Johan Malan, University of Limpopo, South Africa (February 2006)
Millions of Christians all over the world are confronted with the growing tide of dominionism. This is a form of Christian humanism in which believers see themselves as commissioned and empowered by God to manifest His kingdom on earth to the good of all. Dominionism is based upon kingdom theology since it claims to physically reveal the kingdom of God with all its benefits to humanity. Its institution is described as reconstructionism or a transformation movement because of the far-reaching changes that society must undergo to ensure a better life for all. This situation is described by some as “heaven on earth” and presupposes the incapacitating of Satan’s opposing kingdom of darkness.
Christian reconstructionists accept
It is argued that in Christ we regain the dominion that Adam had lost because of the Fall (Gen. 3). The major implication of this view is this – if we are involved in holding dominion over all the Earth then we must be involved in running it, including the ordering of all forms of human government. To do that, they teach that a bold stand should be taken in faith on our divine mandate. We should also be engaged in spiritual warfare to strip Satan of the powers and destructive influence that he gained after depriving the fallen Adam of his God-given authority.
The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) is regarded as an inherent part of the dominion mandate, with the express implication that entire nations should be discipled and that Christ’s authority over all the Earth should become manifest through the Church which is His body. All people will, in all walks of life, benefit from the imposing of God’s laws by the church, which is the overt manifestation of His kingdom on Earth.
The peace, prosperity and good fortunes offered by this dominionist movement render it very popular among business and political leaders, who see substantial advantages for themselves in the realization of these objectives. Most of all, churches will benefit because of their enhanced status, higher public acclaim, increased income and bigger influence in society. Naïve evangelicals also see this as an opportunity to quickly reach the millions of lost for Christ and to even disciple entire nations effortlessly.
Superficially evaluated, dominionism appears to be a very dynamic and positive movement to release the power and blessings of God’s kingdom to eradicate all forms of evil, to significantly improve people’s lives, to heal a troubled world of all its ailments, and to bring the lost masses to Christ.
Are we commissioned to do all these things? This movement and its doctrinal basis should be thoroughly investigated before recognizing and supporting it.
The very important question that must be answered is whether this vision is in accordance with the nature and functions of the church age in God’s eternal counsel for humanity. On close examination it soon becomes evident that dominionists have taken the blessings, powers and living conditions of the future kingdom dispensation – that will only be revealed after the coming of the King – and have transferred them to the present church age.
The result is a kingdom vision which is dispensationally completely out of place, and therefore presumptuous and humanly-imposed. It elevates man rather than God since the pleasures and rewards of the present life are the prime objectives of the movement. Being supported by the public sector and lavishly financed by the private sector of society, the transformation movement is not only humanly-conceived and humanly-imposed but also humanly-driven. The concept might be derived from the Bible, but dispensationally it is completely out of place.
The leaders of the movement have specific objectives in mind, but to avoid controversy and dissent among supporters they have separated the interim and ultimate objectives of the movements. Its interim objectives are aimed at wide public appeal among all interest groups in society. They have been formulated in such a way that most Christians will see them as beneficial and biblically sound. But this program is only a prelude to another scenario that will naturally develop from the first one. The two phases of dominionism are as follows:
A clear-cut strategy is followed to establish God’s kingdom in various countries. It has local as well as regional and national applications aimed at revealing the benevolent nature of God’s kingdom. Spiritually, the movement is broadly based upon God’s love and intended blessings for all humanity. It is therefore suited to most denominations despite their specific doctrinal persuasions. Socially, it is as user-friendly as possible to serve as a tool for social transformation to a better life. Economically, it is geared to alleviate poverty. Politically it is aimed at collaboration with governments, with a view to promoting kingdom-type governance which will better serve the needs of all people in society. The following interim objectives are pursued:
Unity. Churches should demonstrate their inherent Christian unity by associating with one another within the context of an ecumenical body. In the absence of such a body they should create common structures and join hands to better serve their communities. They should not question one another’s doctrines but remain focused on the task at hand; meanwhile following the World Council of Churches’ guideline that “doctrine divides but service unites.”
Public demonstrations. All the Christians of a particular community or city should occasionally attend mass meetings in public places such as sports stadiums in order to demonstrate their unity, power, commitment to social upliftment, and potential dominance once fully united. They should also arrange marches to demonstrate against injustices and to demand certain changes.
Church growth. Individual congregations and denominations should join the Church Growth Movement with a view to expanding the influence of the church. In this way the church at large can assert its dominance in society. The emphasis in preaching should not be placed on the demands of the Gospel but on easy access to the church. Churches should become more user-friendly and relevant to modern society.
Prayer. Corporate prayer on a fixed weekly or monthly schedule is regarded as a way of ensuring God’s blessings upon the transformation agenda towards realizing His kingdom on Earth. The meetings should demonstrate the ecumenical nature of the movement and the noble objectives of social upliftment to which they committed themselves.
Organization. On the organizational level, nationwide structures should be formed to render assistance to the needy and to promote change through a vibrant process of social transformation. These structures should be staffed by able persons who can organize activities by mobilizing as many as possible volunteers.
Networking. The success of the movement depends upon extensive networking with key figures and organizations in the government and business sectors to obtain backing and support for transformation programs. The unifying network should function in all local communities but also extend to the national level in order to facilitate change there.
Relief programs and counselling. Every local community should set up committees staffed by able persons to organise relief programs and provide counselling to sick, traumatized and afflicted persons. A helping hand should be lent out to all who are in need, whatever their circumstances.
Education and training. The former emphasis on literacy training is rapidly replaced by “orality.” This is an approach to teaching the Bible in which pictures and the spoken word are primarily used instead of teaching the written Word. It is a deconstruction process in which literacy training is declared to be too difficult for most of the uneducated people in underdeveloped countries. Furthermore, vocational training should be offered for the practicing of various skills. The training of pastors for the rapidly expanding church must also be provided for as they are the main agents of change.
Cleansing. Society should be cleansed of all its ailments and contamination such as crime and the suffering caused by disease, poverty, unemployment, oppression, and the exploitation of people. The social, economic, psychological and religious counselling needed should be rendered on a regular basis.
Upliftment. The quality of personal and community life should be uplifted to such an extent that negative attitudes and the propensity to crime will be significantly reduced and ultimately disappear from society. All people should be motivated to observe honourable lifestyles which will challenge other people rather than posing any threat to them.
There are reasons for serious concern over a number of issues in dominionist reforms on the local and in the national levels, such as the forging of ecumenical ties, the application of humanistic methods of church growth, and the church’s shift of focus to socio-economic issues. However, some of the activities are very noble and much needed, and cannot be discredited per se. But before finally evaluating the local manifestations and activities of this movement one should consider them in the light of its ultimate objectives. Biblical statements will then be quoted to test the validity of the entire movement.
Dominion theology can only be properly understood and assessed if its ultimate objectives are brought into the equation. They have clearly been stated by dominion theologians such as C. Peter Wagner, George Otis, Jr., Ted Haggard and others. These objectives are:
Ushering in the kingdom of God on Earth. The kingdom of God should become manifest by Christianizing all the organs of civil society, and empowering the church to play a leading role in determining the nature of public life in all societies. Evil will vanish and God will take full control of the affairs of humanity through the mediation of specially anointed apostles and prophets.
The pulling down of demonic strongholds. The movement’s top leaders see no co-existence of the kingdoms of God and Satan in the world and have wholeheartedly committed themselves to a form of strategic spiritual warfare that will lead to the expected pulling down and utter destruction of Satan’s multiple strongholds on Earth. In territories where this battle has been won, people will be delivered from spiritual oppression and the blinding of their minds by Satan and his demons. With all impeding factors removed they will flock to churches where great revivals will occur. The negative influences of Satan’s kingdom will vanish from societies, including crime, violence, warfare, corruption, false religions, witchcraft, drug abuse, HIV/Aids, etc. All people will rejoice in the kingdom of God and serve Him with one accord.
The discipling of nations. Entire nations will be discipled in a top-down process in which the government takes the lead to accept the Christian faith and introduce Christian principles of governance. The nation will follow suit and soon they will all enjoy the benefits of God’s kingdom and see the crime-rate plunging, the morality of the nation will be raised to biblical standards, the economy will boom, and all forms of suffering and poverty rapidly will fade into oblivion.
The cultural transformation of nations. As nations are discipled and drawn into the kingdom of God, they become involved with an intensive process of cultural transformation. All aspects of their culture – including religion, politics, economic practices, social life, education, sport, arts and recreation – should be conformed to Christian standards. While doing so, God will guide the nation to higher levels of prosperity, peace and cultural achievements.
The establishment of a world church. The ultimate objective with collaborative ties between various churches is the complete vanishing of denominational boundaries and the establishment of the post-denominational church of the 21st century. All local assemblies will be cells of united city churches under the leadership of apostles and prophets. The city churches will globally be linked into the emerging world church. When that stage has been reached, the kingdom of God will have been established world-wide and have dominion over the nations.
Global Day of Prayer. This occasion, which was first staged in May 2005, is patterned after the New Age Movement’s World-wide Healing Day on 31st December annually, during which supporters of the movement seek to promote unity, peace and harmony on Earth through meditative prayers which are offered at the same time. The Global Day of Prayer is an effort to bring about a new Pentecost during which God’s Spirit will be freshly poured out upon Earth to kindle a global movement towards manifesting God’s kingdom on Earth. The corporate nature of this activity is also a practical expression of ecumenical ties and the future unification of all Christian churches in a global structure.
When the ultimate objectives of dominionism are taken into account it becomes very clear what the grassroots movements in every nation are ultimately aimed towards. Within this broader context the following concerns may be raised:
Unity. Joint ventures by churches on the local level are only the early beginnings of an ecumenical movement on the national level, to be logically followed by international ecumenical ties, and ultimately the post-denominational world church. The authority that will be vested in the emerging city churches and world church is a major aim of dominionism and has a distinct humanistic connotation by elevating and empowering humanity to become masters of their own destiny. Churches that do not subscribe to this vision should not even become involved on the grassroots level of ecumenical ventures.
Public demonstrations by multi-denominational groups of Christians are humanistic efforts to assert their dominance in society. Their strength is not in the Lord but in the bargaining power generated by their large constituency in society.
The Church Growth Movement is a method to bring the whole world into the church, thus enabling the church to accept an unchallenged leadership position in society. In order to hasten this process, entry into the church is made as easy as possible. The major aims with this movement are to bring all people into the church, thereby asserting its supremacy and vastly increasing its income. If the salvation of souls was truly the main aim, the biblical standards of repentance and rebirth would not have been compromised for the sake of rapid expansion.
Prayer meetings for the saving of souls and the material improvement of people’s lives are important and much needed. But why should they be corporate, ecumenical and organized concurrently to supposedly increase their impact? The humanistic and dominionist agenda with these prayer meetings are very obvious. Even though there might be many Christians who support these meetings with pure intentions to intercede for suffering and spiritually dead people, they still participate in an ecumenical venture aimed at achieving social transformation and upliftment rather than spiritual growth. They also have to account to themselves why they think joint prayer meetings will have more power with God than prayers offered alone or in smaller groups.
Cleansing entails the deliverance of individuals, communities and the entire world from sin and evil influences. In this process, two erroneous assumptions are made. The first one is that all personal and social problems can be attributed to demons. Deliverance from demons is then practiced to solve the problems. However, according to the Bible, most of people’s problems are described as the works of the un-crucified flesh (Gal. 5:17; Rom. 8:13). The second assumption is that the devil can be evicted from entire societies during this dispensation, and his strongholds pulled down. This assumption is not supported by the Bible during the church dispensation and will only happen at the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. 20:2-3).
Relief programs to alleviate suffering and poverty are not seen in this movement as acts which are secondary to evangelisation and the efforts of governments, but as the primary responsibility of the church. As a result of this view, scarce resources of the church are not used for evangelism but for the funding of humanitarian projects.
Education and social upliftment are also now regarded to be the work of the church, but they are not. These tasks are the prime responsibility of civil governments.
Dominionism is intent on establishing a literal, physical kingdom on Earth before the Second Coming of Christ. Dominionists see the emerging kingdom as being driven by the power of ecumenical unity and also by greater dedication to God’s laws. The inclusive nature of the united church of the end-time necessitates a very general and superficial definition of Christianity in order to accommodate all possible creeds and denominations.
No efforts are made to identify and eradicate spiritual deception; neither are any “negative” subjects such as the Antichrist and the coming tribulation period discussed by Dominionists. All the “dark” prophecies are historically interpreted as having been fulfilled during the first century AD. The end-time is only associated with the ever expanding kingdom of God on Earth, great revivals, and far-reaching socio-economic and political transformation under the auspices of the global church and its leaders. The process of reconstruction will be in accordance with the principles of God’s unrivalled kingdom. They teach that when Christ comes, the kingdom will already have been established by the church, which is His body.
The decidedly physical nature of the dominionists’ kingdom explains the strong emphasizing of physical (material) changes in the world and the weak emphasizing of our relationship with Christ. They want to see practical changes in the world towards greater unity and a better life for all. They insist that this dispensation will end on a high note when Jesus Christ will return to establish His eternal kingdom.
The dawning of the new millennium saw the birth of a transformation movement in Southern Africa as part of the process to introduce and establish the kingdom of God in this region. The ball was set rolling by the release of two transformations videos by the Sentinel group of George Otis, Jr. In these videos, exaggerated claims are made of a number of cities and regions which were delivered from evil strongholds during a transformation process. In the videos, the deceptive impression is made that joint, ecumenical prayer meetings, which also included Catholics, were the main force behind the eviction of Satan and his evil practices. It is said that crime decreased drastically and prisons became empty. According to the videos, harmony and peace descended upon the liberated communities, revival followed and the various economies entered a phase of rapid growth.
Dr. B. Mostert of NUPSA (Network for United Prayer in Southern Africa) widely distributed the first of these two videos in South Africa and Namibia and also promoted the books of George Otis (for a review of the latter’s Moral Government Theology, click here). Dr. Mostert also became a follower of C. Peter Wagner of the World Prayer Center. Like George Otis, he engages in spiritual mapping as preparation for strategic spiritual warfare to pull down demonic strongholds in cities and countries.
In 2001, Dr. Mostert and his teams implemented action “Cleansing South Africa” to cleanse the entire country of evil influences, including bloodline curses. Some of the strongholds that were allegedly pulled down during prayer marches were at caves and other sites where the first inhabitants of South Africa, the Bushmen (San) lived and introduced ancestor worship and witchcraft to this country. After this operation, the country was dedicated to the Lord and declared to be free of evil strongholds. On being confronted by the reality of Satan’s continued presence and influence after his presumed incapacitation, NUPSA said that these are his last convulsions before finally leaving. These convulsions or last agonies of the devil have rather been increasing during the subsequent five years.
Also in 2001, the first transformation meeting was held in the big Newlands sports stadium in Cape Town. The organizer was Graham Power, a wealthy businessman who had a vision of revival and economic prosperity starting in South Africa and expanding up north to transform the entire continent. He believes that, according to his vision, Africa would become a light to the rest of the world, to challenge other countries by their example of the practical and beneficial changes that will follow once the unity and goodwill of the kingdom of God has taken root in the different countries. Graham was also fired up by the transformation video of Otis and is a staunch believer in transformation towards kingdom conditions.
In 2002, transformation mass meetings were held in seven South African cities. All churches were invited. The focal areas for prayer in 2002 were HIV/Aids, poverty, crime and the leadership of the country. The scope for these meetings expanded throughout Africa and many other countries abroad. On May 15, 2005, it culminated in a Global Day of Prayer to render transformation a global movement. The aim with this day of prayer was to bring about a new Pentecost that would release the power of God’s kingdom across the world.
In neighbouring Namibia, the transformation movement also has a strong focus on unity and secular welfare. In a Transformation Namibia brochure the movement states its main objectives as follows: “With it we want to spread the Transformation message, of making the Namibian Dream a reality by uniting Government, Business and Church leaders.” The lack of true spiritual commitment is also evident from a statement of their activities on grassroots level. They envisage: “Dream Centres to address the specific needs in each community, e.g. distribution of food, distribution of clothes, counselling in personal issues such as HIV/Aids and drug abuse, day care for children, and various skills that could assist unemployed individuals to make a living.” The movement has no specific spiritual content other than churches joining hands within the framework of the Council of Churches of Namibia (CNN), a national ecumenical body formed after the example set by the World Council of Churches (WCC).
It is evident that the transformation or restructuring of communities, nations, and eventually the whole world, is a concerted effort to take dominion over them on behalf of Christ. Biblical truths are grossly distorted to substantiate the agenda of dominionism:
A distortion of the dominion
mandate. The mandate of
A distortion of the Great
A distortion of the kingdom concept. Christ clearly indicated that His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom which is not of this world (John 18:36). For this reason it cannot now be physically observed in the world as it is vested in the hearts of true believers (Luke 17:20-21). That does not mean that Christ’s kingdom will never be physically revealed on earth – it will indeed, but only at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He will come as the King of kings (Rev. 19:16), have the devil bound and sealed up in a bottomless pit (Rev. 20:2-3), and rule with His saints (Rev. 5:9-10; 20:6). This rule cannot be instituted during the physical absence of the Lord Jesus as He must be back to restore the throne of David in Jerusalem and rule the world from there (Acts 15:16-17).
A distortion of the church age. Biblical statements and promises should be interpreted within their proper dispensational context. The church age should never be equated with the kingdom age which will only follow after the coming of the King. During the church age, the majority support enjoyed by the kingdom of darkness renders the world basically a wicked place to live in (John 3:19). Christians are called upon to be salt of a corrupt Earth and the light of a dark world (Matt. 5:13-14; Phil. 2:15). We should not be surprised if we are hated and rejected by this evil world and its rulers (John 15:18-20; 16:33). Because of this, we are strangers and sojourners on earth during this dispensation (1 Pet. 2:11) – not rulers.
A distortion of our present
status. Presently, believers are not kings who
rule over their inheritance but soldiers for the cross. Paul says, “You
therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim.
2:3). We must put on the whole armour of God that we may be able to stand
against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6:11). During this dispensation, the
devil is not stripped of his powers and influence over entire communities and
nations – only individual believers are delivered from his domination. As for
the outside world, it will remain spiritually dark as ”the whole world lies
under the sway of the wicked one” (1
A distortion of unity. Dominionists also distort Christ’s injunction that we should be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:11,21). They interpret this command structurally rather than spiritually. To them, the spiritual bond among believers should manifest ecumenically by working towards the realization of a united world church. The spiritual bond in the united family of churches, particularly in the WCC, is very weak and poorly defined to avoid offending any of its constituent denominations. In this way, they have only succeeded in achieving a predominantly nominal form of Christianity with an outward form of godliness, but denying the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:5). They may have a kingdom vision to change the world in terms of their own agenda but they are not used of God. Paul clearly admonishes true Christians to leave the ranks of nominal believers: “From such turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:5). Structural unity should not be pursued when it compromises one’s faith: “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognised among you” (1 Cor. 11:19).
A distortion of our work ethic. The works of dominionists are primarily of a secular nature. They see it as their main task to reconstruct the world in terms of kingdom principles. These humanitarian works are of a social, economic, political, or medical nature. They usually, only as a sideline, refer to the evangelization and spiritual growth of people. “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Important as the daily needs of people may be, we should not only emphasize and supply in these needs as they do not have eternal value. Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:19). Our main expectation and preparations for a better life should be focused on the promise of the resurrection and eternal life in heaven.
A distortion of end-time prophecies. There is a general denial among dominionists of a deteriorating world at the end of the church dispensation, leading to the tribulation period and the revelation of the man of sin. They do not accept the fact of a great falling away in the end-time (2 Thess. 2:3) and the proliferation of evil and wickedness to unprecedented levels (Matt. 24:12; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Rev. 22:11). Instead of this biblical scenario, they promote a view of a united and peaceful world under the control of the revived church of the end-time. They refuse to make any statements that would jeopardize the man-made ecumenical ties that hold Christianity together. Religious deception is not investigated and uprooted as it would offend some of the participating churches in the ecumenical movement. For this reason, doctrinal purity is not pursued, thereby leaving the door wide open to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1). Nothing is said on the rise of the Antichrist and global preparations for the war of Armageddon as that do not fit into their kingdom vision for the world. They can only offer to people the false hope of a man-made Utopia.
A distortion of Israel.
Replacement theology is generally practiced, in which churches see themselves
as part of the “New Israel” through which God will rule the world.
Dominionists do not recognize biblical Israel and their end-time restoration
to the land of their fathers (cf.
The kingdom of God will only be physically manifested when Christ comes: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). The devil will be bound so that he should deceive the nations no more (Rev. 20:3). Then, and then only, entire nations will serve the Lord: “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem; they shall walk nor more after the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17).
With Satan being stripped of all his powers and strongholds on earth, entire cities and nations will serve the Lord during His millennial reign from Jerusalem (Zech. 8:20-22; Isa. 2:2-4). But that is yet future. In the present dispensation we must shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15). We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and wait for the soon coming of the King to reveal His kingdom on Earth (Phil. 3:20-21).
Prof. Johan Malan's articles and more can be found at http://www.bibleguidance.co.za/.
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