I explained my theological reasons for rejecting Stephen Wolfe’s “The Case for Christian Nationalism” in my review. Here, I want to point to similar arguments made by Christian nationalists in the last century, which did not stand the test of time.
These principles are: God wills that a people order itself according to natural relations of family, people, and race and thereby exclude others; that the church’s obligation to the natural order remains the same but positive law or changing societal norms can change the shape of how the church integrates into a specific place and time; and that a völkisch society is a necessary, natural good.
During the 1930s, Germany attempted to form an organized church under the partial control of the Nationalist Socialist party (Nationalsozialismus). However, the control levied by the Nationalsozialismus party was resisted by a number of pastors and church. These resisters are known as the confessing church. And in May 1934, they published the Barmen Declaration which denied that the church can adopt natural principles of a nation as part of its ongoing mission. In its fifth point, the declaration rejected categorically the church’s adaptation of national norms.
“We reject the false teaching that the church itself can and should (outside its specific [besonderen] mandate) appropriate a state-manner, a state-mission and a state-dignity and therefore itself become an organ of the state.”
The point of this statement is that Christianity could not be co-opted by the natural order of Germany during that time period. The natural relations of family, people, and the national will would have to be rejected. One can detect behind this statement the famous Nein! of Karl Barth (a key contributor to Barmen Declaration) against Natural Theology.
In response, eight church theologians responded to the Barmen Declaration on June 11 1934. The document was called Ansbacher Ratschlag, and it reflected the theological stance of Nationalist Socialist Christianity. In short, the theologians argued that the church should by God’s divine will understand itself as being invested into a particular family, people, and race (that is, blood relation).
They also affirmed that churches exist at particular times and places, and while the obligation of the church to the natural order remains the same, the particular form that natural order differs across time and place. That said, since God orders these national relations, they are good and right to embrace. The socialist nationalist party of the time imbibed such values, and the church could do so as well, they averred.
The Ansbacher Ratschlag sees God’s immutable law as binding us to the natural orders (die natürlichen Ordnungen). “We are subject to orders like family, folk, and race (i.e. blood relation).”
The document specifies that we are ordered to “a specific families (einer bestimmten Familie), specific folk (einem bestimmten Volk), and a specific race (bestimmten Rasse ).” This particularity and givenness to the natural order is the will of God, they claimed for them today. The family, people (folk), and race together formed a national identity for “a specific moment in history (inen bestimmten Moment ihrer Geschichte.)”
These natural orders of life not only share God’s will for our life. God uses family, folk, and race to sustain our earthly life, they claimed.
Yet these natural orders for Christians have a special function. These orders for believers show the grace of the Father (der Gnade des Vaters). And these natural orders lead the The Ansbacher Ratschlag to a specific conclusion.
That conclusion is that it is possible to greet brothers in Christ and say “heil Hitler” (Mit amtsbrüderlicher Hochachtung und Heil Hitler!”; preface). And this seems to be true because they argued that the Christians had an obligation to “the present folkish order of the state” (die gegenwärtige völkische Staatsordnung) (sec. 6).
We are, they thought, obligated to family, folk, and blood or race. It was natural and God’s will, they affirmed. And since such ordinary arrangements are changeable, they represent something like positive law, a law created by the people of single time and place, on the basis of cultural norms.
Interestingly, the Ratschlag also believed that the church should adopt the then current characteristics of the nature order. In this case, German people, family, and national order.
In other words, the natural characteristics of people name a basis of Christian fellowship at that specific time. The obligation to that natural order remains no matter what the order is.
So we have national love for family, people, and race; we have positive laws that are specific to the time and place that we find ourselves (Germany in 1934). And we have it being God’s will for us to order our natural relations to what is local.
That I think is a version of Christian Nationalism with disastrous results, one which we should reject.
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