Sunday, November 20, 2011

The True Dominion Theology

The sermon today on Genesis 1 focused on the charge to Adam and Eve to "have dominion over" the creatures of the earth, which led to another trail of thoughts. (The observation that the object of the verb dominion includes all animals and no plants is not one of them ... don't know what to do with that one ...)

Stop 1 on the tour of "dominion" elsewhere in the Scriptures is Psalm 8, which has a straightforward echo of the Genesis term in the second half of the Psalm, but it can't be missed that to get to this word you have to go through the verse that reminds us that we really don't deserve this "dominion":

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?"

This dominion is a gift. And it can be revoked. Hezekiah pridefully shows his "dominion" and treasures to some people who will return with an army to take them by force and destroy the Temple that houses them. That dominion's days were numbered. This dominion isn't a blank check.

Stop 2 on this tour is only a few pages later in Psalm 19. But this mention is even more nuanced. Psalm 19 starts with a glorious descrpition of the "language" with which "The heavens declare the glory of God," then it describes the sun as a jubilant servant of YHWH, and then it jumps to a description of the law that is just as exultant and sweet as any sugar molecule (that's my own interpretation, of course). But the law provokes a shift of perspective from outward discovery and wisdom to inward self-discovery, the beginning of wisdom:

"Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression."

Here the dominion is actually a threat from one's own self! Any so-called dominion theology must include a possibility that dominion will be wrongly assumed -- by ME. Any prideful dominion theology is an exact contradiction of the use of dominion in this Psalm, and is at best an evil deception. (This exact usage recurs in Psalm 119, by the way, and Paul echoes it in his letters with "let not sin have dominion over you".)

The story of Scripture is dominion given, and dominion usurped (from without and within), and, in the prophecies of the Messiah and the fulfillment in Christ, dominion regained through a servant who is God, emptied. A very different type of king, the type who rides a donkey and is enthroned on a cross.

At the end of the book, the word comes back again, applied to Jesus and God simultaneously. The echoes of this usage from Genesis to the kings to the prophecies are all resonant in these mentions:

"Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come ... "

Read Jude (this may be first use of Jude on this blog?):
"To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever."

And of course Revelation, which fitting returns at last to the fundamental fact that God's nature always shares dominion from the first book to the last:
"And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

So this is why I don't recognize anything of this in what goes by the "Christian dominion" movement, and why "dominion theology" doesn't seem to understand who this God is or who this king is at all. Dominion is found through Christ, which means the Sermon on the Mount and the cross must be front and center to any implementation of the word. At least for people who call themselves Christians.

1 comment:

Eric said...

I don't understand the basis of dominion theology. Chris Hedges would probably agree with this, as well, but wouldn't be able to do so without throwing in a lot of ad hominems (a la American Facists), and that disagreeable(to him) parts Bible should just be thrown out.