Saturday, December 20, 2008

Babka's Continued Christian Defense of Revolution-Romans 13

Responding to my media appearance among me, Jim, and Herb Titus, Jim Babka writes:

Jon, Picking up on one aspect of Chris Smith’s valuable comment… Let me add that both Herb and I have provided to you a Calvinist method of standing up to tyrants called Interposition. The evidence is abundant. Mr. Smith mentions that a Unitarian version (with which you are quite familiar) and a Nonconformist interpretation exist as well.

I am absolutely not a Calvinist, as I made clear in my piece on Romans 13. However, I do like the work done by the Huguenots and the Scottish Calvinists. I also demonstrated, in that same piece, that the Calvinist Doctrine of Interposition was in perfect concert with how history unfolded in the American Revolution — that it was the British King who declared his subjects in rebellion, BEFORE the subjects declared they would rebel.

It didn’t occur to me to write about this because I think Interposition to be so direct, seamless, and thorough, but I am a Non-conformist, and question human authority almost as a theological instinct. It’s not just a neo-Calvinist interpretation of Romans 13 and Acts 4 & 5 that animates me.

I’m a religious mutt, but two of the dominant strains of my faith could be described as Wesleyan and Anabaptist. I was raised in a Regular Baptist church. My wife and two of my children were baptized while we were members of Nazarene churches.

Anabaptists are anti-magisterium. It is my Anabaptist side that opposes foreign wars and saluting the symbols of war. Wesleyans (Methodists, Nazarenes, Wesleyans, and Pentecostals) have Bishops or District Superintendents, but in general, still seek to decentralize power into the local churches, and recognize that the priesthood resides with all believers.

Let me suggest that you are only versed in the Unitarian and “strict literalist” (the Tories and John MacArthur) views of Romans 13. Thus, per your view, the Unitarian cherry-picks the Scripture to begin with and elevates his own reason, and the literalist realizes he can’t support the rebellion. This is a brick in your theory that a) the Bible is unconcerned with individual/political Liberty, and b) modern Christians who admire the Founders are either ill-informed or engaging in “cafeteria Christianity” — choosing the parts they like, discarding the rest.

Further, in your writing the only time you concede that there are other legitimate views of Romans 13 that permit proper rebellion is when someone informed challenges you on the matter. You are gracious and fair. But there is an implicit assumption in the rest of your work, I suspect following MacArthur disciple Gregg Frazer, that there can only be these two approaches.

I was moderating that interview between you and Titus, and I re-listened to it again before posting. It’s been a couple of days since I heard it, but I’m reasonably sure it was something you said that caused us to “veer off to Romans 13.” But it was hardly a rabbit trail. This is pretty fundamental stuff. Is there an intellectually consistent marriage of reason and revelation sufficient to explain the Founders as both true to Christian principles and rebels against tyranny? …and were the Founders aware of it?

The answers are yes, and yes. Mr. Titus and I have explained the Calvinist method and answer. Mr. Smith has just referred you to the Non-conformist way of thinking. Like most past events and present decisions, there are more than two answers to this question.

All that said, this is one of the few areas where I sense any disagreement between you and I about the subject of Christian influence on the founding. I still think your writings are splendid and should receive a wider audience. I was glad you were on the show.


I noted to him that:

For all that I’ve written on the subject, it occurred to me that I still HAVEN’T made the case for why what the Founders did, DOESN’T fit with Calvin himself’s understanding of interposition, but rather with the later Calvinists’ position of interposition. Frazer explains this in his thesis; and I’ve only alluded to these arguments so far.

I also mentioned the notion of “living Calvinism” which again, I didn’t have the time to get into in detail. Systems of thought “live” and “evolve” much like the common law did. I noted America’s Founders as arguably “living Lockeans” in this sense (how they consciously took Locke’s ideas further).

So after I reproduce your comment, I’ll later work on a post where I try to show you Frazer’s understanding of interposition and why it had to take place in accord with the governing positive law (something you and Herb seemed surprised to hear me assert).

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