The Noetic Effects of Regeneration and Christian America

us flag and bibleBelow are two clips with distinct views of religion in the American founding. One comes from a decidely Christian perspective, the other from a leading historian of the United States in the era of the Constitution — some might call it secular (I prefer learned).

How Religious Were the American Founders?

America's Christian Heritage

The issue worth raising here is not whether the U.S. is a Christian country. It is instead what role regeneration plays in the interpretation of history, specifically the history of American independence and nation building. Do Christians, by virtue of regeneration, have more insight into history, can they interpret documents and events better, than non-Christians? Or could it be that faith actually makes one predisposed to overlook contrary evidence?

My own view is that the clip by Gordon Wood is far more accurate in weighing all the evidence about the founders than the views of David Barton. What is particularly interesting is that Wood is very kind to Baptists and Methodists, and acknowledges the importance of revivalism and evangelicalism to the new nation. He is not hostile to religion.

But for many Christian culture warriors, such concessions are not good enough, and supposedly Wood has an axe to grind because he won’t go all the way and recognize the orthodoxy of such founders as George Washington.

Meanwhile, some may want to chalk up Wood’s ability as a historian to common grace. I myself prefer to attribute it to his own vast knowledge of the American founding and the amount of time he has spent reading the sources and subjecting his arguments to peers in the field. In other words, I think Wood is smart.

Did he get those smarts from God? I believe he did. But he also used them well. I am not sure that Christian apologists for a Christian nation use either their smarts or their illumination as well.

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52 thoughts on “The Noetic Effects of Regeneration and Christian America

  1. What is particularly interesting is that Wood is very kind to Baptists and Methodists, and acknowledges the importance of revivalism and evangelicalism to the new nation. He is not hostile to religion.

    So despite the fact that he does not interpret the facts of history with God as the Absolute he’s still kind to Christians. Whew, that’s comforting.

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  2. It’s not a matter of George Washington being orthodox, it’s a matter of Christianity – actually Calvinism – being in the very blood and bones of our founding. The United States is a Christian nation, founded a Christian nation, in a much more *foundational* way than what doctrine or degree of orthodoxy George Washington or any of the other founding fathers held to. By the time they came along they were fully swept up in and marinated in our Christian foundation.

    And of course unregenerate people can’t see our history like regenerate individuals can. (Unregenerate people can’t even see that communism was tyranny from the devil and purely evil, despite all the evidence in front of them.) With regeneration comes discernment that comes from the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless one has to make oneself rather willfully blind to pretend there is no peculiarly (intentional word) Christian nature to our founding and in our culture and institutions and documents and history and all the rest.

    Christians who deny it are engaging in just another type of being ashamed of the name Jesus Christ. Academics want to be accepted by the world.

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  3. Iggy, it may not be comforting but how about a cheer for learning something? Or is your idea of education simply being confirmed in what you already think? Heck, catechesis doesn’t even work that way.

    Christian, have you ever heard of Whittaker Chambers? Have you ever heard of Barry Goldwater? How about Bill Buckley? I doubt any of them were regenerate as you and I define it, but boy they sure communism was tyrannical. It’s one thing to be ashamed of Christ, another to make profession of his salvation shameful.

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  4. Why do you assume we don’t know American history? And as a historian imagine having a conversation with George Bancroft. Do you think George Bancroft was ‘unlearned.’ Bancroft called John Calvin the real ‘founding father’ of the United States. Embarrassing, eh?

    The fact is a secular – yes, secular – historian doesn’t have the very language inside his little skull to be able to recognize the forces and influences involved in the founding of the United States of America.

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  5. >Christian, have you ever heard of Whittaker Chambers? Have you ever heard of Barry Goldwater? How about Bill Buckley? I doubt any of them were regenerate as you and I define it, but boy they sure communism was tyrannical.

    This is one of those deflecting replies you often give when you’ve been schooled. My first comment above took your post and presented you with a different category for seeing the subject. So you response by suggesting I was being intentionally *absolute* in my observation that unregenerate people tend to not be able to recognize that liberty comes from God and that evil actually exists, in so many words. Yes, I’m sure you can also find atheists who suffered at the hands of communist thugs in communist regimes who can now very well see the evil – or at least ‘badness’ – of those regimes and their ideology.

    As for Chambers, Buckley and Goldwater, I only know of Buckley having been Roman Catholic, but I’m not one who thinks no person currently in the RC church can be regenerate. Regeneration is effected, when it is, by the Word and the Spirit. A person in the RCC can be regenerate despite their church. I know Buckely preferred the Authorized Version, which speaks well for him.

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  6. So despite the fact that he does not interpret the facts of history with God as the Absolute he’s still kind to Christians. Whew, that’s comforting.

    So, igasx, what do we say when a regenerated interpreter of the facts of history with God as the Absolute gets history wrong? Or is that impossible because it’s discomforting?

    To up the ante, what do we say when the same gets religion wrong? Or do you actually believe that there are no Catholics, Baptists or Methodists who are regenerated? But for my part, the only way to not answer these questions without indicting myself is to drop the presumption that sanctification is magic.

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  7. Christian,

    So, you’re saying the unregenerate mind doesn’t have the skills and knowledge to do history? And how far do we push your idea? The unregenerate mind can’t do surgery? Or car mechanics? And your statement that the unregenerate couldn’t see that communism was evil is factually ludicrous–read some Arthur Koestler.
    Your view of the skills of the unregenerate is pretty far from that of Calvin in “The Institutes.”

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  8. dgh: Cheers!

    zrim said: what do we say when a regenerated interpreter of the facts of history with God as the Absolute gets history wrong?

    I’d say she aligned her facts incorrectly even if she started with the correct presuppositions. It also could be the case that the Christian interpreter has another idol as their starting point while thinking they are discerning the facts with God as the absolute.

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  9. I think we can all agree that there is “some” christian/biblical principles that influenced the men who were instrumental in the founding and establishing of the US. We may disagree and argue about the extent of that influence until we are blue in the face. Even if we could prove without a doubt that the founding and establishing of our nation was built entirley on biblical principles and values or not, where does that get us? What does that prove? If you believe that the US is undoubtedly a “christian” nation what is your point? The real questions we should be asking ourselves are much more profound. For instance: If the founding fathers were trying to establish a “christian” nation, were they right in doing so? What is the Church? What is the Church’s mission until Christ returns? Do the Scriptures tell/command us to establish a “christian” nation? The confusion comes in at the answers to these basic questions and more. Are we to be transforming the culture? Are we to bring/usher in the Kindom of God? Are we confusing and collapsing redemptive history and making no distinctions in regards to how God is ruling and advancing His eternal/heavenly Kingdom in between the comings of Christ?

    To say that unregernate people can’t interpret history as well as regernate people might be true in some ways, but let’s not push that too far. Sure sin has blinded them so they may interpret historical facts in light of there own presuppostions, but that doesn’t mean they are being dishonest and careless with the facts. Unregernate people are still made in God’s image. God uses them to carry our his divine providence just as he does with his elect. In different ways to be sure but we are all his creatures. Unregernate people do not have the eyes of faith that we have been given, but they are not incapable of interpreting history, advancing scientific study and medicine, or loving their neighbors, etc. To think otherwise is pure arrogance on our part. Let’s not be prideful because we have been given more light and are recipients of God’s saving grace.

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  10. DGH, whenever we end up in the same city at the same time, I would love to buy you a beer and a Fuente (or whatever you prefer) and talk more about this. The internet just isn’t going to do justice to my questions or your answers. Actually, NTJ has provoked the desire to have a Q&A on more than one issue.

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  11. I’d say she aligned her facts incorrectly even if she started with the correct presuppositions.

    Well, for those of us interested in getting history right—or heart surgery—I find little comfort in one who shares my religious presuppositions but gets the facts about the immediate task wrong.

    It also could be the case that the Christian interpreter has another idol as their starting point while thinking they are discerning the facts with God as the absolute.

    It’s true that we all harbor idols. But I’m not clear on how this would explain getting the immediate task wrong. Is that what a Christian student should say when he gets an F, or when a Christian doc botches a surgery? If my daughter’ told me she’s flunking math because she harbors an idol, I’d chalk that up to glorified excuse making.

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  12. I commend to Christian “The Search for Christian America” (I’m not sufficiently savvy to italicize) by Marsden, Hatch and Noll. It offers a sophisticated and nuanced argument that should have ended this David Barton nonsense nearly 30 years ago.

    The Christian America argument rests on historical illiteracy of 18th c. Whig politics, among other things. Rhys Isaac’s work on the Virginia context of Washington, Madison and Jefferson is very helpful.

    Is there a single Christian America individual who publishes in peer-reviewed journals? What are David Barton’s qualifications? Do there arguments carry weight with anyone in the field? Whom among them presents research at the AHA conference? I didn’t see any of them at the conference in San Diego last month.

    I was also reminded of this I came across recently in this review:
    Reviewed work(s): The Evangelical Historians: The Historiography of George Marsden, Nathan Hatch, and Mark Noll by Maxie Burch Church History, Vol. 66, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 664-665

    “Some of the tensions surfaced in two intra-evangelical debates. In the first, the three historians carried on a discussion in 1982-1983 with Francis A. Schaeffer, the founder of the L’Abri community in Switzerland, over the responsibility of the Christian historian. They refused, on historical grounds, to accept the proposition that America had been founded in the eighteenth century as a “Christian nation.” Schaeffer charged that they were aiding the forces that wanted to create a secular American culture. They replied that the historian had to adhere scrupulously to the evidence.

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  13. Zrim,

    I don’t believe anyone is arguing that the unregenerate are incapable of gathering data and analyzing data nor employing that data to achieve an ends. The question is about ones cosmic synthesis and how that synthesis affects other intermediate synthesis.

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  14. igasx,

    Your intial comment seemed to be one concerned for comfort. If the unregenerate are just as able as the regenerate in common tasks, why the discomfort? Aren’t ability and comfort pretty inextricably linked? I suppose you can agree that on the question of ability there is no argument. But when the dial is turned up and you are asked to derive comfort from the work of the unregenerate, then we seem to part ways. But if upon discovering our pastor was a pagan when he baptized our children, and we can still derive comfort from the fact that our children were surely baptized by God, why is the bar set even higher for the pagan historian?

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  15. But if upon discovering our pastor was a pagan when he baptized our children, and we can still derive comfort from the fact that our children were surely baptized by God, why is the bar set even higher for the pagan historian?

    If I follow your argument to the end I need to assume the pagan historian’s conclusions are baptized by God?

    The point is that if you reject metaphysics from the start it will affect all of your conclusions all the way down the line. All we heard from Wood was some discussions on the data. Fine. What comfort am I to derive if Wood’s conclusions all exclude any metaphysical causality except the fact that he’s a really nice fella?

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  16. Just fyi, times do change: explicitely Christian historians like Baird and Dorchester (19th century) with a very strong and open Christian allegiance (Congregationalist, Methodist) and the very clear desire to write American history as the history of Christian progress did, to varying degrees, complain about the LACK of Christianity in the founders and the surprisingly low church membership numbers during the revolutionary period, and saw American Christian history since then as an attempt to “recover” what the founders did not represent.
    Never heard of this David Barton, btw – don’t think I missed much, but who in the world is he?

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  17. If I follow your argument to the end I need to assume the pagan historian’s conclusions are baptized by God?

    No, rather if he does history well then he is as much a servant of God as the pagan pastor who baptized our children. The efficacy of both works aren’t dependent upon the inner virtues or metaphysics of either man.

    The point is that if you reject metaphysics from the start it will affect all of your conclusions all the way down the line.

    That always sounds good. But it just isn’t obvious how not/presuming God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth means one has a leg down/up in certain conclusions. Though I am a skeptic of the pro-life movement, I’ll assume some assumptions for the sake of discussion and ask, How do you explain a group like “Atheists and Agnostics for Life”? How do some begin with radically different metaphysics and end up in the picket lines with you?

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  18. Iggy, if metaphysics are so important for preventing error, then how would you ever submit to a ruler or political order that denied metaphysics? In other words, how do you avoid making Christians the rulers of everything because only they have the right metaphysics. (Actually, I’m not sure many Christians have the right metaphysics since that is a branch of philosophy started by people with the wrong metaphysics.)

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  19. On the subject (sort of), see also: Faiths of our Founding Fathers by Dr. David Holmes, professor at William and Mary. http://www.amazon.com/Faiths-Founding-Fathers-David-Holmes/dp/0195300920

    Holmes basically argues that our founding had a mixed heritage from three basic groups: orthodox Christians; Deists; and deistic “Christians,” i.e. formal church members whose world view was decidedly more deistic than Christian. It’s well argued, fair to all sides, and frankly, not too hard a thesis to prove or all that controversial, unless one has a particular historical axe to grind as one approaches the subject.

    For me, since I think the Kingdom of God is the church, I don’t really care what our national heritage is, religiously. It’s kind of irrelevant. If I were a missionary in Japan, I am not sure my job description as a pastor would be all that different than it is now.

    But this is a bit afar afield from DGH’s question about whether regeneration makes us better historians. I suppose I would say it ought to make us more humble, and therefore more objective, and therefore less tied in to a particular view of history, since our worth comes from Christ, not any particular nation or historical movement. But for some reason, some Christians are just very poor historians.

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  20. People, take a breath. It was DGH who absolutized my statement about unregenerate people not being able to discern good and evil or from where good comes from and from where evil comes from. Yes, of course there are other factors that can clue a person into seeing evil for what it is. Please, read more carefully. And notice when a person (DGH, in this case) seizing on something to misdirect and deflect. Thank you. PS: I’m a genius, so…again, pause before challenging me.

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  21. By the way, when Christians speak of the founding of America they are speaking of the early 17th century, not the late 18th century. Christianity is in the blood, and bones, and marrow of the United States of America, the deep foundation, effecting everything whether or not – once again – George Washington was orthodox in his doctrine. George Washington and company were *operating on the foundation already set* not setting the foundation themselves.

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  22. If you’re a political left-wing liberal, if you buy to any degree the left-wing narrative that America is evil, if you have no gratitude towards or discernment for the uniqueness of America in the world, American exceptionalism, then take it to the bank: you are a currently unregenerate oompa loompa.

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  23. Vern, I like the starting sentence: “Gordon Wood is the favorite historian of America’s liberal establishment.” I’m sure in the minds of many a reader, that seals the deal right there. Very clever…

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  24. Zrim said:

    No, rather if he does history well then he is as much a servant of God as the pagan pastor who baptized our children.

    I don’t want to get caught up too much in semantics but I would be hesitant to call them “servant[s] of God”. Imbued with common grace to effect God’s purposes would be how I might term it. Beside, the pagan Pastor does not baptize the baby the Church does.

    But it just isn’t obvious how not/presuming God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth means one has a leg down/up in certain conclusions.

    If God is the designer and providential ruler of all of reality to deny that final conclusion means one needs to find some natural or immanent solution to the problem. While it may be that natural solutions will work to a point it always needs to borrow from the Absolute to explain it’s processes. So as I said earlier how one arranges the data will effect the outcome even if it is inconsistent with their base presuppositions. I haven’t read the arguments for the Atheists and Agnostics for Life but I must presume a level of inconsistency with their presuppositions.

    dgh said:

    Iggy, if metaphysics are so important for preventing error, then how would you ever submit to a ruler or political order that denied metaphysics? In other words, how do you avoid making Christians the rulers of everything because only they have the right metaphysics.

    In our system we have some control over the power of the rulers and when the political winds start swirling the ruler is compelled to adjust his policies so they might reflect a correct metaphysics. And thankfully we have a set of resistance theories from the Reformation era.

    (Actually, I’m not sure many Christians have the right metaphysics since that is a branch of philosophy started by people with the wrong metaphysics.)

    And here I thought Israel believed God was beyond physics.

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  25. I don’t want to get caught up too much in semantics but I would be hesitant to call them “servant[s] of God”. Imbued with common grace to effect God’s purposes would be how I might term it. Beside, the pagan Pastor does not baptize the baby the Church does.

    But in Romans 13:4 Paul calls the civil authority “God’s servant to do you good.” Certainly Paul had in mind a ruler who didn’t share his metaphysics. Are you suggesting Paul would’ve been better to say the civil authority is “imbued with common grace to effect God’s purpose”? Besides, when someone does what is right, true and good who else could he be serving but God? Re the point about the pagan pastor, I appreciate the ecclesiology, to be sure, but you know as well as I do that this has been an issue the Reformed churches have historically had to answer. Besides, I’m unaware of a Reformed ecclesiology that swallows up extraordinary office to such an extent.

    I haven’t read the arguments for the Atheists and Agnostics for Life but I must presume a level of inconsistency with their presuppositions.

    I think it’s called agreeing but for different reasons. And were I a fetus who wanted to see the light of day, or a pro-lifer looking for some more bench-strength, I doubt I quibble much about my champions’ allegedly inconsistent metaphysics. I mean, what’s right is right, right?

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  26. >Vern, I like the starting sentence: “Gordon Wood is the favorite historian of America’s liberal establishment.” I’m sure in the minds of many a reader, that seals the deal right there. Very clever…

    At least in your annoyance you show you have a least a degree of unburied conscience regarding the matter. I.e. you know ‘liberal’ in this context is not a good thing.

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  27. I really don’t think Paul was including historians along with civic rulers in that passage.

    So when the pagan civic ruler commends good and punishes evil he’s God’s servant. But when the pagan historian does his job correctly he’s…not? Well then who’s servant is he?

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  28. Hi Phillip, you asked who’s David Barton, he has a website called “wallbuilders”, you can find out about him there.

    As far as whether an unregenerated person can competently operate in the world, I’d say yes he can, but he cannot do it with logical justification. He must assume a lot, as most of the population does with no real significant danger or harm–other than denying God–yikes!

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  29. Xian,

    …could you pull things more into a vain bunny hole?

    Vain? Really? It seems to me pretty relevant, since the whole conversation seems to be about the Lordship of Christ. Isn’t that what the anti-2Kers want to defend against the “radicals” who mean to undermine it? It is odd that given the opportunity to affirm the Lordship of Christ you shrink. What happened to every square inch? Do you really want to leave it in the hands of radicals to make the case that Jesus really is Lord? I’m more than happy to have the burden, I just find it really ironic.

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  30. I have been thinking over the concept of people using their smarts in the academic setting. How far does this principle apply? Does it apply to Biblical studies and Theology? For there has been some very erudite work done by some explicitly non-Christian people in those fields. When do you say that regeneration (or at least belief) becomes a factor. How do we keep from falling into a Kantian dualism?

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  31. I think the statement “America was founded as a Christian nation” is so vague as to defy any real definition. According to founding documents? According to the views of primary leaders? According to the beliefs / lives of the general population? According to the growth of governmental and / or general social policy? Even if you took all those questions in turn, I’m afraid the answers would have to be “No.” America has never been a theocracy, and Christianity would not produce one of those in this era of redemptive history anyway. That is for eschatological fulfilment.

    But, here is the historical point that finally convinced me I didn’t buy the “Christian nation” position…each colony considered themselves independent governments from one another while under British rule, and independent of one another until (at least) the ratification of the Constitution after British rule. Jefferson would have had them consider themselves independent of one another even after that. To say “America was founded as a Christian nation” is to read back onto that era a version of government and practice and society that didn’t exist until after the War Between the States. A Christian nation? Which one? Virginia…founded primarily as an agricultural colony? Pennsylvania…the Carolinas…etc. ? They were nationS…not a nation. That is why we have all the unifying documents (written mainly by a man who edited everything distinctly Christian out of the Bible) which created a system for these independent governments to use in cooperation.

    You don’t have to be a Christian or secularist or liberal or revisionist or have an agenda to hate America to look back and see those realities.

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  32. Yes Jeff, I think you’re right. The reason we were not founded as a Christian nation is because that’s what the States were. Any perceived interference with State churches would have killed any chance for ratification of the new Federal Constitution.

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  33. Zrim: But when the pagan historian does his job correctly he’s…not? Well then who’s servant is he?

    Not one who has been granted the power of the sword, at least.

    I think it’s a little dicey to start granting historians a God-ordained office … though my mom would be pleased.

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  34. Jeff,

    Your mom’s CRC?

    What seems dicey is to think I’m suggesting ecclesial office to someone merely doing his common task. But recall the point about sphere sovereignty and that there are more instituted vocations than civil authority. I still don’t see why my question is so hard to answer: whose servant is he who carries out his task the way it was designed?

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  35. That’s a confused question.

    The magistrate is the servant of God regardless of whether he carries out the task the way it was designed (recall Nero…)

    He may be a faithful servant, or not, but he’s a servant nonetheless.

    And all men are God’s servants under Adam … but that doesn’t mean that a historian carrying out his job with excellence is doing so for service. Indeed, he might well do so in service of another God.

    Take the extreme case: a soldier, carrying out with excellence his order to kill Christians. Tell me that’s service to God!

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  36. Zrim, if you have to talk to me as if I’m a theonomist because I say America has a Christian foundation then this whole thing is an exercise against a straw man.

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  37. >I think the statement “America was founded as a Christian nation” is so vague as to defy any real definition. According to founding documents? According to the views of primary leaders? According to the beliefs / lives of the general population? According to the growth of governmental and / or general social policy? Even if you took all those questions in turn, I’m afraid the answers would have to be “No.” America has never been a theocracy, and Christianity would not produce one of those in this era of redemptive history anyway. That is for eschatological fulfilment.

    Oh, my, now one has to think America is a theocracy, or has to be a theocracy, to say America was founded by Christians as a Christian nation. I’ll give you all more reason to mock a Christian here: it’s your abandonment of the Received Text (Greek *and* Hebrew) that makes you so absolutely shallow regarding these matters. Our country and law is founded upon the Received Text. Liberty comes from God and is founded in the Word of God. When you see the Bible as any other document that one looks down on and determines the content of rather than something one humbles oneself towards and receives as if coming from actually *above* you you then will have no clue from where your liberty comes from.

    The fact that in these discussions one sees both seminary teachers and students shows that these times are truly the blind leading the blind.

    Mock away. We are use to it.

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  38. Christian,

    Let me point out that you know nothing about me or my background. You know nothing of my views on the biblical text. You have no idea my intent, which I can assure you was not mockery. If I had intended my point as an attack, I would have addressed it to someone…I didn’t. I was commenting on a subject which I have given a great deal of thought and research. I’m sorry if you believe someone expressing a different opinion from yours in a discussion forum denies Scripture and is shallow.

    With that said, perhaps you can define what “Christian Nation” does mean, in your view? Particularly, I’d ask that you address the questions I put forward in my first post. That way we can be sure we are operating on a common definition.

    Finally, I do know where my liberty comes from. I know it comes from my heavenly Father, through the atoning work of Christ, via the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I know that liberty is put before me through Law and Gospel in the Bible. I also know that I can have that liberty even if my circumstances do not dictate a single political freedom.

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  39. >Finally, I do know where my liberty comes from. I know it comes from my heavenly Father, through the atoning work of Christ, via the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I know that liberty is put before me through Law and Gospel in the Bible. I also know that I can have that liberty even if my circumstances do not dictate a single political freedom.

    Again, this is typically shallow. If you didn’t have the liberty the founders of this nation and every soldier of this nation has secured for you you could have very well been in the situation of a slave under the heel of any number of tyrannies on this planet never – never once – hearing or reading the Word of God. Never hearing the call that is potentially effectual.

    The Reformation itself assumed and cultivated (and fought for) *political and economic freedoms* unknown prior to the struggle for the Word of God and Christian liberty of conscience and so on.

    Again, George Bancroft said John Calvin was the founding father of America. In that statement is included everything you demand to be defined for you. It’s a matter of discernment. If you can’t see the forces of the Reformation, the Word of God, Christians, the providence of God in the history of redemption, in the founding of the United States of America and in the uniqueness and exceptionalism of America you simply don’t have discernment that comes from the Holy Spirit. There’s a reason the dynamic forces of western civilization are located in the countries where the Reformation and the Word of God took hold. Western Europe and America. England, Scotland, the Dutch, the New World, etc. The creators, builders, discovers, inventors, and creative destroyers of history and of our culture and civilization were unleashed by Reformation forces. The ground you stand on and the air you breathe. Like a fish you can’t recognize the medium you’re swimming in while you’re in it. You stand on ground that gives you liberty you shallowly and foolishly and ignorantly take for granted thinking it was just ‘always there’ (or God knows what you think when you do take time to think about it).

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  40. Christian, how did Switzerland ever manage its freedom without claiming divine warrant or fighting lots of wars (modern ones, anyway)? Also, if the founders were Christian, and if Washington was blessed, why didn’t the U.S. take his counsel and avoid European entanglements? Our geography gave us plenty of liberty. Now we are enslaved to imperial rule. You gotta serve somebody.

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  41. Because fascism and communism were evil and England and America were the only nations that would sacrifice to defeat it and had the capability to defeat it.

    You seem to not want to see or are not able to see the larger picture of God’s providence in history. Switzerland was to be where the school of the Reformation would have refuge and the place from which it was to spread, all the way to the New World. (And Switzerland was known for it’s ability to fight and defend its territory.)

    Alexander the Great didn’t need to be a believer in the coming Messiah to be used by God to prepare the ground for the coming of the Messiah.

    We could go into biblical examples as well of course.

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  42. Jeff,

    It’s true in some sense that every creature is a servant of God. And, you’re right, there is some problem with grounding that status in a job well done.

    But igasx started the quibbling with “I don’t want to get caught up too much in semantics but I would be hesitant to call them ‘servant[s] of God.’” I suppose I was using the term more as a figure of speech than anything else in order to make the larger point that regeneracy doesn’t seem to have direct or obvious bearing on carrying out common tasks. Yes, bad historians and good ones, just like bad magistrates and good ones, are both God’s servants, but wouldn’t we want to heed the good ones instead of the bad ones? We may not have that luxury with magistrates. But when it comes to doing history it just seems to me obvious not to reach for the one who also does religion wrapped in the flag.

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  43. Christian,

    I asked you clear questions. You hid behind simplistic platitudes. I addressed you with courtesy (when I addressed you at all), you begin talking about spiritual discernment based on political association. At best your answers are vague, fatally circular, and unsupported…at worst they are trite and descend to the level of special knowledge…somehow you are able to escape from the limitations your circumstances produce in your view of the world while the rest of us are not?

    I have a rule when discussing things with people on the internet. To avoid pointless shuffling and to obey Scripture in not arguing needlessly, I give people three opportunities to make the conversation either conclude or continue. For me, at least, you swung and missed. I’ll leave any further comments on this issue to you and others.

    I’ll leave any

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  44. You seem to not want to see or are not able to see the larger picture of God’s providence in history.

    Careful now, divining providence goes straight against Dt. 29:29 and Belgic 13:

    We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.

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  45. “The issue worth raising here is not whether the U.S. is a Christian country. It is instead what role regeneration plays in the interpretation of history, specifically the history of American independence and nation building.”

    I won’t even pretend to be an expert on American History, though I’ve found it of interest for quite some time and have studied it for enjoyment (not academically) for a while. My goal, rather, is to address the question regarding the role of regeneration in the interpretation of history.

    Good historical interpretation requires, at least, three things. (I know its more nuanced than this, but for the sake of a blog…) It requires an understanding of the time period, the author, and the original writings by said author. Its safe to say that the ability, therefore, to interpret history is not exclusive to a Christian. In other words, you don’t have to be a Christian to understand any of those pre-requisites resulting in solid historical interpretation.

    However, dgh, is there not an added depth to the interpretation as one who has been regenerated? Or, maybe to ask it another way, do you (dgh) think historical theology is a legitimate discipline?

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