In this final edition of my response to Kevin Craig’s reply to my original article on ethnonationalism, I will delve into Craig’s false eschatology. On several occasions in my original article I stated that racial and ethnic differences are an important and relevant aspect of our identity since God has made them so, and that this is manifest in the fact that these distinctions last into eternity in Christ’s Kingdom. I cite Revelation 21:24-26; 22:2 to this effect, but Craig is unimpressed. He claims that my understanding is based upon a false futurist interpretation of Revelation. I will examine this and other claims of his.
Craig’s False Eschatology
In my original article I defended the Kinist view that our racial and ethnic identity would exist in Heaven by appealing to Revelation 21:24-26. Craig responds with incredulous questions: “Heaven will be racially segregated? People in heaven will be unable to speak to each other because they have separate languages?? I’ll have to have passport in heaven to visit all my friends I now have around the world?” All of this is based upon my assertion that “racial distinctions exist in heaven.” Of course we will be able to communicate with people of other native languages, and no, Heaven won’t have passports. Yet racial identity, like ethnic and familial identity, is and will continue to be a positive reference for our sense of self. Craig, like so many people today, tend to associate distinctions with hostility or even hatred. Sometimes distinctions can be treated with hostility, but there is no reason that they must be. In Heaven, we will retain our sense of being “at home” with the people who are closest to us, including the same concentric loyalties of family, clan, tribe, ethnicity, and race that exist in this life. This doesn’t mean we won’t interact with, relate to, or fellowship with people outside these concentric circles, but that our identity defined by our physical heredity will still be a positive part of what makes us who we are. The same applies to our sex as male or female. I will still be a man after being resurrected, just as Christ was still a man after His resurrection. In Heaven, I will retain my own perfected masculine personality, and women will retain their perfected feminine personalities, but in no way does this imply hostility between men and women.
There are several prophecies which speak to the ethnic plurality of God’s kingdom. Genesis 12:3 speaks of “all the families of the earth” being blessed in Abraham. Psalm 22:27-28 states, “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD’s: and he is the governor among the nations.” The book of Isaiah is replete with prophecies of the conversion of the nations to the worship of the one true God. One of the most explicit examples of national plurality among God’s people is Isaiah 19:21-25 which reads, “And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it. And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them. In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.”
In this passage we read of God’s chastisement and subsequent healing of Egypt. Isaiah speaks of a future in which Egypt, Assyria, and Israel would peacefully co-exist as distinct nations. On this passage Martin Wyngaarden comments,
Now the predicates of the covenant are applied in Isa. 19 to the Gentiles of the future, — “Egypt my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, mine inheritance,” Egypt, the people of “Jehovah of hosts,” (Isa. 19:25) is therefore also expected to live up to the covenant obligations, implied for Jehovah’s people. And Assyria comes under similar obligations and privileges. These nations are representative of the great Gentile world, to which the covenant privileges will therefore be extended.1
Later on Wyngaarden continues,
More than a dozen excellent commentaries could be mentioned that all interpret Israel as thus inclusive of Jew and Gentile, in this verse, — the Gentile adherents thus being merged with the covenant people of Israel, though each nationality remains distinct. . . . For, though Israel is frequently called Jehovah’s People, the work of his hands, his inheritance, yet these three epithets severally are applied not only to Israel, but also to Assyria and to Egypt: ‘Blessed be Egypt, my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, mine inheritance.’ 19:25. . . . Thus the highest description of Jehovah’s covenant people is applied to Egypt, — ‘my people,’ — showing that the Gentiles will share the covenant blessings, not less than Israel. Yet the several nationalities are here kept distinct, even when Gentiles share, in the covenant blessing, on a level of equality with Israel. Egypt, Assyria and Israel are not nationally merged. And the same principles, that nationalities are not obliterated, by membership in the covenant, applies, of course, also in the New Testament dispensation.2
Wyngaarden correctly observes that the grafting of Egypt and Assyria into the covenant with Israel does not terminate the distinct identity of any of the nations listed. That Assyria and Egypt were the inveterate enemies of Israel at the time of this prophecy makes this observation all the more striking. The future conversion of the Gentile nations to the worship of the God of Israel is a theme taken up by the New Testament Apostles as they apply the teachings of the prophets to the conversion of the Gentiles in their own day.
Craig rejects the Kinist eschatology of ethnic-based nations being converted to Christ and retaining their distinct identities in Heaven by appealing to a unique preterist interpretation of Revelation. Craig states, “I take a ‘preterist’ view of Revelation. I don’t believe these verse are talking about a literal reality of heaven, but about the fulfilling of the Great Commission by bringing the Gentiles into the Household of Faith, the ‘holy nation’ of 1 Peter 2:9.”
Craig has here committed a hermeneutical blunder. Many Kinists also hold to a preterist view of Revelation as well as the prophecies of the Olivet Discourse. This does not commit someone of this viewpoint to believe that everything in the book of Revelation is non-literal. In his book, The Book of Revelation Made Easy, Presbyterian pastor Ken Gentry provides a very useful overview of the scope, time frame, and symbolism pervading the book of Revelation. Gentry points out that the key to understanding Revelation is to recognize images and symbols that John appropriates from the Old Testament.
Are the plural nations that John repeatedly witnesses throughout the narrative of Revelation symbolic? If so, what are they symbolizing? The conversion of the nations to faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a major prophetic of the Old Testament prophets. The nations spoken by the prophets as well as the Apostle John are literal nations, in that they are not symbolic of something else. Generally speaking, most commentaries understand that verses such as Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 speak to the conversion of people from all races and ethnic groups to the Gospel, but if Craig’s view is correct, this would mean that all kindreds, tongues, peoples, and nations might be a mere symbol for the one “holy nation” mentioned in 1 Peter 2:9. There may be some ethnic-nations who are outside of the Gospel’s redemptive scope, since the vision of all nations, kindreds, peoples, tribes, etc. could be written off as merely symbolic. But we recognize that the nations mentioned in Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 are literal, and there is no reason to believe that the nations mentioned by John in the new heaven and new earth are anything other than literal nations.
Craig’s sociology and eschatology suggest that the gradual amalgamation of the nations into one huge nation with the progressive spread of the Gospel is exactly what we should expect to happen. Contrarily, Francis Nigel Lee comments, “Pentecost sanctified the legitimacy of separate nationality rather than saying this is something we should outgrow. . . . In fact, even in the new earth to come, after the Second Coming of Christ, we are told that the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the kings of the earth shall bring the glory and the honor—the cultural treasures—of the nations into it. . . . But nowhere in Scripture are any indications to be found that such peoples should ever be amalgamated into one huge nation.”3 (Later on, Craig mistakenly refers to Lee’s view as “futurist” as well, when in fact Lee is a committed historicist.) At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit sanctified the use of separate languages by allowing everyone to hear the Gospel preached in their own language. Likewise, the constituent nations in which the various languages are spoken are preserved in the Apostle John’s beautiful vision of the new heaven and the new earth.
Craig suggests that Revelation 21-22 corresponds to what Jesus stated in Matthew 22:30: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Craig expounds: “Angels don’t have skin color. National and family loyalties are invisible compared to the ‘household of faith’ and the ‘holy nation’ created in Christ.” This is the largest stretch in his entire response. First, Craig tacitly admits that Revelation 21-22 corresponds to the eschaton by comparing this passage to Jesus’s teaching on the resurrection. This occurs immediately after Craig mistakenly suggests that my interpretation of Revelation 21-22 is futurist. Secondly, Craig reads a great deal into this singular verse. Jesus is making a single comparison for resurrected saints to angels in heaven, but this does not mean that resurrected saints are like angels in every way. Finally, I deny that this passage teaches the theory that there will be no family life in the afterlife (at least corresponding to our physical families). Jesus was providing the Sadducees with a legal answer to a strictly legal question by pointing out that immortals will have no concerns for the legal transmission of inheritance after the resurrection because there will be no more death. This passage does not speak to the kind of relationships that we will have with our earthly spouses in the next life. We will maintain a familial and racial existence in Heaven.
Another example of Craig’s false eschatology is his assessment of Romans 9:3. Originally I demonstrated that in 1 Timothy 5:8 Paul taught that we have a responsibility to care for our own people, of which our household is a smaller subset, and that Paul considered the nation of Israel to be his people even in spite of their apostasy (Rom. 9:3). But once again Craig misapplies preterist eschatology: “There was still a chance (as far as Paul knew) that some of his ‘kinsman’ could be saved. Paul had no solidarity whatsoever with the Jews after AD70.” The Apostle Paul is traditionally considered to have been martyred under the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, so he was dead prior to A.D. 70. I don’t know why “kinsmen” is put in scare quotes by Craig, since Paul spoke positively of the Israelites as his kinsmen according to the flesh. Furthermore, Paul is certainly already aware of the apostasy of many of the nation of Israel. Paul acknowledges that the Israelites have fallen through their rejection of the Gospel (Rom. 9:30-33, 10:16-21, 11:7-10), but still earnestly desires their conversion (Rom. 10:1).
Paul takes note that the tribes of Israel, the natural branches of the olive tree, have been cut off through unbelief, but also that they can be grafted back in through repentance and conversion, just as the “wild” nations and tribes, now grafted in by faith, can be cut off by future unbelief (Rom. 11:11-24). Given this context, there is no reason to believe that Paul’s self-identification as an Israelite and his expression of solidarity with his people was based exclusively on the hope of their future conversion, since Paul expresses his loyalty to his ethnic kin at a time when he acknowledges that many of them were unbelievers. There is no reason to place a time limit on Paul’s loyalty to his unsaved ethnic kin to A.D. 70, since their current unbelief had already placed them outside of the covenant and the holy nation of 1 Peter 2:9 of which Craig constantly alludes. There is also no reason to believe that Israelites could not convert after A.D. 70. Paul gives no indication that the prophesied judgment against apostate Israel would bring about an end to the ethnic loyalty that Paul spoke of in his epistles. The whole purpose of citing the passage is to show that Paul has a special love for his unbelieving kinsmen because of their kinship, but Craig apparently believes Paul randomly selected unbelievers for whom he expressed selfless love solely in the hope that they could become future believers!
Craig’s Idiosyncratic Endorsement of Christian Empire
Craig’s false eschatology ultimately leads him to conclude that the nations will eventually merge into one Christian nation. While defending the Kinist concept of ethnonationalism, I denounce empires as a humanistic imitation of Christ’s Kingdom. In my original article I stated, “Empires are a cheap imitation of Christ’s spiritual kingdom which will grow to encompass all physical nations and people.” Craig objects and triumphantly declares, “This sentence refutes the entire article. Christ’s Kingdom is in fact an empire which ‘extends over several different tribes, nations, and peoples.’ It is a propositional nation, or a doctrinal nation, or a nation based on faith, not genetics.” I find it exceptionally ironic that a man who denounces ethnonationalism as statist tyranny actually endorses the idea of imperialism in even a qualified sense. This has serious consequences for Craig’s understanding of nationhood.
Christ’s kingdom is not simply an empire that is finally successful at uniting all people under one government. In stating that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), Christ was specifically countering the claim that His disciples rejected any civil authority or national identity. Craig would have us believe that Christ will simply succeed wherein Babylon and Caesar failed, in that Craig seems to believe that the spread of the Gospel will result in the dissolution of cultural, linguistic, and tribal distinctions among men. Christ’s kingdom can accurately be described as a nation as Peter does in 1 Peter 2:9, but the spiritual nation of the church is analogous to physical nations united by common birth, in that the holy nation described by Peter is united by common rebirth or regeneration, not mere propositions.
In my original article, I cited the Greek historian Aelius Aristides to demonstrate that imperialism had its roots in the pagan pretensions to divinity of the rulers of Rome. Aristides writes, “No one is a foreigner who deserves to hold an office or is worthy of trust.” Interestingly Craig responds, “This line refutes ‘ethno-nationalism.’ No one is a ‘foreigner’ (i.e., outside ‘ethno-nationalism’) who deserves to hold an office or is worthy of trust. ‘Deserves’ is a function of maturity, wisdom, and faithfulness to God’s Propositions, not accidental and non-propositional, non-reasoned, bloodlines.” Here we find Craig, in his anti-nationalist zeal, actually in agreement with this pagan historian. The irony is that Craig rejects that national borders can or ought to be enforced because it violates his libertarian principles, while he actually extols an imperialist view of citizenship.
Suffice it to say that national identity is no more earned than our sexual identity as male or female is earned. These are simply categories God has created within mankind as a whole. American citizenship is not something to be merited by maturity, wisdom, and faithfulness; it is simply a product of being a hereditary American, as the Founders of America understood their own identity. This does not mean that maturity, wisdom, and faithfulness are not a requirement for leadership within a nation. The law of kin-rule tied to national identity does not preclude other qualifications to civil leadership. In addition to being actual members of the tribes of Israel, Deuteronomy 1:13-16 also states that Israel’s rulers should be wise and discerning. There is no reason to posit a false dichotomy between hereditary national identity and maturity, wisdom, and faithfulness as prerequisites for national leadership and authority as Craig does. All of these characteristics are necessary for just government. I would also add that someone who is truly wise and discerning will understand why he would not be qualified to rule a nation of people who are ethnically, culturally, and perhaps even linguistically distinct from himself.
Amazingly, Craig simply attributes social problems brought about by the mass migration of hostile foreigners to a lack of zeal for evangelism. Craig writes, “America’s problem is that she lost a fervor for evangelism. The Biblical ideal is to open the borders and evangelize all that come. A robust Christianity says ‘Bring it!” In point of fact this is not, nor has it ever been, the Christian position. I’m very thankful that my European Christian ancestors did not follow the advice of Craig when faced with the specter of massive invasions from hostile heathens. Had Christians adhered to his libertarian principles, there would have been no repulsion of the Moors at Tours in A.D. 732, no defense of Europe against the Ottoman Turks at Lepanto in 1571, and no meaningful response to the countless acts of aggression European Christians have endured over the centuries. In essence Craig’s policy would have led and is today leading to the destruction and death of Christendom. The fact is that God’s Word reveals that the mass migration of hostile foreigners is most certainly not a blessing (Deut. 28:43; Lev. 26:33-39; Lam. 5:2). There is no biblical basis for Craig’s assertion that we must open our borders to foreigners as a means of evangelizing the heathen, any more than Scripture requires us to open up our very homes for the same.
Craig’s endorsement of a Christianized empire leads him to reject familial obligations to unbelieving members of our family, which is at variance with the biblical teaching about national plurality within the covenant, discussed above. He writes, “There is no Biblical mandate to prefer heredity and lineage over the Church (the Body of Christ, the ‘Household of Faith,’ the ‘holy nation.’). Any family or business or school is free to prefer a genealogically un-related Christian over a brother, sister, father, or mother who is in rebellion against Christ and His Family/Nation.” This is at variance with what the Bible teaches about our responsibilities to our kin. The Apostle Paul teaches us that we do in fact have a specific responsibility to our own family, and our people as an outgrowth of our family (1 Tim. 5:8). As Paul considered the nation of Israel to be his people in spite of their apostasy (Rom. 9:3), we can conclude that our nation and family are in fact valid and legitimate aspects of our identity even though not all members of our family and nation are currently believers. This ought to make sense to all of us on an intuitive level.
We cannot have the same responsibilities to everyone or even to all believers in the same way. This would be impossible. Instead we naturally recognize that our responsibilities must have limits. We have the greatest responsibilities to our immediate families, and our commitments radiate outwardly from there to include our extended family, clan, tribe, nation, and race, with the rest of humanity taking final priority. Partiality to one’s own nation and people fosters mutual respect, trust, and charity, while unnatural integration fosters indifference, distrust, unhappiness, and delinquency. There is also a sense in which the faithful discharging of our duties to our unbelieving relatives can act as a means of evangelism. Paul states that a believer sanctifies his or her unbelieving spouse (1 Cor. 7:14), and specifically declares that Christians can play a role in the conversion of their unbelieving spouses (1 Cor. 7:16). Likewise Peter also tells wives to submit even to froward unbelieving husbands, “that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Pet. 3:1). By faithfully providing for our own, especially our own household, we can be a powerful witness to the truth of God’s Law and of the Gospel.
Craig’s Inconsistent Approach to the American Founders and the American Political Tradition
Throughout his response Craig attempts to portray himself as the natural and legitimate intellectual successor to America’s founders. Many of his claims are based upon extremely tenuous interpretations of the founders’ position on several issues, but Craig at least tries to portray himself as sympathetic to the ideals central to the American Revolution. What I find particularly fascinating is his reaction to my quote of John Jay in the Federalist #2 wherein Jay expressed his approval that “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors.”4 Craig reacts by stating, “This attitude made the United States the enemy of Christ and Mankind. The U.S. is now an empire. In order for any People (like America) to become a ‘City upon a Hill,’ it must affirm Christocracy, not ‘ethno-nationalism.’”
This contention is quite astonishing. It contradicts statements Craig makes throughout this response and throughout the links he has provided which suggest his fundamental agreement with the position of the American Founders and the principles of the American Revolution. The Federalist Papers were a collection of polemical documents arguing in favor of the ratification of the Constitution, but John Jay’s statement was not meant to be controversial to any at the time. That the people of a nation under a common government should be of the same ethnicity, or be descended from the same ancestors, as Jay puts it, was not exclusive to the Federalist position. Antifederalists as well as the loyalists and the citizens of colonial America would have agreed wholeheartedly.
Craig has thus committed himself to the belief that America was dead-set against God from her very inception. Certainly, it is wise to always be on guard against accepting every aspect of our country’s political tradition without qualification. There are some American Christians who practically believe that founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence or Constitution are divinely inspired! Nevertheless Craig’s utter rejection of the ethnonationalism of American Founders is incongruous with the tenor of the rest of his reply. This is especially true when we consider just how pervasive ethnonationalism was during America’s founding as well as long afterwards. It seems that Craig’s appropriation of the American Founders ignores their opinions on this topic of great importance.
Conclusions to Kevin Craig’s Response
I appreciate Craig’s sincere efforts at a response to Kinist ethnonationalism. It affords readers a glimpse into the consistent libertarian mindset. Craig’s view is unique in that he believes in the complete rejection of any government or state with coercive power. He also rejects obligations based upon physical relations in favor of basing loyalty exclusively upon Christian faith. Craig’s case against ethnonationalism fails because he has failed to account for the all the relevant biblical teachings on the issue of national identity and its place within God’s plan of redemption. One striking feature of Craig’s response is his frequent appeal to the holy nation of 1 Peter 2:9, along with other references to the household of faith mentioned in Galatians 6:10. A cursory reading of Craig’s response easily demonstrates just how dependent he is upon these concepts.
Craig misinterprets these verses because he fails to see the holy nation and household of faith as analogous to physical nations and families. That the Apostles could speak of all Christians as belonging to a single family or nation in some sense does not negate the meaningful applications of these terms to physical families and nations. Kinists are able to harmonize the proper meaning of Galatians 6:10 and 1 Peter 2:9 with the rest of biblical teaching because we allow for both spiritual and physical realities. Throughout his response, Craig constantly tries to explain away verses clearly teaching ethnonationalism by filtering these verses through his flawed interpretation of 1 Peter 2:9. In doing so, Craig unfortunately misses valuable insights the Bible provides for the betterment of society by promoting healthy national cohesion. Craig’s libertarianism is at odds with what Scripture teaches about national identity as well as the authority of the state to punish criminals. Kevin Craig is a sincere Christian believer who is doing what he can to restore the Christian order that we both believe was present throughout much of American history, but the problem is his mistaken understanding of American history coupled with libertarian presuppositions. It is my hope that sincere Christians such as Kevin Craig will one day abandon libertarianism in favor of the Christian nationalism that once made America a truly great nation.
- Martin J. Wyngaarden, The Future of the Kingdom in Prophecy and Fulfillment: A Study of the Scope of “Spiritualization” in Scripture (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011), p. 94. ↩
- Ibid.. pp. 101-102. See this post from Iron Ink for more excellent commentary. ↩
- Dr. Francis Nigel Lee. “Race, People, and Nationality.” 2/2/2005. ↩
- The full quote is “With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.” ↩