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Denying Dominionism

Exhibit 1

“Dominionism? What Dominionism? I don’t see any Dominionism!”

The Dominionism Cover-Up

There is a considerable amount of backpeddling going on now that Dominionism has made the national news. A chorus of establishment media have stuck their heads into the sand are are blindly crying, “Dominionism? What dominionism? I don’t see any Dominionism!” Most of these reporters who have never heard of it didn’t bother to take the time to research it, and therefore say it doesn’t exist. Joining the liberal media in this chorus is a host of evangelical leaders, some of them longtime Dominionists, who are spouting the same denials. What strange bedfellows indeed!

The most prominent denial, of course is C. Peter Wagner’s public letter, covered in our previous post, in which he asserts that his Dominionist NAR is neither Dominionist, nor a cult. Also issuing a denial was prominent Dominionist Os Hillman who helped launch the 7 Mountains movement and runs the reclaim7mountains website. Hillman is retrenching. He issued a syrupy brief statement[1] emphasizing that “Dominion, or perhaps a better word to use is influence, is a result of our love and obedience to God, not a goal to be achieved.” However, the rest of his statement confirms the basic Dominionism platform of Genesis 1:28, adding in the neo-Kuyperian spheres and the idea of restoring heaven to earth:

This is why Jesus prayed that whatever was in heaven would be manifested on the earth. He was wanting to restore all that had been lost. His desire for His people has always been for them to be at the top of every sphere of society…. [emphasis added]

Spheres, of course, are another name for the 7 mountains. The 1980s Coalition on Revival (COR) documents laid out a plan for the Church to take over seventeen spheres of Society, which have now been boiled down to seven. COR was an unlikely conglomeration of Charismatic Dominionists and Reconstructionists who set aside major doctrinal differences in order to accomplish their objectives for Dominion.

Os Hillman cites a quote from Gabe Lyons, who has close ties with the Leadership Network empire, from Lyons’ book The Next Christians, page 53.

Gabe Lyons explains: “Christ’s death and Resurrection were not only meant to save people from something. He wanted to save Christians to something. God longs to restore his image in them, and let them loose, freeing them to pursue his original dreams for the entire world. Here, now, today, tomorrow. They no longer feel bound to wait for heaven or spend all of their time telling people what they should believe. Instead, they are participating with God in his restoration project for the whole world. They recognize that Christ’s redemptive work is not the end or even the goal of our stories; redemption is the beginning of our participation in God’s work of restoration in our lives and in the world. Understanding that one idea literally changes everything.” [emphasis added]

It is interesting that Hillman invokes Gabe Lyons in his downplaying of Dominionism, because this quote is precisely about Dominionism. Gabe Lyons has been marketing his own version of the 7 mountains, which he calls “seven channels of cultural influence: business, government, media, church, arts & entertainment, education and the social sector.”[2] This is based on the esoteric idea of “restoration” of “God’s original intention for his creation.”[3] This is a goal that all Dominionists have in common in one form or another. Oh yes, they do argue and posture amongst themselves in a dialectic dance about whether their particular brand of theology is neo-Kuyperian, neocalvinist, neopuritan, Rushdoonyite, Colsonesque, Sojourneristic, theocratic or theonomic, cultural or missional, and any other newfangled term.

The NAR isn’t the only group promoting the 7 mountains. Wagner and his NAR crowd are the ones getting all of the media attention because of their zany antics. But there is a whole backup crew of organizations that have been around for decades, pumping out the doctrines of restoring or redeeming the fallen culture by integrating the Church into the various hubs of Society. This isn’t about the narrow group of Reconstructionists that the mainstream press has caricatured for years. Rather, generic Dominionism has now reached out into the mainstream evangelical milieu via conferences, books, technology, and media. There is even sophisticated image marketing for branding certain forms of Dominionism.

Exhibit 1 above is a composite graphic image of the original newsletter where Leadership Network helped to launch C. Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation. For over a generation, Dominionism theology has been an essential component of this intensive managerial (pastoral) training outfit. Leadership Network operates as a marketing network that has its tentacles into nearly every evangelical group in the country. Their doctrine is what we have termed Dominionism Lite — a cultural renewal, social gospel, eclectic cocktail that appeals to the the type of evangelical elite who aren’t off doing the wacky signs and wonders. And this is where Gabe Lyons and an entire army of social engineers appear on the scene. They are actually working alongside Os Hillman and C. Peter Wagner’s scheme to take over the seven mountains of the planet. But they market themselves in a different niche.

Gabe Lyons is a good example of how this works. He is the co-founder of Catalyst, which was originally set up in 1999 for the purpose of “change agent” training for the younger generation, which purpose was billed[4] as:

“We are the kingdom ambassadors, change agents, and cultural architects who have the influence to change our communities, churches, and cultures for good. But this change happens in the very place where many leaders flinch and fail because the perceived cost is too high. We must push through this fear for kingdom change to define the future.” [emphasis added]

Lyons is the co-author of UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters. On the jacket of his other book, The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America, it says that Gabe “was embarrassed to be called ‘Christian'” so he “set out on a personal journey” to “mobilize Christians to advance the common good.” Interestingly, Lyons, while working on this “common ground for the common good” sort of Dominionism with a diverse array of political and religious groups, appeared on a list of those participating in a James Robison political gathering to support Texas Governor Rick Perry’s bid for president.[5] Lyons is also founder of a “re-education” group of “young, innovative and influential leaders” called Q, which “was birthed out of Gabe Lyons’ vision to see Christians, especially leaders, recover a vision for their historic responsibility to renew and restore cultures” and “inspired by Chuck Colson’s statement, ‘Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals.’”[6] This statement by Colson is an example of Dominion Lite – it is the theological premise that secular culture itself can be “redeemed.” This is not the Gospel of Salvation. This is the Gospel of the “Kingdom,” in which Society itself is seen as an extension of the Church, and views the Church’s primary role is to fulfill a “cultural commission” for “social renewal.”

Gabe Lyons has been endorsed by Bob Buford of Leadership Network,[7] and acknowledged Buford on page 208 of his book The Next Christians. An eclectic mixture of leaders, including Chuck Colson, Os Guinness, Phyllis Tickle, Lou Giglio, Rob Bell, and Sam Rodriguez endorse this book on the back cover. A full-page graphic image appears on page 116 depicting the “Seven Channels of Cultural Influence,” which are identical to the Seven Mountains. How does Lyons suggest the Church change Culture? It hinges on a sophisticated next generation social gospel, complete with state-of-the-art marketing tactics:

“As a natural by-product of God’s plan for his Kingdom, the next Christians are being dispersed as restorers throughout all channels of culture. They are carrying the message of Jesus—bringing restoration, renewal, and healing; fighting injustice; telling the truth; affirming goodness; and celebrating beauty—in their places of service. They play a key role in overcoming the evil that otherwise overwhelms everything.”(p. 116-117)[emphasis added]

Characteristic of all Dominionist revisionism, the first few chapters of Genesis are corrupted. Lyons’ particular truncated message of the Fall asserts that there “was goodness in the beginning” and that the “separation of humanity from God” in “the opening scene” of Genesis, with “everyone as corrupted sinners” just “isn’t connecting with the next generation.”(p. 52) Therefore the message of Original Sin needs to be changed. And furthermore man now has to right what was wrong and restore paradise (often referred to as building the kingdom of God on earth), another key tenet of Dominonism.

Dominionism Conspiracy Theories

So who is doing the “spin” and denying Dominionism? An interesting mixture media and evangelical leaders. For example:

  • Pat Robertson: “What In Heaven’s Name Is A Dominionist?”[8]
  • Joe Carter in First Things claims that the term was invented by “Berkeley-educated sociologist Sara Diamond, the author of several critiques of Christian civic engagement, including Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right and asserts that the term is “never used outside liberal blogs and websites. No reputable scholars use the term for it is a meaningless neologism that Diamond concocted for her dissertation.”[9]
  • Lisa Miller writing for The Washington Post: “Dominionism” is the paranoid mot du jour. In its broadest sense, the term describes a Christian’s obligation to be active in the world, including in politics and government. More narrowly, some view it as Christian nationalism…. Extremist dominionists do exist, as theocrats who hope to transform our democracy into something that looks like ancient Israel, complete with stoning as punishment. But “it’s a pretty small world,” says Worthen, who studies these groups…. Certain journalists use “dominionist” the way some folks on Fox News use the word “sharia.” Its strangeness scares people. Without history or context, the word creates a siege mentality in which“we” need to guard against “them.”[10]
  • A. Larry Ross, who has been the chief P.R. guy for evangelical leaders like Rick Warren, commenting on Michelle Goldberg’s August 14th post “A Christian Plot for Domination?”: “Goldberg misapplies a broad label that few, if any, evangelicals use or with which they identify. It reveals more about the author’s personal perspective and lack of nuanced understanding of the topic than it provides useful information about the subjects themselves….”[11]
  • Michael Gerson, in another Washington Post article: “Dominionism, though possessing cosmic ambitions, is a movement that could fit in a phone booth…. In the case of Dominionism, paranoia is fed by a certain view of church-state relations — a deep discomfort with any religious influence in politics…. Thin charges of Dominionism are just another attempt to discredit opponents rather than answer them….”[12]
  • Ralph Reed: The notion that Bachmann, Perry or other candidates secretly harbor “dominionist” theology is a conspiracy theory largely confined to university faculty lounges and MSNBC studios.”[13]
  • Nancy Pearcey, associate of Chuck Colson: “Dominionist” is the new “fundamentalist” — the preferred term of abuse, intended to arouse fear and contempt, and downgrade the status of targeted groups of people…. I had to Google the term to discover whether there really is such a group. Yes, there is a little-known group of Christians who claim the term, though they are typically called Reconstructionists. Apparently it was sociologist Sara Diamond who expanded Dominionism into a general term of abuse….Reductio ad absurdum…. Journalist Stanley Kurtz calls this usage of the term “conspiratorial nonsense,” “political paranoia,” and “guilt by association.”… The term is worldview…. For Kuyper and Dooyeweerd, this holistic concept of worldview did a nice job of capturing the creative impact that Christianity has had on Western culture through history, inspiring much of its art, literature, music, architecture, philosophy, and political thought.[14]
  • Jack Cafferty of CNN: The Daily Beast reports that two of the Republican candidates for president – Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry – are “deeply associated” with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism that’s called Dominionism. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, and I was one who hadn’t – stand by cause this is “out there.”[15]

All of this “spin” on Dominionism is interesting in light of the preponderance of solid documentation. There are 40 years of articles, books, tapes, and eye-witness accounts, and firsthand experiences of many Christian Right activists about this phenomenon called Dominionism. Most of it has come in via the Patriotic Dominionism activities, but the mission movements and the prayer movements were also purveyors of these doctrines. (See “Dominionism and the Rise of Christian Imperialism” for background.)

This strange denial by Pat Robertson, cited above, that he doesn’t know anything about Dominionism is ludicrous! Robertson is one of the chief purveyors of this doctrine. In Al Dager’s book Vengeance Is Ours: The Church In Dominion (Sword, 1990), he describes Pat Robertson’s Dominionist views and transcribed a speech in Dallas in 1984 where Robertson said:

Now what do you do? What do all of us do? We get ready to take dominion! We get ready to take dominion! It is all going to be ours–I’m talking about all of it. Everything that you would say is a good part of the secular world. Every means of communication, the news, the television, the radio, the cinema, the arts, the government, the finance–it’s going to be ours! God’s going to give it to His people. We should prepare to reign and rule with Jesus Christ. (Dager, p. 95)[emphasis added]

One of the more intriguing side effects to all of this Dominionism conspiracy spin is following the counter-reaction. Sandy Simpson of the Apologetics Coordination Team published an extensive rebuttal of C. Peter Wagner’s letter on his huge website www.deceptioninthechurch.com which has been exhaustively documenting the rise of the New Apostolic Reformation since its inception.[16] Several non-Christian websites who are watching the rise of the NAR and its Dominionism with concern, have effectually rebutted the Dominionist denials.[17] Rachel Tabachnick, who has written prolificly about the rise of the NAR and Dominionism and was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air on August 24, cut to the chase and explained that “dominionism is simply that Christians of this belief system must take control over all the various institutions of society and government.”[18] One of the most interesting and passionate articles addressing the Dominionist spin was authored by Peter Montgomery. A few selected excerpts are below:

If It Quacks Like a Duck

It may be the “word of the day,” as journalists continue to educate themselves and their readers on this particular strand of thinking, but that doesn’t mean an investigation of the role of “dominionism” in religious right rhetoric and strategy is a paranoid project….

So, as background: dominionism refers to a theological tenet at the core of the religious right movement—that Christians are meant to exercise dominion over the earth. As RD readers know, dominionist thought is not a new phenomenon. It may be true, as evangelical leader Mark DeMoss says in Miller’s story, that “you would be hard-pressed to find one in 1,000 Christians in America would could even wager a guess at what dominionism is.” But it’s certainly not true of the leaders of the religious right political movement. Their followers are hearing dominionist teaching whether they know it or not.

In recent years, there has been a very visible embrace by traditional religious right leaders of the rhetoric of “Seven Mountains,” a framework attributed to former Campus Crusade for Christ director Bill Bright. It puts dominionist thinking in clear, user-friendly lay language. The “Seven Mountains” of culture over which the right kind of Christians are meant to have dominion are business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family, and religion. (Some folks rearrange the categories a bit to explicitly include the military.)

The language has been used by Pentecostal leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation, a group that sees itself creating a new church and an army of spiritual warriors who will hasten the return of Christ by taking dominion over the earth. But the Seven Mountains framework has also become a sort of lingua franca among the religious right, forming the basis for Janet Porter’s May Day rally on the mall last year as well as the National Day of Prayer and Jim Garlow’s Pray and Act campaign. The Family Research Council and prominent religious right figures like Harry Jackson and David Barton all use the language.

In other words, this is not a movement dreamed up by people with no understanding of Christianity who simply want to stir up fear of conservative evangelicals. The increasingly widespread use of “Seven Mountains” rhetoric reflects an effort by a broad swath of conservative evangelical leadership to adopt a shared set of talking points, if you will, to unite theologically disparate elements in common political cause to defeat the Satanic/demonic enemies of faith and freedom: secularists, gays, liberals, and the Obama administration.

C. Peter Wagner is the founder of the New Apostolic Reformation and author of Dominion!: How Kingdom Action Can Change the World. His official bio says “In the 2000s, he began to move strongly in promoting the Dominion Mandate for social transformation, adopting the template of the Seven Mountains or the 7-M Mandate for practical implementation.” Wagner was an endorser of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s prayer-rally-cum-presidential launch and dozens of members of the New Apostolic Reformation were involved in organizing and speaking at the event.[19] [links in original]

The establishment media reporters who have their heads buried in the sand, might take a look at the preponderance of evidence. It has been on the shelves of Christian bookshelves for over a decade. And those who listen and watch Christian media have been saturated with a steady diet of “America is a Christian nation and we must take back our land,” which is the patriotic vision that engages people in the Kingdom worldview. In the 1980s, the Coalition on Revival’s position paper on the kingdom of God issued a series of Affirmations and Denials, which stated:

  • “We deny that the Church must await the second coming of Christ for the Kingdom of God to be inaugurated on earth in time-space reality and in power.” [page 3]
  • “We deny that the restoration of man’s God-ordained dominion (a) lies outside the scope of Christ’s redeeming work as mediator on the Cross, or (b) awaits the physical presence of the returned Christ for its inauguration and expansion.” [p. 5][20][emphasis added]

The Truth:

Dominionism is an intoxicating worldview for those with aspirations for power, wealth and control. It is also alluring for those idealists who want to solve the problems of the planet, help the poor, fix the ills of society, change everyone’s worldview and make everyone happy Christians. The problem with all Dominionism is the mechanics. Just how does one create utopia on earth?

The problem for Christians is that Dominionism is off task. It creates a second “commission” beyond the simple “Great Commission” to spread the Gospel of Salvation message. It invokes a second task, which is to create a godly culture and redeem the planet. This task deludes Christians with a promise of a carnal victory in emerging history. But Scripture says:

“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18)

1. Os Hillman, “Reclaiming the 7 Mountains – is it dominionism?” http://www.reclaim7mountains.com/articles_view.asp?columnid=4347&articleid=76021
2. “Shaping a Good News Culture,” http://record.americanbible.org/es/node/522
See also: Gabe Lyons, “Influencing Culture, http://www.qideas.org/essays/influencing-culture.aspx?page=4
3. Ed Stetzer, “Gabe Lyons and the Next Christians,”10/4/10, http://www.edstetzer.com/2010/10/gabe-lyons-and-the-next-christ.html
4. http://www.catalystwestcoast.com/information?showgallery=1#
5. Reported on by Kyle Mantyla, 7/11/11, “A Who’s Who of Religious Right Activists Participated In Robison’s Leadership Summits,” http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/whos-who-religious-right-activists-participated-robisons-leadership-summits
6. “About Q,” http://qideas.org/about/history-mission.aspx
7. Bob Buford, on 5/5/09 in his newsletter, “My Next Book…Year 5, Chapter 8…The Best of Times / the Worst of Times,” reported attending the Q Conference in Austin, and cited Gabe Lyons and his Fermi Project.
8. Kyle Mantyla, 8/25/11, “Robertson: What In Heaven’s Name Is A Dominionist?” http://www.rightwingwatch.org/print/7996

9. Kyle Mantyla, 8/23/11, “If Dominionism Doesn’t Exist, Someone Forgot To Tell The Dominionists,” citing “John Aman, Director of Communications at Truth in Action Ministries… writing a piece for the Christian Post.” http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/if-dominionism-doesnt-exist-someone-forgot-tell-dominionists citing the article by Aman titled “‘Dominionism’: Sham Charge Reserved for Christian Social Conservatives,” 8/23/11, http://www.christianpost.com/news/dominionism-sham-charge-reserved-for-christian-social-conservatives-54363/
10. Lisa Miller, “Be not afraid of evangelicals,” 8/18/11, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/dominionism-beliefs-among-conservative-christians-overblown/2011/08/17/gIQAb5eaNJ_story.html
11. A. Larry Ross of A. Larry Ross Communications, “Christian Dominionism Is a Myth,” 8/21/11, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/08/21/christian-dominionism-bachmann-and-perry-aren-t-out-for-world-domination.html Interestingly, Ross gives quotes from two well-known Dominionists, Jim Wallis and Os Guinness, in explaining how Dominionism is a myth!
12. Michael Gerson, “An unholy war on the Tea Party,” 8/22/11, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-holy-war-on-the-tea-party/2011/08/22/gIQAYRcOXJ_story.html
13. Ralph Reed, The Inconvenient Truth of the Evangelical Vote,” 8/25/11, http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Inconvenient-Truth-of-the-Evangelical-Vote-Ralph-Reed-08-25-2011.html?print=1
14. Nancy Pearcey, “Dangerous Influences: The New Yorker, Michele Bachmann, and Me,” August 13, 2011, The Pearcey Report, http://www.pearceyreport.com/archives/2011/08/dangerous_influences_bachmann_pearcey_new-yorker.php, link in original. It is very odd that Sara Diamond, a critic of Dominionism, is being blamed for concocting the term! There seems to be an orchestrated “spin” going on about this. Those who are doing the spinning are forgetting that there are those who were in the trenches of Christian Right activism long before Diamond wrote her book, and have firsthand experience with all of this. Note that Pearcey invokes Abraham Kuyper, who is the harbinger of Dominionism, while denying that she knows what this means. And note that the term “worldview” is what she would prefer to to use in describing Kuyper’s transformation. See also: http://www.rivendellsanctuary.com/academics/faculty/faculty.html, and http://www.rivendellsanctuary.com/academics/academics_main.html
15. Jack Cafferty, “How much does it worry you if both Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have ties to Dominionism?” 8/17/11, Cafferty File, http://caffertyfile.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/17/17612/?iref=obnetwork
16. See: A Response To “An Urgent Message From Peter” by Sandy Simpson, 8/20/11, http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/wagnerletter.html
17. See articles such as: Frederick Clarkson, “Another Senior Journalist Confesses to Ignorance,” 8/21/11, http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/8/21/201517/933 and Rob Boston, “Fringe Festival: Why We Must Take ‘Dominionists’ Seriously, 8/23/11, http://blog.au.org/2011/08/23/fringe-festival-why-we-must-take-‘dominionists’-seriously/
18. Terry Gross interviewing Rachel Tabachnick, ” The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare,” 8/24/11, NPR Fresh Air, http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=139781021. See also: http://www.npr.org/2011/08/19/139781021/the-evangelicals-engaged-in-spiritual-warfare?live=1
19. Peter Montgomery, “Paranoia and the Progressive Press: A Response to WaPo’s Religion Columnist,” 8/22/11, http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/5008/paranoia_and_the_progressive_press:_a_response_to_wapo’s_religion_columnist/
20. Cited in Al Dager’s book Vengeance Is Ours: The Church In Dominion (Sword, 1990), p. 256.