One of the great challenges of the current era is deciding when ideas or concepts seemingly far removed from the mainstream are worth highlighting and criticizing. On the one hand, there is the danger of “pecking” – of bringing out marginal voices and falsely portraying them as representative of your opponents’ beliefs.
On the other hand, in part due to the stress and pressure of the pandemic and the intensity of political polarization, there are previously obscure (and even crazy) ideas that have suddenly and violently become relevant to life. American. QAnon is a prime example.
Today I’m going to talk about something called the Seven Mountain Mandate. Although it’s a term few are familiar with, the basic concept has a profound influence on how millions of evangelicals approach culture and politics. It is a concept that has its uses, but it is also subject to deep abuse. In short, it often confuses Christian power with biblical justice, and it inspires Christians not only to seek power, but to feel a sense of failure and urgency when they are not in a position of cultural control or Politics.
The origin of the Seven Mountain Mandate rests on an alleged divine revelation shared by Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With a Mission, and theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer. None of these men is marginal. They are among the most influential evangelicals of the modern age. And what was this revelation? Cunningham explains it in the short YouTube below:
In its distilled essence, the concept of the Seven Mountains describes seven key cultural / religious institutions that should be influenced and transformed by Christian believers to create “God-according to God” in America. The key to transforming the nation is to reach out to family, church, education, media, the arts, economy, and government with gospel truth.
On one level, this analysis looks less like revelation and more like logic. Each of these men accurately described important areas of life, and if Christians are truly to be “salt and light” in the world, they should want to comprehensively cultivate true biblical values in American culture.
To put it another way: if God asks humanity to “do justice, to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God”, he does not intend that these virtues be confined to the church. The fruits of the spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, loyalty, gentleness, self-control” – are not mere values of the school of Sunday. They should permeate our interactions with the rest of the world.
Further, if and when these seven key institutions become instruments of injustice, Christians should to respond. To take a few obvious examples, if the “mountain” of government turns against its citizens, Christians have an obligation to stand with the oppressed. If the mountain of popular culture turns the beauty of art into the perversion of porn, Christians must resist. And if the mountain of education teaches lies, Christians have an obligation to speak the truth.
The command to “do justice” has real force, and it is incumbent upon Christians to seek righteousness throughout the length and breadth of American life.
But there is a huge and important difference between seeking justice and seeking power. In fact, the quest for power can sidestep or derail the quest for justice. And this is where we come to the real problem: the difference between a Seven Mountain concept and a mountain of seven mandate or Seven Mountain dominionism.
In 2013, Bethel Church pastor Bill Johnson and author Lance Wallnau co-authored a short book titled Invading Babylon: The Mandate of the Seven Mountains. In this book, here’s how Wallnau described the issues:
Each of these seven mountains represents an individual sphere of influence that shapes the way people think. These mountains are crowned with high places which the kings of modern times occupy as ideological strongholds. These strongholds are, in reality, houses built from thoughts. These thought structures are reinforced by spiritual strengthening that shapes the culture and establishes the spiritual climate of each nation. I felt the Lord say to me, “He who can take these mountains can take the harvest of the nations.” (I underline.)
“We don’t really have a choice in this matter,” he wrote. “It will take nothing less than the government of God to dispossess and occupy the land dominated by the gates of hell. He continued, “The sober truth is that wherever the Church does not exercise its authority, a void opens for darkness to occupy.”
Wallnau went on to describe the importance of the “mountain kings” – those individuals who occupy a “high position” and who exert influence on “their own sphere directly and indirectly on other spheres”. It is therefore urgent for Christians to reach, influence or even become these “kings of the mountains”.
At its most extreme edges, Seven Mountain Dominionism maintains that Christ will not return unless and until the church successfully invades or “occupies” each of the seven key spheres of life.
Dominionism of the Seven Mountains is common within the so-called “New Apostolic Reformation,” a term that describes a charismatic movement that attempts to restore the so-called “lost offices” of apostle and prophet. These new apostles and prophets place great importance on their ability to discern God’s will for individuals and for the nation. A number of these “prophets” accurately predicted the rise of Donald Trump, then confidently predicted another Trump victory in 2020.
One of those Seven Mountain adherents, Paula White, arguably became Trump’s closest spiritual advisor, chair of his Evangelical Advisory Board, and special advisor to the White House’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative.
Discerning readers will now have noticed two things. First, you will notice how the heart of this strategy (or mandate) is not based on clear scriptural commandments but rather on special revelations claimed from God. Second, you will notice how much it emphasizes the importance of placing people in positions of power and control.
Taken together, these realities explain at least some of the hysteria surrounding Trump’s electoral defeat. Dominionism of the Seven Mountains joins with other forms of Protestant Christian dominionism, Christian nationalism and new emerging trends in Catholic fundamentalism (which seeks to integrate “Catholic religious authority with political power”) to place immense importance spiritual leadership.
In Invading Babylon, Wallnau makes it explicit. He says, “The business of changing culture or transforming nations does not require a majority of conversions. »What does this require? “We need more disciples in the right places, the high places. “
In other words, when Trump lost the election, the church didn’t just lose a “mountain king”, so-called apostles and prophets lost their own access to the “high places”. They have also lost some of their spiritual credibility. Post-election challenges were not just a way to preserve the presidency – for some of Trump’s most fervent and prominent evangelical leaders, they were a way to preserve the integrity of their divine statements.
Yet belief in these statements dies hard. When Jeremiah Johnson, a man who claims to possess “prophetic anointing,” predicted that Trump’s victory in 2015 had the integrity to apologize for falsely prophesying that Trump would be re-elected, the backlash was immense. the from the New York Times Ruth Graham tells the story:
On Facebook, [Johnson] reported that he had received “multiple death threats and thousands and thousands of emails from Christians saying the meanest and most vulgar things I have ever heard about my family and my ministry.” He also said he had lost funding from donors who accused him of being “a coward, a bender and a traitor to the Holy Spirit.”
There is also an inherent tragedy in Christian support for Donald Trump as “King of the Mountains.” There is little evidence that he brought biblical justice to our country. Quite the contrary. He left us sick and divided. He flooded America with a tidal wave of lies.
What is the alternative to the pursuit of power? I prefer the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr. “The Church must be reminded that she is not the master or the servant of the State, but rather the conscience of the State. He must be the guide and critic of the State, and never its tool.
Christians can never forget that they live in what my pastor called an “upside down kingdom”. The last will be the first. If you want to save your life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for Christ, you will save it. And don’t forget that the Son of God himself spent his entire life on earth away from the top of the mountain.
He was born in a manger far from the centers of power. He was the friend of sinners. He was persecuted and punished by a “mountain king” named Pilate and executed alongside a thief. When he stood up he did not appear to Caesar but to a small group of ordinary men and women who would become martyrs, not rulers.
Christ prevailed, as my friend (and seminary teacher) Curtis Chang told me, not by fighting from the dominating power of the heights, but by fighting from “a whole different terrain.” When the scriptures call Christians to “take up your cross and follow me,” it declares, in Curtis’s words, that “our mountain is Golgotha” – the dusty hill of Israel where Christ was crucified.
No amount of special revelation or modern day prophecy should take our eyes off this biblical pattern. Any warning that says we are to reign must be checked with the immediate reminder that Christ did not. It is the cross – not the boardroom, not the Oval Office, and not the box office – that is the absolute center of the Kingdom of God.
One last thing …
Every now and then I like to end with a song that is pure joy. It matches the bill, both in lyrics and performance. Ellie Holcomb is a reader’s favorite, for good reason. Enjoy: