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Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America

Ellis Sandoz

Publication Year: 2006

 As debates rage over the place of faith in our national life, Tocqueville’s nineteenth-century crediting of religion for shaping America is largely overlooked today.  Now, in Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America, Ellis Sandoz reveals the major role that Protestant Christianity played in the formation and early period of the American republic. Sandoz traces the rise of republican government from key sources in Protestant civilization, paying particular attention to the influence of the Bible on the Founders and the blossoming of the American mind in the eighteenth century. 

Sandoz analyzes the religious debt of the emergent American community and its elevation of the individual person as unique in the eyes of the Creator. He shows that the true distinction of American republicanism lies in its grounding of human dignity in spiritual individualism and an understanding of man’s capacity for self-government under providential guidance. Along the way, he addresses such topics as the neglected question of the education of the Founders for their unique endeavor, common law constitutionalism, the place of Latin and Greek classics in the Founders’ thought, and the texture of religious experience from the Great Awakening to the Declaration of Independence

To establish a unifying theoretical perspective for his study, Sandoz considers the philosophical underpinnings of religion and the contribution that Eric Voegelin made to our understanding of religious experience. He contributes fresh studies of the character of Voegelin’s thought: its relationship to Christianity; his debate with Leo Strauss over reason, revelation, and the meaning of philosophy; and the theory of Gnosticism as basic to radical modernity. He also provides a powerful account of the spirit of Voegelin’s later writings, contrasting the political scientist with the meditative spiritualist and offering new insight into volume 5 of Order and History.

Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America concludes with timely reflections on the epoch now unfolding in the shadow of Islamic jihadism. Bringing a wide range of materials into a single volume, it confronts current academic concerns with religion while offering new insight into the construction of the American polity—and the heart of Americanism as we know it today.

Published by: University of Missouri Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xii

This book traces the rise of republican government, and the republican spirit of consent and individual dignity, from key sources in Western Christian Protestant civilization—with particular attention to the Bible and to the emergence of the American mind in the eighteenth century culminating in 1776 and the constitutional...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Several of the chapters appeared previously in published form and are found here revised and enlarged. Chapter one began as the “John Witherspoon Lecture” (Washington, DC, April 2004) and was published in Italian translation in Culture costituzionali a confronto. Europa e Stati Uniti dall’età delle rivoluzioni...


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pp. xv-19

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1. Republicanism and Religion: Some Contextual Considerations

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pp. 1-52

Despite the Enlightenment’s concerted project of doing away with the Bible as the basis of political and social order in favor of “Reason,”1 religion today continues to condition politics as an undergirding belief foundation: Men always have God or idols, as Luther long ago said. The present war against...

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2. Foundations of American Liberty and Rule of Law

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pp. 53-74

The argument I wish to offer regarding the foundations of American liberty and rule of law (or constitutionalism, a word invented by Americans at the time) stresses the debt of the founders to their civilizational past.1 Whether, or to what degree, the Anglo-American constitutional and philosophical past was and...

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3. Education and the American Founding

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pp. 75-104

While virtually everyone has agreed that the American founding and the generation that achieved it were extraordinary, of towering significance and formative importance in modern history, what besides blind good luck and raw talent in able men somehow disposed to collaborate and to act at a propitious moment lay behind the achievement? Thus, in looking for at least...

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4. Americanism: The Question of Community in Politics

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pp. 105-113

I write here in a synoptic way, summarizing themes addressed more fully in the previous three chapters for the purpose of concisely clarifying the meaning of Americanism. Let me open with the words on the subject from a representative expert, Theodore Roosevelt, who said the following just over a century ago:...

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5. Carrying Coals to Newcastle: Voegelin and Christianity

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pp. 114-120

The question is about Eric Voegelin’s relationship to Christianity. Was Voegelin a Christian? Is his philosophy a Christian philosophy? The personal and scholarly issues must be divided and subdivided for my few hints on these complicated subjects. From the time I first heard him lecture, when I was a young undergraduate student in 1949, I never...

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6. Medieval Rationalism or Mystic Philosophy? : The Strauss-Voegelin Debate

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pp. 121-144

The fascinating correspondence between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin raises more questions than it answers, if merely taken by itself.1 There are, to be sure, a number of extremely valuable debates that arise between the two writers, especially in the letters of 1949 through 1951. Often, however, the exchange gives...

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7. Gnosticism and Modernity

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pp. 145-154

Since its first appearance in German in 1959, Voegelin’s Science, Politics, and Gnosticism. has become a classic of modern political theory.1 It demonstrates the power of Voegelin’s thought, its lucidity of expression, and provides an analysis of the demonic in modern existence of unique insight and cogency...

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8. The Spirit of Voegelin’s Late Work

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pp. 155-181

The principal work by Voegelin written in the final years of his life and published posthumously includes the final volume of Order and History, entitled In Search of Order, his deathbed meditation dictated to Paul Caringella, “Quod Deus Dicitur,” and the unfinished Aquinas Lecture titled “The Beginning and the Beyond...

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9. Truth and the Experience of Epoch in History

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pp. 182-208

It is uneasily suspected that we may be living through some sort of grand transition or even epoch in the history of mankind. Since an epoch, like Nessy, is much rumored, seldom seen, difficult to discern in the impenetrable fog of futurity, and—if this really is one—will be the first one directly experienced by the living generations of mankind, what is it and what, if anything...

Bibliographical Appendix

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pp. 209-212


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pp. 213-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780826265623
E-ISBN-10: 0826265626
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826217264
Print-ISBN-10: 0826217265

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2006

Edition: 1