The Sovereignty, Dominion, Law, and Wrath of God

From Bojidar Marinov Teaching the Whole Counsel of God:

The constant battle against sin (sanctification) and for the expanding the Kingdom of God (wisdom) has always placed high demands and expectations; and quite often the church has found itself inadequate to the task. Its members sometimes refused to deal with sin, their own and that of the people around them. At other times the church remained passive and escapist, ignoring the clear command of the Great Commission. And at times the church was both plagued by sin and completely oblivious to its task in the world. In the last one century, the same problem persists, and is becoming even more acute and visible.

This problem is going to get resolved rather soon, with a falling away of the passive churches “whose salt has lost its savor” and the rise of churches who actually want to convert the world – and especially all the nations, as Christ commands.

The Biblical solution […] is based on the content of teaching the church is giving today to the nations. Obsessed with their fashionable rhetoric of “making disciples,” our modern church celebrities are missing the other parts of the Great Commission; for example, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth,” and “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” The church today can not produce believers of good quality because its teaching and preaching is truncated; it limits the Gospel to a few propositions about individual salvation and personal piety. It does not give a comprehensive Gospel, one that covers every area of life and teaches individuals, families, churches, and nations to live according to the Word of God in every area of life. The lack of clear, consistent Biblical instruction in so many areas of life only leads to false theology, and a theology that doesn’t teach these things is a false theology itself, no matter how theologically correct its view of personal salvation is. Unless the church changes the content of its preaching, it will keep failing; and no amount of “discipleship” can save it.

There are numerous churches that see the powerless failures they are becoming… and then use this as evidence of “man’s heart are turning cold” and “the Antichrist is coming soon!” and “The Rapture is almost here!”

They will not see their hand in their failure: and since they will not learn and repent, they will surely get the reward for disobedience that’s coming to them, right across the ex-Christian West. And it has nothing to do with a Rapture escape from reality…

Here are the main areas in which the church’s teaching today – the teaching of all pastors, preachers, theologians, and other celebrities – is lacking:

1. The Sovereignty of God

A truth largely forgotten by the modern church is that the foundational doctrine of Scripture is not the salvation of man, or anything about man, but the sovereignty of God. Nothing else in the Bible makes sense unless we understand that foundational doctrine. This doctrine is the beginning and the goal of our faith, and it must be in the foundation of our teaching and preaching always. There are no “natural” things in the universe, in the sense of existing in themselves; they all exist in God, in His plan for the universe. Neither is there such a thing as history and events happening in themselves, outside of God’s providence and predestination. God doesn’t simply “foreknow” the future by looking in a crystal ball to find out what it is; He foreknows it because He Himself has made it happen and is constantly, in every minute, controlling every aspect of His creation and history, to the minutest detail.

Of course, the greatest challenge to this idea about God’s Sovereignty comes in the form of pelagianism and semi-pelagianism, the idea that man by his own efforts and will – free will – is able to achieve that perfection that gives him salvation. […] Only in the last 100 years the Protestant and Evangelical churches have switched to full-scale semi-pelagianism, rejecting their heritage of the Reformation and adopting the doctrines of Rome concerning salvation.

A Christian who is taught that by his decision he can gain salvation is by necessity also taught that by his decision he can lose it. […] His energy is mainly spent not on obeying God and glorifying God but on examining his own heart everyday. In the final account, semi-pelagianism can’t produce culture, or society, or any kind of comprehensive knowledge about the world because it is too exhausted of fighting with the most deceitful of all things.

[…] One Reformed author goes to the length of claiming that nothing is so offensive to an unbeliever as the doctrine of God’s grace. The claim, of course, is nonsensical and unproven; unbelievers have no objection to free gifts, what they detest the most is God’s Sovereignty, the idea that they as humans are not the center of the universe.

Nothing wrong with God’s grace, we know we are saved by grace. But when grace is made the center of the Christian teaching, this shifts the center from God to man. God’s main function in such teaching is to give grace to man and to save man. Thus the Gospel is truncated to mean the salvation of man only, not the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. […] I have talked more about this focus on grace in a previous article so I will not repeat all the arguments here.

It is God who rules, not Man.

Quite a large section of the Church seems to have a problem with this idea.

But never fear: God will purify His bride.

2. The Dominion (Cultural) Mandate

Modern Christianity, in a sharp contrast to the Christianity of the previous centuries, is culturally passive. The Puritans in England, being only a small percentage of the population, exercised enormous influence by their unstoppable enthusiasm to make the whole culture submit to Christ. Europe itself, being only a small portion of the world in terms of resources, territory, and population, nevertheless changed the world culturally and civilizationally because it was the Christendom, a civilization built to exhibit the glory of God. The modern dualistic separation between personal piety and cultural involvement was always foreign to Christians in the past. A Christian’s duty was to obey God personally and culturally. There was no separation between the two.

In comparison, modern Christianity, far from being a faith that conquers the world and its kingdoms, is a religion of passive waiting. Evangelical and Reformed celebrities insist that the church shouldn’t even attempt to change the culture; there is no such thing as a Christian culture, or government, or art, or science, or anything else. These areas are not under the mandate of man to conquer. Man’s only purpose is to be saved; as we saw in the previous point, the Gospel is limited to man’s salvation. Thus, whether one is an amillennialist or a premillennialist, all a person can do is wait for that final day of history or of his life, in order to finally “get home.”

I remain weary of losers.

Passive, lazy, fearful losers, who have no faith in the victory and supremacy of God.

I am confident that — one way or another — God is going to get His Church, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, reshaping the world into a form of His liking.

An obedient tool of Christ, and not a collection of rebellious, self-centred servants.

The Biblical doctrine of man is that man was created with a purpose on earth and in history: to take dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). Theologians call this the Dominion Mandate, or the Cultural Mandate. Man is supposed to bring God’s order to every corner of the creation, and build every aspect of his culture and society according to God’s requirements. This is the main task man was given when placed in the Garden; not to “worship,” not to idly enjoy the beauty of the Garden, not to discuss obscure theological details. His true worship, his true enjoyment of God’s creation, his true knowledge and understanding of theology or God were to come through his work in cultivating the Garden, or later, in cultivating the whole world and his own culture. This mandate wasn’t destroyed in the Fall; man’s sin only made it more difficult. But God repeated the same mandate to Noah. In the New Testament, Jesus declared that He was given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18) and made it the basis of the Great Commission. And Paul could declare in very strong terms to his fellow Christians: “All belongs to you, . . . the world, the present, the future; all things belong to you” (1 Cor. 3:21-22). That the world belongs to the Christians is only a restoration of the original commandment, “let them have dominion.” And if Christians own all things and the world, then they have the responsibility to cultivate the world in their God-given Cultural Mandate.

The doctrine of winners, the faith of victors.

The Good Guys Win.

The Bad Guys Lose.

In time, and on earth.

(“And on to the stars,” I would add! But first things first…)

3. The Law of God as a Tool for Dominion

God is sovereign. Man is given the Dominion (Cultural) Mandate over the earth. When we combine these two Biblical truths with the belief that God has revealed Himself and His will in God’s Word, we can easily answer the question: What rules has God established for man in his Cultural Mandate? Obviously, these rules for dominion must be found in that same Word that reveals God to us.

We call these rules the Law of God. The Law of God is given to man to obey. Man is given dominion but not as a sovereign, only as subject to God. And man is obligated as creature to obey God’s Law as far as his Cultural Mandate extends. How far does it extend? In everything man does, in his personal life and in his cultural life. There is nothing on earth that can remain outside of man’s Cultural Mandate, and therefore there is nothing that can be free from the requirements of God’s Law. God’s Law must be taught to individuals, families, churches, and nations, because it is only God’s Law that gives them the tools to obey God in the task He has given man. Once the foundation of God’s Sovereignty is established, and the Dominion Mandate is taken as man main task on earth, there is only one logical conclusion: God’s Law is the Law, in everything man does, individual or cultural.

That Law is, of course, revealed in the Bible. It is summarized in the Ten Commandments, and its case applications are given in the legal code nicknamed Mosaic Law because it was given through Moses. And in the rest of the Bible we see practical applications of that Law explained to and practiced by the Old Testament church and the nations around Israel, and by the New Testament church. Without the Law of God, there is no idea of what practical righteousness and sanctification is.

Too bad fat ans sassy Western Christians have nothing but contempt for God’s Law.

So, having despised the tools they need to build a Christian culture, they crawl back to their ghettos, looking to the State to feed and clothe and protect them.

The fact that the State innately despises everything they stand for is beside the point, compared to the FREE STUFF that the political, kingly power they actually trust can give them.

At the end of the day, as Cornelius Van Til rightly pointed, there are only two options, theonomy (God’s Law) or autonomy (self-law). When pastors, theologians, and other celebrities focus on man and man’s salvation, then inevitably man’s law will control the culture, not God’s Law.

The problem with this is that a Christian raised and taught in such theology is powerless and ignorant as to what he is supposed in the world outside of the church. As I have mentioned before, Al Mohler points to the “incompetence” of Christians in the field of politics and civil government. He doesn’t have to look too far to find who’s responsible for this incompetence: he himself and his rejection of the Law of God as the only Law for man and his culture. Without the Law of God there is no standard for righteous life and action. As Greg Bahnsen said in his great book, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, “…today the church has largely succumbed to the idea that God’s Law is extraneous, not only to personal morality, but to matters of statesmanship and civil government. The theologians of this century have offered no serious alternative to the world, giving the impression that ‘the salt has lost its saltiness.’”

God will not tolerate tasteless, worthless salt; nor will He tolerate corrupt, Man-centred churches.

“We’re all about the salvation of Man
(because that’s important!),
and uncaring about extending public fear and obedience of God everywhere
(because who wants that?)”

4. God’s Covenant Sanctions in History

“And meanwhile [the common grace order] must run its course within the uncertainties of the mutually conditioning principles of common grace and common curse, prosperity and adversity being experienced in a manner largely unpredictable because of the inscrutable sovereignty of the divine will that dispenses them in mysterious ways.”

Dr. Meredith Kline wrote these words in 1978. At the time he was writing them, he was living in a prosperous, safe, and peaceful society where he could have his own house and his own car, and his family was free from persecutions for their religious convictions. He had a secure job, and the job paid him at least 16 times more – in pure monetary equivalent – than his ancestors had only 150 years ago. (As the economic historian Deirdre McCloskey points out, in terms of quality of goods and services available, the increase is not 16 times but something about 100 times.) His town has never been bombed, and he had liberty and justice in a legal and political system that valued the individual much more than any time before in history. His nation, the United States of America, the most Christian nation in the world – relatively to other nations, I mean – was the indisputable leader of the world, economically, militarily, technologically, socially, etc.

But in the end, rebellious men within the Church would rather be powerless and free of the Law that they deeply despised, than powerful but subjected to God’s Law-Word.

And so, God gave them their hearts’ desire… so they could choke on it.

(See Numbers 11 for details.)

5. The Victory of the Gospel in History

When it entered the world’s arena, Christianity shocked the world with a completely different view of history. All pagan religions – including post-AD 70 Judaism and Islam – are essentially pessimistic about history; and all pagan religions are focused on the past and the imagined past Golden Ages.

Christians are so fearful about Islam.

Why fear a bunch of violent ignorami, tied to the seventh century?

And actual believers need never fear: it will be seen that aging, childless, bankrupt secular materialism is no different from those dying and fading fake-Christian heresies, either.

The future was a threat to all of them; the past needed to be preserved and perpetuated; the present was a preventive action against any change. Any change was to be to the worse, a threat to the existing stability of the world.

Our secularist leaders and their aging, fading ideologies are no different.

This view is anathematized as “triumphalist” by many modern church celebrities. In its place, they offer a view of history that follows the pessimism of the pagan religions that the early church encountered. The church was never made so passive as when that most unique feature of her doctrine – historical optimism – was thrown away and replaced with a pessimistic view which says that we should not expect any good development in history.

[…]

And indeed, the greatest issue is: Is the Great Commission going to be fulfilled by the Church in history? Or is the Church, having the Holy Spirit and the presence of her Lord and King, going to fail? The promise of victory produces soldiers who are willing to lay their life for the cause. The promise of defeat is going to produce wimps who would remain passive and never grow in their faith, and in spiritual maturity. The church in the last century has been producing mainly wimps. No wonder.

Surprise, surprise.

Ape the spiritually dead pagan, and you too can become spiritually dead!

Conclusion

These five elements of the Christian doctrine are essential for producing true Christian converts of good quality and spiritual maturity:

1. The Sovereignty of God

2. The Dominion (Cultural) Mandate

3. The Law of God

4. God’s Covenant Sanctions in History

5. The Victory of the Gospel in History

Remember this: I have a suspicion that it’s going to come up on the Final Exam, before God’s throne. How well you can lawfully answer and fruitfully uphold God’s explicit commands will certainly shape how well you are rewarded, so far as the elect are concerned…

Without these as the foundation of all Christian teaching and preaching, the church will continue to produce weak converts who don’t know what they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to do as Christians. We will keep losing our children, and we will keep losing even the adults to the world system – especially to a world system that has adopted secularized versions of these foundations of the Biblical teaching. No rhetoric of “making disciples,” no methods of training, no discipleship seminars and conferences can make up for the lack of these essentials.

The modern church, and especially the neo-Reformed, by refusing to preach the whole counsel of God to their congregations, have created the problem of a weak church with weak believers. They are trying to solve the problem by more of the same – the dangerous rhetoric of “making disciples,” based on a faulty interpretation of one Biblical verse. What they need to do is embrace a comprehensive Gospel that speaks to every area of life, gives a comprehensive worldview, and proclaims the crown rights of Jesus Christ in every area of life. Only then will we have a church that is without spot and blemish.

It’s time to win!

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