Friday, December 12, 2008

Protestant Case Against The Natural Law


Natural law doesn't bode well for the "Sola-Scriptura" the Bible trumps understanding of orthodox Protestantism.


Francis Schaeffer makes it here. As it relates to the context of the American Founding I am going to quote some arguments from Gary North's book "Conspiracy in Philadelphia." Note, though Dr. North is an extremist Reconstructionist, he has a PhD in history from University of California at Riverside and studied under Douglass Adair. Let his arguments in this regard rise and fall on their own merits.

Dr. North deals with Blackstone's Christian natural law synthesis. Christian Nationalists invariably cite Blackstone as authority for the "laws of nature and nature's God" because parts of his commentaries discuss the proper relationship between reason and revelation and Blackstone has a smoking gun quotation that gives revelation the edge. James Wilson, who unlike Blackstone, was actually an American Founder, also discussed the proper relationship between reason and revelation but, as I read him, is far more ambiguous on which can trump what, though he does, like Blackstone, assert their by in large agreement. Wilson also notes the two are incomplete without the other, but are supposed to work together. At one point Wilson notes:

These considerations show, that the scriptures support, confirm, and corroborate, but do not supercede the operations of reason and the moral sense. The information with regard to our duties and obligations, drawn from these different sources, ought not to run in unconnected and diminished channels: it should flow in one united stream, which, by its combined force and just direction, will impel us uniformly and effectually towards our greatest good.


As noted, Blackstone "theoretically" puts his cards more clearly on scripture's side. The passage Christian America apologists invariably stress follows:

This law of nature, being co-eval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original.

But in order to apply this to the particular exigencies of each individual, it is still necessary to have recourse to reason; whose office it is to discover, as was before observed, what the law of nature directs in every circumstance of life; by considering, what method will tend the most effectually to our own substantial happiness. And if our reason were always, as in our first ancestor before his transgression, clear and perfect, unruffled by passions, unclouded by prejudice, unimpaired by disease or intemperance, the task would be pleasant and easy; we should need no other guide but this. But every man now finds the contrary in his own experience; that his reason is corrupt, and his understanding full of ignorance and error.

....The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found upon comparison to be really a part of the original law of nature, as they tend in all their consequences to man's felicity. But we are not from thence to conclude that the knowlege of these truths was attainable by reason, in it's present corrupted state; since we find that, until they were revealed, they were hid from the wisdom of ages. As then the moral precepts of this law are indeed of the same original with those of the law of nature, so their intrinsic obligation is of equal strength and perpetuity. Yet undoubtedly the revealed law is (humanly speaking) of infinitely more authority than what we generally call the natural law. Because one is the law of nature, expressly declared so to be by God himself; the other is only what, by the assistance of human reason, we imagine to be that law. If we could be as certain of the latter as we are of the former, both would have an equal authority; but, till then, they can never be put in any competition together.

UPON these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.


Here is Dr. North's critical commentary of Blackstone's remarks:

Having said this, he then spent four volumes describing English common law with only a few footnote references to the Bible. In the first three volumes, running almost 500 pages each, each has one footnote reference to the Bible. The fourth volume, on criminal law (Public Wrongs), has ten references. Not one of them is taken by Blackstone as authoritative for civil law; they were seen merely as historical examples. There is not a single reference to “Bible,” “Moses,” or “Revelation” in the set’s index.

How could this be if he was persuaded that biblical law and natural law are the same, but with biblical law so much clearer to us? Blackstone’s preliminary remarks were familiar in his era. Englishmen commonly tipped the brim of their epistemological caps to God and the Bible, but they did not take off their caps in the presence of God. They pursued their academic specialties just as Christians do today: with no systematic study of what biblical law specifically reveals regarding those disciplines. It was considered sufficient for Blackstone to have formally equated biblical law with natural law. Having done so, he could then safely ignore biblical law.

[...]

This raises another question: Was Blackstone in fact deliberately lying? In a perceptive essay by David Berman, we learn of a strategy that had been in use for over a century: combating a position by supporting it with arguments that are so weak that they in fact prove the opposite….If he was not lying, then he was naive beyond description, for his lame defense of biblical revelation greatly assisted the political triumph of the enemies of Christianity in the American colonies. pp. 22-24.


North also explains the context of how "educated" men like America's key Founders and the English Whig intellectuals they followed dealt with the reason v. revelation issue [Note: This is what's in between the ellipses in North's above quotation right before North's speculation that Blackstone might be lying.]:

This common equation of biblical law with natural law faced two monumental problems in the eighteenth century: (1) the continuing negative legacy of the English Civil War, 1642–60, in which the various Christian churches and sects had failed to agree on much of anything, a social and political experiment which ended with the restoration of Charles II; (2) the intellectual legacy of Isaac Newton, which had created a blinding illusion of the near-perfectability of reason’s ability to discern the perfect laws of nature in the physical world, and which therefore held out hope that this could also be accomplished in the moral and social realms.18 This dual legacy indicated that biblical revelation – or at least men’s understanding of that revelation – is far less certain as a guide to human action than unaided, unregenerate reason. Biblical higher criticism was a century old in English religious thought and politics by the time Blackstone wrote his Commentaries.19 Thus, by the time that the Commentaries appeared, the foundation of his defense of the superiority of biblical law to natural law – the greater clarity of biblical revelation compared to reason’s perception of natural law – was not believed by most men who called themselves educated. p. 23


And indeed, educated men Jefferson and J. Adams, in their private letters, demonstrate far more clearly than Wilson in his "Works" that they believed revelation subservient to man's reason. Wilson's Works (which were public) I admit are somewhat ambiguous on the proper relationship between reason & revelation, far more so than Blackstone. I would bet if his private letters were uncovered, we'd see something not unlike what follows from J. Adams and Jefferson on the superiority of reason over revelation.

First from Adams:

Philosophy, which is the result of reason, is the first, the original revelation of the Creator to his creature. man. When this revelation is clear and certain, by intuition or necessary inductions, no subsequent revelation, supported by prophecies or miracles, can supersede it. Philosophy is not only the love of wisdom, but the science of the universe and its cause. There is, there was, and there will be but one master of philosophy in the universe. Portions of it, in different degrees, are revealed to creatures. Philosophy looks with an impartial eye on all terrestrial religions. I have examined all, as well as my narrow sphere, my straitened means, and my busy life would allow me ; and the result is, that the Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more of my little philosophy than all the libraries I have seen; and such parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little philosophy, I postpone for future investigation.

-- To Thomas Jefferson, Dec. 25, 1813.


Adams entire letter is worth a read, small parts of which have often been quoted out of context. Adams makes a number of notable claims: 1) That reason, not revelation is penultimate; 2) that, nonetheless, the Bible is the "best book"; and 3) that Hinduism and many exotic world religions teach the same truth as Christianity.

Here is Dr. Gregg Frazer's commentary on the letter:

In context, he has just said: “Philosophy, which is the result of reason, is the first, the original revelation of the Creator to his creature, man. … no subsequent revelation, supported by prophecies or miracles, can supersede it.” [the latter refers, of course, to the Bible and its inferiority to philosophy] He goes on to say: “Philosophy looks with an impartial eye on all terrestrial religions” and then talks about the Bible further. About the Bible, he then says: “such parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little philosophy, I postpone for future investigation.” He then talks about Joseph Priestley (his spiritual mentor) and about various religious systems he and Priestley have encountered, including Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Plato, the Brahmins, and then the Shastra — and the quoted commentary on the Shastra. A paragraph later, he says “these doctrines, sublime, if ever there were any sublime, Pythagoras learned in India, and taught them to Zaleucus and his other disciples.” Earlier in the same letter, he said: “The preamble to the laws of Zaleucus, which is all that remains, is as orthodox as Christian theology as Priestley’s ….” This is critical because Priestley is Adams’s (& Jefferson’s) spiritual mentor and because the laws of Zaleucus were supposedly handed down to pagans from Athena! SO YOU SEE THAT HE SPECIFICALLY INCLUDED CHRISTIANITY IN THE COMPARISON! Further, if a set of laws supposedly handed down from Athena 600 years before the birth of Christ can be considered “Christian” — what real meaning does the term have for Adams?


And Jefferson's exaltation of reason:

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. You will naturally examine first, the religion of your own country. Read the Bible, then as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature, you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy & Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor, in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature, does not weigh against them. But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong, as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature, in the case he relates. For example, in the book of Joshua, we are told, the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus, we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, &c. But it is said, that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine, therefore, candidly, what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand, you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis, as the earth does, should have stopped, should not, by that sudden stoppage, have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time gave resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth's motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities?

-- To Peter Carr, August 10, 1787.


A passage from James Wilson's Works intimates such an understanding:

The law of nature is immutable; not by the effect of an arbitrary disposition, but because it has its foundation in the nature, constitution, and mutual relations of men and things. While these continue to be the same, it must continue to be the same also. This immutability of nature's laws has nothing in it repugnant to the supreme power of an all-perfect Being. Since he himself is the author of our constitution; he cannot but command or forbid such things as are necessarily agreeable or disagreeable to this very constitution. He is under the glorious necessity of not contradicting himself. This necessity, far from limiting or diminishing his perfections, adds to their external character, and points out their excellency.


Finally let me address the fact that these "educated" men sometimes quoted from the Bible as though it were a history book. Men like Ben Franklin and James Wilson did indeed sometimes quote the Bible as though its history were true and better respected it as a history book than today's intellectuals do. However, they still didn't necessarily believe it infallible or *the* authoritative source of history, just one of many valid sources. As Dr. North put it:

I am not arguing that Englishmen trusted a priori reason as the sole guide to human institutions; they also placed great weight on historical experience. My point is only that they placed almost zero practical weight on Old Testament law and experience, and when they cited the Old Testament, they did so because it was merely one historical source among many. p. 24 footnote 21.

26 comments:

Charles said...

Very interesting. But a couple of questions.

Whether or not Blackstone is telling the truth, his logic seems to be roughly:

- There are two infallible sources of the law: natural law as discovered using uncorrupted reason, and revelation.

- These, being merely different ways of getting at God's law, are equivalent in result.

- However, man's reason is corrupted, so laws resulting from using that corrupted reason may not actually be natural law, ie, God's law.

- Hence, where man's law - the result of his attempt, using his corrupted reason, at accessing natural law - conflicts with revealed law, the latter prevails.

Which is fine, but how does man with his corrupted reason get at revealed law? My (admittedly ignorant) impression is that Biblical exegesis involves exercise of man's reason, in which case don't you have the same problem of potentially corrupted results? Or is there a way of getting at revealed law that I'm missing?

And in any event, even where there is no conflict between man's law and revealed law because the latter is silent on the matter at hand, doesn't the fact that man's reason is corrupted call into question the correspondence between man's law and natural law?

- Charles

Pinky said...

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Interesting.
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Your post requires some serious thought.
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I'm sure you know that it's getting us into some Strauss.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Charles is quite correct in his observations. Man's reason is often corrupt, whereas the Bible is often unambiguous. It often means just what it appears to say.

Wilson's Works (which were public) I admit are somewhat ambiguous on the proper relationship between reason & revelation

Not ambiguous at all: reason is invaluable, but the "moral sense" [which is not corruptible] is superior to reason because it works from first principles, whereas reason does the sorting out, and therefore is a secondary faculty.

"Having thus stated the question—what is the efficient cause of moral obligation?—I give it this answer—the will of God. This is the supreme law. His just and full right of imposing laws, and our duty in obeying them, are the sources of our moral obligations. If I am asked—why do you obey the will of God? I answer—because it is my duty so to do. If I am asked again—how do you know this to be your duty? I answer again—because I am told so by my moral sense or conscience. If I am asked a third time—how do you know that you ought to do that, of which your conscience enjoins the performance? I can only say, I feel that such is my duty. Here investigation must stop; reasoning can go no farther. The science of morals, as well as other sciences, is founded on truths, that cannot be discovered or proved by reasoning."

[snip]

"...how shall we, in particular cases, discover the will of God? We discover it by our conscience, by our reason, and by the Holy Scriptures. The law of nature and the law of revelation are both divine: they flow, though in different channels, from the same adorable source. It is, indeed, preposterous to separate them from each other. The object of both is—to discover the will of God—and both are necessary for the accomplishment of that end."



Now, the question is, how typical are James Wilson's sentiments? I give them equal or greater weight than those of Adams' and Jefferson's after they had left public life, and whose correspondences were private and confidential.

I believe putting their post-presidential musings anywhere near the forefront mischaracterizes the theologico-political atmosphere of the Founding.

The relevant Wilson text is here:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=2072&chapter=156459&layout=html&Itemid=27

[As for Leo Strauss, he would bifurcate the moral sense and revelation as incompatible, unlike Aquinas, Hooker, et al.]

Tom Van Dyke said...

To put it another way, when Dr. North writes, "I am not arguing that Englishmen trusted a priori reason as the sole guide to human institutions," Wilson argues that reason cannot even approach the a priori. It is insufficient to the task, and would be redundant, as the a priori is established in the natural law and scripture. [That these two flow from the same source seems the common understanding of the Founding era.]

They did indeed place "great weight on historical experience," but with the expectation that observation and experience would [and could] only confirm the natural law and the scriptures, both of which were considered the embodiment of a priori truth.

One would have to counterargue the opposite, where the conclusions of "reason" were shown to be in conflict with natural law or scripture and put into action or law. One can find many examples in the French Revolution, which indeed elevate man's reason to the highest place, but none in the American. And that, Phil is an illustration of what you asked for awhile back, and what happens when man's reason---which is corrupt or at least corruptible---is put in the driver's seat.

This is not to say scripture, or the interpretation of it, cannot be corrupted, and indeed Wilson allows for that, but the culprit is once again man and his reason, not the natural law or scripture as a priori truth.

Pinky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pinky said...

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Sorry about that. Too many typos. Here it is, corrected:
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There is a lot of confusion here unless, of course, you ignore the various inputs and only stick to your personal view.
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One of the major bones of contention has to do with the definition of what is meant by Natural Law.
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I have a difficult time sorting out all the mumbo jumbo as a result.
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Somewhere, recently, Tom mentioned the importance of coming to terms.
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I am going under the assumption that Natural Law is that which exists in nature before government. And, I am going under the assumption that God's Law is that which is revealed by way of some respected scripture. And, Man's Law? That's the law of government, right?
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Pinky said...

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Even though I have seen it argued here, I cannot buy that Natural Law and God's Law are the same thing.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Perhaps. But aside from Jefferson and Adams' private scribblings to each other, I doubt you'll find many echoes of your opinion in the Founding literature, which is the focus of this blog.

But please do provide them if and when you find them.

Pinky said...

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I am under the impression that the focus of this blog is related to the religious history of America's founding.
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And, we have zeroed in on the idea that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, all of which has something to do with either God's law or Nature's Law.
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So, I figured that it was on track to make my previous statement. Otherwise, why the question about American being founded as a Christian nation?
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Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

I don't think you can cast off Jefferson's or Adams' sentiments as "private scribblings."

This blog is an inquiry. Sometimes things (like TV and movies series, book series) end because you did it all and there's really not much more to explore. I doubt this blog will ever end for that reason. We'll all be dead before we come to that point. And hopefully we'll be able to continue the discussion in the afterlife and see who was right.

That said, I still see the key ideas of the Founding as coming from a heterodox place and being delivered to the masses in a more "respectable" form. (Wilson's and Blackstone's forms were respectable; Jefferson's and Adams' private letters weren't necessarily). In that case, the private musing of the Founders may shed light on just where the public ideas came from.

That's why I think Jefferson's and Adams' private musings are worthwhile and telling. And we are, after all, talking about the 2ND and 3RD Presidents of the United States!

Jonathan Rowe said...

Let me say something else about Gary North. First Tom (and others) I'm glad you heeded my admonition to "[l]et his arguments in this regard rise and fall on their own merits" and not poison the well by attacking his extremely politically incorrect and crankish theocratic politics.

Philosophy is, after all, a search for the truth, and sometimes you have to go to the most extreme places to find those willing to speak truth and tackle sacred cows. I think Robert Locke called them the "non-respectable Left" and the "non-respectable Right." North is certainly comes from one of most non-respectable places on the Right.

But, the way I see it, his ideal vision of politics is straight from Puritan Massachusetts and what Founders like the first 5 Presidents, Wilson, Hamilton, G. Morris did from 1776-1800 was radically different than the Puritans ideal form of government. North sees that; but David Barton and company don't.

Let me quote from the Mass. 1641 Body of Liberties to prove the point:

94. Capitall Laws.

1.

(Deut. 13. 6, 10. Deut. 17. 2, 6. Ex. 22.20)
If any man after legall conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.

2.

(Ex. 22. 18. Lev. 20. 27. Dut. 18. 10.)
If any man or woeman be a witch, (that is hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit,) They shall be put to death.

3.

(Lev. 24. 15,16.)
If any person shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Sonne or Holie Ghost, with direct, expresse, presumptuous or high handed blasphemie, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death.

[Page 274]

4.

(Ex. 21. 12. Numb. 35. 13, 14, 30, 31.)
If any person committ any wilfull murther, which is manslaughter, committed upon premeditated malice, hatred, or Crueltie, not in a mans necessarie and just defence, nor by meere casualtie against his will, he shall be put to death.

5.

(Numb. 25, 20, 21. Lev. 24. 17)
If any person slayeth an other suddaienly in his anger or Crueltie of passion, he shall be put to death.

6.

(Ex. 21. 14.)
If any person shall slay an other through guile, either by poysoning or other such divelish practice, he shall be put to death.

7.

(Lev. 20. 15,16.)
If any man or woeman shall lye with any beaste or bruite creature by Carnall Copulation, They shall surely be put to death. And the beast shall be slaine, and buried and not eaten.

8.

(Lev. 20. 13.)
If any man lyeth with mankinde as he lyeth with a woeman, both of them have committed abhomination, they both shall surely be put to death.

9.

Lev. 20. 19. and 18, 20. Dut. 22. 23, 24.)
If any person committeth Adultery with a maried or espoused wife, the Adulterer and Adulteresse shall surely be put to death.

10.

(Ex. 21. 16.)
If any man stealeth a man or mankinde, he shall surely be put to death.

11.

(Deut. 19. 16, 18, 19.)
If any man rise up by false witnes, wittingly and of purpose to take away any mans life, he shall be put to death.

12.

If any man shall conspire and attempt any invasion, insurrection, or publique rebellion against our commonwealth, or shall [Page 275] indeavour to surprize any Towne or Townes, fort or forts therein, or shall treacherously and perfediouslie attempt the alteration and subversion of our frame of politie or Government fundamentallie, he shall be put to death.

Pinky said...

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Those are God's Laws--revealed in sacred scripture.
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They certainly are not the laws of nature.

Our Founding Truth said...

This is not to say scripture, or the interpretation of it, cannot be corrupted, and indeed Wilson allows for that,>

Hey Tom, please post Wilson's specific words for this; it would be good to know. Also, Wilson was and still is, our greatest authority on the Law of Nature, having been a Professor of it, and studying under the Masters of it, Pufendorf, and Grotius. Jefferson, or Franklin were not Professors of Law.

Perhaps. But aside from Jefferson and Adams' private scribblings to each other, I doubt you'll find many echoes of your opinion in the Founding literature, which is the focus of this blog.>

We will only find the opposite viewpoint. Even the quote by Adams ONLY supports my view, and is exactly what I believe:

"Philosophy, which is the result of reason, is the first, the original revelation of the Creator to his creature. man. When this revelation is clear and certain, by intuition or necessary inductions, no subsequent revelation, supported by prophecies or miracles, can supersede it."

This is what the Bible teaches; remember, reason and revelation is the same thing, from the same God, in different channels.

Adams seemed to believe the entire Bible, as he saw it, was Supreme:

As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration [Bible]...offenses against the Most High God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions in time to come..
Thanksgiving Proc. 1799.

Adams, and James Madison believed in miracles, which exempts them from believing Reason supreme:

The great and almighty Author of nature, who at first established those rules which regulate the World, can as easily Suspend those Laws whenever his providence sees sufficient reason for such suspension. This can be no objection, then, to the miracles of J [Jesus] C [Christ]. Altho' some very thoughtfull, and contemplative men among the heathen, attained a strong persuasion of the great Principles of Religion, yet the far greater number having little time for speculation, gradually sunk in to the grossest Opinions and the grossest Practices.
John Adams diary March 2, 1756

To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence.
James Madison-Memorial and Remonstrance 1785

Adams understood, as with Wilson, without Revelation, reason is corrupt:

The passions and appetites are parts of human nature as well as reason and the moral sense. In the institution of government it must be remembered that, although reason ought always to govern individuals, it certainly never did since the Fall, and never will till the Millennium; and human nature must be taken as it is, as it has been, and will be.
Defence, 3:289, 479. Cf., Cited by Michael Novak, On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding (San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2002), 49.

We see every Day, that our Imaginations are so strong and our Reason so weak..
Diary, FEB, 9TH, 1772. ADAMS PAPERS.

Only Jefferson, and maybe Franklin, out of all the Founding Fathers believed in this foolishness.

The only way reason can be known or useful to people and nations is if it's put on paper (Law), and once its on paper, it's human, unless coming from an inspired author, therefore, reason could not be divine, destroying what it is. The doctrine is totally illogical! To claim the framers or their God in the DOI as proponents of this is false.

Even Blackstone believed reason inferior to Revelation:

Yet this rule admits of exception, where the former determination is most evidently contrary to reason; much more if it be dearly contrary to the divine law...And hence it is that our lawyers are with justice so copious in their encomiums on the reason of the common law, that they tell us, that the law is the perfection of reason, that it always intends to conform thereto, and that what is not reason is not law. Blackstone, SECTION THE THIRD. OF THE LAWS OF ENGLAND
http://www.constitution.org/tb/tb-1103.htm

Our Founding Truth said...

However, they still didn't necessarily believe it infallible or *the* authoritative source of history, just one of many valid sources.>

The above quote doesn't jive if James Wilson believed in the supernatural, which he did.

"Immediately after the DELUGE, the great charter of general property was renewed. “God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth."

James Wilson calls the Torah inspired, not just a history book, meaning all the miracles written in it. Noah lived to be 950 years old, is that a miracle?

The INSPIRED legislator of the Jews [Moses] speaks of them as of an institution, which, even in his time, was anciently established in Canaan.
Wilson, Works.

Pinky said...

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"...remember, reason and revelation is the same thing, from the same God, in different channels."
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How was that line of thought revealed to you?
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Our Founding Truth said...

"...remember, reason and revelation is the same thing, from the same God, in different channels."
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How was that line of thought revealed to you?>

It was revealed to me by David, Paul, the Prophets, Tertullian, Basil, Polycarp, Ignatius, the other church fathers, Aquinas, John Knox, Tyndale, Calvin, Luther, Bullinger, Beza, Zwingli, Melanchton, Hooker, Pufendorf, Grotius, Montesquieu, Ponet, Locke, Rutherford, Sydney, Blackstone, Witherspoon, and all the Founding Fathers except Thomas Jefferson.

Tom Van Dyke said...

OFT, I wouldn't read too much into various Founders using biblical language or Biblical arguments as reflecting their personal beliefs. They were arguing in the language of the greater masses.

But this actually serves as evidence that the great majority believed such stuff! So when we read Adams' Thanksgiving Proclamation [which was seen as coming directly from the Presbyterians, and hurt Adams politically], let us not assume that his reference to the Holy Spirit indicates he believed in one. But we may take it to mean it was speaking to the grand majority of Americans did!

As for the theocracy of the Puritans, it appears that by the Founding era, they had mutated into the Congregationalists and into unitarians in the years shortly thereafter. But aside from perhaps a very few of the Dominionist stripe, few claim that America was founded as a theocracy, with the death penalty for atheists. But as Franklin noted, atheists did keep their heads down, out of the line of fire.

As for the missing Wilson quote, memory sez he doesn't say scripture is corrupted, but that clergy-types have sometimes made a mess of it. I'll post it when I relocate it.

Our Founding Truth said...

But this actually serves as evidence that the great majority believed such stuff! So when we read Adams' Thanksgiving Proclamation [which was seen as coming directly from the Presbyterians, and hurt Adams politically],>

I read a good rebuttal to Adams' belief blaming his election loss to the Presbyterians; I will look for it.

As for the missing Wilson quote, memory sez he doesn't say scripture is corrupted, but that clergy-types have sometimes made a mess of it.>

Boy, isn't that the truth!

Tom Van Dyke said...


(Ex. 21. 16.)
If any man stealeth a man or mankinde, he shall surely be put to death.


This, BTW, was one of the strongest and favorite Biblical arguments by the Christian abolitionists. "Manstealing" corresponded exactly to chattel slavery as practiced in the South.

Our Founding Truth said...

(Ex. 21. 16.)
If any man stealeth a man or mankinde, he shall surely be put to death.

This, BTW, was one of the strongest and favorite Biblical arguments by the Christian abolitionists. "Manstealing" corresponded exactly to chattel slavery as practiced in the South.>

Exactly! I still can't believe the South used the Bible to justify slavery; some of them were great men: Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Beauregard, etc.

Pinky said...

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OFT comes off with, "It was revealed to me by David, Paul, the Prophets, Tertullian, Basil, Polycarp, Ignatius, the other church fathers, Aquinas, John Knox, Tyndale, Calvin, Luther, Bullinger, Beza, Zwingli, Melanchton, Hooker, Pufendorf, Grotius, Montesquieu, Ponet, Locke, Rutherford, Sydney, Blackstone, Witherspoon, and all the Founding Fathers."
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Oh, O.K.. I thought maybe you got it directly from God. Worse than that, I thought that to have something "revealed" means that it was put in your mind by some form of osmosis. My bad, I guess.
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Brad Hart said...

Wonderful post, Jon! I had to read it a couple of times to make sure I got it all, and I will probably be reading it again!

OFT writes:

"This is what the Bible teaches; remember, reason and revelation is the same thing, from the same God, in different channels."

How can this be? If reason is revelation, then why wouldn't other faiths be Christian? It seems to me that God would reveal a CHRISTIAN truth to all of his children. So, why isn't the whole world Christian?

Jon writes:

"This blog is an inquiry. Sometimes things (like TV and movies series, book series) end because you did it all and there's really not much more to explore. I doubt this blog will ever end for that reason. We'll all be dead before we come to that point. And hopefully we'll be able to continue the discussion in the afterlife and see who was right."

Oh my...I wonder if we will even be able to agree at that point. I can just picture all of us arguing the same stuff even after death!!!
But hey, if South Park is right, that means that the MORMONS are right. Just see for yourself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGv9NUYX3Jg

Tom Van Dyke said...

I love that South Park riff, Brad. Thx for the link.

OFT is by no means wrong in arguing that natural law and the Bible were seen as coming from the same source. In the past week, there have been numerous quotes from folks like the learned James Wilson that explicitly say it. It's easily found in Aquinas and the oft-quoted Anglican Rev. Richard Hooker and all through the Founding era.

Again, I mention that whether or not that's true is irrelevant for our purposes. But whether the Founders by and large believed it [or not] is essential to our inquiry.

Our Founding Truth said...

"This is what the Bible teaches; remember, reason and revelation is the same thing, from the same God, in different channels."

How can this be? If reason is revelation, then why wouldn't other faiths be Christian?>

Other faiths have a different god.

It seems to me that God would reveal a CHRISTIAN truth to all of his children. So, why isn't the whole world Christian?>

Love enjoins freedom to choose, or it isn't love, and God is Love. God created us with freewill

Pinky said...

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"OFT is by no means wrong in arguing that natural law and the Bible were seen as coming from the same source. ... whether or not that's true is irrelevant for our purposes. But whether the Founders by and large believed it [or not] is essential to our inquiry."
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I am enjoined to inquire as to our purpose in the discovery of any truth about the Founding of our nation.
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OFT provides an example of what it means to think like a Neo-Conservative operating from a position where truth has already been given in the master revelation from which all reality is reasoned..
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Pinky said...

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I think it is counterproductive to ignore or to set aside what OFT has to say in regards to these questions.
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