Biblical Christians must be both nationalists and internationalists. Let me explain. When placed on what his critics thought were the horns of a dilemma about potential conflict between loyalty to God and loyalty to the state, Jesus Christ responded with infinite divine wisdom: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Mt. 22:21). This is the basis for both Christian nationalism and Christian internationalism. We as Christians should never espouse or practice the one without the other. Nazis and fascists are nationalists and Communists and liberals are internationalists. But Christians are nationalists and internationalists in a distinctively Christian sense.
The Bible requires that we render unto Caesar what is his. Caesar was the emperor. The Roman Republic had given way to the Empire. When Christianity entered the historical picture, the Empire was not favorable to it. Later it persecuted Christianity mercilessly. Yet, Jesus Christ required his disciples to pay tribute even to this pagan state and, by implication, he demanded that they maintain loyalty to that state. This was the attitude of the early Christians.1 Though much of the time they were viciously persecuted, they were the best citizens of the empire. They were the most faithful soldiers and taxpayers. They did not lift a finger to violently overthrow the empire (today's "patriots" and tax protesters could learn a lesson from them). And when the empire finally fell to Christianity in the Constantinian Settlement, it was the faithfulness of the saints and the testimony of the martyrs that finally finished it off. There was no bloody revolution; there was no revolution of any kind. There was obedience, witness, prayer, faithfulness and martyrdom, all of which gradually overwhelmed the exhausted and collapsing Roman civilization. It was only when the Emperor required worship that the early Christians drew the line.2 They could worship one God, the Triune God revealed in Holy Scripture.
Nationalism in much of the West and particularly in the United States comes more naturally in the form of patriotism. Nationalism has about it the pride of land and lineage, blood and soil. But the United States was founded on ideas, not on ethnicity.3 The Founders wished to establish a new order for the ages. They looked especially to ancient Roman jurisprudence for their pattern but were free to experiment in line with the lessons they had learned in their relationship with England and from their own recent European history. While the politics of many of the states was committedly Christian, that of the federal government was less visibly so, though the Founders were by no means trying to set up a secular order.4 For a Christian in America to be a nationalist at the verge of the twenty-first century means an appreciation for and dedication to the founding principles of freedom under God, immortalized in Jefferson's language of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (or property). While the Founders were not trying to establish an explicitly Christian order, their views were certainly shaped by a Christian ethos. Therefore, Christians today have every reason to be proud of their heritage. It is far from perfect, but it is much closer to perfection than today's rampant secular state. To be a nationalist or patriot means not merely to pay taxes to Caesar, serve in the military, and pledge one's allegiance to his country; it also means an appreciation for the relative freedom and the rule of law that even the egregious recent apostasy has not fully erased. To be sure, our nation and its civil governments face a moral crisis. The butchering of innocent children, the homosexualization and demasculinization of culture, the erosion of the family, the redistributivism of the state, the liberalism in the churches and much, much more indicate the tragic condition of this once great nation. We dare not overlook this fact.
On the other hand, we dare not deny the vestiges of godly virtue and their evident blessings on this nation. Unlike our forbears in the Roman Empire, we Christians can still have a voice, even a large voice, in public life. Although we must denounce sin in our nation as the Old Testament prophets did the sin in Israel, we need not allow that prophetic calling to blind our eyes to the blessings of the nation. In this manner, we can be Christian nationalists.
What does it mean to be a Christian nationalist in a state with much less freedom than in the United States? What did it mean to be a Christian nationalist in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union? Of course, it was precisely nationalism, an ungodly nationalism, that created much of the tyranny in Nazi Germany. To be a Christian nationalist there meant to appreciate the heritage and people of that great nation; but it equally meant standing against those political leaders whose ungodly policies were detrimental to the nation and leading it into degradation, apostasy and judgment. This did not justify Christians' revolution It meant that, as in all states, Christians were required to obey the law of the state unless it conflicted with God's law in the Bible. But this itself meant that Christian nationalists were called to oppose the unbiblical nationalism of the Nazis. Christian nationalism requires opposition to anti-Christian nationalism. In Nazi Germany, it meant denying the notion that the state was somehow Christian or that God's blessings were on the Nazi program. It meant protecting the weak and oppressed, and not only the Christians, but also the Jews and others persecuted by the Nazi regime. It meant remaining loyal to Christ and his word and resisting the seduction to compromise. All of this is to say that Christian nationalism requires Christians to desire for their nation fidelity to Christ and his word.
The most faithful nationalist is the Christian nationalist, because nothing could be better for a nation that the affirmation and practice of historic, Biblical Christianity (Ps. 33:12).
But the Bible demands not only Christian nationalism; it also requires Christian internationalism. While liberals and "progressives" oppose a Christian nationalism, some conservatives tend to oppose a Christian internationalism (it seems often as though they are more dedicated to the nation than to Jesus Christ). But we cannot be true to the Bible unless we are Christian internationalists. Christian internationalism is anchored in the fact that all of the people of God presently living (and, indeed, those that have gone on to heaven before us) are organically joined to one another and to Christ, their head (1 Cor. 12:13-27; Eph. 5:24-30; Heb. 12:22-23). The solidarity between believers throughout the earth is infinitely greater than the solidarity between merely blood brothers. This organic solidarity of the people of God transcends all national boundaries. It even transcends time and space; therefore, its loyalties transcend those boundaries. We are called to care for one another's needs, and not only for the needs of those we see every Sunday, though our concern for our brethren nearby should be paramount (1 Cor. 12:25; Rom. 15:25-26; Jas. 2:14-16). Sometimes Christian internationalism conflicts with false nationalism. When, for example, our nation defends the borders of an Islamic state that persecutes our brothers in Christ, and if that same state as our ally intentionally bombs Christian churches in another nation, Christians here must not allow our loyalty to our nation to mute our criticism of The True Nation — our brethren (1 Pet. 2:7-9).
The same is true in the issue of trade. We must not allow the benefits we receive from trade with a country that persecutes our brothers to tone down our criticism of and opposition to that country. Our obligation is not first of all to cheap imports, but to our brothers who are suffering for the Faith. This has nothing to do with the issue of free trade as an economic policy. The most adamant Christian free traders have a moral obligation — no, a Biblical obligation — to support their oppressed brethren and to stand against all civil governments that persecute our beloved brethren. We do not need Big Brother to slap still import tariffs on Chinese products to do this. We need Christians who firmly oppose the persecution of believers and others to simply quit buying products from these countries if they feel that their conscience requires this. We need to pressure those civil governments and expose their moral cowardice and hatred of Christ. One thing is certain: whatever may be the method of solidarity with our Christian brothers, we need a method of some sort, for where one member suffers, all the members suffer (1 Cor. 12:26).
I hasten to add that the same is true about God's blessings on our brothers throughout the earth. When there are great revivals of virile Christianity in, for instance, Latin America or South Korea, we need to rejoice with our brothers and do what we can to enhance that revival. Our job is not to work for reformation and revival only in the United States. The Bible commands that we go into all the world and make disciples of the nations (Mt. 28:18-20). We are called to be dominionists in all the earth, not just in the United States. This does not mean that we do not recognize the great need in our own nation; this is a part of Christian nationalism. May God give us many more "God Save America" rallies, but may he, in addition, give us more "God Save the World" rallies! This is Christian internationalism.
As Rushdoony, following Van Til, has indicated, the age-old problem of the one and the many is solved in the Christian Trinity: God is both one and three, one and many.5 This assures that neither singularity nor plurality is equally ultimate. God, who is both singular and plural, is equally ultimate. Christian nationalism is the "one." God's people are required to render to Caesar what is his and should love and remain loyal to their own nation. But the world includes the "many." We are Christian internationalists and are united to our brothers throughout the world across national boundaries. Every particular nation, and all nations, without distinction, belong to God and are subject to his predestinating hand and his infallible law-word (Ps. 110). Each in its own place and in its own way is subject to his jurisdiction.
We must be faithful both to our nation and to our brothers in Christ throughout the world. But fundamentally we must be faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
1. Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (London, 1955), 212-213.
2. Ibid., 215-219.
3. Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York, 1987), 27.
4. Daniel L. Dreisbach, "In Search of a Christian Commonwealth: An Examination of Selected Nineteenth-Century Commentaries on References to God and the Christian Religion in the United States Constitution," Baylor Law Review, Vol. 48, No. 4 [Fall 1996], , 928-1000.
5. Rousas John Rushdoony, The One and the Many (Fairfax , 1978).
- P. Andrew Sandlin
P. Andrew Sandlin is a Christian minister, theologian, and author. He is the founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership in Coulterville, California. He was formerly president of the National Reform Association and executive vice president of the Chalcedon Foundation. He is a minister in the Fellowship of Mere Christianity.. He was formerly a pastor at Church of the Word in Painesville, Ohio (1984-1995) and Cornerstone Bible Church in Scotts Valley, California (2004-2014).