From Babel to Pentecost & Beyond: A Biblical-Theological Response to Stephen Wolfe’s Nationalism

In “The Case for Christian Nationalism,” Stephen Wolfe contends that while the church may give us the “principal image” of heavenly life, only a Christian nation can give us the “complete image.” He explains, “For in addition to being a worshipping people, the Christian nation has submitted to magistrates and constitutes a people whose cultural practices and self-conception provide a foretaste of heaven.” By making a Christian nation the foretaste of heaven, I believe Wolfe moves Christians away from the epicenter of God’s purposes in the church where his manifold wisdom is now made known (Eph 3:10). Moreover, since Wolfe wrongly assumes that nations are a natural prelapsarian institution, he even imports the preferential partiality and contrary customs between distinct peoples into nature, thus undermining the reconciliation purchased by Christ for the church.

Rather than building philosophical premises and conclusions about nature and then claiming grace cannot undermine such arguments (as Wolfe does), I believe we must allow what is revealed regarding the third (redemptive) and fourth (glorified) states of man in Scripture to shape what is in continuity/discontinuity with the state of integrity. In agreement with D. A. Carson, I am convinced the “stance is most likely to be deeply Christian which attempts to integrate all the major biblically determined turning points in the history of redemption.” I will argue that when we follow the biblical storyline, ethnicity/nationality as we see and experience it in the world is a postlapsarian institution ordained by God at the Tower of Babel for the preservation of his holy seed/people. This institution will remain until the second coming of the True Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, from Genesis 9 until Revelation 19 nations are a divinely sanctioned institution out of which God redeems his chosen people.

There have been a number of responses to Wolfe’s book already, Historians such as John Wilsey and Mark David Hall, and theologians such as Kevin DeYoung, Bradley Green, and Andrew Walker have offered strong pushback. My contribution to this conversation will be to put forward a robust biblical theology of nations in keeping with past theologians like Geerhardus Vos, Herman Bavinck, and Nehemiah Coxe. I am convinced there is a better path forward than Wolfe’s speculative construction of nationalism, one that has both a sound logical progression and is warranted by special revelation. Moreover, my case allows for the church, or the holy nation as Scripture describes Christ’s community of saints (1 Pet 2:9), to be brought to the foreground and given primacy as an organizing principle, restoring what is natural and avoiding the error of elevating secondary (and/or sinful) distinctions to override the ideal.