September 2019 Credo
Reader’s Question: How should biblical Christians assess Dominion Theology or the Seven Mountain Mandate?
According to the leaders of the movement called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), God in these last days will empower the church and her prophets and apostles to take control of the world’s major institutions and govern the nations. Known variously as ‘Dominionism’, ‘Dominion Theology’, ‘Reconstructionism’, ‘Restorationism’ and the ‘Seven Mountains Mandate’, this radical doctrine presents a vision of the relationship between Church and State that can be best described as a form of theocracy.
NAR is a movement that began life in the early 1990s. According to the late Peter Wagner, one of its chief spokesmen, the leaders of this movement believe that in these last days God has begun to restore the office of the apostle which the church has marginalised for most of its history.
These end-time apostles, accompanied by the prophets, will be responsible for preparing the Church for Christ’s return. The leaders of this movement believe that unless the Church is sufficiently prepared, Christ cannot return and the parousia will be delayed indefinitely. This means that God has placed the consummation of his eschatological kingdom in the hands of his apostles and prophets.
The leaders of NAR also believe that it is the mission of the church to transform the world and to establish the kingdom of God on earth. They argue that this radical transformation can only be effected if Christians (i.e., the apostles and prophets) take control of the important institutions on which society stands.
In his book, Dominion: How Kingdom Action Can Change the World (2008), Wagner describes this as a ‘new call for a triumphant Church’. He firmly believes that the time has come for the Church to exercise dominion over the nations: ‘We have the tools to do it, we have the gifted personnel to do it and we have the power of the Holy Spirit to do it. It will be done!’
According to the proponents of this doctrine, the major institutions – the seven mountains – over which the apostles and prophets must exercise control, are:
- Government / Military
- Arts / Entertainment
Although it is critical that all the seven mountains be brought under the Church’s dominion, according to Johnny Enlow, a self-styled NAR prophet, the most important mountain is the government because ‘it can establish laws and decrees that affect and control every other mountain’.
The version of dominionism advanced by NAR is very similar to the teaching associated with the heretical Latter Rain Movement that sprung from Pentecostal soil in America in the 1940s. In fact, many of the doctrines and practices associated with NAR can be traced to that movement, albeit dressed in a more contemporary garb and cleverly repackaged.
The Assemblies of God denounced the teachings of the Latter Rain movement in a statement issued on September 13, 1949.
The editor of Media Spotlight, Albert James Dager has succinctly summarised the teachings of dominionism in his book, Vengeance is Ours: The Church in Dominion (1990) thus:
Dominion theology is predicated upon three beliefs: 1) Satan usurped man’s dominion over the earth through the temptation of Adam and Eve; 2) The Church is God’s instrument to take dominion back from Satan; 3) Jesus cannot or will nor return until the Church has taken dominion by gaining control of earth’s governmental and social institutions.
How should Christians respond to the Seven Mountains Mandate?
Christians should reject this doctrine because it finds no support whatsoever in Scripture and because it distorts the Church’s understanding of its relationship to the State and the eschatological kingdom of God. This doctrine is the result of a number of erroneous exegetical and theological moves that led to serious aberrations and departures from Scripture.
Following the teachings of the Latter Rain Movement and Christian Reconstructionism, NAR leaders maintain that the dominion that Adam was given the privilege of exercising (Genesis 1:26-28) must be understood as his reign over the whole created order. However, Adam forfeited his right when he sinned against God.
NAR maintain that in these last days God has given this mandate to the Church, which must exercise dominion over the nations by taking possession of the seven mountains, the power centres of the world. The NAR prophet Steve Schultz could therefore declare: ‘We as the Church are becoming properly positioned to rule and reign with Christ and establish the Kingdom of God on earth’.
Needless to say, this is a complete distortion of the cultural mandate found in the first chapter of Genesis (1:28). By this mandate, God invites human beings made in the divine image to take care of the creation in the way that truly reflects the providential love and grace of its Creator. In other words, in obeying this divine mandate humans are to serve as stewards of the creation, not its overlords.
NAR has also twisted the Great Commission that Jesus gave to the Church (Matthew 28:16-20) by interpreting the command to make disciples in a way that supports their political agenda. In his book, Transformation: Change the Market Place and You Change the World (2006), the Argentinian evangelist and apostle Edgardo Silvoso declares that ‘The discipling of nations is our primary task on earth’.
In the same book Silvoso supplies examples that illustrate what he meant by the expression ‘discipling the nations’:
The Romans ‘discipled’ nations conquering and imposing on them Pax Romana. Lenin and his followers ‘discipled’ Russia and the Soviet Union by molding them in a regimented and all-encompassing way the lives of millions with Communist philosophy. Mao did the same in China, the largest nation on earth. Militant Muslims actively take over nations and disciple them a la Ayatollah Khomeini; and even though they don’t use the term disciple, they are making entire populations into followers – disciples – of Mohammed.
This is a serious misreading of the Great Commission of Christ.
In concert with its interpretation of the Great Commission, NAR has also construed the kingdom of God in essentially political terms. The Dominionist theology of the kingdom (also known as ‘Kingdom Now’ theology) is clearly articulated by Bill Johnson, an influential figure in NAR.
Since God’s original plan for Adam has been derailed by the latter’s disobedience, Johnson argues, ‘[w]e, the Church are called to extend His rule on this earthly sphere, just as Adam was called to do’. This, according to Johnson, is what is meant by the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.
This vision of the kingdom of God is diametrically opposed to that of Jesus’. In his reply to Pilate, Jesus said: ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world’ (John 18:36).
In 2000, the Assemblies of God in America issued a statement entitled ‘End time Revival – Spirit-Led and Spirit-Controlled’ to address the erroneous doctrines and practices that have arisen in some churches. One of the doctrines that it rejects because it contains ‘misleading and unbiblical elements’ is Kingdom Now or Dominion Theology.
The AOG in America describes it as an ‘errant theology’ which promotes a form of ‘unscriptural triumphalism’:
… this errant theology says that Jesus will not return until the Church takes dominion of the earth back from Satan and his followers. By taking control, through whatever means possible, of political, ecclesiastical, educational, economic, and other structures, Christians supposedly can make the world a worthy place for Christ to return and rule over. This unscriptural triumphalism generates other variant teachings.
In his book entitled Divergent Theology (2017), Richard Moore rightly observes that ‘Dominionism is so heinous and dangerous because it gives Satan more power than he has, and gives man more authority than he deserves’.
While this is no doubt true, this theology is far more insidious and the distortions it unleashes in its wake are far more pervasive. For Dominion Theology disfigures many of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith: Christology, ecclesiology, anthropology and eschatology. It presents an altogether different gospel.
Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.