Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ecumenical Quest

The Rise of Modern Dominionism
Before the Religious Right there were decades of activity laying the groundwork for a merger of church and state. Power elite leaders such as John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen began to drum up religious fervor as a tool to build their utopian vision of a global international order. Their influential efforts would eventually gain more traction during the Eisenhower administration where both of these brothers ascended to prominent positions of power. By 1980 their vision would culminate in the rise of the Christian Right.

This fascinating early history is now more readily available to readers. Dr. Martin Erdmann has just re-released his landmark study on the earliest efforts to build the kingdom of God on earth, otherwise known as Dominionism.  His book is now offered online under a new title, Ecumenical Quest for a World Federation. The book is available HERE and HEREDr. Erdmann's work was originally titled Building the Kingdom of God on Earth: The Churches' Contribution to Marshal Public Support for World Order and Peace, 1919-1945 (Wipf and Stock, 2005).

Dr. Erdmann's access to files and records was unprecedented. He had access to all of the source documents on the Round Table Group which are deposited at [Cecil] Rhodes House (this is the library of the Rhodes Trust which awards the Rhodes Scholarships) and freely available to the students of Oxford University (not to the general public). It is one of the libraries of Oxford University (the Rhodes Trust is located in the same building).

Dr. Erdmann was also able to gain access to other difficult-to-obtain source documents at the British Library which are not available to the general public. (He reports that at times he was asked to go to a special room under guard and only allowed to read the documents, but not to take notes; before he left the room, he had to give the documents back to the guard.)

The results of his hard labor in securing access to these rare documents is extraordinary. The early history of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is recorded, as well as key history that is normally missing from standardized (and sanitized) historical accounts of the activities of the Dulles brothers during their years in power. This original vision is summarized in a letter written by Lord Lothian:
"I am convinced that when Christianity reaches the point when it is able to bring the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth it will establish a world federation of some novel kind as the necessary institutional condition by which alone the Kingdom can be maintained in being."
Ecumenical Quest for a World Federation details how in 1934 the Federal Council of Churches (FCC) began a grassroots public relations campaign to further the Social Gospel during the Roosevelt administration. Their end goal was to create groundswell for another international organization (what eventually became the United Nations) to replace the faulty League of Nations. Dr. Erdmann examines how a doctrine about building the kingdom of God on earth was promulgated at the 1937 Oxford Conference:
A new commitment to the concept of the kingdom of God on earth needed to be generated among the people at large and from the constituencies of the member churches, a commitment that had been notably absent for some time. Unless the Council succeeded in mobilising a grassroots movement of socially conscious Christians it would never realise the goals set out in the Social Creed. 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.

The old Social Gospel, which has now morphed into the Neoevangelical call for a Cultural Mandate, hearkens back to Samuel Z. Batten's 1919 book,  The New World Order, and his idea of creating heaven on earth, "to make all things new and to create a new social order." Ecumenical Quest for a World Federation quotes a theologian who "thought Dulles had evolved his own form of 'secularized Calvinism'." This sounds very similar to the New Apostolic Reformation's (NAR) call for taking over societal institutions, often called the 7 Mountain Mandate, which is historically connected to the Neo-Calvinist vision (e.g., Tim Keller) to take over cities with a church-state social welfare "gospel". (Read: Mainstreaming Dominionism and The Cell Church.)

Below are sample excerpts from Ecumenical Quest for a World Federation where Dr. Erdmann details John Foster Dulles' plans to promote a new church narrative to facilitate building a new world order:
By using the ecumenical movement as the preferred vehicle to express his opinions, Dulles chose, as his primary target group, the Christian public in the English-speaking world. His goal was to motivate the churches to become actively involved in building a global society.…
Advocating the need for a unified world with unrelenting fervour in Church circles from the late 1930s to the mid 1940s he elevated the issue of a world federation to the status of a religious concern of first importance. At the end of the Second World War he would explicitly state: 'To create the moral foundation for world order was… the foremost task of the churches.' Based on that 'moral foundation' a social structure would emanate which would be characterised by peace, justice, and equality....
Dulles outlined the basic concepts of peaceful change and attacked what he regarded to be an unhealthy and obsolete concept of national sovereignty.… Human egotism could only be offset, he asserted, by superseding it with ‘some sentiment more dominant and gripping which would contain in it the elements of universality as against particularity.’ No other organization would be as uniquely qualified to accomplish this task as the Church…. Dulles idealized the Christian Church as an exemplary community which had demonstrated the ability to transcend the limitations of the nation state….
During the 1930s the Federal Council Bulletin urged its audience to propagate the social gospel. It exhorted its readers to reject any notion that there was a basic conflict between the preaching of the gospel as such and the need to make known the Social Creed of the FCC. The Federal Council knew that unless it could secure a deep dedication to the ethical principles of the Gospel, and a deep commitment to the Jesus who was presented as the living embodiment of these ethical ideals, there would be no motivating power for Christians to struggle for the realization of the kingdom of God in the national life. Without adhering to basic Scriptural concepts, therefore, the Council’s social appeals were couched in biblical terminology. Although mentioning the sin problem frequently, it was usually in the context of sins against society rather than sins against God. Regeneration was masterfully redefined as a new social awareness. The substitutionary atonement of Christ upon the cross was deemed insignificant and was rarely if ever mentioned. The Reformation dictum, that humankind can find peace with God only by being justified by faith, was simply ignored as without relevance.
Credible historical research requires examining original source documents as much as possible. If this is not possible, then historians rely upon eyewitness accounts and authenticated secondhand sources. The exhaustive footnotes in Ecumenical Quest for a World Federation provide overwhelming evidence that the facts laid out in this book are not conspiracy theory. This is what makes Dr. Erdmann's book so interesting. There is compelling history in this book that cannot be found elsewhere. Particularly in recent years there has been an influx of historical books detailing the years surrounding World War II as government files have opened up. Yet the history found in these books is often so scrubbed that they reek of bleach.

Dr. Erdmann is to be commended for his fortitude. In modern academia there are increasingly severe constraints and censures regarding publishing the sort of history that is contained in Ecumenical Quest for a World Federation.  There is an ongoing problem with tunnel vision. Many historians neglect to examine the full picture, nor do they question when there are obvious missing details, dismissive summaries, or an obviously slanted account. A good historical researcher needs to be a bit obsessive-compulsive. Facts that are uncomfortable, or don't fit a preconceived idea, need to be dealt with even if they are repulsive or formidable -- or politically incorrect. A good historian must possess courage to stand against the tide of postmodern revisionist narratives.

We have often observed significant omissions in the historical research on the rise of Dominionism. First, the history is being written by the opposition: one need only look at the skewed and slanted entry for Dominionism (labeled "Dominion Theology") on Wikipedia to see a prime example of this problem. (Read our posts Who Invented Dominionism? and Denying Dominionism.) Second, most critics of Dominionism come from the political Left. In addition to the myopia of their personal biases, they typically look at the issue through the tunnel vision of the political/religious activities of the Christian Right during the past few decades. However, it is our studied opinion that they are missing the decades of controversial activism that went on before. Earlier history reveals that the political Left is just as much to blame for the rise of Dominionism as the current Christian Right.
Ecumenical Quest for a World Federation is must-reading for those who have a curiosity about what went on before. It also fills a very valuable gap in historical research on the rise of the "church and state" Dominionism during the turn of the last century through the 1940s. The original vision of the Dulles brothers and their internationalist ecumenical cohorts never died. It has just been updated and re-cast into new molds.
Dr. Erdmann has been an active member of the Discernment Research Group. His book and/or his historical research have influenced or been cited in many previous Herescope posts, including:

The CFR and the Social Gospel: Part 1
The Emergent Social Gospel
Collectively Bearing the Sins of the World 
The Social Gospel 7.0 
Rick Warren & the CFR Revisited 
The new "do good" gospel 
Rick Warren & Brian McLaren at DAVOS 
The New Order of the Kingdom
The "New Deal" Kingdom
"The Peaceful Conquest of the World"* Circa 1929
Marshalling Christians for the Coming "Conflict"
The Dialectic of War and P.E.A.C.E.
PSEUDO-MISSION: Syncretism Ethics & Moral Facades
PSEUDO-MISSION: Creating A "Social Ethic" Worldview
Creating a "Community of Purpose" -- circa 1933
Global Dominionism: Past and Present
Who Invented Dominionism?
Denying Dominionism
Technocracy, Transhumanism, Mythology, & Hollywood

Julian Charles interviews Martin Erdmann on the message of the “Kingdom of God” Ecumenical Quest for a World Federation LISTEN / DOWNLOAD : TMR 017 : Interview : Building the Kingdom of God on Earth