An accusation which Christians advocating for the doctrine of ethnonationalism often face is that we have embraced modernism and evolutionary materialism. It is argued that “racism,” the heresy of kinists (or Christian ethnonationalists), is a nineteenth-century development that emerged as the revolutionary Enlightenment infiltrated the West following the French Revolution. Alienist authors assert that the “spirit of racism” took hold of the West during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. No matter the denomination, most conservative Christians today who claim to oppose the spirit of self-deification in modernism vehemently assail the biblical doctrine of ethnonationalism as heretical. My purpose with this piece is to show that this accusation is false and historically illiterate, as a belief in God-ordained racial realism, including the moral corollary that we ought to love our own people over foreigners, is present far earlier in church history.
Before any analysis of the traditional Christian position on this issue can proceed, it is vital to note that although the development of the nation-state in nineteenth-century Europe was partially a development of modernism, it was far more a reaction to Napoleonic imperialism than a continuation of the spirit of Rousseau and Voltaire. Furthermore, it is also true that some Darwinists are, to this day, race-realists, for any deep interest in the science of biological change will tend to bring evidence for racial distinctions to the fore. However, it cannot be overlooked that multiculturalism and Marxism are far more prevalent philosophies of modernism, to the extent that the race-realist camp within modernist circles forms a rather insignificant minority. In fact, it is clear that for modernism as a whole, the destruction of the family, tribe, guild, nation, and church is a primary objective; this should be evident to all students of philosophy. Another noteworthy historical factor is that prior to the era of European exploration and colonialism, Europeans had very little contact with other races, Jews and Turks being the rare exceptions. The context in which they found themselves, by implication, meant that the church has had little need to formulate a comprehensive, systematic understanding of the orthodox doctrine of race and nationhood prior to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, just as the need to formulate the orthodox doctrine of grace did not arise until Augustine refuted Pelagius’s heresies in the fifth century, and just as the doctrine of justification by faith alone was not articulated until the sixteenth century against Rome’s grievous errors. Ironically, kinists today face similar opposition from mainstream Christianity as the first Protestant Reformers did from the Roman Catholic Church.
By analysing some of the kinist statements by the early church fathers, I intend to show that, although it is true that the doctrine of race and nationhood (rightly) received little attention in the early church, the church fathers aren’t completely silent on the issue, which further proves that it is the traditionalist position.
The First Century
Arguably the strongest argument for kinist beliefs within the early church comes from the Acts of the Apostles, wherein Paul addresses our pagan ancestors in Athens and beautifully explains to them the value of the providential creation and preservation of the ethne for the glory of God (Acts 17:26-27). In the same apostle’s letters to the first-century church, he explicitly expresses his love for his own kinsmen (Romans 9:3) and encourages Philemon to embrace Onesimus with the love that is due to kinsmen (Philemon 16). He also makes it clear that the naturalness of love towards one’s own people or nation is so evident, that even depraved pagans know it to be good and normative (I Tim. 5:8).
Another text which “Christian” Marxists love to quote, Galatians 2:11-14, ironically further proves the reality of ethnonationalism in St. Paul’s thought. While Peter tried to force Gentile Christians to integrate into Jewish culture and accept its customs in order to be accepted into the covenant, Paul counters that one does not have to surrender his ethnic identity to become a Christian, for Christianity effectuates the sanctification of nations (Matt. 28:19-20), not their destruction. That this was the view of the first-century church is also confirmed by the Christian Reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony, whose historical analysis of the matter ought to be considered authoritative, particularly in light of the groundbreaking and thorough research he has done with regard to how the theological views of the early church laid the foundations for Western social order.
Finally, the apostle John’s apocalyptic visions, concluding the canon of special revelation during the first century, further prove that races and nations were received as a real and integral part of God’s redemptive plan with creation. John witnessed a multitude of peoples whose ethnic and racial identity was to subsist eternally (Rev. 7:9), thereby showing their importance within God’s design.
Tertullian (A.D. 160 – 225)
The church father Tertullian in his Ad Nationes responds to a number of miscellaneous objections that had been made against Christians. Included among these objections is the contention from a man named Psammetichus that Christians are to be denigrated as a tertium genus (third race), evidently some sort of degenerated group of men. Included in Psammetichus’s cavil is the story of how he determined the first race of men to be Phrygians: a number of infants were removed from all human society except to be raised by a nurse whose tongue had been surgically removed, so that their language would form purely from nature and not from any learning; Psammetichus then reasoned that the language to naturally emerge among the infants would be the language of the first race of men, and since the infants (it is alleged) spoke of Bekkos (Phrygian for “bread”), Psammetichus concluded that the Phrygians were the first race. Tertullian responds:
We are indeed said to be the “third race” of men. What, a dog-faced race? Or broadly shadow-footed? Or some subterranean Antipodes? If you attach any meaning to these names, pray tell us what are the first and the second race, that so we may know something of this “third.” . . . Granted, then, that the Phrygians were the earliest race, it does not follow that the Christians are the third. For how many other nations come regularly after the Phrygians? Take care, however, lest those whom you call the third race should obtain the first rank, since there is no nation indeed which is not Christian. Whatever nation, therefore, was the first, is nevertheless Christian now. It is ridiculous folly which makes you say we are the latest race, and then specifically call us the third. But it is in respect of our religion, not of our nation, that we are supposed to be the third; the series being the Romans, the Jews, and the Christians after them.1
The crucial element of Tertullian’s quote here is his contention that all nations can (and presumably will) become Christian, as Christianity is fundamentally a religious category, not a racial one. This requires a clear distinction between the material and the spiritual, a conception that national identity is not removed but maintained and sanctified by conversion. Tertullian had a concept of race or nation as something distinct from religion yet narrower than humanity. Hence Rev. McAtee notes:
Tertullian sees race and nationhood as something physical rather than spiritual, thus he mentions the corporeal appellations like “dog-faced,” and “shadow-footed” to describe different races. Tertullian also clearly connects the concepts of race and nationhood contra the alienist idea of propositional nationhood. . . . To insist that the Christian is a race, Tertullian seems to be telling us, is to slip into Gnostic categories. Christians are not a race but a religion and when races convert to Christianity, as they all will someday do, this will not negate the races or nations they already belong to. It will simply cause those races and nations to glorify God as one body with many parts glorifies God.
Cyprian (A.D. 200 – 258)
In a previous post, I already touched on Cyprian’s use of race as a theological analogy. Yet we can go even further in-depth. In St. Cyprian’s tenth treatise, entitled On Jealousy and Envy, he argues that “nothing should be more guarded against by the Christian, nothing more carefully watched, than being taken captive by envy and malice, that none, entangled in the blind snares of a deceitful enemy, in that the brother is turned by envy to hatred of his brother, should himself be unwittingly destroyed by his own sword” (par. 3). He continues to describe jealousy as “the root of all evils, the fountain of disasters, the nursery of crimes, the material of transgressions” (par. 6). After explaining from various examples and commands from Scripture that Christians are to fight against all forms of envy, Cyprian goes on to admonish Christians to live Spirit-led lives and thereby “bear the image of Him who is in heaven” (par. 14). In paragraph 15, he continues to say that this change of heart should occur in Christians so that “the divine birth can shine forth” in us. Cyprian then makes the statement relevant for the current study:
If it is a source of joy and glory to men to have children like unto themselves – and it is more agreeable to have begotten an offspring then when the remaining progeny responds to the parent with like lineaments – how much greater is the gladness of God the Father, when any one is so spiritually born that in his acts and praises the divine eminence of race [genus] is announced!2
As alienists are prone to misconstrue kinism to be some self-evidently false hatred of others for having the wrong skin color, this quotation merits a fuller explanation. When Cyprian here argues that men glory in having physically and behaviorally similar children – that such is more “agreeable” – he is not simply stating a matter of near-universal human preference, as if the joy which we take in our offspring’s similitude was as subjective as a preferred flavor of ice cream. Instead, Cyprian’s argument presupposes that it is proper and fitting for men to take such joy, and hence that it is improper and unfitting for men to neglect the value of lineal similitude or, worse, to positively value dissimilitude. This joy in similitude is proper and fitting in the same way that God properly takes joy in His children’s Spirit-led love, free of jealousy and envy. The entire force of this statement depends on the fact that we ought to value children who are similar to us, not merely behaviorally but also physically.
Hence, though it is here in seed form, Cyprian is nevertheless articulating a crucial element of God’s social design of man: that we are designed to have children with people who look like us and act like us, and hence that we are to marry and live among people who look like us and act like us, including all the inarticulable and perspectival subtleties which are so integral to calling a people “our own.” This principle, in other words, is ethnonationalist, even if only incipiently. Cyprian’s purpose with this passage is to use the reality and value of race and the joy to be found in racial contentment as an analogy for explaining how God finds joy in remaking us in His image through His Spirit.
Peter of Alexandria (A.D. c. 200s – 311)
In his Canonical Epistle, Peter describes evil with reference to black skin, showing a connection in his mind between that race of men and evil in general:
To those who are altogether reprobate, and unrepentant, who possess the Ethiopian’s unchanging skin, and the leopard’s spots, it shall be said, as it was spoken to another fig-tree, “Let no fruit grow on you henceforward for ever; and it presently withered away.” [Matthew 21:19] For in them is fulfilled what was spoken by the Preacher:That which is crooked cannot be made straight; and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.[Ecclesiastes 1:15] For unless that which is crooked shall first he made straight, it is impossible for it to be adorned; and unless that which is wanting shall first be made up, it cannot be numbered. . . . Against those whom, from desperation or depraved opinion, are impenitent, and carry about with them perpetually the inherent and indelible blackness of sin, as of an Ethiopian’s skin, or the leopard’s spots, he brings forward the cursing of another fig-tree.3
It is of course proper to note that Peter does not speak of blacks as themselves evil; he merely describes their black skin as some sort of symbol of evil. Yet that very connection is far, far from what any modern alienist would dare to do: assert that racial distinctions can themselves carry moral-symbolic meaning, whiteness being associated with moral purity and blackness with moral evil. Furthermore, it would be unreasonable to surmise that Peter would make this connection without believing there is any peculiar moral deficiency with the black race as such.
Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. c. 329 – 389)
As with Peter, Gregory of Nazianzus likewise sees the black man as a symbol of moral evil. In an oration on baptism, he applies this symbolism to the narrative of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts:
Do you also say, “See, here is water, what does hinder me to be baptized?” Seize the opportunity; rejoice greatly in the blessing; and having spoken be baptized; and having been baptized be saved; and though you be an Ethiopian body, be made white in soul.4
Jerome (A.D. 347 – 420)
Jerome, in his Against Helvidius, writes a reply to Helvidius’s assertion that Mary did not perpetually remain a virgin. As Helvidius argues that Scripture speaks of “brothers” of Jesus, implying that Mary was no longer a virgin after giving birth to Jesus, Jerome counters by specifying the different way in which that term can be taken. Hence in paragraph 16, we see Jerome giving a definition of “brethren” which affirms the kinist doctrine of race and nationhood:
How then, says Helvidius, do you make out that they were called the Lord’s brethren who were not his brethren? I will show how that is. In Holy Scripture there are four kinds of brethren— by nature, race, kindred, love. . . . As to race, all Jews are called brethren of one another, as in Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 15:12: “If your brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto you, and serve you six years; then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you.” And in the same book, Deuteronomy 17:15: “You shall in anywise set him king over you, whom the Lord your God shall choose: one from among your brethren shall you set king over you; you may not put a foreigner over you, which is not your brother.” And again, Deuteronomy 22:1: “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep go astray, and hide yourself from them: you shall surely bring them again unto your brother. And if your brother be not near unto you, or if you know him not, then you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall be with you until your brother seek after it, and you shall restore it to him again.” And the Apostle Paul says, Romans 9:3-4: “I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites.” Moreover they are called brethren by kindred who are of one family, that is πατρία, which corresponds to the Latin paternitas, because from a single root a numerous progeny proceeds. In Genesis 13:8, 11 we read: “And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdmen and your herdmen; for we are brethren. And again, So Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east: and they separated each from his brother.” Certainly Lot was not Abraham’s brother, but the son of Abraham’s brother Aram. For Terah begot Abraham and Nahor and Aram: and Aram begot Lot. Again we read, Genesis 12:4: “And Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son.” But if you still doubt whether a nephew can be called a son, let me give you an instance. Genesis 14:14: “And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen.” And after describing the night attack and the slaughter, he adds: “And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot.” Let this suffice by way of proof of my assertion.5
I should note that whereas I do not agree with Jerome’s arguments for Mary’s perpetual virginity (despite its being upheld by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and even Protestant leaders), nevertheless his argumentation for the biblical support of racial brotherhood is very much orthodox. While alienists may not have an issue with the use of the word “brother” to denote membership in an extended family (such as Lot and Abraham), it is but a natural extension of this same principle to say that national and racial kinsmen are likewise “brothers”: that they are part of a real, hereditary, biological grouping, and that it is fitting to assign moral duties of nearness unto these groupings – that we ought to love our kinsmen with a higher love than foreigners. If one wishes to quibble that Jerome does not specifically use the word “race” to refer to the continental racial classifications of today – white, black, oriental, etc. – it still stands true that the principle he cites would apply to such categories as well. Jerome therefore – once again, implicitly – provides support for ethnonationalism.
Augustine (A.D. 354 – 430)
Augustine writes in his sixteenth book of The City of God on the progress of the two cities in the period from Noah to Abraham. In the second chapter, he writes the following concerning what was prophetically prefigured in the sons of Noah:
Shem, of whom Christ was born in the flesh, means “named.” And what is of greater name than Christ, the fragrance of whose name is now everywhere perceived, so that even prophecy sings of it beforehand, comparing it in the Song of Songs [1:3] to ointment poured forth? Is it not also in the houses of Christ, that is, in the churches, that the “enlargement” of the nations dwells? For Japheth means “enlargement.” And Ham (i.e., hot), who was the middle son of Noah, and, as it were, separated himself from both, and remained between them, neither belonging to the first-fruits of Israel nor to the fullness of the Gentiles, what does he signify but the tribe of heretics, hot with the spirit, not of patience, but of impatience, with which the breasts of heretics are wont to blaze, and with which they disturb the peace of the saints? But even the heretics yield an advantage to those that make proficiency, according to the apostle’s saying, “There must also be heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” [1 Corinthians 11:19] Whence, too, it is elsewhere said, “The son that receives instruction will be wise, and he uses the foolish as his servant.” For while the hot restlessness of heretics stirs questions about many articles of the Catholic faith, the necessity of defending them forces us both to investigate them more accurately, to understand them more clearly, and to proclaim them more earnestly; and the question mooted by an adversary becomes the occasion of instruction. However, not only those who are openly separated from the church, but also all who glory in the Christian name, and at the same time lead abandoned lives, may without absurdity seem to be figured by Noah’s middle son: for the passion of Christ, which was signified by that man’s nakedness, is at once proclaimed by their profession, and dishonored by their wicked conduct. Of such, therefore, it has been said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” [Matthew 7:20] And therefore was Ham cursed in his son, he being, as it were, his fruit. So, too, this son of his, Canaan, is fitly interpreted “their movement,” which is nothing else than their work. But Shem and Japheth, that is to say, the circumcision and uncircumcision, or, as the apostle otherwise calls them, the Jews and Greeks, but called and justified, having somehow discovered the nakedness of their father (which signifies the Saviour’s passion), took a garment and laid it upon their backs, and entered backwards and covered their father’s nakedness, without their seeing what their reverence hid. For we both honor the passion of Christ as accomplished for us, and we hate the crime of the Jews who crucified Him. The garment signifies the sacrament, their backs the memory of things past: for the church celebrates the passion of Christ as already accomplished, and no longer to be looked forward to, now that Japheth already dwells in the habitations of Shem, and their wicked brother between them.
This great church father is here referring not simply to spiritual distinctions within mankind (followers of Christ versus heretics), but to physical races descending from the three sons of Noah. Only those blinded by Gnosticism would deny the physical dimension of the prophetical prefiguration as explained by Augustine. The Semitic race, as an ethnos in the form of ancient Israel, was reformed and their fallen nature restored so that they would be the carriers of the Old Covenant. Likewise in the New Covenant, by the spreading of the gospel to the white race and its consequent sanctification, Augustine explains, the prophecy concerning Japheth was fulfilled. It is therefore clear that among the real and valuable physical objects in which the Holy Spirit infuses grace, race is one such feature, along with individuals, couples, families, ethnicities, and countries.
Moreover, besides the basic fact that Augustine sees physical races as real categories having redemptive-historical significance, it is important to note how he sees the Noahic prophecy of Genesis 9 as teaching the primacy of the Japhethites (i.e. Europeans) in being the New Covenant standard-bearers of Christ, following the Shemites (including the Israelites) as the Old Covenant standard-bearers. All the while, Augustine deems the Hamites (most specifically including blacks) as mostly wicked heretics who hardly partake of this prophesied blessing. This is not a small detail, as the view that blacks are plagued by “the curse of Ham” is quite prominent throughout church history, so much so that this theory is automatically dismissed today as a racist conjecture.
This generally low view of Africans can also be confirmed in another statement he makes elsewhere. Commenting on the wide, universal reaches of God’s grace through His church as prophesied in Psalm 72, Augustine says:
[T]he Catholic Church has been foretold, not as to be in any particular quarter of the world, as certain schisms are, but in the whole universe by bearing fruit and growing so as to attain even unto the very Ethiopians, to wit, the remotest and foulest of mankind.6
Though we do not have a desire to mock blacks, it is nonetheless appropriate to have a sober look into the truth of Africans’ historic behavior, including the assessment which our fathers have made of their behavior and seen fit to publish. Augustine generally agrees with our conclusion that Africans are innately more prone to various evils, on which grounds he deems Ethiopians “the remotest and foulest of mankind.”7
The temptation of the skeptic is, no doubt, to see these quotes as underdeterminative – to believe that we kinists are latching onto a handful of random quotes and proceeding to eisegete our own principles into the text. However, as this is precisely the same misinterpretation which alienists make of R.J. Rushdoony’s kinism, it would be appropriate for us to articulate some of the differences between kinism and alienism, that the patristic support for kinism can be duly clarified.
As Nil Desperandum points out in the above post about Rushdoony, kinism is essentially the Christian belief in race and its importance. Kinism is not simply a belief in the intrinsic sinfulness of interracial marriage, as if the debate over whether miscegenation is unwise or sinful constituted the entire issue. Consequently, alienism is the ideology of those who deny the reality of race, who believe that race is a social construct, who hold that Galatians 3:28 proves the biological equality of all races, who (claiming to follow 1 Peter 2:9) contend for the removal of all national boundaries to establish a one-world Christian empire, and who accuse you of denying the image of God in nonwhites if you declare them to be different.8 Anti-kinists, in other words, are not people who grant the reality of race, understand the prerogative of fathers to forbid their daughters to miscegenate, and see the importance of acting off racial considerations when, say, choosing where to live, but then deny that miscegenation is a sin. Those are not anti-kinists at all, as they would actually agree with us on the fundamentals. Hence, the purpose of the foregoing quotes is not to prove the historic backing of the very specific strong-kinist claim that interracial marriage is intrinsically sinful (a point we only expect to be discussed more recently in history), but to show in a general and broad way that the early church fathers believed in the existence of ethnonational and racial distinctions and saw them, in some sense, as significant – that they did not flatly deny all such distinctions, as alienists do. The fact that the fathers’ quotations might seem very ordinary (e.g. Jerome’s appeal to the fact that all ethnic Israelites were, in some sense, brothers) does not establish that the quotes are underdeterminative, but only underscores the fact that kinism is a very normal and commonsense doctrine.
This becomes even more evident when we apprehend how modern alienists would respond to quotes like this. Imagine if a white American said that other white Americans are his brothers, but not nonwhites, which is one reason (among many) why Barack Obama ought not to be president. This is a straightforward application of the ethnic brotherhood of the biblical Israelites, yet it would beckon cries of racism and blasphemy from even the most conservative wings of the visible church. Similarly, imagine what screams of anguish would emanate from alienists today if any dared to say that children ought to physically resemble their parents! The modern church today either attributes zero value to ethnically homogeneous marriages or positively values miscegenous unions, and it would not take long for them to catch the scent of racism if anyone were heard promoting Cyprian’s principle of lineal similitude. Again, if any were to speak of blacks as cursed in some sense or evil, or if any were to use black skin as a symbol for sin, the totality of the egalitarian “church’s” wrath would be poured upon that individual, excommunicating him for his unconscionable racism. This should make it all the more obvious that the early church tacitly supported the views which we explicitly advocate.
The above quotes from the early church deal with the concepts of race and ethnonationalism at a time when those concepts were not centrally challenged by contemporary unbelief. Consequently it needs to be mentioned once again that, considering their context, no need arose in their time to form a comprehensive and explicit doctrine concerning this issue. Nonetheless, it was presupposed throughout as a tacit and generally accepted set of principles. Indeed, this becomes more evident when we consider how, once these issues were explicitly pressed by the unbelieving zeitgeist in the past few centuries, it was the conservative Christians who monolithically upheld our views and the liberals and unbelievers who opposed them. The explicit racialism of the church in recent times attests to the implicit racial views our fathers held prior to that point.
Thus it becomes clear that the kinist position is not only the biblical one, but also confirmed by its historical reception in the church throughout the centuries. Building upon these foundational proclamations of the early church concerning the role of race and nationhood in the Christian worldview, later Christian theologians like Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Robert Lewis Dabney, Geerhardus Vos, and Rousas John Rushdoony could further develop this important doctrine. We at Faith and Heritage seek to stand in continuation of this tradition in the twenty-first century, as it is indeed due time for the church of Christ to proclaim and systematically set out the orthodox doctrine of race and nationhood clearly and unambiguously.
- Tertullian, Ad Nationes, Book 1, Chapter 8. ↩
- The Treatises of Cyprian, p 1012. ↩
- Peter of Alexandria, Canonical Epistle, canon 4. ↩
- Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 40, paragraph XXVI. ↩
- Jerome, Against Helvidius, paragraph 16. ↩
- Augustine, “Exposition on Psalm 72.” ↩
- Again, it is important to emphasize that the moral differences among the races, and particularly between blacks and nonblacks, should not give any a pretense for hatred or cruelty. African savagery should, in addition to inspiring righteous anger in certain circumstances, also evoke our pity when we consider their deplorable condition. Yet none of this ever justifies glossing over these differences, as if it were too “mean” to even mention that blacks have certain moral problems as a race. ↩
- This is made especially clear when we see Joe Morecraft preaching in a recent sermon that kinism evilly denies that nonwhites bear the image of God, much to the applause of conservative Protestants everywhere. That such a momentously slanderous argument would be convincing to so many “conservatives” indicates that these are truly their racial beliefs. ↩