Francis Schaeffer would likely call it "pagan"
by Tom Van Dyke
I still prefer the admittedly imperfect term "Judeo-Christian" as more descriptive of the Founding's "civil religion" over "theistic rationalist" or the [per]mutations of "Deist," so I would not want to be accused of "peddling half-truths," as Jonathan Rowe's post intimates below.
Well, actually, Jon comes right out and says it's peddling half-truths. So if we may "unpack" this a bit:
First of all, the "Judeo-" part doesn't believe Jesus was God, and would not find the New Testament part of the Bible either infallible or even divinely inspired. So that clears the decks of "orthodoxy," the Atonement, the Trinity, and certainly Francis Schaeffer. [More on him later.]
Secondly, as Jon concedes, the medieval pre-Reformation ["Catholic"] Christian intellectual tradition quite took in the "pagan" Aristotle and the ancient Greeks, as did Judaism itself. The apostle Paul, who wrote most all of the Epistles, was himself a Roman citizen and often argued from his deep background in classical philosophy for his Mediterranean-rim audience, who were also steeped in it.
Moreover, the main American "Protestant" tradition was largely Anglican/Church of England, which was Roman Catholicism shed of the Rome/Pope part [The Book of Common Prayer even uses the word "catholick" to describe its own religion!]. John Locke often and approvingly mentions Rev. Richard Hooker, whose own philosophy/theology was a direct offshoot of the medieval "Catholic," Thomas Aquinas.
Episcopalians, Presbyterians and the various unitarian movements were not direct descendants of Martin Luther's theological Protestantism---"faith alone saves" as a shorthand---which was what informed the views of Francis Schaeffer and many in our contemporary evangelical movement.
Theologically speaking, Luther, Calvin, et al., are what "Christian" meant to Francis Schaeffer---he had an expressed distaste for Roman Catholicism, and saw "pagan" philosophy as a malign influence on true Christianity across the board. [And art! Do look at this link to Schaeffer's seminal How Should We Then Live?!]
That's the theological Francis Schaffer, at least the Schaeffer best known to many evangelicals these days. And that's OK, religious liberty-wise. [The interested or curious seeker will read this for the rest.]
But here's the story: It was Francis Schaeffer who was the strategist behind Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority" political movement. The true enemy was "secular humanism," and it was Schaeffer who convinced Falwell to build an activist coalition of the likeminded including Jews [!] and Roman Catholics [!!!]
The theological Francis Schaeffer was not the same as the political philosopher Francis Schaeffer, or even the Francis Schaeffer as citizen/voter. We should keep this in mind as we attempt to penetrate the doctrinal beliefs of the Founders. Their [dis?]beliefs are of some academic interest, but their public practice is where the rubber really meets the road, and the main focus of this blog.
Mr. Rowe once wrote about Frank Pastore, the former MLB pitcher turned fundamentalist preacher. Pastore condemned Mormonism theologically, but said he could vote for Mitt Romney since he agreed with Romney on the issues, in that Moral Majority umbrella sort of way.
As a corollary to Shanna Riley's most recent [excellent] post, when we try to fit genuine human beings into boxes and labels, we lose the plot. Sam Brownback and Nancy Pelosi are putatively both Catholics; John McCain and Barack Obama both say that they are "saved" through Jesus Christ.
The rubber will meet the road November 4. Professions of faith and the labels we put on them don't look to be of much help. It's to the underlying philosophies of the individual persons, their worldviews---weltanshauungen---where we must look, and sussing them out is no small task. We don't even have a handle on George Washington or Ben Franklin, and you'd think that would all be settled by now.