C. Peter Wagner: Dominion Theology and Postmillennialism on NPR

I listened intently to Terry Gross' interview with C. Peter Wagner of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), stunned at her remarkable ability to discuss his view that Japan suffers from demons because their emperor had sex with the sun goddess. But "spiritual warfare" is a topic for another day.

In the 1980s, the early years of the NAR, there was significant cross-fertilization between Reconstructionists and Pentecostalism. Notable Pentecostals were reading Reconstructionists and Gary North was in conversation with several leaders, hoping that the energy and vitality of those movements made them a more promising vehicle for spreading Christian Reconstruction than the "frozen-chosen" Orthodox Presbyterian Church. North dedicated Unholy Spirits to Bob Mumford and 75 Bible Questions to Bob and Rose Weiner.

For Reconstructionists, Postmillennialism and dominion theology are inextricably linked, but Pentecostals blended dominion theology with their Premillennialism. Though, when Gross asked Wagner if he believes in the "rapture and all that," Wagner said he used to but not anymore, and surprised me by embracing Postmillennialism:

"the Gospel will be preached to all nations... I believe the world is going to get better... we believe God has sent us out to restore things... when that has happened enough, Jesus will return to a very strong world, reflecting the Kingdom of God."

In an essay last month, Director of Research and Reconstructionist American Vision (and son-in-law of Gary North) Joel McDurmon drew lines between "traditional dominion theology" and that which the NAR embraces, basically arguing that Reconstructionists' view of dominion is a "bottom-up" transformation preceded by a postmillennial transformation of the world through evangelism.

"(O)ur blueprint is about the rollback of tyranny, not the replacement of it... We favor privatization, local control of civil and criminal law, hard and sound money, and private charity for cases of poverty, all led by families, businesses, and churches."

Wagner took the very same position on Fresh Air saying, "Dominion is not theocracy it's 'kingdom minded people' in government" making the world a better place for everyone. Gross, to her credit, tried to ask Wagner what his views on homosexuality would mean in the world he outlined and he wouldn't say more than that it didn't make his list of important issues.

But the argument made by both McDurmon and Wagner that their "Kingdom" wouldn't be imposed on the rest of us can't be taken at face value. As McDurmon points out, that the NAR Apostles seek "top-down control of society... is explicit in their literature in many places. The exception to this is when they are in PR mode."

But the coercive quality of the Reconstructionist vision is also evident in their literature. For example, in the Biblical Blueprint Series George Grant argues that no charity should be available to anyone not under the protection of the Biblical Covenant; charity is the responsibility of families and churches so any other version of it is tyrannical. In another example, Ray Sutton writes about ending public education (also considered tyranny) in his book in the same Biblical Blueprint Series:

if you run for the public school board, do it with one intention only: to create an orderly transition to exclusively private education. If you can't be elected on this platform (as seems likely), then become the candidate who wants to reduce waste. (The Biblical definition of wasteful public schools: "public schools.")

While it is true that Reconstructionists have always maintained that theirs is a long term strategy for a decentralized transformation of culture, it is also true that they have advocated coercion (and as you saw above deception) too. As McDurmon even says in his essay:

"Yes, we would properly re-criminalize sodomy, adultery, and abortion, but in a decentralized world like we want, you could leave easily if you didn't like that."

Rebranding as criminals people who have sex outside the parameters of "biblical law" (this includes divorced people who remarry or have sex outside of marriage) to make them leave their homes is hardly voluntary. Moreover, it's not clear that there would really be anywhere to go, once the whole world "submits" to the "lordship of Christ." Sutton, again, on running for public office: "The goal is to subdue the whole earth. No loopholes, no escape hatches."

There are differences between these two movements that embrace dominion theology (and now, at least for Wagner, apparently postmillennialism) but those differences is not over whether their view of dominion amounts to a decentralized, voluntary vision for governing a society of free people.