One of the common critiques against a dominion view of the Kingdom of God is that it would result in a sort of religious domination over everyone on Earth. While virtually all Christians agree that when Christ returns, there will be that sort of domination, those who oppose a dominion view often see a conflict before the return between dominion and liberty.
I think we can resolve this problem by being a little more precise with our terms.
The proper response to “you can’t legislate morality” is that “you can’t legislate anything but morality”. That is, something as benign as a speed limit is still saturated in moral ether. Speed limits assume:
- Human life has value
- It is at least one of the roles of the state to protect life
- It’s good to believe the truth, and we can discover the truth through scientific experimentation
- We must act on the truth
- Inefficiency in speed is a lower moral cost than increased danger to life, at least at some point
- We ought to obey the state
- The state has the right to choose speed limits
This is just a short list of the sum of all assumptions behind speed limit laws. But if simple speed limits have this many moral considerations, then all laws do. All laws are moral in nature. There’s a reason we call it the moral law.
The fact is, there will be a religion behind all law. You can’t get away from it.
Therefore, Christians should seek to make it the true religion, rather than something false.
Acceptable Christian Dominion
Many Christians who oppose dominion/theonomy will claim that there’s really very little point in making “more moral sinners”. Why should we impose Christian morality through law when the whole point is to make Christians? Sure, the law is moral in nature, but there’s little good in actually imposing our will through it. It doesn’t save anyone.
Lets take a quick tangent which will make more sense in a moment. Christians built the first real public hospitals out of charity (i.e. Christian love). Over the millennia they’ve grown and become something a bit different, but for a moment imagine them in a simpler form: places where people can go to be healed or recover or be attended as they die. This is good and noble. Christians everywhere can get behind this sort of thing, especially if we say these are privately funded through charitable donations.
But lets apply the earlier reasoning here. If there’s little point in creating laws to make more moral sinners, then there’s also little point in building hospitals to make more healthy sinners. Physical exercise matters little, as the Apostle Paul says. Our health is trivial compared to the hope we have in Christ. That’s why Christians can die for their faith. To live is Christ but to die is gain.
So what’s the point in building hospitals? Why should we want to give health to sinners? At best, it extends their opportunities to sin? Christians can probably universally condemn this mode of thinking here, but why? If it applies to law, it applies to hospitals. If it applies to the rules governing society, it applies to other good things done for the benefit of the public.
If Christians can and should build hospitals, then Christians can and should do more than just merely preach the Gospel.
Dominion vs Domination
In both law and culture, it’s clear someone will have dominion. It’s also clear that Christians are called to do more than just share the Gospel. However, there are some limits here:
- We aren’t called to domination. If dominion means living like a Christian in public life just as atheists live as atheists in public life, then domination means going beyond that and believing that faith can be imposed on others. We can’t do that. We don’t conquer by force.
- Our calling is not merely to preach the Gospel, but it does include preaching the Gospel. We can’t lose sight of that as the primary and first goal.
I think this balance is useful to keep in mind. There are some Christians who confuse these and I think some of the concern over dominion/theonomy is that when these are confused, you get a sort of Christianized horde that conquers and destroys everything in its path and leaves everything except Christian faith in its wake.
But if we don’t do these things, we end up with what we have now: a former Christian civilization dying as it reverts to the stupidest kind of paganism, killing tens of millions of unborn children and destroying tens of millions of young children through corruption.
Christianity isn’t about perfect balance, but I think the bounds on this topic help establish a broad area where we can do good without running into error. I’m open to further limits or honing in the one’s I’ve presented. I admit this is a relatively new area of interest for me. But I think this is a good start.