January 2024

The Case for Christian Nationalism

The Case for Christian Nationalism, by Stephen Wolfe ★★

This book was obtained free from Amazon.com and read in digital format. Wolfe attempts to describe how a nation would look governed entirely by Christian leadership and (mostly) Christian citizens. Wolfe provides a heavily referenced text, though the most relevant text, the Bible, seems to come short. Tacitly assumed by Wolfe is a post-millennial world where everyone is Christian. Efforts to form a Christian society and government in this fallen world will segue into the millennial kingdom. Therefore, it behooves us to imagine how to best establish a Christian nation.

Wolfe spends much of his time describing either what he is going to do, or what he is doing at the moment. A huge portion of the book consists of quotes regarding a Christian government, written by (mostly) Protestant saints within the last few hundred years or medieval Scholastics. After introducing at length what Wolfe is going to write about, he begins by hypothesizing what sort of government would exist had the fall never occurred. Such idle speculation really doesn’t get one anywhere, since Scripture is silent on the topic. Scripture is silent perhaps for good reason; thankfully, the Bible wasn’t written by medieval scholastic scholars who would debate at length the imponderables, such as how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Wolfe then discusses the fall of man and how this affects the establishment of a nation. Of importance is the identification of people groups or cultural groups, who would coalesce and govern themselves. Nations need a well-defined set of values and objectives, agreed upon by the masses. Issues of war were not discussed. Cultural Christianity would have an elevated status and thus define normative behavior in society. Wolfe discusses the construction of civil law in Christian society. He also describes what a Christian “prince” would look like, which sounds more like an unfallen sinless human than the fallen Christians who could lead us.

Wolfe then takes a turn and attempts to develop an argument for revolution. Wolfe doesn’t say overtly but does imply that bad government loses its legitimacy in God’s eyes, and thus it is right to overthrow such a government. Not mentioned is how one determines when a government is ever evil enough to call for revolution. Certainly, Christian history doesn’t help, as the early Christians in Rome probably were as great as a 1/4 of the population, and never ever sought to overthrow the government. In the chapter on conscience, Wolfe mulls over how much authority the state should have to suppress heresy, idolaters, false teachers, etc. Though his answer is quite lengthy, he really doesn’t provide even guiding principles for the management of heretics, save to identify how much harm a heretic might do to society and punish them accordingly. Wolfe’s attempt to go back to the founding fathers and show how the USA was essentially established as a Christian nation fails. Christianity was indeed the prevailing religion of the 17th and 18th centuries in America, yet evangelical movements such as with Whitfield and later Finney demonstrated that much of Christianity was in name only. Wolfe fails to demonstrate that the bulk of leadership in the American Revolution was only nominally Christian, thinking of such greats as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Monroe, etc.

Stephen Wolfe fails miserably in his attempt to provide us a model for Christian nationalism. He is not wrong that for a Christian government to work properly, the subjects also need to be more than nominally Christian. Consider the eras in history when there was a truly Christian nation with Christian nationalism. Actually, there are many, but I’ll list a few. 1) Outre Mere (Jerusalem of the Crusaders) 2) Byzantium, 3) The Holy Roman Empire, 4) Oliver Cromwell’s England, 5) the New England Pilgrim states, 6) Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, and 7) The Colony (Belize). These are only a few attempts to set up an isolated group of people who will preserve and protect divine truth. All have (so far) failed. In the absence of a post-millennial hope, this book becomes relatively meaningless, or perhaps idle speculation and wishful thinking. Of course I wish we had a perfect, peaceful, Christian society, but with fallen man, such wishfulness remains nothing but fanciful daydreaming.

Scripture speaks plentifully about government. The clearest statement is found in Psalm 2, which paints man as forever attempting to overthrow God from His rule. The author Robert Case also develops an excellent argument as to why the book of Esther is relevant for developing a philosophy of politics (Esther & Trump, published by Saluda Press). Why Wolfe has so few Scriptures to defend his arguments is itself most telling. The VanTillian notion of the primacy of Scripture in philosophy and politics is defied by Wolfe, whom I might presume would consider himself a VanTil disciple. Wolfe’s suggestion that nations that restrict personal freedoms delegitimize themselves, yet Scripture would be at odds with this notion, starting with Psalm 2. I am not opposed to Wolfe’s desire to think out the characteristics of a Christian nation, though his inability to reckon with the dirty facts of life in a fallen world weakens his argument. Thus, I didn’t find this book very helpful at thinking through the ramifications of life in a political world. Who should I vote for? What laws are most fitting? Should our nation consider itself under the obligation of behaving in a Christian fashion with other nations? Should we allow open borders that provide for a large group that could be evangelized? Is Capitalism any more Christian than Marxism or other forms of government? If the nation is controlled by a Christian tyrant, is that bad? How should the nation treat citizens who reflect poorly on our nation’s Christian image on the international stage? Why does Christ occasionally mention non-religious people who have the art and skill of managing a nation? Should any nation identify as the world’s policeman? Is there a role for international law, and how is it developed and enforced? Many questions come out of this book; the book has value mostly at stimulating thought as to what government should look like. Otherwise, The Case for Christian Nationalism most fails in actually making a case for and against Christian nationalism. This book reminds me of a song by John Lennon, which imagines a fictional world that escapes reality. I quote the lyrics in full…

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky

Imagine all the people
Livin’ for today, Ah

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace You

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world You

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

The Early Church

The Early Church, by Louis Markos ★★★★

I’ve appreciated the writings and lectures of Louis Markos and found this book to have an interesting theme worth reading. It was. Markos excels in literary criticism, and that is exactly what this book does in looking at the writings of some of the early church fathers, rather than just recording their historical details. Markos addresses a variety of topics including early church sermons, early letters of the Patristic saints, writings regarding the church itself, martyr accounts, apologists for the faith, and heresy hunters. This book provides a slightly different flavor to the church fathers through focusing on the church literature per se. Thus, Dr. Markos accomplished his objective well. My only problem with the book is that I’ve essentially read all of the source documents contained in this book. It would probably be of more value to those without the exposure to the early church literature as I have had. Hopefully, the book will encourage more people to pay closer attention to early church writings.