Posted by: Yvonne | January 4, 2010

Redeeming Cultures

by Discernment Group (This article is part 5 in a series on ‘The Doctrines of Dominionism’.  All of the articles can be found at Kjos Ministries.) 


God is calling his servants to be catalysts that enable personal, ecclesial, societal, and cultural transformation. Compelled by the love of Jesus, in obedience to his command to love our neighbor, the body of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit can become his agent of transformation, to the glory of God the Father….
“Scope of the Gospel: As Creator, God is Lord of all, and, therefore, his redemptive concern is comprehensive—seeking to heal and restore ‘all things’ by means of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross (Gen. 1:31a; Rom. 8:18-23; Col. 1:19-20). The church’s calling is to witness to the kingdom of God in its fullness (Matt. 4:23; Mark 1:15; Luke 4:18-21). To be faithful to the gospel the ministry of the body of Christ must be holistic—encompassing the whole person—spiritual, physical, and social, and all human relationships—with God, with others, and with the environment (Gen. 1:26-28). Anything less than concern for all spheres of life is to misrepresent the all-encompassing Lordship of Jesus Christ over the world.”
         [Transform World, “Transformational Covenant [emphasis added])




Transform World is the premier global mission entity forging ahead with the dominionist doctrines of the new age of global mission. The above quote, taken from their “Transformational Covenant” document, indicates the sweeping scope of the evangelical “social gospel” for this century. The full document is worth a read. Nothing less than the overhaul of governments, economies, and social and cultural systems is intended. Be aware that the language is couched in nebulous terminology which gives leeway to the alternative eschatologies of Dominion.

“In the Reader for Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, C. Peter Wagner, mentored by the late John Wimber, and so-called ‘expert’ on church growth, calls social and political action ‘the cultural mandate’ of the Gospel: 

The cultural mandate, which some refer to as Christian social responsibility goes as far back as the Garden of Eden. After God created Adam and Eve, He said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing….
‘Both the cultural mandate and the evangelistic mandate are essential parts of biblical mission, in my opinion. Neither is optional. There is a growing consensus on this point in Evangelical circles.
‘This was not true as early as twenty-two years ago when the Berlin World ‘Congress on Evangelism was held in 1966…. One of the first Evangelicals to stress the cultural mandate in a public forum was Horace Fenton of the Latin America Mission at the Wheaton Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission, also held in 1966. Following that, the social consciousness generated by the social upheavals of the 1960’s brought the cultural mandate to prominence until it was given a relatively high profile on the platform of the International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne in 1974.’




“Mankind is in dominion over the earth, always has been, and always will be. But Wagner makes the assumption that God’s instruction to Adam and Eve has not been accomplished because Christians are not in dominion over the earth. This argument is presented by dominionists of every stripe, from Manifested Sons of God adherents to Christian Reconstructionists. (See my book, Vengeance is Ours: The Church in Dominion, for an in-depth analysis of ‘Kingdom Now” or “dominion theology.”)  

“The ‘cultural mandate,’ then, is the need for Christians to take dominion over the earth by means of social and political action. And, according to Wagner, it was inspired by the ‘social upheavals of the 1960’s.'”




Dager is correct when he notes that this teaching is embraced by Dominionists of all stripes. It is packaged for various groups of adherents to dominionist theology and marketed accordingly.
In an important article describing the full scope of this “cultural mandate,” Mike Oppenheimer of Let Us Reason ministries, describes this as “The Global Transformation of Redeeming Cultures.” First detailing Ed Silvoso’s marketplace transformation agenda, Oppenheimer then describes similar dominionist beliefs of Chuck Colson:




“Not everyone is involved in the Latter Rain belief of putting the culture under the authority of the church. Chuck Colson holds to a modified teaching of Reconstructionism and modern day Dominionism to reform the culture, by taking the culture back: 

Redeeming the culture is the never-ending mission of the church.” (Chuck Colson, Breakpoint, Jan.2, 05, KLHT).
“I was deepening my understanding of what we call the cultural commission, the command to the Church to take dominion and bring righteousness to our culture.” (Chuck Colson, God’s Inseparable Commissions, Prison Fellowship, 01/05/2005)
“Today-some 30 years into my ministry–I have come to believe passionately that all Christians need to take their faith out of the pews and into the trenches. We’ve got to be faithful to the cultural commission to have dominion, to work for Christian values to arrest our worldview slide.” (Chuck Colson, Prison Ministry and Worldview: A Match Made in Heaven, Prison Fellowship, 08/29/2004)




One of Colson’s ministries’ objective is to institute Christian laws into our government to shape America into a godly nation. But you can’t find these ideas of culture, or society in the Bible. In fact, if one looks at how the early church handled their relationship with Rome it is nothing like what is being promoted today. 

Mike Oppenheimer then describes the “Redeeming Cultures” movement in the missionary world: 

“One of the new strategies to evangelize the nations, and crush Satan under your feet (referring to Rom. 16:20), is called Redeeming Cultures. It goes by a number of different titles — First Nations — cultural evangelism — cultural identification — indigenous people movement — cultural redemption, etc.
“The belief is that in every culture God has left treasures and worthy traditions within the indigenous cultures to be used. We are told that redeeming the cultures reestablishes people’s identity of who they are as nations and who God created them to be.
“Terry Leblanc, referring to David Garrett from Scripture and Songs, said it this way:




God is now calling forth from among the indigenous communities of the world that good deposit which He has made in them of their cultures, their languages, their musical expressions and all that sort of thing … as an expression of praise and worship unto Himself.” (Word to the World – host Danny Lehmann, KLHT, 2001)  

“To say God created these cultures, influenced them, or deposited anything in them is the same as saying that these other religions had truth from God and worshipped Him (or her, or it) correctly.
“The cultural redemption movement began mainly through Don Richardson’s books “The Peace Child” and “Eternity in Their Hearts,” who proposed using redemptive analogies that are already found in cultures. Some of the ideas he presented were valid, some were not. Certainly there is advantage to indigenous people carrying the Gospel to their own people, but there is a disadvantage when one tries to make a connection to them by their own religion that is clearly not there in the first place. And instead of giving them the straightforward Gospel it becomes a blend of their religion and the Bible to appease both parties. In the end, the Christian Gospel will be covered up with cultural traditions. The reason is because you cannot make a mixture like this have the Gospel uncorrupted.
“Is it appropriate to bring to people Jesus Christ through their own culture, and then leave them to worship God in their own culture’s way? Did the apostles do this? The answer is No, but that is what is taking place today.” [emphasis added]




A broad overview of this “Redeeming Cultures” concept, and the new teachings and activities inherent in its attempt to override the traditional Gospel, can be found in the new book written by Mike Oppenheimer and Sandy Simpson called Idolatry In Their Hearts. This book is a must read!
Make no mistake about it: the “cultural mandate” to “redeem cultures” (or whatever other terminology is used) is a re-work of the old “Social Gospel” movement of the 20th Century. The banner carriers back in that era were the liberal mainline churches. The banner carriers for our time are the leaders from all stripes and shades of Dominionism, waving various versions of “take back the culture” or “redeem the culture” causes. Learning from the past, today’s neo-evangelical leaders have maintained all the trappings of “evangelism” so that it appears (at least superficially) as if conversion from sin is the focus. All of this has collectively been lumped under the new term “evangelization,” which according to Al Dager, in The World Christian Movement, means:




“In the churches today there are popular voices that are using Christian terms to mask an agenda of global, ecumenical dimensions. The goal is to enlist the support of the majority of those who call themselves Christians in order to advance that agenda under the name of ‘world evangelization‘ – a term originally coined by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization in 1974.” [emphasis added] 

Dr. Martin Erdmann, in his important book describing the 20th Century’s early dominionist efforts, Building the Kingdom of God on Earth: The Churches’ Contribution to Marshal Public Support for World Order and Peace, 1919-1945 (Wipf & Stock, 2005), succinctly summed up the original “Social Gospel” movement with words that have eerie parallels to the “Redeeming Cultures” movement: 

“The [Social Creed of 1932] closed with an appeal for a new social order in a new age of faith.
“[It] saw, in the union of Churches, the outward expressions of a collectivist Protestantism. Many followers in the social-gospel movement called fervently for the realisation of the kingdom of God. They were convinced that a unified front of Protestant Churches would be necessary, even essential, to build this kingdom, as defined by Walter Rauschenbusch and his successors….
“Thus the new emphasis on propagating the principles of the Social Creed was again designed to attain the kingdom of God on earth rather than to reach lost souls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (pp. 152-4) [emphases added]




The Truth: 

“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:19)  

The term “cultural mandate,” referenced in yesterday’s post, is linked to the new meanings for the terms “transformation” and “reformation.” Below is a pertinent summary from Al Dager’s book The World Christian Movement (Sword, 2001) chapter 17, “Dominion: The Cultural Mandate“:



  1. Great post to buttress your arguments!

  2. I think there is a lot of food for thought here, and while I disagree with how the dots are connected between folks who are really very different (Latter Rain? Ed DeSilvo? Colson? Wagner? Social Gospel liberals?), I do see some vague the similarities in this broad concern about impacting the world. I don’t know for sure, but I think your readers might want to know that the people these article link would insist that they don’t have much in common with the others. So, I think your suggestions are a bit overdrawn, but it is helpful to consider. I will ponder it and go back to your links.

    However, I must protest, as I think you are way off base in saying with such certainty that those who use the language of “cultural mandate” are just re-working the old social gospel. Everybody? Really? Can you prove that? It surely fits your picture of things, your ideology, but is it really true, doing justice to the facts in the lives of the people you mention?

    We’ve been through this before, but I know for a fact that one of the authors who has had a great influence introducing the phrase “cultural mandate” is Al Wolters (who wrote a widely circulated paper in the 70s, influenced by the old, solid Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck as well as Abraham Kuyper) and Al is tooth and nail AGAINST the secularizing anti-gospel of the “social gospel.” You certainly don’t mean to impugn him on this matter, to you? R.C. Sproul has taught the phrase: are you suggesting that he is part of this deception, too? Are you?? I think that would be an difficult assertion to sustain, but I suppose you might think that. Do you?

    I obviously cannot vouch for everyone that uses the phrase, but certainly in CCO circles, or in Colson’s Prison Fellowship, the insinuation that the “redeeming the culture” rhetoric has anything to do with the old liberal lies of the social gospel, is just wrong. It simply won’t do to accuse them of that as it just isn’t so.

    I continue to think it is unfortunate that you insist on making these large, audacious claims, without a little bit of nuance. Could you clarify, please?

    Say “some” are or even “most” are. Say if they aren’t careful, it is likely they may. But to imply that brothers and sisters I know who have suffered much for the gospel and use the phrase “cultural mandate” are thereby re-packaging an old heresy of the social gos, if that is what you mean.

    If you think they are unBiblical say that–that is an awful charge itself. But don’t mix it up by also saying they are just newly repackaging the “social gospel.” That movement, as we all know, denies the saving power of Christ, the need for the Cross, the Holiness of God, the need for evangelism. That movement does allow social concerns to trump any older understandings of the gospel. THAT isn’t even close to a fair description of Wolters, Schaeffer, Colson, or others who I know are fond of that phrase.

    You say “make no mistake.” Good advice. You have phrased this in a mistaken manner. You are fine warning about these possible connections. Allege that some are doing this; maybe they are. But do not smear everyone with the same brush, unless you can document it. Please.

    Further, you really lapse and ruin the helpful bits by saying that people who may be doing evangelism really aren’t. In fact, you seem to make this wild accusation that they are doing so intentionally, to make it look like evangelism is the focus; you use the word “trappings” and we all know what that insinuates; you are jabbing at them saying they don’t really do soul-winning, only the appearances. Is that what you accusing? If so, who really are you saying only shows the “trappings” of evangelism? Tell us, who. And how do you know this about them?

    “Learning from the past” you say about them as you bring out this big accusation. It sounds there that you are implying that they have knowingly learned how to fake this evangelism stuff, maybe tricking folks, deceiving others about their real intent. It seems like that is what you meant, Yvonne. Am I misreading you here? I don’t want to criticize you unfairly, but that is what is sounds like. Correct me if you didn’t mean to suggest that. Or, tell us what neo-evangelical leaders do fake evangelism like that?

    Glenn: in a recent response to my plea for honesty and integrity in these things you chided me for overstating my critique of Yvonne’s lack of nuance and clarity.

    Here is what I mean. You told her this is a good post.

    I think it is unfair to insinuate (a) that everybody who uses the phrase “cultural mandate” is re-packaging the old liberal heresy. Since you affirmed her, I guess you must agree with her somewhat. So I guess I wasn’t wrong in my last discussion thread with you to think you really do have these tendencies. You chided me, but it seems like you are quick to “pile on” her unkindly accusations. AND (b) it is unfair to insinuate that some vague groups of “neo-evangelical leaders” only do the trappings of evangelism, implying that they don’t really care to save the lost or preach the true gospel. That is a perverse accusation to make without evidence. You think this is a good argument?

    Now (again) I do not deny that there are some “wolf in sheep’s clothes” and that there are some pretending to be evangelical when they are not. There may be some that talk about transformation, but they are unclear about the cross, the blood, the atonement, the resurrection.
    So I suppose this warning is a fair one.

    But she is making these accusations, saying it is just this way, and I know people who use the wording of “cultural mandate” (and–look out! “The Kingdom of God”, too!) and they do NOT fit her profile. Are they all suspect because they believe in some responsible social duties alongside proclaiming the pure gospel? The post implies that, unless I misread it.

    Yvonne, you are once again overstating things and slandering people unfairly. Glenn, you once against lost a chance to call your friend to moderation and judicious use of language and affirmed a post that lacked adequate nuance and honesty.

    Am I wrong to understand that you guys imply that anybody who uses that phrase are social gospel liberals? Are there no exceptions? Unless you can tell us who you are accusing, and show what makes them social gospel liberals, you are passing rumors with unfair generalizations.

    Please show me where my analysis of your piece is wrong. If you can clarify it a bit, that would be most helpful. Thank you.

  3. I eagerly await your answers to my questions above. I’ve invited you to clarify, asking you what you really mean. Do let us know, please, as it sounds as if you spoke unjustly again, but perhaps I’ve misread you.

    By the way, in the article you cited, which I gave a qualified appreciative word about, I do find other lines that seem to be inaccurate. I was trying to be gracious, as the post was interesting and an important topic. But I wish I wouldn’t have affirmed it the way I did. Re-reading it, I find more things that strike me as inaccurate and unfair but I could be wrong. Maybe the author is just misinformed, although they wrote a book about their topic, so I am hoping they get their facts right.

    For instance, the writer says that the cultural mandate means that humans are to take dominion over the creation by social and political action. [Yvonne highlighted it in red, so she must think it is an important line and a valid accusation.] I know numerous authors and preachers and Bible commentaries that mention the cultural mandate—both the command in Genesis 1 and the command in Genesis 2—-and I wonder if that author’s statement suggests that these authors and proponents of “cultural engagement” somehow think we can make the Earth submit by law, through politics. Of course the Bible is fully clear that we are to be good citizens and the development of the idea of a state is God-given (as per Romans 13; you don’t disagree, do you?) So you wouldn’t oppose being a dutiful citizen, I wouldn’t think. But to imply that most who use this phrase think we can pass laws and achieve some state of “dominion” is pretty much a misrepresentation. Who thinks that this cultural work–“tending and keeping the garden” as Genesis 2 puts it– happens by law or is mostly about social action? Who are the people that they are accusing of thinking that we can do political stuff and make cancer be cured, or agriculture turn out better, or pop music be more wholesome, or families stay together, or furniture made more lovely and sturdy or workers be more honest on the jobsite? I think that is a pretty odd accusation. Those of us who take inspiration from Gen 1 and Gen 2 draw on the “cultural mandate” to hold forth a high view of labor (like the legendary Calvinist work ethic) and allow that honest work is a good thing (even if cursed after the fall.) We affirm schooling and art and science and medicine and business and, in some way or another, government and law and playing ball with your kids, even buying toys and games for them. I am sure you go to the doctor, don’t you? You’ve breathed a sign of relief that your car started in recent cold weather, right, and perhaps thanked the Lord for our good inventions that work? I know you use the internet: that’s the cultural mandate, the human commission to make history, happening right there on the screen. Praise God for it (even as we lament the way sin as caused it be be abused.) I know you’re not Amish and think this stuff is so worldly as to be avoided, so I know you don’t mean that. These things–inventing medicine and books and stoves and winter gloves and meaningful jobs—are the things that we who describe the cultural mandate refer to when we celebrate the human tasks of doing human stuff.

    Unless you’ve forsaken the dentist, roads, taxes and your computer, I suppose you are glad that somebody did the stuff that the “cultural mandate” required. Somebody before you did the hard work of getting laws passed that got roads paved; I have very close loved ones alive today because of good medicine, so don’t you dare suggest that to affirm that is some evil conspiracy of bad theology! Somebody gave humans a commission to be active, and those in the Judeo-Christian West have had a worldview that (even if now most reject God) lives on the ideas of a creation that can be developed. Science and medicine and the notion of being ruled by just laws has come about because of those notions. Do you regret that child labor laws were passed? Do you regret that somebody was busy inviting software making your blog to work? Was your elementary school teacher that taught you to read wrong if she had a high view of calling in her job? Those are all the fruits of the cultural mandate, God’s commission to humans to make families and make history, to care for kids and care for creation. What is so wrong with that? And if you oppose it, will you renounce worldly cultural artifacts, like your computer and your grocery store and your mattress? I hope not!

    Yep, I have two words for those who don’t like the idea of the cultural mandate: “modern dentistry.”

    So, I don’t quite know why you would republish this author who seems to describe us cultural mandaters as if we want to somehow take over by law, a description that seems pretty far-fetched to me. I sure don’t want to take over by law! I’m all for good laws (the Bible cries out “woe” to those who pass bad ones, Is 1:10) and I’ll bet the author who wrote the piece, and Yvonne who published it, and Glen who praised it all are to. Those who affirm decent human activities–I’m thinking of Al Wolters, T.M. Moore, Andy Crouch, Chuck Colson, the leaders of the Jubilee conference, for instance—do NOT think we can “take dominion” by legal force. Human activity can be done for or against God, but I don’t know anybody that thinks we can force godliness by politics. Dominionist/reconstructionists may believe that, but they don’t have the corner on using the phrase the cultural mandate.

    ALSO, the article has this very odd statement saying that it is part of Colson’s “objectives” to “institute Christian laws” thereby making the nation Godly. I was amazed when I saw that, since it is just a mis-representation of the truth of his work.

    I maintain that that is an misunderstanding of Colson’s objectives. I don’t even agree with some of Colson’s political work, but I must protest that you have caricatured him like a straw, straw man. Maybe somebody out there wants “Christian laws” and think that will make us Godly. If they do, I think they are a bit looney–since when can laws make us Godly? And what is a “Christian law” anyway? So I don’t know who believes that but I will join you in scolding them if you find such a person. I’m pretty sure, though, that Colson is not your man.

    Glen: Again, you complimented this odd piece of journalism. What do you think about my concerns about honesty in reporting, here? Do you think that everybody who uses the phrase “cultural mandate” believes we should achieve dominion by law? I know the people that taught me that phrase sure don’t believe that. Never have. I think that may be a guy named Rushdoony who taught that, but he’s pretty obscure as far as I can tell. And I sure doubt that Wagner wouldn’t agree with him!

    So, do you, Glen, really intend to affirm this off-base accusation that Colson believes we should “institute” “Christian laws.” Why do you think that about him? Does that odd line do justice to his many complex books on political duty and Christian citizenship, the body of his work, the things he has written about this subject? (Yes, he believes in being involved in society, and he has [unfortunately, I think] used the phrase “redeem” culture, although I give him the benefit of the doubt that he means to say act faithfully to accomplish some measurement of God-glorifying social betterment, but Christ does the redeeming.) I know you are suspicious of that, and Yvonne says it is flatly unbiblical. Okay, fair enough. BUT IS THIS CLAIM ABOUT HIM THAT HE WANTS TO INSTITUTE CHRISTIAN LAWS one that you think is fair, adequate, honest?

    Is it?

    If I have mis-spoken, here, by asking what seems to me to be fair questions, please forgive me. You can cause great damage by implicating folks in sins they don’t commit or by accusing people of believing things they don’t believe, or spreading rumors about people that are not grounded in facts, or by warning others of what end up being straw men.


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