As promised, here is some background information on Dominion Theology. I write this because (1) this stuff in its pure form is not Christianity (in spite of what it calls itself), and (2) very few people or organizations come straight out and say “this is dominion theology” — it’s almost always presented as something else.
For the first article in this series click here.
Some clear and predictable signs that the religious person / organization you’ve come across is being influenced by dominion theology are…
Abuse of Prophecy
Dominionists often claim to have “apostolic” or “prophetic” “visions” and may even call themselves “apostle” or “prophet” the way the leaders of most churches call themselves “reverend”. I believe the gift of prophecy does still exist in our time, but the real thing is not showy or self-promoting. Biblically the spiritual gift of prophecy is the ability to speak God’s truth into a specific situation, not to predict the future, and NOT to tell other people what to do. When dominionists tell you they have received a “word from the Lord” it usually involves you giving either time or money or both.
If you’re not sure what you’re hearing is from God, compare the person’s words against scripture, and compare their lives against the lives of the disciples described in the book of Acts. Does the person’s teaching agree with the teaching of Biblical apostles and prophets?
A Distorted View of the Work of the Holy Spirit
Dominionists over-emphasize the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit and tend to form spiritual pecking-orders in the church based on the number and quality of gifts a person appears to demonstrate. Worse, they believe all Christians must speak in tongues and anyone who doesn’t is not a real Christian. This teaching is the clear opposite of Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians.
A Distorted View of Repentance and Salvation
Dominionists teach that “It is simply not true that a person can repent at any time. Repentance is dependent upon the convicting action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of sinners and believers. The conviction of the Holy Spirit, which often accompanies the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, will result in the revelation of the sinfulness of self which should lead to Godly sorrow.” (quoted from CIST website – Christian International .org ) In short, a person needs to be convicted by a sermon or teaching while in church.
Orthodox Christianity teaches that God is always calling His people to Himself, and that a person can repent and believe anytime, anywhere and in many different ways. Conversion can happen in hotel rooms, in the car, while at home… not necessarily in church, not necessarily with anyone’s guidance other than God’s, and not necessarily with immediate “evidence” of spiritual gifts.
A Damaging Distortion of Evangelical Christianity
The media and the general public are not aware that the teachings of Dominion Theology do NOT represent legitimate evangelical Christianity. As a result, secularists (and some Christians as well!) are often led to believe that all Christians think…
(a) that the mission of the church goes beyond the spiritual transformation of individuals, and should include a kind of “moral patriotism” in political opposition to secular humanism.
(b) that Christian hope is to be found in the plan to restructure society along Biblical lines. (On the contrary, Christian hope is in the return of Christ at the end of the age, when there will be “a new heaven and a new earth”.)
(c) that health and prosperity is the right of every believer, and anyone who suffers is not obeying God or living the Christian life correctly.
(d) that Christians replace the Jews as the new or true Israel, the “chosen people”, and Israel has no future as a distinct nation within God’s plan. Historically, this has been the theological foundation for anti-Semitism among Christians who don’t know the Bible’s teachings to the contrary.
Dominionism uses a lot of spiritual-sounding buzzwords that aren’t found in the Bible or whose meanings have been distorted from the original concepts. Watch for these key buzzwords:
“Five-fold ministries” – the restoration of apostles and prophets to the Church to take their place alongside evangelists, pastors, and teachers
“God-given destiny” – “We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ is God’s instrument to establish and extend God’s Kingdom until the literal coming of Christ to reign over all the earth” (CIST website)
“Deliverance” – an over-emphasis on the works of the Devil is easily observed. Dominionists are keen to ‘cast out’ not only spirits but things, bad habits, etc – anything “mental (emotional), physical or spiritual normally associated with demon activity” (CIST website)
“Christian Reconstructionism” – Sara Diamond of theocracywatch.org calls Christian Reconstructionism “the most intellectually grounded, though esoteric, brand of dominion theology.” She notes, “promoters of Reconstructionism see their role as ideological entrepreneurs committed to a long-term struggle. […] Christian Reconstructionism was the most influential form of dominion theology, and it influenced both the theological concepts and political activism of white Protestant conservative evangelicals mobilized by the Christian Right. But very few evangelicals have even heard of dominion theology, and fewer still embrace Christian Reconstructionism.” – Sara Diamond quoted on theocracywatch .org)
“Theonomy” – defined as ‘the application of God’s law to all spheres of everyday life’, this differs from traditional Christianity in its focus on legalism. Dominionists really believe it’s possible to live out God’s law as given in the Old Testament. Jesus’ sacrifice therefore becomes meaningless; the true faith is based in faith in Him, not in peoples’ obedience to religious law.)
Christian International School of Theology (CIST) is a foundational seminary / training ground for movement leaders. Similar to the school described in my piece on the prosperity movement found here, CIST is run by a handful of families whose names appear throughout the school’s documentation.
The course catalog includes: for a Bachelor of Ministry degree – 34 credits in prophecy, 6 credits in church destiny /church growth, 15 credits in spiritual gifts / miracles / deliverances. For the Master of Ministry degree – the program is mostly custom-made from a list of electives. Students may choose from a list of 45 credits in prophets & prophecy, 12 credits in scriptural study. Other courses in specific books of the Bible, offerings are up to 24 credits. Greek and Hebrew are added at the end of the course list like an afterthought. At the Doctoral level many of the course titles — including most of the core courses — are the same as the master’s level courses. Added are required courses in “ministry training” or “mentoring”. Electives include Angelology and Demonology. Many of the above courses are offered only in “seminar” form, not as regular classes at the school.
To see how far this differs from typical seminary degree requirements, see the list of required courses from our local seminary, (scroll down to page 21).
Other key players/organizations:
Pat Robertson’s CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network)
The Institute for Christian Economics
The Coalition on Revival (COR)
D. James Kennedy – not a full-fledged Dominionist but strongly influenced by the movement
The Vineyard Movement – not full-fledged in the movement but leaning that way. I love their contemporary worship music but I take their theology with a huge grain of salt.
Commentary from Outside Researchers
Chip Berlet writes:
In its generic sense, dominionism is a very broad political tendency within the Christian Right. It ranges from soft to hard versions in terms of its theocratic impulse.
Soft Dominionists are Christian nationalists. They believe that Biblically-defined immorality and sin breed chaos and anarchy. They fear that America’s greatness as God’s chosen land has been undermined by liberal secular humanists, feminists, and homosexuals. Purists want litmus tests for issues of abortion, tolerance of gays and lesbians, and prayer in schools. Their vision has elements of theocracy, but they stop short of calling for supplanting the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Hard Dominionists believe all of this, but they want the United States to be a Christian theocracy. For them the Constitution and Bill of Rights are merely addendums to Old Testament Biblical law. They claim that Christian men with specific theological beliefs are ordained by God to run society. Christians and others who do not accept their theological beliefs would be second-class citizens. This sector includes Christian Reconstructionists, but it has a growing number of adherents in the leadership of the Christian Right.
As I have written elsewhere, crafting an appropriate response depends on what sector of the Christian Right we are criticizing:
Christian Conservatives – They play by the rules of a democratic republic, and so our response should be to develop better ideas and carry out better grassroots organizing campaigns.
Christian Nationalists – They erode pluralism, and we must defend separation of church and state, but also engage in a discussion of the legitimate boundaries when religious beliefs intersect with participation in a secular civil society.
Christian Theocrats – They want to replace democracy with an authoritarian theocratic society run by a handful of Christian men. They seek to supersede the Constitution and Bill of Rights with Old Testament Biblical law. We must oppose them and not give an inch in our defense of democracy against theocracy.
see http://www.talk2action.org/story/2005/12/5/10810/4239 for the complete article above.
John Dean, former counsel to the President, writes on: http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20060825.html
Some General — and Disturbing — Information about Christian Nationalism
Christian Nationalists are a small but highly influential minority. They certainly do not represent a majority of Americans, or even a majority of evangelicals. Rather, when chatting, Goldberg compared them to neoconservatives, who are a small minority of conservatives, but a highly (if not a disproportionately) influential one. By way of further comparison, she explained that Christian nationalists operate and proselytize in ways not unlike those American Communists once used. (Based on my own research, I agree with her analogy.)
Christian Nationalists dominate today’s Republican Party. Goldberg conducted her research much as an anthropologist might; she traveled to Texas, Colorado, West Virginia and other places to mix and mingle with Christian nationalists at the grass- roots level, in their churches, conventions and other places where they congregate. She asked questions and listened to answers. In her book, Goldberg cites a 2002 study regarding the “strong influence” of the religious right “in eighteen state Republican parties” and “moderate influence in twenty-six others.” As she no doubt correctly suspects, “their control has only expanded since then.”
Pat Robertson is a central figure, and probably the best known figure, in the development of Christian nationalism. Goldberg reports that it was Pat Robertson who encouraged “the idea that Christians have a God-given right to rule … at the center of the movement to bring evangelicals into politics.” Robertson, however, was forced to remove the Christian-reconstructionist dean of his law school in order to get the school accredited.
D. James Kennedy, probably the least-known figure, is now a key player in Christian nationalism. When I spoke with Goldberg, she mentioned that James Kennedy should not be overlooked, as he often is. Indeed, I had never heard of him, and I have read widely about the religious right. In her book, she describes Kennedy as the leader of the evangelical Presbyterian Church in America — which is not related to the mainstream Presbyterian Church, but rather serves as “the bridge” connecting many influential reconstructionists to the larger evangelical world. Kennedy’s is one of the “popularizers of dominion theology,” Goldberg explains. Not surprisingly, these good Christians simply smear those with whom they disagree, most recently between Charles Darwin and Adolph Hitler — and the Holocaust.
Christian nationalists want to protect those who defy the federal courts, by stripping federal courts of jurisdiction over cases involving any state or local government’s “acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.” In response to the removal of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore — for defying a federal court order to remove the 2.6 ton Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the Montgomery judicial building — reconstructionists rallied to Moore’s defense. Indeed, they sought legislation in both houses of Congress to prevent federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over such state or local matters. Indeed, it is the courts that Christian nationalists seek to rely on to impose their agenda on America.
Material in this and companion reports has been excerpted and/or adapted from three sources: (1) “Dominion Theology,” Pastor Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel, January, 1996; (2) Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse?, by Thomas Ice and H. Wayne House; and (3) Vengeance Is Ours: The Church in Dominion, by Albert James Dager.