I continue my critique of Kevin Craig’s response to my article, “A Biblical Defense of Ethno-Nationalism.” In the first part of my response, I focused on Craig’s inconsistent use of terms, especially in regards to the word “nation.” I also responded to some of Craig’s unsubstantiated claims and straw men arguments. In this part of my response I would like to address what lies at the heart of the disagreement between Craig’s position and my own. I believe that Craig’s commitment to libertarianism is a major stumbling block in his understanding of biblical morality. Craig’s commitment to libertarian ideas causes him to read this position into the Bible. Of course all of us need to be on guard against reading our own presuppositions into the Bible, so this problem is by no means unique to Craig. However, Craig’s commitment is very evident in his writings, and this causes him in many cases to ignore straightforward biblical teachings because they do not cohere with his own libertarian worldview. First, let’s observe statements that confirm Craig’s radical libertarianism.
Craig’s Doctrinaire Commitment to Libertarianism
Radical libertarian ideas pervade Craig’s response to my article as well as his other writings and blog postings. As I stated previously, many non-Kinists do not discard the idea of the legitimacy of national boundaries entirely, but rather idiosyncratically maintain that national distinctions with a particular loyalty to one’s own physical nation has some purpose. By contrast, Craig takes his libertarian worldview to its logical conclusion by denying national boundaries any legitimacy at all. Craig protests any practice that limits immigration. Craig writes, “All political ‘boundaries’ and ‘borders’ are completely arbitrary.” He further asserts, “All immigration laws enforced by acts of violence by civil magistrates should be abolished.” As a libertarian, Craig distinguishes between private property rights and the national boundaries. In my original article, I referenced Deuteronomy 27:17 and Proverbs 22:28 as precepts that demanded that property and boundaries be respected. In response Craig writes, “[W]hile property should be respected (‘Thou shalt not steal’), the tribal divisions of land in Israel have no enduring authority.” Craig provides no evidence that these verses refer only to the private property of individual families, because no such evidence exists. The two verses above are just as applicable to national boundaries as they are to the boundaries of the private property of individual families.
Craig’s position, which is similar to the stance on immigration advocated by Peter Leithart in his essay, “The Nation, The Church, and The Immigrants,” essentially denies that a tribe or nation has any collective stake in the property owned by individual families. In his brilliant response to Leithart, Darrell Dow demonstrates that nations can and did police their borders.1 The Israelites requested that the Edomites allow them to pass through Edom on their way to Canaan after leaving Egypt, saying, “Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. . . . We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet” (Num. 20:17, 19).2
The King of Edom refuses, and even threatens to attack Israel if they disobey his edict. While the King of Edom’s action is certainly inhospitable and uncharitable, it was nevertheless considered to be within the valid use of his authority. The legitimacy of this refusal can be ascertained when we compare his actions to the actions of the wicked Sihon, King of Heshbon. After refusing a request from the Israelites similar to the one they had made to the King of Edom, Sihon preemptively attacks the Israelites. It was this preemptive attack on an innocent people who were not the aggressors against him that resulted in his just overthrow by the Israelites in battle (Num. 21:21-31; Deut. 2:26-37). Matthew Henry comments regarding Moses’ request to the King of Edom:
They are humbly to beg a passport through their country. Though God himself, in the pillar of cloud and fire, was Israel’s guide, in following which they might have justified their passing through any man’s ground against all the world, yet God would have this respect paid to the Edomites, to show that no man’s property ought to be invaded under colour of religion. Dominion is founded in providence, not in grace. Thus when Christ was to pass through a village of the Samaritans, to whom his coming was likely to be offensive, he sent messengers before his face to ask leave, Lu. 9:52.3
There is no biblical warrant for this categorical rejection of national boundaries, because, the Bible does not establish a “right” to immigrate anywhere and establish permanent residence. Still less does the Bible insist that everyone has a “right” to naturalized citizenship in any particular country. I agree entirely with R.L. Dabney when he writes, “The diversity of tongues, characters, races and interests among mankind forbids their union in one universal commonwealth. The aggregation of men into separate nations is therefore necessary; and the authority of the governments instituted over them, to maintain internal order and external defence against aggression, is of divine appointment. Hence, to sustain our government with heart and hand is not only made by God our privilege, but our duty.”4
During my discussion on empires and propositional nationhood 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.” This demonstrates the heart of Craig’s misunderstanding of category differences. Empires are international states which attempt to unnaturally unite people from multiple nations, peoples, and tribes into one body politic. This is opposed to the character of Christ’s kingdom which is not of this world (John 18:36). In Craig’s worldview, Christ’s kingdom is simply the empire that ultimately trumps all empires.
This contrasts with the traditional Christian worldview in which the Gospel succeeds in converting the nations and reconciling them to God and to each other. The result of this conversion and reconciliation is that unity is achieved without dispensing with national particularity. Christ’s kingdom is not a mere propositional nation as Craig suggests, but a nation united by a common new birth in Christ (John 3:5), which is analogous to physical nations being united by common physical birth. Craig’s denial of nationhood united by physical birth actually denudes the spiritual nation of 1 Peter 2:9 of its meaning by robbing it of its proper correspondence to physical nationhood. Kinism understands that spiritual unity based upon faith in Christ and national particularity based in ethnicity, tribe, and clan are not in conflict. Thus we have no either/or dilemma posed by Craig since we understand that the two concepts work in harmony. This is the orthodox Trinitarian solution to the age-old problem of the one and the many.
Craig defends the concept of propositional nationhood against my assertion that national identity is rooted in shared heredity. Craig writes, “Propositions require maturity, reason and dominion. Social stability must be based on ‘rightly dividing’ the Propositions of God — not blind, biological ethnology, followed without reason and dominion. . . . [C]itizenship should be based on God’s Propositions, not blood.” This is essentially the same kind of straw-man argumentation accompanied by false dichotomy that we saw earlier from Craig. I never said, nor would any Kinist argue, that we promote ethnonationalism without reason or biblical morality. We believe this because these concepts are not in conflict, and ethnonationalism itself is derived from biblical law. We affirm strongly that all nations are obliged to obey God’s commandments, since this is the heart of Christian discipleship that Jesus commanded in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). If nations in covenant with God apostatize, then they will lose the blessings that God had conveyed upon them and consequently lose their place until they repent (Lev. 26; Deut. 28). Craig seems to conflate racial and ethnic solidarity with political support when he states, “For a white person in San Diego to feel more loyalty to Mitt Romney in Massachusetts over another person in Tijuana is unBiblical.”
Kinism does not teach that we ought to support certain politicians simply because they are of our race. Rather, we seek a homogeneous society in which people will be governed by their own so that race will not be a factor in what policies are enacted, since they can be weighed on their own merits. It is today’s multiracial and multicultural America in which ethnic and racial minorities simply vote the party line of their race, leaving the white majority to split over policy disagreements. In an ethno-state, which is what America was traditionally, this would not be an issue. In my original article I contrasted the traditional understanding of national identity as arising from a shared ancestry with the modern understanding of nationhood as derived from shared principles or values. I pointed out that propositional nations inevitably degenerate into conflict over differences in interpretation of the shared propositions to which a nation supposedly adheres as the foundation of their identity. Craig disagrees with my endorsement of nationhood being tied to ancestry and argues in favor of national identity being tied to ideas rather than heredity. Regarding my contention that propositions such as freedom, democracy, or tolerance are reduced to abstractions when they are made the basis of national identity, Craig responds, “‘Differences in interpretation’ is a hackneyed secular attack on the Bible itself. Christianity is a religion of Propositions. It is a Propositional ‘holy nation.’ Blood should not take preference over doctrine.”
In response, a few clarifications are necessary. First, while I believe that nations are defined by heredity – to be an Englishman your ancestors must be predominantly English – this does not mean that shared values, morals, or religious beliefs are unimportant. It is essential for the health of all nations that they embrace Christian faith, morals, and values. It is also essential that nations have a healthy sense of their own particular identity and culture, and this particularity is not in conflict with the universality of Christian principles. Secondly, my criticism was and is aimed at abstract propositions that constitute the prevailing mainstream idea of American identity such as freedom, democracy, and tolerance, not on the perspicuity of the Bible or its teachings. All nations will be blessed or cursed by God based upon their obedience or disobedience to God’s law (Jer. 18:7-10), but this does not define the nation itself. The same can be said for individual families. All families should abide by God’s law, but the family itself is defined and formed by marriage and reproduction.
Craig’s commitment to libertarianism is especially evident in his application of the non-aggression principle5 even to the punishment of crime by the civil magistrate. Craig believes that no one possesses the authority to properly punish even the most heinous of crimes. Craig writes, “In a Christian libertarian Theocracy, child molestation will be unacceptable. But violence will also be an unacceptable response to child molestation, which is why it will be ‘legal’ — that is, no government violence will be meted out against perpetrators. . . . In a Libertarian Theocracy, no ‘government’ of a political type is involved, but there is obviously more ‘government’ in terms of self-government, neighborhood government, workplace government, commercial government, etc. All voluntary. All non-violent. This process would work to reduce crimes by thieves, embezzlers, shoplifters (all of whom would be required to make restitution to their victims), murderers, abortionists, child molesters and homosexuals.”
Craig’s commitment for libertarian non-aggression is also apparent in another article in which he describes abortion as a financial problem. He even approvingly quotes from socialist Ron Sider, who laments a lack of Christian tithing as a major cause of poverty, which Craig links to abortion. Like Marxism, libertarianism is primarily and almost exclusively concerned with material (“bread alone”) circumstances of human interactions. Both philosophies see social problems and their solutions as being intrinsically tied to economic considerations. While overly intrusive government policies have certainly reduced many to poverty, and this undoubtedly corresponds to abortion rates, the problem is obviously much larger than mere fiscal considerations. When a heinous crime such as abortion is committed, a legitimate civil magistrate has the duty to see that this crime is punished.
I believe that Craig’s libertarian view is an overreaction to the rampant statism prevalent in contemporary Western society. There are certainly many Christians today who blindly support the overextension and expansion of government authority. Among the passages of the Bible that are among the most abused today stands Romans 13:1-5: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.”
Much could be said about what this passage does not mean. St. Paul is most certainly not giving civil magistrates a blank check to govern in any way they see fit. The good and evil mentioned in this passage are not determined by the magistrate or by the will of the majority, but have been set forth by God in His word. This passage does clearly teach, contra Craig and libertarianism, that there are legitimate civil magistrates with the power to punish crimes, and to do so with the sword. There is no reason to believe, as Craig does, that voluntary organizations could adequately redress the social ills caused by the crimes that he has listed above. In particular, willful premeditated murder requires the death penalty, because of man’s creation in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 9:6; cf. Num. 35:31). It is cruelty to victims for society to neglect the punishment of the perpetrators of crime (Prov. 12:10b), and people will be encouraged to do evil if it continues to go unpunished (Eccl. 8:11; cf. Prov. 28:1). There is simply no biblical basis to dispense with the role of the civil magistrate as Craig does because of his commitment to libertarianism.
Craig’s Belief in the Radical Discontinuity Between the Old and New Testament
Craig’s steadfast commitment to libertarianism naturally leads him into conflict with the nationalism expressed throughout the Bible, the Old Testament in particular. Throughout his website he constantly promotes what he refers to as theocracy, but it becomes evident in his response to my article that this is not the same thing as traditional theonomy. Traditionally theonomists have recognized that moral precepts taught in the Old Testament are still obligatory in the fullest sense. Craig agrees with this, as is apparent from his comments throughout his response. I would add that the moral law applies to the civil magistrate as well, and he is obligated to punish criminal behavior in accordance with the moral law. There are also ceremonial laws that are no longer obligatory because they acted as placeholders until they were fulfilled by the ministry of Christ. These would include the Temple sacrifices and laws regulating ceremonial cleanness. Craig would likewise agree on the abrogation of the ceremonial laws.
Craig’s consistent position throughout his response is that laws governing Israel’s national identity are no longer applicable. Craig summarizes his position thusly, “Israel is no longer given to us as an example of how Godly nations are to operate, at least in terms of genealogy, land laws, and cleansing laws.” This statement is made in opposition to what I had asserted about Deuteronomy 4:5-7 teaching that Israel and her laws precisely were given to Israel to demonstrate how godly nations are to operate. Craig makes several statements in which he rejects evidence for ethnonationalism on the basis of the precepts given to ancient Israel:
- “There is no Biblical correlation between Christ’s fulfillment of Old Covenant seed and land laws, and America’s rejection of ‘the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,’ e.g., marriage, homosexuality, etc. We should observe the latter but not the former.”
- “Israel reckoned lineage because the nation had a divine call to serve as an incubator for the Messiah. Israel’s tribal lineage no longer means diddly. Ethinic heritage doesn’t count for anything. . . . Israel’s genealogy had to do with God’s promised Messiah. The Messiah has come, the promises have been fulfilled and all those laws that had to do with preserving family lines (e.g., Levirate laws), have served their purpose, and obeying them today in effect denies that the Messiah has come.”
- Deuteronomy 4:5-8 “does not command nations today to have a temple, levitical priests and offerings on an altar, nor does it command any nation today to be ‘reckoned hereditarily by lineage.’ Those laws having to do with the fulfillment of Jacob’s messianic prophecy — seed laws and tribal laws — were annulled with the resurrection/ascension of Christ. This prophecy announced: ‘The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be’ (Gen. 49:10). Seed laws were tribal laws that preserved Judah’s line.”
- “God does not care about ‘physical inheritance’ as He did leading up to the birth of the promised Messiah.”
The heart of the disagreement lies in what are sometimes called the civil precepts given to Israel. These are laws particular to their unique context in the ancient world. The general principles of these laws remain binding, even if the specific precept no longer applies to our contemporary circumstances. An example of this is the precept in Deuteronomy 22:8, which instructs the Israelites to build a barrier or parapet around the roofs of their houses. The purpose behind this commandment is to make the house safe for human occupation. The specific commandment does not apply in most contemporary houses in which roofs are uninhabitable because they are steep and not designed for the same purpose as ancient houses. The underlying principle is still binding, in that we are still required to make sure that our buildings are reasonably safe for human occupation. The Westminster Confession of Faith states regarding the civil precepts of the Law, “To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require.”6
Craig disagrees with theonomists in general and Kinists in particular on this equitable application of underlying principles of Israel’s civil code. This disagreement is foundational to the difference between Craig’s libertarian worldview and our Kinist worldview. Craig himself concedes that the Old Testament actually does regulate Israel’s national existence in a manner consistent with Kinism. He writes, “You can see land and seed (‘blood and soil’) in the Old Covenant, but not after the Coming of Christ and the ingathering of the Gentiles.” If Craig is wrong about his rejection of Old Testament laws which regulate inheritance, qualifications for civil magistrate, and national identity, then Craig’s entire case falls apart. Craig actually concedes that “blood and soil” were indeed important in the Old Covenant, but contends that all of these laws and their underlying principles are expired in Christ.
In order to understand Deuteronomy 4:5-7, we must look at what God is telling the Israelites and how it can be applied today. This passage reads,
Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?”7
From this passage we can deduce that the animating principles of the laws regulating Israel’s national existence would apply to other nations as well. Nations besides Israel had kings and rulers; why shouldn’t they follow the law of kin-rule set forth in Deuteronomy 17:15? Nations besides Israel owned land and passed it on through inheritance; why shouldn’t they protect their land from foreign ownership as in Leviticus 25? The issue of specifically applying Old Testament civil law is not unique to Craig, as many theonomists also struggle with this problem. I agree with Mickey Henry, who succinctly describes the problems with applying the law within the theonomic camps.
The Law of God is an unchanging coherent unity with peculiar contextual applications. Remove the Law’s coherence, and it becomes a collection of unconnected fragments without comprehensive animating principles. Remove the Law’s unique application to peculiar contexts, and it becomes anachronistic, irrelevant, arbitrary, and ultimately contradictory. Within the theonomic movement, both errors have found expression. In the Rushdoony camp, context is frequently ignored and the realization of a Christian law-order largely presented as a brick-for-brick rebuilding of national Israel. In the North camp, the Law is stripped of its unity, with a sophisticated system of contrivances introduced to edit, revise, and amend the Law to an unrecognizable New Covenant era transmogrification.8
Like Gary North, Kevin Craig reads the biblical law through his libertarian lens. A recurring argument that Craig makes is that the “blood and soil” laws of the Old Testament were given exclusively for the purpose of establishing the identity of the Messiah. He claims that Israel had a “divine call to serve as an incubator for the Messiah,” and consequently “[s]eed laws were tribal laws that preserved Judah’s line.” I believe that Craig has failed to prove his case in regards to his application (or lack thereof) of the Bible’s teachings on national identity. The Temple, Levitical priesthood, and sacrificial system were given specifically to the nation of Israel (Romans 9:4), whereas we should reasonably infer that laws protecting national and tribal identity are intended to serve all nations and tribes. The objective and meaningful existence of different nations and peoples is assumed throughout the Bible, so we must conclude that laws regarding national identity are intended for their benefit. Laws specific only to Israel are often explicitly disannulled by the teachings of the New Testament, but we find no indication that the normative meaning of national identity has been changed anywhere by Christ or the Apostles. When Christ tells the Apostles to disciple the nations (Matt. 28:19), there is no indication whatsoever that anything other than the traditional meaning of a nation as a hereditary outgrowth of extended families is intended.
The result of this radical reinterpretation of the Law by North and his disciples in conformity with their libertarian presuppositions is that traditional concepts like nationhood itself must be jettisoned in favor of a purely creedal abstraction. All passages establishing ethnonationalism are simply explained away as temporary provisions for protecting the bloodline of the Messiah. This naturally raises questions about the validity of this underlying premise. Are all the laws which define and protect Israel’s ethnic and tribal identity simply concerned with the lineage of Messiah? Why should we be concerned with Messiah’s lineage in the first place, if He came to abrogate physical nationhood? Why did laws such as the Zelophehad adoption and tribal inheritance (Num. 27; 36) and the law of levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5-6) apply to all the tribes of Israel rather than just the tribe of Judah? Why were all the tribes and clans governed by their own governors and princes (Deut. 1:13-16)?
The idea that only the Messiah’s lineage was important is nowhere stated in Scripture, and the application of these relevant laws beyond the Judahite lineage of Christ indicates that the concern is not as limited as Craig or other libertarians suggest. The end result of this is to conclude that the “blood and soil” precepts given to ancient Israel were not exclusive to the tribe of Judah or even to the nation of Israel itself. As per Deuteronomy 4:5-8, the underlying principles of these laws are to train the nations in the ways of righteousness. This is currently being accomplished as the Great Commission is being fulfilled, and the sanctification of the races and nations under the authority of Christ will occur at the conclusion of history. Craig’s false understanding of the nature of biblical law leads him into a false eschatology. Kinists believe that the nations brought under the obedience of Christ will sanctify and preserve them for all eternity. In Craig’s view, the separate nations are to “bleed into one” and lose their unique identity as they are incorporated into one empire. We will deal with Craig’s false eschatology in the next article.
- Another good treatment of the issue of immigration can be found on Iron Ink, “Marinov’s Mistakes on Immigration,” by Pastor Bret McAtee. ↩
- See also Jacob’s request to the Egyptian Pharaoh to dwell in the land of Goshen (Gen. 47:4). ↩
- Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Numbers 20. ↩
- R.L. Dabney, “The Christian Soldier” (1862), cited in “Presentation: Christianity and Race” by Nathanael Strickland ↩
- For an excellent overview of the errors of the non-aggression principle, see under the heading “The Falsity of the Non-Aggression Principle” in Nil Desparandum’s article, “‘Open Borders, but No Freebies’: Refuting Doug Wilson’s Libertarian Position on Immigration.” ↩
- Westminster Confession of Faith, XIX:4. For a thorough treatment on the Law of God and its application see here, chapter 19. ↩
- Emphasis mine ↩
- See “American Vision’s Joel McDurmon Turns His Back on the South” by Mickey Henry on Tribal Theocrat. ↩