Are the Dominionist Blueprints, their models for transforming the spheres...Christian? Biblical? Are they providing us with a Biblical Worldview?
While coherent with the philosophical systems they've created, in many, maybe even most cases they're not in accord with Scripture, and this is usually pretty clear by just comparing what they're suggesting with the Pilgrim ethic of Scripture. Just reading through the Gospels or Epistles in most cases quickly resolves any doubts. I'm afraid their systems are man-made and many of them have reached a point in which it would seem they can no longer see the forest through the trees.
These are the same folks that are often very careful to think through presuppositions but then suggest models that are far more rooted in tradition and cultural norms than anything else. Their philosophical models for argument and discourse (mostly in Reformed circles) have not saved them from the perils of their own cultural biases. They are being so careful to analyze culture through Biblical spectacles, they don't realize they are viewing the Bible itself through the cultural lens, distorting their analysis and solutions.
None of us are exempt from this, but certainly a non-Sacralist understanding of culture is rather liberating when it comes to analysis. The person who has nothing invested in the culture, and has a take it or leave it attitude toward his place of residence is more likely to think and speak with candor, and leave the cultural lens aside. Again, this is all subjective and opinions will vary. I have often found that those on the Left are more honest about the cultural issues, they ask the right questions...they just have bad answers. The Right does not even possess enough integrity or courage to ask the real questions. Again my opinion, but the Left is a constant mode of self-examination and critique...perhaps destructive in the end. But Conservatives, the Right, rest upon a narrative concerning what's gone before. Much of their ideology in fact rests on the particulars of that narrative. It's not very conducive to honest probing or investigation, let alone reflection or reassessment.
The Sacralist having frankly made an idol out of his own nation or culture will not readily listen to external critiques, nor consider the possibility that others have done some things better and that his own nation or culture might be deficient in some or many areas. For them, this is akin to blasphemy.
Rather than expounding all their energies on mastering cultural systems, they ought to work on mastering Scripture, for in many cases they are representing thought and models that are explicitly in contradiction to the teaching of the New Testament.
The questions they ask and the false dilemmas created by these questions exhibit the fact that they're treating Scripture as a data mine or sourcebook rather than a Redemptive History revealing to us the Theanthropic Christ. Examples of this kind of thinking in Reformed circles are particularly noticeable in the Theonomic camp with their 'Theonomy v. Autonomy' and 'By what standard?' discussions, which are not generated by Scripture, but by the philosophical issues surrounding their understanding of Dominion and Culture War.
Since the present desires to look to the past as a time in which Christendom (the complex of these ideas applied to culture) was much stronger, there is a definite tendency to romanticize the past and paint a rosy picture of what it looked like. Honest historical assessment destroys the narrative, the myth, and tarnishes the idol.
There is a strong reductionistic tendency in how they frame cultural questions of the present as well. The agenda is supreme and they don't want to get bogged down by complexities and nuances. We see this very strongly at present in Conservative American politics. The candidates of choice paint broad brush strokes and appeal more to general ideological principles and supposedly morally driven emotions rather than deal with any specific technical issues. So called 'gut instinct' rooted in the superior character of the candidate seems to be enough. Many grounded their trust in George Bush with such arguments and hundreds of thousands of people are dead as a result.
It's no surprise that the most popular political leaders of the Christian Right Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were not 'hands-on' type leaders. They put forward big ideas, picked someone to take care of it and left it there. Leadership is about the 'gut instinct' and the big picture.
We see this same type of thinking and argument framing in Kuyper's famous Stone Lectures. He came over to the United States in 1898 and delivered a very famous series of lectures at Princeton on a variety of topics. He was trying to stir the American students to think in terms of Dominion and cultural conquest. These lectures have had a huge influence in Reformed circles and now because of Francis Schaeffer, Chuck Colson and others the core of ideas from these lectures have been disseminated on a large scale.
I read through the Stone Lectures back in the 1990's and I remember being really disappointed. At that time I had not yet formulated my present ideas and would have probably hesitantly and reluctantly identified with the Dominionist mantras, but Kuyper's lectures were just (to my mind) a lot of fluff. His history was bad, romanticized and naive. I remember on several occasions throwing the book down in frustration and disgust. His views of culture and history were not rooted in truth, but a narrative. The legacy lives on among his spiritual descendants.
Just the other day I was listening to a Christ the Center podcast with Vern Poythress. He's just written a book on 'Redeeming Sociology' and in it he invokes the Kuyperian heritage and even points specifically to the Stone Lectures as a key component in the formation of his ideas.
Again, we can approach topics like Sociology as Christians. We can wrestle with the complexities of demographics and social forces in a fallen world and the Bible tells us how to think about these things.
That's not what Poythress is doing. His purpose is to re-work and re-think the issues surrounding the science of Sociology and to specifically formulate it in Christian terms. Why? Because if we're going to transform society then we have to provide models for every facet of culture as well as the mechanisms by which it is measured. His primary critique of secular sociology is that it fails to take God into account.
Of course. As stated above, the unbeliever (not being born again) cannot grasp spiritual things. Formulating sociological models to guide statistics and interpretation will do nothing to help lost people understand social issues.
What they need is the Gospel.
Sociology is primarily dealing with human relationships. As Christians our human relationships are affected and defined by our relationship with God. Think of marriage for example. We would be wrong to expect the unbeliever to grasp this or benefit from it. The true typology is far beyond them. Their imitations will be only vague shadows of the true understanding we are given.
What often happens is when Christians try to formulate what they believe to be specifically Christian approaches to these types of topics they usually let ideology drive the interpretation of the facts. The conclusions are already held, so their approaches, their investigations are not really very sincere. They are often nothing more than tools to help them in self-affirmation.
For example in reaction to the recent Wall Street protests I hear Dominionist Christians pull out the old 'envy' charge. They're protesting because they're envious of the rich. This provides a theological basis for condemning the motives and goals of the protest, denouncing it as sinful desire. The Bible tells us this, they claim, and so....the Bible teaches that economics should be governed by Free Markets.
But that's a gross oversimplification. If you look at the signs and listen to the people...there are some who might be charged with envy, but many believe they are opposing specific criminal activity. There are many who believe the current system is a racket, a moral evil. They are motivated by indignation and a desire for justice and reform. Many have no problem with markets and entrepreneurial endeavour, they are protesting large scale corruption and crime, a system in which the wealthiest have essentially bought control.
The reality is the issues are complex as well as the motivations of the protestors...and even the motivations of those in business and positions of power. We have a mix of sin as well influences of Natural Law. Even the lost have a sense of right and wrong and when egregious crimes are committed, even the lost cry out.
The Bible is complex enough that you can argue many positions...if you take a really simplistic and narrow view in its application or if you go specifically looking for certain things. I'm afraid many Dominionist Worldview tools are nothing more than a hermeneutical grid that allows them to come up with the conclusions they want and interpret the world through this same grid. It's system-driven and after awhile the system takes over and provides the answers...and without realizing they radically stray from the text.
In does not do justice to the flow of the text, nor the facts on the ground.
Envy? This isn't a conclusion generated by an honest investigation. It's a conclusions reached by clinging to this particular socio-economic narrative. This has to be the solution, because otherwise.... we might have to engage the protestors, we might have to address some of the issues they raise. And that might cast doubts on our system.
They have taken some Biblical concepts concerning hard work and reward, prudence and stewardship and combined them with non- or at the very least extra-Biblical notions. Doing this actually changes the definitions of the Biblical terms they use. Giving suddenly doesn't really mean giving...it's qualified to death. Stewardship is a term they've loaded with so much baggage that it has become a sort of umbrella term which allows them to behave like privileged Americans rather than Biblically minded Christians.
The arguments of the lost are dismissed because...they're not allowed to make any valid points. Unable to possess a valid comprehensive worldview, their arguments are discredited. This system has incredible defense mechanisms and most of the time...people are arguing against what must be called an unassailable philosophical wall.
And suddenly, Adam Smith and Corporate Capitalism become Biblical positions and the protestors...they're not only lost people, they're insincere and sin motivated...evil.
This is but one of a myriad of examples where we find Dominionist minded people embracing what are really philosophical and sociological arguments, not Biblical ones, and allowing them to interpret what's happening at present. The Bible has something to say to both the Wall Street Bankers and the protestors. American Dominionists have in this case allowed Adam Smith and John Locke to shape their thought rather than Scripture.
And yet the wicked part is....I hear every day people like Al Mohler say, "Let's respond to this with a Biblical Worldview," and then often provide an answer that has little or nothing to do with either the Bible or the facts.
While I'm not suggesting we have to be morally relative in order to be relevant, is our worldview a Biblical one when it leads to fail to interact with temporal realities? Can we just ignore what's happening and what people are saying because of a philosophical presuppositions? This seems to me a road to detachment from reality, an Ivory Tower mentality. I see this on a regular basis when I read Christian and Conservative commentators. They speak of the poor and what motivates them, but it is painfully obvious they've never talked to anyone who is poor and understand little or nothing of what the poor deal with. In fact their ideology often leads them to invalidate many of these categories.
While we're all subject to this as well, a more objective approach might be more honest and helpful in dealing with data. Let's see what's happening yesterday and today, and deal with it honestly, even if it means we have to sometimes re-examine our thinking. We might even find that sometimes ideas we held to be Biblical are based on cultural and historical fallacies rather than the Text itself. Dealing objectively with these issues will (if we're regenerate) drive us back to the Bible, not away from it as so many fear. Of course for most of these Reformed folks since objectivity is philosophically impossible it ought not to be even attempted.
I'm not suggesting for a moment the Bible message must change in light of the facts. I'm saying we need to honest and keep going back to the Bible. Sometimes we'll find that maybe we were reading something...that wasn't really there.
What I'm also saying is...their drive for worldview often leads to bad interpretations and ones that will automatically discount data which doesn't match up with the presuppositions. For example if the sociological data doesn't support their views of economics or government...then the method of data collection is questioned rather than the ideology. We'll have to come up with a more 'christian' method of data collection. We need...yes, Christian Sociology which will give us a Biblical Worldview? Or simply validate our already existing models?
Well we can't question the Bible. Agreed. But here's the danger...Dominion Theology coupled with their theological method leads them to believe their views of say...economics and government are indeed THE Biblical view.
Perhaps you can see the blind spot? From my standpoint they're in a vicious trap. I was there too for many years. It was a massive undertaking, under guidance of the Spirit I believe, that led me to question, question, question, and keep going back to the Bible. I knew a lot of history, but now I felt driven to revisit history, economics, politics, and the rest.... For me, it meant disavowing the so-called Conservatism I was raised to believe in. Did that make me a Liberal? No, it led me to reject the social and political models given to us. I care not for their labels. I'm not interested.
In their case, Westernism or more specifically Americanism has been substituted for Biblical Christianity and when Al Mohler and Chuck Colson claim to provide Biblical Worldview commentary, what I'm often hearing is Americanist commentary. Sometimes it might sound Biblical or overlap with Biblical teaching, but it's a counterfeit and thus more dangerous than blatantly false teaching. Even when we agree...it's often for different reasons and with different emphasis.
The reality is the unbeliever has much to say and we can learn much from them...with discernment. Sociology is actually quite fascinating but it is of limited value. It has no part in the Kingdom. We don't use it to build the Kingdom, but it is helpful to know something about why people do what they do and how they interact with the world around, and certainly what is shaping their view of us.
To expound massive amounts of energy trying to develop Christian models of analysis is bound to be fruitless and largely a waste of time. If you listen to the podcast, you'll see what I mean.
Transformationalism and Dominion drive this and these are but a handful of examples of issues that really have almost no bearing on the church that have been made into not only important issues but part of an ever-narrowing orthodoxy.
The wall seems unassailable. For me it was the Text of Scripture that led me early on to recognize their theology was in error. I couldn't argue against it, but it just wasn't there.
In time I began to understand the system. I swam in the Theonomist well for a long time but I did not drink. I was fascinated by it, and at times almost persuaded...but I couldn't escape the Bible.
Eventually I started to see the problems. What looked like an unassailable wall is really paper thin, or to put it another way...it's massive but it's built on sand. Attack the foundation and the mortar (the philosophical driving questions) quickly crumbles.