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What Is Dominion Theology?

By Jan Fletcher
Updated May 23, 2024
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Dominion theology has several forms, all of which express the religious belief that the creator of mankind bestowed both rights and responsibilities to the humans he created. Various forms of dominion teachings include beliefs that mankind collectively has dominion over the earth's animals and plant life, political dominion through the application of civil law, or spiritual dominion over celestial powers. Most consider the basis for these theological teachings to have originated from passages in the Bible. A major passage cited by dominion theologians is the narrative in the book of Genesis, which states that God created the first man and woman — Adam and Eve — charging them to exercise dominion over the new creation. Various forms of these beliefs may be quite controversial, due to perceived concerns over threats to religious liberty.

Adherents to dominion theology generally are in agreement that God created the first man and woman. These adherents accept various aspects of the creation account as an historical event. Interpretations concerning the length of time it took God to create the world vary considerably, with some insisting that creation occurred over a literal six-day period, while others interpret creation as an event that spanned a very long period of time necessary for the earth's diverse animal and plant life to evolve. A belief in some variant of dominion theology may be professed by both groups.

In one form of this theology, adherents believe mankind was given dominion over the earth in order to care for its many life forms. This is a long-held theological belief within Christian-Judeo religious belief systems. The idea behind this variant of dominion theology is that people are under divine command to be stewards of earth's plant and animal life. Adherents draw upon the creation account in the book of Genesis as the basis for this form of dominionism.

Another form of dominion theology believes that God granted authority to mankind to establish civil law, in order to protect life and property, and to promote a flourishing cultural and economic vitality. Over the centuries, this theology has formed the basis for both terrible acts of cruelty as well as for modern systems of law. People have been murdered or abused by religious adherents for violating religious edicts. Sometimes the very same biblical passages applied in those cases, such as the Ten Commandments, have also undergirded legal systems used by modern democracies.

This is one reason why a more recent form of dominion theology is somewhat controversial, as its adherents profess the belief that Christians should obtain political dominion through the application of civil law. Still another type of dominion theology promotes the belief that Christians have the ability to exercise powers over invisible spiritual beings. In this form of dominion theology, it is believed that certain rituals will restrain the powers of demonic spirits that tempt humans and cause destruction or sow dissent among groups of religious adherents.

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