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.

Judgment, Hubris, and True Christian Maturity

Roger Mugs, whose blog Theologer is subtitled “bible. beer. blog. (and a word for missiology which starts with a b)”, seems to have been more amused than offended that John MacArthur called him “Young, Restless, and Reformed”, although he writes

I resent all three.

John MacArthurWell, Roger can hardly be surprised that some Christians object to his post Beer. Glorious beer, in which he encourages missionaries like himself to brew their own. But it was quite an honour for him to be called out for it by the infamous MacArthur, even in terms like these:

deliberately cultivating an appetite for beer or a reputation for loving liquor is not merely bad missional strategy and a bad testimony; it is fraught with deadly spiritual dangers.

Roger has now followed up his initial response with what he calls “a response to/rewrite of/mockery of John McArthur’s recent post”, Judgement, Hubris, and True Christian Maturity. In this he counters MacArthur’s condemnation of the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” stereotype with his own observations about the “Old, Bored, and Reformed” like MacArthur. The result is hilarious! But there are also many important serious points, such as:

Apparently judgment is also an essential element in the missional strategy. Judging others publicly is often touted as a necessary means of influencing  youth culture, and conversely, humility is deemed a “sin” to be repented of. …

deliberately cultivating an appetite for pridefulness or a reputation for loving myself is not merely bad missional strategy and a bad testimony; it is fraught with deadly spiritual dangers.

Indeed. MacArthur and other “Reformed” leaders need to look more closely for the planks in their own eyes before condemning what they think they see in others’ eyes. Sadly, I suspect that if they did they would find that the greatest sins in the genuine “Young, Restless, and Reformed” tendency (not including Roger Mugs!) are not so much beer drinking as the same self-righteousness and judgmentalism that Roger has identified among their older and more bored fellows.

Off to Italy

Lorenza in front of the Ponte VecchioLorenza and I are off to Italy for a three week break. We are taking our car – a ferry crossing and a two day drive through Belgium, Germany and Austria. We will spend much of our time with our family and friends there, mostly in and around Florence. We hope also to see some sea and some sun.

This means I will be blogging little if at all until the beginning of September. I hope still to be able to keep up with comments and contact e-mails. But don’t expect any meaty new posts. Meanwhile I hope you my readers all enjoy your August.


Rock badgers: biblical animals, pest in modern Israel

Rock badgersMost of the animals mentioned in the Bible are quite familiar to English speaking readers, although some of the birds are rather obscure. But there is one small animal mentioned several times in the Old Testament which is a bit of a puzzle to many readers, not least because it goes by so many names: “coney” (KJV, ASV, NIV 1984), “badger” (RSV, NRSV, CEV, CEB), “hyrax” (NLT, HCSB, TNIV, NIV 2011), “rock badger” (GNT, NCV, NKJV, ESV), “marmot” (The Message) (all renderings in Proverbs 30:26). As Agur son of Jakeh teaches,

hyraxes are creatures of little power,
yet they make their home in the crags.

Proverbs 30:26 (NIV 2011)

So it is interesting to read a BBC Nature report today (incidentally misquoting KJV) Hyraxes: why Israel’s ‘rock rabbits’ have become pests. Apparently these cute furry creatures “have moved into residential areas of Galilee”, where they live in piles of rubble, artificial equivalents to their favoured crags, and “have been destroying people’s gardens”. As they are not kosher (Leviticus 11:5), eating them would not be a solution. So, the BBC report concludes,

Although hyraxes are generally quite popular with suburban wildlife-watchers, some people have called for a cull.

But early research indicates that simply filling in the boulder piles would drive hyraxes out of the villages and back to the cliffs, just as it says in the Bible.

If only the BBC would broaden its recognition that problems can be solved by doing things “just as it says in the Bible”!

Is the Bible always right?

Jeremy Myers posts I am Always Right, but don’t worry, those are not his own sentiments. They are an echo of Rush Limbaugh’s words but intended more as an echo of what some people claim about the Bible. They serve as an introduction to Jeremy’s forthcoming series on the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture.

The Bible is always rightImage courtesy of James McGrath

I don’t yet know what Jeremy is going to say about this doctrine. But I can guess his general line from what he has recently written about the inspiration of Scripture, in a series of posts starting with How you can know the Bible is Divine Revelation and continuing to Why the KJV is an Inspired Translation, all found in Jeremy’s category Bibliology.

I had meant to respond to some of these posts, but they kept coming so quickly that I could barely keep up with reading them. That was very much worthwhile because of Jeremy’s fresh and humorous approach to exploring what it means to say that the Bible is inspired. He finds some important weaknesses in the traditional evangelical teaching about inspiration. I am not entirely convinced by his conclusion that “inspired” means little more than “inspiring”. But perhaps his position will become more clear as the series on inerrancy proceeds.

Done with living like a Christian

I’m Done With Living Like a Christian Kurt Willems writes at Red Letter Christians I’m Done With Living Like A Christian (originally at his own Pangea Blog). Concerning all the things he used to do as a Christian, he says:

This past week made me realize that doing all these things won’t change the world.  That’s because the world can’t be changed unless God changes me. …

For me, it’s time to stop doing.  It’s time to simply be done.  Done “doing” because the Holy Spirit invites us to stop and to “be.”

I want to know Jesus.  I want to hear Jesus.  I want to be empowered by Jesus.  Not simply in theory as I do the good things that he calls us to do, but as the natural outflow of intimacy with God.  The former way “gets the job done.”  The latter way changes the world.

For me, this means a new-found intentionality of placing myself in a position to hear from the Spirit. …

In principle this is something I have been learning over the last few years. What we do by human effort, even with the intention of serving God, is often frustratingly hard work with little fruit. When we do things “as the natural outflow of intimacy with God”, they receive his blessing and naturally produce an abundant harvest.

But I need to work more on “placing myself in a position to hear from the Spirit” …

Do read the whole post.