Rehabilitating Dominion as a Theological Category

I stand by all my earlier criticisms of Reconstructionism.  Still, when I study the doctrine of sanctification and the image of God (particularly the Shorter Catechism’s language!) I cannot help but see “dominion” as an inescapable concept.

Reconstructionism’s problem was that they “grasped” too early.  Many were trying to take over a compromised system and …I don’t know what they planned to do.  Even when Gary North said (correctly) that the takeover will be by regeneration, not revolution, that begged the question, “Well, why bother with all this law-teaching on taking over the government at all?”

To make matters worse, if the Constitution is a compromise with Freemasonry, which I agree with Gary North and think it is, then why bother with the “Christianity and the Constitution” narrative?

The shame, though, is that dominion got so associated with Reconstructionism that no one will speak of it today.  But if you reject a metaphysical approach to salvation and sanctification, and opt rather (and rightly) for a covenantal approach, you are left with something like dominion.

But don’t be alarmed.  This doesn’t mean we have to go recon.  It just means we need to be honest about the bible’s language.

  • We’ve been renewed in the whole man after the image of Christ.
  • We are priests and kings (Revelation).   This is ruler language.
  • We should not submit again to slavery (Galatians 5-6)
  • We have the spirit of the Lord, which is freedom (2 Corinthians).
  • If sin is ethical in content and not metaphysical, then salvation is ethical deliverance.   Thus, dominion.
  • John Wyclif.
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4 comments on “Rehabilitating Dominion as a Theological Category

  1. Jacob, sadly most of your earlier criticisms of Christian Reconstruction are way off the mark. Standing by them “still”, does not validate them, but merely regurgitates long refuted accusations. But this is nothing new. For example, Arminians today still stand by their faulty theological criticisms of Calvinism, despite having been successfully answered generations ago.

    So Reconstructionism, like historic Calvinism, will always be slandered and misdiagnosed by its enemies.

    But to address your comments about “Dominion”, You are correct that Dominion is an “inescapable concept”. It is simply a handy expression for godly responsibility. E.g. when a man takes “dominion” over his family, he is taking responsibilty for them through God’s law. Ditto, the businessman, the foreman, the politician, and the teacher. Dominion will either be in terms of God’s law or by sinful man’s law or morals.

    It is clearly an issue of sanctification for the Christian. However, it is also a common grace blessing for the non-Christian as well (Deut 4:5-8) who see it as an advantage for them.

    Now maybe some self proclaimed “reconstructionists” did attempt to “grasp too early” the political reigns of a compromised Federal system. But that in of itself is merely a criticism of those particular fallen persons, and not a legitimate criticism of “Reconstructionism” theology. For Reconstructionism was never about “taking over governments” at all.

    Recall if you will, Rushdoony’s emphasis that “government” is not exclusively “State” or Federal Government, but rather primarily *Self* government, family government, then church government and lastly, state government. Reconstructionism (AKA sanctification, AKA Dominion) begins with individual regeneration and then corporate expressions of sanctification. The mustard seed parable is one of the best analogies of what Reconstructionism really is, individually and corporately.

    Rev. Mark Duncan wrote a book 25 years ago called, the “Five Points of Christian Recconstruction”.
    http://www.reformed-theology.org/html/books/five_points/index.html

    He accurately defined it as: 1) 5 Point Calvinism 2) Covenant Theology 3) Presuppositional Apologetics 4) Postmillennialism 5) Theonomic Ethics.

    Duncan further defined it as: “Christian Reconstruction is nothing more than the application of the whole of the Bible to the whole of life.”

    Another good book that accurately expresses Reconstructionist thought is Kenneth Gentry’s “The Greatness of the Great Commission”. Personally, I was persuaded in 1988 by Gary DeMar’s book, “The Reduction of Christianity” which thoroughly constrasted Dominion thought with Fundamentalism’s pietist and truncated worldview. Sadly, a worldview often shared by many modern amillenial reformed Christians.

    There is no “shame” with Dominion being associated with Reconstructionism. Any more than Calvinism being associated with the doctrine of limited atonement or with Infant Baptism.

    So yes, Dominion is “inescapable”. Its either Dominion under God’s Law word, or Dominion under fallen man’s lawless word. But so too is Reconstructionism an “inescapable concept” for the very same reasons. An individual or a Society will either be reconstructed in terms of God’s law or in terms of man’s law. Thus, for the Godly Christian, the choice should be obvious (Psalm 1) .

    • I don’t think I am “slandering” Recons, but whatever. A little history on me: I lost a $30,000 annuity from seminary because I was associated with theonomy. I went to bed hungry many nights. I am not against the 5 Point Covenant Model, but I do not associate myself with the Recon “movement” because I’ve read my history on recons (and basically line up with Schwertely’s sermons on where these guys went wrong). I do not like where the Recons went on the doctrine of the Church, nor am I obligated as a Westminster Christian to officially team up with them. In the coming post-apocalyptic America, will recons be an important force? I think so.

  2. Colin says:

    Sorry Jacob, I didn’t mean to imply that you had slandered reconstructionists. I had in mind other critics who were much more careless in their accusations against Theonomy or of Postmillennialism. Your financial loss is sad to hear. Of course the blame is not Theonomy but those who are prejudiced against it.

    There really has never been a “recon movement”. Even the late Greg Bahnsen denied such a movement. No one speaks of presbyterianism or Calvinism or National Covenanting or the Reformed Faith as a “movement”. These are simply theological categories adhered to by various fallen men. Likewise with Reconstructionism as well. For it is not about adherence to some ideological or social “movement”, But about faithfulness to a particular type of theology, be it Calvinism or Theonomy, etc.

    *Some* Reconstructionists (eg. Jordan, Sutton) did go in a rather Anglican style direction on the doctrine of the church. But so what? Calvinist J.I. Packer was an Anglican, as was J.C. Ryle and John Newton. Calvinism was never the exclusive property of Presbyterians. Likewise, Theonomy is not the exclusive property of Presbyterians (although I do agree with much of Schwertley’s and Morecraft’s (and Bahnsen’s) Presbyterian Theonomic emphasis. There should be a “presbterian theonomy”, but also, a “baptist theonomy” and an “anglican Theonomy” too. No one ecclesiastic group has cornered the truth on God’s law or on God’s gospel. Sure it would be nice if all Christians were strict WCF reformed presbyterians. Unfortunately, not even reformed presbyterians themselves can agree with one another and fellowship with every other strict WCF adherent.

    And furthermore, Jordan and Sutton long ago (like back in the late 1980’s) gave up representing Reconstructionism. So if there is such a thing as a Reconstructionist “doctrine of the church”. It is far more likely to be Presbyterian than Anglican or Lutheran. (e.g. Bahnsen, Morecraft, Gentry, Schwertley, Demar, etc) or IOW a default WCF ecclesiology.

    And whether Reconstructionists will be an “important force” in some “post-apocalyptic America” is as an irrelevant a question as much as whether Covenanters or Calvinists in general will be an important force.

    What will be always be an important force is God’s law and God’s Sovereignty over the affairs of men, even if every single Reconstructionist or Calvinist or Presbyterian is dead in a “post-apocalyptic America”. Calvin and Knox died almost 500 years ago, but their theology did not die with them. God always has a way of reviving His truth.

  3. A few thoughts: when I critiqued Jordan and Sutton, my problem was not Anglicanism. Packer and Ryle’s Anglicanism is light-years away from Sutton’s (and Jordan isn’t Anglican). I meant Jordan’s Federal Vision stuff.

    I know Bahnsen denied CR as a movement. I think it is easier to speak of it as a movement, regardless of Bahnsen’s fine distinctions.

    As to the Covenanters: The SL and C is binding. That puts the other comments in perspective. Yes, God will revive calvin’s and Knox’s faith, but he will do it by reviving biblical worship (Psalm singing) and church discipline. I wish the Recons well. I just wish they were as excited about the RPW and Ecclesiology as they are about reconstructing politics for Christ.

    *** It is far more likely to be Presbyterian than Anglican or Lutheran. (e.g. Bahnsen, Morecraft, Gentry, Schwertley, Demar, etc) or IOW a default WCF ecclesiology.***

    Scwhertely is the closest to a purer doctrine of the Church.

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