Part II - Section B
Written by Albert James Dager
Even older than the Latter Rain Movement, Identity found fertile ground to propagate its own brand of Kingdom Theology among the neo-Pentecostals of the mid-twentieth century. Seeing the opportunity to cloak itself with the respectability of the Church, Identity has aligned with neo-Pentecostalism, and today presents the Anglo-Israel-Identity Movement as "just as much a result of the work of the Holy Spirit as the Charismatic renewal."80
Not all who believe in British-Israelism are part of Identity. But on the basis of little more than conjecture and hearsay, British-Israelism has found credibility in the eyes of many otherwise sensible Christians.
Yet even if true, the very nature of British-Israelism and the strife it engenders is contrary to the warning of Scripture that we not be concerned with endless genealogies (I Timothy 1:4; Titus 3:9).
True Israel consists of all who have come to God by faith in Jesus Christ, whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 2:28-29). To God no one has any standing except by His grace. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, rich nor poor, bond nor free, male nor female, but we are all one in Him (Galatians 3:26-29). As Jesus said, God is able to turn stones into children of Abraham (Matthew 4:9), so who is anyone to boast of his ancestry, especially an ancestry built on little more than fanciful conjecture?
One must be careful when including the Charismatic Renewal in the list of Kingdom Now movements, simply because a significant number of charismatics do not have a definitive understanding of any such eschatological viewpoint. In fact, many charismatics see the return of Jesus as imminent. They believe in the "Rapture," whether pre-, mid-, or post-Tribulation, and would reject the notion that the Church must establish a theocratic rule before Jesus can return.
Yet if there is any distinction between the charismatism of the mid- to late-twentieth century and the Pentecostalism that preceded it, it's that charismatics tend to lean more heavily on supernatural manifestations as conclusive evidence that God is at work. They are also actively seeking unity within the Body of Christ on the basis of those manifestations, many times at the expense of biblical truth. The charismatic ideal seems to have developed into this: in the interest of unity we must overlook differences in doctrine as long as those with whom we seek unity confess the name of Jesus and appear to exhibit the gifts of the Spirit - particularly speaking in tongues.
It's on these points that Roman Catholic priests have been given platforms to teach on Christian TV, and that Mormons have been welcomed into fellowship among some charismatics. (And what could find more compatibility between Mormonism and Kingdom Now Theology than the idea that men are gods?)
If there is any reason or rhyme to this it is that many charismatics, having come out of denominationalism, have lacked sufficient grounding in the Word of God to be able to separate the true work of the Holy Spirit from that of Satan. Having had little or no experience with supernatural power in their denominations, they are sorely lacking in discernment in that area. Still, many of today's most prominent leaders in charismatism hail from Pentecostal backgrounds. So whether traditional or Pentecostal, when one attaches more importance to experience than to the rightly-divided Word of Truth, the chance for error is greatly increased.
Due to its interdenominational thrust, charismatism presents especially fertile ground for the propagation of Dominion Theology. The saying, "All roads lead to Rome," isn't limited to the heyday of the Caesars or to the papacy's former domination of western culture. It's through the charismatic movement that Roman Catholicism has regained much of its credibility among Protestants and other non-Catholics, capitalizing on that credibility to make overtures for unity.
Because some Roman Catholics speak in tongues and exhibit an attitude of acceptance toward non-Catholic charismatics, it's been stated that Roman Catholicism is changing - that there is now an opportunity to bring about a unity which has been lacking since the Reformation.
Besides the issue of tongues, ecumenical charismatics point to the use of Christian hymns sung at "charismatic masses" to the accompaniment of modern musical instruments as evidence that differences are minimal. This naiveté is being exploited by Catholic clergy who, though professing "love" and "unity" toward non-Catholic Christians, refuse them the elements of communion on the basis that non-Catholics do not recognize the pope as their spiritual head.
Though some Roman Catholics, even among the clergy, have undoubtedly been touched by the Holy Spirit and are coming into a greater understanding of what it means to have a personal relationship with God, Roman Catholicism itself has not changed. It is still as strong a political system as ever, ruled by a hierarchy whose intent has been from its inception (and remains) to establish the Kingdom of God on earth under the headship of the pope.
The danger to the purity of the Faith is a genuine reality. The Charismatic Renewal has opened doors which it may find difficult to shut when Satan's demonstrations of signs and wonders increase to the point where spiritual life or death hang on the basis of one's discernment.
Manifested Sons Of God
One of the most militant movements attempting to establish the Kingdom of God on earth is the Manifested Sons of God. This aberration came out of the Latter Rain Movement under the "apostleship" of John Robert Stevens, a William Branham disciple whose church in Redondo Beach, California, operated for a number of years as the headquarters for the movement.
The Manifested Sons of God teachings are perhaps the most definitive among Kingdom Now doctrines. They have all the elements of classical dominion theory: immortalization, restoration of the offices of apostles and prophets, absolute authoritarianism, attainment of godhood - you name it, the Manifested Sons of God have it.
The Manifested Sons of God Movement suffered massive dissipation as the result of many scandals that attended the extreme cult status to which it had attained. Nevertheless, its devotees, fervent in their beliefs, covertly continue to spread its doctrines to other churches.
Because association with the Manifested Sons of God Movement has proven a source of extreme embarrassment, there are few today who would admit they are Manifested Sons of God devotees. Much as a communist would deny his affiliation with the party because he doesn't carry a card, Manifested Sons of God adherents deny they are what they are. The test is what they believe and teach, however, not whether they are "officially" members of a Manifested Sons of God church.
Central to Manifested Sons of God doctrine is the idea that sonship comes through higher revelation. The Christian life is fragmented into stages of maturity: the first step is that of servant of God; the next step is to become a friend of God; following this is to become a son of God and, ultimately, gods ourselves. Yet the Scriptures demonstrate that we are already all three: servants (Galatians 3:10), friends (John 15:14-15), and sons (I John 3:1). Yet there is nothing in Scripture to support the idea that Paul or any apostle or prophet ever put aside his servanthood to attain sonship (many epistles begin with the salutation by the apostle identifying himself as a servant of God), or that they ever believed they would become gods themselves.
Apart from John Robert Stevens's disciples, there are many whose teachings would qualify them as Manifested Sons of God, the essential ingredient being a peculiar interpretation of Romans 8:19-23:
"For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
"For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same hope,
"Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
"For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
"And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."
As a doctrine crucial to the Manifested Sons of God, perfection (success in living sinlessly) will result in incorruptibility. This will qualify those who "overcome" as worthy to rule in the Kingdom of God.
Whether Jesus will return at the beginning, during, or after the Millennium is open to conjecture. Some who have been touched by the Manifested Sons of God influence even believe He will not return physically, but rather that Christ and the Church are becoming one in nature and essence, and that the Church, as the incarnation of God, will manifest Christ on earth.
There are even those who believe that they have already attained perfection and, as a result, will never die. They have attained a higher degree of spiritual evolution, so to speak.
For all the elaborate surmisings with which these people have deluded themselves, a careful reading of Romans 8:19 will show that the "manifestation of the sons of God" alluding to the redemption of our bodies (verse 23) cannot be properly understood apart from I Corinthians 15:51-52, which states that we shall all be changed, "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
From these verses it is clear that the "manifestation of the sons of God" - immortality - will take place at the last trump. First Thessalonians 4:15 makes it even clearer that this will not occur before the resurrection of the dead at the coming of Christ:
"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [go before] them which are asleep.
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
The teachings of most Kingdom Now groups can be traced to the Manifested Sons of God. And not only do they come from the Manifested Sons of God, they must ultimately return to the "pure" Manifested Sons of God doctrine: man need not die; by taking hold of secret knowledge he can become like God.
Whether or not the Manifested Sons of God will ever make a comeback as an organized segment of the Christian community only the Lord knows. But their influence has been more far-reaching through undercover proselytizing than it would have had there been no breakup. And they continue to affect more and more Christians who are sufficiently naive to think they can become immortal by acting spiritual. The grandiose promise of ruling over the world as implementers of God's righteousness holds special appeal for the prideful, "god-consciousness" persons who perceive authority as rulership rather than servanthood.
Inherent to all Kingdom Now Theology is the idea of "Restoration." The premise of Restoration is that since the first century, the Church has not functioned as God planned, and must therefore be "restored" to its original purpose of achieving dominion. This involves the "restoration" of the offices of apostles and prophets, the "restoration" of the Tabernacle of David (signified by the restoration of worship and praise), and the "restoration" of power (signs and wonders).
As a less cultic form of Manifested Sons of God, the Restoration Movement believes in immortalization through perfection. Thus Restoration's emphasis on purifying the Church through repentance and holy living.
Certainly no one can find fault with repentance and holy living. But at the heart of Restoration is the goal of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth in the physical absence of Jesus. Holy living, forgiveness, and unity of the Body of Christ are essential to the attainment of that purpose.
Restoration preachers appear to be among the humblest of God's servants, confessing their own sins before the people and presenting themselves as examples of how Christians should examine their own hearts.
One of the Scriptures most often quoted by Restoration preachers is Matthew 7:1: "Judge not, that ye be not judged." In their view, it is especially imperative that the people not judge teachers, regardless of doctrine. We are to let the Holy Spirit judge them.
I believe many Restoration proponents are truly humble men who have unwittingly opened themselves to error. But so, too, many of those who cry "Touch not God's anointed," or "Judge not," do so out of fear that their own doctrines might come under close scrutiny. They totally ignore the context of Matthew 7:1, which implies hypocritical judgment, not the judgment necessary to preserve the purity of the Faith. We are often exhorted in Scripture to judge, not those outside the Body of Christ, but those in the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 5:12, 6:5; John 7:24).
In Romans 14:10-13, one of the strongest Scriptures about judging, we find that the context reveals we are not to judge a brother for what he eats or drinks. But we are to judge stumbling blocks that others put before the brethren. Certainly false doctrine would fall into that category. We are not to judge men's hearts, but we are to judge actions and teachings that lead others away from God's truth. Why those who cry against judgment propagate error, and why, contrary to their own teachings, they condemn those who judge those errors is between them and the Lord.
Again, there is nothing wrong in holy living, or in unity with brothers in Christ. These we should desire. But what Restoration and Dominion Theology in general seek is not so much unity of the faith as uniformity of the dictates of self-proclaimed apostles and prophets.
More than any other movement, Reconstruction is the intellectual arm of Dominion Theology. Offering articulate and intelligent arguments for the Church to establish theocratic rule by taking dominion over politics, economics, science, the arts, and every other expression of human social structure, Reconstruction attracts thinking people who see God's laws as the only answer to the present chaos. No right-thinking Christian would deny that this is true. However, unless Jesus is present to administer the affairs of that theocracy, human fallibility, no matter how well-intentioned, would ultimately result in religious totalitarianism.
Now, I'm one who believes that Christians should become involved in politics and in every other area of civic life in order to be a light to the world and salt to the earth. If we are to win souls and influence people for Christ, we cannot cloister ourselves from the world. But we are deluding ourselves if we think we can establish any man or religious group of men as saviors of the world.
Reconstruction's noble ideas of bringing about a transformation of society through which righteousness will be manifested are doomed to failure. But that does not mean we cannot use the information on politics and other fields of human endeavor that notable Reconstructionists provide. Their analyses of world affairs from a Scriptural perspective are often intelligent and well-documented, and can be of significant help to Christians who wish to be informed on current events. (Just beware the leaven.)
Nor does it mean we shouldn't continue to wage spiritual warfare and take authority wherever God grants it to us. But a theocracy administered without the benefit of Jesus' physical presence begs for subjective reasoning based on the intellectual whims of man's faulty wisdom.
Yes, the Holy Spirit can keep such a theocratic rule in line. But He won't if it exists apart from the will of God. And based on His Word, no such theocracy will be established by God without Jesus present. Should any such theocracy be established, it would not be a true theocracy, but a totalitarian state of man's own making.
God's Word is clear that before Jesus returns tremendous evil will encompass the governments of the world (Matthew 24, Mark 14, Revelation 6 & 7). We might not like that prospect, but God's Word is without error. The question is whether Reconstruction seeks to impose the will of man in the name of God. This, I believe, is the direction in which Reconstruction, like all Dominion movements, is headed.
If there is one teaching of Dominion Theology that has come to characterize the Positive Confession Movement of late, it is the deification of man. While most of the aforementioned movements employ this theme, Positive Confession is coming to the forefront.
This is a paradox of sorts because there are many in Positive Confession who are not consciously linked to Dominion Theology, looking instead for the imminent return of Jesus, whether pre-, mid-, or post-Tribulation, and do not see man's efforts as the answer to anything. They would reject the idea that they are or can be gods, even though in their acting out the Positive Confession scenario they are acting out the role of God. This by their insistence that they can speak into existence things that aren't as if they are.
But it isn't the conscious adherence to Kingdom Now Theology that makes Positive Confession so compatible (though there are many who do adhere consciously to Kingdom Now Theology). It's the strong dominion mindset and the increasingly prevalent teachings on the believer's alleged "god-likeness" that will eventually draw a great bulk of Positive Confession people into the Kingdom Now camp.
Reconstructionist Gary North, in his book 'Unholy Spirits,' demonstrates how the reconstructionists have influenced the charismatics and, most specifically, the Positive Confession Movement, without their being aware of the historicity of Dominion Theology:
"Some of the charismatic groups believe in tightly knit church convenants. The reconstructionists have been the major theologians of the biblical convenant. Other charismatics have preached personal financial victory and health through prayer and by obeying God's 'principles.' The reconstructionists have been the major defenders of the continuing legitimacy of God's law in New Testament times. Some of these 'positive confession' charismatics (also called 'word of faith') have begun to preach that the optimism which God offers to individuals also applies to God's other convenanted associations: families, churches, and civil governments. This represents a major break with the traditional pessimistic eschatology of fundamentalism, called dispensationalism. These charismatic leaders have not self-consciously made the break from premillenialism to postmillenial optimism, but the term 'dominion' implies it. Again, the reconstructionists are the only Protestant theologians to have forthrightly preached postmillenialism after 1965. (R.J. Rushdoony was the pioneer here.) Thus, the ideas of the reconstructionists have penetrated into Protestant circles that for the most part are unaware of the original source of the theological ideas that are beginning to transform them."81
The concept of dominion fits the Positive Confession mold. If all that's necessary for the Church to take dominion is to speak and act "in faith," then the only problem is to get enough Christians to do so.
Positive Confession's belief in faith as a "force" into which anyone can tap is a tenet of witchcraft. It places God at the disposal of anyone who can learn the formulas (or "principles") of "faith," and tries to force Him to work on their behalf regardless of His will.
Positive confession is not prayer; it's not communication with God. Rather, it's mental affirmation of what the person "confessing" wants accomplished with little or no practical consideration of what God's will might be.
While Positive Confession has no definitive eschatology, it has established certain teachings that prepare Christians to accept Dominion Theology.
The Shepherding-Discipleship Movement which attained its greatest impetus during the 1960s and 70s exemplifies the extreme authoritarianism which would probably be necessary to implement and sustain any attempted theocracy. In spite of extreme abuses against personal freedom in Christ, the thought control that characterized that movement continues to rear its ugly head among Kingdom Now groups. Former leaders of that movement have gained new respectability among other leaders within charismatism. They have much to offer in the way of instruction on how to bend the wills of others to their own - a talent vital to any human attempt to set up the Kingdom of God.
There is no doubt that a great need exists within the Church for 'scripturally-based' discipleship and authority. Such must be founded on the concept of authority as servanthood, ministered in love and humility by those mature in the faith.
Shepherding-Discipleship as the movement it became, however, is nothing less than spiritual child-abuse. Through intimidation by the instilling of fear and unfounded guilt, it bludgeons babes in Christ into obedience to the wills of the "shepherds" in authority. And not only babes, but many "mature" Christians have fallen prey to this evil due to the misuse of Scripture to establish "coverings" over every member. Ephesians 5:11-14 is used to convince the unwary that in order to be perfected they must submit to those in authority, regardless of what that authority requires of them. Thus, abuses are rampant in Shepherding-Discipleship.
In extreme Shepherding-Discipleship many are compelled to live a communal lifestyle in total obedience to their "shepherds." They may not marry, work, minister, buy or sell, or exercise their own wills in any matter without their shepherd's approval. They live in strict conformity to religious and temporal duties within their communal society. Disobedience, and even weariness common to such a stringent lifestyle, meet with strong disciplinary action. There have even been reports of physical abuse to keep the "sheep" in line.
In such a scenario the individual's personal relationship to God is subordinated to the corporate structure of their religious society. One is not allowed to hear from God directly, because God only speaks to them through their shepherd. Should a person leave the "covering" of his shepherd to pursue his freedom in Christ, he is threatened with reprisals from the hand of God: loss of salvation, sickness, divorce, financial ruin. He is shunned by the community of which he was a part, and spoken of as a servant of Satan or in some other derogatory way.
Even the marriage relationship is subordinate to the relationship of the shepherd with his disciple. Broken homes and divorces are not uncommon among those marriages where one spouse develops a stronger bond to the shepherd than to his or her mate. All these abuses exceed the parameters of disciple- ship intended by Jesus, and establish the babes in Christ as disciples of men rather than disciples of Christ.
The Shepherding-Discipleship mentality is such that self-prideful humanity finds it appealing. Those disciples who obey are rewarded by being made shepherds over others. Thus is propagated a brutal and demeaning society governed by fear and guilt.
Though these are the extreme abuses of Shepherding-Discipleship, the mentality is the same throughout the movement. Such a mentality is critical to Kingdom Now Theology. For how can a significant portion of mankind be made to conform to the dictates of the apostles and prophets except through the instilling of fear and guilt? No one wants to miss out on what appears to be a move of God. Ignorance on the part of those who are unsure of their relationship to God breeds indecision which, in turn, results in acquiescence to authority at the expense of their personal relationship to Christ.
Inherent Fear And Guilt
The use of fear and guilt to bring people into line with the dictates of self-appointed authority is not the exclusive property of Shepherding-Discipleship. Were we to analyze each movement germane to Kingdom Now Theology we would find strong elements of such fear and guilt at the core of their structures. They all subordinate the individual's relationship to Christ to the dictates of the religious leaders. To illustrate, let's take the other movements with which we've already dealt and briefly see how fear and guilt play a part.
Identity: Fear and guilt are essential ingredients in any racist, authoritarian structure - especially where the use of para-militarism is utilized to foment hatred and threaten bloodshed.
Manifested Sons of God: Extreme fear and guilt for those who do not move forward to perfection in order that the Kingdom of God may be established.
Restoration: A strong condemnation of utilizing judgment breeds guilt in those who question the teachings of others, resulting in fear that God's displeasure will be the consequence. This applies even to the righteous judgment of sin and doctrinal error.
Reconstruction: Guilt results from not becoming involved in attempting to establish the Kingdom of God through politics and other societal strategies.
Charismatic Renewal: Guilt is instilled in those who balk at attempts to meld them into unity with others whose doctrines are seriously in conflict with Scripture. This results in a fear of God's displeasure for hampering unity, and fear of men's reprisals for speaking out against error.
Positive Confession: Fear that if one doesn't act and speak in a prescribed manner God will not answer. Guilt that one's faith is deficient should his prayers not be answered to his satisfaction.
These are sketchy but accurate assessments of how religion based on fear and guilt has encroached upon the modern Church. The individual relationship of the Christian with his Savior is a sacred trust to be nurtured and strengthened by the teaching and counsel of the elders in his church. While the corporate expression of faith is vital to the life of the Church, that life is only as strong as the strength of the individual links in the corporate chain.
The subordination of the individual to the corporate body at the expense of individuality actually weakens the Church in its ability to stand against deception and, ultimately, even against the overt evil influences of the world.
In our next installment we'll detail the various teachings within Kingdom Now Theology, quote those who hold those teachings, and name the particular movement or movements with which they are associated. Hold on to your hats.
55. G.dePurucker, 'The Esoteric
Tradition,' 2 Vols.(Point Loma, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1935),p.24.
57. John H. Dewey, 'Christian Theosophy'(New York: J.H. Dewey Publishing Company, 1888),p.vi.
61. Randy Shankle, Video Tape of Trinity Broadcasting Network "Praise the Lord" program, c.August, 1986.
62. 'The Esoteric Tradition,' pp.1104-1105.
64. 'Christian Theosophy,'pp.28-30.
67. Ken Copeland, Trinity Broadcasting Network,"Praise the Lord" program, c.September, 1985.
68. 'The Esoteric Tradition,'pp.788-791.
69. Los Angeles Times, Part 1,p.31.
70. Benjamin Creme, press conference at The Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, CA, May 14, 1982.
74. Earl Paulk, video tape of church service in which he refers to the Church as "the ongoing incarnation of God," c.October, 1986.
75. Curtis Clair Ewing, Tract: "For the Benefit of Our Pentecostal and Charismatic Brethren!" (Waynesville, NC: New Beginnings, undated),p.1.
76. 'Time,' October 20,1986,p.74.
78. Orange County 'Register,' Orange County, CA, October 30, 1986,p.A23.
80. "For the Benefit of Our Pentecostal and Charismatic Brethren," p.1.
81. Gary North, 'Unholy Spirits,' (Fort Worth: Dominion Press, 1986), pp.374-375
|To HarvestNET Revival page||To HarvestNET main page||To 'Apostle' page|