This oft-uttered bit of Christian jargon comes primarily from James 4:13-17 about people being too self-assured. But it has become an excuse to go to the other extreme: we do nothing, we decide nothing, we control nothing, we are responsible for nothing. It’s the ultimate fatalism, bearing its most ripe and obvious fruit in the Quiverfull Movement, whose poster child is the Duggar family. Looking only at them, one would think that salvation for a woman is not through faith but on her back, and that God views children not as “precious in his sight” but cannon fodder because, apparently, the angels in heaven aren’t army enough.
I see it as not just a twisted view of “blessing” (always at the woman’s and children’s expense), but also as part of a larger Dominionist, legalist, and Calvinist worldview. Had we learned anything from history, we’d not allow this failed and worldly lust for conquest to parade around as something Christian. It is this which is the brush used to paint all of us who believe in Jesus’ soon return as wanting the return of the Crusades instead, trying our best to foment war to bring about the End Times. Jesus’ clear statement that “my kingdom is not of this world” seems to have been torn from their Bibles a long time ago.
Is not this world- and flesh-focused theology exactly what Satan would devise in order to corrupt and blight the true Body of Christ? Appeal to pride, the flesh, control, power, conquest… what’s missing in his arsenal of enticement? The men are made into little gods, the women and children are treated as trophies and workers (and made to love it), and the Holy Spirit is nowhere to be seen. Yet these same people celebrate the Baby Jesus, helpless and born of a woman, who when grown did not organize a rebellion against Rome or even the Pharisees.
What does the Lord really will, then? Made in God’s image as we are, we should at least realize that we are to make decisions– a constant theme throughout scripture. Jesus had no children, and Paul wrote that singleness was the ideal Christian life, not breeding like rabbits. There are no NT commands to Christian women to crank out babies till they die (contra Luther), nor for Christian men to take up the sword and kill for Jesus. Instead, we are to pray for the peace of the country we live in and to spread the gospel wherever we go. We are to take personal responsibility for our lives and know the difference between truly listening for God’s voice and just being lazy.
This Dominionist theology really is lazy; it’s easy because it requires no bothersome discernment or pesky independent thoughts. When God does all your thinking for you and doesn’t even leave free-will faith up to you, it’s a life of ease and tranquility… provided, of course, that your human masters approve. It’s only those awful unbelievers (and worse, Christian egalitarians) who cause all the turmoil. And with our cash and influence in politics, not to mention those little soldiers we mass produce, victory by our strength and precision marching is assured. Let’s ditch those old “salt and light” analogies and pick up battering rams and machine guns.
Of course the other extreme is no improvement, being every bit as intolerant of dissent and as focused on conquest. But whether it’s a well-oiled machine one one hand or an amoral narcissism on the other, it’s not what anyone claiming Christ should be a part of. We are supposed to be spreading the aroma of salvation (2 Cor. 2:16), the Good News of reconciliation with God. We’re supposed to be setting examples as those who have been freed from both religion and sin, from legalism and hedonism. But the love of control and conquest cannot abide such simplicy.
I wish more claiming Christ would take a hard look at Jesus’ statement that at the Judgment there will be people he never knew, in spite of their having done many deeds in his name (Mat. 25:31-46). Who will those people be, and how can we recognize them– more importantly, how can we know if we’re not among them? Jesus seemed to be emphasizing the inner motives, since clearly the outward actions of both groups were the same. Of course it’s important to act as well as believe, but neither one should be neglected. It isn’t those who only know about Jesus who are his, but those who know him not only as Savior but also as brother (Heb. 2:11) and friend (John 15:15). It’s a relationship above all, and deeds done because of that relationship are the ones God recognizes.
Both extremes of outward conformity completely miss the essence of Christian living. Neither micromanagement nor neglect come from a healthy relationship, whether human or divine. What the “Lord [is] willing” is for us to be one with him, instead of obsessing over whether we or others are acting as a few human masters decree. Family planning is not thwarting the will of God but practicing discernment and responsibility. (To clarify, “family planning” can never involve abortion! I’m talking about preventing eggs from being fertilized.) The Dominionists need to read Romans 14 a hundred times, then the entire book of Colossians a hundred times. Lord willing.