23 April 2015

The Cultural Mandate

The Cultural Mandate or sometimes the Dominion Mandate refers to the command in Genesis 1.28 to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue the earth and to take dominion. Those that refer to it today believe it is still in effect and largely unmodified.

It must be pointed out this command was given in the pre-fall or prelapsarian context. At that point in time, the Garden of Eden was the Kingdom, the dwelling place of God, where His presence was, where he 'walked' with his people. The garden was in every sense a holy place.

The cultivation of the garden as well as man's rule over it was intimately tied to the idea of the Kingdom, the presence and rule of God. This imagery is repeated and expanded upon in the book of Revelation. The cultivating and ruling work in the garden was holy work, it was covenantal, containing both promise of life and the threat of curse. Adam broke the covenant and brought upon him and all his progeny the curse of death.

After the fall man is banished, and sent out of the garden. Though God showed great mercy and longsuffering in delaying Judgment and in promising a Seed to destroy the serpent, the tale of man is one of sorrow. The world descends into demonic wickedness and the end of the age comes upon them through the judgment of the flood. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that is also the course of This Present Age (2 Tim 3.1-5, Mat 24.37, Luke 17.26-27).

Noah typified Christ in his prophetic role and he did so again after the flood in his first man/Adam typology. Once again this finds its ultimate  fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the Second Adam. But in another sense Noah is still but a repetition of the first Adam. He is both Fallen Adam and the Seed-bearer at the same time. As such he is given a two-fold covenant promise. One aspect of the covenant (laid out in Genesis 6.18 and reiterated in Genesis 8.1) is specific to Noah and as a promise of salvation, includes the continued promise of the Seed. This is the continuation of the promise made in Genesis 3.15 regarding the defeat of the serpent. He would survive the ordeal of the death-waters and would be saved (1 Peter 3.20-21, cf. Romans 6.3-4). The other aspect of what is often called the Noahic Covenant is for humanity in general and is a promise of God's mercy and assurance that the world would not be destroyed by floodwaters (Gen 9.1-17).

The next Judgment would be final and of a different nature. But in the meantime man would be allowed to live and was again to populate the earth.

But contrary to today's Dominionists it must be pointed out that the mandate of Genesis 9 is significantly different. It's not related to the question of salvation, the promise of the Tree of Life or even the coming Messiah. The context is no longer that of the Kingdom. Rather than functioning in a blessing-domain it now operates in the realm of curse. Now there's opposition and fear, the products of the fall. In addition to weeds, toil, sweat and pain, there will be the fear of beasts and the eating of them.

The work of man in the world is no longer holy in the sense that the earth is no longer the garden, the sanctified realm of God. Later God would set up a typical but also temporary theocratic realm that itself was but a picture of the true Kingdom which is in heaven. This true Kingdom will only be manifested on the earth when it is purged by fire, renewed, and the curse is removed. Such a transformation will be cataclysmic and akin to a re-creation. The True Kingdom at this point is something beyond this world, something heavenly, spiritual, and only accessible via the work of the Holy Spirit.

The new order of Genesis 9 is no longer the Holy order of the garden but a temporary order of restraint where God shows a partial grace to all of man. He allows them to live, allows the sun to shine on their crops, the rain to water their gardens and he largely delays judgment. This grace or benevolence is not redemptive but common to all humanity.

It must be noted that this common grace also makes fallen man all the more responsible in the end and increases his accountability. Man is without excuse.

With common grace comes common judgment. The redeemed also will suffer in the world. When plague or disaster hit, the believer and unbeliever will both suffer but for the believer this is not cause for despair. Because man is social there is also the prototype of human government. This is not in the holy covenantal context as we later see in the temporary and now obsolete Mosaic order (Hebrews 7.11-19). The promises of salvation are not applicable to this Common (non-holy) and thus non-redemptive arrangement.

I would argue it is an order established to exhibit God's longsuffering. It does not redeem and cannot be redeemed. It is an imperfect but sufficient matrix for the promise of the Seed to come to fruition. At present it is a manifestation of mercy and delay.

After the typological preparatory parenthesis of the Mosaic order the Messiah comes and after His resurrection announces a great commission. His victory is won, He ascends to heaven to be crowned and enthroned (Acts 2), and to return and destroy the works of darkness in the Final Judgment. But in His longsuffering and mercy (2 Pet 3) He waits so that the good news may be spread to all nations, not just the Jewish people of earthly Israel. The typical temporary Kingdom of earthly Israel is no more. That order passed with the tearing of the veil. The Mosaic-Levitical order with its temple, land and ethnic identity is now obsolete as we live under the New Covenant priesthood of Melchizedek.

The infant church is commanded to make disciples of all nations. This New Covenant reiteration of 'be fruitful and multiply' is now spiritualized for the Kingdom and is no longer manifested in earthly tribes and nations. There are no covenanted nations apart from the Holy Nation, the Church, the New Covenant Israel (Eph 2.11-22, Phil 3.3, Gal 6.16, John 4.21-24, Matt 21.43).

Like Paul in Galatians 3, Peter assures us in Acts 2 that the Abrahamic promise which was a prototype of the New Covenant, or to put it differently the New Covenant operating anachronistically, is still in effect. Since we live in the time after Christ's resurrection and ascension, the outward form has changed, but the children of believers are still included (Acts 2.39).  Paul echoes the covenant status of children in the new non-tribal and non-national arrangement of the Church (1 Cor 7.14). The only Holy Nation of the New Covenant era is the Spiritual Israel, the Church of Jesus Christ as Paul makes clear in virtually all his letters. Peter echoes this (1 Pet 2.9-10) and refers to the lost as 'gentiles' in verse 12.

Like the days of Noah the New Covenant community does not build cities (civilizations). This is the task of the Cainites, the unbelievers. We live in tents, or in their cities but as strangers and pilgrims. We are like the exiles in Babylon, strangers in a strange land awaiting the call to the land of promise. Civilization is a blessing in terms of God's longsuffering and restraint but it also represents a danger to the covenant community. If we embrace Cainite civilization too extensively we run the risk of confusing it with God's Kingdom.

We're not to conquer it or appropriate it as the Dominionists argue, nor are we to try and completely break with it. Instead it we're to live among the Cainites, but as faithful exiles. We live as strangers and pilgrims building our altars as it were as a testimony to the Gospel... the promise of life for those who believe and the coming Judgment for those who reject Christ.

The Covenant is no longer restricted to one nation or group but now extends to the whole world and we are to bring in a harvest of souls, honouring God in this era by living as martyr-witnesses, enduring and suffering to his praise and glory. Though we are hated and slaughtered in these perilous times (2 Tim 3) we are more than conquerors (Rom 8.37).

We do not entangle ourselves in the affairs of this life (2 Tim 2.4), we mind our own business, work with our hands, always conscious of the fact that there's an antithesis between 'us' and the 'outsiders' (1 Thes 4.11-12). Paul says we have nothing to do with judging those who are outside, implying we as Christians do not wield or are to attempt to wield authority over them (1 Cor 5.12). We are to pray that those who are in authority (again implying it's not us) will leave us alone and allow us to lead quiet and peaceable lives (1 Tim 2.2).

We do not seek after power or influence. Power so closely related to money and the security, respectability, voice and influence it wields is referred to by Christ as something the Gentiles seek after (Matt 6.19-34). He categorically states that you cannot serve God and money. Paul says this dangerous age, hardly one of the Church taking political and cultural dominion, will be characterized by the love of self and the love of money (2 Tim 3), and out of these twin pillars of worldliness will flow all the evils of pride... and all the harm it does to others.

Dominionism refuses to treat this world and the things within the world as that which is passing away (1 Cor 7.29-31) and that which burns up (2 Peter 3.10). Instead they believe contrary to Paul's words in 1 Timothy 6.7 that our cultural advancements and productions are things that will be carried over into heaven.

Modern Dominionism has all but sanctified the acquisition of power and in fact mandates it as a mark true Christian piety. Those that follow the way of the cross, those that seek to obey Christ's injunction found in Matthew 5-8 and reject self, power, worldly success and comforts, those who live looking out for the interests of others (Phil 2.4) will hardly succeed and take Dominion in This Age.

In fact the world will hate us (Mat 10.22, John 15.18), scorn as losers, and we will appear defeated (Rev 11.7). We must be careful that we are hated because of the testimony of Christ and his Gospel, not due to being busybodies in other people's matters, or unnecessarily resisting the state (1 Peter 4.15). The state (even that of Nero in Romans 13) exists to keep a common order. In that sense, just as Assyria (Isa 10.5ff) and the Persians (Isa 44.28) the state serves (ministers to) God's providential purposes. It represents a pre-Parousia vengeance that is often flawed but still does something to restrain sin. In Romans 13 this is contrasted with the non-vengeance, non-violent ethic of the renewed Church (Rom 12.17-21). Romans 13 is not in any sense a blueprint for idealized government or a delineation of some kind of Christian statecraft. It is simply an understanding that the state is necessary, serves a purpose and in most cases will leave us alone as long as we leave it alone.

Dominionism in utilizing the mandate of Genesis 1, rejects the words of Christ in John 18.36 and insists the Kingdom is indeed built with the sword of conquest and is a threat to Rome and any other political order.

Dominionism believes that if successful whole hosts of passages like Luke 16.15 will be overturned. Men, the world, will become Christian and think in Christian terms, the antithesis will be removed and that which the world esteems will be righteous rather than abomination. Through Dominion we can create cultures that will not be perilous (2 Tim 3.1) and the days will no longer be evil (Eph 6.13, Gal 1.4, Eph 5.16). Satan will no longer be the 'god of this age' (2 Cor 4.4). Contrary to 1 Corinthians 2.6, Dominionism teaches that if somehow civilization and culture can be made 'Christian' then the rulers of this age will apparently come to be 'something'. The meaning of these passages become meaning-less in a Dominionist context and vision, let alone the idea that evil seducers will grow worse (2 Tim 3.13). Dominionism if victorious will render such passages obsolete.

Contrary to 1 Timothy 6.5, Dominionism believes that if the cultural conditions are right than gain can indeed be produced by and be an evidence of godliness. Clinging to flagship verses like Colossians 1.20 it believes the reconciliation is accomplished through redeeming culture. In fact the reconciliation comes in the person of Christ. We can have peace through the cross or the fires of Judgment. Culture is not even in view and it is certainly not conveyed or translated into the Kingdom of the Son, nor redeemed through his blood (Col 1.13-14). Culture serves a purpose but it is outside the realm of reconciliation.

Ultimately Dominionism in its massive misreading of Scripture leads to an erosion and elimination of Antithesis. What it mistakenly calls 'dualism' is in fact the Biblical distinction between the redeemed Church and the world. Our criticisms of Dominionism are not rooted in Manichaean dualism or some rejection of matter. We reject This Age and instead look for the Age to Come (2 Peter 3.13). It is only in the Age to Come, after Christ's return in the New Heavens and Earth that we will have dominion so to speak. But that dominion is in Christ (Heb 2.5-9). This age is a time of suffering (2 Tim 3.12), groaning (Romans 8.18-25) and the desire to be in our heavenly habitation (2 Cor 5.1-7). Dominionism labels much of what the New Testament teaches as Gnostic. Gnosticism is a real danger, but so is Judaizing. Dominionism exhibits elements of both.

The Great Commission commands that we make disciples of the nations. Some have distorted this passage and try to read it as a mandate to make the political and cultural aspects of nations into 'disciples'. Effectively they argue we are to conquer the world for Christ and make it holy. Nations are to be baptized in a figurative sense through the power of cultural transformation and the state. Those that aren't converted are to be coerced. Laws and the dictates of judiciaries are backed up by men with badges and guns. Under this scheme, these 'vocations' now 'build' the Kingdom.

This woeful misreading not only tortures the text of Matthew 28 but represents a concept completely antithetical to every other teaching in the New Testament. There is not a single verse that suggests this but a myriad of verses which suggest otherwise. Clearly Christ is communicating that the boundaries of the Covenant are no longer restricted to the physical nation of Israel and the old Temple order. The veil being rent, the Old Covenant with all of its restrictions has come to an end. Now the Gospel is universal in scope and goes out to all nations, to all peoples of the gentile world. This is echoed in passages such as Acts 10 and Paul's explanation of the Abrahamic promise (Galatians 3.8, cf. Romans 5.13, 1 Pet 2.9-10).

Finally it must be noted that not only does the Great Commission represent a new type of 'mandate' for the New era. It also implies that a return to the old forms is to reject the fulfilling nature of Christ's work (2 Cor 1.20). Just as the Old Covenant has been disannulled and replaced (Heb 7, Gal 3.23-25), the old mandates are also surely removed. As we have argued the Genesis 1 mandate was effectively over with the fall but even the creational aspect of the Noahic Covenant has been modified by the resurrection of Christ.

Now indeed the New world (This Age, The Last Days) once more awaits coming Judgment, this time by fire. The realm of God's presence, the redemptive realm wrought by the Holy Spirit is presently in Heaven and will only become manifest on earth when this age ends. We who live simultaneously in both This Age and the Age to Come are ambassadors, something like a colony of exiles (Col 1.13, 3.1-2, 1 Pet 2.11, Heb 11.13, 37b-38).

The earth will be purged by fire and effectively re-created and it is in that holy realm that righteousness will reign and where sin will be eradicated. The culture of heaven while indeed transcendently physical will be beyond what we can imagine (1 Cor 2.9). The works of this age will all perish (2 Peter 3.10), and those that seek to build the Kingdom in terms of culture are building with hay and stubble (1 Cor 3.11-13) and are in danger of defiling the temple by attempting to bring the world into the Church. Rejecting the way of the cross, the way of suffering and death, and our primary 'vocation' as martyrs they believe the Kingdom is brought about through cultural conquests, legislation enforced by the sword, and man's attainments. Instead they invite the world into the Church and have effectively rejected the authority of God (2 Tim 3.5).

Dominionism believes the Kingdom is made visible to the world despite the fact that one must be born again to see it (John 3.3, 1 Cor 2.10, Rom 14.17, Luke 17.20-21). The Kingdom works in the world displaying the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is utterly lost on those who do not have eyes to see.

Eschatology is more than an understanding of end-times chronology. Our understanding of the future of this age helps us determine how to live now. Even those who don't openly espouse Post-millennialism, by embracing Dominionism they have adopted it's ethical mandates. Ironically two of the biggest figures who have promoted Dominionism, Abraham Kuyper and Francis Schaeffer were not Postmillennial, but they might as well have been. To them Christendom, the so-called Civilization of Christianity was God's Holy Kingdom on earth. The harm and evil this has caused can also not be overstated.

And I would admit that today most who espouse Dominionism are not Postmillennial, but again they might as well be. Yet, Dominionism's ascent to the position of orthodoxy has effectively made Postmillennialism and certainly its ethic the default within the mainstream Church. The Cultural Mandate is at the heart of both Postmillennialism and the idea of Christendom. It is one of the great heresies of Church history replacing the true heavenly Zion with a corrupted forgery.  It's no accident that sometimes its proponents make a slip of the tongue and refer to it as 'another gospel' beyond The Great Commission. That's exactly what it is, another gospel (Gal 1.8) and in many ways related to the same kind of Judaizing Paul combated and denounced, a gospel which seeks to bind us to the elements of this world, a kingdom bound to cultural forms and enforced by the sword. At least the Mosaic culture was ordained by God. Dominionism seeks to sacralize and covenantalize its own man-made creations and paradigms.

The emphasis on the mandate of Genesis 1.28 is a Protestant re-working of the same forces that led to Roman Catholic Christendom. It is the Bride-Church abandoning the Groom for the idols and enticements presented by the Pseudo-Zion of the Beast and its claims to divinity. Dominionism identifies secularism as the great threat to the Church. The New Testament identifies false teaching and its proponents as the great demonic force at work in the world. Secularism is a problem when it enters the Church and Dominionism is more or less a baptized version of secularism. It invites secularism (man-centered worldly thinking) into the temple of God. It creates the conditions in which Biblical Antithesis is destroyed. Despite Christ's explicit rejection, it retains the Jewish vision of the Pharisees regarding the Messianic Kingdom. It looks to build a worldwide dominion through the works of man and his hands. It turns away from heaven and focuses on earthly things (Phil 3.18-20).

Because it is quickly becoming the basis for a new ecumenical movement it is in reality one of the greatest threats to the Church at this very moment. It has penetrated almost every facet of Christianity and is quickly spreading around the world.

Dominionism recasts how the Church thinks about money and power, politics and our place in the world. It makes the seeking of these things to be acts of piety. One cannot overstate how this affects the Church. It shapes how we think about violence and possessions and it seeks to use these newfound and now 'holy' tools to conquer the world. It completely inverts the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount and for that matter the whole of the New Testament. Embracing the world it justifies terrible deeds and baptizes philosophical and sociological concepts foreign to the New Testament. The world suffers as a result and the name of Christ is blasphemed.

The true Church, the remnant Church, the two olive tree witnesses of Revelation 11 is effectively slain by the False Jerusalem which is in reality Sodom and Egypt. So it has been from the beginning. So it was in the Middle Ages and so it is today. As Dominionism continue to grow it will lead to more suffering. If it succeeds the faithful who resist it will suffer and if it fails we will share in its desolation at the hands of the Beast.

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