Issues analysis
Christianity and conservatism: Christian doctrinal orthodoxy and conservative political philosophy
A brief history of conservatism: Part 16
Fred Hutchison, RenewAmerica analyst
February 26, 2009

In the last essay in this series, part 15, we discovered in history a strong correlation between Christian spirituality and the vitality of Western culture. However, spirituality by itself is not enough. Issues of truth and doctrinal orthodoxy are equally important. A spiritually charged people who faithfully declare God's Truth can turn the tides of history. Therefore, let us now turn to questions of doctrine.

In this essay, part 16, we shall explore some of the logical correlations between Christian doctrinal orthodoxy and conservative political philosophy. When I speak of orthodoxy, I mean the great truths of the historical creeds and the confessions of the church.

In the first essay in this series, I proposed that the five streams of conservatism have always had a positive influence on Western culture. This is particularly true of Christian conservatism — when the doctrine is orthodox and the truths of the faith are propagated boldly and without compromise.

Christian truth claims transform Europe

The truth claims of Christianity preoccupied the scholars at the monasteries and universities of the 11th through the 13th century. They pursued the truth with extraordinary enthusiasm, zeal, and intellectual vigor. Watering down the truth to pander to the crowd — as is so often the practice today — would have been unthinkable to these zealots.

Interestingly, some of the learned debates of scholars in the 12th century were attended by large crowds of ordinary people — who shared in the general zest for truth. Never has a common people been so enthusiastic about the battle for truth. Never have students burned with such intellectual excitement and displayed such an earnest striving after Truth — with the possible exception of the students who sat in the olive groves of Plato's Academy, or the students who walked in the gymnasium colonnade of Aristotle's Lyceum, and were called the "peripatetics," or the students who walked in Zeno the Stoic's colonnade which overlooked the Agora of Athens.

However, the enthusiasm of the European "scholastics" was ultimately shared by perhaps a thousand-fold more students than ever sat in Plato's Academy olive groves, or strolled in Aristotle's colonnade. As marvelous as the teachings of the Greek philosophers were, it was a small-scale enterprise compared to the Medieval European universities, and ill timed in history for a maximum cultural effect. Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno appeared after the golden age of Athens was over — and the culture was set in its ways.

In contrast, scholasticism appeared shortly after 1100 A.D., when European civilization was brand new. Therefore, scholasticism had a seminal influence in molding of the culture of Europe when it was impressionable and pliable. The twelfth century was particularly flexible and dynamic, and the developing culture was rapidly changing.

The greatest of the "scholastics" was St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). His works are still included in the Western literary canon. The "Thomists" — scholars who specialize in Aquinas — still appear on the scene when there is intellectual ferment among people who have a renewed interest in metaphysics.

Scholasticism gives Europe the edge in rationality

From almost the beginning of the civilization of the High Middle Ages, Europe had a uniquely rational culture. Scholasticism was formally developed in the early decades of the 12th century. European culture was then in a very early stage of formation, because the civilization was born in the second half of the 11th century. Europe became the premier society of rationality and remained so until the early days of the 20th century. The historical advantages of Europe were mainly advantages of reason and the educated intellect.

Other natural advantages of Europe like navigable rivers and natural harbors had to be aggressively exploited by intelligent men. The proliferation of wind mills, water mills, and machinery for cutting stones and hoisting stones betokens a society of restless minds seeking to solve practical problems. The slumbering minds of the Dark Ages had to be awakened to such tasks. Scholasticism and education in the Cathedral schools and monasteries were a key stimulus for that awakening of the mind.

The scholasticism of the universities and monasteries was a truth-seeking venture sponsored by the church. Therefore, it was Christianity that gave Europe its edge over other civilizations in its rational powers. The triumph of scholasticism was a triumph of doctrinal orthodoxy. During the scholastic debates of the early 12th century, orthodox views soon triumphed over heterodox and heretical views.

Thus, European culture was shaped and enlightened by the theology of doctrinal orthodoxy. Most of the remainder of this essay will be devoted to establishing the affinity of doctrinal orthodoxy and conservative political philosophy.

Conservative vs. modernism

Just as conservative theology (i.e., orthodox doctrine) is compatible with conservative political philosophy, liberal theology is compatible with political liberalism and progressivism — i.e., the politics of modernism.

Liberal theology can be characterized as modernism wrapped in a Christian package. Modernism is the common enemy of conservative theology and conservative political philosophy. None of the links between Christianity and conservative political philosophy that we shall explore in this essay are applicable to the nominal Christianity of liberal theology.

Conservative theology and conservative political philosophy are the friends of reason and civilization. As we shall see in the next essay, Modernism in the 20th century has fallen to a shocking state of intellectual and moral decadence and has become the enemy of reason and of civilization.

A tight theology and a loose political philosophy

The fact that there are logical connections between conservative theology and conservative political philosophy does not imply a perfect fit. There are points of tension. Therefore, It is a loose fit, not a tight fit. A loose fit is good enough for a political philosophy, but only logical precision is acceptable for orthodox theology. Whereas the great creeds of the faith required an exacting precision of language and concepts, political philosophy needs only to provide a good general fit, like clothes purchased off the shelf that need not be custom tailored for a perfect fit.

Beware of doctrines that are woven too loosely and political philosophies that are woven too tightly. Loose doctrines are an invitation to heretics. Tight political philosophies collapse into narrow ideologies, which are not amenable to debate. Such ideologies alienate natural allies and make political compromise impossible.

Perfectionism and political disaster

We just came through a political campaign in which the search for the perfect conservative candidate led to the mutual assured destruction of all the conservative candidates. As the ground was littered with conservative bodies, John McCain, a moderate candidate whose chances had long been written off, stepped forward and claimed the Republican nomination. He was beaten by a vague and inexperienced liberal Democrat named Barack Obama.

Perfectionism is suicidal in politics. I speak as one who was guilty of insisting upon the perfect conservative and fought against the imperfect conservative candidates who might have won.

As a sadder and wiser man, my mission now is to unite the five historical streams of conservatism. That would be unfeasible if all five groups were perfectionists or defined their cluster of ideas as narrow ideologies. The five schools of conservatism can only work together if a loose fit is tolerated. A loose fit allows each of the five schools of conservatism to learn from each other. Each of the schools has its own special wisdom that is needed by the conservative movement as a whole.

Now let us turn to the central theme of this essay. To wit: There are affinities and logical correlations between Christian doctrinal orthodoxy and conservative political philosophy. A theologian could write tomes on this subject, but we are limited by space and time to consider a small sampler of the affinities.

Man has a nature

"I believe in God the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth." This first line of the Apostle's Creed confesses that God is the creator. If God created man, he also designed man. If man has a design, he also has an innate nature. An integrated design is not subject to material change, but is fixed over time. Thus, human nature is fixed throughout the centuries and is universally shared by all mankind.

Modernists almost universally deny that man has a universal nature — and insist that man is a construct of culture, environment, economics, and biology. In contrast, doctrinally orthodox Christians and political conservatives almost universally insist that man has an innate nature.

Modernists believe that human nature is in flux and that men were essentially different in former centuries. Therefore, they are skeptical about the wisdom of the past. In contrast, theological conservatives and political conservatives insist that man has always been essentially the same. Therefore, they cherish the wisdom of the past.

Here we get a look at the great gulf between modernism, on one side, and conservatism on the other. We also observe how theological conservatism lines up with political conservatism in opposition to modernism.

Human nature and legislation

If man has no nature, but is a construct of society, as liberals think, the legislator will tend to think that he can fashion a better man through social engineering programs. In contrast, if man has a nature based upon a design that is fixed and unchanging, as conservatives believe, social engineering programs designed to change human nature can only inflict injuries upon man or stifle his nature.

Seventy years of social engineering by the Soviet Union failed to change human nature the slightest amount. The relentless attempt to change human nature turned the entire society into a wretched and joyless prison filled with dysfunctional people.

In contrast to the soviet tyrants, the thoughtful conservative legislator will review proposed legislation to determine if it runs against the grain of human nature. He will examine a proposed new law in an attempt to ascertain whether it is oppressive to human nature or whether it will provide wholesome boundaries in which man can flourish.

Political conservatives and theological conservatives will usually unite to oppose social engineering programs. Liberals and communists generally favor such programs. It is patently obvious why conservatives are invariably anticommunists and why historically, many liberals have had a secret sympathy for communism. This offers us a clue as to why poorly informed conservatives have long had difficulty in differentiating between liberalism and communism.

Although Christian conservatives and political conservatives generally agree in their opposition to social engineering programs, Christian conservatives put the emphasis of the principle that only divine grace can change the human heart. Traditionalist conservatives emphasize that government social engineering projects rend the delicate social fabric. And Libertarians are primarily concerned with how government programs interfere with individual initiative.

In Adam's fall we sinned all

Doctrinal orthodoxy requires one to see that although man is harmoniously designed with an innate nature that was originally good, his nature has been fatally corrupted by original sin. I like to think of man as having a well-designed constitution that has been contaminated.

Man is "totally depraved" in the sense that the contamination of wickedness has reached all his faculties and every part of his constitution. Man is not totally depraved in the sense of being absolutely evil, for that would be absurd.

The most evil of men — like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and bin Laden — started with an innate propensity to sin, and willfully pursued evil thoughts and evil deeds through various stages of development. In the fullness of time, they brought forth a highly developed evil, if not an absolute evil. The human lifetime is too short and the developmental process is too slow to produce an absolute evil. In like manner, a saint is overtaken by death long before he can realize a perfection of holiness.

This being understood, orthodox doctrine traditionally holds that there is no human faculty that has been left pure and uncontaminated by original sin.

The evangelist Charles Finney is regarded by some doctrinally orthodox theologians as a "pelagian" heretic, because he limited the scope of original sin. He asserted that the mind and the will was not automatically contaminated with original sin — and that man is as sinful or as righteous as he chooses to be. Finney preached the gospel on the assumption that men can choose their way into faith.

To the contrary, the doctrinally orthodox reformer Martin Luther taught us that 1) all of our faculties, including the mind and the will, are contaminated by original sin; 2) we are in bondage to sin until God sets us free through His grace; and 3) faith is a gift from God.

Man was originally good but became bad through Adam's fall. The opening lines of the McGuffey Reader were: "In Adam's fall we sinned all."

"Original sin" was inherited by all of Adam's progeny — meaning all mankind. The harmony of the original design was disrupted by the deep-seated wickedness of the human heart. It is not possible for us to return to Eden and regain the original harmony and goodness of God's design by relying on human strength and making human efforts. That is why we need a Savior.

Man is a contradiction

Traditionalist conservatives like to say that "man is a contradiction" and is capable of evil. This is a mild, common-sense view of the dark side of human nature. It is what the daily experiences of life and the lessons of history consistently teach us about man.

There is a tension between this view and the orthodox Christian view, but when it comes to politics and legislation, most differences seem to fade away.

Once again, we observe the loose fit of conservative theology and conservative politics. These two groups are easily united in political ventures against liberals who have convinced themselves, God knows how, that man is inherently good.

The bewitching of the conservatives

The ascendancy of liberalism unites the conservatives to the extent that their eyes are open to perceive a common enemy. One of the reasons conservatives were not united in the last election cycle was that the eyes of many were blinded in such a way that they failed to perceive the rise of leviathan out of the pit — that is to say, the rise of the far left into power.

Why were they blinded, deceived, and bewitched? One reason is that they slipped away from conservative principles. A Christian who forgets biblical truths can backslide and be deceived by the world and the devil. A political conservative who loses his grip on conservative principles can be deceived by the liberals or compromised by deals with moderates.

Some conservatives tried to balance conservative principles with incompatible modernistic concepts. As we shall see in the next section, this practice debilitates the conservative and induces a slide down a slippery slope to the left.

Wishful thinking

When liberals deny the palpable reality of the dark side of human nature, they reject all the lessons of life and experience. Such a denial suggests a powerful delusion or a childlike naivete.

During my late teens, around the time I was thinking about becoming a conservative, I remember telling a liberal college instructor that his arguments were based on "wishful thinking." The stubborn notion that man is inherently good was behind much of his naivete. We live in a broken world, and it does no good to wish otherwise as a naive child might do.

The willful denial by liberals of the evil that lurks in the human heart has, in some cases, an element of malice. Such a denial suggests a primal rebellion involving an indignant rejection of the harsh reality of the broken world in which they find themselves. "I refuse to believe that men are the rascals and knaves which they appear to be. Therefore, I insist that they are otherwise." The malice inherent in their rebellious denial is sometimes turned against conservatives who are pessimistic about human nature.

Can fallen man become virtuous?

Some theological conservatives believe that although man is depraved, he can cooperate with a development process leading towards virtue with the help of "common grace," an empowerment from God for the believer and the unbeliever alike. Through common grace, a "noble pagan" like Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius had reached some degree of light on truth questions. He knew the difference between good and evil, and between virtue and vice. By all accounts, he made significant headway in his quest for virtue and wisdom.

However, common grace without the special grace that comes with conversion to Christ is not enough. For all his virtue and wisdom, Marcus Aurelius wasted the substance of Rome with futile, tactically foolish wars against the northern barbarians. He persecuted the Christians. He designated Commodus — his foolish, malicious, and delusional son — to be the heir to his throne. Socrates was wrong. The rule of philosopher kings is no panacea.

Conservatism can be problematic

There is a problematic dichotomy with a creature who has a good design, but has become evil through rebelling against his Designer and resisting his design. According to Aristotle, virtue consists of thoughts and actions in agreement with the design of man. Vice consists of doing things that are "against nature" — that is to say, against the nature and design of man. This is not an intellectually easy nor intuitively obvious concept. A distinction must be made carefully made between a good design and a deep corruption.

Due to the failure to make this distinction carefully, fault lines have formed among conservative theologians and conservative political philosophers. The fault line can form from two kinds of errors: 1) downplaying human depravity by overemphasizing the goodness of the design; and 2) downplaying the goodness and harmony of the design, due to a preoccupation with human depravity. The first error might lead one to trust in man too much and to slip towards the left, theologically and politically. The second error might lead one to reject Natural Law philosophy, which is indispensable to a coherent systematic theology and a rational conservative political philosophy.

The difficulties do not end here. The conservative must carefully distinguish between the sinful nature and the habitual propensities that have developed from a long series of choices. A mistake here can lead to all kinds of sloppy thinking. Theologian John Gregory Mantle characterized this sloppy thinking by referring to self-righteous Christians as those who have built learned behavior upon a corrupt root.

The opposite error is to downplay the wickedness of a sinner by making the excuse that the person is merely following bad habits. This error leaves out a moral appraisal of the long series of wicked choices that were made to develop the bad habit. One can justly refer to someone as an "evil man" if he has spent a lifetime cultivating evil patterns of behavior. Certain criminal psychologists have determined that hardened criminals often start cultivating evil imaginations in childhood and perform many experiments in turning the thoughts into deeds. Through such experiments, they become proficient in increasing stages of evil. (See Inside the Criminal Mind by Dr. Stanton Samenow.)

A tutelary paradox

I have always had a pessimistic view of human nature, and at the same time have always been optimistic that individuals can eventually fulfill the destiny inherent in their design — with the help of divine grace. However, the developmental process of maturing and getting ready for one's ultimate destiny can be very long and very difficult. Many stray from the straight path that leads to the fulfillment of their destiny.

Some folks think that a potential destiny and manifest depravity are an impossible contradiction. I regard both dimensions of human nature as a tutelary paradox that can lead one slowly to wisdom and personal growth. The paradox is a motivator to seek help from God and to be delivered from the sins and vices that might bar one from fulfilling his destiny.

The particular and the universal

Some libertarian conservatives and some traditionalists emphasize the particular and unique qualities of individuals to such an extent that they doubt that man has a core nature with universal qualities. The denial of universal human nature of underlying the individual particulars is why some libertarians reject the idea of a universal moral law.

The confusion of not seeing the forest of human nature for the trees of individual particulars can be cleared up by a refresher course in Aristotle or St. Thomas Aquinas. Both men taught us how to differentiate "essence" and "accidents." Aristotle's universals subsist as the "essence" of particular things. In other words, one's core human essence — that is to say, one's humanity — is universal. The "accidents" are those superficial, tangible details, particularities, and eccentricities that make a person a unique individual. Recognizing the unique personality but ignoring the underlying personhood is an error of logical distinctions; e.g., "He is a rascal and a clown; therefore he is not a human being." The error is insulting because it is reductionistic.

Precisely because Aristotle's and Aquinas' thought was so deeply woven into Western culture, the West was long able to avoid extremes in collectivism and extremes in individualism. The West lost this facility in direct proportion to the decline of metaphysics after 1800 A.D. The political liberals of the present time swing wildly between collectivism and a lawless, atomistic individualism. It is no accident that metaphysics is anathema to them.

The existential mistake

Another Libertarian mistake is of the Existentialist type. It involves a failure to differentiate between essence and existence. Existentialists are obsessed with finding an "authentic" mode of existence. It is an extreme version of the American quest for a self-defining and trendy "life-style." Such preoccupation with modes of existence tends towards the neglect of "essence," the inner humanity that exists independently of one's modes of existing. Aristotle or Aquinas can clear up the problem by clarifying the difference between essence and existence.

Why cannot man be content just to exist and not be so concerned about his personal modes of existence? Because man is a finite, contingent, insecure, proud being who must attach himself to the world by raising a banner that he exists. "Look at me. I am right here, right now, and am expressing myself in a unique manner. Therefore, I exist!" The man who is spiritually mature enough to completely dispense with "raising the flag" is very rare. However, an obsession with "raising the flag" of existential self-expression is a sign of abnormal insecurity and immaturity.

Unlike man, God's essence is the same as his existence, because he is complete and self-contained in the perfection of his being. If he "raises the flag," it is purely an act of love and never an attempt to ground or vindicate his existence.

Those who can't differentiate between essence and existence do not understand man. Those who think God has modes of existence does not understand God.

The West used to have a good balance between individual creativity and archetypal forms in the arts and literature. Now, the existential quest for radical individuality of expression has thrown the arts and literature into chaos.

A universal moral law

All designs have rules of operation. When one buys a new kitchen appliance, there are always written directions about how to operate the appliance and what one should not do with the appliance, lest it malfunctions and becomes dangerous to the user.

Since man is a designed being, there are rules and laws concerning what he may do that are salutary to his nature and what he may not do lest he destroy himself and his neighbor. These rules, laws, and precepts are the same for all people. Therefore, a universal moral law must exist. The moral law has been unchanging and universal ever since man has been on earth.

Considering that man is a designed being, Is there an instruction booklet for man, provided by the designer? Yes. We call it the Bible. The one thing on which the Old Testament and New Testament are in perfect agreement is the core elements of the universal moral law that are summed up in the Ten Commandments. Old Testament ordinances that were specific to Israel and were not universal in applicability were abolished in the New Testament — but not the precepts of the Ten Commandments.

Many modernists deny the existence of a universal moral law, and call such things the "value judgments" of individuals. They assume that because a modernist will often invent his own moral cosmos, the moral law of conservatives is the same kind of personal invention. They give this presumption away when they claim that the command against adultery is a personal value judgment. Not so. A universal moral law is the exact opposite of a made-up value that is unique to the individual.

One's positions on innumerable political issues will hinge upon whether he thinks there is a universal moral law, or dismisses such laws as individual "value judgments." For example, consider an example of a free-floating value judgment: "The babe in the womb is part of my body. I can do anything I want with my body. Therefore, I have the right to kill the baby. My free choice to do so makes it right."

The first sentence is contrary to scientific fact. The second sentence is contrary to natural law and biblical teaching. The third sentence is contrary to the universal moral law. The fourth statement comes from the funny farm of solipsism. This cluster of concepts ignores the spiritual reality that the babe in the womb is a person.

The invention of tailor-made value stances of this kind pander to personal comfort and unrestrained lusts. They promise freedom from consequences and from personal responsibility. In contrast, authentic moral laws require self-denial, develop personal virtue, and promote the general good of the family, the neighborhood, and the community.

The self-contradictory nature of modernism

In contrast to the fault-lines of conservatism, modernism has stark contradictions. As we have seen, the conservative fault lines can often be reconciled or reduced to a loose fit. However, it is dubious whether the contradictions of modernism can be reconciled or made to work together.

Modernists say: 1) man does not have a nature; and 2) man is inherently good. These two propositions are contradictions. If man does not have a nature, he cannot be inherently good, or inherently bad, or inherently anything.

Modernism posits an impossible contradiction and is therefore a false world view.

Modernists have an absurd view of the world. It is no accident that Sartre came to believe that life is absurd.

If men were angels

James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution wrote, "If men were angels no government would be necessary." We would not need police or a justice system to punish evil doers. Liberals, who believe men are good unless they are mentally ill, or emotionally damaged, sometimes propose that we substitute therapy for criminal punishment.

A liberal judge in my home town let a child molester off on probation in order that he could get "therapy." Was this morally deranged judge impeached? No, he was defended by the liberal press and was re-elected.

Some liberals say, "Society is the cause of criminality. Therefore, let us fix the root causes in society, instead of punishing criminals."

When there is a crime wave, conservatives talk of hiring more police and building more prisons, and liberals talk about therapy and social engineering projects. A Christian who believes in the fall of man must be skeptical that therapy can make an evil man good or that social programs can cure the real cause of crime that lies in the darkness of the human heart.

In the novel The Lord of the Flies, English school boys were cast adrift on an island and quickly reverted to savagery. When a seaman came to rescue them, a boy named Ralph realized how far the boys had sunk into depravity. He wept for "the end of innocence and for the darkness of the human heart." The boys were delivered of the illusion that man is naturally good, and it hurt to give up this pleasant illusion.

When I was on the college debate team, an argument was made that welfare programs do not corrupt the beneficiaries because "people have an innate desire to work." This point was baldly asserted on the grounds that man is naturally good and therefore tends to prefer virtue to vice.

That kind of thinking prevailed when the New Deal and Great Society programs were designed. The result was a great mass of welfare families who remained on the government dole for generations. Their idleness multiplied their vices and shattered their families. They did not sit at home studying the Aristotelian virtues.

Rights and duties

In our political culture today, those who shout the loudest about rights are the most likely to deny duties. This is the behavior of the dead beat, the moocher, and the con man. While I expect such moral decadence from liberals, I am embarrassed to confess that some libertarian conservatives carry atomist individualism to extremes and demand rights while denying duties.

If man has a nature, he must have both rights and duties connected with that nature. Governments that respect human nature are obliged to protect the innate rights of an individual against the infringements of other men. Since human nature is constant, these protections should be enduring principles of law. At the same time, no one should be offended when the legitimate duties of citizenship are called for.

If man has rights, he must also have duties. It is inconceivable that the creator would design man to soak up rights and deny duties. The man who demands every benefit but shuns every duty is despicable. He is a parasitic narcissist. It is unthinkable that man was designed to be this way.

To suppose that man is here solely to serve only his private ends calls into question the idea that man really has the innate dignity that warrants special rights and privileges. We can't have it both ways. Either man has both rights and duties, or he has neither.


If man has both rights and duties, the full flourishing of his nature would require that he exercise himself in meeting those duties. If man is capable of arousing himself from self-seeking activities to carry out his duties, the unavoidable implication is that man is capable of governing himself — or, to some degree, moral and self-disciplined men who are thoroughly socialized as responsible members of the family and the community are capable of governing themselves.

The capacity of men to govern themselves makes it possible to have a Republic of free men and a limited role for government. The greater part of the government will be self-government. The lesser part will be civil government. It is no accident that at a time when individual self-control is in decline, an increasing number of citizens are calling for an increased scope of government programs and government regulation.

The restoration of self-government

It is not enough for conservatives to fight against the expansion of government. They must show the way — through example and teaching — to the restoration of self-control by individuals.

It is not enough to be virtuous and to teach the classical virtues to the populace. The preaching of righteousness, holiness, personal responsibility, and self denial, long absent from America's pulpits, must be restored. Perhaps an entire generation of pandering seeker-sensitive ministries must pass from the scene, so that a new wave of godly men, with their hearts on fire for truth and zeal for righteousness and holiness, might rise up from the grassroots of America. The sharp edges of doctrinal orthodoxy, which have been blunted and rounded off in the fear that someone will be offended, must once again be a razor-sharp two-edged sword.

This has happened several times before in American history. That is why we have had such a long run of self-government and personal freedom.

Freedom within boundaries

All designs are integrated with boundaries and limits. This truth is known to every engineer and architect. If man is a designed being, all of life must be conducted within limits. Virtually all doctrinal and theological conservatives understand this.

However, liberals and modernists frequently talk about the absence of limits on the possibilities of an individual. This popular idea passes for wisdom and enlightenment, but it is a notion so filled with fantasy and folly that even a child should know better.

All ideas about a life without limits are destructive to man. Many Americans are lured to their doom by the pied piper of "no limits." They boldly throw off boundaries, thinking it will set them free and they can then do the impossible.

This is madness, of course. Man is a created being and therefore is finite and is obliged to live within boundaries, like them or not. Get used to it.

God has placed each of us on earth according to "appointed times," and has established the "boundaries of our habitation" (Acts 17: 26). He has put us in a particular place at a particular time to do business for Him in a particular station in life. Our lives have starting and ending times, and the community, province, or nation in which we live has boundaries. Every kind of work we might do is hedged about with duties and boundaries. God himself has established these "boundaries of our habitation." We flourish and find our freedom within these boundaries.

Everyone who knows they are not God but are mere created men should understand this in the marrow of his bones. Unfortunately, 20th century modernism promotes a powerful delusion that we are gods, and not men, and therefore have no limits. As we shall see, in the next section, it was Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) who opened this pandora's box to poison the souls of 20th century men.


Christian doctrinal conservatism, allied with conservative political philosophy, is a good antidote to Nietzsche's nihilistic modernism. Christian conservatism is uniquely potent in fighting modernism.

Therefore, Christian conservatism is indispensable as one of the five branches of conservatism. Without it, the other branches will be in constant danger of being seduced by modernism and drifting to the left.

A message from Stephen Stone, President, RenewAmerica

I first became acquainted with Fred Hutchison in December 2003, when he contacted me about an article he was interested in writing for RenewAmerica about Alan Keyes. From that auspicious moment until God took him a little more than six years later, we published over 200 of Fred's incomparable essays — usually on some vital aspect of the modern "culture war," written with wit and disarming logic from Fred's brilliant perspective of history, philosophy, science, and scripture.

It was obvious to me from the beginning that Fred was in a class by himself among American conservative writers, and I was honored to feature his insights at RA.

I greatly miss Fred, who died of a brain tumor on August 10, 2010. What a gentle — yet profoundly powerful — voice of reason and godly truth! I'm delighted to see his remarkable essays on the history of conservatism brought together in a masterfully-edited volume by Julie Klusty. Restoring History is a wonderful tribute to a truly great man.

The book is available at

© Fred Hutchison

RenewAmerica analyst Fred Hutchison also writes a column for RenewAmerica.


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. —Isaiah 40:31