Nationalism is not heresy despite what TGC tells you

The new Gnostic Heresy at The Gospel Coalition

If you’ve been paying attention for the last few years, it is apparent that The Gospel Coalition (TGC) is the nexus for the Woke Social Justice infiltration of conservative evangelical churches. The latest edition of Gospelbound from TGC’s 2021 National Conference hosted by Collin Hansen is a perfect example. In the podcast, Hansen welcomes Professor Michael Horton of Westminster Theological Seminary and what should shock everyone—a Democrat political operative, Justin Giboney.

Giboney is cofounder of the Democratic front group the AND Campaign, which involves Michael Wear, President Barack Obama’s faith outreach leader.

In other words, TGC is platforming someone who helps elect Democrats. As we’ve argued, anyone voting for a Democrat should be subject to Church Discipline.

Yet, that is not what is most objectionable about the podcast. The problem is Professor Horton slanders white evangelical Christians and fails to fairly portray concepts like nationalism or Christian nationalism. He gets all of his information form Woke, left-wing scholars committed to deconstructing these concepts.

Horton does not even properly define nationalism. In fact, Hansen asks twice. The first time he decries not nationalism but Christian nationalism.

Hansen asks, “Is nationalism itself a threat to Christianity?”

Horton answers, “Yes, it is a very serious challenge…I think nationalism is America is special to God… Christian nationalism is a Christian heresy. It is therefore an internal threat, both to the message and the witness of the church.”

Hansen then attempts to clarify what Horton thinks about nationalism. He asks, “Would you say that nationalism itself is a threat to the gospel or only Christian nationalism?”

Horton answers, “Yeah. If nationalism is the idea that we have to be Americans more than anything else, then yes, it’s a threat to Christianity. We’re Christians more than anything else, which means we’re united, not only here, but with our brothers and sisters around the world and that’s our first family.”

Horton’s answer is, to put it diplomatically, idiotic.

Do Christians still have duties and attachments to family? Would your loyalty to your wife or your child be severed by a Christian identity?

Of course not. The Apostles tell us that we must provide for our families and we have duties to them even as part of our Christian calling. (See, I Timothy 5:8, Exodus 20:12 and Matthew 19:19.)

So, if we remain obligated to our families, why then are we not also obligated as part of our Christian duty to our extended family—our nation?

This was the argument of Thomas Aquinas, when he wrote: in Summa Theologica, “Man becomes a debtor to other men in various ways, according to their various excellence and the various benefits received from them. On both counts God holds first place, for He is supremely excellent, and is for us the first principle of being and government. On the second place, the principles of our being and government are our parents and our country that have given us birth and nourishment. Consequently man is debtor chiefly to his parents and his country, after God. Wherefore, just as it belongs to religion to give worship to God, so does it belong to piety, in the second place, to give worship to one’s parents and one’s country.”

For a longer treatment of this theme, see: Christian Nationalism is not heresy.

Consider what Aquinas points out here—the duty we owe parents arises out of our debt to them. We owe a similar debt to our country because it provides the environment of order (as opposed to anarchy) where we live our lives—and perhaps, if we are blessed, even thrive.

But, what is nationalism?

Notice that despite Hansen’s best effort, Horton did not define nationalism. He asserted a notion of nationalism that it must be one’s primary identity. However, there are other definitions of nationalism—for example Yoram Hazony defines nationalism as self-determination.

He writes, “The nationalism I grew up with is a principled standpoint that regards the world as governed best when nations are able to chart their own independent course, cultivating their own traditions and pursuing their own interests without interference.”

Nowhere in this definition would a national identity necessarily trump a religious identity. In fact, people have many identities, as Political Scientist Francis Fukuyama explains in Identity.

So, at best Horton does not know what he is talking about and at worst is himself guilty of promoting a type of Gnosticism that wishes to sever all our obligations in the flesh for a spiritual-only set of obligations. This, to put it simply, would be heresy.

It is almost gnostic in its dislike of the attachments of the flesh. This is a trend Christopher Lasch noticed in the 1990s when he wrote Gnosticism, Ancient and Modern: The Religion of the Future?.

According to Lasch, “Civic culture is dying, our national loyalties now look parochial from a world perspective, and the global circulation of information seems to condemn all forms of ethnic and religious particularism to eventual oblivion. In the global melting pot, particularism can survive, we are told, only if people accept a rigorous separation between politics and culture, politics and religion in particular: witness the horrified reaction to Islamic fundamentalism. The global market has no place for peoples who assert their own traditions in public or claim superiority for those traditions. Ethnic and religious diversity is tolerated, even celebrated, but only as a kind of tourist attraction. Civic life is swallowed up by the market; buying and selling become the only activities we have in common.”

Since Michael Horton is a heretic, why not add slander to his catalogue of iniquities

Not content to provide ill-informed political-theological commentary, Horton proceeds to slander white evangelical Christians.

Horton said, “According to the studies, white evangelicals are the most likely group in all of American society, to say that we should have a law banning, not just immigrants, but refugees. You know how long Christian conviction has been underneath that one? Now, if you’re really a Christian, you’ll want a law banning refugees, much less immigration and mixed marriages, interracial marriages. That means that white evangelicals are the most racist segment of American society. As a white Christian, that breaks my heart. Whatever happened to Revelation 5:9 worshiping around the lamb from every tribe, and kindred, and tongue and people, and nation, happily? Where the evangelical Church is growing most around the world, there is no Christian nationalism.”

What?

This is more rubbish. Let’s break it down.

Horton claims white evangelicals support laws or restrictions on immigration and refugees. Then, he leaps to assert this means the Christian wants laws against interracial marriage. Feel free to mock this nonsensical claim—it does not even follow. But here again is what he said, “You’ll want a law banning refugees, much less immigration and mixed marriages, interracial marriages. That means that white evangelicals are the most racist segment of American society.”

All because a Christian might oppose immigration or admission of more refugees? What if the Christian opposes such because the US has millions and millions of unassimilated immigrants and refugees?

What if the reason the Christian opposes current immigration levels is because so many continue to enter illegally?

Further, since the Christian is also a citizen, he has a legitimate reason to ask these questions. Horton’s appeal to Revelation 5:9 has no bearing on immigration policy here and now. This is a common trick of Leftists who appeal to eschatological views of Christ’s kingdom for ordering contemporary policy. However, there is no reason for us to set immigration policy on the basis of Revelation than there is for us to set conquest policy on the basis of Joshua.

Fortunately for us, Christ and the Apostles separated the kingdoms. This allows us to pursue policies based on reason and not attempts to immanentize the eschaton.  

And the heretic Michael Horton wants to place nationalists under church discipline

Hansen asks, “Would you discipline a member of your church who advocated Christian nationalism?”

Horton replies, “Yes, I mean, first of all we’re all under discipline in one degree or another, taking the yoke of Christ and being taught by the church pastor and the elders being accountable to them. But it begins with instruction. It has to begin with instruction, you don’t begin with excommunication, you begin with instruction and loving kindness, and not us versus them, but just trying to explain the biblical grounds for these positions.”

So, a professor who does not understand nationalism, Christian nationalism or the biblical views of these concepts wants to place nationalists under church discipline.

Christian nationalism is simply a nationalist who is also a Christian. Again, nationalism believes in the right of people to self-determination. A Christian nationalist would believe that a nation is best when it honors God’s commandments. For example, a Christian nationalist might favor Blue Laws that restrict liquor sales on Sunday. Or, might advocate for more repeal of no-fault divorce laws. Or, pass laws restricting or eliminating abortion.

Even this allows significant room for a Christian to hold to these views and not adopt some type of theonomy. (In fact, I have argued elsewhere, that secular law can legitimately be founded on what is accessible by natural revelation. This view follows Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. C.E.B. Cranfield since government is given to all humanity and not only God’s chosen people.)

Would society be better or worse for such policies?

Every Christian knows the answer.

So, every Christian is at heart—a Christian nationalist despite what the experts at The Gospel Coalition might tell you.