Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dave Welch Misses on Inaugural Prayers

Sometimes I think we criticize David Barton too much. However, if you want a good example of why we keep hammering him, see Dave Welch's latest article from WorldNetDaily. In it he repeats one of Barton's phony, "unconfirmed" quotations. This one attributed to Patrick Henry:

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity and freedom of worship here."


One reason why these quotations refuse to die, I think, is because they are so on point to the "Christian Nation" argument. Take them away and the Christian Nation claim practically collapses.

The overall context of Welch's post is that he disagreed with having an openly gay Christian Bishop, Gene Robinson, give a prayer at the Inaugural. He also balked at Robinson's objection to making the prayer too exclusively "Christian," and the intimation that public prayers should be inclusive. The following briefly captures Welch's argument:

Given the fact that Christianity has historically been recognized as the majority religion in the United States since our founding, it should not shock the good bishop that the inaugural prayers reflect that reality. Even given the increase of religious plurality and other religions in recent years, Christianity still receives the adherence of over 75 percent of Americans, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Since George Washington spontaneously added, "So help me, God," to the oath of the president in his first inauguration, recognition of our allegiance to, dependence upon and desire for blessings by God have been integral to the ceremony. Since the modern recording of inaugural prayers in 1937, all clergy have been Protestant or Catholic Christians, with eight rabbis participating through those years to recognize the deep, historic connection of those faiths.


I'll ignore the assertion of the historically unsubstantiated fact that "Washington spontaneously added, 'So help me, God,' to the oath of the president in his first inauguration," as that is the territory of my co-blogger at American Creation, Ray Soller. But yes, around 80% of Americans identify as "Christians" today as did 98% during the Founding era. Today that includes men like Gene Robinson and Obama himself. And during the Founding era it included men like Thomas Jefferson and the Rev. Jonathan Mayhew, a figure Welch appealed to in an earlier article, a theological unitarian, which according to Welch's strict standards for "Christianity," arguably disqualifies Mayhew from the "Christian" label.

Further if you examine the public God talk of America's first 4 Presidents, you see a systematic effort at generic, philosophical inclusive titles for God. They may have been compatible with orthodox Christianity, but were also compatible with all sorts of non-Christian theological systems. Even Justice Scalia in his dissent in the most recent Supreme Ten Commandments case caught this nuance when he wrote:

All of the actions of Washington and the First Congress upon which I have relied, virtually all Thanksgiving Proclamations throughout our history, and all the other examples of our Government’s favoring religion that I have cited, have invoked God, but not Jesus Christ.


Scalia therefore concludes: “This is not necessarily the Christian God (though if it were, one would expect Christ regularly to be invoked, which He is not)”....

This is what American Civil Religion is all about: Invoking a Providence, but doing our best to make such a concept as inclusive as possible in a religiously pluralistic society. The pluralism of the Founding era was not quite the pluralism of today (the Unitarians and liberal Christian Churches weren't marrying same sex couples). However, make no mistake, America was founded to be a religiously pluralistic nation, with all of those different "factions" -- some Christian, some not, and some debatable as to whether the term "Christian" is properly applied to them at all -- being united in an overriding undefined "Providence." That, not the phony quotation of Patrick Henry that Welch recites as capstone to his argument, is what America's religious Foundations are all about.

And if one's understanding of "Christianity" is theologically orthodox, holds Christ the only way to God, and other non-Christian (or even non-Trinitarian) religions to be "false," then the American Founding's concept of "publick religion" will not speak to you, and you should take such with a grain of salt and not rely on it in positing your worldview of "spiritual discernment."

62 comments:

Brian Tubbs said...

My take....it's up to the President-elect who he invites to give the prayers at his (or, in the future, her) inauguration.

And...when those ministers come to do the prayers, they should feel free to pray, according to their respective faith.

In Rick Warren's case, that mean he prayed in Jesus' name. Completely appropriate.

In Eugene Robinson's case, he certainly has the freedom to pray however he wants, given Obama's invitation. My problem with Bishop Robinson isn't on a political level. It's on a theological level.

Brian Tubbs said...

Two other points...

1. The Founders DID define "Providence" a little more deliberately than you acknowledge. In the Declaration, we see references to God as "Creator," "Supreme Judge," "Nature's God," etc.

2. The Founders' embrace of monotheism (or, at the VERY least, "ceremonial deism") does put atheism and agnosticism in an awkward position. The Founders were not atheists, and while they respected and desired religious freedom (including the right of people NOT to believe), they did NOT endorse making the nation fully and completely secular (i.e., agnostic) in order to accommodate atheists. This is something that not enough people here at American Creation acknowledge.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Brian,

I'll acknowledge it; but I'll also note the claims of Newdow et al. take the founding concept of equal rights on behalf of religion and logically "extend" those principles to apply equally to atheists, agnostics and polytheists.

The Founders themselves did something similar with Locke when they noted as far as Locke went, they would go further. Locke believed in excluding atheists and Roman Catholics from his vision of toleration and they believed in extending toleration or religious rights to all. I think the problem here is "what is a religious right." I think you would even agree an atheist shouldn't be barred from government jobs or made to drink at seperate waterfountains or be subject to civil penalty. Do or should ANY constitutional rights kick in when a public actor says something on behalf of religion which makes you feel like an outsider.

In your case it might be something as simple as moving to Utah and having the Supreme Court permit Utah to have as its motto "The Mormon State."

Brian Tubbs said...

Jonathan: "I think you would even agree an atheist shouldn't be barred from government jobs or made to drink at seperate waterfountains or be subject to civil penalty."

I don't believe ANYONE should be barred from a government job or forced to drink at a separate drinking fountain on account of religion or race or gender or sexual orientation.

And re: religion...as I've indicated in other threads and posts here, IF we elect an atheist or polytheist President and he/she doesn't want to say "so help me God," that should NOT disqualify them from taking office. To force a person to say those words is a violation of the Constitution.

Having said all that...

The US government should not now feel obligated to be neutral or silent on the question of God's existence, simply because we've got atheists in our country!

Atheists don't have a right to not be offended.

What's more, the US government is predicated on the notion that our fundamental rights come from GOD! And that government's job is to protect our rights.

I'm sorry, but that's a monotheistic belief, and it's part of our national DNA. And the atheists and agnostics do NOT have the right to use the court system to strip that out of our national heritage and DNA simply because they're uncomfortable with it.

It is what it is.

Tom Van Dyke said...


One reason why these quotations refuse to die, I think, is because they are so on point to the "Christian Nation" argument. Take them away and the Christian Nation claim practically collapses.


Well, that's the technique, anyway, to troll for the worst or inaccurate arguments, defeat them, then claim victory.

As for Scalia's comment, it's underinformed or at least insufficient, in my view: the Christian God is the same as the Jewish God, although the latter does not recognize the dimension of Christ.

Brad Hart said...

Well said on everything, Brian!

Our Founding Truth said...

In it he repeats one of Barton's phony, "unconfirmed" quotations. This one attributed to Patrick Henry:

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity and freedom of worship here.">

The fact that a quote is consistent with a framer's life, and "confirmed" from the "unconfirmed" position, support David Barton.

Let Barton defend himself; which he does sufficiently:

It is only in using this much higher standard that we call the following quotes "unconfirmed": that is, while the quotes below have been documented in a completely acceptable fashion for academic works, they are currently "unconfirmed" if relying solely on original sources or sources contemporaneous to the life of the actual individual Founder. These original sources for these quotes may still surface (for example, a major primary document from James Madison surfaced as late as 1946), and in fact you will note that we have actually located the original sources for some to the quotes below that originally we listed as unconfirmed. However, with the remaining quotes listed below, we recommend that you refrain from using them until such time that an original primary source may be found, notwithstanding the fact that the quotes below may be documented to a number of contemporary sources.

One may only speculate as to how these quotes originated. In two cases, the errors appear obvious. In others, there are historical clues and possibilities. In the final analysis, the words in question - despite the fact that they are currently "unconfirmed" in primary source documents - are nevertheless completely consistent not only with the character of these men but also with the character of their era, including U. S. Supreme Court decisions. Nonetheless, for us, only primary documentation will justify pulling these quotes off of the shelf. We offer brief comments where appropriate, to include supporting quotations and citations.
http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=126

The attack on Barton's quotes is without merit. His excellent historical research has confirmed many quotes:

Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise. In this sense and to this extent, our civilizations and our institutions are emphatically Christian. -- Holy Trinity v. U. S. (Supreme Court) (inaccurate confirmed! -- Richmond v. Moore, Illinois Supreme Court, 1883)

A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader. -- Samuel Adams (unconfirmed confirmed!)

14. The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity. -- John Quincy Adams (unconfirmed modified confirmation!)

Take them away and the Christian Nation claim practically collapses.>

One quote equates the end of the Christian Nation claim?

All of the actions of Washington and the First Congress upon which I have relied, virtually all Thanksgiving Proclamations throughout our history, and all the other examples of our Government’s favoring religion that I have cited, have invoked God, but not Jesus Christ.>

Here is another bogus statement by an uninformed judge:

"The Congress...desirous...to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God's superintending providence, and of their duty devoutly to rely.... on His aid and direction... do earnestly recommend...a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may with united hearts confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life,...and through the Merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain His pardon and forgiveness."

~Journals of Congress (1905), Vol. IV, pp. 208-209, May 17, 1776.

and

"Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to Him for benefits received...[to offer] humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot [our sins] out of remembrance...and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth "in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."

~Journals of...Congress (1907), Vol. IX, 1777, pp 854-855, November 1, 1777.

Two other points...

1. The Founders DID define "Providence" a little more deliberately than you acknowledge. In the Declaration, we see references to God as "Creator," "Supreme Judge," "Nature's God," etc.>

The only Judge to have a standard to judge the framers knew was Yahweh.

Tom Van Dyke said...

OFT---your arguments are OK, but I would caution against using statements from the Continental Congress [1776 and 1777, as you do here] and not the US Congress [1787 forward]. There are sufficient post-Constitution arguments that to use weaker ones undermines your argument.

I speak for myself here---just as I disfavor Jefferson and Adams' post-presidential letters, I also tend to discount the Continental Congress. All are somewhat useful for flavor, but not as the main ingredient.


What's more, the US government is predicated on the notion that our fundamental rights come from GOD! And that government's job is to protect our rights.

I'm sorry, but that's a monotheistic belief, and it's part of our national DNA. And the atheists and agnostics do NOT have the right to use the court system to strip that out of our national heritage and DNA simply because they're uncomfortable with it.


Well, that's certainly a clarification of the argument. I'd much rather see us proceed on those terms rather than the present cacophony and exchange of...um, sophistries.

;-)

Our Founding Truth said...

The United States was formed on the Bible and it's principles:

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity. -- John Quincy Adams (unconfirmed modified confirmation!)

The gallant Struggle in America, is founded in Principles so indisputable, in the moral Law, in the revealed Law of God, in the true Constitution of great Britain, and in the most apparent Welfare of the Nation as well as the People in America, that I must confess it rejoices my very Soul.

~John Adams-Clarendon to Pym. [This fragment contains portions of the second "Clarendon" letter as printed in the Boston Gazette, 20, Jan. 1766.]

The American Revolution was founded on the Bible!

Raven said...

OFT stated:

"blah, blah, blah..."

The American Revolution/nation was not founded on the stupid-ass Bible!!!

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT:

"Its" is the proper way to write the possessive not "it's."

Jonathan Rowe said...

Re what the unitarian (or was he a trinitarian at that point in his life?) John Quincy Adams wrote, it hits on a dynamic that I've stressed here. Enlightenment republican ideas often were presented as compatible with Christianity, indeed with some connection between the two (I recall B. Rush doing the same). It doesn't make it so. Getting the principles of the DOI, which on their face seem to contradict Romans 13, from the Bible is a big strech. And Jefferson, of course, did not assert he/they did.

Look for my post on Bishop James Madison coming within the next day or two to further clarify. Jefferson loved B. James Madison (and we'll see why!) and David Holmes argues he was an orthodox Trinitarian Christian (after all he was a BISHOP in the Episcopal Church). However, many folks during his time strongly doubted this. And after reading some of Madison's writings I see why he too was termed an "infidel."

He was the one who termed the "Kingdom of God" a "Republic of God." More than just a Francophile, he was blatantly Jacobin and injected Rousseau's ideas into the Christian pulpit and tried to pass them off as "Christian."

That's in essence how many of these non-biblical, Enlightenment ideas were "sold" to a nominally Christian population -- they were passed off as "Christian." But in reality they were no more "biblical" than some of the things we hear coming from Gene Robinson.

I see JQAdams' quotations in that light. Calling for a natural right to political revolt, as the DOI does, certainly does nothing to form an "indissoluble" connection between "Christianity" and "government."

Our Founding Truth said...

OFT---your arguments are OK, but I would caution against using statements from the Continental Congress [1776 and 1777, as you do here] and not the US Congress [1787 forward]. There are sufficient post-Constitution arguments that to use weaker ones undermines your argument.>

The framers made it clear the nation began with the DOI, and it's principles are still in effect, being the principles that the Constitution carries out. The quotes are just as relevant as from any era.

Those quotes also prove the law of nature and the laws of God is Jesus Christ (not a deist god, or rationalist god), as the framers prayed to Jesus Christ the same time the Declaration was ratified.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon:

It doesn't make it so. Getting the principles of the DOI, which on their face seem to contradict Romans 13, from the Bible is a big strech.

The proper spelling is "stretch"

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

Those quotes prove nothing; if the laws of nature and nature's God were Jesus Christ, that would have been written into the DOI, which, Christians should be happy that they weren't given the theology of the DOI is a-biblical at best (i.e., has nothing to do with the Bible), anti-biblical at worst (that is, contradicts what's written in the Bible).

Jonathan Rowe said...

Thank you.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, you say that, OFT, but I ask for firmer argument. 1776 isn't 1787, the time of the Framing.

Similarly, Jonathan Rowe somehow draws a wiggly line from Rousseau to JQ Adams' quote on Christianity. This is unsupportable.

In fact JQ disputes Rousseau's essential view of man here:

http://www.fullbooks.com/Orations.html

and that took only the quickest of googles.

If there's a case to make JQ a Rousseauean, I sure haven't heard it yet.

Jon---Wasn't there a flap over at Ed's blog for minor punctuation hassles? Sophistic.

Our Founding Truth said...

I see JQAdams' quotations in that light. Calling for a natural right to political revolt, as the DOI does, certainly does nothing to form an "indissoluble" connection between "Christianity" and "government.">

We go by the meanings of the words presented here, not what "I" or "you" think the author meant by the words. After all, I don't think you want to get into a battle with John Quincy Adams over Christianity. I can always post his other awesome quotes on Christianity and government. JQ Adams was like the other unitarians; they denounced Voltaire, Hume, Paine, and reason.

John Adams equated reason with deism.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

I don't think there's anything wrong with correcting punctuation; what was unwarranted was my critic insinuated that when I made the error (which he saw me make one time) that I didn't understand the difference between "your" and "you're." I also know how to spell "stretch" and didn't need the correction; but since I corrected OFT, it's fair for him to look for mistakes in my writings.

The reason why I point out OFT's errors is because I see them repeated enough that it makes me doubt that he understands the grammatical rule. If someone contiually writes "it's" when they should be writing "its" or "tenant" when they should be writing "tenet" they should be corrected.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Similarly, Jonathan Rowe somehow draws a wiggly line from Rousseau to JQ Adams' quote on Christianity.

Actually Tom, what I was trying to do was use Bishop James Madison's incorporating Rousseau into Christianity (I know you haven't seen the evidence for this; but he did) as the most extreme example of the dynamic I'm trying to discuss: The incorporating of a-biblical or anti-biblical Enlightenment ideas into "Christianity." And THAT'S what JQ Adams did in his quote that argues the American Revolution formed a bond between Christianity and civil government. It certainly wasn't the "Christianity" of the orthodox or the longstanding traditional understanding thereof that justified American Revolution. Rather it was John Adams' "Christianity" that held all good people are Christians, even deists, atheists and Protestants who believe in nothing.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And yes, I can see I misspelled "contiually."

Tom Van Dyke said...

I've seen Bishop Madison stuff, Jon, in fact I ran across it just today. You were the source, as a matter of fact.

However, you're waving away the JQ Adams quote by inserting yourself into his head and telling us he wasn't sincere. This simply won't do.

And you have a helluva lot of work to do to tie Rousseau to the Founding outside of that Jacobin sympathizer Jefferson.

As for you, OFT, Brian Tubbs made a simple but elegant argument that the Founders believed rights come from God, and so by extension, the guarantee of those rights in the Constitution still redounds to God.

By attempting to piggyback your own agenda of "proving" the Founders to be orthodox Christians, all you've done is dilute Mr. Tubbs argument, and helped kill what could have been a rich vein of inquiry and discussion.

If you guys want to take over every thread by arguing past each other on the subject of Christian orthodoxy---and not a single other one of us here gathered gives a damn because we are after the larger and truer picture---I suppose there's nothing that can be done to stop it. But you guys have about done worn this out.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And you have a helluva lot of work to do to tie Rousseau to the Founding outside of that Jacobin sympathizer Jefferson.

You haven't seen everything on B. James Madison; that's why I'm working on a new post. And he was worse than Jefferson in this regard. AND he was a Bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

Also I didn't mean to argue JQA was insincere. Rather that this was part of a pattern -- part of the "zeitgeist" of that era -- of importing non-authentically biblical Enlightenment ideas into the theology and passing it off as "Christian."

Theirs was more of an "open" or liberal form of Christianity; we see the same thing to this day. Except the issues are different. I'm sure many liberal Christians today really do believe in their "Christian case" for such concepts as "self esteem." But to the orthodox who believe in "Sola-Scriptura" this pollutes Christianity and arguably transforms it into a "different" religion.

Our Founding Truth said...

That's in essence how many of these non-biblical, Enlightenment ideas were "sold" to a nominally Christian population -- they were passed off as "Christian.">

Here is another blogger; a teacher, maybe professor objects to your understanding of enlightenment with reformation terms:

Brandon Watson of said...
It seems to me that there are two problems with your argument, Jon: (1) Several of these adjectives regularly come up in Protestant polemics against Catholics. This is actually true of a lot of what's considered "Enlightenment" language; it didn't start as "Enlightenment" language but as Protestant advertising (so to speak) against Catholics. (2) Our Founding Truth really is right that several of these were just buzzwords at the time, and are used by people whose orthodox (and even Calvinist) religious views are not really in question. Scottish preachers use them quite a bit, probably because of the influence of Scottish universities, which at the time were nearing the peak of their success. Everyone had similar educations, and so they pick up similar standard vocabularies; we do the same, in fact (we seem to like nouns, like "liberty," "democracy," "choice," "rights," etc., which almost everyone uses but which don't themselves mark out or force any particular religious, political, or social view).

So there doesn't seem to be any way of telling whether such adjectives are qualificatory or merely descriptive without further evidence in each case. In reality, there really aren't "Enlightenment adjectives" in the sense of markers, even fallible ones, of particular views; there are just common adjectives in the Enlightenment period that get used a number of very different ways.said...

http://www.blogger.com/profile/06698839146562734910

Tom Van Dyke said...


Also I didn't mean to argue JQA was insincere. Rather that this was part of a pattern...


Yes, you're arguing JQ Adams' quote was part of a pattern. I understand you completely. But dragging in some Founders' relative we never heard of proves zilch about JQ Adams.

So he was an Episcopalian bishop, so what? What's the "republic of heaven," anyway? Everybody votes?

"God, we're so sick of that manna stuff every day. The majority wants pizza!"

But seriously, folks, see Gertrude Himmelfarb on "Whose Enlightenment?"

BTW, Jon---did you ever read the unabridged version of Mayhew's sermon? Far more probative than Bishop Madison.

bpabbott said...

OFT: "The fact that a quote is consistent with a framer's life, and "confirmed" from the "unconfirmed" position, support David Barton."

It is a pleasure to see you post such nonsense.

History requires proof. It is not about fanciful speculation.

Barton is an activist, not a historian.

bpabbott said...

OFT claims: "The United States was formed on the Bible and it's principles"

John Adams claims: "The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."
-- John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88)

Emphasis mine.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT:

I respect Mr. Watson a great deal.

Tom:

Bishop James Madison is not to be written off as irrelevant. He was one of the first Episcopal Bishops, the President of William & Mary and close friends with a number of the key Founders.

Ray said...

Bishop James Madison is not to be written off as irrelevant. He was one of the first Episcopal Bishops, the President of William & Mary and close friends with a number of the key Founders.>

Didn't Bishop Meade say he believed Madison stayed orthodox? And wasn't Meade one of his close friends?

Jonathan Rowe said...

Ray,

You are right. In my post I am going to feature Bishop Meade's quotation. It could well be that he remained orthodox in his theology. However, if he did, that still didn't stop him from making a "Christian" case for Rousseau's ideas. And this, from what I have read, was not absorbing Rousseau by osmosis, but consciously following him.

Brian Tubbs said...

OFT - I agree with you that most of the Founders were Christians, and they were (as such) influenced by the Bible and incorporated biblical principles into the founding, but....

I disagree with you that they (the Founders) intentionally founded the United States to be a "Christian nation" and that they founded it directly on the Bible.

The historical evidence is simply not there to support that. And, frankly, neither is the theology.

Our government operates according to a secular Constitution and not the Bible - and this is the doing of the Founders! We are not (in any official sense) a Christian nation, and we never were.

Besides, theologically, nation-states aren't Christian. While we are to evangelize the nations (see Matthew 28), it's the PEOPLE that must respond, not the governments.

It is not the role or purpose of the government to evangelize for Christ or get involved in doctrinal issues. Paul makes clear what the role of government is in Romans 13.

The Founders understood this, and they also understood the bitterness and (yes) sometimes violence that can stem from religious disputes. So, they separated the INSTITUTIONS of church and state.

OFT, Christians shouldn't try to use the government to evangelize this nation for Christ or even to push biblical values on society. (That's not to say Christians shouldn't be involved. We are to be "salt and light," but...) Christians need to be expanding their influence through the church and through their work in ministry.

Look at the influence many of the great preachers of the past had on America's history - many of whom never held political office.

The Founding Fathers didn't make the United States a legal, official "Christian" nation. And Christians need to stop saying that they did. It only causes us to lose credibility.

Brian Tubbs said...

Correction: In my last post, I wrote: "Christians shouldn't try to use the government to evangelize this nation for Christ or even to push biblical values on society."

I meant to say "biblical doctrines" and not "biblical values."

There are many biblical values (particularly those that are in common with other religions), which SHOULD be pushed by our government on society.

My apologies for the error.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Brian,

Very well said. As a libertarian I might disagree with the propriety of government pushing biblical values; but I think your overall thesis is quite defensible. This is something with which for instance, Mormons, could agree. They agree with what you would term "Judeo-Christian" values, but not what orthodox Christians would consider "biblical doctrines."

Again, as a libertarian, I'm more concerned with political liberty and making society "moral" uncoerced by government promoting a particular worldview of "moral values" (either from the left or the right). But I see your argument as much closer to the Founders' vision than those folks who claim America was founded to be a "Christian Nation," and consequently government should promote "Christianity" not other religions.

I distinctly remember blogger Hercules Mulligan, following this chain of logic, claim, since government should promote Christianity and not other religions, and since Mormonism is not Christianity, it would be inappropriate for government to promote "Mormonism" but "appropriate" and "necessary" for government to promte "Christianity." When I read that I couldn't think of a better textbook example of the way he and the other "Christian America" proponents misunderstand the American Founding.

The Founders understood that logic to be a recipe for sectarian strife.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, this is a fine kettle of fish:

Jonathan Rowe: Bishop James Madison is not to be written off as irrelevant...

Oh, he seems to be some sort of Founder, surely not insignificant, and me, I like the net to be extended as far as possible.

So, OK.

Rousseau? James Madison's cousin? John Quincy Adams? Rock on, Jon. Argue it. Since the beginning of our friendship, I hope you've come to trust me for a fair hearing.

Brian Tubbs said...

Thanks, Jon. It's always good to find common ground. I think our difference DOES come down to what role the government should play in promoting values.

I would like to point out, of course, that the Founders were not libertarian. :-) They believed in the fundamental import of values in our society (and, yes, those values were, in MANY cases, inspired by their Christian beliefs and principles - however broadly one wishes to define Christianity).

Most of the problems - dare I say ALL of the problems? - our society faces today are the result of a breakdown of the family and the degeneration of our values.

Laws against murder would be unnecessary, for example, if people universally valued life and resisted any temptation to take that of another.

The same could be said for laws against stealing, identity theft, rape, sexual harassment, etc.

As James Madison said: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

Alas, we are not angels (though we do have, within each of us, a "divine spark" - having been fashioned in the image of God).

The harsh reality is that we are all flawed, self-centered sinners, therefore government IS necessary - and, in addition to establishing laws, etc., it does need to call people (in the words of Lincoln) to the "better angels of our nature."

Brad Hart said...

Brian writes:

Laws against murder would be unnecessary, for example, if people universally valued life and resisted any temptation to take that of another.

The same could be said for laws against stealing, identity theft, rape, sexual harassment, etc.

As James Madison said: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."


I agree with the essence of what you are saying here, Brian, but having spent 5 years as a cop has told me otherwise. It seems to me that people, regardless of laws, religion, etc., will always take advantage of their fellow man no matter what. I cannot tell you how many times I met people that were "good" members of the community, but happened to make one bonehead mistake that in many cases cost them the rest of their life behind bars. Now, in no way am I making excuses for them. I am of the opinion that prison should be a hell of a lot tougher than it is. With that said, I don't believe that there are a set of laws or a religion out there that will prevent people from doing evil. Even when Jesus was on the earth people still tried, and eventually succeeded, in killing him.

Sometimes you simply need to draw a tough line in the sand and be prepared to fight the dipshits out there who want to take advantage of others.

Brian Tubbs said...

Brad, good points. I'm not saying that religion will prevent crime. I believe religion HELPS prevent or at least reduce crime and violence, but it won't prevent it.

The reason is that, deep down, human beings are self-centered sinners.

Government has to deal with this reality on a multi-front approach. We can't just "cuff'em and stuff'em" (to quote Sheriff Roscoe from the great 80s show 'Dukes of Hazzard'). You have to fight crime on the economic front, community front, moral front, and law enforcement front.

Our Founding Truth said...

Brad:

I disagree with you that they (the Founders) intentionally founded the United States to be a "Christian nation" and that they founded it directly on the Bible.

The historical evidence is simply not there to support that. And, frankly, neither is the theology

Our government operates according to a secular Constitution and not the Bible - and this is the doing of the Founders! We are not (in any official sense) a Christian nation, and we never were
.

Well, this is the issue the secularists support. But, you provided no evidence to support your assertions, and the burden of proof is on you. Religion is left to the states in a republican government, and the states formed Christianity as their religion.

They said "Christianity" not hinduism. You need to prove the majority of framers were not orthodox, which I don't believe you can; feel free to try.

The historical evidence is all over the place, you can't miss it; even in public declarations of Congress.

The law of nature is Jesus Christ, which is who the framers prayed to. Reason is the first revelation, the Bible, the second. There is no other God, the Law of Nature could be, and the Bible clearly presents Jesus Christ as God.

neither is the theology>

Really? Question that to the framers:

The Constitution of the State of Delaware (until 1792) stated: Article XXII Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust… shall… make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit:“I, _______, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed forevermore; I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.” [p.203]

Constitution of the State of North Carolina (1776), stated: There shall be no establishment of any one religious church or denomination in this State in preference to any other. Article XXXII That no person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State. (until 1876)

Constitution of the State of Maryland (August 14, 1776), stated: Article XXXV That no other test or qualification ought to be required, on admission to any office of trust or profit, than such oath of support and fidelity to this State and such oath of office, as shall be directed by this Convention, or the Legislature of this State, and a declaration of a belief in the Christian religion.” That, as it is the duty of every man to worship God is such a manner as he thinks most acceptable to him; all persons professing the Christian religion, are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore no person ought by any law to be molested… on account of his religious practice; unless, under the color [pretense] of religion, any man shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality… yet the Legislature may, in their discretion, lay a general and equal tax, for the support of the Christian religion. (until 1851) [pp.420-421]

Constitution of the State of New Hampshire (1784,1792), required senators and representatives to be of the: Protestant religion. (in force until 1877)The Constitution stipulated: Article I, Section VI. And every denomination of Christians demeaning themselves quietly, and as good citizens of the state, shall be equally under the protection of the laws. And no subordination of any one sect of denomination to another, shall ever be established by law. [p.469]



The Constitution of the State of Connecticut (until 1818), contained the wording: The People of this State… by the Providence of God… hath the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent State… and forasmuch as the free fruition of such liberties and privileges as humanity, civility, and Christianity call for, as is due to every man in his place and proportion… hath ever been, and will be the tranquility and stability of Churches and Commonwealth; and the denial thereof, the disturbances, if not the ruin of both. [p.179]

You need to prove the MAJORITY of the people of Connecticut were not orthodox.

NEW JERSEY 1776 (until 1844) XIX. That there shall be no establishment of any one religious sect in this Province, in preference to another; and that no Protestant inhabitant of this Colony shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right, merely on account of his religious principles; but that all persons, professing a belief in the faith of any Protestant sect, who shall demean themselves peaceably under the government, as hereby established, shall be capable of being elected into any office of profit or trust, or being a member of either branch of the Legislature, and shall fully and freely enjoy every privilege and immunity, enjoyed by others their fellow subjects.

Protestant Christianity is the established religion of New Jersey. Heterodoxy did not come out of the Reformation, nor is it Christianity.

Good luck proving these are not orthodox statements.

A couple framers were heterodox, big deal!

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

No one is going to take you seriously if you go around claiming the law of nature is Jesus Christ. Anyone with an elementary understanding of the history of philosophy knows this isn't true.

The Deists, for instance, who utterly rejected Jesus Christ embraced the law of nature. They couldn't do this is the law of nature doctrinally defined as "Jesus Christ."

Jonathan Rowe said...

Protestant Christianity is the established religion of New Jersey. Heterodoxy did not come out of the Reformation, nor is it Christianity.

Actually heterodoxy DID come out of the Protestant Reformation and indeed "heterodoxy" often presented itself as "Protestant Christianity."

As Nathan Hatch, President of Wake Forest University, wrote:

DENYING HISTORIC CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE FROM THE “BIBLE ALONE”

The first Americans to underscore the right of private judgment in handling Scripture were, oddly enough, ministers who opposed the evangelical tenets of the Great Awakening. As New Lights in New England worked to make people more theologically self-conscious, often by rewriting church covenants to include strict doctrinal standards, theological liberals increasingly resisted strict creedal definitions of Christianity. The future president of the United States, John Adams, like many of his generation, came to despise theological argumentation. He reported in his diary in 1756,

“Where do we find a precept in the Gospel requiring Ecclesiastical Synods? Convocations? Councils? Decrees? Creeds? Confessions? Oaths? Subscriptions? and the whole cart-loads of other trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?” [6]

To gain leverage against the entrenched Calvinism of the Great Awakening theological liberals redoubled their appeal to depend on the Scriptures alone. “Why may not I go to the Bible and learn the doctrines of Christianity as well as the Assembly of Divines?” the prominent Boston clergyman Jeremy Belknap asked in 1784. Simeon Howard, a more liberal minister, exhorted his colleagues to “keep close to the Bible” and to “avoid metaphysical additions.” He also advised clergyman to “lay aside all attachment to human systems, all partiality to names, councils and churches, and honestly inquire, ‘what saith the scriptures.’” [7]

Charles Chauncy, pastor of Boston’s First Church for sixty years (1727-1787), is the most prominent example of an exclusive appeal to Biblical authority in order to unravel theological orthodoxy. Chauncy was persuaded to emphasize Bible study by reading the works of English divines, such as Samuel Clarke’s The Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity (London, 1712) and John Taylor’s The Scripture-Doctrine of Original Sin (London, 1740). Both authors used a “free, impartial and diligent” method of examining Scripture to JETTISON, respectively, the doctrines of the Trinity and of Original Sin. [8]
[Bold mine.]

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon:

No one is going to take you seriously if you go around claiming the law of nature is Jesus Christ. Anyone with an elementary understanding of the history of philosophy knows this isn't true.>

Philosophy is irrelevant to the issue. Christianity is the issue, and Christianity is what the Bible says. The Bible says Jesus Christ is, was, and always will be, God.

As a matter of fact, The Holy Spirit is the Laws of Nature and the Laws of God; for, The Holy Spirit is God. God IS the Laws of God.

John 1

"In the beginning was the Word [Bible], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2The same was in the beginning with God.

3All things were made by him [Jesus Christ]; and without him [Jesus Christ] was not any thing made that was made.

14And the Word [Bible] was made flesh [Jesus Christ], and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

So glorious, it can scarcely be comprehended.

Jon:

The Deists, for instance, who utterly rejected Jesus Christ embraced the law of nature. They couldn't do this is the law of nature doctrinally defined as "Jesus Christ.">

The founding fathers were not Deists, who everyone, including John Adams, ridiculed.

Actually heterodoxy DID come out of the Protestant Reformation and indeed "heterodoxy" often presented itself as "Protestant Christianity.">

This is a false statement, as every reformer, from Luther, to Zwingli, will testify.

Mr. Nathan Hatch, President of Wake Forest University, needs to read:

Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Beza, Bucer, Bullinger, Cranmer, Farel, Flacius, Jonas, Knox, Melancthon, Tyndale, Vadian, Petri, Paleario, Oecolampadius, Jonas, Chemnitz, etc.

The reformers adhered to orthodoxy, not to the imaginations of so called "professors."

Our Founding Truth said...

Underlying the Protestant Reformation lay four basic doctrines in which the reformers believed the Roman Catholic Church to be in error. These four questions or doctrines are How is a person saved? Where does religious authority lie? What is the church? And what is the essence of Christian living? In answering these questions, Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox established what would be known as the “Five Solas” of the Reformation (sola being the Latin word for “alone”). These five points of doctrine were at the heart of the Protestant Reformation, and it was for these five essential Biblical doctrines that the Protestant Reformers would take their stand against the Roman Catholic Church, resisting the demands placed on them to recant, even to the point of death. These five essential doctrines of the Protestant Reformation are as follows:

1-“Sola Scriptura,” or Scripture Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that the Bible alone is the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice. Scripture and Scripture alone is the standard by which all teachings and doctrines of the church must be measured. As Martin Luther so eloquently stated when asked to recant on his teachings, "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."

2—“Sola Gratia,” Salvation by Grace Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is by God’s grace alone and that we are rescued from His wrath by His grace alone. God’s grace in Christ is not merely necessary, but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. This grace is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.

3—“Sola Fide,” Salvation by Faith Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. It is by faith in Christ that His righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice.

4—“Solus Christus,” In Christ Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is found in Christ alone and that His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to God the Father. The gospel has not been preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared, and if faith in Christ and His work is not solicited.

5—“Soli Deo Gloria, For the Glory of God Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God for His glory alone. It affirms that as Christians we must glorify Him always, and must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God, and for His glory alone.

These five important and fundamental doctrines are the reason for the Protestant Reformation. They are at the heart of where the Roman Catholic Church went wrong in its doctrine, and why the Protestant Reformation was necessary to return churches throughout the world to correct doctrine and biblical teaching. They are just as important today in evaluating a church and its teachings as they were then. In many ways, much of Protestant Christianity needs to be challenged to return to these fundamental doctrines of the faith, much like the reformers challenged the Roman Catholic Church to do in the sixteenth century.
http://www.gotquestions.org/Protestant-Reformation.html

Tom Van Dyke said...

You shoulda quit with the state constitutions.

Jonathan Rowe said...

As to the other stuff OFT wrote.

1) To the extent that America was a "nation," as opposed to a collection of sovereign states, the documents of the Founding era that contain its principles are the Constitution, DOI and Federalist Papers. And *they don't* rely on orthodox Christianity or chiefly derive their ideas from the Bible. Article VI, Cl. 3 and the First Amendment look nothing like the sectarian religious provisions found in SOME state constitutions.

2) Re the states, they were a mixed bag. You would have to prove a uniform policy of orthodox Christianity to make your claim, which you can't. You can't get "orthodox Christianity" out of VA after Jefferson's 1786 Statute on religious liberty. And you arguably can't get "orthodox Christianity" out of the MASS Constitution either that had a "Protestant Christian" establishment. Their state Supreme Court that the unitarian Congregations were indeed "Protestant Christian" sects deserving establishment aid.

3) We also need to love at the direction in which those states with explicitly sectarian religious requirements moved: They moved in a direction of more generic theism, less overtly Christian sectarianism.

For instance this is what NJ's religious policy became:

CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY--1844

(in regards to religion only)

We, The people of the state of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which he hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking To Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this constitution.

ARTICLE I.

RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES.

Three. No person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; nor under any pretense whatever be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his faith and judgment; nor shall any person be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right, or has deliberately and voluntarily engaged to perform.

Four. There shall be no establishment of one religious sect in preference to another; no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust; and no person shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right merely on account of his religious principles.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Correction. This should have read:

Their state Supreme Court HELD that the unitarian Congregations were indeed "Protestant Christian" sects deserving establishment aid.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Underlying the Protestant Reformation lay four basic doctrines in which the reformers believed the Roman Catholic Church to be in error.

[...]

This is a false statement, as every reformer, from Luther, to Zwingli, will testify.

And by whose authority do we get to decide when the Protestant Reformation stopped and who ceased to be a reformer? The answer is, there is none. At least the Catholic Church has a way "settling" these issues in a top down system. Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are part of "Protestant Christianity," because now no one at the top has the power to stop them from so being.

I suppose you could rely on "the Bible alone" to "settle" the matter. And if that's the case, the very influential American Protestant Christian reformer, Rev. Charles Chuancy, one of the key pro-revolt preachers, used the Bible alone to deny original sin, the trinity and eternal damnation.

Brian Tubbs said...

OFT - As I've said, I'm with you in arguing that a majority of the Founders were Christians - and by that, I mean "orthodox."

My point is that the result of their efforts was to leave orthodoxy (regardless of the faith) to the individual conscience and for the national government at least to remain secular in nature (while guided by and informed by faith-based principles).

The states also eventually came around to this framework, though some were slower than others.

Brian Tubbs said...

I'd like to get this discussion thread back to an earlier point...

MONOTHEISM

I want to find some common ground here.

OFT - I understand that you believe the Founders deliberately established a "Christian nation." I don't agree, but I understand your position. Okay, let me ask you to set that aside for a moment, and take what Liberty University professor Gary Habermas calls a "minimal facts" approach. Okay?

Let's all try to see if there's at least a minimal baseline position around which we can find general agreement.

I propose this....

The Founding Fathers established the United States of America on the monotheistic premise that people's "unalienable rights" come from the Creator and that government's role is to "secure" those rights.

What's more, the Founders believed that it was vital for the people of the nation to believe in God, pray to God, and remain accountable to God.

As such, it was hoped that our rights would be secure and that people would respect one another and live by basic moral values.

Having said that, the Founders still believed that people had a right to believe what they wished concerning God and religion (and that included non-belief) without interference from the government.

This, however, does NOT mean that they wished the GOVERNMENT to be NEUTRAL about God, only that they didn't want the government to FORCE people to practice religion.

At a minimum, this is where 99% of the Framers were in their thinking. (I'll allow that Thomas Paine may have been to the left of this position).

How many agree with the above? I realize some (like OFT) would go FURTHER than the above, but do a majority of us at least agree with the general outlines of what's written above?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Interesting, Brian. I'd hate to see this buried down at comment #49, so I'd like to see an expanded version of this as a fresh post, and leave this thread for Jon and OFT to debate orthodoxy.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Brian,

Yes I think we are pretty close. Yours is a pretty accurate representation of the "publick religion" concept.

To put it more simply it's the teaching of the existence of an overriding Providence and a future state of rewards and punishments.

Issues such as the Trinity, eternal damnation, the infallibility of the Bible were not part of this lowest common denominator of public "theism."

Brad Hart said...

OFT:

who in the hell are you quoting? I never wrote any of that.

Our Founding Truth said...

My point is that the result of their efforts was to leave orthodoxy (regardless of the faith) to the individual conscience>

I agree with you.

for the national government at least to remain secular in nature (while guided by and informed by faith-based principles).>

But, the above statement is definitely not true. The thanksgiving, and prayer proclamations are not secular, they are Christian. Praying in Jesus' name cannot be secular by any means.

Okay, let me ask you to set that aside for a moment, and take what Liberty University professor Gary Habermas calls a "minimal facts" approach.>

I like Gary.

This, however, does NOT mean that they wished the GOVERNMENT to be NEUTRAL about God, only that they didn't want the government to FORCE people to practice religion.>

I agree with this statement one-hundred percent.

How many agree with the above? I realize some (like OFT) would go FURTHER than the above, but do a majority of us at least agree with the general outlines of what's written above?>

Yes.

Issues such as the Trinity, eternal damnation, the infallibility of the Bible were not part of this lowest common denominator of public "theism.">

You see Brian, I, or anyone else cannot make this claim. I have to take Protestant Christianity with what the Reformation says it is, which is what the Bible says it is. Does that make sense?

And until this new definition is proven, Christianity is orthodoxy; which the Reformation affirmed. The burden of proof is off my, and the Christian Nation thesis shoulders.

My book will rest on this assumption; as of today, it cannot be defeated.

Our Founding Truth said...

Remember Brian,

The subjective intentions of a few guys: Jefferson, Adams, Paine, and Franklin, doesn't hold any weight.

It's the belief of the majority of the population that matters, and I haven't seen any evidence that the founding fathers were heterodox.

My book will also focus on communion in the 18th century churches.

Our Founding Truth said...

Issues such as the Trinity, eternal damnation, the infallibility of the Bible were not part of this lowest common denominator of public "theism.">

Sorry Brian, Jon wrote this, I should have referenced him.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

You can look at Christianity in any way you want. However, orthodox Trinitarian Christianity is NOT evident in the US Constitution, DOI, Federalist Papers, nor the public utterances and supplications to God of the first four or five Presidents.

Further the author of the DOI rejected every single tenet of orthodox Christianity and a majority of the drafting bd. (Jefferson, Franklin and J. Adams) were not orthodox Trinitarian Christians.

THAT defeats the orthodox Christian America thesis.

All you've offered so far is two references to Christ of the Continental Congress, before the US Constitution was ratified. That's a very weak place to rest the "Christian America" thesis.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'll also point out that while we can debate whether Washington or Madison were orthodox Christians, their public God talk as Presidents were consistent with J. Adams' and Jefferson's: They didn't invoke Jesus Christ, but rather God generally; see Justice Scalia's acute observation. Further, when they spoke to American Indians who had NO desire to convert, they referred to God as "The Great Spirit." If America were founded on orthodox theology, they wouldn't do that. If the first 4 Presidents were committed to an orthodox Christian political theology, when they spoke to Indians, they would have said you should convert to Christianity because it is true and your pagan religion is false. That's the way the orthodox viewed things.

Even when Washington, Jefferson etc. supported converting the natives to Christianity it was NEVER for this reason, but rather because the Indians themselves wanted to convert or the FFs thought it would better assimilate or civilize the Indians. These are secular or utilitarian reasons for converting the Indians NOT orthodox reasons.

Again, it's these kinds of things that destroy the orthodox Christian America thesis.

Jonathan Rowe said...

The problem with your arguments, OFT, is that you are like Don Quixote, chasing windmills.

Raven said...

OFT = LOL!

Our Founding Truth said...

Hey Jon,

Do me a favor, and delete my last quote, I will re-post another one.

Thanks

Jonathan Rowe said...

Okay.

Our Founding Truth said...

Thanks.