R2K Aficionado Rev. Stellman writes,
“I agree that God told Adam to exercise dominion over creation, and I agree that Adam’s dominion-taking would have helped usher in God’s eternal kingdom, a kingdom which would have brought with it eternal life and Sabbath rest for Adam and his posterity. But where many go wrong, in my view, is in the fact that they seem to stop reading at Genesis 1.
After the Fall, God tells man that the elements of prelapsarian life, such as marriage, childbearing, and labor are to continue on, albeit in a context of curse. In a word, these aspects of life will now be perverted to reflect the curse sanction that God had pronounced on creation due to Adam’s rebellion. Marriage will now be a power-struggle, childbirth will now be painful, and bread will now be produced through sweat and an uncooperative earth. The same is true of the dominion mandate.”
1.) Stellman seems to see no progress of Redemption between the Covenant of Grace before Christ ushered in the Kingdom and the Covenant of Grace after Christ ushered in the Kingdom. In Rev. Stellman’s thinking the “not yet,” of the “now, not yet,” is front loaded in both covenants. With the coming of Christ, who now has Dominion, the capacity of God’s people is not enhanced in their dominion taking activity even though we have the Spirit in order to, with earnest purpose, live according to all the commandments of God. Instead, even though the Kingdom has now come in Christ Rev. Stellman tells us that the thing that is most important about our existence is that we live in the context of the curse.
2.) Rev. Stellman, like all R2K practitioners is afflicted with amillennialitis. Rev. Stellman presupposes that we can not have dominion because good never excels over evil in history and as such, voila, he finds in Scripture that God’s people can not have dominion because good never excels over evil in history. When engaging with R2K types one must always keep before them their rabidly pessimistic eschatology. That pessimistic theology drives the rest of their “theology.”
3.) To hear Rev. Stellman tell it, all Christian marriages are disappointments as Christian men and women are constantly at each other’s throats. All babies are only children as the pain mothers have in childbirth make them resolve to never have another child. All vegetables are grown in a desert. Yes, we continue to struggle against the reality of our fallen world and our own fallen-ness but none of that negates the call to take godly dominion.
4.) The main problem is that while God pronounced the curse on our parents that Rev. Stellman notes, God never in that pronounced curse says, “And Cursed be you for in the day you ate of the fruit thou dids’t give up being a dominion bearing agent as you struggle in the context of the curse.” So, when Rev. Stellman says, “the same is true of the dominion mandate,” he is both adding to the text and subtracting from the text by voiding God’s clear command. The Scripture does not have good things to say about those who add to, or subtract from, the text.
Rev. Stellman presses on,
“The dominion motif comes to the fore again after the flood, only now Noah is to practice his mastery over creation in the context of a covenant that is not redemptive but common, a covenant made “between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations” (Gen. 9:1-17). As shown by the inauguration of the kingdom of man in Genesis 4, the cultural work of human hands is valuable for building a temporal, common kingdom, but due to the Fall, our cultural endeavors cannot bring about the kingdom of Christ (a kingdom which Jesus said “is not of this world”).”
1.) Note here the propensity in all R2K “Theologians” to divide “cult,” from “culture,” as if culture has no direct and intimate relation to cult. R2K advocates are forever calling for a “common culture” as if a common culture is not the consequence of the people who are sharing a common culture embracing a “common cult.” A common culture can only happen among people who embrace a common cult. Different peoples living in one social order embracing different cults always produce culture wars, which make the common realm anything but common. This severing of cult from culture is perhaps one of the most dreadful errors of R2K.
2.) Rev. Stellman’s reading of Gen. 9 is innovative to Dr. Meredith Kline. Scripture never says that the dominion mandate of Gen. 1:28 and the re-capitulation of it to Noah in Genesis 9 are divided the way the disciples of Kline insist. It is just as possible to read Gen. 9 as Noah coming through the flood to a new garden existence and as a type of second Adam he is given the earth and as God’s image bearer he is told to have dominion. Scripture never says that the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:28 and the dominion mandate of Genesis 9 are anything but the same command given at two different times.
3.) Actually, it is easier to make the argument that the “Great Commission,” of Matthew 28 is a re-articulation of the dominion mandates of Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 9 then it is to argue that Gen. 1 and Gen 9 are to be divided the way the disciples of Kline would have us believe. In Matthew 28 dominion is advanced over all the world by making disciples and by teaching men to observe all things that Christ has commanded. Certainly success in the Great Commission would lead to the complete godly dominion over all the earth that all Biblical Christians anticipate before Christ returns.
4.) “‘My kingdom is not of [ek: out from] this world,’” is a statement about the source — not the nature — of His reign, as the epexegetical ending of the verse makes obvious: ‘My kingdom is not from here [enteuthen].’ The teaching is not that Christ’s kingdom is wholly otherworldly, but rather that it originates with God Himself (not any power or authority found in creation.”
Dr. Greg Bahnsen
God & Politics — pg. 27
B. F. Wescott speaking of John 18:36 could comment,
“Yet He did claim a sovereignty, a sovereignty of which the spring and the source was not of earth but of heaven. My Kingdom is not of this world (means it) does not derive its origin or its support from earthly sources.”
The Gospel According To John — pg. 260
John 18:36 along with Matthew 22:15-22 are two of the passages that are often put forth as defeaters for the comprehensive sovereignty of the Lord Jesus over this world. Bahnsen clearly shows here, quite in agreement with the Greek scholar B. F. Westcott, that God’s Kingdom, as it manifests itself in this world, is energized by a source outside this world. This is important to emphasize because many people read John 18:36 as proof that the Kingdom of Jesus does not and should not express itself in this world. Often this verse is appealed to in order to prove that God’s Kingdom is only “spiritual” and as such Christians shouldn’t be concerned about what are perceived as “non-spiritual” realms. Support for such thinking, if there is any, must come from passages other than John 18:36.
What we get from some contemporary Calvinists, is the quote of Christ telling Pilate that ‘His Kingdom is not of this World,’ as if that is to end all conversation on the Lordship of Christ over all cultural endeavors. What is forgotten is the way that John often uses the word ‘World.’ John often uses the word ‘World’ with a sinister significance to communicate a disordered reality in grip of the Devil set in opposition to God. If that is the way that the word ‘world’ is being used in John 18:36 then we can understand why Jesus would say that His Kingdom ‘was not of this world.’ The Kingdom of Jesus will topple the Kingdoms of this disordered world changing them to be the Kingdoms of His ordered world, but it won’t be done by the disordered methodology of this World and so Jesus can say, “My Kingdom is not of this World.” Hopefully, we can see that such a statement doesn’t mean that Christ’s Kingdom has no effect in this world or that Christ’s Kingdom can’t overcome the world.
John 18:36 is often appealed to in order to prove that the Kingdom of God is a private individual spiritual personal reality that does not impinge on public square practice(s) of peoples or nations corporately considered. Those who appeal to John 18:36 in this way are prone thus to insist that God’s Word doesn’t speak to the public square practice(s) of peoples or nations since such an appeal (according to this thinking) would be an attempt to wrongly make God’s Kingdom of this world.
The problem with this though is it that it is a misreading of the passage. When Jesus say’s “My Kingdom is not of this world,” his use of the word “world” here is not spatial. Jesus is not saying that His Kingdom does not impact planet earth. What Jesus is saying is that His Kingdom does not find its source of authority from the world as it lies in Adam.
Jesus brings a Kingdom to this world that is in antithetical opposition to the Kingdom of Satan that presently characterizes this world in this present wicked age. The Kingdom that Jesus brings has its source of authority in His Father’s Word. As a result of Christ bringing His Kingdom w/ His advent there are two Kingdoms that are vying for supremacy on planet earth. Postmillennialism teaches that the Kingdom of the “age to come” that characterizes Christ’s present Kingdom will be victorious in this present spatial world that is characterized by “this present wicked age,” precisely because, in principle, Christ’s Kingdom is already victorious in this present spatial world.
All nations will bow to Jesus and all kings will serve him and his mustard seed kingdom will grow to become the largest plant in the garden with the nation-birds finding rest in its branches. His kingdom is the stone which crushed the kingdoms of men in Daniel 2 and which is growing to become a mountain-empire which fills the whole earth, until all His enemies are made His footstool.
Because Christ’s Kingdom is victorious on this planet His Kingdom extends beyond the personal private individual realm and so impacts the public square. Another way to say that would be precisely because Christ’s Kingdom continues to be populated by a swarming host of individuals those individuals take that Kingdom that has overcome them and in turn overcome all that they touch with the Kingdom.
Dr. Geehardus Vos was not a postmillennialist but some of the things he taught captures what I am trying to communicate regarding Christ’s Kingdom while at the same time delineating Darryl’s misconceptions. Vos wrote,
“The kingdom means the renewal of the world through the introduction of supernatural forces.” (page 192)
“The thought of the kingdom of God implies the subjection of the entire range of human life in all its forms and spheres to the ends of religion. The kingdom reminds us of the absoluteness, the pervasiveness, the unrestricted dominion, which of right belong to all true religion. It proclaims that religion, and religion alone, can act as the supreme unifying, centralizing factor in the life of man, as that which binds all together and perfects all by leading it to its final goal in the service of God.” (page 194)
The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church
So, what Christ was saying to Pilate when He said “My Kingdom is not of this world” was “My kingdom does not gain it’s authority from Rome or the Sanhedrin. My authority comes from on high.” Pilate understood this. The irony is that the pagan tyrant understood, but Christians like Rev. Stellman expressly insist that it doesn’t mean that today. So the authority of Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, but nonetheless, the kingdom has invaded this civil realm, the family realm, law realm, economics realm, and every other realm you can think of for “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Every aspect of our social order is touched by the kingdom of God.