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Clarence Thomas on the harmony of faith and reason

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In the Christmas season, the secular West begrudgingly nods toward its faithful past. Yet amidst the darkness, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas joined with one the nation’s most distinguished colleges to highlight the compatibility of faith and reason.

Justice Thomas spoke at the dedication of Hillsdale College’s Christ Chapel on October 3, 2019.

Thomas told the students that a university chapel joins two of the institutions on which liberty relies:

Christ Chapel reflects the College’s conviction that a vibrant intellectual environment and a strong democratic society are fostered, not hindered, by a recognition of the Divine. Hillsdale College affirms, with the writer of Proverbs, that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” …

Each generation is responsible both to itself and to succeeding generations for preserving and promoting the blessings of liberty. Faith in God, more than anything else, fuels the strength of character and self-discipline needed to discharge ably that responsibility. That is why I am so encouraged by the construction of Christ Chapel.

The concise address, just reprinted in the college’s publication Imprimis, deserves to be read in full.

The Acton Institute’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, has explained the confluence of faith and reason at length in his new book, Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization. Gregg describes how the Judeo-Christian conception of the human person ushered in a political revolution for liberty. In an excerpt of his book, published in a recent issue of Religion & Liberty, Gregg wrote:

Christ’s famous admonition to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God (Mark 12:17) is widely regarded as radicalizing the Jewish conviction that the power of earthy rulers is limited by God’s divine law, a conviction that would become a crucial feature of the Western understanding of government power.

Even more importantly, Christ acknowledged on several occasions that people were free to follow him or not. This freedom is consistent with the Jewish affirmation of free will in the face of good and evil, but it also implies limits on the ability of others – including the state – to tell people what to do.

You can read Justice Thomas’ full address here. You can read a review of Samuel Gregg’s most recent book in the most recent issue of Religion & Liberty, which is dedicated to the connection between socialism and atheism.

(Photo credit: Public domain.)

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Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of the Acton Institute's flagship journal Religion & Liberty and edits its transatlantic website.