Paul Krause: Why We Can’t Divorce America’s Founding And Future From Christianity

According to authors Kody W. Cooper and Justin Buckley Dyer, the American founding was indebted to the Christian natural law tradition. Their book titled “The Classical and Christian Origins of American Politics” highlights the fact that Christian ideas played a significant role in shaping the revolutionary generation. Cooper and Dyer return to source material from the founding generation that modernist scholars tend to deliberately misinterpret or ignore. In addition to the Christian impact on the founding generation, the authors also reveal how the classical political tradition influenced the American Revolution. The Anglo-American common law tradition was based on the classical humanism of the Greeks and Romans and the Christian natural law tradition.

Classical political philosophy asserts that humans have a nature that reason can discover. They also believe that freely and knowingly choosing to live in accordance with that nature offers freedom while the rule of law accords with man’s nature and freedom. Modern political philosophy, on the other hand, starts with the power of the will and the assertion that humans are creatures of desire who act on bodily impulses. To limit this will and its right to act upon its desires is tantamount to slavery. Scholars call the classical political tradition the rule of law, while the modern political philosophy and the modern state follow the arbitrary rule of will.

The American revolutionaries argued their case for independence, asserting that the British Parliament and King George III were overstepping the boundaries placed on them by the rule of law and “nature’s God.” The founders adhered to the classical humanism of the Greeks and Romans and the Christian natural law tradition as opposed to the scientific conquest and the will to power to transform the world.

Cooper and Dyer examine the pamphlet debates that led to the outbreak of the American Revolution, which culminated in the Declaration of Independence. They verify that the supporters of American independence did not believe in a hands-off Deistic God. There is a shared belief in “a providential God whose governance of the world was an essential premise of their natural law theories of morality and law.” This “providential God” is firmly within the Christian natural law tradition.

To destroy the rule of law, one must destroy the very basis on which the rule of law is premised: natural law and “nature’s God.” Critics of the natural law try to eliminate Christianity as it places demands on humans as moral and rational agents. Cooper and Dyer restore the prominent role that Christian beliefs and sensibilities played in the American founding. The ecumenical Christian culture and natural law tradition that united patriotic Anglicans, Congregationalists, other Protestants, and Roman Catholics has been misleadingly reinterpreted as secular and deistic, but they demonstrate the error in that view.

In conclusion, Christianity played a significant role in shaping the American founding, and the rules of law were premised on the classical humanism of the Greeks and Romans and the Christian natural law tradition. Today’s modern political philosophy, with its foundation in the will to power and opposition to Christianity and the natural law, necessarily ends in totalitarianism, which is currently sweeping the world.

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