Metaxas’s concern for his country is admirable. If You Can Keep It raises important questions. What kind of republic did the founders want to create? What role does history play in the preservation of the American republic today? How should we understand patriotism in a world that includes a growing number of critics who are disillusioned with some of the directions our country has taken?
Again, these are all good questions. Unfortunately, Metaxas does a very poor job of using American history to answer them. This book is filled with historical errors of both fact and interpretation. It also has serious theological problems, particularly in the way it conflates American history and the kingdom of God. Frankly, this book is an intellectual mess. Metaxas’s entire argument about the current state of the American republic is based on an incredibly weak and faulty historical and theological foundation. It is an example of how not to use the past to make an argument in the present and serves as yet another example of what historian Mark Noll has described as the “scandal of the evangelical mind.”
Over the course of the next several days I will offer my thoughts on this book here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. Stay tuned for additional posts.
A group blog to promote discussion, debate and insight into the history, particularly religious, of America's founding. Any observations, questions, or comments relating to the blog's theme are welcomed.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Fea on Metaxas' new "Christian Nation" book.
See John Fea on Eric Metaxas' venture into this territory here. A taste:
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As I wrote at John's blog, I think
It also has serious theological problems, particularly in the way it conflates American history and the kingdom of God.
is above the historian's pay grade. It's a very gray area when we have to accept John's [or anyone's] theological beliefs to accept his criticisms. I believe that one should put his pope hat on and very explicitly take his historian's hat off before pontificating on theology.
I had the same criticism of what I consider Mark Noll's abuse of his scholarly authority.
Fea: "It also has serious theological problems, particularly in the way it conflates American history and the kingdom of God."
Van Dyke: "...is above the historian's pay grade."
This is a good argument for Metaxis et. al., to keep Theology out of popular history writing but since it's Metaxis that blurs the line then John's informed commentary is on point. Otherwise, the objection that the historian should just keep his/her mouth shut is just an attempt to let Metaxis' work go unchallenged.
I have no problem with a historian such as John Fea raking Metaxas over the coals for any historical errors he may have made. In fact, if you look at the comments section of John's post on Metaxas's biography of Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I meself add fuel to the fire. [Pyre.]
However what I just wrote was this.
I believe that one should put his pope hat on and very explicitly take his historian's hat off before pontificating on theology.
Metaxas is not a historian and neither does he present what is a theo-political argument as a work of history. [The Bonhoeffer book, more problematic, and where your objection may be more germane.]
I also received an advance copy of "If You Can Keep It," BTW, and expect to agree with John on the facts and errors, as I invariably do. My disagreements with John run to the formal. Re this book, I believe Metaxas is on the firmer ground as a theologian tapping history than is a historian tapping theology.
History-ing puts itself forth as a [social] science; theologizing is more an art, inherently subjective at least in the Protestant evangelical milieu.
Apple-izing and orange-izing, as it were. ;-)
Thank you for your reply.
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