Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Anti-Christian Nation Speak From the Right:

Just a reminder that the notion that I posit on my blogs -- that America is not a "Christian Nation" in a public/civil sense -- is compatible with a variety of different political ideologies, including some very traditionalist conservative ones. At Claremont, Richard Reeb reproduces an email from Bob Sasseen, former president of the University of Dallas, explaining why America's Founding principles rest chiefly on a natural law/natural rights, not a "biblical" foundation (meaning the United States, in principle, was founded more so on reason as opposed to revelation). A quote:

The theology of the Declaration is a natural theology grounded in both the laws of nature and the laws of nature's God. [The latter "laws" could be a reference to Revelation and the laws knowable only by Faith ( e.g., in "The Gospel of Jesus Christ"). But I doubt it. More probably it is a reference to the fact that the natural law is not morally obligatory if not rooted in Divine command (which is law to his creatures), or in what St. Thomas [Aquinas] called "the eternal law."] I believe that the Declaration's principles and argument refute the claims of the Secularists who would kick God out of our politics, laws, and customs. Nor do they support the claims of those Christians who proclaim that our regime is founded on the Gospel or its Christian principles. Compatibility is one thing; identity is another.

Our regime does not recognize a triune God whose essence is love. Our regime is ordered to freedom and justice, not to the advent of the Kingdom of God. Nor does our regime command either love of God or love of neighbor as does the Gospel. Finally, Christ founded a Church, not a polity. Salvation is to be found only in Christ and through Christ. It is not to be found in politics, or through politics, or through the founding or reconstitution of the political and social order. That belief is idolatry.


Ray Soller said...

Jonathan, you wrote, "Christ founded a Church, not a polity." I view this statement as one that is more the product of Christian biblical exegesis than it is of historical analysis. Contemporaries at the time of the Gospels did not recognize the distinction between religion and politics as we do today. Jesus, the name he was known by in his day, proposed a religious/political program in keeping with principles proposed in the Torah that would hopefully bring about the establishment of God's kingdom on earth. It was intended to be a heaven on earth, and not an afterworld in heaven.

Phil Johnson said...

I like the analogy of American society as a stew stirred by two cooks--one religious and the other secular.
Sometimes, those two cooks work arm and arm with each other and at others, they are fitfully at odds.
Right now, I would say they are moving toward throwing a fit.

bpabbott said...


I've noticed that your posts do have titles "(title unknown)" in Google's reader ... fyi

Regarding the post, I like the term "natural theology" :-)

However, I don't see how embracing a "natural theology" leads to the author's words; "Secularists who would kick God out of our politics, laws, and customs".

Would not a natural philosophy be congruent with principles consistent with human reason?

As such, is not "natural theology" and secularism congruent with each other?

Perhaps there some difference between my view of secularism and the authors? ... I don't see secularism as antagonistic to theology in general, but to the dogma embraced by many organized religions. Am I unique in that view?

Jonathan Rowe said...


I think you are right about the naturalism or natural theology of the Declaration as being "quasi-secular." I made that point in a blogpost years ago.

But, not strictly secular in an atheistic or non-theistic sense.

bpabbott said...

Jonathan: "But, not strictly secular in an atheistic or non-theistic sense."

Certainly not! :-)

While I think many of the founders intended that atheists be ensured of their life, liberty, & pursuit of happiness it is much clearer that these men derived great inspiration, motivation, and purpose from religion ... and were hopeful to ensure others of the same opportunity.

It is unfortunate that so many today confuse religion with organized religion. For example, many/most secularists reject organized religion and its authoritative content (dogma) while referring to such simply as "religion". (not that this confusion is limited to or even dominated by secularists).

This results in a great confusion of intent. In my understanding, secularism has no position on religious sentiments respecting inspiration, motivation, purpose, and what not, provided such are subject to individual reason and not subjugated by religious authority.