This is basically a summary of what this project and website are all about. Sorry this is kind of long, but since there are a lot of new readers here as of late I wanted to post this. It's nothing new to longtime visitors, but I've tried to piece together and encapsulate several of the main themes I've written about. Anything that's brought up here has already been written about in more detail in other posts.
I'm critiquing Dominionism and for my other responses and interactions to make sense, you have to know where I'm coming from. There are others out there arguing along lines that are similar, but I'm approaching this a specific way that I've not found anywhere else. So while some of what I'm saying might be familiar to both friend and foe, there are ideas I'm bringing out that will be new to some readers. Not constrained by Reformed Confessionalism and/or Reformed denominational commitments, I'm also able to speak a little more directly to what I think some of the problems are.
As a follow on, a sort of Part 2, I will respond to the critique of this website by DT Maurina. He is offering a broad critique of my ideas, so I provides a unique and excellent opportunity to interact. I already posted his text at the end of the GreenBaggins discussion post. D.V., I'll re-post the text with my comments in the very near future.
The critique written by a DT Maurina was posted over at a URCNA discussion group. For those unfamiliar with the URCNA, that would be the United Reformed Churches of North America which is something of the theologically conservative remnant of the CRC, which would be the Christian Reformed Church.
These are Dutch Reformed Denominations in their origin.
The Reformed family has several strains. For example you have Scottish Presbyterianism which gave us John Knox and The Covenanters. A majority of the Scots-Irish or Ulster-Scots people who came to America and formed a large portion of the early frontier settlers came from this background as well as this religious persuasion. Their migrations here were primarily from 1715-75.
The French Reformed or Huguenots left France in droves after the Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685 by Louis XIV. Some went to Prussia, some to South Africa, but many went to Britain, where a good number actually ended up in Ulster and mixed with the Scots-Irish (who were by no means all Scot. Many were actually of English origin.) In America this group largely lost its distinct identity, but there are plenty of surnames which hint of this ancestry.
The English variety of Reformed thought was mostly manifested in Independent of Congregational Churches. This would be Oliver Cromwell and the Roundheads who fought against King Charles I. This would also be the Puritans who came over to New England in 1630. The Mayflower Pilgrims were very similar, but there were some key differences. There was also a small but significant minority of Calvinistic, sometimes called Reformed Baptists.
There are smaller branches of German Reformed who have quite a bit of history in Pennsylvania and the Upper Midwest. There are Hungarian Reformed who have a bit of history in the Pittsburgh and Chicago areas. There's very little left of this group with any kind of theologically conservative credentials.
And then we have the Dutch which have their own complicated ecclesiastical history. In the United States they are mostly found in the Midwest and Great Lakes region with large numbers of them in Michigan, Iowa, and northern Illinois.
All these groups were affected by theological liberalism in the 19th and 20th centuries and so today we're left with a complicated mosaic of different denominations. As conservatives left these Mainline bodies at different times for different reasons, and sometimes there's even overlap, with conservatives present alongside people who have more or less abandoned Scripture as the primary infallible authority. For example you'll see a reference to Pastor McAtee in Maurina's critique. He and I interacted on the IronInk exchanges which I've included on this website. He's in the CRC, which as I said, is a Dutch Reformed denomination that to many went theologically liberal a number of years back. They ordain women etc...., yet there are still some very conservative men within the group.
Many left the CRC and formed the URCNA which is the forum for this discussion and post by Mr. Maurina.
Each of these Reformed groups have slightly different theological and practical emphases. The Presbyterians use the Westminster Confession. The Reformed Baptists use the 1689 London Confession. The Congregationalists use a less well known document called the Savoy Declaration, while the Continental Churches largely make use of the Three Forms of Unity which includes the Belgic Confession written in the 16th century, the Canons of Dordt, and the Heidelberg Catechism.
Many readers already know all of this, but I know for some of you, this is all unfamiliar ground. The Dutch tradition has always had a pretty strong emphasis on culture and culture-building. The Theonomic movement while not specifically Dutch by any means was strongly influenced by some of their ideas. One of the most popular Dutch figures was a man by the name of Abraham Kuyper who lived in the 19th and early 20th century. He was a pastor and denominational leader who then also served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands in the early 1900's. He is greatly esteemed and his influence has been large and pervasive.
Forgive the CAPS, but italics and bold don't work very well when I copy-paste this to the blog......
This strain of theology, this Kuyperianism of the Dutch School is very much at the heart of what I'm opposing in the writings of this website. In fact, we are in diametric opposition. To them I'm an Anabaptist which the Belgic Confession harshly condemns, and to many of them the Two Kingdom theology I espouse is guilty of what they would call Gnostic Dualism. While I and every other Christian certainly acknowledges the sovereignty of Christ as RULER, He is the ruler of all Creation, I make a distinction and categorically DO NOT place all of creation within the sphere of His Holy REALM. Those who are outside of Christ still must answer to Him as Creator and Judge, but they are not partakers of his REALM, which is reserved for those IN Him and partaking of His Redemptive Grace. Those who are merely under His RULE/REIGN, partake in what we call Common Grace, which as I've explained elsewhere is God's administration of delay, His means, His order for the world until the Eschaton, the End when Christ returns and all is settled. They'll actually answer for partaking of that Common Grace. It condemns them when they don't acknowledge the Creator and reject the Redeemer.
Common Grace allows the world to function, it provides a matrix for the Gospel to work. Sin is restrained and it's full effect curtailed. The Kingdom exists here ALREADY, but is also NOT YET. The Kingdom works in the realm of Common Grace, but those who are not participating in the REALM, are unable to see it. It's not a tangible Kingdom. You have to be Born Again. It's not a Kingdom where men point and say, "There it is," nor is it one that we build using the world's tools. It's Spiritual in nature. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.
I sometimes have made use of the term Monistic Sacralism. What I mean is that their view of the world is one in which the REALM and REIGN are the same. They don't separate the concepts at all. It's not a Biblical Dualistic Tension. It's a Monistic structure and it's Sacralist (creates a sanctified society) in nature with no distinction between the Holy and the Common. This way of thinking insists there is no activity on Earth that is not considered part of the Holy REALM. Now they would admit the world by no means is at present manifesting itself as His Holy REALM. But they would argue the design of the REIGN is to make the whole world His Holy REALM.
I'm not saying we don't do things as Christians, but I am saying that by installing a window, or working in a laboratory, you're not building the Kingdom of God. You might be through your interactions with people at work, and your work is affected by your Christian ethics, but the work itself does not contribute to God's Kingdom. In the same way, by deriving economic theory for nations in a fallen world, or by composing music, you're not building the Kingdom of God. That's not how it's built. A civilization, like Western Christendom is not a physical manifestation of God's Kingdom. To think so, shows a misunderstanding of the Kingdom, it's nature and principle of operation and growth.
The fact that installing a window is not a HOLY activity, is not a problem, and it in no way de-legitimizes those tasks. They're right and proper, but we must not confuse COMMON activities, part of the COMMON order that will burn up as Peter tells us, with HOLY activities pertaining to the Redemptive Kingdom.
If you're following this, you can see why they would be driven to political and cultural action...because the goal of the Church is not only to build a Spiritual Kingdom by means of the Gospel, but to TRANSFORM the whole world into the Holy REALM. That is building the Kingdom to their way of thinking. They're building a worldly Kingdom that can be seen, that has buildings, laws, and fights wars for example. They make use of passages like the so-called Cultural Mandate in Genesis 1. They believe that they are to subdue the earth, in other words conquer it in its various spheres.
Sounds great right? But there are problems on several levels. First, the Cultural Mandate was radically modified by the Fall. You can read that clearly in Genesis 3. The Mandate is re-iterated in Genesis 9, which was a new creation of sorts, but there it is not in the same spirit and character as we find in Genesis 1. After the fall, man is banished from the garden. The earth in Genesis 9 does not share the garden-characteristics. It's no longer a garden, it's a place of fear and blood. If anything the repetition of the garden imagery is not found in the earth....it's found in the land of Canaan, the land of milk and honey. This typological garden for the people of God is a picture of Christ, the True Israel-Eden as it were. The earth of present day is certainly east/outside of Eden and we only find the Tree of Life symbolized once again in typological form in Old Covenant Israel and in the New Heavens and Earth. The Church partakes of this in a provisional sense. We're the colony of exiles from the Holy Redemptive REALM. No kingdom on earth can become the Kingdom, nor are we to try.
I would argue that man's attempts to re-create Eden on Earth are theological Babylons, towers of Babel. We cannot transform this Earth into another Holy Edenic Kingdom. Though not always clearly defined, this is the functional goal of Dominionism. Not to create Babylon of course! They believe they're labouring for God, just as the architects of Medieval Christendom believed that's what they were doing.
Secondly, as you will find if you read the GreenBaggins interactions as well as the other interactions I've posted here, they struggle and in the end utterly fail to come up with any real Biblical evidence or support for this theology. It results from a basic hermeneutical error (Scriptural interpretation) and philosophical commitments they bring with them. I've written pretty extensively about this in other posts, and I'll touch on that a little later.
To summarize, they have what we might call an inverted hermeneutic. Like Dispensationalists they start with the Old Testament, develop foundational principles, and then read the New Testament in light of these commitments. That doesn't sound so bad, but if you've misunderstood the Old Testament, then reading the New IN LIGHT OF the Old...you will also misunderstand the New. You'll get both wrong.
For example, the Jews in the 1st century had read and studied the Old Testament. They found verses that spoke of a glorious Kingdom that the Messiah would bring. The nations would bow, kings would submit, and the reign of Messiah would be universal. So when Christ Himself showed up, they were pretty disappointed and ultimately hostile towards Him. Not merely for this reason, but this was a big part of it. They wanted a Messiah who would crush the Roman Empire and establish an Jewish dominion in its place. It was supposed to be payback time for all the Empires which had persecuted the Jewish people.
What did Christ do? He taught them to love their enemies, turn the other cheek. He ate with sinners, showed immense power but did not employ it to challenge the Roman system. In fact He said to pay your taxes and give Caesar his due. He had no interest in their view of what a Messiah was supposed to be. They tried to make him a King by force in John 6, but he fled, rejecting their hope and expectation. Their view of Messiah was based on a wrong reading of the prophetic texts, a wrong understanding of the New Covenant age which had come upon them.
The Apostles followed this throughout the New Testament and as they dealt with verses from the Old Testament, we see that in many cases they did not mean what the Jews thought they meant. They were often typological and symbolic pointing to Christ and the Church, though the language often seemed to indicate physical Israel. We learn that God made a new people which included both Jew and Gentile, the wall of separation was forever gone, the Temple system fulfilled, the veil rent.
We also learn that Christ's mission is two-fold, first as the Crucified Saviour, and then later as Divine Judge. We learn about a Kingdom that is Already and Not Yet, one that straddles This Age and the Age to Come. As Christians we are IN Christ, already seated in the heavens, ALREADY part of the household of God....but here in time and space it's NOT YET. We're still waiting for everything to be fulfilled.
So it is critical that we START with the New Testament. It is not more Scripture-ish or more Canonical per se than the Old Testament, but it is superior. All Scripture is inspired, but it's not all of equal value. What I mean is....the Old Testament is often using modes of speech which communicate in a different way than the straight forward narratives of the Gospels and Acts and the teaching portions of the Epistles. Prophetic speech is often poetic, illustrative and repetitive. Apocalyptic writings (which would include Revealtion,) are laden with symbols, warnings, and likewise are often repetitive.
So we'll find that Paul will often say more in one verse and with greater clarity than Isaiah might say in a whole chapter, which might only convey one central idea. That doesn't mean Isaiah is of less value, but it should be clear to anyone a New Testament epistle teaches more doctrine than most of the Old Testament. They both are serving their purpose in Redemptive History, and the New Testament itself teaches us that the Old was shadowy, in some sense weak, and compared to the glory of the New Covenant it was insufficient. There's a lot more that could be said here, and it does get a little complicated, but I want to emphasize it is critical that we begin with the New Testament and interpret the Old IN LIGHT OF the New.
Dispensationalists interpret the New IN LIGHT OF the Old. Hence, they start with the Jewish people and the promises to Abraham and Israel. The New comes along and seems to teach an almost entirely different system and way of looking at things. It modifies and supersedes the Old Testament system.
Like the Pharisees, the Dispensationalists misinterpret the Old Testament. Essentially they're saying the Pharisees were correct in the expectation of a Jewish World Empire. Though this is specifically repudiated as a misunderstanding in the New Testament, they insist the New Testament couldn't possibly be teaching those prophecies meant something else than their LITERALISTIC reading. So to solve this problem, Dispensationalism creates two plans for two peoples of God. The Jews and Israel are Plan A and that plan went into a holding pattern when Christ ascended, and Pentecost initiated the Church, the Gentile/Spiritual people, the Plan B. When the Church is Raptured...(they split the 2nd Coming into two phases, a secret Rapture and then the Visible Coming)....the plan will revert to A, the Jews and Israel. This is the dominant theology of American Evangelicalism and has played not a little part in the politics of the Christian Right and American foreign policy in the Middle East.
Because the hermeneutic was inverted, because they read the New IN LIGHT OF the OLD....they've misunderstood both, and actually they've basically misunderstood the primary message of the Bible. They've missed that the entire nation of Israel, the land, the temple, the people, the whole sacrificial system, the prophets, priests, and kings were all pictures of the coming Christ and He's fulfilled all those forms. 2 Corinthians 1.20 explicitly teaches this, but it's also found on virtually every page of the New Testament.
There's another strain, school, or general movement that has resulted from this same type of hermeneutic, one we've already visited. We might label it Dominionism, Kuyperianism, or Transformationalism. These terms are not necessarily synonymous, but within the Reformed world we have movements such as Dominionism which places a specific emphasis on the Cultural Mandate I mentioned above. Postmillennialism is an eschatological position that also embraces this way of thinking. That is it believes that during the End Times, the era between the first and second Advent of Christ, the world will become Christianized. There are some different ideas as to what exactly that means and what exactly that will look like, but all Postmillennialists would agree that Christianity will triumph PRIOR to Christ's return. Older versions of this theology looked for large-scale revivals and a great outpouring of the Spirit. They were less concerned with specific ways of bringing this to bear on culture and government. The Theonomy movement spawned in the late 1960's by RJ Rushdoony (who was certainly a fan of Abraham Kuyper) began in earnest this aspect of the discussion.
Peculiarly American, Theonomy was in many ways a response to the cultural shifts at work in the United States that picked up their tempo in the 1960's. They sought to specifically deal with the various spheres of society and work out Christian solutions to political and legal issues, and as the movement grew it began to work out the questions and systemic issues of the day, forming "Christian" views of science, culture, the arts etc....
Francis Schaeffer while not specifically a Theonomist or a Postmillennialist was heavily influenced by this whole strain of Dominionist and Kuyperian thought and was instrumental in the genesis of the Christian Right and the subsequent election of Ronald Reagan. Since then this way of thinking has been a mover and shaker in American politics and has come to virtually dominate the Evangelical Church. The hardliners would not see it this way, being dissatisfied with their progress. But for someone who rejects this theology, it seems ubiquitous.
These various schools also have made the same error to varying degrees of reading the New Testament IN LIGHT OF the Old. They read passages like Psalm 2 and 72, Isaiah 2, and many more as having yet to be fulfilled and that must be fulfilled to some literal and physical degree PRIOR to Christ's return.
So rather than accept the New Testament teaching that those verses are fulfilled NOW in a Spiritual sense and will ultimately only find fulfillment in the 2nd Coming, they insist that we are to labour to bring about the reality of Psalm 2 and 72 at present.
Rather than the knowledge of the Lord filling the earth being understood as fulfilled provisionally at present, but only fully realized in the New Heavens and the New Earth...they insist that consummate vision must come about now and can be fulfilled by the Church in this age before Christ returns.
Rather than understanding that the Gentile inclusion in the New Testament is the present application of all nations going up to the mountain of the Lord...they look for a LITERAL fulfillment or attempted fulfillment PRIOR to Christ's return.
The New Testament treatment of Amos 9 in Acts 15, or Joel 2 in Acts 2 give specific and easy to see examples of the Apostles reading the Old Testament in a way completely foreign to these inverted hermeneutics I've mentioned here. Not only do we need the New to interpret the Old, we learn from the New Testament that the symbols and pictures of the Old Testament are SPIRITUAL in NATURE and FULFILLMENT. While Christ certainly came in a literal sense, He was not LITERALLY a lamb. These are metaphors and pictures, a Spiritual lesson pointing to reality but not meant to be read and applied LITERALLY or more accurately in a LITERALISTIC sense. Peter didn't do that with the Joel passage. It was not fulfilled literally on Pentecost in Jerusalem during the year Christ died and ascended. The symbols were pointing to cosmic events, a shift in epochs, God at work....things of that nature.
James does not read Amos 9 LITERALLY when he says the rebuilding of the tabernacle/temple referred to the Gentile inclusion. Of course Amos WAS speaking about the 2nd Temple, the post-exilic Temple, but even that was actually pointing to something else.....The Body of Christ, the Church in which there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile.
Dispensationalism is STILL looking for Amos 9 and Joel 2 to be fulfilled. Dominionism is looking for things that will only occur when Christ returns to be fulfilled at this time.
Both systems have misread the Bible on a massive scale.
The implications are profound. These core issues affect the whole range of their theology and I would argue set the Church on a quest which it was not meant to venture on. This quest creates several DRIVERS as I call them. These are questions that are now generated that must be answered. They're not derived from the text of Scripture but are generated as a result of this theological commitment....built on a foundational misreading of Scripture.
Dominionism must look to create systems, a Christian theology for conquest. It's not a military conquest, though that can also play a part. It certainly has throughout history. Suddenly the arts, sciences, the state, and other branches of culture and civilization are no longer viewed as Common or outside the REALM of Christ. Most of these adherents do indeed have a doctrine of Common Grace, but their goal is to more or less TRANSFORM that realm of the Common into the realm of the Holy. All is Holy to them...hence the label Monism. There aren't distinctions. The Common Realm exists but is not granted legitimacy...it needs to move from being Common to being Holy, to be Transformed.
While I would say we live in fallen world, and fallen man keeps trying to build the Tower of Babel over and over again. Fallen man tries to develop social systems, economic and political systems to aid him in this. They all fail. None of them work because of the curse of sin.
This situation will never change since sin will remain until Christ returns. Our task is to build the Spiritual Kingdom using the gospel-tools given by Christ. The Bible tells us how to live as Christians. It tells us how to view the state, money, science, all these things. The Bible is sufficient for us to live the Christian life and for the Church to function. The Bible nowhere provides for us an example of how a country like Hungary should order its economy. It doesn't tell us what kind of government France should have. It doesn't tell us what a Christian nation is, or how a nation would unilaterally declare itself to be so.
But doesn't the Bible teach us right from wrong? Sure. But we also understand the Spiritual nature of God's commands. Natural man can't follow the commands of God. He's not going to understand God's ways or seek His paths. His wisdom is nonsense to them. He is at enmity with God, he is a child of the god of this world, a child of wrath.
God by providing Common Grace allows even fallen man to come up with flawed but sufficient systems to make the world work. They all fail, the empires crumble and another takes its place. All the economic theories and political systems fail because men are wicked. This is not going to change before Christ comes back. The Curse will not be undone before the 2nd Coming and the New Heavens and New Earth. Dominionism refuses to accept this. This tension, that leaves us forever as pilgrims and exiles, that always has a world in opposition to us....must be resolved. The Common Grace arrangement for the Old Earth must be transformed into the New Earth.
Is it a surprise that among Dominionists there is little hope and expectation, little excitement and desire for the return of Christ? We who follow the message of the New Testament know the Dominionist hope is futile and fleshly, absent from the New Testament, and their hope and desire can only be fulfilled in Christ's Return. That's our hope....not creating a civilization that has a form of morality which is the best that their vision of Christendom can ever hope to accomplish.
Was Rome wicked? Sure. But it was sufficient, certainly sufficient enough for Christ as he made clear when he send we are to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. And it was sufficient for Paul when he wrote Romans 13 and 1 Timothy 2. He doesn't pray that the Church transforms Rome in the Holy REALM of Christ. He prays that they maintain peace and order and leave us alone to do our work. God will judge those who are outside he says in 1 Corinthians 5.
What about America? It's the same as Rome. Its political systems fail. We can argue to what degree, when and how....but one thing we can be certain of....if we believe in Total Depravity, in the fallen-ness of man and the Curse of God....the system will fail. The same can be said for its economic systems and the rest.
What does the Bible tells us to do with our possessions? We are to give our cloak as well. We are to give. The Bible is providing a model for us, not for America. They strive and strain to derive economic principles from Israel, but being pictures of Christ, and by stripping them from their Redemptive-typological context and applying them to America....they are in danger of treating things Holy as merely Common. It is perilously close to sacrilege....treating Holy things as if they were not worthy of reverence, as if they applied not to the Redemptive sphere....but to the Common realm. They would argue clearly that when it comes to the Sermon on the Mount...that applies to individual Christians....but then a Christian Nation (whatever that is) doesn't have to pay any attention to these ethics.
As Christians it doesn't really matter too much whether we live in a Democracy, a Monarchy, a Plutocracy, or a Totalitarian Empire. That doesn't mean we don't care about sin and its effects on society, but our weapons to change that are spiritual ones. We wield the sword of the spirit, the Word of God, the Gospel, the message of forgiveness and reconciliation to God. This has very little to do with Macro-economics or Geo-politics. It certainly informs a Christian who might be working for a bank, or one who works for the State Department. But he would also understand that lost people are not going to look at the world the same way nor will they understand how the Christian sees it or what he's doing. Nor should the Christian expect the lost people working with him to help him in fulfilling the Spiritual aims of the Kingdom of God. Forcing them to will not cause them render true worship. Just because they conform with something a Dominionist thinks is a Christian practice, it doesn't mean they've glorified God. They're not doing with a right heart. The unbeliever's 'service' to God is abomination to Him.
Those people, working at the bank and the State Department are working toward valid Common Grace goals. Whether they know it or not, they're part of God's Providential Rule, His REIGN, providing or not providing as He sees fit, the matrix, the stable society for the gospel to work. As unbelievers they don't need to do Christian Banking or Christian Diplomacy. If there are such things, the unbeliever is NOT CAPABLE of doing it. At best it would be a sham, a veneer.
They won't be able to engage those tasks as a Christian would, but even those tasks themselves don't build the Kingdom. Those are Common Grace tasks, with Common Grace goals and they use Common Grace means. We can't expect them to accomplish Spiritual goals. The simple derived morality from Nature that even fallen man can see is sufficient. Even the lost and wicked Romans and Egyptians knew it was wrong to murder and steal. The wicked Persians knew it was wrong to lie.
They didn't need the Bible to tell them that. Man still bears something of the image of God and is accountable to God for that. By showing they know something of right and wrong, they show that they should know that they're sinners and fail to live up to those standards that every man to greater and lesser degrees already knows.
So for the Christian working in those realms, he needs to understand that his co-workers don't need Christian views of societal economics and statecraft....for we are provided with no examples of this. Instead those co-workers need to Repent and Believe the gospel and join the family of God. Whether they work for one type of government or another in essence doesn't matter. None of them are Biblically sanctioned. In practice, there are times when we as Christians must say no, and refuse to participate. Knowing when to do this requires wisdom.
Sometimes following God means that we can't participate in everything the world is doing. We are not tasked or obligated to do so. We're not trying to change them into something they can't be. We're not even provided with a means to do so.
We can't then make the error of looking to the Old Testament and saying...hey, Israel was a state, they had economics, they had laws and art and things like that, so we can use them as an example for...modern America.
This would be yet another example of that inverted hermeneutic. When we read the New Testament we're told that those things were Redemptive Symbols, pictures of the Gospel, types of Christ. They've been fulfilled in Him, and we're no longer under that Covenant and that system. This is very important. It was a COMPREHENSIVE picture. It all went together. You can't select and tease certain things out and then try to apply them to states, societies, and cultures to which they don't belong. You can't try and apply shadows and types that have been fulfilled in a way that suggests they haven't, and that we still need these types because the Substance hasn't come yet.
There's no parallel to Old Testament Israel today on the world map. There's no culture that's Holy with Holy laws and Holy objectives.
There is one, but it's not a geo-political entity, nor can it be identified with any nation, ethnicity, or culture. It's the Church, a trans-national, trans-historical, trans-cultural entity that supersedes any earthly construct. It ALONE has a Holy or Sacral nature with Holy commandments and objectives.
Dominionism misunderstands this. They want to TRANSFORM that which can't be transformed into the HOLY REALM. They want to create Christian nations and societies. They want unbelievers to conform to the law of God, an impossibility according to the New Testament and though I ask repeatedly, they can't find any Scriptural evidence in the New Testament to support this notion.
Bear with me. I know I keep re-iterating some of the same points, but I want to approach them from slightly different angles so the reader can grasp this.
Starting with the Old they often end up looking to Old Covenant Israel as an example. Some of them, a minority, in an almost childish manner try and apply Iron Age agrarian laws to modern society. There's nothing wrong with Iron Age agrarian societies and laws. That's not what I'm saying. God gave those commands at a specific time and in a specific context. While certainly all these laws point to Christ and reveal much concerning God's character in terms of justice and redemption, again the picture is COMPREHENSIVE. We can't pick and choose what symbols and types we want and extract them from a Covenant Unity. The Westminster Confession creates an unfortunate and unbiblical way of categorizing these laws and this has done much to contribute to the confusion, especially for Theonomists and in Reformed circles in general. Most of the arguments revolve around the meaning of the Confession rather than questioning whether the Confession got it right on that point.
And, nowhere in the New Testament are we told to do this, to look to Old Testament Israel and try and make use of the Mosaic law in reference to Common Grace states like Rome or America. These discussions often get bogged down on particulars surrounding particular laws and how they might reference larger more general principles which can be applied. But this ASSUMES we are to TRANSFORM societies....a task we're nowhere given. And if we are transform anything it's not through Moses, but through the Gospel by which we rightly understand Moses. The Gospel was present in the time of Moses, and when you look at Moses through the lens of Christ you can see the Redemption and Judgment portrayed in that system. But to just deal with Moses and leave out the Christocentric interpretation you end up with....a yoke, a ministration of death, a system that is weak and beggarly. This is what they're turning to as an example for the nations. Just like the Jews, the Dominionists have missed what the Old Testament was about. It wasn't about statecraft and culture building....it was about Christ. We cannot replicate the Old Testament nation of Israel and we the New Israel don't need to, nor should we want to.
The Mosaic law was not for Edom, Egypt, or any other nation. The standards by which they are judged and denounced in the prophets never make reference to things like the Sabbath or their failure to keep dietary laws. Israel like the Church was unique...spiritual. The uncovenanted nations then and today are judged by a standard historically known as Natural Law....and it's plenty condemning enough. Even lost people in general have little difficulty in identifying the Third Reich of the Khmer Rouge as evil. Does Natural Law make philosophical sense? Is it viable for natural man to have a law source that doesn't acknowledge the Creator? The Bible teaches fallen man's ability to discern even something of natural law, a twinge of conscience shows they know there is a God and they are culpable. Are natural man's ideas about the world consistent when he doesn't acknowledge God as Creator? Of course not. He's lost. Making him conform to what we think are Christian laws will not change that. He will not understand the spiritual nature of obeying God. Again, I wonder how those who think so can claim they believe man is Totally Depraved?
Dominionism is DRIVEN to answer these questions concerning social systems. If they're going to TRANSFORM it, they have to know HOW and they have to know WHAT it should look like.
The Bible nowhere answers these questions for them, so they spend A LOT of time engaged in these questions. The WHAT is somewhat esoteric and obviously hypothetical. Some Dominionists are Postmillennial and they have more specific ideas of WHAT this will look like. Others like Kuyper were not and were far more concerned with the HOW.
The HOW includes things that I've already mentioned like economics, politics, and the arts. The HOW means they have to develop Christian economics, Christian politics, and Christian arts.
But the Bible doesn't tell them how to do this. No, they would argue...it does.
Scripture they say. But it's clearly not there, but they insist is. How does this work?
As Protestants if I can use that term generally we believe in Sola Scriptura. We're back to the Authority issue I so often write about. We all have a HOW in mind, I'm just arguing for a very different WHAT and thus a different HOW.
To accomplish our GOAL, our WHAT.....do we make use of Divine Scripture, God's Word that he's given....do we make use of it ALONE, or do we need something else, something more?
Rome of course always has argued we need more. We need tradition in addition to Scripture. We need the writings of the Church Fathers, we need a Charismatically inspired Magisterium...rulers of the Church (like the Pope) who declare doctrine and tell what the Bible means....and we need philosophical systems that help the Church PROBE BEYOND the clear text of Scripture to answer questions that the Bible doesn't specifically tell us.
So for Rome, it's no problem that Purgatory isn't in the Bible. They'll make childish attempts to prove it's there, but in reality if the Authority base is extra-scriptural ....tradition and philosophy interpreted and applied by the Magisterium, the fact that it's not in the Bible, isn't really a big deal. The Authority for Rome does not have to rely on just the Bible. Their HOW can cover a much broader range. We would all agree they're wrong to do so, but maybe you can see how it all kind of makes sense. It's wrong, but there's a logic to it. Now what is their WHAT, their goal? We'll come to that soon enough.
Dominionists (who often dislike that label,) are DRIVEN to answer these questions. They look mistakenly to the Old Testament as an example for society today. They're actually taking laws and structures that were HOLY and applying them to the COMMON. Perhaps if you're following me you can something of the difficulty with that.
But there's still a lot of questions that even the Old Testament, even Israel can't answer. They've worked a lot on the HOW and argued over the best ways to deal with this. There's been a lot of attempts for many generations but it was always difficult to say this or that way of doing it was specifically Christian, or Biblical. It's not like you can find a text in the New Testament that teaches a political system for Argentina, or instructions regarding oil painting.
Then a man named Cornelius Van Til came along. He was extraordinary Christian philosopher and theologian who looms very large in the Reformed world. Standing on the shoulders of men like Kuyper and others he sought to bring about a solid philosophical system which buttressed and justified the Christian Worldview.
A worldview is a philosophy, a guiding system, which we all have whether we like it or not, whether we've thought about it or not. Everything we do, all of our actions flow out of internal systems of values and ethics, and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.
Thus, it's a good idea to consider this matter, something until recent times few Christians had really given much thought to.
The Bible teaches a Christian Worldview to be sure. It gives us everything we need to know as Christians, as a Church to live our lives and understand the world around us. It tells us what we need to know about God. 2 Timothy 3.16 is a pretty clear expression of this, but it's actually all through the Bible. The Scriptures are SUFFICIENT for us in this life. They reveal to us what we need to know of God, His plan, and what He would have us do.
But with Rome, they respond....INSUFFICIENT, and they add the Magisterium and all the other things mentioned before.
Dominionists know this is clearly wrong, but they do have something of a dilemma. Their WHAT, their goal, has driven them to ask a series of HOW questions that are really quite beyond the text. Remember I would say their WHAT came about as a result of reading the Bible backwards, misunderstanding the superiority of the New vs. the Old, and so they, like the Jews, have the wrong WHAT, the wrong goal in mind.
Hence, their HOW, their means of bringing this about is by necessity way off track. That's why they can't find it in the Bible. They're trying to build the wrong Kingdom, the wrong building, so they're going to do it in the wrong way, with the wrong tools.
BUT they know they can't simply say....well, we need something more than Scripture. That would be just like Rome. They need to PROBE BEYOND, but have to find a way to do it Biblically.
Van Til gave them a philosophical system built on several ideas that allowed them to create these systems, these models for these various spheres PROBING BEYOND I would say....and yet claim they are Biblical. It gets complicated and I've written about this in some other posts, but let's put it this way....
Because they believe the WHAT, the goal is absolutely what the Bible teaches, that all of society has to be transformed and just leaving it so to speak, in the hands of fumbling and failing unbelievers is unacceptable, and that they can't step BEYOND the Bible ....therefore the Bible MUST provide the answers to these questions.
There MUST be a Christian macro-economic, Christian agenda for culture, etc.....
So this goal, this WHAT, takes precedence over hermeneutics. It DRIVES the hermeneutic. Saying something has been fulfilled or doesn't apply anymore, or was just symbolic is really quite out of bounds. In fact, not only does the New get read in light of the Old, among some of the more extreme, like the Theonomists, the Old and New almost lose their distinction. We now have Covenantal Monism, a Mono-covenantal theology. The proper distinction between Old and New is lost. In fact many of them will claim that if you differentiate between the Old and New Testaments, then you must be some sort of Dispensationalist.
This philosophy provided by Van Til also works as a COMPREHENSIVE SYSTEM, so that what the Bible might provide in seed form....grossly out of context I would argue!....can be worked out by employing logic.
I've written about this elsewhere as well, but I'll dive into it briefly. Picture a piece of graph paper. Now white-out large swaths across portions of the pages. You can't see the lines anymore, the squares, the intersection points where they all meet and work together.
The graph is Scripture. The blank spaces are these areas that the Scriptures don't specifically address. The system I'm advocating says, we don't need to go there, in fact, we can't.
These are metaphysical questions, beyond the realm of our ability to discern using natural philosophical tools....like logic. We need Special Revelation to answer these questions. Without it, we don't need to answer them, and we're not meant to. I would posit....some of these questions that are being asked about Culture etc....don't have answers in this fallen-world context. Using my graph analogy, if we're seeing blank spaces, we might be asking the wrong questions. In other words you're looking for answers that aren't there, because you're asking the wrong questions. You're asking the wrong questions, because you've either read the Bible wrong, or you've brought other commitments with you to the Bible.
This philosophy that Dominionism employs provides the theory that even though the squares, lines, and intersects can't be seen, the patterns have to continue and meet up properly to make it all airtight, grid-like, perfect and working together. It's kind of like those squares, and lines MUST be there. Or to put it another way, the solutions, the answers to these problems MUST be there.
Okay, how do you find them? Some of this depends on how you answer some basic questions about the nature of theology and how we go about it...or don't. And a big part of this has to do with logic. Logic is basically math with words and ideas. You put them together in various ways and there are tools to check and make sure what you're saying is valid. This is how you prove things, whether a statement can be said to be true or whether it makes sense. Philosophers for centuries put forward ideas of how things work and why, and then critique each other and show where they made mistakes in their figuring and why their formulae don't compute, why they're invalid.
Some would argue that Logic is part of God's character. It's an old concept that even pagans picked up on and tied in with ideas about the universe and the way it operated. The Bible makes use of the term LOGOS, but uses it in a specifically Christian way. One particularly bad Reformed theologian actually translated it as Logic. In the beginning was the Logic and the Logic was with God and the Logic was God.
While most would rightly reject that kind of extreme position, most would include Logic within the attributes of God. God operates logically and the world functions logically and thus we as Christians can answer some basic questions about the world and theology by using this.
Because God has taught us basic principles and some theological truths in His Word, we can with confidence employ this Biblically informed logic to work out these DRIVER questions to answer our HOW, our means for pursuing the goal, the WHAT....namely, the transformation of the world systems into Christian ones. It's SPECULATIVE, going BEYOND Scripture, but at the same time because of how this argument is framed, it can claim to not be doing so. Suddenly SPECULATION becomes a valid theological exercise.
So when a Dominionist speaks of the Sufficiency of Scripture, they mean it is sufficient not just for the Church and the Christian life, but it virtually answers all questions concerning societal structures etc.... Are there specific texts? Are the texts they refer to used in the right context? No, not always, but the doctrines they are looking for can be deduced by this Sanctified Logic, logic building on Scriptural foundations. Employing philosophical tools like induction they can move several stages beyond the text by developing increasingly complex ideas....and still claim that what they are saying reflects the Biblical position.
Logic is the tool of argument, the way to work this all out. Like I said it's basically math. You create syllogisms, with propositions and sets and you test them. This is how the modern world works. This is what gave us the Scientific Method, and this is how we work out how to wire up a light switch or on a more complex level, make a car, or a computer. When something goes wrong you troubleshoot by asking the right questions, framed in the right way, you can figure it out.
Logic is entirely appropriate for our lives in time and space. Is this appropriate for Theology, the study of God? Is this what He had mind for us? To take His Word and build on it? Did God give us building blocks and somehow we as fallen creatures can take verbal math and probe eternity? Is that the proper role of theology? Is that what the Bible is for, the reason it was given to the Church?
Dominionists are claiming the Scriptures are SUFFICIENT, and they often make use of the phrase...the SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE.
I'm arguing for the same position, but I'm arguing the Scriptures themselves set the boundaries of sufficiency. Dominionists claim to believe in sufficiency, but then build most of their ideas extra-Scripturally. Remember, they deny this. They insist they are putting forth Biblical arguments for politics, diplomacy, war, economics etc......
A lot of Christians have taken a verse like 1 Peter 3.15 where we are told to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us to mean we have to work out a logical arguments for the unbeliever of why we believe what we do. Reformed Christians especially have spent a lot of time wrestling with these issues. If Culture War and conquest are key to your goals, your WHAT, you can perhaps see why these issues are terribly important. We are to given an answer but one struggles to find New Testament authors placing this kind of energy into these questions. The declaration of the Gospel seemed sufficient, an explanation of Christ's person and work. We just don't find the emphasis on these types of system-arguments. They will also try to appeal to Acts 17 when Paul was in Athens, but Paul is hardly engaged in this type of discussion with pagans, even as he provides evidences for the audience. Our job is to proclaim Christ, we can't reason people into this faith and we can't reason them into by forcing them to conform to a supposedly Christian social code.
Van Til is quite brilliant in showing through logic why unbelievers can't really make sense of their own systems under which they operate. Apart from the God of the Bible, they don't really make sense. Contrary to the Dominionists I would say, thankfully because of Common Grace, they don't have to make sense. The gospel is not....comprehensive social systems. It's not social engineering.
Conservative Bible-believing Dominionists get angry when you compare them to the Social-Gospel movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. The men who led this charge held rather loose views of Scripture, but really saw that the sum and substance of religion was to change society. Though these men did not apprehend the gospel of grace and the Divine origin of Scripture, they held to a view startlingly similar to our modern Dominionist friends.
Van Til is also providing the philosophical basis for answering these other DRIVER questions...filling in those blank squares, through logic necessitated and validated by this COMPREHENSIVE SYSTEM. So when they come up with those answers, they can even speak of them as being Biblical. They can say, this IS the Biblical doctrine of Economics, or the Biblical doctrine of the State. And thus we have a Christian Worldview built atop this whole structure.
The Bible DOES teach Christian worldview, but what Dominionists mean by that is I hope you can see....something a little different.
They're saying they have a COMPREHENSIVE SYSTEM which they have derived from the Bible using these philosophical and theological tools based to put it simply... on logic.
We've already looked at their goal and their means to pursue it....the WHAT and the HOW. As you can see, the HOW is multi-layered. The Bible doesn't clearly teach it, so this Means has to be developed with a philosophy validating the questions they're asking and the tools to answer them.
Sorry to be redundant, but for those unfamiliar this is starting to get a little complicated.
I'm arguing the WHAT is flawed from how they read the Bible. The HOW is derived from the WHAT. And the HOW is conducted using tools such as logic. They would say logic is perfectly valid and proper because it's part of God's character. So before we proceed we must ask:
Is logic part of God's character?
I've run into many Reformed people who answer categorically yes, some who hesitate....and then there's the people like me who answer:
a resounding 'NO!" Let me explain.
Logic is not part of God's character, logic is part of the creation. The creation reflects God's character, but it is not God. Gordon Clark, the 'logos/logic' theologian was dead wrong. But sadly, though Van Til was certainly different, he get's it wrong as well and in many ways though they and their followers are often at odds....they're two sides of the same philosophically flawed coin.
Clark went to the extreme and really presented a form of Christian Rationalism. I'm not going to get into Platonic Realism and Universals and all that here. I've done that elsewhere if someone is interested. With Clark there was no room for any kind of mystery, everything had to conform to logical formula. It's no surprise he had problems with the traditional formulations of some Biblical doctrines.
Like what? Well, there are many, but I'll start with the core doctrine of Scripture, Christ himself. He is the Theanthropos, the God-Man. For centuries Christians have believed that Christ according to the Scriptures is both Fully God and Fully Man, two natures in One Person. Carefully read that again and ponder it a moment if you're unfamiliar with this formula. The vast majority of Christians throughout history have rightly believed the Bible teaches this.
Now if you try to employ Aristotelian Logic, or Formal Logic to the Incarnation it does not work out. The Bible clearly teaches that Christ was God, He was Jehovah in the flesh, the I AM. But he was also man, and had to be in order to be the 2nd Adam and fulfill the requirements to represent us as His called out people, the Church. He wasn't half-God and half-man....then he would be neither. He was FULLY God and FULLY man.
Logic would tell us that we have contradiction. If He's FULLY God, he can't be FULLY Man at the same time. So either the formulation is wrong, the Bible is illogical and thus wrong....or we have a Divine Mystery that logic cannot explain. It transcends logic. It's not illogical, but supra-logical. I'm using logic for this very argument, but I'm saying that Revelation must be submitted to, not SUBJECTED to Logic.....or Logic ends up becoming superior to the Revelation. So with the Incarnation, we are given the truth by God and we stop there. The math doesn't add up so to speak. Many would say IT IS logical, we just don't know how to put the formula together. Though they often don't say this....it implies that someone COULD explain the Incarnation. People like Clark attempted to do so and in the end could not accept what historic Christianity taught concerning Christ.
Greg Bahnsen the famous Theonomist and Van Tillian often referred to the Crackers in the Pantry Fallacy. If you want to prove there's crackers in the pantry you go open the pantry door and check and see if they're there. When arguing with Atheists, Bahnsen would say they're looking for God in the same way, the same method we would go about looking for the crackers. He rightly pointed out the questions are of a different nature and thus looking for God in the way you look for crackers is a mistake. You're using the wrong tool for the job we might say.
I would simply extend that same way of thinking to SPECULATIVE theology. God has told us things through Revelation, and we had better be pretty careful before we start synthesizing what we believe to be contradictions. Systematics and logic are great for looking for crackers and verifying they are there, but they're the wrong tools to probe the mysteries of God.
This is but one example. We could speak of the Trinity, an even more complicated theological issue.
We could speak of the Bible's teaching concerning This Age and the Age to Come. How can we be in both at the same time, especially when in terms of time, the others hasn't happened yet?
We could even speak of things like Sanctification, Adoption, or even Baptism. How can we be sanctified in a completed sense, but yet also still be in the process? All of these topics are presented Biblically in ways that seem to overlap This Age and the Age to Come, time and eternity, the Divine and Human. These concepts transcend any kind of Aristotelian syllogism that we could every construct. That would be the wrong tool to try and seek an answer for these questions. We are to submit to God's Word.
I start with the Incarnation, with the doctrine of Christ, because I believe in Christ we find not only the supreme hermeneutical key to understanding all of Scripture, but also a wealth of other information about God and how He relates to us.
We learn something in regard to Special Revelation. We learn something in regard to logic. We learn that while totally valid and appropriate for time and space, the Common Grace realm, it is really INSUFFICIENT to develop speculative doctrine which seeks to go BEYOND the text itself.
Systematic Theology built on logical methods of deduction and induction is not up to the task. If we try to apply that kind of criteria to all of Special Revelation (in our day, the Bible).....look at the trouble we would have just with the doctrine of the Trinity? I assert we would have similar troubles with the other doctrines I mentioned as well and indeed we do. While Christians almost universally accept the mystery and incomprehensibility of doctrines such as the Incarnation and the Trinity, they are eager and determined to work out, and synthesize other places where the Scriptures sometimes seem to say things which if left alone, would stand in contradiction.
Logic, Aristotelian Logic (since Aristotle was the father of it)......is NOT part of the character of God. It is a mechanism of Creation, it's a temporal tool, a physical law by which the world works. It's not a metaphysical absolute. God and His doctrine can't be reduced to mathematical formula. We can't explain the Divine in the way we would write a manual about a dishwasher. Now that wouldn't be fair to accuse them of doing that....but there are times when they approach it.
Nature teaches Aristotelian Logic. Obviously pagans could even see the truth in it, even though there are many things in life it cannot explain. Scripture itself teaches us that we cannot fill in those blank spaces on the graph paper. Logic can't do it. We need God to tell us what's there and how to understand it. We need Revelation. This should teach us something of how we are to understand theology. The Incarnation is a prime example of a Dialectic Structure, two truths which if subjected to Aristotelian logic may seem contradictory but are NOT because they are revealed to us by God Himself. Our job is not to synthesize the two truths, nor to solve the contradiction. We are instead to submit to the Revelation God has given us and accept that many things will be mysterious to us. I'm not advocating mysticism, anti-logic. I'm saying that because we don't have the tools, we can't reason our way to God, we need Revelation and there will be times that because God has revealed certain things, other things will make sense. There will be other times when we simply have to say....so be it. When the Revelation of Scripture doesn't tell us....then we need to stop and NOT SPECULATE.
Again, we all for the most part agree on the Incarnation and the Trinity. I'm saying we need apply those same principles to all of theology. We need to submit, and arrest the impulse to develop and speculate.
But to return to the previous point. If the WHAT is wrong, the HOW is wrong, and employing Aristotelian logic to validate the HOW is also wrong. If logic can't probe into and develop areas of special revelation BEYOND the Scripture.....What we KNOW we CANNOT do with theology.....Dominionism zealously seeks to do, and yet because of the multi-layered argument....insists it can.
We have a very complicated problem.
We have people trying to build -
a physical transformationalist kingdom,
with a philosophical system to back it up,
that believes it can proclaim its ideas as Biblical.
It can claim to be teaching the Christian Worldview.
But I contend it has misread the Bible on a massive scale, has a wrong kingdom, is asking the wrong questions, and is thus completely off-track in its energies and agenda. While claiming to adhere to the Sufficiency of Scripture, it is treating them as insufficient. While claiming to promote a Biblical Worldview, it is actually hindering the development of a Biblical Worldview.
And it's complicated further by the fact that the average Evangelical or Reformed person doesn't really grasp where these ideas have all come from and the background to them. They've been told they're thinking and acting Biblically and the goals sound great. I will grant that, they are very pleasing to the flesh. Tie them in with cultural sympathies and you can really energize people and get them quite passionate.
Remember how we talked about the Roman Church and how they didn't rely on just the Bible, but they added to it tradition and philosophy interpreted by the Magisterium?
Why did Rome do this? That's complicated and there's probably about a hundred different answers. But when the Church entered the Constantinian era, the Church was faced with new DRIVERS....new questions that had to be answered. What does a Christian society look like? What would the Roman Empire look like as a Christian Roman Empire?
Societies and cultures are really complex, so complex that those living in them often don't realize just how much the culture shapes their thinking. We can look back at Christians in late antiquity and later in the middle ages and spot a lot of these things very clearly. Things where the culture was also playing part in their DRIVERS, the questions they were asking as they were trying to work out the HOW for the Christian Society....their WHAT.
This went on for centuries and rather than answer questions and for things to get more simple, it really only grew more complex. History happened, people change, customs change, culture changes, and so theologians and church leaders wrestled with how to answer these issues. Since they were looking for a WHAT, a goal beyond the Scripture, the Scriptures really couldn't help them. So, I hope you can see they were driven to ask a series of HOW's that their context presented to them. And within a very short time the Scriptures just lot their authority all together. Eventually they even lost their authority in the areas that the Scripture were supposed to be authoritative.....the Church and the Christian life. Instead Medieval Catholics had a theology that was dominated by external systems that interacted with the Biblical text and these systems were primarily motivated by the cultural context in which they lived. We can see this with worship, polity, and social issues such Feudalism, Crusade, and War.
I don't want to oversimplify. Some of these forces were already at work before the time of Constantine and Theodosius, and the promotion of Christianity within the Empire. But when Constantine came along it was as if some put the throttle at full. There were bumps in the road...Arian emperors, and Julian the Apostate....but it didn't matter, the path was set upon in earnest.
So in the end, Rome lost the Authority base of the Scripture, and in time actually began to persecute those who stood for it and rejected the whole complex of ideas that had sprung up.
Dominionism I'm afraid is caught in the same trap. It's not modern at all, it's really the theological core of what created Roman Catholicism and the whole nightmare of the Middle Ages. This is why I'm so keen on the pre-Reformation groups. They saw something of this. The Reformation grabbed back the Bible as an authority for the Church and the Christian Life, but it never really worked out the Christian Society issue....Christendom.
Many Dominionists happily proclaim themselves to be Constantinian. Many look with fondness to the Middle Ages....an era of Monistic Sacralism.
Of course to the Christians of that era, the man of sin reigned over the Church trampling the blood of the saints. It was no golden age in terms of temporal life. Spiritually? Maybe, but as a persecuted remnant in the Medieval Underground. If the Dominionists were to take control again, they will recreate this Underground, a Remnant that resists them. They may wish us harm when we don't go along with their agendas, accept their propaganda, support their wars, and worship their sacral symbols....but we will not sign on to their mistaken version of the Kingdom.
Every culture in the world is religious in nature. They all promote some form of Sacralism....a societal religion. It has always been and always will be until the Parousia.
Christian Sacralism is often called Constantinianism. The result is a Christian Society, a Christian culture and civilization....Christendom. That's the WHAT the Roman church was after.
Dominionism is after the same goal. They want to re-cast and re-do, they want re-form Christendom. They want to keep the Bible as the center, and not lose the Authority base to external authorities, like tradition, philosophy, and the Magisterium.
But it's impossible. Since our modern culture is very different from late antiquity and the middle ages, their form will look different, but foundationally it's the same.
By reading the Bible wrongly, they sought a goal, a WHAT, that demands a certain type of HOW.....that leads them right back to abandoning the Bible as the authority and instead embracing an external authority.
They can call it Biblical all they want, but they've subjected Revelation to an alien philosophical criteria and its tools. Many of the DRIVERS, the HOW questions are determined NOT by Scripture, but by CULTURAL CONTEXT. And cultural context is formed by history and custom.
By letting the culture and the times determine the HOW questions, it's no different than integrating Tradition into the equation. The end result is....We read the Bible as Romans, English, or Americans and unintentionally integrate cultural assumptions and values into the equation. The system has already validated the external criteria (the questions) and alien means to answer them. Van Tillians don't mean to validate approaching Theology as Americans, but that in the end is what happens. They think they're just sitting down and coming up with these systems straight from the pages of Scripture. So many layers of thought have led to this, that they seem nothing less than baffled when you call them on it and ask them to show you the Biblical evidence. They're standing firmly and resolutely on a house of cards.
Tradition (Cultural values, expressions, and systems) and Philosophy in the Dominionist system have already overthrown the Authority of Scripture, the goals it presents, and the means to attain them.
Does Dominionism have a Magisterium as well? No. For the most part these people are on the same general page in terms of the overall goal. They argue over details.
In Rome the Magisterium decides the WHAT and the HOW. Dominionists are battling over this right now....who has the authority to decide this question. The forum or matrix for the arguments are within the various traditions and the boxing ring is the documents, the historical confessions.
Now sometimes they disagree sharply. One group came along and argued along similar lines regarding Authority and logic in relation to the Church and the Christian life. They've been more or less driven out even though they were otherwise hardliners on the issue of Dominionism's WHAT and HOW. They seemed to see the problems of SPECULATION in the one area, theology and the Church, but did not see it at all when it comes to the question of how we as a Church live in society. Their Van Tillian buttressed Dominionism causes them to ask questions and develop their systemic answers in the same extra-Biblical way.
How you answer these core questions regarding the Kingdom and The Bible profoundly affect how you view the culture and society in which you live, how you read history, and what your expectations are for the future of this world. It affects how you live and what you pour your energy and time into. It affects the Church in a host of ways.
It's interesting to see how when you reject their WHAT and HOW, they immediately accuse you of giving up and retreating. They're assuming the WHAT, the goal, and think you're just disagreeing with them over the HOW, the means. They can't seem to grasp that you're rejecting their WHOLE system from start to finish. It's not based on cultural fears or some kind of despair. We're actually saying the Bible teaches something entirely different.
In conclusion, I believe Dominionism is the same Sacralism that Rome brought to us. They have merely re-cast it, and given it more teeth a more sophisticated argument for the modern era.
I'll freely admit, if they're right, then I'm just completely off-base, a heretic.
But if they're wrong, I hope you can see they're got serious problems....in fact I would argue the Bible is explicitly warning against what they're trying to do both in goal and method, in the WHAT and the HOW. I've written about that as well.
And again I will emphasize.....as you keep all this in mind when you read what they write, take note, do they have Biblical evidence for what they're saying? Or are they appealing to texts, standing on these flawed assumptions and employing erroneous arguments?
I'm reminded of a sermon by one of them I heard recently. He was speaking on the texts dealing with the revolt of the ten Northern Tribes under Jeroboam. Solomon's son, Rehoboam tried to re-assert his authority by sending the tax-collector to the ten tribes who was subsequently killed by them.
Remember, I would say this is a picture of the Church, the people of God. This is a picture of schism and apostasy, the setting up of a parallel apostate community, a mock-kingship. Yet it was God's plan, for when Rehoboam put together an army to re-capture the north, the prophet sent him home and essentially told him to disband the army. This is all part of God's plan for Israel leading up to a Remnant Theology and the exile and many other things.
What did the Dominionist get from it? God was validating tax revolts. Because Rehoboam's army was sent home and the North's expression of revolt was through refusing the tax, then God permits us (sacral nations like America) to do the same.
This completely misses the point of the text, actually contradicts the New Testament teaching, and is built on erroneous foundations. This is a case of the DRIVERS overriding the textual meaning. The DRIVER questions are shaping the hermeneutic. It's interesting as well, because it is so obviously an American expression of this Dominionist hermeneutic...dealing with contemporary American issues and validating certain aspects of the American heritage. Americans have often struggled with their own history as the nation was birthed by a tax revolt. It's a little difficult to find that in the Bible isn't it? That we as Christians should refuse to render our tax to Caesar and instead try and overthrow him, is at best problematic. American Sacral Lore dictates you can't question God's stamp of approval on what happened in 1776. Since the colonies won, it must have been right.
All of this is misreading the Bible on a massive scale.
This is every bit as bad as the comical scene in Fiddler on the Roof, when the young Marxist teaches the Jewish girls that the lesson from the story of Jacob and Laban is.....never trust your employer.
If only it were funny. But this is no movie. This type of thinking is being taught in Churches everywhere.
The Reformation was a great Gospel revival, but because it did not answer these questions correctly....we've come full circle and we're in the same crisis that we found ourselves in many centuries ago. It's not going to look exactly the same, but it's the same creature. Ecclesiastically speaking....we are at the threshold. If these people win, America at least will become the new Holy Roman Empire. Actually I would say it long has been. They slipped up and began to lose it a generation ago, and now they are striving to re-capture it before it's gone forever. We to pray to God that they fail.
The way all of this integrates is impressive. The so-called Christian Worldview it has created validates the philosophical denial of objectivity.
While I would agree...everyone is biased. Everyone has a worldview that plays out whether they're aware of it or not....
This Van Til inspired version of Christian Worldview already has the right answers. Since they've got the HOW figured out, they can connect the dots. While they're certainly interested in history....they've already know the right interpretation of it. It's not a matter of working through the sources and multi-layered analysis. They already know the rights and wrongs of it. It's like watching an old western with the good guys in white and the bad guys in black.
Current events, the media?....that's all shaped by this as well. What about politics? Compromise, working things out? You can't really do that if you already know the Christian view of what economics and politics are supposed to be.
Dominionism even when it is not known by that name, has created a powerful force within society and the Church and it's VERY difficult to get anyone to even think about what's happening. It all ties together....the Tradition and Cultural Values become Orthodoxy. To question those is immediate heresy.
This is the same phenomenon that occurred in the Middle Ages. Again, slightly different form, and ours is by no means static....but to them questioning the theological/social order was heresy and treason all at the same time.....very similar to what happens if you dare question America and its place in the world.
That's where we're at. If you grasp what I'm saying, these interactions will demonstrate this very clearly.