Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Again: What is Dominionism?

A series of long posts on dominionism at Street Prophets has led me again to narrow in on the theological underpinnings of Dominionism - and the mistake of painting with too broad a brush.

The diarist is primarily on an anti-Assemblies of God rant. That shouldn't concern me much, except that he keeps nailing folks that are:

  1. Not Assemblies of God in theology [although AoG isn't Dominionist either]
  2. Not Dominionist in theology.
  3. Not involved in organizing for political purposes - or rejects it.
Certainly, not everyone who believes in the Kingdom of God, or is conservative theologically, is dominionist. In fact, the Kingdom being here, now, is more of a liberal theological bulwark than a conservative one.

Certainly, neither the IRD or the National Association of Evangelicals is dominionist. Folks know that one of my favorite folks to quote is J. Budziszewski, an ex-Episcopalian who became a Catholic over issues related to ordination of gays. One of my favorite pieces to quote is this part on Moralism from his "Problems of Conservatism":
To the question "Should the civil law enforce the precepts of the faith?" the biblical answer is, "Some yes, but some no; which ones do you mean?" The New Testament contains literally hundreds of precepts. However, Christianity is not a legislative religion. While the Bible recognizes the Torah as a divinely revealed code for the ruling of Israel before the coming of Messiah, it does not include a divinely revealed code for the ruling of the gentiles afterward . . . Christians, then, may certainly commend a law as good or condemn it as evil. They may declare it consistent or inconsistent with the faith. But not even a good law may be simply identified with the faith; Christians must not speak of a tax code, marriage ordinance, or welfare policy as Christian no matter how much, or even how rightly, they desire its enactment or preservation. That predicate has been preempted by the law of God. The civil law will be Christian-if it still exists at all- only when Christ himself has returned to rule: not when a coalition of religious conservatives has got itself elected.
Now, J. Bud is Chairman of Board for the IRD. Do you suppose his explicit and complete denunciation of the foundations of dominionism means he just doesn't really understand the organization he helps run?

Now the NAE: the claim that the core of the NAE is Pentacostal and Assemblies of God is really rather laughable - and certainly the characterization of folks who didnt have a national lobbying office until around 1980 as attempting to influence politcal power will take some work. Nor, is their statement of faith dominionist. Certainly, their current efforts for creation care and against torture are hardly far-right.

Link after link in the diaries goes to dKos diaries, or posts on other liberal blogs. There is very little in the way of primary documents or primary quotes - it is almost second or third party; and served up with a twist.

One interesting criticism: that an organization formed as a Christian Men's business organization is bigoted for not allowing women and Muslim's to join. Really. Please. It is both ok for men to form organizations that do not include women (and vis versa) and for Christians to form organizations that do not include Muslims (and vis versa). Men and women are different. Christianity and Islam have major mutally exclusive beliefs. Whether Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International is dominionist or not is one thing - bigoted for not allowing women and Muslim's is another. As you will see if you compare their stated beliefs with Dominionism below - they are not Dominionist.

Another is "cell churches": what does that mean? I tried to find a definition (and couldn't even in his links) but there is the implication that there is something sinister in large churches organizing primarily around smaller community groups/bible studies/life groups - one of those big encouragements in the Purpose Driven Church movement. He specifically warns against home-based small

Or, Promise Keepers as dominionist? Sigh.

I am too over-worked and tired to deal with some of the vast theological and political fuzziness involved here. So, I will simply, once more, post the theological definition of dominionism and ask that y'all, please, make folks use a smaller brush. From "Dominionism"
According to Gary DeMar, a popular Reconstructionist author, the foundation of Reconstructionism is a unique combination of three Biblical doctrines:
  1. Regeneration of the individual, through an intimate relationship with Christ
  2. Individuals guiding their lives closely by following a specified subset of Biblical laws
  3. Promoting of the world-wide Kingdom of God.
Specific beliefs include:
  • A rejection of Antinomianism: the belief that salvation is obtained totally through faith and not through performing good works and living a moral life [keep in mind Calvinists are decidedly antinomian, as are all those "pray a prayer" and "born again" folk. Most Christians at SP reject antinomianism to one degree or another - you dominionists you]

  • Presuppositionalism: the acceptance on faith that the Bible is true. They do not attempt to prove that God exists or that the Bible is true.

  • Inerrancy: the belief that the Bible, as originally written, is totally free of error.

  • [These next two are BIG dividers]:

  • Postmillennialism: the belief that Christ will not return to earth until much of the world has converted to Christianity. This will not take place for some considerable time; it will not be a painless transition. Most Fundamentalists and other Evangelists hold to a different view. They are Premillenialists and believe that all (or almost all) of the preconditions of Christ's return have been met. They expect Jesus' second coming to occur very soon.
    Who just left the Dominionist camp: anybody that believes in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church:
  • The 613 laws contained in the Hebrew Scriptures' Mosaic Code can be divided into two classes: moral and ceremonial. Christians are not required to follow the ceremonial laws, because Jesus has liberated them from that responsibility. However, all persons must follow those moral laws which were not specifically modified or cancelled by further revelation --generally in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). In contrast:
    • Non-reconstructionist Christians generally divide these laws into three classes: moral, civil and ceremonial law, and generally believe that most Old Testament laws are no longer binding on Christians.
    • Jews generally believe that the Mosaic Code is binding only on Jews.

  • The moral laws given by God to the ancient Israelites reflect of God's character, which is unchangeable. Most of the laws are intended for all nations, cultures, societies, religions and all eras, including the present time. However, there are a few laws, in such areas as personal safety and sanitation, which are no longer applicable because of changes in architecture and sewage disposal. These do not need to be obeyed.

  • The primacy of the Hebrew Scriptures, relative to the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). All of the Hebrew Scriptures' non-ceremonial laws are still in force, unless they have been specifically rescinded or modified by verses in the Christian Scriptures.
    "Only if we find an explicit abandonment of an Old Testament law in the New Testament, because of the historic fulfillment of the Old Testament shadow, can we legitimately abandon a detail of the Mosaic law."
    This is largely supported by their interpretation of Matthew 5:17:
    "Do you think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets
  • Civil laws must be changed to match the Bible's moral rules. That is, anything that is immoral (by their standards) is also to be criminalized.

  • The only valid legislation, social theory, spiritual beliefs, economic theory are those derived from the Bible

  • In every aspect of life, there are only two options: God-centered or man-centered; Theonomy or autonomy. Their political goal is to ban the latter, everywhere. Each individual, family, church, government and society must be reconstructed to eliminate sin. Each Christian has the responsibility to contribute to this conversion.

  • They oppose inter-faith, inter-racial, and same-sex marriages. R.J. Rushdoony wrote about opposition to:
    "inter-religious, inter-racial, and inter-cultural marriages, in that they normally go against the very community which marriage is designed to establish.
    Rushdoony's condemnation of inter-racial marriage appears to have been his own and unrelated to the biblical text. It was not shared by other Reconstructionists.

  • Reconstructionists regard the Gods and Goddesses of all other religions to be "the devil," and their teachings to be false. They would attempt to replace all religions with their version of Christianity. For example, David Chilton wrote about Judaism:
    "The god of Judaism is the devil. The Jew will not be recognized by God as one of His chosen people until he abandons his demonic religion and returns to the faith of his fathers--the faith which embraces Jesus Christ and His Gospel."
    [this throws Hagee and the dispensationalists out]
Of course, there exists diversity of opinion within the Reconstructionist movement. Not all followers will necessarily agree with all the above statements of the movement's leaders
Indeed, I own a few of those, and do not own a few.

The core is that they must believe the Kingdom of God requires the kingdoms of men to come under Christian control - and that because God requires it.

It is not dominionist to carry our faith into the political arena, or even to organize politically as Christians, or (again) to be a theologically conservative Evangelical Christian.

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly