The Wolfe in Sheep’s Clothing: How The Case for Christian Nationalism Leads Us Astray

Abstract: This article explores the major themes of Stephen Wolfe’s Christian Nationalism, critiques issues in Wolfe’s argument, and presents a framework for Christians to move forward. This paper argues that Christians should ground themselves in Scripture, embrace their identity as exiles and ambassadors for Christ, and patiently await the fullness of Christ’s kingdom.

Key Words: Politics, Reformed Nationalism, Government, Exile, Sojourners, Ambassador


     On November 1, 2022, Stephen Wolfe released The Case for Christian Nationalism to a firestorm of Twitter (now called X) debates, endless reviews from Christians across denominations, and many podcasts about Wofle’s arguments. While this article does position itself as a review of Wolfe’s book, I will not cover all of Wolfe’s argument due to his scope, which is part history, philosophy, theology, and political theory, throughout the 479 pages. Moreover, Wolfe’s book has had its time in the limelight, and many other great academics, pastors, and theologians have written substantial reviews and criticisms that address the book’s scope. These are listed below for further reading.

     Wolfe, to my knowledge, is the first to give a definition, argument, explanation, and vision for Christian Nationalism that will shape many conversations about Christian Nationalism. I want to be clear: Wolfe’s vision and argument are unconvincing. As I argue, Christians should ground themselves in Scripture, embrace their identity as exiles and ambassadors for Christ, and patiently await the fullness of Christ’s kingdom. Unlike Wolfe’s ideas, Christians who embrace an identity as exiles and ambassadors have a firmer foundation aligned with Scripture from which to consider politics and political engagement. 


Wolfe’s Christian Nationalism

     Central to understanding Wolfe’s vision is a post-liberal democratic society. Wolfe does not argue for a particular political party or set of candidates with a certain platform. Rather, Wolfe argues for a nation that glorifies God through the totality of its national will, action, laws, and social customs led by a measured but “theocratic Caesarism” with the power to stamp out false religion and heresy within the church. The nation is not bound together by a constitution or set of principles but rather by a people of a distinct ethnicity. Wolfe defines ethnicity as something that a group of people experiences. Each ethnicity is distinguished by a common language, social customs, taboos, shared stories, rituals, calendars, social expectations, duties, loves, and religion. Nations cannot be made up of more than one ethnicity, as it is easier to govern people similar to one another. There is also an element of geography that makes up an ethnicity; a sense of place is an important factor in ethnicity. At this point, some readers may find it hard to distinguish between Wolfe’s Christian nation and Nazi Germany’s racial ideology of Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil). Wolfe denies connection to white nationalism or racist ideologies and argues that this type of division between nations is for their good, in which they can glorify God better than if ethnicities mixed. 

     Lastly, Wolfe presents the civilian government and the Caesar-like leader, or “Christian Prince,” as having considerable power to ensure the Christian nation directs its people to true piety and their chief end—to glorify God. The prince must keep the church compact to secure and procure the necessities for the pure worship of God even though the state and its prince cannot lead or institute articles of faith and sacraments. The prince also has the power to resolve doctrinal conflicts, confirm or deny theological judgments, and suppress and punish heretics. To achieve Wolfe’s Christian Nationalism, he argues not for political conservativism but for the “Great Renewal.” Wolfe’s Great Renewal occurs most likely through revolution, which Wolfe argues Christians ought to feel compelled towards because it is just and biblical.

Back to the Bible

     Part of the difficulty in critiquing Wolfe is that his argument has the dress of academic work, but underneath is a personal project, a vision sketched out by a love for his family and their future. While the book does not begin this way, the epilogue reads much more like an unfiltered far-right political podcast that gives hot takes about the current American culture, political regime, and masculinity that erodes any credibility gained. Wolfe also makes an important omission that should matter to every Christian reader. Wolfe constructs his entire argument on the Reformed theological tradition, and he makes “little effort to exegete biblical text” as he is “neither a theologian nor Biblical scholar.” This should alarm any reader. Those familiar with the Reformed tradition know that although there is great unity in certain doctrines and assumptions across the reformers, it is not monolithic. There is considerable disagreement regarding cultural engagement, politics, and the relationship between the church and the state. For example, in H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic, Christ and Culture, many familiar reformers are placed into different groups based on how Christ and culture interact. William Edgar demonstrates in his book, Created and Creating, the varied and different approaches and conclusions many Christians, including a few reformed ones, take on culture and politics. In short, the Reformed tradition is not uniform. A different author’s profile of a different reformer can easily construct a different type of Christian Nationalism.

     Why is this important to mention? Wolfe presents a political order of Western Europe that may have existed in the 16th and 17th centuries. The reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries applied Scripture to their contemporary context, a context that no longer exists. Thus, readers ought to be careful in applying the reformers’ context to today’s context. Additionally, reformed writings are not authoritative to Christians because Scripture should stand as the final authority. If Christians are to believe that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” then that includes Wolfe’s argument. I care a great deal more about how Wolfe understands Scripture than how he understands the Reformed tradition.

     More importantly, Wolfe’s ethnic nations premise comes from neither the Reformed tradition nor Scripture but is instead an argument based on ‘what if Adam and Eve did not sin.’ Much of what Wolfe argues is founded on the idea that non-fallen humanity would have had distinct people groups with their civil governments to organize their own people. For the most part, Wolfe cites some reformed theologians to assert this idea but fails to establish the argument in Scripture. In other words, for Christians to take Wolfe’s argument seriously, it should emerge from Scripture, not a tradition that has been refined and corrected over time. God’s Word is central and the final authority; any political theory or Christian nation should be grounded in God’s Word.

The Problem of Wolfe’s Prince

     The second criticism of Wolfe is his idea of the “Christian Prince.” In Wolfe’s only call to prayer, he writes, God would raise up such a leader [christian prince]. . .one who would suppress the enemies of God and elevate his people, recover a worshipping people, restore masculine prominence in the land and a spirit of dominion; affirm and conserve his people and place. . .and inspire a love of one’s Christian country.” 

     Ignoring that this is only the call to prayer in the whole book, to usher in the Christian nation requires the christian prince to lead the people through a “Great Renewal” toward a nation built on the principles of Christian Nationalism. In other words, political salvation and hope are placed in the “christian prince.” It’s hard to read Wolfe’s call to prayer in the face of Scripture that commands to “put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” Christians already have a Prince, Jesus, who has come and conquered the grave and offers everlasting life through faith in Him. It is no coincidence that the prophet Isaiah called Him the “Prince of Peace.”

     There also needs to be a recognition that if a Christian nation is to be gained, it ought to be through regeneration that requires the prayer, evangelism, and work of the Church, not through political means. James Hunter rightly notes that culture is never determined by politics alone but other institutions and movements have a great deal of influence over the values and ethics of a group of people. Thus, Hunter’s definition of culture would include the arts, music, academies, businesses and economic forces and institutions, the cultural meta-narratives, amongst other factors. In applying this to Wolfe’s Christian Nationalism, it’s hard to see how a dominant Christian culture can be created without other cultural forces and institutions’ consent and contribution as outlined by Hunter. If, practically, a nation cannot be Christianized by politics alone, perhaps Wolfe envisions a totalitarian state in which all of society is coerced to contribute to Christian culture, which seems especially contrary to the kingdom of heaven.

Christians Already Belong to a Christian Nation

     Christians must also remember that a Christian nation already exists. It has been inaugurated but is yet to arrive in its fullness. Revelation 21 and 22 give a vivid picture of the new heavens and earth where humanity and its dominion are oriented towards God’s proper worship and glory. This is why the apostles Peter and Paul use language that calls Christians to think of themselves as a people in exile, not at home. In his first epistle, Peter calls the Christians he writes to “elect exiles.” Peter commands, “As sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh…keep your conduct among Gentiles honourable so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Notice that the actions of the Christians are to point to the final day of visitation, the eschaton, when Jesus returns, not to some Christian nation. Peter does not encourage his readers to work towards a Christian nation but for the new heavens and earth to come. It is why Jesus commands us to “lay up treasures in heaven,” for that is our Christian home. In other words, Peter does not use the terms ‘exile’ or ‘sojourner’ to describe the readers’ present political reality under Roman rule, but their present reality until Christ returns. No matter what nation, state, or political system Christians find themselves in, they will always be exiles and sojourners until Jesus returns and ought to work for the treasures in that kingdom.

     Paul used similar language of exile and sojourner in 2 Corinthians 5 when he called his readers “ambassadors for Christ.” However, before he called his readers to be ambassadors for Christ in the “ministry of reconciliation,” Paul set the context of how the reader should perceive their identity. Paul used the image of a tent to describe the Christian identity, specifically their physical body, and commanded the Christian not to long for a nicer tent, but the building, from God in the eternal heavens. Then Paul switched the image and commanded to long to have the heavenly clothes “swallow up” the current clothing. Christians should “groan” and “burden” themselves as they long for heaven and hope for the heavenly home while here on earth. From these images, Paul commanded his readers to have “good courage” to “please him [Christ]” and to embrace the “ministry of reconciliation.” In the ministry of reconciliation, Paul called Christians ambassadors. What is significant about Paul’s language? Paul framed the image of an ambassador in the immediate context of how Christians should represent Christ and as a reminder that their king, their home, and their hope are ultimately not on earth or in this present age but in their heavenly dwelling. 

     So, what do Peter and Paul have to do with Wolfe’s Christian Nationalism? At the beginning of the Epilogue, Wolfe acknowledges that most readers ask, “Okay, but what do we do now?” which Wolfe never answers since his book “is not an action plan.” However, I would argue that Wolfe has no action plan because within Scripture, as demonstrated by Peter and Paul, Christians are never commanded to create a Christian nation. Christians are called to set their eyes on the Prince of Peace to return. His Kingdom has been inaugurated but is not yet here in its fullness. With their eyes on the eschaton (the second coming of Christ), Christians are to live as exiles, sojourners, and ambassadors to work towards treasures in heaven that will never be destroyed.

The Way Forward

     Ultimately, Christians should reject Wolfe’s Christian Nationalism. First, any political framework or Christian nation should emerge from Scripture, not from selected Reformed theologians and thinkers from the 16th and 17th centuries. The Bible is the supreme authority and if Christians build a nation, it ought to emerge from Scripture. However, as suggested, nation-building is not a task mentioned in Scripture. 

     Second, Wolfe’s “christian prince” is incongruous both biblically and historically. One does not need to look far back in history to see that even a measured Caesar-like prince will sin, cause oppression and injustice, and fall short of the glory of God. Even ancient Israel’s greatest king, David, is an example of a failed king. One benefit to democracy is that it is purposefully slow and convoluted, with many checks and balances and power distributed across different branches to limit one person’s ability to inflict evil (intentionally or unintentionally) on a nation. Whether it be the Canadian, American, or any Western democratic system, democracy is an inefficient way to run a country but a great way to organize a nation full of messed up sinners. I eagerly await the kingdom with the perfect King of Kings and Lord of Lords to rule forever without checks and balances on His power.

     Third, I agree with Wolfe on the decline of “Christendom” in North America. This should not be celebrated, and we should mourn that unbelievers embrace an increasingly hostile stance toward the Church, Jesus, and Scripture. As Wolfe writes, “Cultural Christianity does the work of directing people to the precondition for faith: knowledge of and assent to the Gospel.” However, Christians are called to remember they are exiles and ambassadors in a culture of Christianity. 

     The proper response for Christians today is not to build a Christian nation or spur on a Great Renewal but to long for the heavenly home and embrace the ministry of reconciliation. To be clear, Christians should engage politically, appear in the public sphere, and advocate for what is good, true, and beautiful, just not as described by Wolfe’s Christian Nationalism. Humanities greatest problem is sin, not our lack of a Christian nation. In our sin, we hold up princes of politics and earthly kingdoms for our salvation. Perhaps this is best summarized in the song, “Kyrie Elison (It’s Mercy We Need)” by Elias Drummer on his album The Work, Vol. 2:

I held them up, they let me down 

Don’t hold me up, I’ll do the same thing

All it takes is to look around

To see that they’re broken, to see that I’m broken

And underneath it all

What we really want

A prophet to teach it, a shepherd to lead it

A king to believe in, but isn’t that Jesus?

As sinners, we need God’s mercy desperately. We need a prophet to teach, a shepherd to lead, and a king to bow down to; He is heaven ruling and reigning. May He come quickly. 

For Further Reading:

Brian Mattson, “A Children’s Crusade Stephen Wolfe and “The Great Restoration,”

Kevin DeYoung, “The Rise of Right-Wing Wokeism Review: ‘The Case for Christian Nationalism’ by Stephen Wolfe,”

Neil Shenvi, “Of Gods and Men: A Long Review of Wolfe’s Case for Christian Nationalism,”

Paul D. Miller, “A Tale of Two Books, One Podcast, and the Contest over Christian Nationalism,”


1 By liberal, I do not refer to a particular political party, but to liberalism; a political and moral philosophy based on consent of the governed, political equity, liberty, and the rights of the individual.

2 Stephen Wolfe, The Case for Christian Nationalism (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2022), 279. Wolfe does not precisely define the term theocratic Caesarism only suggests that this type of leader is a dictator type that moves the nation to glorify God in everything they do.

3 Wolfe, 9, 279, 312.

4 Wolfe, 135. Wolfe goes onto to explain that he uses the terms ethnicity and nation interchangeable to highlight the distinctive feature of Christian nationalism. Nations are determined by ethnic group of people, rather than a set of agreed upon principles or governing document like a constitution or bill of rights.

5 Wolfe, 136.

6 Wolfe, 135, 142, 145.

7 Wolfe, 179.

8 Wolfe, 119, 141. It is important to note that Wolfe also makes no effort to argue why his vision for Christian Nationalism is not racist or blatant white supremacy. As Kevin DeYoung writes, “surely in a 500-page book, it wouldn’t have been misplaced, or kowtowing to the spirit of the age, for Wolfe to make clear exactly what he is and isn’t arguing for.”

9 Wolfe, 31.

10 Wolfe, 186, 191, 278.

11 Wolfe, 294, 312.

12 Wolfe, 313. It should be noted, that in extreme cases, “arch-heretics” can be punished with death according to Wolfe. See pages 386–391.

13 Wolfe, 435.

14 Wolfe, 325, 344–346. One only needs to read chapter nine of Wolfe’s book to see that Wolfe views the current American political system as inherently tyrannical, against Christ's kingdom, against true humanity, and ordered against God and his people. Thus, Wolfe justifies a violent revolution to usher in Christian Nationalism.

15 Wolfe, 477.

16 Wolfe, 433–474. It is puzzling to try and understand how this epilogue made its way past any editor. From questionable views about Putin’s Russia to Christian men consuming too much vegetable oil causing low testosterone counts, it is a baffling ending to what began as an intellectual exercise.

17 Wolfe, 16.

18 H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper, 1951).

19 William Edgar, Created & Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2017), 51–83.

20 This is why the appeal to the reformed tradition is inadequate, there is too much variance in regard to the state, politics, and cultural engagement to construct a cohesive argument.

21 2 Tim. 3:16–17 [English Standrd Version].

22 Wolfe, The Case for Christian Nationalism, 55–66. Wolfe calls this the prelapsarian society in which many of the aspects he sees present are continuous in the postlapsarian society, or the post-fallen world that we live in today.

23 Wolfe, 68–72.

24 Wolfe, 31. For the rest of the essay, “christian prince” will refer to Wolfe’s king-like leader that brings about a Christian nation.

25 Wolfe, 324.

26 Wolfe, 279, 324.

27 Ps. 146:3.

28 Isa. 9:6. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

29 James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 103.

30 Hunter, 31–44.

31 1 Pet. 1:1.

32 1 Pet. 2:11–12. Emphasis my own.

33 Matt. 6:19–21.

34 2 Cor. 5:20.

35 2 Cor. 5:17–19.

36 2 Cor. 5:1–3.

37 2 Cor. 5:4–5.

38 2 Cor. 5:4.

39 2 Cor. 5:6, 9.

40 Wolfe, The Case for Christian Nationalism, 433.

41 Many have argued that the entirety of the Old Testament is a testimony that Messiah, the one greater than Moses, the Servant of the Lord, was yet to come and was the only one worthy of building your hope and life on. David is an example of this. He was not the perfect king.

42 A total monarchy is very efficient and a great way to organize a society, but only if the monarch is good. Thankfully, the eternal king in the new heavens and earth is very good.

43 Wolfe, The Case for Christian Nationalism, 232.

44 “Kyrie Elieson (It’s Mercy We Need)” Track # 4 on Elias Drummer, The Work, Vol. 2, Integrated Music Rights, 2022.

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