Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tillman Keeps Stone on His Toes

A while ago I blogged about University of Chicago Law Prof. Geoff Stone's Law Review article on the "Christian Nation" controversy. You can read Stone's article here.

Seth Barrett Tillman kindly alerted me to his working paper responding to Stone found here.

A few words on Tillman's critique of Stone. First, Tillman specializes in meticulous fact checking detail; he's an expert footnoter. But parts of his paper come off as a little too pedantic. Still I found much of value in those footnotes.

I think the overall criticism Tillman directs at Stone is valid and that is Stone -- like his "Christian Nation" opponents -- overstates his case, and otherwise does not specifically enough define concepts or fully develop his thesis.

Here is the first passage of Stone's at which Tillman takes aim:

Indeed, it is quite striking, and certainly no accident, that unlike the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the U.S. Constitution made no reference whatsoever to God and cited as its primary source of authority not "the word of God," but "We the People." The stated purpose of the Constitution was not to create a "Government established to God," not to establish a "Christian nation," but rather to create a secular state. The only reference to religion in the original Constitution prohibited the use of any religious test for holding office, and the First Amendment made clear that there "would be no Church of the United States."4


Here is how Tillman responds to this argument, first in footnote 4:

4 Id. at 5. How is it "striking" that the Constitution of 1787 stylistically veered from the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut -- an instrument 150 years older than the Constitution at the time of ratification? Is not the relevant benchmark how the Constitution veered from contemporaneous instruments of a similar character? See infra note 5.


Maybe "striking" is too strong a word; but Stone's original comparison is apt. The FOC and some other original colonial charters demonstrate what a "Christian" government looks like. It explicitly cites the Bible and the Christian religion as authority and makes a covenant to the Triune God. All these are missing from the US Constitution. That may not make the US Constitution a document of ideal secularism; but it does make the US Constitution not a "Christian" document. The US Constitution differs in principle from the earlier explicitly Christian colonial charters in this very meaningful sense.

Next Tillman responds to Stone's claim that the US Constitution makes no reference whatsoever to God:

....Is it true that the text makes "no reference whatsoever to God"? Is it true that the "only reference to religion" in the original unamended text was the Religious Test Clause? To me at least, these seem to be an unusually strong set of (textual) claims for a law review article: claims lacking recognition of ambiguity and contrary points of view.


Tillman then talks about how the Attestation Clause mentions God and here is his footnote 5 which summarizes his research on such other contemporenous clauses:

5 U.S. CONST. art. VII, cl. 2 (Attestation Clause). See generally Seth Barrett Tillman, Humanities and Social Sciences Net Online, Constitution's References to God (Nov. 3, 2003), http://tinyurl.com/7h63no (noting potential significance of dual dating in Article VII) (last visited Jan. 26, 2009); EDWIN MEESE ET AL., THE HERITAGE GUIDE TO THE CONSTITUTION 301-02 (2005) (same). But see Steven D. Smith, Our Agnostic Constitution, 83 N.Y.U. L. REV. 120, 125 n.19 (2008) (stating that "[t]he reference to 'the Year of our Lord' simply employed the conventional dating method of the era....") (emphasis added). What is important to note here is that Professor Smith's view is neither an interpretation of a legal instrument nor a (pure) legal intuition; rather, it is his understanding of an eighteenth century cultural convention or folkway. Because his opinion here is one unrelated to legal expertise, it is entitled to no special deference. In other words, although Professor Smith's position is common wisdom, early American legal materials, in fact, used a variety of dating conventions. Simply put, there was no single "conventional dating method." See, e.g., Articles of Association of 1774 (dated "In Congress, Philadelphia, October 20, 1774"); Declaration of Independence (dated "July 4, 1776"); Delaware Constitution of 1776 (dated "Friday, September 10, 1776"); New Hampshire Constitution of 1776 (dated "January 5, 1776"); New Jersey Constitution of 1776 (dated "July 2, 1776"); North Carolina Constitution of 1776 (dated "December the eighteenth, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six"); Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 (dated "Passed in Convention the 28th day of September, 1776"); South Carolina Constitution of 1776 (dated "March 26, 1776"); Virginia Constitution of 1776 (not internally dated); New York Constitution of 1777 (dated "20th April, 1777"); Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 (not internally dated). This is not to say that the dating convention used in the Constitution of 1787 was new. It was not. See Articles of Confederation of 1777 (using the same dating convention later used in the Constitution of 1787); Georgia Constitution of1777 (dated "in convention, the fifth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven, and in the first year of the Independence of the United States of America"); cf. Maryland Constitution of 1776 (dated "14th day of August, anno domini 1776"). Of course, neither Connecticut nor Rhode Island and Providence Plantations had revolutionary era state constitutions. (The quoted material is available on The Avalon Project-Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy: 18th Century Documents: 1700-1799, http://tinyurl.com/bej4nt (last visited Jan. 30, 2009), on The Constitution Society, http://www.constitution.org/ (last visited Jan. 30, 2009), and on Constitutions of the World Online/The Rise of Modern Constitutionalism 1776-1849, http://tinyurl.com/c3aecy (last visited Feb. 12, 2009).)


So after that big footnote, the entirety of which I didn't even reproduce (there was a second, smaller paragraph), we are left with "in the year of our Lord" was not *the* convention, but *a* common convention. But make no mistake, that's all it was. A more balanced way to make Stone's claim would note the Constitution does not mention God other than in the most nominal perfunctory way. And the fact that the original US Constitution accomodates those nominal conventional references to the people's common religion is instructive of the softer secularism of the American Founding. It was not the harsh take no prisoners secularism of the French Revolution, but more moderate. That nuance is missing from Stone's paper. Likewise the failure to see how the US Constitution comes from a different philosophical mindset than that of the FOC is the nuance missing from the "Christian America" crowd's understanding of history.

On to Tillman's second major critique:

Nowhere in Professor Stone's article is there any discussion of the arguments or any acknowledgment, by name, of the persons he is opposing. He asserts that someone somewhere has made the argument that America is a "Christian nation." He cites, but does not quote, a single article in The New York Times20 (ostensibly, not by one of his intellectual opponents, but merely by a reporter reporting on events) and two books,21 the more recent of which dates from 1987 -- over twenty years ago. ...


Okay, maybe Stone could have done a better job naming names; but the figures to whom he responds do exist and continue to be quite influential in certain corners, especially among homeschoolers and megachurches. You could look at the work of Chris Rodda for the exact names, dates, and footnotes. The crowd is led by David Barton, the late D. James Kennedy, Peter Marshall, William Federer and others. I think I can safely list the late Kennedy as currently relevant because his Coral Ridge Program continues to run Christian Nation programs featuring DJK in almost a morose "Weekend at Bernie's" way.

In footnote 19, Tillman criticizes Stone for writing:

Indeed, as we shall see, many of the leaders of the Revolutionary generation were not Christians in any traditional sense. They were [by contrast?] broad-minded intellectuals....


To which Tillman responds in that very footnote:

Such claims as this are not capable of falsification or validation in any meaningful sense. It strikes me that this is an unnecessarily contentious pseudo-religious-type claim.


I agree that the second phrase (broad-minded intellectuals?) was kind of a silly phrase. However the first point has something to it. Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin wrote the Declaration of Independence and they rejected virtually every single tenet of orthodox Christianity (while strangely enough thinking of themselves as "Christians"). Likewise there is good reason to believe Washington, Madison, G. Morris, Hamilton and others were not orthodox Christians but pick your term ("Christian-Deists," "unitarians," "theistic rationalists"). The same can be said of many notable patriotic preachers (Jonathan Mayhew, Charles Chauncy, Samuels West and Cooper, and others).

Broadly understood this is a kind of "Protestant Christianity." However, the problem is, the aforementioned expositors of the "Christian Nation" idea don't define "Christianity" broadly. To the contrary, if you aren't an orthodox Trinitarian Christian, indeed a "born again" Christian, then you aren't a "Christian."

Folks like David Barton will give lectures to megachurches (for instance Robert Jeffress' of Texas and MANY others) arguing America was founded to be a "Christian Nation" and almost all of the Founders were "serious Christians." The next day pastors like Jeffress will give sermons on how "Mormons aren't Christians." Well sorry, if Mormons aren't Christians then neither are most of the "key Founding Fathers," the men whose faces grace US Currency and played leading roles during the American Founding. I agree it's currently impossible to determine what a majority of the 200 or so Founding Fathers were. We only know what the key Founders believed by meticulously examining their public and private writings. And even there GW, JM and others were good at covering their tracts, while TJ, JA and BF were not. On the surface TJ was, like GW a vestryman in the Anglican Church. If TJ didn't play such a big role, folks like Barton would look at his church membership and their respective creed and conclude TJ was an "orthodox Trinitarian Christian," when, as we know, TJ hated the Trinity. My friends and I have meticulously examined James Wilson's "Works" for his evidence of his creed. We've found evidence of Locke, Aquinas (thru Hooker), and Scottish Enlightenment in there. But still haven't found ONE of his private letters where he talks about his personal religious creed.

Towards the end of the paper Tillman criticizes Stone for not sufficiently establishing "Deism's" influence on the Founding (and I agree that Stone overstates the influence of "strict Deism"). In particular even if Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and Paine were "Deists" (I'd argue only Paine was) Stone still didn't established how their Deism impacted the US Constitution. As Tillman writes:

It has happened from time to time that religious men have worked towards pluralistic (and, even, secular) political orders. It has also happened from time to time that irreligious men have served inquisitors (of religious and secular varieties). The fact that the five Americans discussed by Stone may have been Deists, only, at best, opens as a possibility for our enquiry what they intended to build, what they hoped to achieve. So although it is a possibility that their religious or philosophical sensibilities influenced their political views, as to how the Constitution should be drafted, as to how the new Republic should be ordered, it is not self-evident that it did influence them.


I'll not defend Stone on this one but note that scholars as diverse as Gregg Frazer, Gary North, Thomas Pangle and Cushing Strout have detailed the connection between the key FFs' personal religious creed and Founding political theology. Note, all of the above understand that creed to be not quite Deism, but not orthodox Christianity. For more see these two past posts of mine.

This creed, warmer than strict Deism, thought quite highly of "religion" but was so ecumenical that it transcended not just "orthodox Christianity," but "Christianity" itself and embraced "true religion" in a general sense. True religion was that which was voluntarily undertaken and that which produced virtue. It was something on which "all good men" could agree. As such all good men were "Christians" regardless of whether they knew it or consciously accepted Christ. The FFs could be quite secretive about this heterodox sentiment but left their footprint of this heterodoxy in the original Constitution by not establishing Christianity, by forbidding religious tests and consequently by protecting "religion" not "Christianity." As Dr. Gregg Frazer put it in his PhD thesis:

It is difficult for those who believe in the importance of fundamental doctrines and a specific road to Heaven (for example, the Puritans in seventeenth-century New England) to allow “false” and “blasphemous” religions to be practiced within their sphere of authority. For the theistic rationalists [his term for the creed of America's key Founders coined to distiguish it from Deism and Christianity--JR], however, what was really important was not the flourishing of religious truth, but the flourishing of morality and society. Since they held to no particular creed but “essentials” to which “all good men” could agree, they had a profound indifference toward specific sects and doctrines. (PhD thesis, at 417-18).


Anyway be sure to check out the rest of Tillman's paper; it has many other important insights in there.

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tillman makes some good points (oaths) and some weaker ones (religious test).

As to Stone, he does probably go too far. I don't think it can be shown that the founders intended a completely secular government, completely absent of religious references, but neither can it be shown that they intended the nation to have the same level of religion/secularity forever that it had in 1789. The colonies had been progressively shifting toward more secularism (the Orders of Connecticut were far more explicitly religious than later state charters and constitutions) and the mostly godless Constitution was another step in that shift, which also continued with the disestablishment of the state churches.

So even if America started out with some church in the state, I don't think it goes against the founders' intentions to become more secular.

Though I don't think we really have become much more secular, if at all, in our federal government since then. They didn't give Thanksgiving proclamations every year back then as is done now. Not every presidential speech ended with a "God bless America" as it does now. There was no National Day of Prayer back then. No "In God We Trust" or "Under God." No "So Help Me God." The only thing I can think of more churchy then than now was when they held services in the House. But then that was discontinued as well.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thank you for this, as I was just reading Thomas Jefferson's thoughts on separation of church and state this morning...

I have an appointment so I need to come back to this to read it more thoroughly.

Several years ago, our university had the honors college students read "Is America A Christian Nation" (that may not be the official title). I did not realize that there was this ongoing discussion. But, I did know that there was/is a movement under way under the name of "the Restoration Movement", that really appalls me. As my husband teaches at a chrstian university, this is an important debate for us to understand.

Thank you.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Joseph Story, a Supreme Court justice and perhaps the first serious constitutional scholar, writes in 1833 that although most of the states were still pretty religious, if they had Christian-ed up the constitution, states like Virginia wouyld have been unable to ratify it, as it would have conflicted with their own laws and charters.

Looking for "God" in the constitution is a fool's errand. It wasn't that kind of party.

To the first two commenters, I would caution against reading Thomas Jefferson as "The Founders." He kept most of his more radical religious opinions private. It's true he wanted the future to at least be more "unitarian" [disbelieving that Jesus is God], but he's not the last word on the subject.

Jon, although the declaration was written by some of the least orthodox-ly religious among the Founders, [the Continental] Congress did add 2 references to God. So when an atheist website writes

"The first problem is that the Declaration of Independence refers to a “Creator” and not the Christian “God” meant by people making the argument."

...it is patent nonsense that the Continental Congress [which even invoked the name of "Jesus Christ" in its proclamations on occasion] took that "creator" to mean anything but the God of the Bible.

Yes, you can keep D. James Kennedy and his fringe-y church alive for your purposes, but there is misinformation about the Founding on all sides of the issue.

Anonymous said...

Tom Van Dyke said..
Joseph Story, a Supreme Court justice and perhaps the first serious constitutional scholar, writes in 1833 that although most of the states were still pretty religious, if they had Christian-ed up the constitution, states like Virginia wouyld have been unable to ratify it, as it would have conflicted with their own laws and charters.

Looking for "God" in the constitution is a fool's errand. It wasn't that kind of party.
This conflicts with your other point that God was mentioned in the DOI. Of course, the framers could have mentioned "Creator" in the Constitution without mentioning Christianity just like the DOI.

And the God of the DOI may not have been exclusively the Christian god since Jefferson did recognize the right of conscience of "infidels."

Amendment I (Religion): Thomas Jefferson, AutobiographyBut even if the god of the DOI was meant to be the god of the Bible, it wasn't necessarily the orthodox Christian version of god, which of course Jefferson rejected.

That's another hurdle the Christian Nationists must overcome since they aren't the type to include non-orthodox sects (like todays LDS, or Unitarians of 1700s or today) in their definition of Christianity. They would call those "false religions."

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon:However the first point has something to it. Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin wrote the Declaration of Independence and they rejected virtually every single tenet of orthodox Christianity (while strangely enough thinking of themselves as "Christians")...This creed, warmer than strict Deism, thought quite highly of "religion" but was so ecumenical that it transcended not just "orthodox Christianity," but "Christianity" itself and embraced "true religion" in a general sense. True religion was that which was voluntarily undertaken and that which produced virtue. It was something on which "all good men" could agree. As such all good men were "Christians" regardless of whether they knew it or consciously accepted Christ. The FFs could be quite secretive about this heterodox sentiment but left their footprint of this heterodoxy in the original Constitution by not establishing Christianity, by forbidding religious tests and consequently by protecting "religion" not "Christianity."

The deception never ends. First, the blogger omits the other two members of the committee for writing the DOI, as well as the true authors, the Congress, then, makes the error of assuming the subjective intentions is that of the majority.

I doubt the deceit will never end, but it will never be true, scholarly, or relevant.

Tom Van Dyke said...

even if the god of the DOI was meant to be the god of the Bible, it wasn't necessarily the orthodox Christian version of god, which of course Jefferson rejected.By "orthodox" I assume you mean Jesus-is-God, etc. I agree. I don't argue that and never to my memory have. I'm comfortable with "Judeo-Christian," although that's admittedly inaccurate and a retronym besides.

Even if Jefferson had some secret agenda or believed he invented a brand-new God [which he did not believe he had---he was a "restorationist" of sorts], clearly the signers understood that the "creator" of the D of I is the God of the Bible since the Continental Congress made so many references to Jesus Christ. To argue otherwise assumes the burden of proof. But by all means, feel free to argue it.

Am I a Christian nationist? I don't think so. Our Founding Truth even called me a secular progressive once, but I don't think I'm one of them either.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin comprised a majority of the 5 person drafting bd. of the Declaration with Jefferson as its author. Further, they were the ones who pulled almost all of the weight in that 5 man team. Even further, whatever the CC added, they did not add explicitly Christian language or cite verses and chapters of scripture.

Jefferson, Franklin and J. Adams were the ones who wrote the DOI; therefore their "intentions" have to "count" for something. Authorial intent is not meaningless or irrelevant.

Re whether my assertions are "true," well that's something we all can debate. Re whether they are "scholarly, or relevant," I'll remind you that I am to the right of Geoff Stone on this matter. And like it or not, Stone (Professor of Law and former Dean of University of Chicago School of Law) is one of the most notable public intellectuals alive today.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jefferson, Franklin and J. Adams were the ones who wrote the DOI; therefore their "intentions" have to "count" for something. Authorial intent is not meaningless or irrelevant.>

Authorial intent is irrelevant, as the intent of Law (DOI) would not be passed by the people, but by individuals, therefore, the DOI would be illegitimate law, being passed without their consent.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Authorial intent is not irrelevant. This is you getting to make up your own rules. The DOI was never "ratified" by "the people" as the Constitution was (despite whatever out of context quotation that you don't understand you might try to cite to counter). And indeed most legal scholars think that the DOI is not LAW but a document of rhetoric.

People "consent" or "assent" to laws that were written by other people. The law means first what it says not what people might like to think it means.

In the case of the Constitution the ratifiers "consented" to "religion" being protected, not "Christianity" only.

Our Founding Truth said...

being passed without their consent.>

By consent, I mean, consenting without knowing the true meaning of the law, which is illegitimate law.

Our Founding Truth said...

The DOI was never "ratified" by "the people">

It was ratified, however, you do not know how it was ratified.

Our Founding Truth said...

People "consent" or "assent" to laws that were written by other people.>

Exactly! Not by individuals, but written by the collective will of the people.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

You are in over your head here in terms of not understanding elementary concepts. I am a aware of a school of thought in law that says the ratifiers determine the meaning -- and by the way -- none of these "schools" gets to dictate what true law is; but rather they argue in a philosophic sense for legitimacy. And that's because the Constitution does not tell us what interpretive method trumps. There is another school that says authorial intent matters (for instance, no less than conservative giant legal scholar Raul Berger believed in this). The is the strict textualist school ala Justice Scalia which holds no one's "intent" matters (not the authors or ratifiers), rather the text itself trumps. There is also the "living Constitution" school and so on and so forth.

The problem with you is you don't understand what it means for a law to be "ratified." If you did you wouldn't make such an absurd claim that the DOI was ratified. There were no state ratifying conventions for the DOI. The DOI was voted on by the Constitutional Convention. That is not unlike the House or the Senate voting through a Bill.

If some Founder uses the magic words "ratified" as in the DOI was "ratified" by the hearts of the American people, that doesn't make it a legal ratification by "the people." And by the way, "the people" never ratifed the US Constitution; the states did. Although it was done in the name of "we the people."

Jonathan Rowe said...

but written by the collective will of the people.So now you are a follower of Rousseau and his idea of "the general will."

Again, the problem OFT is that you are dealing in concepts that are over your head. We would respect you more if you came here with a more humble attitude that you are here to learn, not to teach.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Ooops. This should have read

"The DOI was voted on by the Continental Congress."

Tom Van Dyke said...

Authorial intent in a public document is never relevant if it involves mental reservation. That's sophistry, Jon.


"Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind."---Thomas Jefferson

If ever authorial intent were irrelevant, it's in the Declaration of Independence.

To know the "American mind," we must look far past a handful of "key" Founders, to those who signed the damn thing, and at those whom they represented, because they signed as delegates, not as individuals.

This means we have to look at the whole Founding era, not just at the writings of a few.

[Especially a couple of boozy ex-presidents after they had left public life, wink, wink.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

And in that very same letter from which you quote Jefferson cites

All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c. ... [Bold mine.]

Two of the sources are pagan. If you look at that larger literature it's not Christian, quote the Bible verses and chapter. Rather it's as Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn noted "Christian" sources mixed with Greco-Roman, Enlightenment, Common Law and Whig. In Jefferson's letter, Aristotle is the Greco, Cicero is the Roman, Sidney is the Whig, Locke is the Enlightenment. Those four names were name at all out of tune with the common literature that dominated the call for revolution.

cartwright said...

Our Founding Truth said...
The deception never ends. First, the blogger omits the other two members of the committee for writing the DOI, as well as the true authors, the Congress, then, makes the error of assuming the subjective intentions is that of the majority..
Are you saying the majority of the signers would have rejected the DOI if its god references were to be taken as meaning (or at least inclusive of) the ecumenical view of "god" held by Jefferson, et al?

cartwright said...

Tom Van Dyke said...
To know the "American mind," we must look far past a handful of "key" Founders, to those who signed the damn thing, and at those whom they represented, because they signed as delegates, not as individuals.
Jefferson/Adams were part of the American mind.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, but Locke and Sidney are up to their eyebrows in the Christian tradition. That's half, and Aristotle had been Christianized by Aquinas. That's 3/4. And Cicero's understanding of natural law was the closest to Aquinas' as any "pagan" could ever be---a perfect illustration of what Aquinas called "general" revelation, the natural law as understood by a man of "right" reason.

But this is all sophistic, Jon. Jefferson's revisionism 40 years after the fact is of little or no value. Jefferson's reading was broad but not deep; he didn't understand his sources' sources.

To know the "American mind," we must look at the Founding generation in toto. Despite the haggling over whether the D of I was signed or ratified, the signers were delegates, representing their people, and when they added to Jefferson's text a submission of their actions to the "Supreme Judge of the world," well, that is not a pagan concept.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jefferson/Adams were part of the American mind.Good point, cartwright, except most of what we know today the people didn't know back then, because it's in their post-presidential, private letters. Boozy ones, too. No, I didn't say that. Just a joke around here...

Tom Van Dyke said...

Are you saying the majority of the signers would have rejected the DOI if its god references were to be taken as meaning (or at least inclusive of) the ecumenical view of "god" held by Jefferson, et al?...

Or put another way, and to my mind the proper way, yes, the majority of the signers would have rejected it if they thought it referred to any other God than the God of the Bible. Assuredly, certainly, and without a doubt.

Jonathan Rowe said...

As Allan Bloom wrote in The Closing of the American Mind, “Aristotle…was used as an authority almost on a level with the Church Fathers and was assimilated to them. This was, of course, an abuse of Aristotle, who thought that authority is the contrary of philosophy….The essence of philosophy is the abandonment of all authority in favor of individual human reason.” pp. 252-3.

Sounds like Aristotle was a man after Jefferson's heart. On Sidney, I realize that his theories took place in a "Christian" context of history, but I don't see ANYthing authentically "Christian" about them. Perhaps compatible with Christianity but not Christian per se. The sina qua non of Sidney was that he was a radical who lost his head for his ideas. He didn't lose his head for Christianity; rather it was a Christian society beheading one of their own.

I don't see historic Christianity/the Bible whatever as speaking very much to the ideas contained in the DOI.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, you keep arguing "the Bible" and ignoring the 1700 years of Christian theology that came after it. Sidney explicitly uses the arguments of the "Schoolmen" [Aquinas' philosophical descendants] against the crown. Locke writes, "the true ground of morality . . . can only be the will and law of a God who sees men in the dark, [and] has in his hand rewards and punishments."

And regardless of what that ultra-right-wing reactionary Allan Bloom says, Aquinas corrected Aristotle.

;-)

But the important thing in understanding the religion and the Founding is indeed understanding the "American mind," which is not reducible to a few quotes or a few Founders.

Our Founding Truth said...

Cartwright:Are you saying the majority of the signers would have rejected the DOI if its god references were to be taken as meaning (or at least inclusive of) the ecumenical view of "god" held by Jefferson, et al?

Of course. The majority were orthodox.

I don't see historic Christianity/the Bible whatever as speaking very much to the ideas contained in the DOI.>

The Christian God is the Law of Nature according to: Montesquieu, Blackstone, Locke, Hooker, Puffendorf, and Grotius. Therefore, all its ideas and rights are Scriptural, not just alligning with scripture, but coming from Scripture. Yes, some pagan writers were quoted, but not for Natural Rights.

Jon:The problem with you is you don't understand what it means for a law to be "ratified." If you did you wouldn't make such an absurd claim that the DOI was ratified.

Myself and the Father of the Revolution disagree with you, but if you're nice to me, I may give you the secret, or you will have to read it in my book:

"Before the formation of this Constitution, it had been affirmed as a self evident truth, in the declaration of Independence, very
deliberately made by the Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled that, "all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." This declaration of Independence was received and ratified by all the States in the Union, and has never been disannulled."

-Samuel Adams, TO THE LEGISLATURE OF MASSACHUSETTS.
JANUARY 17, 1794.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

You are delusional. You obviously misunderstand what SA meant by "ratified" because there were no state ratifying conventions for the DOI. For all we know SA meant the DOI was "ratified" in the "hearts" of the American people which is not legal ratification.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

Well how about the views of another right wing conservative, this one of the "paleo" bent, Thomas Fleming, top guy at Chronicles Magazine (and not to be confused with the "other" Thomas Fleming).

[The Christian Nation thesis] is a pretty fiction, and one that I would like to believe. The American founding is a complex story, and there were many Christians among the leaders in the seceding states. However, neither the leaders of the Revolution nor the principal authors of the Constitution were, for the most part, devout and orthodox Christians….

[...]

If Dred Scott is a slender reed for conservatives to rely on, the Declaration of Independence is a morass. Whatever Mr. Jefferson and his colleagues thought they were doing (other than restating Enlightenment platitudes that have nothing to do with Christianity), they were not writing the fundamental law of a nation that did not yet exist. If they had been intending to establish Christianity at the center of the American system, they would have used Christian language instead of such deistic phrases as “Nature’s god.” Although some conservatives have made valiant efforts to give the Declaration a harmless reading, Harry Jaffa and other leftists have ensured that the Declaration is read today as a revolutionary manifesto for natural rights that transcend the pettifogging restrictions of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment, guaranteeing the rights of the states.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The Christian God is the Law of Nature according to: Montesquieu, Blackstone, Locke, Hooker, Puffendorf, and Grotius. Therefore, all its ideas and rights are Scriptural, not just alligning with scripture, but coming from Scripture. Yes, some pagan writers were quoted, but not for Natural Rights.OFT, see my note above about Cicero, and Aquinas' formulation of "general" revelation, which is the framework used by both Locke's influence Rev. Richard Hooker and the "key" Founder [he signed both the D of I and the Constitution and was a Supreme Court justice] who was influenced by both of the latter, James Wilson.

Although Wilson writes that the natural law flows from God [I believe Blackstone writes something similar], natural law under this dualistic formulation is explicitly not scriptural.

You gotta get this part right, because it's fundamental.

However, "natural rights" is a completely different philosophical term from "natural law." It can be argued that our modern notion of "rights" has a Biblical origin, chiefly in that each man is made in the image of God and therefore no man has an inherent right to rule another, contra Aristotle, the classics, and "natural right". [I believe Wilson takes Blackstone to task over this.]

But this is a far subtler and harder argument to make, and it's unhelpful to make a porridge out of it all.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Hehe, funny, Jon. Harry Jaffa is a leftist? The guy who wrote the line for the grandaddy conservative Barry Goldwater that scared the bejesus out of America?

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue..."

As for the "Christian Nation thesis," I'll agree with Fleming only in that "the American founding is a complex story," and like almost every other contemporary discussion, is one that has plenty of ignorance on all sides.

Which is why we're here, the best blog on the subject bar none.

Jonathan Rowe said...

You gotta get this part right, because it's fundamental.I've been trying to tell him this since day one; natural law is what's discovered from reason and something that is in principle available to all men regardless of whether they believe in the Bible. It's not just fundamental; it's elementary. It's the first step in understanding what "nature" meant during the Founding era. Anything that proceeds from this first error just compounds the error.

OFT is just making up what he wants to believe about the philosophers whom he cited.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I might have cited Fleming out of context. Fleming views Jaffa as a "neo-conservative," a philosophy he despises. He may have meant "neo-conservative" Harry Jaffa AND other leftists. Or he may just see neo-conservatism as a form of leftism. A few years ago when the neo-paleo war reached a fever pitch I think paleos like Fleming were fond of calling neos "Jacobins" and "Trotskyites."

Our Founding Truth said...

You are delusional. You obviously misunderstand what SA meant by "ratified" because there were no state ratifying conventions for the DOI. For all we know SA meant the DOI was "ratified" in the "hearts" of the American people which is not legal ratification.>

Tom, do you see the incompetence I have to go through from Jon Rowe? He calls me delusional because he doesn't know what Adams refers to by the DOI being "ratified" by the people.

Jon, of course I know what Adams means by "ratified" and apparently you don't understand how the people ratified it.

Tom:Although Wilson writes that the natural law flows from God [I believe Blackstone writes something similar], natural law under this dualistic formulation is explicitly not scriptural.

I think I'm on safe ground claiming reason and revelation is LONANG, however, if you claim there is a third component, we need a consensus from the rest(Philosophers) as there needs more clarification. Refresh my memory, if Natural Law is from the Biblical God, how is it not scriptural?

It can be argued that our modern notion of "rights" has a Biblical origin, chiefly in that each man is made in the image of God and therefore no man has an inherent right to rule another, contra Aristotle, the classics, and "natural right". [I believe Wilson takes Blackstone to task over this.]>

I hear you, but Natural Rights are explicitly in the Biblical Text, which you could find online in ten minutes.

Our Founding Truth said...

natural law is what's discovered from reason and something that is in principle available to all men regardless of whether they believe in the Bible.>

Absolutely false! Revelation is not something; it is the Biblical Text, which is supereminently authentick over reason!

Jonathan Rowe said...

I also agree with Leo Strauss that the concept of state of nature from which natural rights are derived is wholly alien to the Bible. Yes, perhaps natural rights are compatible with a selective reading of the Bible (Imago Dei) and even implicit in that story. But they don't seem explicit in the text. And, one need believe in neither orthodox Trinitarian doctrine nor the infallibility of the Bible to arrive at God given "natural rights."

Jefferson's God is as authentic a natural rights grantor as any. Jefferson's God created man in His image as well. And unlike the God of the Calvinists, ALL human beings were the children of Jefferson's God.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'll believe conservative historian Forrest McDonald's expert opinion on what "natural" meant during the Founding era over OFTs any day. McDonald read EVERY single piece of literature from that era.

In "Novus Ordo Seclorum" he claimed “natural” was defined as “discoverable by reason as opposed to revealed by God.” (p. xi.) So WHENEVER you see "natural" or "nature" qualify ANYTHING it means "discoverable by reason as opposed to revealed in the Bible."

Or as John Locke put it in his Second Treatise on Government: “The State of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason…is that law….”

OR as John Adams put it:

"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.

OFT, the problem is you are just so upset that you have been proven wrong on this one fundamental regard, you can't admit the truth about the matter. Either that or you are deluded and really believe yourself right.

Our Founding Truth said...

OFT, the problem is you are just so upset that you have been proven wrong on this one fundamental regard, you can't admit the truth about the matter. Either that or you are deluded and really believe yourself right.>

I'm not upset, I had a good day today. You seem perturbed.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I was looking up OFT's "ratification" quote and as far as I and just about every other person who reads and posts on this blog, and every other competent historian, Adams meant "ratified" in an informal sense which is NOT what happens when people "ratify" laws to secure their legal legitimacy. That's why most legal theorists don't believe the Declaration is law.

I also found this quote which just proves my point that when orthodox Christians like Sam Adams spoke in Lockean terms, they veered away from the Bible and orthodox Christian doctrine and veered towards the enlightenment and rationalism.

"In the supposed state of nature, all men are equally bound by the laws of nature, or to speak more properly, the laws of the Creator. They are imprinted by the finger of God on the heart of man. Thou shall do no injury to thy neighbor, is the voice of nature and reason, and it is confirmed by written revelation." - Having just risen from Lieutenant Governor when Governor John Hancock died, 1794 [Bold mine.]

Adams sounds almost like a theistic rationalist there (which who knows he may have been during certain periods in his life). "Reason" discovers Truth through nature. And then the Bible's job is to "confirm" the discoveries of reason, not the other way around.

cartwright said...

>>Our Founding Truth said...

>>>>Cartwright:Are you saying the majority of the signers would have rejected the DOI if its god references were to be taken as meaning (or at least inclusive of) the ecumenical view of "god" held by Jefferson, et al?

>>Of course. The majority were orthodox.

Being orthodox doesn't necessarily mean they would reject freedom of conscience - the right for any citizen to hold one's own individual belief about the divine, even if not orthodox - that they would have wanted the DOI to exclude any fellow signer from signing it holding to a less orthodox view of the references to the divine - or in effect attaching a religious test to the DOI before signing it.

Maybe they would have, but I haven't seen anything to confirm that.

Our Founding Truth said...

Maybe they would have, but I haven't seen anything to confirm that.>

They may not have excluded anyone, however, the vast majority were orthodox; it is what it is.

cartwright said...

>>>>Our Founding Truth said...

>>Maybe they would have, but I haven't seen anything to confirm that.>

>>>>They may not have excluded anyone, however, the vast majority were orthodox; it is what it is.

One can be orthodox in one's religion while also holding a more ecumenical view of church vis a vis state.

Clearly there was a range of opinions on church/state from those preferring theocracies to those preferring something more secular.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

You have no clue whether the vast majority personally believed in orthodox Trinitarian doctrine. The record shows only that the vast majority were like Thomas Jefferson and the other key Founders, formally associated with a Church that adhered to an orthodox creed. Jefferson proves that you can be even a Vestryman in said church while not just disbelieving in but hating its orthodox doctrines.

Tom Van Dyke said...

In no particular order:

Being orthodox doesn't necessarily mean they would reject freedom of conscience - the right for any citizen to hold one's own individual belief about the divine, even if not orthodox ...

Mr. Cartwright, this is undeniably true. In fact, we must keep in mind that the different Protestant sects all disagreed on stuff. There's a quote from Sam Adams himself that I don't feel like looking up where he revels in the glories of finally being able to publicly disagree about doctrinal matters.

Just not atheism. Atheism was a different bag back in the day. Thomas Paine caught high holy hell for his Age of Reason, and that was only deistic, not atheistic.

Oh, and BTW, I tentatively endorse your use of "ecumenical" applied to the Founders' agreed-upon God, the more ecumenical the better.

Adams sounds almost like a theistic rationalist there...

No, Jon, he sounds like a Thomist [Aquinas]. Like Rev. Richard Hooker, like James Wilson.

when orthodox Christians like Sam Adams spoke in Lockean terms, they veered away from the Bible and orthodox Christian doctrine and veered towards the enlightenment and rationalism...

A bridge way too far. Adams is completely within the mainstream of Christian thought here.

So WHENEVER you see "natural" or "nature" qualify ANYTHING it means "discoverable by reason as opposed to revealed in the Bible."

Jon [and Forrest McDonald] are 100% accurate here. OFT, although they add "and of nature's God" to "laws of nature," in the D of I, although this points the natural law back to God, it does not point it at scripture.


So whenever you argue for rights and liberty from a natural law standpoint, although it points back to God as the author of the natural law, it doesn't point to scripture, but to man's unassisted reason. You argue against the very point you're trying to make!

I'll repeat the quote OFT requested for the benefit of those who came in late [and welcome!]:

[H]ow shall we, in particular instances, learn the dictates of our duty, and make, with accuracy, the proper distinction between right and wrong; in other words, how shall we, in particular cases, discover the will of God? We discover it by our conscience, by our reason, and by the Holy Scriptures. The law of nature and the law of revelation are both divine: they flow, though in different channels, from the same adorable source. It is, indeed, preposterous to separate them from each other. The object of both is ― to discover the will of God ― and both are necessary for the accomplishment of that end."---James Wilson

This is completely representative of the Founding view of natural law, I think, and harmonizes completely with the quote Jonathan Rowe cites above from John Adams, who was no Holy Roller in the orthodox sense.

What is interesting is that the Founders seem to be even more religious than earlier natural law theorists, that even if it can be discerned by unassisted reason [in other words, without the Bible], the natural law equivalent to the "wise benign and all powerful Will" of God, as John Adams writes above, and which James Wilson explicitly says also in his writings.

This is no small thing in understanding religion and the Founding.

Our Founding Truth said...

Tom:Jon [and Forrest McDonald] are 100% accurate here. OFT, although they add "and of nature's God" to "laws of nature," in the D of I, although this points the natural law back to God, it does not point it at scripture.

I was reading over Locke's Reasonableness the last few days; he is a hard nut to crack for sure. He got way much heat for what he said, but he defended himself almost satisfactorily, which may be why they didn't hang him. Locke believed in inerrancy, the Virgin Birth, a sinless Christ, etc. but said nothing else is needed to be believed to be saved, rather that any other truth of the faith, a part from "Jesus is the Messiah" should be believed. Locke's faith is still up in the air, however he, Blackstone, and the majority of framers believed Revelation, including the Ten Commandments were a part of Natural Law(Law of Nature) unless specifically noted:

"Thus then, as to the law, in short: the civil and ritual part of the law, delivered by Moses, obliges not christians, though, to the jews, it were a part of the law of works; it [The Divine Law or Ten Commandments] being a part of the law of nature, that man ought to obey every positive law of God, whenever he shall please to make any such addition to the law of his nature." [bold face mine]

-John Locke, Reasonableness of Christianity

As you mentioned in an earlier post, Blackstone believed the same as Locke. To the framers, besides Jesus Christ, Blackstone is the greatest influence in this country. Think how deceived the modern philosophers are, especially those "experts" on Natural Law, that do not know Locke, Blackstone, Hooker, Puffendorf, etc.

By the way, Puffendorf is the best expert on The Law of Nature, being a Professor of it in Germany, and Switzerland. He is the one, we should look at.

The posts author says "reason" is Natural; he is right, however, he omits another more important part of it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Locke is saying that one should obey scripture. That's what he means by the "law of works." However one again you put in brackets to make it the Ten Commandments. That's a no-no, OFT.

This single quote adds some tiny support for obeying scripture, sort of, but "the law of nature" or natural law [not technically the same thing, but used interchangably by Blackstone and James Wilson] are not the same thing as scripture.

The "law of works" obliges one to obey scripture, according to Locke, but is not scripture itself. Since the natural law is universal, applicable to all men at all times, that the Jews obey one set of laws but Christians are exempt from it means it's not universal.

Nice try, though, but quote-grabbing isn't a genuine search for truth. Natural law and scripture are different, according to the understanding of virtually every thinker from 1200-1800.

Our Founding Truth said...

Locke is saying that one should obey scripture. That's what he means by the "law of works." However one again you put in brackets to make it the Ten Commandments. That's a no-no, OFT.

This single quote adds some tiny support for obeying scripture, sort of, but "the law of nature" or natural law [not technically the same thing, but used interchangably by Blackstone and James Wilson] are not the same thing as scripture.>

I don't think so. You need to read Reasonabless. There isn't one inch of doubt Locke is referring to the Ten Commandments, it being Natural Law (The Law of Nature).

Brackets mean clarification, and is needed.

but "the law of nature" or natural law [not technically the same thing, but used interchangably by Blackstone and James Wilson] are not the same thing as scripture.>

Where is the evidence for this?

The "law of works" obliges one to obey scripture, according to Locke, but is not scripture itself.>

The Ten Commandments is not scripture? Are you serious?

Since the natural law is universal, applicable to all men at all times, that the Jews obey one set of laws but Christians are exempt from it means it's not universal.>

No, you aren't reading it right:

"it [The Divine Law or Ten Commandments] being a part of the law of nature, that man ought to obey every positive law of God, whenever he shall please to make any such addition to the law of his nature.">

Locke's use of man is general, not limiting the Jews as the subject, as "the addition" to his law of nature includes any subsequent time:

"But the moral part of Moses’s law, or the moral law, (which is every-where the same, the eternal rule of right,) obliges christians, and all men, every-where, and is to all men the standing law of works. But christian believers have the privilege to be under the law of faith too; which is that law, whereby God justifies a man for believing, though by his works he be not just or righteous, i. e. though he come short of perfect obedience to the law of works. God alone does or can justify, or make just, those who by their works are not so: which he doth, by counting their faith for righteousness, i. e. for a complete performance of the law."

-Locke, Reasonableness

Tom Van Dyke said...

The Ten Commandments is not scripture? Are you serious? OFT, I'm done with you on this.
"It" refers to "the law of works," whatever that is, not scripture itself. You're reading the sentence wrong.

Everyone from Thomas Aquinas to Blackstone to James Wilson to Phil Johnson knows what I'm talking about except you. We're in the-sky-is-not-blue territory, far beyond a difference of opinion.

You'll either use the universal understanding of the concept, or I'll ask that your further comments on this subject be removed, not for content but irrelevance. I have a deep interest in this subject, and you're interfering with productive discussion.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT is a "why bother" on these grounds. But if I must, the "moral" part of Moses' law to which Locke referred was not the Ten Commandments in its entirety but perhaps the second tablet. Non-Judeo-Christian natural lawyers like Aristotle and Cicero would have agreed with the second tablet of the Ten Commands, but didn't obey the first (perhaps because they didn't have the proper knowledge of the God of Abraham). Likewise Jesus moral teachings are that part of revelation which "form a part" of the natural law, as some of the natural lawyers would have put it; but not his teachings of salvation or his miracles.

The natural law is universal, in principle knowable to any man of any religion, regardless of whether he ever heard of the Bible; the Ten Commandments and the Bible are not the same thing.

I agree; this is a good place for OFT to end. If he continues to challenge what has been clearly shown to him, his further comments will be of no further use to us here and will be deleted.

OFT: Wake up.

Our Founding Truth said...

but "the law of nature" or natural law [not technically the same thing, but used interchangably by Blackstone and James Wilson] are not the same thing as scripture.>

Where does Blackstone say this? Where is the difference?

How is Natural Law not a part of the original law of nature?:

"The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found upon comparison to be really a part of the original law of nature, as they tend in all their consequences to man's felicity. But we are not from thence to conclude that the knowledge of these truths was attainable by reason, in it's present corrupted state; since we find that, until they were revealed, they were hid from the wisdom of ages. As then the moral precepts of this law are indeed of the same original with those of the law of nature"

-Blackstone, Commentaries

Locke says the same thing.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

I just explained this to you. This is your last chance before you get deleted from this thread.

"The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found...

upon comparison...to be really a part of the original law of nature,..."

[Emphasis mine.]

He's saying that the law of nature is what man discovers from reason. Revelation is discovered a different way. It's only "upon comparison" that we find revelation matches up with law of nature discovered by reason.

And by the way, Blackstone did not say the entire Bible is part of the law of nature; rather that certain parts of the Bible, upon comparison match up perfectly with the law of nature. At least that's a completely reasonable way to reason Blackstone's words. And is the most common sense meaning. Much of the supernatural in the Bible is beyond the reach of "the law's of nature."

...as they tend in all their consequences to man's felicity. But we are not from thence to conclude that the knowledge of these truths was attainable by reason, in it's present corrupted state; since we find that, until they were revealed, they were hid from the wisdom of ages. As then the moral precepts of this law are indeed of the same original with those of the law of nature" [Bold mine.]

-Blackstone, Commentaries

Again notice Blackstone talking about revelation as though it were from a different channel, thus a different thing (even if ultimately it came from the same sources and the key parts of both match up). If the law of nature simply were "the Bible" there would be no need for the concept to begin with.

OFT: You are going to have to concede "the laws of nature" or "the laws of nature and nature's God" are not shorthand for what's written in the Bible. That's our point (even if some/many of the philosophers believed there was a meaningful connect between the two, i.e., that they ultimately derived from the same source and properly understood would not contradict one another). If you don't concede that which has been irrefutably proven to you, you will be banned because of your stubborness.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

Regarding the post you made at 3:02pm; I'm going to let Tom have a look at it. And then once he tells me he read it, I am going to delete it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And two paragraphs later, Blackstone writes:

"Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these."

Two foundations. The distinction between the two is made. Now please observe it.

All you're doing is shooting yourself in the foot by making a simple and avoidable semantic error. You have the germ of an argument in there, Mr. Goswick, but stop quote-grabbing and read Blackstone in his totality.

http://books.google.com/books?id=mCc0AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA64&lpg=PA64&dq=The+doctrines+thus+delivered+we+call+the+revealed+or+divine+law,+and+they&source=bl&ots=1FrOLftbZB&sig=NzZph7x3E94oFfYJz-6XfKuV6JM&hl=en&ei=FCnySZzDFYK6tgOM3cziCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#PPA65,M1

Both Blackstone and Locke do write that God's revelation of portions of the natural law were necessary because of man's corrupt reason, in other words, theoretically, man should have been able to discover them without revelation.

But this is the moral portion of the scripture, and does not get us all the way to Jesus-is-God and all that other stuff that man could not be able to discover on his own, even with uncorrupted reason.

This is the distinction between "general" and "special" revelation, per Aquinas.

Mr. Rowe understands your point better than you do and it would behoove you to work with him instead of continuing this grenade toss. He's actually helping you clarify your point.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Let me make one more note on what Blackstone, Wilson, Locke, et al. mean when they make comparisons of the laws of nature and the laws of revelation and talk about the two agreeing with one another.

What they are saying is the law of nature discovered by reason alone can tell us don't kill, don't steal, don't bear false witness about your neigbhor, the Golden Rule. What they are most decidely NOT saying is the "law of nature" can validate among other things the First Commandment, that you should be worshipping the God of Abraham or an even more erroneous claim, a Triune God. Likewise they don't claim "the laws of nature" teach you should keep the Sabbath.

If OFT thinks otherwise -- if he makes such a basic error of understanding -- we cannot proceed with him and he will have to be deleted or banned.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jon, the 2:52 quote and counterargument were decent, and synthesized with your own comment of 3:10, there seems to be a harmonization.

The 3:02 comment was out of line and unproductive, as it was just a restatement and not too civil either. It should be trashbinned.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Thanks Tom. Will now delete it.

Our Founding Truth said...

But this is the moral portion of the scripture, and does not get us all the way to Jesus-is-God and all that other stuff that man could not be able to discover on his own, even with uncorrupted reason.>

I never said that, you guys have made up a lot of ideas I never said. I know the difference btwn universal (Natural) Law and the bible.

What they are most decidely NOT saying is the "law of nature" can validate among other things the First Commandment, that you should be worshipping the God of Abraham or an even more erroneous claim, a Triune God. Likewise they don't claim "the laws of nature" teach you should keep the Sabbath>

You invent all of this into your argument when I never brought it up, I never even mentioned the word "Abraham."

If the law of nature simply were "the Bible" there would be no need for the concept to begin with.>

That's your opinion. God made two channels for the moral law. The Philosophers say lonang is the same thing from different channels. I never said Locke wrote that the first tablet of the law of Moses was Natural Law; you brought it up. I posted Locke's quote that the Divine Law is part of lonang. I understand what saves a person.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I know the difference btwn universal (Natural) Law and the bible. Then we are all agreed. Let's move on, never to return.

King of Ireland said...

Tom Van Dyke said:

"This means we have to look at the whole Founding era, not just at the writings of a few."

I could not agree more. I have taught the "skepticism" of the Middle Ages and "humanism" of the Renaissance(Reformation in my mind as well), and am getting to the Enlightenment in my 9th grade World History class.

I asked them to consider that people questioned things in the Middle Ages but stayed part of the Church. They did the same in the Renaissance and Reformation and switched teams but not leagues. The Enlightenment shows that some through it all out. But many others did not. They just added some reason to their faith.

So I agree that documents written in Colonial America were written by a Renaissance/Reformation age of people that still saw a role for the Church in the State. This is in contrast with Enlightenment Age documents such as the DOI and Constitution that had more a of secular flavor. But many take it too far and try to pretend that America was inhabited by mostly Christians at the time still. These are the people that the Founders represented. There had also been a Great Awakening just before this as well that swelled the ranks of devout Christians.

So the answer is probably more complicated then we like to think. Secularists look at one side and are blind to other evidences and closed minded Christians do the same.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I asked them to consider that people questioned things in the Middle Ages but stayed part of the Church. They did the same in the Renaissance and Reformation and switched teams but not leagues...

I like that one, King.

So the answer is probably more complicated then we like to think. Secularists look at one side and are blind to other evidences and closed minded Christians do the same...

That one, too.

King of Ireland said...

" If you don't concede that which has been irrefutably proven to you, you will be banned because of your stubborness."


This seems kind of arrogant. I for one do not know a lot about this whole discussion. I learned more from the back and forth in one post than learned in 36 years of life. OFT may be wrong but being banned for stubborness of not conceding is Hitler like. By the way, I do not agree with him but think he should be able to say it.

King of Ireland said...

I meant to say that people like to pretend that most of America was NOT Christian at the time of the founding. It was in a general sense and even in a more orthodox sense due to the Great Awakening. At least my reading of History seems to bear this out.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Please feel free to argue that, King.

In the case of the natural law discussion, the issue was a matter of standard definition and of historical fact, not of opinion or interpretation.

For instance, if one were to write that natural law means you can do whatever you want, this would be a gross error of fact and would serve only to junk up any possibility of productive discussion if insisted upon.

Most things are not so cut-and-dried, so contrary views are always welcome if backed by fact and intelligent argument. However, stuff like "the Bible is true" or "the Bible is a lie" is mere opinion and contention, and has no place here.

I hope that explanation helps. Your comments have been ace.

Jonathan Rowe said...

KOI,

Of course you are right; however, you have to understand our history of dealing with OFT. He's been banned on Brayton's blog and is the only person banned by Positive Liberty. If we are going to continue to deal with him instead of deleting or banning him, it has to be with a heavy hand.

King of Ireland said...

Why was he banned?

Jonathan Rowe said...

As far as I remember on Positive Liberty, it was for two reasons, one he was being a class a nuisance. And two, the subject of homosexuality and the common law penalties for "sodomy" were brought up. It was noted that "sodomy" was a capital crime and that Jefferson's proposed VA bill "lessened" it to castration. We never determined whether "sodomy" referred to ordinary homosexuality or something forced. OFT just determined it was consensual homosexuality. And he seemed to proudly stand by the idea that castration (or execution) was a just and good punishment for sodomy. At that point, Jason K. unapologetically gay and PL's site adminstrator had him banned.

Then on Dispatches he started rating and raving and Ed just banned him immediately.

King of Ireland said...

Is he a dominionist?

This whole Aquinas natural law thing is of great interest to me. Can you recommend any book that would be a 101 on the subject? I have been thinking a great deal about going to Law School for property law. I read Sandfeur's abstract on Locke months ago and it really spoke to me.

I have been reading a lot about this stuff but their are some real holes because I barely paid attention in HS and did the minimum to get out of college. I have learned a lot from reading your posts here, on Ed's blog, and at positive liberty.