- Paperback: 534 pages
- Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 4th edition (July 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1882926994
- ISBN-13: 978-1882926992
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Roots Of American Order 4th Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Rambling scholarship that affirms faith in American ideals and institutions.
Copyright 1992 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Kirk's book is exactly what people need to read...[he's] made it easy, even pleasurable, for them to do so." -- Esquire
"The Roots of American Order is destined to be accorded a distinctive status ." -- Wall Street Journal
"[A]nyone who wishes to reflect and talk on the topic 'America'...will do himself a favor [to read] Kirk's book." -- Christianity Today
"[T]his is a most impressive affirmation of faith in American ideals and institutions." -- Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Must read if you love America!
If you missed American (and to a certain extent western civilization) history in your education -- this book is worth your time.
Especially for those of us who will never have the time to make a dent in the vast bibliography, this is an excellent synopsis. But it is more than a synopsis, it is a story and a point of view.
Even for my non-American friends, particularly those from the English-speaking countries, there is a lot here for you, too.
Kirk traces out the development of order which gradually matured through the successes and failures of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and London respectively. When America came on the scene, because of this heritage she could set for herself a noble, unprecedented goal. Kirk cites nineteenth-century American thinker Orestes Brownson, who wrote that every nation has an task given it by Providence to realize; for the American Republic that destiny was to reconcile liberty with law.
A recurring theme in Kirk's historical overview is the role religion has played in the development of order. He observes that "in the twentieth century, many people do not find it easy to understand how all aspects of a culture grow out of the cult - out of common religious convictions. Yet the Hebrew and Greek and Roman civilizations all had arisen from the soil of religion; and when the power of the cult had declined, those cultures had begun to decay." This is because religion that fails to provide an overarching metanarrative does not produce a culture that will truly bind a people together and give it coherence. Since the Greek deities were little more than official gods, "they did not speak to private conscience ... or clearly declare a norm for what men and women ought to be." Thus "the failure of the Greeks to find an enduring popular religious sanction for the order of their civilization had been a main cause of the collapse of the world of the polis."
The modern notion that America was founded to be a secular nation, where reason may be invoked but not revelation, puts at risk the whole enterprise of reconciling liberty with law. The deism of some of the founders, and the silence in the Constitution regarding the naming of God, are given as supporting evidence of this absolute separation of church and state (more accurately, of God and state). Kirk argues, however, that "the Constitution was and is purely an instrument for practical government - not a philosophical disquisition," and that "the framers of the Constitution took it for granted that a moral order, founded upon religious beliefs, supports and parallels the political order."
Ravi Zacharias, in his book "Deliver Us From Evil", extends this argument and presses the point that, putting aside the question of the orthodoxy of the founding fathers, it is clear that the fundamental precepts by which they wanted to govern, which made the task of reconciling liberty with law even intelligible, could only have been possible within a biblical framework. Only within this context, where law finds its ultimate origin in a God who loves us, can law move beyond external compulsion and work in the hearts of men. For law to truly bind a people together, there must be an inner desire to keep the law because it is good. Otherwise laws become little more than a random set of rules, and have to be multiplied endlessly. And liberty, if it also has no objective point of reference, moves from being a freedom to do what you ought, to license to do whatever you want. The only way to restrain that kind of liberty, if it is to be restrained at all, is through compulsion. What we see today, then, is that "the imprints of Athens, Rome, and London are still upon us. But the all-important endowment of Jerusalem has been tossed to the winds."
To re-embrace the legacy of Jerusalem is not to invite theocracy, for such was never the design or the outcome in early America. It is, rather, to acknowledge that Jerusalem has in fact taught us some truths about the human condition and the purpose of our existence. The modern dogma of secularism, which denies the reality of anything transcendent, is wrongheaded. A pluralistic culture means that yes, in America there is more disagreement about ultimate questions than there used to be, but to ignore those questions is not a solution. We ought to glean what is good and true from other cultures and add to the inheritance already passed down to us. Then we might realize that some of the answers to the perplexing questions that have been eluding us these past few decades, have been closer to us than we thought.
Order is organic; that which was inherited by the new American republic was the product of care, cultivation, and time. It is recklessness to quickly and radically reshape it, and still expect a just and free society. To engage the immense privilege of reconciling liberty with law we must recognize the roots of American order that have even made that task possible. Kirk's survey of history leads him to the conclusion that "to live within a just order is to live within a pattern that has beauty. The individual finds purpose within an order, and security - whether it is the order of the soul or the order of the community."
As we all see a "moral crisis" in all our institutions, perhaps it is time to bring back the teachings of classical philosophers who had taught our basic sense of right and wrong (vice and virtue) for over two thousand years. Kirk's discussion includes a long list of American ethics and Protestant morality to prevent despotism.