[CUA Office of Public Affairs]                                                                        

Oct. 10, 2000


Novak Opens Debate on Faith, Reason and the Founding of the U.S.

World famous religious thinker Michael Novak is presenting four lectures at The Catholic University of America this fall, examining the forgotten wing of American history: the reliance of the American founders on a Hebrew understanding of God as Creator, Providence and Judge.

The series, "On Two Wings: The Humble God and Common Sense at the Founding of the United States," will be held every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. from October 18 to November 8 at CUA’s Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C.

Guest respondents at the lecture series include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; the first director of the U.S. Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver; former assistant secretary for human rights and current Special Adviser to the Secretary of State Richard Schifter and American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Robert H. Bork.

In a presidential election year when the respective candidates’ religious views have generated much public discussion, Novak has contributed historical context with his unconventional thesis that the American founders were deeply religious men who considered their own experiment in democracy a sort of "second Israel."

"I don't know who the critics of Joe Lieberman’s use of religious references in his vice-presidential campaign talk to," Novak wrote in a Sept. 4 New York Times editorial. "Everybody I know, right and left — especially right — is cheering his view that America needs a constitutional space for religion in public, that Americans should talk more about religion in public, that this is the most religious nation on the planet and that secularists who wince at religion in public are to religion what Victorians were to sex."

A theologian, author and former U.S. ambassador, Novak currently holds the George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion, Philosophy and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., where he is director of social and political studies. In 1994, he was awarded the million dollar Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

"Michael Novak’s four lectures on the combined and intertwined roles of religion and reason in the founding of the United States directly consider the most fundamental issues about the nature and the future of the American experiment in self-government," said the Rev. Kurt Pritzl, O.P., dean of CUA’s School of Philosophy, which together with the university’s Columbus School of Law, School of Religious Studies and Department of Politics are co-sponsoring the lecture series. "These issues have profound philosophical, religious, legal and political dimensions, and Novak's lectures drive towards some striking and serious conclusions about our country with all these dimensions in play."

The first lecture, "The Hebrew Metaphysics of the Founding," held October 18, provided a foundation for the series. "In one central respect, the way the story of the United States is told is wrong," Novak writes in his lecture summary. "It has cut off one of the two wings by which the American eagle flies: Her reliance on the God of the Hebrews. The God of the founding generations was not Deist, but Hebrew, as in the four Names used in the Declaration of Independence: Law-Giver, Creator, Providence and Judge. Seven vivid early episodes show how reliant the American founders were upon God — for instance, the Congressional decree of a national day of "Fasting and Repentance" to implore God’s aid (December 11, 1776)."

Subsequent lectures will include:

Two Beat as One: Plain Reason, Humble Faith

October 25 at 4:30 p.m.

Response: The Honorable Sargent Shriver

Immoral Man; Moral Society; Religious Liberty

November 1 at 4:30 p.m.

Response: Ambassador Richard Schifter

A Religious Theory of Rights

November 8 at 4:30 p.m.

Response: The Honorable Robert H. Bork


The lecture series is supported by grants from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation.





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Revised: February 12, 2001

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