Robert Reilly, Director of the Westminster Institute, discusses his new book “America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding.” During his lecture Reilly will focuses on the tradition of “right reason,” that is, the metaphysical, epistemological, anthropological, and theological roots of constitutional government. He will reintroduces listeners to ideas about the primacy of reason over will, universal truth, natural law, and monotheism.
The Founding of the American Republic is on trial. Critics say it was a poison pill with a time-release formula; we are its victims. Its principles are responsible for the country’s moral and social disintegration because they were based on the Enlightenment falsehood of radical individual autonomy.
In this well-researched book, Robert Reilly declares: not guilty. To prove his case, he traces the lineage of the ideas that made the United States, and its ordered liberty, possible. These concepts were extraordinary when they first burst upon the ancient world: the Judaic oneness of God, who creates ex nihilo and imprints his image on man; the Greek rational order of the world based upon the Reason behind it; and the Christian arrival of that Reason (Logos) incarnate in Christ. These may seem a long way from the American Founding, but Reilly argues that they are, in fact, its bedrock. Combined, they mandated the exercise of both freedom and reason.
These concepts were further developed by thinkers in the Middle Ages, who formulated the basic principles of constitutional rule. Why were they later rejected by those claiming the right to absolute rule, then reclaimed by the American Founders, only to be rejected again today? Reilly reveals the underlying drama: the conflict of might makes right versus right makes might. America’s decline, he claims, is not to be discovered in the Founding principles, but in their disavowal.
Robert R. Reilly is Director of the Westminster Institute. In his twenty-five years of government service, he served as Special Assistant to the President and as Director of the Voice of America, and he was also Senior Advisor for Information Strategy to the Secretary of Defense, and taught at National Defense University.
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