist” either, at least not in anything like the sense of the word used by the conspiracy theorists. Wagner has written his own new “urgent message” explaining his position on these matters. Here is the most relevant section:

Dominionism.   This refers to the desire that some of my friends and I have to follow Jesus and do what He wants. One of the things He does want He taught us to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This means that we do our best to see that what we know is characteristic of heaven work its way into the warp and woof of our society here on earth. Think of heaven: no injustice, no poverty, righteousness, peace, prosperity, no disease, love, no corruption, no crime, no misery, no racism, and I could go on. Wouldn’t you like your city to display those characteristics?

But where does dominion come in? On the first page of the Bible, God told Adam and Eve to “fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, etc.” (Genesis 1:28). Adam, Eve, and the whole human race were to take dominion over the rest of creation, but Satan entered the picture, succeeded in usurping Adam’s dominion for himself and became what Jesus calls “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30). When Jesus came, he brought the kingdom of God and He expects His kingdom-minded people to take whatever action is needed to push back the long-standing kingdom of Satan and bring the peace and prosperity of His kingdom here on earth. This is what we mean by dominionism.

A theocracy. The usual meaning of theocracy is that a nation is run by authorized representatives of the church or its functional religious equivalent. Everyone I know in NAR would absolutely reject this idea, thinking back to Constantine’s failed experiment or some of the oppressive Islamic governments today. The way to achieve dominion is not to become “America’s Taliban,” but rather to have kingdom-minded people in every one of the Seven Mountains: Religion, Family, Education, Government, Media, Arts & Entertainment, and Business so that they can use their influence to create an environment in which the blessings and prosperity of the Kingdom of God can permeate all areas of society.

Thus to Peter Wagner and his fellows in the loosely structured New Apostolic Reformation, “dominion” means something quite different from what the conspiracy theorists are alleging, not at all like Rushdoony’s Christian Reconstructionism – and rather different from what Schaeffer believed. Is there anything here which any Christians can object to?

The best thing that can be said about the “Dominionismists” is that they are ignorant.

Francis Schaeffer was not a "Dominionist"

Two weeks ago I posted Dominionismism: A conspiracy theory unmasked. But accusations of “dominionism” persist against allegedly Christian leaders and US Presidential candidates. The fallacious arguments behind these accusations often include allegations that the late Francis Schaeffer was an advocate of some unhealthy kind of theocracy or “dominionism”.

Francis SchaefferThe Francis Schaeffer Studies.Org Blog has now published an ARTICLE: ERRONEOUS CHARGES OF DOMINIONISM & THEOCRACY clarifying that Schaeffer did not believe in theocracy, Christian Reconstructionism, or any kind of dominionism. The article clarifies this with quotes from Schaeffer, such as this one:

None of this, however, changes the fact that the United States was founded upon a Christian consensus, nor that we today should bring Judeo-Christian principles into play in regard to government. But that is very different from a theocracy in name or in fact.

The article summarises Schaeffer’s views as follows:

It seems apparent that Schaeffer’s belief was that the role of Christianity in politics is to naturally influence government by being transforming first in the person, then in one’s relationships, then in the church, then in the culture and finally in government and the whole of life. … He held that the only way naturally to bring about lasting change in government was by changing the human heart. That change alters our worldview and also how that we vote and the influence we have on government. So there is to be action on our part in government, but it is never the final solution to man’s [sic] problems.

Thanks to Jeremy Pierce, on Facebook, for the link.

Virginia earthquake: Wilkerson's prophecy fulfilled?

David Wilkerson’s earthquake prophecy seems to fit well with worldwide events this year, or at least it has offered a convenient grid for some people to fit their interpretations of events into. There has been a major earthquake in Japan, a minor one in England, and earthquake panic in Rome. But despite the Tea Party’s best efforts last month, the prophesied economic meltdown has not yet happened.

The latest candidate for a fulfilment of Wilkerson’s prophecy is of course Tuesday’s earthquake in the “Old Dominion” state of Virginia. This caused damage, but thankfully no known casualties, in Washington DC. In New York, 300 miles away, it was felt strongly enough to cause panic. Meanwhile Hurricane Irene is heading straight for the capital city and the Big Apple, and is expected to hit them at the weekend.

So could this be what Wilkerson prophesied? Well, it certainly fits one of his predictions for the earthquake:

I believe it is going to take place where it is least expected.

But while there have been riots, fires and looting in the UK this month (I have not commented on them before as I am still on vacation), the panic in New York doesn’t seem to have led to looting in Times Square – although who knows what might happen in the aftermath of a hurricane? More seriously, there is no way that this minor quake can be understood as

the biggest most disastrous earthquake in history.

Washington National CathedralIn this week’s quake the most seriously damaged building, it seems, was the Washington National Cathedral, according to Wikipedia “the seat of … the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori” and thus the spiritual centre of the largely apostate Episcopal Church. I use the word “apostate” here not so much concerning its abandonment of the true gospel or its promotion of homosexual practice as in relation to its policy, in direct contravention of apostolic teaching (1 Corinthians 6:1-6), of persecuting orthodox congregations through the secular courts. Now I am not claiming that this damage to the cathedral (minor of course compared to the damage to Christchurch cathedral in New Zealand just six months earlier) was the result of divine judgment. But from an orthodox Christian perspective it certainly seems to be poetic justice.

So as Christians what lessons can we learn from this week’s event? It doesn’t seem to have been the fulfilment of David Wilkerson’s prophecy. But perhaps it can be understood as a reminder and a warning that the USA, and indeed the whole world, has earned God’s judgment, and it is only by his grace that we are spared the total destruction which we deserve:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

2 Peter 3:9-10 (NIV 2011)

There is nothing in this world which cannot be shaken, even if it is not supposed to be in an earthquake zone, even the centres of world political and economic power. “Dominion” may have become a dirty word in politics, but this quake can teach us that true kingship belongs not to the “Old Dominion” but to God. So let us all take a lesson from the letter to the Hebrews:

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:25-29 (NIV 2011)

Dominionismism: A conspiracy theory unmasked

Jeremy Pierce writes:

I’ve determined that there’s a political faction out there that needs a name, because it’s a group of conspiracy theorists with a particular agenda that’s becoming somewhat influential, and it’s achieving its agenda fairly well. Its agenda is to discredit mainstream evangelicalism by confusing it with extremist figures who have nearly zero influence on much of any importance.

Abraham KuyperWhat is this conspiracy theory which the always careful philosopher Jeremy has unmasked? He calls it “Dominionismism”, because it started with the invention of a Christian tendency called “Dominionism”. This non-existent -ism has been manufactured by a conflation of three quite different theologies: the Christian political activism of Abraham Kuyper and Francis Schaeffer; the “Dominion Theology” associated with “third-wave Pentecostalism”; and the Christian Reconstructionism of R.J. Rushdoony and others. In fact I already started to unmask this conspiracy theory in my June post Taking over mountains from the grass roots.

Francis SchaefferI would agree with the “Dominionismists” in condemning Christian Reconstructionism, a bid to impose Old Testament laws and punishments on modern society. However, I am glad to say that this is very much on the fringe of Christian teaching today and has “nearly zero influence on much of any importance”. The Christian involvement in politics promoted by many evangelicals today, including several US presidential hopefuls, is something quite different, summarised by Jeremy as

attempting to do what good we can in the world, and that involves seeking to implement policies that Christians agree with.

Now it is hardly unexpected that atheists and liberal Christians object to evangelicals seeking to implement the policies that they, the evangelicals, agree with, but the atheists and liberals do not. But that is no excuse for anyone to confuse quite different theologies and manufacture a non-existent conspiracy.

The really sad thing is that otherwise good mainstream and more-or-less evangelical Christians like my blogging friend Joel Watts have been led astray by this conspiracy theory and are using it to divide the church and discredit good evangelical teachers. To be fair, Joel has not tagged any posts “dominionist” since 2008. But only last month he posted This Week in Dominionism, the Presidency, and 2012, in which he wrote

I haven’t posted much on Dominionism/Christian Reconstructionism lately, … but it is something which people should be concerned about.

That is enough to show that he has bought into the conspiracy theory which Jeremy has unmasked.

Joel, I agree with you in not liking the politics of Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann, or for that matter of any of the Republican presidential hopefuls, to the limited extent that I know those politics. But if you want to oppose them, please do so by telling the distasteful truth about their policies and their likely effects, not by smearing them with meaningless labels like “dominionist” or linking them with movements like Christian Reconstructionism which I am almost certain that they reject.

But my real concern is not so much for politicians. After all, most of them deserve the abuse which is heaped on them. And I am not going to treat Rick Perry as a good Christian after the revelation reported by Jim West that Perry gives just half a percent of his income to churches and religious organisations. But I do think Joel is going far too far when he condemns a whole slate of widely respected Christian leaders as “heretical” on the basis of short quotations taken out of context and a completely unjustifiable attempt to assert guilt by association with the word “dominionism”. This is completely irresponsible spreading of dissent and division in the church.

Joel, I know you are a reasonable man and prepared to change your views and admit it publicly. I appeal to you to reconsider what “dominionism” actually means, and to accept that the Christian leaders whom you name, although they may have said some stupid things, do not teach anything like Christian Reconstructionism, but only the kind of generalised Christian involvement in politics which in your saner moments you actually seem to support.

Politics in the Bible, Wayne Grudem, and NIV 2011

Long term readers of Gentle Wisdom will know that I am no admirer of Wayne Grudem. I have not always been negative about him. But I have been critical of his complementarian position restricting women in ministry. I have pointed out how he has persistently made errors of fact in his biblical arguments for that position. I have rejected his doctrine of functional subordination within the Trinity. And I have had especially strong words to say, mostly elsewhere, about the intemperate and unscholarly way in which Grudem led the condemnation of the TNIV Bible.

So I am happy that Grudem has kept quiet about the NIV 2011 update. I haven’t found any mention of it by him since its publication. Very likely he shares the concerns so strongly expressed by Denny Burk, who has taken his place as the chief spokesman of CBMW on such matters. But he has not put the authority of his name and reputation behind a destructive campaign in the way that he did with TNIV. Rod Decker is wrong to suggest that he has done, while making a good point about Grudem’s hypocrisy over singular “they”. One consequence of Grudem’s silence is that very likely NIV 2011 will become widely accepted, as TNIV was not, as the successor of the 1984 NIV.

Wayne Grudem: Politics according to the BibleBut I wonder if there is something other than a change of heart behind Grudem’s reticence on NIV 2011. This could be related to his book Politics According to the Bible. As this book is published by Zondervan, and promoted on their Koinonia blog, there could be contract conditions preventing Grudem from publicly condemning NIV 2011, another Zondervan product. And Grudem would certainly be wise not to cross the lawyers for News Corporation, owners of Zondervan. Yes, Zondervan is part of Rupert Murdoch’s controversial empire, which goes to show that even the worst egg can be good in parts.

The Koinonia post is an extract from an interview with Grudem by the Acton Institute, about his book – which is actually not as new as I thought at first, as it was published in September last year. Now this is another book that I am mentioning without having read it, so please don’t take this as a review (whatever post categories this might be in). I am responding only to what is in the Acton Institute interview. But I must say I was more favourably impressed than I have been with other things I have seen from Grudem. He has a number of excellent things to say in the interview, including this:

I found that in the Bible there were many examples of God’s people influencing secular governments. I am arguing in the book that it is a spiritually good thing and it is pleasing to God when Christians can influence government for good.

In view of his position on women’s rights in the church and family, this is somewhat ironic:

Christian influence led to granting property rights and other protections to women at various times through history.

But Christian political activity needs to be put in the right context:

My book seeks to warn Christians away from the temptation of thinking if we just elect the right leaders and pass the right laws, we will have a good nation. That fails to understand that a genuine transformation of a nation will not come about unless peoples’ hearts are changed so that they have a desire to do what is right and live in obedience to good laws.

I am somewhat ambivalent on what Grudem says about unemployment benefit, but he is asking the right questions:

… we are to care for the poor and those in need, and the Bible frequently talks about the need to care for the poor. I think government has a legitimate role in providing a safety net for those who are in genuine need of food, clothing and shelter.

There is also a strong strand of biblical teaching that emphasizes the importance of work to earn a living. … The longer that unemployment benefits are continued, the more we contribute to the idea that some people should not have to work in order to earn a living, but we should just continue to have government support them. That creates a culture of dependency, which is unhealthy for the nation and unhealthy for the people who are dependent, year after year, on government handouts.

Indeed. But this needs to be balanced by a realisation that, within our modern economic system, there are many people who genuinely want to earn their own living but are unable to do so, for personal reasons or because no work is available. In our society these are the poor that the Bible calls us to support, for the long term at least in the case of needy widows (1 Timothy 5:9). There is no place in Christian teaching for benefits being cut off after a fixed period.

Grudem finishes as follows:

It is important for Christians to settle in their hearts that God is in control over history, and His purposes will be accomplished.

The last chapter of my book has to do with combining work to bring good influence to government, coupled with faith in God and prayer that God’s good purposes will reign in earthly governments. I think we have to do both things, because God hears prayers, and He also works through the efforts and actions of human beings who are seeking to influence government for good.


Taking over mountains from the grass roots

The Guardian, the UK’s top left-leaning newspaper, has an excellent article today Could this be the church to calm our secularist outrage?, written by the sceptical agnostic (his words) John Harris, and an accompanying video. The article and the video feature Frontline Church in Liverpool, 15 miles from my home, and its project among prostitutes in the area: not open evangelism but “a weekly operation in which a handful of volunteers take food, tea and condoms to the city’s sex workers.” The agnostic reporter is clearly impressed, and muses on the response to this, or lack of it, from militant secularists.

Nic HardingWhat the church is doing is impressive. But I want to look more at what the church is saying – at least at the words of its pastor Nic Harding, who is seen preaching in the video. In fact he writes about his struggle preparing this sermon in a post on his own blog. Following this in the video, John Harris interviews him.

Here is the video, followed by a partial transcript:

(04:09) Harding (preaching): Our calling is out there … Social justice, education, health care, politics, government: these are all areas that God says “Who is willing to claim that mountain?” … How can we make a difference? How can we challenge the prevailing attitudes of money being the bottom line for everything? How can we add value to what we do? How can we touch the lives of people, even though we are dealing with products or commodities or services? …

(04:56) Harris: If the people here took over all those mountains and ran the show, what would society look like? …

(08:39) Harris: You see I think about these things politically, about the ideal way the society should go. I think in terms of it being more equal, less individualistic. You know, the structures of society should change. Are we talking about the same thing?

Harding: I think we probably are. But we probably are approaching it from a different starting point. Because politics tends to look at things from a top down model. It tends to see … You start to change society by changing how you run society from the top, from political systems, whether it be capitalism or socialism, whatever it might be. Whereas Christianity starts at grass roots. It starts with individuals’ lives changing. It starts with families, broken families coming together and reconciling. It starts with children being raised by parents who care about what happens to them. It starts with parent governors in schools making a difference in their local school. It starts with people who go into work with a different attitude and mindset. It’s a bottom up thing.

Harris: But you know where you’re going? Because if you ask me I will tell you. I would like a society where the rich are less rich and the poor are less poor. How would you feel about that?

Harding: I think a society where people are generous with what they have got would be fantastic, where people are willing to share their goods, their possessions, their time, their energy – not in an enforced way, because I think once you enforce it you take the whole spirit out of it, but on a completely free will basis, because people’s hearts have been changed.

In the sermon extract, Harding seems to be alluding to the Seven Mountains Mandate popularised by Lance Wallnau among others, which encourages Christians to seek

to gain influence over the “mountains” of government, church, education, family, media, arts, and business.

Now according to Joel Watts these seven mountains are the same as the ones in Revelation 17:9, over which the Beast reigns. I’m sure this point has not escaped Wallnau and friends. Joel writes:

Stay with me for a minute –

  • Wallnau identified seven mountains and one to rule over them.
  • John writes of seven mountains/hills with one to rule over them.

Anyone? Anyone at all see anything wrong with this whatsoever?

No, Joel, nothing wrong. Wallnau and John agree that the enemy temporarily rules over the seven mountains. Wallnau teaches that Christians should bring them under the rule of Jesus, the kingdom of God. John also teaches, in verse 14 of the same chapter, how Jesus and his armies will defeat the enemy and conquer the mountains. Where is the difference?

Joel also considers that the Seven Mountain Strategy is all about “Dominionism”. Well, as Wikipedia says,

The use and application of this terminology is a matter of controversy.

Nic Harding certainly isn’t talking about Dominion Theology as described in this Wikipedia article, and I’m pretty sure Lance Wallnau isn’t either. Neither of them envisage setting up a kind of Christian Sharia Law to replace secular law. There also seem to be quite a few differences from Wikipedia’s “Dominionism as a broader movement”. There may indeed be influences from Kuyper and Schaeffer, but not from Rushdoony. Harding is explicit that what Christians should do must be “on a completely free will basis, because people’s hearts have been changed”. Society is to be transformed according to Christian principles not by imposition from the top but by Christians working up from the grass roots.

Is this something from the right or from the left? If this is “Dominionism” from the Christian right, why is it so appealing to the Marx-quoting agnostic from the left-wing Guardian? Militant secularists may rage, but the label doesn’t matter. What does matter is that people that the world, and the secular government, ignore or reject are being accepted and provided for by Christians. This is the love which can turn the world upside down.

Thanks to Phil Ritchie and the Evangelical Alliance for their links to this article.

I too am a communist (with a small "c")

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman monument at ВДНХ MoscowMy Christian friend and former colleague Michael has blogged from Moscow a post I am a communist. The small “c” even in the title is not accidental, even though Michael illustrates his post with pictures of Soviet achievements – “ВДНХ” is the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy, the one-time showpiece of the USSR now officially known as the All-Russia Exhibition Centre. For Michael makes it very clear that he is no sympathiser with Soviet Communism. He is especially critical of how it was based on violence and coercion. And concerning its atheistic basis, he asks:

why did the soviets throw God out? Didn’t they realize that God is on the side of the poor, the upholder of the weak, oppressed and downtrodden. Why didn’t they enlist his support in their strivings for justice and equality? Well, unfortunately the church had sided with the oppressor. …

So in what sense can Michael call himself a communist? He explains:

I am a communist. I embrace the goal, the impact statement of a just and equal society for all. But I do not espouse the route the soviets took. If change is not peaceful the oppressed simply become the oppressor – and that is what happened. … Those who are opposed to the new society – love them. Melt them with the warmth of the sun; blowing a howling gale around them will just make them cling to their opposition more tightly. But as I look at those communist ideals, they resonate with me. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth just as it is in heaven.

In this I agree with Michael. So I can say that I too am a communist, with a small “c”. I embrace the ideal which the early church found:

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 … God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Acts 4:32-35 (NIV 2011)

Note that this communism did not involve complete renunciation of private property. Giving to the community was voluntary. But “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all” that enough money came in for the poor in the community to be provided for.

Now this kind of communism is of course very different from the Soviet kind. There are two main differences. The first is that Soviet Communism was atheistic, which is fundamental to its philosophy but is also peripheral to its practical outworking. As a Christian I of course reject this atheistic basis. The second is that that Communism was enforced by the power of the state. I think almost all would agree that some of the ways in which it was enforced, such as through the Gulag concentration camps, were wrong. But is it fundamentally wrong in principle for the state to enforce sharing of possessions so that the poor are properly cared for?

Now I know the answer that would be given by many conservative American Christians. They consider their private property to be inalienable as a fundamental human right, and that even a democratically elected government has no right to deprive them of it.

But the Bible offers a rather different picture. In the Old Testament the collection of tithes, to support the priesthood and the poor, was commanded and enforced under the Law of Moses. The rules for the Jubilee also involve regular and massive enforced redistribution of wealth from those who have acquired it, so that “there need be no poor people among you” (Deuteronomy 15:4, NIV 2011 – clearly alluded to in Acts 4:34 quoted above). These examples are from the theocratic nation of Israel and so may not be directly applicable to modern states. But the New Testament (especially in Romans 13:1-7) upholds the right of even idolatrous dictatorial states like the Roman empire to levy taxes, and the duty of Christians to pay them. So, I would argue, while the state would be wrong to confiscate private property arbitrarily or inequitably, it does have the right to levy taxes to support the poor and needy. And I would also argue, on the basis of the advice given to the non-Israelite King Lemuel, that it has the duty to do so where such taxes are the best way of providing this support:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV 2011)

The result would not exactly be Soviet-style Communism. It certainly wouldn’t be atheistic. But it would involve those with more than they need being taxed a fair proportion of their income to put an end to poverty in the world. I would see this as a practical outworking of the biblical principle, seen in practice in the nation of Israel and in the early church, that there should be no more poor and needy in the community. This is not the whole, but it is a significant part, of bringing to fulfilment the biblical vision (Revelation 11:15) that “The kingdom of the world [will] become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah”.