On Nationalism

Posted by TJ on 11/21/2022Tags: Linked, Nationalism, Politics, Recommended Resource, TheologyOn Nationalism

You might ask why I would describe this paragraph on page 118 as the “end” of a 475-page book? Because the sentence that follows begins, “Having established these conclusions…” Since, as I will explain at length, Wolfe has in no way “established” these conclusions, everything that follows from page 118 to page 475 is essentially superfluous. There may be some material of interest—and some of it will elicit comment—but none of it reaches the heart of the matter.


Wolfe begins the book by exempting himself from the tasks of exegesis and biblical theology: “Some readers will complain that I rarely appeal to Scripture to argue for my positions. I understand that frustration, but allow me to explain: I am neither a theologian nor a biblical scholar. I have no training in moving from scriptural interpretation to theological articulation.”

Wolfe’s ambivalence toward the Bible has deeper roots, however, than mere feigned ignorance about how to do biblical interpretation. The fact is rather that he doesn’t think he needs to do any biblical interpretation in the first place. The irrelevance of the Bible to the task at hand—political theory—is deeply embedded in his own understanding of reason and revelation, nature and grace.

What I find fascinating is that Wolfe sees the Bible and Biblical interpretation as not interesting or important to what he’s writing about. Yet his work is being promoted by those of my acquaintance or who’s work I have liked or am familiar with, who cast themselves in the Van Tillian or Kyperian traditions. In The Defense of the Faith, Van Til (perhaps famously) says:

The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything. We do not mean that it speaks of football games, of atoms, etc., directly, but we do mean that it speaks of everything either directly or by implication. It tells us not only of the Christ and his work, but it also tells us who God is and where the universe about us has come from. It tells us about theism as well as about Christianity. It gives us a philosophy of history as well as history. Moreover, the information on these subjects is woven into an inextricable whole. It is only if you reject the Bible as the word of God that you can separate the so-called religious and moral instruction of the Bible from what it says, e.g., about the physical universe.

I’m not sure how you can cast yourself in this tradition unless you are willing to apply the Bible and Biblical interpretation to everything, including the political realm.

Stephen Wolfe is also of a very two kingdoms persuasion. I do have friends of the two kingdoms persuasion. I would never say they weren’t Christians. We can be friends and I even have some sympathy for some two kingdom thinking. Nevertheless, the primary influences in my life are not of two kingdom thought. Yet this book, which is clearly based on two kingdom theology, has taken my non-two kingdom influences by storm.

If one consults, say, his academic Ph.D thesis looking for some deeper explanation, one finds more of the same: the crassest sort of dualism, with everything divvied up very neatly between “heavenly” things about metaphysics and salvation known by faith and “earthly” things like science and politics known by reason. In that work he even includes a flowchart dividing it all up that would get full marks from Professor Kant of Königsberg, who would then, of course, just tear the sheet of paper in half and throw the “heavenly” side into his fireplace.

Because you like someone’s conclusions (and I’m not saying I like all of Wolfe’s conclusions, though I dare say I would fall in line with a great many of them) does not mean I agree with the means used to arrive there. Just because two opposed trajectories intersect, that is no reason to jump on the opposing train. If you jump off the train going in the right direction for the intersecting train going in the wrong direction, you will find yourself at the wrong destination.

And finally, somewhat relatedly, I made a meme, and Andrew Sandlin saw it somewhere and shared it 🙂.