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Regis Nicoll Christian Blog and Commentary

Regis Nicoll

Regis Nicoll is a fellow of the Colson Center, author of "Why There Is a God and Why It Matters," available in paperback and eBook at Amazon, and commentator on faith and culture for a number of print and online publications including Touchstone, Breakpoint, Salvo, Crosswalk, and Crisis. As a regular conference speaker, Regis presents topics ranging from "Lessons from the Life of William Wilberforce" to "Cracking the Cosmic Code." He has also been a featured guest on talk radio a number of times. After graduating from Georgia Tech with a BS in Physics and an MS in Nuclear Science, Regis worked 30 years in the commercial nuclear industry. Regis also serves as a lay Anglican pastor.

The current occupant of the Oval Office got there on the promise to “Make America Great Again.” And while Lady Liberty lost some of her luster from the rear guard position of the last Administration, her greatness endures and is the reason America has an immigration problem—scratch, crisis.

Foundations
Five decades after America gained independence, the French author Alexis de Tocqueville remarked on its exceptional character. Unlike other nations that were defined by ethnicity, geography, common heritage, social class, or hierarchal structures, America was a nation of immigrants bound together by a shared commitment to the republican principles of individual liberty, equality, personal responsibility, and laissez faire economics.

Those principles comprise the “America creed” which G.K. Chesterton wrote “is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence.” There, the theological pegs of our Union are established in four explicit references to the Judeo-Christian God.

The Declaration of Independence opens by acknowledging “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” It goes on to refer to the “Creator” who endows man with “certain unalienable rights.” It makes an appeal to the “Supreme Judge of the world,” and closes with an expression of trust in the “protection of Divine Providence.”

The last reference is particularly striking, considering the deistic leanings of the Declaration’s main author, Thomas Jefferson. In deism, God is neither a Protector nor Provider; he is a distant, detached Creator who refrains from interfering in the affairs of men.

Nevertheless, in the dust-up to the Revolutionary War, Jefferson wrote, “We devoutly implore assistance of Almighty God to conduct us happily through this great conflict.” And near the end of that conflict, he warned, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God?”

Forty years after Jefferson penned the Declaration, he made note to a friend: “We are not in a world ungoverned by the laws and the power of a Superior Agent. Our efforts are in His hand, and directed by it; and He will give them their effect in His own time.” And this from the man who is considered one of the least religious of the Founders.

Although Jefferson is the patron saint of secular elites for his famous “wall of separation,” it was never his, or any of the Founders’, intention to denude the public square of religious influence. It is quite telling that over thirty years after Jefferson coined that phrase, the keen political observer, de Tocqueville, remarked: “religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions.”

Even the least religious of the Founders, Ben Franklin, issued this stirring appeal during an arduous debate in the Constitutional Congress:

In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection… All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of Superintending Providence in our favor … have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?… God Governs in the affairs of men (Daniel 4:17). And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice (Matthew 10:29), is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?

The Founders, and the founding document they authored, gives testimony to the religious, and uniquely Judeo-Christian, underpinning of our nation. Today, numerous religious symbols on edifices in and around our nation’s capital add their voices to that testimony.

Images and representations of the Bible, the crucifix, Moses and the Ten Commandments exist in engravings and sculptures at the Washington Monument, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the Capitol building, the Library of Congress, the White House, the World War II Memorial, and the Arlington National Cemetery. At the Supreme Court, the Ten Commandments are displayed in no less than three places: over the East portico, on the Court doors, and over the Chief Justice’s chair. But there is one witness to America’s religious heritage that many people carry in their purses and wallets... read on here.

The current occupant of the Oval Office got there on the promise to “Make America Great Again.” And while Lady Liberty lost some of her luster from the rear guard position of the last Administration, her greatness endures and is the reason America has an immigration problem—scratch, crisis.

Foundations
Five decades after America gained independence, the French author Alexis de Tocqueville remarked on its exceptional character. Unlike other nations that were defined by ethnicity, geography, common heritage, social class, or hierarchal structures, America was a nation of immigrants bound together by a shared commitment to the republican principles of individual liberty, equality, personal responsibility, and laissez faire economics.

Those principles comprise the “America creed” which G.K. Chesterton wrote “is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence.” There, the theological pegs of our Union are established in four explicit references to the Judeo-Christian God.

The Declaration of Independence opens by acknowledging “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” It goes on to refer to the “Creator” who endows man with “certain unalienable rights.” It makes an appeal to the “Supreme Judge of the world,” and closes with an expression of trust in the “protection of Divine Providence.”

The last reference is particularly striking, considering the deistic leanings of the Declaration’s main author, Thomas Jefferson. In deism, God is neither a Protector nor Provider; he is a distant, detached Creator who refrains from interfering in the affairs of men.

Nevertheless, in the dust-up to the Revolutionary War, Jefferson wrote, “We devoutly implore assistance of Almighty God to conduct us happily through this great conflict.” And near the end of that conflict, he warned, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God?”

Forty years after Jefferson penned the Declaration, he made note to a friend: “We are not in a world ungoverned by the laws and the power of a Superior Agent. Our efforts are in His hand, and directed by it; and He will give them their effect in His own time.” And this from the man who is considered one of the least religious of the Founders.

Although Jefferson is the patron saint of secular elites for his famous “wall of separation,” it was never his, or any of the Founders’, intention to denude the public square of religious influence. It is quite telling that over thirty years after Jefferson coined that phrase, the keen political observer, de Tocqueville, remarked: “religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions.”

Even the least religious of the Founders, Ben Franklin, issued this stirring appeal during an arduous debate in the Constitutional Congress:

In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection… All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of Superintending Providence in our favor … have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?… God Governs in the affairs of men (Daniel 4:17). And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice (Matthew 10:29), is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?

The Founders, and the founding document they authored, gives testimony to the religious, and uniquely Judeo-Christian, underpinning of our nation. Today, numerous religious symbols on edifices in and around our nation’s capital add their voices to that testimony.

Images and representations of the Bible, the crucifix, Moses and the Ten Commandments exist in engravings and sculptures at the Washington Monument, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the Capitol building, the Library of Congress, the White House, the World War II Memorial, and the Arlington National Cemetery. At the Supreme Court, the Ten Commandments are displayed in no less than three places: over the East portico, on the Court doors, and over the Chief Justice’s chair. But there is one witness to America’s religious heritage that many people carry in their purses and wallets... read on here.

I once heard someone say that the most popular time for pastors to leave town is Trinity Sunday. How true that is, I don’t know. What I do know, is that during fifty plus years in the pews I have never heard a comprehensive sermon on the subject. I suspect my experience is not unique.

Few would deny that the Trinity is one of the most (if not, the most) important doctrines of the Christian faith and also one of the most misunderstood. Whether or not homiletical avoidance is to blame, it is regrettable, because no other doctrine tells us more about God and ourselves.

The Nature of God
Were it not for the Trinity, St. John’s claim, “God is love,” would be little more than glassy-eyed sentiment. Love without an object is frustrated, unfulfilled, and incomplete. Thus, a loving, but solitary God is a God who is contingent, a God who must create to satisfy his yearning, a God who is less than perfect.

On the other hand, a God who exists in a community of uncreated “One Anothers,” is a God who is complete in and of himself from eternity to eternity. For him, creation is not a divine necessity, but an extension—an extravagant extension—of whom he is.

Although Scripture lays out no explicit doctrine on the Trinity, it contains numerous references to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working in concert. For example:

In the Annunciation, Gabriel tells Mary how the Spirit will come in the power of the Father to produce the Word made flesh in her.

At the last supper, Jesus promises the disciples that the Father will send the Spirit to remind them of his teachings.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reveals that spiritual gifts come from the Spirit, in service to the Son, according to the sovereign purposes of the Father.

Then there is Jesus’s rebuke of the Jews (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”) that, when combined with his response to Thomas (“No one comes to the Father except through me”) and Paul’s message to the Corinthians (“No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit”), reveals that personal salvation is the synergistic result of the Father’s initiative, the Son’s atonement, and the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

Scripture bears witness to a Godhead of three Persons united in will and purpose. One of those purposes is the creation of beings designed for union in the divine Community. For instance, notice how man’s tripartite nature of mind, body, and spirit relates to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the following verses:

“Who has understood the mind of [Yahweh]…?”

“The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God…”

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

It is sufficiently amazing that God has made us for communion with him. It is more amazing, still, that he calls into partnership with him through the “Greatest Commandment,” the Great Commission, and the Cultural Commission—three (!) directives aimed at expanding his community and uniting it cruciform, vertically with the Godhead, and horizontally with fellowman.

Three Directives
The Greatest Commandment—to love others as Christ loved us—is a summons to work for the sake of others, that they might experience the joy of knowing God and living in harmony with his creation. But only a disciple can know God, and only a world managed by caring stewards will be conducive to the flourishing of nature and mankind. Thus, fulfilling the Greatest Commandment requires that we take up both the Great Commission and the Cultural Commission.

To help us toward those ends, God established three (!) institutions: the family, the state, and the Church, each with its own sphere of responsibility. When each institution fulfills its unique calling, while respecting the others, it creates the conditions necessary for individuals to experience communion with family, neighbors, communities, creation, and God.

Sadly, the cruciform community for which we are created and called, is becoming less and less apparent. Instead of a growing sense of community with our fellowman and God, we are becoming more individualistic, socially and morally. While that may seem unremarkable, what is interesting is one place it has become evident. Continue reading here.

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