Thank you, Bill, for this opportunity to debate the merits of Charles Carroll and his contributions to the American founding.

As it turns out, I’ve spent nearly the entire day in an archive going through letters and debates from the 1950s, so my mind (and hopefully my soul) were somewhere a half decade in the past.  I’m exhausted but, perhaps, somewhat coherent.

So, back two centuries. . . .

One of the things that surprised me most in my research on the decades surrounding the American Revolution was the predominance of Whig historical and political thought that held sway over nearly all Americans.  Even the Loyalists, from my research, were generally Whiggish in their views of history, culture, law, and politics.  The Loyalists differed with the more radical Whigs in trying to decide at what point in history they found themselves–in the Polybian understanding of birth, middle age/corruption, and death.  For the Loyalists, though decay and death were inevitable for all fallen things, the British had not reached the point of no-return.

For the radical Whigs (such as Carroll and his fellow Patriots), the British had long passed the point of no-return.  The only salvation for the American people would come from separation from the mother country, purification of the English Constitution, and a return to first principles.  In this sense, as one of my students, James Joseph, pointed out to me, the Americans were following the entire history and example of the Reformation.  But, in a larger sense, I would argue, the Americans were following the entirety of the best of the western tradition–from Socrates to St. Benedict to the Protestant Reformers.  All things go through organic cycles.  The Americans, such as Carroll, recognized this and acted accordingly.

As to your other point, Bill.  As far as I know, Carroll was referencing Thomas Rutherford’s Institutes of Natural Law.  I’m not positive, however, and it is possible that Carroll was referencing Samuel Rutherford.  Certainly, as a man of Irish ancestry, Carroll would have been influenced by Jansenism.

So, maybe. . . .  Generally, though, Vattel and Thomas Rutherford are referenced together.

Thanks, Bill.


One thing is clear.  Charles Carroll was a Whig.  This was something of a surprise, although I am not sure why.  The American Founders where Whigs to a man.  Some were Old Whigs, some were New Whigs, but all were Whigs.  This was a fascinating realization for a Covenanter who normally identifies the 17th and 18th Century English Catholic tradition with the Cavalier and the Jacobite.

I should have known better.  I have long told anyone who would listen that the origins of 17th Century Scottish Covenanter thought were heavily influenced by the Spanish Jesuits de Mariana and Suarez.  The same Spanish Jesuits who Brad tells us helped form the young mind of Charles Carroll.

Interestingly, on page 137 Brad illuminates the intellectual sources of Carroll’s 1780 three-part article in the Maryland Gazette, the republican statesman drew upon the works of Livy, Blackstone, Nicolo Machiavelli, John Milton, Hugo Grotius, Thomas Rutherford, and Emmerich de Vattel, claiming each as his authorities.” My question is this- who is Thomas Rutherford?  I have googled in vain.  Have I missed something?  Or was this a typographic error? My suspicion (hope?) is that Carroll’s source was none other than the Covenanter Samuel Rutherford of Lex Rex fame.

I want to start off our book discussion by saying thank you to Brad for  his excellent biography of Charles Carroll and for being willing to subject himself to the DRC peanut gallery.  Thanks Brad!

Also, I think it is appropriate to extend our thanks to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute for allowing us the opportunity to review the book as a means of deepening our discussion of cult and culture.

First, I would like to thank Bill for his clarification that he does not consider me a Pelagian. Pelagius and I never got along very well. I can see the possibility of my observations being misread–that somehow I was denying the effects of the Fall. Bill accurately surmises that this is not my position and I appreciate his comments so as to avoid an unnecessary sidetrack to our discussion. Indeed once the relationship between God and man was broken, only God himself could repair it. Christ is the essential and only possibility to heal this rupture. On that we agree.

It may not surprise, however, that I have some qualms with what remains of the responses to my original question: “How does Reform theology explain the presence of sin in the world?”

Based on what has been said I gather that, currently, in Reform theology there is no answer to this question or at least not an answer which is comprehensible through human reason.

And if this is this case, I find this to be a major weakness in Reform theology. The question of the presence of sin is fundamental. We have “theology” because people have looked around them and asked questions: Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Is there a God? Even if we place ourselves in a secular philosophical world for a moment, we find that it is the existence of love that is a mystery, whereas the existence of sin is a plain fact.

There are a great many mysteries in our world. Some mysteries are difficult because of our desire for understanding, but all of the mysteries of God are immensely beautiful. They are like flashes of glory where the strands of faith and reason intertwine.

I do not find the existence of sin to be a mystery.

God created Adam in His image. This does not mean that God has two arms, two legs and a tailbone. It means that God has granted us the capacity to love. In order to love we MUST have freedom. Like Adam before the Fall we have the freedom to choose good or evil, that is, we have the capacity to love. Unlike Adam before the Fall we are now in need of redemption. We cannot redeem ourselves, but we have the freedom to reject God’s redemption. He gives us that choice because He loves us. And the only way we can love Him in return is to have freedom to do so.

If we don’t have freedom, we can’t love. If we can’t love, then literally we haven’t got a chance of heaven. Love MUST be a choice with real possibilities and certain consequences. God’s Love is where our love begins and where our love ends, but in the end it has to be OUR choice with the alternative choice being death. We must, daily, be choosing between these two certainties. In fact the greatest mystery which differentiates us from God is that God, because He IS Love, can ONLY love because it is His Essence. If He doesn’t love then he would not longer be God. So it is love that is the mystery. Sin is prosaic.

Further, the only way to be in God’s presence in heaven is to be fully cleansed of everything but love (hence the theological necessity of a state of purgation from sin, i.e. purgatory) because it would be impossible to be in God’s presence with any stain of sin.

And here’s the kicker (sorry, I live in Texas). This entire idea of pre-Fall Adam being in a position being free to choose good or evil is clearly revealed in the Gospels. Else, how is it that Jesus, the 2nd Adam, born without sin, could be “tempted” in the desert? Else, why does Jesus, free of sin, sweat blood in the Garden of Eden and ask that the cup pass him? The Gospel writers, by including these real events from Jesus’ life, are illustrating quite clearly that the struggle for Jesus was real, that the temptation was real even though he was without sin. That is why Christ’s sacrifice was an act of love. He had the choice, in his human nature, to turn from what was good. And unlike Adam, he chose good.

The two natures of Christ is most certainly a mystery. The first person to be presented with this truth recognized it immediately as a mystery: Mary says, “How can this be?” Like Mary we must accept that this was God’s plan. But not so with sin. Sin is easy: it is a necessity as the opposite of love. Love is the Mystery.

In the great DRC tradition, I am happy to announce that next week we will begin a discussion of DRC editor/contributor Brad Birzer’s new book American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll.  Brad’s excellent biography of the forgotten Founding Father is published by ISI as part of their lives of the founders series.  If you do not have a copy, get it ordered!

Joining the cast for the discussion will Gerald Russello, Editor of the University Bookman and author of The Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk.

Always an excellent writer, Carl Olson is at his best and his most hilarious.  Bravo, Carl.  Genius, to be sure.  http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2010/05/seven-easy-steps-to-fame-and-fortune.html

Careful boys.  She may look good… but she is bad for your health.

The Daily Caller has the story here

Don’t send me the hate mail, we are talking science.