Dominion and Commission
God created man for dominion, to act as his vice-gerent over creation, governing and ruling it for his glory (Gen 1:28ff.). The Garden in Eden was a pilot project, begun by God but then entrusted to man to tend and care for. As Adam's family grew, they would have eventually moved out of the Garden, extending its beauty, harmony and order over the rest of the earth. Even Adam's sin can be seen as an attempt to exercise dominion, albeit by ungodly means. In his own time, God himself would have raised up Adam to know good and evil. But such knowledge would be the result of Adam's proving himself by diligent labor and faithful service. But instead of service, Adam chose rebellion against God's authority, wanting dominion on HIS terms, and thus brought judgment upon the creation.
God's curse on Adam and Eve did not negate the Dominion Mandate; it simply made the task more difficult. The land still had to be tended, but now man had to contend with thorns. The woman would still bear children, but now with great pain in childbirth. It is significant that God gives Noah the exact same mandate in Genesis 9:7 after the flood that he had given to Adam many generations previously. Man was created for dominion.
Even the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 is a re-statement of the Dominion Mandate. The means of being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth now includes evangelism. But the end remains the same. Through the preaching of the Word, whole nations are to be brought to submission to Christ. (How sad that this crucial passage is so often so badly misunderstood. The Great Commission commands us to disciple NATIONS, not individuals!). As those nations convert to faith in Christ, and are discipled to obey him in all things, his rule and dominion are spread throughout the earth.
Dominion is therefore an integral part of man's nature and is inescapable. The only question is whether dominion will be sought for the right reasons and by the right means. If Christians do not seek dominion by pressing the claims of Christ Jesus in all areas of life, and instead withdraw into a religious ghetto, ungodly men will seek dominion in our place. All of human history can be interpreted in light of ungodly men's seeking to fulfill the Dominion Mandate in ungodly ways. Wars, conquests, political, economic and social tyranny are all the attempts of ungodly men to unlawfully exercise dominion over others. And since sin always brings death, ungodly dominion invariably leads to disaster (cf. Dt. 28:1ff.). When Christians fail to exercise godly dominion, they simply create a vacuum that ungodly men fill with wickedness. Let there be no misunderstanding here: ungodly men do not build free, prosperous or safe societies. Inevitably, when the ungodly take dominion, the average man loses his wealth, his family and his freedom (Rom. 1:20ff.).
Many Christians fear the word "Dominion" because they have been so influenced by humanism that they understand the word only in humanistic terms. For the ungodly, dominion equals domination: a top-down imposition of power over others against their will. Hence, many Christians think that to exercise dominion means revolution, violent attempts to gain political power, or oppressive governments. Since they rightly reject such concepts, they also reject any sort of dominion, withdrawing into the personal, subjective areas of life, literally leaving the world to go to Hell.
But godly dominion is achieved through godly means. We do not preach violence or revolution, because revolution is by its very definition antithetical to the gospel. Adam was the first revolutionary when he rebelled against God's law. Eating the forbidden fruit was an attempt to gain knowledge, power and dominion through a revolutionary act, rather than earning dominion through faithful service. Christian dominion, rather, MUST result from Biblical truth. Mark 10:45 is clear — power comes to those who serve. Christians will be GIVEN dominion, when we demonstrate that we are capable of handling it. We EARN dominion by being faithful in little things and then God will grant us dominion over greater things (e.g., Mt. 25:21).
Dominion and the Christian Family
Character transformation begins with the Christian family. As Rushdoony notes, the family is a child's first school, church and state. It is within the context of the family that we learn the basic skills that will eventually lead to social, political and economic dominion. In the home we learn diligence, discipline, hard work, responsibility, morality and character. The Scriptures are clear that if a man cannot manage his own household, he cannot manage the household of God (1 Tim. 5:5). If he cannot manage the church, then he certainly cannot manage the state. Hence a true restoration of Christian civilization begins with learning how to run our families properly. Once we have demonstrated faithfulness here, we can expect God to grant us increasing responsibility in the broader society.
Hence the key to national transformation is found in the Biblical means of the Dominion Mandate; we are to be "fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it." Please notice the sequence here. We will subdue the earth when we have been fruitful and multiplied. Now it can be reasonably argued that this multiplication must include more than natural generation; we also multiply through evangelism. But the point here is that we have God's own promise that he will bless our covenant seed (Ac. 2:38-39). As Christians take the Dominion Mandate seriously, as they enjoy the blessings of marital love, normally speaking (and with exceptions duly noted) God will grant us children, many children, children of the covenant. And as those children grow up in disciplined, godly homes, and develop their callings, and marry other covenant children, and faithfully serve their Lord, they too will be blessed with many covenant children. Generation by generation, the principle of compound interest works in our favor. Over time, God will bless Christian families with many offspring who will eventually multiply and fill the earth.
It was God's great promise to our father Abraham that he would be the father of many nations (Gen. 15:5). Through one man, he created a family that within just a few generations became a mighty nation. With the coming of Jesus, many nations were adopted into Abraham's family and began to spread throughout the earth. Generation by generation, God is multiplying his people. The ungodly, on the other hand, actively destroy their future through birth control and abortion. This is God's judgment on them even as it is a guarantee of our future. Even though Christians are presently outnumbered and oppressed, eventually, if we just value our children, train them, and resist the modern temptation to limit their number, within just a few generations, we could exercise dominion over the entire nation (see my Chalcedon article "A Reconstructed View of Evangelism").
Hence Biblical dominion requires a future orientation and a willingness to sacrifice our own personal peace and prosperity for the sake of generations yet unborn. It means we look not just to our own desires and expectations, but to a time yet to come when the whole earth will be full of his glory. This is not a new idea. Most Americans can trace their ancestry to immigrants who gave up everything in the Old World to move to America. Very few of that first generation achieved the "American Dream." Often, their living conditions were initially worse than what they had left behind, as they carved a new life out of the wilderness. But our ancestors moved here not just for their own personal comfort, but because of their commitment to their children, and grand-children and great-grandchildren's future. They sacrificed everything to give their posterity a future and a hope. And because of that sacrifice, their children built on their parents' work and created the freest, most prosperous and godly nation in history.
If we want to reclaim what we have lost, we must first reclaim the dedication of our ancestors and their vision of godly dominion. Our children are our arrows into the future. Through them, we have the ability to shape the direction of American culture for the next thousand years. Yes, it means personal sacrifice and perhaps even a lower standard of living than that of the average American two-income family that sends its children into the citadels of humanistic public education. But our sacrifice now could mean the restoration of a genuine Christian civilization here and the evangelization of the entire world.
Of course, this requires us to have a different view of the family than is common in even broad evangelical Christian circles. God does not give us children as an experience to be had, or as a means of reliving our own childhood. Instead, he entrusts his covenant children to our hands, that we might love them, teach them and prepare them for victory. They are his warriors, and it is our duty to equip them to exercise dominion in his name, by his means. We have to protect them from being propagandized by humanism: we give them a genuine Christian education. We have to equip them spiritually, so we catechize them and conduct consistent family worship. We must prepare them for their callings, give them Biblical models of godly masculinity and femininity, leave them an inheritance, etc.
Most importantly, we must give them a future orientation. We do not live just for ourselves, but for the thousands of generations yet unborn. We cannot escape the Dominion Mandate. If we do not prepare our children for dominion, the humanists and God-haters and idolaters will exercise dominion in their place. The God-haters will continue to rebel against him and bring his judgment down on their heads and society will grow more wicked, more corrupt and perverse. And to a large extent, it will be our fault.
Generations to come will look back to our day and rise up and bless our commitment to dominion, or they will curse us for what we could have done but would not do. Our children are the means God has given us to exercise victory and dominion in the earth. We must ask God to give us many of them. We must love them. We must train them. And we must prepare them for dominion.
- Brian M. Abshire
Rev. Brian Abshire, Ph.D. is currently a Teaching Elder associated with Hanover Presbytery. Along with his pastoral duties, he is also the director for the International Institute for Christian Culture, has served as an adjunct instructor in Religious Studies at Park University and is a visiting Professor of Comparative Religion at Whitefield College.