I appreciated a lot of Wolfe’s critique of VanDrunen’s radical two kingdom view, including the way he brought out its latent antinomianism. But there are still some problems with Wolfe’s two kingdom view, especially the heaven/earth, sacred/secular dualism built into it.
I do not think Wolfe has done justice to the Calvinistic transformationalists (CT). Many (probably most) would reject Wolfe’s claim that CTs view the social world as a social construct (p. 102). Woltersdorf would be the outlier here. For example, Oliver O’Donovan makes the case that the resurrection of Jesus ties together creation ethics and kingdom ethics because it reaffirms the goodness of the original creation even as it inaugurates the new creation. Making the gospel formative for politics does not mean jettisoning nature or creational structures. There is no reason to think the gospel cancels “natural affections” even if we argue it expands our affections in new directions (eg, Luke 10, Acts 10, Gal. 2:11ff, Eph. 2:11ff, etc).
Wolfe says, “Religion should be mainly about the gospel, that is, about the means to eternal life. And so corporate worship ought primarily (though not exclusively) to address souls and administer sacred things for heavenly life.” Granting the parenthetical statement that softens his claim, it is still obvious Wolfe wants pastors to stay out of earthly life, including politics. He wants worship separated from earthly concerns. While he states that “Christians in general, as restored human beings, have obligations to sacred and secular things,” he only wants pastors to address the sacred side of life: “Pastors should concern themselves mainly with sacred things” (p. 104-5).
It seems to me that Wolfe’s version of the gospel is truncated and so he also truncates the role of the pastor, including the political role of the pastor. The gospel is inherently political. The apostles and early Christians would not have been persecuted if they had limited their preaching to sacred and heavenly matters, like how to get individual souls to heaven when they die. Instead, they proclaimed “Jesus is Lord” and found themselves accused of treason against Caesar (Acts 17). I’ve said many times that if you aren’t accused of treason, you probably haven’t preached the gospel. Jesus came announcing the “gospel of the kingdom” — and that kingdom was understood in context as a new age breaking into history to transform Israel and the nations, in accordance with the prophetic promises (Isaiah 9, 11, 65-66, etc.) The prophets did not promise a kingdom that would be only “heavenly” or “spiritual” but a kingdom that would bring restoration and transformation to all of life and all nations. The kingdom — indeed, the gospel of kingdom — could not be confined to a sacred or private realm. It is a vision of all of life, culture, and creation renewed. The gospel of the kingdom is like a little bit of leaven that works it way through the dough and leavens everything.
It seems to me that Wolfe’s strictures on what pastors preach could inadvertently undercut his larger project of establishing Christian nationalism. The Scriptures address all kinds of mundane earthly matters, such as citizenship, commerce, family life, work, etc. In some cases, the line between the heavenly and the earthly gets severely blurred. For example, it is impossible to preach Ephesians 5:21ff without talking about both earthly marriage and the heavenly archetype after which it is patterned. Wolfe’s proposed heaven/earth, sacred/secular dualism will either muzzle the text or get smashed by the text. I prefer the latter.
I am not saying pastors need to comment on every piece of legislation that comes down the pike. Obviously not. That cheapens the pulpit and makes politics more important than it actually is. The focus of the pastor’s message is always salvation. But precisely because this salvation is so comprehensively transformative, the pastor will end up touching on everything under the sun. A faithful pastor will make application of the Scripture to every area of life and culture precisely because the Bible authoritatively addresses the sacred and the secular, and the Jesus he proclaims rules over heaven and earth, time and eternity.
Wolfe goes on to say, “The claim that the gospel is mainly about eternal life does not preclude the Christianization of civil institutions and laws or the improvement and correction of civil life by appealing to Scripture.” I agree with that - almost. Two caveats: the gospel is about the kingdom, not merely eternal life. And if pastors are not allowed to appeal to Scripture with an aim to Christianizing our institutions, per Wolfe’s earlier rule, who will?
Later Wolfe criticizes those who advocate for “gospel politics”: “By what principle do they permit the realization of some aspects of glory and not others? Is marriage now rescinded because there is no marriage in the state of glory? Two kingdoms theology - keeping the spiritual kingdom of Christ and the outward socio-political order separate — follows logically from Reformed theological anthropology” p. 107-8). I would contest these claims. First, all of us see continuity and discontinuity between the present age and the final consummation. Wolfe wonders why marriage endures if the kingdom/new creation is already present, but I could just as easily ask Wolfe how “natural” and “creational” realities like gender and nationality can be brought into the future resurrection state (we have every reason to believe they will be). God’s goal from the beginning was the make heaven and earth one. But further, the principle that determines what it means for the gospel to reshape social relations in the present is Scripture itself. By Scripture we know marriage continues to the end of the present age, as we seek to fulfill the creation mandate - but we also know that marriage itself has been elevated and transformed by Christ’s coming to redeem his bride. Scripture shows us how the created structures of the old age function in the kingdom the messiah established through his death and resurrection. There is nothing arbitrary about it all. As the new Adam, Christ will fulfill the creation mandate - but he does so in union with his bride, the church.
Perhaps Wolfe’s discussion is nuanced enough that it can handle these criticisms. But I think his whole project - at least as far as I have read into to this point - is haunted by dualisms that prevent the kingdom, the Scripture, and the preaching ministry of the pastor from being able to come to full realization, which ironically undercuts the church’s ability to disciple the nations into Christian nations.
ADDENDUM (from Facebook discussion): The philosophical work Wolfe does, laying the Thomistic/dualistic basis for his case, is entirely unnecessary, distracting, and actually counter-productive to what he’s trying to accomplish. He starts with dualisms he will have to overcome if he actually wants a Christian nation. Unlike the modern R2K crowd, he really does want institutionalized Christianity - there is a difference. But he falls into some of the same traps as the R2K guys.
He could have formed much cleaner, simpler foundation for his project starting with God as Creator (the creation mandate) or Jesus as risen Lord (the great commission).  But I think one of the reasons he starts out the way he does is because the ethnocentric piece is so important for him, and he derives that from Aristotle rather than Scripture. The ethnocentric aspect is really the most controversial part of what he has to say. I think the guys in Moscow are doing damage control on that front (see Wilson’s latest post) but it brings in all kinds of unwelcome associations and problems. There is a much better way to frame the whole “natural affections” argument. Basically, Wolfe tries to argue that in an unfallen world, we’d all be quasi-kinists, loving our own group. It’s highly speculative. If one believes, on prudential grounds, that nations should preserve and protect themselves and their way of life, that’s fine - but it has to be limited and qualified in all kinds of ways and he really doesn’t do that because he’s following Aristotle rather than Paul.
ADDENDUM 2 (from Facebook discussion): Wolfe uses a variety of quotes that make it sound as if Calvin believed in the same heavenly/earthly, sacred/secular dualism that Wolfe advocates. But a closer study of the historical evidence will show that Calvin most certainly did not. Calvin is much more integrated than Wolfe's dualisms will allow. There are all kinds of ways to prove this. For example, Calvin's Institutes not only addresses many "earthly" matters, like politics and social order, it was actually dedicated to the King of France. In Calvin's sermons, he violates Wolfe's dualistic rules about preaching, addressing all kinds of "earthly" matters. Further, it well known that Calvin's teaching spawned widespread interest in Christian worldview, with Calvinistic approaches to politics, economics, education, art, etc. My library has numerous books of this sort, exploring how Calvin's theology impacted almost every area of life and in many ways can be credited with the rise of Protestant/modern Western civilization. However much "two kingdoms" theologians might want to claim Calvin in theory, they cannot do so in practice. This one on many reasons why I believe the more integrated approach that eventually became known as Kuyperianism can be seen as an entirely legitimate offshoot of Calvin's work.
ADDENDUM 3: On p. 148, Wolfe follows Aristotle in claiming that people from different ethnic groups can cannot have "a life together that goes beyond mutual alliance." It is hard to know exactly what this means since "ethnic" is a word with a wide range of applications. But it is an essentially false claim. We have numerous examples of ethnic inter-marriage in Scripture (e.g., Boaz and Ruth) that are certainly not mere "mutual alliances" but are precisely examples of "shared life." It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Wolfe is a kind of kinist given this passage. He sounds more like the pagan Egyptians who desired racial segregation from the Hebrews in Genesis 43:32 that any view that finds actual approval in the Scripture. Whatever we might say about natural affections, this is anti-gospel. One can imagine Peter saying the same thing in Galatians 2, before Paul rebuked him to his face. The gospel does not support racial or ethnic segregation as a good in itself. The gospel does not negate natural affections (cf. Rom. 9:3), but it certainly enlarges our affections. Wolfe's argument that all of humanity would have been quasi-kinist in an unfallen world fails the test of "grace restores and perfects nature." If the gospel brings together the various people groups into one family, one people, one household (cf. Gal. 3:8), then there is no reason to assume an unfallen world would be a kinist world of racial/ethnic segregation. Unfortunately, Wolfe has chosen to follow Aristotle rather than Paul. Wolfe all but justifies a kind of "soft racism."
ADDENDUM 4: It's been pointed out that Kuyper self-consciously departed from the early Reformres on church/state issues: "We do not at all hide the fact that we disagree with Calvin, our Confessions, and our Reformed theologians." He championed a modification to Article 36 of the Belgic Confession. I do not believe we need to follow Kuyper in every detail -- he got many things wrong. But his departure from the older Reformers on church/state relations was a virtual necessity, for the world had changed a great deal between the 16th and 18th centuries. Frankly, none of the American founders believed in Calvin's view of church/state relations either. American Presbyterians modified the WCF in 1789 to fit the new situation. There is no absolutely timeless position to take on the proper church/state set up. We should not try to repristinate the views of the Reformers (or even of Kuyper) in our own day -- and it would be impossible to do so anyway. Kuyper made a mistake in moving away from a theocratic politics towards pluralism because it opened the door to greater secualrization (as the Netherlands of today shows). The Christian reconstructionists sought to correct this flaw in Kuyper.
ADDENDUM 5: Wolfe regularly argues that our natural preference for people similar to us is a natural good that is self-justifying. But I think this goes about the matter backwards. We can say that a mother has a natural preference for her own children. But what she really has is a natural bond with her children that obligates her to them in a unique way. Her preference is not the issue. What matters is that we acknowledge she has obligations and responsibilities towards her own children. We can extrapolate this to special obligations/duties towards those closest to us -- our geographic neighbors, our blood relatives, our fellow church members, our fellow citizens. Again, the issue is not where our preference falls. Rather, it is where our highest obligations land. This is an issue I addressed in this sermon by looking at the "especially" passages of Scripture.
ADDENDUM 6 (from Facebook discussion): Wolfe’s approach is largely one of retrieval, with some modifications to the tradition. It is an historical and philosophical project, not a biblical project. He uses a form of Thomism as his metaphysical base and certainly relies on natural law (though it should be noted that some have argued that Thomas is not nearly as dualistic as Wolfe assumes). Wolfe's view of the “2 kingdoms” is more like Davenant than WS-CAL, but not totally. He overlaps with the R2K theologians quite a bit.
Wolfe self-consciously rejects the theonomic approach, whether in Bahnsensian form or James Jordan's modified theonomy (which I prefer). The theonomists/reconstructionists did interact with historical sources quite a bit, and actually drew from a much wider/longer breadth of the Reformed tradition than Wolfe. For example, ICE reprinted some of Calvin’s sermons on Deuteronomy to show his theonomic tendencies. Gary North lamented that Banner of Truth reprinted Puritan works on piety issues but not political issues. The Journal of Christian Reconstruction had some issues that dealt with historical precedents to theonomy and so on. The recons of the 1980s and 1990s were not ignorant or dismissive of history, even though they did not build off of Reformed scholasticism (for obvious reasons).
The recons also saw Kuyperianism as a good and salutary adaptation of the Reformed tradition for a changing cultural and political situation. Reconstructionism itself modified the Kuyperian tradition, and tried to fix its flaws, just as the Kuyperians had modified the Reformation era “2 kingdoms” view. Within the recon movement, the ecclesiocentrist strand was a further attempt to correct and modify this tradition drawing on patristic and medieval sources and history in order to correct problems as they emerged. That’s not a complete genealogy but it gives you some idea how we got here
Today, you obviously have a range of views on the table. But primarily in our circles, you have those who are seeking to repristinate the 16th century “2 kingdom” approach of the Reformers (see Paul Avis and Brad Littlejohn for background) and ecclesiocentric theonomy (see my other blog posts). There is a some overlap here and I certainly see this as an important discussion amongst friends and brothers and allies. This discussion is nothing like what happened with FV (at least not at this point) -- no one involved is a heretic, no one is trying to run anyone out of the CREC, no one is condemning anyone else even if strong words are used to express disagreement. To be clear, Stephen Wolfe is a brother in Christ, would be welcome to our communion table if he visited my church this week, and would be received with joy and love if he happened to move to Birmingham and wanted to join my congregation.
I raised a bunch of questions because I want to see how this book fits into the larger picture of what Canon and Moscow are doing. I think we are going to find some measure of overlap and common ground, even though there are obviously very significant differences.
ADDENDUM 7 (from Facebook discussion): I was asked about the church as polis and immigration policy. My response:
1. I believe nations can regulate immigration, just as ancient Israel’s Torah regulated immigration. Hospitality is a wonderful virtue but neither families nor nations can show unlimited hospitality. A Christian nation can enforce its boundaries just like a Christian family can lock the doors of its home.

2. Democrats tell us that the “threat to democracy” comes from the right. But actually the biggest "threat to democracy" is when immigration laws that have been passed by Congress and signed by the President do not get enforced. Those illegal immigrants inevitably begin voting and that undermines our democracy by changing the composition of the electorate. (I realize America is not technically a democracy, but bear with the terminology.) That being said, however distressed we are by the situation, it is true that non-Christian immigrants here are a ripe mission field. Consider it a silver lining.

3. I agree with the “concentric circles” model of obligation. I used it in a sermon not too long ago. It’s exegetically established - we have to pay attention to the “especiallys” in Scripture. We are finite creatures and so our obligations are finite. Not even Jesus helped everyone. I think one blunder Wolfe made in his book is talking about our “natural preferences” for those like us instead of talking about our obligations to those with whom we are in proximity (with the caveat that there are various kinds of proximity).

4. Remember, it is the NT, not me, that calls the church a polis and ethnos. I mean the exact same thing as the apostles meant when they used those labels for the church!
ADDENDUM 8 (from Facebook discussion): I was asked about this article by John Frame in relation to Wolfe's work. This is my reply:
In general I agree with John Frame on this issue (as is often case). His article is very good. I agree there is no sin necessarily involved in having social preferences for those who are like us. But preferences and obligations are not the same. And preferences are not immune to biblical critique.
For Wolfe, the preference for those like ourselves is a “natural principle,” immune to any criticism. It is self-justifying. Preference and obligation completely coincide. This is why he develops his prelapsarian kinism - since unfallen people would have had preferences for their own people, when we find that same instinct in ourselves, it must be good and right.
For Frame (and for me), all our natural impulses have to be submitted to and regulated by Scripture. We cannot automatically they assume they are good in every case, or that inherent preferences define the limits of our obligations. In some cases, our natural preferences actually get in the way of fulfilling our obligations. This is why I brought up Galatians 2:15ff when I first began engaging with Wolfe. The Judaizers preferred fellowship with their own kind - and when Peter fell in line with those “natural” preferences, Paul had to rebuke him for opposing the gospel. The “natural preference” for similarity in table fellowship had to be subjected to “gospel critique.” In other words, Paul does the very thing Wolfe says you cannot and should not do.
The biblical way of framing obligation is in terms of proximity. I have obligations to those who have various types of proximity to me (geographic, covenantal, national, etc.). We have to deal with the world as it is actually given to us. If I have a Brazilian living next door (which I do), I have neighborly obligations to that person that I do not have to a white person across town. If a black family lives around the corner (which they do), I have “good Samaritan” obligations to that family I do not have to a white family 4 states over that I will never meet. These obligations arise from geographic proximity.
Proximity can be complex because there are different types of proximity - there is familial proximity (blood/family relations matter even if we do not live close to each other geographically), there is spiritual proximity (doing good to the “household of faith,” per Galatians 6), there is neighborhood/town/city proximity that creates obligations to those who live nearby, there is national proximity that creates obligations to my fellow citizens, and so on. I don’t know of any one principle that determines how these various proximities should be related or prioritized; there are so many variables, it is probably wisest to take them on a case by case basis. But Wolfe’s way of granting autonomy to natural instincts/impulses shortcuts the whole process, and in doing so distorts a proper sense of obligation/duty. All natural preferences have to be subjected to biblical scrutiny/evaluation.
ADDENDUM 9 (asked on Facebook): Another serious question: I am still working my way through Wolfe’s book, so if there’s an obvious answer to this, perhaps someone can point me to the page number, but what does Wolfe think of Jim Crow laws? Could a Christian nation adopt Jim Crow laws as a way of working out the “natural principle” that ethnic groups should be generally separated? Would Wolfe say that such segregation is natural? If it's natural to prefer people who are similar to you, and and if people should stick to their own kind, and if people of different ethnicities cannot have "a life together," why couldn't state enforced segregation follow, at least as a possible application of nature?
I’m not just interested in the answer, but the reasoning that backs it up. I am assuming Wolfe opposes Jim Crow but I’d like to know why.