Taking Rushdoony’s rhetoric about ‘dominion’ over the world, later leaders have loosely come to ascribe to a theology known as Dominionism. This is not an organization, but a sort of filter through which its adherents view Christian doctrine, and their role in the world as Christians. Simply put, Dominionism is the drive to take and exercise Christian dominion over all the earth, in order to bring about the return of Christ and the end of the world.
This theology is based partly on the ‘great commission’ in Matt 28: 18-20:
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (NRSV)
From this, they believe it is their responsibility to convert all peoples and all nations.
The other primary foundation for dominionism as a practical theology is their particular form of eschatology, or end-times theology (outlined in another post). The short version is that most dominionist thinkers believe that they must bring the entire world into ‘captivity to Christ,’ or essentially make the entire world the ‘Kingdom of God’ before Jesus can return. For them, the return of Christ cannot begin until the entire world has been brought ‘under the dominion’ of Christ. This is the impetus for Rushdoony’s call for theocracy, and for Dominionist theology.
It is important to note that many of the people who are most active in promoting this theology also deny it whenever it does get media attention. For example, when Dominionism did get a brief period of mainstream media attention in 2011, several central figures were quick to deny any knowledge of or involvement in the movement. Pat Robertson said, “I have no idea what this Dominionism is, and whatever it is, it doesn’t apply to me.” However, as reported by Al Dager in his book Vengeance Is Ours: The Church In Dominion (Sword, 1990), Robertson, in a speech in Dallas in 1984, said:
“Now what do you do? What do all of us do? We get ready to take dominion! We get ready to take dominion! It is all going to be ours–I’m talking about all of it. Everything that you would say is a good part of the secular world. Every means of communication, the news, the television, the radio, the cinema, the arts, the government, the finance–it’s going to be ours! God’s going to give it to His people. We should prepare to reign and rule with Jesus Christ.” (Dager, p. 95)
In this speech, as he does in his book The Secret Kingdom, Robertson is not only pretty clearly laying out the core dominionist theology, he is also echoing the 7M theology (see Seven Mountains Theology-link to come), a specific ‘action plan’ for achieving Christian dominion.
Similarly, Matt Barber (known for his involvement with Concerned Women for America and the Liberty Council among others), tweeted:
“Can someone tell me what a dominionist is? Best I can tell it’s some kinda scary Christian monster that lives under liberals’ beds. #Silly”
Yet one year previous, Barber’s own Liberty University (founded by Jerry Falwell) was the host of the “American Vision’s Worldview Super Conference” entitled “2010 Sovereignty and Dominion conference – Biblical Blueprints for Victory!” The ‘Mission Statement’ for that conference read:
“The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:28 that God created us to multiply, fill the earth, and take dominion of His creation for His Glory. When Jesus came to earth, He gave his disciples the Great Commission and told them to make disciples of all nations, Baptize them, and teach them to obey all that he had commanded (Matthew 28:18- 20). These two mandates form the basis for why Christʼs Church exists on this planet. Every square inch of this world belongs to King Jesus. It is our privilege to serve Him by exercising servanthood dominion in every area of life.”
As a final example (there are many more), John Aman, Director of Communications at Truth in Action Ministries (formerly known as Coral Ridge Ministries), claimed that “dominionism is a sham charge; one reserved for Christians on the right [as] a handy way to smear evangelicals like Bachmann and Perry who bring biblically informed moral convictions into public debate.” However, the Executive Director of that same organization published a book called The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Blueprints for Political Action (pdf here), in which he said:
“Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less… Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land — of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.”
In short, Robertson claims to have no idea what dominionism is despite having openly advocated for it; Barber says it is a silly scare tactic even while his employer sponsors conferences promoting it; and Aman says it doesn’t even exist while the former Executive Director of his own organization makes it explicitly clear that “world conquest” is their goal. It is important that we look at the entire body of work and commentary by the key figures here, rather than only at their evasions or denials. It is not accidental that, when the spotlight is shone onto their theocratic aims, they demur; they prefer to work behind the scenes, rightly fearing moderate & progressive opposition.
This theology is pervasive, widespread, and shared by an alarming number of people in business, politics, and culture, and it is not simply a ‘flavor’ of faith. For adherents of this theology, it forms, in effect, their marching orders. Many dominionists, even if they never use the term, are very much dedicated to working behind the scenes to make Christian dominion over the earth a reality, and to eradicate all other faiths and freedom of religion.
Few will ever use the word dominionist. But you will hear phrases like ‘take dominion,’ ‘take back the kingdom’ or the ‘high places,’ ‘establish’ or ‘advance the kingdom,’ or similar metaphors. They will also refer to ‘discipling,’ ‘shepherding,’ ‘reclaiming,’ or ‘reconciliation.’ Dominionist rhetoric tends to be closely interwoven with that of alleged Christian persecution. When one occasionally hears a right-wing pundit claiming that Christians will be rounded up and put in camps, deprived of citizenship or the vote, and similar alarmist claims, it is usually someone with dominionist ties.
When public figures use these terms they are not expressing their personal beliefs in a quixotic, metaphorical, or quirky way. They are signaling, to those that recognize the language, that they are part of the team. Does this sound like I’m advancing some kind of tin-foil-hat conspiracy theory? I freely admit that, in some ways, it does. My aim in this community is to provide the evidence.
Dominionist theology does have or has had a few specific organizations and branded ideologies by which it has been advanced. I will present three of these in their own individual posts: Seven Mountains Mandate, Transformations, and the New Apostolic Reformation.