Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Article From David Barton on Romans 13

David Barton posted an article in May 2009 on Romans 13 and rebellion. I think I can take credit for the online chatter that led to Barton's article. Barton's article makes some good and interesting points, but also a few major errors.

As we read the article and think about the issue I think we should keep in mind saying the Declaration of Independence was done on behalf of "Christian principles," is not unlike saying the Civil War was fought on behalf of "Christian principles." Both sides in both wars were predominately demographically professing "Christians." And both sides could quote the Bible and traditions in Christianity for their respective positions. Even today many "Christian Nationalists" are neo-Confederates (unlike Barton).

Barton starts out by quoting some of today's orthodox evangelical leaders who reject the Christian Nation thesis by holding to the traditional view of Romans 13.

First John MacArthur:

People have mistakenly linked democracy and political freedom to Christianity. That’s why many contemporary evangelicals believe the American Revolution was completely justified, both politically and scripturally. They follow the arguments of the Declaration of Independence, which declares that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are Divinely endowed rights. . . . But such a position is contrary to the clear teachings and commands of Romans 13:1-7. So the United States was actually born out of a violation of New Testament principles, and any blessings God has bestowed on America have come in spite of that disobedience by the Founding Fathers. 1

Next, Oklahoma church leader Albert Soto:

The Colonists’ act of rebellion flies in the face of [Romans 13:1,2]. Did they overlook this verse? No, these were not men ignorant of Scripture. In fact, they used Scripture to support their cause in the most devious of ways. The deception that prevailed during this period of history was immense. God and Scripture was the vehicle of mobilization that unified the cause, gave it credence, and allowed the Deist leaders at the top to move the masses toward rebellion. Scripture was the Forefathers’ most useful tool of propaganda. 2

And then Dr. Daryl Cornett of Mid-America Theological Seminary:

Deistic and Unitarian tendencies in regards to religion. . . . were of such strength that even orthodox Christians were swept up into rebellion against their governing authorities. . . . Those Christians who supported physical resistance against the tyranny of Britain generally turned to Enlightenment rhetoric for validation, propped up by poor exegesis and application of the Bible.

Barton accurately notes "the topic of civil disobedience and resistance to governing authorities had been a subject of serious theological inquiries for centuries before the Enlightenment." But he mistakenly claims for his side a number of pre-Enlightenment theologians who addressed the issue of Romans 13 and rebellion:

This was especially true during the Reformation, when the subject was directly addressed by theologians such as Frenchman John Calvin, 4 German Martin Luther, 5 Swiss Reformation leader Huldreich Zwingli, 6 and numerous others. 7


The Quakers and Anglicans adopted the position set forth by King James I (and subsequently embraced by Dr. Cornett, Rev. MacArthur, and others of today’s critics), but the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Congregationalists, and most other denominations of that day adopted the theological viewpoint presented by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Rutherford, Poynet, Mornay, Languet, Johnson, and other theologians across the centuries.

While I can't speak for all of the above named figures (many of them who did indeed argue that men had a right to resist tyranny or the "licentiousness of kings" based on some "living" arguably warped notion of Calvin's interposition) a number of the figures, most notably Calvin himself and Luther were squarely on the other side and held NO right to rebellion against tyrants. Calvin and Luther, were they alive, and applying their understanding of Romans 13 would have sided with the British.

Barton also elides the fact that, though there was a pre-Enlightenment tradition of resisting civil magistrates (ala Rutherford), it was in fact Enlightenment sources (many of them deists and unitarian) that most influenced the American Revolution. Indeed Barton is unaware that Jonathan Mayhew was a unitarian Enlightenment preacher!

Reflective of the Founding Father’s belief that they were not rebelling against God or resisting ordained government but only tyranny was the fact that the first national motto proposed for America in August 1776 was “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God” 17 – a summation of the famous 1750 sermon 18 preached by the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Mayhew (a principle figure in the Great Awakening).

Mayhew was actually a principle theological ENEMY of Jonathan Edwards' "Great Awakening."

There's a lot more to Barton's article, which perhaps I or others will get to later.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, Barton makes a hash of Luther and Calvin, although if you follow Barton's footnotes and read the Luther and Calvin texts for yourself, there is some wriggle room on Romans 13. Even the "rationalist" 19th century historian WEH Lecky admits as such.

And Jonathan Mayhew wasn't exactly an "enemy" of the Great Awakening," in fact, he got caught up in it while in college himself, although he departed from it by the time he entered the ministry.

It's just that he argued that responding to Christ emotionally---"revival"---had no lasting effect. [Not a bad argument, as our ex-evangelicals around here will attest.] One must be intellectually satisfied as well, or else the "passions" that corrupt reason equally corrupt the religious experience.

Well, Mayhew didn't put it that way, but he would have if he'd've thought of it.


OK, Jon, I stipulate all your objections to Mr. Barton's lack of depth. Like your friend & my acquaintance Jim Babka has written, it's like these guys pick out all the worst possible arguments on purpose.

Still, I know you get a kick out of David Barton v. the late D. James Kennedy, sort of like the Iran-Iraq war in the '80s. What's not to like?

Enough giggles for now, but do update us if further Barton vs. Fundie fun breaks out. I can't find much on google.


Barton has a strong argument in here, that the colonists didn't think of it as a "revolution" [indeed, their term was "War with Britain"], but as self-defense, and many of their arguments,especially the religious ones, were couched that way.

From the D of I:

"He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us."

No legitimate sovereign may wage war against his own people! This goes back to Suarez, and he was a Catholic and a Jesuit fer crissakes.

And the tax issue---Stamp Act, Boston Tea Party, "taxation without representation"---was never formalized in the first place, as the Founder and historian of the revolution David Ramsay notes:

"Dr. Franklin, when examined at the Bar of the British House of Commons explained the matter by saying “that the inhabitants from the first settlement of the Province relied, that the Parliament never would or could by virtue of that reservation tax them, till it had qualified itself constitutionally for the exercise of such right, by admitting Representatives from the people to be taxed.”

The prevailing theological narrative of 1776 covered all bases per Romans 13---parliamentary authority had never been legitimately established such that the Americans should submit to Stamp Acts and the like. And the crown illegitimately made war on its own people! Where does Romans 13 apply!!???

It doesn't, they told themselves. Not atall atall. In fact, disobedience to tyrants is obedience to God. It says so, right there in the Bible.

Sort of.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, and BTW---the word "abdication" in the D of I strikes a chord, and likely harkens to the Glorious Revolution's rationale per Romans 13 for forcing James II into exile and bringing in William and Mary.

James II "abdicated." Hehe.

Brian Tubbs said...

We've covered this ground before, but just to briefly repeat...

If the first two verses of Romans 13 were all there was to that passage, I would concur with John MacArthur (who I actually admire) on others who say the Founders violated Romans 13.


There's more to the text than Romans 13:1-2. The passage on civil government goes on for another five verses, in which Paul lays out the PURPOSE of government.

This presents an interesting question if the government steps away from its biblically ordained purpose. Does such a government become illegitimate? Do the people in such a situation have the right to rise up?

Another angle to this was that the "government" to which the American colonists owed their allegiance was NOT an absolutist ruler in the vein of Caesar. In many respects, the colonists were participants in the government, and had been promised by the government in London certain rights as British subjects. THAT was the arrangement to which they owed their allegiance. In their view, the British broke that arrangement, and it became the right of the English subjects in America to rise up and reclaim their rightful status.

Much of the exegesis surrounding Romans 13 comes down to how you define AND apply terms like "Government" and "Rulers."

Tom Van Dyke said...

Hmmmm, Brian. I've heard similar arguments from folks who actually read the Bible in context, what comes before and after those two verses in question in Romans 13.

There don't seem to be many who have read it all in context, let alone have studied the Bible in its greater---entire---context.

We prefer soundbites these days, and perhaps "we" always have.

You also touch on the colonists' situation as having a qualitative difference from those of Paul the Apostle's generation under Nero.
I yield the floor, if anybody has the guts to stand with you on it.

Brad Hart said...

First off, thanks for the link to Barton's most recent ilk, Jon. It's always a "treat" to read.

As for all the Romans 13 talk, I have intentionally stayed out of all of it for one main reason: I don't believe it's all that relevant. Sometimes when a historian/history guru/whatever the hell we all are focuses on one particular topic -- in our case religion -- they tend to oversetimate the importance of that topic's role in the overall picture. To be honest, I don't think the interpretation of A SINGLE CHAPTER in the Bible played that big of a role in the revolution. Sure, I am sure some people -- those mentioned in the posts -- did dwell on whether or not the revolution was justified in the eyes of God. However, my guess is that the overwhelming majority of the participants of the Revolution were motivated more out of economic/patriotic/other factors. I seriously doubt that Romans 13 was a critical issue upon which hinged the entire movement for independence.

Is this an interesting topic? Yes, and I have personally enjoyed reading the debates. I have learned a lot. With that said, I still maintain that this issue is not as big as we may think.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I hear you, Brad, but the Bible re Romans 13 posed the major theological obstacle to the revolution, as Romans 13 had an explicitly political dimension.

I think it really and sincerely troubled them, which is why they discussed it so much. It was under discussion for at least 500 years in Christendom.

"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's" was answered in the taxation without representation argument. Who is Caesar? The crown? Parliament? They had answers for both.

Otherwise, I think there were no theological obstacles except "turn the other cheek," but the theologians of the Revolution dispensed with that one too.

my guess is that the overwhelming majority of the participants of the Revolution were motivated more out of economic/patriotic/other factors...

Could be true. Probably is. But the best of them wanted to do what was right and searched their consciences for it, and America couldn't have made its way without their best at the forefront. It was a pretty close thing.

Brad Hart said...


For the most part I agree with you, and I am sure that the arguments surrounding Romans 13 were a big deal to some...but NOT the majority. Simply put, I just don't see this as being a huge deal to the masses. I think most "revolutionaries" were concerned with other issues. I would be sincerely surpriesed if most Americans even gave it a second thought. I don't think that most people -- then and now -- dissect scriprure that thoroughly. Now, I am sure that the scholars, theologians and intellectuals of the era were deeply concerned with this issue, but the majority of Americans? I doubt it, nor do I believe that the Revolution hinged on Romans 13.

With that said, I have enjoyed the debate. I hope everyone will keep it up!

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"There don't seem to be many who have read it all in context, let alone have studied the Bible in its greater---entire---context"

I have been saying this for months.

King of Ireland said...


I think it was a huge part of the whole Revolution. The Dof I's first three paragraphs is a refutation of the "Divine Right" of kings.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I have heard some evangelical/fundamentalists who are so turned off MacArthur's unacceptable "results" that they claim Paul wasn't telling his apostles to submit to Nero, rather that he was discussing some kind of "ideal" for what leaders are and if Nero didn't fit it, he couldn't have been a leader. The context of the story pretty clearly seems to indicate otherwise.

I have also seen what I think a more convincing case, what Barton alludes to, that it wasn't really a rebellion because it took place in accordance with the governing positive law. While the actions of the FFs *may* square with that interpretation, their rhetoric does not. The DOI is a call for rebellion. "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God," as Barton quoted. It sounds nice, the problem is such a view isn't found in the Bible. It seems to be stating the opposite of Romans 13.

Brad Hart said...

King of Ireland writes:

"I think it was a huge part of the whole Revolution. The Dof I's first three paragraphs is a refutation of the "Divine Right" of kings."

But do you think Jefferson had Romans 13 in mind when writing it? After all, isn't Jefferson the same guy who LOATHED the apostle Paul? And didn't Jefferson make it clear that his inspiration for the DoI was not the Bible but Locke?

In addition, I don't see much "Romans 13 talk" in some of the other mainstream justifications for independence. Sam Adams (the "Father" of the Revolution) also seems to appeal to Locke for his justification. Thomas Paine never really gets into the argument in "Common Sense."

I'm not saying that this argument was irrelevant. I'm only suggesting that it might not have been as mainstream as we are thinking.

King of Ireland said...


I assume that Jefferson could care less about what Paul wrote since I think he cut most of that out of his Bible. I think you are right in this.

But Jefferson was not writing a philosophical or theological treatise on his personal beliefs. He was writing something on behalf of the thirteen states that had a ton of people who thought Romans 13 was relevant and if not disputed would not have joined the Revolution.

I think the subject is more the "divine right of kings" than Romans 13 in that this justification for tyranny was not just used in Europe and by Christians historically. I think this is what you were trying to say maybe.

But in America at that time this was very relevant I would think. I think Jon has quoted Adams saying Mayhew's sermon was a turning point for the movement toward independence.

I will say that my study of this from the historical perspective is limited. Thus, I could very well be wrong.

King of Ireland said...

I should say an Early America historical perspective that is

Brian Tubbs said...

Brad is correct that the common people probably didn't put a lot of time into deeply assessing Romans 13, but it WAS talked about in America's pulpits during the 1760s and 1770s.

Jon, Romans 13 does not teach unquestioned, complete, and total obedience to whichever civil ruler happens to be in power.

By the same token, I'm NOT suggesting that it opens the door to someone deciding to rebel against any ruler he or she deems a "tyrant."

At the very least, the apostles did believe it was acceptable (indeed necessary) that you disobey civil government in certain situations. Paul and Peter both practiced civil disobedience at times.

I grant that civil disobedience isn't necessarily the same thing as armed rebellion. My point, though, is that (given the actions of Paul) I don't think you can read Romans 13 as endorsing complete, total, unquestioned obedience to whatever government is in power.

Jonathan Rowe said...


I understand that and Drs. MacArthur and Frazer have worked out a biblical "doctrine," based on a literal reading of the various texts, to smooth out any apparent contradiction.

Before I recite it here, let me say that it's caused me to learn much about the Bible and hermeneutics. I've always heard evangelicals/fundamentalists claim the Bible is without contradiction; and skeptics say that hundreds if not thousands of texts in the Bible contradict one another. What I've discovered is smart evangelicals can indeed "smooth out" apparent contradictions (like ironing wrinkles from clothes) with a good hermeneutic. But ultimately what we are left with is a number of contradictory interpretations of a literal, contradictionless Bible.

Either man has a right to revolt against tyrants or he doesn't. The two positions contradict one another. Either TULIP is true or it is not (ditto). Even Charles Chauncy claimed Sola Scriptura as vetting theological universalism.

Such contradictory literal interpretations make it hard for an unbeliever like me to swallow Sola Scriptura or to know just which version of the Bible is correct, to jump in.

But, Frazer's/MacArthur's position is the Bible does absolutely forbid revolt, no exceptions (like for instance, homosexuality). The Bible does permit disobedience, but only when doing so is necessary to keep you from sinning. So for instance if government said you couldn't preach the Gospel, obey God not man. Or if government commanded you to star in pornographic movies, ditto.

I've seen Frazer masterfully defend this interpretation using every single biblical text thrown against him by those Christians who don't support it.

However, as an outsider, I do concede, again, as I did above, that Sola Scriptura can support lots of seemingly contradictory interpretations of the Bible.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Jon, you again underline the point, that to accept Dr. Frazer's socio-historical point requires we accept his theology, and Romans 13 has indeed been the proper crucible.

Because as Rev Tubbs doesn't accept Frazer/MacArthur's reading of Romans 13---"reason trumps revelation"---that makes Brian a "theistic rationalist," too,

Which will come as unwelcome news not only to Rev. Tubbs, but to the Baptist church he's pastor of, as well.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"reason trumps revelation"---that makes Brian a "theistic rationalist," too,...

Heh. Not exactly. Brian needs to discuss this more with Gregg.

Gregg Frazer said...


I'M TRYING TO STAY OUT OF THIS -- PLEASE LET ME. I'll thank you to refrain from labeling anyone a theistic rationalist but the eight key Founders I so identify -- at least until you understand the term and its characteristics.

You hate the term and find it useless -- SO STOP USING IT.

I know you think you understand it perfectly -- and even felt qualified to correct me as to what my own thesis is in the dissertation I wrote and you have not even read. But you clearly do not understand the term if you think that it includes everyone who disagrees with my position on Romans 13.

Your application of it is akin to saying that anyone who is human is named Tom or that anything with four legs is a dog.

One's approach to revelation is ONE element which can LEAD one to become a theistic rationalist, but it is not all there is to it.

I'm pretty sure you'll correct me on that, but I think other readers might agree with me that I know more of what MY OWN term and MY OWN thesis mean than does someone who hasn't even READ it.

At that, you'll no doubt criticize my term again -- without knowing what it fully entails or really means. Fine -- just do me the favor of NOT USING THE TERM IF YOU THINK IT'S SO BAD!!! Please!

And it is possible for people to have flawed interpretations of a particular passage based on faulty information (such as Barton gives out), cultural pressures (wanting to justify the Founding), and lack of intense study (the Bible is so voluminous that not many can devote intensive study to become an expert in every single passage).

King accuses me of being afraid to defend my views (after I've done so for a month and about 50 posts full of largely unacknowledged arguments!) and now you mischaracterize my thesis and use my name.

I've been trying to extricate myself from this black hole of time -- can't you two just let me go?

Gregg Frazer said...


At the risk of being kept in this, since you're a pastor, I feel obligated to clarify something to you.

Neither I nor Dr. MacArthur has EVER said that Romans 13 teaches "unquestioned, complete, and total obedience to whichever civil ruler happens to be in power." I have clearly distinguished (as does Paul in Titus 3:1, for example) between "obedience" and "subjection" -- very different Greek words.

There is one exception to the requirement of "obedience" to government (which is when one is commanded to disobey God -- Acts 5:29), but no exception to "subjection" to government (as the universal language in Romans 13 and the record of the rest of Scripture indicate).

So, we teach complete "subjection" to "whichever civil ruler happens to be in power" -- which is what Romans 13 says.

"Disobedience" and "resistance" are very different words and concepts -- even in a non-biblical sense. Hence the concepts of "civil disobedience" and "resisting arrest." One is arrested for disobeying the law, but an added offense is resisting arrest because disobedience to a law does not necessarily mean resisting authority. Martin Luther King, for example, saw a distinction between disobeying an unjust law and resisting the authority behind the law. That was the centerpiece of his entire movement.

Being a pastor, you know that Paul, Daniel, Shadrach & friends, and others who disobeyed government when ordered to disobey God did not RESIST the authority -- but subjected themselves and took the punishment.

I've made this point numerous times to no avail, but maybe a fresh pair of eyes with biblical knowledge will actually read and at least acknowledge the argument -- whether or not you agree with it.

And, take it from the one who coined the term "theistic rationalist" and knows what it actually means: I do not think you are a theistic rationalist.

Tom Van Dyke said...

No, Gregg, I'll give you Jefferson and half [mebbe 3/4] of the confused John Adams. Otherwise, it's game on.

And you're a public intellectual now. The heat comes along with it.

But, person to person, I deleted a comment I made in a thread above this one out of courtesy for your recent personal loss because I thought it would be unfair that you wouldn't be here to defend your thesis.

But here you are back again. And no, as your thesis is in public discussion, where presumably a man of letters would want it, no, I cannot "leave you out of it."

[Although I will work hard to bifurcate your POV from your personal beliefs, as we previously agreed.]

And por favor, man, STOP YELLING AT ME, Gregg. I hear you fine, and I understand you fine. However, you don't understand the underpinnings of my argument yet atall.

But I'll get to them.

Best regards as always, and my prayers are with you in this difficult time.

Lindsey Shuman said...


My sincere apologies for Mr. Van Dyke's terrible lack of tact. He has pulled this stunt on every single person to visit this blog and it has grown quite boring, predictable and tiresome. You're far from alone in being a target for Van Dyke's ilk.


You use the ridiculous blanket of appearing to be objective and all that but in reality you just piss people off...and in reality that is your goal and purpose isn't it? It's been going on for so long now that it's getting predictable. Just TRY backing off a bit. News flash: all the claims you make can be leveled against you as well. As one person put it:


Stop assuming that you are the only one with something accurate to say, Tom. Dr. Frazer knows A BIT MORE than you do on these issues. Some respect is warranted.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I've given no reason for you to attack me personally like this, Lindsey.

Lindsey Shuman said...

That's funny. I don't see you getting all upset when you do it to others. And yes, you do it to others.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Considering your attacks on your intellectual and political opponents are far more scornful and vicious [and ad hom], Lindsey, I don't get your point. Dr. Frazer's thoughts and thesis are public, just as David Barton's and Newt Gingrich's are.

And they know much more on these issues than you do, but nobody expects you to accept their "authority." That would be ridiculous. And if they wrote this blog asking to be left out of it, that would be ridiculous too.

If you're going to "moderate," inserting yourself into Dr. Frazer and K of I's far more contentious dialogue is far more proper, and if Dr. Frazer wants to be "left out of it," he should ask his friend Mr. Rowe to leave him off our mainpage.

I'm not fanning this. I have a principled objection to "theistic rationalist" in the context of religion and the Founding, no more no less. The term fits Jefferson and often John Adams, but is pure speculation when applied to almost any other Founder.

Lindsey Shuman said...

That's not the point Tom. You are completely missing what I am trying to say. I don't care what your opinion is on any issue. You are free to believe whatever you want. I just don't care.

The problem is how you conduct yourself in your comments. Frankly, you come off as an arrogant jerk to many. Perhaps you could employ a little more tact?

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm as tactful as the brevity required in a comments section permits, Lindsey, and---case in point---do not use words like "arrogant jerk" toward anyone. That's a tactic used by folks who have no intelligent counterarguments to my points.

There are others in management who've reviewed what I've actually written and absolved me of this charge before, which you make again here. And I invite the gentle readers hereabouts to review my remarks in this discussion, and made a special effort to be tactful and kind to Gregg here in light of recent events in his life, and indeed attempted to let him disengage, if you read my last note to him. This discussion would be over if you hadn't jumped in.

bpabbott said...

Tom, in all honesty I think Lindey's response to Gregg and then you was spot on.

Lindsey Shuman said...

My God, Tom! You really don't listen to anyone do you? I don't want to counter your arguments here in this thread. I don't give a care. My whole entire point has been that you come off WAAAAAY too strong. You attack people on a regular basis, and as a result, you have alienated the overwhelming majority of people here. To speak in simply terms, you come off being arrogant, condescending, self-righteous and downright aggressive. How many people have you rubbed the wrong way over the months, Tom? That should tell you least it would to anyone paying attention.

Lindsey Shuman said...

Thanks, Ben!

Jonathan Rowe said...

Oy Vey.

I linked to KOI v. Frazer in the last post because KOI personally sent me the post by email and I felt a little obligated to post it.

Re that sense of feeling obligated, it might help us to understand that though we've carved out a nice niche in the blogsphere we only get around 150 unique hits a day; that is, most of the blogsphere doesn't care about what we are saying. That should help us to put this into perspective.

Re what Tom is doing to's funny OFT tried to do the same thing. He's simply demanding way too high a burden of proof on every single point.

For instance, "the theistic rationalist" smoking guns are there with Jefferson and J. Adams. They are also there with Franklin; Franklin is usually conceded a "Deist," which he wasn't and much of what we've focused on Franklin so far has been to prove that point. But I suppose we haven't yet gone point by point, which we could, and show how he believed exactly like Jefferson and J. Adams on key theological points (with Tom dragging his feet all the way, because he's come to like Franklin).

So Tom refuses to yet "give" Gregg Franklin. That's not fair.

Maybe that in turn should lead to a plethora of "Ben Franklin, Theistic Rationalist" posts.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Right on schedule when the dirt starts flying. Ben, until the day you get the back of someone whose POV you disagree with, you have no standing to offer judgments.

Please, I'd prefer not to litigate this, as I'm sincerely and honestly trying to let Gregg go and not drag him in any further. We'll pick it up [or not, his choice] when the proper time arrives, and we'll make it through fine without additional "moderators," as we have for over a year of internet colloquy now, both here and on other blogs.

Even though Jonathan Rowe is an actual participant [and has a side] in the discussion, Gregg and I seem to trust Jon's impartiality and value in moderating and facilitating the debate.

I meself was tempted to jump in between Gregg and King of Ireland, their exchanges being far less civil, but since each side seemed to be giving as well as it got, I decided to butt out.

As for what's going on between me and Gregg, read the actual discussion.

I'm actually arguing with Jon and against "reason trumps revelation," and there are dozens of comments before Gregg...well let's let it go, OK? Just this once. There's more here than what's on the surface. Mercy.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I could go Franklin, certainly, Jon, after noting a few nuances, mostly that he was agnostic more than rejectionist.

Mostly, I object to becoming our whipping boy when people feel the occasional need to "contribute," but have nothing substantive to add to the discussion of the topic at hand. The probability approaches one, a universal internet phenomenon like Godwin's Law, no big deal.

Lindsey Shuman said...

As has become the standard, your arrogance and lack of being able to admit that you come across as condescending, knows no bounds!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Shall I return insult for insult, Lindsey, or take another course?

Brad Hart said...

Ugh! Another thread derailed!

bpabbott said...

Tom, regarding "ad hom", you apparently misunderstand what ad hominem refers to.

If Lindsay were to claim your opinion is wrong because you lack tact. that would be an ad hominem. If Lindsay expresses the opinion that "you lack tact" without considering the validity of your opinion, then she is expressing her opinion and it is not an ad hominem.

Regarding "flying dirt", that is you m.o. not mine. I must admit that you befuddle me. You can comment for days at a time in a very civil and respectful manner ... and then flip/flop into one of the most divisive individual I've ever encountered :-(

Regarding POVs that I disagree with, there are very few on this blog that I agree with. If a POV is expressed as an individual opinion (as is the habit of King or Gregg for example) I often ask questions in the hope of understanding their individual rationalizations, but I seldom back them or attack them. They are free to hold their opinions and I mine.

In any event, regarding ad hominems, your response to my comment; "Right on schedule when the dirt starts flying. Ben, until the day you get the back of someone whose POV you disagree with, you have no standing to offer judgments" is an excellent example.

Regarding how you might responds to criticism of your behavior ... why not modify your behavior?

Lindsey Shuman said...


Quit acting like you don't notice the problems either. This thread was "derailed" long before I made my appearance. Threads are derailed when people take things too far, which is clearly the case with this thread and TVD's behavior in it.

You believe otherwise?

bpabbott said...


I don't think Tom derails threads ... a better metaphor would be that kidnaps them :-(

He has the unfortunate habit of setting the burden of proof on his opponent so high that he could win the debate when in a coma. Essentially he fences in his oponents arguement and then contrains it until it suffocates.


I'm not sure that Franklin is *not* a deist. What I am sure of is that expresses himself with great elegance and typically in a manner that his audience is willing (if not eager) to embrace. What his real opinions were I don't think we will ever know ... but that is because I'm an atheist and don't expect to have an opportunity to ask him ;-)

Regarding theistic rationalism, it is my opinion that Franklin personifies the term. He appears (to me) to be particularly adept in speaking to his audience in terms they favor. What Franklin favored, I don't know, but I find his theisic language to have been consistently applied rationally toward reaching his goals.


Regarding Franklin being "agnostic" ... we are all technically agnostic as we don't have direct knowledge of the supernatural. I don't think the discussion should be with regards to what Franklin knew, but with regards to what he believed.

Thus, the question (imo) isn't what Franklin rejected, or withheld an opinion of, ... but what beliefs he accepted. Meaning what (if anything) did he believe in the absence of evidence revealed to himself?

bpabbott said...


Regarding your comment; "Mostly, I object to becoming our whipping boy when people feel the occasional need to "contribute," but have nothing substantive to add to the discussion of the topic at hand".

It is your attempts at excluding contribution that is most concerning to me.

At the same time, I notice the blog becomes strangely quiet when you are not present. You have a great skill in placing a disproporionate burden on your opponent ... that is a skill I do admire and one that (I think) draws others here to test their opinions here.

It is my opinion that you are a valuable participant here, but are often a destructive one as well :-(

Regarding when I might "get the back of someone whose POV [I] disagree with", it happens all the time ;-)

Jonathan Rowe said...


At the same time, I notice the blog becomes strangely quiet when you are not present. You have a great skill in placing a disproporionate burden on your opponent ... that is a skill I do admire and one that (I think) draws others here to test their opinions here.

I think one major difference between Tom and OFT (and I meant no disrespect in comparing the two) is that Tom is good at what he does.

bpabbott said...


If by "good" you mean an uncommon mix of rational intelligence cloaked by tactless insults (or vice versa, if you ask me) then I am in complete agreement :-)

In either event, I do value Tom's participation here, but am hopeful his inquisitive and respectful side will be more common that his tactless alter-ego.

Brad Hart said...

You can forget trying to drag me into this one, Lindsey. I'm not taking the bait!

Gary Hicks said...

Hi- I'm new to this board, but do have some specific questions about Romans. 13 and the saying of Jesus in 'not resisiting evil.'

After looking intently at Rom. 13 it appears to me that Paul is giving a definition of what true authority is- as in true rulers are not a terror to good works, and yet they are a terror to the evil.

Summarized it would mean, that if any government whether the USA or the USSR was doing evil then they have gone beyond the authority given to them by God.

That being said, it does leave me with some real questions along the line of 'if I was the president I would do such and such...'

If you really was the president what would your answer be about homosexuals? The bible calls it evil and now your in the spotlight.

How did our country ever come up with the laws we used to have about 'Sodomy?' There was prison terms of so many years...well, how did anyone ever come up with those type of laws except it was by the arbitrary whim of mans imaginations?

Also the question comes up that would seem right according to Romans 13 that if you were a Christian in government you would have a right to excersize wrath upon him that did evil whereas in your own personal life you could not do so? Is that how you see this?

Jonathan Rowe said...

After looking intently at Rom. 13 it appears to me that Paul is giving a definition of what true authority is- as in true rulers are not a terror to good works, and yet they are a terror to the evil.

Summarized it would mean, that if any government whether the USA or the USSR was doing evil then they have gone beyond the authority given to them by God.


I know Dr. Frazer would state that this reads something into Romans 13 that is not there. That Paul was not saying higher powers "cease" to become "rulers" if they act in an unbiblical manner. The context of Romans 13 was Paul was telling us that NERO a psychopathic pagan tyrant was a "ruler," indeed that his authority was ordained by God.

Re what Christians DO when they get into power -- this is a personal opinion -- but I don't think there is a clear cut answer. The Bible calls a whole lot of things "evil" (not just homosexuality) and it would be extremely imprudent for government to try and outlaw all of it.

Walter said...

Hello all,

I just recently found this blog and I find it extremely interesting. I especially appreciate the cordial and respectful give and take. I hope my comments are taken in the same spirit.

I'm a bit late to this particular posting, but I'd like to chime in anyway. I saved this posting to my computer some time ago when I was researching something for my own blog - then, just the other day, I found American Creation again, and only this morning tied them together (D'uh!)

Anyway, Tom, I really like what you have to say most of the time. I like reading what you all have to say, but I seem to relate to Tom.

I haven't read ALL the remarks on this posting, but I have read quite a few. I apologize if I go over old ground.

Jonathan: You wrote, "The DOI is a call for rebellion. "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God," as Barton quoted. It sounds nice, the problem is such a view isn't found in the Bible. It seems to be stating the opposite of Romans 13." I have argued contrary to this, and believe with all my heart that it's exactly what Romans 13 is saying.

I agree with Brian that Paul lays out the purpose of government, and if the monarch, as a minister of God, becomes a harm to the people, then he ceases being God's minister - it then becomes the DUTY of God-fearing people to rise up and resist.

Brad: I think from a practical view, you're somewhat correct - there were other over-riding factors contributing to the Revolution. But I also believe that those people, at that time, did not separate religion into a little box as we tend to today. Religion was an integral part of what made them who they were. So, on a more subconscious level, it HAD to influence them. You can't just stop being who you are and go against your beliefs and be completely comfortable justifying it.

Jonathan: I'm glad that, as an unbeliever, you've taken it upon yourself to learn about the Bible. One anecdote - before I became a Christian I was a God mocker, and would have no trouble picking and choosing verses that seemed to back up what I was saying, or that seemed to contradict each other. We tend to do that with history, too (on both sides) in order to "prove" what the founding fathers meant or believed. Reading commentaries - either pro or con - CAN be helpful in understanding the Bible, but one really needs to read the Bible, itself, to really glean anything from it. It sounds like you do, and I encourage you to continue.

I guess that all for now. I love the blog.


theswordandthetrowel said...

I think all of the founders would assert that Romans 13 does forbid the individual from rebelling from its government. They therefor went out of their way to do two things. First, to show that they were magistrates themselves with lawful authority from God and the people who were first attempting to correct an unlawful tyrant.
Second, when correction of an unlawful tyrant failed, they were seceding from the British Government and were thus fighting a defensive war as one nation against another.
They never classified themselves as rebels nor would allow them to be classified that way.
They were following in the long line of theologians before them. Much of their wording comes straight from theological treatise like Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants by Junius Brutus.