Monday, January 26, 2009

George Marsden on American Evangelicalism

George Marsden, a history professor at the University of Notre Dame and author of several books on religion in American history, gave the following lecture at a conference for the Organization of American Historians in 2007. In the video, Marsden points out the role that Protestantism had in shaping American religious history. In addition, Marsden counters the "Christian Nation" assertion by pointing to the religious plurality that Protestantism brought to the shores of the "New World." Marsden is one of the most respected historians on American religious history, and is himself a practicing Christian. Along with historians like Mark Noll and Nathan Hatch, Marsden has labored to shed light on the origins and influence of the "Christian Nation" argument.

The video is short, but is a nice "appetizer." For a more in depth look into this topic try Marsden's books, Fundamentalism and American Culture" and Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism.

Part I:


Part II:


Part III:

110 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Marsden counters the "Christian Nation" assertion by pointing to the religious plurality that Protestantism brought to the shores of the "New World."

I missed the part where he countered anything, sorry. Perhaps you could explain his thesis, or antithesis, as the case may be.

Brad Hart said...

It's in the first 2 video clips.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Indulge me.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Clip #2 where he discusses the difference between "Protestantism" and "Christian." From my end, "Protestantism" as a political-theological understanding perfecly describes "America" in the sense that it literally means "to dissent."

But "Protestantism" in this sense doesn't necessarily mean "Christian"; and it certainly doesn't mean "orthodox Christian."

For instance, when Jefferson, rejected --

"[t]he 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."

-- he was being quintessentially "Protestant." But, was he being "Christian?" THAT, is a matter of debate. You know how Dr. Frazer terms this theological system.

Tom Van Dyke said...

So Jefferson is a Protestant, Jon?

I don't mean to use Ben Abbott's tactics, but I have really no idea of the affirmative thesis being stated here, by Marsden or anyone else.

No, I'm not going to buy or read his book until I hear some reason to. That's fair, I think. There are many things on my list that have already proven themselves interesting or worthy enough to explore. It's become apparent to me of late that I'm not going to live forever: I must prioritize my efforts and investments.

What I do know from googling is that Marsden says that "a fundamentalist is an evangelical who is angry about something."

That's fine, although not terribly informative. It's also kinda negative and hints at an animus. I don't have time for animus.

I look at the comments below this Washington Post op-ed by a religious-type fellow, and it seems that many secular humanists seem to be genuinely angry, too. About what, I dunno. Anger is apparently non-sectarian, even when it's anti-sectarian.

If no one has noticed to this point, I don't seem to be a "fundamentalist." And I've used the dismissive term "Christian Nation crowd."

But on the other hand, I notice a real phenomenon that I need to title the "anti-Christian Nation crowd." Dismissively as well.

I just wanted to know how George Marsden scored points against the "Christian Nation crowd," an honest question.

No, Thomas Jefferson won't do. He was not The Founding, or else he wouldn't have kept his thoughts on theology---specifically Christian theology---secret. Neither has anyone including Gregg Frazer, Ph.D ever called Jefferson a Protestant. Until now, at least...

I hear what George Marsden is saying, but so far, it doesn't amount to a thesis, an antithesis, or a hill of beans. At least he acknowledges Protestantism had a large affect on the Founding.

What other factors had larger, equal, or significant effects need to be argued affirmatively against the Christian Nation crowd.

I don't mean to hassle, Brad, really. It's just that I hate sitting through the prattle of scholars, especially those on these videos, but out of respect for you, I subjected myself through these.

But I found that the statement "Marsden counters the 'Christian Nation' assertion" [of whatever it is they "assert"] to be completely unsupported by the evidence I patiently sat through. He gave great weight to Protestantism here. In fact, he lends force to the "Christian nation crowd's" line of argument!

Now if you or Jonathan want to argue that America isn't so much a "Christian nation" as much as a Protestant one, well, that's a damned interesting prospect, and I'd love to hear more. We could leave the fundamentalists and the evangelicals of the 21st century out completely and park animus like Marsden's at the door, which would suit me just fine. We could just try to get at the facts of the Founding.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

I think I wrote a post a little while ago entitled something like America's Protestant but not Christian Foundations. Also Dr. Frazer does cite at least one prominent PhD academic in his thesis who termed the theistic rationalists "political Protestants."

Pinky said...

.
Geez!
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Now I gotta buy another book!
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This Marsden person has got his act together.
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Thanks, Brad, I will get his book on Fundamentalism in America.
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So, do you get a commission?
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I appreciated the main thrust of the videos. It all makes great sense to me having been raised in a Fundamentalist Baptist family with all the bells and whistles.
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Thanks.

Jonathan Rowe said...

From my end I always considered "fundamentalist" a species of evangelical. All fundamentalists are evangelicals; but not all evangelicals are fundamentalists. George Bush and Jimmy Carter might qualify as "evangelicals"; but I doubt either would qualify as "fundamentalists."

Pinky said...

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"George Bush and Jimmy Carter might qualify as 'evangelicals'; but I doubt either would qualify as 'fundamentalists.'"
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That's hard to say, Jonathon.
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Jimmy Carter is--often--discredited as even being a Christian by many Fundamentalists.
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George [W] Bush appeals to the Fundamentalists on some basis. It's hard to put your finger on whatever it is. Maybe his hands off position on the Israeli/Palestinian situation?
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When it comes to being an Evangelical, the idea--generally--has to do with the desire to "spread the Word--to evangelize" the world. But, you would be hard pressed to find a Fundamentalist (capital F) that does not see their self as being an Evangelical (capital C).
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The use of the word, Evangelical, came into such popularity when the super Fundamentalist, Carl McIntyre, made such a spectacle of himself and Fundamentalism during the 1950s. Fundamentalism, per se, had such a bad rap from his antics that most Fundamentalists wanted to disassociate from even the use of the word. They changed their name to Evangelical and dropped the word, Fundamentalist, from the names of their churches. Until then, Evangelicalism was seen as slightly "modernist".
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Here's a quotation from the link Carl McIntyre:
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"...Dr. Billy James Hargis ... is credited, along with his friend for over 30 years, Dr. Carl McIntyre, as having given birth to the "Christian Right" and bringing back "Christian Fundamentalism" to America at the close of World War II." ("The Sins of Billy James" Time Magazine, Feb. 16, 1967, p. 52)

Same thing just like Shakespeare's rose.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Also Dr. Frazer does cite at least one prominent PhD academic in his thesis who termed the theistic rationalists "political Protestants."

Drowning in jargon here. Help!

Jonathan Rowe said...

Okay Tom. I'll put that on the list of things to get to and will do a post on "Political Protestants."

Tom Van Dyke said...

An interesting interview with an evangelical member of the evil "Christian Right":

Hugh Hewitt: Now, J.P. Moreland, if there’s a liberal driving around, and I know there are, there are hundreds of thousands of them, actually, driving around and listening to you, and I hope they read your book, The God Question, but that’s a recipe for having Evangelical pastors endorsing the Republican Party.

JPM: Well, if the Republican Party is closer to a Christian view, then so be it. If the Democratic Party’s closer, then so be it. I’m a Republican at this point, because I find that its policies, when Republicans are acting like Republicans, tend to be closer to my read of the Old and New Testaments than the Democratic Party. So I don’t vote Republican because I care about Republicans, or because I’m politically conservative for its own sake. I’m political conservative because I think that’s the view that the Old and New Testaments teach, and I’ve done a fair amount of study about this. Now I could be wrong, but that’s my conviction. And I think I’ve read the Scriptures fairly clearly on these questions.

HH: Do you think pastors will get into trouble…I mean, they’re all going to say to you, that’s very nice, but I’m going to have my Democrats leave, and they’re going to take their contributions with them, and then they’re going to call the IRS and I’m going to get audited. And I just as soon talk about the Beatitudes, and not connect them up to voting.

JPM: Well, if you keep doing that, then what you’re creating is a secular-sacred split in the lives of your parishioners. They can allow Jesus Christ to have something to say about their private spiritual lives, but Jesus Christ is not allowed to say anything when it comes to their public life. I find that kind of discipleship to be completely unacceptable. If as a Christian, and those who are listening aren’t Christians need to understand, that those of us who are Christians want to seek to follow Jesus as best we can with all our flaws and all of our problems, but that’s our goal. It would follow, then, that we should want to follow Jesus throughout all of life including life as citizens of the state if the New Testament and Old Testament teach on that, and it does.

HH: Is it malpractice, J.P. Moreland, for an Evangelical pastor to be silent on such things?

JPM: Well, absolutely. I mean, how could a pastor refrain from teaching what the Bible has to say about the important issues of our day that his or her parishioners have got to face? The Bible is not silent on these matters. I say again, Hugh, Christians believe the Bible has something to say about science and religion. Christians believe the Bible has something to say about abortion and euthanasia, about economics, about money, about marriage. Why all of a sudden do we think the Bible doesn’t have anything at all to say about the state and the political life? Why that just makes no sense whatsoever. The problem is not that the Bible doesn’t teach about these things, the problem is that the Church is illiterate because there’s been a lack of teaching on it.

- - - -

HH: This is not a religious program. This is a secular program. But the Evangelicals have been routed. They’ve been absolutely destroyed at the polls, and they’re sitting there on the sidelines wondering what happened, where did we go wrong, why is this government so far left. And J.P., how urgent are the times? And how urgent the repair of the Evangelical project in politics?

JPM: It’s extremely urgent, Hugh, for precisely the reason that you signaled. Evangelicals have withdrawn, they have been routed as you pointed out, and the culture is moving rapidly toward Europe. It’s becoming increasingly secularized. And anyone who’s concerned about the secularization of culture should be concerned that a major portion of the population, the Evangelical vote, be increasingly articulate and understand what it believes and why..."

"I do see hopeful signs, because I think more and more Christians are tired of having Jesus Christ simply be a private part of their lives, and they want to be involved in the public arena. I will say there’s one important link to this whole thing that I haven’t mentioned yet, and that is that the key to an Evangelical political involvement is what is called natural moral law. Natural moral law is the belief that there is objective morality that can be known by all people from Creation, without the Bible. Natural moral law teaches that there is a right and wrong in the Created world, that can be known by people, without having to turn to the Bible. This is important because the Evangelical does not want to place the state under Scripture. That would be to create a theocracy, and that has never been a good idea.

What we want is we want to place the state under the natural moral law. Therefore, if an Evangelical is going to be for traditional marriage, and it’s going to be against gay marriage, it cannot use Scripture to argue that case in the public square. It can be preached from the pulpit that this is a Biblical view, but when it comes to political engagement, it is not our attempt to place the state under the Bible, but to place it under the natural moral law. So it would follow, then, that Christians need to learn how to provide independent arguments for traditional marriage that do not require premises from the Scriptures.

HH: And on any other issue as well.

JPM: Say it again?

HH: And on any other issue.

JPM: Oh, yeah, I was just using that to illustrate, absolutely on any other issue. So it’s perfectly legitimate for pastors to teach what the Bible teaches about a range of issues, but if we’re going to be involved in a pluralistic culture, we want to bring the state under the objective natural moral law rather than bring it under Scripture, because we do not want to create a theocracy."

Jonathan Rowe said...

I think JPM is on the right track -- that runs from Aristotle to Aquinas to some Protestant natural law theologians to the FFs. "Nature" discoverable from reason, not proof texting the Bible as final authority.

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

The Bible is the final authority, of course, but reason can be used to "prove" it through natural law arguments, since they are of the same divine fabric. When reason conflicts with the Bible, it is reason that is defective. This, I believe, was the prevalent view at the Founding, or else we would have copious examples of where "reason" ran roughshod over the Bible.

We do not.

Pinky said...

.
What about that jokester, Raven. I don't think she likes you very much, Tom.
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You wrote, "When reason conflicts with the Bible, it is reason that is defective.".
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What is your authority for making that statement?
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I figure Unitarianism came out of that conflict and reason does seem to be what wins out.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry, Phil, asked and answered any number of times. It's at the heart of the Christian view of natural law and Scripture. We spent a whole week on James Wilson saying just that, and it's central to Aquinas.

As for Christian Unitarianism [a required retronym], I believe you'll find the disagreements were about the interpretation of scripture, not rejection of the whole or part of it. For instance, anti-Trinitarians used the Bible itself to argue against the concept.

As for the disappearance of my biggest fan's comments, thx, Brad.

I didn't catch it, but if anyone took me as asserting "When reason conflicts with the Bible, it is reason that is defective," as a truth claim rather than a simple explanation of a prevailing thought, they are disposed to misunderstand me. Anger and animus do make the IQ and reading comprehension go down. For the record, TVD don't do truth claims.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "The Bible is the final authority, of course, but reason can be used to "prove" it through natural law arguments, since they are of the same divine fabric. When reason conflicts with the Bible, it is reason that is defective. This, I believe, was the prevalent view at the Founding, or else we would have copious examples of where "reason" ran roughshod over the Bible."

Tom, I suggest that the founding is an excellent copious example.

Another is that the sectarian laws/commandments of the Bible are *not* part of our legal code.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Tom, I suggest that the founding is an excellent copious example.

The Founding is in conflict with the Bible?

You have the floor, Ben. I'm all ears.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "The Bible is the final authority, of course, but reason can be used to "prove" it through natural law arguments, since they are of the same divine fabric."

In Matthew 4:8-9 it is said that;

"[8] Again, the devil taketh [Jesus] up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; [9] And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me."

As the Earth is a globe and the founders new it to be, such is a contradiction of the founder's reason. Please present evidence where the founders, who were willing to sail the Earths oceans, and who, through reason, understood the Earth to be a globe, rejected their reasoned conclusion in favor of this revelation.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "You have the floor, Ben. I'm all ears."

I might tit-for-tat and say "Sorry, Tom, asked and answered any number of times."

Jon has aptly developed this position, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here ... and many more. For a list of articles on this blog alone, go here ;-)

In all seriousness, if you wish to declare the founders generally favored Biblical revelation over reason, you'll need to produce evidence where the founders were in possession of knowledge and understanding that was incongruent with Biblical revelation and that they abandoned their understanding in favor Biblical revelation.

I won't bore you with the ample counter examples.

Pinky said...

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It seems Tom has been closet Christian Nationalist all along.
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bpabbott said...

Pinky: "It seems Tom has been closet Christian Nationalist all along."

What ever his position might be, he has certainly gone to great effort to keep it hidden.

Tom Van Dyke said...


In all seriousness, if you wish to declare the founders generally favored Biblical revelation over reason


I didn't say that either, Ben. You're missing the point about the belief in the confluence of scripture and natural law. I don't know if it's that you refuse to grasp the point, or are unable to.

Actually, I haven't been anything all along, Phil. I go where the evidence leads. I haven't arrived at a conclusion yet, but when I do, I'll let you know.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "You're missing the point about the belief in the confluence of scripture and natural law."

I don't think so ... are your missing the point of contradiction of scripture and natural law?

Also unlikely, I think. There's a false dichotomy in each of those statements.

Scripture and reason/natural-law may be congruent in some cases and incongruent in others.

All that is needed to elevate reason above scripture is one example where such is done.

The same might be said of scripture above reason, but I don't think it practical to find an example where many individuals will claim to abandon their informed understanding in favor of scripture.

Generally speaking the issue is one of tendency. Were the founders more likley to rely upon their informed understanding or upon a literal interpretation of scripture?

Pinky said...

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Tom sez, "...I haven't been anything all along..."
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Right...
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Brad Hart said...

Phil writes:

"Geez!
.
Now I gotta buy another book!
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This Marsden person has got his act together.
.
Thanks, Brad, I will get his book on Fundamentalism in America.
.
So, do you get a commission?"


I like that idea! Somebody get in contact with Marsden and let him know he needs to kick back a little my way!

And you are right, Phil. Marsden is certainly a top echelon historian, especially on this topic. In my opinion we neglect to mention his work enough on this blog (we should also look at mentioning Mark Noll as well while we are at it). Both Marsden and Noll's work are VERY relevant to what we are trying to do here at American Creation. We would be smart to reference their work a little more.

You won't be disappointed with Marsden's book, Phil...I guarantee it!

Our Founding Truth said...

In all seriousness, if you wish to declare the founders generally favored Biblical revelation over reason>

Tom:

If the framers believed in the supernatural, which they did, then yes, they believed scripture superior.

Our Founding Truth said...

Ben:

In all seriousness, if you wish to declare the founders generally favored Biblical revelation over> reason>

Tom:

If the framers believed in the supernatural, which they did, then yes, they believed scripture superior.

Pinky said...

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Without a doubt, some of the founders believed the Bible trumped all truth.
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Some people still do.
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It takes all kinds.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, I'm making a point that seems to elude everybody here. It's my inadequacy, no doubt.

The funny thing is that the point was quite clear and self-evident to the people of the Founding era; Aquinas', Hooker's, and James Wilson's understanding of setting reason against revelation is not only a false dichotomy, but an impossibility!

Apparently in the time between then and now, the bridge was washed out, and it's in the absence of that bridge of understanding that this simple but elegant point accounts for so many of our confusions and pointless digressions around here.

I guess part of my motivation in expending so much time and effort in these comments sections is to learn the art of such bridge-building. But forgive me if I don't have time for those whose vocation is to tear down bridges. This is just a scale-model bridge, and if the termites get at it, so be it.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom:

If the framers believed in the supernatural, which they did, then yes, they believed scripture superior.


OFT: This is a non-sequitur, a logical fallacy where the conclusion does not follow from the facts presented.

J. Adams, Franklin, Priestley, Price, I would argue Jefferson as well all believed in the supernatural, but that the Bible was partially inspired and that man's reason determined which parts of the Bible were valid.

Miracles recorded in the Bible were valid if they met the test of "reason." They, or at least some of the theistic rationalists, believed in the "rational miracles" recorded in the Bible, not all of them.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

After going thru all of this and recounting Wilson's position -- which I think was pretty close to consensus -- I would agree there was dominant thought during the Founding that reason & revelation "generally" agreed. However, they were split on whether the Bible was infallible and what trumped what. As I read Wilson he thought the Bible and reason were both incomplete and needed one another. And -- I'm sure here is where we might disagree -- he believed scripture must meet the test of reason, that scripture did not "supercede" the findings of "reason" and the "senses."

Tom Van Dyke said...

The interpretation of scripture must meet the test of reason. This is a crucial distinction.

Since theology, doctrine and dogma are functions of reason anyway, teasing out from scripture that which isn't directly addressed, the problem lies within the exercise of right reason, not with the Bible itself.

And thx for your honest hearing and consideration on this. It would be far easier to retire to our separate corners, sound the bell, and participate in yet another useless dance.

Our Founding Truth said...

Miracles recorded in the Bible were valid if they met the test of "reason.">

Excuse me? Talk about a cat chasing his tail. A miracle that meets the test of reason? Sorry bro, a miracle is above reason.

but that the Bible was partially inspired and that man's reason determined which parts of the Bible were valid.>

How the framers viewed the definition of a miracle, which was unanimous, and a more correct understanding of Priestley and Jefferson's faith indicate they believed in Providence, but rejected any violations of the laws of nature. Franklin is a contradiction, as his own writings prove.

Adams believed in the miracles of Jesus Christ, so he cannot be labeled a rationalist.

Out of all the framers, Jefferson is the only true rationalist.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon:

As I read Wilson he thought the Bible and reason were both incomplete and needed one another. And -- I'm sure here is where we might disagree -- he believed scripture must meet the test of reason, that scripture did not "supercede" the findings of "reason" and the "senses."

Jon: This is a non-sequitur, a logical fallacy where the conclusion does not follow from the facts presented.

Wilson believed affirmed violations of the laws of nature, (miracles) not mere Providence. Wilson affirmed the flood, which has many violations of the laws of nature.

I say again, the evidence refutes Dr. Frazer's work; Jefferson being the only true rationalist of our founding fathers.

Pinky said...

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OFT, when you sign as Our Founding Truth, who is it you mean to connote with OUR? Surely not the more scholarly who visit here.
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Miracles ONLY are accepted by faith and not because they are written in some book no matter how respected it may be. Those who accept the Bible as the revealed Word of God do so on faith. Reason and rationality don't enter in.
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Period.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

You have your specially plead definition of rationalism, Dr. Frazer has his. Dr. Frazer's definition of rationalism is one who believes all truth must meet the test of reason, including what is written in the Bible. The theistic rationalists different on miralces; some of them accepted miracles as rational, some did not.

You have yet to show why your specially plead definition of "rationalism" is the only correct one and that Dr. Frazer's is wrong.

And James Wilson arguably falls into the category of rationalists who denied miracles as he wrote:

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

Jonathan Rowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Rowe said...

Correction, this should have read:

"The theistic rationalists differed on miralces; some of them accepted miracles as rational, some did not."

Tom Van Dyke said...

A miracle that meets the test of reason? Sorry bro, a miracle is above reason.

I agree that believing in miracles violates rationality; Hume is definitive on this point. OFT has a point here that can't be driven around.

I also wouldn't take the James Wilson quote as necessarily denying miracles; I'd like more evidence. I read the passage as Wilson equating the terms natural law and the law of nature, a step I wasn't even prepared to venture as a common understanding at the Founding until I read Wilson.

Our Founding Truth said...

"The theistic rationalists differed on miralces; some of them accepted miracles as rational, some did not.">

The definition of miracle is the same today, as in the 18th century. Come on, Jon.

Jonathan Rowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Rowe said...

I agree that believing in miracles violates rationality; Hume is definitive on this point. OFT has a point here that can't be driven around.

Okay; but the point isn't what Hume believed or what we conclude makes sense. Rather the point is what Jefferson, J. Adams, Franklin and company believed. Some of them believed miracles that met the test of reason could be believed as "rational" miracles. The point isn't to defend their theory, but to show it is what they believed.

I think we might have to pull out Ben Franklin's "On Wine," and read the text very carefully where he makes the case.

All of the "theistic rationalists" believed in an active interventionist God, one who intervened in the affairs of man, which itself is supernatural and in a sense "miraculous."

If I did want to defend the concept of "rational miracles" on behalf of the Founders who believed in said concept, here is how I might do it: God intervenes in man's affairs by manipulating probabilities consisent with the "laws of nature and science," not by violating said laws. Therefore George Washington could "miraculously" escape being shot at a close range with bullet holes through his coat (similar to that scene in Pulp Fiction) because that is consistent with the laws of nature. But parting the Red Sea is not. Unless of course, man's reason could explain how parting the Red Sea IS a rational miracle by manipulating contingencies. This is why for instance "rationalist" Jefferson could deny the Resurrection, but his friends the "rationalists" Priestley, Price, and J. Adams could accept the resurrection as "rational." They all agreed the Trinity was not "rational." It was "rationality" brought them together.

Our Founding Truth said...

Pinky: Miracles ONLY are accepted by faith and not because they are written in some book no matter how respected it may be.>

This statement isn't entirely true. The Bible is from another realm, a mind inside, and outside our time domain, (check out Chuck Missler's work) evidenced by the various codes it contains. The Bible tells the future accurately, with not one mistake, however the biggest miracle; Israel, then a wasteland, is back in the land as the prophets foretold, is the biggest miracle.

Newton tried to figure out the Bible's codes by the star of bethlehem, however, his figures were all wrong. Christians have traced where that star was on that particular day; Newton was way off.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon: Therefore George Washington could "miraculously" escape being shot at a close range with bullet holes through his coat (similar to that scene in Pulp Fiction) because that is consistent with the laws of nature.>

If God is intervening to produce a miracle, how is it consistent with the laws of nature when the laws of nature have been broken?

Jonathan Rowe said...

4 bullets shot at close range that "nearly" miss GW doesn't violate the laws of nature or science. Neither did the recent plane that landed on the River. But some folks see a "miracle" in that as well.

bpabbott said...

OFT/Tom, you guys seem to be playing rather loose with words.

To stand the test of reason means that an individual finds a claim reasonable given his experience and perspective.

To be rational an act must not be counter the the indivudal's desire/intent.

If you are an evangelical Christian is it rational to believe and promote belief in miracles.

If one is an Evangelical Christian his mind will likely reject the claim that a local cheerleader is pregnant and a virgin. He will be confident in his reasons for doing so ... and yet he is likely to accept the claim of Mary's virgin birth of Jesus ... and he will be confident in his reason to do so. In my opinion, these are all reasoned and rational examples.

Of course, my sense of reason would be very differnt from that of an Evangelical, and because my desires/intent are different than those of an Evangelical, my rational actions will differ as well.

OFT, regarding reason being the test of revelation, the authority of what is reasonable is subject to individual opinion. Thus, which miracles are reasonable and which are not is a matter of individual opinion. The point is most founders accepted that it is each individual's liberty to judge for himself.

bpabbott said...

OFT: "The definition of miracle is the same today, as in the 18th century."

It is the meaning you assert, by implication, to the words "rational" and "reason" that is in question.

Tom Van Dyke said...

OFT/Tom, you guys seem to be playing rather loose with words.

Please don't do that, Ben.

Jon insists on injecting the term "theistic rationalist" into the discussion. I think it's flawed and we'd be better off without it. In any case, we wouldn't miss it: the discussion of religion and the Founding goes on without it just fine everywhere else in the world.


If you are an evangelical Christian is it rational to believe and promote belief in miracles.


If you're a theist, it's rational to believe in something like the Resurrection.

Or to disbelieve. Therefore, the term clarifies nothing.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'm sticking with the term because I think it aptly describes what the key Founders believed or probably believed. From Dr. Frazer's original article:

Although affiliated with various denominations, the major founders did not typically hold to the beliefs officially espoused by their denominations. Similarly, while Franklin and Jefferson are regularly listed as deists, they did not believe in the fundamental tenets of deism. The key founders shared a common belief which might be called theistic rationalism. Theistic rationalism was a hybrid, mixing elements of natural religion, Christianity, and rationalism, with rationalism as the predominant element. Accordingly, the founders believed in a benevolent, active, and unitary God who intervenes in human affairs. Consequently, they believed that prayers are heard and effectual. They believed that the key factor in serving God is living a good and moral life, that promotion of morality is central to the value of religion, and that the morality engendered by religion is indispensable to society. Because virtually all religions promote morality, they believed that most religious traditions are valid and lead to the same God.

Though theistic rationalists did not believe that Jesus was God, they considered him a great moral teacher and held a higher view of him than did deists. They believed in a personal after-life in which the wicked will be temporarily punished and the good experience happiness forever. Although they believed that God primarily revealed himself through nature, they believed that some written revelation was legitimate. Finally, while they believed that reason and revelation generally agree with each other, theistic rationalists believed that revelation was designed to complement reason (not vice versa). Reason was the ultimate standard for learning and evaluating truth and for determining legitimate revelation from God.


http://www.claremont.org/publications/pubid.394/pub_detail.asp

Pinky said...

.
By now we're all old enough to know that maturity dictates we don't expect others to live up to our expectations. We encourage them to express their self. In the least so we can get to know who they are.
.
Sometimes, when others get too dogmatic, they need to be brought down.
.
I haven't seen Ben act in any anti-social ways.
.
Tom opines, "If you're a theist, it's rational to believe in something like the Resurrection.".
.
My understanding of rational is that it is based strictly on reason and not on any ideology or other system of belief based on what is generally considered unknowable.
.
This site is beginning to slip into the area of ideas based on the supernatural/
.
Is it due to some sort of patronization of participants like OFT that is causing the site to lose its standards?
.

Our Founding Truth said...

4 bullets shot at close range that "nearly" miss GW doesn't violate the laws of nature or science.>

If God intervened, it sure does.

Pinky said...

.
This discussion with OFT espousing the supernatural belongs at another site.
.
But who am I to point that out?
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm sticking with the term because I think it aptly describes what the key Founders believed or probably believed. From Dr. Frazer's original article:

Fine, Jon. Just print the lengthy instruction booklet every time you use it, because it makes no sense without it.

When I write


Tom opines, "If you're a theist, it's rational to believe in something like the Resurrection."

Phil, who does his level best to disagree with me at almost all times, writes:

My understanding of rational is that it is based strictly on reason and not on any ideology or other system of belief based on what is generally considered unknowable.

He of course agrees with me unintentionally or otherwise. Obviously, without the instruction booklet, the term is useless to Phil as well.

Jonathan Rowe said...

No, it doesn't. If God intervened in the "miraculous" plane crash that killed no one, He did so without violating the laws of nature (as far as it is detectable by our scientific instruments) but rather by acting within those laws.

Our Founding Truth said...

The point is most founders accepted that it is each individual's liberty to judge for himself.>

What planet are you on? Human beings don't get to determine if giving sight to the blind is or is not above reason. Giving sight to the blind by a word is a miracle! There is no rational miracles.

1828 edition:

MIR''ACLE, n. [L. miraculum, from miror, to wonder.]

In theology, an event or effect contrary to the established constitution and course of things, or a deviation from the known laws of nature; a supernatural event. Miracles can be wrought only by Almighty power, as when Christ healed lepers, saying, "I will, be thou clean," or calmed the tempest, "Peace, be still."

They considered not the miracle of the loaves. Mark 6.

A man approved of God by miracles and signs. Acts.2.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Just print the lengthy instruction booklet every time you use it, because it makes no sense without it.

Not everyone views it this way. It makes sense to me and to many other folks who feel like we need a new term that is somewhere between "Deist" and "orthodox Christian." Do you like David Holmes' "Christian-Deist," better?

Our Founding Truth said...

Displaying 1 result(s) from the 1828 edition:


SUPERNAT''URAL, a. [super and natural.] Being beyond or exceeding the powers or laws of nature; miraculous. A supernatural event is one which is not produced according to the ordinary or established laws of natural things. Thus if iron has more specific gravity than water, it will sink in that fluid; and the floating of iron on water must be a supernatural event. Now no human being can alter a law of nature; the floating of iron on water therefore must be caused by divine power specially exerted to suspend, in this instance,a law of nature. Hence supernatural events or miracles can be produced only by the immediate agency of divine power.

This definition makes it more clear for us to understand. There is no rational miracle to the founding fathers. Any suspension of the laws of nature is a miracle. So much for your theory.

Our Founding Truth said...

SUPERNAT''URAL, a. [super and natural.] Being beyond or exceeding the powers or laws of nature; miraculous. A supernatural event is one which is not produced according to the ordinary or established laws of natural things. Thus if iron has more specific gravity than water, it will sink in that fluid; and the floating of iron on water must be a supernatural event. Now no human being can alter a law of nature; the floating of iron on water therefore must be caused by divine power specially exerted to suspend, in this instance,a law of nature. Hence supernatural events or miracles can be produced only by the immediate agency of divine power. [bold face mine]

bpabbott said...

Tom, you're cementing in my mind a specific expectation. I've come to expect you to be condescending and disrespectful of any who disagree with you.

bpabbott said...

OFT: "What planet are you on? Human beings don't get to determine if giving sight to the blind is or is not above reason. Giving sight to the blind by a word is a miracle! There is no rational miracles."

I don't know if you find miracles to be unreasonable and believe them any way (which would be irrational, btw), or if you are incapable of reason.

In either event, you are I are certainly worlds apart.

In my opinion, the only barrier to reasoned conclusions is ignorance. The only real miracles are fiction.

Jonathan Rowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Rowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Rowe said...

So much for your theory.

It's not my theory. It's the key Founders' theory. Some of them believedin "rational" miracles. Others thought miracles to be "irrational."

Jonathan Rowe said...

Ooops. I accidentally deleted one comment I didn't want to.

It was the one where I asked OFT if he really believed the recent incident on the Hudson involved a miracle that violated the laws of nature and science?

Jonathan Rowe said...

Let me clarify again:

It's not my theory. It's the key Founders' theory. Some of them believed in SOME (but not all) of the miracles recorded in the Bible -- those they found passed the test of "reason." Others thought all miracles to be "irrational."

Our Founding Truth said...

It was the one where I asked OFT if he really believed the recent incident on the Hudson involved a miracle that violated the laws of nature and science?>

According to the 19th, and I bet 18th century definition of the word miracle, yes, it was a violation, if that's what it was. Any suspension, intervention of the laws of nature is a miracle.

Anyone have a 18th century dictionary handy?

Our Founding Truth said...

It's not my theory. It's the key Founders' theory. Some of them believed in SOME (but not all) of the miracles recorded in the Bible -- those they found passed the test of "reason." Others thought all miracles to be "irrational.">

Only one guy, Thomas Jefferson believed that foolishness. John Adams believed in the miracles of Christ.

What do you know, you and Frazer have one guy out of two-hundred fifty who believed that theory.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Nope -- it's proven that Adams believed in a partially inspired Bible and only *some* of the miracles -- those he found met the test of his own "reason."

Hamilton too likely believed this all the time he did his work "founding" America.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"It was the one where I asked OFT if he really believed the recent incident on the Hudson involved a miracle that violated the laws of nature and science?"

According to the 19th, and I bet 18th century definition of the word miracle, yes, it was a violation, if that's what it was. Any suspension, intervention of the laws of nature is a miracle.

Anyone have a 18th century dictionary handy?


OFT, for the sake of civility, I am going to have to bight my tongue.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Let me clarify on Hamilton as well. Based on his profound indifference to religion before 1792, I'm not convinced that he believed any of the miracles in the Bible were "rational." He may have been closer to Jefferson's position before he used Christianity in an opportunistic sense in the 1790s to argue against the French Revolution and the Democratic-Republican Party.

Our Founding Truth said...

Nope -- it's proven that Adams believed in a partially inspired Bible and only *some* of the miracles -- those he found met the test of his own "reason.">

Dude, you can't prove anything. But, I have a definitive statement Adams believed in miracles; you have a quote that supports my position:

The great and almighty Author of nature, who at first established those rules which regulate the World, can as easily Suspend those Laws whenever his providence sees sufficient reason for such suspension. This can be no objection, then, to the miracles of J [Jesus] C [Christ].

John Adams- MARCH. 1756

Brad Hart said...

Further proof that quotes -- especially when it comes to Adams -- prove JACK SQUAT!

Our Founding Truth said...

Further proof that quotes -- especially when it comes to Adams -- prove JACK SQUAT!>

Then why don't you tell the historians not to use quotes?

Brad Hart said...

The good ones look at the totality of the evidence, not just sharp sounding quotes that can be filed away and then called upon when one is needing to prove his/her predetermined conclusion.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Tom, you're cementing in my mind a specific expectation. I've come to expect you to be condescending and disrespectful of any who disagree with you.

Actually, Ben, it's you who's getting emotional and insulting. I'm arguing against the utility of the term "theistic rationalist."

In your attempt to help Jon & Gregg Frazer---or your custom of disagreeing with me on whatever grounds you can attempt, it's hard to tell---your nice piece of sophistry [and I mean that non-pejoratively here, as sophistry was an honorable profession], you actually undercut them:


If you are an evangelical Christian is it rational to believe and promote belief in miracles.


Exactly. By a plain reading of the component terms---and a plain reading is called for if we want to avoid the need for an instruction booklet---you prove that evangelical Christians also qualify as "theistic rationalists." The term is near-useless.


Jon writes:

[The term] makes sense to me and to many other folks

Yes, you who are up to your eyebrows in it. My objection is that the term is jargon, meaningful only to those who read the instruction booklet. But jargon is an academic affection, and shuts out those who need the discussion the most. [In this case, everybody.]

...who feel like we need a new term that is somewhere between "Deist" and "orthodox Christian."

I agree. Unfortunately, even your "theistic rationalists" are diverse enough to not fit under that umbrella term, even after you whittle them down to a half-dozen of the hundred or so Founders:

You can say absolutely nothing provable about Hamilton; Franklin left the questions of doctrine and dogma to find out after he was dead; Madison, we have a single quote calling him unitarian; Washington kept his beliefs under tight wraps; John Adams in the 1810 letter to Rush calls Christianity a result of divine revelation, and if OFT is correct, believed at least some of Christ's miracles; Jefferson would disagree about the revelation and the miracles, and without his and Adams' confidential writings, the term/thesis has no real basis atall.

Do you like David Holmes' "Christian-Deist," better?

Yes, although it too has its problems, as does my preferred term, "Judeo-Christian."

"Philosophically Christian" is completely descriptive and indeed definitive since they explicitly say they are, especially if a note is made for non-Trinitarianism, which gets rid of a lot of doctrine as does the prepending of "Judeo-".

The problem is that "theistic rationalist," even used with its instruction booklet, tells us mostly what they disbelieved, and they were nowhere near unanimous about their disbeliefs.

We have Trinitarianism, but that was a controversy even among recognizable Christians for 1700 years.

We have the infallibility of the Bible, but theology had addressed many of the issues like the flatness of the earth by then.

We have a Providential God, but that God completely comports with the orthodox understanding of the god of the bible, as does the belief in a system of rewards or punishments in the afterlife.

Just not much to go on here. Jefferson seems to be the tentpole, but pull him out and the others do not form a cohesive whole: The tent, the umbrella term, collapses.

Our Founding Truth said...

"The infinite divisibility of matter, or, in other words, the infinite divisibility of a finite thing, extending even to the minutest atom, is a point agreed among geometricians, though not less incomprehensible to common-sense than any of those mysteries in religion, against which the batteries of infidelity have been so industriously leveled."

Hamilton, Federalist 31

One quick note: When Hamilton makes reference to the "mysteries of religion," the religion he is obviously referring to is the CHRISTIAN religion. How do I know that? So far as I know, Islam, or Zen Buddhism were totally irrelevant to influencing Europe and America at that time, and so those kinds of religions would not have suffered under (quoting Hamilton) "the batteries of infidelity." "Infidelity" is not a positive term, so obviously Hamilton's use of that word, as well as the context of the portion of The Federalist which is being discussed makes it clear that Hamilton was DEFENDING, in some way or other, the validity of "religion." Today, we are exposed to different religions in this nation on a daily basis, but this was not the case in America. Usually, the Founding Fathers used the word "religion" to reference to Christianity, because an overwhelming majority of the people at the time considered themselves to be, really or nominally, Christian. And so far as I know, and so far as applies to the sphere of the Founders, no other religion suffered under the "industrious leveling" of the "batteries of infidelity" (at least not that the Founders were concerned about) than Christianity. Also bear in mind that Hamilton never evinced sympathy toward any other religion than Christianity. So here, he is discussing Christianity.

In addition to this, Hamilton cannot be a theistic rationalist, because he is obviously defending the "mysteries of religion," that is, those tenets of religion which cannot be completely solved by human reason, which theistic rationalism holds as the highest authority. So Hamilton seems to be expressing a religious and philosophical difference with theistic rationalism, or rationalism of any kind.
http://herkyreflects.blogspot.com/2007/10/i-didnt-say-it-hamilton-did.html

1828 edition:

MYS''TERY, n. [L. mysterium; Gr. a secret. This word in Greek is rendered also murium latibulum; but probably both senses are from that of hiding or shutting; Gr. to shut, to conceal.


2. In religion, any thing in the character or attributes of
God, or in the economy of divine providence, which is not revealed to man.


3. That which is beyond human comprehension until explained. In this sense, mystery often conveys the idea of something awfully sublime or important; something that excites wonder.

Great is the mystery of godliness. 1 Tim.3.

Having made known to us the mystery of his will. Eph.1.

We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery. 1 Cor.2.

In light of this evidence, anyone claimed Alexander Hamilton was a rationalist is on a faulty foundation.

Our Founding Truth said...

The good ones look at the totality of the evidence, not just sharp sounding quotes that can be filed away and then called upon when one is needing to prove his/her predetermined conclusion.>

Then, let's see a quote by Adams specifically rejecting the miracles of Jesus Christ?

Our Founding Truth said...

The good ones look at the totality of the evidence, not just sharp sounding quotes that can be filed away and then called upon when one is needing to prove his/her predetermined conclusion.>

And you think it's proper to discard postive affimations of Jesus Christ and his miracles? What reason can you give, or contradiction can you provide to contradict Adams' belief in the miracles of Jesus Christ?

Brad Hart said...

OFT wrote:

"Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"

Our Founding Truth said...

"The infinite divisibility of matter, or, in other words, the infinite divisibility of a finite thing, extending even to the minutest atom, is a point agreed among geometricians, though not less incomprehensible to common-sense than any of those mysteries in religion, against which the batteries of infidelity have been so industriously leveled."

Hamilton, Federalist 31

An examination of this quote has Hamilton defending mysteries of the Christian religion that infidels have attacked for contradicting common sense.

No way, Alexander Hamilton was a rationalist.

Our Founding Truth said...

OFT wrote:

"Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz">

That's what I thought, you have nothing to back up what you say. I'll gladly wait for you to post a valid quote by John Adams rejecting the miracles of Jesus Christ.

Brad Hart said...

No, that's not it at all, OFT. It's just that we've had this SAME OLD debate a million times. You wouldn't accept anything counter to your argument unless it came from Jesus himself, which is why I get bored. You will never EVER accept something different because you are SO SURE you are right, and to be honest, you are the only one on this blog that is! Everyone else seems to accept the fact that they don't have all the answers. You, on the other hand, believe that you have disproven EVERY SINGLE person on this blog AND EVERY SINGLE historian known to man. Forgive me, but the arrogant presumption is getting too thick for my tastes!

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."

~Bertrand Russell

Jonathan Rowe said...

I agree that OFT seems to be in a world of his own. There is nothing wrong with being critical of our theses. Tom does a pretty good job at raising skeptical questions. But OFT just posits non-sequitur after non-sequitur to the point where it gets tiresome.

I think he needs to keep working on his "tone."

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'll gladly wait for you to post a valid quote by John Adams rejecting the miracles of Jesus Christ.

Here is John Adams' quintessential statement of rationalism where he states even if God Himself revealed the doctrine of the Trinity to him with Moses on Mt. Sinai, he still wouldn't believe it because man's reason proves 1+1+1=3. In other words, all truth must meet the test of "reason." The Trinity didn't. But Jesus' miracles did.

Dear Sir,

. . . the human Understanding is a revelation from its Maker which can never be disputed or doubted. There can be no Scepticism, Phyrrhonism or Incredulity or Infidelity here. No Prophecies, no Miracles are necessary to prove this celestial communication. This revelation has made it certain that two and one make three; and that one is not three; nor can three be one. We can never be so certain of any Prophecy, or the fulfillment of any Prophecy; or of any miracle, or the design of any miracle as We are, from the revelation of nature i.e. natures God that two and two are equal to four. Miracles or Prophecies might frighten us out of our Witts [sic]; might scare us to death; might induce Us to lie; to say that We believe that 2 and 2 make 5. But we should not believe it. We should know the contrary

Had you and I been forty days with Moses on Mount Sinai and admitted to behold, the divine Shekinah, and there told that one was three and three, one: We might not have had courage to deny it. But We could not have believed it.

-- to T. Jefferson, Sept. 12, 1813.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Also, lest OFT raises the canard that Adams' religion changed by 1813, here is Adams stating that he possessed the same religion his entire adult life. He termed it "unitarianism":

I thank you for your favour of the 10th and the pamphlet enclosed, “American Unitarianism.” I have turned over its leaves and have found nothing that was not familiarly known to me.

In the preface Unitarianism is represented as only thirty years old in New England. I can testify as a Witness to its old age. Sixty five years ago my own minister the Reverend Samuel Bryant, Dr. Johnathan Mayhew of the west Church in Boston, the Reverend Mr. Shute of Hingham, the Reverend John Brown of Cohasset & perhaps equal to all if not above all the Reverend Mr. Gay of Hingham were Unitarians. Among the Laity how many could I name, Lawyers, Physicians, Tradesman, farmers!


-- John Adams to Jedidiah Morse, May 15, 1815. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 122, Library of Congress.

And:

We Unitarians, one of whom I have had the Honour to be, for more than sixty Years, do not indulge our Malignity in profane Cursing and Swearing, against you Calvinists; one of whom I know not how long you have been. You and I, once saw Calvin and Arius, on the Plafond of the Cathedral of St. John the Second in Spain roasting in the Flames of Hell. We Unitarians do not delight in thinking that Plato and Cicero, Tacitus Quintilian Plyny and even Diderot, are sweltering under the scalding drops of divine Vengeance, for all Eternity.

-- John Adams to John Quincy Adams, March 28, 1816, Ibid, reel 430.

Our Founding Truth said...

No, that's not it at all, OFT. It's just that we've had this SAME OLD debate a million times. You wouldn't accept anything counter to your argument unless it came from Jesus himself, which is why I get bored.>

Bored? Give me a break! Was Adams'quote in Chinese? Did I make the quote up? What don't you understand about the quote?

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.">

Read it again:

The great and almighty Author of nature, who at first established those rules which regulate the World, can as easily Suspend those Laws whenever his providence sees sufficient reason for such suspension. This can be no objection, then, to the miracles of J [Jesus] C [Christ]. [bold face mine]

John Adams- MARCH. 1756

Sounds like Adams says, or implys, Jesus is the Author of Nature!

Here is John Adams' quintessential statement of rationalism where he states even if God Himself revealed the doctrine of the Trinity to him with Moses on Mt. Sinai, he still wouldn't believe it because man's reason proves 1+1+1=3. In other words, all truth must meet the test of "reason." The Trinity didn't. But Jesus' miracles did.>

Sweet, You agree with me. Adams believed in every miracle of the Bible besides the trinity, that will work with me; he was unitarian. I'm having a tough time seeing how you get rationalist out of that. So rationalism is just denying the trinity? Jesus' miracles met the test of reason?

Is this really you Jon? Did you have a conversion? Are you a Christian now? I have to bold face this one.

But Jesus' miracles did [meet the test of reason].

Wow! Let's write down every miracle Jesus did. So this means if you believe His miracles, you believe His Words! Jesus affirmed the Flood, like James Wilson, what do you know?

Maybe I am influencing you Jon. Do you drink coffee?

Dear Sir,

. . . the human Understanding is a revelation from its Maker which can never be disputed or doubted. There can be no Scepticism, Phyrrhonism or Incredulity or Infidelity here. No Prophecies, no Miracles are necessary to prove this celestial communication. This revelation has made it certain that two and one make three; and that one is not three; nor can three be one. We can never be so certain of any Prophecy, or the fulfillment of any Prophecy; or of any miracle, or the design of any miracle as We are, from the revelation of nature i.e. natures God that two and two are equal to four. Miracles or Prophecies might frighten us out of our Witts [sic]; might scare us to death; might induce Us to lie; to say that We believe that 2 and 2 make 5. But we should not believe it. We should know the contrary

Had you and I been forty days with Moses on Mount Sinai and admitted to behold, the divine Shekinah, and there told that one was three and three, one: We might not have had courage to deny it. But We could not have believed it.

-- to T. Jefferson, Sept. 12, 1813
.

The only context is the trinity. Cool, I'll go along with that. Adams believed in violations of the laws of nature, good job!

Thanks for the quotes.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sophistic, although that often passes for argument around here.

If you read the rest of the March 2, 1754 Adams passage, you'll see him credit other wise men with performing miracles. Even if he's only referring to Moses and other Biblical figures, there's no way he's elevating Jesus above them in that passage.

Jon, I'll take Adams at his 1813 word that he was always a unitarian, also at his 1810 word that Christianity came from divine revelation. However, the later writings of Jefferson and Adams do indicate changes, but most importantly, they reveal what they kept secret in their public lives. That they kept these things secret is more revealing of the zeitgeist of the Founding era than their secret heterodoxies.

Pinky said...

.
All this wasted talk on how this or that Founder wrote this or that in support of this or that item of religiosity is truly quite boring and headed in the direction of a lot of arms being thrown in the air.
.
Franklin was the smart feller who wrote about the art of farting and that tells a lot more about the people of that day than what passes for religiosity.
.
Our Founding Fathers--some in particular--were immersed in the idea of political leadership. They had to be. This country didn't just fall off a log. Just a little rationality shows us that it wasn't a part of some supreme beings eternal plan.
.
The Founders made it their purpose to gain understanding about what it is that makes government work. They knew it was politics and they knew that politics is an art. And, they understood that the main skill of the politician as an artist is to persuade the citizenry. It was a well known and accepted fact that religion is a great tool of persuasion if you want to get the masses to line up behind you.
.
One last thing about politicians. They are famous for being bald faced liars.
.

Jonathan Rowe said...

No OFT,

You are missing a BIG point in Adams' letter. Let me repeat the relevant part:

Had you and I been forty days with Moses on Mount Sinai and admitted to behold, the divine Shekinah, and there told that one was three and three, one: We might not have had courage to deny it. But We could not have believed it.

Adams is saying that even if GOD HIMSELF revealed the doctrine of the Trinity to him with Moses on Mt. Sinai he still wouldn't believe it because REASON proves 1+1+1 = 3, not 1. This is the baldest, indeed arguably most arrogant assertion of reason over revelation that I could think of coming from the Founding era, for those who believed in both reason & revelation, but that reason trumps.

Thomas Paine didn't believe in a revealing God. Adams did. But nonetheless believed man's reason determined what was valid revelation.

Our Founding Truth said...

Tom:If you read the rest of the March 2, 1754 Adams passage, you'll see him credit other wise men with performing miracles. Even if he's only referring to Moses and other Biblical figures, there's no way he's elevating Jesus above them in that passage.

The date is March, 1756. I never said Adams believed Jesus was God; he never did, and was a unitarian his entire life.

Adams, as you have said before, changed his views a lot. That quote does imply Jesus is the Author of Nature. Adams links the Author of Nature with the word "This" meaning the Author of Nature is doing the miracles. He doesn't differentiate between Jesus and the Author of Nature. If he wasn't a unitarian, no one could make the distinction.

Jon:Adams is saying that even if GOD HIMSELF revealed the doctrine of the Trinity to him with Moses on Mt. Sinai he still wouldn't believe it because REASON proves 1+1+1 = 3, not 1. This is the baldest, indeed arguably most arrogant assertion of reason over revelation that I could think of coming from the Founding era, for those who believed in both reason & revelation, but that reason trumps.

Thomas Paine didn't believe in a revealing God. Adams did. But nonetheless believed man's reason determined what was valid revelation
.

The context is the trinity, and trinity only! [emphasis mine] No english teacher would ever make the conclusion you do. You're adding another subject to the context.

Jon:But Jesus' miracles did [meet the test of reason].

John Adams believed all the miracles of the New Testament because Jesus did the miracles! The Apostles attributed them to Jesus, because Jesus was and is alive!

John Adams believed in all these miracles:

The Miracles of Jesus Christ

1. Stilling the Storm
2. Feeding the 5000
3. Walking on the Water
4. Feeding the 4000
5. Temple Tax in the Fish's Mouth
6. Withering the Fig Tree
7. Draught of Fish
8. Turning Water into Wine
9. Second Draught of Fish

General Healings:
1. Cleansing of a Leper
2. Healing a Centurion's Servant
3. Healing Peter's Mother-in-law
4. Healing the Sick at evening
5. Healing a paralytic
6. Healing the Hemorrhaging woman
7. Healing Two Blind Men
8. Healing a Man's Withered Hand
9. Healing the Gentile Woman's Daughter
10. Healing the Epileptic Boy
11. Healing a Blind Men
12. Healing a Deaf Mute
13. Healing a Blind Man at Bethsaida
14. Healing the Infirm, Bent Woman
15. Healing the Man with Dropsy
16. Cleansing the Ten Lepers
17. Restoring a Servant's Ear
18. Healing the Nobleman's Son (of fever)
19. Healing an Infirm Man at Bethesda
20. Healing the Man born blind
Resurrections
1. Raising the Ruler's Daughter
2. Raising of a Widow's Son at Nain
3. Raising of Lazarus

Casting out Demons:
1. Demons entering a herd of swine
2. Curing a Demon-possessed Mute
3. Casting Out an Unclean Spirit
4. Curing a Demon-possessed,
Blind and Mute man

By the way, the trinity is more logically, and mathematically possible than a miracle?

Jonathan Rowe said...

The context is the trinity, and trinity only! [emphasis mine] No english teacher would ever make the conclusion you do. You're adding another subject to the context.

Nope. There is nothing in Adams' quotation that suggests his reasoning should be limited to the Trinity only. Adams' plain text explains even if God Himself personally reveals something to Adams that flunks the test of his own reason, man shouldn't believe it. This is what America is founded on.

Our Founding Truth said...

Nope. There is nothing in Adams' quotation that suggests his reasoning should be limited to the Trinity only. Adams' plain text explains even if God Himself personally reveals something to Adams that flunks the test of his own reason, man shouldn't believe it. This is what America is founded on.

What a blatant contradiction of your earlier post:

Jon:In other words, all truth must meet the test of "reason." The Trinity didn't. But Jesus' miracles did.[meet the test of reason]

Tom Van Dyke said...

Adams links the Author of Nature with the word "This" meaning the Author of Nature is doing the miracles. He doesn't differentiate between Jesus and the Author of Nature.

No. Read the original March 2, 1756 letter. You're on a very junky riff, unsupported by your own evidence.

You have better arguments than this.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

Again you are wrong. I wrote nothing contradictory. Whatever miracles Adams might have accepted, it's because man's reason judged them to be valid, not that they were written a book (the Bible) Adams found to be fallible and errant.

Our Founding Truth said...

No. Read the original March 2, 1756 letter. You're on a very junky riff, unsupported by your own evidence.>

Here it is:

"The great and almighty Author of nature, who at first established those rules which regulate the World, can as easily Suspend those Laws whenever his providence sees sufficient reason for such suspension. This can be no objection, then, to the miracles of J [Jesus] C [Christ]."

~John Adams

This is an english grammer distinction. Where is the distinction from the Author of Nature and Jesus Christ? "This" is referring to what? Not the suspender of laws? Then, Adams mentions Jesus Christ. Tom, how in english grammer can you make the distinction?

Jon:not that they were written a book (the Bible) Adams found to be fallible and errant.

The only evidence of that is after he retired, so it isn't relevant for the fiftieth time. While forming the nation, Adams always implies or affirms inerrancy:

"The idea of infidelity cannot be treated with too much resentment or too much horror. The man who can think of it with patience is a traitor in his heart and ought to be execrated as one who adds the deepest hypocrisy to the blackest treason."

~The Papers of John Adams, Robert J. Taylor, ed., (Cambridge: Belknap Press [Harvard University], 1977-89) vol. VI p 348 to James Warren on Aug. 4, 1778

INFIDEL''ITY, n. [L. infidelitas.]
1. In general, want of faith or belief; a withholding of credit.

2. Disbelief of the inspiration of the Scriptures, or the divine original of christianity; unbelief.

"Pray recollect Mr. Pym, the cruel Exactions of Empson and Dudley, under an Act of Parliament, far less extravagant dangerous to Liberty than those which you defend. Recollect the old Sage Coke, and recollect Magna Charta which your Tribe [English] used to think more sacred than scripture."

Clarendon to Pym. [The following fragment contains part of the text of "Clarendon's" second letter to "Pym" as printed in the Boston Gazette, 20 Jan. 1766.]

"Thus we are equally obliged to the Supream Being for the Information he has given us of our Duty, whether by the Constitution of our Minds and Bodies or by a supernatural Revelation." [bold face mine]

~John Adams, AUGUST. 1756

"There is Something more chearful and comfortable in an Episcopalian than in a Presbyterian Church .... I admire a great Part of the divine Service at Church very much. It is very humane and benevolent, and sometimes pathetic and affecting: but rarely gloomy, if ever. Their Creeds I could dispense with very well because, the Scriptures being before us contain the Creed the most certainly orthodox." [bold face mine]

~John Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 October 1799.

"At this he [Thomas Paine] laughed, and said he had taken his Ideas in that part from Milton: and then expressed a Contempt of the Old Testament and indeed of the Bible at large, which surprized me. He saw that I did not relish this, and soon check'd himself, with these Words "However I have some thoughts of publishing my Thoughts on Religion, but I believe it will be best to postpone it, to the latter part of Life." [bold face mine]

"John Adams," through 1776
sheet 23 of 53, January - April 1776

"Although Harrison was another Sir John Falstaff, excepting in his Larcenies and Robberies, his Conversation disgusting to every Man of Delicacy or decorum,Obscne, profane, impious, perpetually ridiculing the Bible, calling it the Worst Book in the World,"

~Adams, March 15, 1776

"Suppos[e] a nation in some distant Region, should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited."

~Adams, FEBRUARY. 1756

Adams' plain text explains even if God Himself personally reveals something to Adams>

What is the something? It surely isn't a miracle, you already said Adams believed in miracles. There's only one thing it could be, because he refers to only one subject; the trinity.

These are contradictory statements:

Jon:Adams did. But nonetheless believed man's reason determined what was valid revelation.

and

Jon:In other words, all truth must meet the test of "reason." The Trinity didn't. But Jesus' miracles did.[meet the test of reason] [bold face mine]

Is turning a few fish into hundreds or thousands of fish meet the test of reason?

Apart from contradictions, you post one quote that is irrelevant; Adams being 78 years old, retired, not representative of the people, and a subjective intention.

Not once, prior to John Adams' retirement does he ever claim to be a deist or rationalist! [emphasis mine]

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon:Whatever miracles Adams might have accepted, it's because man's reason judged them to be valid, not that they were written a book (the Bible) Adams found to be fallible and errant

To add insult, this statement doesn't jive with the evidence either. Adams believed in the Bible because it was God's true religion. The part of the Bible Adams rejected was Catholic dogma.

"To render the popular power in their new government as great and wise as their principles of theory, that is, as human nature and the Christian religion require it should be, they endeavored to remove from it as many of the feudal inequalities and dependencies as could be spared, consistently with the preservation of a mild limited monarchy."

~A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law (On man's standing in the order of creation)

"This is the rule of virtue, wisdom, and justice and if all the people were wise and just they would follow it : but how shall we make them so, when the law of God, in nature and in revelation, has not yet effected it?"

~Adams, September 28, 1787. OF THE
CONSTITUTIONS or GOVERNMENT
OF THE
UNITED STATES cf AMERICA.

"The experiment is made, and has completely succeeded : it can no longer be called in question,
whether authority in magistrates, and obedience of citizens, can be grounded on reason, morality, and the Christian religion, without the monkery of prieRs, or the knavery of politicians."

~John Adams, DEFENCE OF THE
CONSTITUTIONS of GOVERNMENT
OF THE
UNITED STATES of AMERICA.

Jonathan Rowe said...

To add insult, this statement doesn't jive with the evidence either. Adams believed in the Bible because it was God's true religion. The part of the Bible Adams rejected was Catholic dogma.

OFT, stop making stuff up; it wasn't just Roman Catholic dogma. Adams believed the Bible was errant and fallible; you've seen the quotations and you are just wasting everyone's time trying to get us to play the run around game again.

bpabbott said...

OFT, you appear to be inferring an intended meaning on the behalf of John Adams which you have yet to substantiate wth explicit evidence.

Regarding Adams, the founding, and the supernatural ...

Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.
-- John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88)

Regarding prejudice toward non-Christians ...

We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions ... shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power ... we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.
-- John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, April 8, 1785

Regarding prejudice toward the Christian religion ...

As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?
-- John Adams, letter to FA Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816

and finally regarding reason and revelation.

When philosophic reason is clear and certain by intuition or necessary induction, no subsequent revelation supported by prophecies or miracles can supersede it.
-- John Adams, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion

Note, that these quotes carry with them explicit meaning and context. No special pleading is required.

Our Founding Truth said...

OFT, stop making stuff up; it wasn't just Roman Catholic dogma. Adams believed the Bible was errant and fallible; you've seen the quotations and you are just wasting everyone's time trying to get us to play the run around game again.>

Then post them, written before he retired.

Jonathan Rowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Rowe said...

See what Ben posted above. There's more; I'll get to it if I have time.

I'll just note that even if I/we can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these particular founders believe in all of the tenets of theistic rationalism you have no grounds whatsover to conclude then they all must have been "born again Christians." There is not a shred of evidence for that. And such a reading of history violates your own faith which argues a "narrow path."

Brad Hart said...

Jon:

You would have more luck talking to the wall. OFT is one of the most stubborn people I have ever seen in my entire life. Remember, in his mind he has disproven EVERYTHING ever written by ANY of us on the blog, not to mention that he alone has disproven the work of EVERY SINGLE historian known to man.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Brad,

I agree. He reminds me so much of Don Quixote.

Brad Hart said...

HAHAHA!

bpabbott said...

I had to look it up ;-)

"Don Quixote is the most influential work of literature to emerge from the Spanish Golden Age and perhaps the entire Spanish literary canon. As a founding work of modern Western literature, [Don Quixote] regularly appears at the top of lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published."
[Emphasis mine]

Tom Van Dyke said...

Now, now. There's plenty of stubbornness to go around. And no ganging up, that's an internet courtesy.

We should keep in mind that to argue and counterargue, to test out ideas, must be the purpose of any forum like this. We can seldom if ever change the other fellow's mind and it's a waste of time to show our disappointment [or anger or derision] at being unable to do so. We write for those observing the discussion, or for the ages.

Our Founding Truth said...

you have no grounds whatsover to conclude then they all must have been "born again Christians.">

You must be confused, which is a normal trend for you, that assertion must be from someone else on another blog.

OFT is one of the most stubborn people I have ever seen in my entire life.>

You are classic! When did we meet? How funny! You're the only one in my life whose ever said I was stubborn, other names, yes.

Remember, in his mind he has disproven EVERYTHING ever written by ANY of us on the blog, not to mention that he alone has disproven the work of EVERY SINGLE historian known to man.>

This is even more funny and outlandish! Only a few topics, the interpretation of is wrong, such as: lonang, James Wilson, Christian State Constitutions, subjective intentions of two or three individuals representative of an entire people, and drafters of instruments are superior than ratifiers, etc.

And your Brookhiser was easy to refute. Hamilton affirmed Christianity years before his son died. Talk about prideful, that's you Brad!

By the way, I found some good stuff on John Adams, he definitely believed the Bible corrupted before he retired, but I have bad news for all of you; he was not a rationalist, that believed reason was the ultimate standard. I will do the post on it.

I can prove Mr. Frazer's thesis, if it includes Adams, like Jon does, is wrong.

Brad Hart said...

OFT wrote:

"sadvcahsnvasdhsasvdvxhkjjdhkuvhakvhvkdhgkdnhvgkdghdkbjilbjdgikdjhdsvjhkdubhjsdkbjdgvildjhboidjgjshjgjmdkvjdfb.dfjvilgj.eilvwjsfp9,egj eogiueortgfurgi;uejg0,;9wezufgb,dyhuegiuj,bln brotiyu3,9ti"

That's it...just a bunch of junk. I for one am done with you. You won't hear me engage anything you have to say.