Where are Reformed Protestants in conservative political / legal scholarship?

Discussion in 'General discussions' started by Haeralis, Jul 11, 2018.

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  1. Haeralis

    Haeralis Puritan Board Freshman

    The President's new pick for the Supreme Court had me thinking even more about the serious lack of Reformed theology in positions of intellectual power. Four out of five of the President's nominees were Roman Catholic and only one was vaguely evangelical, though not Reformed to anyone's knowledge. Why is it the case that there seem to be virtually no bright young Reformed Protestants graduating from Harvard, Yale, or Columbia law school?

    Even more strangely, in my own field of political philosophy, you'd be hard pressed to find a single major conservative academic who is a Reformed Protestant. In George Nash's The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, Nash wrote:

    "The new conservatives’ brand of Christianity was often of a decidedly Roman Catholic, even medieval cast."

    "One of the most remarkable features of this movement [conservatism] was that, in a country still substantially Protestant, its leadership was heavily Roman Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, or critical of Protestant Christianity."

    "One is even tempted to say that the new conservatism was, in part, an intellectual cutting edge of the postwar “coming of age” of America’s [Roman] Catholic minority."

    "A disproportionate number of conservative intellectuals in the 1950s were [Roman] Catholics."

    Going down the list of famous conservative intellectuals, it is next to impossible to find a single conservative Protestant.

    Eric Voegelin -- Radically anti-Protestant Romanist
    Russell Kirk -- Romanist
    G.K. Chesterton -- Romanist
    Wilmoore Kendall -- Romanist
    Richard Weaver -- Vaguely theistic but not explicitly Christian, either Roman or Protestant
    Leo Strauss -- Secular Jew
    Harry Jaffa -- Secular Jew
    Friedrich Hayek -- Agnostic
    C.S. Lewis -- Anglo-Catholic

    Why is it that a country so historically grounded in Protestant Christianity produces so few intellectuals and scholars who are committed to the Protestant conservative legal / political vision?
  2. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm sure there are a lot of answers to your question out there, but one major one in contemporary society is that there just aren't that many of us.

    Another issue is that, as Western society has moved away from its Protestant roots, it requires a certain amount of flexibility in one's ethical and political positions to render you palatable enough to the masses to reach prominence. If you believe the the civil government should enforce both tables of the law, or even the entirety of the second table, you're not going to get very far. R2K folks have tried to carve a path forward for Reformed political and cultural engagement, but with only limited success both theologically and socially. Roman Catholics, on the other hand, have always been masters of such "flexibility."
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  3. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Senior

    I agree with Chris on the numbers.

    Contrasting nominal RC numbers 100 million to Conservative Reformed <1 million gives you an idea of what we can expect. For every conservative RC there are likely 10 center to left RCs.

    Even on the level of a general, public intellectual the numbers don't play well for us. The Machens are few and far between. Furthermore, many of us have problems with some of the views espoused by those that could be called public intellectuals who are closest to us in theology like Tim Keller, Russel Moore, Al Mohler and so on.

    Also related to identity, generally speaking liberal RCs and Jews are more likely to claim their heritage than liberal Protestants. RCism is closer to Judaism in the association of national heritage to religious. Irish and Italian heritage is linked to the RC in a way that Protestantism doesn't enjoy. I know the Dutch have some of this but it doesn't enjoy the same multi-generational continuity.

    Machen, Chesterton, Elliot, Belloc, Dawson and to an extent Lewis were men of a different era. Before WWII conservative Christianity (for illustration purpose I include RCism here) had a seat at the table. Conservative Christianity was largely ghettoized after WWII. Kirk is an example of this.
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  4. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    What I find interesting is that President Trump appears to have better discernment than President Regan...so far a Supreme Justices are concerned. Of course Robert Bork might have changed my mind on that.
  5. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    It does get more optimistic if we broaden it out to conservative Christians overall, as there are now Reformed/Calvinistic Baptists such as Dr Mohler entering into the cultural debate.
  6. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Senior

    Time will tell whom the Souters are. Hasn’t been very long.
  7. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    There might be a great deal of unknown Reformed political/legal scholarship going on, but it doesn't get published. Don't blame the scholars, blame the lack of readership. How many people even know what a Reformed Protestant is?
  8. Unworthy_Servant

    Unworthy_Servant Puritan Board Freshman

    Not very many in this day and age I'm afraid :(
  9. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Sophomore

    I went to seminary with Dr. Greg Forster, a staunchly Reformed political philosopher who received his Ph.D. in political philosophy from Yale University.

    Having been influenced a bit at this point by Rushdoony in this area of higher education, I can see why there aren't many Reformed people coming out of these schools. (There may be, to our dismay, many Reformed people going in, but not surviving in their faith because they were never given a truly Reformed worldview.) When the very philosophical basis of these institutions is rabidly secular, then they are essentially of no value; they go astray from the starting line. They pretend neutrality, yet assume the stance of rebellion ( :vantil: ). The same thing goes with a lot of seminaries.

  10. chuckd

    chuckd Puritan Board Sophomore

    It is sad. Especially since places like Harvard and Yale were founded by Puritans.

    Senator Sasse from Nebraska is Reformed. He was an elder in a reformed church and served on the board of Westminster Seminary.
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