Guest Post by Robert Sagers
Mark Chanski, author of Manly Dominion and Womanly Dominion and the pastor of Harbor Reformed Baptist Church of Holland, Mich., was kind to answer a few questions about what it means for men and women to be men and women of (biblical) dominion.
Robert Sagers: What does it mean to be a man of dominion?
Mark Chanski: A man of dominion seeks to boldly subdue and rule over the circumstances of his life, instead of passively permitting the circumstances of his life to subdue and rule over him. He dominates his environment instead of letting his environment dominate him.
The cornerstone passage is the Dominion Mandate found in Genesis 1:28, the Lord’s first recorded words to his image bearing creatures: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over everything living that moves on the earth.”
God had just taken the chaos of a formless and void world, and in the space of six days, fashioned it into an orderly and “very good” creation. An image bearing man of dominion imitates his God. He subdues (brings into bondage, makes to serve him by force) and rules (governs, reigns, and holds sway over) the spheres (earth, sea, sky) around him. A man of dominion is boldly active.
In contrast, a billiard ball is timidly passive. It allows itself to be acted upon and pushed around by cue sticks, fellow balls, and bumpers. Not so the billiard player. He assertively imposes his plans on the table configuration by the forceful thrusts of his cue stick. He subdues and rules.
On the table of life, many men today function more like passive billiard balls than like active billiard players. This is seen in family life where many men act like couch potatoes failing to husband, father, and rule; in vocational life where many are sluggards failing to plan ahead, labor, and drive to excellence; in church life where many are AWOL: failing to lead, direct, and serve; and in personal life where many are weaklings failing to exercise self control, kill sins, and manage priorities.
Whenever God speaks and assigns, the serpent slithers and whispers, “Yea, has God said?” And so, many of us believe his lies, and adopt a posture of helpless victimization instead of bold dominion. One says, “I’m a genetic victim with bad DNA, and that’s why I’m obese, an alcoholic, or tranquilizer dependent. I can’t subdue and rule.” Another says, “I’m an emotional victim who’s been badly treated by significant others, and that’s why I can’t hold a job, control my sexual life, or stay off of drugs.” Still another, “I’m a circumstantial victim whose boss, wife, or government makes it impossible for me to succeed.” So instead of exercising dominion, we give excuses.
When faced with a daunting challenge (i.e., losing weight, disciplining our children, organizing our day), our motto should be: “I can, and so help me God, I will!” But at many times it becomes: “I probably can’t, so I won’t even try!” I confess my own struggles here.
But the Bible is full of men who were given daunting assignments, and found a way get them done. Noah built a freighter-sized ark in the face of a laughing world, with a 500 year-old body, in a pre-Home Depot era. Joseph overcame abusive brothers, a seductive temptress, and depression-provoking disappointments to become the prime minister of Egypt. Nehemiah fought through backbreaking rubble piles and sinister enemy conspiracies to finish the Jerusalem wall in 52 days. Paul endured brotherly rejection, Jewish persecution, and Roman incarceration to finish his missionary race.
The mightiest of all men of dominion is Jesus Christ Himself. Though he had poor parents, was called illegitimate, was ridiculed, entrapped, betrayed, scourged, and even crucified, he stayed at his post until he was able to shout regarding his epic errand, “It is finished.” Hallelujah, what a Savior!
A man of dominion seeks to imitate his Lord and Savior in every life assignment, whether it’s in school, at work, in marriage, in parenting, in churchmanship, or in personal godliness. So help him God, with no excuses, he seeks to subdue and rule in every sphere to the glory of his Maker and Redeemer.
RES: What does it mean to be a woman of dominion?
MC: Women have received the same dominion mandate as men. “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule . . .’” (Genesis 1:27-28).
So women too need to fight off a sinful propensity toward timid passivity, and put on a dominion mindset of bold activity. Women are faced with daily life challenges just as daunting as men’s:
—Shall I apply for acceptance in the university’s highly competitive nursing program, or passively concede failure without even trying?
—Shall I surrender under the crushing pressure of term papers and final exams, or find a way, so help me God, to study my way through, and pass these classes?
—Shall I get romantically involved with a man of poor character because I’m afraid of becoming a spinster, or shall I faithfully stay the course and wait for a true man of God?
—Shall I permit my family’s home to fall into chaotic disarray, or resolve to labor diligently to maintain an orderly household?
—Shall I passively watch my children be swallowed up into the vortex of a godless culture, or valiantly fight the good fight to raise them in the fear of the Lord?
Godly women, made in the image of God, must daily tell themselves to subdue and rule, to the glory of God.
But women, unlike men, are faced with an additional fierce life challenge. They’ve also got to “play their position.” Coaching our daughter’s soccer teams found me constantly shouting to my players, “Play your position!” If I have a goalie who’s not convinced of the importance of guarding the goal, but is convinced that the only important contribution is scoring goals, that roaming and undisciplined player will do great harm to the team. Imagine the damage done when a girl assigned to play goalie leaves her post to make a long and exciting dribble run up the field, only to be stripped by an opponent who’s able to dribble back and to score into a goalie-less net! I’d shout, “Jessica, you’re a goalie, not a forward. Play your position! Everybody’s counting on you! Play your position!”
On the field of life, women not only have to play boldly, but they’ve also got to play their position. God hasn’t positioned women in such “forward” positions as Family Leader, Breadwinner, and Pastor. Eve was positioned by her heavenly coach as a “helper suitable” (Genesis 2:18), a child nurturer (Genesis 2:16), and a submissive learner (1 Timothy 2:11-15). But women hear shouts from unprincipled sideline voices telling them to leave their God-assigned posts, much like a misguided parent might tell his goalie daughter: “Get the ball, honey, and try to score!”
—The army recruiter at the high school tells her that women are well suited for military combat.
—Her college professor insists that she should pursue a Ph.D. and not let her pursuit be derailed by the patriarchal institution of marriage and childbearing.
—Her magazines tell her that her husband has no right to expect her to abandon her career to stay home with the children, while he continues to climb the corporate ladder.
—Her own inner voice tells her that selflessly serving her husband and her children is a thankless waste of a life.
—And her neighbor friend tells her that her spiritual maturity merits her being recognized as an elder in her church.
Godly women, made in the image of God, must daily tell themselves: “Play your position! Stay at your assigned post, to the glory of God.”
So a woman of dominion must have “a gentle and a quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4), as she must play her position. But that’s not the whole story. She must also boldly subdue and rule in her challenging assignments.
The Bible is full of bold women. Zelophehad’s daughters boldly brought their grievance to Moses and won their case, and God’s commendation (Numbers 27:1-7). Deborah “quit herself like a man” when passive billiard ball Barak refused to do his duty (Judges 4). Abigail saved her family by virtuously outmaneuvering Nabal and deftly advising David, to the admiring delight of the latter (1 Samuel 25). The lady of Proverbs 31 is a lovely subduer and ruler par excellence. Priscilla, whose name precedes her husband Aquila’s, helped teach the great Apollos the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:24-28). And Phoebe is saluted as a strategic and influential helper of the church at Cenchrea (Romans 16:1-2).
Such female heroes rightly brighten the eyes of Christian women!
So a woman of dominion is more than a gentle and quiet spirit. She boldly subdues and rules in her God-appointed positions to the glory of God.
RES: How can the church best equip its members to be men and women of (biblical) dominion?
MC: First, by being unapologetically countercultural in our teaching of the Scriptures. Our people are daily the targets of high octane media propaganda that promotes relativism, liberalism, feminism, and excuse-ism. The faithful declaring of the whole counsel of God should perceptively expose the subtle lies of the journalist, therapist, panelist, novelist, artist, feminist, etc.
Second, by modeling biblical manhood in church life. For example, men should:
—make their families’ consistent attendance a principled priority, not a feeling-driven option.
—step up to the plate in Sunday School classes and prayer meetings in such a manner that their verbal contributions lead the way, and not leave a void, provoking the women to take over.
—engage in spiritually-minded conversations that spur each other on to love and good works.
—go home, and throughout the week lead their families in consistent family devotions.
—work hard and with excellence at their vocations, enabling them to support both their own families and kingdom endeavors.
Third, by modeling biblical womanhood in church life. For example, women should:
—relish their God-honoring roles as submissive learners and followers.
—take up their strategic opportunities as strategic teachers. The church is teeming with needy women and children, and a wise Apollos will hear a discreet Priscilla.
—extend hospitality in its countless forms. A Christlike, foot-washing, servant-hearted woman is a mighty kingdom weapon. Think of Edith Schaeffer at L’Abri. Women are the church’s infantry.
—go home, and boldly mother their own children. The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.
—commit themselves to being passionately dedicated helpmeets to their own husbands.
Fourth, by praying with dependence on the Spirit. We can’t subdue and rule over anything apart from our Savior’s power. Apart from him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).