Saturday, January 10, 2009

Different Ways of Defining Christianity

One interesting nuance I've discovered when researching the FFs & religion issue is how many of the supposed "Deists" -- like Jefferson and Franklin -- arguably thought of themselves as "Christians" in an identificatory sense. The non-Christian deists like Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen and Elihu Palmer wanted nothing to do with the Christian label, any part of the Bible or Jesus.

This dynamic confuses both sides of the culture war debate -- the secular left & religious right who want to argue for a "secular" or a "Christian" founding, respectively. If we set the bar low enough, arguably Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Hamilton, Wilson,...all the FFs except for the handful of non-Christian Deists would qualify as "Christian." You would need a repudiation of the "Christian" label not to be a Christian, according to this standard.

However, if you set the bar high enough, very few Founders -- even those who believed in orthodox Trinitarian doctrine -- would qualify as "Christian." For instance Roman Catholics believe in orthodox Trinitarian doctrine; but to many evangelicals, they are not "real Christians." The biggest problem I have with David Barton is that his main audience seems to be "born again" or evangelical Christians who set that high bar.

WorldNetDaily has an article by Michael Youssef that perfectly illustrates this theological dynamic. Youssef reacts to recent polls where 37 percent of self proclaimed evangelicals noted they didn't "believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation."

He notes:

This would be like announcing that 37 percent of all Americans do not believe that there are 50 states. Or half of the British people denying that the English language is their language. You get the point of the ludicrousness of the use of the term "evangelical."

[...]

Perhaps it is easier to understand who is not an evangelical.

Anyone who places tradition, experience, or rationalism above the authority of the Scripture ... is no evangelical.

Anyone who places human needs, or reason, above the authority of the Scripture ... is no evangelical.

Anyone who claims credit for his or her salvation, or works to earn it ... is no evangelical.

Anyone who places "moralism," which is the de-emphasizing of the sinfulness of sin, above justification by faith alone ... is no evangelical.

Anyone who perceives the Cross as a mere example of love and not as the only cure for sin and means of salvation ... is no evangelical.

Anyone who minimizes the fact that God poured His wrath on His Son on the Cross so that only whosoever believes in Him shall be saved ... is no evangelical.

Anyone who views that act of God's pouring His wrath upon His Son on the Cross as "cosmic child abuse" ... is no evangelical.

Anyone who sees no need for personal conversion by repentance and faith for receiving eternal life ... is no evangelical.

Anyone who does not believe that once they are saved they will always be saved through the sustaining power, discipline and chastening by the Holy Spirit ... is no evangelical.

If you have concluded that all of these evangelical qualifications are defining a true Christian – you would be correct. For a true evangelical is a true Christian. The opposite, therefore, is true. If you do not believe these foundational truths, no matter what you call yourself, you are no true Christian.


If that's what he believes, fine. However, when folks like this think about America's "Christian" foundations, they should understand most Founding Fathers (I'm arguing beyond the "key Founding Fathers") were in that very position of thinking and calling themselves Christians but not being "true Christians." The Trinitarian Benjamin Rush who believed in universal salvation certainly flunked this standard. Indeed, many of the orthodox Trinitarian Christians of the Anglican/Episcopalian bent (I believe the largest Church of the Founders) probably flunk this standard. And even Alexander Hamilton who towards the end of his life appeared to convert to a form of orthodox Trinitarian Christianity that saw the Lord's Supper (as opposed to Christ alone) a central sacrament probably never met this standard.

In my last post I showed how Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Wilson, and Hamilton often qualified their invocation of religion, Christianity and scripture with such adjectives as rational, reasonable, benign, benevolent, mild, tolerating, liberal, and unitarian. No evangelical would use those terms to describe their religion. Thus they flunk the Christian standard.

However, for historic purposes, this standard is too high. But for evangelicals who would like to believe in the "Christian Nation" idea, it's important to remind them of this dynamic: The Founders, even the many of whom were Trinitarians, were nonetheless not "real Christians" as you understand that term.

I think a more reasonable, defensible standard is orthodox Trinitarian doctrine, or the Nicene Creed. Every single established Church except the Quakers adhered to an orthodox Trinitarian creed. That would include not just evangelicals/reformed Protestants, but also Roman Catholics, and non-evangelical Trinitarians like the Anglicans-Episcopalians as "Christians." But even that standard is outright flunked by Jefferson, J. Adams, and Franklin and is not clearly passed by Washington, Madison, Wilson, G. Morris, and Hamilton until the very end of his life. There still is a bit of mystery with that last bunch, I would admit. Though their systematic silence on orthodox doctrines during an era when one's reputation could damaged for openly criticizing the Trinity points strongly towards closeted unitarianism.

We could lower the bar even further and permit anyone who calls himself a Christian to be a Christian even if he rejects every single tenet of orthodoxy, as Jefferson did in his letter to William Short, October 31, 1819, where he listed and rejected the following:

The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, &c.


If you can disbelieve in those things and still be a "Christian" because you call yourself one, then I agree that almost all of the Founders were "Christians" and America had a "Christian" Founding.

The problem is evangelicals who largely comprise the "Christian America" crowd utterly reject that definition of "Christianity" as sufficient. If like Mr. Youssef they care so much about preserving the cause of what they see as *real,* *saving* Christianity, they should reject the idea of a "Christian" Founding.

92 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Or one could simply ask the Founders, Do you believe God has communicated directly to man and those results are found in the Bible?

With the exception of Muslims, I would not expect non-Christians to answer, yes.

The outliers Thomas Paine and probably Jefferson would say no, Franklin answered maybe, but the answer among the rest of the Founders would have been nearly uniformly yes, including John Adams.

So we can argue the orthodoxy question, and feel free to with the those who argue the Founding was "orthodox Christian."

But in my view the essential quality of

a) there being a God and
b) that He spoke through the Bible

cuts much closer to the question at hand.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Okay. I can agree with this. However, I think they believed the Bible, in principle, partially inspired. I think Jefferson too believed this along with Franklin, J. Adams and all other of those I categorize as the "key Founders."

Jefferson believed Paul was full of it; but I'm convinced he believed Jesus on a divine mission. This is what his mentor Joseph Priestley believed.

Our Founding Truth said...

The biggest problem I have with David Barton is that his main audience seems to be "born again" or evangelical Christians who set that high bar.>

That bar is a bar Jesus set, not the founding fathers:

John 3

2The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

In my last post I showed how Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Wilson, and Hamilton often qualified their invocation of religion, Christianity and scripture with such adjectives as rational, reasonable, benign, benevolent, mild, tolerating, liberal, and unitarian. No evangelical would use those terms to describe their religion. Thus they flunk the Christian standard.>

Myself, Billy and Franklin Graham, and millions of other Christians use those terms.

Though their systematic silence on orthodox doctrines during an era when one's reputation could damaged for openly criticizing the Trinity certainly points strongly in the direction of closeted unitarianism.>

Or it could be men of that age kept their religious beliefs to themselves, which appears to be a more plausible answer.

The problem is evangelicals who largely comprise the "Christian America" crowd utterly reject that definition of "Christianity" as sufficient.>

You can add the Bible to that crowd, which is what matters.

The exact wording in State Constitutions and other public expressions of faith are a better measurement to use than the opinions of a few men

bpabbott said...

Tom, regarding your leading comment, I'm interesting in how you'd reconcile it with Adam's words below.

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)

bpabbott said...

OFT,

Your comment regarding "born again" appears to be a slight of hand.

Where have the first hand accounts testified as to Jesus' qualification of "born again", and is there more than one congruent account of what Jesus meant by "born again"?

I'm not asking of congruent interpretations of first hand accounts, but rather for congruent first hand acounts (those who witness Jesus themselves).

Our Founding Truth said...

Where have the first hand accounts testified as to Jesus' qualification of "born again", and is there more than one congruent account of what Jesus meant by "born again"?>

In the above quotations by John, by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, mostly in all his letters. This concept is just elaborated on from the Old Testament by Hebrew Prophets, which the Jews of Jesus' time, and those of today, do not understand. And Peter below, although you should read the entire chapter for the context.

1 Peter 1:23
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

Our Founding Truth said...

In my last post I showed how Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Wilson, and Hamilton often qualified their invocation of religion, Christianity and scripture with such adjectives as rational, reasonable, benign, benevolent, mild, tolerating, liberal, and unitarian. No evangelical would use those terms to describe their religion. Thus they flunk the Christian standard.>

We don't use these terms any longer, these are terms of a different time. Here are Christians using the same terms:

"His want of Wisdom may render him altogether incapable of
understanding the Mind of his royal Master; or, failing in point of Integrity he may maliciously and traiterously pervert his benevolent Intentions for the Good of his Subjects."

Samuel Adams, ARTICLE SIGNED "A CHATTERER."1 [Boston Gazette, August 13, 1770.]

A well-digested, liberal, permanent
system of policy is required; and, when adopted,
must be supported, in spite of faction, against every
thing but amendment.

Fisher Ames, Ratified the Constitution, Responsible for the final wording in the first amendment.

We might continue to enumerate many moie great names, both Jews and heathen, who have added their testimony to the authenticity of the books of Moses, with the other sacred and divine scriptures : but this would swell this answer beyond its original design: suffice it to add to the name of Ptolemy Phila-delphus, who was a heathen prince of great learning, and a remarkable encourager of the liberal sciences.

Elias Boudinot, Age of Revelation.
Chairman of the Committee that drafted the first amendment. Graduated from Princeton, studied law under Richard Stockton, good friend of Alexander Hamilton.

"We have heard a great deal
about the benevolence and holy zeal of our reverend
clergy, but how is this manifested ? Do they mani-
fest their zeal in the cause of religion and humanity
by practising the mild and benevolent precepts of
the GJospel of Jesus ? Do they feed the hungry and
clothe the naked? Oh, no, gentlemen ! Instead of^
feeding the hungry and clothing the naked,"

Patrick Henry, LIFE, CORRESPONDENCE
AND SPEECHES BY
WILLIAM WIRT HENRY
lT/f rORTRAIT VOLUME I.
NEW YOIIK
(MIAULES SClMr>NER\S SONS
1891

And there are many more Christians who spoke the same way. It was just the way born again Christians spoke, especially those of a classical education.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Okay. I can agree with this. However, I think they believed the Bible, in principle, partially inspired.

Oh, far more than "partially." Moreover, "inspired" is quite weak---we're talking about God directly speaking to man here. I'm not claiming He did, of course, just that the belief in revelation existed.


I think Jefferson too believed this along with Franklin, J. Adams and all other of those I categorize as the "key Founders."

Well, we're back to the "key" Founders riff again. As I wrote above, I wouldn't claim Jefferson for revelation, and Franklin I think was undecided, but open to the idea.

As for John Adams, Ben, reconcile this:


"The Christian religion, as I understand it, is the brightness of the glory and the express portrait of the character of the eternal, self-existent, independent, benevolent, all powerful and all merciful creator, preserver, and father of the universe, the first good, first perfect, and first fair. It will last as long as the world.

Neither savage nor civilized man, without a revelation, could ever have discovered or invented it."

Italics mine, of course.

Jim Sweeney said...

I think that you're Christian if, in a moment of frustration, you're liable to utter "Jesus Christ!" as an imprecation. It's a matter of heritage, like being Jewish, or as in the joke about encountering a gunman in Belfast:

"Catholic or Protestant?"

"Atheist."

"To be sure, but are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?"

I've argued before that unitarians aren't Christians, since they don't believe that Jesus was the Christ, but etymology cuts both ways. I may be a third generation atheist, but by the same measure I was born Christian.

Brad Hart said...

It's one thing to call the Bible "inspired," but it is another thing to call it "infallible." I agree with TVD that most founders would call it inspired -- perhaps even Jefferson. However, I have my doubts that many would call the Good Book infallible, which, of course, is a key component to many people's definition of Christianity.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

I believe that Henry and Boudinat and were orthodox Trinitarian Christians. If that's the rung we use for "Christian" (it's a reasonable rung) then they were "Christians." However, based on the very evidence you lay out, I would argue they weren't "evangelical" or "born again" Christians. Thus according to Michael Youssef's even stricter standard (the evangelical/born again standard) for "what is a real Christian," Patrick Henry and Elias Boudinat were no real Christians.

I'd like to see evidence of Henry and Boudinat ever calling themselves "born again" or claiming you need to be "born again" to be saved. That would satisfy me.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's one thing to call the Bible "inspired," but it is another thing to call it "infallible." I agree with TVD that most founders would call it inspired -- perhaps even Jefferson. However, I have my doubts that many would call the Good Book infallible, which, of course, is a key component to many people's definition of Christianity.


Sorry, gentlemen---the belief that God spoke directly to mankind is far more powerful than the haggling over the details. You cannot simply use the question of infallibility or the arguments by the self-professed "orthodox" to drive around that. Surely you can see the essential distinction between a difference in degree and a difference in kind.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

I think you are right that it's quite a powerful idea. However, to the orthodox (or at least to a great deal many of them) close is no cigar; we aren't talking about horseshoes or hand grenades. Either Jesus is the incarnate God, second person in the Trinity, who died an infinite atonement or not. And if a theological system rejects or is silent on the matter, it's not "real Christianity." That notion is just as powerful.

Brad Hart said...

TVD writes:

"Sorry, gentlemen---the belief that God spoke directly to mankind is far more powerful than the haggling over the details. You cannot simply use the question of infallibility or the arguments by the self-professed "orthodox" to drive around that. Surely you can see the essential distinction between a difference in degree and a difference in kind."

I don't see this as "haggling over the details" because for a large number of Christians THIS IS the issue -- as Jon points out in the post itself.

Our Founding Truth said...

I'd like to see evidence of Henry and Boudinat ever calling themselves "born again" or claiming you need to be "born again" to be saved. That would satisfy me.>

Unfortunately, none of us can make that assumption, especially if a person doesn't mention the "born again" words Jesus used.

We have to understand the terms that were used at that particular time. "Born Again" was rarely used, but it was still known and used by Christian framers:

"But inhabiting this earthly body is the body spiritual, immortal, the essence of our Heavenly father, which expresses the Holy Spirit. It is the awakening of this Spirit which our Saviour refers to when He tells us that we must be born again. This sould, this Holy Spirit is present in the embryo, from its first conception; deliberate abortion therefore is murder."

Benjamin Rush, The Road To Fulfillment, Signer of the Declaration.

"The subject I have made choice of, and intend to handle in the ensuing treatise, immediately regards the sub- ftance of religion, and is happily as little entangled in controversy as any that could be named. We are told that " except a man be born again, he cannot see the " kingdom of God."

John Witherspoon, Works, p. 95

"Without being born again of the Spirit, no John Hi,
Man can enter the Kingdom of God, and with- out the Spirit, no Man can be born of it ; con-
sequently the Spirit is altogether as requisitte to us ^
as it could be to the Primitives."

Elias Boudinot, The Nature of his Fall, and the Neceffity, Means,and
Manner of his Restoration, through the Sacri- fice of CHRIST, and the senfible Operation of that Divine Principle of GRACE and TRUTHj
held forth to the World

All the founding fathers who went to the seminaries: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Rutgers, Columbia, Penn, etc. were taught the New Birth taught in the Bible.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Gentlemen, your war with the most dogmatic of the evangelicals isn't of any interest to an inquiry that aspires to get out of the swamps. But perhaps that's where you prefer to stay, in the mud with World Net Daily, which is below the threshold of most serious people.

Perhaps you prefer to do your fishing in a barrel rather than the mainstream [a little play on words there], but we're in "David Barton Sucks" territory once again, not intelligent discussion.

And so I'll continue to object to you turning the inquiry backwards, trying to establish the disagreements about Bible interpretation as the baseline and not the idea that the Founders [on the whole] believed God spoke to mankind through the Bible.

The true baseline is on their agreement, and how far it went.

You have never once [Jon in particular] shown where the Founding chose reason over revelation, conflict with the Bible over harmony, except by using fundamentalist hermeneutics yourself instead of the prevailing "orthodoxies" of the time, like reading the Bible and Romans 13 as permitting rebellion against tyrants.

Nor do I think you can do that except with the occasional theological outlier like Thomas Jefferson, because the baseline was acceptance of the Bible as God's word. I even established that acceptance above with John Adams, a theological outlier himself.

[Not that I claim the Bible is God's word here, mind you. I find those argument/opinions equally unhelpful.]

Brad Hart said...

TVD writes:

"Gentlemen, your war with the most dogmatic of the evangelicals isn't of any interest to an inquiry that aspires to get out of the swamps. But perhaps that's where you prefer to stay, in the mud with World Net Daily, which is below the threshold of most serious people.

Perhaps you prefer to do your fishing in a barrel rather than the mainstream [a little play on words there], but we're in "David Barton Sucks" territory once again, not intelligent discussion."


Hmmmmm...perhaps you misunderstand the argument entirely. This is not a "David Barton sucks" type argument, rather it is an issue based on an important principle that many consider fundamental to Christianity. Just because you and I may not adhere to such a belief does not make the argument "below the threshold of most serious people."

I'm sorry we don't meet your scholarly standards, Tom. God knows we are trying. With that said, I still think this is a topic worthy of further discussion.

Jonathan Rowe said...

You have never once [Jon in particular] shown where the Founding chose reason over revelation,...

Tom, I'm going to stick with this clause in your argument. The other clauses make things more contentious.

I'll defer to Dr. Frazer's analysis of John Adams sentiments which clearly show he chose "reason" over "revelation."

http://www.positiveliberty.com/2006/10/the-founders-religion-and-context.html

In context, [Adams] 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? See, you have to find out what THEY meant by the terms they used.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I understand the argument entirely, Jon. You're at war with the evangelical theocrat dominionist reconstructionists and are trolling the likes of World Net Daily to find some to refute.

In other words, you're consigning our blog to concern with the extremes, and using their hermeneutics to do so, hermeutics you don't even believe yourself. "Michael Youssef Sucks."

Not that I disagree with your arguments, but it ends up turning the real inquiry backward, the fact that the Founders believed God spoke to man through the Bible, an idea that is beyond "reason."

So seek out your fish in a barrel if you must, but meanwhile, OFT has made some very good arguments right here in your own backyard. Elias Boudinot seems quite Christian enough to me; you asked for a rebuttal and OFT seems to have provided one.

"So it is with revealed religion, God, in his infinite wisdom, has given us sufficient evidence, that the revelation of the gospel is from him. This is the subject of rational inquiry, and of conviction, from the conclusive nature of the evidence: but when that fact is established, you are bound, as a rational creature, to show your full confidence in his un-changeable veracity, and infinite wisdom, by firmly believing the great truths so revealed; although he has wisely kept from your knowledge, some things which may be mysterious in their nature."---Boudinot

Brad Hart said...

Tom:

I am not convinced that we have proven that the key founders accepted the Bible as inspired. Now, you may be on to something but for now I remain unconvinced of this conclusion. We should argue that one further.

Yes, OFT has provided some insightful material, but so has Mr. Rowe. As far as I am concerned this issue is far from settled either way.

Tom Van Dyke said...


I am not convinced that we have proven that the key founders accepted the Bible as inspired.


Well, here we are back with this "key" Founders method, which I disagree with. I'm content with "the Founders," as Ratifiers are as important as Framers. There is plenty of evidence for the larger pool of Founders, some of it posted on this very thread.

Brad, I think John Adams is established above. Hamilton is a near-certainty, and I previously wrote that Franklin was a definitive maybe. I give Jefferson a no. Madison is an "I don't know," and Washington too, although their public actions were far less "neutral" toward Christianity than the "neutrality" many people argue for today.

I suppose I could in turn concentrate my posts on the Michael Newdows of the world, but all they warrant is passing mentions like these unless they begin to achieve greater success in the courts.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/30/AR2008123002858.html

In the meantime, I'm content to observe that at his inauguration, at the Founding, George Washington chose to use a Bible for his oath of office. There were a few eyebrows raised, I imagine, but I submit they were out of the "mainstream."

Our Founding Truth said...

I am not convinced that we have proven that the key founders accepted the Bible as inspired.>

Brad:

The key founders doctrine seems flawed from the start. Thomas Jefferson says to interpret a statute when it was adopted, not drafted. How a statute was passed is more important than who made it:

"On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.

to William Johnson June 12, 1823.

Jefferson understood not to use subjective intentions of drafters, but what the people of the time meant.

Therefore a key founder is one who ratified an instrument, of which the majority understood to be true.

Rufus King helped draft and ratify the Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Jefferson did neither.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually OFT, "recollect the spirit manifested in the debates" means precisely to acknowledge the drafting process. You argue against your own point here, although it's quite an indictment of sophistries exploiting the letter of the law over its spirit and true intent.

Still, your argument against "subjective intent" holds; the debates at the Framing were public [or more accurately, semi-public, among the drafters]. Private reservations and secret thoughts inside anyone's head are indeed irrelevant.

[You missed the "boldface mine," addendum, although you've been good about that lately.]

Jon, I believe you're arguing from an 1813 Adams letter. I should have noted that the letter I quoted from, which definitively puts Adams saying that Christianity came from divine revelation, was from 1810, also to Benjamin Rush, I believe.

As we can see, the more Adams wanders theologically later in life, the less relevant he is. I didn't like using a post-presidency letter, but it seems to me reasonable to argue that it's closer to Adams' sentiments while he was a active Founder than a letter 3 years later.

I also cut from my original remarks a request for concrete examples of elevating "reason" over the Bible [and the prevailing interpretation of it in that era, not John Calvin's or 21st century fundamentalism's], not just abstract meta-arguments like Adams' jabbering above. Obviously, I should have left it in and spelled my objection out.

I've seen no evidence of "the hell with what the Bible says, we're doing it OUR way." None atall, atall.

Brad Hart said...

And I've seen no evidence of "let us embrace the Bible and adopt its precepts for this new nation." None atall, atall.

Our Founding Truth said...

Actually OFT, "recollect the spirit manifested in the debates" means precisely to acknowledge the drafting process. You argue against your own point here, although it's quite an indictment of sophistries exploiting the letter of the law over its spirit and true intent.>

Unless he is contradicting himself, he is referring to the ratifying conventions. "[r]ecollect the spirit manifested in the debates" This is right after "On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted"

It was adopted at the ratifying conventions.

As we can see, the more Adams wanders theologically later in life, the less relevant he is. I didn't like using a post-presidency letter, but it seems to me reasonable to argue that it's closer to Adams' sentiments while he was a active Founder than a letter 3 years later.>

I agree with that. Why would Adams call people christians if they didn't believe in Jesus? Adams had some strange theories in his mind.

Our Founding Truth said...

And I've seen no evidence of "let us embrace the Bible and adopt its precepts for this new nation." None atall, atall.>

If religion is left to the states, would not the state constitutions exalting Christianity be evidence?

Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Van Dyke said...

One might think so, OFT. It's certainly a valid argument for not ignoring federalism.

Your point about the "ratifying conventions" is interesting, although I'm unsure it holds. But it might. I'd like to hear more. For me, Madison's accounts of the debates on the Framing hold up well, and certainly Jefferson's remarks could apply to the Bill of Rights and early Congressional laws, those debates being fully public, I believe.

Brad, I don't think it's right to shift all burden of proof to one side. There have been ample examples posted---like "key" Founder James Wilson on natural and scriptural law---to require the "other" side to come up with at least some counterarguments.

So far, zilch, and I think it's because they don't exist. The counterargument would have to say that although the vast majority of Founders believed that the Bible came from God [in whole or in part], they decided to do certain things in conflict with it anyway.

But the erudite and eloquent James Wilson, the #2 or #3 Framer behind Madison by most accounts, says The Bible was at least one of two baselines, and further that a conflict between the two would be impossible by men of good will and good faith. Must we pull out his quotes yet again?

I've seen nothing to argue that Wilson's view was not "mainstream."

This is getting positively Sisyphusian, Brad. So I'll simply repeat my objection on procedural grounds, that the burden of proof cannot be shifted to only one "side," and despite that, ample arguments have been made to oblige a substantive response from the "other side."

Can't just play immovable object, although it's amusing [albeit disappointing] when some folks try. Immovable objects are inert, aren't they?

Brad Hart said...

Heh...nice speech, Tom but the "burdon of proof" stuff is for the courts. This is history, and as a result, is quite messy. There are no cut-and-dry answers to this stuff. Contrary to what you may think, I am not in either camp. I'm simply trying to understand the arguments better. But we can agree on one thing: immovable objects do tend to get in the way.

Our Founding Truth said...

Your point about the "ratifying conventions" is interesting, although I'm unsure it holds. But it might. I'd like to hear more. For me, Madison's accounts of the debates on the Framing hold up well, and certainly Jefferson's remarks could apply to the Bill of Rights and early Congressional laws, those debates being fully public, I believe.>

I will try to find some other information on this subject. I think Jefferson, and Madison's quote made earlier, is a good start.

If the Constitution isn't ratified, it isn't law, and it has no effect. It wouldn't matter how many constitutions were drafted. This is why Madison could say,

"I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified."

to Henry Lee on June 25, 1824.

Our Founding Truth said...

"I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified." [bold face mine]

to Henry Lee on June 25, 1824.

bpabbott said...

Tom: I've seen no evidence of "the hell with what the Bible says, we're doing it OUR way." None atall, atall.

You appear to be promoting a false dichotomy. Is there is a burden of evidence you are not interested in carrying yourself?

Regarding your implied request for evidence there is the Adams quote I've offered previously ...

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)

Perhaps you'll take the position that this was not the understanding of the nominal citizen, or that these words were a part of private (not public) communication ... so where is the evidnece that the founders followed the Bible. Are there any public or private communications that substantiates such?

bpabbott said...

OFT: "If religion is left to the states, would not the state constitutions exalting Christianity be evidence?"

sigh ... they don't.

Please do try to deal with reality, not with what could'a, would'a, should'a be ... but isn't!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Heh...nice speech, Tom but the "burdon of proof" stuff is for the courts. This is history, and as a result, is quite messy. There are no cut-and-dry answers to this stuff. Contrary to what you may think, I am not in either camp. I'm simply trying to understand the arguments better. But we can agree on one thing: immovable objects do tend to get in the way.

Cool, Brad. But it wasn't a speech as rhetoric. It's a riff that has just hit me as a result of our discussions. I do believe that the Founders' basic agreement on God, Bible, etc. is our baseline, and the disagreements are only limiting factors.

[A riff that I promise to make you tired of henceforth.]

As for technique of argument, I've been on the internet long enough to identify the "immovable objects," who are frankly boring.

Not necessarily you, but here's the thing: On Law & Order, and in courtrooms, you merely have to chop down the other fellow's story. The "prosecution" is the only one obliged to argue affirmatively; the "defense" needs only shoot holes in the "other side" to "win."

And so, when someone writes, "your evidence hasn't convinced me," they're setting themselves up not on equal footing with "the other side," but as judge and jury.

That's bogus. Skeptics can always "win" under those conditions. But this gets us nowhere near the search for truth. It's debate, not discussion, not inquiry.


Um, OFT, that Madison quote seems to be a strong [and clean] argument.

What's also overlooked is that Madison, the "Father of the Constitution," lost a LOT of battles along the way. [He was initially opposed to a Bill of Rights!] To quote Madison without looking to the other Framers and Ratifiers---"the Founders"---can miss the entire forest, not just a few trees.

But we would not want to get stuck in the meta-arguments here either.

Still, for you to repeat to various "immovable objects" that the Ratifiers are as important as the Framers, using James Madison's own words [!] seems to me a fair "staying on message" against the "key Founders" method, theory and thesis of discussing religion and the Founding.

I mean, Brad, that's a damned good quote. Madison easily could have written in 1824 that he secretly had x in mind when he wrote y, but by 1824, the Constitution was already enduring sophistic perversions of the letter and language of the law.

And so, Madison I think here is relying on the public disclosure of the public and semi-public debates about the drafting of the Constitution for its true meaning.

Let's look at Madison's quote in deeper context. Not only does it despise sophistic perversions of the letter of the law, it cannot be read in any other way than a hearty endorsement of federalism, that the Union---the very Constitution itself---does NOT take away the prerogatives of the states!

"With a view to this last object, I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers. If the meaning of the text be sought in the changeable meaning of the words composing it, it is evident that the shape and attributes of the Government must partake of the changes to which the words and phrases of all living languages are constantly subject. What a metamorphosis would be produced in the code of law if all its ancient phraseology were to be taken in its modern sense. And that the language of our Constitution is already undergoing interpretations unknown to its founders, will I believe appear to all unbiased Enquirers into the history of its origin and adoption. Not to look farther for an example, take the word “consolidate” in the Address of the Convention prefixed to the Constitution. It there and then meant to give strength and solidity to the Union of the States. In its current & controversial application it means a destruction of the States, by transfusing their powers into the government of the Union."

[Big deal, Ben. You ignored my counterargument, as is your custom. You've had your say.]

bpabbott said...

Big deal, Tom. You ignored my argument, as is your custom. You've had your say.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

What I see is that Adams believes God spoke to man thru biblical revelation. However he believes the Bible not infallible (thus partially inspired). So, how to tell which parts of the Bible were inspired by God, which weren't? Man's reason or "philosophy." I see this principle as key, believed in by not just Adams, but Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Franklin, G. Morris, Wilson, Hamilton and many others.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Your argument, a single quote from Adams, is not a propos here, Ben. The topic at hand is what the Founders believed. Your quote of Adams' remarks about the Constitution are a different matter. They have been addressed already, best by Kristo Mietinnen:

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2008/11/natural-law-as-protestant-christian.html

So please, Ben.

Our Founding Truth said...

So, how to tell which parts of the Bible were inspired by God, which weren't? Man's reason or "philosophy." I see this principle as key, believed in by not just Adams, but Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Franklin, G. Morris, Wilson, Hamilton and many others.>

Quotes affirming or rejecting the supernatural is the proof in the pudding.

Tom Van Dyke said...


What I see is that Adams believes God spoke to man thru biblical revelation.


First things first, Jon. I think you underrate the importance of the idea that God speaks to man directly.

That's a big deal. A BFD. You won't find it in classical philosophy [Plato, Aristotle] or modern philosophy either.

Our Founding Truth said...

What I see is that Adams believes God spoke to man thru biblical revelation.

I think Jon means that whatever God has said to man through revelation it won't ever contradict what man agrees with in his mind, leaving man as the sole arbiter of truth.

The framers were taught at seminary these verses without a doubt because of their concern, and skepticism of catholicism:

Matthew 16

18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

What comes immediately before it, and the entire chapter is Jesus attacked reason, that man can know truth without faith; faith in Christ:

17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

7And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.

8Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?

I wish we could find the curriculum of their seminaries.

Our Founding Truth said...

What comes immediately before it, and the entire chapter is Jesus attacking reason; that man can know truth without faith; faith in Christ.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, my. I meself try to walk that fine line between reason and faith, because God by most accounts dispenses both as part of the Human Being Toolkit.

But this last one, OFT, just tipped me off the highwire. Acts has Peter and Paul and all in attendance kicking it around whether the new Christians [with Gentiles sitting in] should observe the Mosaic Law. They reason their way through it, no doubt given the gift of discernment by the Holy Spirit.

Still, they kick it around first.

Peace, I'm out. I've had my say: That "revelation" thing is a big deal. I think I stated that in comment #1. Those of us interested in inquiring and not debating will pick it up later, at its proper time.

I actually get a lot out of our discussions, and this was a particularly good one. Anyone who writes here and thinks I'm trying to debate them into changing their minds is a bit too solipsistic. I ain't no preacher, or at least God hasn't told me I am. That I'm aware of.

Cheers.

Raven said...

OMG, Tom, could you be any more transparent than you are? Your arguments are nothing but a bunch of pot-stirring cheap shots at real historical inquiry. You aren't fooling anyone here with this kind of B.S.

Brad Hart said...

Do you have any valuable insight on this topic, Raven, or are you here to simply exchange insults?

Raven said...

I am here to shed light on the foolishness of those who feel they are smarter or somehow more "scholarly" than they really are...especially when they have ABSOLUTLY NO CREDENTIALS TO SPEAK OF!!!

Jonathan Rowe said...

Quotes affirming or rejecting the supernatural is the proof in the pudding.

Wrong. The theistic rationalists -- at least many of them -- believed in those very miracles that comported with their own sense of "reason." In this sense, they took after Joseph Priestley.

Our Founding Truth said...

But this last one, OFT, just tipped me off the highwire. Acts has Peter and Paul and all in attendance kicking it around whether the new Christians [with Gentiles sitting in] should observe the Mosaic Law. They reason their way through it, no doubt given the gift of discernment by the Holy Spirit.

Still, they kick it around first


I read Acts 10 last night, they didn't kick anything around, they prayed, and said "it seems right that the Holy Ghost" so it wasn't reasoning at all to limit the gentiles to avoiding dedication of food to idols, fleeing fornication, etc.

These were impressed upon their hearts by the Holy Spirit, just as an internal prompting that murder is wrong.

I am here to shed light on the foolishness of those who feel they are smarter or somehow more "scholarly" than they really are...especially when they have ABSOLUTLY NO CREDENTIALS TO SPEAK OF!!!>

I've never read him say things like that. Maybe you know him personally?

At any case, I think you have some serious anger issues you need to deal with. God can help you.

Jonathan Rowe said...

The only framer that attended a seminary was John Witherspoon. And as I've documented after Drs. Frazer, Noll, Hatch, and Marsden, Madison didn't teach his Princeton politics students orthodox Calvism but Scottish Enlightenment rationalism.

Our Founding Truth said...

Wrong. The theistic rationalists -- at least many of them -- believed in those very miracles that comported with their own sense of "reason." In this sense, they took after Joseph Priestley.

Logic would dictate that they aren't rationalists, besides, no one gets the mulligan to determine what a miracle is, and is not. A violation of the laws of nature will always be a violation, and no man can alter that.

This is one of the reason's why Franklin's authority is so undermined. At least Jefferson kept to his guns, and on this point, did not contradict himself. Jefferson was a true rationalist.

Joseph Priestly's authority is undermined as well, affirming acts of the supernatural, and rejecting others. That perverted rationale was never taught as seminary! [emphasis mine]

Only a handful of framers believed that theory. I would include Henry Dearborn, and Ethan Allen in that group.

Our Founding Truth said...

The only framer that attended a seminary was John Witherspoon.

Actually, I believe the colleges were seminaries because they taught the Bible, and it's truth. If the Bible was taught as a neutral position, it would be a college, but that isn't the case. [bold face mine]

Madison didn't teach his Princeton politics students orthodox Calvism but Scottish Enlightenment rationalism.

This doesn't seem logical because Witherspoon taught that right reason always supported revelation, and that is a Protestant Reformation principle, not Scottish Enlightenment rationalism.

Our Founding Truth said...

The only framer that attended a seminary was John Witherspoon.

Actually, I believe the colleges were seminaries because they taught the Bible, and it's truth. If the Bible was taught as a neutral position, it would be a college, but that isn't the case. [bold face mine]

Madison didn't teach his Princeton politics students orthodox Calvism but Scottish Enlightenment rationalism.

This doesn't seem logical because Witherspoon taught that right reason always supported revelation, and that is a Protestant Reformation principle, not Scottish Enlightenment rationalism.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

Again the point is not to defend the theology of believing in a partially inspired Bible including some of the "rational miracles" but not every miracle. The point is to note that J. Adams, Franklin, perhaps Jefferson, and Priestley (and others) explicitly defended this theory. Thus some kind of perfunctory mention of a miracle by a Founder does NOT equate with their belief in all of the miracles mentioned in the Bible or belief that the Bible is infallible.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And you are wrong OFT those seminaries were "hot beds" of infidelity. Harvard's library was nicknamed by the orthodox "Satan's bookshelf."

Pinky said...

.
Here is how many understand the definition of what it means to be a Christian.
.
This idea of being "born again" is basic to the ideas of Fundamental as well as Evangelical Christianity which are, for all intent and purposes, almost the exact same thing.
.
During the 1950s, a Presbyterian by the name of Carl McIntyre caused such a stir and ruckus about Fundamentalism that most churches with Fundamental in their name changed to be Evangelical or Bible churches.
.
The importance of being Born Again goes back to the Great Awakening in the sense of what it takes to be accepted in the inner circles of fellowship within Evangelical churches and even legal membership in many churches.
.
Being "born of water" is seen as physical birth and being "born of the Spirit" is seen as the birth of ones spirit into eternal existence. Only the person who is able to actually experience the birth of their spirit can be said to be "born again", ie., the Second Birth or Twice Born as was iterated by President Jimmy Carter.
.
An Evangelical is also a person who believes in evangelizing, ie, going out into the world and actively soliciting persons to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. Not many Calvinists would do that.
.
The "true church" or the "Body of Christ", according to "Born Again" Christians is made up solely of those who are truly Born Again--all others will die, in their sins, unforgiven.
.
________________

The above does not necessarily represent my beliefs.

Our Founding Truth said...

The point is to note that J. Adams, Franklin, perhaps Jefferson, and Priestley (and others) explicitly defended this theory.

Whatever the case, it's clear Adams believed in miracles until he retired, as his quotes assert. So, we should leave him out of the conversation, unless there is specific evidence to the contrary.

And you are wrong OFT those seminaries were "hot beds" of infidelity. Harvard's library was nicknamed by the orthodox "Satan's bookshelf."

I'd like to see the evidence for this statement. The vast majority was orthodox; naming one seminary as "those" as you did with Harvard, is baseless.

And just because a seminary is heterodox doesn't change the fact they are seminaries.

There is no evidence whatsoever William and Mary or Harvard taught reason superior to revelation or the denial of the supernatural. I doubt there's ever been an historian to claim that! [emphasis mine]

Brad Hart said...

OFT:

David Holmes provides a detailed history of the various universities during this time, and how most of them strayed from traditional Christian teachings and chose more "infidel" forms of believing. His book is called, Faiths of the Founding Fathers.

Also, Sydney Ahlstrom discusses this in his book, A Religious History of the American People. Both are excellent books!

Jonathan Rowe said...

Nope, you may have evidence that Adams believed in some miracles when younger but that's entirely compatible with the unitarianism or theistic rationalism aboved described. Though he didn't respond to you, Dr. Frazer's PhD thesis features those very quotations that you thought trumped his theory about Adams. He used them to show that Adams, like Priestley, believed in miracles that met the test of reason.

Our Founding Truth said...

David Holmes provides a detailed history of the various universities during this time, and how most of them strayed from traditional Christian teachings and chose more "infidel" forms of believing. His book is called, Faiths of the Founding Fathers.>

Brad:

I don't buy this unless I see it. I read the index of his book, because I don't have the book, and the only seminaries listed were Princeton, (which was orthodox) Penn, (I believe orthodox) and William and Mary (I believe orthodox)

I'd appreciate it if someone could post those portions of his book. Holmes' authority is already undermined, as he believed in separation of church and state, the easiest concept to prove in history.

Nope, you may have evidence that Adams believed in some miracles when younger but that's entirely compatible with the unitarianism or theistic rationalism aboved described.>

Unitarianism is not rationalism. Rationalism is not able to violate any law of nature, under any circumstances. If rationalism is the ability to arbitrarily choose what a miracle is, it is purely subjective, with no proof whatsoever. The concept is too flawed to debate. It's like believing I can move objects by smiling at them, but not move them with a straight face.

Rationalism cannot violate any law of nature, cannot commit any miracle. It violates common sense so whoever believes it, should be disqualified from debate.

Though he didn't respond to you, Dr. Frazer's PhD thesis features those very quotations that you thought trumped his theory about Adams. He used them to show that Adams, like Priestley, believed in miracles that met the test of reason.>

Cool, let's see them. I'm sure they are very specific; some I've never seen. I just hope they're before he retired. His views changed radically after he retired, and not consistent with mainstream thought.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'm busy now, but will try to reproduce them within the next few days. It was those very quotations from 1756 that you offered that you thought trumpt Dr. Frazer's position. They support that Adams believed in the resurrection and miracles of Jesus as "rational miracles" as did Priestley.

And it's important to note that they did NOT believe in the resurrection on an Incarnate God making an infinite atonement but of the Father doing for the most moral MAN (not God at all), what He one day will do for all good men, perhaps all men.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Rationalism is not able to violate any law of nature, under any circumstances. If rationalism is the ability to arbitrarily choose what a miracle is, it is purely subjective, with no proof whatsoever. The concept is too flawed to debate. It's like believing I can move objects by smiling at them, but not move them with a straight face.

Rationalism cannot violate any law of nature, cannot commit any miracle. It violates common sense so whoever believes it, should be disqualified from debate.


This is what's known as a "straw man" logical fallacy. Certainly that's one definition of rationalism but not the only one. As Dr. Frazer defines, "rationalism" means meets the test of reason as the ultimate arbiter of truth. And some of the theistic rationalists believed some of the miracles in the Bible met the test of reason and hence were "rational."

Jonathan Rowe said...

It violates common sense so whoever believes it, should be disqualified from debate.

I'm not an expert in all of the logical fallacies (perhap TVD could chime in) but I think this one is called "special pleading." You are trying to rig the rules of the debate in your favor.

If a Founder believed it, they believed it. No one is disqualified because you think what they believed is nuts. This is exactly what Raven thinks of your religious beliefs. So under his rules of special pleading, YOU are disqualified.

Our Founding Truth said...

I'm busy now, but will try to reproduce them within the next few days. It was those very quotations from 1756 that you offered that you thought trumpt Dr. Frazer's position.>

Thanks

Tom Van Dyke said...

I think his arguments are fine. I let him know when I think they're not, in fact I'm stricter with him than anyone else here.

A belief in miracles [or revelation] is simply not rational. Just ask an atheist.

Brad Hart said...

OFT:

When I have a free moment (and that might not be until this weekend) I will try to post some of Holmes' stuff on the unorthodoxy of universities at this time. I will also look through Ahlerstrom's book to track down the same material. He is a little more thorough in his research, so I will focus on his stuff.

Our Founding Truth said...

And it's important to note that they did NOT believe in the resurrection on an Incarnate God making an infinite atonement but of the Father doing for the most moral MAN (not God at all), what He one day will do for all good men, perhaps all men.>

Dude, I couldn't make that up if I tried. The Fathers make it more clear than I'm typing right now, that He doesn't do anything for anyone, because it's against His nature. A resurrection is a resurrection, Jesus was dead, and his body came to life. That is a violation of a law of nature.

As Dr. Frazer defines, "rationalism" means meets the test of reason as the ultimate arbiter of truth. And some of the theistic rationalists believed some of the miracles in the Bible met the test of reason and hence were "rational.">

I understand what you're saying, however, it isn't logical.

A miracle must meet the test of reason, but some miracles met the test of reason? What is that? That theory destroys itself. Where are the specific words of this by the framers. This theory cannot be taken seriously without specific wording for it.

You, yourself see the blatant contradiction in this theory.

No one is disqualified because you think what they believed is nuts.>

Of course, but it isn't logical. Raven believes what she wants no matter what the historical, or archeological evidence. You can't use her opinion, she's not objective.

Our Founding Truth said...

When I have a free moment (and that might not be until this weekend) I will try to post some of Holmes' stuff on the unorthodoxy of universities at this time. I will also look through Ahlerstrom's book to track down the same material. He is a little more thorough in his research, so I will focus on his stuff.>

That would be awesome! Thanks a lot.

Jonathan Rowe said...

If you think the theory is nuts, and self-contradictory, fine. But it is what men like Priestley, Price, J. Adams, Franklin, perhaps Jefferson, and others believed, a partially inspired Bible where man's reason could determine which parts (including the miraculous) they would choose to believe.

As for miracles not being rational, one of my readers "Explicit Atheist" objected to the term "theistic rationalist" because, to him, belief in God was not rational. He preferred "unitarian-universalists."

Sorry folks this is special pleading.

Our Founding Truth said...

As for miracles not being rational, one of my readers "Explicit Atheist" objected to the term "theistic rationalist" because, to him, belief in God was not rational. He preferred "unitarian-universalists.">

I hope people on this blog understand there is a difference between a miracle and a scientifc absurdity. The Bible has no scientific absurdities, Islam is filled with them.

A scientific absurdity is as the koran says, the sun literally and physically setting into a lake.

A donkey talking, or God moving the sun is not a scientific absurdity.

Our Founding Truth said...

Sorry folks this is special pleading.>

In all honesty, this theory is so flawed, without specific words from the framers supporting it, it should be disqualified.

Whether I think it is nuts isn't the issue. Although it is illogical, no one can assume they believed this theory without proof.

Tom Van Dyke said...

As for miracles not being rational, one of my readers "Explicit Atheist" objected to the term "theistic rationalist" because, to him, belief in God was not rational. He preferred "unitarian-universalists."

Well, EA is a reasonable and rational fellow. How could he answer otherwise? "Theistic rationalist" is an oxymoron in his view.

There are some interesting [and uninteresting] ideas flying around here right now, so I prefer to beg off now as it's also growing cacophonous, and restate Comment #1, which deals with a First Thing, the belief in a priori truth:

Or one could simply ask the Founders, Do you believe God has communicated directly to man and those results are found in the Bible?

With the exception of Muslims, I would not expect non-Christians to answer, yes.

[snip]

So we can argue the orthodoxy question, and feel free to with the those who argue the Founding was "orthodox Christian."

But in my view the essential quality of

a) there being a God and
b) that He spoke through the Bible

cuts much closer to the question at hand.

Steve-O said...

Our Founding Truth:

"I hope people on this blog understand there is a difference between a miracle and a scientifc absurdity. The Bible has no scientific absurdities, Islam is filled with them.

A scientific absurdity is as the koran says, the sun literally and physically setting into a lake.

A donkey talking, or God moving the sun is not a scientific absurdity."


This may be the dumbest thing I have ever read in my entire life. You cannot be serious. All you are doing is belittling a relion you don't approve of or believe in while promoting your own religion. The reality (not that you believe in reality as noted by your own words) is that talking donkeys are as ridiculous as the sun setting into a lake.

All you are doing is revealing your own bias. A Muslim could just as easily reverse your stupid comment.

This is a picture perfect example of why it is so hard to take religious fundamentalists seriously.

Our Founding Truth said...

This may be the dumbest thing I have ever read in my entire life. You cannot be serious.>

You obviously do not know the difference between a scientific absurdity, and a miracle.

Can the sun literally fit into a lake? No. Could it be possible for a donkey, or dog, or cat, to talk? Yes.

This is a picture perfect example of why it is so hard to take religious fundamentalists seriously.>

You're problem isn't with me, it never has been; it's with Jesus Christ, and His claims. Read the Bible and take up His claims with Him.

Steve-O said...

NO!!!

What planet do you live on where dogs, cats, snakes, donkeys talk? THEY DON'T TALK! And guess what...Jesus never said they did, so obviously my problem is not with Jesus, it is with you making these stupid claims and passing them off as legitimate scholarly material.

You've tainted this whole discussion.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT:

Here is John Adams to Thomas Jefferson 17 July, 1813, discussing this very dynamic and how two of their theological mentors Joseph Priestley and Theodophilus Lindsay, both unitarians, believed in it. I have bolded the parts that support my theory:

Now, I see not but you are as good a Christian as Priestley and Lindsey. Piety and morality were the end and object of the Christian system, according to them and according to you. They believed in the resurrection of Jesus, in his miracles and inspirations. But what inspirations? Not all that is recorded in the New Testament or the Old. They have not yet told us how much they believe or disbelieve. They have not told us how much allegory, how much parable they find, nor how they explained them all in the New Testament or Old.

Our Founding Truth said...

NO!!!

What planet do you live on where dogs, cats, snakes, donkeys talk? THEY DON'T TALK! And guess what...Jesus never said they did, so obviously my problem is not with Jesus, it is with you making these stupid claims and passing them off as legitimate scholarly material.

You've tainted this whole discussion.>

Maybe they will ban you, until then, you picked a quarrel on the Bible with the wrong guy:

May the truth set you free.

And guess what...Jesus never said they did, so obviously my problem is not with Jesus>

Matthew 5

17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Here, Jesus is affirming the entire law and prophets, that is what He read in Synagogue; the five books of Moses, and all the prophets, judges, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc.

John 10

34Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?

35If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

The scripture is the Torah Jesus read in synagogue.

Here Jesus affirms the flood:

Luke 17

26And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.

27They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

Try another blog pal, you're out of your league!

Steve-O said...

Oh...you got me there! I am completely and totally destroyed in my argument. Yes, you have convinced me that animals talk!

Give me a break! Yes, I am in another league. I do not accept the UNBELIEVABLY RIDICULOUS NOTION that animals talk! This is like arguing with Forrest Gump.

Our Founding Truth said...

Oh...you got me there! I am completely and totally destroyed in my argument. Yes, you have convinced me that animals talk!

Give me a break! Yes, I am in another league. I do not accept the UNBELIEVABLY RIDICULOUS NOTION that animals talk! This is like arguing with Forrest Gump.>

Go to another blog, you're posts relate the musings of an eight and a half year old. No more of your weak rants will be a answered.

bpabbott said...

OFT: "Quotes affirming or rejecting the supernatural is the proof in the pudding"

I infer that you're taking a positoin that *reason* in all cases must reject the supernatural.

I think that to be a false dichotomy. While *I* assocate the supernatural with the superstitious and while my reasoned opinions are irreconciable with supersition (and hence the supernatural) it is improper to associate my opinon with the reasoned opinions of others.

As an example, is it *your* reasoned opinion that the supernatural is congruent with the supersitious or have you reasoned differently?

bpabbott said...

Steve: "I do not accept the UNBELIEVABLY RIDICULOUS NOTION that animals talk!"

I'm an animal and am perfectly capable of speech ;-)

Snakes on the other hand have no vocal cords, nor the requiresite cognitive function for speech.

bpabbott said...

OFT: "Logic would dictate that they aren't rationalists"

What is the logic you imply that conclues them to be irrational?

... or perhaps you are not using the terms logic and/or rational properly?

Logic is the study of the principles of valid demonstration and inference.

A rational argument need not be logical ... not unless you seek to demonstrate a logical conclusion.

bpabbott said...

OFT: "I believe the colleges were seminaries because they taught the Bible, and it's truth."

Be careful. Correlation is not equivalent to causation.

Manhy churches teach biblical truth, but they are certainly no seminaries. Nor are seminatirs necessarilly churches.

bpabbott said...

OFT: "There is no evidence whatsoever William and Mary or Harvard taught reason superior to revelation or the denial of the supernatural."

Jon's thesis is simple to extinguish. Supply the evidence where these instituions formally stated otherwise.

If there was no direct formal statement, then we must accept the indirect evidnece.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "A belief in miracles [or revelation] is simply not rational. Just ask an atheist."

You are obviously correct ... not that all atheists grasp this concept ;-)

bpabbott said...

OFT: "A miracle must meet the test of reason, but some miracles met the test of reason? What is that? That theory destroys itself. Where are the specific words of this by the framers. This theory cannot be taken seriously without specific wording for it.

You, yourself see the blatant contradiction in this theory"

Certainly. When miracles do not meet the burden of reason, we call them myths.

There is no reason to ressurect such quotes here.

... pardon the double-pun ;-)

bpabbott said...

OFT: "A scientific absurdity is as the koran says, the sun literally and physically setting into a lake.
A donkey talking, or God moving the sun is not a scientific absurdity."

Surely you jest? From a scientific perspective each of those example are absurd.

Which means there is no manner to test or observe such claims.

Pinky said...

.
Having just recently completed some of Strauss's work on rationalism, I'm going to just follow along here and chuckle every once in a while.
.
To myself, of course.

bpabbott said...

OFT: "In all honesty, this theory is so flawed, without specific words from the framers supporting it, it should be disqualified."

No :-(

All theories are flawed.

The question is (first) whether of not the claim / theory / understanding is consistent with the evidence and then whether or not predictions can be made.

From a histortic perspective, predicting is more generally a oxymoron (but it is not is science).

bpabbott said...

Pinky: "To myself, of course."

Please do offer us a Straussian defintion for "rationalism".

The proper use of such terms has become blantently apparent here.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Tom: "A belief in miracles [or revelation] is simply not rational. Just ask an atheist."

Ben:You are obviously correct ... not that all atheists grasp this concept ;-)

I had you in mind, Ben. I leave the door open for you around here, although I'm crestfallen when the courtesy isn't reciprocated. ;-/

Pinky? Are you there, Phil?

"Having just recently completed some of Strauss's work on rationalism, I'm going to just follow along here and chuckle every once in a while.
.
To myself, of course."


To yourself?! How selfish!

Mr. Abbott just called you out about Singapore on a thread above this one. I thought to myself, "God, this is rich. One of them is actually going to have to make an affirmative argument instead of playing Immovable Object."

I'd pay to see that and so I resisted the temptation to reply meself. Ben argues from the "modern" perspective; Strauss argues from the "classical" perspective. Phil likes Strauss, or at least writes about him as an important perspective.

So, I'll pay to see that---go at it, fellows, get off the sidelines and out of the peanut gallery with no interference from the rest of us here gathered.

I'll send each of you a dollar [US$1] if you actually do it. I'll send you zero pesos if you continue your tradition of initiating Mexican standoffs.

Here's your chance to become professional writers. As has been pointed out by one of my buddies around here, I'm credential-less, except I have been paid for my writings, as has Jonathan Rowe and any number of our contributors.

A buck ain't much, but it's your chance to turn pro. Grab this chance, guys.

[Oh, and "Raven," whoever you are, I'll send you a buck too, either to write something intelligent or shut the fuck up, either way. Send me your address, and a greenish portrait of George Washington is on its way to you. In fact, it'll be delivered personally.]

[Hehe.]

Pinky said...

.
Strauss exemplifies rational thought as he reasons out concepts to their most clearly understood definition--step by step by step. When he gets through with an idea, there's nothing left to argue about--he covers every facet.
.

Pinky said...

.
"To yourself?! How selfish!
.
"Mr. Abbott just called you out about Singapore on a thread above this one."

.
Singapore???
.
I guess that proves I don't read everything that's published here.
.

bpabbott said...

Tom, you've misunderstood my post "baiting" Phil