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Friday, July 31, 2009

What Makes a Christian Nation?

Having an intelligent debate on why the Founding Fathers formed Christian States is tough to come by these days. I have definitely learned my lesson posting on blogs. Ed Brayton's blog, Dispatch From The Culture Wars, posted an article about Chris Rodda and Rep. Randy Forbes' battle for the "Christian Heritage" resolutions. Although it isn't much of a fair debate, I tried to start a dialogue with Chris about my core defense of the Christian State Constitutions, which I believe is the best apologetic, however it never became a meaningful debate; the bloggers dismissed my posts without sufficiently refuting them with verbal attacks seen in a Martin Scorsese film.

I posted Maryland's State Constitution that prohibited a religious test, and established Christianity as the State Religion. Obviously, the religious test had to refer to only a Christian denominational test. Chris' response to the Christian State Constitutions was:

"So now all you need to do is explain why virtually all of the states admitted after the U.S. Constitution was written put the same "no religious test clause" in their state constitutions, many in exactly the same words as the U.S. Constitution. All of those states, writing brand new state constitutions, had a choice, and they chose to copy the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on religious tests and other guarantees of religious freedom."

Maryland's State Constitution, and the Christian religion established, along with most of the others states, was in effect years after the Constitution was ratified, so Chris, how does a religious test have any bearing when Maryland, et al. established Christianity? It obviously is consistent with a religious test.

Religion was left to the States, therefore, whatever the religion the majority of States established should determine what kind of religious country we were. If no religion was mentioned, I couldn't declare that, but if: Lord, Christian, Protestant, Christ, etc. are mentioned, it's indicative of what kind of establishment it is. Getting into other areas of debate such as: wording in the Constitution, Republican Government, etc. is meaningless. The fact that the majority of framers were not heterodox should quell the false assumption of what kind of Christianity was established.

Chris, on this basis alone, I would be happy to debate you. On what other basis could I proclaim the Nation was formed on Christianity?


Jonathan Rowe said...

Marty is one of my favorite movie makers.

Our Founding Truth said...

When I was living crazy, I saw his movie, Goodfellas. In the movie, there's a character named, Michael Francese. He got out of the mob; thank God, and became a Christian. Now, he speaks to kids all over the country.

Michael is an amazing, and awesome guy.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I don't see being a Christian should stop you from hearing the F word countless times and seeing intense violence.

BTW: I think Goodfellas (and the Sopranos), from a traditional moral perspective are a lot more kosher than the Godfather. The Godfather glories the mob and shows them as regal, noble characters. Goodfellas and the Sopranos do the opposite and show the Mafia warts and all.

Although, I could see why you, an an evangelical/fundamentalist, Christian, would be offended by one of my favorite Scorcese movies (albeit one of his more commercial ones) "Cape Fear," where the villain, Max Cady, is a Bible quoting evangelical Christian.

J said...

The majority understood Unitarianism was not part of the Protestant Reformation, having been kicked to the curb by Luther and Calvin, and forever cast out by the Synod of Dort in 1619.
Furthermore, the Reformation denounced all forms of Unitarianism, Arianism, and Socinianism, starting with the Gnostics, which were never considered Christian.

Nearly all the leading Framers were opposed to calvinist orthodoxy (including the conservatives like Adams).

Regardless of what we might think of Unitarianism, we should acknowledge that it was a force in early America (though I think the Unitarians circa American Rev.--and the Emersonian sorts of a few decades later--had little relation to the sort of modern, nature mystic species of Unitarianism).

Really, I think you idealize the founding of America. Yes, in New England the puritans were strong, yet in the South, on the frontier, on plantations, I suspect christianity was not the primary concern--the settlers were more concerned with battling natives, getting a livelihood--or alas, controlling the slaves.

Let's not forget that many Englishmen (including both protestants,and catholics (like Dr Johnson)) considered the yankees mostly rogues and criminals.

Our Founding Truth said...

Nearly all the leading Framers were opposed to calvinist orthodoxy (including the conservatives like Adams).

This is a good point, however I don't see this applying to the majority, and they are what matters. The few outliers get all the play, which is what I question. That three to five guys speak for the rest is unacceptable, when the ratifiers were not heterodox. I'm going to do a post on Calvin and his influence on our nation.

My reference to Unitarianism was as a part of the Reformation. The Unitarianism was in Massachusetts, and even there they were a minority, having understood any type of Pelagianism was kicked out of the Reformation. Every Protestant had to know that by reading the Creeds and Synods throughout Church history.

Everything I've read says Christians colonized the east coast to promulgate Christianity, and the Gospel, but I could be wrong. Of course they wanted to make it, I don't think any of it was diminished in the 18th century. If anything it made our ancestors more faithful, with the Great Awakening going throughout all the colonies.

Our Founding Truth said...

Also, I'm almost certain a couple of the usual suspects did believe in aspects of Calvinism , such as Madison and Washington believing in Human Depravity.

mroberts said...

I've occasionally touched on the issue of whether our nation was founded largely by Christians a few times on ScienceBlogs and usually I get a barrage of insults and not much else. Occasionally a few people make some great points. I think you have to be pretty blind not see that this nation was founded with deep Christian heritage. A few days in Washington DC and one can see the evidence all around them.

Our Founding Truth said...

I agree, God is everywhere in Washington D.C., however some secularists claim the Christianity of the framers was not Orthodox, but heterodoxy, mixed-in with enlightenment rationalism.

J said...

Most of the leading lights were nominally Episcopalian, though with rationalist views. There were few fire and brimstone types, at least among the leaders.

The American Creation posse emphasizes the minority of fundamentalists and calvinist sorts (perhaps a few in the ratifiers)--but that's not really accurate, especially when considering the essentially secular and tolerant character of men like Franklin (Jeff. Mad, Adams,etc), and even the unitarian presence around Harvard, and so forth. The puritans were finished probably by 1800 or so.

The fundamentalists and baptists are a post-bellum phenomena, really, coming out of the south, and reconstruction, courtesy of Jeff Davis and pals (there were even dissenters to the baptists among the confederacy).

Our Founding Truth said...

I believe the evidence supports only the smallest minority of Episcopalians, as well as the other sects, were heterodox. Due to their attendance at the seminaries in training(colleges), which taught Orthodox Christianity. I fear the rationalists could be counted on one hand.

Even William and Mary, or Harvard didn't teach rationalism.

If the ratifiers took communion, and attended Orthodox Churches, how can they be seen as nominal?

The people at AC are confused in that they understand attacking a religion is the same as attacking a person.

J said...

The word "Orthodox" itself presents semantic problems. No protestants--calvinist, lutheran, episcopalian, whatever-- are "orthodox" according to Roman Catholics. And to eastern orthodox, catholics themselves are not orthodox.

I am not convinced episcopalians were all calvinists (assuming for the sake of argument that calvinists were "orthodox"). There were sort of "high church" Anglicans (who were closer to catholics), and "low church," who were I guess calvinist, though Luther also influenced the Anglican church. The baptists and presbyterians were generally opposed to the Church of England. Even "puritan" is misleading--it generally meant low church, I believe. The puritans were not orthodox to the sort of Tory Anglicans, really (even Locke at times sounds a bit contemptuous of the baptist, charismatic types).
Cromwell, supposed puritan, had no problem prosecuting the "high church" Anglicans, who he suspected were pals with catholics, and Bourbons.

(American Creation looks to be another closet-case Mormon site, really, though they allow a bit of dissent, at least for now).

Our Founding Truth said...

By Orthodox, I'm referring to what the Biblical text says. In that case, I can see where the Presbyterians would differ with Catholics and Anglicans.

Believe it or not, Calvin's Theology was embraced by many low church Anglicans. Wherever Calvinism went, restricting government, and righteous rebellion followed. He, out of all the Reformers, was more open to resist tyrannical governments.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"orthodox" with a small o is basically shorthand for the Nicene Creed -- a lowest common denominator of "orthodoxy" among Roman Catholics, reformed Protestants, Anglican-Episcopalians and the capital O Orthodox Eastern Orthodox Church.

When OFT says you could probably count the rationalist Anglicans on one hand, he is engaging in sheer wishful thinking. Huge %s of the Anglicans-Episcopalians were nominal and rationalistic in their personal faith. They were the ones like GW who got up and turned their backs on the Lord's Supper.

Our Founding Truth said...

The English Puritans were Calvinists, their ancestors having been persecuted by Anglican Monarchists. The High Church Anglicans were the obvious minority when evaluating the total Anglican denomination.

Nominal and Rationalistic, then, appear mutually exclusive. Since Calvinists made up the vast majority, the rationalists were a small % in isolated areas of VA, and New England, to say nothing of nominal Christians.

The Dutch Reformed, Low Church Anglicans, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians, were all Calvinists, having the majority in New England, and the mid-atlantic states. The Southern States were comprised of French Huguenots, and Scotch, Irish Presbyterians; all Calvinists, who adhered to the Westminster Confession.

Everywhere, Calvinists had the majority.

I am not a judge of the human heart, which you may be, but I will not presume to call a communicant on sunday, a nominal Christian. However someone who didn't go to church, seems honest enough to leave out of the equation.

Our Founding Truth said...

Rationalists were a small % by their numbers compared to the whole. The majority of High Church Anglican Unitarians were not rationalists, if we include Joseph Story, and William Cushing, to say nothing of the overall majority of Calvinists in the Colonial Period.

I believe rationalists, such as: Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson were few and far between.

Franklin, himself, said:

"[I]nfidelity[a disbelief in the Scriptures and in Christianity]rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country[United States], without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an atheist or an infidel."
-Two Tracts..Remarks concerning the Savages of North America, 1784.

Rationalists were in the closet, difficult it is that their numbers can be known.

Our Founding Truth said...

Per my previous post, Joseph Story was raised in the Congregational Denomination. Cushing may have been a former Congregationalist as well.