When I first read the above Peanuts cartoon many years ago, I thought it captured the Charlie-Brown feeling average Christians have when they’re listening to bible teachers and preachers talk about deep theological ideas. Charles Shultz, the creator of Peanuts, was active in a church most of his life, and he may have had Charlie Brown’s reaction to some of the Bible-study conversations he heard among more seasoned believers. Actually, many modern TV personalities count on an average Christian’s sense of being overwhelmed (“I thought I saw a ducky and a horsie”) when they snow their listeners with their latest clever Bible interpretations. This is especially effective when they’re talking about complex and obscure prophecies, notably those in the Books of Daniel and Revelation.
In recent years, a group of charismatic leaders who refer to themselves as the New Apostolic Reformation, have put before their followers what they have labeled The Seven Mountain Mandate. This popular teaching began as a sincere attempt by some creative leaders of the mid-1970s* to challenge idealistic young-adult believers that they could make an impact for Christ, not just by becoming full-time Christian ministers or missionaries, but in any career they may follow. They could make a difference, not only through their church and through their family, but also in all other realms of modern culture. As these teachers began to name examples, they seemed to settle under seven general categories: RELIGION, FAMILY, EDUCATION, GOVERNMENT, MEDIA, ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT and BUSINESS. These became identified as Seven Strategies for Changing the World, or as Seven Spheres of Influence.
Over the next few decades in prophetic teaching seminars, Biblical support was developed to enhance the message. An important passage was found in Isaiah’s Old Testament prophecy:
In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. (Isaiah 2:2-3)
The picture they got from this is that, in the final judgment, various smaller “mountains” will have to submit to the highest mountain of all, where the Lord dwells. Other prophetic Bible passages were found that use the image of a mountain to symbolize a kingdom or a realm (e.g. Daniel 2:35). The passage that ultimately jumped out in the eyes of these prophetic teachers was from the end-time vision of the Book of Revelation:
This calls for a mind that has wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; also, they are seven kings, of whom five have fallen, one is living, and the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth, but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. (Revelation 17:9-11)
That’s pretty obscure without reading the context; trust me, it’s pretty obscure even after you read the context. Historically, most commentators have seen the woman (described earlier as “The Great Whore,” verse 1) as the Roman Empire, the Early Church’s chief persecutor. This fits with the image of seven mountains, the number of hills on which Rome was originally built. But creative prophetic thinkers in the 1990s chose to see, instead, an ancient promise that in our day the Christian community was destined to subjugate the Seven Mountains of Modern Culture in the name of Christ. When they accomplished this, they would then turn the total Kingdom over to him, and he would begin his 1,000-year reign on earth.**
There’s one more piece to this puzzle. A relatively unknown “prophet” in the New Apostolic Reformation Movement, Lance Wallnau, had a dream in 1995 that the Lord was commanding his true followers to act now to bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy, and he relabeled this teaching The Seven Mountain MANDATE.*** Other fellow-“prophets” had similar dreams and words from the Lord, and the Mandate idea escalated. In the Mountain called Government, this morphed into an increasingly active alliance with the burgeoning conservative political movement in which other Evangelical Christian groups were involved.
During the Republican Convention of 2016, the same Lance Wallnau had a prophetic dream that Donald Trump was God’s man for this hour. He was apparently the first to proclaim this as a personal revelation. When Trump was elected, Wallnau became more respected and influential, similar “prophecies” popped up among leaders in this network, and the Government Mountain seemed to be marching toward prophetic fulfillment. Wallnau and others had some misgivings during the next four years, but they kept believing in the prophecies and the Mandate. They also prophesied that Trump’s would be re-elected in 2020, and their refusal to admit that they were wrong after his loss this past November helped fuel the events that led to the recent violent takeover of the National Capitol.
The other six mountains have not been ignored by New Apostolic Reformation teachers. Ascending the Education Mountain has led to attacks on public education and climate change science, while the Family Mountain has been challenged on several fronts, including persistent attempts to criminalize abortion and outlaw same-sex marriage. But there has also been a significant amount of preaching, teaching and writing about the Business Mountain, which includes who controls the Nation’s financial assets.*** Surprise! This has been used as a defense of the Prosperity Gospel which many of these leaders embrace and by which they fill their bank accounts.
The next time you see fascinating clouds across your faith sky, don’t run to some well-known Lucy or Linus “prophet” for the latest elaborate explanation. Trust your own first Charlie-Brown instinct, that what God is trying to say to you is more like a ducky or a horsie. You’ll probably be closer to the truth.
– Pastor George Van Alstine
* Bill Bright, of Campus Crusade for Christ, Loren Cunningham of Youth With a Mission, Frances Shaeffer of L’Abri Fellowship.
** It’s interesting that this teaching eliminates the belief that Jesus could return at any moment, which has usually been a cornerstone of Evangelical teaching. The Mandate calls on Christians to first climb the Seven Mountains of cultural influence before the Church is ready to turn over the “kingdoms of this world” to Christ as King, at the beginning of the Millenium (Thousand Year Reign).
*** Dr. C. Peter Wagner, who was a Professor at Fuller Seminary in the 1970s, but later became one of the most respected leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation, wrote: “I think that it is time we began agreeing strongly and openly that we cannot expect to be agents in God’s hands for massive and sustained reformation unless we control huge amounts of wealth. In all of human history, three things, above all others, have changed society: violence, knowledge and wealth. And the greatest of these is wealth!” (Wrestling With Alligators, 2010).