What is Dominion Theology?
Dominionism is the belief that Christians have a divine right to fill, and if necessary seize positions of power in the society and government, in order to reshape them in an exclusively Christian way. For many of them, in the end times (which, they believe, we are in or on the brink of), God will create special leaders who will overcome the world, destroy the enemies of Christ and attain ruling power ('dominion') throughout the world, ushering in the Kingdom of God. Some of the leading Pentecostalist preachers use elements of dominion theology when preaching, and use terms inferring that such leaders will come from their own ranks. Dominion teachings are a feature of most leaders of Latter Rain, Christian Nationalist, and many other end-times-oriented movements, and have been around in many forms for a long, long time. It's sometimes referred to as "Kingdom Now" or "Christian Reconstructionism" (though the latter term is sometimes used for earlier and less strict movements that have little to do with today's dominion theology.) Each of these is different in many ways, but have much in common, especially in attitude. These are all forms of triumphalism, which is not so much a theology as an ethos or attitude or personal view of what's best for our world -- namely, the ruling victory of whatever group you're a part of.
Many of today's Dominion teachers envision a future where the "manifest sons of God" (sometimes known as 'Joel's Army'), a spiritually-empowered elite, will be armed with supernatural power for the purpose of wresting control of the world from the hands of Satan's slaves. Their predecessors today are the "mighty men of God" who, while not quite of the same level of power, are nonetheless the ones faithful Christians are to take their marching orders from. They are to exercise "heavenly" dominion over whatever aspects of life they can. In some versions of this concept, the manifest children will already have perfected new Kingdom-bodies, and they will be able to stride across the earth with the power of gods. The manifest sons will have a "Joshua Generation" or "Caleb generation" as followers, the faithful few whom God will greatly empower. The manifest sons of God, leading the Joshua generation, would exercise dominion over society, establish the Kingdom, complete the Church, and (a few even whisper) perhaps even complete Jesus, who up until their success is a head without a Body. The organized bodies of Christianity (denominations, seminaries, interchurch agencies, most parachurch groups, and most especially the Roman Catholic Church), so many versions of dominionism goes, are controlled by the spirit of the Anti-Christ and thus will be among the first to be vanquished by the new order.
A key word in this is "theonomy". In this context, Theonomy is the belief that through the Bible, God has given the personal and social direction for all human governance, to the exclusion of all who have differing beliefs or no belief. This is modeled along the lines of God's covenant with ancient Israel, and has contact points with the advocates of full Sharia law among Muslim nations. Dominionism is a subset of 'Christian' theonomy. The Hebrew kingdoms and their model for governing, all went badly awry, and God sent the true Prophets to challenge their system, and eventually pulled them down.
One big problem here: Christians believe that the Israel covenant was fulfilled not by the Law, but by Jesus. That is the main context of what Jesus did. The good news was Jesus Himself, not a takeover of government and calling on the name of Jesus as if He were a mere Caesar. When Jesus was before Pilate on His last day, He specifically said that His Kingdom was not of this world. And just like Christ, the churches in Acts and in the Letters show no interest at all in running the government or in excluding any other religions or groups from doing so. They were just fine with others running things. Even when they were being murdered by those others, they did not call for a Christian coup d'etat, but simply bore witness both to what was wrong and what was right. Once the church joined the power structure, it became as hell-bent on butchery and uniformity as its predecessors in power. Christians of the Middle Ages are hardly welcome examples of what it's like for outspoken Christians to run things. But we are no different than they were.
God is in charge, to be sure. But the character of God is seen in how God rules: quietly, in subtext, behind the scenes, beneath the surface, respectful of the freedoms God put into us, through mercy and grace. In 'Christian' theonomy, God's normal means of rule is control that is openly designated to a brash few humans as their calling, exercised freely in whatever manner is 'necessary'. Dominion theology is theonomy on steroids. It has a God who, through the chosen humans, looks and thinks and acts just like Caesar, right down to Caesar's oppressions. The New Testament creed is 'Jesus is Lord', and if so, then Caesar (= any ruling power) isn't.
Two other things go with theonomy, Dominionism, and Kingdom Now thinking: (1) a belief that the Bible does not err on all specific matters, and (2) a belief that the United States was founded to be a Christian nation. Because the Bible doesn't make mistakes, the theonomist feels free not to have to reevaluate a policy or a decision, as to whether it's just or has a positive effect, especially on the poor. They hold that if America becomes the Christian nation it was meant to be, poverty would simply end, except for an underclass of moral miscreants that would eventually be destined for the fires of hell. And the nations of the world would have a duty to bow to the US.
Christians who belong to Kingdom Now-related movements try to separate themselves from the above picture by emphasizing the godliness of the dominion, guaranteed by the clear work of the Spirit in its leaders. But "godly" has a substantive content, that of being in character with God -- especially, for Christians, with Jesus as shown in the New Testament, who is the definitive word on what God is like and what God wants from us. We need to ask if dominion theology shares the characteristics and concerns of Jesus, or if it remakes the imagery of Revelation into the image of fascism:
- No matter how much we read in the Bible about how Christ and the early church were totally unconcerned with getting control and power over the world or the nation or even their own villages, we can't get this conquest stuff out of our heads. Power and control are the stuff of the worship of Ba'al ('Master') or Mars ('War'), not of the God who was murdered by our hands. The word 'dominion' has the same root as 'domineer', 'dominate' and 'domination'. But Christ's followers were not called to domineer or dominate, they were called to serve and love. Such obvious Jesus-stuff is so far out of the picture of Dominionism it doesn't usually even rate a passing mention.
- No matter how much we're called to freely share the only key to spiritual power (the gospel of Jesus Christ) with one and all, we want to believe there's insider stuff that matters, and that we are among the good few who know.
- No matter how many signposts of the Kingdom God puts into the daily life through the other people around us (the real Kingdom-Now), and no matter how much the New Testament teaches us to have a spirit of forgiveness and grace, Dominion theologies want to damn those 'others' around us to the flames of hell and push them out of public discourse. Dominion theology is about 'Christian' dictatorship.
- No matter how much Jesus and the apostle Paul speak of being servants, we keep getting sucked into to the magnetic idea of being in the master class. Granted, it's thrilling to be in the class that rules. Dominion can be addictive once you've tasted it. But put yourself in other people's place; it doesn't feel so good, does it? If Scripture shows anything, it shows that Christ is most likely to be found among the outs rather than the ins. And when He's with the ins, He's often not very nice to them.
- No matter how much it is clear that God only sends real, seriously flawed humans like us to lead the Church, and calls on them to be servant-leaders instead of masters, Dominion theology teaches us to lust for flawless superheroes and übermensch that are above 'petty' questioning.
Can't you just feel the testosterone rush behind these ideas? I wonder how many women will become über-apostles? Doesn't it sound just like the rant of some crazy dictator? Does their kind of theonomy seem at all like the Kingdom that God speaks of? Isn't it strange that the 'manifest sons of God' exercise dominion in a way directly rejected by Jesus?
Also, Dominionism teaches that the existing structures are run by the anti-Christ. This is a magnetic temptation to those who have had to deal with frustrating church bureaucrats pushing their own agendas without regard to Christ. But there's no anti-Christ pulling supernatural strings on his slave church bureaucrats or demonic seminary profs. There's just typical humans in those roles, spreading typically-human 'bull chips' that should be seen and handled for what they are, not as a Satanic conspiracy.
There is simply no real basis for dominion theology anywhere in the New Testament. It is, in fact, vigorously anti-Christian in the power-obsessed attitude it breeds. Dominion theology just isn't the way God operates in the Scriptures or life. And thus it is not how we are to live or think.
Further reading about dominionism
- Dominion Theology.
- Christian Reconstructionism.
- the New Apostolic Reformation, a Pentecostalist faction in which Dominionism is strongly, but not unanimously, held. (The Wikipedia article is somewhat biased against the movement.)
- In the United States, the influence of Dominionism has latched itself onto a wing of one of our two main political parties, the Republicans, and major aspects of it were espoused by three of their candidates for the 2016 nomination. Dominionists also provided hard-core support for that party's eventual 2016 nominee, even though he himself held no such belief. Being partisan is not a problem; a Christian is free to take sides on public matters. However, Dominionist 'faith' is reshaped in the image of a political faction, and it is proclaimed as the only 'Christian' answer, with all other possibilities declared 'evil'. This makes it a very serious problem, not just for the church, but for the nation. Dominionists (among others) have made this alliance as part of the bargain for going after their true goal. Is political power our God, or is Jesus? Here's a very good and thoughtful blog response to this warpage of our faith, by Jonathan Martin. Its last line raises the real question here.