Healthy Leaders


Is Christianizing the Culture the Biblical Mission of the Church?

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

In the beginning, God gave Adam dominion over the earth.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

This reflected God’s original purpose for man – that he would rule over the earth in a state of blessing, peace and prosperity.

But when Adam sinned, everything changed. Man came under the punishment of sin (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22) and the earth was also brought under the curse of sin (Genesis 3:17; Isaiah 24:5-6; Romans 8:20).

Therefore, now that Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin, does that mean that the Church is to restore dominion over the earth and fulfill God’s original intention in creation?

In fact, many teach that the responsibility of Christians, and the Church as a whole, is now to restore God’s dominion over the earth.

There are numerous versions of this error. Some even go so far as to say that Jesus will not return until Christians have established His Kingdom on the earth! Others teach that Jesus will not return bodily; instead He will return spiritually in a group of elite “overcomers.”

One common teaching is that there are “Seven Mountains” or social spheres over which Christians need to take dominion. The seven mountains are: Education, Religion, Family, Business, Government, Arts and the Media. The error says that as Christians enter these spheres and gain influence in them, they can then win back these “mountains” for God and “Christianize the culture,” promoting Judeo-Christian values in the world and establishing God’s Kingdom on the earth.

“Christianizing the culture” means to promote Christian values, attitudes and behaviors in society through education, social and political activism, the promotion of Christian-themed art, literature and media, and so forth. The goal is to create a society that is permeated by Christian principles and values.

At first glance, this seems like a noble goal. Of course, it would be great if our culture were more “Christian”! Who can argue with that? A culture that is more “Christian” will be better for everyone.

However, as we will see, that is not the calling of the Church. We are not called by God merely to promote values, but we are called to promote a Person – the Lord Jesus! When people come to Him, they will be saved and their lives will be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Everything about them will change and they will be agents of change to those around them. But our mission is never to change the culture. Our mission is to change people through union with Christ and to bring them out of the culture of the world and into the Kingdom of God!

Three Main Errors

There are three main errors in the “Seven Mountains” teaching.

First, if one simply reads the New Testament, it is patently clear that there is no instruction whatsoever for us to do this! Nowhere does Jesus, Paul, Peter or anyone else tell us to do this. There is no exhortation to prioritize transforming society through taking dominion of key spheres of influence. In the New Testament, the idea of trying to “Christianize” the culture is entirely absent. In addition, the Early Church in Acts never attempted to do this.

Some ambitious men have tried to do it since then, however. The deeply misguided agenda of Christianizing the culture has been attempted numerous times in history and it never went well! Constantine tried this in the 4th century and the world was plunged into the Dark Ages during the following century. The British also tried this in their Empire and inflicted slavery, bondage, corruption and exploitation on a vast number of people in many nations around the world.

In dramatic contrast, Jesus’ commandment to the Church was not to Christianize the culture, but to take the Gospel of His death and resurrection to all nations.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16)

As we proclaim the Gospel, some will repent and believe. They will be born again, and, in Christ, their lives will be transformed.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

As their lives are transformed, they will then be “salt” and “light” to those around them. Through their lives of integrity, servanthood and love, they will influence others in their various “spheres” – whether business, the arts, education, literature, media and politics. As a result, people will be impacted by the fruit of their lives, and some of them will also come to Christ. This is the true calling of the Body of Christ!

The second and third main errors of the “Seven Mountains” teaching relate to who will establish the Kingdom of God on the earth and when that will occur.

Biblically, it will not be the Church that establishes the Kingdom of God on the earth. Jesus Himself will do that at His return.

Then comes the end, when He delivers the Kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:24)

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for You have taken Your great power and begun to reign.” (Revelation 11:15-17)

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3)[1]

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the Kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever … (Daniel 2:44)

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came One like a son of man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a Kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)

And the Lord will be King over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be One and His name One. (Zechariah 14:9)

When Jesus returns to the earth, then the curse of sin will be lifted.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:7-8)

… whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago. (Acts 3:21)

At that time, the whole creation will participate in “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

However, before Jesus bodily returns to the earth, the whole world will remain under the power of darkness.

… that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Philippians 2:15; see also John 17:15, 25; Acts 2:40; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19)

Thus, the three primary errors of the “Seven Mountains” teaching are:

  1. This teaching is, simply, absent from the New Testament. Instead, an entirely different mission is given to the Church. The Church’s mission is not to infiltrate the culture with Christian values, but to bring the Person of the Lord Jesus to people in all nations.
  2. It is Jesus, not the Church, who will establish His dominion over the earth.
  3. That will happen at the time of His return and not before.

The Kingdom of God on the Earth

The Old Testament had predicted the coming of a Messiah, who would establish God’s rule over the earth. Many Scriptures refer to the coming of this King.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder … Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His Kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore … (Isaiah 9:6-7; see also Numbers 24:17; Daniel 7:13-14; Micah 5:2)

Consequently, in Luke 17, the Pharisees asked Jesus if this physical, earthly Kingdom was soon to come. But Jesus’ response demonstrates that the timing was not yet. He showed them that currently the Kingdom of God is not a physical and political kingdom, but it is a hidden, inward, spiritual Kingdom.

Being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, He answered them, “The Kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

Then after Jesus’ resurrection, His disciples mistakenly assumed that Jesus’ first priority would be to establish political dominion over the world.

So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

This would have been the perfect time for Jesus to give His disciples a clear instruction to “take the Seven Mountains for God!” However, He did not do that. Instead, He responded:

… “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

Thus, the Kingdom of God is currently a spiritual one, not a physical, political one. Nevertheless, it is a very real manifestation of the Kingship of Jesus and of His defeat of all other opposing powers. Therefore, Paul says to the redeemed:

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son … (Colossians 1:13)

Jesus did establish His inward, spiritual Kingdom in the lives of His people at His first coming. Jesus has set us free from bondage to our enemies, and He has established His rulership in our hearts by His Spirit (see also Luke 11:20; Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 4:20). Nevertheless, we still pray for the final, visible manifestation of His Kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10), our hearts crying out for the time when it will be declared:

“The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)

Salt and Light

What, then, is Jesus’ meaning in Matthew 5:13-15?

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (Matthew 5:13-15)

What does it mean for believers to be “salt and light,” to be the “light of the world” and a “city set on a hill”?

Often these verses in Matthew are used to support the idea of the Church’s responsibility to assert herself in the world and establish God’s dominion.

However, in the following verse, Jesus Himself tells us exactly what He means:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

Notice the connecting words here, “In the same way …” In other words, just as salt and light impact everything around them, in the same way you also are to impact the people around you!

Moreover, these verses are in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount which is a long and beautiful teaching on true righteousness. That context again makes the meaning of Matthew 5:13-15 clear. Jesus is teaching us to walk with Him in true righteousness. Then people around us will see our lives and turn to God.

Paul says the same thing in Philippians 2:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life … (Philippians 2:14-15)

Thus, these verses in Matthew 5 have nothing to do with establishing dominion in the “Seven Mountains.” Instead, they refer to the impact of our normal, daily lives as we love God from our hearts, and walk in holiness and truth in submission to Jesus’ Lordship.

The True Mission of the Church

Those who promote ideas like the “Seven Mountains” often accuse the Church of not doing enough to impact the world around her. This accusation is sometimes warranted. Christians and churches that are doing nothing but lazily waiting for Jesus to come back should be exhorted to repent and awake from their slumber. However, a truly vibrant Church will not be passive at all but highly active in making disciples, building leaders, and planting and building churches that reach out aggressively to all around them.

And this is the main danger of errors like the “Seven Mountains”: they distract the Church from her true mission of preaching the Gospel and making disciples. They substitute political and social activism and trying to subdue and dominate the kingdoms of this world in place of the true disciple-making work of the Church.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you … (Matthew 28:19-20)

These errors also lead Christians to engage in ill-advised “culture wars” with the world around them, trying by human effort and political power to change laws and to get their way.

Such “wars” will never be won since the whole world – until Jesus returns – lies under the dominion of the enemy (Matthew 4:8-9; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19).

In addition, these “wars” cause many unbelievers to despise the Church and reject her Message. While we know that many people will reject the Gospel (John 3:19-20), it is regrettable when what they reject us for is not, in fact, the Gospel but a different message altogether.

Certainly, we are to be engaged in warfare but it is a very different kind. Our warfare is not one that uses human effort and wisdom. It is a spiritual warfare.

Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My Kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36)

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:11-12)

People with different values are not our enemies and our weapons of warfare are not political activism and human effort. The devil is our enemy, and he will be overcome by the true weapons God has given us: truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God, prayer, endurance, and love for one another (Ephesians 6:13-18).

Errors such as the “Seven Mountains” appeal to man’s ambition, pride and self-reliance and they distract the Church from doing what she really should be doing. Such errors must be vigorously opposed.

Instead we must pursue the true Kingdom of God upon the earth – a Kingdom in the hearts of men and women who have surrendered their lives to the King and who are being progressively transformed “from glory to glory,” loving God together in the beautiful community of the Bride of Christ, worshipping God, serving one another, building the next generation, and reaching out to the world around them with the true Gospel of the glorious King Jesus.

[1] Old Testament passages like this refer to the literal establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth. They should not be spiritualized and said to refer to the spiritual dominion of the Church over the world. That is very bad biblical interpretation!

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