Charismatics: Once somewhat premillennial, now increasingly postmillennial (of sorts):
This blog is a look at the growth of dominion theology (and postmillennialism-its kissing first cousin) among Charismatics. We begin by partially reviewing a book called Megashift by James Rutz (Empowerment Press).
Megashift gives several insights into the goals and aspirations of a significant segment of the modern charismatic movement. An Amazon bookseller introduction to Megashift lists these fascinating and disturbing elements:
A megashift of spiritual power into the hands of ordinary people is about to overwhelm the world and put it into vastly better shape. Prepare yourself to take part in a total makeover of Planet Earth!
A whole new form of Christianity promises to bring a far greater impact than the Protestant Reformation. Millions of ordinary people are doing miracles.
Here is a positive book focusing not on the depravity and hopelessness of the world, but highlighting the change that Christians are making worldwide. This book will boost every Christians confidence and motivate all to get off the sidelines and participate in the work of Christ.
Another (P. Wagner interviewed by T. Gross quoted in Huffpost 12/7/11) has been quoted thus in connection to the overall present thinking that characterizes dominionists and postmillennialists:
"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."
A shift from Premillennialism to Postmillennialism/Dominion Theology among charismatics
First we must define terms: Postmillennialism (the belief that Christ returns after the millennium) was a very popular doctrine among theologians throughout Protestant history. With the advent of the two World Wars it lost its popularity but is now seeing a resurgence in various forms. Its basic principle is that the church is responsible through government, politics, arts, education, and religion, to bring about the ideal millennial conditions. This means things are getting better and asserts that the church can bring it about. With the passing Second World War's generation, meaning those remembering what humanity is with the lid off (on a large scale), is replaced by utopian minded people hoping to succeed where past generations failed. They see themselves able to achieve what previous generations could not. There is a subtle Darwinism underlying this, the discerning eye can see it. Humanists try this with socialism, and education, and the religious community seeks it via dominionism.
Dominion Theology, as per gotquestions.org is:
Dominion theology refers to a line of theological interpretation and thought with regard to the role of the church in contemporary society. Dominion theology is also known as Christian reconstructionism and theonomy. Dominion theology states that biblical Christianity will rule all areas of society, personal and corporate. Christian reconstructionism reasons that society will be reconstructed by the Law of God as preached in the gospel and the Great Commission. Theonomy is a post-millennial view believing that all of the moral laws contained in the Old Testament are yet binding today....Those who hold these views believe that it is the duty of Christians to create a worldwide kingdom patterned after the Mosaic Law. They believe that Christ will not return to earth until such a kingdom has been established. The principal goal, then, of dominion theology and Christian reconstructionism is political and religious domination of the world...
Why or how...was there a shift from premillennial to these ideas?
Since the largest movement religiously (along these lines) in the world today is the charismatic movement, we will dwell there primarily to answer.
It can be argued that historically, charismatics frequently held to the principles of premillennialism (those from non pentecostal backgrounds) - since many of them came out of denominational settings in which this was dominant. Such principles include an acknowledgement of the degeneration of society and even the church, the growth of lawlessness, the increasing influence of the mystery of iniquity (2 Thess. 2). These are followed by the rapture of the church out of a godless world, followed by 7 years of a Great Tribulation judgment upon the earth where the mystery of iniquity finds its head in the man of sin. At the end of that period of judgment Christ returns (before the millennium, ie..."pre" millennial) to earth, settles the matters in judgment, sets up His kingdom and rules for 1000 years. Judgment is followed by the blessing of His rule.
Postmillennialists and Dominionists do the opposite, first the church conquers, then He returns. What seems to be the reason the charismatics move easily from premillennialism to dominion theology & a kind of postmillennialism?
We suggest it is the charismatic hermeneutic (or lack thereof). Hermeneutic is the science of interpreting the bible. Among those who take the time to be somewhat systematic, these are the major interpretation methods:
Catholicism - a mixture of scripture, tradition, and papal decrees, along with edicts from counsels (some good some not good). What the "church" says is true and the individual isn't allowed to interpret the Bible for himself.
Covenant Theology - Covenants form the basis of all truth and of one's interpretation. There is a covenant of works and a covenant of grace. All interpretive work is channeled into these two streams, before the cross and after. Distinctions between Israel and the church are blurred. Postmillennialism historically resided under this umbrella, yet was "cessationist" with regard to sign gifts, which protected this movement from some errant trends of charismatics, yet influenced them strongly at times towards Dominionism. Protestant persecutions of Anabaptists are a prime example.
Dispensational Theology - A literal, historical, grammatical interpretation of scripture is the basis of understanding, seeing in history God is dispensing things in His household, at different stages and for His glory. A distinction between Israel and the church is maintained. Premillennialism resides under this umbrella.
Charismatic Theology - A shifting hermeneutic that embraces a continuation of sign gifts including apostolic, prophetic and miraculous manifestations. Scripture is alluded to as primary, but in practice, ongoing manifestations of "the spirit" attract attention and action. One highly significant piece is the positive confession movement.
It is this that allows for the shift to dominionism and postmillennialism, and here is how.
Pay attention to the positive confessions of the word/faith movement. There is a supposed power in the spoken word of people who are "christians". This includes subtle practices like speaking what you want to come to pass. If you confess it, speak it, and do the opposite with "bad" things, you will increase your blessings.
This inevitably moves beyond the personal sphere of an individual and is applied by him to everything he encounters - naturally. As this person sees a culture around him spiraling out of control (consistent with premillennial exegesis of scripture) it is a natural draw to apply these word/faith principles to the culture and world around him. I don't like abortion, I don't like sexual immorality, I don't like humanism, socialism, and just plain bad people and actions. I tire of the battle and the presence of evil. I want to do something. I, I, I. Solution? Speak those blessings to my community. Take dominion of my city by walking around it saying so. Speaking blessings upon those running for office, etc.
Here's what happens. If I am "speaking" blessings to my own environment (whether my immediate life, my local situation, or my community & world), I am put in a quandry if I hold to the premise of premillennial truths. Meaning.....if I am speaking blessings upon my culture and seeking to dominate it to "make it better" that is in direct opposition (ultimately) to a view of the rapture of the church followed by judgments from God. One is making things better (dominion and postmillennial), the other is so "negative". The charismatic "speaking of blessings" is in diabolical opposition to that which is negative. Apostasy on the earth, increasing lawlessness, evil men waxing worse and worse (2 Tim. 3), just don't fit. And correcting a charismatic with such negativity? Just try it and you'll be labeled a pharisee quicker than you can imagine.
What am I to do as a charismatic wanting to speak these things into being? I must jettison truths like the rapture, and downplay premillennialism, and hide in the cloak of the "spirit-led" movement of domination. It is a natural outcome of the charismatic hermeneutic. And like the above writer of Megashift emphasizes, the goal is to "put the world into vastly better shape."
Sadly, with a hermeneutic of fresh prophetic revelations from God, correction from a standard point of reference like the Bible is hard to accomplish. If you believe in fresh revelation, the man who points you to the bible alone is an enigma and just isn't walking with the "spirit."
There are undoubtedly other influences to what is going on (Satan is key behind it all), but this is a key understanding we need to grasp, as to what is going on, and what the mindset is, and why the charismatics are moving en-masse towards this posture.
To conclude....the postmillennialism of the 15th-19th centuries seemingly died with World War II. It is resurfacing in power, prestige, and influence under other guise.
The question is this. Which is true?
If premillennialism is true, the christian remains a stranger and pilgrim passing through this world. His grasp of dispensational thinking rightly orients him to the world around him to prioritize the preaching of the gospel, doing good in his sphere, but not holding on too tight to a sinking Titanic. If he is wrong, he's missing out on what God is doing, and is a pharisee. No wonder his numbers seem to be shrinking. Who wants to be on the seeming (!) losing team?
If covenant theology is true, a huge mountain lies before him, to get the world around him under the law of Moses for righteousness. His attempt to build a city of God on earth seems herculean. He needs government control. He cannot embrace the charismatic but has the same principles of postmillennial thinking. This will be interesting to watch the two interact with similar goals but vastly different views in major areas.
If the charismatic is right, he is on the correct path today and is moving forward. He is speaking those "words" to bring to pass what he wants on the earth, all under the cloak of "christianity" and being "spirit led". If he is wrong, he is merely re-arranging the chairs on the sinking Titanic. But far more sobering, is that the very mystery of iniquity that the premillennialist warns about, is the very thing this man is promoting...without realizing it. If one looks closely there is also an anti authority posture going on. This makes him bedfellows with humanists in one sense, and the religious right as well. What a mess!
There is a stage being set here. Momentous things seem upon us.
Is this an important matter?