Sub-Christian Nationalism? (Part 9)

In Article X, under the heading, “On Nationalism and Policy Priorities,” the Statement says:

WE AFFIRM that nations possess an inviolable right to establish justice and safeguard the peace and prosperity of their own citizens. We affirm that implementing Christian Nationalism in each nation will pursue punishment of each nation’s great evils and promote each nation’s thriving. We affirm that the specific, short-term priorities of Christian Nationalism in the context of the United States are to call our nation, in her laws, formally to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ, to declare solemn days of humility and repentance, to abolish abortion, to define marriage as the covenant union of a biological male a biological female, to de-weaponize the federal and state bureaucracies which target Christians for censorship and persecution, to secure our borders and defend against foreign invaders, to recapture our national sovereignty from godless, global entities who present a grave threat to civilization like the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum, etc., and, to exercise restraint in international military intervention and adventurism in overseas “democracy building.”

We affirm that different forms of just government can achieve just laws, and we do not seek to coerce nations into one particular form of government.

WE DENY that seeking to maintain and assert national sovereignty has anything to do with prejudice against any particular ethnicity or nation. We deny that sinful ethnic partiality has any place in the Church of Jesus Christ or in a nation that seeks to honor Him; on the contrary, a Christian nation would be impartial in judgment.

Now we get down to brass tacks, which raises a fundamental question: what is distinctively Christian about the policy proposals of ostensibly Christian nationalism? As it turns out, not much. As is typically the case, the adjective Christian has been used to baptize otherwise (mostly) run-of-the-mill proposals. In short, the statement begs the question (i.e., assumes what it has to prove), that their policies are God’s policies and that we are obligated to follow them or else. This is a basic weakness of the neo-Kuyperian project. Kuyper’s successors applied that adjective Christian willy-nilly to everything they wanted to baptize or transform. Thus, there is no longer simply math, as a natural, creational enterprise but allegedly “Christian math,” “Christian plumbing,” and even “Christian softball.”

The neo-Kuyperians and our erstwhile Christian Nationalists are, in this regard, more like the Anabaptists than they are the Protestant Reformers. The latter had a categorical distinction that the Anabaptists (like most modern Baptist and Baptistic traditions) and the neo-Kuyperians did not have: nature and grace. The sixteenth and seventeenth-century Reformed did not speak of “Christian math.” To be sure, they did speak of “Christian magistrates” and, in this series and elsewhere, I have already addressed the problem of our theocratic heritage. Theocracy was a mistake. Just as we were wrong about Geocentrism, so we were wrong about theocratic politics after the end of the apostolic age. Just as we now know that it is an abuse of Scripture to infer from it that the sun goes around the earth, so too we erred in transposing the Old Testament political order (mutatis mutandis) upon the New Testament. Theodosius I was not a New Testament King David. He was not a fulfillment of Psalm 2. Jesus is the King of Psalm 2, and his Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). He is ruling in the midst of his enemies right now and he will bring his Kingdom to its consummation in his good time. To use Paul’s language, his Kingdom is not of “this age” (1 Cor 2:8; Eph 1:21).

According to the sixteenth-century Protestants and their orthodox successors, the Anabaptists destroyed nature with grace. That is, they obliterated the category of nature. Thus, according to the Anabaptists (and the neo-Kuyperians), everything has to be understood in terms of redemption and grace. This is why the neo-Kuyperians are always talking about “transforming” things in this world, before Christ returns. Like the Anabaptists, they have an over-realized eschatology, a theology of glory. There is no mandate in the New Testament to transform this world before Jesus returns.

The Protestant Reformers and their orthodox heirs did not write much, if at all, about “transforming” this human endeavor or that. One simply does not find them talking about “Christian” astronomy, etc. They read and learned from pagan grammarians, logicians, rhetoricians, mathematicians, astronomers, musicians, and geometricians (i.e., the seven liberal arts). One striking exception to this rule is Peter Ramus (1515–72), who boasted that he had developed an entirely Christian system of logic. All one need do is read his text to find out that he did not actually deliver on his promise. Most of what he taught was cribbed from Aristotle. His great breakthrough was not substantive, it was pedagogical. He was great at making binary charts, and lots of Reformed (and non-Reformed) writers followed him without adopting his rhetoric against the pagans. It was through reading Ramus that I began to question the neo-Kuperian project.

Unlike the Anabaptists and neo-Kuperians, Jesus distinguished between nature and grace. For him, grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it. He says that marriage is a creational institution (Matt 19:8). Paul says that marriage is analogous to the mystical union of Christ and his church (Eph 5:32), but he did not say that marriage is only for Christians. A listener to John Piper’s podcast asked him this very question (whether a marriage made by two non-Christians is a legitimate marriage) and Piper answered it in October of 2021. His answer is not entirely wrong but it is deeply flawed because he seems to have no place for creation per se. He alludes to Genesis 2 but he does not ground marriage, as our Lord did, in creation itself.

Nature is a real thing. It is a way of understanding how and why things are. Men and women were created to be married. Yes, marriage was intended also to point to our mystical union with Christ, but that truth does not wipe out the creational or natural aspect. To put it another way, the very question about the validity of non-Christian marriages, reveals assumptions about nature and grace that are Anabaptist and not Reformed in nature. The Reformed do not question the validity of non-Christian marriages because they understand that marriage is a universal, creational institution.

Insofar as the Statement is the product of a mostly Baptist team of authors, it carries some of this baggage and we see the implications here. How do we know from Scripture that “nations possess an inviolable right to establish justice and safeguard the peace and prosperity of their own citizens”? I agree entirely that nations have this right but I know this, in part because I am ideologically American in my politics. The American answer is to say that we know it from nature. The American founders appealed to nature for their authority to rebel against the British crown. Nature, the keen observation of the way things work, the reading of history, and the study of politics (e.g., Aristotle, Plato, and the political philosophers) tells us this. Scripture, taken on its own terms, is the history of creation and redemption but it does not intend to be a manual for politics. Taken as a whole, it is, as Geerhardus Vos explained, the story of the progress of revelation and redemption. One of the fundamental (and fundamentalist) mistakes of the theonomists was illegitimately to extend the sufficiency of Scripture to cover politics. Scripture does not put itself forward as a political manual any more than it puts itself forward as a medical manual or an astronomy text. For more on this, see the discussion in Recovering the Reformed Confession.

Because the Statement does not properly relate nature and grace, they have to appeal grace (e.g., special revelation and Christian Nationalism) to ground their policy proposals. In short, they cheat. This is the intellectually lazy theorizing that correlate to the lazy citizenship of demanding that the visible church speak and solve all our social problems. It is lazy because nature is quite sufficient for our politics, which is a natural project, and not a supernatural project. It is easy to cite some Bible verses (out of context) but it is much more difficult to show from history, logic, and law why a nation ought to pursue this policy instead of that policy. Just as an industrious approach to citizenship would counsel prayer, organization, persuasion, legislation, and litigation to achieve cultural and policy goals, so too a theory grounded in nature will be much more effective.

Thus, their claim that a nation ought to acknowledge “the Lordship of Christ” begs the question, i.e., it assumes what it must prove. When we read the Old Testament in light of the New, the way that our Lord and his apostles did (e.g., Luke 24), and when we read the New Testament on its own terms, in light of the Old, it is beyond difficult to make a convincing case that our Lord and his apostles expected the magistrate to acknowledge the “crown rights of King Jesus,” as the Covenanters say.

In contrast to the over-realized eschatology of the Christian Nationalists, there is an argument from nature against abortion. There is an argument from nature against same-sex marriage, the trans-mania, and the sexual revolution. The American founders argued for limited government from nature. Nature and history teaches us the necessity of secure national borders and a degree of national sovereignty. Scripture does not intend to teach us about national sovereignty and secure borders. The Christian Nationalists ought to be very careful here. Secure borders are a natural good, but our Lord’s family fled as refugees to Egypt. Remember too, that there are left-wing theonomists who appeal (equally selectively) to the jubilee codes of the Old Testament to justify their open-borders policy. The Christian Nationalists might think that theonomy only works one way but were the nation to adopt it, they might come to regret it very much.

Finally, it is good to see the Statement reject prejudice against particular ethnicities and to oppose it in the visible church but the track record of the Christian Nationalist movement on this score is mixed. There are kinist elements in the Christian Nationalist movement. There are leading Christian Nationalists, who are very close to the Statement, who are using very troubling “blood and soil” rhetoric about ethnic purity.1


1. See Wes Bredenhof’s review of Stephen Wolfe’s defense of Christian Nationalism. See also Kevin DeYoung’s review of the same book. DeYoung writes,

The message—that ethnicities shouldn’t mix, that heretics can be killed, that violent revolution is already justified, and that what our nation needs is a charismatic Caesar-like leader to raise our consciousness and galvanize the will of the people—may bear resemblance to certain blood-and-soil nationalisms of the 19th and 20th centuries, but it’s not a nationalism that honors and represents the name of Christ.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.

You can find this whole series here.


Heidelberg Reformation Association
1637 E. Valley Parkway #391
Escondido CA 92027
The HRA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. “There are leading Christian Nationalists, who are very close to the Statement, who are using very troubling “blood and soil” rhetoric about ethnic purity.”1
    Big issue, traces of this among main stream politicians looking for the populist vote.

  2. This portion of the “Christian Nationalist” declaration is time-dependent, surely not timeless. The demands in this section of the Statement and the justification used to claim their validity did not obtain 50 years ago, even five years ago. I’m guessing they will not obtain in five years, perhaps even in the next 15 months. They are items in a political creed, subject to such things as vocabulary changes, political failure and success, foreign agents, unforeseen consequences, and reversals of previous positions (for example, “my body my choice” of the 1970s becomes mandated imposition of transexual demands on sports, education, commercial enterprises).
    I see this as hubris, wrong-headed, ill-advised, short-term and authoritarian, informed by confusion, fear, and hopelessness. We are not helpless. Though options diminish, we still have the means to speak and to vote, at the very least, and it is our duty, I believe, to use them wisely.

  3. I was converted in the 80’s and went directly into a charismatic church who believed that we needed to prepare the world for Christ return.
    I remember Jerry Falwell and the moral majority and trying to legislate righteousness.
    Recently I’ve come into contact with some staunch theonomist who are Anglican of all things. The congregation is made up of mostly young people just starting families. I understand they’d like a holy righteous world to raise their children in. But it’s already been said that this is an over realized eschatology, a now not yet eschatology.
    I guess they don’t believe the scriptures when they clearly say things will get worse and worse, not better. And besides, if we can’t keep Gods holy law for righteousness, what makes them think anyone else can.

    • I do not see Scripture claiming that things will get “worse and worse, not better…” The path of history demonstrates against that view too. The past was not some better time of complete bliss. It was arguably much worse.

      • Greg,

        Please help me understand your comment. Who is arguing that things will get “worse and worse”?

        If you’re implying support for a postmillennial eschatology, please see listen to these critiques of that view as articulated by a number of Reformed, amillennial writers.

        I don’t think things will “get worse and worse” but nor do I see any evidence in Scripture that there is coming future earthly glory age before the return of Christ.

        The Reformed writers (and more importantly, the confessions) that have influenced me teach what our forefathers called a “pilgrim theology.”

        As to “golden age” historiography. I agree!

  4. “ I guess they don’t believe the scriptures when they clearly say things will get worse and worse, not better. And besides, if we can’t keep Gods holy law for righteousness, what makes them think anyone else can.”

    Very true. If Christian thought & living is ignited & sustained in our spirit-gifted union with Christ, a moralistic majority outside of that union can only thrive for so long.

    Sad to say, but I’m the complete opposite of nationalist. I see this nation (at least the governing side) and I see the worst parts of myself and all humanity fully realized and thriving. The average citizen is ultimately disenfranchised.

    Church is our home.

  5. Dr. Clark,

    My apologies for my rash response. My comment was related to a somewhat secular-based frustration over a tendency I see of people, even Christians at times, who think (or argue) that are current moment is the worst ever in history. I don’t believe you or anyone here has argued for that. I’d say that was an oversight on my part along with my emotions not being kept in check.

    I greatly appreciate your work and would note, just to be clear that I am not sympathetic to postmill. thought or any of its related tenets. Amill is my position on the matter, albeit I don’t know too much about eschatology admittedly, but it does seem the most biblical/logical view.

    Much to learn, I still have. Case in point, I’d not previously heard about “pilgrim theology”, but now I’m interested in learning more about it!

    Appreciate your gentleness.

Comments are closed.