Friday, March 9, 2012

JMS on "The Search For Christian America"

At American Creation commenter JMS noted the following:

I thought the Search for Christian America was a great book. As Dr. Rowe noted and as the book's authors explain in the Afterword, "this book was originally prepared early in the Reagan era when for many evangelicals, hopes were high for restoring America's Christian heritage." (p. 156)

But those hopes (or delusions)were not realized, and the author's noted that, "starting with Christian principles is no guarantee of achieving Christian political results. Or, to put it in terms that theistic founders of this nation understood well, 'power corrupts'."

Historians like Mark Noll or John Fea are such faithful historians in the sense that, as stated by Noll et. al. in reference to the "Christian nation" thesis they were rebutting, "we hope to correct the mistaken assumption that the American past offers an adequate Christian blueprint for our lives today. We must agree with Roger Williams that no nation since the coming of Christ has been uniquely God's chosen people" (pp. 24-25)

Update: I have JD, MBA, and LL.M. degrees (all from Temple University). Technically the "JD" is a doctorate; though there is great debate whether it's appropriate for JDs to be termed "Dr." I generally don't go by "Dr.," but folks are free to call me that if they'd like. I do thank JMS for the respect though!


Angie Van De Merwe said...

America may not have been a "chosen nation" in the frame of "God", but it was an "exceptional nation", in that, our nation was the first that allowed for liberty, in a way other nations had not.

America did not believe in a "Divine Right" of leadership, which granted individual liberty.

America believes that instead of an elite class ruling, the law protected everyone equally, as citizens.

Therefore, law was of uptmost importance in protecting, guarding and guiding the principles behind "good government", while liberty was granted under these laws.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"We must agree with Roger Williams that no nation since the coming of Christ has been uniquely God's chosen people..."

I got a bigtime problem with this.

That's a theological opinion here, entered by historians. We may respect Mark Noll, et al., as consummate historians, but they really have no standing to deny or affirm America as a chosen people than does any other shmoe.

This is my problem with the idea of a "Christian historian." They are not pastors and they are not popes, and their theological opinions are of zero value. They may know their history, but they cannot speak for God, and how he sees America.

I think Noll, etc.---whoever wrote this---are way out of bounds here. [I'd like to hear from our Mormons on this.]

BTW, Lincoln called us an "almost chosen people."

This is an excellent article on religion and the Founding

not the work of a
"Christian historian," but an overview of how America has seen itself. There is no question that even when America saw itself as "chosen," it also saw itself as flawed.

This is the part that a lot of people miss when they get on their high horse about mixing religion and Americanism. In this view, even if "chosen," America is only great when she is good. It does NOT mean America gets to do whatever she wants.

Phil Johnson said...

When leaders and those who would be make statements in public, they often pander to the worlds in which their followers are found.
To speak of a "chosen" people assumes of some uniquely religious world in which other people are not chosen. Operating on such an assumption obfuscates productive communication.
Such acting out doesn't seem to promote discovery.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Discovery, I believe Phil, was about the subject of science, and the exploration/colonization of the world for America's purposes. (Other nations had also explored/colonized the world).

Although Cortez, and Columbus explored our shores, America wasn't colonized, because we weren't natives. Americans were of European heritage, and came for religious liberty as well as the pursuit of property.

Free trade with our European counterparts was also valuable to American interests, as had been the case throughout Europe. The difference lies in the fact that America was first a English settlement and the settlers revolted from the oversight of the British Crown.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Weren't there distinctions as to the Revolution that fell along party lines? These party lines are similar today in the liberal and conservative understanding of our nation.

We should not need to revolt, as we have an appeal to government in our courts. So radicalism isn't warranted.

Phil Johnson said...

The only point I meant to make, Angie, related to the way the article frames America as being part of some divine plan. That completely removes the purposes of actual human beings who dug the ditches looking to be free from oppression from any source.
WHat happened to the gadget that allows participants to follow the blogs via email?


Angie Van De Merwe said...

I was reminded today of some important historical truths that I'd "forgotten".

Kings ruled by power and kept them through marriage, creating dynasties, which were protected by the aristocratic class.

The Church followed in a similar way in protecting the feudal system. When one was born within the domain of a King's property, he was a serf of the King.

America had no such understanding of herself or the people within it borders! All men could create a life for themselves and their families! There was no aristocracy to protect interests.

Today, we have those in government and in corporate America that make alliances that have created similar power structures that were in Medieval Europe. I don't think this was what the Founders or the settlers had in mind for their vision of America!