To consider only myself and my future is actually selfish. The covenant teaches me that more important than myself are the generations that will follow me. I may want to escape the trials of this earth, but my children and grandchildren will have to live in a world that we leave to them. Better to leave them with hope in the ascended and reigning Christ than a hopelessness that surrenders to a world that belongs to the Devil.
The battle between Exile Theology and Dominion Theology is important to understand. It is vital to notice that both sides quote the Bible. It’s just a matter of which passages are quoted.
For example, the exile crowd reminds us that the faithful are like Abraham who was a stranger and an alien (exile) upon the earth (Heb. 11:13). Christians must set their affections on the things above and not on the things on the earth (Col. 3:2). We are to pass our time as sojourners here on the earth (1 Pet. 1:17). “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rms. 8:18).
The dominion crowd quotes texts like Hab. 2:14 “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” God’s Kingdom is like a mustard seed which is small when it is planted, but grows into a tree so that “the birds of the air come and nest in its branches” (Mat. 13:32). Leaven is very small but it multiplies with phenomenal power (Mat. 13:33). We are to occupy until He comes (Lk.19:13). We are to pray that God’s kingdom will come, and the evidence of the presence of his kingdom is that God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10). The kingdom is greater than the church. Christians are to be busy destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). We should expect success in our endeavors (Mt. 28: 18-20).
America was once Christian (imperfect, but rooted in Christian principles), but we lost it. Actually, we gave it away. Now the political neo-conservatives misconstrue the past as “American exceptionalism” without the influence of Christianity. A nation that was once a sign of the conquering Jesus has become the fodder of many in the church to capitalize on our persecution and suffering. Exile Theology is presently preeminent in the church although that has not always been the case.
Theologically, the exile crowd accuses the dominion crowd of being unrealistic. Dreamers they are! The dominion crowd accuses the exile crowd of being neo-Platonists (the spirit is good and the physical is not so good). In Reformed circles both sides have their patron saints. The exile crowd claims Geerhardus Vos. The dominion crowd claims Benjamin Warfield. Both sides claim Spurgeon.
In my mind, a yet unexplored area is what paradigm from the Scriptures is to be the norm for the relationship between the Christian and the world around him. The New Testament was the church in seed form under persecution. Is that to be the norm for a mature Kingdom of God on earth? Or is the typology of a weak Israel in the promise land living under the Law of God to be the paradigm for a mature Kingdom of God in the age of the ascension of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?
I’ve noticed that as one grows older and begins to deal with the fleeting nature of his own life that he tends to gravitate toward exile theology. I’ve had cancer, lost vision in one eye, and deal with a nasty chronic disease, so on some days I just want to leave this earth. Dealing with sin itself is bad enough, but when the body decays, I just want to fly away.
However, even in my old age, there is something else (other than exegesis) that holds me in the Dominion Camp. It’s the children and grandchildren! To consider only myself and my future is actually selfish. The covenant teaches me that more important than myself are the generations that will follow me. I may want to escape the trials of this earth, but my children and grandchildren will have to live in a world that we leave to them. Better to leave them with hope in the ascended and reigning Christ than a hopelessness that surrenders to a world that belongs to the Devil.
Larry E. Ball is a Honorably Retired Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee