The Different Shades of Christian Nationalism

Josh Buice

American,Flag,And,Religious,Cross,At,Sunset

Perhaps you’re a Christian who lives in America and you’ve been concerned with the direction of our nation over the last several years. That concern is not unmerited. We have watched the nation legalize homosexuality, embrace critical race theory and intersectionality, and now we’re currently debating the proper age for butchering children for sex change procedures.

If you have a problem with legalized grooming of children by Drag Queen story hour at your local community library, the insistence that Christians embrace the latest alphabet soup of pronouns and homosexual titles, and you disagree with the degradation of our sense of morality as a nation—what’s the answer? For some, it’s Christian Nationalism. So, what is Christian Nationalism and should we as Christians embrace this movement as the answer to the decline of our great nation? In order to deal with this issue, I will attempt to provide some basic definitions and move to a stated position by way of conclusion.

What Is Nationalism?

According to Merriam-Webster, the term nationalism refers to “loyalty and devotion to a nation, especially a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.” While this is similar to patriotism, it’s distinct in that it elevates one nation above all others. It would be good to avoid using these terms interchangeably.

In a similar way, the Encyclopedia Britannica provides the following definition. “Nationalism is an ideology that emphasizes loyalty, devotion, or allegiance to a nation or nation-state and holds that such obligations outweigh other individual or group interests.”

Within this current moment, we have a movement that uses a compound term (Christian Nationalism) that’s being employed by all sorts of different groups which will necessitate intentional differentiation and specificity of meaning. While it’s good to support sovereign national identity, closed borders, and capitalism, that’s not exactly how the term functions within the framework of Christian Nationalism.

What Is Christian Nationalism?

In many ways, that’s a complicated question. It’s like asking, “What does it mean to be Presbyterian?” Do you mean PCA, PCUSA, OPC, or other versions such as CREC? To be clear, there are various versions of Christian Nationalism being offered up within both political and evangelical circles. It’s possible to be a Christian who is proud of your nation (in a patriotic way), and yet not fall into the category of a Christian Nationalist.

It’s possible to be a Christian who is proud of your nation (in a patriotic way), and yet not fall into the category of a Christian Nationalist.

Within this conversation, we have various terms that are being connected with Christian Nationalism either by necessity of the relationship or by way of an alternative title altogether. Some of the key language includes:

  • Conservative Patriotism
  • White Christian Nationalism
  • Conservative Political Nationalism
  • Political Protestantism
  • Christian Nationalism
  • Mere Christendom

For instance, more than 5,000 people assembled in Pennsylvania for the ReAwaken America Tour back in late 2022 where Donald Trump addressed concerned attendees regarding the direction of the nation. The central message of the event was focused on a reaction to the “woke” leftist politics and agenda being pressed upon our country. “We face a battle in our country,” retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser turned election denier, told the crowd. “I mean, Christianity is under attack. Honestly, it feels like everything is under attack.”1Annie Gowen, Washington Post: “Right-wing roadshow promotes Christian nationalism before midterms After Donald Trump spoke, more than 100 people lined up to be baptized. This movement is using the term Christian Nationalism to describe their cause and Christian baptism as a sign.

As you continue to survey the political landscape, you find Christian Nationalism appearing on  T-shirts that proclaim “Proud Christian nationalist” sold by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene(R-Ga.). Samuel Perry, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma and the co-author of the book The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy makes the claim that “white Christian Nationalism” is growing rapidly within the Republican party. While we continue to see Christian Nationalism appearing in the sphere of politics, that’s not exactly the version being discussed within evangelicalism.

At the time of this article, the gold standard definition for the movement within evangelicalism is by Stephen Wolfe in his book, A Case for Christian Nationalism. However, prior to the release of his book, Andrew Torba and Andrew Isker released a much shorter book titled, Christian Nationalism: A Biblical Guide For Taking Dominion And Discipling Nations. Andrew Torba is the founder and CEO of Gab.com. Andrew Isker is the pastor of 4th Street Evangelical Church in Waseca, MN. He is a graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato and Greyfriars Hall Ministerial Training School in Moscow, ID, and he has served churches in Missouri, West Virginia, and Minnesota. The description of their book provides the following statement regarding Christian Nationalism:

Christian Nationalism is a spiritual, political, and cultural movement comprised of Christians who are working to build a parallel Christian society grounded in a Biblical worldview. This book is a guide for Christians to take dominion and disciple their families, churches, and all nations for the glory of Jesus Christ our King.

Doug Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, ID, provides the following endorsement to Andrew Torba and Andrew Isker’s book, “If you want to know more about Christian Nationalism, this book is for you. You will be getting your info from the horse’s mouth, as it were, instead of from the mainstream media, which is oriented more to the other end of the horse.”

Andrew Torba, the founder of Gab.com has also come under intense heat for public statements that were perceived as antisemitic, including his stated desire to overcome a “Judeo-Bolshevik” society (a term that makes the claim that communism is a Jewish plot). Torba has also said conservative Jews and non-Christians are welcome to stay in his ideal society, going as far as to say the following about his version of the Christian Nationalist movement:

We don’t want people who are atheists. We don’t want people who are Jewish. We don’t want people who are, you know, nonbelievers, agnostic, whatever. This is an explicitly Christian movement because this is an explicitly Christian country.

Needless to say, such statements have not been received well which has opened the door for Wolfe’s book which has gained a great deal of popularity.

Stephen Wolfe published his book, A Case for Christian Nationalism in November of 2022. In his book, Wolfe lays out several key points regarding Christian Nationalism, including the following definition:

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.2Stephen Wolfe, A Case for Christian Nationalism, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2022), 141 of 8002 Electronic Kindle Version.)

While this is not a review of Wolfe’s book, what he provides us in print is a working definition for what he references as a “pan-Protestant project.” Perhaps one of the most controversial chapters of the book is found in the seventh chapter where Wolfe lays out his views regarding civil government and the “Great Man” that he calls, “The Christian Prince.” He claims to build upon Francis Turretin and John Calvin as he writes:

The prince, unlike the church minister, is a mediator-“a vicar of God”-in outward, civil affairs. As Calvin said, civil rulers “represent the person of God, as whose substitutes they in a manner act.” For this reason, the prince is called a “god” in Scripture (Ps. 82:6). He has, as Calvin said, a “sacred character and title.” In a sense, we see God in the magistrate.3Wolfe, Christian Nationalism, 4813 of 8002

These statements create more questions and growing concern among those of us who hold to a different view of church and state relationships.

A (Brief) Case Against Christian Nationalism

While I do fully embrace the once pejorative label of “Christian,” I would want to distance myself from any form of Christian Nationalism proper. I am concerned with various hybrid approaches to Christianity (i.e. “Woke Church” or “White Christian” or “Black Christian” as examples of this confusion). The foundation for my position is based on the theological conclusions that I’ve come to embrace through a study of Scripture with application to our context.

Allow me to explain some of my concerns and set forth some unanswered questions. My attempt in laying out my concerns is a stand for the gospel, for God’s church, for the truth, for freedom, and one that I would hope would not be viewed as intentionally divisive, obtuse, or public opposition against friends. Christians should pursue unity when possible, but I likewise believe it’s possible to disagree on the issue of Christian Nationalism without unnecessarily fracturing friendships. Those who hold the issue of Christian Nationalism to a higher degree of essentials may press this to a necessary point of division, and in such cases although it’s not my intention, I would concur.

Concerns Regarding Government Overreach

I embrace the idea set forth in the first paragraph of the 1689 London Baptist Confession in chapter one “On Holy Scripture” regarding the sufficiency of Scripture for faith and life in obedience to God. In chapter 24 “Of the Civil Magistrate” the 1689 LBC in paragraph one says God has “armed them with the power of the sword, for defense and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil doers.” Notice that there is nothing stated about the keys. It only references the sword. Therefore, any conflating of these two responsibilities would, in my estimation, be a contradiction to Scripture (Rom 13).

We must remember that the writers of the 1689 LBC intentionally omitted a paragraph contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith that dealt with the role of the magistrate in overseeing various powers to preserve order, peace, truth, worship, and discipline of the church. Our Baptist forefathers were aiming at religious liberty for the church rather than encouraging the civil magistrate to take hold of both the sword and the keys.

I reject the integration of church and state at any formal level. I believe that these two spheres (to use the Kuyperian model of sphere sovereignty) is helpful to distinguish the differences between the sphere of the church and the sphere of the state. One is civil and the other is spiritual. One has been given the sword while the other has been given the keys. While there will be some overlap within both spheres, specifically the church within a nation will be members of both spheres, there is a boundary that must be maintained. Just as the king and the priest had very distinct separation within Old Testament Israel, I believe that the civil magistrate must never take up the keys of the church nor should the church seek to wield the sword that’s clearly given to the magistrate.

Church history is replete with cases of the religious establishment using force to bring about the submission of the people. This was true during the Reformation when John Rogers was burned at the stake in 1555 under the reign of Queen Mary I (aka – Bloody Mary). This led to the burning of the Oxford Martyrs in the streets. During the days of the Puritans, such unbiblical pressures upon the illegal brand of Christianity opened the door for the Great Ejection and persecution. John Bunyan spent 12 long years in a prison because of such governmental overreach. Therefore, I reject the argument made in a roundtable conversation by Timon Cline that since mankind is made up of body and soul the role of the magistrate is to “lead his people to the gates of eternal salvation.”4The London Lyceum, “A Protestant Political Party Roundtable” – In the discussion, Timon Cline quotes Franciscus Junius, a Reformed scholar who studied under John Calvin and became a minister in … Continue reading I would see this as the commission of God’s church (Matt 28:18-20).

When we study the founding of the United States of America, we see the Framers of the Constitution of the United States aiming at something different than what they had experienced in a negative sense in their motherland. That’s why the First Amendment reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Therefore, over the last several years it was right and good for the church to question the authority of the state to enforce lockdown rules and prevent the church from assembling to worship God (during the COVID-19 controversy). It was proper for pastors to speak directly to the civil rulers and call them to repentance. Why would Christians want to make the case that the government should have one hand upon the sword and another hand upon the keys?

John the Baptist spoke directly to Herod about his sin of adultery, and the pulpits today should not be silent regarding pagan leaders who openly sin and engage in legislating through a pagan lens.

I would adamantly oppose the view that Christians should shrink back from the public square and refuse to preach the gospel to everyone—including the civil authorities. John the Baptist spoke directly to Herod about his sin of adultery, and the pulpits today should not be silent regarding pagan leaders who openly sin and engage in legislating through a pagan lens. We see instances of other men doing this historically, including some modern examples such as John Piper calling out the President of the United States and John MacArthur calling out Governor Gavin Newsom for the sin of supporting and legislating the slaughter of babies. Both Piper and MacArthur would reject Postmillennialism and Christian Nationalism.

Therefore, I wholeheartedly disagree with those who claim that a rejection of Christian Nationalism results in pietism where Christians hide beneath church pews while praying incessantly, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” The charge of shrinking back in fear of addressing sin in the public square is simply inaccurate and uncharitable.

The Danger of Nominal Christianity

As a Baptist in the vein of the Reformation (Reformed Baptist), I embrace the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith and I baptize believers as they profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Therefore, any attempt to Baptize the nations by forcing people by magisterial rule to embrace the label of “Christian” would be an overreach of governmental authority. This error can find a direct connection to a theological error of Paedobaptism. As a Baptist, there is an obvious disconnect at this point which is precisely why Stephen Wolfe said:

Since I am not credobaptist myself, I don’t have any great personal interest in reconciling Baptist doctrine and Christian nationalism. Such reconciliation might be possible, and I hope that it is. But I’ll leave that to the Baptist thinkers. In any event, Baptists can join with non-Baptists in a Christian nationalist project as equal members, though I suspect that paedobaptists would be the most stabilizing force in a pan-Protestant political community.5 Wolfe, Christian Nationalism 3726 of 8002 Electronic Kindle Version.

Thus, I believe Christian Nationalism leads to the spread of nominal Christianity which is a cancerous condition that is both dangerous to individual citizens providing them with false eternal security and threatens the whole of the civilization under a big government rule.

Necessary Questions for this Conversation

As you can imagine, the subject is important and one that I believe merits time and a robust biblical examination. This conversation also opens up the door for additional questions to be addressed, which we intend to address at G3 Ministries over the coming weeks. Some of these important questions regarding Christian Nationalism would include:

  1. Is Christian Nationalism, as defined in this article, compatible within the framework of the 1689 London Baptist Confession? Can a person be a Baptist historically and embrace this view of church and state relationships?
  2. Will the empowerment of a “Christian Prince” and the punishment of sinners encroach upon Jesus’ blueprint of church discipline found in Matthew 18?
  3. If a “Christian Prince” is empowered, what happens to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America? As a citizen of the United States and a Christian living in this nation, I believe that’s a valid question.
  4. Could there be concerted efforts within the shadows of the political sphere that are manipulating a reaction within the Christian community to the woke agenda in order to bring about specific change in the relationship between church and state that could actually be weaponized against the church?
  5. Are there parallels between the methodologies of Christian Nationalism and CRT/I that introduce ethnocentrism?
  6. Do the goals of Christian Nationalism fit within the pilgrim ethos of New Testament Christianity? In other words, if John Bunyan had been a Christian Nationalist, would we have The Pilgrim’s Progress?
  7. When it comes to ordering a Christian nation under the banner of Christian Nationalism, what version of Christianity will be enforced? In other words, will it be a minimalist approach to embracing the Apostles’ Creed or something more robust? Who makes this decision on what creed is the law of the land?

The church has been commissioned by Jesus to go and preach the gospel. We are to engage in the common public sphere by delivering the good news and supporting efforts to pass biblical legislation which will lead an orderly society and the glory of God. As Christians, we labor in the fields with the seed of the gospel sowing and watering, but only God can give the increase. The human heart will not be changed by civil legislation. That’s not the realm of the civil magistrate. It’s the realm of our sovereign God who has the authority to call dead sinners to life by summoning them out of darkness into his marvelous light.

As Christians, we labor in the fields with the seed of the gospel sowing and watering, but only God can give the increase. The human heart will not be changed by civil legislation.

As the gospel preached results in changed lives, such changed lives will result in changed homes. As families are ordered according to the gospel, it will lead to a positive change within the civil sphere which showers blessings upon a society. However, this common good is not the ultimate aim. The end goal is not Christian Nationalism or Christendom. Ultimately, the church perseveres in the faith by preaching the gospel of King Jesus and longing for a better city just as Abraham did—one whose designer and builder is God (Heb 11). When Christ returns, he will make all things new. The dwelling place of God will be with man (Rev 21:3). He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more pain, disease, or death—for those former things will have passed away (Rev 21:4-5).

This is not a Protestant project. This is not Christian Nationalism. Simply put, this is Christianity.  

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References

References
1 Annie Gowen, Washington Post: “Right-wing roadshow promotes Christian nationalism before midterms
2 Stephen Wolfe, A Case for Christian Nationalism, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2022), 141 of 8002 Electronic Kindle Version.
3 Wolfe, Christian Nationalism, 4813 of 8002
4 The London Lyceum, “A Protestant Political Party Roundtable” – In the discussion, Timon Cline quotes Franciscus Junius, a Reformed scholar who studied under John Calvin and became a minister in Antwerp and died in 1602.
5 Wolfe, Christian Nationalism 3726 of 8002 Electronic Kindle Version.
Author American,Flag,And,Religious,Cross,At,Sunset

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.