Saturday, September 4

Missing Poll Numbers

For weeks now it seems that the media bombarded American voters with the figures showing November's presidential election to be a "dead heat," "too close to call," "neck and neck," and "breathtakingly close." We've been treated to one poll after another. We've seen "potential voter" polls, "likely voter" polls, "registered voter" polls, "partisan" polls, "campaign ad" polls, "convention bounce" polls, and "media perception" polls.

Not any more. In fact, now it is hard to find any poll numbers at all. It is eerie, isn't it? The polls have all but disappeared in the wake of the Republican convention. They are still out there of course, it is just that you really have to hunt for them in most cases--either that or go to specifically conservative stations, programs, or sites.

The reason is simply that President Bush has taken an enormous (at least by modern standards) lead--according to the most recent Time magazine poll, a double digit lead; according to the most recent AOL poll, a lead in every single state in the union! Whoa! Can that possibly be right? Will the lead hold? Is it just a convention bounce? What's going on here?

Surely this is news. Big news. Right?

Apparently not.

I guess this dramatic turn of events is just not "news fit to print"--at least not according to the convoluted perspective of the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, and the rest of America's liberal media elite. Gee, who'd a thunk it?

Better Light, More Glory

Here is the latest essay from my good friend and frequent book correspondent, the intrepid Ben House. Pay heed; this one is a doozie--both the book he reviews and the way he reviews it:

It is here. After decades of waiting, it is finally here. After fitting so many random pieces of the puzzle together, the whole picture can now be seen. After hearing the case denied or seeing it minimized, the full story is available. The case is proven.

Some scholars have told me that our Founding Fathers were Deists. I have read of their freethinking and skepticism. I have been catechized about the influence of the Enlightenment on our country. Such mantras as “pluralism”, “separation of church and state”, and “secularism” have all been drummed in my mind by the academic elite. Oh surely, the Founding Fathers were members of the established churches, but that was as irrelevant then as now.

Thomas Paine, the infidel, molded the Revolutionary American mindset. Thomas Jefferson, the Deist, formulated the American ideal. John Locke, the secular thinker, fashioned the principles of the Revolution. We had Sons of Liberty, Patriot armies braving the winter at Valley Forge, signers of the Declaration of Independence, creators of the Constitution, and superb individuals like Washington, Madison, and Adams, all of whom seemingly operated in a religious vacuum.

The American Revolution seemingly sprang out of the soil even though the colonies had a long and rich history by 1776. There had been Puritans, but they simply burned witches and persecuted the likes of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson. There were colonial legislatures, but they restricted the suffrage to white landowning males and clashed with royal governors over tax policies. There were pamphlets and broadsheets, but they were economic responses related to mercantilism. There was the Great Awakening, but it was religious fundamentalism and emotional frenzies over hyped-up fear of God’s wrath.

But, it is here. After decades of waiting, it is finally here. After fitting so many random pieces of the puzzle together, the whole picture can now be seen. After hearing the case denied or seeing it minimized, the full story is available. The case is proven.

Pastor, theologian, and author David W. Hall has completed his magnum opus, titled The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding (Lexington Books, 2003). This book opens the floodgates that will change or confirm the way we view America’s roots and future. At least it will change or confirm it for the faithful remnant that reads the book and faithfully teaches its core content to others.

America’s heritage is Christian, but not only Christian: America’s founding and heritage is Calvinistic. People of Reformed and Calvinistic persuasion largely colonized America. America did not invent a new order of the ages in 1776. It continued a process of refining a Biblical and Reformational theory of government that acknowledged the sovereignty of God and resisted the sovereignty of kings. Jean Calvin of Geneva, not Jean Rousseau of Geneva, created the mindset that governed this country. More than the Greeks and Romans, more than the Enlightenment thinkers, more than the explorers and colonizers, Calvin established America. And Calvin was not alone. Such theologians, writers, and pastors as William Farel (Calvin’s co-pastor in Geneva), Peter Viret of Geneva, Theodore Beza (Calvin’s successor), John Ponet of Strasbourg, the anonymous author of Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos in France, and Johannes Althusius (the author of Politica) all weighed in on the theological implications of governmental tyranny, persecution of the Christian faith, and the limits of obedience to ungodly rulers.

If these continental Reformers did not say enough, from the British Isles came another regiment of political and theological thinkers. John Knox, Andrew Melville, and other Scots put their theology in action during the turbulent reigns of such tyrants as Queen Mary Stuart and her worthless son James. Scotsmen George Buchanan and Samuel Rutherford penned great treatises on government to teach rulers how to rule and to admonish and remove them when they misruled. As this Calvinist political philosophy was being debated and thought out among the Puritans in England, some opted to pack the ideas for their trek across the Atlantic to the New World.

William Bradford, John Winthrop, John Cotton and others set the norms for Biblical and covenantal civil government in Colonial America. By the time of the American War for Independence, the war for the hearts and minds of the people, the true revolution, had been completed by scores of pastors who had faithfully preached election sermons for generations. The language of the colonial charters, the resolutions preceding the Declaration of Independence, the ongoing sermons and theological pamphlets all testify to the Reformed heritage in this country’s founding and the extent to which Calvinism sparked our independence. Presbyterian and Congregationalist pastors and laymen filled the ranks of both officers and soldiers in the Continental armies. The War for Independence was truly a Presbyterian Rebellion.

Dr. Hall begins his survey with a most brilliant coup. His first major witness called to testify before the court is a surprise. Surely Cotton Mather or John Witherspoon or George Whitefield might testify to America’s Calvinistic heritage. They are all examined later on in this book. But the first witness is Thomas Jefferson, the ‘creator’ of the wall of separation of church and state, the arch-Deist and unbeliever among the Founding Fathers, the primary secular and Enlightenment thinker of his age. Jefferson’s motto, which adorns his monument in Washington, was “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” As in the case of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was not so much a poetic creator as a wise scholar, meaning that he cultivated his ideas from others. That motto was not of Jefferson’s devising. It was a summary, a Cliff’s Notes version, of a long theological heritage worked out by the Reformers, the Covenanters, the Huguenots, and the British and American Puritans.

As a further proof of Jefferson’s wonderful inconsistency, Hall cites the case of Jefferson’s efforts to move the entire faculty of Calvin’s Academy of Geneva to northern Virginia. Jefferson knew that this faculty was Calvinistic, yet like the careful botanist he was, he knew that they would flourish in this land if transplanted.

Hall’s book is weighty, long, heavily documented, filled with analyses of theological and political tomes, devoid of anecdotes, plodding in its lining up the proofs of the thesis, scholarly, sober, and academic. In other words, it is the kind of book to make a Calvinist’s heart throb with excitement. This is certainly no easy read; it will not fit at your bedside or near your fattest easy chair. This book calls for a desk, a notepad, strong coffee, and quiet children. It served well for my early morning readings. If there is a monastery nearby, check in and read this book there, but you might need to conceal the title.

This book is expensive--$90 in hardback (perhaps a paperback version will be come out for 4 point Calvinists and Dispensationalists). It is cheaper than a car and not much more than the cost of a tank of gas for a SUV. This book is worth the cost of buying it and the labor of reading it. The bibliography alone can provide a wonderful gift list of books that your wife can buy you (or you can by her) for Christmas, birthdays, or other occasions, such as Samuel Rutherford’s birthday. Dr. Hall has marshaled and referenced scores of books by pastors and scholars we all recognize, as well as books from others, many of whom are secular scholars, whose labors are common grace blessings to us.

Some years ago, Peter Marshall and David Manuel broke open the case for the Christian heritage of America with the publication of The Light and the Glory. The book was popular, and it has contributed greatly to a rethinking of our heritage among homeschoolers, Christian schoolers, and individual Christians. A whole library of books has followed in the last several decades enabling Christians to rethink and reclaim our heritage. Some of the books are outstanding; some overstate the case, for example by virtually elevating the Constitution to the level of Scripture; some of the recent books simply quote from other recent books with little depth or research. A few heavyweight studies preceded The Light and the Glory. Books like R.J. Rushdoony’s This Independent Republic and The Nature of the American System and Gregg Singer’s A Theological Interpretation of American History filled in a few gaps in the story of our founding, but reached a small audience.

Dr. Hall’s book will probably not achieve the popular status of The Light and the Glory. The story of the Mayflower is easier to teach than an examination of Lex Rex. But for those of us who teach American history (or European history) and government, for those of us who use the pulpit to proclaim political theology, for those of us who regularly violate the social norm and talk about religion AND politics, this book is vital.

As a personal testimony, I am thankful for a Reformed Baptist elder, Henry Wood, who taught me American history at our local community college back in 1974. He lectured on the importance of understanding the Calvinistic roots of this country. He pointed me to Loraine Boettner’s Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, as well as to the books of Rushdoony and Singer. In Boettner’s book, there is a chapter on the influence of Calvinism in history. For many of us, it was a starting point for many readings in the field of history.

Now with David Hall’s The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding, we can all march forward with a renewed vision of the future because of a truer understanding of the past. See your banker today to refinance your house and buy this book.

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