Monday, June 1, 2009

Frazer's Dialog with KOI Continues

Gregg tried to post the following comment but it didn't go through; so he emailed it to me. I then tried to post it on the comment thread, but got an error message. So I am reproducing it here.

Re the second post:

Romans 1 states what I said -- if you read it ALL. Men are without excuse because they SHOULD have seen God through His creation, but "even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and [various] creatures."
[verses 21-22]

That is followed in chapter 3 by another truth that I've noted in our exchanges:

"there is none who seeks for God." [Rom. 3:11]

Re Genesis 12: fortunately, you and I do not need to debate "takes" -- God revealed exactly what His promise to Abraham that "all the nations shall be blessed in you" meant in Galatians 3:6-12. It was that "those who are of faith ... are sons of Abraham" [vs. 7] and that "those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer." [vs. 9] It was, as Paul explained, that everyone -- Gentile as well as Jew -- would be justified by faith; that is, it was "the gospel" "preached beforehand to Abraham." [vs. 8]

Acts 15:16 is a reference to the millennial kingdom as prophesied in Amos 9:11-12. The "tabernacle of David" refers to Christ's (the Messiah from David's line) millennial rule. The tabernacle is a symbol of God's presence -- God will be present in the person of Christ.

Again, you indicate that I said Cortez had authority over the Aztecs because he had "bigger guns" -- but I never said that! In fact, looking back, I see that I specifically said that "The Aztecs were not under Cortez's authority; they were under Montezuma's." So, again, I'm confused. Eventually, Cortez became an authority over them -- but you recognize the authority of the United States and
it was acquired by guns, so why is my position controversial or unreasonable?

The current governments of Germany and Japan were established as a result of the "bigger guns" -- do you doubt their legitimacy?

Finally, as I've told you before, I'm not enthralled with theological "systems" (whether Calvinism or any other). They're all devised by fallible men. I try to follow and present whatever the Bible teaches -- irrespective of "traditions" or systems.

I'm sure you're right that I haven't completely thought out all implications of what I believe -- but who has? Have you? For my case, it would require someone a lot more intelligent and knowledgeable than I to have plumbed the depths of everything that Scripture teaches -- which is my "tradition."

As far as I have considered the implications of my views, I find them to be exceedingly practical and applicable to real-life situations. That's the way God designed them. I have yet to be "stumped" or to encounter a real-life situation that God's Word was inadequate to deal with. I believe I have given a practical application in response to every one of your challenges.

I think the problem is that we have different understandings of what's "practical." For me, doing what the sovereign God of the universe says to do and then trusting Him for the results is the most practical thing one can do. I don't want to put words in your mouth (as you keep doing to me), but it SEEMS as if you would have advised Gideon not to follow God's seemingly foolish plan -- because it looked impractical from man's perspective. It SEEMS as if you would have advised Daniel, Shadrach & his friends, and the apostles to organize resistance against the tyrannical rulers who were oppressing them. And it SEEMS as if you would have advised Moses to organize the Israelites into a rebel army to overthrow Pharaoh -- how impractical to wait upon God to accomplish what appeared to be impossible in each case.

I could be wrong, but I think these examples reflect your view of what's "practical." If not, I don't see why you would consider any of what I've said to be impractical.


Tom Van Dyke said...

For those who are wondering what the hell this is all about, Rev. Jonathan Mayhew gave a famous sermon called "Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers" in 1750 that John Adams said helped trigger the American Revolution.

The subject was Romans 13:1

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers; for there is no power but of God: the powers that be, are ordained of God."

Mayhew to arguments similar to Dr. Gregg Frazer's:

". . . Let us now trace [St. Paul] the apostle's reasoning in favor of submission to the higher powers, a little more particularly and exactly. For by this it will appear, on one hand, how good and conclusive it is, for submission to those rulers who exercise their power in a proper manner: And, on the other, how weak and trifling and unconnected it is, if it be supposed to be meant by the apostle to show the obligation and duty of obedience to tyrannical, oppressive rulers in common with others of a different character.

The apostle enters upon his subject thus--Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers; for there is no power but of God: the powers that be, are ordained of God. Here he urges the duty of obedience from this topic of argument, that civil rulers, as they are supposed to fulfill the pleasure of God, are the ordinance of God. But how is this an argument for obedience to such rulers as do not perform the pleasure of God, by doing good; but the pleasure of the devil, by doing evil; and such as are not, therefore, God's ministers, but the devil's!"

The devil's! Well! You can see where Mayhew's going with this. More of Mayhew's sermon here:

Gregg Frazer said...

What you can REALLY see in the Mayew quote is how Mayhew CHANGES the text and ADDS to it things that aren't there.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I wouldn't be up to speed on that, Gregg, Biblical translations being variable. But I'm willing to learn.

However, a close parsing of the Romans text seems unnecessary here, as Mayhew is asserting that obeying a bad ruler is like obeying the devil!

[What's funny is that the website commentary tries to drag in George W. Bush. Some people will stop at nothing to score partisan points.]

Once again, Mayhew, not only like many of his age, but like the medieval Scholastic philosophers, thinks that one must use reason in understanding the Bible. Since it was believed that reason and scripture are harmonious and never in conflict [Locke's The Reasonableness of Christianity], only a reasonable interpretation of scripture can be the correct one.

As I previously noted, Mayhew drags in the previous theological demolitions of the "Divine Right of Kings" arguments and then asks,

"If we calmly consider the nature of the thing itself, nothing can well be imagined more directly contrary to common sense, than to suppose that millions of people should be subjected to the arbitrary, precarious pleasure of one single man; (who has naturally no superiority over them in point of authority)..."

By what right does one man rule another? What obedience is he due if his rule is illegitimate [illegal], and not from a "higher power"?

We also see his argument that honoring the tyrant Charles I as some sort of saint or martyr, "King Charles is, upon this solemnity, frequently compared to our Lord Jesus Christ..." as a grave theological sin, and one that Romans 13 does not oblige one to commit or stand silent for.

And of course, there is the notion that liberty is part of natural law, which you've declined to get into, but is fundamental to the theology of the Founding.

I have no dog in this fight, remember, and do not and cannot insist on one interpretion over another as gospel truth. However, it seems more proper to argue with Mayhew than with our contributors and commenters. For one thing, our readers [and I at least] will learn more about religion and the Founding and not swap theological opinions after the fact [of the American Revolution], a fait accompli. Surely we can't ask Britain to take us back.

Mayhew does not discard Romans 13 as we see below--obedience to rightful authority is still owed. However, he applies reason--- "right" reason, of course, in his view---to the chapter, the same right reason that derived the notion of natural law from the scriptures in the first place, some 500 years before by Aquinas, and by the Greeks and Romans 1000 years before that.

Mayhew: "To conclude: Let us all learn to be free, and to be loyal. Let us not profess ourselves vassals to the lawless pleasure of any man on earth. But let us remember, at the same time, government is sacred, and not to be trifled with."

King of Ireland said...

To put this in context, I think this is the comment you are responding to:

You stated:

"The only thing I can think of related to your "kindness" comment is God's kindness extended to us in His grace. But that is kindness is on the part of GOD, not on the part of someone claiming to represent God. His work of salvation is not dependent on someone like Cortez being kind."

I replied:

What is the point of man being made in the image of God if this is irrelevant? My point is that you seem to indicate that Cortez being there is somehow most certainly the "judgement" of God to purged evil. Maybe it was. The Bible does say God does this. But if He desire is to reach people that have realized "THROUGH NATURE" that they are in need God and are expecting a white man to come with a book that will re-connect them with God and he comes with the book, deceives them, takes all their gold, and does it all because of the "Divine Right" of Isabella and Ferdinand then how does that fulfill the commandment given to Abraham to establish justice and righteousness on earth? Why ask Abraham to do this if it does not matter because God is in control?

I respectfully suggest you re-read my post in response to you. Your historical arguments lack a clarity that I would hope to see. What if the ideals of Aragon,(Aquinas and Renaissance ideas about the worth of the individual i.e. the original focus of "humanism") which was a Constitutional Monarchy based on the right to rule on with the consent of the people, had prevailed in Spain at the time of Cortez and travelled with Cortes rather than the conquering tyrannical mentality of Castile.

This is not some "extreme" hypothetical. It was a turning point in history. Many millions died because one philosophy won out and spread instead of the other.

Which one represents Biblical principles more? I refer you to the article the Jon links from a woman that quoted your use of "Theistic Rationalism" and my comment. She is right on!

I know I have not dealt with your interpretation of some verses that you have used to back your view. I will do this in a post on my blog and if you wish to respond then you may.

I would respectfully ask you again( based on my pagan background, my conversion, and that fact that I have literally discussed God and the Bible with hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life both here and abroad) to branch out more among the "pagans" and see where they are coming from. The way you come across would change. This subject comes up quite often on Ed Brayton's blog. I would suggest chiming in. You will get blasted( I did) but it help me contextualize my beliefs to that audience.

I wish Cortez and others would have done the same. Maybe less "pagans" would have died without a true revelation of who God is?!

You did not answer my question.

King of Ireland said...

I would also add that I have risked my life more than once for this gospel when it was not easy or practical.
Gideon had a word from God. So did David at the time God told him to attack. The same group came back to invade later and he told him to sit and wait for the trees to blow. I repeat from Ecclesiates that there is a time for everything.

I also urge you to not be so dogmatic with your statements of what something means. The Millenial Reign is complicated enough that I am not sure that anyone can say for sure what it is going to be. Your words seem to make you sound assured you are right. Why not say my take or my opinion? I do most of the time because I realize I am probably wrong about some things.

It sounds like you have it all figured out. The pagans have no interest in God so forget them. I am glad that people did not think that about me and reached out to this pagan.

Please tell me how the average Aztec would know who to obey as their authority at the time I stated? That is the essence of my question. I also asked you if they would have been better of if more liberal ideas would have prevailed in Spain and travelled with Cortez? Not answered.

In my view people will come to God when they see His glory. Not some jerk with the Bible trying to kill them because he says some King has "Divine Right".

King of Ireland said...

As far as your three examples at the end they were all rebelling against the authority. That is if one reads Romans 13 literally. We must submit to ALL authority right? Disobedience is not submission.

I will try to reply in more detail at a later date with some posts on my blog.

I am not trying to low blow you Dr. I actually respect that you keep giving it back. Most church people I know curl up in a ball and cry when roughed up some. Most have no idea what is in the Bible. You do and I respect that.

I disagree with some of what you state but that does not diminish my respect.

King of Ireland said...

By the way my entire last two point were based on your stating that you have no interest in what "pagans" think about God. It seemed to diminish the worth of groups like the Aztecs and the responsibility of Christians to be witnesses.

My point is that if people just take it and trust God then they end up dead. What is the point for the Pagan? All seems fatalistic to me.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Which one represents Biblical principles more? I refer you to the article the Jon links from a woman that quoted your use of "Theistic Rationalism" and my comment. She is right on!No, she's not, K of I, not in the least. Her arguments are apparently based solely on her class in modern philosophy and reading Gregg's paper, which enables her to discard all ancient Greek and Christian thought and credit the God of the Founding to "theistic rationalism."

The medieval Scholastics, the successors of Thomas Aquinas, were based in Salamanca, Spain, and fought heavily against the dehumanization of the pagan inhabitants of the New World.

The abstract theological discussion you're having with Dr. Frazer about the Aztecs, etc., was dealt with in reality in 16th century Spain. I don't mean to keep pumping Aquinas, et al., but they were there and we weren't and they gave it deep thought. Mebbe even prayer.

Gregg Frazer said...


We needn't concern ourselves with "variable" translations -- let's just look at the King James (which is the one Mayhew used).

Mayhew says that Paul here urges "submission to those rulers who exercise their power in a proper manner" -- does Paul say that? You can read. Does he ever say anything about exercising power in a "proper manner?"

He then says of Paul's argument: "how weak and trifling and unconnected it is, if it be supposed to be meant by the apostle to show the obligation and duty of obedience to tyrannical, oppressive rulers in common with others of a different character." First, note that he changed from "submission" to "obedience!" Second, does Paul ever distinguish between tyrannical and non-tyrannical regimes in the text? Between oppressive and non-oppressive? Does Paul recognize ANY "different characters" of rulers? Or does he speak of ALL of them uniformly? Read what Paul says in the translation Mayhew had and (sometimes) quoted from.

Mayhew then says "that civil rulers, as they are SUPPOSED to fulfill the pleasure of God, are the ordinance of God" -- is that what Paul, in fact, says? Or does Paul say of civil rulers that "he IS a minister of God to thee for good" [vs. 4] and that they "ARE God's ministers?" [vs. 6]

Does Paul limit which rulers/governments are the ordinance of God, or does he say "there is NO power BUT OF GOD; the powers that BE are ordained of God?" [vs. 1]

Mayhew then talks again about "obedience," changing the subject to a more defensible position -- but one not mentioned at all in Romans 13!

And he talks about "such rulers as do not perform the pleasure of God" -- does Paul ever say ANYTHING about doing the "pleasure of God?" What verse?

Aside from all of this, there is no variance in the original manuscripts -- they say what they say. The New American Standard version, which I've been quoting, is as direct a translation as is possible -- but the King James version is OK and says what Paul meant it to say.

I agreed with you before when you said that Mayhew didn't "ignore" Romans 13 -- but I must emphatically disagree with your statement that Mayhew didn't "discard" Romans 13. He most certainly DID discard Romans 13 and replaced it with his own version of the text -- not just an interpretation. If I contended that "all men are created equal" means that NO ONE is created equal and that "it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it" means that it is NOT the right of the people to alter or abolish it and that "these united colonies are, and of right, ought to be, free and independent states" means the opposite -- wouldn't I be "discarding" the Declaration of Independence in favor of something very different? That is what Mayhew did to Romans 13.

Tom Van Dyke said...

When Mayhew writes:

"how weak and trifling and unconnected it is, if it be supposed to be meant by the apostle to show the obligation and duty of obedience to tyrannical, oppressive rulers in common with others of a different character."

...he is arguing against understandings of Romans 13 like yours, not against Paul. He's saying that that understanding makes Paul's exhortation trifling and unconnected [illogical, I suppose].

From the version of Mayhew's sermons, he put the exact Biblical text in italics. [If it is exact; I didn't crosscheck.] The other statements you cite are Mayhew paraphrasing Paul with Mayhew's interpretation of what Paul must have meant, if Romans 13 is not to be "trifling and unconnected."

However, as I said, once Mayhew invokes the devil, he's obviously not parsing the text anymore.

I follow your argument, Gregg, and it's certainly valid, but you're arguing from the literalist standpoint that's a minority one in Christianity, both then and now. If using reason to interpret scripture is a no-no, then even Aquinas was a "theistic rationalist."

Perhaps that's your argument and belief, but mostly "theistic rationalist" and your own work is latched onto by those who want to remove any trace of the God of Abraham from the Founding.

Further, anything that diverts describing Aquinas and his manifest influence on the Founding [albeit mostly indirect] as anything less than Christian is, um, trifling and unconnected, sorry.

Gregg Frazer said...


I know that the "trifling" part is INTENDED as an attack on interpreters, not Paul. But it ends up being an attack on Paul, since the interpretation he's attacking is simply quoting precisely what Paul said.

I understand that Mayhew is making commentary. I'm pointing out that his commentary does not deal with the actual text, but with his own version of the text with additions and subtractions -- like my example regarding the Declaration.

So, he "discards" the text of Romans 13 and substitutes his own text.

And, again, there is no debate about what the text actually IS. It is in black and white in the original manuscripts.

We all use reason to interpret everything -- including Scripture. I'm not suggesting that we don't -- or that we could read without using reason. But reason properly applied looks to the clear, obvious, literal meaning (of ANY text) unless there is some reason contextually to reject or question it. [You can see the same thing in Joseph Story's section on constitutional interpretation.]

Gregg Frazer said...

Tom part 2:

Since you bring up Aquinas, let's talk about his view on the subject of reason vs. revelation. I teach a course on it and there's a section in my dissertation on the Thomistic view.

Actually, I cover Aquinas in my dissertation because he provides a perfect illustration of the difference between how Christians view the place of reason and the theistic rationalists' view of the place of reason vis a vis revelation.

Aquinas believed that reason and revelation will generally lead one to the same destination (in fact, for him there cannot be any real discrepancy between reason and revelation because they come from the same source: God). If there seems to be a discrepancy, Aquinas said it was due to "imperfections of the human mind" (i.e. faulty reasoning or improper interpretation).

But Aquinas believed that faith is a more reliable guide than reason because it is sourced in DIRECT revelation from God and is, therefore, closer to the Author. So, according to Aquinas, when one comes to an apparent conflict between reason and revelation, reason MUST BOW TO REVELATION. Reason is a supplement to revelation, not the other way around.

The theistic rationalists -- and their influences, such as Mayhew -- took the opposite approach to Aquinas. They (openly & admittedly) made reason primary and revelation a supplement to it.

So, no, I am not suggesting that one can divorce reason from interpretation; and, no, Aquinas was not a theistic rationalist, and, no, my position is not nearly so "minority" as you contend.

In fact, if you're referring to the Founding Era when you say "then" in "both then and now," then you're just wrong. I demonstrate in my dissertation that the Calvinist position was the majority position in the 18th century American churches -- THAT'S WHY MAYHEW WAS SO IMPORTANT! He provided a way around what nearly everyone thought (and correctly so) that the Bible taught.

You can cite isolated examples of differing perspectives if you wish, but the majority viewpoint up to the Revolution was Calvin's (which happens to be mine). The average American did not read philosophers for their view of what the Bible teaches -- they went to church! And the majority of the churches taught Calvin's view.

There are people today who think Elvis is still alive, but someone citing them 200 years in the future and concluding that that was the prevailing view would not be right.

Gregg Frazer said...

Tom part 3:

As for who "latches onto" my concept and work -- what does that have to do with its validity?

And, by the way, I don't even want to remove any trace of the God of Abraham from the Founding. On the contrary, I believe that the American Revolution was part of God's plan, that He's sovereign, and that, therefore, He made all of the events come to that result.

Also, remember that 1/3 of the elements making up "theistic rationalism" is Protestant Christianity. So I fully acknowledge that there was Christian influence to some extent. What I deny is the notion that the Founders were Christians attempting to create a Christian nation.

I cannot help who sees the validity of my evidence. My dissertation committee members (acknowledged, well-known experts on the Founding all) did not believe that my thesis was valid and grilled me for SIX HOURS at the "proposal" stage. At the end of my doctoral defense, all three of them called my evidence "overwhelming," accepted the validity of my term, and began to use it themselves.

I have never said anything about Aquinas one way or the other in this blog before today. [unless I made the same point that I just made about him before -- I don't remember] So, I haven't indicated that Aquinas' influence was less than Christian -- or more than Christian. So, I find the final comment unfair if directed at me and confusing and irrelevant otherwise.

Well, back to work.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, again, Gregg, that's your approach to scripture, and it's a minority one. In the meantime, you're mostly being co-opted by those hostile to Christian belief anywhere near the public square. This reading of Romans 13 might go as far as the Jehovah's Witnesses's [I believe they'd agree with you here], and I don't mean that pejoratively. I don't judge their theology either. Perhaps it's the right one, to disengage from this fallen world as much as possible.

But the historical fact is that natural law, Aquinas' reading of Romans 13 [by what right does one man rule another], and the notion that sovereignty resides with the people [especially in a republic or Britain's democratic monarchy] are all in the mainsteam of Christian thought of the Founding era, and in the hundreds of years leading up to it.

You may call this thought unChristian, but you cannot speak for the majority, you cannot speak for Christianity as it understands itself any more than a Mormon can, they who also believe that theirs is God's [Jesus'] intended form and plan for Christianity.

Or any more than Roman Catholicism can, for that matter, where its view is the minority one in Christianity.

What's happening is that people are using your theological assertions in historical and political ways, likely because they have no genuine education in Christian thought and history themselves. Your thesis suits their purposes, and they accept it uncritically, wielding it as a weapon in the culture wars.

Now, I've acknowledged your literalist reading of Romans 13 is completely coherent and valid theologically, that's not at issue.

What is the problem---and it is a problem---is that people [out of ignorance or guile] are using your minority theological view for their own historical and political purposes.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I wrote the above while you were writing yours. I find this worthwhile, anyway.

You say that Protestantism represents 1/3 of "Theistic rationalism," but there are only two terms there. Even if we allow there's an implicit argument that the Founders theism [a providential, personal God] corresponds to the God of Abraham, those who employ your term, perhaps because of not bein well enough acquainted with Christian thought lose that sense of Protestantism or Christianity. And certainly that other stuff about the Founding being part of God's plan---which by and large they believed---gets dumped by the wayside.

To Mayhew, I have no problem with your well-researched assertion that your interpretation of Romans 13 was the prevailing one until Mayhew. Otherwise, his sermon wouldn't have been so groundbreaking.

However "theistic rationalist" leads folks like our mutual friend Mr. Rowe to proclaim that "reason trumps revelation," although there's not a single example of where the Bible was thrown out for rationalism.

The proper formulation is that "reasoned" interpretation trumped literal interpretation, a far less extravagant claim, and consistent with the views of men like Locke, Mayhew, and the Founders.

You disagree theologically with it, but it's quite "Christian" in a socio-theological sense.

[As for John Calvin's literal reading of Romans 13 being the prevailing one, I'd love to see your paper sometime. I'm unacquainted with its particulars, and anxious to see how the Glorious revolution and the Civil wars of the 1600s fit into all that.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

Aquinas' reading of Romans 13 [by what right does one man rule another],...Tom I understand this is Mayhew's and Locke's. And I understand how you can trace their lineage to Aquinas thru Hooker. However, I haven't seen evidence (perhaps you cited it but in the massive amounts of stuff I read online, I wasn't paying careful enough attention) that this was the position Aquinas himself taught.

Gregg Frazer said...

I meant that Protestant Christianity is one of the three elements making up the concept/belief system of theistic rationalism -- its definition and, therefore, its substance. I did not mean that it is 1/3 of the words in the term.

Again, what does how people employ the term have to do with its validity?

It bothers me greatly when someone abuses my term, but what should I then do? Pretend that the false is true? Should a manufacturer of hammers quit making hammers because someone used one to bash in a skull?

I don't get what you want me to do about it.

This seems similar to King's suggestion that if the proper view of Romans 13 is used to support tyranny, that somehow changes reality and makes the view incorrect.

You're right that there's not a single example of the Bible being thrown out for rationalism -- there are NUMEROUS examples! Unfortunately, if I remember correctly, you arbitrarily refuse to admit a number of them into the discussion. We could start with Jefferson and his scissors and Adams claiming that the Genesis account of the Fall of man was "either an allegory, or founded on uncertain tradition ... which by no means accounts for the facts."

I agree with you that your formulation is far less extravagant, but not that it is consistent with "Locke, Mayhew and the Founders." You haven't read my dissertation and I'm not about to retype it here -- so I guess we'll have to disagree.

And, although you don't like to admit Adams into the evidence, he was a Founder and he did say: "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 INDUCTIONS, NO SUBSEQUENT REVELATION, SUPPORTED BY PROPHECIES OR MIRACLES, CAN SUPERSEDE IT."

And that "The human understanding is a revelation from its Maker, which can NEVER be disputed or doubted" -- which he said just before saying that he would not believe revelation DIRECTLY FROM GOD if it didn't square with what his reason had taught him.

To be clear: my claim was that Calvin's view of Romans 13 was the prevailing view in 18th century American churches.

Jonathan Rowe said...

However "theistic rationalist" leads folks like our mutual friend Mr. Rowe to proclaim that "reason trumps revelation," although there's not a single example of where the Bible was thrown out for rationalism.I can see this leading to another dithering argument. I seem to remember bringing explicit heterodox examples from Jefferson's and J. Adams' private writings where they did this; but Kristo and some others challenging that this is what they did.

There were numerous examples of ministers giving public sermons doing this in a more subtle way. I've mentioned Samuel West's famous sermon a few times.

If you remember, he states true revelation CANNOT contradict reason/the natural law. And he likewise states both are from the same God. But he looks FIRST to reason WITHOUT the Bible to determine an answer (that men have a right to revolt against tyrants). And then concludes that the Bible, properly understood, MUST THEREFORE teach it because REASON first discovered it through Nature. This all fits with their line that reason was God's first revelation to man, scripture, God's second. (And by the way, where does the Bible say that?)

West takes this so far to conclude Paul might have been joking when he uttered Romans 13. That's about as much as a public minister could get away with in the middle late 18th Century.

But what he ended up doing was looking first to reason to provide the answer and then using the Bible as a supplement, not the other way around. Reason, not scripture was the ultimate test of Truth.

I think we could analyze Mayhew's sermons the same way.

Jonathan Rowe said...

One other thing Tom; if you look at the folks who have endorsed "theistic rationalism," you'd see it's a mixed bag. Peter Henriques, is probably more of a secular scholar; but I don't see him as an obliterate all religion from the public square kind.

Gary Scott Smith is a religious conservative, against the Naked Public Square. So is, as I understand, Gregg himself who has argued against Everson/SOCAS. And Alissa Wilkinson's Patrol Magazine is a conservative Christian magazine along the lines of World and Christianity Today.

There's also me, Ed Brayton, Brooke Allen (who argues the Deist thesis and seemed to use "theistic rationalist" interchangeably in the one post where she endorsed TR, which led Gregg to correct her in the comments), and some of the commenters here.

I don't see the use of TR as part of any secular left conspiracy to sandblast Christianity from the Founding.

King of Ireland said...


When I said she was right on I only meant that part about Christians putting away all this dogma and finding Biblical principles that apply to government that are not normally thought about by the religious right crowd who is obsessed with abortion and gays so much that they miss the forest looking at the trees.

Ed Brayton had a good post about rapes and Africa. Everyone got on talking about how bad it was. An African guy came and and gave the History of the problem and rebuked them all for being narrowed minded and missing the big point.

That is all I was saying.

Gregg Frazer said...

Aquinas answers the specific question, "Is one man bound to obey another?" in Summa Theologica II-II, Question 104, First Article.

There he says (in part): "Wherefore, just as in virtue of the divinely established natural order the lower natural things need to be subject to the movement of the higher, so too in human affairs, in virtue of the order of natural and divine law, inferiors are bound to obey their superiors."

And in the Second Article: "For while subjects have many obligations towards their superiors, this one, that they are bound to obey their commands, stands out as special among the rest."

Concerning Christians under a secular power [Sixth Article]: "Now, the order of justice requires that subjects obey their superiors, else the stability of human affairs would cease. Hence faith in Christ does not excuse the faithful from the obligation of obeying secular princes."

I know it wasn't a question addressed to me, but I thought I'd chime in since I had it at hand.

King of Ireland said...

here is the link

Silence is the Enemy: Rape in Africa

Did not work that is the post from yesterday at dispatches on the culture wars

Gregg Frazer said...

Re my earlier post, I may have mistaken you for Kristo as far as arbitrarily rejecting evidence from Adams, Tom. If I did so, I apologize.

You'll note that I said "if I remember correctly" -- apparently, I did not.

King of Ireland said...

Dr. Frazer,

I guess you have called a cease fire until another day in that you did not respond to my last comment. I am actually glad. I would rather sit and mull over your points and respond to the core ones in a longer post that can address these in the detail they need to be addressed.

Thanks for the discussion.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"reasoned" interpretation trumped literal interpretation, a far less extravagant claim, and consistent with the views of men like Locke, Mayhew, and the Founders.

This is certainly a milder way of putting it, as opposed to "reason trumps revelation." And I think the FFs would agree to this. Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin all considered their theological system to be "rational Christianity."

King of Ireland said...

Tom Stated:

""reasoned" interpretation trumped literal interpretation, a far less extravagant claim, and consistent with the views of men like Locke, Mayhew, and the Founders."

Profoundly put!

Might I try to translate:

The Western World woke up from a dark slumber of the mind beginning in the Middle Ages and progressing exponentially to the Enlightenment where Scientific discovery had so trashed dogmatic and stale religious assumptions that people began to dare THINK FOR THEMSELVES AND APPLY REASON TO SCRIPTURE INSTEAD OF JUST TAKING THE PHD'S WORD FOR IT.

What an ingenious idea!? (Sarcasm intended) I agree Tom that it all started with the Scholastics but was aborted to some degree by the plague. It gave the fear mongers something to blame the people for as far as angering God. Or dare we say started by the "pagan" Greeks.

By the way where is Salmanica Spain? Is it on the coast. Maybe that is where the liberal influences came from?

King of Ireland said...


I looked up your reference here about Salmanca. They created the first human rights law(so they say) in the "Law of Burgos" in 1512. Guess who did not stick around and left before it was established? Cortes! Maybe the King is on to something that Dr. Frazer cannot see? If Cortez would have thought differently about the "pagans" and had not subjected them in the name of the King and God maybe history would have been different.

Aquinas's influence squashed yet again through ignorance. I guess the question is this:

What role did Cortes's belief in Divine Right have on the horrible acts he committed? Thus inversely if he would have stayed around and been influenced by someone who was teaching natural rights would he have not done it. Could a literal interpretation of this passage lead to mass murder in the name of God and one big excuse for tyrants to be jerks?

Maybe it was all part of God's sovereign plan for him to leave so that the Aztecs would get killed off?

I guess the cease fire is off Dr. Frazer but you do not have to respond. I know we have been over this. But I still do not think you have answered this in a coherent way.

Gregg Frazer said...


Forgive me, but I have intentionally not responded further to your Cortez questions.

Frankly, I don't have the inclination to devote any time to it because it doesn't interest me at all. I said at the beginning that I wouldn't be dragged into endless hypotheticals, and yet I allowed myself to be.

I think I can be excused from further pursuit down the Cortez rabbit trail, since I've dealt with almost everything you guys have brought up on various topics and answered almost every question you've given me down several roads.

I've already offered more re Cortez and the Aztecs than I thought was merited, so I'm done with it. I guess I'm dense, but I don't see its relevance or importance.

Furthermore, I still don't think that the proper interpretation of a passage becomes improper if it is used by bad people for bad purposes -- and, trust me, you're not going to convince me of that.

I'm going to try to stay away, but my curiosity will, no doubt, get the better of me. So, if you get onto a subject which interests me (as the brief Mayhew discussion did) or for which I think I can offer something important, you'll hear from me again.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Quite so, K of I. For their own reasons, both evangelicals and secularists define Christianity in terms of Luther and especially Calvin, and in sola scriptura, lieralist/fundamentalist terms.

This form of Christianity was certainly not the dominant force in the Founding, as so [ta-da!] no "Christian nation."

However, the main successors of Thomas Aquinas, the Salamancan school, known as the Scholastics or the Schoolmen, were the backbone of Christian thought, philosophers as well as theologians, and with whom men like Locke were intimately acquainted. [Locke quotes Aquinas extensively in his uncompleted thesis on natural law. See also Robert Cardinal Bellarmine attacked by Robert Filmer in his Patriarcha, to which Locke's First Treatise on Governement was a direct reply.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

If Christianity is John Calvin and the literalist interpretation of Romans 13, then we are certainly no Christian nation in any meaningful way. However, there's a lot of the story---like the 500 years of Christian thought that the Schoolmen represent---that is omitted or that even scholars don't fully appreciate.

Yes, Gregg, Aquinas wrote directly on Romans 13

and although in 1200 he's not all the way to Mayhew yet, his successors develop his notions further, and the cracks in the dam of literalism are already there. John Calvin was a temporary step back, is all, one that Mayhew and others simply undid.

King of Ireland said...

Frazer stated,

"I've already offered more re Cortez and the Aztecs than I thought was merited, so I'm done with it. I guess I'm dense, but I don't see its relevance or importance."


I have not good answer to what you are saying and the subject is straying from what I know about so I am going to bow out. It is a good question. But if you do not want to answer it so be it. I think Tom is making a good case that this is far more important than one would think. If it is not literal then Cortez missed out and the world suffered. It is what he believed and what he used to kill innocent people. I guess it was God judging them right?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, K of I, that's a little past the point I'm making. The Catholic Church alternately condemned and turned a blind eye to slavery and mistreatment in the New World, depending on who was pope. However, the Scholastics were on the side of the better angels, when they were in ascendancy.

Still, I think Cortez would have behaved about the same regardless of religious instruction.

It's complicated, but this might help:

The point I AM making is that the prevailing narrative simply isn't true---that anything in the Founding not directly and literally in the Bible must be credited to the Enlightenment.

Not at all. Aquinas didn't vanish in the Black Plague; his successors like Vitoria and Suarez thrived and were closely studied by all the thinkers who influenced the Founders like Grotius and Locke.

In fact, the English king James had Suarez' De Fide publicly burned! [See p. 181]

Gregg Frazer said...


If you tried really hard, you might be able to be a little more unfair to me -- but I doubt it!

First of all, I enter the discussion saying that my time is limited because I'm trying to actually accomplish something this summer and have a number of important projects.

Then, I answer virtually every question and counter virtually every point made by you for dozens of exchanges -- while you pick out a couple of my many arguments and challenges (mostly tangential). Even then, you don't answer my actual questions or challenges, but turn the general topic a direction that you prefer.

Then, when I decide I don't have the inclination to continue down ONE rabbit trail that I do not think worthy of so much of my time, you accuse me of ducking the question because I don't have an answer!

For that matter, what's the point of me responding when you ignore what I say and continue as if I hadn't said it? For example, countless times I've delineated the difference between obedience and submission -- with Scripture verses to demonstrate and with the original Greek -- but you persist in conflating the two. You have yet to give me any EVIDENCE for the two being the same other than YOUR OPINION.

Now, you may disagree with me, but, as I've said several times, we're just spinning our wheels if, after my clear statements, you respond to me with: "As far as your three examples at the end they were all rebelling against the authority. That is if one reads Romans 13 literally. We must submit to ALL authority right? Disobedience is not submission." So what's the point of continuing to invest so much time -- only to be ignored or frustrated?

You are right: disobedience is not submission -- neither is obedience. Disobedience in conjunction with recognition of the authority behind the command IS submission, however. Likewise, obedience to a command followed by assassination or rebellion is not submission. Obedience or disobedience is response to a command; submission or subjection is response to an authority behind a command. Paul wrote Romans 13 from jail!

I'm sure that won't register with you, since it hasn't registered the previous times I've tried to explain it. Since we disagree, should I "translate" your disagreement as "you don't have a good answer?"

We clearly have different epistemologies. I rely on the authority of the Bible as God's inerrant Word. If it says that "no one seeks for God," then I accept that as the truth.

You rely on the feelings, perspectives, and opinions of sinful, self-seeking men. If a pagan, wanting to justify himself and make excuses for his sin, says "I was seeking God, but a poor example claiming to be from God came along and caused me to go the wrong way," then you accept that as the truth.

So, we talk past each other.

I quote the Bible and then you respond with personal experience or anecdotes from your years "out there." I believe that you should look at your experience in the light of Scripture rather than judging the Bible by your experiences. You apparently believe that experience is the best teacher -- I believe that God's Word is.

So, we talk past each other.

I believe that the correct interpretation of a passage is correct irrespective of how it is used/abused by men. God meant to say something to us and the fact that some twist it to support their own sin does not change what God meant to say!

You think that the correct interpretation somehow changes if it's used by bad men for bad purposes. I don't understand that at all. If you say, "drive a nail with a hammer," that means "drive a nail with a hammer" even if Tom or I decide to bash in someone's skull with the hammer instead of driving the nail. The proper interpretation of your statement is still the proper interpretation.

So, we talk past each other.

Gregg Frazer said...


I have said what I think needs to be said about Cortez and the Aztecs. But, lest I be accused of having no answer, here's what I've said already and more answers to your CRUCIAL questions:

a) The Aztecs were under the authority of Montezuma until they were actually subjected by Cortez. A claim of "divine right" over those people at the beginning by Cortez would be illegitimate.

b) The Aztecs were "without excuse" in their rejection of God BECAUSE "His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made" and BECAUSE "they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened" and because they "exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of ... animals." Rom. 1:20-23

c) The fact that a guy claiming to represent God abused them does not give them an excuse. They are without an excuse on their own -- irrespective of the influence of someone else. Would we have preferred a better witness claiming to be from God? Yes. Does that excuse them? No.

d) Cortez was not a good example of Christianity -- but he was not a Christian, so that doesn't surprise me.

e) As for the following question: "What role did Cortes's belief in Divine Right have on the horrible acts he committed? Thus inversely if he would have stayed around and been influenced by someone who was teaching natural rights would he have not done it. Could a literal interpretation of this passage lead to mass murder in the name of God and one big excuse for tyrants to be jerks?" This is speculation and may have interest for those who like to engage in "what if" scenarios, BUT IT IS IRRELEVANT TO THE MATTER OF PROPER INTERPRETATION. God meant to say something -- and how Cortez used what He said cannot change what God meant to say centuries before Cortez was born!

I am confident that Cortez did not spend 5 minutes laboring over the text of Romans 13 -- if he ever read it at all. He heard about "divine right" and ran with it. WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH WHAT GOD ACTUALLY SAID?

f) I believe that the Bible teaches that God is sovereign -- and I directly quoted several passages to that effect. So, whatever Cortez did was God's plan. Whatever happened was God's plan. I'm sorry if you don't accept Isa. 14:24-27 and Jer. 27:5-8 and numerous other passages in which God makes this clear. But your continuing to question it doesn't change what the verses say and, therefore, won't change my opinion -- so why must I be in the conversation?

g) I did NOT say to "forget" pagans because they have no interest in God. I did not seek God before He graciously saved me, either. What I ACTUALLY said was that IF what pagans say conflicts with God's Word, THEN I don't care what they say -- God's Word is right and they're wrong. That doesn't mean that I write them off and have no interest in their salvation.

Gregg Frazer said...


h) "How would the average Aztec know who to obey as their authority?" I've answered this several times, but here it is again: each system acknowledges a basis for recognizing who has authority. In most systems, it has been patriarchal and/or monarchical/heredity; in our system, we elect people or appoint them via elected representatives. Everyone knows who the tribal leader is or who the king is -- it's not a mystery except to you.

i) Would the Aztecs been better off if more liberal ideas had prevailed and traveled with Cortez? I don't know and neither do you. Probably -- but so what? That isn't what happened and it was God's plan that it not happen. If you're asking whether they would have been better off spiritually, then the answer is no. Everyone who will be saved is saved because God does the saving and He is sovereign. [You won't like that, but you asked]

j) I did NOT indicate that Cortez being there "is somehow most certainly the 'judgment' of God to purge evil" -- I didn't say one way or the other.

k) We don't know what would have happened if the ideals of Aragon (as you describe them) had prevailed in Spain and traveled with Cortez -- it's all speculative "what if" -- which may be interesting as a parlor game, but not worthy of my time because it doesn't interest me, not because I don't know anything about it. If that had been the case, perhaps the Aztecs would not have been wiped out, would have become the dominant culture/power in the Western Hemisphere, and prevented the founding of the United States. That wouldn't have been a happy result for any of us. But none of us knows, and, while I'm personally interested in some "what ifs" -- I'm not interested in this one.

So, I guess that, since I'm not interested in the same thing you are and don't see its importance, I must be ignorant and avoiding the issue -- right?

So be it. As I've said before, I'll have to try to live without your approval.

Tom Van Dyke said...

each system acknowledges a basis for recognizing who has authority. In most systems, it has been patriarchal and/or monarchical/heredity...

Exactly. See Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha [which argued for patriarchy starting with Adam] and John Locke's First Treatise on Government, written in direct opposition to Filmer.

in our system, we elect people or appoint them via elected representatives...

Exactly again. The colonists lived under this system, and the rules change under Romans 13, according to the Schoolmen.

See also Algernon Sidney, a source cited by a number of Founders, citing the Schoolmen in his own Discourse on Government, Chap 2, "The common Notions of Liberty are not from School Divines, but from Nature."

Gregg, you're certainly entitled to your view [and again it seems theologically valid to me], but yours is the minority view in Christianity.

And unfortunately, your theological arguments are being hijacked for non-theological purposes by people without an understanding that yours view is the minority view.

You rely on the feelings, perspectives, and opinions of sinful, self-seeking men.

Gregg, we do hope you're not referring to Thomas Aquinas or the Schoolmen.

That said, K of I, Gregg's quite right in his complaint that you're talking past him, since his context here is purely theological, and indeed, solely in the context of literalism/fundamentalism.

Unfortunately, this is a secular blog, and purely theological arguments aren't quite germane, and worse, they tend to be misunderstood by those without a background in the greater scope of Christian thought.

Thus we get the widespread perception that fundamentalism equals Christianity, and that just ain't so.

Gregg Frazer said...


Mine WAS NOT the minority view in 18th century America -- which, as I understand it, is the time period in focus in this blog.

Again, what would you have me do to keep people from using the truth for their own purposes? Pretend that the Bible doesn't say what it clearly says?

I'm guessing that you believe in evolution. But according to Gallup, that's a minority position in America. Should you then deny it and go with the majority? Should schools stop teaching it and go with the majority? Or should you and they contend for what you think is correct -- irrespective of the majority position? Evolutionary thought is nothing more than an interpretation of data subscribed to by faith.

We all recognize that the revolutionaries chose to side with the Mayhew emasculation. So why am I continually asked questions -- especially if you don't want the answers??

I wasn't aware that reading what the Bible actually says in context equals "fundamentalism." Interesting.

My "You rely on the feelings, perspectives, and opinions of sinful, self-seeking men..." comment was directed at King, not you. So, it was a reference to pagans, the Aztecs, Cortez, writers of books about the Aztecs, King himself, and all of the other people to whom King goes for support for his notions. Let me be clear that I'm sinful and self-seeking, too -- but I don't think my opinion should trump what the Bible clearly and unambiguously says. [i.e. direct quotes]

So, no, it was not a reference to Aquinas and the glorious Schoolmen -- but it would include them along with every other merely human source.

My context here has NOT been "purely theological" or "fundamentalism." My context has also been historical. In fact, I was dealing with Cortez and the Aztecs on the basis of historical fact while King was musing in the "what if" gallery. I have fully admitted the historical influence of Mayhew and made several other historical points -- such as statements and actions by Adams and Jefferson, for example.

I trust you were not attempting to marginalize me or to dismiss my arguments by insinuating that I do not deal in the realm of history.

What is or isn't "Christianity" has not been settled in this blog -- the last I knew. There has been much discussion and debate, but I wasn't aware that a definitive definition had been reached. I didn't read every entry, so I must have missed the one in which this was decided.

And how "widespread" is the perception? By your standards, if it's "widespread" enough to represent majority opinion, then we must bow to it and not admit any other ideas into the discussion. Truth is determined democratically, right?

Perhaps you could enlighten me, since I'm just going by what the Author of Christianity said it was and what 18th century American Christians agreed that it was. So, it appears, I'm at a disadvantage.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mine WAS NOT the minority view in 18th century America -- which, as I understand it, is the time period in focus in this blog.

By the time of the revolution, it was manifestly NOT the majority view, thanks in large part to men like Jonathan Mayhew. That is our topic.

And thanks to men like the Schoolmen, John Locke, and Algernon Sidney, who if you noted in the link I offered, quoted scripture in support of his position, as did the Schoolmen he cited.

What is or isn't "Christianity" has not been settled in this blog -- the last I knew.

Well, I've tried to use literalism/fundamentalism non-pejoratively to describe your position. I occasionally wrote only "fundamentalism" out of fatigue, hoping you knew what I meant, which I think is quite clear to the reader.

I wasn't aware that reading what the Bible actually says in context equals "fundamentalism." Interesting.

If you have a term to refer to your system of reading the Bible, I'll use it. But it should also include a rejection of theological reasoning like Aquinas', Suarez', and Mayhew's.

Yours is a strict---and I maintain "minority" view---and those who use your writings as historical/scholarly support use YOUR minority definition of what Christianity is. But your definition is purely theological, not historical, sociological, or philosophical. It makes sense only to you and those who believe as you do.

If you claim Christianity for only your version of it, quite so that the Founding wasn't Christian. But I don't believe you get to make that claim based on theology alone.

As previously noted, the God of Abraham is the bathwater of the Founding, and they throw it out along with the Baby Jesus. But this does not represent the truth of the Founding.

As for the problem of science and creationism, we've touched on it briefly here, I defending at least in limited fashion the rights of religious conscience re the latter. But that's off track in this discussion.

Had Cortez followed the early papal bulls on the treatment of the indigenous in the New World, things certainly would have been different. This much we can say historically.

Jonathan Rowe said...

By the time of the revolution, it was manifestly NOT the majority view, thanks in large part to men like Jonathan Mayhew. That is our topic.

Yes, well this is KEY. During the time of the American Revolution, Christianity was in a state of flux (arguably it's always in a state of flux; but that's a topic of another discussion).

As far as I understand the article that TVD reproduced by David Kopel, the notion of a right to rebellion in the face of Romans 13 has roots older than most of us might realize; but for the overwhelming MAJORITY of Christendom, it was a dissident view. It was still a dissident view during the early part of the 18th Cen.; but by that time we had Locke, Sidney, the Glorious revolution. After the Stamp Act in 1765 (I think) 1/3 of America was pro-revolt (Whig); 1/3 was anti-revolt (Tory Loyalist) and 1/3 were on the fence. And just about ALL professed to be "Protestant Christian" in some, at the very least minimal, lowest common denominator, sense. The Whigs won the ideological battle; but whether they were the true heirs of authentic Christianity is a matter of debate.

By way of analogy, all sorts of ideas get passed under the auspices of "Christianity" today -- from "gay marriage" to "liberation theology," to "self esteem." I'll deal with "self esteem" because it's a less politicized issue. If somehow some really important historical movement of "self esteem" got the "Christian" imprimatur in a popular sense, that wouldn't necessarily make it the actual, authentic, biblically Christian position.

The way I understand it, it's more authentic from the standpoint of traditional biblical Christianity to despise oneself as a sinner than to have "self esteem."

Jonathan Rowe said...

And Dr. Frazer could counter, "narrow is the gate...."

The majority world Christian religion is Roman Catholicism and most "Christian Nation" advocates in America don't consider that a real form of Christianity. However, to his credit, Gregg lists RCism as part of the "lowest common denominator" Christianity of the American Founding because of its adherence to orthodox doctrines. Many Christian Nationalists who may sympathize with the "Protestant Christian Nation" thesis fail to appreciate that they have more in common, in a theological sense, with the Roman Catholic Church than they do with Mayhew, Chauncy, West, J. Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and many other leading "Protestant Christian" figures.

Christian Nationalist figures like DJ Kennedy and many other David Barton follwers claim Mormonism and RCism "false"/"not Christian" and also try try to claim the American Founding as "Protestant Christian." This isn't right. They need to understand that so many of the key Protestant Christian players back then were even FURTHER removed from their form of Christianity than not just RCism, but also Mormonism.

Gregg Frazer said...


Jon is quite right -- there is an important distinction between saying that the REVOLUTIONARIES agreed with Mayhew (which is what I've admitted) and saying that his view was the MAJORITY view.

Even by John Adams's calculation, 1/3 of the people supported the Revolution, 1/3 opposed it, and 1/3 were neutral. Since the 1/3 who opposed it held the traditional view of Romans 13 (Calvin's) and a majority of the churches taught the same -- including many with the neutrals as congregants -- that view was arguably the majority view -- albeit not the view which inspired the Revolution.

One thing is clear: your statement that my view "was manifestly NOT the majority view" by the time of the Revolution is incorrect. It may have been the minority view by that time (although I don't think so and I'm quite sure you have no evidence for such a claim), but it certainly is not "manifestly" so!

The significance attached to someone quoting Scripture in support of their position is directly related to whether they use it correctly. Satan quotes Scripture, too. It depends on whether what is quoted is accurate, whether it's the proper interpretation, and whether it is applicable/appropriate for the purpose.

My statements regarding whether "Christianity" had been agreed upon in this blog were directed at your categorical statements about what counts as "Christianity" for determining majority vs. minority positions, the "greater scope of Christian thought," and whether or not you can categorically say that fundamentalism (whatever you mean by that) does not equal "Christianity." If we don't know what it is, how can you make such determinations without qualification?

And as for "only your version of it": you might recall that I defined it for the purposes of this discussion/issue by the definitions agreed to by EVERY Christian denomination (including Roman Catholics) in 18th century America. Do you have a more solid basis for "your version" (whatever that is)?

Since I do define it that way, your admission that "quite so that the Founding wasn't Christian" would seem to be game, set, match -- or checkmate if you prefer. I appreciate your concession.

Contrary to your assertion attempting to limit the scope or validity of my definition, in addition to me and those who believe as I do, my definition made sense to the Christians in America at the time in question -- which would seem to be important in a discussion of Christianity in America at that time.

For the record, my view does not reject theological reasoning. Theological reasoning must be employed when Scripture is not clear and ambiguous and to draw parallels and applications between passages. My view certainly does reject what Mayhew did because what he did bore little resemblance to theological reasoning -- it was intellectual dishonesty and propaganda employed to achieve a desired result.

And since you keep putting forward Aquinas as the authority, I think my view is closer to Aquinas' than Mayhew's is.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, it was in the development of Christian thought, Gregg. For illustration's sake, the "Catholic" clergyman John of Salisbury was already on to the concept that "disobedience to tyrants is obedience to God" as early as 1150 AD, over 600 years before the American revolution.

Aquinas is not yet to Mayhew in the 13th century, 3 centuries before the Protestant Reformation. But he's already questioning the [and your] literal interpretation of Romans 13, 500 years before Rev. Jonathan Mayhew. His successors like Fr. Francisco Suarez simply picked up the baton.

Back in Aquinas' days, your definition of "Christian" did not yet exist. It was all "Christian." The Protestant Reformation didn't happen for another 300 years.

That's a chronological fact, not an opinion.

I use "Catholic" here only because, as my link to Algernon Sidney proves, in the British/colonial 1600s, citing the political thought of "Catholics," the Schoolmen, the papists, required spitting on them first, and few had Sidney's guts in giving them their props at all.

Regardless of the 1/3-1/3-1/3 equation, Mayhew's sermon tipped the balance against the John Calvin literalist interpretation of Romans 13, something the Catholics [of all people, I expected them to dig "Divine Right of Kings," but they were among the first opponents] gave scriptural and reasonable support to.

The American revolution didn't just precipitate out of anger, because the Christians among them all took Romans 13 and the Bible seriously. Otherwise, Jonathan Mayhew's sermon wouldn't be a landmark of American history.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Since I do define it that way, your admission that "quite so that the Founding wasn't Christian" would seem to be game, set, match -- or checkmate if you prefer. I appreciate your concession.

But of course, Dr. Frazer. I'm an honest fellow, as best I can be. I understand and acknowledge your POV. But I don't concede your premiss---your definition of "Christian"---in any socio-historical sense, not atall.

Because if your definition of "Christian" is the only true one, reading the Bible literally, your thesis flows easy, validly, and without contradiction. Interpretations such as Mayhew's, Suarez' and Aquinas' are off the table.

But as history--the history of ideas per the American Founding---they remain very much on the table.

The problem remains that some use your work and limited premiss to secularize the Founding, which does not represent the truth of religion and the Founding.

No, it's not your fault that they do, but they do. Reason did not trump revelation.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Reason did not trump revelation.

Well maybe you just don't like the way the proposition is phrased.

As Samuel West put it:

A revelation, pretending to be from God, that contradicts any part of natural law, ought immediately to be rejected as an imposture; for the Deity cannot make a law contrary to the law of nature without acting contrary to himself,–a thing in the strictest sense impossible, for that which implies contradiction is not an object of the divine power.

Now, West did this in the context of arguing against submission to tyrants. He FIRST answered the question by looking to nature/reason alone and then went back and used the Bible to make his point after ALREADY answering the question from nature/reason alone. He also noted that if a literal interpretation of scripture leads one to conclude Paul said submit to and obey a tyrant, we should conclude he was joking. West argued something outside the Bible trumped and determined the "right" way to interpret the good book, no matter what the literal, plain text of the Bible seemed to say.

This isn't all too different than James Wilson when he wrote:

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

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jon, you'd have to show an example where the Founders [as a whole!] rejected a part of the Bible as "unreasonable."

What they did was reject certain interpretations as unreasonable, case in point, Gregg Frazer's reading of Romans 13.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Well Tom,

I think you are acting not unlike my 84 year old atheist-activist friend in holding a standard so high that little to nothing can pass it.

You know we can't get confessions from "the founders as a whole" at such a specific level to satisfy your standard. Hell, we've gone into detail on James Wilson's (and others') public writings but have so far found nil in his private writings that indicated what he really believed on the specifics (i.e., the Trinity, the nature of Christ, what specific parts of the Bible are ACTUALLY revealed), one way or the other.

Re "interpretations,"...yes that, like "context" is a clever term where folks can deny certain parts of revelation while at the same time not specifically admitting to doing so.

Tom Van Dyke said...

But that's simply the facts. They did not reject "revelation." Reason didn't "trump" it.

For instance, I've linked to the unitarian objections to the Trinity, all based on scripture itself!

And by "as a whole" all I meant was "not from Jefferson and Adams' private post-presidential letters" or Franklin talking about a single passage in the Book of Judges. They are stipulated.

Gregg Frazer said...

Wait a minute, Tom!

NOW we have to show that the Founders AS A WHOLE rejected a part of the Bible as unreasonable? What you are showing is how unreasonable you can be.

First, neither Jon nor I has EVER claimed that ALL of the Founders were theistic rationalists. Clearly, a few of them were Christians -- such as John Jay, Roger Sherman, and John Witherspoon. But those most responsible for the founding documents, which lay out the ideas and law upon which the United States was built, were theistic rationalists.

Second, perhaps you'd share with us an example of a part of the Bible which the Founders AS A WHOLE embraced?

Third, ignore my "interpretation" -- did they embrace what Romans 13 SAYS (in the King James version that they all had)?

Fourth, whenever you ask for examples, you find a way to dismiss them -- so why ask?

You didn't say mine was manifestly the minority view in the history of Christian thought, you said "by the time of the Revolution." I demonstrate that that is not correct, so you change the context.

As for your statement that "my definition" of Christianity did not yet exist in Aquinas' day: au contraire, my friend. "My definition" (which is the definition adhered to by EVERY Christian denomination in 18th century America) goes back to the Apostles' Creed (215 AD), the Nicene Creed (325 AD), and Athanasius' Creed (500 AD). So, your statement is not a "chronological fact," but, rather, an opinion.

Perhaps you can tell us which of the ten doctrines I identify as the core of Christianity that Aquinas did not believe in?

I suggest that my view is closer to Aquinas' than Mayhew's, so you change the rules again and say, "Oh yeah, well not Suarez!"

By the way, Christianity is a faith -- not a sociological movement. Much of what you're calling "Christianity" is really "christendom" -- which is hardly the same thing. And 18th century American Christians did not equate Christianity with Christendom -- in fact, many of them had come to America to escape the manifestations and effects of

Mayhew's sermon "tipped the balance" FOR THE ELITES AND THE 1/3 WHO WERE ACTIVE IN THE REVOLUTION -- but not for the majority! Do you have any EVIDENCE for your assertion?

"The American revolution didn't just precipitate out of anger, because the Christians among them all took Romans 13 and the Bible seriously. Otherwise, Jonathan Mayhew's sermon wouldn't be a landmark of American history." Do you have EVIDENCE for the claim that "the Christians among them ALL took Romans 13 and the Bible seriously?" Or is that another assumption convenient for your case? Perhaps they were just waiting for a fig leaf to justify what they'd already determined to do?

How many of them quoted Romans 13 or even made a biblical argument in favor of the Revolution? Examples? Where's your EVIDENCE that the Revolution was motivated by their desire to be true to Romans 13 or any other biblical passage?

Oh, and please give examples of the Founders "AS A WHOLE," while you're at it.

But you do agree that "my definition" is what was held by the Christians in America at the time -- right? If so, then they did not intend to create a Christian nation and attempts today to read back into them notions that they did not have are invalid.

Let's be clear: "my definition" of "Christianity" is not "reading the Bible literally." I don't know how you got that idea. Reading the Bible literally is a hermeneutical method; Christianity is a faith consisting of certain doctrines.

Continually pronouncing "reason did not trump revelation" does not make it true. Perhaps you'd like to present some EVIDENCE (as Jon and I have done for the opposite numerous times)?

Oh, right! We can't provide evidence for a claim we don't believe and haven't made: that the Founders "AS A WHOLE" rejected Scripture because of reason.

Gregg Frazer said...

I wrote my most recent post while you were writing your most recent -- so a small part of mine might have been "answered" (although I fail to see how "as a whole" can mean "someone besides Jefferson or Adams").

OK, playing your game: Adams rejected the Trinity as "absurd" in his Diary as a young man (not from private letters with TJ).

Now, tell us why that example must be rejected along with numerous others.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Continually pronouncing "reason did not trump revelation" does not make it true. Perhaps you'd like to present some EVIDENCE (as Jon and I have done for the opposite numerous times)

Name one. That's all I've ever asked.

Unless you've got something new, my answer will remain the same, that interpretations differed, but not the divine authority of the Bible.

And the Founders didn't "create" a Christian nation: it already was one, and the constitution didn't change that in the least, since religion was left to the states, unmolested by the federal government.

Gregg Frazer said...

Tell me what a dog is.

But, I won't accept any references to tails or barking or fur or teeth or Latin names for species or paws or ears or "man's best friend" or pets or references to them in writing or pictures of them or anything else you'd be likely to offer as evidence.

Then, if you can't tell me what a dog is within those restrictions, I can triumphantly pronounce: "dogs do not exist!" and feel good about myself.

Gregg Frazer said...

Also, Tom,

Aren't you the one constantly arguing in favor of theological reasoning?

You can't reason theologically from various quotes such as West and Wilson (aside from the curiously-out-of-bounds Adams and Jefferson)? You have to have a black and white, direct statement?

Now who's the unreasonable literalist?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I didn't call you unreasonable, Gregg, nor do I think you are. And I asked for an alternative term for "literalist" if you don't like that one.

"Hermeneutics that differ from mine are false" just doesn't work here.

Your charts drive out the unitarians, but they saw themselves as Christian [see Ezra Stiles' defense of unitarianism as Christianity], and for historical purposes, they are Christian, altho the most orthodox---like yourself, I imagine---disputed that.

But that's an intramural battle, with which the outsider is unconcerned, like the Sunnis and the Sh'ias.

As for the Adams quote, it's fine. But Adams and Jefferson are not the Founding, and they kept their more radical spoutings private. Of Washington, Madison and Hamilton, nothing definitive can be said. Far more probative is that Jefferson attended religious services as president, as a public example.

But I do believe we've lit on what is perhaps key---the belief that the Bible is divine revelation, Holy Writ, God directly revealing his will to man, as opposed to Jefferson's view of it as good moral teaching by a good man wrapped in myth.

For the latter view of the Bible concedes it no authoritah, only [human] wisdom.

Neither Mayhew nor Aquinas nor Suarez denied the divine authoritah of Romans 13, they simply insisted it demanded obedience only to legitimate rulers.

bpabbott said...

Gregg commented: " [Tom,] Aren't you the one constantly arguing in favor of theological reasoning?"

Gregg I think you're making a good point here. There seems to be an implication that theological reasoning is congruent with revelation and the "reason over revelation" requires the absence of a any interpretation of scripture (literal or reasoned).

In my mind "reason over revelation" implies that reasoned interpretation trumps literal interpretation ... and by interpretation, I refer to interpretation/understanding of text or claims, not only scripture.

Gregg, Is this essentially consisent with your understanding as well?

King of Ireland said...

Dr. Frazer,

I will let you have the last word for now and not respond to your last post. You have certainly given your opinion and have some scriptures to attempt to back it up. I have given my opinion and attempted to give some scriptures to back it up. I think what you fail to see is that we are both using the Bible. Not just you.

As I stated before, when I get some time I will look at the scriptures you cited, your reasoning behind it, and where it fits into the context of Romans 13 and this blog and respond point by point in detail on my personal blog as I did last time.

But for now lets focus on your discussion with Tom about the whole Theistic Rationalist topic. It would seem to me to rest on a good definition of the "Essentials of the Faith". I have brought this up before and I think someone needs to post on it. Anyway, judging by some of your comments and the quotes from Founding Fathers that you deem Theistic Rationalists I am starting to see that I would probably get that title based on how I approach the Bible and reason.

If this is true, then the best way to diminish anything I or others who agree with me think it to call it not Christian. When this is done to the Founders who do not meet your definition of Christian then the message becomes "Non-Christian." This is harmful for reasons I have stated before:

People such as Jon Rowe see my approach to God and scripture as reasonable and say if they were going to convert it would be to that version. People who use your approach to God and scripture shut the gate closed and call it watered down or heresy. For whatever reason the Evangelical or Fundamentalist stream has the power and so people see their version of God as the real "Christian" view and throw the baby out with the bath water.

I repeat that the kindness of God leads to repentance. Romans 2:4

I am new to many of these discussions. I seems we are discussing Romans 13, Mayhews sermon, the validity of the term Theistic Rationalist, and the essentials of Christianity all in the context of trying to discern what impact that Christianity had on the Founding of America? I am correct so I do not distract a good back and forth on one topic when we are on another. I look back and have done this ignorance.

I think that is why Dr. Frazer and I talk past each other.

King of Ireland said...

Dr. Frazer,

I will agree with you to a point about Mayhew at first glance. I seems he is denying that a tryant ruler could be a minister of God to purge evil in judgement. I do not deny this. There are many times that this is clear in the Bible. So to call all tyrants minister's of the devil would just as out of balance one way as you are the other way in stating tryants are always ministers of God by the simple fact that they seem to be authority.

Could there be a middle way? I suggested one in my post that responded to you on my personal blog here under "My Response to Greg Frazer".

Here is a portion of my thesis which I supported later in the post FROM THE BIBLE:

"I am sure Dr. Fraser gets my point philosophical point. I also get his Biblical point: God uses both just and unjust governments to judge the Nations. This is in the Bible and is indisputable in my view. My problem is how can we know for sure when this is taking place?

If not, then why not error on the side of overcoming evil with good. This is the verse that precedes Romans 13. I know this verse would seem to support Mr. Fraser's pacifist reading of Romans 13 but I am not so sure.

Ecclesiastes 3:8:

"There is a time for war and a time for peace"

If this is true then war can be good. In fact, your interpretation of Romans 13 would seem to confirm this. King George was God's authority and he liked to start wars. Thus war is good. In fact, war is God's will because His authority on earth that starts wars against the weak of the world for profit is God's way of bringing wrath on the evil doer.

If this is true then the Revolutionaries refusal to pay taxes to support this is opposing God too. That is part of Romans 13 also. Maybe God was punishing the colonists for their audacity to go against his chosen servant by sending Red Coats to kill them off? This assumes that the weak are guilty of some sort of sin and leads down the theological flaws of Job's friends."

The theology of Job's friends was that he must have sinned to be in his circumstances. They assumed wrong and so do we at times.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It seems we are discussing Romans 13, Mayhews sermon, the validity of the term Theistic Rationalist, and the essentials of Christianity all in the context of trying to discern what impact that Christianity had on the Founding of America?

Bingo, K of I.

As for the theological discussion you're having with Gregg, I don't care much. I see you seeking a middle ground within [fill in preferred term for "literalism" here], but I see his POV [and John Calvin's] on Romans 13 and I see Mayhew's, which is also fortified with 500 years of Christian thought before him.

I meself don't judge between them for "truth" before God, and neither can this secular blog. Nor do I think Dr. Frazer and Rev. Mayhew can be reconciled. The lines are quite clearly drawn, as they were in Mayhew's day.

As Gregg's manifestly committed to his evangelical theology first [nothing wrong with that], he defines "liberal" readings of Romans 13 as essentially nonChristian. Therefore, since Mayhew helped start the American revolution, America cannot be a "Christian nation" in any meaningful way. That's the long and short of it, as I make it anywyz.

However, we must accept Dr. Frazer's theology in order to accept his socio-political-historical argument.

And this is at the core of my own objection, coupled with the fact that many who don't share his theology in the least co-opt it nonetheless for their own non-theological purposes.


Oh, and Ben, I dunno if you purposefully hit the nail on the head, but you did, and I've been waiting for Dr. Frazer's response.

bpabbott said...

Tom, I'd be interested in your answer to the question as well. From your comments, I infer that you view "reason over revelation" requires an absence of any interpretation of scripture (reasoned or literal).

... as opposed to meaning that reasoned interpretation trumps literal interpretation.

Have I misunderstood your perspective?

Tom Van Dyke said...

No, you got it, Ben.

A "reasoned" interpretation of Romans 13 can justify revolution, even tyrannicide.

A literal one cannot.

If Gregg's is the only truly Christian reading of Romans 13, then "reason" did indeed trump revelation. But as I said,
we must accept Dr. Frazer's theology in order to accept his socio-political-historical argument.

Gregg Frazer said...

I'm going to start going one point at a time -- to see if I can get responses to my arguments and questions.


You seem to conflate my hermeneutics with my theology and with my definition of Christianity. "Literalism" is not my theology or my definition of Christianity. It is my hermeneutic -- the technical name for it is " the historical-grammatical method."

My definition of Christianity (for the purposes of evaluating the Founding) is the definition of Christianity espoused by EVERY Christian denomination in 18th century America -- as reflected in their creeds, confessions, and catechisms. I do not include unitarians for two reasons: a) there were only a handful of unitarian churches [I have the numbers in hundreds of the other denominations in my chart] and b) none of the other denominations considered unitarianism to be a Christian denomination.

That definition ("my" definition) is a set of 10 fundamental doctrines/beliefs that EVERY denomination (including Catholics) considered ESSENTIAL to Christianity. If you didn't believe those things, you weren't a "Christian" in THEIR eyes (not just mine). That list of fundamental doctrines reaches back nearly 1600 years (from them) to the beginning of the church -- historically, not just biblically.

Contrary to your continual insistence, "my" definition was not the minority position throughout church history -- nor was it relatively new on the scene. I believe when you've said that, you've been referring to "literalism" -- but that is not my definition of Christianity.

Now, to my question: since you seem to put Aquinas as the ultimate representative of Christianity, WHICH OF THE TEN CORE DOCTRINES/BELIEFS DID AQUINAS NOT BELIEVE? OR NOT BELIEVE IT WAS NECESSARY TO BELIEVE?

Gregg Frazer said...


In your June 6, 9:14 entry, you directed me to your response to me on your website.

I went there -- but that entry is the one to which I already responded AT GREAT LENGTH (May 22). To see my answers, which you must have missed somehow, click on the link "the comment thread" under "Frazer's Dialog with KOI Continues." I'd hate to think that I spent all of that time answering your many questions/assertions without you even seeing what I said!

I don't quite know how you could have missed it, since this set of "comments" stems from that entry!

Gregg Frazer said...

I plan on answering other questions -- including bpabbott's very good and, I think, honest one.

But I'm tired of investing lots of time answering everything others bring up and making arguments, only to have my arguments ignored and my answers (apparently) not read -- or at least not acknowledged except to pick out some minor tangential point to divert attention from the main point.

This needs to be a two-way street.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Gregg, I'm addressing you directly, although I'm not convinced it's a two-way street.

The subject is not Mayhew's unitarianism at this moment, it's his reading of Romans 13.

Answering Ben's question---which was also mine---should get us back on topic.

Gregg Frazer said...

And I repeat:

Since you keep insisting that "my definition" is a minority position and since you seem to put Aquinas as the ultimate representative of Christianity, WHICH OF THE TEN CORE DOCTRINES/BELIEFS WHICH MAKE UP MY DEFINITION DID AQUINAS NOT BELIEVE? OR NOT BELIEVE IT WAS NECESSARY TO BELIEVE?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Gregg, Trinitarianism and a "reasoned" interpretation of Romans 13 are two separate issues, and Aquinas, et al., were invoked only to illustrate that.

Gregg Frazer said...


This was your third opportunity to deny that Aquinas subscribed to "my definition" of Christianity and to demonstrate otherwise.

So, I take your response as dropping your charge that "my definition" of Christianity is a minority definition historically and as acknowledgment that it was the majority definition throughout church history and the definition maintained by 18th century American Christians.

I don't quite know why you brought up Trinitarianism as half of your dichotomy, since "my definition" is an amalgam of TEN doctrines, of which the Trinity is only one.

I understand that you still maintain that my hermeneutic is in the minority. So, perhaps we now have greater clarity as to the area/substance our disagreement.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I'm all for clarity, Gregg, and am certainly willing to discuss anything, including unitarianism.

Just so I understand you---does your challenge to Mayhew on Romans 13 have anything to do with your socio-historical arguments, or is it just a theological discussion ["reasoned" interpretation, etc.] between two Christians [yourself and K of I]?

Gregg Frazer said...

bpabbott re "reason over revelation,"

Your suggestion that there are two ways of looking at the question of "reason over revelation" is insightful.

One is the idea that one's reason should take priority over the CONCEPT of revelation.

The other is that one's reason should take priority over the CONTENT of revelation.

It is my contention that we find both of these in the key Founders and in the preachers who supplied them with theological cover for the Revolution.

A few examples of reason over the CONCEPT of revelation:
a) Jefferson tells his nephew: "Your own reason is the ONLY oracle given you by heaven" and "Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal EVERY fact, EVERY opinion."
b) Adams said that he would believe what his reason told him over DIRECT REVELATION from God and that when reason is clear, "no subsequent revelation, supported by prophecies or miracles, can supersede it."
c) Samuel Cooke said that men "can be subjected to NO human restrictions which are not founded in reason" [inc. those given by revelation] and he equated "the voice of nature" with "the voice of God [revelation]."
d) Samuel West said: "whatever right reason requires as necessary to be done is AS MUCH the will and law of God AS THOUGH IT WERE ENJOINED US BY AN IMMEDIATE REVELATION FROM HEAVEN."
e) John Tucker said of his view of government: "It is the voice of reason, which may be said to be the voice of God [revelation]."
f) Gad Hitchcock denuded Romans 13 of its supernaturally revealed status by referring to the passage as Paul's "rational point of view."
g) Samuel Cooper made conformity to reason the test of the validity of Scripture. He went on to say that his were "the principles ... which reason and scripture will forever sanctify;" but his references were to Sidney, Locke, and the atheist Voltaire -- not to Moses, Paul, and Jesus.

And, of course, Jefferson famously took a pair of scissors to the New Testament and removed whole sections which he, by his reason, had determined were not revelation at all and referred to the rest of the New Testament other than the Gospels as a "dunghill."

I take it from your and Tom's entries that I need not give examples of reason over revelation in the sense of CONTENT. You both appear to recognize that they favored their own "reasoned interpretation" [I think that's your term] to the "literal interpretation." But it's NOT just a matter of interpretation.

Now, I ask you -- and this is a critical question: IS NOT "REVELATION" WHAT THE TEXT ACTUALLY SAYS? If God says "stop signs are red and white" and someone comes along and says "I believe that the text means that stop signs are blue and green because that's what my reason tells me" -- haven't they chosen their reason over what God actually revealed?

Is there no ACTUAL content to what God said? Are the words meaningless symbols which can be made to say whatever one wants and the end result to be called God's revelation? God did not intend to say something particular? So God is dependent on us for his own revelation? Then what is "revelation" about it?

We can argue about "application" or even "interpretation" of ambiguous, difficult passages -- some passages are that way.

But when one, because of reason, rejects what the text clearly and unambiguously says in precise language, then one is preferring reason over revelation -- not just one form of interpretation over another.

Gregg Frazer said...

My challenge to Mayhew on Romans 13 is part of my overall argument that the prevailing political theology of the American Founding was theistic rationalism.

Mayhew is one example of many preachers who supported the American Revolution for rational rather than biblical reasons. They "used" the Bible in service of their own reason -- not the other way around. They were trained in Enlightenment rationalism in seminary and more heavily influenced politically by Locke's liberal democratic theories than by the Bible.

As Mayhew put it: "it necessarily follows from the supposition of our rational faculties being limited, that there is ROOM for our being instructed by revelation." Revelation could be a helpful supplement, but reason was primary.

And again, there is no question that, to the extent that they cared about Romans 13 (probably negligible where the political figures are concerned), the revolutionaries embraced Mayhew's emasculation of it. They certainly found it useful for recruiting.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry, that's a purely theological argument, Gregg. Unfortunately, some use it as a socio-historical one.

Let's put Mayhew and Aquinas aside for a moment and look at Sam Adams, who, as Brad Hart puts it in his latest post, "was as devout a Christian as you can get."

Sam gave a still-famous [and again, often overlooked] speech on August 1, 1776 about the D of I.
What I found most interesting is that the idea that liberty is part of the natural law and comes from God, which is how even devout Christians like Sam Adams got around the theological problem of Romans 13, which was more literally read to command obedience to earthly authorities and of course would forbid revolution.

"We have this day restored the Sovereign, to whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and with a propitious eye beholds his subjects assuming that freedom of thought, and dignity of self-direction which He bestowed on them. From the rising to the setting sun, may His kingdom come."

The rest of the speech is pretty devout, too, and Adams repackages many of Mayhew's arguments, if you do a side-by-side comparison.

I'm willing and happy to discuss this with you, Gregg. But now we have the orthodox Sam Adams coming under the "theistic rationalist" umbrella as well, unless I misunderstand you, which I don't think I do.

bpabbott said...


Thanks for the clear answer. I've not considered the content vs concept angle before, but I like the way you framed it.


I again like your analysis.

The concept of Biblical revelation, brings to quote below to my mind.

"A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand."
-- Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy, quoted from Lee Eisler, ed, The Quotable Bertrand Russell

I have no desire/intent to attack anyone's religious belief, but for me Russell makes a good point.

As a result, the only revelation I'd accept would need to be first hand ... and then I'd still be skeptical if I found reason to be suspicious.

King of Ireland said...

Dr. Frazer,

Most last post was to point out the "either, or" false dilemma your term attempts to create. I do not remember if you answered it or not.

I have also answered most of your questions. I have said repeatedly that I will address some of the scriptures you used at a later date with a post. I did it once(this whole dialogue) and will do it again.

I do not like your definition of revelation. I think it is what God wants to speak through the words. That is what makes it transcendant. What is the difference between a theist and someone who actually believes in or gives mental ascent to the God of Abraham? I know this is a new angle on the term because most here seem to attack the rationalist part not the theistic part.

I think the sheer volume of comments on this has hurt the discussion. But my point in bringing up Romans 12 is to put this in the larger context of what Paul was saying. That is a valid interpretation method of a passage that is certainly not as clear to everyone as you seem to make it.

I do appreciate your 10 essentials. That is a good starting point. As I have gone back and read earlier posts on these topics, I have gained clarity of what is being discussed and the context.

King of Ireland said...

Frazer stated:

"They were trained in Enlightenment rationalism in seminary and more heavily influenced politically by Locke's liberal democratic theories than by the Bible."

No, than BY your version of what the Bible says. We keep getting back to this. Do you have any other evidence than Romans 13 that "Liberal Democratic" ideas are not found in the Bible?

This seems to be your thesis:

Liberal Democratic ideas and the Bible are not compatible based a literal reading of Romans 13.

Is this correct?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, at least you have our resident atheist agreeing with you, Gregg. As predicted. Your thesis is completely congenial to the baby & bathwater approach.

I'll let the King have the floor, but his direct question encompasses mine: Are 'theistic rationalist' and 'orthodox Christian' mutually exclusive terms?

I wouldn't want to misunderstand you or put words in your mouth, although many of your secular supporters seem to.

The King also highlights an assertion that troubles me, that "Enlightenment rationalism," rather than say, the development of Thomistic natural law, is what informed the American revolution. Your secular supporters certainly run with "Enlightenment rationalism" as their choice in an either/or with Christian thought.

The unitarian question and the 10 sine qua nons can wait, but will be happily and conscientiously addressed. Romans 13 seems to be a proper jumpoff point, starting at the bottom of things and not the top, and it is, afterall, our topic for 70-odd comments now.

Jonathan Rowe said...


Re Sam Adams, you might want to consider that, though he was a devout orthodox Trinitarian Christian, his understanding of Romans 13 was not the authentically biblical Christian one, but rather that of the Enlightenment/theistic rationalists.

Re what is a "Christian" you have to draw the line somewhere. Simply calling oneself a Christian could be a line, but that line is probably too broad, nominal (arguably inclusive of atheists who consider themselves "Christian" in some identity or historical sense).

Here is Gregg's 10 points, if interested:

Out of those points, I think that one could disbelieve in eternal damnation (like B. Rush) and original sin (like the capital O Orthodox Christians) and still "fit" within historic Christianity. Though at that point, one veers into theologically liberal Christianity. That would be 8/10. Re Gregg's last test "inspiration of Scripture," clearly I think a historic Christian MUST believe in at least SOME divine scripture (God speaking to man thru revelation) but not necessarily believe the Bible infallible. The other 7, it seems to me, are non-negotiable.

The theistic rationalists/unitarians believed in God active in human affairs. They also believed the Bible, at the very least, partially inspired. Some believed in the resurrection (not of God the Son, but defined Jesus as some *other* kind of Savior). But that's it.

Romans 13 and rebellion is not one of the key points of the definition of historic Christianity. But, it's possible that one could flunk that test and still be an "orthodox Christian," just as one could flunk even more CENTRAL points like eternal damnation and original sin and still be a Christian.

However if one flunks the Trinity and cognate doctrines, then watch out; that's a tougher one to defend.

If one does defend a non-Nicene understanding of Christianity, the question becomes where does one draw the line? One simply calling oneself a "Christian"? What about an atheist who calls herself a "Christian"? Is she?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, I'm not even near the Nicene Creed yet, Jon. I'm fully aware of those arguments.

Re Sam Adams, you might want to consider that, though he was a devout orthodox Trinitarian Christian, his understanding of Romans 13 was not the authentically biblical Christian one, but rather that of the Enlightenment/theistic rationalists...

This is the First Things First. Who sez "Enlightenment/theistic rationalists" get the credit when the concepts had been floating around Christianity for 500 years, before there was an "Enlightenment" or "rationalism."

We've got a big anachronism here. Either we'll sort through it together or we'll pick it up later. But we're missing 500 years here, intolerable for any serious historical inquiry. The turnip trucks unload at Luther and the Reformation in the early 1500s or with the Enlightenment in the 1600s.

But that's the turnip truck explanation of history and the history of ideas, as if one day somebody said out of the blue in 1550 or 1660 or 1770, "Hey, mankind should be free! Created equal, God-given rights, let's start a USA!"

I'm playing on Dr. Frazer's home field, but I'm catching up. In the meantime, let's let K of I have the floor. And Romans 13. And Dr. Frazer in reply, should he choose to continue.

Gregg Frazer said...


Sorry, but that's [depending on what you mean by "that"] NOT a "purely theological argument" -- some of it is theological, but much of it's a historical argument.

As for my assertion that the ministers were trained in Enlightenment rationalism in the seminaries -- that's a historical fact. I did not say that someone COULDN'T have gotten ideas from Thomistic natural law or some other source, but that they DIDN'T. I document it at length in chapter 8 of my dissertation. Do you have any EVIDENCE that they were influenced by Thomistic natural law?

You DO misunderstand me. I do not say that anyone who holds a different view of Romans 13 than I was a theistic rationalist. If you understood my concept, you'd know that there are several elements and aspects to it -- no single belief or view of a single passage makes one a theistic rationalist. Sam Adams was not a theistic rationalist.

I would not make a claim concerning where Sam Adams got his notions about Romans 13, as I haven't studied him in detail. But I don't think Jon said that he got it FROM the Enlightenment -- he only said that his view was "that of the Enlightenment/theistic rationalists" -- which is true. It was the same view as theirs, regardless of its source.

I didn't read the whole speech -- did Sam Adams even mention Romans 13? As far as I read, he was making other arguments.

There is no anachronism. Regardless of whether other sources suggested similar ideas, the issue is where the key American Founders got the idea or how they arrived at their conclusions.

Yes, theistic rationalist and Christian are mutually exclusive terms -- as are theistic rationalist and "deist."

Gregg Frazer said...


Since you want to characterize my arguments, I'll characterize one of yours. Your continual comment on WHO agrees with me is ad hominem and bears no relationship to the validity of my arguments.

Gregg Frazer said...


I guess I missed something -- because I don't think you've answered hardly ANY of my questions or arguments. You just keep repeating what you've said or bringing up new, unrelated points. I went back to your site hoping that you'd answered my questions, but all I saw was the post I'd responded to weeks ago.

"Theist" can mean simply someone who believes in a god or gods. However, I chose to use it because in the 18th century it had the particular meaning of being opposed to deism. It meant a god who was present and active. It can mean someone who believes in the God of the Bible -- I am a theist. That's why it's the descriptor in my term and "rationalist" is the discriminating element -- the essence. "Theistic" distinguishes the key Founders from deists and "rationalist" distinguishes them from Christians.

I don't recall you bringing up Romans 12, but it is a good thing to do. Paul spends 11 chapters laying out the theology of who Christians are and their uniqueness. Then, chapter 12 begins the practical application -- since you have this unique identity, how should you live?

As verse 2 says, a Christian is not to be "conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." That is, we look at things DIFFERENTLY than the world, but we're equipped to do so because of what Christ has done for us. Chapters 12-15 tell us how to express our difference/uniqueness in the real world and with one another.

That is why chapter 13 can call us to do what seems abnormal and unusual and unnatural -- because of our identity in Christ and our focus on things above.

"This seems to be your thesis: Liberal Democratic ideas and the Bible are not compatible based a literal reading of Romans 13. Is this correct?"


My thesis is that the ministers who supported the Revolution based their arguments and ideas on reason and the writings of liberal democratic theory INSTEAD of the Bible. Several other passages besides Romans 13 are dealt with in my chapter, but the point is that they didn't base their arguments on the Bible, but on Locke, Sidney, and others.

I could demonstrate that, for the most part, liberal democratic ideas are not found in the Bible -- but that isn't my point. My point is that THEY didn't get them from the Bible. It's not that they didn't agree with my interpretation of the Bible -- they didn't claim the Bible as their source!

As often gets forgotten in this blog, it doesn't matter where they COULD have gotten ideas, what matters is where they DID get their ideas.

And quit talking about MY VERSION of what the Bible says. "My version" IS what the Bible says in Romans 13 -- I QUOTE IT DIRECTLY; THAT'S "MY VERSION." I stand or fall on what IT ACTUALLY SAYS -- not on some bizarre interpretation.

It says: "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities." That's what I say. "For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God." That's what I say. "Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God." That's what I say. Speaking of authority, it says: "it is a minister of God to you for good." That's what I say. "It is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil." That's what I say. "Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake." That's what I say. "For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing." That's what I say.

bpabbott said...

Gregg replied: "Since you [Tom] want to characterize my arguments, I'll characterize one of yours. Your continual comment on WHO agrees with me is ad hominem and bears no relationship to the validity of my arguments."

Hey ... Gregg and I are in agreement again ;-)

Tom, if you have a reasoned perspecitive to contribute, please do. In doing so I ask that your refrain form such ad hominem remarks. They are not constructive to an open and honest discussion on the subject of the blog.

When you disagree with the substance of my comments, I sincirelty hope you'll offer an informative response. I'd honestly like subjects perspecitives other than my own. If you're not interested in doing so, I for one would prefer silence.

King of Ireland said...

Dr. Frazer,

I have answered some of your questions. The whole post on my blog answered the first set. Some of the more simple ones like the Hebrew boys and David were answered. Others need a Biblical analysis that will require me to sit down and take my time like I did with my last post. The point of quoting the Romans 12 was that you did not address it. I have to go to work but I will address this again briefly tonight if you want to check back in.

Jon stated:

"Re Sam Adams, you might want to consider that, though he was a devout orthodox Trinitarian Christian, his understanding of Romans 13 was not the authentically biblical Christian one, but rather that of the Enlightenment/theistic rationalists."

Or we could say that his is the authentically Biblical Christian one. Why not?

Jon I think we both essentially agree on this in that many of the Founders at the time were not strict Calvinist Literalists that threw out the baby with the bathwater in the 1500's. The baby being bringing heaven to earth. In other words "saving souls" is all that matter to the Calvinist and the after life was the goal so not much that matters here.

This is Dr. Frazer's position. With that stated, as far as taking biblical virtues and applying them to society, they were all in agreement. Of course they added other types of thought as well but the Christian or Biblical flavor was still there. This is where they all agreed. It had a huge influence.

So did the enlightenment. What I cannot see is why it has to be "either, or". Or more specifically, how are these sets of ideas opposed in regards to improving society? By labeling some Theistic Rationalist it diminishes the role that the God of Abraham and the Bible played in our founding making it seem much more like the French Revolution. They are very similar periods in History but oh so different.

I will attempt to show how "Liberation" of an oppressed people is overcoming evil with good later tonight. To give Dr. Frazer a head start, I will start with the first two commandments of loving God, yourself, and your neighbor and being using a quote from the Holocaust Museum in D.C. that I think will answer the question who is your neighbor.

In fact, I am going to post it on my blog and I would appreciate posting it this time instead of linking it. When you post what he says and link my response most do not read it and have no idea what I have said other than what he responds to and I think it confuses things.

MY WHOLE POINT IS THAT HIS VERSION OF ROMANS 13 IS NOT THE ONLY BIBLICAL ONE. IT HAS TO FIT IN WITH THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF THE BIBLE IN FULL CONTEXT. I think the debating term is pleading to authority. Just because Calvin interpreted something and his ideas spread to America does not mean it is the correct interpretation. As I stated a few comments back, I think Mayhew at first reading was a bit off as well in that he did not prove his case that King George was evil.

If he was and there is not discernable reason to believe that the colonies were under divine judgement(200 years of prosperity would seem to destroy this argument) then overcoming this evil with the "good" I will illustrate was quite possibly loving God, yourself, and your neighbor not matter how much it pisses Calvin off.

I will email it to you when finished. What is your email again.

King of Ireland said...

Dr. Frazer,

If you could pick five to seven responses or questions you had that you feel I did not respond to and list them here I will make that part of my post tonight. This has been such a long discussion I have lost track of some of your points.

I do think it has been a productive discussion though. I have read many other back and forths on this blog when I went back to the archives and it helps my learning to see many different perspectives on the same topic. I hope you continue to participate here more often.

I also plan to ask on more clear and concise hypothetical from History to gain clarity on how and when to apply your interpretation. I am still not clear. But we can leave that for another day.

King of Ireland said...

Frazer stated,

"And quit talking about MY VERSION of what the Bible says. "My version" IS what the Bible says in Romans 13 -- I QUOTE IT DIRECTLY; THAT'S "MY VERSION." I stand or fall on what IT ACTUALLY SAYS -- not on some bizarre interpretation.


It says: "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities." That's what I say. "For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God." That's what I say. "Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God." That's what I say. Speaking of authority, it says: "it is a minister of God to you for good." That's what I say. "It is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil." That's what I say. "Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake." That's what I say. "For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing." That's what I say.

Then I guess you better go start teaching every kid who masterbates or looks at a woman in what you consider a lustful way to cut his hand off! It says what it says right! Or do we need to look at the context and overall counsel of the Bible and apply some reason to our interpretation? More tonight I have to go..... Please list your responses or questions you feel I have not addressed.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Gregg, you're kidding, right?

Hooker, Grotius, Pufendorf? All major influences on the Founding. All heavily influenced by natural law theory.

James Wilson, the eloquent Founder, second only to Madison in the costitutional debates.

Do you have any EVIDENCE that they were influenced by Thomistic natural law?

Yes, Algernon Sidney, smoking gun.

James Wilson:

"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."

This is Thomistic natural law theory in a nutshell.

The question would be, Gregg, if you would recognize Thomism in their work if you saw it. I don't see that you do.

There's so much more to Christian thought than a literal reading of the Bible that is not "Enlightenment rationalism." But since your theology is sola scriptura, you by necessity squeeze out those elements of Christian thought that don't conform to yours and credit them to Enlightenment rationalism.

This is the problem.

For example, Elisha Williams [who also argues Romans 13 along Mayhew's lines] in his "Essential Rights and Liberties of Protestants" [1744]


"This natural freedom is not a liberty for every one to do what he pleases without any regard to any law; for a rational creature cannot but be made under a law from its Maker..."

He's citing a Thomistic conception of natural law, one that had been around nearly 500 years and was part and parcel of Christian thought by that time.

But Thomism isn't the only alternative to the dichotomy of "theistic rationalism" and Christianity.

Since we're here on Williams, whatever his views on your TEN essentials, anybody who quotes the Bible as uses the name of Christ as often as he does is some sort of Christian, not a "theistic rationalist." Williams' arguments have nothing to do with the Enlightenment, yet are congenial to Mayhew's. Mebbe he's not a Christian, but he sure is a Protestant. [Now that's an interesting distinction, one we'd have to make. Where does it end?]

And of course, Ben would rather drink Drano than agree with me on anything, and shows zero understanding of my arguments here. But I cited him only to illustrate my previous point, that literalism-as-true-Christianity is congenial to the secular thesis, and that's where it finds its largest reception, again ignoring the greater body of 1700 years of Christian thought.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I agree that Tom shouldn't have done that. He always holds peoples' feet to the fire and we should do the same with him.

I would term in the genetic fallacy or poisoning the well. And this isn't the first time he's tried to counter Gregg by saying, "look at how the secularists/atheists/whatever" are using your work.

Jonathan Rowe said...

In his thesis Gregg cites Elisha Williams (that very sermon) as one of the progenitors of theistic rationalism.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Not at all, Jon. Ben giving his opinion on how Christians should approach the Bible is ludicrous and irrelevant. He's not in the game. And although Dr. Frazer is, his is not the only or last word.

Moreover, it illustrates how "theistic rationalist" is inadequate as a socio-historical term, as it doesn't come with an instruction book that carries the sense of, as Dr. Frazer himself puts it:

Also, remember that 1/3 of the elements making up "theistic rationalism" is Protestant Christianity.

Instead, those who use Dr. Frazer's term create a false dichotomy between "theistic rationalism" and Christianity.

Although I'm not sure the error is theirs, since Dr. Frazer also writes

Yes, theistic rationalist and Christian are mutually exclusive terms...

But the former term is 1/3 Protestant Christianity. You tell me.

I believe I've been completely logical about the whole affair, Captain, and have got to the nub of the problem. However, if the misuse [?] of Dr. Frazer's term by others should not be at issue, I withdraw the observation, or, having made it, need not repeat it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, I figured Elisha Williams would be in there.

Yes, theistic rationalist and Christian are mutually exclusive terms...

But Williams uses the word "Christ" like 100 times. But he's not a Christian. But he is a Protestant, that much we know for sure.

bpabbott said...

Tom remarks: "Ben giving his opinion on how Christians should approach the Bible is ludicrous and irrelevant. He's not in the game. And although Dr. Frazer is, his is not the only or last word."

Tom, com'on! ... Enough with the personaly attacks.

I've never given an opinon for how " Christians should approach the Bible". In my comments above I thought I was quite clear that my comments respected my opinion and that they were not intended to be a critique of anyone else's opinion.

... and no one has stated or implied that Dr Frazer's opinion is the last word.

Rather then attacking others when you are citicized it would be much more constructive and informative if you defended your own position.

... or more clearly; pointing out that I am an atheist, or that Gregg has authorative expertise in the subject is not a defense of your postion or an attack on mine or his.

Jonathan Rowe said...

We should think about this: It's possible to be a Protestant, and Anglican, but not a Christian. Jefferson was both a Protestant and an Anglican; that is clear; but it's not at all clear whether he is properly termed "Christian."

I'm working on a new post that discusses this. The word "Protestant" means "to protest," in a sense to "dissent." As it applies to religion American Protestantism in its most meaningful sense, means a private right to religious conscience. It is so much so that the individual not only has a private right of conscience to decide for himself on matters of Trinity and eternal dammnation, but also which parts of the Bible are valid.

In that sense America was very much Protestant Nation, with Jefferson the quintessential American Protestant.

But that's not how the David Barton types view the "Protestant American Christian" nation thesis. They mean sola-scriptura, with all of its orthodox doctrines and the Bible as inerrant/infallible. That's what "Protestant Christian America" means to them. And that is precisely NOT how America was founded to be a "Christian Nation."

Gregg Frazer said...

I'll have to be in my office to deal with much of this, so it won't be today.

However, one matter can be dealt with quickly.


Re: "Then I guess you better go start teaching every kid who masterbates or looks at a woman in what you consider a lustful way to cut his hand off! It says what it says right! Or do we need to look at the context and overall counsel of the Bible and apply some reason to our interpretation?"

As I've tried to explain before, my hermeneutic is the "historical-grammatical" method, which is to interpret IN CONTEXT the ORIGINAL LANGUAGE/MANUSCRIPTS. So, what you've cited here is part of the Mosaic Law which was given to a particular people at a particular time. Since I'm not an ancient Israelite, it does not apply to me. The sins you mention are still sins, but THAT punishment was stipulated for THOSE people at THAT time in THAT place.

IN THAT SAME POST, I recommended reading Romans 13 in the context of the rest of Romans and, in particular, Romans 12 -- how did you miss that?

I then stipulated that my version IS what the Bible says "IN ROMANS 13" -- because, in context, there is no reason to believe that it doesn't mean exactly what it says and it is perfectly consistent with the rest of Scripture and it's language does not leave any room for exceptions and qualifications.

"My version" is not what the Bible directly says in every passage because some, in context, are meant to be taken figuratively, some are poetry, some are anthropomorphisms, some require a lot of explanation and cross-referencing, etc. In the case of Romans 13, though (which is what I specified), "my version" is directly what it says. None of these problems exist. It is one of the passages which is crystal clear exactly as written and requires no explanation -- like "thou shalt not murder" and "thou shalt not steal."

Gregg Frazer said...


Since I was teaching it last night, I happen to have my Aquinas with me.

I'm going to suggest to you that Aquinas agrees with Calvin and me regarding Romans 13. This is, of course, consistent with the testimony of those experts I've cited -- without acknowledgment -- who say that Calvin's view was the majority view for 1500 years leading up to the Revolution.

In his discussion of "tyrants" and what to do about them [chapter six of "On Kingship," Book One], Aquinas says that actions against tyrants should arise from "public authority" -- not "private initiative." He then gives three ways a tyrant can be removed.

1) "if BY RIGHT a certain community is ENTITLED to provide itself with a king, it is not unjust that the installed king be deposed by that same community or that his power be curtailed if the royal power is abused tyrannically." He follows that with historical examples similar to Calvin's.

2) "If, however, BY RIGHT some superior authority is ENTITLED to provide a king for a community, the remedy for the iniquity of the tyrant MUST BE AWAITED FROM THAT PARTY." [followed by examples]

3) If neither of those situations exist, then "we must turn to the king of all, God .... For He has such power that He can turn the cruel heart of a tyrant to gentleness. ... The tyrant whom He indeed judges worthy of conversion He can remove from our midst or reduce them to a state of weakness. ... Nor is His hand weakened so that He cannot free His people from tyranny. ... But that the people should merit that such a benefit come from God, it must stop sinning, because it is by divine permission that the impious receive their rule, as a punishment for sin ...."

So, for Aquinas -- as for Calvin -- IF there is some PUBLIC AUTHORITY within the system which allows for the removal of a tyrant, then that is OK. It must be done by someone with the RIGHT to do so within the system -- someone ENTITLED to do so. But revolution is not an option.

He doesn't specifically mention Romans 13, but he does base some of what he says on the parallel passage I've pointed to: I Peter 2. He says that "it has seemed to some" that a tyrant can be killed "for the liberation of the community .... But this does not conform to apostolic teachings. Peter teaches us that we ought to be reverently submissive NOT ONLY TO GOOD AND GENTLE RULERS BUT EVEN TO OVERBEARING ONES."

What think you?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, that's why I bring in Aquinas' successors quite purposefully, Gregg. They develop his crack in the dam.

Still, there's more to Aquinas' position than you cite here.

Further, I return to James Wilson, by many accounts the most well-read and deepest classical thinker among the Founders, whose understanding of natural law is identical to Aquinas' [and Richard Hooker's].

My point is that if justification for revolution was developed along natural law lines, it's consistent with the tradition of Christian thought and need not be credited to Enlightenment rationalism.

Because in my non-theological view [except as an observer], the Bible isn't the alpha and omega of Christian thought, and to maintain so creates a false choice between rationalism and Christianity.

We should think about this: It's possible to be a Protestant, and Anglican, but not a Christian...

Aha. My efforts aren't totally in vain, then. Yes, Elisha Williams' arguments are entirely Protestant. As many observers have noted, once the magisterium's central authority to interpret scripture was demolished by the Reformation, all sorts of unexpected consequences followed, many that might not have been desirable to Luther or Calvin. Perhaps it was they who threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Gregg Frazer said...

And there's more to Aquinas's position than you cite here -- mine being his ultimate position after toying with the one you reference. See pg. xxxi & xxxii of:,M1

He came back to his original position after dealing with Romans 13, realizing that the interpretation you cited was doing "violence to the text."

Gregg Frazer said...


As I said, I'll need to answer you more completely from my office, but I think I can answer one point from here.

When I asked you whether you had any evidence that they were influenced by Thomistic natural law, the "they" that I was referring to was the ministers -- not the elite politicians. This matters because the common people did not read the classics -- they got their theology from the pulpits.

Secondly, I may have missed something because I was reading in a noisy setting, but I didn't see Aquinas mentioned in the passage from Sidney that you cited as a "smoking gun." And I saw Sidney draw opposite conclusions than Aquinas.

A factual question: what do you mean when you say of Wilson that he was "eloquent" and "second only to Madison in the constitutional debates?" In what sense? Gouverneur Morris spoke more than anyone -- including Madison.

Gregg Frazer said...


I can't believe you're still hung up on my term.

First, NO "socio-historical" term comes with an instruction book. People have to learn what a term means and to what it refers.

Second, Protestant Christianity is one of the three influences that theistic rationalists brought to their understanding of things -- one of the three elements FROM WHICH THEY BORROWED to make up their belief system. That is not at all inconsistent with my statement that theistic rationalism and Christianity are mutually exclusive terms because in the mixing or combining process, they did not retain the ESSENCE of Christianity -- only peripheral parts.

They got a belief in a present, active God, some respect for revelation, and a few habits from their Protestant upbringing -- but that is nowhere near enough to qualify as Christianity. A belief system with only those two elements of Christianity (theistic rationalism) is not Christianity AND actively denies ESSENTIAL doctrines of Christianity (the core of what Christianity is) -- it is a denial of Christianity. So, the term for that belief system and Christianity are mutually exclusive and opposing terms.

Its relationship to the other element, natural religion, is the same. It borrows some ideas from it, but ultimately denies its validity by denying its defining beliefs. So, theistic rationalism and deism are also mutually exclusive terms.

Bottom line: if someone is a theistic rationalist, he's not a Christian or a deist. If someone is a Christian or a deist, he's not a theistic rationalist.

King of Ireland said...

Dr. Frazer,

Sorry this was in the Sermon on the Mount not the Old Testament. Try again! It says it so it must be literal right? It was the very words of Jesus. Anyone who is going to sin with his right hand must cut it off. Plain text is there. It has to be that simple? Right? This blows your whole argument out of the water. (Matthew 5:27-29)

It is a shame too. If you told me that you look at it and reasoned through what it actually was implying in Romans 13 I would take you serious. But the argument you seem to be putting forward is ludicris and beginning the border on desperate. Your interpretation is one way of looking at is text that is all. Any more claims than this is equating you view with the view of God himself.

It is using the Lord's name in vain in the worst sense and much worse than any sin the Religious Right whines about all day that is ruining America. I ran into a little apathy as I went to school today and decided to blow the day off. I will work on the response I promised you. But I need your 5 to 7 responses/questions typed here.

Not that I am judging. I gave serious consideration to taking avantage of some innocent 21 year old girl I met in a bar tonight. I am a jerk for thinking about it but God's glory is reflected in the fact that I did not do it when I would have before I found him. I declined because was trying to love God and my neighbor. I am not better than anyone.

Number one lesson to learn from the Bible and natural law. She was going for my BS too.

Gregg Frazer said...


Here are a few of my questions which you have not answered or addressed (unless I missed it, which is possible in this huge pile of exchanges):

1) You are upset that my view of Romans 13 seems to favor those with the "bigger guns" and you question the legitimacy of regimes founded or maintained thusly. The United States and the current governments of Japan and Germany were established as a result of wars -- established by those with the "bigger guns." The U.S. expanded itself by wiping out Indian tribes and taking over the land on which they lived. Do you question the legitimacy of these governments? If not, why is my position unreasonable or controversial in this regard?

2) If Romans 13 does not mandate subjection to wicked, ungodly, tyrannical rulers -- what sense did it make to the addressees of the letter? What sense did it make to those for whom the letter was written and to whom it was sent -- Christians living under Nero?

3) You said that Washington or the revolutionaries in general were given a mandate by God to rebel (as per a couple of Old Testament examples) -- can you quote a single American revolutionary claiming to have received direct revelation from God telling him to rebel? Or revelation from God affirming that He raised them up as deliverers?

4) What is the standard for when it's appropriate to rebel? HOW MUCH evil must a tyrant commit and WHO gets to decide and ON WHAT BASIS?

5) How can the proper interpretation of a passage of Scripture change based on how it is applied or misapplied? Did God not have a particular message? Did He not know what He was saying -- it depends on how people use it? How could the people to whom the message was originally given know what God wants them to do, since they cannot see into the future to see how men misuse the passage?

6) Do you NOT think God is in control? You brought up Isaiah -- was God lying in Isaiah 14:24 & 27? Or did He just overestimate His ability/power? Why do you think that hundreds of prophecies have come true? Coincidence? Do you think God is surprised by events? Do you think He says, "Wow! I didn't see that coming?" Why should I trust Him for my eternity? He doesn't control whether it happens or not -- Jesus won't even know how many places to provide in heaven because He doesn't know how many will be saved. Maybe they'll run out of room before I get there. You'd have to deny several of God's attributes if you deny that He's in control. Omniscience? Nope, He cannot know what's going to happen. Omnipotence? Nope, He doesn't have enough power to assure that His plan is done. Holiness? Nope, He lied to us. Just? Nope, we'll have to wait and see whether everyone gets his just deserts.

7) You have not responded to my EVIDENCE for the difference between "subjection" and "obedience." I gave you the Greek meanings of the terms and showed you how they are consciously separated in Titus 3:1. You just keep saying they're the same thing -- do you have any EVIDENCE to support your view?

Well, that should be enough for now.

Gregg Frazer said...


This will, no doubt, shock you; but in my chapter on Wilson, I say of some of Wilson's writings: "These discussions are reminiscient of those of Aquinas."

Apparently, I can recognize Thomism when I see it.

Again, for the umpteenth time: IT IS NOT MY CONTENTION THAT THERE WAS NO CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE AT ALL IN THE FOUNDING ERA. Again, elements of Christianity were borrowed by the key Founders in making up their theistic rationalism.

What they borrowed from Christianity, though, was what appealed to their REASON. Wilson found Aquinas eminently reasonable and, therefore, found him attractive. You say you're not a Christian, but you clearly find something in Aquinas that appeals to you -- does that make you a Christian? Have you been lying to us? Cicero began the discussion of natural law -- was he a Christian?

Was Wilson impressed with ALL of Aquinas? Apparently not, because he did not share Aquinas's belief in the essentials of Christianity.

Apparently, you still don't understand my overall thesis. I apologize for not finding a way to say it so clearly that you can't miss it.

Furthermore: my thesis is NOT ALL ABOUT ROMANS 13. The argument about Romans 13 is one small part of the overall argument -- and it relates much more to the ministers supporting the Revolution than to the key Founders. In fact, I have no reason to believe that any of the key Founders gave Romans 13 a second thought -- do you? They NEVER mention it.

They just weren't that concerned with specific passages from the Bible -- except as illustrations or for use as a sort of aphorism. They viewed Scripture as politicians do today. If the speechwriter finds some passage that appears to support what I want to say, then I'll employ it (usually inappropriately and out of context).

If what the preachers said about Romans 13 supported the Revolutionary cause, they were more than happy to accept the resulting recruits.

Most of what I've said in these exchanges has focused on Romans 13 because, if you'll look at your own post at the top of this page, that has been the focal point of this particular set of exchanges. But my thesis goes far beyond Romans 13 and how to interpret it. Romans 13, in the overall scheme, is a minor part of my thesis.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I actually completely understand your thesis, Gregg. However, Romans 13 provides a relevant and effective way to test your method.

At the bottom line [or the top] is unitarianism, the disbelief in Nicene Creedness. You're not a Christian if you disbelieve, because it's in the Bible.

But my intention was to test your method [Test all things; hold fast what is good] by using the Bible on Romans 13, leaving the TEN essential items aside for the moment...

I counterargue that although they're heretics, they're unmistakably Christian heretics, and historically speaking, still Christian.

The fact is they do believe the Bible; they simply interpret it in ways you consider invalid, and in interpreting at all, come up with conclusions and positions that are no longer essentially Christian [in you view, which of course is a valid view].

But the historian cannot judge which way to read the Bible is correct---that's a theological argument.

The historian must look at Samuel Barrett's "100 Scriptural Arguments for the Unitarian Faith" [1825]

and notice every single argument is from the Bible.

No "reason over revelation" there, and to judge the theological validity of Barrett's arguments is above the historian's pay grade. They seem solid enough.

Therefore, I wasn't being insulting, but mere stating what I believe is fact---that to accept your thesis, one must accept your theology [or use it in socio-political arguments as a weapon, not accepting your theology for a moment].

I can also say that I disagree with your narrative of the history of ideas, that until the Enlightenment popped up, everything was relatively hunky-dory in Christendom. But perverted by the Enlightenment, many good Christians mutated into "theistic rationalists," along with no doubt some very bad Christians, and some who weren't Christians atall, like Jefferson.

But "reasoned" interpretation as an approach to the Bible was centuries old, and the absolutist reading of Romans 13 was being questioned as early as 1150, and likely earlier by less-famous figures than the eminently influential John of Salisbury.

But for the moment, I was willing to go slow exploring your method before going nuclear option, unleashing the Nicene Creed on the unitarians. But since we seem to be wrapping up, I cut to the chase as well to show that I follow you, and have been proceeding co-operatively and with good will, no less than you did with Kristo's Jefferson thesis, taking it seriously and on its own terms.

Gregg Frazer said...


We're clearly getting nowhere fast, so I'll give you the last word.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, and Gregg, thank you for the URL to the Aquinas. I have never maintained that Aquinas was all the way there to Mayhew, only that he was near the beginning of the process.

I have always striven to include his successors as part of this process, and you may find this essay on Vitoria, Suarez and Bellarmine helpful.

Neither are they all the way there to Mayhew, but moving closer. You'll also note that part of their caution is simply that, caution and prudence, that the result of revolt may frequently lead to anarchy, or in the least a regime worse than what it overthrew---a forbearance later borne out historically by Cromwell and the Reign of Terror.

Tom Van Dyke said...

OK, the last word is that I saw Jim Babka have a go, with some very good arguments of his own.

As I recall, you two previously had ended up disputing whether Rutherford's Lex Rex was familiar to Locke or whoever, a complete side issue, since Rutherford was one of many of his contemporaries with the same arguments, as Babka shows.

And so, it's not that I'm stalking you, but whenever Jon uses your thesis as "proof" of his, I'll continue to raise my objections.

That you personally are caught in the crossfire is unfair, but that's the price of your new status as a "public intellectual" and scholar.


Cheers, Gregg, and best regards. The fun goes on, as Jon has just started it all up again with his latest posts. I'll leave your name out of it as much as possible, but I disagree with the term, the concept that it's a "third thing," and with the historical narrative that surrounds it.

For after all, I have my own fish to fry, an admittedly less ambitious thesis of my own to defend, and it focuses on the narrative, the history of these ideas---from Aquinas' the "dignity of the human person" developing into God-given rights to liberty to the contemporary assertion of "human rights" grounded in, well, nothing atall really, except man's will: not the natural law, let alone endowment by his creator.

If you follow me. This was never about being quarrelsome with you or your thesis as some sort of academic or sophistic amusement.

King of Ireland said...

Dr. Frazer,

You did not respond to the fact that what I stated about literalism and masterbation was from the words of Jesus not from the Old Testament. Please do not skip over that. It blows your whole argument out of the water. At least if I understand it right that is.

King of Ireland said...


Your thesis really interests me as well. I have brought up human rights on Ed Brayton's blog more than once. I am disturbed with some of the responses I get about what a human is and how these rights are derived. I would love to here more about this.

Dr. Frazer,

I would concur that my idea of fun is not to attack your arguments either. The questions you posed are very thoughtful and have already got me thinking. At worst, this will sharpen my own thoughts and understandings of this whole dialogue which is really new to me. At best, I think we will realize that in many things we do agree.

I hope my comments do not come off too strong. I will try and come up with some good responses to your questions and align it with what I am going to post about Loving God, self , and neighbor trumping all.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thx, King. I would expect the Brayton blog to be thoroughly modernistic in its philosophical outlook; google "rorty rights non-foundational" and you'll get a sense of what I mean.

Where Dr. Frazer sees in the Founding era some sort of breakdown in Christianity for a new thing, "theistic rationalism," I see as the fulfillment of Christian thought that began in the pre-Reformation Aquinas, and progressing through his successors, both Catholic and Protestant [although few of the latter would ever admit their debt to the "Catholic" Aquinas!].

I believe the American founding---and its notion of rights---is impossible without [Judeo-]Christianity, which has a specific view of God's nature and of natural law unduplicated in any other religion including Islam.

And the "Enlightenment" wasn't monolithic---it was as atheistic in Hume and Voltaire as it was theistic in the Scottish Enlightenment [which Americans embraced], and arguably, John Locke.

However, in common usage, "Enlightenment" is used in contradistinction to "Christian." Reason vs. revelation. "Rationalism" means you reject the Bible or feel free to razor-blade parts of it out.

But Christianity was always quite rational and reasonable, Augustine being just one of many early figures, and when Thomas Aquinas engaged Aristotle head-on in the 1200s, Christianity took on the best wisdom of the ages. And in my view, won. In the historical view, won.

Aristotle and the Greeks [and Roman Stoics] were good guys, and at their best used "right" reason. Only a simpleton would give them the back of his hand, that the Bible "trumped" them and made them irrelevant.

But it took the Judeo-Christian conception of a loving, providential and entirely reasonable God [and 500+ years of Christian thought after Aquinas] to arrive at the American notion of rights and liberty. The ancients, for all their [worldly] wisdom, never got to that place.

I see a breakdown as well, but it's in the 20th century or so, where God-given rights were replaced by non-metaphysical, "non-foundational" ones. We all agree we have "rights," and we agree on what they are, so why drag God into all this?

But as we dig below the surface, God-given rights and non-foundational ones are not quite the same thing after all---although we sometimes try to pretend they are---hence the "culture wars."

That's the short version, King, but I wanted to communicate to you and Gregg that I had and have many arguments in my quiver, and was certainly not debating for debate's sake, put to test my thesis. When I write, it's not for those who share Gregg's theology, but specifically for those like the Braytonites who don't. They're the fish I'm fixin' to fry. In my view, their use [or abuse] of Dr. Frazer and his thesis to avoid the real challenge to their non-foundationalism, by enabling a false choice between the literal reading of the Bible and its God, or what is manifestly "reasonable."

Why do you think Mr. Brayton, et al., train their guns on creationism so often? Because by illustrating its manifest unreasonableness, the reasonableness of Christianity is part of the bathwater as well, all Mr. Locke's good work on the subject wasted.

We were just getting started on this, but we can pick it up again at the proper time, a little higher up on the blog scrolldown and in front of more witnesses. Nobody left here 'cept us chickens, so I thought I'd explain where I'm coming from a little.

Even with the necessary co-operation between the participants---and we have largely enjoyed it, props to all, as it's quite a rare thing--- Socratic dialogues on the internet tend to run out of space. Hell, we didn't even get to Karl Barth--- the Christian al-Ghazali--- yet.


King of Ireland said...


I actually kind of like Ed and agree with him quite often. But I have called him out on this topic quite a few times. I just did not have the vocabulary to express my thoughts since this is all so new to me(public school education followed by idiot cult-like church).

I think you are right on with this. I think the whole "God's Nature" thing is the key. I tried to get to this in one comment I left on a post but Frazer blew it off because he said the Kingdom of God is too large a subject. I have actually written some on part of this if you would care to look at it. Give me your email I can can send it to you.

It was pre-rational days back when I was still a preacher but I think I was on my way toward learning the character of God through nature and revelation. Travel will do that to you. Thanks for the education. I really mean that. You know this stuff. I have some things in life I want to do but am limited because I have holes in my thinking and education. I know the Bible well but not the rest of this.

By the way, I shared how Thomist Skepticism founds it way into the Treaty of Bergas and how Cortez missed out and became a huge Human right violator with my students and they were shocked how easily it fit into are whole discussion of how the history of the Aztecs and the world could have been different. Luther and Calvin used the printing press well. Too bad the Scholastics seemed to not have. I think we all lost out.

King of Ireland said...

Dr. Frazer,

I got into your first question and have already written about as much as can be consumed in one blog post. Can I respond one question at a time, let you respond, and then leave it alone and respond to the next question. It will be hard for me to give you the last word but I think it will keep us from talking past each other.

After I respond to all your questions that you gave me I would like to post on the Romans 12 idea I stated above and have you be able to respond point by point and give me the last word in my rebuttal to return the favor. I know that is a big commitment of time but I am willing if you are. I am learning a lot in these discussions. All of it I need to learn to pursue some things I want to pursue.

We can take our time with this and really have a good discussion. I have already altered some of my perspective based on some things you have asked me.

So are you game? I sense a book coming out of this from me. The last few I have written were birthed in debate. I have a real interest in property rights law and these discussion are at the core of what I hope to study and write about one day. I have my first installment almost ready. It make take a few more days.

Gregg Frazer said...


I know the Matt. 5 question is hanging out there. I haven't answered it because I'd prefer to have you answer my questions first. My questions were asked dozens of posts ago and, in the case of several of them, multiple times without being addressed. When I asked you to deal with them, you said you would address 5-7 of them, so that's the number that I repeated to you.

After you address my questions, I'll be happy to address the Matt. 5 issue. I'm just tired of answering everything while a number of my points/questions are ignored by you guys.


King of Ireland said...

Dr. Frazer,

That is fair. I am working on the first question now. Please read my last comment as to how I would prefer to address your seven questions. I have read all you responded with I it seems that Tom has too. It is just hard to keep up with all the back and forth at times and good questions get ignored.

I also understand that you are a scholar and that your time and expertise are valuable. I am sure Tom would agree that it is not everyday you get to exchange ideas with someone who is an expert on the subject. I disagree with some things you state but do recognize the hard work and dedicated thought that it takes to do what you do.

I will work to finish up my answer to your first question and then send it to Jon. I do need his email again. Do you have it?

Jonathan Rowe said...

I think Tom is being a little unfair to Brayton.

Yes, Ed uses Gregg's research against the David Bartons; however in the process of doing so he makes clear that the "theistic rationalists" were NOT "deists" and these "key Founders" who are so often invoked believed in an active Providential God.

Ed knows damn well that many of his modernist, atheists (and a few deists like himself) followers not only do NOT believe in an active personal God, but find the concept profoundly irrational.

We've have one fan, Explicit Atheist, aka Todd Goldstein (a personal friend of Ray Soller's) explicitly challenge the term "theistic rationalist" because he didn't think theism to be "rational." But Ed's message, is this -- theism -- is what they believed so get over it if you have a problem with it.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And for the record, if I read Gregg's comment about Tom's religion, unless I'm missing something Tom doesn't claim to be "not a Christian," but rather is choosing to keep his personal beliefs about God personal (and I'm sure he has good personal reasons for doing so).

He admits a Roman Catholic heritage, but little more.

I also have a Roman Catholic heritage, but the most nominal; I was baptized Catholic but that's it. My maternal grandmother was a devout RC and insisted to my mother that my two older bros. and I would go to Limbo if we died as babies without being baptized.

I think Tom knows of St. Ignatius in Yardley, PA where my grandmother regularly worshipped (and my agnostic grandfather, a successful businessman bought/donated to themm a number of nice stain glassed windows which still exist there to this day).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jon, re Mr. Brayton, my objection to the "rationalist" part is not on those grounds, that theism is inherently irrational.

It's based on "rationalism" changing the perception of God's nature to something the Founders did not provably hold [again, except TJ and JAdams], and the confusion with the already-existing understanding of "rationalism" as a 19th century theological movement and method of biblical exegesis that rejected miracles, another thing the Founders didn't do.

As for my assertion that Ed and his crowd have a "non-foundational" view of rights, I think they'd agree---I'm merely describing the phenomenon. If they tease out the proper role of religious belief at the Founding---and "God-given" rights as foundational, then they must concede that their contemporary view of rights is a mutation if not a dismissal of the Founders'.

And that's my thesis. If they wish to substitute their conception of rights for the Founders', then let's just admit it's a whole new ballgame and drop this "Founding principles" charade.

As for my religious convictions, they're irrelevant and injecting them just clogs up intelligent discussion. So I don't.

I'm content to make arguments that honest atheists like Rothbard and Habermas have made themselves.

Jonathan Rowe said...

If they tease out the proper role of religious belief at the Founding---and "God-given" rights as foundational, then they must concede that their contemporary view of rights is a mutation if not a dismissal of the Founders'.

Well I think insofar as many of Ed's followers are atheists, and can read, I think they'd certainly accept they disagree with the idea of God-given "unalienable" natural rights as written in the DOI. If God is necessary to make rights "unalienable," I think they would accept that unalienable rights don't exists (which is what Alan Dershowitz claims; he's gone so far as to say "I wish there were unalienable rights").

However, there are atheists -- Tim Sandefur following Ayn Rand -- who do argue unalienable rights are congruent with atheism, that they stem from human nature, not God.

Jonathan Rowe said...

then let's just admit it's a whole new ballgame and drop this "Founding principles" charade.

Not quite. It's not clear that rejecting the concept of "unalienable rights" means rejecting the Founding (though I think you can argue it is).

Robert Bork, Robert Kraynak, and lots of other well respected social conservative jurists and thinkers argue it's the (Godless) Constitution that is truly binding (and the more CONSERVATIVE document) than the (LIBERAL) Godly Declaration of Independence.

And that, partly has to do with the fact that "unalienable rights" (esp. to political liberty and pursuit of happiness) are not "biblical" or arguably conservative (in a Burkean sense) concepts at all.

Tom Van Dyke said...

As long as we insist on "Biblical" as a strict synonym for "Christian," we continue to go nowhere fast. This indeed has been the central issue and disjuncture in this whole discussion.

(LIBERAL) Godly Declaration of Independence.

And that, partly has to do with the fact that "unalienable rights"

However, the latter are found in the former, and according to that document, are God-given and are also derived via natural law arguments.

As for Robert Bork, the author of "Slouching toward Gomorrah," I do not know his arguments well enough to engage them. [However, this review indicates he's down with notions of God and natural law as a basis for the Founding.

If he agrees with Justice Scalia's view of jurisprudence, it's only regarding the proper method for a judge to do his duty and not on the greater theory of law; and to the point here, that at least the modern "new theology" of rights is obliged to respect the democratic and constitutional processes. I seem to recall him making this point at the Borking.

As for Ayn Rand, unalienable rights are simply asserted and are a function of will, a completely modernistic argument. Neither does she contend with both the classical and modern views of man as an inherently social being. And again, once we discard natural law, just which "rights" are unalienable becomes arguable.

I do not expect Ed Brayton and Robert Bork to have a lot of common ground there. I'd certainly be willing to engage Mr. Brayton on these matters; however, I find the atmosphere at his blog unconducive, and he seldom if ever visits us here.

Neither does Judge Bork, come to think of it.

Jonathan Rowe said...

If you'd like I could encourage Ed Brayton to engage you as he has, in a very civilized way, KOI, Francis Beckwith, Hunter Baker, and Joe Carter.

You are right that the DOI permits natural law arguments. But the question is whether the concept of natural rights as articulated in the DOI are even compatible with (to say nothing of "are complementary towards" or "reasonate with") the traditional natural law. Roberts Bork and Kraynak, no intellectual slouches, don't seem to think so.

My own opinion is "natural rights," esp. to "liberty" are space -- space that gives individuals the freedom to live up to the natural law or not. If there is such a thing as the natural law and an invidual breaks it, the nl is self enforcing and doesn't need govt limits on liberty ("natural" or otherwise) to enforce it.

So as I understand it, natural law and natural rights work fine together as long as we understand individuals have "natural rights" to do what MIGHT break the "natural law."

But, we are getting ahead of ourselves. (We'll deal with this more when I do the post on Kraynak v. Teirney).

Re Ayn Rand and Sandefur and that their concept of rights is just an assertion of will; positivists like Alan Dershowitz (after Benthem, i.e., "natural anything" is just "nonsense on stilts") could level the same charge against the Thomists and Aristotle.

King of Ireland said...


I think Ed is way more reasonable about much of what you and Tom are talking about then the vast majority of his readers. He stands up when the atheist crowd starts getting rowdy. He also regularly criticizes PZ Myers and Dawkins.

One other thing?

I have read that Voltaire was the person who came up with the Clockmaker/Deist theory. At least that is how it was written in the World History book we used this year. If that book is correct then Voltaire was not an atheist. Is it correct?


I have read your comments a few times on Ed's Blog. I think you should engage him more. Most of the people he has a huge problem with are the Creationists. Reasonable Christians have a place on that blog for sure. I have actually learned a lot reading his blog. Off I go to respond to Frazer again.........

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry, King. The environment in the comments section reminds me too much of Bill Maher's show. The only way to win is to flip them off like Hitchens did, and that's not how I like to represent my POV.

Neither do I think there's much chance of moving that audience, which is no less brickheaded and doctrinaire than its opponents.

Our own Mr. Rowe wrote a piece while guest-blogging there, and although he wasn't in substantial disagreement with the prevailing sentiments there, was still treated like dirt.

Pass. If you have any links to how Mr. Brayton functions on level playing fields, I'd love to see them. In the meantime, the door remains open here.

Jonathan Rowe said...


You are right about the way I was treated; but I'll always be grateful to Ed for the way he actively defended me.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, he invited you to be a guest-blogger. Anything less than demanding common courtesy for you would have been negligence. I don't really see him demand it for the King's "reasonable Christians" from the mob, and a look at his blog over the past week shows him usually leading the charge. I can't even bear to read the comments.

In fact, such coarsening of the public dialogue occasionally finds its way onto our own mainpage. Find a right-winger, beg the question, then call him stupid. That's not my idea of American pluralism.