There is a prevailing notion that the Founding Fathers of America were not Christians, and that they were not influenced by Christian principles. However, this claim is patently false, as documented in the book “Faiths of the Founding Fathers” by David Holmes.
Despite this, the anti-Christian scholarship of the past century has deliberately downplayed or denied the degree of Christian influence on America’s founding. But in “The Classical and Christian Origins of American Politics” by Kody W. Cooper and Justin Buckley Dyer, the authors bring back the spotlight to the fact that the revolutionary generation was deeply influenced by Christian ideas.
Recent scholarship has been emphasizing the founding’s reliance on classical virtue and political theology. Books such as Thomas Kidd’s biography of Thomas Jefferson and “First Principles” by Thomas Ricks have challenged the de-theologizing of America’s founding. Cooper and Dyer’s book adds to this list and shows how Christian and classical political traditions were the common inheritance of colonial America.
The authors also explain the distinction between the classical and modern political traditions. The former asserts that humans have a nature that reason can discover, while the latter starts with the assertion that humans are creatures of desire who act on bodily impulses. The rule of law is a fundamental tenet of the classical tradition, while the arbitrary rule of will is predominant in the modern tradition.
Cooper and Dyer argue that the classical political tradition and Christian natural-law thinking provided the philosophical foundation of America’s founding. The spirit of the American Revolution was a call for the rule of law grounded in man’s nature and freedom as well as God’s governance over the world. It was firmly within the Christian natural-law tradition, even if it was broad enough to be ecumenical and not tied to specific denominational creeds.
If Christianity is destroyed, then the natural law tradition on which America’s founding is built will be too. The rule of law will be replaced by the rule of arbitrary decree, as seen in modern political philosophy’s foundation on the will to power and opposition to Christian natural law. This ultimately leads to totalitarianism, as we see happening in today’s world.
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