I have the privilege of reading great books in my role as pastor; and, I have the responsibility to read some truly awful ones. This book is awful – worse than I thought it would be.
It’s also better than I thought – better reasoned and researched.
These two things together make this a very dangerous book. I would normally try to find some points of agreement when offering even a brief review. I will not do so here. I do not want to commend this book in any way.
Wolfe’s book is nearly 500 pages, and it has been thoroughly reviewed by Kevin DeYoung and even more thoroughly by Neil Shenvi in a four part review. I will refer you to their work. This isn’t a serious ‘review’, just my reaction to Wolfe’s book.
Regarding Wolfe’s vision: it is downright poison. Wolfe is looking for a “theocratic Caeser,” calling for violent revolution to overthrow “the regime,” which consists of rulers in Washington as well as university professors, mainstream media, and other elites. Rights of the people can easily be set aside if the need arises.
Wolfe’s book necessarily leads to racist policies, the subjugation of women, the execution of heretics, persecution of members of non-Christian religions and likely even certain Christian denominations, involvement of the “Prince” into the theological controversies of the church, and more.
The book makes huge leaps theologically, building substantially on the author’s ideas of what government would look like had Adam not fallen (with some support from select theologians). Wolfe builds a case for THE Protestant Political Principle drawing heavily on select Reformed theologians, mainly from the 17th/18th century – as if there is a single Protestant political principle that ceased being refined (semper reformanda) and adapted to a changing world. His definitions of nation and nationalism are novel and imprecise/inconsistent. Throughout, he refuses to acknowledge how the gospel of Jesus, while not setting aside categories like family and “your people,” radically redefines these categories.
And the epilogue is ridiculous. What was a serious, though ill-conceived book, gets downright painful and petty. He rails against suburbs, envisioning his Christian Nationalists becoming homesteaders. He asserts we are living in a “gynocracy” – where men with masculine attributes should be running the place, we have women and effeminate men ruling. He calls out men of the PCA for being plump, wearing wrinkled shirts, and having low-T. He argues that evangelicals have become “enslaved to the sentiments of the coastal elites.” And, he tries to cut off genuine dialogue by saying evangelicals who disagree (Big Eva) do so because they are a part of the “Globalist American Empire.” He contends that the ruling class is not Americans at all but “cosmopolitan and ‘nowheres'” (his version of the birther conspiracy). He complains that the voices of the right are squashed (despite having his trash book published and having 10k followers on Twitter). Good trick – caricature all who disagree and call them names. And he comes off as a Taliban fanboy. Blaspheme laws, Sabbath laws, the prince enforcing [his version of] orthodoxy – and all of this can be established by a Christian minority without the consent of the majority.
Neil Shenvi has a great thought that I’ll use to conclude: “If what we’re describing sounds increasingly like a dystopia, it’s worth asking whether we’ve taken a wrong turn at some point.” While there is, at times, a compelling logic to Wolfe’s argumentation, seeing the fruit of where he leads us should give great pause. In that pause, rewind, and review how you got there. If the fruit is poison, the vine is too – find where the poison (the logical leaps, the faulty theology, etc) has been introduced.