Mattson’s review of Wolfe’s book is well worth reading if you have been following the discussions on Christian nationalism.
I might not agree with Mattson on every particular criticism and I certainly find a few more points of agreement with Wolfe's social commentary in the second half of his book, but Mattson offers a pretty convincing rebuttal to the overall project. Mattson makes many of the same arguments I’ve been making about Wolfe’s work, including problems with his methodology (if you are not making an appeal to Scripture, what exactly is Christian about your version of “Christian nationalism”?) and his Aristotelian rather than Pauline view of ethnicity (can we really talk adequately about “natural affections” if we pretend Pentecost never happened?).
The reality is that Wolfe’s Thomistic and Aristotelian foundation undermines his whole project from the outset. His dualisms are an unnecessary, unhelpful distraction from what he is trying to accomplish; they are counter-productive to the establishment of a Christian social order. A “natural principles nationalism” is simply not the same thing as “Christian nationalism,” nor can it lead to “Christian nationalism.” Wolfe creates a number of dualisms that will ultimately have to be overcome and undone if he wants to actually institutionalize Christian faith in society. His selective use of Reformational sources is inadequate and even misleading about how the Reformed tradition has actually dealt with these questions (though admittedly the tradition is not monolithic). Mattson shows this is especially true with regard to important doctrines like the noetic effects of sin, the nature/grace relationship, the reason/revelation relationship, the trustworthiness of natural instincts and impulses, and so on. Mattson also explains why Wolfe’s claim that everyone would be a quasi-kinist in an unfallen world simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Mattson shows the dangers that have arisen historically when natural impulses are granted autonomy (in this case, a Hitler comparison actually hits its target).
Mattson’s review shows how important it is to know good, solid, basic Reformed theology (like Bavinck) to keep from making avoidable mistakes. He really exposes problems with Wolfe’s scholarship. Again, if you are reading Wolfe’s book, I strongly suggest you read Mattson alongside it.
ADDUNDUM: There has been some online debate as to who has the proper interpretation of Bavinck, Wolfe or Mattson. For my purposes, it does not much matter. One thing is for certain: Bavinck does not end up with the various dualisms that Wolfe advocates. Indeed, Bavinck is much more like the "Christian transformationalists" Wolfe critiques (which you would expect, given that he is Dutch and largely aligned with the Kuyperian tradition). In my view, the dualisms that Wolfe advocates go beyond anything in the classic "two kingdom" view of Calvin or the Reformed scholastics of later generations. His dualisms are distinctily modern, and much more like the radical "two kingdom" theologians from Westminster in California. Wolfe softens those dualisms a good bit, so he does not belong in R2K camp, obviously, but there are links.
Underlying Wolfe's dualisms is a faulty understanding of the nature/grace relationship. While Wolfe affirms grace restores and perfects nature -- a slogan I would entirely agree with -- he starts with an unbiblical view of nature. In the biblical worldview, nature is always already graced -- nature exists only as gift of the Creator. Nature is continually upheld by God and reveals the wisdom of his design. Further, nature is always already "graced" with special revelation. Even before the fall, God gave Adam special revelation. Nature is not autonomous and natural revelation was never intended to operate on its own.