Reviewing the Reviewers
What’s all the fuss surrounding Stephen Wolfe’s The Case for Christian Nationalism? A year since its publication, the book is still garnering regular attention. But, why is Wolfe receiving so much criticism? It obviously has something to do with the fact that he has written the first book-length defense of Christian Nationalism. That is, Wolfe presents the first and most obvious target for opponents of more muscular political Christianity, but also for critics of the use of the label itself.
But, there is more to the story than a simple distaste for nationalism running the halls of evangelicalism. The heart of the issue seems to be that many Reformed critics are simply unmoored from their own tradition—the one they confess as theirs.
Aaron Renn has drawn attention to the problem of evangelical leaders in the public sphere. What he describes as a challenge highlights the fact that evangelicals don’t have the know-how to raise up leaders in the public sphere. What he does not intend is that evangelicals have no public thinkers, but, specifically, in the social-political sphere there exist several impediments to the development of their leaders. One of the reasons is that, unlike the wider Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions, evangelicals lack both a theology of creation and of natural law (the former only recently are we beginning to see signs of hope as the landscape changes). What this means, then, is that the culture for grooming leaders in the social-political realm is bereft of the structures that grounded and motivated principled social-political engagement. It is no wonder, then, why we see more intellectual leaders within the ranks of Roman Catholicism. Another reason is also theological, which overlaps with the former, and that is that many explicitly work with a theology of the Church (or church to highlight the local church geographically arranged) and so there is little space for how to interact with the wider realm (i.e., of society, the natural kingdom, the nation) that is not the church (and frankly doesn’t share many of her values). The other reason is partly theological and partly social conditioning. As Renn points out a theology that either explicitly squeezes out a rich foundation for understanding the natural/creational realm of kings and kingdoms or lacks much space to it, a vacuum is created that will be filled by something. This vacuum is met with a felt tendency that evangelicals, specifically, or Christians, generally, don’t really belong to this world and it would be pridefully presumptuous to act as if one did. These reasons reveal one fundamental problem with the new Reformed evangelicals and solidify something of a problem with them. They are, once again, unmoored from their own tradition and from the place where their social-political engagements find a natural habitat for such an endeavor.
Renn argues that Stephen Wolfe is providing an example that goes against the trend that undermines evangelical leadership in the political sphere. It would not be unimportant to point out that some of the evangelical trends are rooted in Anabaptist theology, which does find footing in a strong separation between Christian practice and that of Christian socio-political engagement. But, that is not the world of the Reformed evangelical (i.e., the Reformed contingency within evangelicalism). But, this becomes, it seems, altogether ironic in light of their own history. And, it goes some way in explaining ‘why’ there is such a backlash to his recent attempts to encourage more thoughtful engagement amongst his Reformed evangelical brothers and sisters.
Unfortunately, our world is changing rapidly and the values that were once shared by the Church and society are no longer securely footed. For these reasons, Wolfe’s recent attempt at a kind of retrieval should be a welcome addition within Reformed evangelical circles. But, to the contrary, we are seeing more opposition groomed by what Renn has called the ‘Negative World’ (i.e., a world strictly in opposition to Christians and attempting to squeeze it out and mold it into its image).
Some of the opposition could be to his use of the term Nationalism. Granted, there is a complex history in the use of the term Nationalism, yet Wolfe is careful to nuance the term as a sufficient designator of the type of nation developed. He opts for a conceptual approach to the nation that is situated in the broader Christian reception of a distinct understanding of the Church’s relation to the natural political realm. Such a nuanced and careful engagement on these vital issues should be met with appreciative and thoughtful pushback rather than what we’ve seen. But, that shouldn’t be all that surprising when some of the major evangelical leaders find support over the years for saying numerous things such as: “This is not our home.” “Mayberry is surely on its way to hell as quickly as Sodom.” “I have never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive & dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism. This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it.” “I’m here for the evangelicalism that isn’t idolatrous Christian nationalism.” These and many other statements in recent history highlight a trend to marshal the worst associations that contemporary culture detests.
But, Christian nationalism, arguably, furnishes the ground and motivation for shoring up and retrieving the conceptual infrastructure (discussed earlier) that motivates a flourishing human that once had the thought patterns, values, and virtues that made the US a great nation (and not just economically great). If it has such an appeal that aids in reinvigorating society in a healthy direction, then why is Wolfe seeing such strong pushback from evangelical academics? You would think that they would be the first to throw support, at least in part. But, instead, they are expending considerable time criticizing secondary features of his proposal. One might chalk it up to personality differences and the fact that some of these leaders just don’t like Wolfe. I’m sure that has something to do with it, given how he interacts on his Twitter/X feed. Instead, this seems to be further confirmation that they have lost the moorings once found in the tradition they confess and, worse, they are now struggling to understand the culture which they had a hand in creating.
Conceptual nationalism, as Wolfe defines it, has taken on unnecessary baggage from uncharitable critics. But, it is no surprise that these associations would find their way into reviews of the first book-length defense of Christian Nationalism, which is an understatement really. Second, and I think this has more to do with the elitism of big evangelical leaders, there is something of a motive behind territory control—Stephen Wolfe simply hasn’t been vetted by the theologians or Neo-evangelical social “experts”. Compound this with Wolfe’s personality and it’s easy to conceive of his ruffling a few feathers and creating a bit of blowback. Third, and I think this is more a conceptual motivation, many of the critiques are coming from Neo-evangelical and Neo-Calvinist scholars who have a distinct set of theological and anthropological assumptions (further reflecting new understandings on the relationship between the earthly Kingdom and the heavenly Kingdom). Furthermore, many of the neo-evangelicals are anxiously running around in the dark trying to find any semblance of a political theology. That certainly seems to be part of the motivation, but let’s be honest: Neo-evangelicals and neo-Calvinists fail to retrieve classical Reformed teaching and, arguably, lack the strong connections to historical theology to stave off the slide into the modernist trends so readily encroaching on and permeating virtually all of our industries and organizational ventures (i.e., they have the susceptibility to become, rather quickly, products of the present culture’s values). Let’s consider some of the criticisms advanced against Wolfe by first summarizing general objections to nationalism from his critics.
Standard Criticisms and Misunderstandings
Standard critiques of nationalism have been canvased by Wolfe, yet they continue to persist in the literature in a parrot-like fashion, so they not only deserve repeating but go some way in showing something has gone awry in the wider discussion. Just consider for a moment the following examples from just one of his critics who represents a strong contingency within contemporary Reformed thinking.
Peter Leithart at numerous points in recent history has taken an opportunity to criticize nationalism as both denigrating the Church and elevating the nation, and political action. He has made numerous statements to these effects over the years when commenting on nationalists and the recent national conservatism movement. Just take the following examples leading up to Wolfe’s publication.
“Theologically, it’s best to split the difference. Like many Evangelicals, Southern Baptists have an underdeveloped ecclesiology that allows America to replace the Church as the primary bearer of God’s kingdom.”1
“That looks very much like a program of national self-salvation.”
“At one level, National Conservatism states a triviality: The solution to national decline is national revival.”
“Christian universalism takes concrete political form in a global communion of saints. It’s an ecclesial universalism. The bonds that connect Christians across national boundaries are deeper and stronger than bonds of blood or culture; Christians are in solidarity as members of one multinational body, joined by one baptism and one Spirit, eating and drinking at the table of the one Lord.”2
Unfortunately, Leithart, representing a strong contingency within evangelicalism and contemporary Reformed leaders, seems to cherry-pick examples and misunderstand how most practitioners and scholars have defined nationalism. As he frames what he sees as: “the solution to national decline is national revival,” could be applied to his ecclesiocentric views that what is needed for what is ailing the church is revival in the church, but the problem is this fails to take note of the intricacies of a much thicker set of philosophical and theological principles. National decline and national revival, arguably, presume something about the nature of nations themselves and the fact that there are principles that when applied aid in maintaining a healthy and orderly system. Nationalism, as defined in some of the most sophisticated literature is defined in the contexts of goods (i.e., how most understand the term natural) that find precedent in the Creation story of Scripture, which means that there is such a thing as a nation recognized in Scripture. There are principles that govern those nations as we find in the examples of Israel and God’s relationship with other nations throughout history. These presume a right order that is governed by basic principles of covenant that is inclusive of basic responsibilities, rights, privileges, blessings, and principles of justice. These are foundational to one’s understanding of the redemptive acts of God—not separate yet distinct and operative in the context of society (first the family then the nation by extension).
As I have followed the leadership of other defenders of Christian Nationalism, I articulated the relationship between the two spheres (and what is present internally to them: institutions, rules, ordering principles) that presume different orders as well as a hierarchy of relating varying authorities. Both of these notions seem altogether amiss in how Leithart (and the Reformed contingency he represents) articulates the opposition. I have defined it here:
When we come to the term Christian Nationalism, we understand that one can be both a Nationalist and a Christian if these two identity markers are distinct in a hierarchy. Christianity would be a natural good of societies and nations. And, in a nation that is rightly ordered, the principles bequeathed in a family and a nation mutually inform and reinforce one’s religious convictions and one’s religious convictions will inform one’s society, culture and nation and with this one’s own particular commitments, loyalties, traditions, customs and routines. The two are not incompatible, but mutually complimentary aspects of a people.3
This means that there is no supposed tension or competition between the two spheres of human interaction. In fact, God has provided guidance and order to both spheres, which remain distinct even if there is some informing relation both ways. Further, there is a larger framework of which distinct higher-order goods are related to lower-order goods, but these are not in competition or ruled out by the other. So, for example, we find in nature or creation the responsibility to family first, which comes with specified privileges, blessings, and principles (i.e., mothers nurture their children, feed them, and fathers protect their children along with household codes that begin first in the creation narrative to be reiterated in the New Testament). And, these types of relationships should not be conflated with all relationships (e.g., business, contractual relationships, sports teams, etc.), which do not carry the weight, depth or relationship to God’s mission as do natural relationships. It is important to point out that the relationship is complementary and while there are higher-goods of humans, these higher-goods do not nullify the lower-goods that procure natural relations. For example, the responsibility of mothers in the Church never nullifies the natural responsibility to provide the good of milk a mother supplies to a child. These are distinct spheres of responsibility, goods, and blessings that are reflected in nature as well as Scripture and typify the actions of God toward his children in redemption. What is significant here is that when these goods, responsibilities, and blessings are not held together, we see an imbalance in natural, societal, and ecclesial relations.
Leithart is committed to what some have termed “ecclesiocentrism.” Ecclesiocentrism, though, misunderstands the relations between the Church and the natural/creational spheres as they were commonly understood in the wider Church’s conscious self-understanding. And, it appears to operate out of a flat concept of natural/creational principles and redemptive/ecclesio principles. Biasing toward the Church as the operator for government, natural relations, and society creates the competitive frame that is imported to nationalists. Furthermore, it almost completely eschews the reality of the family and its central place in Creation and Redemption without which we would not have an understanding of the Church. This is a sore deficiency in Leithart’s understanding of Christian nationalism that biases his critiques of Wolfe’s work and reflects the following common tendencies: reading between the lines, over-generalization, false attributions, and exacerbating those super-imposed interpretations.
Leithart, along with other Neo-evangelical Calvinists have and continue to push these worn critiques that fail to map onto the projects of any sophisticated intellectual Christian working on nationalism. If they’ve made these mistakes before, then why should one think they won’t make them again?
It is not surprising then that similar objections would persist toward Wolfe. Unfortunately, many of these are guided by common trends within our culture that have a disdain for nationalism, in general, and the family, in particular.
One common objection that reflects an exaggeration of implied inferences from reading between the lines, is found in Leithart’s recent claim that Wolfe is beholden to varying dualisms. Now, it is important to point out that this is a pet issue and in much of contemporary theology carries negative baggage just in uttering the name (e.g., just consider John Cooper’s Soul, Body and Life Everlasting which considers some of these abused objections in contemporary theology), but it is often unclear what is intended. “The ground-motif of Wolfe’s book is a sharp dualism between nature and grace, between the “two ends” of man, earthly and heavenly (21).”
What is common in history is the analogy of the body soul and there analogous relationship to the external and internal kingdoms, but that they are either so bifurcated as to be unrelated and non-complimentary seems to be a mis-reading of Wolfe that exaggerates certain cherry-picked statements. I certainly did not read Wolfe this way, and, in fact, he seems to reflect the relationship given earlier about the complementary relationship within a hierarchy of responsibilities, goods, privileges, and blessings. Wolfe, in fact, is at pains to argue for a Christian Nationalism where Christians are in the public sphere with their Christian values present. Wolfe also highlights the importance of Christian Nationalism that largely reflects natural virtue (which he sees as not inconsistent with Christian thought but rather consonant with it) but also is characterized and seasoned by Christian ideals, virtues, and, even, the fruits of the Spirit. But, this gives quite a different picture than the one portrayed by Leithart’s cohorts. There is another common objection that is related to the charge of dualism, and that is that Wolfe applies Roman Catholic categories rather than Reformed theological categories.
Roman Catholic at heart
“Wolfe’s theory resembles neo-Scholastic Catholic treatments of nature and grace, which have been a target for many Reformed theologians. Wolfe is able to find plenty of Reformed witnesses who seem to support his dualism (though not as many as he thinks; see Mattson). But that’s precisely where the Reformed tradition needs to be further reformed. The Federal Vision aimed to overcome the residual dualism and extrinsicism of Reformed theology, but Wolfe’s book and especially its reception make it clear Reformed theology still stands in need of its de Lubac and its nouvelle theologie.”4.
Once again, there is a similar use and abuse of the term as found with the use and abuse of ‘dualism’. By building the association of Roman Catholicism in a Reformed context Leithart effectively biases the reader against Wolfe. Further, Leithart’s explanation on the precise relationship between nature and grace is thin. The more serious, albeit related, claim is the inverting of Scriptural authority with philosophical authority.
Philosophy not Scripture
“At times, Wolfe’s arguments are carried along by his dualism, rather than by attention to Scripture or other theological sources.”5 The final objection is trite yet related to the charge of dualism and Roman Catholic theology. In fact, it is hard to know how to critique the application of the objection because Leithart gives very little by way of nuance or content. His treatment on the relation of philosophy and Scripture is cursory and quick. But, there is a relationship, so it is arguable (and quite obvious to some) that one needs be versed in specific philosophical categories in order to rightly divide Scripture. And, Wolfe reflects both Reformed philosophical leanings (within normative trends in wider Catholicity) in relation to Scripture. But more must be stated about what philosophical frameworks are consistent with or mutually aid in the reception of Scriptural teaching in Creation and Redemption. Without this, the objection is a straw-man. The more serious charge that inclines toward political manipulation follows.
“Even in the sacred realm, blood is, at the end of the day, thicker than water. Wolfe does Christian political theory as if Pentecost never happened, as if the church didn’t exist.”6
Leithart claims that Wolfe misunderstands the relationship between God’s redemption of humanity in the Church and blood relations. He implies that Wolfe’s instincts completely disregard Divine redemption in Scripture and how God designs humans to operate in this world. But, Leithart is mistaken. Keeping in mind the relationship laid out earlier and Wolfe’s persistence in highlighting the importance of a Christian Nationalism that incorporates Christian thought and encourages the recognition and worship of the God of Christian theism, this, on its surface, appears to be an unwarranted objection to Wolfe. Wolfe recognizes the importance of blood relation, as does Scripture when it highlights the family as the primary means of carrying along God’s blessing in the world (both locally through individual families that function according to what the New Testament calls the household code, globally through the ‘holy’ and ‘royal’ family, and the conjugal relationship which typifies the Christ-bride relation) (203). It is the family that is the basic social unit of society and herein we find the foundations that by extension comprise nations according to Scripture. Given the centrality of family, it is hard to overplay the significance of family in God’s mission to the world. But this leads to a more refined charge made by Wolfe’s critics.
Racism and Bigotry
Presbyterian Pastor Kevin Deyoung takes a shot at Wolfe by arguing that Wolfe advocates, effectively for some version of kinist racism. Upon reading this common charge to Wolfe, I became confused at how one could discern that between the lines based upon what Wolfe actually says. Deyoung states:
The message—that ethnicities shouldn’t mix, that heretics can be killed, that violent revolution is already justified, and that what our nation needs is a charismatic Caesar-like leader to raise our consciousness and galvanize the will of the people—may bear resemblance to certain blood-and-soil nationalisms of the 19th and 20th centuries, but it’s not a nationalism that honors and represents the name of Christ.7.
Leithart states something similar: “First: Wolfe wants to revitalize Western civilization by reasserting natural principles of ethnic unity. That’s not how the West came to be in the first place.”
Both represent a common charge that has received significant and overwhelming attention in the blogosphere. In fact, the blogosphere became so heated at one point that we find an intentional doxxing of Wolfe’s former colleague (i.e., guilt by association) around the time Wolfe’s book received significant attention on Amazon, podcasts and the blogosphere—signifying clearly that the recent attacks had more to do with dampening Wolfe’s influence using similar woke inclinations through cancel techniques and mob-like conjuring.
But the reality is that Wolfe has a greater interest in the common man applying a good bit of common sense. He’s a populist. And he cares about the heritage, people, and the place from which we came and which made us great. Wolfe certainly does understand the importance of cultural habits, proclivities and customs that either reinforce Christian values and interactions or undermine them. He expends significant ink talking about the dangers of open borders and why a Nation that cares about the preservation not just of economy but of values, alliances, and Christian allegiances (196-97).
By applying the principles of similarity and difference in the way that he does, Wolfe is highlighting the phenomenology of place and people that conduces toward the goods that are naturally habitable in one’s own climate, but in our context this does not yield by necessity race-based principles nor does it exclude one’s Christian responsibility to care for foreigner. These are not only compatible with Wolfe’s definition of ethnicity and comport with his understanding of what is ‘natural’, ‘intuitive’ and good, but it is hard to see how and why the DeYoung’s and Leithart’s of our age would expend so much time shining a light on these issues and using language beholden to political power plays—unless and until we understand the power plays at work in our evangelical culture. What this means is at its most fundamental level in society not only should we care about the Church and its liberties but about the preservation of society as conducive to the carrying on of Christian virtue. This requires preservation of ethnicity (again one that has deep historic rooting in a set of values, customs, and practices) and is something not so easily dismissed by the likes of Leithart, DeYoung, and the Reformed communities they represent. But, what Wolfe means by ethnicity is clear in our context. It is not race-based ethnicity (135-40). In other words, in our American context, ethnicity is multi-racial and it is not reducible to one singular race. So the claim that he affirms that “ethnicities should’t mix” is misguided and unfairly spoils the water in a way that is reminiscent of cancel tools.
Reading Between the Lines and Majoring on Minors
What are you the reader to make of all the noise? It is clear that many of the common caricatures of nationalism, let alone Christian Nationalism, remain in the background of Wolfe’s The Case for Christian Nationalism. The recent critiques continue along this trajectory and are an instance of reading between the lines and majoring on minors. In this way, Wolfe has not been given a fair and honest appraisal.
These same leaders are acting as judge, jury, and executioner, but they are not being entirely honest. I do not mean to suggest that they are all intentionally complicit, but simply that they are a product of their own times. One obvious example, which bears repeating, is in the way these same leaders have employed certain key terms. Lets just get it out in the open: What are the big charges against Wolfe—“racism”, “kinism”, “suppression of women,” basically old patterns of history. But here’s the problem, these terms are technical terms that have been co-opted and abused. They are not fitting terms in honest academic engagement. So, for this reason, I will not use the term ‘racism’ because once ‘racism’ is used it strangle its opponent into submission. In fact, I have warned pastors of their overuse of such terms, but they persist sloppily using them. Academics should avoid this and do the hard work of critiquing the merits of a work that will make a bigger impact. And, I will simply point out that Wolfe quite clearly defines ethnicity in a way that is not race based. As for the matter concerning suppression, it too is a cheap shot to take at anyone defending hierarchy and power in political history.
But why should we avoid using these terms? For one it is disingenuous to the one advancing a position that he believes might actually turn the tide from low church attendance, societal denigration, and hatred of one’s own history to high church attendance, societal flourishing, and the love of one’s history. Two, it closes off substantive discussion. There’s a reason Wolfe’s is a top-selling work on Amazon, and its dubious that it is simply because all those interested hold deep seated racist-bigotry as the primary motive. In fact, there’s something important taking place in these discussions and there is much that deserves our attention. And, you critics, might actually learn something in the process.
Here’s my recommendation to the theological haters out there. If there is something to be clarified, then critically engage with the work, first, with a dispassionate stance that seeks to discern the meaning of the text on the author’s own terms. Extend charity as far as you can. This can be very difficult, no doubt, as we are all inclined to dismantle that which we disagree. And, this is all the more clear to me within my own evangelical communities as there is tendency to posture for the sake of making our work sound more impressive than it merits. Honor where you can. This means that you highlight areas of agreement. This means that you extol the virtues of a work.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be, by and large, the response I have seen from quite visible characters in the neo-evangelical blogosphere. And, it represents what I cautioned against concerning our legacy in evangelical politics. The tendency looks more like destruction than anything else.
The rhetoric and discourse of the pastor-theologians deserve careful attention. When public theologians, and pastors are willing to ignore more severe claims within the blogosphere about the doctrine of God—like claims that God the Father hated his Son (see David Platt and others who have popularized this theology), then we know some deeper political motivation is at work.
How Present Day Calvinists Should have responded: respect and honor where they can rather than majoring on the minors and falling into the same trendy habits of today’s cancel culture.
What are the Virtues and Benefits of The Case for Christian Nationalism? I suggest that there are several apparent virtues that public theologians should represent in their own work.
The most obvious benefit, and this bears restatement, is that The Case for Christian Nationalism is the first book-length defense of Christian Nationalism. And, whether some like it or not, Nationalism and Christian Nationalism or Nationalistic Christianity (or whatever you want to call it) is garnering significant attention in a similar way that many other movements are gaining momentum (e.g., masculinity movements through the likes of Jordan Peterson to name just one). Agree or not, there is something to try and understand.
Stephen Wolfe has a keen analytic mind, and he reflects this throughout as he spells out syllogisms and carefully attends to the evidences for his premises—something his critics often fail to emulate or even acknowledge. In this way, he reflects Analytic political theology in the mode that should characterize more theologians at pains to make their theology public-facing.
The Case for Christian Nationalism is a piece of mid-level writing and research. The writing is fitting, given the fact that it is the first book-length treatment of the subject. It is partly academic in tone, but it is written in a way that is readable for a broader audience, which leads to the next virtue.
Wolfe carries an academic tone mixed with personal experience. While some might wish that Wolfe situated his discussion more carefully in the secondary academic literature, there is a sensibility to his avoiding these minutia. He is a discussion starter that will hopefully spur on both popular engagements and more academically rigorous treatments of specific topics.
Wolfe is steeped in the primary literature within the Classical Reformed Tradition, which should motivate discussion not shut it down. The position he advocates is, arguably, quite clear and uncontroversial historically (at least conceptually and in many of its contours), which is different from saying that it is uncontroversial today.
Further, it is rich with application of a basic anthropology that highlights the natural as the good, creational norms, moorings that reinforce good practice, the orderings of creation as compatible with redemptive/ecclesial ordering.
Naturally, there are other substantive matters to interrogate, but this requires majoring on the majors rather than majoring on the minors. He advocates several motifs that become instructive in his case for Christian Nationalism.
- Two-Kingdoms Theology is operational in how he understands the relationship between the political realm and the ecclesial realm.
- Reformed Theology governs his broad perspective although other traditions from the Anabaptists, neo-Calvinists, new Kingdom theologies, and Catholic theology’s have something to gain.
- Phenomenology and love of place ground much of his reflections on re-motivating the goods of the past rather than a deconstructionist attitude. Maybe he should’ve thrown a little Heidegger in there to satiate the hipster neo-Calvinists.
- Protecting the homeland takes priority because this is the place where we live now and we better care for it as we are called to in the Creation Mandate unless we have some principled reason for destroying it.
- Family is the first society and nations naturally follow them. And, lets be honest, we are not doing so well on that front. Why is that? Its not because we don’t tacitly agree that a focus on the family matters, but we have given up so much ground already that unseats the priority of family in society (e.g., from nonchalance toward divorce, caring more for identity groups than for the preservation of family in our policies, practices, and hiring trends)
- Ethnicity even opens up interesting discussions. Not all will agree with Wolfe’s take on the subject and that’s ok, but the fact is that the discussions on both race and ethnicity are notoriously ambiguous, yet we continue to give priority of place to these issues without actually understanding them.
- The complementarity, and harmonious model of Divinely-originated orders is a complex topic theologically and Wolfe shines a light on these confusions. Thanks to him for that.
- Critiquing new kingdom theologies and showing how they don’t fit comfortably in the Reformed tradition gives us an opportunity to think better about the issues and why it is that we have arrived at a better understanding than the wise consensus of our Fathers.
All of this points to a loss of the Reformed moorings and an adoption of new values in socio-political engagement. Arguably, then, the responses should have been different.
Conclusion & Recommendations
As this is partly a review, if I had some recommendations to Wolfe it would be the following.
First, it seems he invited a bit more trouble on himself with the strong invitation on pg. 198 and elsewhere. Second, I might have recommended that he situate his argument in the secondary literature a bit more thickly so as to avoid charges of misappropriation of historical sources and to avoid unnecessary elitist attention. Third, it may have helped to situate this ‘conceptual’ work in two or three models early on and explicitly drawing attention to the Kuyperians. Cutting the enemy at the knees before they attack, in other words, helps with ground-clearing.
Fourth, I might have recommended making some prefatory comments about Reformed Biblicist types (e.g., Neo-liberals, and Post-Barthians) and briefly furnishing a ground for some basic philosophical categories from which to depart and why it matters. This will be apparent to the charitable eye and those familiar with theological discussion, but for those with pitchforks, it lays bare openings for attack.
With that said, Wolfe’s failure to do the above-mentioned recommendations does not invite the criticism he has received and, instead, is a commentary on the fallacious nature of those responses concerning a generation of Reformers that have lost their way.
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