Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 31st: Protestantism & the West, Pt. 6

October 31st is the historical catalyst of Western liberties.

It is time to re-consider the vitality and viability of Christianity once again. Pragmatism is the only native American philosophy. And Americans live it to the hilt. Yet if we follow what 'works' why not follow Christianity?

This series is directed at encouraging American Christians to reconsider their roots and modern detractors to reconsider the historical significance of Protestantism. America is one of the best socio-historical evidences for Christianity.

Our freedoms were forged in the fires of the Reformation. And expanded through her children. And yet too many Americans wish to divorce these freedoms from the framework in which they were erected. They want the fruits without the Christian roots. If there is any cause and effect in the world, then this spells disaster for future generations.

Freedom & the Reformation

How is that so? Let a liberal historian from Yale explain the logical and psychological connections in a three-fold manner:

"How is it, then, that Calvinism is acknowledged, even by foes, to have promoted powerfully the cause of civil liberty? The reason lies in the boundary line which it drew between church and State. Calvinism would not surrender the peculiar notions of the Church to the civil authority. Whether the church, or the Government, should regulate the administration the Sacrament, and admit or reject the communicants, was the question which Calvin fought out with the authorities at Geneva, in this feature, Calvinism differed from the relation of the civil leaders to the Church, as established under the auspices of Zwingli, well as of Luther, and from the Anglican system which originated under Henry VIII…"

Thus, separation of church and state (a legal term not clearly defined until last century) began budding during the Reformation.

"A second reason why Calvinism has been favorable to civil liberty is found in the republican character of its church organization. Laymen shared power with ministers… Men who were accustomed to rule themselves in the Church would claim the same privilege in the commonwealth…"

The Presbyterian model is three-fold: a layer of courts (local church, regional church (Presbytery) and a national church (General Assembly)), joint-rule by laymen (elders) and ministers, and a written constitution. The people vote for their leaders and local issues. The people's voice is exercised through their elders at the regional and national levels. This republican system pre-dated America's by over two-hundred years.

"Another source of the influence of Calvinism, in advancing the cause of civil liberty, has been derived from its theology. The sense of the exaltation of the Almighty Ruler, and of his intimate connection with the minutest incidents and obligations of human life, which is fostered by this theology, dwarfs all earthly potentates. An intense spirituality, a consciousness that this life is but an infinitesimal fraction of human existence, dissipates the feeling of personal homage for men, however high their station, and dulls the luster of all earthly grandeur. Calvinism and Romanism are the antipodes of each other." (George Park Fisher, The Reformation, revised, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920), 207ff.)

In fact, historian and founder of Annapolis, George Bancroft (son of a Unitarian minister and no friend of Calvinism) declared:

"The fanatic for Calvinism was a fanatic for liberty; and, in the moral warfare for freedom, his creed was his most faithful counselor and his never-failing support. The Puritans...planted...the undying principles of democratic liberty" (A History of the United States, vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Brothers), 464)

He even declared:
"Calvin infused enduring elements into the institutions of Geneva, and made it for the modern world, the impregnable fortress of popular liberty, the fertile seed-plot of democracy."

(Literary and Historical Miscellanies, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1855), 405-406)

The Point of It All

The influence of the Reformation was not monolithic. And other factors were involved. And historians do debate on how and to what extent Calvinism influenced early modernity. Yet influence it did.

The theological influence of Luther and the Reformers is the most fundamental factor. As such I must mention again that the Gospel calls men to repent of their wayward actions and beliefs. Men, being bound in their sin, have guilty consciences they try to assuage, even to the point of creating entire new worldviews whole-cloth. But the Gospel of Christ, that He died for the sins of those who believe in Him and His work, can free such fettered consciences.

And a free conscience is a free man.

This entire series can be summed up by a modern encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics:

"In general it may be claimed for Calvinism that its influence has been an elevating and invigorating one. Abasing man before God, but exalting him again in the consciousness of a newborn liberty in Christ, teaching him his slavery through sin, yet restoring his freedom to him through grace, and leading him to regard all things in the light of eternity, it contributed to form a grave but very noble and elevated type of character, and reared a race not afraid to lift up the head before kings."

James Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Part 5, (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 153.)

Part 1, October Revolution
Part 2, Education
Part 3, Birth of America
Part 4, Early America
Part 5, Political Roots
Part 6, October 31st

For more info: For a scholarly assessment of Calvinism's influence read, The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion & Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism, Witte; for evidence that resistance to tyrant was part of the middle colony Reformed thought read, Revolution and Religion, Griffin.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Political Roots: Protestantism & the West, Pt. 5

“He that will not honor the memory, and respect the influence of Calvin, knows but little of the origin of American liberty.”

George Bancroft, historian, founder of Annapolis

October 31st was a revolutionary day, the birth of Protestantism. This series has explored in summary fashion the Christian influence upon Western civilization and America in particular.


The freedoms we enjoy as Americans have their historical roots in Christianity.

This is not simply an assertion from a biased observer but the assertion of several respected historians. The Reformed doctrines are being explored once again as meaningful beliefs that shaped and formed the early modern period. From Gorski's The Disciplinary Revolution to the detailed legal and historical examination of Witte and Berman, the Christian worldview is being examined as a real historical source of society, policy and legal rationale. It is certainly the case that these historians do not necessarily agree with the major tenants of Reformed thought, only examining how they impacted the thoughts and laws of those time periods.

And yet if our society and legal code have any historical connection to the past (and any nation will claim continuity with its own past), it is certainly a deep connection with Christianity. Other influences were certainly there but Christianity overshadowed them all.

Political Freedom

John Adams bluntly acknowledged the wide-spread influences of both the French-Calvinist’s work Vindicus Contra Tyrannos and the English Calvinist work of Ponet (A Shorte Treatise of Politike Power), both which defended the right of the people to rise against tyrants (The Works of John Adams [1851] Vol. 6, p. 3-4.)

Certain elements in the Declaration of Independence echoed past religious thought such as “all men are created equal,” which was originally expressed in the Puritan work Lex, Rex in 1644. Even further back in time, a Dutch Calvinist, Johannes Althusius, wrote Politica (1603), a complete systematic presentation of a representative Republican government including political resistance theory. Pre-existing resistance theories existed, but were not as fully developed until the Reformation under the likes of Calvin, Bucer, Knox, and others.

Daniel Elazar, professor at Temple University, member of presidential committees and founding member of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, asserted:

“In all of the places where Reformed Protestantism was strong, there emerged a Protestant republicanism that opposed tyrants even as it demanded local religious conformity. Reformed Protestants in England became the Puritans, whose name indicated that they wanted to purify the Anglican Church as much as the Catholic, which they had rejected. In the seventeenth century they launched the first of the great modern revolutions, the English Civil War, against royal absolutism, opening the way for modern democracy.” (World History Curriculum, Article 2)

In fact, he edited a work of fourteen essays written by various scholars and professors exploring the religious connection between the political idea of federalism and the Reformed idea of covenant. The Covenant Connection is a must read for Christians and detractors alike. He further claimed:

“A majority of the delegates to the Convention were affiliated with covenant-based churches…The Presbyterians, however, were already moving toward full-scale federalism. As Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., noted: 'More than either [the Congregationalists or Anglicans] the Presbyterians in their reliance on federalist and representative institutions anticipated the political makeup of the future United States.' Indeed, as the first government came into office under the U.S. Constitution in 1789, the Presbyterians held their first nationwide General Assembly. In the Presbyterian system, congregations in a local area formed a presbytery; several presbyteries in a region formed a synod; and then came the General Assembly. As a result, the system of federal democracy established by the U.S. Constitution has often been referred to as Presbyterianism writ large for civil society..." (Covenant & the American Founding)

The War

The Revolutionary War was partially fueled by religious concerns. John Adams explained:

"Where is the man to be found at this day, when we see [various bishops]...who will believe that the apprehension of Episcopacy contributed fifty years ago, as much as any other cause, to arouse the attention, not only of the inquiring mind, but of the common people, and urge them to close thinking on the constitutional authority of parliament over the colonies? This, nevertheless, was a fact as certain as any in the history of North America." (Works of Adams, Letter to Morse, December 2, 1815)

If parliament could institute a spiritual lord (Bishop) then certainly they could institute political lords. One of the most well-known political cartoons of that time, "An Attempt to Land a Bishop in America," shows a crowd of colonists harrying a Bishop back to England, throwing books titled "Locke," "Sydney on Government" and "Calvin's Works," shouting "no lords spiritual or temporal" (1768, see picture).

In fact, on May 20, 1775, the Presbyterian Synod was the first religious body to send a public letter to their churches reminding them to respect the Crown even while they encouraged their readers to obey the Continental Congress and to prepare their lives and souls for war. Most of the Continental army were Presbyterian laymen even as most of the New England minutemen were Congregationalists. These ministers--defending the Revolution or even fighting in it--were dubbed the "Black Regiment". Horace Walpole told Parliament that "there is no use crying about it. Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson, and that is the end of it."

(to be continued)

Part 1, October Revolution
Part 2, Education
Part 3, Birth of America
Part 4, Early America
Part 5, Political Roots
Part 6, October 31st

More info: October Revolution, Mathis.

Early America: Protestantism & the West, Pt. 4

If we call the American statesmen of the late eighteenth century the Founding Fathers of the United States, then the Pilgrims and Puritans were the grandfathers and Calvin the great-grandfather..."

Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

October 31st is not just Halloween, it is the birthday of Protestantism. Luther's theological challenge changed the West. And this multi-part series summarizes some of those changes.


What many detractors of Christianity do not realize is that Protestants do not believe the Bible micromanages life. Even though the conservative Christians today wish to go "back to the Bible" they generally do not mean they wish to quote chapter and verse for any and all social or governmental decisions.

The same was true for early Americans. Yes, many more laws were directly tied to Biblical precepts (such as the Sabbath/Sunday laws), yet many other local laws were not. The doctrine of general revelation (here) gave rise to natural law and the freedom to apply Biblical principles to unique local circumstances.

In other words, any given law in the early American period was assumed (or argued) to be compatible with God's written Word.

Law & Christianity

Historically, the modern world--Modernity--began with the Reformation. Now more historians are publicly acknowledging what their older predecessors already knew: the substantive impact of Reformed thought in history.

One book in particular, Law & Revolution II, traces the theological outlooks that shaped both German and English legal thought from the Reformation through the 1600s. Published through Harvard University Press (Belknap), Professor Berman's well-documented book is a ringing challenge to many preconceived assumptions.

Ironically, from a non-Christian viewpoint anyway, the historical underpinnings of many modern legal assumptions--separation of church and state, freedom of religion and conscience--are found in Puritan Massachusetts. In fact, the jurisdictional distinction between church and state was already articulated in the 1600s: church censure (discipline) was not allowed to "degrade or depose" any government official (Puritan Political Ideas, Edmund Morgan).

The cultural assumptions at the time included the importance of Christianity as the social basis of the government. A Republic required knowledge, morality and religion as a cohesive tripartite foundation for good government. This is what the 1787 Congress stated (and the 1789 Congress re-adopted) two-hundred years ago when it adopted the Northwest Ordinance regulating the new American territory:

Art. 3. Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged [in the States to be formed from this Territory].

Although well-known as the chief architect of the Virginia "Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom" Jefferson also sponsored (along with Madison) a "Bill for Punishing Disturbers of Religious Worship and Sabbath Breakers" and a "Bill for Appointing Days of Public Fasting and Thanksgiving."

In fact, Christianity was considered part and parcel of the common law of the land. US Supreme Court Justice Story argued as much and this fact was asserted several times by several courts over the history of the 1800s ("When Christianity was Part of the Common Law," Law & History Review, 16:27 (1998)).


"[T]he prevailing spirit of Americans before and after the War of Independence was essentially Calvinistic in both its brighter and uglier aspects"

Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, “The Western Dilemma: Calvin or Rousseau?” Modern Age, no. 1 (1971)

Hence the constitutional democracy that we all know today has its roots in that Reformed Protestant revival of the biblical idea of covenant which was not only important in the fight against tyrants and hierarchies but could be made operational in political systems that would protect liberties.”

Daniel Elazar, World History Curriculum, Article 2

Hamilton, a legal historian, an expert on constitutional and copyright law and a former assistant to Supreme court judges, discovered that:

"This [American] marriage of distrust in individuals but hope in properly structured institutions is no mere historical accident but has its roots in the Reformation theology of John Calvin…Others have made the more general case that Calvinist precepts permeated the culture at the time of the framing. Many of the Framers brought to the convention a background in Calvinist theology, with Presbyterians predominating among the Calvinists"

“The Calvinist Paradox of Distrust and Hope at the Constitutional Convention,” Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought, 2001

Modern detractors to Christianity are standing upon a legal foundation wrought in the refinery of the Reformation. The question is: if the foundation shifts from Protestant roots to atheistic assertions what will become of our liberties?

Part 1, October Revolution
Part 2, Education
Part 3, Birth of America
Part 4, Early America
Part 5, Political Roots
Part 6, October 31st

For more info: Separation of Church & State, Hamburger; Religion & the American Constitutional Experiment, Witte; The Covenant Connection, ed. Elazar.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Baby's First Snow

Yes, we got our October snow storm. It was actually a blizzard in some areas (like ours).

I had to shovel snow drifts over our northern exposed driveway. It was heavy and I was tired. I went out further to meet mom in the car.

Then the car got stuck on the hill. I got it further up the hill, just outside the driveway.

And it got stuck again.

Our neighbor helped us push it some and I revved the engine up the driveway. With the tires spinning and sliding on snow and ice, my hands spun quicker on the wheel.

Then I helped dig out someone's high-centered car. And shovel out a path to park it in.

I was even more tired.

But not as tired as my little baby girl.
She was napping the whole time, safe and sound during her first snow.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Birth of America: Protestantism & the West, Pt. 3

This Saturday marks October 31st, the birth of Protestantism. The last two parts of this series included a general overview of Protestant influence upon the West and especially its impact upon education.

Christianity birthed America thanks to Luther (

This part will emphasize the less well-known religious social foundations of America.


It is important to note the adjective 'social' as many today seem to only think in political terms. In the early modern period, before the rise of large, integrated, bureaucratic states, politics was only one of many aspects of a nation.

The social aspect, the institutional structures of family, school, church, government, etc., is the formal organization of the underlining cultural organism. The culture is the local, private and semi-private expectations and worldview outlooks that affect society. Naturally, there is a reciprocal relationship, but usually the larger institutions (such as the government) reflect the beliefs of the culture as a whole.

Jamestown, Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay

In both aspects of early America, religion played a dominate role. The wide-spread localism of this period allowed for religious and social diversity within a Christian context. Naturally, the localism arose from the vast size of the Eastern coast. Even so, Protestantism tied these diverse settlements together.

In 1607, Jamestown, although starting as a business venture of the Virginia Company of London, included a minister. And worship services were required morning and evening every Sunday. Catechizing the young came a few years later after women showed up. The particular denomination was Anglicanism. And its 39 Articles were clearly Protestant with a strong strand of Reformed thinking (the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man, here).

Presumably, many Americans know that both Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were founded by Protestants: Separatists and Puritans respectively. Both groups were ardent Calvinists. And they came for religious freedom.

Culture & Christianity

Parents were to inculcate their children with Christian practice and doctrine. That included especially the Bible and the catechisms. Church leadership especially encouraged this in the families all the while they catechized the same families and their children. The schools simply reinforced this Protestant outlook with Bible readings and the Puritan New England Primer.

Although church membership was low (probably due to the high admittance standards), attendance was over 50% through the 1700s. Virtually all Americans were Christians of one stripe or another.

From Bibles, catechisms and sermons, most of the books were religious in nature. One of the most popular children books for over 100 years was a Puritan poem about judgment day, the Day of Doom. Newspapers, speeches and debates were couched in religious language, especially the Calvinist language of "providence." Even Paine's Common Sense used Christian language and imagery.

Politics & Christianity

Election day sermons were the mainstay in New England, while practiced occasionally elsewhere. This old tradition gathered the state leadership into one building to hear the chosen minister expound their duty to God. Several such sermons included a public defense of resistance to tyrants. Sermons were also preached during artillery drills, funerals and public holidays.

Political leaders, one and all, spoke the language of Christianity. Many were devout Protestants (John Jay, Patrick Henry, Roger Sherman). A few may have been borderline Deists (Washington). And even fewer were outright Deists (Jefferson). And some were hard to figure out (Madison).

Yet the Deism of Jefferson was not publicly known. And the Christian climate of the time was such that the stigma of the title 'deist' was even avoided by Jefferson. During his run for president in 1800, he was accused as such (without any real evidence). He publicly denied the charge.

The Declaration of Independence (as the organic foundation of America) explicitly mentions God and providence, rooting American liberties in Christianity. The Continental Congress pronounced several days of prayer and thanksgiving in explicitly Christian language, enacted public prayer and implemented chaplains.

All those state constitutions mention God and religion explicitly. The lack thereof in the Constitution makes sense in light of the state and local concerns of a nation-wide establishment of a single Christian denomination--what mother England had at the time.

Nevertheless, the new Congress still funded chaplains, asked for days of thanksgiving (via Washington), attended public facilities for worship services, and even condoned an American edition of the Bible (more here).

Several state constitutions still had a form of Christian establishment after the formation of the Constitution, with some including religious vows. In fact, the 1778 South Carolina constitution stated:

"The Christian Protestant religion shall be deemed, and is hereby constituted and declared to be, the established religion of this State."

(Article 38)

(to be continued)

Part 1, October Revolution
Part 2, Education
Part 3, Birth of America
Part 4, Early America
Part 5, Political Roots
Part 6, October 31st

For more info: Religion and the American Experiment, John Witte, Jr.

Education: Protestantism & the West, Pt. 2

October 31st is the birthday of Protestantism. This short series is designed to bring to light the lost history of the revolution of 1517 and how it substantially created most of the West as we know it today.


Many American's think that the Enlightenment was the only significant force for change in early modern Western history. Yet some of the ideas of that movement already existed. And more importantly such ideas of education, liberty and democracy already existed and were promulgated by the Reformers and Puritans alike.

Part one of this series gave quotes about the historical importance of the Reformation in the formation of the West; this second part will focus on the educational impact of the Reformation.

If history has any lessons for modern Americans, certainly the success of the Reformation ought to be one of them.

Ancient Education

The idea of teaching each and every citizen of a nation has probably existed in the isolated corners of history. The Greek states and Rome never had universal education, reserving any serious formal education for the wealthy (almost always the male) and certainly not for the slaves.

Christianity changed all that.

Already in the centuries after the resurrection of Christ, catechetical schools were established to teach rudimentary skills and doctrines to prepare for church membership. And such education included both sexes. The local pastors would tutor as well. Some of these catechetical schools were virtual colleges in their own right.

With the collapse of the Roman Empire, it was left for Christianity to hold together the remnants of civilization. So alongside homeschooling, other schools were created, expanding in type and number during the Middle Ages: monasteries, city-schools, cathedral schools, guild schools and the famous grammar (Latin) schools. From the 800s onward more and more universities were formally established, expanding the source of knowledge while preserving past wisdom.

Reformation Education

In many ways, the Reformation was an educational endeavor so deep in its impact that Americans still feel its reverberations today. The Bible that the Middle Ages had little access to was written in Latin. The Reformation changed that. It was now translated into the local languages. The Bible now became central once more in the life of the church, families and society.

Martin Luther and other Lutheran leaders pushed for the erection of more schools to help the poor peasant families. Some of the Lutheran states even made literacy a mandatory requirement for full church membership. Likewise, Calvin and other Reformed leaders in Scotland and the Continent promoted formal education by establishing catechetical classes (religious training) and local schools for boys and girls. The Reformed Moravian Bishop, Comenius, is considered by many the father of modern education.

As strange as it may sound to modern ears, preaching and the weekly lectures were educational events in the lives of many Protestants because the minister was typically the most educated man among them (being university trained). It was these university-trained preaches, the Puritans in particular, that influenced our modern educational system both in Britain and America. While depending on home-based literacy, they pushed for wide-spread literacy and basic theological training for everyone.

Early American Education

"We boast of our common schools; Calvin was the father of popular education, the inventor of the system of free schools."
George Bancroft, Historian, Founder of Annapolis

The Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647 in Massachusetts decreed the erection of schools in various towns. Such an attitude toward education was embedded in early America:

"Through the Puritans who settled in New England, and later through the Huguenots in the Carolinas, the Scotch Presbyterians in the central colonies, and the Dutch in New York, Calvinism was carried to America, was for long the dominant religious belief, and profoundly colored all early American education.” (Cubberley, 299)

Even the curriculum reflected Reformed beliefs. The New England Primer, with its "In Adam's fall/we sinned all", included the Westminster Shorter Catechism (question and answer format). It was the most popular school book for over 100 years. It was a common practice for minister to teach in school or tutor in private. All the while these leaders promoted schooling.

Many of the first state constitutions before 1800 included some form of provision for education: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Georgia. Other states, such as New York, similarly provided for wide-spread education even without a constitutional mandate. In the spirit of Puritanism, the famous Northwest Ordinance of 1887 of the US Congress declared: "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

What It All Means

"In the countries where Calvinism became dominant the leaders included general education in their scheme of religious, political, and social reform.” (Cubberley, 330)

The historical irony is clear: the contemporary detractors of Christianity were educated in a system historically rooted in and propagated by Christianity and the Reformation in particular.

Part 1, October Revolution
Part 2, Education
Part 3, Birth of America
Part 4, Early America
Part 5, Political Roots
Part 6, October 31st

More info: Godly Learning, John Morgan; History of Education, Cubberley; American Education, Cremin.

Monday, October 26, 2009

October Revolution: Protestantism & the West Pt. 1

On October 24, 25, 1917, after overthrowing the tsar in February, the Bolsheviks and Soviets united in toppling the newly establish Russian government. This is popularly known as the October Revolution.

On October 31, 1517, an Augustinian monk nailed 95 Thesis to the Wittenberg door, beginning the overthrow of papal power. This too is an October Revolution.

The former brought about repressive communism. The latter brought about the beginning of liberty and democracy.


Naturally, any logical, historical or religious arguments that this author could employ would be held with great suspicion. Such a claim about the transforming power of the Reformation requires more substantiation than the clever writing of a pro-Reformation pastor.

Many scholars of the past and present readily, if not begrudgingly, admit to the dynamic and positive impact of the Reformers and their progeny. In fact, the fire of liberty of conscience lighted by Luther was fanned ever brighter by Calvin and the Puritans.

The influence these scholars write about is not a monolithic force that transformed Western civilization in one fell swoop. It was not the only historical source of change either. And as a rising force in the early modern era, Protestantism, especially the Reformed/Presbyterian brand, matured in its self-understanding and application of the basal principles nascent within its religious soul. Such nascent (and sometimes fully articulate) principles included liberty of conscience, liberty of vocation (work), liberty of church from state and liberty of the people from tyrants.

Unlike today, religion was determinate of that time period. Even though many of the historians to be quoted are not Reformed (Calvinists) themselves and may even repudiate it in favor of another system of thought, they honestly admit to its importance in the historical development of the West in general and in particular wide-spread education, republican self-rule, political revolution and the formation of America.

First Principles

The quotes from various notable historians are best understood against the fundamentals of the Reformation. One of the first principle doctrines of the Reformers (Lutherans and Calvinists alike) is the primacy of the Bible. As God's written will for His people it is considered not only the guidebook for the individual but for the society as well. This belief so permeated the early modern period that the US Congress condoned an American edition of the Bible, and the public schools included Bible reading well into the 20th century.

Three other basal principles included the sovereignty of God, the moral depravity of man and covenant theology. The first doctrine emphasized God's rule over all creation (providence), eventually becoming the bedrock for resistance to tyrants who claimed absolute rule. The second doctrine emphasized the sinfulness of man, even in his intellect, eventually becoming the bedrock for limited government. The third idea of covenant was especially developed in Reformed churches, emphasizing that formal and public agreements between different parties. This became the social glue for republican self-rule.

These and other Protestant doctrines are now being explicitly analyzed by historians for their social impact. Even if many readers deny these Christian doctrines, they were certainly believed by many in the past and acted upon. What a man believes that he will do.

In General

Let not Geneva be forgotten or despised. Religious liberty owes it much respect, Servetus notwithstanding.

John Adams, Essay XIX, Works, vol. 6, 1851

“While the Calvinistic faith was rather grim and forbidding, viewed from the modern standpoint, the Calvinists everywhere had a program for political, economic, and social progress which has left a deep impress on the history of mankind."

Ellwood Cubberley, A Brief History of Education, 1922, 175.

"In general it may be claimed for Calvinism that its influence has been an elevating and invigorating one. Abasing man before God, but exalting him again in the consciousness of a newborn liberty in Christ, teaching him his slavery through sin, yet restoring his freedom to him through grace, and leading him to regard all things in the light of eternity, it contributed to form a grave but very noble and elevated type of character, and reared a race not afraid to lift up the head before kings."

Religion and Ethics, Hastings, Part 5, 2003, 153.

“Grave as we may count the faults of Calvinism, alien as its temper may in many ways be from the temper of the modern world, it is in Calvinism that the modern world strikes its roots, for it was Calvinism that first revealed the worth and dignity of Man. Called of God, and heir of heaven, the trader at his counter and the digger in his field suddenly rose into equality with the noble and the king.”

John Green, History of the English People, vol. II, 1903, 280.

Part 1, October Revolution
Part 2, Education
Part 3, Birth of America
Part 4, Early America
Part 5, Political Roots
Part 6, October 31st

More readings: Law & Revolution II: The Impact of the Protestant Reformations on the Western Legal Tradition, Harold Berman, 2003.

Money for Homeschooling Will Fix America

I received a letter begging for money. But the begging was couched in less beggarly-language than other letters. It painted a gloomy socio-political picture of America's woes. Clearly things are moving from bad to worse.

But (the letter continued) there is hope for such abysmal times as this!


That "Christ-centered education, one-on-one discipleship, and the liberating principle of individuality." Of which very "few political leaders, schools, media sources, or even churches that would encourage something as transformational as homeschooling."

Movements abound, draining time, money and energy for the small faithful churches that fall under their shadows. They don't get the same promotional power of homeschooling. And apparently very few churches would encourage something as transformational as homeschooling--and that is a good thing. They ought rather encourage something as transformational as the Gospel.

On the other hand, homeschooling is on the rise. Everyone is jumping on this bandwagon. It is now a cultural phenomenon. And it does change lives--but then so do many other things in life.

What will change the world for the better? What is a veritable reformation of life? What is the hope for the future?

The Gospel of our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ. And that Gospel is found in faithful churches with uncompromising pastors and zealous members--whether they homeschool or not.

Want to change the world, to have a better place for your children, to contribute to something healthy, strong and growing?!

Then support the Gospel. Join a Reformed church. A Calvinist church. Give them your money. Pray. Fast. Use the means of grace in conscious realization of your unworthiness.

And pray the Lord of the Harvest to come with power and grace.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Fate of Faith, Family and the Future

Sixty-five percent of Mosaics and Busters in America (ages 18-41) “have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important.” Twenty-nine percent of that group is “absolutely committed to the Christian faith.” Three-percent of that same group have a Christian worldview.


Does that shock you? It shocks me—that’s my age group!

The Barna group statistics define a worldview as believing that “Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and he still rules it today,” salvation is a free gift of God, Satan is real, Christians should witness, the Bible is accurate and the source of moral, absolute truth (unChristian, p.75).

What does this mean for the faith, the family and the future?

First of all, it means the objective content (faith) of Evangelicals is rapidly disappearing. Without the Biblical worldview as the guiding principle of millions of Christian’s lives, wrong decisions and actions will increase; holiness will decrease. Churches will become businesses and entertainment centers. Truth will die by a thousand qualifications. And more importantly, we will shame Christ.

Second, the Christian family will crumble. Religious speak will still exist, but it will be hollow and mechanical. Families may act Christian but believe falsehood. Parents will live and act in ignorance of Biblical truth. Children will be swallowed whole by cults and outright unbelief. Generations will be lost.

Third, (and I speak as a man) the future will be lost—the future of America at any rate. We are even now seeing that loss. As the culture goes so goes the nation; and as the churches go so goes the culture. Culture is religion externalized.

“Why did this happen? What can I do?” you may ask.

Hosea 4:6 is God’s warning to those who know Him but do not know Him: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…”

Strong but true words. American churches and families must take it to heart. It is certainly not the case that conservative Christians as a whole are purposefully trying to avoid more knowledge of God and His Word. It certainly is not that. Yet the statistics (from the last ten years at least) point to increased deviation from the Bible in principle and practice. Something is amiss.

Unfortunately, this is not all. Barna’s poll of born-again Christians shows that almost forty-percent believe “if a person is good enough” they can be saved. 57% of Evangelicals allow for other ways to heaven than solely through Christ (2008 Pew study). Even learning a “worldview” is for naught if the Gospel is missing from its foundation.

The Barna study should be a wake-up call. But it will not be a wake up call if no one takes it to heart. I take it to heart. It grieves me. Does it grieve you?

Although increasing in understanding and wisdom does not automatically bring salvation or even sanctification, it is certainly fundamental. Without proper knowledge there is no growth. How can the spiritual tree of your life increase in Christ if you don’t know the difference between rotten and healthy fruit?

Perhaps you have heard this all before. Do you believe it? In which case, continue the struggle, pray for a revival and continue to help your family and support faithful churches. Do you still doubt? Reread those statistics. Either way, take Hosea 4:6 to heart. Re-examine your beliefs in detail:

1. Who is God? Is He omnipotent, omniscient? So what?
2. What is sin? How extensive is sin? How does this impact my family?
3. Who is Christ? Was He sinless? Why is this important?
4. How are we saved? By works? What is faith alone? So what?

This is just the tip of the iceberg: for to simply define terms is not enough, we must know how they relate to other truths and why they are important in the Christian life. The admonition in Hosea is not to only have intellectual knowledge of God (is God really satisfied with that?)—no, Hosea wants us to know the what as well as the how and why.

Do you want to be the generation that was destroyed for a lack of knowledge? Do you want our churches to be bastions of Biblical truth, seminaries of in-depth learning that challenge your preconceptions? Or do we want to remain spiritual children feeding on milk instead of feeding upon solid food? (Heb. 5:12ff.)

The Reformation of Luther, Knox and Calvin began as a return to the Word of God, specifically the Gospel—both the knowledge and use of it. The First & Second Awakenings followed the exact same path. That means you have to get your hands dirty and dig into the rich soil of the Bible—learning theology, doctrine and terminology. Difficulties and differences will arise (there is no growth without spirit-wrought effort and conflict), but the rewards will be rich.

To change the fate of the faith and family in America, we must awake from our collective slumber, leave our old ways and turn to Christ, learn from godly ministers (even of old), train our children and desire the sincere meat of the Word--nothing less than an entire generation is at risk. Can you do less?