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Thoughts on a Christian Nation

06 May

I am happy to be a part of a Christian nation. It has become my sense of identity, my place to belong. I didn’t choose to be a part of the nation, I was born into it. It was not my choice, but I am grateful that this Christian nation is my home. I pray for this nation to reflect the image of its Architect. I pray that this nation will demonstrate faith, hope, and love to the world. I pray that this nation will transform culture.

And by the way, the Christian nation of which I speak is the Church.

Today is the “National Day of Prayer” and I am joining people of various faiths in praying for our civic nation. As a follower of Christ, I am asked to pray for those in authority, to pray for those with delegated authority. I will stand today and do so, but my prayer may be different than other Christians. I will be praying: God, let your kingdom come, let you will be done on earth and it is in heaven. Sadly, I assume others will be praying: God, our nation has forsaken you, help us to return to you, so that you can bless us again.

I believe the second prayer is lifted up in sincerity and devotion. I do not doubt the ones praying it love Jesus and America too. But what is implicit in that prayer is a bit troublesome to me. “Help us return to you”—does this mean our nation once was “with” God or faithful to God or a community of people who once worshiped Jesus? Were we once a “Christian nation?”

I think we can all agree, things have changed. The Christian faith once had a dominate place in our culture and now it does not, but does this imply that we were a “Christian nation” that has lost its Christian identity? I don’t think so.

First of all, nations (i.e. political nation-states) cannot be Christian; people are. The only Christian nation is the “nation” of Christ followers. This is a trans-national, multi-ethnic nation of people who worship the Jesus of the New Testament as the Son of God and the one true reigning ruler of the planet and all the political nations in it. We believe he died for our sins, was buried, and rose up from the dead, vindicated, and proven to be the King of God’s kingdom and creation. It is Jesus that we follow. It is to Jesus that we pledge our allegiance. This “Christian nation” is a community called “the Church.”

So why do some want to call the United States of America a “Christian nation”?

I suppose it is because of the undeniable influence the Christian faith and worldview had on the formation of our nation. Colonial America of the early eighteenth century was filled with pilgrims and passionate Christ-followers who fled Europe in a desire to worship without the interference of Government. Those leaving Europe for Colonial American had experienced centuries of bloody violence between Catholics and Protestants. Many of them crossed the Atlantic to live out their Christian faith in peace and purity.

The Mayflower Compact, written by those traveling on the Mayflower in the early seventeenth century to establish their new colony, states their desire:

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic...

I believe these were people of authentic Christian faith who wanted to organize themselves into a new civic body for the “glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.” It was people like these in the early seventeenth century who helped frame the creation of a new nation, a union of the thirteen original colonies, into one new civil body politic, the United States of America.

The big question is this: Did the founders of this new nation, desire for the United States to exist for the “glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith”?

Historians more astute than I will need to help us sort this out, but from my reading of history, I would have to say no. If this was the intent of the founders then why is it not recorded in the founding documents, i.e. “the Declaration of the Independence,” “the Constitution,” or “the Bill of Rights”? The Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the Senate and signed by President John Adams in 1797, explicitly states:

…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.

When we read documents like “the Declaration of Independence” we see references to “Creator” and “Nature’s God,” but these are not references to the Christian God/Creator. These are the gods of deism, the religion produced by the Enlightenment. While the founding of the US included the influence of the Christian faith, it also included the influence of the Enlightenment, a revival of Greek philosophy, with an emphasis on the supremacy of reason, individualism, and cultural optimism. So if we want to claim that the US is a “Christian nation” because it were influenced by Christians, then shouldn’t we also claim that the US is a “Greek nation,” because it were influenced by the Enlightenment?

[Side note: For all you fans of Church history, I am not denying the fact that Christian theology was also influenced by Greek thought, i.e. Platonism, particularly in the first few centuries of Church history. I think it is crucial that we weed out Platonism when reading the church fathers as it is antithetical to the true gospel. But for the church fathers, these were Christian men writing Christian documents for the Christian church and so the influence of Plato is different than in the case of men like Thomas Jefferson who was a Deist, writing a political document for a political nation. The influence of the Greek thought on Jefferson was much greater than it was on somebody like Origin.]

I do not think it is helpful to consider the US either a “Christian nation” or a “Greek nation,” because the US is something altogether different. The US is a democratic nation, a republic, a political nation where the citizens have a voice in the government. This brings us back to the issue of the dominance (or the lack thereof) of the Christian faith in American culture. Christians, like all citizens, have a voice both politically and socially, but let’s choose a voice that sounds like Jesus.

Let’s choose a voice that sounds like Jesus speaking to the Roman Empire (my kingdom is not of this world) instead of Jesus speaking to Israel (How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings).

Let’s choose a voice that sounds like forgiving love instead of disrespectful hate.

Let’s choose a voice that sounds like peace instead of hostility, grace instead of rhetoric, faith instead of propaganda.

Let’s speak into the public and political arena with humble words, subversive words.

Let’s speak and then put our hope in the three branches of power: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Let’s speak and pray and put our hope in the kingdom of God and not the governments of men.

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15 Comments

Posted by on May 6, 2010 in Life, Theology

 

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15 responses to “Thoughts on a Christian Nation

  1. Michael Welchert

    May 6, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    The Church in America and not a Christian America is “my country tis of Thee sweet land of liberty.” 1.23.09

     
  2. derekvreeland

    May 7, 2010 at 12:55 am

    Right on Michael!

     
  3. Beth Daniel

    May 7, 2010 at 1:43 am

    Amazing post Derek. Thank you.

     
  4. Brian Zahnd

    May 8, 2010 at 3:54 am

    This is the best summary of this issue I have seen. Let him who has ears to hear, hear.

     
    • derekvreeland

      May 8, 2010 at 5:30 am

      Thanks BZ! The time had come for me to address the issue.

       
  5. Kurt

    May 8, 2010 at 6:18 am

    we are a “sojourning nation”

    Great post Derek. Preach the choir happy!

     
  6. Sandy

    May 8, 2010 at 8:11 am

    excellent!

     
  7. matthew

    May 8, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Pastor, I could not agree more wholeheartedly!…this article thrills my heart and sends my spirit soaring. It is a breath of fresh air to the stale climate of Christendom.

    I stand with you and for you and shout, ‘YES’!

    AMEN

    Matthew Yates

     
  8. Faith, Worship & Life

    May 11, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    My Friend,

    I appreciate your desire for the Church to be the Church.

    Unfortunately, I still think you misunderstand the religio-philosophical era into which the American experiement was birthed. You continue to equate British involvement with “The Englightenment” with the French. The two are vastly not the same, as the Brits sought to avoid the catastrophe that birthed Napoleon. It can be said that the Enlightenment could have been avoided all together, but could it have been? For the Enlightenment was ultimately a much needed check on the abuses of absolute control of power and knowledge by State and Church.

    I think your arguement of supposedly being able to separate so-called Greek thought from Christian thought (though you make a few concessions above) is a project in futility. The New Testament is the inextricable fusion of Jewish and Hellenistic thought. Besides much of the time the Church fathers were not simply writing Christian material for only fellow Christians. Rather they were often writing polemics against their pagan interlocuters and quasi-Christian/heretical competitors and writing apologetic material to gain philosophical favor with the elite of the day who happen to be in power.

    And lastly I think you misunderstand Christians who happen to be patriotic. Before I explain what I mean by this, allow me to refer you back to a couple of links of my own, wherein I rebuke blind patriotism:

    http://faithworshiplife.wordpress.com/2008/07/07/a-red-white-and-blue-cross/

    http://faithworshiplife.wordpress.com/2008/07/03/what-does-free-in-the-framers-freedom-mean/

    Most Christians, who happen to be patriotic (love their country) are not prone to philosophical sophistication or articulation. Thus, what they mean often is muddled in romantic mush. You agree, my friend, that Christianity was at one time dominate in our country but is no longer. When people lament this, they are lamenting the effects of a morally decaying society that is rapidly casting away her Judeo-Christian moral core. This is something to lament, as private, moral cores have public/social consequences. So, in that vein, let’s take this out of the abstract realm and place this in the concrete realm. What pray tell are we to do about the increase of sexual delinquency and violence and the breakdown of the family in our society (all of which produce poverty … not the reverse)? Pray? Evangelize? Disciple? I say yes to these. But just like we don’t do mission work that is only of the running of the mouth, we also don’t fix society by only asking people to come to church.

    I grant you that the Church needs to be the Church, but what happens when my neighbor is an atheist or Jewish or Buddhist? Do I have a social obligation to other than be subversive to them? I say that I have a social obligation to build up the community in which we find ourselves and be committed to them (be they towns, states, or our country). Yet, the post-modern ethic of perpetual subversion destroys fragile trust that is needed for peacable and productive living. (Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers had to wrangle with the humanism of the Enlightenment and we have to wrangle with the soul-and-social-cannabalism of post-modernism.)

    I appreciate your passion. I know that you are devote and solid in your faith. I count you an important friend in my life–personally and ministerially, but unfortunately, I cannot agree with you here on grounds of either sound theology or sound historical-political assessment.

    William

     
  9. derekvreeland

    May 12, 2010 at 2:24 am

    William,

    We are certainly friends who disagree, but friends nevertheless. Here are a few responses.

    First, I will be the first to admit that I am no scholar when it comes to Western philosophy. My only point is that “the Enlightenment” as a philosophical/cultural movement is something different than the Christian message. I cannot at length describe the differences between British and French Enlightenment theories, but I assume there is some common thread among them, namely reason over revelation, individualism, and humanistic optimism. These values are in opposition to the Christian gospel.

    Second, Hellenistic/Greek thinking has influenced Christian theology. (And yes, I am aware that many of the Church fathers wrote polemical works to the pagan world, but even works like Origen’s Apology was viewed as a theological work for the Church in addition to it address to the pagan world. My point is that we have to see where Greek philosophy (like Platonism) has skewed our interpretation of the Scripture. There is a difference between Paul imploring Hellenistic thinking in describing our outer man and inner man and the Gnostics who denied the physical body of Christ due to the influence of platonic thought. I think there is a way to think Christianly which is neither Jewish or Hellensitc. Or maybe not, since Christian theology has always been contextual.

    Third, patriotism is not necessarily a bad thing. Jesus told us to render unto Caesar what is his. I am a patriot. I love my country, but it is a subordinate and separate love to my love for God. In comparison to my love for God, I hate my country…and my mother, father, and brother too, if I am following Jesus command appropriately. Again, my point here is that we shouldn’t merge together our patriotism with our faith. This has always been a mistake for the Church historically.

    Forth, how do we respond to the moral decade and rapid growth of other religions and worldviews around us? We do not subvert people; we subvert their worldview. We challenge it subtly from the inside out. We embrace them and love them with no expectation of return, which in itself is a subversive value. And most importantly, we live as an alternative community. We show them a different way to live, a different way to be human, and different way to relate to one another. Living as an alternative community to the status quo is the way we become the city on a hill. Does this mean we cannot take those values into the political arena? This is where I am unsure. I believe it is a matter of conscience. There are some, like my younger brother, who are Christians who are highly involved in the political process and partisan politics. I just have no hope in political answers to societal problems. Again, I am not saying that we disengage and join in the tradition of the desert fathers and start new monasteries. We should participate without putting our hope in it. Sound confusing? Well, it is. I have not settled these issues in my own heart and mind.

    I appreciate you comments and friendship.

    Derek

     
  10. Faith, Worship & Life

    May 13, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Derek,

    Thanks for your well-clarifying reply. I spent from 10:30 pm to 12:45 am composing an intricate reply. When I selected “submit comment” I discovered that my wireless connection was no more and thus lost everything. So, I know you’ll miss me, but you’ll have to wait until perhaps Thursday or Friday evening for my re-construction.

    Until then, grace and peace.

    William

     
  11. Faith, Worship & Life

    May 15, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Derek,

    Okay … let’s try this again. Whew! Technology can be wonderful, but when it has the habit of going out at the “perfect” time!Thank you for your much clarifying response. I appreciate the time you took to do this.

    Before beginning allow me to make a two comments:

    My 2-Volume set of the Psuedipigrapha (I bought for $39.00) arrived on Wednesday. It felt like Christmas. Yes, I am a geek, but at least I’m not a Greek (yes, it’s a bad Enlightenment joke, sorry).

    I have applied for a part-time youth pastor position at a particular church outside Wilmore. May I put you as a reference?

    Okay, here goes. I think it is perhaps to keep with the evolving structure here. So, I’ll divide the body of my response along your 4 points: “Point 1, Point 2, etc.”

    Point 1:

    Before divorcing the effects of the Enlightenment between England and France, it is perhaps useful to ascertain what the several general principles of the Enlightenment are:

    a. emphasis on the individual vs. the individual remaining enslaved in a faceless serdom-hell.

    b. elevation of reason vs. emotional, absolute dependence upon the unchecked authority of State and Church at the expense of absolute suppression of individual reason

    c. Checks upon authority, power and knowledge of State and Church vs. unaccountable absolute control over authority, power and knowledge by State and Church

    These three principles form the bare heart of the Enlightenment, and unless we are totalitarian, banana republic dictators, most of us embrace these principles today. The fact that you and I happily serve in Protestant, not Catholic, churches (you—a “non-denominational” one—and I—a Methodist one) means that we both are affected and embrace the Enlightenment today. It is important to bear in mind that an appropriate question in our fore is not whether anyone in the 17th and 18th Centuries had been influenced by the Enlightenment; for everyone from cradle to grave in Western civilization was influenced by the Enlightenment. Rather the appropriate question for us to consider here is with what sieve such and such a person or group analyzed Enlightenment ideas and ideals and how those same people, working with said sieve, appropriated those very ideas and ideals. They were analyzed and appropriated quite differently in France than in America, though both societies severed ties to monarchy.

    Atheist thinkers, aghast at the severe abuses of authority, power & knowledge by State and Church in France were the main engine of revolution there. Quite literally did they sever ties to monarchy. And led by these thinkers, France decapitated all things religious, attempting to pursue Enlightenment ideals, summed up in the watch-word, Liberty, unencumbered by so-called religious superstition (ie medieval Christianity). So thoroughly did France “cleanse” herself of supersitious-religion that the traditional 7-day work week was changed to a 10-day work week and the Cathedral of Notre Dame was changed to the Temple of Reason for use by the Cult of Reason, the new national “religion.” Unfortunately, societal chaos erupted in the tyranny of “Reign of Terror” and later in paving the way for Napoleon.

    French atheist intellectuals and, later, The French Revolution prior to the Reign of Terror had a growing political following in England. These fans were known as Jacobins. So, yes, Derek, you are partially correct in assuming there were common threads between England and France during the Enlightenment. However, Edmund Burke and like-philosophical-minds were aghast (my favorite word of the week) at the attempt to pursue the bare Enlightenment ideas and ideals by severing ties to orthodox Christianity, her inherent moral order for society, and all things religious. The Jacobins were kept in check in England. However, had the Wesleyan-Whitefield revivals not been taking place decades prior and through until the present time, the Jacobins would have led England to the guillotine of the French Revolution.

    Point 2:

    I think a quote by Roger Olsen would be appropriate here. (By the way, aren’t you proud of me from refraining from appealing to an endless train of quotes?)

    “Less commonly acknowledged—especially by modern proponents of Protestant orthodoxy—is a tendency by certain church fathers in the same direction. Without in any way equating Augustine’s use of Neo-Platonism with Deism’s use of Enlightenment rationalism, one might be justified in comparing them. Augustine’s God, though trinitarian (sic), is made captive to the Greek philosophical theology of divine simplicity, immutability and impassibility, and turns out to be more like a great cosmic emperor than a loving, compassionate heavenly Father. Anselm denied that God experiences feelings of compassion at all. The portrait of the God of traditional Christian theism would seem to be painted with both biblical and Hellenistic colors. Those who rightly criticize Deism for subverting biblical teachings by overwhelming them with Enlightenment philosophical and natural religion ought to consider the extent to which classical Christian doctrines of God have been unduly influenced by Greek philosophical categories of metaphysical perfection” (The Story of Christianity: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform, p. 530).

    I believe the last sentence especially captures your heart, as it does mine too. The key word, however, is “unduly.” I believe it to be impossible to get at some sort of “core” of Christian thought by stripping away Greek or Hebrew thought processes. Otherwise you would simply take whatever “core” you came up with and place it within a 21st Century American body, as you well note: “Or maybe not, since Christian theology has always been contextual.” God in His sovereignty chose to reveal His Torah through Moses and Himself through Jesus. The Spirit in His sovereignty chose to send Paul to the Greco-Roman world rather than further East. To attempt to strip Revelation from Its context is, in my opinion, to attempt the failed route of Marcion.

    Point 3:

    I truly appreciate your desire to eschew what is known as “Constantinianism.” Like point number two, I think we share similar desires. Before I address whether American patriotism, by default, classifies as Constantinianism, allow me to make some observations about the text you cite and the application you make.

    Yes, Jesus, in classical rabbinic style uses hyperbole to illustrate His point. His point is that devotion to God should come before devotion to other important loves. So, does coming before necessarily mean excluding other loves? Jesus “teaches” the “hate” of parents in Luke 14:15-33, but condemns the mistreatment of parents by the misuse of Sacred Tradition in Matthew 15:1-9. Thus, loving God above all other loves does not exclude other lesser loves.

    In fact it is through the lesser loves that I may tangibly demonstrate my superior love for God. Thus, it is impossible not to merge the superior love for God with the lesser appropriate loves. Rather than keeping them separate, my superior love for God should inform how I love my lesser loves.

    The same is true of patriotism. My superior love for God should merge with my lesser love for my country and her ways. Thus, my superior love for God will inform how I engage in public matters. If my superior love for God is kept separate from my patriotism, then I am entering into patriotic means uninformed by my Christianity. Perhaps you say that Christianity informs me to keep religion and politics separate? This would be problematic at best, for I would have a part of my heart left untouched by God, which is contra the rabbinic teaching of Jesus you cite.

    The American experiment was designed to be a check against Constantinianism. For our purposes here, let’s remember what Constantinianism, contextually, is before judging whether the American experiment is such in its nature, or before judging whether the so-called religious right attempts to engage in such behavior.

    Constantinianism, you will recall, is the attempt by the Church to commandeer the State to wipe out all religious competition to the State Church. This was at work during the Inquisitions and religious wars in Europe. This is what the Founders sought to circumvent with the American project. Their attempt can best be summarized in the following important anecdote: after penning his famous “high wall of separation between Church and State” to the concerned Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson left for a Bible Study at the Capitol.

    The Founders sought to form a very high wall of separation, keeping the State out of the Church, while allowing the Church to send her sons to serve in and influence the State. Jon Meacham cites George Washington in his article you posted: “Religion and liberty must flourish or fall together in America.” He interprets Washington as saying that religion must be kept separate from liberty in order to preserve liberty. However, given the times in which Washington lived, Washington meant was that liberty cannot be pursued apart from religion. Otherwise his beloved country would march up to the guillotine of his best and beloved friend, Lafayette’s France. Meacham is dastardly-wrong in his interpretation.

    Point 4:

    Derek, I appreciate your authenticity. You say: “We should participate without putting our hope in it.” I would ask you if it’s necessary to put ALL (emphasis, not yelling) hope into something, if we’re going to put any hope at all into something. Or, put a different way, is it possible that we can put our hope into many options simultaneously? Now, let me ask this, is it also possible to put our hope into many options simultaneously in the service of a much larger meta-hope?

    In other words, when I engage in the political process, I’m hoping for (waiting with expectation) of some defined results. Simultaneously, I engaged in a myriad of other activities, all with various hopes attached to them:

    a. loving my wife
    b. loving my kids
    c. loving my churches
    d. loving my Derek (sorry, you know I had to. lol)
    e. loving the cashier at Walmart
    f. evangelizing
    g. discipling

    All of these examples and many, many more, I engage in in the Name of Jesus for His glory and to impact society for His glory. In so doing I stand in the tradition of William Wilberforce, the International Justice Mission, Jim Wallis (though I disagree with the content of his politics), Jim Dobson, etc. I also stand in the tradition of Esther, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

    I think I understand what you mean by putting “no hope in political answers to societal problems.” Perhaps you mean that since people are corrupt, then the political process will be corrupt, and thus the “solutions” will be corrupt? Perhaps you mean that “solutions” can be reversed in the next generation? If this is so, then how is this different from populating the Church with people, who by their nature are prone to corruption?

    I engage in the political process because I know that others do as well. What I mean by that is that I know that others who do not share godly values also participate in the political process (ie N.A.M.B.L.A.). The beauty of our American political system is that I and N.A.M.B.L.A. can participate in the process without relative fear of violence from the other; though the political actions of others affect my private life. If I do not engage, “others” will. Even if I engage and “others” do, they can be politically mitigated or stopped completely. Denmark, in recent years is a classic example of radical Islam commandeering their political process because native-Dane political inactivity allows them to do so. So, I engage politically, informed by Scripture (above all), Tradition, Reason & Experience.

    As a side note, yes, I know that even in systems like ours or Great Britain’s violence does happen in the political process. Yet, whatever violence may happen today is relatively rare compared to centuries past when one was burned at the stake for simply holding (not to speak of acting on) alternative religious or political views. By the way, the fact that people can engage in public debates without fear of an Inquisition is but one of the many benefits we regularly reap from the Enlightenment.

    Grace and Peace,

    William

     
  12. derekvreeland

    May 18, 2010 at 3:31 am

    William,

    I regret to state that I cannot reply at length.

    First, you never need permission to list me as a reference. You may always list me.

    Second, I will reserve my response to the issue of the Enlightenment. Christian theology has always been contextual, international. It has always been done in a specific context. Reformation theology (of which we are products) is interwoven with the themes and the ideas of the Enlightenment. Not all of this is bad. Some if it is.

    My understanding of the Enlightenment was that reason was elevated, not just above emotional abuses of totalitarian governments, but above revelation. The search for truth began not with the thinking autonomous self (Decartes’ I think therefore I am). Reason is certainly good, but to elevate it over revelation is to undermine the gospel. For me, this is one place where we can clearly see a difference between our faith as Christians and our worldview as Westerners. I am not looking to reject all the good that the Enlightenment brought to Western philosophy and the “American experience,” I am simply arguing that it is something other than “Christian.”

    Which is why I am pointing out that there were other influences in the founding of our nation other than the presence of Christians in colonial America.

    Derek

     
  13. William Daniel

    May 18, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Derek,

    Allow me to respond to you by citing your sentences and then possibly the flow of your whole.

    “My understanding of the Enlightenment was that reason was elevated, not just above emotional abuses of totalitarian governments, but above revelation.”

    Again, this depends on whom you are reflecting from that era. The bare Enlightenment principle is reason elevated to guard against emotional abuse of power, knowledge and authority. The atheists (or Jacobins) did elevate reason above revelation, because they saught to do away with all things religious. Yet, others within the era, such as Edmund Burke, such as many of our Founders, saw reason above revelation as the ticket to tyranny, thus the Washington quote that Meacham misinterprets.

    “The search for truth began not with the thinking autonomous self (Decartes’ I think therefore I am).”

    I’m not sure at what you are getting at here, when considering this sentence in the flow of your argument. I’m going to need a little clarification from you.

    “Reason is certainly good, but to elevate it over revelation is to undermine the gospel.”

    I agree with you. However, Kant, in order to critique the forerunners of “scientism” sought to destroy the reliability of human reason, and that with the use of human reason. This process too is a spawn of the Enlightenment, which has further spawned what Dr. Pasquerrello of ATS calls hyper-modernism (postmodernism).

    Yes, breaking any pieces of the tension of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (Scripture as superior, tradition, reason & experience) leads to error, if not heresy and destruction.

    “For me, this is one place where we can clearly see a difference between our faith as Christians and our worldview as Westerners.”

    For Westerners who hold to Reason over Revelation, your sentence is certainly true. This has been the tradition of “high critical scholarship” culminating in Theological Liberalism (which originated in Germany, I believe). Needless to say, not all Westerners have this pillar in their worldview.

    “I am not looking to reject all the good that the Enlightenment brought to Western philosophy and the “American experience’….”

    Thank you.

    “I am simply arguing that it is something other than ‘Christian.’”

    You’re going to have to help here, again, as this may be philosophically tenuous at best, to the point of straining the meaning of “Christian” to something devoid of culture. What I mean is that many facets and resultant engagements with the broad cultural mood known as the Enlightenment are either anti-Christian, theological neutral, or decidedly pro-Christian (or at least pro-theism). Yet, this is really no different than any other time and place into which the Gospel has found Itself (ie “pre-modernism,” “post-modernism,” Bantu culture of Southern Africa upon meeting the British, Cherokee Culture prior to 1830, etc. When it comes to professional disciplines, the technical term is “integration.” Philosopher that are Christian must do this. Psychologists & counselors that are Christian must do this. And on and on. Thus, I am afraid that to label something like the Enlightenment as “other than Christian” is to not capture the full picture, for all truth is God’s truth, whether revealed in Nature or in Scripture. And to discount the Enlightenment wholesale because of the presence of significant error, which thankfully you have not done, is to be rather arbitrary; for all ages have mixtures of truth and error … even Church ages.

    “Which is why I am pointing out that there were other influences in the founding of our nation other than the presence of Christians in colonial America.”

    I can certainly appreciate your doing this, but I believe your comment has been mitigated by this whole post, as well as my previous post. Suffice it to say that the presence of something does not automattically mean wholesale endorsement of its most negative aspects. For example, the fact you were listening to Jennifer Napp’s music when discussing her appearance upon Larry King Live does automattically translate that you approve of her current lifestyle, nor her 8-year closet lifestyle.

    Grace and Peace,

    William

     
  14. William Daniel

    May 18, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Sorry, I left out a significant word in the last sentence: “not.” Allow me to restate my sentence with the appropriate word inserted:

    For example, the fact you were listening to Jennifer Napp’s music when discussing her appearance upon Larry King Live does “not” automattically translate that you approve of her current lifestyle, nor her 8-year closet lifestyle.

    Again … sorry about this oversight.

    William

     

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