Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

God and Politics

In an earlier blog, Ken Masugi argued that President Bush’s State of the Union speech was grounded in the Declaration of Independence. I thought not for several reasons, one of which was that Bush seems to draw his inspiration from the God of revelation more than he does from the laws of nature and of nature’s God, as the Declaration puts it. I admitted that the dictates of these two Gods could be compatible but suggested that they were different fundamentally. Mickey Craig disagrees. He insists that the God of revelation and the God of the Declaration are the same.

Why does this matter? More perhaps than any other country, the United States, through its founding ideas and the faith of its citizens, is or has been based on both reason and revelation. In discussing their relation, we are discussing the character of the United States and its citizens.

So, is Craig right that the God of the Declaration and the God of revelation are the same or as he also puts it, that true religion is reasonable?

In his blog, Craig appeals to authority by referring to John Locke, Tom West, Harry Jaffa and Samuel West and mentions Tocqueville, and eastern Straussians besides. All of this is irrelevant.

One of Craig’s assertions is to the point. In answer to my question “How can Bush know that Liberty is a gift of God,” Craig says that Bush can know this through revelation and by reasonable observation. I would like Craig to give me the biblical passages that show that liberty is the gift of God as Craig explicates liberty (according to the Claremont cosmology: beast-man-God)? Psalm 8, which is the Biblical passage closest to that cosmology, as far as I know, mentions neither equality nor liberty. Reasoned observation might lead us to the Claremont cosmology and its political corollaries, and in this case the Claremont cosmology and revelation might be compatible, but if they arrive at more or less the same place, they do so from different starting points and through different processes of reasoning. To take one example of the biblical understanding, Paul speaks of liberty but this comes by grace not through man’s place in nature. It is in fact through grace that we overcome the laws of nature, according to Paul, and achieve liberty.

Take another example: reason and revelation are in accord in announcing that God is one. But we learn from revelation and only from revelation about the trinity, our fallen nature and Christ saving us through his death and resurrection. Because reason does not teach any of this, Jefferson took all of it out of the New Testament, and much else, thereby destroying Christianity. Or, as Craig would have it, making it true religion. In the sermon so esteemed by Craig, Samuel West mentions Christ once, as far as I can tell, just before he says “Amen.” Jefferson and West are progenitors of Unitarianism and the desiccated, merely inertial moral posturing that now characterizes much of liberal opinion in the United States.

This returns us to the question of why this matters. Religion within the bounds of reason leads to desiccated liberalism; religion without the bounds of reason may lead to fanaticism. Reason and revelation need each other but they can only help each other if they retain their distinct characters. To amalgamate them threatens both and by extension the United States. This I take to be one of the basic propositions of the Claremont cosmology.

Discussions - 3 Comments

You are right. What I wanted to bring out in with the Euthyphro was basically, that if you assume God to be good (or unable to will evil) the debate must collapse one of two ways. either piety is dessicated in favor of reason, or reason is dessicated in favor of piety. Bush seems to be wonderfully inconsistent in how he proceeds, sometimes using the fox and othertimes the lion. I really don’t understand Claremont Cosmology but Machiavelli seems to work well enough for explaining at least the beast-man part. Is God (the absolute) a result of some Hegelian-like synthesis?

John -- "Claremont cosmology" refers to the way that Harry jaffa explains equality in the Declaration. (Jaffa taught in Claremont CA.) Jaffa rgues that men are equal and recognize themselves to be equal because they recognize that they are neither beasts nor gods. THerefore, they have no right to treat another man as if he were a beast ( make him a slave) or a god (give him unlimited political power). Psalm 8 does describe man as between the beasta and God.

An anti-slavery Aristotle. I am quite fond of Jaffa. "As I would not be a slave so I would not be a master"-Lincoln.

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