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Are Christians Supposed to Take Dominion?

by Robert M. Bowman, Jr.

from the Christian Research Journal, Fall, 1988, page 31. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

Are Christians supposed to "take dominion" in the world before Christ returns? Two growing movements within American Christianity are saying Yes. The first is the Christian Reconstruction movement, led by such men as Gary North and R.J. Rushdoony. Based on the postmillennial view of prophecy (according to which the church Christianizes the world as a whole before Christ's return), Reconstructionists call upon Christians to prepare themselves to take over the world's institutions, including its governments, following the conversion of the world's people to Christ.

The second group is popularly known as Kingdom Now, led by such men as Earl Paulk and Thomas Reid. "Kingdom theology" urges the church to become unified and mature under the rule of charismatic apostles and prophets (such as Paulk), and penetrate worldly institutions enough to "serve notice" that the church represents the authority of Christ the King.

The emphasis on the church's taking "dominion" in both of these movements has led to their being associated together under the label "dominion theology." And there are significant points of contact and common notions held by the two groups. But there are some even more important differences. The Reconstructionists are orthodox Calvinists and are thus solidly evangelical, even if many evangelicals will strongly disagree with postmillennialism and other distinctive Reconstructionist doctrines. Kingdom Now, on the other hand, brings together in one package most of the unbiblical elements of the earlier heretical perversions of Pentecostalism issuing from the "Latter Rain" movement of the late 1940s.

Thus, these two movements understand "taking dominion" rather differently. The Reconstructionists envision a gradual, pervasive transformation of human institutions in the wake of worldwide conversion to orthodox Christianity. The Kingdom Now prophets look for a brief display of the church's power as the basis for Christ condemning the unbelieving world for not listening to the church's gospel.

One practical implication of these differences is that those Reconstructionists and Kingdom Now followers who are seeking to band together in a common effort to "take dominion" are misled. The two movements are working for different goals.

Nevertheless, convinced that "taking dominion" means wresting control of our government away from the godless, and that this is in fact Christ's mandate to the church, both groups are pursuing political power. They hope that Christians can take sufficient control of things to set the agenda and course for America into the next century.

But are Christians supposed to be taking dominion at all? Granted that there is some confusion among American Christians as to what taking dominion would mean, is there a sense in which this really is the mission of the church? A careful reading of the Bible indicates otherwise. Simply put, the Bible never commands Christians to take dominion. A search for such a mandate proves fruitless. The Bible never even hints that this is to be a responsibility of the church between Christ's first and second comings.

It is often claimed that the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 is a directive to fulfill the "Dominion Mandate" of Genesis 1:28, in which God commanded man to subdue the earth and have dominion. This claim does not bear close scrutiny of the texts. In Genesis 1:28 God gives dominion over the animal kingdom to man. In Matthew 28:18-20 Christ, after stating that He (not the church) has all authority in heaven and on earth (v. 18), commands the church to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them (vv. 19-20). There is certainly no explicit connection made in Matthew 28 between the Great Commission and the Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1:28. Nor are the commands to disciple, baptize, and teach somehow equivalent to "take dominion."

Through the fulfillment of the Great Commission by the church, Christ is exercising His dominion over the earth in calling men and women into the kingdom. And Christ is working through the church to defeat sin and death through the preaching of the gospel. In this sense the church plays a role in Christ's rule between His first and second comings (1 Cor. 15:24-28), but it is indirect. It is Christ who rules, Christ who takes dominion -- not the church.

The promise of an earthly dominion in which the redeemed rule is biblical (Rev. 5:10; 20:6; 22:5). However, whether one interprets the earthly reign of the redeemed in a premillennial, amillennial, or postmillennial fashion, this reign is not the result of Christians struggling to take dominion over political and economic institutions. Even in classic postmillennial thought the Christianization of worldly institutions during the Millennium will be a by-product of the success of the church's mission to make disciples of all peoples, not a result of a direct attempt by the church to take over these institutions.

I do not mean to imply that Christians should be politically inactive, or that they should not seek political office. It is certainly better for the righteous to rule than the wicked (Prov. 29:2). Thus, while I disagree with the claim that the church's mandate is to take dominion, I also disagree with those who criticize any attempt to establish "the rule of the righteous" (as television commentator Bill Moyers has put it). My point is that the church's main responsibility is evangelism and discipleship, not political activism. Christians should exercise righteous "dominion" when the opportunity presents itself, and doing so does not require compromise with Christian principles. But the church has no general mandate from Christ to seek or achieve worldwide or even nationwide political dominion before His return.

End of document, CRJ0024A.TXT (original CRI file name),
"Are Christians Supposed to Take Dominion?"
release A, February 7, 1994
R. Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.

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