Humanist, Dominionist, and Reconstructionist
Views of Authority Compared
S. Michael Fort
Battling heresy has always necessitated greater theological precision on behalf of the orthodox Church. Out of Arianism, Eunomianism, Nestorianism, monophysitism, and other heresies, the early Church precisely developed the doctrines of the Trinity and defined the nature of Christ. The Reformation emphasized the centrality of the Bible and additionally refined the doctrine of salvation as it battled the heretical excesses of the church of Rome. Victory of the Baptist worldview in the modern era has brought about a second reformation of sorts. The Baptist doctrines of cultural retreatism, antinomianism, and pre-millenialism have forced the orthodox response of Christian Reconstruction, theonomy, and post-millenialism.
This second reformation began in the 1960ís largely with the published works of Rousas Rushdoony. Rushdoony and his peers offered to orthodox Christianity a world and life view systematically and logically developed to a level never before achieved. Unfortunately, despite the initial potency of this school of thought, which I shall henceforth refer to collectively as Christian Reconstruction, today the movement is threatened with irrelevance due to itís erroneous doctrine of authority.
Originally a laymanís movement (for the most part), Reconstruction was full of vigor and vitality. It has been gradually castrated over the past fifteen years by the clergymen who now hold almost all of its leadership positions. Wishing to separate ourselves from this, we at www.The-Dominion.org have been forced to select another name to describe ourselves. As witnessed by our URL, the term we have chosen is "Dominionism." It is the purpose of this article to briefly describe how Dominionists differ with Reconstructionists concerning the philosophy of authority. As most of the civil governments of the world grow increasingly hostile to orthodox Christianity, it is vital that we understand the true source of authority, itís form, and when it may be ethically resisted.
As always, articles of this short length require some broad generalizations and I hope that you, the reader, will keep this in mind. Certainly, not every Christian Reconstructionist holds point-for-point the beliefs I attribute to them. However, such a significant majority does that I think the generalizations are fair.
A major philosophical problem for non-Christians is the source of authority. Despite the impossibility of answering this philosophic problem on purely humanistic grounds, all non-Christians select either 1) the individual or 2) the group (you may have heard this referred to as the philosophical question of "the One and the Many"). Some examples of non-Christian views of authority are:
1) Social Darwinism: just as Darwin put forth the theory of survival of the fittest, sociologically speaking, this implies a "might makes right" theory of authority. This is the essence of power religion Ė whoever has the power (brute force) makes the rules. Social Darwinism is the philosophical basis of all the frightening tyrannies of our era: communism, Nazism, fascism, etc. Since collective man as expressed in the State is the most powerful earthly entity, social Darwinism obviously sacrifices the individual to the group.
2) Majoritarian Utilitarianism: this is the idea that "whatever makes the most people the happiest is the correct thing." Such an idea would be laughable if it werenít for the fact that this theory is so pervasive (and so destructive) in our society. In spite of our foundings, this is the basis of the United Stateís government today. It forms the philosophical underpinnings of every democracy and most benevolent socialist societies. By its very nature majoritarian utilitarianism favors the will of the group over the will of the individual.
3) Anarchistic Libertarianism: this is the idea that "every individual is free to do as he pleases so long as it does not harm someone else." This is the idea put forth by most proponents of humanistic freedom philosophy and classical liberalism (think of classical liberalism as synonymous with libertarianism). This theory might sound initially appealing. But we have to remember that this theory condones any consensual sex act, bestiality, suicide, abortion, self mutilation, public nudity, etc, etc. Trying to come to some rational consensus as to what constitutes "harm" is impossible. Does public nudity really "harm" anyone? How about blasphemy? In the matter of abortion, itís painfully obvious that our society canít even determine what constitutes a "person." To my knowledge, no society has existed in such a state of affairs for more than a few months. The human desire for order is strong; it will not long tolerate chaos. Obviously, anarchistic libertarianism sacrifices the group to the individual.
Regardless of who non-Christians choose as their source of authority, it ultimately resides with man (whether many distinct individuals or one collective group).
Christians, on the other hand, have a Trinitarian view of the one and the many. This view places as much importance on the individual as it does the group with no subordination or tension between them. The Trinitarian philosophy of the one and the many rightly holds the Eternal One and Many as the only legitimate source of authority. Since God created all that is, He alone holds ultimate authority over all creation. From this, it is obvious that all earthly authority is derived authority (that is, no authority exists which is not derived from Godís ultimate authority). He is the creator of all humans (individuals), human groups (sociological units: families, countries, etc.), and human institutions (churches, civil governments, etc.). It is He who decides the scope and form of authority for all human groups and institutions. This is very similar to the Christian theory of property. God created everything so He alone owns everything. However, He has decided to put His property under our stewardship (with specific people as stewards of specific portions of His property).
Plainly stated, in Christian philosophy it is God who determines what functions an individual, family, church, business unit, civil government, and so-forth is to serve. God sets the boundaries on their activities Ė He determines what they can do, what they canít do, and what they must do. These boundaries are revealed completely and perfectly to humanity through Godís Law contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible. Rushdoony spent a considerable portion of his lifeís work explaining that the source of a societyís law is the god of that society. A distinctly Christian society must necessarily have a distinctly Christian law code (that is, Godís Law) that binds the actions of itís individuals, groups, and institutions.
A few practical examples of this idea follows:
1) Sphere of Individual Government
seat of authority: the individual himself
This sphere has the authority to do everything that is not forbidden by Godís Law. This sphere is required to worship the Lord and serve Him by exercising Biblical dominion in his area of knowledge and influence.
2) Sphere of Family Government
seat of authority: husband/father
This sphere is the fundamental sociological group of society. A primary function of this sphere is to group a man and woman together for companionship and to work together for Biblical dominion. Another fundamental function is to raise Godís children according to Biblical principles so that they may grow to become godly adults.
3) Sphere of Business Government
seat of authority: owner of the business and appointed managers
The goal of this sphere is the accomplishment of work, a fundamental purpose of manís existence. A manís vocation is his ministry.
4) Sphere of Church Government
seat of authority: group of elders
This sphere proclaims Godís message to the unbelieving world, builds Christians in the knowledge of Godís Word, provides a means of fellowship for the edification of Godís people, is a forum for the visible worship of God, and is the primary agency of mercy to the world.
5) Sphere of Civil Government
seat of authority: regional judges
This sphere is Godís agent of wrath and justice on the earth. Any lack of conformity to Godís Law is sin. Crime is that subset of sin that God has told us in the Bible to punish carnally. The punishment of crime (with restitution to the victims by the criminal) is the fundamental purpose of civil government. In this manner, the civil government is also empowered to provide for national defense (to keep other nations from committing crimes against itís citizens).
A fundamental idea of spheres of government is the inability to transfer power between spheres. However, within a sphere, delegation of powers may occur if done so within a Biblical fashion. For example, a father cannot rightly give his disciplinary authority over his children to his church (transfer between spheres). However, he may delegate that authority to his wife in his absence (delegation within a sphere). As another example, civil government may not transfer itís power of judgement to the business community (transfer between spheres). However, different judges as agents of the civil government rightly make judgements in its name (delegation within a sphere).
Perhaps a good way to visualize this is: God in the Person of Jesus at the top of all the spheres. These spheres would be horizontally placed adjacent to one another below Him. Delegation of Jesusí authority comes directly from Him to each individual sphere to the extent of the earthly authority portioned to each. No power transfers occur between the sphereís of any sort as this would be a usurpation of Jesusí rightful position.
Here we have the first major break between Dominionists and Reconstructionists. A number of Reconstructionists (Iím not really sure if itís a majority or not but certainly a significant portion) believe in a vertical divestiture of authority. It such a format, Christ divests all earthly authority to one or more "greatest" authorities. From here, this greatest sphere or spheres delegates what portion they see fit to the lower spheres.
As you can see, this has immense implications. For one, in the Dominionist horizontal divestiture, commands from any sphere to another for which it does not have the proper authority may be ethically ignored. For example, if your church attempted to tell you what car to buy and where to buy it youíd probably laugh in their face (I know I certainly would). This sort of decision rightly falls within the authority of the individual or family. As another example, Godís Law prevents the taxation of property and inheritance. We may ethically refuse to pay any such taxes (even though we may not like the consequences, weíd be well within our rights). Adherents to the Reconstructionist vertical divestiture have very thin ground to stand on, logically speaking, should they refuse the command of their church or the civil government.
Letís bump it up a notch. Letís say your church not only tells you what car to buy but it goes even further to add that theyíll kill you if donít do it (or perhaps kidnap you and keep you away from your family for a very long time). Suddenly, itís not such a laughing matter anymore. The use of deadly force to defend oneself against such acts is fully authorized in the Bible to the individual and family spheres of government. To put it bluntly, youíd be ethically well within your right to kill any person attempting to enforce such an edict.
Now I bet you know where Iím going with this! Our civil government makes thousands of such unauthorized commands on a daily basis and always includes threats of the nature just mentioned. All this has led us to the conclusion that any agent of the civil magistrate may be justly killed IF he is attempting to enforce an order for which the civil government has no legitimate authority AND he is attempting to enforce it in such a way that effectively constitutes a capital crime (murder, kidnapping, imprisonment, etc.).
This is the sharp line of division between Reconstructionists and Dominionists. Whether itís just baptized cowardice or weak minded theology, Reconstructionists permit such acts only under the strictest of circumstances if at all. One noted Reconstructionist leader commanded that Christians sing psalms while their families are mowed down by government agents. Any resistance was strictly verboten. Admittedly, most Reconstructionists do not go quite this far. Most attest to the bizarre doctrine of "lesser magistrates." This doctrine basically states that if any individual, family, or group of individuals wishes to oppose the civil government with deadly force, they must first locate another, lesser agent of the civil magistrate to lead them, under whose authority they may righteously resist oppression. My brother likes to mention, with a delicious sense of comic hyperbole, that it would be a real shame if we had to go to a concentration camp just because we couldnít find a file clerk who agrees with us! File clerk or not, the Dominionist knows that the Lord gave individuals the authority to defend themselves against unrighteous capital offenses; with deadly force if necessary.
The few Reconstructionists who are willing to mention these issues usually drown out any useful discussion with what are often semantic arguments over the use of the word "revolution." Just to clear the air, letís go ahead and define "revolution." Revolution is the attempt to effect social change by violent means. In this context, I am definitely NOT a revolutionary. People are never swayed by violence and force. I have absolutely no hope of changing our society through violence. The Kingdom is built very slowly Ė brick-by-brick and inch-by-inch. It is the Holy Spirit who changes the hearts of men. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.
Also, Reconstructionists claim that Dominionists hold themselves accountable to no earthly authority and thereby set themselves up as gods on earth. Nothing could be further from the truth. I willing acknowledge the legitimate authorities of the different spheres of government and happily submit myself to their rule. Since I donít worship other gods, murder, steal, blaspheme, or commit adultery I shouldnít have anything to worry about (just as Romans 13 tells us). The matter at hand is that I do not acknowledge or submit to commands for which a sphere has no Christ-derived authority to issue.
In light of the above paragraphs, the Dominionistís aim is simply to defend whatís rightly his; not to "restore constitutional government" or inflict a theocracy by force. I want our government ruled by Godís Law but it wonít happen in a society that has no regard for the Law or its Author. I have no desire to rule over anyone, let alone a godless society like modern America. Dodging bullets is not exactly conducive to kingdom work either (and I canít imagine itíd be fun). That is why we are proposing, for lack of a better term, what we call the Dominion Citizen.
Dominion Citizenship is simply an open and visible submission to Godís Law and an open and visible refusal to submit to any other law system. Essentially, we would like to create two classes of citizens: those under Godís Law (Dominion Citizens) and those under the current humanistic laws of our nation (Americans). Such an idea is not without precedent; witness the various American Indian nations and the separate law code of the Amish communities. The only difference here is Dominion Citizens would not be grouped geographically (therefore, another means of visibility would be necessary such as Dominion Citizen house flags, "license" plates, arm bands, etc). I desire no fight with the US government. I just wish to be left alone.
I digress; Dominion Citizenship is the topic for another discussion. In the coming days, persecution of the Church looks inevitable in the US, Europe, and other areas of the world that have traditionally been Christian societies. It is of vital importance that the issue of authority is resolved before this happens. If Christians allow themselves to be controlled at best and massacred at worst, the West will plunge into an dreadful darkness from which it will not soon return. It is our hope and prayer that Almighty God will spare us this fate which we so richly deserve.