The American conception of religious freedom has been influenced strongly by both Enlightenment and Evangelical Christian ideas from the beginning. One need think only of Madison’s famous Memorial and Remonstrance, which skillfully weaves together arguments in both strains. It’s fair to say that conventional scholarship sometimes ignores the role that Christian ideas played in the founding, however. A new book from Cambridge, The Classical and Christian Origins of American Politics, seeks to remedy that. The authors are scholars Kody Cooper (University of Tennessee-Chattanooga) and Justin Buckley Dyer (University of Texas-Austin). Here is the publisher’s description:
There has been a considerable amount of literature in the last 70 years claiming that the American founders were steeped in modern thought. This study runs counter to that tradition, arguing that the founders of America were deeply indebted to the classical Christian natural-law tradition for their fundamental theological, moral, and political outlook. Evidence for this thesis is found in case studies of such leading American founders as Thomas Jefferson and James Wilson, the pamphlet debates, the founders’ invocation of providence during the revolution, and their understanding of popular sovereignty. The authors go on to reflect on how the founders’ political thought contained within it the resources that undermined, in principle, the institution of slavery, and explores the relevance of the founders’ political theology for contemporary politics. This timely, important book makes a significant contribution to the scholarly debate over whether the American founding is compatible with traditional Christianity.