from the editor-in-chief
A Christian Nation or a Nation of Christians? Despite of the revered principle that the church be separate from the state, the questions surrounding the religious nature of America’s identity have not gone away. Can America be called a Christian nation? Can it be said that the founders intended to establish this nation upon purely secular principles? If not, then to what extent has Christianity played a role in shaping these principles? Furthermore is this question even relevant in the debate concerning America’s supposed Christian identity? The problem with asking the question: “Is America a Christian Nation?” is largely contained within the abstractness of the question itself. What does it mean to describe a nation by religious affiliation? It is true that a significant majority of American citizens identify themselves as Christian. However, maybe an affirmative answer to this question requires not that Christianity be mainstream in the population, but that it be an essential and dominant worldview within the fabric of our founding documents and governmental structures. Whatever the case may be, the question is a popular one, and this issue of Logos seeks to address both the question itself and the basis upon which one may answer in the negative or affirmative. Christianity’s influence in America will likely be around in the foreseeable ages to come. With this in mind, a discussion of Christianity’s role in the social and political structures of the nation may help shed light on what aspects of the faith have led it to be so formative in the development of American society.
λλ executive directors April Koh (TD ’14) Richard Lee (MC ’14) editor-in-chief Rodney Evans (PC ’14) business manager Joseph Kim (ES ’15) production manager Courtney McEachon (PC ’15) assistant director Adrian Kimmok (BK ’15) board of custodians Yena Lee (SY ’12) April Koh (TD ’14) Jeanni Hwang (TD ’14) Richard Lee (MC ’14) Rodney Evans (PC ’14) board advisor Gregory Ganssle, Ph.D. Lecturer of Philosophy
Rodney Evans Editor-In-Chief
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a word from the wise The Founding of Ivy Colleges | 4 Jon Hinkson Rivendell Institute
on topic The Poll and the Pew: the American Christian Voting Experience | 7 Markus Boesl (TD ’14)
reflections Linsanity | 17 James Jiang (ES ’15)
Heavenly Beams, Parting | 18 Seas, and Small Miracles Adrian Kimmok (BC ’15)
The Faith of Two Cold War Warriors | 13 Carter Reese (SY ’13)
Bible Classes at Yale | 20 An Interview with Kevin Nelson
Veritas Forum: God’s Existence | 14 Logos Staff
Switzerland: a glimpse | 22 of His Majesty
point-counterpoint Why America Should Not Be a Christian Nation | 10 Shelly Kim (PC ’15)
Amanda Levis (ES ’12)
Jeanni Hwang (TD ’14)
No More Half Gospels | 24 Updates from Memphis Jonathan Wood (BR ’03)
Leavetaking | 26 April Koh (TD ’14) Richard Lee (MC ’14)
Christian Culture: Enlightened Government | 11 Eduardo Andino (TC ’13)
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THE FOUNDING OF IVY COLLEGES JOHN HINKSON It is testimony to the passion for education of our forbearers that the founding of our first college only slightly trails the founding of our first colony: “After God had carried us safe to New England,” they explained, “and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our liveli-hood, rear’d convenient places of God’s worship & setled the Civill Government one of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity”. Why this great priority and urgency of a college for so small a community of slender resources struggling for sustainability precariously perched on the edge of “a howling wilderness?” Quite simply they must have a college be-
Every student shall consider the main end of his duty, to wit, to know God in Jesus Christ and answerably to lead a godly sober life. cause they could not be without competent ministers of the Gospel: We “dreaded,” as they put it, “to leave an illiterate Ministry to the churches, when our present Ministers shall lie
in the Dust.” And so, in 1636, Harvard College was founded and furnished precisely to meet that necessity. It was to be a place where, foremost “a succession of a learned and able ministry might be educated.” Hence it comes as no surprise that the core curriculum included Hebrew, Chaldee and Syriac, and that the daily exercises engaged the students in rendering the Old Testament Hebrew into New Testament Greek. Whether or not the student was destined for the ministry the goal of a Harvard education remained unwavering. As the College Statutes (1646) expressed it: “Everyone shall consider the main End of his life and studies to know God & Jesus Christ which is Eternal Life. John 17.3.” “Study with reverence and love,” students were directed, “carefully to retain God and his truth…” It was this ambition of Harvard “to retain God and his truth” which became controversial—not the aim, rather Harvard’s success in fulfilling it. By century end, New Englanders were naming their children “Ichabod”—the glory has departed—and noting with dismay that Harvard, that intended “School of the Prophets” was turning out degenerate graduates whose religion was not pure and undefiled— a sad token of Paradise Lost. Taking up the torch from the faltering hand of the fallen Harvard ten Connecticut ministers, in 1701, gathered in a parsonage and recalling the “glorious design of their blessed father’s both to plant... & propagate in this wilderness the blessed Reformed, Protestant Religion” jointly resolved to erect a college pursuant of that “Grand Errand.”
The vision had shoe leather, for they each had brought with them some prize volumes to contribute to the undertaking. Each stepped forward and in turn placed their offering upon a table solemnly intoning: “I give these Books for the founding of a College in this colony.” One historian refers to these books as “dusty theological folios.” They were not dusty, and their owners would rather have parted with 10 cords of cut wood. They represented the heritage of faith they had received and sought to pass on without adulteration. As with Harvard, Yale’s express aim was more than education, more even at an education in divinity—it was, one might say, spiritual. Each incoming student was greeted with the directive from the pen of the president: “Above all have an eye to the great end of all your studies, which is to obtain the Clearest Conceptions of Divine Things and to lead you to a saving knowledge of God in His SON JESUS CHRIST.” Or, in
the words of the first College Rules: “Every student shall consider the main end of his duty, to wit, to know God in Jesus Christ and answerably to lead a godly sober life.” Such a profile—a godly sober life—was thought by many a Yale alumnus to have been epitomized by the young David Brainerd, would-be class of 1742. The irony was that he was expelled for his spiritual fervor. It was Yale’s treatment of Brainerd which convinced many concerned alumni that their alma mater was now, alas, wayward and another college would be needed to cultivate godly leaders. And indeed the need for godly ministers was at the time especially acute. The Great Awakening had spawned new churches and filled old ones to overflowing and stretched revivalists beyond their capacities to feed the burgeoning flocks. Accounts describe “the cries of ministers oppressed with labors, and of congregations famished for want of the sincere milk of the word” along with urgent applications made by pastor-less congregations “depriv’d of the ordinary Means of salvation, and left to grope after happiness, almost in the Obscurity of Paganism....” These “longings after the Bread of Life” were the “urgent Arguments and immediate Motives” for the founding of the College of New Jersey (1746) later Princeton, with the principal end being to raise up pious and learned ministers the likes of Brainerd to stand in the gap. In the words of Governor Belcher who granted Princeton’s charter: [but for his self effacing modesty Nassau Hall would have borne his name] “What we all aim at [in the founding of this college] is the advancing of the kingdom and interest of the blessed Jesus and the general good of mankind.” Neither did this founding vision quickly vanish. As President Maclean reiterated in 1877: “May [Princeton] ever be regarded as an institution consecrated to the service of God for the defense of revealed truth and for the promotion of fervent piety and sound learning.” For all the “fervent piety” of its founders, which forbade students playing cards or dice, somehow no one thought it incongruous to use a lottery to raise funds to erect the new college. Benjamin Franklin was solicited to print up 8000 tickets. They sold well, though less well in Philadelphia as Franklin was at the time seeking to establish a college himself. Franklin’s first choice to lead his prospective Philadelphia College was the polymath
Samuel Johnson, which honor he declined as he had his own collegiate enterprise in mind nearer at hand. In 1754 Johnson announced in the New York Gazette the opening of the King’s College (later Columbia). The encyclopedic scope of Johnson’s mind was reflected in the stunning range of his proposed curriculum encompassing surveying and navigation; manufacturing, mines and meteors; history, husbandry and the heavens—all to be taught by himself with the sole aid of his son! For all its breath, its aim was clear: “The chief thing that is aimed at in this College,” wrote Johnson, “is to teach and engage the children to know God in Jesus Christ, & to love & serve Him in all Sobriety, Godliness & Righteousness of Life, with a perfect Heart and a willing Mind.” In this ambition Johnson hoped to engage the prolific William Smith as tutor, but in a stroke of poetic justice Ben Franklin narrowly anticipated Johnson and acquired Smith for his embryo college in Philadelphia. This College of Philadelphia (later University of Pennsylvania) chartered in 1755, embodied a bit of a departure from the colonial model heretofore in that Franklin envisioned a curriculum as suited to a prospective alder-
men or businessman as a clergyman. Notably the trustees were all doctors and lawyers, magistrates and merchants; but no ministers. Revivalist George Whitfield wrote to Franklin concerning his educational proposals that
To teach and engage the children to know God in Jesus Christ, & to love & serve Him in all Sobriety, Godliness & Righteousness of Life, with a perfect Heart and a willing Mind. they might be improved by a heavier dose of Christ. But it would be a mistake to conclude that the Christianity at Penn’s beginnings was merely token. At her first commencement Provost Smith could boast: “[T]here is not a greater regard paid to religion, pure evangelical religion, in any semi-
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on topic nary in the world than here.” “…When [our students] have arrived at their highest progress in Philosophy or Science, we are far from instructing them to think that their education is finished…. When human Science has done its utmost, it is from [the Gospel] that they must complete their Knowledge and draw superior wisdom.” Of the seven in Penn’s first graduating class, four entered the ministry. If University of Pennsylvania was not directly spawned by the Great Awakening,
“the laudable and charitable design of spreading Christian knowledge among the savages of our American wilderness…” This founding purpose is set forth in the College Crest which depicts, in sylvan setting, an evangelist with open Scriptures preaching to three attentive Indians with the motto: Vox Clamantis in Deserto—a voice crying in the wilderness. Fittingly it was a Mohegan—Sampson Occom—one of the choicest fruits of Wheelock’s Indian charity school, who would raise
infidelity was justly denied by White. No atheists or infidels were sought out for their atheism or infidelity. There was no antagonism to faith; simply indifference. “In electing trustees and professors,” declared White, “no question should be asked as to their belief.”
We moved from a world in which the Christian faith mattered supremely to one in which the Christian faith mattered scarcely if at all.
Brown (1764) and Dartmouth (1769) certainly were. Just as Princeton was especially founded to supply the dearth of godly learned ministers for the Presbyterian Church, the College of Rhode Island (later Brown) was to supply the need for Baptist ministers. Though the charter permanently ensconced a Baptist as president, one was not required to be Baptist to attend. Indeed generous berth was granted to religious conscience—a principle so notably prominent in Baptist tradition. The college rule, which required being “absolutely and for ever expelled” for denial of God, good & evil or the divine authority of the Old and New Testament, was charitably relaxed for Jewish students. “Young gentlemen of the Hebrew nation are to be exempt from this law so far as it relates to the New Testament.” So accommodating was Brown to conscience that Quakers were even given the religious liberty of keeping their hats on. The germ that was to become Dartmouth College began in the mind of revival preacher Eleazar Wheelock whose passion for souls extended beyond his colonial neighbors to the native inhabitants. Wheelock surmised that the greatest harvest among the Indians would be gained if native sons were themselves the reapers so he started a school to rise up and send out converted Indians to evangelize their own kinsman. Dartmouth was to serve this same vision on a grand scale and frontier location. As its charter specifies, the college was erected for
the endowment for Dartmouth. This converted son-of-the-forest-turned-preacher was the embodiment of Wheelock’s cause, & dispatched to England delivered some 400 sermons raising £12,000 (King George III duly impressed himself contributing £200). Such “surprising smiles of Heaven” secured the prospect to (in Wheelock’s words): “supper an hundred Indian and English youths upon charity, and all with a view to the first and grand object of [this] institution,”— “the spreading the blessed gospel of the Redeemer among the savages.” Notice Dartmouth was to educate not only Indians; also English. But not just any English. As Wheelock published: “[L]et the world know that there is no encouragement given that such as are vain, idle, trifling and flesh-pleasing... will be admitted here.” From the founding of Dartmouth to that of the final college in the ivy constellation— Cornell—we have the passing of nearly a century. For this reason alone we might expect it to be the odd one out among a colonially conceived fraternity. Largely the incarnation of the vision of Andrew Dickson White Cornell lacked religious inspiration and had not the Christian compass of its predecessors. Accordingly Cornell was denounced at its birth as “an infidel university” and many a pulpit cushion was beaten in punctuation of the pastoral injunction to students: “go anywhere but Cornell.” But the accusation of Cornell being established expressly to propagate atheism and
Faith simply did not matter, only competence as a geologist or geographer. Yet even this was a sea change. In Cornell we have moved from a collegian world in which the Christian faith mattered supremely to one in which institutionally the Christian faith mattered scarcely if at all. Clearly our colleges were once very different than they came to be or now are. This telegraphically brief survey of the founding of the Ivy colleges casts some light upon the question: “Is America Christian?” for the colleges offer to some degree a microcosm of culture during their time. This collegiate cameo would suggest that from its earliest European settlement a very substantial portion of society self identified as Christian and were inspired to shape institutions accordingly. Even in these earliest days, however, majority was no monopoly (Jews at Brown) and as time passed diversity became more and more prominent and profound (as Cornell attests). Jon Hinkson is a Senior Fellow of the Rivendell Institute at Yale University.
THE POLL AND THE PEW: the American Christian voting experience MARKUS BOESL The recent Republican primary season has been fraught with religious rhetoric of all kinds. Rick Perry held a prayer summit before starting his campaign, and Michelle Bachman left her controversial church before starting hers. The candidates included a Mormon, a Texan evangelical with strong social conservative values, a staunchly traditional Roman Catholic, and an ex-Baptist turned Catholic who has been married three times. They have all introduced questions in the media of how the “evangelical bloc” would react. Candidates have repeatedly discussed their faiths in debates. Perry even dropped out to support Gingrich, because he was a fellow Christian who believed in the power of redemption. All of this rhetoric introduces, the broad question that has plagued the church throughout history: how much should Christians be involved in the political realm? Cautionary historical tales such as the
God uses the system of government we have to allow his people to produce a culture where spirituality is not condemned and where evil is not rampant. abuses of the Holy Roman Empire and the Inquisition suggest that the pairing of church and political power lead to abuses that harm
the integrity of both the church and the state. Nevertheless, with the rise of modern representative democracy, the general population has the ability to be involved in the political process. The political experience of American Christians leads to various questions: ought Christians be involved in the political process at all? If so, how ought Christians to go about the process of selecting a candidate? Are economic policy considerations most important, or are social issues paramount? How important is the candidate’s personal faith and lifestyle? There are positions on these questions that span the entire range of options. There are several important perspectives on how we examine these issues. The first question we must address is whether Christians ought to avoid politics completely. It may seem at times that politics is merely the selection of the least of two evils. Christians are not to be of this world anyway, so isn’t politics, then, taboo? Jesus never ran for office. Instead, he seemed to be distinctly
avoiding any association with political power. Perhaps it is best for Christians to throw up their hands and let politics be politics. I partially agree with this stance. It is certainly true that the Church’s primary role in the world should not be governing. The primary goal of an individual Christian in the world should not be politics. Instead, Christians are to primarily be salt and light (Matt. 5:14), acting as ministers of reconciliation to a hurting and dying world, sharing the love of Christ (II Corinthians 5:18). Even so, Christians should not avoid any sort of political expression. First, in America, voting is part of our civic responsibility. In order for the country to function, its citizens must be informed voters. As Christians, we are to be responsible citizens under government, abiding by our duty, which includes voting in the same way it includes taxes, though less compulsory. It is written “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17). On a more spiritual plane, Christians ought to strive to push back evil in a culture.
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on topic God uses the system of government we have to allow his people to produce a culture where spirituality is not condemned and where evil is not rampant. Legislation, however, will never be effective at turning people towards God, this is only accomplished by the work of His
around Jerusalem. He eventually uses Darius the Mede to allow His people to return to the land. Much of the Old Testament concerns God’s impeccable design and incomprehensible ways to bring about the preservation of His people. Even in the Gospels, the Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities, which put Jesus to death, were being used by God to bring about his strange triumph (1 Cor 2:8). If God is truly sovereign over the hearts of the rulers, by far the most powerful political action we can take is prayer, petitioning the King of Kings. Daniel, Esther and Joseph all had lives marked by constant seeking after God, and times of intense prayer. More recently, the Clapham sect in England, which included William Wilberforce and other leading intellectuals and politicians of the time, devoted three hours a day to prayer in order to see the abolition of slave trade come to fruition in government. Much good was done during this period as a result of their fervent prayers. The second principle is simply stated, Christians ought to vote according to their conscience. This means the church does not have the ability to authoritatively tell individual Christians how they ought to vote. Individual Christians decide before God which aspects of a candidate carry more weight than others. The decision is in many ways, similar to that in the early church, of eating the food sacrificed by idols. There is freedom in Christ to come to various convictions about how to vote. A final principle that ought to guide the way Christians think about the candidates is a deep consideration of the effect of the individual candidate’s person on the culture. While God is sovereign over the affairs of man, there are countless biblical and extrabiblical examples of a country’s heart being led astray as a result of an ungodly leader. The ruler is the representative of the people, biblically. I find at least four components of a person’s whole being: policies, values, character and religion. When thinking of a candidate, we almost immediately begin to implicitly or explicitly
If God is truly sovereign over the hearts of the rulers, by far the most powerful political action we can take is prayer, petitioning the King of Kings.
body in the world (Ephesians 4:12), empowered by His Spirit. If Christians not only are under no obligation to avoid politics, but have a responsibility to vote, then on what basis ought Christians vote? Here, there are at least three principles that buoy the way Christians ought to vote. The first principle relates to God, namely that the heart of the ruler is in the hand of God. The Bible is clear on God’s absolute and sovereign control over the affairs of governments and rulers. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart in the story of exodus, and He allows Nineveh to come to repentance through Jonah’s message to the king. He used the kings of Assyria and Babylon to destroy Israel and
I find at least four components of a person’s whole being: policies, values, character and religion.
Judea and bring them back into captivity, and He softened the heart of the King so that Nehemiah could return to rebuild the wall
examine their policies. The values assigned to these particular stances and their relative importance might differ wildly from one Christian to another. However, it is clear that not all candidates will support God magnifying policies. Many policies appear to be neutral, especially with relation to economic and financial issues. Does God really have a stake in whether or not the United States reverts back to the gold standard? Most likely not. On the other hand, does He have an interest in preserving the dignity of human life? Certainly. We are to have the mind of Christ. How these various things weigh will certainly depend on the issue and particular candidate. It is enough to consider them here as a component of a person’s whole being. Second, we can think of a person’s values, which are not policy suggestions, but stated values the candidate holds dear. These may be things such as family values or responsibility of government, or national security. While these values do not have specific policy changes associated with them, they will likely result in positions on various issues. Third, we can consider character. A person’s whole being includes their integrity. The kind of ruler they will be is related to their character. We should be aware of the gaping holes that indicate a lack of concern about the integrity of their positions. However, this is harder to examine. Finally, we can consider religion. This is the most difficult to see as it is intensely personal. Most politicians claim to be Christians during election season, attending churches on campaign stomps. However, it is unclear whether this translates into any sort of a meaningful distinction. It is certainly something to consider when looking at the effect of an individual’s complete being and how it will affect a culture, but it is completely useless unless matched with corresponding values and character. In conclusion, Christians should not fear political involvement and participation in the political process. In selecting a candidate, one possible basis lies in considering the effect of a person’s whole being on the culture. Such a determination avoids the rhetoric of vapid religious discussion and leads towards a paradigm where the Christian civic task can be fulfilled. Markus Boesl is a sophomore philosophy major in Timothy Dwight.
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Why America Should Not Be a Christian Nation
SHELLY KIM What does this question mean exactly? What is a Christian nation and why does the use of those two words in the same sentence make me uncomfortable? Jean Jacques Rousseau discussed the idea of a Christian civil religion in On the Social Contract. He wrote, “For the society to be peaceful and for harmony to be maintained, every citizen without exception would have to be an equally good Christian. But if, unhappily, there is a single ambitious man, a single hypocrite, he would undoubtedly gain the upper hand on his pious compatriots.” With this in mind, let us entertain the idea of a Christian nation as consisting of Christian leaders. If humans were not so depraved, perhaps we could live in a Christian nation where the two principles,love God and love others,were the foundations of our laws, politics, and society. However, as Rousseau says, this kind of state would only work if everyone were a good Christian that loved God and loved his neighbor. But does anyone, even the most faithful man, know what that entails? If America were a Christian nation, politicians would attempt to appear as pious and spiritual in order to appeal to the people. This is clear when even without America being a Christian nation, the pressure to appear pious is powerful; the American Values Survey conducted in 2011 by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 64% of Americans were uncomfortable with the idea of an atheist President. It is unfathomable how much more pressure there would be in a Christian nation for the country’s leaders to paint themselves as more righteous than they are, and to do so would be to deny the significance of the Cross. It would be to say that Jesus dying for our sins was so insufficient that we must work to portray ourselves as righteous instead of recognizing that he has already paid for our sins. Attempting to have a Christian nation with Christian lead-
ers who try to appear to have these Christian values would inevitably lead to deeper hypocrisy in our politics than its current state. From a Christian perspective, I find the greatest danger of a Christian nation to be the establishment of Christianity as the de facto national religion. In fact, multiple times Jesus warns his disciples against the Pharisees: Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. (Matthew 23:1-7). As humans, we long for purity, we recognize our shortcomings and selfish intentions and want to be “good.” This is an especially slippery struggle for people of faith because the initially sincere desire to be good becomes easily perverted. We are susceptible to falling into a legalistic mindset about religion, how do I make myself more righteous, what steps do I have to take to earn my salvation, what do I have to do in order to appear virtuous? But the very reason Jesus died for us was to rid ourselves of these kinds of questions and to show us that we cannot make ourselves holy on our own accord. Our purity and redemption come through Him, so why would we want to reinstate the legalistic vision of Christianity that Jesus died to free us from? However, when I say that America should not be a Christian nation, I am not advocating for a deliberate, all-encompassing secularization of long standing values, laws, and judicial decisions. It is important to remember our nation’s origins and the hearts
of the Founding Fathers. There are differing opinions on the religious affiliations of the individual Founders, but ultimately, America was founded by men who had a general belief in a greater Being. There is a reason why we have “In God We Trust” written on our currency, why we describe our nation as being “under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance, and why many presidential speeches invoke the name of God. At the same time, there is also a reason why the word “God” is never mentioned in the Constitution,the most important and influential American legal document. In a letter written to Ezra Stiles (the president of Yale College at the time) on March 19, 1790, Benjamin Franklin wrote: Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them. As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is like to see.... Perhaps Franklin and the other Founders recognized that such Christian values and morals could exist in the daily, personal lives of American citizens without institutionalizing Christianity into our laws. We can possess a deep respect for our nation’s roots while still being religiously impartial in our laws. In fact, to tangibly incorporate distinct Christian values into our politics would likely have the opposite effect. That Christianity is not embedded into our politics is what allows Christians to authentically live out the Christian values. Shelly is a freshman in Pierson.
Christian Culture: Enlightened Government Eduardo Andino America should be a Christian nation. I stick by this statement, not because of what I think to be America’s roots or what I see in America’s history, but what I believe to be America’s potential, and the ultimate inability of any other faith or philosophy to make America as great as it was meant to be. From the point of view of political philosophy, America is an Enlightenment nation. The Founding Fathers looked to classical antiquity and recent Enlightenment philosophers to figure out what their new political project was going to look like. Their study of ancient historians like Thucydides and Polybius gave them insights into what types of governmental systems work and fail. Their most important observation, however, was not about political systems but about human nature. The reason the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights look the way they do is that the Founding Fathers wanted to make a government that would be as human-nature-proof as possible. Human nature tends towards corruption, cruelty, greed, and the desire for power at the expense of others. Thucydides’ observation in his History of the Peloponnesian War that human nature never changes, and that therefore the lessons he had to offer would apply to any age, rang true for colonial America. The colonists were fed up with what they perceived to be tyrannical rule by a corrupt monarch. Wanting to create a government which would guarantee freedom from tyranny and all other evils towards which human nature inevitably tends, they came up with a system which would be able to check, balance, and cancel as much of the corrupt human influence as possible. The project of thinking from the ground up a new political system and set of values is a uniquely Enlightenment ideal. In his essay, “What is Enlightenment?” Immanuel Kant calls upon mankind to release itself from “his self-incurred tutelage.” And he continues,
“Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another.” “Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own reason,” is Kant’s rallying cry. Already, we see a fundamental problem in calling
they in fact are. But even in its most Christian periods, America has not had anything resembling the glory of Christendom. And, for all of its shortcomings and flaws, Christendom was glorious. In no other period of world
But even in its most Christian periods, America has not had anything resembling the glory of Christendom.
America a Christian nation. The underlying assumption of the Enlightenment, that we ought to have faith exclusively in human reason, is at fundamental odds with faith in Jesus Christ, who says “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The most basic premise of Christianity is that fallen mankind can do nothing to achieve its own salvation, and that therefore God, in His infinite mercy and love for us, came down to us, to free us. Human reason by itself cannot save mankind or solve the deepest problems of human nature; man must have the humility to acknowledge his own weakness and ultimate futility, and rely on God to elevate his nature, restoring it to His likeness. But like all mistaken philosophies, Enlightenment thinking does have its merit because it is based off of the recognition of certain truths. The desire of the Founding Fathers was to create a nation in which the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” would be guaranteed to all. The right of each individual human being to all of the above lies in the fact that we are created equal by God, and therefore have equal dignity regardless of external circumstances such as social rank, economic prosperity, and race. Looked at superficially, such ideals seem Christian, and
history, or for so long a period, has the Christian faith provided the very cultural fabric of nearly an entire continent. Art, music, philosophical thought, and societal values were all saturated with the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and Christianity was as natural as breathing air and drinking water. Enlightenment thinkers were correct in fearing the excesses and vices of an Age of Faith. But in ushering in an Age of Reason, they failed to recognize alternative flaws that are more terrifying and destructive. The very loss of any fixed truth, what we might call “relativism,” is as dangerous to human life, liberty, and happiness, as an inquisition, crusade, or religious war. Enlightenment thinkers said, “It does not matter to which faith you adhere.” Unfortunately, just as many continued to say “Faith does not matter,” and then “There is no God, and no human soul, and no human nature,” and then “there is no morality or truth,” and then finally, as the catastrophic social experiments of the 20th century showed us, “Human life does not matter.” The problem with leaving aside the question of truth, as Europe did with the Treaty of Westphalia, is that we eventually leave aside the question of ultimate value, and therefore the sacredness of human life. Even if the American government
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A strong case for Christianity being the best cultural fabric exists in the very fact that Enlightenment thinking emerged from a Christian culture.
guarantees a right to life, it is evident that a document thought up by human minds and written by human hands does not have the binding authority of a declaration made by God. It is evident that even now the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights would not bind the consciences of a group like the Nazis. If there is no God and no truth, a document cannot mean too much compared to your own ideologies.
HHS health mandates, through which Catholic hospitals may be forced against their faith’s moral teaching to provide contraception or pay heavy fines. When an ideological faction that embraces relativism takes power, it may try to force other groups to abandon their convictions. Ironically, it is a group taking Enlightenment freedom to an extreme that finds itself being coercive, and descending into the very tyranny which the founding fathers sought to avoid with a system of checks and balances. To guarantee religious and other liberties, there would have to be freedom from external regulation of a faith’s policies and practices. And so we come to the main problem at stake in the question of Christianity and America as an Enlightenment nation: can we avoid the tyranny of a faith or group that claims to have the fullness of truth, while still avoiding the obvious problems of a relativism which will ultimately impose its own destructiveness? The best answer lies in an America with a genuinely Christian, and preferably Catholic, culture. A Christian faith that is not unified in belief is already suffering from the problems of relativism, and offending the prayer of Christ to the Father “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you,” (John 17:21) and the injunction of the Apostle Paul “that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (I Corinthians 1:10). The best way to avoid relativism and its dangers is to have a noticeable majority consensus on certain unchangeable truths, even if there are other groups that differ. On the other hand, a system of checks and balances that guarantees that the potential Christian majority would not abuse the rights of minority faiths and other groups would avoid the occasionally vio-
Can we avoid the tyranny of faith that claims to have the fullness of truth, while still avoiding relativism.
We see the danger of such relativism in contemporary America with the current abortion catastrophe, and with the impending
lent excesses of Christendom. And further, a genuine adherence to the morality preached by America’s foundational documents would be far more likely among a people who believes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are genuinely God-given rights. America has a unique opportunity for people to become Christian, in that there is the freedom to explore what you want and become what you think to be true. Having come to my faith through a largely intellectual journey, I understand the importance of being truly convinced by and satisfied with an answer, and not simply accepting things without question. The presence of such unrestricted intellectual freedom is one of America’s greatest gifts. Unfortunately, if we never accept anything at all, relativism is left to paralyze the mind and destroy the very possibility of freedom to find and come to the truth. Christianity becomes an indispensable check and balance itself. The alternative remains, though, to find out if some other faith or philosophy might exist, in place of Christianity, that can serve as the cultural fabric that keeps the American system safe from relativism. The question deserves its own essay and cannot be entered into here. However, a strong case for Christianity being the best cultural fabric exists in the very fact that Enlightenment thinking, and the goods and truths that it does possess, emerged from a Christian culture. The desire to respect the rights of all human beings, to treat all as equal, to offer the same happiness to every individual, was unprecedented until the advent of Christianity. Even modern philosophies and faith systems that have adopted altruistic and selfless models of morality into their thinking have ultimately adopted it from Christianity. Therefore, the United States is not Christian. It was not intended to be, has not been, and does not look like it will ever be. But America will only truly be as great as it ought if it is a genuinely Christian nation. Eduardo is a junior humanities major in Trumbull.
The Faith of Two Cold War Warriors CARTER REESE
Throughout history, individuals of faith have been willing to take a stand for what they believe to be right under God. Much is discussed about men of faith and their impact on the founding of our nation. During another critical period in America’s history, the Cold War, two intellectuals worked together in a less discussed battle to fight evil by connecting Communism with atheism and capitalism with Christianity, thereby making the Cold War a spiritual Armageddon. William F. Buckley, Jr. (Yale ’50), a widely regarded as a founding father of the modern conservative movement, was a Roman Catholic whose faith formed the core of his strongly held political beliefs. In God and Man at Yale he stated, “I myself believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level” (Buckley, God and Man at Yale, lxvi). He saw the battle between the United States and the Soviet Union as a fight between good and evil. Buckley’s equivalence of Communism with atheism and individualism with Chris-
tianity was confirmed by his friendship and professional association with Whittaker Chambers, a former Communist famous for his testimony in the Alger Hiss spy trial in 1949. Chambers’ memoir Witness attests to his view, like Buckley’s, that Christianity and Communism were incompatible. Buckley was born into a Catholic home, where his parents’ influence on his education and religious upbringing was the foundation for his deeply rooted Catholic faith and his hatred towards Communism. His parents instilled in their children a fierce spirit of independence, a desire to articulate their beliefs, and to fight for what they believed to be right. (Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr.), 28-29). They educated their children with the goal of developing independent thinking in order to have “a distinctive set of personal and moral values” (Judis, 28). Buckley’s Catholic faith remained strong after he left home in 1946 to attend Yale University. When he enrolled at Yale, he “looked eagerly to Yale University for allies against secularism and collectivism” (Buckley, God and Man at Yale, lxiii). Instead, he concluded that Yale was losing its Christian tradition and teachings of free enterprise. Buckley began to espouse his Catholic faith and his fervent anti-Communist beliefs as editor of the Yale Daily Newsand as a leader of the Yale Political Union. He believed that conservative Christian professors were in the minority at Yale and that the faculty presented one-sided arguments against religion and capitalism under the guise of academic freedom (Buckley, 4). The views he established at Yale formed the basis for the philosophy he maintained throughout his life. He believed one must
fight for what he believed to be right as he argued, “Truth can never win unless it is promulgated... The cause of truth must be championed, and it must be championed dynamically” (Buckley, 41). He explained his
To Buckley, truth meant individualism, freedom, and Christianity.
philosophy that freedom could only exist in Christianity since it was a God-given right and that individualism was free enterprise within a Christian framework (Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr., 83). Buckley dedicated his life to promote conservatism due to his belief in the importance of truth, and to Buckley, truth meant individualism, freedom, and Christianity. In contrast to the religious upbringing and strong family structure of Buckley, Whittaker Chambers grew up in an unstable family in New York. He experienced drastic ideological and religious shifts throughout the course of his life that corresponded to shifts in his political philosophy. His father left the family when Chambers was eight years old (Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography 7). His mother struggled to raise Chambers and his younger brother. While Buckley strengthened his Christian and anti-Communist positions at Yale, Chambers developed an interest in Communism at Columbia University (Tanenhaus, 43). His brother Richard committed Continued on page 16
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WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE
BELIEVE IN GOD? Near the end of March, The Veritas Forum hosted a discussion between Yale professor Paul Bloom and Fuller Psychology Professor Justin Barett in an event titled: “Cognitive Science, Evolution and Religion: Why Do So Many People Believe in God?” There were mixed attitudes among students concerning the vigor and success of the discussion. Here are some of the student responses The Logos received about the event.
I think it was clear that there was somewhat of a Christian bias to the event. Although the discussion was about the prevalence of belief in God, Justin Barrett was representing a Christian worldview in his analysis of “God”. -Jonah Coe-Scharff PC ’14
Though a lot of debates about religion tend to be emotionally charged and therefore ineffective in achieving resolutions, the panelists took a lot of care to explain everything logically, appealing to reason rather than sentiment. -Deborah Ong BC ‘15
VERITAS FORUM 2 012 The climate on our campus often manifests itself as one of "political correctness," and "sugarcoating" where certain issues are often avoided or discussed only superficially. It is for this reason that the forum could have such a big impact, as it may help to facilitate better conversations between people of all viewpoints, concerning one of deepest questions that mankind has faced throughout its history. A lot of misconceptions about Christianity were eradicated at the forum, as Professor Barrett testified to the high degree of intellectual rigor with which he grounds and examines his Faith. At the same time, the audience was encouraged to address their misconceptions about CogSci research; that is to say, the frontier of knowledge is so close in the field of CogSci, that its foundational knowledge is constantly changing and misinterpretations and irresponsible inferences are constantly plaguing it. As a result, it was terrific to have both professors clean up a lot of misconceptions about CogSci findings. Both professors were very clear that it is highly unlikely that CogSci research will ever "prove" (and especially not to everyone's satisfaction), anything about the existence or the nature of God (which is why the forum, from the beginning, was centered around a discussion of what CogSci tells us about the cognitive mechanisms that make mankind so receptive to religion, and not around a discussion of whether religion is truth or fabrication). I think that the forum indirectly showed that the debate over religion is one where those of all backgrounds have something significant to contribute, as long as the other sides will listen; for example, the Bible contains some of the greatest insights into human nature, which can help CogSci to ask the right questions in designing and interpreting experiments. At the same time, I believe that Cogsci findings can help us to see God's fingerprints in studying the minds that He designed. In any case, it was encouraging to see that this debate can be entered into deeply, responsibly, cordially, and that both professors agreed on many topics. They left us with an excellent model and much inspiration for continuing this conversation with each other on this campus. Matthew Johnson is a cognitive science major with concentration in morality.
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on topic suicide in 1926, an event that led to his complete break with his weak faith and even with the free society he viewed as the reason for his family’s problems. Chambers was an emotionally conflicted young man searching for answers to the problems he had dealt with in his own life. Chambers lost faith in the relevance of Christianity and saw the failure of capitalism to address economic inequality; he turned to Communism to save humanity (Chambers, Witness, 164). Reflecting on why he became a Communist, he explained that it “is a simple, rational faith that inspires men to live or die for it” (Chambers, 9). After twelve years as a Communist, he began to see the evil of Communism in Stalin’s purges and the torture of his comrades. Chambers perceived that Communism must thrive on fear—not only fear of those opposed to Communism, but fear even among those
primarily a witness against something. That is only incidental to the fact that he is a witness for something. A witness… is a man whose life and faith are so completely one that when the challenge comes to step out and testify for his faith, he does so, disregarding all risks, accepting all consequences” (Chambers, 5). Chambers argued that the “religion” of Communism “is not new. It is, in fact, man’s second oldest faith. …The Communist vision is the vision of Man without God” (Chambers, 9). By describing Communism as a religion without God, Chambers expressed that the Cold War was fundamentally a spiritual battle—Communism resisted God, the human soul, and freedom. Buckley’s views against Communism were extreme. He believed the free world should not just contain Communism but must defeat it completely. Buckley opposed any attempts at appeasement or compro-
Chambers expressed that the Cold War was fundamentally a spiritual battle— Communism resisted God, the human soul, and freedom.
working to further the Communist cause. He described the screams a colleague heard one night as someone was tortured: “Those are not the screams of a man in agony. Those are the screams of a soul in agony” (Chambers, 15). As he became disillusioned with the Communist “faith,” he began to turn back toward God, not only for his personal faith but also as the solution to the brewing Cold War conflict. Chambers wrote, “It is in striving toward God that the soul strives continually after a condition of freedom” (Chambers, 16). His interest in Christianity impelled him to break from Communism because he no longer felt free. Chambers’ faith was a deeply personal relationship with God. His commitment to fighting Communism as a result of his conversion to Christianity can best be described in his famous statement in Witness, “A man is not
mise with the Soviet Union. He was against President Eisenhower’s meeting with Nikita Khrushchev and other Soviet leaders because he believed this signaled that the President of the United States accepted the tyrannies of the Soviet Union. Buckley could not reconcile that Communism under Stalin, who was responsible for the deaths of millions of Russian citizens, could be different than Communism under Khrushchev. He saw Khrushchev as evil, just as Hitler was evil, and he did not believe anything could be gained through dialogue and that Khrushchev could not be persuaded by the virtues of individualism. In contrast, Chambers was more reasonable in his approach than Buckley’s uncompromising stance. Chambers agreed Communism was evil, writing in Witness, “I see in Communism the focus of the concentrated evil of our time” (Chambers, 8). Yet, he found the comparison of Khrushchev to Hitler and
Stalin, two of the twentieth century’s most evil rulers, unfair to Khrushchev. He believed by inviting Khrushchev to the United States, Eisenhower could show the Soviet Union the advantages of a Christian, capitalist society and perhaps improve the possibility of reforming the Soviet Union. As followers of Christ, these two men provide relevant examples for how we should engage in politics today, regardless of the political views one espouses. One way they fought against Communism was by reaching out to influence others, including government leaders. President Reagan stated that Buckley’s ideas were influential to the development of his political philosophy. Christians cannot abstain from the political process; they should understand how the broken world works, pray for all leaders—whether one agrees with them—and Christians with a passion and gift for civil service should take the challenge to get involved. Faith inspired Buckley and Chambers to act boldly in a very public manner, and as Christians we cannot suppress or compromise our faith when we are given the opportunity to stand up for the truth. We must reject passivity in the political realm, while also realizing that only God can bring about the deep changes that this fallen world needs. Carter Reese is a junior history major in Saybrook.
LINSANITY JAMES JIANG
Like millions of other people across the world, I have caught Linsanity. In the span of a few short weeks, I have transitioned from rarely watching basketball to sitting intently on the couch, eyes glued to the screen, palms sweaty, knees shaking, cheering on my new favorite player. My obsession with the “Linderalla Story” is driven very little by the actual game of basketball. It is fueled by the fact that Lin looks like me. He’s a (comparatively) small Asian boy; he’s an Ivy League student; he’s Christian. In many ways, I found myself living vicariously through him. He was the ultimate underdog, providing vindication for all the other traditionally overlooked, undervalued but aspiring underdogs still sitting on the bench, still waiting for their time to come. I was mesmerized by his success. I was also mesmerized by his readily pronounced Christian faith. Naturally, I began to associate the two with each other: worldly success and faith. He had the perfect combination, the ever-elusive end result we are all still searching for. Lin seemed to answer the question I’ve struggled with through most of my Christian walk: where does worldly success fit in a faith-driven life? As a child, the sermons I sat through, the lessons I listened to, the readings I studied, all seemed to paint a natural dichotomy between success and faith. They were natural enemies. One could not thrive while the other existed. If you had money, you had to give it away. If you were successful, you’re doing something wrong. Nearly a decade of Christian upbringing engrained that into me. This antipathy between the two naturally brewed a slew of mixed passions and motivations in me that I still have yet to resolve. What is the point of working hard, then, of forcing my way into an Ivy League college, of remaining at the top of the top, of excelling in my work whether business, or law, or finance, or whatever else will make me obscene amounts of money and put me on the same pedestal of success? The obvious answer, so I’ve been told, is to just be appreciative of
what God has given, to credit God with all my successes, to acknowledge my status as just a lowly tool, of a vehicle of greater processes far beyond my comprehension. The theory, like all theories, is much simpler on paper than in reality. I am simply a man divided: I credit God when I remember my teaching; I crave success when I forget my teaching. In a twisted sort of way, I tried to mold Linsanity into a tool for solving this dilemma. Lin inspired me because he seemed to have the best of both worlds. He found the secret I was looking for. He made peace between worldly success and spiritual fidelity. I aspired to be like Lin, not in basketball prowess, but in faith, because his faith was so intimately coupled with success. I read in articles that Lin, while juggling an Ivy League education and pressure on the basketball court, committed himself to spending an hour with God each day. And now, God had finally rewarded his faithful servant after a grueling purgatory, a sort of divine hazing (a whole hour, every single day!). But the years of paying his dues, overlooked in drafts and warming benches all the while staying pure and holy had finally paid off. It became a model for my faith, and that’s where the danger was. I finally had something to blame for the lack of success in my life now: I wasn’t spending enough time with God, of course. I was only at fifteen minutes in the Word daily, half an hour on a good day. But if I could only bring that number up, if I could only prove to God my dedication, all the hard work I’m putting in for Him, maybe God could give me the same balance. Maybe I could also be a stud in everything from academics, to athletics, to faith, just like Lin. As I slowly sober out of my Linsanity, I’m beginning to see how utterly absurd my previous thinking was. I had taken Lin’s success as an excuse to indulge in all my “worldly” impulses. Money, fame, adoration: if someone as holy as Lin had them, they couldn’t be bad right? Somewhere, I lost sight of the real goal. I got my slap in the face when I read one of Lin’s quotes in a recent news article: “I felt I needed to prove myself. Prove that I’m not a marketing tool, I’m not a ploy to improve at-
Where does worldly success fit in a faith-driven life? tendance. Prove I can play in this league. But I’ve surrendered that to God. I’m not in a battle with what everybody else thinks anymore.” Lin’s words hit me powerfully, but I still wasn’t fully convinced. And despite what he said in that interview, he doesn’t seem to have it all figured out, either. There can’t be such a strict dichotomy between success and faith, God couldn’t possibly have given Lin all his success just to have Lin throw it all away, right? At the same time, God couldn’t have awarded Lin with all his success just because he prayed better than everyone else, right? What about all the other Christian athletes in the league? Lin didn’t seem to be the answer to everything anymore. Between all the questions, the only thing I can really say with certainty is that there is a fine line between success and faith. And it seems, for now at least, Lin is walking a clear path. But it’s hard for him, too: “There is so much temptation to hold on to my career even more now. To try to micromanage and dictate every little aspect. But that’s not how I want to do things anymore. I’m thinking about how can I trust God more. How can I surrender more? How can I bring him more glory? It’s a fight. But it’s one I’m going to keep fighting.” Still, even with doubts and struggles, even past my Linsanity honeymoon phase, I can find Lin an inspiration. His insecurities and fears, his struggle and his confusion, they only make him even more relatable to me. He is not the new model to follow, the new and improved cookie-cutter mold to simultaneous worldly and spiritual success. He is just like me, wrestling to find his way, too. James is a freshman in Ezra Stiles.
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HEAVENLY BEAMS, Parting Seas, and Small Miracles ADRIAN KIMMOK I was a funny sight as an eight-year-old. My face bore a goofy, clueless expression that was enhanced by abnormally plump cheeks and a round body. Being the chubbiest kid in class, no one would have guessed that, under the right circumstances, I was also the fastest sprinter in the room—those circumstances being: seeing a spider, finding myself in the dark, and so on. Without a doubt, I used to be a “scaredycat.” I can recall the countless nights I would huddle under my sheets with clenched hands and nearly-bawling eyes. I remember these behaviors vividly; they, after all, composed half of my nightly routine. Earnest prayers—asking God to watch over my friends and family, to protect us, and to help us grow—comprised the second half. These memories of a fearfully distressed, God-dependent child are nearly a decade old. Prior to college, my lifestyle changed. Skepticism accompanied my coming of age, and as I began questioning God under a doubtful lens, I found myself abandoning my nightly traditions. Rather than reciting the Lord’s
Prayer as a means of comfort and protection, I reasoned that ghosts did not exist and that it was irrational to be afraid of the dark. Consequentially, nightly prayers became “whenever-I-remembered-to-pray” occasions, and attending church grew burdensome and less frequent. And until recently, all that was left in me were the withering residues of my eightyear-old self. I say “until recently,” because my short time here at Yale has already exhibited a notable impact on my faith. There was something strange about college—Yale in particular—that instilled a sense of uneasiness in me in the beginning of the year. Maybe it was the constant feeling of inadequacy that hovered over my head. Or perhaps it was something circumstantial: for instance, the gloomy darkness of New Haven weather that shadows the campus. Whatever it was, I often found myself mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. Although I still cannot diagnose what the exact catalysts for my state of discomfort were, I feel the preceding two were top candidates. I struggled mainly with academic inadequacy and adapting to a new environment; in retrospect, God made his presence real to me through these two struggles.
The feeling of incompetence is not unique to me; many Yalies can empathize with me when I say that I struggle maintaining composure and finding value in myself whenever I receive an undesirable grade. I struggled with and prayed about this for the past semester, and I continue to struggle and pray about this now. Even though I continue to regularly encounter this problem, I confidently believe He is guiding me through it. In fact, the past three sermons given at my church—concerning idolatry, functional saviors, and the idea of being saved-addressed this very issue I am battling. Each sermon left me bewildered and in awe: bewildered over how “coincidentally” relevant the sermon topics were, and in awe
I don’t know anything about Him. So why was He pursuing me?
For the longest time ever, I thought I came to Yale to pursue a journey solely characterized by career ambitions. because, for the first time, I felt that God was giving me an evident sign of His pursuit of me—that He heard my prayers and was actively untangling the web of insecurities, worries, and functional saviors distracting me from Him. My awe-struck reaction was accompanied by a realization that my comprehension of His unconditional love actually severely underestimated what He actually had to offer. And truthfully, I felt undeserving. I rejected Him for the past decade, and during that time, my religious background served as a label and nothing more. Why was He still interested in me? I don’t know anything about Him. I’m so selfish; I fail to live a Christian lifestyle; I did nothing to earn Him. So why was He pursuing me? I was then reminded of the story of Peter and Jesus. After his resurrection, Jesus forgave Peter three times—one for every time Peter had denied him. Similarly, although I had rejected Jesus for the past ten years, he was willing to embrace me. Despite the fact I had given up on Him and had behaved selfishly, His unconditional love and selflessness remained constant. And I finally understood that. As I mentioned earlier, God has worked himself into my life through two particular struggles: the feeling of incompetence—which I have just discussed—and the difficulty adapting to a new environment. Although the realness of his presence was revealed more subtly in the second struggle, it was nevertheless apparent. I am not an East Coast person. This is a very naive claim, but fact has grown more and more inevitable to me over time. I cannot put my finger on why I feel misplaced here, but I am assuming it is a combination of homesickness, extended exposure to cold and dark weather, and a whole bunch of other minor things. Whatever the reason, I know that I feel “out-ofmy-element” here at Yale—which is funny, since I looked forward to spending a good portion of my life here during the five months that followed my acceptance letter. With that being said, had I been given a second chance to decide where to matriculate, I think I would confidently choose Yale all over again. Moving to a foreign environment far
from home and being forced to cope with obstacles on my own made it easier for me to depend on Him. It was only after I was removed from my comfort zone in smooth-sailing California that I was able to stop taking God’s grace for granted. In fact, I do not think my religious curiosities would have developed as extensively as it has here if I attended a school
like University of California, Los Angeles. Instead, I would have probably been consumed into a comfortable lifestyle distracting me from Him. Furthermore, being at Yale, I have stumbled upon an amazing Christian community: the United Church of Westville. The people I have met through this organization have made my life easier. They have made it easier to find a sense of belonging in a snowy place far from home; they made it easier for me to enjoy my first year in college; and more importantly, they have made it easier to want grow in faith. Whenever I am around them, I can visibly see how God has worked in every one of them—how he has changed their lives for the better. I am envious of them in the sense that I also want to discover the grace and love they have found in Him. My pastor phrased it a lot more elegant-
ly: “Adrian, the people in UCW—the people you admire and look up to—have all tasted His love. What you love about them are the characteristics they share with Jesus. You see Jesus in them and, in turn, are reminded of His grace.” For the longest time ever, I thought I came to Yale to pursue a journey solely characterized by career ambitions. Little did I know that God had bigger intentions in mind: he was preparing me for a second trek far more treacherous and rewarding. I don’t know what the result of all this will be, but I am confident enough in Him to know that it will be an ultimately rewarding journey. A few weeks ago, my pastor challenged the congregation to ask Jesus to save us—however, only if we dared. I was taken aback by his choice in word. Only if we dared? Why wouldn’t we dare to be saved? It seemed obvious to me that any right-minded Christian would want to be saved. I indeed wanted to be saved, yet no matter how apparent the right response seemed to be, I was hesitant to scream out, “Yes, I accept the challenge!” A huge part of me was eager to do so, but remnant hints of my skeptical-self would not permit it; I left the room feeling disappointed in my inability to respond to my pastor’s challenge. Over the past few days, however, I think God has shown me that he has already answered the question for me. He is preparing me to accept that challenge, and I will gladly surrender the steering wheel into his trusted hands so he can pilot me down the right path. The truth is I’m in need of Him more than ever, and it is about time that I have hushed my stubborn self and welcomed the God-dependent mentality of the eight-year-old Adrian; there is no need to reason myself out of this this time. After all, He gave me a reason to trust in Him and His plans when He made his realness present in my life—not in the form of supernatural events, like heavenly beams piercing the sky and parting seas—but rather through the small miracles He has performed in me. This may not be a huge step, but for me, I think it’s a pretty good step forward. Adrian is a freshman in Berkeley.
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BIBLE CLASSES AT YALE: an interview with Kevin Nelson
AMANDA LEVIS Each year, Yale students of all religious backgrounds pile into classrooms to study “The Bible as Literature” with Leslie Brisman and “New Testament in History and Culture” with Dale Martin (co-taught this year with Matthew Croasmun). I spoke recently with Kevin Nelson, assistant pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church and leader of Reformed University Christian Fellowship on campus. Over the past few years, Kevin has met with several Christian students enrolled in Martin and Brisman’s courses to discuss their exploration of the Bible as a historical or literary gem, rather than as the Word of God. Kevin began our conversation by revealing that he always recommended Christians to take these classes. He felt that telling a student not to take the classes would be akin to
Although the purpose of the Bible is to convey truth, recognizing literary tools gives the reader a better understanding.
saying that Christians don’t have the answers to the questions that are raised. “Otherwise,” Kevin said, “your intellect is for your classes
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and your faith is anti-intellectual. I see too many Christians that separate their intellect and their faith, and if I tell them not to take the class I’m basically saying your faith can’t stand up to this.” His conviction that no Christian should be afraid of a challenge to his or her faith lies in his belief that “all truth is God’s Truth.” There can’t be anything the professors teach, he said, which is both true and contradictory to the core beliefs of Christianity. While it’s not a good habit to avoid the tough questions, Kevin emphasized that you shouldn’t come into the classes unprepared. He would discourage Christian students from taking the classes without being reflective or engaging in conversation with someone else. The students who have decided to take these courses in conversation with him have learned both the benefits and difficulties of studying the Bible from an academic lens. As for the benefits, Kevin noted that it is important for students to get beyond reading the Bible “as some mystical book that just dropped out of heaven.” He reasoned that realizing the Biblical writers used literary tools— imagery, foreshadowing, poetics—gives the reader a much richer experience and better understanding of the text. Yet, the purpose of the Bible is to convey truth. Absolute truth. And, as a Christian, there’s no getting around that. Kevin explained that it is important to listen to the theological message of the text and not to get beyond the text, behind it, or under it. For example, he said that it would be dangerous to try to reconstruct the life of Jesus in a way that weaves together the four Gospels because that would involve listening less to what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each have to tell us and listening more to our own loud opinions of what we want to see Jesus
look like. Quoting Albert Schweitzer, Kevin depicted a historian looking deep into the well of history only to see his own reflection: reconstructing history from the sources is inevitably biased by the personal perspective we each bring to the text, showing us what we want to see. While we believe that the Bible is historical and that it’s important to under-
stand the Bible’s historical context, he said that the priority must be to listen to the text itself rather than to design a story to fill in any missing information. The difficulty that arises for many Christians in these courses is the struggle to differentiate fact from opinion. Kevin pointed out that his knowledge of the course content does not come first-hand: his interactions with students provided the basis for our discussion. He offered that the students often relayed information taught by the professors that he, as a pastor, would applaud; however, the professors also sometimes seemed to present their own perspectives and interpretations (e.g., the documentary hypothesis, which attributes the Pentateuch to four different sources) as the scholarly consensus, which could be misleading. Kevin responded to these situations by providing the other side of the academic debate over certain provocative statements made in class. He underscored the importance of being a critical academic scholar, which can sometimes mean disagreeing with things that are taught and which should always involve consideration of the teacher’s presuppositions.
The priority must be to listen to the text itself rather than to design a story to fill in any missing information.
To explain how a skeptical starting point unsympathetic to Scripture’s claims taints the way it is read, Kevin asked me to imagine a New Testament reader starting from the presupposition that Jesus was just a regular human being. This reader, he told me, will automatically assume that passages referring to Christ’s divinity are later additions made by the church and that passages teaching good moral standards are original. On the flip side, a reader who begins with the presupposition that Jesus is God raised from the dead will view the divinity of Christ passages as fundamental. Kevin added that while the “enlightenment approach” pretends to have neutrality and objectivity in studying the text, we always come to it with “some sort of faith”—either a faith that is sympathetic to the supernatural or one that derides it. It is impossible to approach the Bible with complete objectivity, as any historian always teaches from a certain perspective. “That’s not a bad thing,” Kevin added, “it’s just inevitable.” Surely the same thing can be said for courses that intend to approach the Bible as the Word of God. “Bible as Theology” classes can be taught from a Christian perspective (as they are, frequently and informally, in Yale Christian fellowships around campus) or from a secular perspective. What is necessary to realize is that “secular” does not mean “neutral.” When asked whether a “Bible as Theology” course would work at Yale, Kevin responded that a theology class wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but that
the perspective of the person teaching it “will typically win the day.”
The “enlightenment” feigns objectivity in studying the text, but we always come to the Bible with faith. Yet, while our biases prevent us from reaching it perfectly, Kevin stated bluntly that there is only one correct interpretation of the text. A particular passage conveys a particular message; we do not get a better understanding of the passage by choosing our own message and working backwards. Kevin espoused the presence of objective truth and exhorted us to continue to pursue this truth while wearing our own biases on our sleeves. “In doing so,” he said, “we must trust that the clarity of God’s word, the community of faith, and the history of faithful interpretation will all work together, guided by God’s Spirit, with checks and balances to provide a very close understanding of God’s intended meaning.”
A student keen on taking a “Bible as Theology” course should examine what is taught in class against other passages in the text itself and discuss it with others, continuously seeking God’s truth. How does the teaching of the Bible as literature fit into America’s “culturally Christian” identity? When “Christian nation” refers not to personal religious convictions but to a predominant moral undertone, then perhaps Christians should view the prevalence of secular Biblical study as an improvement upon a “culturally Christian” national identity. Throughout our conversation, Kevin stressed the importance of understanding how perspectives influence teaching, but he also pointed out the value of engaging seriously with the text in the first place. Studying the Bible, whether as words or as the Word, requires a commitment to one perspective or the other. In this sense, secular Biblical study does not provide the easy comfort of publicly satisfying, personally meaningless “cultural Christianity”; it eliminates the lukewarm option, forcing believers to face challenges to their beliefs and forcing unbelievers to face what they are challenging. This can promote an honest discussion of the Christian faith, conditional on the willingness of everyone involved to not only read the text for its academic significance but to also open themselves to the possibility of its truth. Amanda is an senior economics major in Ezra Stiles.
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SWITZERLAND a glimpse of His majesty
JEANNI HWANG Construction of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 began because the people of the earth wanted to build a monument “with its top in the heavens” (Genesis 11:4) by calling attention to their own abilities and reach equality with God. God came to see the city and perceived the intentions behind the tower they were building. Knowing that this endeavor would only lead people away from Him, the Lord confused the one language that they had used to communicate until that point. Afterwards, they could not understand one another. Thus language was a tool that God used to instill humility in people, with faith that they would be able to still accomplish feats together if unified in purpose. Indeed language has elicited a sort of humility on my part here in Switzerland (a nation that has struck me particularly severely, as it recognizes four official languages: German, French, Italian, Romansch). I realized I have tended to comfortably accept and hardly scrutinize certain concepts of Christianity preached to me in English back in the U.S. This always occurred off the assumption that I already knew the full extent of their significance and applicability only because I understood what the words meant linguistically. Here in a church that preaches verset par verset of the Bible in French, I spend Sunday mornings completely immersed in God’s words, re-piecing the logic of the sermons together,
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singling out words, comparing the English and French translations of Bible passages side by side. The Gospel in French is refreshing to my ears and my mind, as if I am hearing it for the first time. For a Christian raised un-
I see that there is a degree of rationality in following Christ; Christianity is not a blind faith.
der Christian parents and grandparents, these checks are necessary, as nothing disturbs me more than the idea of following Christ solely because I was born into a Christian family. Case in point, Toi is used instead of Vous, to signify “You” in second-person singular to directly address God. The difference between Toi and Vous would be the matter of distinguishing familiarity and comfort from reverence and perhaps uncertainty about the relationship status. The attention called to this detail of using one pronoun instead of the other in songs and prayer is the ever-present distinction in the French language of Christi-
anity from all other religions in the world: the direct, personal, and intimate relationship between man and God. The linguistic reinforcement of this concept is rare in modern America, where one can use “you” to address God, but also to address one’s cat, president, or husband. The French word for “worship,” on the other hand, did not sit well with me initially. Culte. Now, a cult was not particularly what I was looking for upon my arrival in Geneva. I later discovered that this was a false cognate; the word connoting “cult” in English is actually secte in French. Culte, rather, is derived from Latin cultus meaning “care, cultivation,” which is the past participle of colere, “to till the soil.” In my mind, the word culte now conjures up a beautiful image. The Parable of the Sower in Luke 8 shows that the seed is the word of God, and to till the soil is to render ourselves open to His words for a fruitful harvest. It was not out of spite that God confused the languages; He had faith that if the people wanted, they could accomplish any feat in united purpose. Along the way, the greed and self-interest of any individual would diminish in communal efforts: “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6). When self-interests are abandoned, God’s glory take its place. I feared being disappointed
by the Christian community; that the compassion I had often found in one place could not extend itself halfway around the world. But upon putting in effort to scout out and immerse myself in a Christian community in Geneva, I became exposed to people I had hoped to find here. No, I became exposed to those beyond what I could have hoped to find. I think I am not exaggerating when I say that the time I spend with these new people bring some of the richest, most fulfilling moments I have ever experienced in my life. At church I met Nicolas Zbinden, a man who strikes the balance of being one who makes few unnecessary remarks and one who releases warm and abundant humor at the same time. He is full of profound thoughts with unique perspectives, pulling me into conversations that are as engaging, and often times more engaging, than those I might expect to have with someone I have known all of my life. I’ve come home at 2 a.m. after spending two hours outside the house. He intended to drop me off, but we were often lost in conversation that included a discussion about possible differences in the love between God and people and the love between people and people. It was interesting: the love that Christians have for God are not always initially characterized by an instinctive, emotional attraction that
and strong language, in that one noun or verb can encompass a multidimensional, incredibly detailed, and complex concept. I feel that the longer the process Nic goes through to describe a precise French word in English, the better it reflects the way he feels about this thought. I’ve spent evenings with his family among their hearty laughter, singing, lasagna and rapid French, lost in utter amazement at what the most ideal, diverse, and tightly-knit family looks like when it is so stably rooted in God. And then I’m drowned in unspeakable gratitude at the way God lets me pass these evenings abroad with such unexpected people, for letting me see a glimpse of exactly what I think I want in my own family in the future. These Christians help me answer questions that I constantly ask myself abroad: what am I doing in Geneva? How is this experience shaping my academic and career goals? In one
Language was a tool that God used to instill humility among people.
people might experience amongst each other. Love for God becomes more instinctive, richer, and deeper, with greater knowledge and understanding of him, about the way He works and the way He loves. I see that there is a degree of rationality in following Christ; Christianity is not a blind faith. These conversations are unique in that Nic’s first language is French, and he occasionally expresses frustration at not being able to find the exact word in English for the exact sentiment he could express with one word in French, which is a uniquely precise
of our conversations, Nic frankly expressed his frustrations with the nature of Geneva’s excessive trust of and dependence on the media, which is often a tool manipulated for the self-interest of organizations and individuals. He has seen many cases in Geneva, the heart of the world’s largest international organizations, where individuals are working out of self-interest to craft for themselves a glorious public image at the expense of the efficiency of the institution. As Christians, we should desire to seek truth in all spheres of our lives and to refuse to be simply accept whatever is
fed to us. He recounted his own struggle in running a project management enterprise: he must maintain firmness towards subordinate employees and simultaneously extend Christlike love in the workplace. If he performs in such a way that only his self-interest manifests itself in business, then his project will fail. It shed light on the purpose of my work here and beyond: to build my tower using manmade items such as brick and mortar in order to brandish my own abilities is petty and futile compared to allowing God to use His materials to build a durable tower that ultimately demonstrates His glory. As a human I occasionally want physical manifestations of this glory to be able to see what God is capable of creating. Switzerland’s magnificent landscape offers me this, but I realize that it is only a glimpse of the infinite extent of his majesty. I’ve spent my Swiss weekends snowshoeing up the Juras mountains, taking walks on top of the frozen Lac du Joux, canoeing on the Rhône River. As the days get longer I take weekday evenings after class to run freely along the shore of Lake Geneva. I stop when I become breathless, uncertain about whether my breathlessness is caused by spent energy or the altitude of the majestic Alps that rise high above the crashing waves and stand dignified against the fiery sunset. And if I try to imagine what the man-made, brick Tower of Babel may have looked like if God had not stopped the project... I know it could simply not stand a chance against this, these divine masterpieces. Jeanni is a sophomore political science major in Timothy Dwight.
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notes from an alum
NO MORE HALF GOSPELS: updates from Memphis JONATHAN WOOD I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)
Somewhere along the way, I had come to believe that a good job shouldn’t just pay the bills, it should also fulfill me.
A year ago, I had a pretty cool job in special operations. It was, in some ways, the fulfillment of a dream I’d had since Yale to find consequential, exciting work in national security. I learned how to shoot and drive fast and pick locks. I worked with some of the most motivated, impressive guys in the military doing sensitive operations around the world, and then briefed the heads of the CIA and FBI on our results. The job made it easy to feel important, and if people were wired to find lasting fulfillment in our workplace, I would have had it. But I didn’t. In retrospect, I see that I expected too
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much from my work. Somewhere along the way, I had come to believe that a good job shouldn’t just pay the bills, it should fulfill me. The right job should be an effortless match of labors to my unique personality and gifts, a full expression of my individuality and masculinity. It should stimulate but not discomfort me. To eventually find the right career was to find my place in the world, fixing me not just in the social order, but also in the cosmic order. And I’d know that career when I found it, because it would “click” with the comfortable fit of destiny. By this logic, I left the military and spent a few months volunteering with doctors in Africa and America, hoping to find medicine a more comfortable fit. It wasn’t. The work was manifestly endless, messy, and mundane. The moral ground was more treacherous than I’d expected. For every pro, there seemed to be two cons. Worst of all, most of the doctors I met were unfulfilled. The harder I tried to visualize
a comfortable career, the more ironic and macabre the realities that slapped me in the face. If God were calling me to medicine, surely He’d have painted a prettier picture. Surely the appeal would have been clearer, right? I now believe that chasing comfort in
This promise of suffering was less equivocal than I’d remembered. Jesus doesn’t just hint at hard times for His followers — He guarantees them.
career is a dangerous proposition. It took some tough words from a Christian doctor to correct my thinking about it. He pushed me back to scripture, where I read this verse with new eyes: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:22-24). This promise of suffering was less equivocal than I’d remembered. Somehow, I’d always heeded those particular words with the personal detachment I feel toward airline stewards’ briefings on emergency procedures: sure, things could theoretically get difficult, but not for me. But taking this verse at face value, you have to acknowledge that Jesus doesn’t just hint at hard times for His followers—He guarantees them.
Through sunken eyes Rick confided his greatest fear for young professionals: regret.
He beckons all of us to be crucified every day, and presumably in our workplaces as much as anywhere. If our lives and our careers look nothing like the cross, perhaps we should suspect we’re not really following Jesus after all. Maybe, instead of expecting a conventionally comfortable job that makes me feel good about myself, I should be expecting a crucifying one that makes me feel utterly and
desperately dependent on God. That Christian doctor, Rick, gave me a glimpse of discipleship in the context of a medical career. With five like-minded doctors, he had launched a network of clinics to serve the uninsured in the poorest neighborhoods of Memphis (Christ Community Health Services—look it up!). In his mid-30s, he sold his home and moved with his family into a neighborhood they serve. Other practitioners followed, and today about forty members of his ministry have chosen to live in the poorest, crime-plagued districts of Memphis to join the poor in community—not out of paternalistic naiveté, but just out of obedience to Christ. If it sounds romantic, it isn’t. Their neighbors sell crack, they’ve been robbed, and Rick’s ten-year-old’s birthday party was interrupted by a shootout in the alley. It took seven difficult years and a lot of work to even startwinning their neighbors’ trust and make their clinics financially viable. But one thing is undeniable: those doctors have structured their lives and careers in a way that’s constantly dependent on God. Some visiting med students and I were drinking beer with Rick on his porch one night, and through sunken eyes he confided his greatest fear for young professionals: regret. He had known many Christians who’d begun their careers with fire in their bellies and lofty ambitions to live boldly for Christ. But slowly, the creeping encroachments of professional and domestic comforts had weighed them down. One prestigious job and a nice house led to a more prestigious job and a nicer house. Appetite begot habit, habit begot lifestyle. By middle age they felt disappointed, seeing their comforts for the shackles they were; but, like the rich young ruler, they were too invested to let it all go. I see myself and my Yale classmates in
that premonition, and it fills me with dread. No professional failing would be as eternally catastrophic as a slow spiritual death; but spiritual death is the inevitable consequence of letting career become a god. That’s why I was unfulfilled in special operations. It wasn’t that the work was boring; it was that I had let it displace God from His rightful place at the center of all things. I compressed Him into one churchgoing compartment of my life to make room for adventure in another. But if we find ourselves with a flexible, compressible religion, something has gone wrong. Jesus is irreducible. A half-gospel is no gospel at all. I’m 31, and I’m done with half-gospels. If I want the real God, I must heed Christ’s invitation to a crucifixion of my own. I’ve decided to become a doctor after all, but I do so with an awareness that I’m taking up my cross. I will not seek or expect ultimate fulfillment in my work, where it can’t be found. Instead, the only fulfillment I’ll hope for is the ultimate one, common to any life recklessly and continuously surrendered to God. We are a privileged minority of humanity who possess the resources and mobility to choose our own livelihoods. But as such, we also face a unique danger of becoming obsessed with our careers—and for Christians in particular, of withholding our careers from God. For all Yale students, this is my fervent plea: choose your first job with the right heart. I don’t regret my military years, but I do regret living them without a spirit of constant, daily submission, by which I might have properly subordinated my work to God. Instead of chased titillating experiences and racking up cool resume lines, I wish I had more dutifully followed His commandments to love and serve my neighbors. I shudder to think of the precious years I’ve wasted, and recalling Rick’s warning about regret, am determined not to waste any more. Jonathan graduated BR ’03 as a classics major. He left the Air Force as a captain in 2010 and currently attends the Goucher Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical program in Towson, MD. Pre-medical students interested in ministries like Rick’s should consider joining Jonathan at the Christ Community Health Fellowship conference in Nashville this May. For more information on the conference, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cchf.org.
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From April At the beginning of the semester, we posed the question: “Is America a Christian nation?” to our writers, prayed for some thoughtful responses, and eagerly anticipated an issue that would ultimately leave the question lingering in the minds of Yalies, both Christians and non-Christian alike. We figured that the prompt had many interesting corollaries, such as “What is a Christian nation?” or “Should America be a Christian nation?” One of the questions that could help us answer the prompt is: “Is Yale a Christian university?” Officially, no, Yale is not a Christian university. Instinctively, even the Christians on this campus would hesitate to call Yale a Christian institution. Why is this? Is it the partying and the sexual climate that seem to exemplify the “debauchery” Paul condemns in his letters (e.g. Rom. 13:13)? Is it the pluralistic or seemingly anti-religious tone of the intellectual banter in DS seminars and dining
halls? Is it the general scarcity of “religious” and “devout” Christians on campus--whatever that means? However, one may interject: But wait! Historically and traditionally, Yale is a Christian university. It was the original and explicit intent of the founders of the university to build not only a Christian institution but also one that would aid in the propagation of Christianity: these founders were, as it states in the university charter, “Publick spirited Persons of their sincere Regard to & Zeal for upholding & Propagating of the Christian Protestant Religion.” The intent and the religion of the fathers ultimately make Yale a Christian university. This argument is, needless to say, weak and unconvincing. Yalies do not turn to the university’s charter to define the university’s religion. Then why do some turn to America’s history to define it as a Christian nation? History and tradition, in my opinion, are irrelevant to the question. Though some of our writers have put forth strong arguments for the importance of Christianity in America, no article in this issue boldly and unwaveringly claims that yes, the United States is a Chris-
tian nation. As we instinctively define Yale as secular by the general climate and popular activities of its students, we similarly assess the religion—or lack thereof—of the nation by the nation’s actions, which ultimately indicate the nation’s faith. We hope that this issue ultimately spurs readers to ruminate over not only what makes America “Christian” but also what it is that makes anything or anyone Christian. The most crucial question for us—the Logos staff—and our readers is: Am I a Christian? We must examine ourselves – again and again – for a firm answer. The criteria for a Christian nation and a Christian person are the same: faith and its fruits. I am a Christian because of my faith. I proclaim that Jesus died and rose again to save me. And it seems that faith is all that is required to brand me as a Christian: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Eternal life and claim to the inheritance of the kingdom of God have one requirement: that we “believe in Him.” April is a sophomore English major in Timothy Dwight.
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From Richard America is exceptional. According to a global Gallup survey in 2010, over 65% of Americans consider religion to be very important, more than any other people in the industrialized West. In Europe—a strong base for Christianity for centuries—secularism is on the rise, and the Christian religion is far less important in people’s lives than it once was. Though this trend may hold true in the U.S., one can only look to the Bible Belt or the proliferation of campus Christian groups to conclude that this place is at least somewhat unique. It begs the question—is America a Christian nation, and should she be? There is no consensus on what makes a “Christian nation.” It is not crossing a percentage threshold on surveys. It is not the piety of our political leaders, which becomes more prominent during election years. It is certainly not the establishment of Christianity or a denomination thereof. Incidentally, many of the officially Christian countries are among the most non-religious countries in the world (e.g., Denmark, Norway). We can say what a Christian nation is not. The American way-of-life as sketched by Hollywood is hardly Christ-like. “Righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34), but we exhibit an array of questionable behaviors, many of which we celebrate. Judging by the mass culture, America is perhaps not a Christian nation.
Nonetheless, we must acknowledge history. Ever since the first Anglicans arrived in Jamestown and Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, Christianity has always been the principal faith in this country. Most of the Founding Fathers were practicing Christians; our laws were based on the Judeo-Christian values; 19th century captains of industry were often living embodiments of the Puritan work ethic. America has a Christian heritage. Then, perhaps there are some ways to restore and reshape her into our ideal, but how? We do not advocate theocracy, not least because Christ’s kingdom “is not of this world” (John 18:36). Not many Christians are even comfortable with restoring a kind of cultural hegemony, which can produce “cultural Christians,” who confess Christ like eating turkey on Thanksgiving, only because “that’s what everyone does.” However, as Christians, we are called to evangelize, to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Therefore, whether we make America a Christian nation, we ought to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all. The greater importance lies in bringing individuals to become followers of Christ, for nations are ultimately composed of those individuals, whose souls are eternal. John Winthrop charged the very first immigrants to “consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” The imagery of “a city upon a hill” is most often used to refer to America. However, Winthrop was evoking the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to
everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). If America was envisioned to be “a city upon a hill,” what about her inhabitants? Are Christian communities exemplars of this shining city? Do we Christians conduct ourselves in harmony with our titles as salt of the earth and light of the world? Being Christ’s followers, we are instructed to put off the sinful self, and put on the new self, which is our identity in Christ. Although we are not of the world, while we are in the world we are “Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (II Corinthians 5:20). An ambassador represents his home country in all of his actions. Christians, then, must represent Christ this way and glorify Him in all things. Are our words wholesome, edifying and helpful to build up each other? Do we bring glory to God with our deeds? What have we done in the “ministry of reconciliation?” which is proclaiming the good news of men being reconciled back to God through Christ’s death and resurrection (II Corinthians 5:18). Therefore, let us examine ourselves. Be reconciled to God; plead to Him that we may be peace-makers whom God uses to herald the ultimate reconciliation of men to God; may we bring light to a world of darkness; may we take up our own cross, and desire not to be served but be the servants of all. Here is a prayer attributed to St. Francis; let us make it our own— Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. Richard is a sophomore economics major in Morse.
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Is America a Christian Nation?