Prof. Robert Louis Wilken
"The Catholic Roots of Religious Freedom"

2012 St. Thomas Aquinas Lecture
St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish
Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, 7:30pm

Robert Louis Wilken is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity Emeritus at the University of Virginia.  Prof. Wilken initiated and nurtured the early development of the St. Anselm Institute and he remains the Chairman of its Board.  His scholarly accomplishment are extensive, widely known and highly respected.  He is the author, editor, and translator of numerous books and articles, including Isaiah: Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators (Eerdmans, 2007); The Spirit of Early Christian Thought (Yale, 2003); On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: selected writings of St. Maximus the Confessor (St. Vladimir's Press, 2003); Remembering the Christian Past (Eerdmans, 1995); The Land Called Holy (Yale, 1992); and Christians as the Romans Saw Them (Yale, 1984).  Prof. Wilken presently is the Rev. Robert J. Randall Professor in Christian Culture at Providence College and he also serves as chairman of the board of the Institute on Religion and Public Life.

In his public lecture, Prof. Wilken clarified that the roots of modern ideas of religious freedom are as much religious as they are political and philosophical.  In fact, the American political leaders who first championed these ideas were well aware of the religious--indeed deeply Catholic--sources supporting their views.  The greatest of these champions James Madison--who ended state support for Virginia's churches and drafted the Bill of Rights--not only recommended that a long list of these intellectual sources be included in the University of Virginia Library, but he openly spoke about “the duty which we owe to our Creator” and that religion can only be governed “by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.”  Prof. Wilken's lecture explored how early Christian thinkers developed a theological understanding of religious freedom.  See the full video of this lecture: here
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