Monday, February 2, 2009

John Adams: Unitarian

From Guest Blogger Jim Goswick
A.K.A. Our Founding Truth


The following was sent to me by one of our most faithful blog readers and commentators, who is also a passionate advocate for the Christian Nation thesis. Here is the first guest post by Mr. Jim Goswick, or as most of us know him, the one and only OUR FOUNDING TRUTH:

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At American Creation, Jon Rowe comments:

"To him who believes in the Existence and Attributes physical and moral of a God, there can be no obscurity or perplexity in defining the Law of Nature to be his wise benign and all powerful Will, discovered by Reason."

– John Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, March 19, 1794. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 377, Library of Congress. Seen in James H. Hutson’s, “The Founders on Religion,” p. 132.

It seems this one quote has made the rounds. This, in fact, is the one quote of John Adams used to support his claim Adams was a rationalist. However, Adams only refers to one part of The Laws of Nature and the Laws of Nature's God, which doesn't clearly point out reason is superior to revelation, rather, that reason (the law of nature) is God's perfect will, which happens to be true. God has given two revelations to man; reason and revelation.

The word "rationalist" may not have existed in the 18th century. Most likely, a rationalist was lumped in with Deists, who believed in the "clockmaker" god, disbelieved in miracles, and believed reason was king. Benjamin Franklin considered himself a rationalist (believed in providence), but called himself a deist:

"But I was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns several points as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of the Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of the sermons which had been preached at Boyle’s Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them. For the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to be much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist….I began to suspect that this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful."

- Franklin's Biography.

It appears Franklin was confused, or there was no term (rationalist) available at the time. Franklin, most likely was a rationalist; John Adams is a different story. Adams believed in the miracles Jesus Christ:

"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]."

- Adams Diary, March, 1756.

What Franklin actually was, John Adams mocked, showing he wasn't with him:

"All Religions are tolerated in America, said M.M., and the Ambassadors have in all Courts a Right to a Chappell in their own Way. But Mr. Franklin never had any. -- No said I, laughing, because Mr. F. had no -- I was going to say, what I did not say, and will not say here. I stopped short and laughed. -- No, said Mr. M., Mr. F. adores only great Nature, which has interested a great many People of both Sexes in his favour. -- Yes, said I, laughing, all the Atheists, Deists and Libertines, as well as the Philosophers and Ladies are in his Train -- another Voltaire and Hume." [bold face mine]

- John Adams. Diary, June 23, 1779.

The problem with John Adams is another quote contradicting the quote above could be right around the corner. As long as it's before he retired, it's relevant. Here is more from the most revealing work on the Christianity of John Adams:

"Adams seemed satisfied with Middleton's position. The latter charges that Waterland, instead of vindicating the Scriptures, had himself furnished matter for new scandal. ("No revelation can contain anything false, irrational or immoral," Adams asserted.) Middleton accuses Tindal of attempting to abolish Christianity and set up reason as a national religion. ("Abolish Christianity! Set up reason!" Adams snapped: "The authority of reason is not stern enough to keep rebellious appetites and passions in subjection.") Tindal, Middleton contends, betrayed his ignorance of antiquity by magnifying the moderation of pagan governments.
("Deistical cant," Adams reinforced him, adding, "Atheists are the
most cruel persecutors.") The intolerance of this "rational Protestant,"
Middleton jeers, is even worse than Romish popery. ("Deistical
popery," Adams chimed in.)"

- John Adams The Prophets of Progress ZOLTAN HARASZTI Harvard
University Press Cambridge, Massachusetts 1952 Copyright)1952, by the President mid Fellows of Harvard College Distributed in Great Britain by Geoffrey Cumberlege. Oxford University Press London.

Adams says rationalism isn't even Christianity! Man's reason cannot be ultimate truth, and Adams knew it. Here, is more on Adams' Prophets of Progress:

"D[isney].; Mr. Peirce believes that the Epistle was written in Hebrew, and that it was probably translated into Greek by St. Luke.

A[dams].: This is the most candid and the most plausible opinion. But the
question recurs, why was the original destroyed? What suspicions of
interpolation, and indeed of fabrication, might be confuted if we had
the originals! In an age or in ages when fraud, forgery, and perjury
were considered as lawful means of propagating truth by philosophers,
legislators, and theologians, what may not be suspected?

5.: All those who allege that this Epistle was not St. Paul's have done
it only to account for the style and manner of writing, and not from
any one single evidence."

It is clear, the context Adams is referring to is the book of Hebrews, not the entire Bible, of which Adams did believe was corrupted. Was Adams a rationalist? I think not.

117 comments:

Jonathan Rowe said...

Here's a writing tip.

It reads better this way:

"It seems this one quote has made the rounds. This, in fact, is the one quote of John Adams that Mr. Rowe has used to support his claim Adams was a rationalist."

I've seen good writers use "quote" as a noun. However, technically "quote" is a verb, "quotation" is a noun.

"It seems this one quotation has made the rounds. This, in fact, is the one quotation of John Adams that Mr. Rowe has used to support his claim Adams was a rationalist."

Jonathan Rowe said...

Also, I might add, interesting research on the context of Hutson's quotation about which I first made you aware.

"What suspicions of interpolation, and indeed of fabrication, might be confuted if we had the originals! In an age or in ages when fraud, forgery, and perjury were considered as lawful means of propagating truth by philosophers,
legislators, and theologians, what may not be suspected?"

"Middleton" by the way is one Conyers Middleton, who, like Jefferson and Adams believed the Bible was errant. He was one of the first folks who cut up the Bible, eliminating in the good book, that which he thought was false and paved the way for Jefferson to do the same. So, if not "rationalist," what do we term such a person?

Our Founding Truth said...

Yeah, I didn't think the post was that good, being hurried, and emailing it to Lindsey, instead of posting it myself. Oh well, no big deal. I can't believe we have these notes from Adams. It seals the deal on a lot of things. One, that Adams denied the bible, not just in interpretation, and two, he wasn't a rationalist.

Has anyone read the Prophets of Progress before?

Thanks Lindsey for posting that. The one and only?

Our Founding Truth said...

Not only did my post prove John Adams was not a rationalist, it also proves Adams believed the laws of nature and the laws of nature's God were reason and revelation, not just reason.

Also, Nature's God in the Declaration of Independence was not a god of reason, but the God of reason and revelation. For Adams would never have allowed a god of reason to be set up (the authority in the Declaration).

I think Dr. Frazier and his supporters need to post on this blog, and concede, if they do believe Adams was a rationalist, that they are wrong! Until other evidence is presented, only Jefferson and Franklin can be considered rationalists. John Adams was a unitarian, through and through.

It's only fair. I thought Adams believed in inerrancy, and interpreted the Bible incorrectly. I was wrong. Adams thought the Bible was, for the most part, completely corrupted by the early church fathers.

We know Adams was wrong, that he assumed because personal views were not correct, that the church fathers perverted the originals; Adams was wrong.

Our Founding Truth said...

I forgot the date as well, 1785:


"Adams seemed satisfied with Middleton's position. The latter charges that Waterland, instead of vindicating the Scriptures, had himself furnished matter for new scandal. ("No revelation can contain anything false, irrational or immoral," Adams asserted.) Middleton accuses Tindal of attempting to abolish Christianity and set up reason as a national religion. ("Abolish Christianity! Set up reason!" Adams snapped: "The authority of reason is not stern enough to keep rebellious appetites and passions in subjection.") Tindal, Middleton contends, betrayed his ignorance of antiquity by magnifying the moderation of pagan governments.
("Deistical cant," Adams reinforced him, adding, "Atheists are the
most cruel persecutors.") The intolerance of this "rational Protestant,"
Middleton jeers, is even worse than Romish popery. ("Deistical
popery," Adams chimed in.)"

- John Adams The Prophets of Progress ZOLTAN HARASZTI Harvard
University Press Cambridge, Massachusetts 1952 Copyright)1952, by the President mid Fellows of Harvard College Distributed in Great Britain by Geoffrey Cumberlege. Oxford University Press London.

Our Founding Truth said...

So, if not "rationalist," what do we term such a person?>

A rationalist is someone who disbelieves the supernatural, such as: Jefferson, Paine, Ethan Allen, etc. If Franklin believed that Jesus turned water into wine by a word, he wasn't a rationalist. I think he was a rationalist, just a little confused when he got older.

As the definition of a miracle back then says: Any suspension, interference, etc. of the law of nature is a miracle:

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...

Adams: "To him who believes in the Existence and Attributes physical and moral of a God, there can be no obscurity or perplexity in defining the Law of Nature to be his wise benign and all powerful Will, discovered by Reason."

Goswick: "However, Adams only refers to one part of The Laws of Nature and the Laws of Nature's God, which doesn't clearly point out reason is superior to revelation, rather, that reason (the law of nature) is God's perfect will, which happens to be true. God has given two revelations to man; reason and revelation."

Let me simplify the wording by Adams

Adams (paraphrased): "To him who believes in God, there can be no confusion that the Law of Nature comes from God and that this is discovered by Reason."

Sounds like rationalism to me.

Why do you conclude otherwise? Where does Adams elevate scripture above reason?

Tom Van Dyke said...

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

http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/75/Letter_from_John_Adams_to_Benjamin_Rush_1.html

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

---ibid.

Our Founding Truth said...

Why do you conclude otherwise? Where does Adams elevate scripture above reason?>

Dude, you are amazing!

bpabbott said...

OFT: "A rationalist is someone who disbelieves the supernatural [...]"

Please avoid redefining words to suit your preconceived conclusions.

Rationalism: "In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" (Lacey 286). In more technical terms it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive" (Bourke 263)."

There are many rationalists who conclude through reason that the supernatural exists. Some who accept the supernatural do so because their are uncomfortable with an absence of understanding ... they are unable to accept themselves as being ignorant with regards to some subject they find important/essential to cognitively grasp.

They may accept a supernatual understading simply for the piece of mind such provides.

The concept that reason is elevated above revelation does not require an individual to be a rational naturalist. Rather it requires that he applies his individual ability to reason to decide the matter for himself.

... or to avoid what Phil has described as what constitues "Born Again", being; "To be 'as a little child' is to trust simply without any rigamarole or suspicion."

Elevating reason, over relevation, dictates that one not abdicate their responsibility to think for themselves to another.

bpabbott said...

bpa: "Why do you conclude otherwise? Where does Adams elevate scripture above reason?"

OFT: "Dude, you are amazing!"

Is the best you can do is a hand-wave, can you not offer some substance?

Jonathan Rowe said...

I agree that OFT is dealing with a specially plead definition of "rationalism." As Dr. Frazer defines it, a "rationalist" is someone who believes reason trumps. A rationalist could also believe the Christian religions is a "revelation," that the Bible is partially inspired (including some of the miracles contained therein), but that man's reason is the ultimate determiner of "truth." This is Dr. Frazer's defintion of "theistic rationalism." And it appears not just believed in by Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin but also by Middleton whom Dr. Frazer cites in his thesis for the proposition. I thank OFT for raising the issue because I am going to use it as an opportunity to post on Middleton.

jimmiraybob said...

OFT: "A rationalist is someone who disbelieves the supernatural [...]"

I think that the term you are looking for is empiricist or maybe materialist.

see empiricism

see materialism

Given the generally accepted definition of rationalist that Mr. abbot cited above I really think that it would be a great service to the reader to distinguish the supernatural rationalist (using reason to discern the truth of revelation) from the material naturalist rationalist (using reason to evaluate empirical/materialist truths.)

Using pba's paraphrase which I think accurately summarizes the given quote, "To him who believes in God, there can be no confusion that the Law of Nature comes from God and that this is discovered by Reason." it appears that Adam's is making an an assessment based on observation about a believer's propensity to attribute the natural law to God and the believer's belief that they arrived at that conclusion through the use of reason (certainly not from material/natural empiricism but from Scriptural evaluation and acceptance of Biblical supernatural truths.)

The way I see it, we have Adams making an empirical argument (material naturalist rationalist viewpoint) about the supernatural rationalist's general claim about God and the natural law.

Of course putting the single quote into the larger context from where it came, it might be that Adam's was referring to himself as the "him who believes in God" in which case he would be making an assertion about his understanding of the relationship between God and the natural law and his belief that he comes to that conclusion through reason. In which case he's not making an empirical argument based on material evidence but an assertion of belief through Scriptural evaluation and faith in the underlying premise that God exists. Still a rational endeavor since he's still using reasoning based on his understanding of evidence to arrive at a conclusion.

Therefore, I think either way you slice it Adams was being a rationalist.

Tom Van Dyke said...


Rationalism: "In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" (Lacey 286). In more technical terms it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive" (Bourke 263)."


This fits Thomas Aquinas, of course. Christianity made rational sense to him.

By this expansive definition, anyone for whom Christianity makes sense---even its transnatural claims, is a "theistic rationalist." Joseph Priestley believed in the Resurrection. Theistic rationalist. John Adams believed in Jesus' miracles. Theistic rationalist. John Adams believed Christianity came as a revelation from God. Theistic rationalist. Thomas Jefferson disbelieved in revelation and miracles, but believed in a providential God. Theistic rationalist. George Washington liked Cicero and spoke of the Great Architect of the Universe. Theistic rationalist.

Aristotle believed in a God-creator, but one who lost interest after creating this mess. Thomas Paine, too. But "theistic" in the 18th century sense requires a "personal" God, one who is presumably interested in our daily lives. Although they believed there was a God, they were not "theists." Rationalists, though.

Alexander Hamilton didn't go to church or take communion through most of his adult life. Even though he got very devout at the end of his life, theistic rationalist.

Ben Franklin was disinterested in doctrine and theology, deciding that finding out whether Jesus was God or not could wait for definitive proof after he was dead, or in heaven, or whatever. Still, he returned to the Bible and tried to live it. Theistic rationalist.

Martin Luther said faith alone saves. Theistic, but still he disagreed with some of the prevailing interpretations of the bible. Rationalist? Well, yes, despite himself. The prevailing theology seemed unreasonable.

John Calvin, well, my Calvin is weak. Seems he set his brain to things, which would make him a rationalist. Theistic, yeah, duh.

St. Augustine? Paul the Apostle? Quite educated in the ways of the ancient Greeks, Plato, Aristotle, et al. Used their rational techniques all the time, as their audience/congregations were also quite familiar with classical philoosophy. Theistic rationalists.

Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most famous anti-theist of our day? A rationalist, according to his own website. You could look it up.

I'm sure most of us are familiar with Godwin's Law.

Van Dyke's Law is this: once someone breaks out the dictionary, as was done frequently in the above comments, all attempts at intelligent discussion and understanding are rendered useless. Game over.

The mob has taken the field. Anybody can wield a dictionary. We are no longer talking about ideas, only words. The funny thing about dictionaries is that they prove that words have more than a single meaning.

Best to all, and BTW, Van Dyke's Law of Rock'n'Roll is that when the band plays Louie, Louie, it's time to go home. Anybody can play Louie, Louie.

Cheers, and goodnight. I've played Louie, Louie and even learned the words once, but I don't play it anymore. Life is too short.

jimmiraybob said...

"Van Dyke's Law is this: once someone breaks out the dictionary, as was done frequently in the above comments, all attempts at intelligent discussion and understanding are rendered useless. Game over."

Yes, heaven forbid everyone try to get on the same page. This reminds me of the musician that shows up for the jam and refuses to be constrained by tuning and keys and scales and such.

jimmiraybob's rule of rock and roll: know your craft.

Our Founding Truth said...

Van Dyke's Law is this: once someone breaks out the dictionary, as was done frequently in the above comments, all attempts at intelligent discussion and understanding are rendered useless. Game over.>

Classic! Van Dyke, I learn a ton from you. That's how I feel, exactly! There's no where else to go in this debate. Adams could have said "reason sucks" it wouldn't matter jack!

A rationalist is someone who denies miracles, that's all! If someone believes a violation of the law of nature meets the test of reason, which cannot violate the law of nature, there's no- where else to go, the law of non-contradiction has been violated.

Webster's 1828, or earlier, is the only way to go. It's simple, but people want to make it difficult, because of an agenda. Who said, "Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining?" Don't be fooled Tom, keep it simple. If we can't start at the meaning of common terms in the correct context, we can't even start!

Yeah, bro, good night now!

Pinky said...

.
"He who lives upon Hope, dies Farting." --Benjamin Franklin

Jonathan Rowe said...

"A rationalist is someone who denies miracles, that's all!"

Not meaning to play the dictionary game; but this is your defintion. You are entitled to it. And you are also entitled to reject Dr. Frazer's term because you don't think it's appropriate to name someone like Adams a "rationalist."

Adams did however, note he believed reason trumps revelation. And that -- Dr. Frazer's definition of rationalism -- is perfectly defensible as well. Dr. Frazer's theistic rationalists believed some miracles were rational and some of the Bible was legitimately revealed. Frazer and those of us who like the term "theistic rationalist" defend that term on legitimate scholarly grounds.

But if we want to look for different terms, fine. I think "unitarian" aptly describes many of them. It's also important that we note exactly what their theological system believed and didn't believe. I think that is the most important thing we do, not coming up with labels and terms.

Our Founding Truth said...

Not meaning to play the dictionary game; but this is your defintion.>

Terms must be agreed upon in the context of the particular time, and of the particular people involved. Your position cannot be defended logically or honestly. so the debate on this topic is over. Let's go to the next one.

WEBSTER'S 1828 dictionary

MIR''ACLE, n. [L. miraculum, from miror, to wonder.]
1. Literally, a wonder or wonderful thing; but appropriately,

2. 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.

WEBSTER'S 1828 dictionary:

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.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Terms must be agreed upon in the context of the particular time, and of the particular people involved. Your position cannot be defended logically or honestly. so the debate on this topic is over. Let's go to the next one.

I take it you are just giving up, declaring victory and getting out.

No actually there's a lot more evidence that we have yet to uncover. Jefferson and company used the term "rational Christianity" to describe what Dr. Frazer terms "theistic rationalism." Dr. Frazer rejects "rational Christianity" because the theistic rationalists rejected central tenets of Christian theology, most notably the Trinity (but others as well).

Jonathan Rowe said...

You also need to argue contra Conrad Wright, one of the most distinguished historians of American religion of the 20th century that "supernatural" and "rationalism" are mutually exclusive. Indeed what Dr. Frazer has termed "theistic rationalists," Dr. Wright termed "supernatural rationalists."

You can read more about it here:

http://transientandpermanent.wordpress.com/2007/10/21/supernatural-rationalists-precursors-to-the-unitarians/

Jonathan Rowe said...

And by the way, John Adams didn't say in anything you offered, "reason sucks." Rather he noted reason was not "sufficient" by itself (which is what the strict deists and atheists argued). Adams believed reason and the "Christian religion" needed to work together, but that reason still trumped. Hence, he was a "theistic" not a "deistic" rationalist.

bpabbott said...

OFT: "Terms must be agreed upon in the context of the particular time, and of the particular people involved. Your position cannot be defended logically or honestly. so the debate on this topic is over. Let's go to the next one."

You have isolated yourself by proposing a new and unique definition for rationalist.

I agree that you display no logic or honestly in doing so. Regarding the debate (?), there is no debate on the definition of rationalist.

Brad Hart said...

A battle over semantics???

bpabbott said...

OFT, although I've pointed out this quote to you before, you continued insistence that Adams does not find reason superior to revelation by scripture implies to me that you apparently over looked it.

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

If you didn't over look it but don't understand it as I do, I suggest the quote below.

"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.

In each of the above quotes, the emphasis is mine.

Pinky said...

.
Pretty good quotation, Ben--very good.
.

Pinky said...

.
The preponderance of evidence shows John Adams to be person with his hand on the time in which he lived. He was not led by religious superstition; but, had a clear grasp on the political art.
.

bpabbott said...

Phil,

Before yourself and others embrace this particular Adams quote, I should mention that I've not been able to determine its original source ... Nor have I discovered anyone who questions its authenticity.

However, as we now know that there is no evidence of the claim that GW appended "so help be God" to the end of this presidential oath, I am caustious about accepting this quote as well.

I thought it appropriate to post a qualification, or else I might also be taken as a master of delusion ;-)

In anyone is motivated to do some research, I'd be interested in any information on the origins of this quotation (in my idle time, I'll see what I can find).

bpabbott said...

I've found three sources for the quote. One from Rufus K Noyes.

"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 Views of Religion. by Rufus K Noyes.

One from John Lacs and Robert Talisse.

"When [philosophical reason] is clear and certain by intuition or necessary induction, no subsequent revelation supported by prophecies or miracles can supersede it."
-- John Adams, from American Philosophy By John Lachs, Robert B. Talisse.

And finally, the original from John Adams.

"Priestley ought to have done impartial justice to philosophy and philosophers. Philosophy, which is the result of reason, is the first, the original revelation of the Creator to his creature,man. When this revelation is clear and certain by intuition or necessary induction, no subsequent revelation supported by prophecies or miracles can supersede it."
-- John Adams, to Thomas Jefferson, Dec 1813.

Note that Noyes and Lacs took some liberty to clarify Adams' words, which I've made note of above.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Ben,

-- John Adams, to Thomas Jefferson, Dec 1813.

That's the proper source. And this is the smoking gun that proves Adams was a "rationalist" in the sense that he believed reason trumped revelation.

Tom Van Dyke said...

A great deal of effort has been undertaken to prove Mr. Goswick [OFT] wrong, in all shapes and forms. It's my view that this discussion is more the result of animus for him or his POV, or both, rather than any consideration of his arguments on the case at hand.

I think this is unfair, and that this court has voted against him is meaningless. We write for the ages. Courts are often wrong, and the arguments of the losing side often become self-evident truth.

As Brad Hart astutely observes, the game at this point is semantics, and semantics is a subspecialty of sophistry. Contra Mr. jimmiraybob's objection to Van Dyke's Law, once the meaning of terms or words becomes the focus of the discussion, lines are drawn, sides are taken up, and the attempt at achieving common understanding is abandoned.

To the semantics then, with an occasional attempt at understanding thrown in:

Mr. Goswick writes: "A rationalist is someone who denies miracles, that's all!"

This is a plain-sense reading of terms, and is unobjectionable. The vociferous atheist [anti-theist!] Richard Dawkins describes himself as a "rationalist" on his own website. Thomas Jefferson, indisputably a "rationalist" by that contemporary light, fits this description completely, as does David Hume. No miracles.

However, Mr. jimmiraybob is also correct that the proper historical-philosophical terms for this line of thinking are "empiricist" and "materialist," both of which fit Jefferson and Hume. And the latter fits Locke, according to Jefferson. "God" is a material being, a view which the Mormons also profess. But I digress...

On to John Adams---I repeat my previous objections that focusing on him and Jefferson in the Founding is to lose the plot. They were atypical of the Founders, and that they kept their theological/philosophical musings private if not secret is conclusive proof of that. Had their musings been known to the general public, Adams might never had been elected president, and Jefferson surely wouldn't have.

Mr. Abbott argues well, but incompletely, first with one quote where Adams observes the Constitution was not assembled through divine inspiration-intervention [and that's all that quote asserts], secondly that the retiree John Adams [quite clearly!] says that revelation cannot trump what Thomas Aquinas calls "general revelation," the natural law that all right-thinking and right-hearted men can discern through reason.

Before the Bible, there was the natural law. Before the Bible, there was Plato and Aristotle. They were cool guys. And so, this is an uncontroversial assertion by Adams,if you know anything about the history and tradition of natural law, which many of us don't.

However, in his diary the 1754 Adams accepts Jesus' miracles, and the 1810 Adams in a letter to Benjamin rush says that Christianity is so cool and so perfect that it could not have been derived through man's reason.

Divine intercession, divine revelation, was necessary.

Adams writes elsewhere that the Bible is the greatest book in the world, and contains more of his "philosophy" than all the libraries in the world.

And he's on record that Christianity is the result of divine revelation, as man couldn't come up with it.

There's a syllogism in here and a sophist, as a professional logician, could write it even if he didn't believe it. [I'll send you a dollar if you do, Ben.]

Me, I return to my original objection that using the inconsistent and sometimes even incoherent John Adams as any basis for understanding religion and the Founding is a fatal error. It's a trap for either "side," and should be avoided by those who are honestly seeking the truth of the whole deal.

I do think OFT's invocation of the 1828 dictionary is proper in the search for understanding, since that's the dictionary we've got.

Jonathan Rowe properly points out that Thomas Jefferson hisself explicitly used the term "rational Christianity," so that must be kept in mind.

And Mr. jimmiraybob quite properly makes the formal distinction between "rationalist" and "empiricist," the latter being our common understanding of those who reject anything and everything that can't be replicated in a laboratory.

Like that loaves and fishes thing, etc.

But Jonathan Rowe offers a counterargument in this battle of semantics that I believe buoys James Goswick's argument:

Conrad Wright, one of the most distinguished historians of American religion of the 20th century that "supernatural" and "rationalism" are mutually exclusive. Indeed what Dr. Frazer has termed "theistic rationalists," Dr. Wright termed "supernatural rationalists."

Conrad Wright, out of intellectual honesty no doubt, felt obliged to drag in the word "supernatural."

I suggest that Mr. Goswick [OFT, lest we forget] would be provisionally comfortable with that term above "theistic rationalist," as "supernatural" opens the door to all sorts of God stuff.

I don't think the term is bad either, as it excludes and ejects Jefferson's empiricism/materialism from the heart of the Founding. Tommy J didn't play that.

"Theistic rationalist" as a term of understanding melts without its tentpole, Thomas Jefferson. John Adams likewise is viewed in his proper place as Jefferson's late-in-life epigone, a tentpeg perhaps, but no more than that in the construction of the Great American Tent.

To cut to the chase [at last!]:
Although it's entirely proper to take Adams' self-description as a "unitarian" at his word [and I do], he is a Christian unitarian.

John Adams' endorsement of the Bible as the "greatest book in the world" and of Christianity as possible only through divine revelation sorts through the various words and terms:

The word "Christian" must figure in there someplace, if we are to make any honest attempt at describing if not defining him.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "A great deal of effort has been undertaken to prove Mr. Goswick [OFT] wrong, in all shapes and forms. It's my view that this discussion is more the result of animus for him or his POV, or both, rather than any consideration of his arguments on the case at hand."

The expressed animus (at least on my part, and in my opinion) is with regard to the quality of his arguements, or the lack thereof. I find Jon to extend a greater degree of civility toward Mr Goswick and a greater effort to point out the failings of his argument.

Regarding "Christian", there is no debate (at least among those partipating, although I'm sure there are many who divorse Unitarians from the club). The discussion is/was regarding whehter Adams favored reason or scriptural revelation.

bpabbott said...

Mr. Goswick writes: "A rationalist is someone who denies miracles, that's all!"

Tom response: "This is a plain-sense reading of terms, and is unobjectionable"

Tom, what I find objectionable it the idea that individuals who disagree with rationalists are granted the priviledge of defining what a rationalist is.

Would Dawkins be granted the priviledge of defining Catholics as canibals for celegrating the consumption of Jesus' flesh and blood?

There widely accepted definitions for these terms, by what justification are we to accept a new definition constructed specifically to counter an argument.

Note, if OFT, wishes to use a term to describe some one and offer his defintion for that term, it is fine with me (and I assume everyone else).

However, if Jon uses the term (rationalst for example) and offers his defintion for it (in the instance the conventional one), it is objectionable, in my opinion, for another to redefine the term inorder to manufacture a contracition in Jon's position.

p.s. Jon, I apologize for the use of your name in my example, I do not intend to imply that you are an active participant in my little rant.

Pinky said...

.
The recent quotation I gave from Joseph J. Ellis that he attributes to John Adams points to the idea that Adams was a serious student of Greek and Roman antiquity. From what I'm seeing here and in other places, Adams was a prolific reader that did not limit his understandings to any single ideology.
.

Jonathan Rowe said...

John Adams own term for it was "liberal unitarian Christianity."

I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation. For as I believe the most enlightened men of it have participated in the amelioration of the philosophy of the age, once restored to an independent government & no longer persecuted they would soon wear away some of the asperities and peculiarities of their character [and] possibly in time become liberal unitarian Christians for your Jehovah is our Jehovah & your God of Abraham Isaac & Jacob is our God.

-- John Adams to Mordecai Noah, March 15, 1819. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 123. Quoted from James H. Hutson’s The Founders on Religion, p. 127.

Pinky said...

.
You think so?

Our Founding Truth said...

I consider this debate over, there being no where else to go with it. The 18th century terms have been defined as the people of that time believed, and used in the correct context, given by Webster's definition of: supernatural, miracle, deist, etc. They aren't my definitions, and never were, so I have no agenda.

John Adams believed in miracles, therefore, was not a rationalist. It is a violation of the law of non-contradiction for a violation of the law of nature to meet the test of reason, which is a violation of the laws of nature. The argument against this understanding cannot be made.

Adams proved to us, he was not a rationalist by mocking a rationalist (Ben Franklin), actually using the word "nature" signifying the context of reason as supreme:

"No, said Mr. M., Mr. F. adores only great Nature, which has interested a great many People of both Sexes in his favour. -- Yes, said I, laughing, all the Atheists, Deists and Libertines, as well as the Philosophers and Ladies are in his Train -- another Voltaire and Hume." [bold face mine]

- John Adams. Diary, June 23, 1779.

Because John Adams, an outlier, changed is views, what he wrote while he retired (In 1813?), amounts to a hill of beans. He could have become an atheist, it's irrelevant. Let's move on.

Our Founding Truth said...

Adams proved to us, he was not a rationalist by mocking a rationalist (Ben Franklin), actually using the word "nature">

Rather, Adams did not use the term "nature" but affirmed it, and labeled Franklin a believer in it. That being reason or nature supreme.

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

You can consider the debate over; but you still haven't proved your case (which I think is impossible as you argue an indefensible position). Adams is assuming (perhaps wrongly) that Franklin was a strict Deist. And the theistic rationalists often criticized strict Deism (as did Franklin himself).

Notice Adams say "Mr. F. adores only great Nature...." [Bold mine.] The theistic rationalists believed in the necessity of BOTH nature-reason AND revelation but believed nature-reason trumps and the design of revelation was to complement or support the findings of man's reason, not the reverse. As such they believed in a partially inspired Bible. This fits within the plain meaning and 18th century meaning of the term "rationalist," and aptly describes what Adams believed in the 1790s, indeed probably his entire adult life. The "Middleton" he invoked was precisely such a "rationalist." Look for a post on him soon.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Now, now, you can't be the judge in a trial you're a participant in, counselor. You don't get the gavel.

Conrad Wright found the need to introduce the word "supernatural" into the proceedings, which helps OFT's case.

OFT loses the debating game for introducing too many bum arguments, but the search for truth is concerned only with the best ones.

Our Founding Truth said...

Adams is assuming (perhaps wrongly) that Franklin was a strict Deist. And the theistic rationalists often criticized strict Deism (as did Franklin himself).>

Actually, there are many quotes, but I think someone has posted one on here, showing Adams knew Franklin believed in Providence. It was already common knowledge that Franklin believed in Providence, so everyone knew he wasn't a deist.

Adams knew Franklin wasn't a deist, but lumped him in with those guys, showing he was neither a rationalist or a deist. Adams laughed at all of them! There can be no mistake that Adams wrongfully believed Franklin was a deist.

Our Founding Truth said...

OFT loses the debating game for introducing too many bum arguments,>

The absurd notion that a violation of the law of nature (defined by Webster's 1828) can meet the test of reason (nature), which cannot violate the law of nature, tells us this isn't even a debate anymore. It's lala land. Did you like that one, Tom?

There are no rules! I can turn two fish into one-thousand fish, which meets the test of reason, but turning two televisions into one-thousand televisions doesn't meet the test, or does it?

My understanding is the only tenable understanding. The other side of the debate is a farce; not reality.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, now that BOTH sides have declared victory, the debate is truly over. Van Dyke's Law #2.

Tom Van Dyke said...

There are many senses of the term "rationalism," the vulgar, the philosophical. In the latter case, the term fits among the highly specialized, the very few who know the difference between rationalism and empiricism.

But my opposition here is based on the fact that most normal folks encountering the term in the context of the Founding and the Founders will come away with the wrong idea.

http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/rational.htm

Our Founding Truth said...

"(2) Rationalism, in the broader, popular meaning of the term, is used to designate any mode of thought in which human reason holds the place of supreme criterion of truth; in this sense, it is especially applied to such modes of thought as contrasted with faith. Thus Atheism, Materialism, Naturalism, Pantheism, Scepticism, etc., fall under the head of rationalistic systems. As such, the rationalistic tendency has always existed in philosophy, and has generally shown itself powerful in all the critical schools. As has been noted in the preceding paragraph, German Rationalism had strong affinities with English Deism and French Materialism, two historic forms in which the tendency has manifested itself. But with the vulgarization of the ideas contained in the various systems that composed these movements, Rationalism has degenerated. It has become connected in the popular mind with the shallow and misleading philosophy frequently put forward in the name of science, so that a double confusion has arisen, in which; questionable philosophical speculations are taken for scientific facts, and science is falsely supposed to be in opposition to religion."
http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/rational.htm

"Its various manifestations have little in common in method or content, save the general appeal to reason as supreme. No better description of the position can be given than the statements of the objects of the Rationalist Press Association. Among these are: "To stimulate the habits of reflection and inquiry and the free exercise of individual intellect . . . and generally to assert the supremacy of reason as the natural and necessary means to all such knowledge and wisdom as man can achieve"."

Sounds good to me, then I read this:

"It may be said finally, that Rationalism is the direct and logical outcome of the principles of Protestantism;"

Classic! A little protestant bashing by catholics.

The simple solution is rationalism is an attack on miracles and the bible in general.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

I think your critique of "rationalism" makes more sense than OFT's, but apparently he's not listening to you. OFT has yet to understand the nuances of making logical arguments. When you overstate your case with too broad a claim, you err. You can get away with this sometimes for rhetorical effect; but it's clear that's not what OFT is doing.

If I understand this legitimate critique of the term "rationalism" as applied to the FFs, they are twofold. 1) The way it could be applied to 18th century thought -- anyone who embraces the use of reason in search for truth -- is too broad as it might include men like Aquinas and lots of orthodox Christians. And 2) in this day and age, it's too "loaded" a term towards skepticism. Someone might get the impression that the FFs were a bunch of Richard Dawkinses. Though Dr. Frazer coined the term "theistic rationalist" to distinguish them from the "deistic rationalists" who did NOT believe in an intervening God. And accordingly, if God intervenes, then prayer is rational activity. I've seen some of the atheists discussing Dr. Frazer's term scoff at this.

OFT's argument that you can't believe in the supernatural and be a rationalist according to 18th Century thought errs. Tell that to Conrad Wright who termed them "supernatural rationalists." Though lots of atheistic rationalists who agree believing in the supernatural (or God at all) is not "rational."

bpabbott said...

OFT: "Because John Adams, an outlier, changed is views, what he wrote while he retired (In 1813?), amounts to a hill of beans. He could have become an atheist, it's irrelevant. Let's move on."

Isn't framing grand! ;-)

Let me try!

Because John Adams, was an outlier [as all great men are], changed [the expression of his] views [as all politicians do in retirement], what he wrote while he retired, [may be expected be genuinely more honest as he was no longer in a position of political conflict]. [In his retirement, he] could have [embraced scriptural revelation, but he did not, rather he relied upon reason and expresses this clearly].

As Jefferson has been labeled an empiricist and Adams an outlier, perhaps it is time to re-examine Madison?

Who I find to be the pre-eminent architect of our Nation. Wikipedia refers to as the father of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights

bpabbott said...

Tom,

I had neglectd to mention I appreciated you post regarding the term "rationalism".

That philososphy may be rational is sufficient context (for me) that it may extend beyond the empirical ... not that I'm implying that you've stated or implied otherwise. I'm just making an observation.

OFT,

I appreciate that you also offered a definition for rationalism.

However, for someone who insists that rationalism be define in the context of the founders, the definition you offered is surprisingly modern.

I'll also point out that the definition is qualified as being of a Catholic perspective (see the link). Not that I have an axe to grind with Catholics, but the Catholic perspective wasn't exactly mainstream during the founding.

bpabbott said...

Jon: "When you overstate your case with too broad a claim, you err."

You comment reminds me of Gödel's incompleteness theorem. There must exist a compromise between completeness and consistency.

Our Founding Truth said...

OFT's argument that you can't believe in the supernatural and be a rationalist according to 18th Century thought errs.>

Only deceived people believe this nonsense. Whoever came up with his perverted doctrine must exempt Thomas Jefferson, who did not believe in any miracles. Jefferson was a true rationalist.

Our Founding Truth said...

After looking at some of Jefferson's words, not one of our founding fathers was a rationalist in the weird sense described on this blog. Jefferson believed in divine providence, of which there are many different kinds, but generally means; God's sovereign guidance and control.
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/providence-divine/

God's guidance and control is quite different from suspending the laws of nature (miracles). All the events of life and history are working out in God's sovereign will.

The term "theistic rationalist" applies to not one founding father, especially to Thomas Jefferson, Ethan Allen, or Benjamin Franklin, or anyone else for that matter. It is a by-word, a made-up word, with an invented definition, out of someone's mind.

All three of those men, mentioned above, were Deists. Reason was king to them, the supernatural, impossible.

Therefore, a rationalist, and deist are (sp) the same thing. If Franklin wasn't confused about what he was, he realized reason was king, which was the right move, eventually calling himself a Deist. Here is a good example of Jefferson's theology:

"That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever; that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events; that it may become probable by supernatural interference The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest."
-THOMAS JEFFERSON, WORKS.

Credit must be given to Jefferson for not ever contradicting himself.

Pinky said...

.
Some participants here are bent and bound in promoting the ideas of Christian Nationalism
.
This is a consequence of their continuing rant..
.
A person doesn't have to be a brain surgeon to recognize the fact that what the Founding Fathers did, has very little to do with some religious propinquity.
.
Our Founding Fathers, after all else is said and done, created the U.S. Constitution with its intricacies of government. And it is therein that the Founding of this great nation is fully established. They knew exactly what they were doing. So John Adams wrote, "The lawgivers of antiquity ... legislated for single cities [but] who can legislate for 20 or 30 states, each of which is greater than Greece or Rome at those times.", he tips his hand regarding the fact that the Founding, above all religiosity one way or the other, was based on political philosophy. (See Joseph J. Ellis. who is universally regarded as a leading expert on the Founding of America.)
.
No genius would have bypassed the study of politics. If the Founding Fathers didn't come to their places with solid foundations in the classics, they soon acquired a deep and abiding knowledge of the subject of governance and politics. We can imagine their personal pursuits in this direction.
.
In other words, the attempts to confuse people into believing the Founders got their ideas for America out of some chancey set of religious beliefs is nothing more than sanctimonious flim-flam.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

If this nation were no more or less than the US constitution, that assertion would be true, Pinky.

But it's not, so it's not.

Our Founding Truth said...

"We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it." [bold face mine]

-Franklin, 1779, On the marriage at Cana.

This just proves my point about Franklin. Franklin had no idea what he was talking about. Franklin believed the natural processes of nature, chemistry, physics, etc. were the same as Jesus Christ speaking water to turn into wine, without any potion?

My emphasis in Franklin's quote shows he was ignorant of miracles in general, and what really was a violation of the laws of nature.

No doctrine whatsoever can be based on an illogical theory, such as: a violation of the laws of nature can meet the test of reason, which cannot violate the laws of nature.

No matter how nobel or arbitrary, the will of a person regarding "rational miracles" can never change the fact a violation of the laws of nature had taken place. (emphasis added)

Jonathan Rowe said...

BF's thoughts are miracles were typical and mainstream of the "rationalism" of that era. I'm going to show, in future posts, how normal it was for educated men. This is exactly what "Middleton" argued.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

If you want to argue the "rational miracle" theory is bad theology and bad logic fine. That's not what I'm interested in. I'm interesting in showing how common this type of thinking was among many more Founders than Franklin. What you fail to understand is Franklin was one of the best and brightest. If he could believe in this, virtually ANY of the FFs could have.

The FFs believed in a lot of strange and erroneous things that we don't believe in anymore. For instance, the medical doctors used to bleed people. Jared Sparks -- leading historian of his day -- did things that would have gotten him ridden out of the historical community on a rail today (tearing part of one of Washington's proposed addresses into fragments and giving it away to his buddies).

bpabbott said...

On the subject of reason and scriptural relevation, Rob Vischer has posted an article Is public reason a two-way street? over on the PrawfsBlawg. In it he makes his case for why we should be concerned about invocations of divine authority or revelation as the basis for political action and why it is preferred to express the justification of political action in the form of a well reasoned argument accessible to individuals of all or no faith. He also considers whether it is proper to respond to religiously justified action in religious or in reasoned terms.

As there are parallels to this blog and the current discussion, I thought some here would be interested.

bpabbott said...

Ok, so if I get OFT's position

Jefferson is labeled an empiricist.

Adams an outlier.

Franklin was ignorant.

hmmm, it would appear OFT has single handedly dismatled the credibility of three prominent Founders. We'll soon have to admit the founders were a bunch of crackpots and close down the blog, or .... we might reach the conclusion that OFT's thesis is flawed ;-)

OFT, if your thesis must reject these three significant founders in order to have any chance of validity, perhaps you should rethink your position?

bpabbott said...

Pinky,

I very much enjoyed your observations. I think the importance of the Constitution is often overlooked. After all it is the foundation of our Nation and has shaped our society in ways that continue to this day.

It was unique when drafted and ratified and remains so (to a lesser degree) today.

I'm convinced that it, more than anything else, is responsible for our providence ;-)

Pinky said...

.
But, Tom, this blog is not about what this nation is; it is about the creation of this nation.
.
So, my point stands.

Pinky said...

.
You are correct, Ben, and Tom is wrong. (As usual in these kinds of things)
.
The Constitution speaks to the identity of the Founding Fathers.
.
Cut that anyway you like; but, the facts of the matter are that the Constitution does not come out of the Bible nor does it come from Christianity. The Constitution is the result of deep philosophical thinking and it it the ultimate Founding Document (in caps).
.
But, that ends the arguments.
.
Whatever is in the United States, religion or otherwise, is relative to the document that establishes the structure within which we are able to have our relationships with each other and, thus, to our own self.
.
America was founded to be a nation of individuals. We are the same as our nation and our nation is the same as who it is that we are. We and our nation are parallel to each other.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You can make the point, Pinky; I counterargue that although France had almost innumerable kings, presidents and emperors over the past few hundred years, it has remained France.

A nation's form of government is relevant, but as we see, is by no means definitive. Neither can the Constitution be read without taking federalism into account, as your "point" does.

OFT's research into Franklin's belief in the miracle at Cana is very relevant, as is Adams' diary entry from 1756. It goes to just how well the term "rationalist" fits. There are at least 3 understandings of the term, theological, philosophical, and in today's common usage. I recommend someone around here take a look at the first sense. ;-)

Pinky said...

.
To give France as an example regarding our nation doesn't work, Tom.
.
We are the creatures of our society, America, the "city" in which we exist. France is something else.
.
You read it in Ben's recent post where he wrote that the Constitution is the Foundation of our nation. It is the ground on which we stand--not the Bible. And, that is what frosts the Christian Naitonailsts so much. They cannot stand having anything held above their "Holy" Bible. So, they attempt to refute our Constitution by claiming America was founded as a Christian Nation. Do you see the strategy involved? They are Anti-Constitutionalists. They hold an imaginary reality above our nation. I don't believe they have any authority to attempt to put our Constitution aside.
.

Our Founding Truth said...

I'm interesting in showing how common this type of thinking was among many more Founders than Franklin.>

According to that flawed theory, not one of the framers were rationalists. Franklin erroneously attributed Jesus' miracle to natural processes, showing it wasn't a real violation of the laws of nature:

"We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it." [bold face mine]

-Franklin, 1779, On the marriage at Cana.

Franklin was a Deist, or Rationalist. He, like Jefferson, denied all violations of the laws of nature. Not one of our framers believed in a "rational miracle" theory. Besides, there is no other mention of any miracles at all by these guys, or any hint of affirming this flawed theory.

bpabbott said...

Tom,

As this blog doesn't invest effort dicussiong JosephDudley, Sir Edmund Adnros, Simon Brandstreet, or other authorities/leaders of colonial America, prior to the revolutionary period, it appears to me that our form of government is definitive to our Nation in the context of this blog.

Regarding the theological perspective of "rational", as far as I can tell OFT is the only commenter using the term in a context that exlcudes theological positions. As Jon was has popularized its use I'm happy to accept his definition ... at least in the context of this blog (and beyond).

If OFT (or you for that matter) wish to associate a different meaning to rationalism, one that exludes theological positions, that is fine, but when a new meaning is assigned that meaning has no bearing in the context of Jon's thesis.

The Wikipedia entry on Theistic Rationalism makes some good points regarding the term; "Theistic rationalists believe natural religion, Christianity, and rationalism typically coexist compatibly, with rational thought balancing the conflicts between the first two aspects.[3] They often assert that the primary role of a person's religion should be to bolster morality, a fixture of daily life.[3] Additionally, a rationalist believes God plays an active role in human life, rendering prayer effective."

Who ever wrote that article appears to be reading the same page as Jon.

Our Founding Truth said...

The Wikipedia entry on Theistic Rationalism makes some good points regarding the term; "Theistic rationalists believe natural religion, Christianity, and rationalism typically coexist compatibly, with rational thought balancing the conflicts between the first two aspects.[3]>

I think everyone on here understands reason is the first revelation of God to man, as Psalm 40, Proverbs 3,6, and Romans 2:14-15, etc. explain.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Not one of our framers believed in a "rational miracle" theory.

Just sayin' it doesn't make it so. You'll see more evidence for this later. Wait till we get to Middleton.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The above is manifestly animus towards Christian Nationists, I fear, and what often makes this blog go.

I don't fear them, myself, nor the animus of those who fear them. It's what makes this blog go, and what made the Founding go as well. If you've seen the reviews of the latest book on Samuel Adams, you'll find a Christian Nationist. But he didn't quite get his way.

But neither do I think a nation is defined by its government, although it's not irrelevant.

A nation is defined by its ethos, which is a very good word. Ethoi mutate, it is true, but there's always a regression to the mean as well. Russia has always been authoritarian, and of course, France will always be France, although I'm beginning to doubt that "there will always be an England."

Tom Van Dyke said...

it appears to me that our form of government is definitive to our Nation in the context of this blog.

Not definitive, Ben, unless it includes federalism, which left religion to the states. This is where the sola constitutiones thesis fails.

;-)

Neither has anyone looked up what "rationalism" means when applied to Biblical scholarship.

Hint. Hint.

Our Founding Truth said...

Just sayin' it doesn't make it so.>

Just words? No. That cana quote by Franklin was easy to expose. Something tells me there are no more quotes by Franklin affirming "rational miracles". Flawed theories always have insufficient evidence for its (sp) support. One is a lonely number

Jonathan Rowe said...

Franklin was saying he believed in miracles consistent with the laws of nature. Lots of folks who believe in an intervening God to this day believe in this idea like when a baseball team "miraculously" makes that winning play or the recent plane landing in the Hudson. All consistent with the laws of nature and some believe as "miraculous." Others just as chance.

George Washington's getting shot at and having the bullets just miss him likewise is compatible with the idea of an intervening miracle performing Providence that performs miracles compatible with the laws of nature. Nothing flawed about this theory.

Jonathan Rowe said...

It might take me a little while to do the post on Middleton because I am still researching it. Dr. Frazer cites him as a progenitor of theistic rationalism. OFT has uncovered evidence connecting Adams to Middleton in, is it the 1790s?

Here is a passage on Middleton I found on googlebooks from a book written in 1906:

A volume of essays published after his death showed that Middleton was prepared to criticise the Apostles and Evangelists as fearlessly as he had criticised the Fathers. Peter and Paul were both capable on occasions of dissembling their dearest convictions. The Gospels exhibit irreconcilable discrepancies, proving their authors to have been uninspired and fallible, though honest historians. The gift of tongues did not imply a permanent mastery of foreign languages, and the New Testament is written in very bad Greek.1 More than a century was to elapse before an English clergyman could again express such opinions with impunity.

This perfectly describes the theistic rationalism of the key Founders. The Bible was partially inspired and fallible. Thus man's reason had to determine which parts were true, which weren't.

And remember Middleton was a man who argued against "deistic rationalism" for this "Christian rationalism" that saw the Bible as fallible, partially inspired and man's reason the determiner of the valid parts of the Bible, including which miracles occured and which didn't.

http://tinyurl.com/azalg9

So thanks OFT for providing some MORE evidence FOR theistic rationalism.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon:Franklin was saying he believed in miracles consistent with the laws of nature. Lots of folks who believe in an intervening God to this day believe in this idea like when a baseball team "miraculously" makes that winning play or the recent plane landing in the Hudson. All consistent with the laws of nature and some believe as "miraculous." Others just as chance.

No. that's not what a miracle is, regardless of what a person thinks. Franklin didn't believe in Jesus' miracles, or any miracles for that matter. He claimed the water at Cana was turned to wine by natural processes, not a miracle. Again, this shows the stupity of the theory:

"We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it." [bold face mine]

-Franklin, 1779, On the marriage at Cana.

Jon:Lots of folks who believe in an intervening God to this day believe in this idea like when a baseball team "miraculously" makes that winning play or the recent plane landing in the Hudson. All consistent with the laws of nature and some believe as "miraculous." Others just as chance.

This is all irrelevant fallacy. The question at hand is Franklin, and the marriage at Cana, which, as I exposed, he believed was not a miracle. Again, not one of the framers believed that flawed theory.

Jon:George Washington's getting shot at and having the bullets just miss him likewise is compatible with the idea of an intervening miracle performing Providence that performs miracles compatible with the laws of nature. Nothing flawed about this theory.

Do you even know what the word "Providence" means? It's certainly not a violation, or suspension of the laws of nature. A bullet missing a person is not a violation or suspension of the laws of nature. If the bullet stopped in mid-air, and went the opposite direction, that would be a miracle by God. Your Washington reference cannot be shown that God changed the direction of the bullets. If God did change the direction of the bullets, no one can tell; it wasn't supernatural. Most likely, Washington was fortunate, thus, it's irrelevant and fallacial to its reference pertaining to Franklin's beliefs. Washington was not a rationalist. God's will and sovereignty is not a violation or suspension of the laws of nature.

This is what the founding fathers believed was a miracle:

Webster's 1828
MIR''ACLE, n. [L. miraculum, from miror, to wonder.]

2. 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." [bold face mine]

Actions involving probability without violations of the known laws of nature are not miracles, no matter how hard you want them to be.

Middleton: "A volume of essays published after his death showed that Middleton was prepared to criticise the Apostles and Evangelists as fearlessly as he had criticised the Fathers. Peter and Paul were both capable on occasions of dissembling their dearest convictions. The Gospels exhibit irreconcilable discrepancies, proving their authors to have been uninspired and fallible, though honest historians. The gift of tongues did not imply a permanent mastery of foreign languages, and the New Testament is written in very bad Greek.1 More than a century was to elapse before an English clergyman could again express such opinions with impunity."

This only proves Middleton was not a Christian, and ignorant of the New Testament and the Greek is's written in.

Jom:This perfectly describes the theistic rationalism of the key Founders. The Bible was partially inspired and fallible. Thus man's reason had to determine which parts were true, which weren't.

None of the framers believed that made up word, and you can't post one quote affirming any of them, before they retired, believed that nonsense.

jimmiraybob said...

Tom: Neither has anyone looked up what "rationalism" means when applied to Biblical scholarship.

Hint. Hint.

OK OK!

Rationalism (1): Rationalism is the view that reason is the primary or sole basis for all knowledge. Rationalism contrasts with empiricism and its assertion that all knowledge comes from a person’s physical senses. There are various forms of rationalism, but pure rationalism asserts that true and certain knowledge of the world can be found, and the way to find this knowledge is through mental processes. Those who believe in rationalism often assert that people are born with innate ideas that are not affected by our day-to-day experiences.

Rationalism (2): A movement in the 18th century Protestantism which abandoned the idea of Biblical inerrancy and adopted the belief that the Bible can be analyzed as a historical document. Some Rationalists assert that the existence of some form of deity can be proven by reason.

Rationalism (3): the acceptance of reason as the test of truth.

Rationalism (4):

1) General (noun): the principle or habit of accepting reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct.

2) Philosophy a: the doctrine that reason alone is a source of knowledge and is independent of experience.

2) Philosophy b: (in the philosophies of Descartes, Spinoza, etc.) the doctrine that all knowledge is expressible in self-evident propositions or their consequences.

3) Theology. the doctrine that human reason, unaided by divine revelation, is an adequate or the sole guide to all attainable religious truth.

Rationalism (5): Biblical criticism, defined as the treatment of biblical texts as natural rather than supernatural artifacts, grew out of the rationalism of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Also (mostly for my reference)

a posteriori: A posteriori knowledge is knowledge that comes after experience or observation of the physical world. The term a posteriori means “from what comes later” and, thus, refers to knowledge that comes as a result of physical experience. For example, the statement “Whatever goes up must come down” appears to be knowledge based on experience.

a priori: The term a priori comes from the Latin language and means “prior to experience.” Thus, a priori knowledge is knowledge that exists before any experience with the physical world. The classic example of a priori truth is mathematics. The mathematical formulation “2+2=4” is said to be a priori because this truth comes from reflection alone and not from experience.

Empiricism: Empiricism is the view that all knowledge comes from sense experience. It is contrasted with rationalism, which claims that knowledge stems from innate ideas in the mind. Thus, with empiricism the five senses are the basis for knowledge. Empiricism is often viewed as being at the heart of the modern scientific method since it stresses observation of the physical world.

Naturalism: Naturalism is a worldview that assumes that the universe is a closed system in which matter and energy are the only realities. This perspective rules out the existence of any supernatural beings—including God, gods, angels, devils, and various other supernatural or preternatural beings such as ghosts, goblins, and poltergeists—and any supernatural activities. According to naturalism, the world operates according to natural laws in which there are series of causes and effects. Because the universe operates according to natural processes, there are no miracles or events that have any supernatural causes. Everything in the universe is subject to scientific study and verification.

Our Founding Truth said...

I can't wait for your new post.

Our Founding Truth said...

Thanks for the definitions Jimmiray!

I agree with all those definitions, especially rationalism (5) of the 18th century, what we are concerned with here on this blog.

Reason is king! Jefferson, Franklin, and Ethan Allen believed it, and rejected the supernatural.
Thanks again, Jimmiray

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thank you, jimmiraybob. Definition (2) is the one concerned with theology, specifically Christian theology, and we're discussing the Founders' theology.

It specifically took aim at the miracles; if the Founders accepted the miracles [and it appears Adams did in 1756 diary entry], they weren't rationalists.

Franklin's explanation of Cana sits astride the line. Wine was made from water, not rocks. Still, it might be a bridge too far for proper "rationalists."

jimmiraybob said...

Karen Armstrong (The Battle for God, p.69) highlights the 17th century clash between “the conservative spirit” – preservation of the mythos – and the modern spirit with its emphasis on naturalism – the logos:

Quoting Newton, “’Tis the temper of the hot and superstitious part of mankind in matters of religion, ‘he wrote irritably, ‘ever to be fond of mysteries & for that reason to like best what they understand least’

“Newton became almost obsessed with the desire to purge Christianity of its mystical doctrines. He became convinced that the a-rational dogmas of the Trinity and the Incarnation were the result of conspiracy, forgery, and chicanery [me: sound familiar]While working on his great book Philosophical Origins of Gentile Theology, which argued that Noah had founded a superstition-free religion in which there were no revealed scriptures, no mysteries, but only a Deity which could be known through the rational contemplation [emphasis mine] of the natural world.



“But Newton could only see the Trinity in rational terms, had no understanding of the role of myth, and was therefore obliged to jettison the doctrine.



“He was one of the very first people in the west to master fully the methods and disciplines of scientific rationalism [emphasis mine].”

End Quote

It seems that the commonality between all variations of the definition of rationalism is the acceptance of reason as the test of truth [see Rationalism (3) above] and that what separates theological rationalism from scientific rationalism and philosophical rationalism, etc., is what kind of evidence is to be used to evaluate the argument. In Newton’s case (and this seems awfully similar to a number of the “key” founding fathers being discussed):

Evidence - scientific contemplation (a priori, quasi Naturalism): acceptance of God outside of experience with the natural/observable world – assumes a metaphysical (principles of reality transcending those of any particular science) origin or ultimate cause – but using rational contemplation of the natural world.

Evidence - scientific rationalism (a posteriori, empirical naturalism): the method is to advance a hypothesis, empirically test the hypothesis (experimentation), findings consistent with a rational examination of a natural (non-supernatural) cosmos – excludes metaphysical speculation about origins or ultimate causes.

I would call Adams, Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, etc., rationalists in that reason was always – always – advocated to discern truth, whether contemplating God and religion or the science of government and politics (as Adams would say.)

In contemplating what it means to be a rationalist in light of most, if not all, of the FFs general acceptance, if not embrace, of a God (in a Deist sense or Theist sense), I’ve become a bit more sympathetic to the term theistic rationalist. But maybe a better term to broadly describe the FFs might be something along the lines of “rational empirical materialists with varying degrees of theistic leanings from Deist to Orthodox Christian to Unitarian and more, all of which varied in time and space and upon occasion, and who rationally contemplated God and religion and devised a secular framework for government in order to protect both the churches of various sects and the state from each other".

Admittedly not as easy to use at the pub as “theistic rationalist” or “deist” or “theist” but I think it gets the proportions just about right.

I'm afraid that I don't see this as much of a boost for Christian Nationalism but it does seem to help clarify, at least in my mind, the FFs fostering of a public religion to help instill public virtue for those needing an extra incentive. A not altogether uncommon tactic (to varying degree and in varying form) in governments of all ages.

I really have to thank everybody hear for helping me to evaluate the various ideas and insights regarding government and religion in general and the founding period in particular and for steering me to the various primary documents that I probably never would have gotten around to reading. And please don't abandon the snark and rancor altogether - I can only imagine this as a microcosm of 17th & 18th century America.

Now, back to the tedious and mundane world.

jimmiraybob said...

And by "hear" I most certainly meant "here". Duh.

jimmiraybob said...

Definition (2) is the one concerned with theology, specifically Christian theology, and we're discussing the Founders' theology...they weren't rationalists.

I think there should be a definition menu on the side to order from (...and therefore, based on #2 and #6 and a modified #12 - see end note for modification, I believe that....).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, (2) has to do with theology, which is our topic. One can shoehorn anyone with a brain in his head into the other definitions.

Rene Descartes was the father of rationalism and remained a devout Catholic. Theistic rationalist.

Our Founding Truth said...

Well, (2) has to do with theology, which is our topic. One can shoehorn anyone with a brain in his head into the other definitions.

Tom:Rene Descartes was the father of rationalism and remained a devout Catholic. Theistic rationalist.

This is my point jimmiray, put forth by a much better writer than I. It doesn't matter what label we apply to someone. Descarte was a rationalist, but called himself a catholic. Hitler called himself a catholic.

Christianity, true Christianity, is sola scriptura.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Christianity, true Christianity, is sola scriptura.

Put a sock in this stuff, willya, Jim? It's a truth claim, which is out of bounds, and besides, it completely destroys your thesis, as whatever the Founders were, you won't be able to prove the critical mass were sola scripturists.

Our Founding Truth said...

Tom:you won't be able to prove the critical mass were sola scripturists

Of course I can't prove that, but that isn't the issue. I don't need to prove it, and you know it! Once these protestants claimed to be Christians, which we have their words, my work is done. It's the other side that needs to prove they rejected sola scriptura, with their words.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Once these protestants claimed to be Christians, which we have their words, my work is done. It's the other side that needs to prove they rejected sola scriptura, with their words.

You are living in your own fantasy land of burdens of proof. Once Protestants claim to be Christian that proves no more than they are "Christians" in the Gene Robinson or Bishop Spong sense, the latter two being pro-homosexual or homosexuals themselves who deny Jesus' divinity, the Trinity, the infallibility of the Bible, miracles, eternal damnation, and everything else that defines the "Christianity" you hold dear. This is what it means to be a "Protestant Christian" in name only.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon:You are living in your own fantasy land of burdens of proof. Once Protestants claim to be Christian that proves no more than they are "Christians" in the Gene Robinson or Bishop Spong sense, the latter two being pro-homosexual or homosexuals themselves who deny Jesus' divinity, the Trinity, the infallibility of the Bible, miracles, eternal damnation, and everything else that defines the "Christianity" you hold dear. This is what it means to be a "Protestant Christian" in name only.

Who gave you the authority to judge a person's heart? Who gave you the authority to judge who is a Christian? Who gave you the authority to assume without clear, and proper evidence such as: explicit words denying Christian fundamentals, always refusing communion, and habitual sinful living, to support the claim someone is not a Christian?

Jonathan Rowe said...

Who gave you the authority to judge a person's heart? Who gave you the authority to judge who is a Christian? Who gave you the authority to assume without clear, and proper evidence such as: explicit words denying Christian fundamentals, always refusing communion, and habitual sinful living, to support the claim someone is not a Christian?

And I can ask the exact same questions of you. I've got bad news for you: If belief in the infallibility of the Bible is one of the "fundamentals" of the "Christian" faith, most self professed Christians today (according to opinion polls) deny this fundamental and you have NO PROOF whatsoever that the majorithy of self professed Christiasn of the Founding era believed in such. The only reason why this is considered a "fundamental" is because a small minority of "folks in charge" of Church hierarchies deemed it to be so.

Our Founding Truth said...

deny this fundamental and you have NO PROOF whatsoever that the majorithy of self professed Christiasn of the Founding era believed in such.>

If someone says their a Christian, I believe them until I see otherwise. You on the otherhand, judge a person without even hearing them. You already claim no one is what they say until they prove it. God help you if you publish these feelings. What other secularist believes judging people without proper evidence?

The only reason why this is considered a "fundamental" is because a small minority of "folks in charge" of Church hierarchies deemed it to be so.>

No. The Bible is infallible because it specifically says it's the word of God.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ugh. You've just quoted the textbook tautology, that the Bible is true because it says it is. Mercy!

Our Founding Truth said...

deny this fundamental and you have NO PROOF whatsoever that the majorithy of self professed Christiasn of the Founding era believed in such.>

It's impossible to determine if every framer was an orthodox Christian, but for most of them, we have their words they believed in the Bible, and the Gospel. Does that evidence support they were heterodox? Does taking communion support heterodoxy? Did the majority take communion?

I would be embarrassed to my family if I judged a person wasn't a Christian who hasn't made it clearly known. I can't believe you think like that.

Our Founding Truth said...

Tom:You've just quoted the textbook tautology, that the Bible is true because it says it is.

I don't know why you mentioned that but, what other book foretells the future perfectly? Only the bible, that's why it can be used to claim it's authenticity. Not one prophecy has ever been refuted. The Bible says, "Test me"

Of course, the Bible is not the only book to claim divine inspiration, but it is unique in that it offers substantial evidence to back its claims. It even goes so far as to challenge its readers to put it to the test, exhorting us to "Test all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

As man by himself is unable to foresee future events, prophecy is a reasonable indicator of supernatural inspiration. The Bible purports to contain more than a thousand inspired prophecies. The vast majority of these prophecies have already come to pass and can be verified by secular history. Consider, for example, Ezekiel's prophecies concerning God's judgment against the ancient Phoenician capital of Tyre (Ezekiel, chapter 26). The prophecy states that Tyre would first be razed by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Later, it would be utterly destroyed by a coalition of nations, flattened like the top of a rock, its ruins (and even its dust) scraped and thrown into the sea, becoming a place for fishermen to spread their nets. The surrounding nations would witness Tyre's fate and surrender without a fight. It's a rather odd prophecy. Amazingly, the conditions of Ezekiel's prophecy were fulfilled, even to the tiniest detail. Nebuchadnezzar sacked Tyre. Later, Alexander the Great led a coalition of nations against Tyre, demolished it, scraped it to bedrock and threw its ruins into the sea. The ancient site became (and remains to this day) a place for local fishermen to spread their nets to dry. (For secular confirmation, see General History for Colleges and High Schools, Boston, Ginn & Co., p. 55).
http://www.allabouttruth.org/is-the-bible-true-c.htm

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jim, the truth claims of and for the Bible or of any religion have no place here. Please, man, desist.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jim, the truth claims of and for the Bible or of any religion have no place here. Please, man, desist.>

I agree brother. If anyone attacks the bible, they better be able to back it up. When is Jon's post coming on? I'm looking forward to it

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

I feel quite confident with my claims. I think most people, especially most "born again Christians" understand that simply identifying as a "Christian" in a broad sense, as for instance Barack Obama does, and Mormons do, and I can go on and on, does little if anything to demonstrate someone is "born again" and/or believes the Bible the inerrant, infallible "Word of God."

When someone tells me they are a "Christian" I don't judge them. All it means to me is they identify as a "Christian," period. For all I know they could be an open and practicing homosexual abortion doctor, a proud and unapologetic porn star, a Protestant fundamentalist like you, a doctrinaire Roman Catholic, a Mormon, or believe exactly as Thomas Jefferson did (who likewise called himself a Christian). We need more than a person simply identifying as a "Christian" to conclude ANYTHING beyond this. Few folks now or ever passed your Protestant fundamentalist "fundamentals" of Christianity test. And YOU should know this as your religion teaches its ways is a "narrow path."

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Did the majority take communion?"

We have NO EVIDENCE that the majority of FFs took communion. Studies have shown that as few as 17% (or even lower) were even members of Churches. And Hamilton never joined a church and didn't take communion till his DEATH bed.

bpabbott said...

OFT: "I don't know why you mentioned that but, what other book foretells the future perfectly?"

With a statement like that you're taking quite a chance.

Do you claim to be able to reliably decipher Biblical prophecy?

... or is this, claim of yours, a statement of faith? Meaing you believe it, but posses no factual knowledge substantiating it?

bpabbott said...

JimmiRayBob,

I wanted to thank you for the information regarding Newton. I had not known of his position on mystical doctrines.

Our Founding Truth said...

We need more than a person simply identifying as a "Christian" to conclude ANYTHING beyond this.>

No, if we do need more information, wait until you get it! Don't assume anything! It isn't right or fair! It's not right to judge someone like that.

bpabbott said...

Jon: "When someone tells me they are a "Christian" I don't judge them. All it means to me is they identify as a "Christian," period. For all I know they could be an open and practicing homosexual abortion doctor, a proud and unapologetic porn star, a Protestant fundamentalist like you, a doctrinaire Roman Catholic, a Mormon, or believe exactly as Thomas Jefferson did (who likewise called himself a Christian). We need more than a person simply identifying as a "Christian" to conclude ANYTHING beyond this."
[the empasis of Jon's words is mine]

OFT responds: "No, if we do need more information, wait until you get it! Don't assume anything! It isn't right or fair! It's not right to judge someone like that."
[the empasis of OFT's words is mine]

No? ... really? ... your response is "No"?

What is it you are disagreeing with here?

OFT, do you imply that we should accept all who claim to be Christians as "born again" until there is more information to indicate otherwise?

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT, do you imply that we should accept all who claim to be Christians as "born again" until there is more information to indicate otherwise?

He should try to sell this to the members of the fundamentalist Church to which he belongs and see their reaction.

It would be exhibit A in how the "Christian Nation" thesis corrupts the purity of the orthodox Christian (esp. of the evangelical bent) religion. Dr. Frazer understands this. OFT does not.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"It is ironic, then, that evangelicals—so focused on the 'true' history—have neglected their own. Indeed, the one group that would almost certainly oppose the views of 21st-century evangelicals are the 18th-century evangelicals. [...] In state after state, when colonists and Americans met to debate the relationship between God and government, it was the proto-evangelicals who pushed the more radical view that church and state should be kept far apart. Both secular liberals who sneer at the idea that evangelicals could ever be a positive influence in politics and Christian conservatives who want to knock down the 'wall' should take note: It was the 18th-century evangelicals who provided the political shock troops for Jefferson and Madison in their efforts to keep government from strong involvement with religion."

Apr. 2006 - Steven Waldman

Ray said...

He should try to sell this to the members of the fundamentalist Church to which he belongs and see their reaction.>

Whatever Jon, you can judge however you want. You're the one whose going to get hurt. If you want to find out if someone is truly a child of God, ask them. If you want to judge people off the cuff, go for it. See what heat you bring on yourself.

The people at my church, most likely every Orthodox Christian Church, and myself, do not judge people before discerning the facts.

Brian Tubbs said...

Have enjoyed skimming this debate. Over 100 posts. Wow.

I'll say this for OFT. He knows how to stimulate a good discussion! :-)

One of Adams' quotes jumped out at me. I think Jon posted it. It's where Adams seems to associate himself with "liberal unitarian Christians."

I don't mean to offend anyone. I really don't, but I can't help but observe that this strikes me as a conflict in terms.

It's like one fellow I spoke with a while back, who described himself as a "libertarian socialist." Come again???

Now, again, I'm not trying to insult or judge anyone. Please don't take it that way, but I think it's legit to point out some contradictions in terminology and logic.

Classically, a "Christian" is one who embraced the Deity of Jesus Christ and declared himself or herself to be a follower of Jesus. That's not based on Pastor Brian's closed-minded judgmentalism (I'm anticipating such an accusation from Pinky - he and I have been down this road before). Rather, it's based on the ORIGINAL UNDERSTANDING of the term "Christian."

A "Unitarian" is one who rejects the Deity of Jesus, though some unitarians are open to Jesus being some type of divinely-ordained figure in history.

So, to call oneself a "Unitarian Christian" (and esp when you throw the adjective "liberal" in there) really strikes me as a contradiction.

What's the relevance of all this?

I think John Adams wrestled with these contradictions for many years. In Washington's case, you've got someone who I think settled into a certain belief system and stuck with it. Whereas Adams openly wrestled with his ideas, even changing and flexing some of them over time.

Where did Adams ultimatley end up?

Only God knows. But it's fun to speculate.

Ray said...

Brian:Have enjoyed skimming this debate. Over 100 posts. Wow.

Hey Brian, thanks for the props, I was hopeing (sp) for 100 posts. Thanks to Jon, Tom, BP, and everyone else for the participation! Let's try to get some more people involved, and hit 200 posts!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Brian, "unitarian Christian" might trouble you, but Christian Unitarian is properly descriptive, giving Jesus and the Bible some special role in the cosmic scheme of things without making Jesus into God.

Such folks, and not a few of them, existed.

Raven said...

Brian says:

I'll say this for OFT. He knows how to stimulate a good discussion! :-)

I wish he would stimulate somewhere else...OFT is worthless. How about he goes and stimulates himself. I'm sure that thinking about the founders makes him get "stimulated."

Our Founding Truth said...

OFT, do you imply that we should accept all who claim to be Christians as "born again" until there is more information to indicate otherwise?>

Of course! If you tell me you're a plumber, am I supposed to say, "no you're not, BP!" Now, if we talk about it, and we go over what a plumber is, and you say "by plumber I mean working with pipes on an organ." I can say most likely you're not a plumber, right?

You guys can pre-judge people all you want, it's only going to hurt yourselves.

That Raven isn't banned says a lot about whose running this show!

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

I just said I don't judge anyone who calls himself a Christian. If someone is a devout Mormon, a homosexual abortion doctor, a Protestant fundamentalist like you or a cafeteria Roman Catholic and they want to call themselves "Christian," for my own personal purposes they are "Christians." I don't think you can get LESS judgmental than that. Rather I'm taking the strict historical standard that Brian offers -- and indeed for historical purposes it IS defensible -- and seeing how folks match up. Given that so many people who clearly FLUNK that standard nonetheless THINK of themselves and present themselves as "Christians" I make the reasonable presumption that merely presenting oneself as a Christian does little or nothing to indicate they are an orthodox Trinitarian Christian who believes the Bible the infallible Word of God.

What YOU want to do is use the phenomenon of broad, nominal identifactory Christianity to attempt to claim as many of the Founders as you can because of your FAITH in America as a Christian Nation with little evidence to back it up.

You ignore the fact that lots of the FFs thought of themselves as "Christians" while rejecting many if not all of the tenets of orthodoxy that is supposed to define what it means to be a "mere Christian" to folks like you. The fact the 2nd & 3rd Presidents of the US clearly fit this bill and the 1st & 4th offer no smoking guns of "orthodoxy" (thus very well may have been "unitarians" like Jefferson and J. Adams) speaks volumes to this dynamic.

bpabbott said...

OFT/Ray: "Who is Ray? Cyberspace got crossed up."

You're not fooling anyone.

bpa: "OFT, do you imply that we should accept all who claim to be Christians as "born again" until there is more information to indicate otherwise?"

OFT/Ray replies: "Of course! If you tell me you're a plumber, am I supposed to say, "no you're not, BP!" Now, if we talk about it, and we go over what a plumber is, and you say "by plumber I mean working with pipes on an organ." I can say most likely you're not a plumber, right?"

This isn't fooling anyone either. The founders never made a claim as to the specifics of what they qualified as a "Christian". They certainly never mentioned "born again" ... that is your definition.

The nominal/default meaning of Christian does not include "born again". Born again has a defintion of its own.

OFT/Ray: "You guys can pre-judge people all you want, it's only going to hurt yourself."

It is your claim/judgement that when the founders used the term "Christian" they intended "born again" that is met with skepticism. To question such is not congruent with judging the founders. It is congruent with questioning your unsubtantiated claims.

Brian Tubbs said...

I have to agree with Jon Rowe on the point of evaluating the "Christian" identity of some of the leading Founders. If one denies the deity of Jesus or the resurrection of Jesus, he/she is NOT a Christian - in any meaningful, historical sense of the term.

And, when you look at the leading Founders, you have to acknowledge that Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and certainly Thomas Paine all denied or expressed serious reservations with the concept of Jesus' deity and bodily resurrection.

Where I disagree with Jon is that I'm not prepared to throw George Washington into that category.

And I also believe that, based on the criteria for "Christian" as given above, MOST of the signers of the Declaration and Constitution WOULD fit the criteria. It's only some of the leading ones that would not.

Our Founding Truth said...

Brian:I have to agree with Jon Rowe on the point of evaluating the "Christian" identity of some of the leading Founders. If one denies the deity of Jesus or the resurrection of Jesus, he/she is NOT a Christian - in any meaningful, historical sense of the term.

Then, you agree that no one is a Christian until you speak with them, and someone writes down their beliefs adhering (sp) to inerrancy?

Pinky said...

.
Here, we see an example of judgmental puritanism as it exists in the twenty-first century.
.
Once you get Brian's answer to your point about what it takes to be a "Christian", OFT, will you then figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
.
There is nothing like the sanctimonious.

Pinky said...

.
There is nothing like the sanctimonious.
.
But, that's beside the point, isn't it?
.
For the point is, that we are being exposed to a Christian Nationalist in OFT and, further, his actions prove why the Founding Fathers decided to ensure that we not be saddled with a legally Christian nation. Laws would define the identity of Christians as you see OFT's attempt to define what they are in his posts. Maybe OFT should take the Fifth?
.
I heard someone speaking on this subject today on the radio. Sorry, I didn't get the name so I cannot give a reference. But, his point was that once religion is in control of the political process, the opposition to any choices has to blame the religion and, that would hurt religion.
.
.

Brian Tubbs said...

Pink and OFT, I'm not saying a person must agree with me in order to be a Christian. I am not the standard of who is or who is not a Christian.

But truth is not relative, and definitions should come into play here. The term "Christian" may mean different things to different people today, but the term meant something fairly specific at the time of its ORIGIN.

I'm not applying "21st century puritanism" here. A person can call himself a "Martian" for all I care. And a person can worship in whatever church or mosquoe or synagogue or whatever he/she wishes -- or NOT worship. That's up to them. Not up to me.

But is it not valid for me to point out the historical meaning of the term "Christian"?????

David said...

Adams and Jefferson and almost every other American during that time was following in the footsteps of John Locke and Dr. David Hartley...both empiricists with rationalistic tendencies when it came to ethics. What then was their "religion"? Locke's bestfriend summed it up (Shaftesbury I) when he stated, "All wise men belong to the same religion." When asked what religion that was, he replied, "Wise men don't tell." Sure deism was heavily influenced by Locke, but so was Freemasonry and atheism. Jefferson in one letter to Adams even encouraged him to read the Kabbalah to understand the Bible and the word of Jesus. Btw..JEfferson also argued the translation of "Word" in the Bible should have been translated as "Reason". For Jefferson "God was Reason" and God created the world with his "Reason", therefore the world and God had to be rationalist. This isn't your "Jewish" God(s) in the Bible and isn't Christian either. Any scholar will tell you the Bible has been tampered with over the years and you shouldn't use it to make your judgements. (For one example, in the old testament three words are translated from Hebrew into English as "Lord", these three different words were names of three different gods. The Jews were not monistic as Christians would like to believe.) Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin all perceived themselves as "philosophers"...Jefferson being the president of the American philosophy society jointly with being president of the U.S. So which "Christian" religion are you trying to peg Adams too? Calvanism or Puritan? He rejected orignial sin, so wasn't a Calvanist, but was raised a Puritan. Maybe someone should take the time to read some real philosophical papers instead of mass media garbage. Try Young John Adams and the New Philosophic Rationalism. Btw...Rationalism was a word being used in the 18th century. Anyone familar with the works of Christian Wolff would know in his works he tries to blend empiricism and rationalism together (this in the 1740's). If anyone wants to understand "empiricism" and "rationalsim"...imagine reducing everything you know back to what is "actuaL". Words are just symbols for what our senses detect and we are all born "blank". The moment we become "aware" of our bodies, our brains start building up memories of these senses. So every word can be traced back to a sense. These are the only "real" things. Words or in other words, imaginary thoughts are not. The Bible is only real for those who actually experienced it...for everyone else it is imaginary. Now you can take something out of the Bible and relate it to something you have actually experienced, then it becomes valuable. Unless I have witnessed a miracle, it being described is worthless as just words. Rationalism is very close to this as well, except they take account for the "powers" used to detect and use the senses. You could think of them like animal instincts. For example, as Locke explains the only evil is "pain". Every association we have of evil, there is pain involved. If not, it wouldn't be evil. Thus in our minds we associate painful things with words such as evil or bad. As all things are created to prefer pleasure over pain, then you could say we are created to desire good over evil, but the reality is we desire pleasant sensations over painful ones. Now if God created us to do the opposite, then God wouldn't be rational or psycho. If someone was inflicting pain on themselves, say by cutting their wrists, we lock them up. Besides why would God create us this way (to shun pain) and then want us to inflict pain or seek pain inorder to serve him? This is irrational and goes against everything else in his creation. Now for those hedonists out there..to much pleasure always results in pain in the end, so pleasure can be evil too. You have to seek the "higher" pleasures---being virteous according to Jefferson and Cicero. For more on this see Tully's "Tusculan Discourses"...a book Adams quotes from on a regular basis, much more than from the Bible. Hope this helps....

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