One of the irrational symptoms of human sinfulness from the very beginning is the belief that we mortals are more reliable in running the cosmos than God is. This attitude is not distinctively modern, but only the modern West has so thoroughly institutionalized this wicked presumption.
When Thomas Jefferson selected the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” to describe one of the unalienable rights of man, he was appropriating an idea with a very long history. Since the time of Aristotle and before, happiness was understood as a condition to which all people properly aspire. But for the Greeks, as for the biblical writers, happiness was an objective reality, not just a feeling or an emotional state. The phrase “whatever makes you happy,” so commonly uttered today, would have been nonsense to Hebrews, Greeks, and Christians alike, since it implies no fixed moral order in which happiness …
Martin Luther’s “outlaw” period, as he hid in the Wartburg castle masquerading as the mysterious “Squire George,” provided him a venue to fulfill a long-held desire: the translation of the New Testament into German. He believed (in the words of historian Owen Chadwick) that “the ploughman ought to be able to recite the Scripture while he was ploughing, or the weaver as he hummed to the music of his shuttle.” When completed in 1534, his translation of the Bible not only offered ploughmen and weavers access to inspired texts, it served as a means of social unity throughout what was …
“Truth is great and will prevail, if left to itself.” Thus asserted Thomas Jefferson, champion of free speech and enemy of established religion. I’m not sure that Jefferson entirely believed that. Jefferson did believe that only an educated, well-informed citizenry could remain a free citizenry. His commitment to freedom of the press was based on a desire to see a citizenry committed to the disciplines of reading, marking, inwardly digesting, and weighing the arguments of works such as Common Sense and The Federalist papers, not Howard Stern or Tina Brown. As Richard Mitchell has commented, Jefferson could not have imagined …
Ken Myers is host and producer of Mars Hill Audio in Quinque, Virginia. He is author of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture.