Over the last four months I have been deeply engaged in a class, as part of my pursuit of a Doctor of Ministry degree, which has focused specifically on the different approaches various schools of theology have taken over the last 500 years of Protestant history to the question of the relationship of the Church & the State. It has been a deeply satisfying class in which many of my own presuppositions have been challenged as we have considered the most pertinent passages of Scripture together at length. In this post I want to offer an introduction of sorts to the conversation, not necessarily by way of convincing anybody of the position I hold, but rather by way of engaging the topic with more than simple anecdotal thoughts.
Here is a snapshot of the types of questions a robust theology of the relationship between the Church and the State would provide responses to.
- To what degree and in what fashion should Old Testament laws be consulted when developing laws of a modern nation?
- How should Christians living in a Democratic Republic like America, vote on issues like same-sex-marriage laws? Ought we expect the laws of the land to mirror the laws for the Church?
- To what degree should a nation embrace an overt Christian identity? Is the Biblical ideal something akin to the theocracies of the Old Testament, where the governmental leaders all worshiped the God of the Bible, and the Word of God shaped every aspect of life and morality?
- To what degree should law enforcement be used, if at all, to provide governance over public worship? Ought there be Blasphemy Laws that punish those who take the Lord’s name in vain (the third Commandment)? Ought there be Sabbath Laws that require all business to take one day of rest a week (the fourth Commandment)?
As you might imagine from reading this short list of questions, the discussions in this class were phenomenal, with strong theological minds holding to a variety of approaches. One of the great divides among theologians on this topic is how Christians ought to find relation to the saints of the Old Testament. Are Christians more like Israel in Exile, worshipers of the one true God, living in the midst of a culture that does not know God, and attempting to find a path of exilic life among pagans? Or are Christians more like Israel under King David or King Josiah, desiring to construct nations that honor the one true God by implementing laws that align with God’s Word? Depending on which side of this spectrum you fall in will deeply impact how you respond to the questions listed above.
One final word before considering the five approaches of this article is that I believe this conversation is far more complex than we might imagine. Most of my readers are in the United States, and will have a hard time disentangling their modern American secular lenses from the conversation, and as a result could never imagine that any great theological mind could ever truly believe something such as follows,
"If then [the magistrate] may punish evil doers who offend against the second table [of the 10 Commandments] and force and compel them to obedience by the sword of justice which God hath put into his hand, much more may he punish idolaters and blasphemers who offend against the first table [of the 10 commandments] and force and compel them to obedience, seeing there are many sins against the first table which are more heinous and odious than the sins against the second table." — David Dickson, Truth's Victory Over Error.
The author of those words, David Dickson, was a Scottish theologian and Edinburgh divinity professor (one of the great schools of divinity in history) in the early 1600’s. His work is not some isolated theology in history, but in fact was often closer to the agreed upon ideal than many today might assume. My point is that when engaging this conversation, we must fight to remove the secular lenses of our time, and attempt to faithfully exegete the text. Is David Dickson closer to the ideal put forth in Scripture than modern evangelicalism cares to admit? Or was he wrong to suggest that the government should punish “blasphemers”? These are worthy questions of Biblical reflection.
A Few Critical Biblical Passages
In this section I simply want to provide the reader with a handful of the most pertinent texts that often come up in the historical study of the relationship between the Church and the State.
Romans 13:1–4 (ESV) 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed... 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
This language of “bearing the sword” implies that God has granted Civil Government coercive authority to restrain evil. The “sword” in this sense is a mechanism granted to authorities to punish the evildoer and promote Biblical justice. The “sword” of Romans 13 is the coercive authority that gives a nation both the God-assigned authority to punish evildoers with capital punishment (see Genesis 9:6 below) as well as the right to defend their nation’s sovereignty with the force of war where properly justified.
Genesis 9:6 (ESV) “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
This text is part of God’s covenant with Noah, and has historically been seen as the origin of God’s decree that Capital Punishment is appropriate punishment for the person who takes the life of another. It has always been believed that this ‘life for a life’ law, is not to be held by the individual, but rather by governing authorities, as is more fully spelled out in the Mosaic Law.
Isaiah 49:23 "Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”
In the above passage we see that governmental authorities have some type of responsibility to lead and point people towards the one true and living God. At least this was a vision that Isaiah had of what would be in his future. Theologically, some believe this passage is speaking of our current Church age, while others believe this to be speaking of the future “Millennium Kingdom” that takes place after Christ’s return but before the inauguration of the New Heavens and the New Earth (a minority view that I believe to be inherently flawed).
Psalm 72:8–11 (ESV)8 May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! 9 May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust! 10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! 11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!
Royal imagery like the above passage is found all throughout the Scriptures. Psalm 72 speaks about the reign of the King (King Jesus). The desire of Christ’s reign is regularly seen as extending over every part of the Earth. The desire of the Psalmist is that governmental leaders would directly serve His ultimate reign. Far from some kind of tyrannical bending of the knee, this vision of kings bowing to Christ is often then directly followed up with how under this context the weak, the needy, and the vulnerable are lifted up and provided for.
Psalm 2 (ESV) 1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision... 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Psalm 2 (above) is a classic doorway passage to the entire Psalter. It describes the folly of nations who fail to serve Christ and admonishes all nations and all kings to bow before the King. Quite literally, “Kiss the Son.” According to the Psalms, it is underneath this bowing to Christ that nations find their ultimate good.
Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The Great Commission above declares that “all authority” has been given to Jesus. Not some authority, but all. This means that even Civil Authority is ultimately Christ’s. Whether or not any particular lesser authority (whether it be the authority of a government or a family) recognizes Christ’s true reign, has no bearing on that reality. He holds all authority for He is Lord of all.
1 Corinthians 15:22–25 (ESV) 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
Lastly, in the above critical verse, we see once again the order of things to come. Christ is ruling and reigning right now. And he must reign until every authority who does not bow to his authority is “put under his feet.” What this implies is that it is the ultimate progression of history that authorities will increasingly recognizes the true and proper dominion of Christ.
Five Broad Approaches to Christian Political Engagement
What I have tried to offer below is a framework for considering some of the major schools of thought as to how we might approach this topic. Of course these are simple snapshots of what are actually quite complex schools of thought. Each of these schools has their various favorite theologians and eras where one could look to see their theological ideas in practice. Further, in my opinion, not all of these schools of thought are legitimate. What I mean is, for the faithful Christian, this is not simply a task of ‘choosing your flavor.’ Some of these approaches are far superior Biblically to others (as an example I believe the Quaker Approach is radically flawed).
I have laid these five approaches out in an order of sorts with the Mennonites on one side (who like the Amish tend to separate themselves from cultural endeavors) to the Christian Nationalist on the other (who functionally argue for a form of State-sponsored Christianity). These short snippets certainly do an injustice to the rather well documented history of theology of these various schools, but my aim is to stay high level in order to give the reader only enough to get a sense of the school of thought as a whole.
1 The Mennonite Approach as exemplified by John Howard Yoder (Non-Transformationalist)
Unique Contribution: The Church is a separate counter political institution to the government.
It seems fairly safe to place Yoder’s vision of Christian engagement in politics on the far left side of this chart. Certainly there are some fringe groups that may isolate themselves even further, but Yoder represents a fairly large body of political thought. Yoder was a Mennonite who was a professor of theology and ethics at Notre Dame for many years. The Mennonites, along with other groups like the Anabaptists, are classically known for the commitment to non-violence, a commitment which caused Yoder’s predecessors (Hersberger and Bender particularly) even to advocate that non-violent resistance such as peaceful protest was out of line for Christians, for it failed to treat our enemies with agape love. The government, according to Yoder, is a good institution ordained by God, but fallen and in rebellion to God. This argument of Yoder’s is based heavily on Ephesians 6:12 which states that we do not, “wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers.” Yoder interprets “rulers and authorities” as earthly fallen institutions. The ultimate defeat of these fallen “powers” comes not through their conversion but through an alternative institution, the Church.
Yoder wrote, “The difference between the church and the state or between a faithful and an unfaithful church… is not that one is political and the other not, but that they are political in different ways.” The Church was to model a different way of life—even political life—to the world. They are to embody heaven and in so doing convince the outside world of their power. Yoder was fearful of what he describes as ‘Constantinianism’, a temptation for the Church to, “assume the responsibility for the moral structure of non-Christian society.” Here are the roots of Yoder’s political thought. Christians are not tasked with any effort to Christianize the world through earthly politics. Rather, we must focus on the internal politics of the Church where we live out heaven for the world to see. Yoder later wrote about the foolishness of “Constantinianism,”
“[A post-Christian society] will prepare us to see how inappropriate and preposterous was the prevailing assumption, from the time of Constantine until yesterday, that the foundational responsibility of the church for society is to manage it.”John Howard Yoder
Lastly, Yoder closely identified the Church with Israel in Exile, especially as seen in Jeremiah 29 where Israel is told to, “seek the peace” of the place where they are living as exiles. Rather than seeking to convert Babylon, they were to live as exiles in Babylon committed to a unique way of life. Like Israel in exile, Christians must be subordinate to the State in accordance with Romans 13:1-7, and also witness to the State by calling them to live up to their own ideal. In this way, Yoder did open the door for some collaboration between Christians and politics, but in terms of degree, that collaboration was always limited, and the posture of a Christian towards government might rightly be described as highly skeptical.
For a further, yet still concise, review of Yoder, see After Politics: John Howard Yoder, Body Politics, and the Witnessing Church by Alain Epp Weaver.
2 The Reformed Two Kingdom Approach as Exemplified by David VanDrunen (Non-Transformationalist)
Unique Contribution: The use of ‘natural law’ provides common ground between believer and unbeliever for use in governance.
David VanDrunen has become the leader of the current label Reformed Two Kingdom Theology. VanDrunen summarizes his apporach succinctly when he writes that, “Christians are citizens of two distinct kingdoms, both of which are ordained of God and under his law, yet exist for different purposes, have different functions, and operate according to different rules” [Natural Law & the Two Kingdoms, 13]. We might say that Christians live with a foot in two different worlds, both worlds of which are underneath the ultimate authority of Christ, the Redemptive Kingdom and the Common Kingdom. The Redemptive Kingdom consists of all those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Within this Redemptive Kingdom, Christians live under the authority of Christ as redeemer. Having been given the “keys to the Kingdom” (Matt. 16:19), Christians are bound by the supernatural revelation of Scripture and particularly focused on the eternal things of right worship and the sanctification of the soul.
The Common Kingdom on the other hand pertains to all of life outside of the explicit Redemptive Kingdom. Christ reigns over this Common Kingdom as a sustainer—as opposed to his redeeming reign over the Redemptive Kingdom—sustaining the world until his ultimate return when he will redeem all things. When Christians engage in everyday ordinary activities among nonbelievers they are operating within this Common Kingdom. Within this Common Kingdom, the “standards of morality and excellence… are ordinarily the same for believers and unbelievers” [Living in Two Kingdoms, 31]. meaning that though Christians also uniquely belong to the Redemptive Kingdom, when operating in the Common Kingdom live essentially under the same terms as the unbeliever. Rather than relying on Scripture for guidance in the Common Kingdom, believers and unbelievers alike are to rely on Natural Law, an internal moral compass provided by God as part of our humanity, to both live and build society. The authorities of the Common Kingdom have not been granted the “keys to the Kingdom” as the authorities of the Redemptive Kingdom have, but rather have been granted the “sword” (Rom. 13:4) as a coercive measure to restrain evil and promote justice as part of Christ’s ultimate sustaining work of this Common Kingdom.
VanDrunen believes that Christians are mistaken when they attempt to redeem aspects of the Common Kingdom through cultural transformation. Accordingly, Christians ought not waste their efforts on “Christianizing” aspects of the Common Kingdom, an effort that he believes God is not interested in doing. In other words, Christians ought not busy themselves with efforts at redeeming culture through Christians schools, Christian hospitals, Christian orphanages, or Christian political parties. VanDrunen believes that this “transformationalist” approach of many Christians often mistakenly relies on God’s instructions to Adam to, “have dominion… over all the earth” (Gen. 1:26), a command that he believes no longer has bearing on the Christian. Rather than looking to God’s covenant with Adam in Genesis 1 for our cultural mandate, Christians ought rather to look to God’s covenant with Noah in Genesis 9:1-7. It is this Noahic Covenant which provides the basis for life in the common realm shared between believer and unbeliever.
In short then, we might say that Christians can indeed participate in government, but our vision of what we will accomplish and our morality of what values shall be decided upon for the nation, must not be rooted in Bible, but rather rooted in ‘Natural Law,’ an internal moral compass shared by both believer and nonbeliever alike.
3 The Confused Modern Evangelical Approach
Unique Contribution: An overall confusion and lack of guiding principles on how the two institutions of Church and State should relate, at times desiring more Christianity in politics, and at times fearful of bringing our Christianity into our politics.
Perhaps it is unfair to combine all evangelicals into one large bucket. Certainly there are great minds within evangelicalism who hold a variety of opinion on current issues, and have very well thought out political ideology. I write this portion from the perspective of a simple pastor who regularly works through questions and discussions regarding politics with people.
It seems to me that many modern evangelicals hold to a mixed bag of political thought. On the one hand, there is a general fear for Christians to bring their Christianity into the public sphere, especially into governmental structures. We seem to have, at least partially, bought the secular lie that “separation of Church and state” means we must keep our Christian values and morals out of political thought. But at the exact same time, we long to see our cities renewed, and we long to see society at large impacted by Christians and by the Christian ethic. We want to be salt and light in our communities, but we are not sure to what degree we want the governing authorities also being salt and light.
Abortion is a great example of our confusion. In general, Christians who take the Bible seriously loathe abortion, and rightly label it murder. But we are not sure whether it is our place to vote or even to desire government to treat it as an evil. In fact, many evangelicals might even call themselves “pro-choice” under the concept that the Church may have their own ethic internally, but ultimately it is better for a woman legally to have the ability to choose. There is an inconsistency here between what we believe to be true, and what we desire of our governing authorities.
And so, Evangelicals often stand in a politically murky middle ground. We want change, but not that much change. We want Christian leadership, but are not sure if we really want them governing according to the Word of God. We are not sure if we are comfortable with politicians citing Scripture and claiming to legislate out of their Biblical worldview, but we are unsure why we are unsure.
4 The Neo-Calvinistic Approach as exemplified by Abraham Kuyper (Transformationalist)
Unique Contribution: Government unashamedly and overtly honors God in all they do. The Bible influences legislation indirectly , but not overtly. Yet law and order is based on God’s higher law as revealed in Scripture.
Abraham Kuyper was a Pastor and profound Reformed Theologian who also served as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. He is often considered the father of Neo-Calvinism, a strain of theology very prominent today (of which this author fits rather comfortably). His vision of Christianity is that Christians would transform every sphere of culture. The idea is that as we are filled by the Spirit, and acting as salt and light in the world, society as a whole would be transformed by the presence and practice of Christians behaving Christianly. He highly celebrated the Puritans of England and early America who set out to create Christian nations. Kuyper believed that Government was a good institution that had particular boundaries as designated by God, and could be wielded by Christians to lead Christian nations. Kuyper Wrote,
It is our firm conviction that government is a servant of God, wielding power and authority by the grace of God, called to minister to his honor, and therefore bound to his ordinances.”Abraham Kuyper, Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto. 354.
“Called to minister to his honor.” Those are clear words that designate the direction governments ought to lead. Kuyper, like VanDrunen (previously discussed) who came much later, believed that God established civil government in the Noahic Covenant of Genesis 9, and therefore that government is a gift to all people of Common Grace (common to believer and unbeliever alike). Kuyper dedicates an entire chapter of his political manifesto to the subject of ‘No Secular State.’ In this chapter he states that belief in God is objective knowledge held by all.
The responsibility of governmental authority is therefore to create and maintain just laws. But Civil Magistrates are only able to do so if they assume that true justice already exists. In what is at first a stark contrast with VanDrunen, Kuyper writes, “It is our conviction that sound and comprehensive knowledge of those principles can only be attained by studying God’s Word and researching God’s ordinances” [Our Program, 30]. Kuyper knows of no other mechanism other than the Bible to adequately provide a starting point for probing true justice in order to exert proper governmental authority. Kuyper draws a definitive line in the sand that all legitimate law must flow in accordance with God’s decrees. Kuyper acknowledges that some Natural morality still exists by God’s grace among unbelievers. But this natural knowledge is incapable of providing humanity with true knowledge of God’s will. We therefore must rely on the Word of God when contemplating judicial justice. “But what we do not understand is that there are people who accept this Word of God with deep reverence and yet do not want to involve its directives in political administration, legislation, and the justice system. That is worse than inconsistent” [Our Program, 32]. Kuyper concludes, in direct odds with VanDrunen, that natural theology is insufficient for familiarizing oneself with God’s eternal decrees.
Kuyper envisioned, and led, a nation that honored God by instituting laws that flowed directly out of the Word of God. He foresaw the moral collapse of a nation who dared to remove God as the center of their identity. He did not advocate for some kind of Church and State merger though. In fact he argued vehemently for the separation of the two. He writes that the state must not use their authority to become, “an active promoter of God’s Kingdom” [Our Program, 62].
In order to balance this ideal separation of Church & State with his previously discussed affirmation that Christians must bring their Bibles to bear in the active use of authority in the Common Kingdom, Kuyper appeals to the active and passive natures of revelation. Actively, civil magistrates should develop ideas for law and governance from Natural Law upon which all men—believer and unbeliever alike—have equal access. Passively however, Christian legislators must rely on the revealed Word of God through Scripture to provide clarity to that Natural Law and to guide their legislation. This is a delicate balance, and yet one that Kuyper believes forces the Christian politician to labor intensively in study to be able to communicate the Christian ideal to unbelievers underneath their sphere of authority.
Kuyper believed that government had both direct and indirect duties towards God.
“Government is bound to allow unrestricted freedom for (1) the gospel’s influence; (2) people’s spiritual formation; (3) the manner in which people choose to worship; and (4) people’s conscience. Positively, government is duty-bound to (1) maintain law and order; (2) honor the oath; and (3) dedicate one day a week to God.”Abraham Kuyper, Our Program, 58.
Could an atheist flourish in Kuyper’s Netherlands? Yes and no? Yes—privately, an atheist would be free to believe whatever he chose to believe. No—publicly and governmentally, his atheistic worldview would contradict the land he was living in. Granted, as a result of living in this “Christian nation” the atheist would experience incredible blessing, prosperity, and freedom. Yet, he would not be free to pretend that God does not exist. Kuyper envisions a state that does not coerce the gospel into its people, but rather a state that does everything to promote the free movement of the gospel through the Church, as well ensure no false-gospel invades the workings of government.
5 Modern Christian Nationalism (Transformationalist)
Many of my readers will be surprised that I have separated Abraham Kuyper from Christian Nationalism. After all, Kuyper wrote often about his desire to build a “Christian nation.” While I see overlap between the two, I also see significant differences, and therefore I have separated them into their own categories.
The term Christian Nationalism has come under significant attack in the last few years. Some of that attack is rightfully understood, as in history there are those who have assumed the title and said and done idiotic things. One is tempted to therefore throw the title out altogether for fear of being associated with the crazies. But rather than do that, it is helpful to realize that Christian Nationalism, while coming in a variety of shades, has historically meant something specific and clear, and crazies aside, is a worthy political point of reflection. Recently, a number of Christian Nationalist thinkers put together The Statement on Christian Nationalism and the Gospel. In their definition, the writers state,
CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM is a set of governing principles rooted in Scripture’s teaching on Christ’s rule as supreme Lord and King of all creation, Who has ordained civil magistrates with delegated authority to be under Him, over the people, to order their ordained jurisdiction by punishing evil and promoting good for His own glory and the common good of the nation .”Statement on Christian Nationalism
Christian Nationalism holds many similarities with Abraham Kuyper’s Neo-Calvinism above, but with a few distinct items. Christian Nationalists desire what they refer to as a ‘Pan-Protestant nation.’ Meaning, they desire the nation to honor Christ as King in a non-denominational way, creedaly not confessionally. They tend to see a much stronger direct use of the Bible in legislation, as opposed to Kuyper who desired only the indirect use. As a result they also want to overtly have the government honor Jesus as Lord, while Kuyper desired the government to honor Jesus indirectly, but honor the more general term God directly. Christian Nationalists, like Kuyper, desire to transform entire societies to honor Jesus.
CN’s hold to the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ. They hold to the reality that there is no neutral position on issues of morality, that government cannot assume a secular neutral in order to appeal to the diversity of opinion. In other words, every opinion on morality and governance is a charged opinion one way or the other, and the only standard of measurement is the Bible. The statement very directly states, “WE DENY that the purpose of civil government is to establish a secular, neutral, godless order, and we deny that any government is capable of neutrality because every individual and system has moral preferences and functional gods.” This is entirely in line with Abraham Kuyper.
In accordance with Romans 13, they rightly affirm that “civil officials are God’s deacons of justice,” and therefore must “obey his commands and rule under his authority.” And further, like Kuyper, they hold to a clear limitation on the legitimate powers of governing authorities. They are ordained of God, but only for particular tasks.
Where the Statement attempts to reconcile different opinions among Christian Nationalists is in regards to the proper use of God’s Moral Law, the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments came to Moses on two table of stone. The first four commandments specifically regulate proper worship and are found on the first table (do not worship idols, honor the Sabbath, etc.). The last six commandments regulate interpersonal morality (Do not steal, do not murder, etc). While they all affirm that faith in Christ cannot be coerced by Government force, Christian Nationalists are split as to whether a Christian nation ought to enforce the first four commandments. What is the proper punishment for a nonbeliever on the street who uses the Lord’s name in vain? Our modern American secularized mindset cannot fathom a nation that punishes blasphemy against the God of the Bible. But Christian Nationalists argue that we already have ‘blasphemy laws’ under a different name. There are limitations on free speech that protect the public. In the same way, Christian Nationalists argue that the public blasphemy of God’s name harms the public, and government is legitimately charged by God to restrain such evil.
In general, the biggest distinction between Kuyper’s vision and a Christian Nationalist vision, in my opinion, is the active use of the Word of God and the name of Jesus Christ. They both wanted the nation to honor Jesus as Lord. But when it came to government’s role in that Christian nation, Kuyper preferred the more broad term “God” and that laws publicly develop from “natural knowledge” while only indirectly being influenced by the Bible. CN’s typically desire Jesus explicitly to be labeled Lord of the nation, and the Bible to overtly shape our laws.
In this article I have tried to lay out five broad categories for how a Christian might engage with politics. After an entire semester in study with great minds on this topic, I find a few things to be true. First, the history of this topic is profound. Incredible scholars, studying the Word of God faithfully, have shared many convictions and parted ways over others. Second, world history is full of men and women who truly attempted to build faithful Christian nations (John Calvin’s Geneva, John Knox’s Scotland, Oliver Cromwell’s England, The Puritan’s America). These examples should not be dismissed or forgotten. The nations they built have something to teach us, and the modern secular mind that is repulsed by such a thought, would do well to read history and see the Biblical hearts and minds that labored to develop these nations.
I myself lean very heavily into Abraham Kuyper’s approach. I find the first two approaches of both John Howard Yoder and David VanDrunen to be riddled with a Christian passivity to evil that I simply do not see in Scripture. I humbly suggest that it also does not seem to best apply all the relevant passages of Scripture, nor rightly consider the vast history of the Protestant Church. VanDrunen’s claim that believer and unbeliever can legislate together on “shared morality” and “common ground” was only potentially true in America’s past because the nations (typically Western) he is considering were at one point truly Christian nations. While rapidly moving towards becoming post-Christian nations, the average nonbeliever still lives on much borrowed values from the nation’s Christian heritage. But as we depart further and further from that Christian heritage, the amount of “shared morality” depletes before our eyes. How do you co-legislate with a group of people who advocate for a gender spectrum, drag show story hour, and “gender reassignment surgeries” (as if one’s gender could be changed through bodily mutilation). These questions are not just political talking points, but have real life consequences for families and society as a whole. Further, the Christian Nationalist approach is certainly intriguing and is rooted in Biblical values and ideals. I just find Abraham Kuyper far more thorough in his ideas and well though through in terms of practical applications.
While my hope is no way shape or form, resting on government to usher in new phases of the Kingdom of God, I also do long for a government that obeys and submits to God’s law as clearly defined in His Word. I am not content with standing by idly while true evil is legislated as some kind of public good. I long to see Christians equipped to live as the salt and light of the Earth in all spheres of their life. This begins in the home with the family. It extends into our Churches. It takes place in our workplaces, and in our in-between moments on the streets. And certainly, it extends into our desire for our cities and nations to honor God through moral leadership and just legislation. Jesus is Lord.