Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hallowed Secularism

That was the title of one of Andrew Sullivan's recent posts warning against the extremes of secularism. Yet, many of us are also wary of the extremes of sectarian religious politics (of the "Christian" or "Judeo-Christian" sort).

I endorse a softer secularism. And if it's proper to term what the Founding Fathers had in mind as "secular" it's certainly a "softer" form of secularism, not of the Hitchens or Dawkins type, not the kind that wants to see a "naked public square." Yet, the Founding Fathers wanted a pluralistic, not a "Christian" or even a "Judeo-Christian" public square.

I think truly "neutral" secularism is a laudable ideal. And though the Founding Fathers weren't entirely neutral -- for instance, they weren't neutral on whether God existed -- they did their best to be neutral under a generic Providence that was open to the idea that most or all world religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Native American spirituality, Greco-Romanism, Confucianism, and other creeds were valid ways to God.

The following is a clip from the Acton Institutes's special "The Birth of Freedom" featuring Princeton's Robert P. George arguing "secularism" isn't "neutral."



The problem is George doesn't define "secularism." I would agree that certain forms of hard secularism are not "neutral." And if that's what George is arguing against, I support him in his assertion. However, what I do support is a system of "neutrality" AND I would argue the classical liberal system of the American Founding is this form of neutrality among various competing worldviews. I think this IS what America's Founding Fathers stood for. And it's debatable whether this system is aptly termed "secularism." If it is, again, it's a softer form of secularism than what we see coming from the atheists like Dawkins or those who want to remove every single nominal reference to anything religious from the public square regardless of the context.

However, it seems to me, that a system of true neutrality is laudable. If modern secularism is not "neutral" as Prof. George claims, well then let us make it neutral or at least let us conceive of a system of such neutrality and argue whether such a system is laudable or accords with American Founding ideals.

I'm not sure whether the Everson (1947) SCOTUS case was properly decided. However it made some claims about neutrality which I think are entirely defensible and laudable according to the tenets of liberal democracy that America's Founders established: Government should be neutral among the various religions (regardless of whether those religions are "Christian" or "Judeo-Christian") and government should be neutral between "religion" and "irreligion."

In 2005, here is how I described the "classical secularism" of the Founding era:

The classical version of secularism is found in the writings of Madison & Jefferson -- like Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance, his Detached Memoranda, and Jefferson's Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom.

What's ironic about these pieces of "secularist scripture" (as Susan Jacoby puts it) is that they, like the Declaration of Independence, actually invoke "God." Jefferson's Virginia Statute begins, "Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free..." and the Memorial and Remonstrance states "Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe..." which leads some critics to say: "Aha, this isn't secularism, this is 'Christian Nation' talk!" Not exactly.

First of all, this is classical secularism, not the modern version that would never invoke the supernatural. Second, the heart of classical secularism is not stripping all references to the supernatural from the public square but rather government neutrality. Neutrality between, not just the Christian sects, but all religions and between belief and non-belief. Men have unalienable free and equal rights of conscience. And these rights are universally applicable. Jefferson held that the natural right norms in his statute applied equally to "the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination."

Third -- when the Founders did invoke God in their documents and their speeches -- they exercised great prudence in how they identified "God" and "religion." Both were almost always referred to in vague and undefined ways. While they often invoked a "Divine Providence," they also systematically refused to identify God in Trinitarian terms and rarely if ever invoked "Jesus Christ" or quoted verses and chapters of scripture.

And Jefferson and Madison both gave reasons why it was important to be so vague. If God were referred to in explicitly Trinitarian Christian terms, then the populace might get the impression that only such Christians have religious rights. Here is Jefferson.

Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read, "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.


And Madison:

In the course of the opposition to [Jefferson's VA] bill in the House of Delegates, which was warm & strenuous from some of the minority, an experiment was made on the reverence entertained for the name & sactity of the Saviour, by proposing to insert the words "Jesus Christ" after the words "our lord" in the preamble, the object of which, would have been, to imply a restriction of the liberty defined in the Bill, to those professing his religion only. The amendment was discussed, and rejected by a vote of agst (See letter of J. M. to Mr Jefferson dated ) The opponents of the amendment having turned the feeling as well as judgment of the House agst it, by successfully contending that the better proof of reverence for that holy name wd be not to profane it by making it a topic of legisl. discussion, & particularly by making his religion the means of abridging the natural and equal rights of all men, in defiance of his own declaration that his Kingdom was not of this world.


These Founders also had a self-interest in seeing that non-orthodox Christians had full and equal rights of citizenship: Jefferson and Madison -- as well as Washington, Adams, Franklin, Paine and others -- were not orthodox Trinitarian Christians, and as such in many states they would be subject to legal penalties, including being barred from holding public office -- because of their religious beliefs.

Whenever our Founders connected "rights" to their metaphysical religious beliefs, they always invoked their "natural religion" as opposed to "revealed religion." ("Natural" meaning what is discoverable by Reason, as opposed to Revealed in the Bible). Through unaided Reason, "natural" religion tells us that God created man with unalienable rights. It does not tell us that God is Christ or even that God revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses. It's possible that "Nature's God" and the Trinitarian God of the Bible are one and the same. Or "Nature's God" may be some non-orthodox, non-miracle performing God. By purposefully being vague our Founders left that answer to the private conscience of the citizens. To a Trinitarian, his God grants unalienable rights. To a Deist, it was his God who granted rights, and on and on.

Finally, it is wrong to say that our Founders just opened their Bibles and "discovered" that God grants men unalienable rights because nowhere in the Bible does it say that He grants men "unalienable rights," especially not the "liberty to worship as one pleases" (and the Bible frequently implies otherwise). So whereas the God of the Bible is a Jealous God who, in His First Command, forbids the worship of any other Gods but He, and elsewhere commands the community to immediately execute those who would tempt them to worship false Gods, Nature's God grants men an unalienable right to worship no God or Twenty Gods.

Rather, the challenge was to get orthodox Christians to interpret their Bible to be compatible with this Enlightenment discovery. And even before the Enlightenment, dissident Protestants like Roger Williams had begun to make similar arguments. You can see how Madison, in his above quote, encouraged such Biblical interpretations that were compatible with the notion of a "rights-granting" God.

The opponents of the amendment having turned the feeling as well as judgment of the House agst it, by successfully contending that the better proof of reverence for that holy name wd be not to profane it by making it a topic of legisl. discussion, & particularly by making his religion the means of abridging the natural and equal rights of all men, in defiance of his own declaration that his Kingdom was not of this world.

17 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

As for the first part of this essay, the terms are nettlesome. Suffice to say that "neutrality" and "pluralism" are not synonymous, and in fact, today's insistence on "neutrality" is precisely the enemy of pluralism---of the free exercise of religion---and that is the complaint. When we penetrate the difference between the two concepts, we get to the heart of the matter.

As for the use of the word "secular," its etymology comes from the word for "age" or "era," in other words, not concerned with the eternal things. There is no "classical" secularism, as differentiated from today's secularism. The Founders believed this nation was founded on eternal principles.

As for the recurring assertion that

...it is wrong to say that our Founders just opened their Bibles and "discovered" that God grants men unalienable rights...

this is once again our straw man, as nobody anywhere says that, except by extrapolation from Genesis' pronouncement that we're all made in God's image. But that extrapolation took well over 1500 years. In fact, so did the concept that "inalienable rights" even exist!


Whenever our Founders connected "rights" to their metaphysical religious beliefs, they always invoked their "natural religion" as opposed to "revealed religion."


Actually, they invoked "natural law." However, it's often said in the Founding literature that the natural law was authored by God Hisself [see James Wilson, for example]. So we are once again back to Square One---who wrote the "natural law"? Who wrote the Bible? It's probable that the lion's share of the Founders thought that God who wrote each was one in the same.

Through unaided Reason, "natural" religion tells us that God created man with unalienable rights.

This is not proven. Certainly classical philosophy didn't come to that conclusion. And those who thought they professed "natural religion" had a massive debt to their Judeo-Christian cultural and philosophical milieu, as you acknowledge.

By purposefully being vague our Founders left that answer to the private conscience of the citizens. To a Trinitarian, his God grants unalienable rights. To a Deist, it was his God who granted rights, and on and on.

There is certainly truth to that. Vagueness was definitely in the Founding toolbox. However, we should be cautious of overly relying on the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom [as this essay does] to the exclusion of the statutes of all the other states, and the principle of federalism which let them keep their less pluralistic rules and constitutions.

...the challenge was to get orthodox Christians to interpret their Bible to be compatible with this Enlightenment discovery [of religious tolerance/pluralism].

That "tolerance" was a "discovery" by the "Enlightenment" and not an outgrowth of pragmatism is yet to be proved. The "judicious Mr Locke" himself had no space for atheists.

[Yes, Jefferson wanted to go "beyond" Locke, but see my comment above on over-reliance on the Virginia Statute, and also that the move toward tolerance/pluralism was perhaps simple pragmatism in a diversely sectarian society.]

Also we should not ignore Madison's statement that a highly effective argument to the pious was that the name of Jesus Christ shouldn't be dragged into politics, or be used as a weapon of persecution. If there was one near-unanimity among the Founders, it was that religious persecution and war was a bad thing, as many of their ancestors had fled it!

And let's not forget that Thomas Hobbes, using his estimable unaided reason, came to the conclusion that the sovereign should control the interpretation of scripture, to ensure the peace.

It's been argued that the passage of the Virginia Statute wasn't the result of Madison's "Enlightenmentish" arguments in the Memorial & Remonstrance, but the Baptists' keen awareness that Hobbes' sentiments might become reality, and they would get the short end of the stick.

If Hobbes is an Enlightenment figure [and he's usually considered one], the irony would be that the passage of the Virginia Statute was in reaction to the product of such "unaided" reason!

[Well, there you have my customary first-to-the-post demurral. Miss me? Hehe.]

Pinky said...

.
It seems more than obvious, by this time, that the Founders wanted to keep religiously specific terms out of the laws of the United States in their attempt to create a republic of sovereign citizens. That doesn't come close to saying that they were anti-religious in their personal desires and beliefs.
.
Jonathon wrote, "And though the Founding Fathers weren't entirely neutral -- for instance, they weren't neutral on whether God existed -- they did their best to be neutral under a generic Providence that was open to the idea that most or all world religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Native American spirituality, Greco-Romanism, Confucianism, and other creeds were valid ways to God."
.
Good point that seems to say it all in a nutshell.
.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon: Yet, the Founding Fathers wanted a pluralistic, not a "Christian" or even a "Judeo-Christian" public square.

The Founding Fathers formed a Christian Nation, and wanted it to remain that way. Of course it's natural to assume our great orthodox framers including: Witherspoon, Rush, Ellsworth, Jay, et al. affirmed the same. Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin believed we were a Christian Nation:

II. The Rights of the Colonists as Christians.
These may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.

The Rights of the Colonists (Unanimous vote by the Province)
by Samuel Adams
The Report of the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting.
November 20, 1772

"To the sentiments expressed in the report of the committee, and adopted by the inhabitants of the town, he [Franklin] fully assented. This is proved by his sending a copy of the proceedings to the press, as soon as he received it in London, with a prefatory notice written by himself. The pamphlet was entitled "The Votes and Proceedings of the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Town of Boston, in Town Meeting assembled, according to Law. Published by Order of the Town." -- Sparks.
http://www.constitution.org/bcp/right_col.htm

"The American population is entirely Christian, and with us Christianity and Religion are identified. It would be strange indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations with it." [bold face mine]

-John Marshall Chief of the Judiciary Dept. for 34 years. to Jasper Adams on May 9, 1833,

"[T]he First Amendment, which was written not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity. Rather, it was designed to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government. The goal was not the freedom to foster religious diversity, but the avoidance of a national ecclesiastical establishment such as the Church of England.

-Joseph Story-Commentaries, Vol. III, p. 728, 1871. Our greatest Judge, Father of American Jurisprudence, Founder of Harvard Law School. He produced nine major treatises within the space of twelve years: Bailments (1832), Commentaries on the Constitution (3 Vols., 1833), Conflict of Laws (1834), Equity Jurisprudence (2 Vols., 1836), Equity Pleadings (1838), Agency (1839), Partnership (1841), Bills of Exchange (1843), and Promissory Notes (1845).

Judge Story was also the author of valuable notes on prize, admiralty, maritime, and patent law contained in appendices to Supreme Court reports, and a frequent contributor to the North American Review, in which he published legal essays. His judicial opinions and writings laid the foundation for admiralty law, equity jurisprudence, and commercial law in the United States. Though a member of the judiciary, Story also worked diligently to clarify and improve Federal laws. He drafted legislation to extend the jurisdiction of the circuit courts and revise the bankruptcy laws. Story may justly be regarded as the real founder of the Harvard Law School; for his appointment marked an important turning point in the history of an institution that was faltering until Story took command. As a result of his leadership, enrollment increased, the quality of instruction improved, and the school's reputation for excellence grew rapidly.

American Reference Library, The Ultimate Reference to American History and Political Science, World Book Encyclopedia. 1998 World Book, Inc and Western Standard Publishing Company.

"[A]ll men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others."

-Col. George Mason, Father of the Bill of Rights.
Kate Mason Rowland, The Life of George Mason (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1892, Vol. I, p.28.

James Madison believed we were a Christian Nation, by reason of religion referring only to Christianity unless specifically noted:

"If the public homage of a people can ever be worthy the favorable regard of the Holy and Omniscient Being to whom it is addressed, it must be that in which those who join in it are guided only by their free choice, by the impulse of their hearts and the dictates of their consciences; and such a spectacle must be interesting to all Christian nations as proving that religion, that gift of Heaven for the good of man, freed from all coercive edicts, from that unhallowed connection with the powers of this world which corrupts religion into an instrument or an usurper of the policy of the state...Upon these principles and with these views the good people of the United States are invited, in conformity with the resolution aforesaid, to dedicate the day above named to the religious solemnities therein recommended. [bold face mine]
Given at Washington, this 23d day of July, A. D. 1813.
[seal.] JAMES MADISON

"W]e can only depend on the all powerful influence of the Spirit of God, whose Divine aid and assistance it becomes us as a Christian people most devoutly to implore. Therefore I move that some minister of the Gospel be requested to attend this Congress every morning during the sessions in order to open the meeting with prayer." [bold face mine]
-
Elias Boudinot, President of Congress, Chairman of the House Committee which formed the First Amendment.The Life, Public Service, Addresses, and Letters of Elias Boudinot, LL.D., President of the Continental Congress, J. J. Boudinot, editor (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1896), Vol. I, p. 21, to the First Provincial Congress of New Jersey.

"The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity."

-- John Quincy Adams, (Thornton's accurate summary of Adams' quote) An Oration Delivered Before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport, at Their Request, on the Sixty-first Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1837 (Newburyport: Charles Whipple, 1837), p. 5.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon: By purposefully being vague our Founders left that answer to the private conscience of the citizens.

The framers' writings only appear vague by reason of you cutting the other two-hundred fifty framers out of the equation. You silence an entire majority for two guys of your own agenda; how tragic, and unscholarly.

He grants men "unalienable rights," especially not the "liberty to worship as one pleases" (and the Bible frequently implies otherwise).>

The Bible (N.T) does specifically grant unalienable rights, you are thus, unaware of them.

Jonathan Rowe said...

The framers' writings only appear vague by reason of you cutting the other two-hundred fifty framers out of the equation. You silence an entire majority for two guys of your own agenda; how tragic, and unscholarly.

You might have a point if you could trot out two hundred and fifty different individual framers making Christian Nationalists arguments like you do. But you can't. So you lose.

JR: "...it is wrong to say that our Founders just opened their Bibles and 'discovered' that God grants men unalienable rights..."

TVD: "...this is once again our straw man, as nobody anywhere says that,..."

OFT: "The Bible (N.T) does specifically grant unalienable rights, you are thus, unaware of them."

I have to say I agree with TVD that "nobody" argues "unalienable rights" are specifically granted in the Bible. And that would make OFT a big "nobody."

Jonathan Rowe said...

And let me note it ain't "two guys." Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, G. Morris, Wilson, Hamilton (before his deathbed) and many others systematically spoke in generic philsophical terms for God, esp. when speaking publicly. As Hamilton perfectly captured this vague, generic, philosophical invocation of God:

"The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."

This is theistic rationalism 101.

"[T]he hand of divinity" -- generic word for God.

Likewise when Hamilton states:

"Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed, that the deity, from the relations, we stand in, to himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is, indispensibly, obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever." [Bold mine.]

Notice he doesn't say "only Christians" or "only Jews and Christians" but "good and wise men in ALL ages" [emphasis mine] believe in this rights granting "deity," generically defined.

If Hamilton were an orthodox Christian when he wrote this, he certainly does EVIDENCE the fact in "The Farmer Refuted." Rather "TFR" evidences Hamilton's theistic rationalism.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon: Through unaided Reason, "natural" religion tells us that God created man with unalienable rights.

Unaided reason can rule neither man, nor a government. ("Abolish Christianity! Set up reason!" Adams snapped: "The authority of reason is not stern enough to keep rebellious appetites and passions in subjection.") Reason without the Spirit is useless, but with the Spirit (Right Reason), Revelation shows its light as superior.

Tom Van Dyke said...

they did their best to be neutral under a generic Providence that was open to the idea that most or all world religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Native American spirituality, Greco-Romanism, Confucianism, and other creeds were valid ways to God.


Of course, none of these religions [with the exception of possibly Islam and Great Spiritism] believe in Providence the way the Founders did.

As for Hamilton, he is merely speaking of Aquinas' and Hooker's understanding of natural law. By your argument, we might as well call Father Aquinas and Reverend Hooker "theistic rationalists" too. The term is vague onto uselessness.

As for Mr. Goswick claiming that human rights as we understand them are explicitly in the Bible, he is in error, and stands fairly alone in that error. If you wish to clog this blog refuting him, I suppose that's your right.

However, he makes many good points that you skip over, and it would be more edifying for all, including yourself, if you engaged what you think are his strongest arguments.

[To engage only the weakest or most extreme arguments is a corollary of the Straw Man Fallacy!]

http://www.fallacyfiles.org/strawman.html

Our Founding Truth said...

A.H. "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."

Jon: This is theistic rationalism 101.

Come on, Johnny Boy. Hamilton certainly isn't speaking of the Bible is he?

Jonathan Rowe said...

NO HE ISN'T!

Our Founding Truth said...

Tom: As for Mr. Goswick claiming that human rights as we understand them are explicitly in the Bible, he is in error, and stands fairly alone in that error. If you wish to clog this blog refuting him, I suppose that's your right.

They're in there big T. This is my book mind you, so I can't give it away, but "life" is an easy one. You can find that one in the Old and New Testament. The other rights, and some, are more difficult to find. They are in some of the lesser known books.

I wish I could find a curriculum from some of the 18th century seminaries. No doubt Princeton, Rutgers, Dartmouth, Penn, and Yale taught Natural Rights were in the Bible. Getting Harvard's curriculum before 1780 would be interesting to see.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You'd be better off roadtesting your ideas in a forum like this. You missed Hamilton's plain reference to natural law as distinct from scripture, a distinction made countless times on this blog, and one that virtually all the Founders were familiar with. As another example, by taking only the first part of John Adams' diary entry of March 2, 1756 from a second-hand source, you erroneously argued that Adams was equating Jesus with God.

I found this quote worthy enough to go examine the entire diary entry at the original source, and a reading of the full passage makes it quite clear that Adams attributed miracles to many other men other than Jesus as well, rendering your conclusion about Adams accepting Jesus' divinity unsupportable. [The missed opportunity is in that Adams' belief in miracles of any sort is the foundation for a strong but less ambitious argument against his "rationalism."]

Now, you may have Bible quotes that support human rights as we know them today, but you yourself admit they aren't in plain form. If the Bible can be used to support the modern notion of human rights, it will through exegesis and reason well after the fact---theology, if you will---much as it took 2000 years for the wise and clever Samuel Langdon to notice that republicanism could be found in Exodus.

What we do know is that for 1500-2000 years, republicanism and "human rights" lay undiscovered in the Bible. If Langdon's arguments were "revisionist," surely yours would be if not made until the 21st century.

As for Harvard's curriculum, I recall that Thomas Aquinas was taught there until 1680 or so. Until you know something about Aquinas, you don't know diddly, because everyone in the Founding era knew him directly, or indirectly through thinkers like Richard Hooker. Since you missed the clearly Thomistic [that means Aquinas] sense of Hamilton's statement on natural law, until you get up to speed on such stuff it remains likely that you will continue to fall into such fatal errors, relatively simple errors that will discredit and distract from whatever legitimate arguments you have, as we have already seen happen here yet again today. Cheers.

Our Founding Truth said...

Tom: You missed Hamilton's plain reference to natural law as distinct from scripture

I saw it. I was trying to trap Jon, haha.

As another example, by taking only the first part of John Adams' diary entry of March 2, 1756 from a second-hand source, you erroneously argued that Adams was equating Jesus with God.>

On that one, it's obvious Adams had no idea what he was saying. He's a unitarian claiming Jesus is the author of nature, by reason of the context of the words. Any Christian would come up with that take if not knowing Adams was a unitarian.

I found this quote worthy enough to go examine the entire diary entry at the original source, and a reading of the full passage makes it quite clear that Adams attributed miracles to many other men other than Jesus>

I don't know who he could be referring to, if not Biblical characters.

If the Bible can be used to support the modern notion of human rights, it will through exegesis and reason well after the fact---theology, if you will---much as it took 2000 years for the wise and clever Samuel Langdon to notice that republicanism could be found in Exodus.>

Right, but we haven't even scaned the surface of the Christian Philosophers writings. The parts we have seen, support natural law from the bible, e.g. Hooker, Pufendorf, Grotius, and I've seen Aquinas link it with Romans 2:14-15. That Israel was a type of Republic had to have been proclaimed through exegesis by the Philosophers; Langdon wasn't the first. How could it be that my friends and I find this stuff, and Pufendorf couldn't? His job was studying the bible everyday, no?

What we do know is that for 1500-2000 years, republicanism and "human rights" lay undiscovered in the Bible. If Langdon's arguments were "revisionist," surely yours would be if not made until the 21st century.>

Then we need to look at Hooker, Pufendorf, Grotius, Blackstone, et al. I would even guess the early church fathers, such as: Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement, Tertullian, etc. wrote about Israel's government.

Until you know something about Aquinas, you don't know diddly, because everyone in the Founding era knew him directly, or indirectly through thinkers like Richard Hooker.>

Regarding Natural Law, why did Hooker quote Romans 2:14-15, not Aquinas?

Tom Van Dyke said...

You continue to misread the passage from Adams' diary, OFT. He does not call Jesus Christ the "author of nature."

It's therefore no surprise that you and your friends find "all sorts of stuff" in the Bible that Pufendorf [or anyone else] didn't. It's not there. Jonathan Rowe's criticism that you habitually do this is not unfair. You just get a little excited and see what you want to see, but often it's a non sequitur.

Re natural law, Grotius for one says that if there were no God [wicked the thought!], natural law would still be in force. Ergo, natural law is not dependent on scripture, as it's not even dependent on God.

If you wish to cite Pufendorf, please read Pufendorf. I'm unfamiliar with him, so I'd learn something, and I'm sure we can now count on you to quote him accurately, although you'll understand that your summaries will unfortunately be suspect. [See above.]

As for Hooker and Aquinas, it's a good question and there are at least three replies---one, it was customary in those days to employ another thinker's argument in toto without giving explicit credit; two, if you read Algernon Sidney write two paragraphs condemning the papist "Schoolmen" for every paragraph he used of their arguments, you'd see why it was impractical in that era to credit the "Catholic" Aquinas for his arguments that Hooker used; three, Hooker used Thomas' system almost completely, and would have had to credit him on almost every page.

There is much more to natural law theory than a few lines from the Epistle to the Romans, although they're a foundation of Thomas' argument about "general" and "special" revelation [natural law and scripture, respectively]. But first we must observe the distinction. Religiously.

Our Founding Truth said...

You continue to misread the passage from Adams' diary, OFT. He does not call Jesus Christ the "author of nature.">

There's no evidence he isn't either.

It's therefore no surprise that you and your friends find "all sorts of stuff" in the Bible that Pufendorf [or anyone else]>

I beg to differ. You're telling me Langdon exposited this himself, no way.

Re natural law, Grotius for one says that if there were no God [wicked the thought!], natural law would still be in force. Ergo, natural law is not dependent on scripture, as it's not even dependent on God.>

Natural Law is inside of man, no? That natural law is not dependent on scripture is debatable. Grotius definitely believed revelation superior to reason:

"It is beyond controversy among all good men, that if the persons in authority command any thing contrary to Natural Law or the Divine Precepts, it is not to be done. For the Apostles, in saying that we must obey God rather than men, appealed to an undoubted rule, written in the minds of all."

-On the Law of War and Peace , p. 165.

Grotius definitely believed reason could not fully reveal God.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Grotius definitely believed reason could not fully reveal God.

All men agree that reason cannot fully reveal God, even Thomas Aquinas. God is a mystery.

You misread Grotius here apparently: this statement is unremarkable, and unworthy of highlighting. Grotius himself says this statement is "beyond controversy"---to follow the dictates of men over those of God or even one's own "moral sense" is something only a robot, moron, or a Democrat would do.

;-)

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