Integralism and Protestant theocracy are twin movements of which our readers should be aware. The first is a Romanist movement. The second is a movement among a small but visible band Protestants who seek a similar outcome.
Romanist “integralists” like Patrick Deneen have decided that the classical liberal experiment has failed and, as Romanists, they are no longer comfortable with that strain of Romanism that made peace with classical liberalism, i.e., the American experiment of a disestablished church and religious toleration. Sohrab Ahmari writes, “But in the long term, religious-liberty absolutism will put Christians and other traditional believers in a bind. If the moral law is merely a matter of ancient, if sincere, conviction, then of course it must give way to the demands for autonomy of people in the here and now.” In place of liberalism, he argues, “[c]onservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral.” R. R. Reno explains,
More precisely, “integralism” refers to a distinctly modern cultural-political project. The most notorious instance of this project was Action Française, a fascist movement in France between the wars that attracted support from traditionalist Catholics. Franco’s Spain provides another example, though one less theorized. In these and other instances, the Catholic concept of authority (or what proponents imagined to be the Catholic concept of authority) was of central importance, rather than any particular theological or moral claims. The Church’s supreme authority was thought to provide the integrating principle that would restore the differentiated, hierarchical social system that had been weakened by modern economic, political, and cultural developments in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century.
In short, it is the restoration of a version of the medieval and traditional Romanist doctrine of the two swords, in which authority is said to come from God and to be administered by two swords, the sacred (e.g., the church) and the secular (e.g., the state). The punchline, however, is that the swords are ordered hierarchically, with the state, because it is temporal, serving the interests the church, because it represents the eternal.
This is the very sort of theory that worried Americans about Jack Kennedy as he ran for office in 1960. Remember that, when he was campaigning, Vatican II had not begun and no Roman council had promulgated Dignitaries Humanae, thus, officially, Rome still regarded liberal, religiously pluralist states as a heresy. On the history of Romanist relations to liberal democratic theory see D. G. Hart, American Catholic: The Politics of Faith During the Cold War.
There is a roughly parallel movement among some Protestants. One of them is Brad Littlejohn, who seeks “recover anew a synthesis that used to be central to Protestant political thought: the shared commitment to public religion and private conscience.” He argues from an eighteenth-century Swiss writer, Emer de Vattel (1714–67) that natural law requires a “public religion.”
The natural law, of which classical and Christian thinkers had written for two millenia, applied in its moral demands not merely to individuals, but to nations as corporate entities. Each nation, like each individual, must chart its course in relation to three overarching sets of duties: duties to self, duties to God, and duties to others. Indeed, God had so arranged the moral universe that a nation, like an individual, flourished best (and thus fulfilled its duties to self) when it honored God and honored its obligations to others. Unlike an individual, however, a nation had no higher authority on earth to tell it how to balance its various obligations; it must in the final analysis make its own decisions and bear the consequences before God.
Vattel argued that the telos (end, purpose) of human life is “happiness,” that humans naturally live in community, and therefore a shared public religion is the surest way to happiness. Littlejohn summarizes,
Vattel begins by making a fundamental distinction, one which goes all the way back to Martin Luther and his “two kingdoms.” Religion has both an internal and an external dimension. “So far as it is seated in the heart, it is an affair of conscience, in which every one ought to be directed by his own understanding: but so far as it is external, and publicly established, it is an affair of state” (§127). We might balk at the last phrase, but if the nation has duties toward God—and if religion can generate conflict—how can religion not be an affair of state?
Make no mistake, Littlejohn is arguing for an established religion. He wants enforcement to be mild and tolerant but he wants an established religion. What of dissent? Littlejohn has a plan:
But what if, after the nation settles on its established faith, a large dissenting minority remains? Reminding his readers “that liberty of conscience is a natural right,” he says that in such cases, the minority must either be allowed to emigrate in peace, or else given freedom to practice its religion. The latter he prefers, since it would be tragic for the nation to lose some of its most conscientious citizens, but he realizes that it may be difficult in some contexts for the two religions to peacefully live side-by-side. Thus, “if there be reason to fear that they will produce divisions among the citizens, and disorder in public affairs—there is a third method, a wise medium between the two former” (§130): to form a federated republic, where cities or states can establish their own religions and regulate their internal affairs, while uniting in one larger confederacy for purposes of foreign policy. This was the practice of his own Switzerland, and this was also the early model for the American states—recognized in the First Amendment, with its promise not to interfere in local state religious establishments.
What of religious liberty?
Even once achieved, religious liberty remains necessarily limited: if a religious behavior is destructive to the basic bonds of society, or is at least perceived to be, it cannot long be tolerated. (Incidentally, this is why Christians in America will not long succeed in demanding liberty to practice their religion if they cannot succeed in making the case that Christianity is actually good for the world.)
He does not want the state to compel people to Christian worship but he wants it to promote “the Christian faith.” It would be interesting to get Littlejohn in the same room with Deneen and Ahmari to see which Christian faith they would like the state to promote.
There are other advocates of a kind of Protestant integralism. At the turn of the twentieth century P. J. Hodemaker published a critique of Abraham Kuyper’s argument for a revision of Belgic Confession art. 36 the original text of which called on the magistrate to enforce (Reformed) religious orthodoxy and punish religious heretics. The confessional Reformed churches agreed with Kuyper. E.g., my own federation of churches (the United Reformed Churches in North America) have revised art. 36 so that we no longer call on the magistrate to enforce religious orthodoxy or to punish religious heretics. Hodemaker, however, was not persuaded by Kuyper and no reader, however, who is not already in agreement with Hodemaker, is likely to be persuaded by his arguments either. The translator notes that Hodemaker could have used a good editor. Perhaps. He certainly could have used a good argument.
Like the other integralists, Hodemaker left no room for nature in his argument and in that regard it is, ironically, Anabaptist. As with Ahmari et al. grace seems to have destroyed (not renewed) nature. Further, his argument rests, at least in part, on a bizarre reading of Western history. He simply assumes a Theodosian order, i.e., the necessity of a state-church, as did virtually everyone before the 18th century (though, Crawford Gribben has shown that John Owen was re-thinking the principle of establishment in light of his adventures with Cromwell during the English Civil War).
For his part, Vattel re-stated the older assumption. Not to have an established church would lead to chaos, which is not happiness. It is not at all clear that Hodemaker fundamentally disagrees with the nineteenth-century papal judgment that the very idea of America is heresy and its advocates are libertines. The old Reformed theologians would probably agree. Even as they articulated a theory of two kingdoms or a twofold kingdom (Calvin) they regularly wrote as if the magistrate were King David and that his duty was to uphold Reformed orthodoxy and punish religious dissent. One sees this assumption in the recently translated collection of passages from Pierre Viret (1511–71) who casually compared sixteenth-century magistrates to King Hezekiah.
Hodemaker certainly supported a state-established church. He left Kuyper’s Free University when Kuyper left the state church to form the Gereformeerde Kerk. One assumes that Littlejohn wants to see some form of Protestantism established as the “public religion” but lately I have been thinking about demographics. I live 40 miles from the southern border of the USA and have watched the transformation of Southern California via immigration off and on since 1984. My town is now predominantly Hispanic and Spanish-speaking. That is the product of immigration policy. The current administration has a wide-open border policy and immigrants have flooded in by the thousands.
One result of immigration policy since the Reagan administration is that the number of Roman Catholics has increased in the USA but, according to the Pew Center, the percentage of American adults identifying at Roman Catholics is down from 23% (2009) to 20%. The percentage of Americans who identify as Protestant (which includes the liberal mainline denominations) stands at 43%, down from 51% in 2009. In other words, the rate of decline among Protestants in the USA is more than double that of Roman Catholics. Perhaps when immigrants from impoverished and predominantly (even if nominally) Romanist countries settle in the USA they, like most Americans also become more indifferent to religion but the influx of even nominal Roman Catholics by the millions would seem to be a fact with which any theory must reckon. Littlejohn might be careful for what he wishes for he might find himself a tolerated minority in a majority Roman Catholic nation with a “public religion” that includes masses, plenary indulgences, and a pope.
As to Vattel’s argument from happiness, the American founders also thought happiness was important but they did not make it a communal project. The founders were individualists and, on this score at least, David French is right. The American experiment was a considered rejection of the medieval and Roman two-swords doctrine (i.e., integralism). It also represented a break from Protestant theocratic theory. They rejected both theories in light of hundreds of years of experience. Because everyone in Europe wanted to enforce their religious orthodoxy on their neighbors using the lever of the state, from the Peace of Augsburg (1555) Europe teetered on the verge of an all-out religious war between the Protestants and the Papists. It broke out first in the Netherlands in 1568 and then across Europe in 1618. Despite modern Romanist whining about Reformations imposed by magistrates, the Reformed took the brunt of it for decades. No religious group in Europe had more martyrs than the Reformed and war raged off and on for eighty years.
The American founders knew all that which is why they did not establish a federal church. It is right there in the First Amendment to the American Constitution, in the Bill of Rights:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It took most of sixty years for the states to disestablish their churches and I see that there is an argument being made that the traditional narrative (which I am repeating here) is incorrect. Carl Esbeck and J. Den Hartog remind us that there was never a national disestablishment because there was never a national established church in the USA. See Esbeck and Den Hartog, Disestablishment and Religious Dissent: Church-State Relations in the New American States 1776–1833 (Columbia: University Of Missouri Press, 2019), 4. I plan to read more thoroughly but whatever the case, there are no state-churches now and I for, for one, am not prepared to pay taxes to support Baptist or Episcopal ministers or to submit to a “public religion,” however gently enforced. In that regard, the theocrats and integralists would do well to remember that there are other Amendments to the US Constitution. They might want to take a close look at the second amendment. When the English tried to impose an Anglican bishop on the colonies, that principle that is expressed there came in right handy.
As a matter of history, the integralists never seem to remember that there was when Christendom was not. It was not a pleasant time to be a Christian but from the ascension of our Lord until Theodosius (AD 381) made Christianity the state religion, Christianity was not a state religion and before Constantine issued his decree of toleration and then meddled in ecclesiastical affairs, no Christians were asking for the church to be established. The only thing that the earliest Christians asked was to be left alone to live peaceful, quiet, and godly lives (1 Tim 2:2). The Apostle Peter strongly exhorted Christians to obey Roman law (with the assumed caveat of Acts 5:29) and expressed little patience with those who, because of their disobedience, brought the Christian faith into disrepute (1 Pet 2:11–25). Justin Martyr told the Emperor that should Christians be found to be violating Roman law that the church would punish them more harshly than the Romans would. The Christians were content to exist as a private society within the larger Roman culture. They expressed no interest in dominating or transforming society.
Ahmari’s dismissive remarks about “ancient” moral laws seems to ignore the historic Christian conviction (firmly grounded in Paul’s epistle to the Romans) that there is a natural law, which reflects the divine nature, which is accessible to all. That law is ancient but it is not arbitrary and requires no state-church to mediate it. It is a matter of universal sense perception. I understand why Ahmari wants an established religion. He believes that nature (e.g., the state) per se is deficient and must be perfected by grace (the church). It is a little more difficult to see how, on Reformed grounds, Littlejohn appeals to nature since 1) the Reformed did not believe that “grace perfects nature” cosmically, i.e., beyond regeneration of sinners; 2) the American founders also appealed to nature and they reached rather different conclusions. Natural principles are self-evident. It is self-evident that humans are not birds and males are not females. It is not self-evident that there must be a state-religion. The USA has not had a federal religion since 1789 and no state-religion since 1833. Here we are. Things are a little chaotic at times but we have no wars of religion. I wish my neighbors were Protestants and trusting in the finished work of Christ for their justification and salvation (instead of seeking to propitiate the divine wrath in the mass etc) but I am happy enough to let them go to mass and they seem happy enough to allow me and my family to keep the Christian Sabbath in the Reformed way. We live together happily. Should Ahmari or Littlejohn persuade my frightened neighbors that the only way to address the Drag Queen Story Hour is to institute a “public religion” the general tranquility of our little town will be mightily upset.
I am as repulsed by the Drag Queen Story Hour as anyone but I hardly see how a “public religion” is necessary to address it. An appeal to nature, which, according to our mostly Deist founders, is self-evident, is sufficient to address the scandal. The Drag Queen Story Hour is manifestly a form of child sexual abuse. It matters not whether it is a voluntary association. Parents are not allowed to abuse their children psychologically or physically. Males are not females and those who dress up as “drag queens” to present themselves to children (even with parental consent) as garish females do so with the intent of grooming (preparing them for future sexual exploitation) them. I am not a lawyer but I suppose that is almost certainly a violation of current law. All we need is a measure of sanity and reason and a willingness to go to court to protect the welfare of children. Were people taking their pets to the DQSH, PETA would be suing them penniless. These are matters of nature.
The American Republic is a secular republic. As Hart has reminded us, it was the early Christians who gave us the idea of a secular state. The pagans had a state-religion and the Jews had a state-religion but the Christians did not. The American Republic was the first to attempt a thoroughly secular state. To make it anything else might be, ironically, anti-Calvinian, because it would require a revolution. Calvin certainly would not have been happy with the founders’ vision but would he support a populist theocratic-integralist revolution now? It seems unlikely. Are lesser magistrates (e.g., state legislatures) going to hold an article 5 convention and revise the Constitution to institute a “public religion”? It seems unlikely. Thus, however polite and well-spoken the integralists might be, they are proposing fundamentally to remake the Republic into something it has never been and should never be.
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
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Another problem, and you might have mentioned this, is that taxes would pay for clergy salary. Though I have big problems with church growth methods, I guarantee that tax-payer funded clergy (not to be confused with tax-exempt status), will shrink the church.
I’m trying to imagine who would look at 21st century America and deduce that what people are clamoring for is an authoritarian state church. There must be something I’m missing.
Still, it’s hard to gainsay what William Cunningham states here:
“I still believe it to be a portion of divine truth, fully sanctioned by the word of God, and, therefore, never to be abandoned or denied,—that an obligation lies upon nations and their rulers to have respect, in the regulation of their national affairs, and in the application of national resources, to the authority of God’s word, to the welfare of the church of Christ, and the interests of true religion. This is the only scriptural truth, and therefore the only matter of principle, which those who support the doctrine of national establishments of religion feel called upon to maintain, or about which they cherish any solicitude. Everything beyond this is of inferior importance.”
Sure it is! The Founders did it. What’s the state of religion in Scotland? It’s not great. The Church of Scotland isn’t even a smoking hulk of a wreck. There’s not even any energy left to produce even smoke. The Free Church adopted instruments and began singing hymns. This is the Scotland of which Cunningham spoke. We don’t have to speculate about what happened in Scotland. They conducted the experiment and we see the outcome. Neither the National Covenant nor establishment did a lick of good in preserving “Christian Scotland.”
As unhealthy as it might seem to us, Christianity is far more vital in the USA than it is in Scotland.
Absolutely we can gainsay it. What a silly thing to say!
Scott, your answer is the same that the pentecostalism, the experience is above Bible. I can’t believe it.
Happy Easter to you!
I’ve been asking theocrats & theononmists to make a biblical argument for decades and all I get is crickets because a biblical argument from the NT cannot be made without assuming that post-canonical nations are the new national people of God.
You see Marc, my problem is that I actually believe WCF 19:
And the Second Helvetic Confession ch. 11:
Please show me the slightest inkling from the New Testament (or from the Old Testament read like a Christian, i.e., in the light of the NR) that, after the types & shadows were fulfilled, Christ or his apostles had the faintest interest in establishing a theocracy on the earth before the new heavens and the new earth. I don’t see it. At every point where the apostles had the opportunity they said nothing to the civil authorities about instituting a state-religion.
Finally, I’m not a Gnostic. For Christians history matters.
Before Reformed people in America jump on the establishment bandwagon, they should take a long and hard look at what happened to the New England Puritan establishment in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. It’s not pretty and should serve as a serious warning of what happens when efforts are made to use civil legal authority to compel orthodoxy when the majority of the civil rulers are no longer themselves orthodox.
A case can be made that if we’re going to have an established church at all, the Puritan experiment in New England was about as good as it’s going to get. People were compelled by law to attend church and to financially support the local parish, which in most cases (but importantly, not all) was a Congregational church and parish. However, people could, and did, “sign off the rolls” of the local parish if they gave convincing testimony that their religious beliefs compelled them to join a different church, with the most common examples being Presbyterian or Baptist churches, with a few Episcopal churches in the Boston area. Additional exceptions came about as years went by, and a major controversy occurred during the First Great Awakening of what should be done with the “Separate Congregational” churches composed of people who supported the preaching of Congregational revivalists who opposed the local Congregational parish church. I’m simplifying but what I’m describing is a fair summary of the normal situation in most of Massachusetts and also in other parts of colonial and early post-colonial New England apart from Rhode Island.
That system persisted because New England, well into the mid-1700s, had a widespread consensus on the basics of what was acceptable in religion. People were allowed the freedom to leave churches and join others, and most disagreements were resolved on the local level by “signing off the rolls.” Few people objected if enough Scots-Irish people moved to a town that they wanted to organize a Presbyterian church, and while toleration of Baptists took more time and more arguments (along with some significant military valor by Baptists during warfare that caused the majority of Massachusetts residents to decide Baptists were loyal citizens who deserved to be tolerated), the establishment principle co-existed with toleration for different faiths, so long as they weren’t considered too far outside what was acceptable.
Mandatory tax support for the church was primarily used to pay the local pastor, but also for other functions such as relief of the poor that today would be regarded as a governmental function.
In addition, the “meetinghouse” (i.e., church building) was owned by the “society,” supported by tax dollars, and used for secular purposes such as town hall meetings as well as church purposes. The local “society” had its own board of trustees, and there were numerous members of the society who, because they could not give a personal testimony of their own conversion, were not members of the local church though they attended the local church.
That parish arrangement, which had evolved in Massachusetts for close to two centuries and persisted for decades after the adoption of the US Constitution, blew up when the Unitarian Schism hit in the early 1800s.
On the eastern seaboard, where Harvard and the wealthy churches and merchants were located, there wasn’t much controversy. In most cases, the pastors and the vast majority of church members either agreed with or quietly tolerated Unitarian preaching. The orthodox minority, unable to find even one church in Boston with a soundly Reformed pastor, had to create a new church, eventually organized as Park Street Church, to have Trinitarian preaching.
Similarly, in rural western Massachusetts, most of the farmers and tradesmen in small churches hadn’t been getting their preachers from Harvard for a generation or more. They were nearly uniform in their rejection of the Unitarians.
The major problems happened in central Massachusetts in places where the majority of the church members were orthodox but half or more of the residents were not. Remember that the church building was owned by the “society,” which was supported by tax dollars, and not the church?
In case after case, orthodox majorities in the church saw their building taken over by a majority of the society that wanted to get rid of an orthodox minister who was preaching the need for repentance from sin, or to tolerate both Trinitarian and Unitarian preaching by alternating who would use the pulpit, or to have services for both groups, or to force the orthodox pastor to allow occasional pulpit exchanges with non-Trinitarian pastors.
In one case, the local Congregational church voted with only two dissenters to support their pastor’s decision to refuse to allow a non-Trinitarian preacher to fill their pulpit. But because the majority of the local “society” had never professed personal faith and had never become church members, the “society” trustees voted to require that the building must be allowed to be used by visiting Unitarian preachers as well as the settled (and orthodox) Congregational pastor. The Massachusetts court system, after numerous appeals, ruled that the society, not the church, was the proper recipient of the tax funds of the established Massachusetts church system, and the society, not the church, owned the building.
(A much later irony — one of the Orthodox Presbyterian churches in New England started as a Congregational church, remained conservative and Reformed, left Congregationalism and joined the Northern Presbyterians, but never legally disincorporated its society. When the OPC-PCUSA split happened, the civil courts ruled that the church building belonged to the local society, not the presbytery, and that made it one of the few OPCs that was able to keep their building during the split of the 1930s.)
There’s an important lesson to be learned from the experience of establishment in New England.
When churches rely on civil establishment, it works only as long as the majority of the citizens are orthodox.
When that changes, bad things happen quickly.
In Massachusetts, it was the conservatives, NOT THE LIBERALS, who pushed for disestablishment. They saw what the Unitarians had done by effectively stealing church buildings that had been paid for by not just decades but in some cases a century or more of faithful Reformed churchgoers, and decided disestablishing the churches and ending the parish system was the only viable solution.
Establishment is a two-edged sword. It cuts both ways, and the cuts can be severe.
Dr. Clark, you’re dealing in pragmatics but Dr. Cunningham is dealing in ethics. It may seem silly to you, but the principal question is not (or shouldn’t be), “Does it work?” but rather, “What is a nation’s/civil magistrate’s obligation?” It’s rather obvious that Scotland isn’t keeping the National Covenant nor fulfilling its obligation. But should we conclude from the fact that God’s law and covenants are broken that they were bad to begin with? It would be silly for us to do so!
History is not pragmatics. History is the study of what happened. These are facts.
You theocrats are, ironically, just like the Marxists. You can’t sell history so you must peddle eschatology. “The right people haven’t tried it yet.”
The truth is that the right people don’t exist. They’ve never existed and they never will exist.
How? The courts are against us. How do we appeal to nature in a society that can’t tell male from female (Romans 1)?
I take Shrier’s point. I don’t say it would be easy but I think the pendulum is beginning to swing back toward sanity. Always, of course, the boundaries (is this what people mean by the Overton Window?) are moved. There is also civil litigation and just plain old legislation argued the old-fashioned way by lobbyists and pressure groups. The San Diego Gun Owner’s Association has proved locally to be very potent organization and they’ve done it by hard work. I don’t see why pro-family organizations, pro-nature organization, and pro-sanity organizations cannot do the same thing. Being a citizen is hard work. Perhaps we’ve forgotten how to do it?
I get your point about putting in work, but how much work do you do and why? A mother was doing this to her son, same as that case in Texas. Many parents want transgender education – who do you think is bringing them to DQSH? If parents won’t protect their own children, how much less can I?
In the past, doing the work of a citizen did not involve trying to persuade other citizens of basic reality and getting laws passed that affirm basic reality. Maybe this is the work of our time. It could be worth doing or it could be casting pearls before swine. This is the dilemma normies have. Maybe this is the end of our civilization and we need to just accept it.
Maybe citizens have to do this sort of work because we weren’t paying attention while a small band of wacko activists were doing this sort of work?
The wackos have state sponsorship and their day job is wacktivism. Anybody who pointed this out was called a conspiracy theorist. Anyone who talked about a slippery slope was derided as a kook. There’s been a lot of punching right from moderates as well. Substack is the only way parents can even hear about a lot of this – the press has colluded with the wackos. It’s hard as a normie in a managerial society with all the institutions pushing this or providing cover for it.
Reading my history books, I’ve noticed the life of a civilization is highly-variable but all signs point to the end of this one.
We agree that the sane are at a disadvantage especially in dark blue states/counties.
Here’s the other problem I have – pagans are integralists as well. As our culture has abandoned Christianity, it hasn’t defaulted to natural law on matters of sex but rather pagan sexuality. How was the converted proconsul in Acts 13 supposed to govern given Roman pagan integralism? Does modern 2 kingdoms theory need revision in light of the cultural trajectory?
I agree that paganism is inherently religious but consistency requires that we insist that they not institute/establish their religion either.
We need to demonstrate publicly their religion and demand civic (not epistemic) neutrality.
Failure to distinguish between civil snd epistemic neutrality has plagued this discussion.
How should we do that? They’re waging a 24/7 propaganda war on children between Disney, Netflix, and the public schools. They’re quickly working to codify and normalize their new sexual ethics. Does the church need to come up with a resistance theory to this, or at least create rules for members about where they should send their kids to school and what they should watch on TV and support with their money? My understanding is the patristic-era church had rules like this.
Between you and me? I’m not calling for state religion or an established church. I’m merely providing antithesis for modern 2K theories as I’ve seen them formulated. They seem to be written around positive and neutral-world culture but require antithesis for the negative world. The pagans, btw, can’t distinguish between civil and epistemic neutrality.
I didn’t say that it would be easy but there are those who are contesting, in legislatures and in the courts, the attempt to institute neo-paganism. We were caught flat-footed and it is true that the the last three administrations have given them a real boost (this is a neglected aspect of the Trump legacy, it’s remarkable friendliness to the LGBTQ lobby) and those of us with a more traditional reading of the 1st amendment are at a disadvantage but we have tools at hand.
I’m not blaming you for failing to make the distinction but that failure is widespread. I’ve been arguing with Dutch theocrats & transformaitonalists about this for as long as the HB has existed.
Epistemic neutrality is impossible. Civil neutrality (or some facsimile thereof) is essential or else it is war.
Grant, Almighty God, that since under the guidance of thy Son we have been united together in the body of thy Church, which has been so often scattered and torn asunder, — O grant, that we may continue in the unity of faith, and perseveringly fight against all the temptations of this world, and never deviate from the right course, whatever new troubles may daily arise: and though we are exposed to many deaths, let us not yet be seized with fear, such as may extinguish in our hearts every hope; but may we, on the contrary, learn to raise up our eyes and minds, and all our thoughts, to thy great power, by which thou quicken the dead, and raises from nothing things which are not, so that though we may be daily exposed to ruin, our souls may ever aspire to eternal salvation, until thou at length really showeth thyself to be the fountain of life, when we shall enjoy that endless felicity, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son our Lord. Amen.
Calvins prayer on Micah 4.9, 10
PS I believe some of you are missing the impact that theology has on the political, constitutional, social, and economic trends throughout American history. I encourage all of you to read Dr. C. Gregg Singers work: A Theological interpretation 0f American history – “It is impossible to understand completely the history of a nation apart from the philosophies and the theologies which lie at the heart of its intellectual life.”