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Protestantism, America, and Divine Law

A Personal Reflection

Since the time of the Founding Fathers, Protestantism appeared to be the default religion in the United States.  At the end of World War II, when the United States began to enjoy superpower status, Mainline Protestantism (comprising the older denominations that sprang from the Reformation) began to drift away from its moorings.  Then, in the late 20th century, conservative Protestantism started to follow suit, by watering down its theology, seeking to influence society, culture, and, of course, government.

The older form of Protestant liberalism, and many of its key proponents (including Harry Emerson Fosdick in the United States and the great German historian Adolf Harnack), were heavily influenced by German theologians.  Harnack famously limited the scope of the Christian Faith to the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.  After World War II, most of the German theologians disdained the “liberal” label—not because they were becoming orthodox or conservative, but because they were inaugurating yet another approach to Christianity.  The man most responsible for importing this new approach to the United States was Paul J. Tillich, a German Evangelischer (Lutheran) pastor and professor of theology.  He served as a chaplain in the kaiser’s army during World War I, but Tillich’s loyalty did not extend to Germany’s self-appointed messiah, Adolf Hitler. ...

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