Perfecting his particular brand of counter-revisionism introduced in Columbus and Cortez, John Eidsmoe here directs his efforts toward defending the often contested claim that America was founded on Christian principles. The bulk of Christianity and the Constitution is given to a series of short biographies of thirteen of the "most representative" Founding Fathers.
He starts with a brief introduction to the principles both Christian and secular which influenced the Founders' views on government and law, moves on to the bios, and concludes with a section called "The Constitution: Then and Now" in which he discusses the Constitutional Convention and offers a vision for a future America returned to its biblical heritage. Four appendices provide the full texts of the Treaty of Tripoli, Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Articles of Confederation.
Christianity and the Constitution is heavily referenced and presents a compelling argument for the Christian influences on both the Founding Fathers and their formulation of the Constitution and the United States government. He presents the Calvinism and covenant theology of the Puritans as important factors in the development of republican ideals, and attempts to show how secular influences like deism and freemasonry were less important than may believe. The biographies are largely devoted to showing that the Founders shared a collectively Christian worldview, even if not all of them were Christians (though Eidsmoe assures us most of them were).
Where his argument breaks down is his negligible attention to Enlightenment rationalism, which was an equally powerful if not overwhelming influence on the Christians and secularists within the Constitutional Convention. His overarching theme is that America was founded on Christian principles, ergo the Founders had no intention of separating Church and State to the extent we currently observe. One possible response to this reasoning is that whatever the Founders had in mind is largely irrelevant—where we are now is important, and Christian citizens have a responsibility to respond to the current situation with reference to the Bible and not the Founders.
Eidsmoe begins on the wrong foot by favorably quoting Jefferson as referring to the Constitutional Convention as an assembly of "demigods." They were not gods or half-gods—the Founders were men and susceptible to the sins and frailties of all men. Enlightenment philosophers had declared the human mind the sole litmus for what was acceptable and right, and believed it could guide men to an age of rational utopia through right government and universal education. This was the dominant philosophy during the founding of our nation, and it had deeply influenced most if not all the Founders present at the drafting of the Constitution.
There is plenty of useful information here. Eidsmoe has paid special attention to what the Founders themselves said and not just what their interpreters have said they said. Still, his contention that America was ever a Christian nation is seriously flawed; non-Christian men (which he admits some of the Founders were), even if they have been influenced by centuries of state-regulated religion, cannot have a Christian worldview, and human governments can never perfectly imitate the government of Christ over His people, locally or nationally.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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