Transcript: Interview with Jonathan Leeman on Christian Nationalism

, ,

The following is a rough transcript of the Christ Over All interview with Jonathan Leeman, lightly edited for clarity and concision. For an explainer to the format of this month, and our affinity for Columbo, be sure to listen to the introductory podcast between David Schrock and Trent Hunter.


David Schrock: Jonathan, welcome to the Christ Over All Podcast.

Jonathan Leeman: Thank you, brother. Glad to be here.

David Schrock: It’s good to be back with you. It was a joy to spend time with you back in March thinking through some of the egalitarian issues. And today, we’ll be talking a little bit about Christian nationalism—what it is, what it’s not, and how to think through that. So, looking forward to the conversation. And Steve, as always, good to have you brother.

Stephen Wellum: Good to be with you. I’m looking forward to talking to our good friend Jonathan on these important matters.

David Schrock: Very good. Jonathan, let’s start with just an autobiographical question. You have done quite a bit of writing on church and state relationships—your work Political Church and your new book on authority, which will relate to some of those things. How did you get into an interest in politics, and how has that informed the way that you have pursued life and ministry in the church?

Jonathan Leeman: This is a confession—slightly embarrassing—but when I was in high school, I was convinced I was going to be president. Somehow, I thought not only do I want to be president, I’m sure I’m going to be. And I think because from a young age, I had a certain moral bearing that caused me to lament many of the injustices and immoralities that increasingly characterized the world growing up in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, and I wanted to do something about it. So, like many people, I just thought—Peter in the garden—”pick up the sword. That’s the best way to fix all these problems.”

When I went to college at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, I majored in political science. I spent a year overseas working in the House of Commons in the European Parliament. In the summers, I interned for my congressman. I finished the undergraduate degree and went back overseas again to do a master’s degree in political theory and enjoyed that. Then, I worked for a political scientist named Bob Putnam after graduating from grad school doing research for him.

I thought I would do a PhD in political theory, political philosophy, but somewhere in there, God saved me and I found my life radically changing. And this was in Washington D.C. in the late 90s. And at that time I felt, instead of a call to doing a PhD in political theory, I felt called to go into vocational ministry. I ended up being one of Steve’s students at Southern Seminary and learning a ton from him. I ended up doing a PhD that brought these two worlds together, the world of theology and the world of political theory. And my PhD, which I did while working for 9Marks—2006 to 13—kind of brought my two master’s degrees together in this political theological project, you might call it. And that became the book, Political Church.

So, in my vocation right now, I’m thinking a lot about the church, church membership, church discipline, church structures, I just have this mental bent of thinking about structures and questions of justice and the implementation of justice. There are various kinds of structures. It’s just always been in my head. I don’t know why. So, that’s why I’ve been a part of this conversation.

David Schrock: Very good. To double click on something—Bob Putnam, is that Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone Robert Putnam?

Jonathan Leeman: If you dig deep into the acknowledgments section of Bowling Alone, like in a list of literally hundreds of research assistants—when you’re a premier guy like that, you get hundreds. And it’s a good thing. Yeah, deep in that list, deep in that list, you’ll find my name.

David Schrock: Very cool. Fun connection there. Important book.

Well, thinking about writing, maybe six months ago, I think it was the beginning of the year, 9Marks published a new journal, “A New Christian Authoritarianism?” So tell us a little bit about that—the reception that that has received. I know Doug Wilson, who we’ve done a podcast with as well, responded to you. So just tell us about the reception of that and how that’s gone.

Jonathan Leeman: The impulse for that for a ministry like 9Marks comes down to a question of the mission of the church. We’ve always cared about the mission of the church and biblically unsanctioned broadening of the church’s mission. Twenty years ago, the conversation about the mission of the church had to do with forces from, you might say, the political left and questions of social justice and water wells in Africa. Is it a pastor’s job to send out people to dig water wells in Africa or plant trees or things like that? You think back to Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert’s book on the mission of the church. And that’s very much what they’re responding to—missional church, emerging church impulses.

I think the threat to the mission of the church—and I personally would have a more constrained view of the church’s mission as along the lines of making disciples. The challenges to that, the incentive to a broadening of the church’s mission in many ways is coming from—I don’t know if you want to call it the political right, because they’re not necessarily conservative, but something like that. Christian nationalist conversations. And we wanted to say to people, “Pastors, your job is to make disciples. And teach them everything Jesus obeyed.” So yes, we need to have a conversation about politics and political duties and so forth because that’s part of obeying everything Jesus commanded. And we want to teach you that. And insofar as pastors are failing to do that, we need to do that. We need to talk about a political theology. Pastor, if you don’t have a developed political or public theology, well then you have some homework to do. You need to figure this stuff out in order to teach everything Jesus obeyed.

That said, one can go too far with that and then begin to absorb into the church’s mission a certain political program that I don’t think is biblically sanctioned. So therefore, we thought there would be an opportunity in that journal to sort out how do we both teach about it, but also not absorb it in ways that are biblically unsanctioned.

In terms of response, I got a few private emails from friends who we would critique or who would disagree with us thanking us just for the tone we adopted. So, I hope we adopt an appropriate tone. And you know David, your piece of that was very helpful on post-millennialism. And then Doug gave, as you mentioned, that public response. Which by my way of hearing, all he said was—he was responding to my article—”Jonathan doesn’t seem to know how bad things are.” Like, I live in Washington, D.C. I taught in D.C. public schools. I think I have some sense about how bad things are. So, it wasn’t a substantive response. Beyond that, no, honestly. I haven’t heard a lot publicly. I assume that’s because we just covered all our bases so well that there’s no argument left. Amen?

David Schrock: Hopefully, hopefully. Well, it was a joy to be able to write in that, and certainly the topic of postmillennialism is one that’s at the center of this. So, if you go back, you’re saying the political left is influencing the church or some of the social movements that were within the church. The emerging church was certainly a part of that. And DeYoung and Gilbert’s book was so helpful to think through the mission of the church and how they’re responding to that. I’ve handed that out multiple times and used that in one of the classes I teach on church in the 21st century.

But it seems, probably 20 years ago, the influence of postmillennialism was not as great as it has been today. So, that was the piece that I wrote on. It wasn’t the only one addressing theonomy; there are a number of other pieces in there as well. But do you see that as one of the primary drivers of, or at least one of the differences today, compared to where it was 20 years ago?

Jonathan Leeman: My sense—and what’s the chicken, what’s the egg? My sense is that postmillennialism isn’t the driver so much as it is the enabler. The driver is, I think, growing opposition to Christianity in our culture. It’s those forces. And when we’re all sitting here looking at the radar screen, and we see those enemy planes flying in, we all think, “Okay, goodness, what do we do now?” And that leads to some infighting among the saints. “We gotta do this!” “No, we gotta do that!” And one group of respondents to seeing those enemy planes coming in on that little radar screen are those who find postmillennialism a kind of opportunity that allows for a vigorous sword-holding response. So, that’s where I would disagree with the brothers. Nonetheless, I appreciate some of their concerns and share those concerns. I just have a different response to what’s necessary for this moment.

Stephen Wellum: Yeah, and don’t you think with the postmillennialism too that it really gives people confidence? That it really gives them hope that as they are faithful in their tasks as Christians trying to influence the society and so on, that it will succeed. And that God has promised that nations will come to saving faith, and that can include the United States again, and that can include nations all around the world. So, it really gives motivation to keep pressing on.

And I do think you’re right that they look at the nation and we see our internal moral collapse and we see everything seemingly collapsing around us with growing tyranny, anti-Christian attitudes. That’s what’s driving much of the discussion. “Hey, let’s recover what we once had.” But then you have postmillennialism, which really gives a motivation that this is achievable, we need to press forward, and it gives people confidence.

Jonathan Leeman: Well, if you look at the history of political theory, for instance, new theories are concocted in moments of crisis and moments, to some extent you could even say, of oppression. So, think about the American founders. They’re feeling a certain oppression against them from King George. And what do they do? They go searching for ways to articulate an authorized response in rebellion. Think about the Industrial Revolution and the way certain underclasses were suffering in face of the advent of industrial revolution and its economics. So, Karl Marx is sitting around and like, “Okay!”

So, when people feel oppressed, that’s when they go looking for new theories to justify changing the table, switching the table. So, on the one hand, that might be a good thing. On the other hand, it might be a bad thing. It’s just to look at the nature of the historical moment and see what sometimes incentivizes our fresh theorizing, our fresh theologizing.

Stephen Wellum: Yeah, and on a positive note, you could also say that it may also give Christians a kick in the pants to say, “Hey, we haven’t been part of the public sphere as we ought. We’ve assumed that everything is going to continue in a normal direction.” Obviously, it’s not. They wake up and say, “Hey, we should be active as Christians. We have a vote. We had a voice. We have a vote. Let’s do something.” So that also, I think, drives it as well.

Jonathan Leeman: Steve, can I agree and disagree with you, just to keep it spicy? I don’t think the problem is that Christians haven’t been involved in the public spheres. I think we’ve been deeply involved in the public sphere since day one. Where I would indict us is back to this question of theorizing. Baptists—speaking as a Baptist—I think for two centuries, Baptists have been really good at talking about religious liberty. We’ve not been as good as good at offering an entire fully developed political theology and understanding of government and civic engagement and so forth. We’ve been able to rely upon an assumed agreement within a Judeo-Christian culture about right and wrong. So, we’ve relied in some ways on the structures of classical liberalism to accomplish the outcomes that we’re looking for. But as soon as that moral consensus breaks down, as it has since at least the 1960s in a more pronounced way, suddenly we find that our theories of civic engagement and government may need a little bit of work on them as Baptists. And that’s where I think some of our Presbyterian brethren and the folks of other denominations are saying, “Hey, you guys really don’t have much to say. You need to do some work here.” And I think that’s right.

Stephen Wellum: Yeah, no, I don’t disagree. I’m probably trying to say something similar. Yeah, we have been engaged, but I don’t think we’ve realized how the carpet’s been taken out from underneath of us. We’ve assumed that if a Democratic administration gets in and then a Republican administration, “Yeah, they’re basically the same.” And then we’re realizing, oh my goodness, there’s been a lot of changes from the time of the 80s. Even the 90s—Bill Clinton versus the present-day Democratic party looks quite different. So then suddenly, okay, how do we handle that and how do we address that?

Jonathan Leeman: Yeah, that’s right.

David Schrock: Yeah, that’s certainly been one of the themes in our conversations in these podcasts, is looking at the fact that we need to go back to establish some of the first principles for church and state relations. How do we think through that? We have benefited from those who have deposited those things in the past, and we’ve certainly continued to think about religious liberty. But I think you’re right. For Baptists, there’s a need to go back and say, what are those first principles that lead us to understand what is the church, what is the state? How do those things work out in a biblical framework? How do they work out in America? Those are conversations that need to be had. And unfortunately, there’s almost a need to build the plane or to learn what the plane is that we’ve been given as, to use your illustration, other planes are coming to attack. And I think that’s been part of the challenge and why this has been such a raging debate because we’re trying to figure these things out even as the enemies are at the gates coming towards us.

So, let’s do a little bit of that. Jonathan, thinking through this term that has been given to the church—we’ve talked about the way in which January 6th played a role in “Christian nationalism” or “white Christian nationalism” as kind of the leftward media, progressive liberals are accusing the church of these things and Christians of this, whether someone takes that name or not. But in your understanding, what is Christian nationalism? What’s a good definition? Was there any definition that you were using as you were working through this question of a new Christian authoritarianism?

Jonathan Leeman: Yeah, sure, thank you. I would say you could think about it in three ways. Number one, as the critique of those who are opposed to Christianity. Anytime I was to bring Christianity or anything Christian into the public square and say, “Hey, we should do this because people are made in God’s image.” “Oh, that’s Christian nationalism. Don’t bring your Bible.” So, it’s used as an epithet, as it were, by those who disagree with us in order to justify their own gods. So, it’s not that they’re leaving their gods out, they’re bringing their gods in too. They’re just using Christian nationalism as an insult and as an excuse to exclude my gods as opposed to their gods from the public square. So that’s lane one and that’s whatever. If that’s what it is, then yeah, sure, I’m a Christian nationalist.

Lane two would be a more responsible articulation of how Christianity should influence the public square. And, yeah, I’m right there, sure. I step into the public square as a Christian, and I believe God reigns over kings of the earth. And, “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns,’” says the psalmist in Psalm 96. Or back in Psalm 2, “Kiss the son, kings of the earth, kiss the son, lest he be angry and you perish in your way.” So, whether they acknowledge him or not, he is their God. So I step into the public square believing that and acting accordingly.

That doesn’t mean I don’t make compromises here or there. You’re sitting at a table with a bunch of non-Christians, we’ve got to figure out how to work together. So, I understand you don’t share the same basis for government as I do. Nonetheless, I’m going to be here as a Christian and try to figure out how we can do this together.

The third way of talking about it, and that which I would be opposed to and which does seem to be the way most people these days are talking about it, is to some sense identify—not [merely] influence—but identify the nation or its government as Christian, almost as if one has been baptized into the name of—think Matthew 28:19—baptized into the name of Father, Son, and Spirit. And that, I think, is a misuse and risks breaking the third commandment, honestly. It risks calling the profane holy; putting God’s name on something which is unholy, thereby taking his name in vain. And therefore, I would be opposed to that.

David Schrock: Steve, so an insult, an influence, or an identity. So, you got three I’s. Steve, what do you think about that trichotomy there?

Stephen Wellum: I think that does capture well the range. So Christian nationalism is used as a swear word by the left. You just raise the term and it’s just a way of dismissing you and, ultimately, canceling you and shutting you down and, ultimately, removing you from the public square. I do think the issue of influence—So we’ve had discussions with a number of people who are saying, look, we, the founding of this nation was influenced by Christianity; the founding of Europe. You just see the westward expansion of Christianity—let alone the eastward expansion in the old Byzantine Empire. But in terms of Roman Catholic influence, the Reformation—the European Union tried to say that Christianity had no influence in Europe. That’s just a denial of history. So that’s true of this nation. And many, many will say, yes, we must as Christians exercise our voice. By God’s grace, we can influence the culture, society tied to common grace and so on.

And then I do think Jonathan’s right that you’re seeing some who are wanting to identify the nation as Christian, to say we acknowledge the triune God even so much so that we will enforce blasphemy laws. And then of course, they’re going to have to wrestle with who would be allowed in the nation if they aren’t Christian and how that would work with religious liberty and so on. But self-consciously we are a Christian nation, and Christ’s name is placed on that nation. So, I do think that’s a really helpful way of looking at the range of discussion.

Jonathan Leeman: David, can I bring some Bible to back this up?

David Schrock: Go for it. That’d be good.

Jonathan Leeman: If you jump back to Deuteronomy, God tells the Israelites to go into Canaan and remove the names of their gods from the temple. And then he says to place his name there. It’s almost like a soldier switching out flags, taking off the flag of the enemy and putting in the new flag. God has placed his name on Israel. That’s the whole thing. And then of course, they don’t live by his name. They defame his name, so he exiles them to the nation. But then Ezekiel promises, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I’m about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you profaned among the nations to which you came, and vindicate the holiness of my great name” (Ezek. 36:22).

So, God is all about his name. And then you get Jesus saying, “Gather in my name,” and then, “Baptize in my name.” And sure enough, that’s what the apostles do. So, if you do a little word search on the word name in the book of Acts, you’re going to find 35 occurrences of Jesus’s name being referred to. “Every name who calls upon the name of the Lord;” “be baptized in the name of Jesus;” and “faith in this name has made this man strong.” And, of course, the Sanhedrin is saying don’t you dare go out and preach in this name in chapter four. And then chapter five, they left the presence of the council rejoicing they were counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the name. What you see in the New Testament, in other words, is both Christ and the apostles’ assiduous care about locating the name of Jesus to his special, born-again, regenerate church, people, outposts. “I am their God, they are my people,” like Yahweh in the Old Testament. They gather in my name; they baptize in my name. It does not go to the unholy.

So now think about Paul in 2 Corinthians where he says, “What partnership is righteousness with lawlessness? What fellowship light with darkness? Christ with Belial? Come out from them. Be separate, touch no unclean thing. I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be my people.” In other words, Paul is like, “You don’t mix light and darkness.” And my fear with identifying the nation as Christian is that it’s a mixing of light and darkness, Christ and Belial, the temple of God with idols. Unless you can guarantee me that you have a regenerate nation. Oh wait, we do. It’s called the church, the Holy Nation.

To place that on a nation-state today is to go back to Israel—not even back to the Old Testament because Egypt, Syria, they weren’t that. It’s to go back to Israel and the Mosaic covenant specifically and say, “That’s what America is today. America is Israel.” And just like, that is not in the Bible. No way. And God puts his name on his church.

Stephen Wellum: So on that point, I’m sure you would argue that those who do want to speak of Christian nationalism in that third sense, right, to say Christ’s name can be placed in the nation, that biblically and theologically, there seems to be—whether they are self-consciously saying it or not—there seems to be an assumption that Israel of old continues in some sense in the nation. Now everyone wants to say, “Oh no, there’s a church-state distinction.” But it seems as if those who move strongly in that direction are implicitly bringing Israel’s structures over into the present age and then not sufficiently making the church-state distinction.

Jonathan Leeman: Well, think about it for a second. What’s the basis of a nation in the Old Testament? It’s a combination of sword and procreation. Nations are communities of families. A pagan like Aristotle got that. And follow the genealogies of the Old Testament. Nations are communities of families. Nations are formed as people have children and other people have children. That’s how it’s done.

So, that becomes relevant when we start having conversations with our Presbyterian friends who haven’t utterly forsaken procreation as the basis for the people of God as they baptize their people into non-communing membership in their churches. Whereas a Baptist like you and me say, “No, the basis of the holy nation is 100% exclusively not procreation, but regeneration.” So you and I, Steve and David, love our Presbyterian brothers, but we have a different fundamental understanding of what constitutes the holy nation, what constitutes the church and the people of God and where Jesus’s name applies. A Baptist on the whole, at least if he’s being consistent with his Baptist theology, is going to be more careful to identify Jesus’s name with regeneration, not procreation, and what procreation produces, i.e., a nation on earth.

David Schrock: Yeah, so I think this is one of the challenges in the conversation right now—that you have to put yourself into two different systems of thought, two different covenantal systems. So, what we just got done last month, thinking about progressive covenantalism, is that all of those types and shadows, Israel as a nation being included in that, find their fulfillment in Christ. And then the one chosen people of God, Jew and Gentile, who are the one holy nation of God—1 Peter 2—is fulfilled in Christ and his people as they’re drawn out from all the nations. So that certainly informs the way that we will read the Great Commission in Matthew 28—that we don’t see that nations are being baptized as nations, but rather that individuals are being brought out from that to create one new people of God.

Jonathan Leeman: Revelation 5, from all nations.

David Schrock: Yeah, I think that’s a vitally important passage there to think through that. So, it’s a Baptist way of thinking about that. Whereas on the Presbyterian side of things, again, their covenantal structure is going to see something more analogous from the nation of Israel to the nations of today. And I think just to clarify, it’s not to say that America is replacing Israel. So, it’s not as though there’s a specific covenant that is like Israel, but all nations are open to that if they will fear the Lord, right? Going back to England, going back to any other nation that would make a covenant with God, they can be a covenant people in an analogous way.

Which in some ways—Steve, we talked about this a little bit—if you have something of a priesthood that continues in, let’s say, the Roman Catholic Church, it’s because they’re missing the typological structure of the Old Testament that gets fulfilled in Christ, and therefore there can continue to be a priesthood. Or there can be land promises that are made in the Old Testament that can continue to be given to Israel today because they’re not fulfilled in Christ. Or the genealogical principle, Jonathan, that you just mentioned, can be brought to believers and their children today without being brought through Christ and the spiritual circumcision that is taking place in the heart, baptism by the Spirit being brought through.

It seems as though this idea of a Christian prince, understanding that that is a cipher for either one individual or a political structure that is there, seems to be something where it is missing the typological structures of the kingdom, where there’s a desire for this Davidic or Solomonic or a Josiah to be brought about to bring about these things in the earth. But really all of those types, let’s say the best of the types in the Old Testament, are to be fulfilled in Christ in the nation that he is bringing. So, there is a covenantal distinction between these two realities. What would you add to that or take away from that to clarify that?

Stephen Wellum: I think you’re exactly right. I think we’re bringing clarity in this discussion to why people are differing. So, sometimes the conversation, we’re just talking past one another, but we have to get to these biblical theological roots, right? And you’ve outlined pretty much what we’re calling a Baptist view, a progressive covenantal view, but it’s really a Baptist understanding of Scripture over against our Reformed brothers and sisters. And then of course within that Reformed camp, you have differences, don’t you? And particularly when you have people wanting to put the label of Christ on the nation. That’s really what we’re talking about here within that Reformed camp. Because you do have within the Reformed camp those who are going to say, “No, we just want to influence the nation. There’s a proper church state distinction and so on.”

But that’s why with those who want to identify Christ’s name with the nation in that strong sense—you do have your old theonomists, and we have to distinguish, I think, your old theonomists from some of your newer theonomists, your general equity theonomists—Rousas Rushdoony and Greg Bahnsen and so on, who wanted to actually bring the civil order over to the nation. There’s less of that attempt today by those who are carrying that label. Yet, still the assumption is that the magistrate, whether it’s an individual or the political structures and so on, still—and I think it’s a good way of saying it—is analogous to Israel. They’re still operating with that assumption. So, when you have appeal to the magisterial Reformation, that you just bring this right over, that’s what I think is still going on. It’s still there in what we identify as Europe now, even in the Roman Catholic structures, Protestant structures. There’s modification within the Protestant structures, yet, look at England. Look at any of the state churches. The coronation of King Charles—you couldn’t have a more analogous situation to Israel, where he’s the king, the head of the church, the priest, and the ministers are anointing him with oil. That’s Israel brought over to present-day England. And then you have other situations like that. And America got modified slightly by the Presbyterians because they wanted a church-state distinction. Yet, there are many who want to go back before that modification and bring back that old Christendom sense.

Jonathan Leeman: David, can I jump in there? I really appreciate Steve’s clarification. I meant to say that as well. I am not saying our paedobaptist friends necessarily go in this direction. Many don’t. Nonetheless, in the same way postmillennialism facilitates a kind of trajectory, so paedoaptism enables and sometimes facilitates this movement. Because you are keeping that genealogical principle intact by which the people of God are built, which allows a nation to become “Christian.” When you’re baptizing every new baby into the church, and as a citizen, Christian England becomes conceivable. Roman Catholic Spain becomes conceivable in a way that in a Baptist formulation, it’s just not conceivable. Which is why, by and large, I think these conversations are emerging from some of our paedobaptists friends rather than Baptist friends on the whole.

David Schrock: Yeah, I think that’s fair to say and certainly Stephen Wolfe is making a Presbyterian case. He’s not hiding that, and that’s certainly an influence on what he’s doing. It does seem, going back to something that you said earlier, that if Baptists have benefited from, let’s just say, the project of Christendom and they’re making adjustments along the way and we need to go back to first principles, then some of those who we’re reading, like Samuel Rutherford or others, are working out of a different covenantal structure.

So, it seems as though there is some kind of a chimera that is being brought together with Baptists who are borrowing from and even bringing together a Presbyterian and Baptist model. We’ve seen this with a Magisterial Baptist presentation of these things. Any reflections on that, or ways forward to think more consistently as a Baptist with regards to a political theory?

Jonathan Leeman: Number one, there have been a few Baptists in the history—look at John Gill—who have tried to bring the two of them together. Though I don’t know if he does it consistently. I don’t know that he works it all out in light of his Baptist theology. He just asserts it in his time and place. And these days, I think it’s also simply, as it were, asserted. I don’t think people have done the hard biblical theology of demonstrating how Baptistic convictions are consistent with a magisterial formulation. I just don’t think that work has been done. It’s merely asserted, and it’s not finally persuasive as I’ve seen it. You started by saying just a moment ago, we’ve, what did you say? We’ve benefited from Christendom? Is that it?

David Schrock: I think we’ve benefited from Christendom, yeah.

Jonathan Leeman: Yeah, that begs the question, doesn’t it? Have we? Have we benefited from Christendom or have we benefited from revivals and people getting saved?

David Schrock: Yeah, so here’s what I mean by that. So, when you look at the history of Baptists—and you can find those who are going to argue that it goes all the way back, tracing the trail of blood all the way from John the Baptist, if you will, and the first Christians there to present. Or the project that might be something like 400 years old. That the Baptists were birthed at a time when Christendom was a reality. Certainly, even the London Baptist Confession is going to take place in a country that was a Christian nation, if you will, in its own understanding.

So, in that way it’s coming into formulation at a time where they may not have to make some of those same arguments, but they are looking at Scripture, they’re making adjustments to how we understand what the church is, that there is a regenerate community. And so that’s what I’m saying when I’m talking about benefitted from Christendom, or at least birthed in the tradition of Christendom.

Jonathan Leeman: Yeah, it’s my understanding—if I’m understanding you correctly—my understanding broadly is that that’s precisely the Baptistic contribution to this whole conversation. We didn’t come along with the Trinity. We didn’t come along with sola fide. We came along with a, I think, better doctrine of the church and with it, doctrine of the state or religious liberty and how that eventually impacts and limits the state. That’s all we got. We don’t have anything else that we brought to our Protestant brethren.

So, in that sense, we have brought not first order things, but second order things, which are the less important things. So, praise God for our Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian friends who got the first stuff right. What we did is, I think, is complete the Reformation and figure out what does priesthood of all believers and sola fide mean as it were for the church and what the church is and therefore, what the state is. So, we are building on their shoulders, absolutely.

Stephen Wellum: Alright, so with that in mind, I mean we’ve clarified that people are differing on their entire biblical theological understanding. So, from our understanding of the covenants, from a Baptist view, how would you then speak of what the state is or even what a nation is? And then once that’s laid out, we can’t just bring it over from Israel, so what actually is this state that we as Christians live in? And then to follow up there in terms of what kind of—they’re under the law of God—so what kind of law are they under? What kind of influence do we call this state too in terms of their upholding good, protecting, punishing evil and those kinds of things?

Jonathan Leeman: Yeah, I’m remembering things I’ve learned in your seminary classes, Steve; understanding God hardwiring, structuring, constitutionalizing his relationship with humanity along covenantal lines. So, my relationship with God is covenantally defined. I think that’s true for both the non-Christian and the Christian. I think for the Christians we understand that through the line of the special covenants. I understand for the non-Christian, it’s defined, at least first and foremost, through the line of common covenants with Adam and Noah. I do think the Noahic covenant, and especially the justice mechanism there in Genesis 9:5­–6, establishes a basic charter for government. And in that charter, “Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shell his blood be shed, for man was made in God’s image,” we see both an ethical substance and a theological basis for that substance.

So, the substance: “Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed.” The theological basis: “For man was made in God’s own image.” I think those two things become, as it were, the basis for human government and its authority. It’s what it’s allowed to prosecute. So, if you keep reading through the Bible and you look at what God indicts the nations, or especially the kings of the nations, for—Pharaoh in Genesis 12. Abimelech in Genesis 20. Pharaoh in Exodus. And then, let’s say, jump forward to the prophets and the prophetic oracles against the nations and you trace out, okay what exactly does God then indict the nations for? He indicts them, I think, for two or three categories of things. Category one, violence, oppression, hurting their own people, hurting other people; ripping open the pregnant women in Gilead says Amos for instance. So, violence—”Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed.”

But then also usurping his throne and taking his place. “Who is the Lord that I should obey him?” says Pharaoh, king of Egypt. And, “‘The Nile is mine’, you said. Therefore, I am against you, says the Lord.” That’s Ezekiel 29 looking back on Pharaoh. “‘The Nile is mine’, you said. Therefore I am against you.” Or he says to the king of Moab, “You have magnified yourself against me.”

So, there’s two lanes of opposition of the Almighty to the kings of the nations. One, violence, and number two, usurping him. And that produces a third lane, which is opposition to God’s people. Anytime God’s people are opposed wrongly, God will then oppose that king. So, Exodus 9, again, he says, “You rose up against my people and did not let my people go.” And then you have plenty of examples of that. Look at Ezekiel 28, multiple examples of, “You came after my people,” “You came after me,” he says, to all these different governments. Which is to say, what is the state to do? The state is to execute, I would say, this horizontal neighbor-on-neighbor form of justice, a protectionist form of justice. Yet it does so with a theological basis. We’re under God. And as soon as a government or officer of government forsakes that theological basis, sure enough, sooner or later, that justice will become an unjust, neighbor-destroying government.

One thing you don’t see as you follow through what the nations are required to do, one thing you don’t see is you never see the nations asked to play a priestly role and define who Yahweh is and enforce such sacrifices, such temple worship on their citizens. Israel has that. Blasphemy is, for instance, idolatry is punishable by death in Israel, but not among the nations. You never see that. So, by the time you get to the New Testament, and you say, “Punish the evil and reward the good,” you have to understand that within a certain context, right? So, in the same way, let’s suppose I walk into a classroom and I say to the teacher, “Okay, reward the good kids, punish the bad kids.” You understand that in the context of a classroom that there are certain goods and certain bads that teachers are going to reward and punish. A commercial airline pilot is going to say, “Wear your seat belts, and put your tray tables away.” He’s going to have a certain set of rules, certain goods and bads that he’s going to enforce by virtue of his context. A pastor, a mother—the context to some extent is going to determine the jurisdiction of goods and bads. So, when Peter says and Paul says, “Reward the good, punish the bad,” there’s a certain context in mind, a civil context, that you have to look at the whole storyline of scripture to say, “Okay, what is that?” It’s not all goods, all bads. That’s God. God does all goods, all bads. Not government. So yeah, that requires us to pay attention to the storyline of scripture as a whole to determine what goods, what bads government is to enforce.

Stephen Wellum: So let me just follow up on that, because a lot of the discussion centers around the decalogue, the enforcement of first table, second table, and so on. So, if I’m hearing you correctly, you’re affirming there is universal moral law grounded in God’s very nature, creation order, and so on. So, we’re not denying anything of that. Government is to uphold what is good. So Genesis 9:6—the protection of human life, which is tied to creation order, moral norms, protection of marriage, protection of family, private property, this kind of thing. But when we have a government, a government’s supposed to do that, so they are defined in terms of moral standards. Yet when we appeal, say, to the Decalogue and say, okay, which do we enforce? First table? Second table? In some sense, we have to be careful doing that, even though we don’t deny the reality of the Decalogue. But that is given to Israel as a nation. It’s not given to the nations. Now, of course, there’s going to be common universal moral norms that govern all people. But I hear you saying we have to be careful just flipping the Decalogue over into my nation. And to say now to be a Christian nation means that the government now has to enforce blasphemy laws or enforce Sabbath regulation, that type of thing. Would that be fair to what you’re saying? And the caution there is we have to see what nations are, states are, in terms of the entire canon. We have to see what Israel is. We have to see what fulfillment is in terms of the church and then start thinking about what the role of the state is.

Jonathan Leeman: 100%. Now, sometimes people use shorthand to say, “Well, I think the government’s called to enforce second table instead of first table,” just because one gets it horizontal—neighbor-to-neighbor—and one gets it vertical—us to God. And as a very quick shorthand for where government jurisdiction lies, okay. But as soon as you push into the details of that, yeah, that starts to break down because, as you say, first of all, the whole 10 commandments are given to Israel. Look at the first few verses of Exodus 20. “I brought you out of Egypt.” But it doesn’t even quite work with the second table, does it? Think about the law against coveting. We’re getting to certain heart matters there. How do you restrict coveting? I’m not sure how you do that. And Jesus himself then takes the second table and says, “Look, even if you hate your brother or lust against another woman, you’ve broken that.” Okay, so in Jesus’s interpretation of the second table, are we going to enforce that as well against lust and against hate?

So yeah, I think you need to be very careful before you say first table, second table. Though I understand in shorthanded fashion why it’s sometimes useful to speak that way.

David Schrock: Jonathan, to understand what you’re saying here, I think what you did to connect the Noahic covenant—Genesis 9—to nations today, and showing how that works itself out in scripture is a really fruitful line of thinking for us on this. So, here’s my question. Today it seems as though our government has taken the authority to execute blasphemy laws, the religion being sexual liberation. And that if you oppose the rainbow—LGBT—that you can be penalized, that that’s the new kind of blasphemy that is there. It’s an inversion of that because the God that the state seems to be serving is different. So, I’m curious if that all nations will have some kind of blasphemy law because nationhood and the political structure is downstream from religion and culture? Or, are they in your understanding actually usurping an authority that they should not have? In other words, if we were to have greater Christian influence on our nation, more Christians in office, would they say we don’t have the right to exercise these blasphemy laws that are there? How would you understand what’s going on today, and if there was a recovery of more Christians in office, what that would look like?

Jonathan Leeman: Yeah, good question. Several things are going on there. When we talk the way you just talked about LGBT being a form of blasphemy, we’re actually not defining religion in that sense formally; we’re defining it more functionally. We’re saying, functionally as it were, LGBT is their God. Or sexual freedom is their God, and they’re imposing on us. Therefore, it’s a form of blasphemy law insofar as I’m not allowed to speak. And when you’re doing that, you’re changing the rules a little bit.

David Schrock: So, you’re saying there’s an equivocation on terms at that point.

Jonathan Leeman: A little bit, yeah. So, that can make the conversation a little bit more complicated at times. I will say this, even if we do want to define religion functionally in the way you just did and not phenomenologically or institutionally, Christians are still the ones, more than anybody, who I think are prohibited from the Bible, by the Bible, from imposing our worship on others. So, when our theonomist brothers respond by saying, “Well listen, you guys are calling for religious freedom. They’re going to impose their gods on us; ergo, we might as well impose our gods on them.” My response is, “Well, no! That’s precisely what makes us Christians and people of the new covenant.”

We don’t understand ourselves to be able to impose. Yes, our progressive friends think they can impose their gods on us. I don’t think I can. I can’t force you to worship. The Romans thought they could impose their worship. The Assyrians, the Babylonians thought they could. The medieval Japanese shoguns thought they could impose their worship. We are the ones who don’t think we can do that. So even if they do seek to impose their worship, impose their blasphemy laws, that doesn’t give us grounds or license to do the same.

David Schrock: So let me press into something we talked about at the beginning, and that is making disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I command you. So, you said earlier there’s a need to teach members of our church how to be citizens, how to fulfill their vocation. You’re in Washington, D.C. I’m just outside of Washington, D.C. So, there’s a number of our members who are involved in the political machinations of D.C. How are you instructing them? How are you teaching them to obey what Christ commanded as they go into these public spaces? And I’m just wondering what that influence is that you are trying to instruct.

Jonathan Leeman: So the question is, how should pastors, whether in D.C. or Louisville or Occoquan, be discipling members to think politically?

David Schrock: Yeah, so you said that certainly we’re not to, as Christians, impose our faith on others and to impose that they would worship the one true living God. So that’s a via negativa. What is the positive instruction you’re giving? What should Christians do to influence culture, to influence political structures, to influence for the sake of Christ?

Jonathan Leeman: Yeah, number one, I think pastors need to help Christians, and Christians need to have an understanding of government and what God has authorized and called it to do. And, if you don’t know what he wants the government to do, you’re going to have a hard time knowing what you should ask the government to do. In my understanding, government is called to play a preparatory, road-building, stage-setting function so that the people of God can get on with their work. Think about 1 Timothy 2, where we’re to “pray for kings and those in authority over so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives godly and dignified in every way, for God wants all people to be saved.” Notice there’s two steps there. Step one is praying for the government to help us live peaceful and quiet lives. Step two, so that the church can do its work and people be saved. You see the same thing in Acts 17, I think. You see the same thing in why Genesis 9 comes before Genesis 12. That is to say the government plays a road-clearing function so that the people of God can do their work—teach people to read so they could read the Bible.

So, what I want to help my members understand, and what Christians in general should understand, is that we want to do everything we can to protect life and freedom and give opportunity to people to know the God of the Bible so the church can do its work. In other words, we protect the womb so that people can be born and hear the gospel. We police the streets so you can get to the church without being assaulted by bad guys. You want good marriage laws so that husbands and wives can model Christ in the church. And on and on we could go in this common grace domain which frees the church up to do its work. So, number one—that’s why I appreciate this whole conversation—we got to get our understanding of government right so that when we go to vote, we vote for the candidate, or the party, who is working for right things and not for wrong things, as God has assigned Caesar to execute right and wrong.

I think that’d be the first thing. I think the second thing is just remind them that each of them has a stewardship and a responsibility to love their neighbor as themselves and do justice. We don’t have the option of backing away from the public square. If I had a white board, I’d write down two words, “justice” and “love.” Love your neighbor by doing justice. What justice? The justice that God has given Caesar to do. So, as you have a vote or an opportunity to lobby or whatever stewardship you have, a juror, you’re to do what God has called Caesar to do in clearing a path for the church to do its work.

Stephen Wellum: So, a couple of things there. So, we would encourage them certainly to uphold what you’re saying, but also to put laws in place if possible to stand against homosexuality, homosexual “marriage,” to reverse those decisions, to uphold a Christian standard of morality that’s tied to creation order and so on, so that there’s not a loving of neighbor that is not defined other than in a Christian sense.

So that’s clearly there. And then trying to bring a Christian influence on the larger society. So, we’re encouraging Christians to stand up, to make their voice known, but we’re not asking them to turn the state necessarily into a Christian state. But we’re asking the state to be what God intended it for it to be in this place of redemptive history which is to protect the good, to uphold the good, to ultimately punish evildoers, and to have a limited sphere and role. That’s their role, that’s their sphere, and they are not to go outside of that. The state has a limited sphere, and they are to stay within it and to do their job well, and then let the church do her job in this type of thing.

Jonathan Leeman: Yep. You guys may have heard me use the analogy of a babysitter. You think about a babysitter’s jurisdiction. What is a parent supposed to do? A parent has comprehensive, as it were, authority in their child’s life. From teaching them to walk, to wipe themselves, to learn their math facts, to worship, everything. A parent has a very broad jurisdiction in the life of the child. What about the babysitter? It’s a much narrower jurisdiction. Basically, just keep the kids out of traffic, make sure they’re fed for dinner, and get to bed.

Now the babysitter should know that he or she is under God and is going to respond to and be judged by God, absolutely. But it’s still a very limited jurisdiction. And in that regard, yeah, I think we have to understand that the state has a limited, important, crucial, preparatory jurisdiction so that the church with its broader, more perfectionist, “be perfect as your heavenly father’s perfect” jurisdiction can get on with doing its work.

Stephen Wellum: I was just thinking in our present context where we’re seeing a real push of the left, an undermining of anything that is Christian morality and even a common morality. You’re now letting immorality go rampant and it’s causing destruction. This seems to be pushed stronger and stronger and stronger. What should the church then do? So, we carry out our business as the church, but we are also citizens of this country. So, what does that involve in terms of our citizenship? Do we just say, “Okay, I’m a member of the church, so I’ll just stay there?” Do we work in terms of our roles in the country? What advice are you giving to people to really influence that culture?

Jonathan Leeman: Well, the answer is going to depend on what country you’re living in. If we’re living in the United States, that’s one thing. If we’re Christians in Iran or South Korea or Brazil or United Arab Emirates or Japan, it’s going to be a slightly different answer. The answer depends on what opportunities you’ve been given. I want to be very conscious of that fact. Because I think what that helps us do is remember, okay, finally, it’s not the political structures that influence our ability to be salt and light, right? So, I want Christians in North Korea and Iran to be salt and light. And they can successfully make disciples and plant churches and bring the kingdom of heaven to earth through their assemblies just as much as an American Christian, even though the governments are doing all they can to stop it.

Okay, insofar as we still have opportunity, we want to first and foremost, I would say, attend to our own life. I know that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but I think we have to start there and we can’t take it for granted. Christians need to live with integrity in their own marriages. I spent this weekend, Steve, counseling a brother, comforting a brother whose church member Christian wife is leaving him for another man. What’s going on? So why is that so characteristic of us? How can we be so careless with our marriages?

So, number one, I think we want the church to be salt and light so that we can commend a just and righteous message to the world. Number two, I do think there’s a place for public advocacy, and different voices have opportunity to do that and need to do that. I don’t know that we always do our public advocacy wisely. I do think there is a wise way, and I think it’s a good conversation to have about who are the best people to do it. What I don’t like, what does discourage me a little bit, is when everybody, every Christian becomes a political expert. When pastors for instance, when their primary public outlet or contribution is party politics, I think they’re at risk of subverting an even higher calling they have to say Christ is over all in all of life. Including there, so we’re going to talk about that too.

So, I think we need to be careful, maybe some ways more careful than we sometimes are, about finding the right people, the right Christians to push that public engagement. Now that said, you know what I would be open to more of is Christian leaders and pastors sometimes speaking truth to power, like John the Baptist to Herod. I think there is a place for that. For pastors to say, “You are defying the word of God and judgment will come if you continue in this path.” So, I’m not opposed to that either. So, there’s a place for the pastor to publicly advocate against the kings of the earth. But then there’s also a place, a slightly different place, for non-pastors, for Christians to step into the public square and fight on behalf of righteousness within that limited babysitter jurisdiction lane.

David Schrock: So just a number of things there, Jonathan, I think it’s helpful to think through this. Going back to the point that the nations are under the judgment of God in the Old Testament for usurping the authority of God and failing to recognize that they are under God. So, certainly there’s an element that speaking truth to power, to use your language there, is to call the state to recognize that there is a God who is in heaven and that they are to bow before him.

Would that be part of that?

Jonathan Leeman: Now, I want to be a political theorist for just a second and be very careful. You said, “call the state.” Now in the Bible, it’s the king. And with a king, the person and the government are entirely overlapping. The person is the government, the government is the person. So, to ask the government in a kingly monarch context to repent is, and to even declare that Jesus is King is one thing, or Yahweh is Lord is one thing.

Now when you step into a constitutional republic, government and person are no longer overlapping. It’s many people. It’s “we the people.” So, then I think we need to be careful in how we talk about, or we speak on behalf of “we the people.” And that’s where I don’t want to presume that “we the people” all believe in Jesus, and speak as if “we the people” all believe in Jesus, because we don’t. I don’t put Jesus’s name into my mortgage contracts either. Nonetheless, if I’m an officer of government, if I’m a senator, a mayor, a city councilman, a president, I can certainly speak for myself. And I certainly should—as that president, Senator, councilman, mayor, and voter—I certainly should submit to the King of Kings. And I think even as an individual, I can advocate for the King of Kings. The one thing I don’t think I can do is speak on behalf of other people as if they believe that too, or impose on them through the power of the sword beliefs that they don’t possess.

I see some like furrowed brow there, David.

David Schrock: Yeah, so I feel like I’m hearing two different things in what you’re saying.

Jonathan Leeman: You might be. I might be contradicting myself. I’ve been known to do that.

David Schrock: So, it’s certainly well worth parsing this out because certainly the one question is, what is the role of the Christian related to the state, understanding the difference between a monarchy and a constitutional republic? But there’s certainly a communication to our neighbor to honor God. I’m thinking just even from a Genesis 9 perspective and not even a gospel—they’re related. But thinking about that and then going and moving to the person who is in office—So, certainly what I’m hearing you saying is they’re not to impose their faith on others as well. But the question I’m asking is what is the state, if you will, again, the constitutional people, “we the people,” what are they responsible for?

Should we not communicate to them that they will give an account to God, and that accounts for even the things that they’re doing in the state. So, maybe to just make it most practical, is there a place, at least for those that are in the local church, for a pastor to be able to say that this party—and this is maybe different in 2023 than 2016 or 2006 or whatever—that this party is no longer someone that you can affirm a vote for because their platform is standing against the truths that we know to be biblically revealed in the gospel and the morality of the sound in scripture.

Jonathan Leeman: So, a couple things there. Number one, yes, “we the people” in any form and fashion are accountable to the judgment of God. And I’ve told this story a number of times, so forgive me if I’m just being repetitive. We had a member of our church who was a delegate of a state house, one of the area state houses, and he was going to put his name to the same-sex marriage bill. And I took him to Revelation 6 where it says the kings and the generals, the rich, the free, the slave, the free, called upon the mountains and said, “Fall upon us for the wrath of the Lamb is going to come.” In other words, the kings of the earth, for one reason or other, are going to fear the wrath of Christ. Why? Because in their office as kings, they put their hands to wickedness. And I said, “So, brother, I’m exhorting you, don’t put your hand to wickedness. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. But you don’t want to be a part of doing what is going to bring the wrath of the Lamb, such that you would cry out to the mountains, ‘May your rocks fall upon us.’” So yes, the U.S. government in all of its aspects, insofar as it opposes the law of God, will earn the wrath of God. And Christians want to have nothing to do with that.

So, what does that mean when we go to vote? Oh, that’s when it gets really complicated. That’s your second question, right?

David Schrock: Yeah, that’s part of the question. Yeah, absolutely.

Jonathan Leeman: So, that gets really complicated. There are several principles to keep in mind here. Principle number one: there are multiple rocks in the jar. Principle number two: some rocks are heavier than others. So, when I’m going to sponsor a candidate, I’m excited about him because he represents—candidate Joe represents issues A, B, C, D, and E. And I like Joe more than Jill, who represents L, M, N, O, P. Because when I vote for Joe, I sponsor all five things. I can’t just say, “Well, listen. I really don’t like Jill with her L, M, N, O, P. I like Joe with his A, B, C, and D. I don’t like E.” But you know what? I still am four out of five as opposed to Jill, in which I’m 0 for 5. I’m still sponsoring Joe for E. Voting machines are dumb. So, if I’m handing Joe the sword of state with my vote, I’m sponsoring E.

Let me stop being abstract and be really clear. You can say, “I don’t like abortion, but I like A, B, C, and D from this candidate. I’m picking the lesser of two evils for me. Therefore, I’m going to vote for candidate Joe, even though he’s pro-choice.” You know what? You’re handing the sword of state to Joe to continue to abort babies. You are not morally absolved of that just because you don’t like it. You’re still handing him the sword of state. And therefore, you need to recognize that some rocks are heavier than others, even as you’re looking at the fact that there’s multiple rocks in the jar.

I just barely dipped my toe into that conversation, David, but maybe that’s a provocative start.

David Schrock: Yeah, I know, Steve, you had a chance to talk a little bit about that in something you wrote earlier this year. Anything to bring some of these things together as we’re coming to a close?

Stephen Wellum: I think we’re having to first lay out the biblical theological foundations, the theory to try to be clear as to what the state is, the responsibilities of the state, the sphere of the state, what the church is, what the mission of the church is. And then we have to wrestle with some of the issues that Jonathan’s been raising here which are real practical issues. And sometimes I think in our talking about the theory, we just bypass these things. Decision making is not easy.

And we do then have to say this issue has priority over some other matters. So, for most of us, the life issue is such a foundational issue that if you give that up, then so many other things are affected by that which is quite different than, say, someone who has issues in depending on tax structure. I want lower taxes. I want to balance budgets and so on. But I also want someone, more foundationally, to support human life.

So, those are practical matters. And then when you get Christians in governing—my son works in the Senate, and he always keeps saying to me, “Dad, people don’t realize how difficult it is to govern, how difficult it is to make laws and to get people on the same page.” So, there’s where we have to have Christians fleshing this out in terms of specifics, and it’s practical wisdom, principled action, and everything else. But I think what we’ve tried to clarify here is really the larger theory, the differences between forms of Christian nationalism, different understandings of Christian nationalism, and that’s been very helpful.

David Schrock: Yeah, it makes me think of just the fact that even the challenges today are greater in 2023 than let’s say 1776 or somewhere in between. Because for numbers of decades, we’ve just embraced the kind of multiculturalism—and that includes various ethical issues that relate to various parts of government and laws and decisions as well—that is going to make it increasingly difficult to be able to bring consensus together.

Jonathan Leeman: So, David, 1776, you’re getting letters from John Wesley saying, “Do not rebel against the king. That’s a defiance of Romans 13, pastor of Occoquan Bible.” What say you in response to John Wesley?

David Schrock: Yeah, I think that’s a conversation we’d have to pick up for further. I mean, because at that point there are Christian arguments in both directions as well. So, Gary Steward in his book Justifying Revolution has made a case, a Christian case, for that. And maybe just this is where it finishes—this conversation is ongoing and there’s a need for us to have these conversations in good faith with the Word of God open before us to be able to think through these things.

And at least one of the things that has come out, and I think that has been helpful in this conversation, is to realize the covenantal structures of the Bible, the whole Scripture, is necessary for our foundation, right? We certainly learn from church history, we certainly learn from experiences that Christians have had at different points of tension and oppression, but ultimately, it has to go back to the Word of God; to say, “Here’s our foundation on which we build, which we stand.”

Jonathan Leeman: Amen.

Stephen Wellum: Yeah, and just one final comment. Because of all of our commitment to the importance of the local church and the mission of the church and fact that the church is the new nation, the church is the priesthood of all believers, is that which goes into the new creation, we have to emphasize in our day, regardless of what happens around us with the collapse of the state or whatever, that we are about the spread of the gospel. We are about seeing strong local churches built. We are being salt and light in the world. That has to be emphasized so much in this discussion. It’s not just simply getting some people in government and changing laws, and that’s going to change the whole fabric. No, we need to see the churches built. We need to see and pray for the spillover effect of the gospel that we’ve had in revivals of the past. That’s the only thing that really has kept our nation in place, and even given us the structures of government that we have. So, the centrality of the gospel, the centrality of the church, and the role of the church, that is what we have to always keep before us too.

Jonathan Leeman: Amen.

David Schrock: That’s a good way to finish. Good word, brother. Jonathan, thanks so much for your time today. Good to have you. Steve, as always, good to be with you, brother.

Jonathan Leeman: Thanks guys.

Stephen Wellum: Yeah, great, great conversation and hope it’s been beneficial to those who hear.



  • Jonathan Leeman

    Jonathan Leeman serves as editorial director for 9Marks and has earned a master of divinity and a Ph.D. in theology. Today he edits the 9Marks series of books as well as the 9Marks Journal and is the co-host of the Pastors Talk podcast ( He has written and edited over a dozen books. He also teaches at several seminaries and serves as an elder at Cheverly Baptist Church in suburban Washington, DC. Jonathan is married and has four daughters.

  • David Schrock

    David Schrock is the pastor for preaching and theology at Occoquan Bible Church in Woodbridge, Virginia. David is a two-time graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a founding faculty member and professor of theology at Indianapolis Theology Seminary. And he is the author of Royal Priesthood and Glory of God along with many journal articles and online essays.

  • Stephen Wellum

    Stephen Wellum is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He received his MDiv and PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author of numerous essays, articles, and books. He is also the co-author with Peter Gentry of Kingdom through Covenant, 2nd edition (Crossway, 2012, 2018) and the author of God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of the Person of Christ (Crossway, 2016).

Jonathan Leeman

Jonathan Leeman

Jonathan Leeman serves as editorial director for 9Marks and has earned a master of divinity and a Ph.D. in theology. Today he edits the 9Marks series of books as well as the 9Marks Journal and is the co-host of the Pastors Talk podcast ( He has written and edited over a dozen books. He also teaches at several seminaries and serves as an elder at Cheverly Baptist Church in suburban Washington, DC. Jonathan is married and has four daughters.