Robert P. George on the Separation of Church & State

Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University on the separation of Church and State:

Here’s my key take away from the video:

“In separating the institutions of the Church and the institutions of the State, there was never a thought, nor should we entertain the idea, that there is a separation of religion from public life or religion from politics. Our tradition in the United States is really quite the opposite. Religious people have always been involved in politics. Religious leaders have been leaders of important movements–the movement to abolish slavery, the movement against child labor and abusive and exploitative labor practices toward women, the movement to correct the great injustices of segregation. These were all led by religious people.”

We need not separate religion and public life to preserve the separation of Church and State. Click the link below for more information about Professor George’s work on this topic.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Liberty & Responsibility: The Life, Theology, and Legacy of Roger Williams

Introduction

Roger Williams Statue

Roger Williams could be described as a chronological example of Jesus statement that “a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”[1] For a man who has been credited with such a large contribution to American thought, very little is known about the details of his life.[2] The dates of both his birth and his death are unknown, his sermons have not survived, and he did not receive any great honor during his life or immediately after his death.[3] The legacy that has since been traced back to him, especially in regards to religious liberty and civility, would not have been expected by his contemporaries, especially those with whom he sparred over theological, philosophical, and political issues. The lack of appreciation in his own time was surely at least in part due to his progressive nonconformity (he counted himself among the Anglicans, Puritans, Separatists, and Baptists within the span of a few short years before finally shunning all established churches). However, it was his ability to balance two seemingly conflicting views (the universal and inalienable right of religious liberty and a corresponding need for civic responsibility) that made him unique, both in his own time and beyond, and has earned him honor from both sides of political and theological arguments ever since. Continue reading Liberty & Responsibility: The Life, Theology, and Legacy of Roger Williams

Book Review: Getting to Know the Church Fathers

Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction By Bryan M. Litfin, Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007, 301 pp, $24.99 paperback.

Getting to Know the Church Fathers coverBryan M. Litfin, professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute, provides a concise and cursory glance at ten pillars of early Christianity in his book Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction. Writing from an evangelical perspective, Litfin targets his work specifically to an evangelical audience “because Catholics have been exposed to the fathers of the church. But evangelical Christians haven’t” (p. 11). This, he believes, is lamentable because “we are inextricably bound to the church fathers. They are our spiritual ancestors, for better or for worse” (p. 14). Too often the only exposure evangelicals have had to these leaders are quotes taken out of context to defend one theological point or another. These excerpts are wielded as weapons, rather than their work being allowed to stand as a whole, and in the process evangelicals have missed out on the rich heritage of the early church fathers.

Thus, rather than focusing on the theology of the fathers, Litfin aims to introduce readers “in a more personal way” to those who make up their “spiritual legacy and heritage in the faith” (p. 16). Litfin defines early church fathers as those who are “ancient, orthodox in doctrine, holy in life, and approved by other Christians” (p. 19). And in keeping with his evangelical perspective, while focusing on the lives and personalities of the church fathers, Litfin also hopes to dispel three prevalent misconceptions that evangelicals have regarding these early leaders: 1) that they were not biblical; 2) that they were Roman Catholics; and 3) that they represent the “fall” of Christianity from the purity of apostolic times (pp. 20-28). Continue reading Book Review: Getting to Know the Church Fathers

Book Review: Christianity’s Dangerous Idea

Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution—A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First By Alister McGrath, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007, 560 pp, $15.99 paperback.

Christianity's Dangerous Idea CoverNearly 500 years after the initial events took place, the Protestant Reformation continues to be approached from a variety of angles and perspectives. In his book, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution—A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First, Alister McGrath presents a new study, interpreting the movement, its founders, and its currents through its unique doctrine of the priesthood of all believers (i.e., the idea that all individuals have the ability and responsibility to interpret and teach Scripture). He attempts to retell the history of Protestantism, from its origins to the present day, through this lens, while also examining how this past can help anticipate the future. In painting with such broad brushstrokes, it is inevitable that McGrath overlooks or overgeneralizes some aspects of the Reformation and its effects, but the overall result is a refreshing glance at a frequently and copiously addressed topic and a warning to Protestants about unintended effects of one of the doctrines they hold most dear. Continue reading Book Review: Christianity’s Dangerous Idea

We’re Going to Vote Like It’s 1884

I’m not sure American voters have ever faced as tough a moral dilemma as they did 128 years ago.

The election of 1884 pitted Grover Cleveland, the Democratic Governor of New York, against James G. Blaine, a Republican from Maine who had previously served as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Cleveland was known as “Grover the Good” and had quickly risen from Mayor of Buffalo to Governor of New York, mostly due to his willingness to attack the corruption and scandal within the Democratic political machine Tammany Hall. Blaine, on the other hand, had missed out on his party’s nomination in 1876 and 1880 due to his history of scandal. Blaine was particularly fond of selling his political influence to businesses in exchange for kick backs and sweet heart deals. Cleveland supporters chanted “Burn, burn, burn this letter!” and “Blaine, Blaine, the Continental liar from the State of Maine!” throughout the campaign. A faction of the Republican party (eventually known as the “Mugwumps”) were so dissatisfied with Blaine’s nomination that they actively campaigned for Cleveland.

Because of this stark contrast in moral character, the nation was stunned when The Buffalo Evening Telegraph published a story in July that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock (commonplace now, but a huge deal in 1884) and that the child had been put in an orphanage after his mother was institutionalized. Cleveland’s campaign met the charges head on, admitting the affair and stating that Cleveland supported the child and gave him his surname despite a lack of proof that the child was his (the child’s mother did not exactly have a chaste reputation). The hope was that the scandal could be spun in way that showed Cleveland as a generous benefactor atoning for a mistake rather than as an adulterer and deadbeat dad. This did not stop Blaine supporters from chanting “Ma, Ma, where’s my pa?” for the remainder of the campaign.

Anti-Cleveland political cartoon from “The Judge” magazine, which inspired the chant, “Ma, ma, where’s my pa? Gone to the White House, Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Suddenly, voters were faced with a decision. Should they vote for Blaine, a man who was faithful to his wife but tainted with political scandal, or Cleveland, a man marked by integrity in his political life but unable to keep it in his pants? The remainder of the campaign was characterized by each side stating its case as to which type of integrity was more important.  Continue reading We’re Going to Vote Like It’s 1884

Remember Iraq: A Cautionary Tale

The last U.S. troops left Iraq on Sunday, ending a nearly 9-year war that had become unpopular and divisive on the homefront in recent years, while costing the United States approximately $800 billion and 4,500 lives. My intent is not to argue whether the war was justified or not or whether it dragged on too long. History will be the judge of that. But lest we become too quick to dismiss the Iraq War as just an ugly chapter in our history and try to forget it, allow me to offer the following cautionary tale: Continue reading Remember Iraq: A Cautionary Tale

Remembering 9/11

I was only a few weeks into my college career in 2001 when the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon occurred. I can still remember the raw emotion of that day, being dismissed from class, driving home to central New Jersey, and watching the coverage on TV, and being able to see the billows of smoke on the skyline. The following is a response I wrote for my English Comp class less than a week after the attacks. I found it while packing for our move to Louisiana and thought I’d share it in light of Sunday being the 10th anniversary of the day that changed my life and the lives of many in my generation: Continue reading Remembering 9/11

John C. Calhoun … Rock Star?

David Bowie, John C. Calhoun, and Billy Idol

Whenever I see this picture of John C. Calhoun (who in addition to being Vice-President, served in both houses of Congress and as both Secretary of State and Secretary of War), I think of David Bowie and Billy Idol. Surprisingly, some of my 9th graders knew who those people were when I showed them Calhoun’s picture today so we tried to decide which he looks most like. We settled on Billy Idol.

What do you think?

When Term Limits Weren’t Necessary

General George Washington Resigning His Commission by John Trumbull

At the end of the American Revolution, George Washington, commander of the Continental Army, resisted calls for him to rule the newly formed country, resigned his commission, and retired to private life. A decade and a half later, after being unanimously elected to the Presidency two consecutive times, Washington refused to run for a third term, despite the fact that there was no Constitutional prohibition against it. Two terms were enough, and once again, he retired to private life.

This stood as the standard for U.S. Presidents for over 100 years. A century’s worth of presidents, including personalities as big as Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, stepped down after two terms in office. So what happened that led presidents to seek a third term? Continue reading When Term Limits Weren’t Necessary

With Malice Toward None

In honor of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth today, I figured I would repost this entry that I wrote a couple years ago.

Abraham Lincoln delivering his Second Inaugural Address. John Wilkes Booth, who would assassinate Lincoln just over a month later, is in the balcony above him.

On March 14th, 1865, President of the United States Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most important speeches in his country’s history. As he was being inaugurated for the second time, the Southern War for Independence was all but over, and Lincoln had the daunting task of beginning the reconstruction of a nation torn asunder. Speaking to a crowd made up mostly of Northerners who blamed the South for the long bloody war, Lincoln crafted a message focused on forgiveness and healing that ended with one of the most eloquent passages of any presidential speech:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

As I read these words, I cannot help but think that they are still relevant today, especially to the Church. Obviously Lincoln was not directing this address towards believers in his day much less 21st century Christians, but we can still find instruction and encouragement in his words. Continue reading With Malice Toward None