Trueman on Puerile Religion

Over at the Q: Ideas blog Chris Donato asks Carl Trueman some questions about civil religion, secularization and poli-tainment. I have always been struck myself at the general adolescent impulse that beats beneath American Protestantism, so I found this question and answer edifying:

Donato: “What does a product like The Patriot’s Bible tell us about Christians in America? Why do you argue that the claims made by the publisher of The Patriot’s Bible are puerile and blasphemous?”

Trueman: “It epitomizes the close connection made in certain American Christian minds between the kingdom of God and the American political and social project as they understand it.  It generally makes the gospel something which primarily reinforces patriotism and conservative social and moral causes. Neither patriotism nor such causes are necessarily bad; in fact, they can be very good as civic virtues; but they should not be confused with the coming of Christ’s kingdom.

“As to the Patriot Bible’s puerility: when we are children, we believe ourselves to be the centre of the universe; indeed, one could describe the process of growing into adulthood as the slow and steady realization that this belief is a myth, a fairy-story. The Patriot’s Bible is such childishness writ large, identifying America and its institutions with God’s people and kingdom. Of course, other nations have done the same: Britain did it at the height of her imperial power in the nineteenth century; and the process whereby she has been disabused of that has been a painful and traumatic one; the same applies, even more painfully, to Germany.

“As to being blasphemous, you need only to look at one example: the positive comparison of the Last Supper with the Continental Congress, something which the promotional video for the Patriot’s Bible does on its website.  Need I say more?”

This entry was posted in Books, Carl Trueman, Chris Donato, Civil religion. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Trueman on Puerile Religion

  1. RubeRad says:

    Well here’s the website; I don’t see where this “the positive comparison of the Last Supper with the Continental Congress” might be hiding in there…

  2. RubeRad says:

    Nice quote though…

  3. Zrim says:

    This might serve as a good substitute for an example of political blasphemy.

  4. Rob H says:

    That thing is repulsive.

  5. dgh says:

    So why would Trueman have Peter Lillback write the foreword for a book that actually takes issue with the sort of God and country identification in which Lillback traffics?

  6. Zrim says:

    I had the same question. Maybe you could find out and supply us the answer?

  7. RubeRad says:

    They talk about it in this joint interview. They’re colleagues and friends.

  8. dgh says:

    So the point would seem to be that as long as you are friends, you don’t have to take your friend’s point seriously. Lillback can continue with his God and country falderal because he has Trueman as a friend. And Trueman can continue to loathe Fox News because he has Lillback as a friend. But nothing changes and friendship abides. Huh?

  9. j.hansen says:

    I haven’t read Republocrat, but it would seem that if you like and trust your ideological opponent, asking him to write the foreword may help ensure that your arguments are treated on their merits? Also, perhaps Trueman thought having a God-n’Country type write the foreword would get more God-n’Country types to read his book?

    Is Lillback a theonomist?

  10. Zrim says:

    Joseph, it’s a nice idea but if one wanted to help ensure one’s arguments are treated on their merits then why not just have him read it? Doesn’t writing a foreward suggest endorsement? And if so, like dgh suggests, isn’t it curious to endorse a point one with which one takes serious exception? Magnanimous friendship is a good thing, but doesn’t it take a lot out of the sails to have an opponent endorse you?

  11. Chris S says:

    Depends on how much it pays.

  12. Chris Donato says:

    I think the answer to the question dgh and Zrim raise in this thread has a rather simple and pragmatic twofold answer (one of which has already been mentioned): (1) Lillback disagrees with the argument, but finds it worth engaging. He’s implicitly saying that people who think like him should wrestle with Trueman’s case; (2) Trueman holds a respectable position at a respectable institution. The issue is decidedly not worth sacrificing those things over. (Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, dgh. Know what I mean?) The foreword thus makes this clear.

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