Friday, April 5, 2019

Mark David Hall at Cairn University

On Monday I saw friend of American Creation, Mark David Hall speak at Cairn University (geographically, in my backyard practically). He spoke on his forthcoming new book -- which I can't wait for -- that joins among others John Fea and Gregg Frazer on the "Christian America" question. 

Dr. Hall's book will stress the Christian component of the American founding as profoundly influential, while conceding the influence of the other components. Personally, I agree with the thrust of what I heard from Hall in that Christianity did strongly influence the American founding. He perhaps would stress it more than I would.

The question I asked was on the Treaty of Tripoli and here we might differ. Hall noted that indeed his book will discuss this Treaty, ratified during the founding era, that in Article 11 says, "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion...." Hall tried to explain this away as something diplomatic. And I would agree the context of the treaty was diplomacy with hostile Muslims. However, I also think it's an accurate statement. The new federal GOVERNMENT was "not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion."

I don't think such contradicts the notion that Christian principles nonetheless were profoundly influential in a variety of ways in the American founding. It's a Christian principle after all to draw a distinction between the secular and the sacred, between Caesar and God.

5 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Very good article here--by a secularist.

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/danthropology/2016/05/secularists-please-stop-quoting-the-treaty-of-tripoli/

Two points stand out:

Re "Hall tried to explain this away as something diplomatic"


The year after the Treaty of Tripoli was signed, President Adams also issued a VERY Christian-sounding thanksgiving proclamation

“[T]he safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not [sic] exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed.”

Further on in the proclamation – which promoted a national day of humiliation, fasting and prayer – it recommends

“that all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching Him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction.”


Pretty damn Christian.


Also, as an interesting sidelight, when a second treaty with Tripoli became necessary in 1805, the phrase "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion" is conspicuously absent. As the author of the article wisely counsels,

as any respectable academic would agree, you cannot simply look at one piece of evidence to try and establish a historical (or any other) fact. In history, you must look at evidence that is contradictory in order to gain a more precise understanding of context.

IMO, evidence and arguments for a militant secularism such as this single phrase in the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797 are few and far between and far outweighed by evidence on the other side.

Mark David Hall said...

It was great to see you at the talk, Jon. The mind-boggling thing to me is that so many people who should know better think the Treaty of Tripoli should be taken seriously as a principled statement of church-state relations. I give about six examples of scholars who make this mistake in the book, but could have given more.

Check out this link if you are interested in more information about the book:

https://www.thomasnelson.com/9781400211104/did-america-have-a-christian-founding/

Jonathan Rowe said...

As I said, can't wait for the book to come out. Tom & I will do our best to help it sell as well/better than the other two above mentioned ones did.

Our Founding Truth said...

From the link provided, it's obvious the answer to the title of Mr Hall's book is yes, and rightly so.

Even David Barton explained the correct punctuation of the treaty of tripoli statement. Everyone knows what a semicolon means.







Tom Van Dyke said...

The mind-boggling thing to me is that so many people who should know better think the Treaty of Tripoli should be taken seriously as a principled statement of church-state relations. I give about six examples of scholars who make this mistake in the book, but could have given more.


And in how many American classrooms is Kramnick and Moore's "The Godless Constitution" used as a text?

The only reason David Barton got as far as he did is that there are so few accredited scholars like Dr. Hall willing to swim against the tide of secularist revisionism, the prevailing politics and bias of academia.

Sorry to embarrass Mark, but the bigger point is what OFT brings up here, the numerous issues on which David Barton is essentially correct. Because only Barton was out there litigating them, clever fellows like my erstwhile pal John Fea [see his own "Christian nation" book] put the best arguments in the mouths of the largely incompetent [and thus easily discredited] amateurs like Bartons, Lillbacks and Peter Marshalls.

Which is why Dr. Hall can name a half-dozen [and more] accredited scholars who still peddle the Treaty of Tripoli nonsense. The truth is seldom even heard in their circles, and we are grateful to Mark for his quiet efforts in that respect.



On a personal note, I used to have a great passion for this stuff but frankly, the battle for our religious history and heritage has been lost legally, politically and academically. The historical truth simply doesn't matter anymore.

To those like OFT who still fight for that heritage and an America where religion is constitutional, I must say it's also true that the Constitution also says that America is free to discard religion as a guiding principle--and in 2019, I believe that doing so is the prevailing theologico-political landscape.

Perhaps one day America will have a Third Great Awakening and need historical ammunition to restore religion to its rightful place in our society--in any society--against modernity and the power of the godless state. It is for that time that we do or say anything here.

But I digress. ;-/ Rock on, MDH.