Review: The Case for Christian Nationalism By Stephen Wolfe

The rise of Donald Trump, the renewed call for a “Christian America,” the novel promotion of Christian nationalism—these three things are recent realities in the American political and religious scenes. Indeed, they are related realities. Furthermore, these three realities are not helping unify Christians in America and are causing unbelievers to further oppose the Christian faith and church. Love him or hate him, most Christians know about Donald Trump. Most are also aware of the term, “Christian America”—but what about Christian nationalism? This term’s usage has been on the rise in the last ten years, but not every Christian knows what it means. Christians who do know what Christian nationalism means might even argue about its definition. One of the lengthier books written recently in favor of this movement is The Case for Christian Nationalism by Stephen Wolfe.

Just shy of five hundred pages, The Case for Christian Nationalism (TCCN) gives definitions for various aspects of Christian nationalism and detailed arguments in support of it. TCCN is neither a simple primer on Christian nationalism, nor is it aimed at intermediate readers. Rather, it is intended for advanced readers who want a comprehensive and intricate layout of the various particulars of Christian nationalism. Wolfe weaves theology, philosophy, logic, history, and political theory together to present an elaborate case for his version of Christian nationalism.

An Overview

Wolfe notes that he is writing from a Reformed Christian point of view which ought to be assumed throughout the book (16). TCCN, however, does not make its case directly from Scripture or Reformed theology since Wolfe does not claim to be a biblical scholar or a theologian (16). In other words, although he does not cite Scripture frequently in this book, the conclusions are based on his understanding of theology and Scripture as applied to politics, culture, laws, and society.

Here is Wolfe’s own definition of Christian nationalism: “[Christian nationalism] is a totality of national action, consisting of civil laws and social customs, conducted by a Christian nation as a Christian nation, in order to procure for itself both earthly and heavenly good in Christ” (9). In other words, Christian nationalism means the laws and customs of a nation should be Christian laws and customs. Additionally, all the actions of a nation should be Christian actions leading to earthly good and heavenly good.

His main purpose for writing the book is to prove that Christian nationalism is the ideal arrangement for Christians and something worth pursuing with resolve (9). His goal is to justify the institutionalization of Christianity and give reasons for Christians to “act in confidence for that institutionalization” (5). In his view, “there are two options: Christian nationalism or pagan nationalism” (381). He does not believe there is a third option for civil governments.

TCCN contains ten chapters in which the author makes his main arguments, as well as an introduction and an epilogue. The first chapter is his explanation of the prelapsarian world. This chapter gives his detailed conjectures of what government and society would have looked like before the fall. In Wolfe’s view, civil governments “would have existed in the state of integrity” (70). The second chapter is about Adam’s fall into sin and redemption from it—though interestingly, there is little discussion about Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and return. For Wolfe, civil government has the same principles and ends before and after the fall, though in a fallen world, it is “augmented to shore up its role in human relations” (91). This chapter also includes discussions of the image of God in man, total depravity, and virtue.

Chapters 3 and 4 of TCCN elaborate on his conceptions of nation, nationalism, and what constitutes a Christian nation. His vision of nations/nationalism is a complex one. Wolfe founds that vision on the argument that since God’s people are renewed, they now “possess all the native gifts once given to Adam” (174). This means Christians can and ought to work towards establishing a Christian nation as Adam worked towards maturing the pre-fall world. This is not a “creation regained” endeavor; rather, it is Christians making their land or nation a “homeland preparing them for a better home” (179). By “better home,” I assume Wolfe means heaven or the new creation, but curiously, he does not discuss those topics in this book. Wolfe’s views on eschatology in this book are quite nebulous.

Concerning nation and nationalism, he believes that a nation with proper nationalist ideas consists of one ethnicity: nationalism means one ethnicity that is self-conscious and has the right to exist for itself (118). Furthermore, nationalism is rooted in a love primarily for “one’s own.” The term “one’s own” means a distinctive people of the same ethnicity who share language, history, place, memory, and space (120ff). In Wolfe’s view of a Christian nation, “no nation is composed of two or more ethnicities” (135, 139). Thus, mono-ethnic Christian nations can respect each other and make alliances, but “they cannot have a life together that goes beyond mutual alliance” (148).

In the next few chapters (5–7), he presents in detail what benefit cultural Christianity can have for a nation. He says that a Christian culture can prepare people to become Christians (213). He is not a theonomist: “Mosaic law, taken as a whole, is not binding on all nations, even Christian nations” (266). Instead, civil law will reflect the principles of Scripture because Scripture exhibits the natural laws that are part of God’s created order. Many of Wolfe’s arguments about laws in a Christian nation are based on general law principles, ordered by Christian reason, and aimed at the good of the people.

The last chapters of TCCN discuss the leader of a Christian nation, the prince. Ruled by a Christian “prince,” his vision for governance in a Christian nation is that of “a measured and theocratic Caesarism” (278). These chapters also include a lengthy discussion about the right to revolution and liberty of conscience. Chapter ten propounds Wolfe’s view of the founding fathers and America’s beginning. The epilogue contains a fair amount of Wolfe’s personal views about the current political and cultural situation in the United States. In the epilogue, Wolfe comments on random topics such as the Russia-Ukraine war, masculinity, dominion, gynocracy, and so on.


It is evident in TCCN that Wolfe has thought about these issues at length. He writes with conviction and aims to convince the reader to follow and adopt his ideas. I appreciate that the author defines his terms (e.g., nationalism, civil law, Christian culture, the Christian prince, etc.) as I was better able to understand his positions and arguments. Also, his clear critique of theonomy and its wrongheaded desire to impose the Mosaic law on society is valuable.

Interestingly, he also interacts somewhat positively with the Reformed teaching of the two kingdoms. Wolfe, however, distinguishes between “modern” or “novel” two kingdoms doctrine and the original two kingdoms doctrine. In his view, the “modern” two-kingdoms advocates fail to include the concept of restoration in an Adamic-like way of “maturing” the earth (194–97). For Wolfe, although the redemptive and civil kingdoms are distinct, the civil kingdom is renewed “as an effect of sanctification and, hence, is a secondary object of redemption through the work of restored humanity” (309). In this way the civil kingdom is “indirectly redemptive” (309).

As mentioned above, TCCN contains complex arguments and detailed logical premises, assertions, and conclusions. At times, the arguments were complex and intricate to the point of confusion. For example, he discussed the visible/invisible church along with another distinction between the “visible church” and “the people of God” (110). The argument was unclear. It seemed as if he made a threefold- or even fourfold-distinction of the visible/invisible church. Furthermore, the logic in TCCN was such that the arguments fell flat because some of the premises were false. For example, Wolfe several times asserted that Adam’s role of “maturing” the earth is also the Christian’s current responsibility. Since I do not agree with this premise, his lengthy arguments about the Christian’s role on earth lacked a foundation.

Although he claims to be writing from a Reformed perspective, not all of his theological views are Reformed or even within the bounds of historic Reformed theology. As I have implied, his view of covenant theology is somewhat of an amalgamation. He denies the concept of Adam meriting anything before the fall, using the term “maturity” instead (43). This is simply not a confessional Reformed view (cf. WCF 7.2).

Similarly, his critique of the “modern” two kingdoms doctrine is inaccurate. The “modern” Reformed two kingdoms view is quite in line with the historic Reformed view of the two kingdoms. In fact, Wolfe’s explanation of the two kingdoms is itself a novel one, for two reasons. First, he injects postmillennialism into the historic teaching of the two kingdoms, resulting in kingdom confusion where the spiritual kingdom and civil kingdom essentially overlap. Second, his view of the two kingdoms includes a non-Reformed view of the Christian’s role to “mature” the earth like Adam was supposed to do. In a word, Wolfe’s Christian nationalist view of the two kingdoms is far out of step with historic Reformed theology.

His denial of historic Reformed covenant theology and his excessive speculation about pre-fall civil government raises many red flags. For example, Wolfe’s hypothesis of prelapsarian civil government and laws could only have occurred while Adam was still “maturing” the world. Is it even possible for one to speculate how civil governments would establish laws that help mature the world in a sinless context? For another example, Wolfe writes that “a prelapsarian world is one of diverse vocations” (60). He purports that there would be various languages, cultural diversity, in-group/out-group distinctions, and male-dominated vocations in a prelapsarian world (64–73). When reading his speculations about a prelapsarian world, it seems to me that his views are based more on his Christian nationalist views than on biblical deductions.

He also errs in his explanation of definitive sanctification. It is unclear and confusing, but it seems that Wolfe means “regeneration” when he talks about “definitive sanctification.” Although the two are related, confounding them produces odd statements. For example, he writes, “definitive sanctification principally restores one to true dignity by re-infusing the perfective features of prelapsarian man” (94). Wolfe’s views of definitive sanctification—or whatever he means by it—are very confusing and not what one would find in historic Reformed writings. In fact, at many points he claims to be advocating Reformed theology, but without proper citation, which leads me to question many of his statements. In a word, Wolfe is incorrect when he says none of his conclusions are “in substance, outside or inconsistent with the broad Reformed tradition” (17). Indeed, some positions in TCCN are far removed from historic Reformed theology.

Speaking of citations, the lack of citations in this book is deeply frustrating. Regularly, the author asserts various points or gives information without producing any citations. He refers to “the venerated Thomist view that ‘law is to make men good’” (258). There is, however, no citation for this statement which cannot be considered common knowledge. Although Wolfe’s comments on the founding of America do contain some citations, many statements seem to be his views, unsubstantiated by scholarship. Overall, Wolfe’s rosy Christian view of America’s founding is inaccurate, and very much up for debate. He explains the “Anglo-Protestant development of classical Protestant principles” in America’s founding but does not cite his sources. I very much doubt this and other claims, and want to see information for further study. Ordinarily, academic writing contains numerous citations referencing primary and secondary literature. The lack of extensive citations in TCCN, however, is a glaring weakness. Perhaps the publisher, Canon Press, is also to blame for this weakness. Altogether, the lack of citations in TCCN leads me to believe many of Wolfe’s views are his own and unsupported.

Related to the citation issues is the lack of a bibliography, which detracts from the book’s intended scholarly presentation. Similarly, there is no subject index. These shortcomings made it difficult to find topics or resources for further study. Additionally, the editorial quality of this book is inferior. Many paragraphs are over-long, numerous sentences are clunky and confusing, and the book is further marred by scripture translation mix-ups, spelling issues, and inconsistent citation styling.

Wolfe’s mono-ethnic conception of nationalism is quite troubling for various reasons. First, for the Christian, Christ has broken down the wall between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:14). The church is comprised of people from all nations, tribes, and tongues (Eph 2:14; Rev 5:9). How does it make sense then, in a supposedly Christian world, to separate Christians into nations based on their ethnicities? And practically speaking, if the United States becomes a Christian nation, which ethnic group gets to stay and which ones have to go? What Scripture references support separating Christians based on ethnicity? I am not sure how this view can be absolved of racism.

Finally, the epilogue seemed like a section the author added in order to rant about various American cultural affairs he disagrees with. Though his tone is reasonable in the majority of the book, he goes into attack mode in the epilogue. The rant includes attacks on the globalist American empire, late-modern Western men, gynocracy, effeminate military officers, and flabby PCA pastors. It also promotes a “masculine” society in which “principal institutions embody masculine virtues” (454). In his ostensible masculine society, the most committed Christian nationalists will be farmers, homesteaders, and ranchers, leaving the women to make food from scratch out of their own gardens (460–61). To be honest, I am still confused by the content and purpose of the epilogue.

Wolfe’s views of a Christian nation raised more questions for me than they answered. If various nations in a geographical area are Christian nations, must they have military forces and develop weapons? What about schools in Christian nations? What would healthcare look like in a Christian nation? Could an honorable Roman Catholic man become the prince of a Christian nation? What about taxation and financial loans? Could women work in any official capacity in a Christian nation? Would it be possible to sue someone in a Christian nation even though the Bible discourages it (1 Cor 6:1)? Under Christian nationalism, what do we do with all those passages about persecution, suffering, and trials? Even more importantly, why did he avoid discussing Christ’s glorious return and the subsequent new heavens and earth?

Undoubtedly, Christians have different answers to these questions. In fact, other Christian nationalists themselves would answer these questions differently. It might sound good on paper, but these types of details for the blueprints of a Christian nation are extremely difficult to contemplate. Call me a pessimist, but when I finished this book, I thought, “It will never happen, and I do not want it to!”


Wolfe’s attempt to ground his arguments for Christian nationalism in his theology and biblical scholarship is a glaring weakness of this volume. TCCN goes off track at the beginning when he departed from Reformed theology and engaged in excessive speculation about the prelapsarian world. It never gets back on track. It was doomed to derail from the start.

As is evident, I have problems with various theological, biblical, and political aspects of TCCN. Yes, it is a detailed resource giving one man’s view of Christian nationalism. Some parts of it make sense; from one angle, TCCN is an ostensible scholarly resource on this topic. There are, however, serious problems with his arguments: (1) they are extremely complex to the point of perplexity, (2) they are more grounded in Wolfe’s particular theological, historical, and political views than in Reformed theology and Scripture, and (3) the arguments and discussions are lacking in proper citation, academic references, and sources. Therefore, TCCN is more a lengthy and complex discourse full of opinion than it is scholarship.

If you want to read one Christian’s comprehensive views on Christian nationalism, you might find TCCN interesting. I did. But for the reasons listed above, this book is not an excellent resource. The errors, weaknesses, and confusion of TCCN force me to leave it off my recommended reading list.

©Shane Lems. All Rights Reserved.

Stephen Wolfe, The Case for Christian Nationalism (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2022).


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Posted by Shane Lems | Thursday, February 15, 2024 | Categorized Books, Church History, Reviews | Tagged Bookmark the permalink.

About Shane Lems

Shane Lems graduated from Westminster Seminary California in 2007. He has been a church planter and pastor in the URCNA. Since 2013 he’s been serving as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Hammond, WI. He is married and has four children. Shane has written numerous articles for Modern Reformation, New Horizons, and other publications. He is also the author of Doctrines of Grace: Student Edition and manages a book blog, The Reformed Reader.


  1. Shane, I had a question about this section of your review:

    “First, for the Christian, Christ has broken down the wall between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:14). The church is comprised of people from all nations, tribes, and tongues (Eph 2:14; Rev 5:9). How does it make sense then, in a supposedly Christian world, to separate Christians into nations based on their ethnicities?”

    How are we to understand the apparent conflation between the visible church & the nation here? Nations and national sovereignty are not governed like the Lord’s Table or specific church membership. This seems a costly error in a paragraph that accuses Wolfe of racism.

    • Hey Joe, thanks for the question.

      And yes! You’re right. It is a costly error for this view of Christian nationalism to structure a nation according to Scripture while at the same time arguing for a separation of people based on ethnicity. I’m saying that if a Christian nation is structured on biblical principles, it doesn’t make sense for that nation to separate people based on their ethnic group because the Bible certainly does not promote ethnic separation among Christians. I’m confused by this as well.

      Furthermore, once a government separates people into groups based on ethnicity, I can’t imagine such groups existing without any racism happening. As a Christian, I’m fundamentally opposed to any type of political theory or nationalist view that separates people based on ethnicity.


      • I think that what Joe is getting at is that, your position would seem to make untenable Christian support for the entire nation-state system which is largely based on ethno-state formation with exceptions for things like the Great Powers cracking and packing different ethnic groups in Post-War map drawing or in Imperial conquest and redivision.

        It is of course complicated because ethnicity and any people’s self-conception are malleable and change over time. It also allows for the grafting in of outsiders who conform to and are adopted into the group. It feels like you may be reading Wolfe’s use of ethnicity through a racial lens instead of what amounts to organic unique people group formation.

        It also seems inconsistent with our denomination’s view of foreign missions.

        “That indigenous Reformed churches be established which will provide fellowship and instruction, and make the gospel known in its own culture and in others.”

        This would seem to be a recognition of the “language, history, place, memory, and space” distinctions.

        If it is legitimate for the church to make temporal divisions based these grounds how is it illegitimate for the civil realm to be ordered this way?

        I’d just add I appreciated your commentary on the speculative bits of his book about Pre-fall civil government.

          • I don’t believe so.

            I asked for clarification based on how the international (nation-state) system operates and how our church approaches foreign missions.

            Shem said, “As a Christian, I’m fundamentally opposed to any type of political theory or nationalist view that separates people based on ethnicity.”

            I’m pointing out that this doesn’t seem like a tenable position ,without impugning his motives or hanging any scarlet letters on him.

            I don’t think it’s sinful to recognize that political division and subdivision is necessary in a fallen world full of sinners to maintain peace and order. For example Christian Brits voting for Brexit to separate the British people from the EU, doesn’t seem like something that Scripture demands we oppose or is inconsistent with our view of a universal church or the consummate reality of all the tribes and nations of believers coming together in the new heavens and the new earth.

            Is the United Nations making segregationist or kinist arguments when it says peoples have a right to “self-determination?” Is it segregationist or kinist to say the Kurds should have their own independent state? Free Tibet? Native American tribal sovereignty? The distinction between Danes and Norwegians? Etc

            Segregation (and the legacy of race based chattel slavery) in the American context is one of the public policy decisions (and moral failings) that inhibited the fusion of an American ethnic identity (if one is even possible in an extended Republic as large as America, which is another discussion on its own.)

            • Pete,

              Shem? (Shane Lems?)

              To say that what Shane says isn’t tenable is implicitly kinist. I’m not saying that you intend to argue the kinist view but that, logically, you’ve taken the kinist view.

              To be sure, we should operate with the same definition. See these two essays.

              The CRC Is Right About Kinism (Part One)

              The CRC Is Right About Kinism (Part Two)

              Here is Lems’ summary of Wolfe’s view:

              Concerning nation and nationalism, he believes that a nation with proper nationalist ideas consists of one ethnicity: nationalism means one ethnicity that is self-conscious and has the right to exist for itself (118). Furthermore, nationalism is rooted in a love primarily for “one’s own.” The term “one’s own” means a distinctive people of the same ethnicity who share language, history, place, memory, and space (120ff). In Wolfe’s view of a Christian nation, “no nation is composed of two or more ethnicities” (135, 139). Thus, mono-ethnic Christian nations can respect each other and make alliances, but “they cannot have a life together that goes beyond mutual alliance” (148).

              This is kinism. It’s blood and soil nationalism. In part 3 of my series interacting with the Statement on Christian Nationalism I wrote:

              The reception of Wolfe’s argument has been mixed. In his review of Wolfe’s book, Kevin DeYoung encapsulates evangelical ambivalence about Wolfe’s project:

              I understand and sympathize with the desire for something like Christian Nationalism, but if this book represents the best of that ism, then Christian Nationalism isn’t the answer the church or our nation needs. For all the fine retrieval work Wolfe does in parts of the book, the overall project must be rejected.

              The grounds for that ambivalence are obvious. De Young writes:

              he 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.

              Segregationism (known among theonomists as “kinism“) and the lust for a “charismatic Caesar-like leader” should cause any decent American’s blood to run cold. These two features were also essential to the very “blood and soil” nationalism of the Nazis. We fought and won a war against these very things. The idea that religious heretics should be put to death is a repudiation of the first amendment of the Constitution and constitutes an anti-American revolution. Miller has seriously understated the nature and intent of the most popular form of Christian Nationalism.

              Lems and DeYong are not alone in noticing this aspect of Wolfe’s project. Wes Bredenhof observed it too in his review.

              Fortunately, the Statement eschews any “blood and soil” nationalism.

              τα έθνη (the nations) in the NT refers to cultural-linguistic people groups not to political nations as we have come to use that word since the rise of the Modern nation-state. It is a mistake to conflate the two concepts.

              In the Roman empire, there were no nation-states as we know them. I’m not sure that there nation-states before the Roman Empire. There were city-states.

              To set out now, as more than a few of the Christian Nationalists have done (and I’m seeing overt kinism now on social media whereas just a few years ago it was buried in the dark corners of the internet) to re-form or establish nations on ethnic lines and especially to establish churches on ethnic lines, is deeply worrying.

              I just a fellow on Twitter/X complain that the critique of kinism is a denial of free association!

          • Hope they’ll respond. Both read as critiques based on presumption of Wolfe’s arguments (i.e., ethnic divisions being normative) being biblically sound. Only if one starts there can there be any confusion about what Shane is saying here.

          • Thank you, Dr. Clark, for raising the issue of kinism.

            Speaking as a member of the Sons of Italy, I’m the last one to deny that ethnic pride has a legitimate place.

            That place, while legitimate, is subordinate to the Gospel.

            I don’t think anyone can seriously dispute the historical fact that God raised up certain specific national groups, among them the Scots and the Dutch, who radically transformed their societies, largely according to Reformed principles, and aggressively promulgated the Reformed faith all over the world to many other places.

            The current spiritual condition of the Netherlands is a warning of what happens when the sons of the covenant apostatize. Their final condition ends up being far worse than those who never knew the gospel.

            Kinism, however, comes very close to being “white pride,” putting ethnicity above the gospel.

            It seems patently obvious that unless God brings mass conversions to the Western church, the future of Presbyterianism belongs to the Koreans and the future of Anglicanism belongs to the Africans. As for China, the work of Charles and Jonathan Chao in Reformation Translation Fellowship has reached thousands of times more people in China than the total membership of the RPCNA, and far more than the total combined membership of every NAPARC denomination.

            If Christian Nationalists want to argue that in a tribal African society, or a monoethnic culture like Korea, China, or Japan, we need to engage the culture and seek national conversion, I don’t have a problem with that argument, as long as it doesn’t create a new version of medieval Catholicism in which entire European ethnic groups got baptized as a political decision by their kings with little evidence of personal faith. Their argument may be right or they may be wrong, but the Christian Nationalists have a valid point when they say preaching the Gospel in a non-Western context that does not value individualism requires engaging the whole culture, not acting like Anabaptists and trying to carve out a private space for personal faith of a few isolated believers in a largely hostile society. To cite a non-Reformed example of a somewhat similar approach, I have very little use for the theology behind Donald McGavran’s “Homogenous Unit Principle,” but McGavran correctly understood that in non-Western cultures, we simply cannot assume Western principles of individualism when preaching the Gospel. It doesn’t work.

            If “Christian Nationalism” turns into “kinism,” its advocates need to confront the reality that the Koreans, and a significant number of Chinese, are doing a whole lot better than white people at proclaiming sovereign grace. “Kinism” would logically lead to lots of white people looking to non-Western churches for inspiration and motivation.

            Obviously that’s not happening.

            Racism rearing its ugly head may be a big part of why.

  2. The author seems hopelessly confused about what “nation” means. If “nation” is not a synonym, or near-synonym, for “ethnicity”, what could it possibly mean? When Jesus gave the Great Commission, what was the Greek word for what He told his followers to disciple, baptize, and teach?

    • I think we are talking past each other, but to be charitable I think you are also assuming some things I am not assuming and still not getting to the point I was seeking clarity on. But fair enough this is your platform.

      • Pete,

        Let’s try to be clear:

        1. I don’t think the Bible intends to say anything about the ethnic composition of a modern nation-state but the Nazis, segregationists, and Kinists do say quite a lot. I see some of the Christian Nationalists who seem sympathetic, e.g, 3 reviewers have found elements of this sort of Kinism in Wolfe’s book.

        2. Are you defending Wolfe’s kinism or are you denying that Wolfe is a Kinist?

        Can say plainly and briefly what you’re arguing?

        • “Can say plainly and briefly what you’re arguing?”

          The OP appears to be arguing a logical contradiction between your denomination’s theology of missions and it’s theology of the State.

          Pete Morrison
          February 15, 2024 @ 7:32 PM

          “‘That indigenous Reformed churches be established which will provide fellowship and instruction, and make the gospel known in its own culture and in others.’

          This would seem to be a recognition of the “language, history, place, memory, and space” distinctions.

          If it is legitimate for the church to make temporal divisions based these grounds how is it illegitimate for the civil realm to be ordered this way?”


          Pete Morrison
          February 16, 2024 @ 4:55 AM

          “I asked for clarification based on how the international (nation-state) system operates and how our church approaches foreign missions.”

          The OP seems to conflate two logical realms (or domains) – the Catholic Church and the State. If these two domains are logically equivalent, then shouldn’t he agree that with regard to the State, participants in the civil realm could (should?) have all things in common as per Acts 2:44?

          If not, then by his own logic the two realms should be treated differently.

          • Scott,

            This is helpful. Thank you.

            Shane can answer for himself but here I go.

            The OP appears to be arguing a logical contradiction between your denomination’s theology of missions and it’s theology of the State.

            Let’s see if this is true. Does the OPC argue that churches outside the USA should be intentionally mono-ethnic.

            “‘That indigenous Reformed churches be established which will provide fellowship and instruction, and make the gospel known in its own culture and in others.’

            This would seem to be a recognition of the “language, history, place, memory, and space” distinctions.

            Well, were Kenyan missionaries to plant churches in Escondido, they would be hard pressed to create a mono-ethnic church. I suspect that this is true in other places.

            I doubt that the OPC’s principle of foreign church planting is equivalent to a mono-ethnic church planting. It’s one thing to say that churches planted in France should be French, which is the OPC’s intent, and quite another to say that they should be mono-ethnic.

            If it is legitimate, for the church to make temporal divisions based these grounds how is it illegitimate for the civil realm to be ordered this way?”

            If the division is ethnic (and not national), then the distinction is indeed illegitimate. Indigenous isn’t mono-ethnic. Of course we want to plant churches with the people who live in a given place. We want to raise up indigenous leadership etc so that those churches become sustainable and not totally dependent upon foreign leadership & support.

            “I asked for clarification based on how the international (nation-state) system operates and how our church approaches foreign missions.”

            What does mono-ethnicity have to do with a nation-state or a church? These are two distinct things, are they not? A church-planter, whether foreign or domestic, finds what he finds. He’s not a social engineer. The concern is that the CN project, as articulated by Wolfe (et al.) entails a sort of Kinist social engineering driven by a desire to see a mono-ethnic nation state.

          • Dr. Clark, as much as I disagree with the idea of monoethnic churches, we probably should remember that even the 1619 Church Order of Dordt recognized the separate nature of the “Walloon Churches,” i.e., French-speaking Reformed churches. While not mentioned in the Church Order of Dordt, there was also an “English Synod” of English expatriate churches, both existing side by side the official Dutch Reformed Church.

            This isn’t just ancient history or foreign missions work. As you know, the PCA has a whole group of Korean ethnic presbyteries. There are reasons — and I know from direct firsthand experience that they are very practical and realistic reasons — why the PCA needs separate presbyteries for its Korean churches.

            On the other hand, I agree with you that to do missions today in France or Italy doesn’t mean limiting the church membership to people who are ethnically French or ethnically Italian. On the contrary, it may very well mean gathering Black evangelicals from Africa who have emigrated to those countries, can’t find an evangelical church, and are open to attending a Reformed church because it’s better than an almost-vacant Roman Catholic parish. There may be some native Italian or native French Calvinists in the core group, but it’s likely to quickly become largely non-Italian or non-French in ethnicity.

            While modern mission work will often be multicultural, I don’t think that was the original intent. I’m not at all convinced that the Presbyterians of the 1800s, when they wrote the mission language that underlies the relevant OPC and PCA denominational rules, weren’t expecting that their overseas mission churches would be monoethnic and monocultural. The Nevius Model of creating overseas churches that were not carbon copies of American (or British) churches, but rather would be self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating, seems to have assumed that the indigenous churches would have their own cultural identity.

            Again, I’m not defending monoethnic churches. I have a decades-long history of attacking that concept.

            But there was a day in the 1800s that advocating ethnic churches on the mission field was actually an improvement, because it meant the local churches could follow local cultural norms and not be forced to follow American or British cultural and ecclesiastical practices that may not have had biblical or confessional warrant. In other words, missionaries figured out that churches in China need to be Chinese, churches in Korea need to be Korean, etc.

            That isn’t giving any quarter to kinists, just saying the history of missiology isn’t always as clear-cut as we might like it to be. Views now considered racist were once considered progressive because they respected the national churches’ right to be truly indigenous.

    • Wolfe uses a custom definition of “nation/ethnicity”, based on lived experience, similarity, and cultural familiarity. His definition is as follows: “Ethnity, as something experienced, is familiarity with others based in common language, manners, customs, stories, taboos, rituals, calendars, social expectations, duties, loves, and religion.” (p 136). Its a bit odd, though not entirely unScriptural, and it fits with his stated “bottom up” view, and avoids the endless divison of ethnicity from ethnicity based on genetic markers, dividing the Anglo-Saxon into Angle and Saxon, dividing the Angle into Norman, Celt, and Briton, dividing the Norman between Gaul, Frank, and Roman, etc.

        • I wouldn’t say thats the case at all. As I said, Wolfe starts with his bottom up view, and the people to whom he applies his definition of ethnicity will in time become the people to which we apply our definition of ethnicity. Put a group of entirely random people from around the world on an island for 1000 years, and they will emerge with a distinct (but held in common among themselves) cultural and genetic identity which we would then refer to as “ethnicity”. Wolfe advocates for a worldwide diversity of cultures and genetic backgrounds- that each culture should retain its own way of life and cultural particularities where they can (not imposing that on other cultures), but always orient those things to Christ.

          • Kyle,

            This is circular.

            If a state sets out to exclude other ethnicities, as the words is typically defined, understood, and used, then yes, a state can create an ethnicity but that’s just the point: this is CN Kinism. The re-definition of ethnicity doesn’t help his case.

  3. Scott,

    Yes, apologies to Shane, not sure how my brain put his first and last names together.

    I don’t have any issue with the definition of ethne you provided from the Greek. I would disagree with your implication, but I’ll read those articles carefully this evening. I had not even heard the term until recent years.

    I’m aware of the history of political systems you mentioned.

    I don’t really think that answers my questions though.

    It’s a question if application to both political theory and practice today.

    If a Christian must reject any civil realm distinctions based on linguistic and cultural differences, then we would need to abandon the current system or be more presently transformational than the folks you regularly debate over R2K, eschatology, and CN.

    If the ideal present realizes state is Christians all living together en masse with no linguistic or cultural differences, I’m all ears. But I think that view would dissolve the already but not yet distinction of our life in this world.

    • Hi Pete,

      I think you must be assuming things I don’t assume.

      The Roman Empire as the apostles found it was a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic entity. The Apostles never sought to make either the church or the empire mono-ethnic.

      Indeed, the biblical pattern is that the church is to be a model, to some degree, of the new heavens and new earth and, i the New Covenant, the old ethnic barriers have been removed.

      Any plan to achieve a mono-ethnic (kinist) visible church would be flatly contrary to God’s Word:

      There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28; ESV).

      The NT church was multiethnic, which is why Synod had to meet in Acts 15. What were the Jewish Christians going to do with the Gentiles who were being grafted in? That’s a great issue in the NT.

      As to civil life, I’m old enough to remember segregated drinking fountains. I’m not going back. Ever.


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