I realize Canon Press and the Moscow guys are pushing Wolfe’s book hard, but it seems to me this must represent some kind of shift. Wolfe’s approach relies on Thomism and natural law (no hint of anything theonomic from what I can see so far) and emphasizes dichotomies like nature/grace and secular/sacred. These are not the categories I’ve seen Doug Wilson use in the past. Doug struck me as a one kingdom guy (kingdom of Christ vs kingdom of darkness) who opposed any kind of privatization of the church or the Word and who recognizes that ecclesiastical reformation is the key to cultural transformation. I seem to recall Doug criticizing dichotomies like secular/sacred. Wolfe is putting forward a very different paradigm, based on the a different set of philosophical presuppositions and no biblical exegesis at all.
In Doug’s post from Wednesday (“Red, Red Wine”), it seems to me he called for a kind of ecclesiocentrism - the church leads the way in teaching the world how to repent. Judgment begins with the house of God so renewal must begin with the house of God as well. But Wolfe seems to be arguing directly against this ecclesiocentric approach.
It seems to me that the very impressive “miniature Christendom” that has been built in Moscow, ID was built using principles much more like those found in theonomic ecclesiocentrism than in Wolfe’s position. Have I been misunderstanding what’s going on in Moscow all these years? Or has a change taken place?
ADDENDUM (based on Facebook discussions):
--- Ecclesiocentric Christian nationalism is a coherent position. And it could overlap a lot with Wolfe’s project. But it hard to make that case when Wolfe is so deliberately distancing himself from anything ecclesiocentric. I realize that there can be multiple versions of the same position, eg, not everyone who uses these labels means the exact same thing, and just as there are versions of Ecclesiocentrism I would reject, I am sure there are versions of Christian Nationalism Wolfe would reject. We are going to need to do a lot to clarify our terminology. Right now, I’m trying to figure out the lay of the land. I’m sure I’m not the only one asking how all the pieces of this puzzle fit together.
---- Wolfe seems to reject the very idea that the church leads the world. His twitter thread called the church a “guest” of the state. That’s quite odd to me — how can the embassy of the King of kings be a guest? Didn't Paul say all things belong to us? Maybe Caesar is a guest in OUR world. It seems to me that for Wolfe the mission of the church is to help individuals reach their heavenly telos, not disciple the nations into a new Christendom. He says the church is very limited with regard to earthly goods. This basically makes the church a gnostic entity. She only deals with the heavenly and ethereal. It’s the very thing I think we need to get away from. Do any of the Moscow guys agree with Wolfe that the church serves the soul and focuses on heaven, to the exclusion of the body and things earthly? Canon’s other publishing decisions (e.g., books on earthly goods like marriage and parenting, books on manhood and womanhood, etc.) seem to indicate that this is either an exception or a radical change for Canon and Moscow.
Further, I wonder how Wolfe's political theology, with all its dualisms, actually squares with the Westminster Confession, in both original and American forms. Perhaps he will deal with this in book. But the men who wrote the Confession would never have said that the church is a "guest" of the state in this world or in any nation. In fact, the Christian kings of past times would never have considered the church a mere "guest" in their realms. Above the high altar at Westminster Abbey where the Westminster divines met, the words from Revelation 11 are inscribed: "The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." Jesus' church is no more a mere "guest" in the kingdoms of this world than Jesus himself is a guest.
---- One fear I have with Wolfe’s closed Bible approach is that it will end up with an all too powerful state and a limp-wristed church. Imagine telling the civil powers-that-be in April of 2020 that the church is just a "guest" in America. They'd say, "Ok great, close your doors for the next 6 months, then you can meet with masks on so long as you stay 6 feet apart and don’t sing. After all, you are guests here - we are your hosts and will tell you what you can do." No thank you. I realize Wolfe would not go that direction with it, but everything I seen so far suggests a terribly underdeveloped ecclesiology, which has been the Achilles heel of American Christianity for a long time (see my "Compact Road Map to American History").
Doug Wilson is always warning us about rewinding the video tape, thinking we will get a different result when it plays out again, but it never happens. So far it looks to me like Wolfe has just rewound the video tape, repeating rather than learning from the flaws of the last Christendom.
---- Wolfe’s attempt to do political theology with a closed Bible is very problematic. It allows him to assume certain dualisms that could never find support in the text of Scripture. His categories do not come from the Bible and often seem to be at odds with the Bible. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly is Christian about his nationalism. I am NOT saying it is not Christian, but I am asking HOW distinctively Christian and biblical teachings shape it. A nationalism based on Thomistic natural law is not the same as social order explicitly under Christ’s lordship and Word. “Natural law nationalism” is not the same as “Christian nationalism.” Has Wolfe separated special and natural revelation? In reality, God designed special and natural revelation to work together as a single revelatory system.
----- This video is helpful — start at the 19 minute mark for the discussion of theonomy and Christian Nationalism. Choc Knox is raising a similar question (minus the role of the church part) that I brought up . Basically, Doug says we can all get along because theonomists and Christian nationalists want more or less the same thing.
I am totally fine with a small “t” theonomy that also makes appeals to nature/natural revelation to complement and supplement Scripture - that’s been my approach for a long time. I agree with Doug on that. But it seems to me that the Christian nationalism proposed by Wolfe is the mirror image of Theonomy -- Wolfe wants to appeal to natural law to the exclusion of Scripture. He certainly does not what the church getting out of its lane and telling the magistrate what to do because the church's focus is heavenly, not earthly.
But we still have a couple things to sort out. While Wilson seems to think we can all get along, Wolfe does not seem to share that chumminess. I don’t think he wants to get along. Take note of that -- unless something changes, it does mean folks will eventually have to choose sides in the mess.
Also, the video really doesn’t address the role of the church in re-establishing a Christian society. This is crucial since the oracles of God have been entrusted to the church. That’s why I am asking Wolfe: *Who* does the discipling of the nations as nations? He wants the church to focus on heavenly things and individual salvation. That leaves a void. Who fills it? And how will it be filled? That void is exactly what got us privatization and secularization over the last several centuries - a private church teaching a private gospel based on a “personal relationship with Jesus” leaves public life to the secularists. I believe we need a public church teaching a public gospel with application to everything.
Wolfe is explicit about a secular/sacred dichotomy. But who gets to shape and control that secular realm? Ecclesiocentrists would say the church is responsible to provide discipleship in a basic way for the other spheres - not in every detail, of course, but at least the broad framework for fathers, magistrates, bankers, lawyers, etc. Our slogan: “All of Scripture for all of life.”
If Wolfe is really leaving the whole secular sphere to be discipled by and governed by natural law, I see it as a dead end. That’s the precisely the view that got us where we are today. It looks to me like all the same dichotomies that plague the "radical two kingdom" approach of Westminster in California are popping up in Wolfe's "two kingdom" work -- separating natural and special revelation, separating the public secular sphere from the private sacred sphere, etc.
---- Further proof of Wolfe's commitment to a privatized church is seen in his twitter thread today denying that worship is warfare. This would further seem to put him at odds with Wilson and the Moscow crowd who have (rightly) argued that worship is warfare. It's rather obvious exegetically that worship has a political dimension. For Wolfe to deny this puts him outside the camp I want to be in, to be honest.
---- It’s been said Wolfe’s work presupposes a Christian magistrate in a state that identifies as Christian and that explains some of his claims. Yes that’s true, but I think that’s actually the problem rather than the way towards a solution. This is one reason why so much academic theology is utterly useless. It is written for a context that does not exist. We will not solve our problems if we just try to repristinate the views of the Reformers from 500 years ago. Wolfe’s tweet said “just stick with the classical Protestant tradition.” But in this case that’s impossible. It’s just LARPing, as if we could time travel back to Calvin’s Geneva. The classical two kingdom view was perfectly suited to its day but it is not a timeless model for church and state. It grew out of Christendom but did not create Christendom.
The Kuyperian transformationalist model was actually an adaptation of Reformational principles to a changing and challenging social situation. Wolfe rejects it, but it’s actually more useful to us because it is suited for a cultural context more like our own.
One advantage of the ecclesiocentristic model is that it draws heavily from the pre-Constantinian church and thus it can help us better figure out how to recreate Christendom, as opposed to pretending we still lived in Christendom.
---- What is the relationship of liturgy to political action? It’s not an either/or but a both/and. It’s not worship instead of cultural action, but worship as the foundation of cultural action.
Where is the Christian citizen going to learn how to be a Christian citizen? Where is the magistrate going to learn about his basic duty to “kiss the Son”? Wolfe would say the church cannot do it because it focuses on heavenly, spiritual things. He does not want the church to have a public, political character. I don’t see how we can get from here to there, from the present chaos to a restored, Christian nation. When this has happened in the past, it’s because Christians, especially pastors, told Caesar his duty to God. There were Election Day sermons. Calvin addressed his Institutes to the king of France. Lanctantius discipled Constantine in how govern as a Christian. Ambrose excommunicated Theodosius until he repented of evil actions and policies. The church has a political power that the American church has completely ignored which is one reason why our political activism has been so thin and weak. We need the liturgy to back up and support whatever political activism we engage in, otherwise we are acting like practical atheists.