Cultural mandate  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The cultural mandate or creation mandate is a doctrine among some evangelical Christians which teaches that the Christian faith provides principles that are applicable not only to be to one's personal life and the life of the church, but also to the structures and governance of society, which if appropriately comprehended can assist Christians to thereby "redeem the culture" for the good of all. It is summarized by Nancy Pearcey in her book Total Truth:

In Genesis, God gives what we might call the first job description: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it." The first phrase, "be fruitful and multiply" means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, "subdue the earth," means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations-nothing less.


Common grace

The cultural mandate does not necessarily envision the legislation of such religious ordinances as Sabbath attendance or blue laws, but rather, usually approaches public law from the perspective of common grace, as distinct from those principles which characterize the institution of the Christian Church. It assumes that there are principles established by God which underlie all human society, that apply to all people and not only Christians, but which Christians are to apply in the modern context within a biblical framework. Within that framework, contemporary society is subjected to a Christian analysis under the assumption of Christian faith that all created things, including all men and their institutions, are subject as servants to the same God, although not all have Christian faith. The cultural mandate further assumes that Christian justice demands that the lives of non-Christians must be watched over and their welfare protected, regardless of unbelief, because every person is made in the image of God.

Principled pluralism

While the cultural mandate looks to the Bible as its guide to gain insight into the general principles of social structure and public justice, most proponents of this view do not typically appeal to Scripture for authority in public discourse, but accept that the pluralistic modern State has developed according to the providence of God, and would argue according to this given state of affairs as interpreted by biblical reasoning. Within the Christian community itself, preliminary work is required to explain exactly how Christian faith applies in its own terms, and to develop the terms by which this Christian understanding may be communicated to a diverse culture. For example, the public agenda for the criminalization of murder would not usually begin and end with the Bible, but might take the form of arguing that murder violates what society calls a "self-evident right to life" that all men deserve, and murder contradicts the widely accepted pragmatic consideration that it is in one's own interest not to harm one another or society - for, although such moral reasoning comes short of a Christian rationale, it may be deemed compatible in practical terms with Christian aims. The neo-Calvinist approach is sometimes called "principled pluralism", because it seeks to find biblical principles of justice that apply without preference for one professed faith over another, in a diverse society.

Compared to "Dominion mandate"

The cultural mandate is fundamental to the theocratic ideal of Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism (where it is often called "the dominion mandate"), but it does not by itself imply that ideal. Christian Reconstructionism seeks to establish Old Testament law as modern civil law; but the cultural mandate, per se, seeks only to discover the biblical principles which relate to the human stewardship of the earth, and of society including civil law. The connection is even more remote, between this theological motive and those who see themselves as "creating God's kingdom on earth now," as Kingdom Now theology seeks to do. Unlike Kingdom Now theology, the cultural mandate does not try to establish the kingdom of God on this earth, but rather presents a holistic, biblical world view that proponents believe lead to liberty and happiness.

Calvinism in general acknowledges that public life is addressable by faith, based on the assertion that all human rule has its authority from God. Theologian Anthony A. Hoekema, for example, writes from the perspective of Amillennialism to speak of the public character of Christian faith. The cultural mandate is most elaborately developed by Neo-Calvinism, which explores the implications for modern, pluralistic society, of this Calvinistic assertion. Although this concept is fundamental to theonomy ((the rule of) the law of God), the Theonomy movement is a distinct and minority branch of this Christian approach to the structures of society and moral philosophy. Theonomy is distinctive, for example, that while affirming common grace, denies that biblical principles are compatible with pluralism.


The cultural mandate is associated with neo-Calvinism, and thus, with the ideas of Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch Calvinist minister, who wrote in The Stone Lectures of 1898:

That in spite of all worldly opposition, God's holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the State for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to him.

Modern Proponents

Popularized versions of the cultural mandate idea have been promoted by Chuck Colson, Nancy Pearcey, and the late Christian philosopher, Francis Schaeffer.

In Asia, one of the most notable teachers of the cultural mandate is Kong Hee, who has since 2007 travelled to most parts of Asia and the United States to share his teachings.


The cultural or dominion mandate in Genesis to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" is prefigurement to other mandates in the Bible. In the Bible it says Noah received a commission to "be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth" (Genesis 9:1). The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is an analogous mandate: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cultural mandate" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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