The Lancaster Patriot investigative journalist Michael Yoder reported last week that Greg Carey, Professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary, addressed a group of people at St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lancaster on the topic of “Christian Nationalism.”
Despite making repeated claims that he did not want to be politically partisan in a “church space,” Carey’s main appeal was evident to all in attendance: vote Democrat.
At the end of the Question-and-Answer segment, Carey was asked about the most important thing that can be done right now to defeat Christian nationalism. His response was clear: you have two months to organize voters and defeat Republican candidate Doug Mastriano at the polls.
Carey’s political lenses colored nearly everything he said, including the fact that almost anyone who claims to be a Christian and opposes Democrat policies is liable to be labelled a “white Christian nationalist.”
Defining Our Terms
Carey did attempt to define Christian nationalism at the beginning of his speech. His three-part definition was somewhat decent.
Christian nationalists, Carey said, believe (1) the U.S. has a special relationship to God, (2) the U.S. should declare Christianity, and (3) the U.S. should pass laws that are “Christian.”
The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all nations and every nation is required to honor Jesus (Ps. 2), so the first part of Carey’s definition is largely irrelevant to the question of how the civil government should function in our nation today.
The second part is important but subservient to the third. If a nation claims to be Christian and yet does not follow biblical law, that declaration is useless. As Greg Bahnsen wrote, “A society which is to reflect Christian morality is a society which has the full, distinctive law of God for its direction.”
Therefore, the crux of the matter is part three of Carey’s definition: the U.S. should pass laws that are “Christian.”
Regrettably, however, Carey did not meaningfully engage with civil polity and the biblical worldview. What does the Bible teach about law? The role of government? The limits of government? Criminal justice? Education? Social welfare? Self-defense? Immigration?
If Christian nationalism is the belief that a nation’s laws should be “Christian” (i.e., adhere to the biblical worldview) then Carey should have at least attempted to present said biblical worldview. But Carey did not even try to address these issues, instead he set up strawmen and burned them down with furious abandon.
Trump, White, and Rushdoony?
According to his own admission, Carey’s most important slide was one with an image of Donald Trump holding a Bible. “This is what it looks like,” Carey said, pointing to the slide and referring to “white Christian nationalism.”
But Trump has never promoted, much less articulated, the biblical worldview or biblical law. If Trump is a Christian nationalist, then Carey’s own definition is useless.
Carey also claimed that Paula White is a Christian nationalist. White is a verified heretic and does not represent the biblical worldview. She might wax poetic about taking dominion but fails to even come close to presenting a biblical view of statecraft and criminal justice. White and her ilk have little knowledge of, or interest in, applying biblical law to society.
Carey’s use of Trump and White as prime examples of Christian nationalism is sloppy at best. The former hardly even pretends to believe in the biblical worldview and the latter would not even pass a sniff test when it comes to historic, orthodox Christian doctrine. (But then again, neither would Carey.)
Amazingly, Carey did reference one man who accurately represents the idea that civil law should be based on God’s revealed Word. Carey displayed a slide with an image of R.J. Rushdoony and spoke about “Christian Reconstructionists.”
He commented that Rushdoony helped create the Christian homeschool movement. The homeschooling curriculum, Carey claimed, “is all the way through white Christian nationalism.” (Does Carey think there is one, standard homeschooling curriculum all the Christian homeschoolers use?)
But instead of engaging with the work of the one person who represents the position he claims to be opposing, Carey simply moved on to talk about the false teacher White.
Speaking of some charismatic preachers, Carey said “they don’t talk about the Bible much.” That may be true for some charismatics, but perhaps not others.
Furthermore though Carey may recognize that Rushdoony was not a charismatic, he failed to mention that he wrote over 30 books, including a 3-volume set consisting of over 1,700 pages of exposition of biblical law published in 1973.
Christian Reconstructionists, it turns out, do talk a lot about the Bible.
Conveniently, Carey ignores the mountain of work that Rushdoony and other biblical scholars such as Bahnsen have published in their effort to apply biblical law to society. But it is much easier to use the heretic Paula White as your strawman example of “Christian nationalism.”
Carey also claimed that Christian nationalists tend to downplay the biblical teachings on poverty.
Perhaps Carey should read Rushdoony’s book, “The American Indian: A Standing Indictment Against Christianity and Statism in America,” which explains how America’s first experiment with socialism and government dependency practically destroyed the Native American. (Rushdoony, a descendent of ancient Armenians, lived for eight years with Native Americans on an Indian Reservation—but mentioning that would not fit Carey’s narrative.) Christian Reconstructionists such as Rushdoony and Gary North have written extensively on poverty and the biblical worldview.
But to be fair, Carey admitted that he does not do primary research on Christian nationalists. “I don’t do that work. I read the people who do and talk about it,” he said.
Yeah, that’s fairly evident, professor.
A False Teacher
Carey is a professor of New Testament, so one would expect him to be able to provide a coherent definition of Christianity and the Christian worldview. Unfortunately, Carey’s understanding of the Bible is so skewed and colored by his liberal views that he is unable to do so.
“I’m not gonna say who’s Christian or who’s not,” he said. “I want to say it’s dangerous for Christianity and it’s dangerous for democracy. Not all Christianity is healthy.”
Carey will not say who is Christian and who is not because making those sorts of distinctions would go against his ecumenicalism that flattens all the distinctives of true Christianity.
Carey said Christian nationalists “never acknowledge that Christians disagree with each other about important things.”
However, even Rushdoony and Bahnsen, for example, disagreed on some things, but not on core doctrines of the Christian faith, such as God’s sovereignty, the atonement, God’s design for human sexuality, and the authority of God’s Word for all of life. There are some things Christians must agree on because they are definitional to Christianity.
Carey cannot see, or will not recognize, the fact that there is a definable content to the Christian faith that necessarily excludes those who reject that faith. Jude told believers to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Carey has failed to uphold that faith. He is a false teacher; he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing (cf. 1 Tim. 6:3-5).
More to the point, the norm of norms is the Bible. And if Carey, a seminary professor, is not interested in telling us what the Bible says about civil government, then he is not worth listening to.
When asked whether the Christian worldview should be the highest standard in society, and if it is not, what that standard should be, Carey’s answer was vague. There are “core human values that are widely shared and I think we can build on that,” he said.
But the question about an ultimate standard was asking what those “core human values” are, and simply stating they exist without defining them is unconvincing.
“Did you need the Bible to learn not to steal?” he quipped. “Do you need the Bible to know you shouldn’t commit adultery?”
Is Carey going to posit that the Ten Commandments are those “core human values”? Not a chance. For Carey, those “core human values” are not those taught in the Bible. Case in point: Carey supports a woman’s “right” to murder her offspring, something contrary to biblical law (cf. Ex. 20:13).
As Paul warned Timothy, the professor has swerved from the faith, desiring to be a teacher of the law, without understanding either what he is saying or the things about which he makes confident assertions (cf. 1 Tim. 1:7).
I cannot say I was disappointed with Carey’s ignorance of the Christian worldview and what the Bible teaches about civil law—I expected nothing less from someone who rejects the historic, biblical Christian faith, including God’s design for marriage and sexuality—but it is troubling, nonetheless.
But keep in mind that Carey is simply doing his part as an apostate teacher at a liberal seminary. God will certainly hold him accountable for twisting Scripture, but the real problem here is that not only Carey, but many conservatives, think Trump and White represent a Christian view of nationalism. They don’t. And they don’t because their views are not based on Scripture.
If you want to know what a truly Christian vision of statecraft looks like, you will not find it in Carey, or Trump, or White. You will find it in the pages of sacred Scripture. And you will be helped to understand it by men who submit to the lordship of Christ—men like Rushdoony and Bahnsen, and local pastor Joel Saint—not by men who think the letters after their name give them the prerogative to sit in judgment on God’s Word and cast ludicrous racist aspersions at homeschoolers.