Sunday, July 26, 2009

John Locke on Romans 13

Paul the Apostle's Epistle to the Romans, Chapter XIII:

"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. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."

This passage was and is the most troublesome political passage in the New Testament, and was responsible for literally millions of words exchanged on the question of political liberty. Men like John Calvin took it as an absolute prohibition against anything resembling revolution or revolt against even the meanest of rulers.


John Locke's treatment of Romans 13 is pretty straightforward: Christians are not exempt from obeying lawful authority just by virtue of being Christian. They have to obey the same laws as everybody else.

On what is "lawful authority," Locke says Paul the apostle "is wholly silent, and says nothing of it," because for Paul or Jesus "to meddle with that, would have been to decide of civil rights, contrary to the design and business of the Gospel"---which of course was the business of salvation, of preparing for the next world, not this one.

Locke notes that it was Paul's intention and prudence, that such "sauciness, sedition or treason" was, in those times of Roman "insolent and vicious" rule, a "scandal to be cautiously kept off the Christian doctrine!" [The exclamation point is Locke's.]

Founding era preacher William Ellery Channing made a similar argument about why the New Testament didn't explicitly ban slavery: "a religion, preaching freedom to the slave, would have shaken the social fabric to its foundation, and would have armed against itself the whole power of the state."

Jesus didn't preach violent revolution, that his church would be arming itself against the whole power of the state. Indeed, we recall that many were disappointed he wasn't that kind of Messiah.


Therefore, sayeth Locke, the "lawful authority" question must be decided by worldly standards, to be "determined by the laws and constitution of their country."

And so, if a legal argument to separate from Britain's constitutional monarchy could be made---and indeed the 27 grievances in the Declaration of Independence like "taxation without representation" was such an attempt---then there was no theological impediment per Romans 13 to such a separation.

Further, Locke asserts "the doctrine of Christianity was the doctrine of liberty," using for his example that Christians were "freed" from observing the "Mosaical" law.

In other words, Locke is dispensing with any supernatural argument that unlawful rulers should be obeyed because it's God's will because Romans 13 says so. According to John Locke, it doesn't.

From Locke's A paraphrase and notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, First and Second Corinthians, Romans, and Ephesians, p. 367

[ HT to Ben Abbott for the above citation and link.]

103 comments:

secular square said...

On a small side issue--

I understand the Paul preached obedience to the govenment (Rom. 13), slaves to be content with their status (1 Cor 7:21-24) and women to stay in bad marriages (1 Cor. 7:1-16) because Jesus was comin' soon (the time is short !Cor. 7:29). Paul's ambivalence about the Roman government contrasts starkly with the views expressed 40 years later by the author of the Book of Revelation.

secular square said...

Sooooo, in light of the fact that either Paul misunderstood or Jesus changed his plans, a long interlude has been passing between visits from Jesus. During this interlude, viscious persecution arose under Rome shortly after Paul wrote his epistles and has periodically broken out over the past 2000 years. Should these commands from Paul then still have any relevance for Christians experiencing persecution and considering civil disobedience or outright rebellion?
(sorry for the late addition . . computing difficulties.)

Pinky said...

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Perhaps some recognize the dilemma with which we are faced in America today with this quotation from Shain’s book..off pages 224, 225:

"But the most important political implication of Americans’ reformed Protestant confidence in the equally sinful nature of all people might have been the Revolution itself. By passing the Declaratory Act on 18 March 1755, and demanding from Americans 'unlimited submission' in 'all cases whatsoever,' the British Parliament had created a situation that Americans as reformed Protestants were obligated to resist. (160) As Martin Bucer, Calvin’s teacher and a famed reference, had written in his Lectures on the Book of Judges, 'wherever absolute power is given to a prince, there the glory and the dominion of God is injured. The absolute power, which is God’s alone, would be given to a man liable to sin.'(161) By demanding unlimited submission, the British Parliament, an external body of sinful men, had effectively 'set itself alongside God’s Word as a competing sovereign.' (162) The response of Americans, theologically and historically committed to submitting only to God, 'and only God’s word—in all respects of life and faith,' should have been predictable. (163) The members of Parliament had framed the debate in such a way that many Americans respects of life and faith,' should have been predictable. (163) The members of Parliament had framed the debate in such a way that many Americans immediately understood their demand for 'unlimited submission' as a struggle between eternal life and perpetual damnation.(164)"

(see footnotes 160 - 164)

Pinky said...

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Whoooops!!

Another typo.
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That Declaratory Act date should have been 18 March 1766
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Sorry about that.

King of Ireland said...

Phil,

Good citation that I think sheds some light on the thinking at that time. At least from those that were in Christian Pulpits.



Secular Square,

Paul in Philemon gives his view on Slavery. I feel that the other passages were more of a comfort. I do believe it says to become free if one can too. As far as the marriages Jesus talked about this as well.

I think that the trouble people have is distinguishing between an epistle and other parts of the NT. Paul is giving his opinion a lot. He says so often. Other times one can infer he is giving an opinion. The fact that one time he stated that "The Lord says not me" shows me that he knew the difference.

Also, as I stated in the comments section of the post I did on Mayhew and Locke in more detail, Epistles are tough to read in that often they are in response to letters with specific questions that we are not privy to. It makes it hard to find context. The writers are also often speaking to specific circumstances at a specific place at a specific time. To try and create universal dogma from this is dangerous at best.

I think this is exactly what Locke is saying:

This is too vague to make universal judgments about. Let error on the side of believing that God was not clear on this because this is one of those things that he gave us reason to figure out. It also could be different for different people at different times what makes a lawful authority. Some see contradictions I see God leaving room for contextualization. What is so bad about diversity that Christians throughout the centuries have tried to destroy it through dogma? I believe this was the overall context of Romans:

Cultural traditions and baggage should not be passed off as the gospel.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thx, Phil---an excellent contribution. It opens the door to Britain's Glorious Revolution, and also many Founding-era sermons, against the British government claiming authority over even religious practice.

Pinky said...

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Slowly; but, surely, I'm changing my thinking on America's Founding in so far as the thinking about Christianity having a major impact on what took place.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I am really sick and tired of fundamentalists taking a scripture and defining everything by the text, without even thinking about the implication and whether history bears out what they are suggesting..so much so, that I wonder what authority scripture should have. It only leads to sn attitude of superirority about "special revelation". I guess how much authority any 'outside source" should have is a metter of personal decision. and choice.

Pinky said...

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"I am really sick and tired of fundamentalists..."
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heh heh heh
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One of the things I'm learning has to do with how "christians" come to their conclusions regarding the truth of social reality..
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There is a verse in the Bible that sets a very important wall up behind which most fundamentalists hide; Ephesians 5:11. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."
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It is used to teach new converts as well as young children to turn off to any rational thinking about anything that may have an effect on their views of reality which does not support the drill.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Cultural traditions and baggage should not be passed off as the gospel.

King, that's indeed explicit in Locke's study of Romans 13, that in that time and place of the governance by the Romans' "insolent and vicious" magistrates, for Christians to be associated with political revolution would have diminished the other-worldly message of the Gospel.

This however, does not mean that in another time and place, Christians are forbidden to revolt.
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As for the above slagging on "fundamentalists," there are none I'm aware of who hang around this here blog. Pinky uses "christians" with a lower-case "c" and "scare quotes" to boot. It's good that he finally meets some Thomists, whom most consider to be rather reasonable people.

As for my own education about the "fundies," this Thomist admits he didn't know it was quite that bad. He defends fundies only from the abstract principles of American pluralism, that people have a constitutional right to believe stupid shit if they want.

This country was founded on the freedom to believe stupid shit, and moreover, I must say to those who embrace modern philosophy here in 2009, that men are "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" is the stupidest, most empirically unprovable shit of all.

Therefore, I meself give stupid shit a lot of leeway, in fine Merkin tradition. If Peter Singer is reasonable---and he is---then God save us from reasonable people.

"Let us conclude with one reflection more which shall barely be hinted at, as delicacy, if not prudence, may require, in this place, some degree of reserve. Is there a possibility that the government of nations may fall into the hands of men who teach the most disconsolate of all creeds, that men are but fireflies, and that this all is without a father? Is this the way to make man, as man, an object of respect? Or is it to make murder itself as indifferent as shooting a plover, and the extermination of the Rohilla nation as innocent as the swallowing of mites on a morsel of cheese? If such a case should happen, would not one of these, the most credulous of all believers, have reason to pray to his eternal nature or his almighty chance (the more absurdity there is in this address the more in character) give us again the gods of the Greeks; give us again the more intelligible as well as more comfortable systems of Athanasius and Calvin; nay, give us again our popes and hierarchies, Benedictines and Jesuits, with all their superstition and fanaticism, impostures and tyranny. A certain duchess of venerable years and masculine understanding,* said of some of the philosophers of the eighteenth century, admirably well,—“On ne croit pas dans le Christianisme, mais on croit toutes les sottises possibles*.”---John Adams, Discourses on Davila

*"They do not believe in Christianity, but they believe every possible absurdity."

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Unfortunately, pragmatism rules all decisions, as people only are interested in what works and possibly will bring their lives more or whatever it is they seek. This is why science is so venerated in our society and scientists hold an authority about what they speak.

So, how does one practically defend a decision as the right one? Everything from stem cell research to euthanasia is decided on the basis of society, not the individual. Therefore, if society will prosper when the elderly are "done away", then so be it. Thia ia what universal healthcare is about.

Those that support social "think" and defend groupism, haven't thought about what transpires when society is to be of "ultimate concern". Society and its rights, undermine the human rights of the individual...

Pinky said...

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Van de Verwe writes, Everything from stem cell research to euthanasia is decided on the basis of society, not the individual.
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And, therein lies the rub.

The preponderance of American thinking on societal choice is more and more coming under the influence of the pervasive New Age of Biblicism.

Even during the Founding Era, Americans--reformed Protestants and the more secularists--were strongly influenced by Biblical teachings.
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When we used the word, media, we mean what Founding Era Americans meant by the term, the press. Same thing.

The dominate media (the press) today is television. During the Founding Era the dominate media was the pulpit. Educated estimates have it that the average Founding Era American spent 15,000 hours during his lifetime listening to sermons from the pulpit.

America is divided along strict Biblical lines that deal with the two worlds in which we live. One is the Fallen State of the individual human who is utterly depraved in his own self and the other is the regenerate soul which is under the influence of God's Biblical laws. And, when we consider that, we begin to realize the futility of any governmental plan being of value unless it is in line with Biblical principles.
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It's going to take some doing to help people get to the place where a liberal education will have a great deal of influence on the future.

Pinky said...

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Plus, the way a person gets to be under the controlling influence of God's Biblical law is through accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.

No disrespect intended; but, once a person has come under that influence, they are guided by the Bible verse found in Ephesians 5:11; which teaches them to rebuke anything that doesn't support the basic Biblical ideology.
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It's a fail safe system and it cannot be beaten using reason as reason comes from the world of man's depravity. The theology teaches that man is incapable of doing any good unless the good comes from God and that means the Bible rules.
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J said...

"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."

Really, Locke's points on the citizens' right to petition a govt. for grievances (or however he phrases it in the 2nd treatise) stand in direct opposition to St. Paul's rather Kissinger-like tone in Romans. Locke had nothing but disdain for Hobbes on this matter (though I don't think even Hobbes would have agreed with Paulie--under a dictator or despot who refuses to protect/enforce contracts, the commonwealth is considered dissolved, more or less, and back to anarchy).

For that matter, read a bit of Roman history--especially concerning the bad emperors-- and it seems rather unfathomable that a rational person would make the statement that Paul does. Not sure even his boss--Mr. JC--would have agreed with this.

Which is to say, Romans 13 provides another example of a dogmatic, absolutist POV which the framers mostly objected to ( Jefferson also omitted Paul's epistles in his abridged Good Book).

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky, What you write is preposterou, because;
we will be headed for a confessional war on "what the Bible says and "what it means", if we allow Scripture to rule. That is unless we want to go back to some ruling "biblical elite", like the Taliban, the "judges of "JUdges" or the "POPE"!...

The problem with maintaining an absolute power of interpretive schema for an individual as it concerns specificities is that is will inhibit the right of choice and freedom in deciding the "moral'. or what is of value. Determination is the height of immorality in my opinion (and I know that this is a speculative conviction, as philosophers disagree as to choice, etc.)

I just heard today where the head of the White House's science and technology holds to a view in his 1973 book that the fetus is not a human being until he is fed and socialized...socialization is culture. And culture is determined in our society by the family and geographical location of one's upbringing But, some in the "Bible belt" would not think that those brought up in California hold to a "good cultural standard". Why? because of outward things such as dress, and behavior in social situations...or because they don't adhere to certain "convictios" that they believe the Bible holds to be true..

The Bible is not absolute. Evolutionary theory is absolute in today's educated elite. Evolutionary theory says that man develops within social structures, but a limitation of definition to the social structure is what the Taliban and the "moral majority" is about..I don't adhere to that...in our free society. A limited government...

I, as well as many I know, have already experienced as much ostericism, exclusion, persecution and negligence that one can have in our type of cultural religious climate (in various locations and situations). That is why I hate absolutists...dogmatics...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

PLUS, one does not have to believe in a literalizing of a text to believe in "god" as a presupposition. "God" being defined in anthropological terms, means that one could form a government such as ours, where there is equality under law and a balance and separation of powers.

But, I don't believe like in Marx, that if we do away with economic discrepancies, then we will allow for utopia to be formed in the "NEW MAN", and I hope to god that this is not the 'plan" of elite academics in bringing about 'global peace"!!!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, accepting Judeo-Christian principles as the foundation for a society doesn't require accepting Jesus as savior---Jefferson didn't. Jews don't.

It's not the all-or-nothing deal that the fundies or Gregg Frazer might present it as.

The question is whether if we reject those principles, "endowed by his creator with certain inalienable rights" goes out the window, or as Angie notes, we even redefine what a "person" is.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Romans 13 provides another example of a dogmatic, absolutist POV

Well, not according to Locke. By the time he's done with it, it's quite a reasonable proposition.

J said...

Then, to echo Lord Russell, I say Locke's being inconsistent as usual. His statements in the 2nd treatise regarding the right to petition the govt.--really the basis for the Legislative power, more or less--can hardly be squared with Paul's neo-con-like praise of the powers-that-be (Rather preposterous even given the historical context. Corrupt roman emperors, from Tiberius to Constantine, had no problem mowing down christians and jews. Paul was not the shotcallah, anyway. JCwas)

jimmiraybob said...

Evolutionary theory says that man develops within social structures

You need to be much more specific here. If you are talking biological evolution this is absolutely absurd. Here's one definition of biological evolution:

"In fact, evolution can be precisely defined as any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next."

- Helena Curtis and N. Sue Barnes, Biology, 5th ed. 1989 Worth Publishers, p.974


A broader discussion of biological evolution can be found here and a summary can be found at Wiki.

Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations.

If you are talking about this then you should refer to a thesis on the "evolutionary theory of institutions."

Or, are you referring to social Darwinism; a concept predating Darwin but often conflated with his work and/or biological evolution?

Tom Van Dyke said...

I dunno, J, littering your arguments with stuff like "Paul the apostle was a neo-con" doesn't seem very helpful, and your remarks about Locke don't seem to jibe with the original essay or the link to Locke's thoughts on Romans 13.
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JRB, even if the original formulation was imprecise, Aristotle's note that man is a social animal seems beyond controversy. He is not the loner that say tigers and polar bears are, and which eat their young if mama doesn't protect them.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

If we "go" with J's suggestion then our country's "enligtened views" about government where we do not live under tyranny is appropriate. "Paul" did not live in a free society in the sense of ours.

JRB was helpful in specifying where I need to be more specific, but JRB also has to know that my "knowledge is limited", hence, a forgivable mistake, I hope:)...I do like to have my stuff "corrected, enlarged, challenged", etc. otherwise, I do not grow in my ability to "know, think and commit" to the issues of most value to me...

This is what I believe is of most importance; free information in a free society, where all are conversant with the ideas (as they know them) and have a voice...which is what the "ideal" is of our government's form, isn't it?

bpabbott said...

JRB, in the context of Angie's post I assume she refers to Social Evolution.

However, I'm not sufficiently versed in its ideas to judge.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thank you, bpabbott. From what I read about Kidd, it sounds interesting.

I have read little on social psychology, but what I have read has led me to believe that for the most part, society will disintegrate without "correction", "reformation", etc.

"Becoming Evil", by James Waller, is a book that I think shows how genocide, and prejuidice in general works and conservative religious communities are very prone to this type of behavior.

bpabbott said...

In the event some may not be up to speed on the differences between Evolutionary Biology, Social Evolution, Social Darwinism, and what Hitler did ... Hitler applied the ideology of Eugenics.

bpabbott said...

Angie, I added the last comment before reading comment above it.

I'm skeptical of the disintegration of society ... unless you mean it will eventually change or evolve into something very different.

I expect all human societies will become more ethnically and culturally diverse with time (or life-times), and am hopeful that will lead to more tolerance and individual liberty.

Pinky said...

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Can we get all this to line up with the topic?
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J said...

And I would say, TvD, that your evangelical view of Locke does not jibe with his rather democratic views represented in the 2nd Treatise--sort of canonical for the Framers as well. Locke may have been inconsistent at times, but in terms of his political theory, he did not waver on the right of citizens to petition the govt., and make laws via democratic means (rather than via aristocratic or judicial means). And of course, he consistently opposed the divine right of Kings (which I think is really a questioning of biblical infallibility--).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thank you, Pinky. It was going very well there for awhile. The topic is Locke on Romans 13.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

TVD.
We were still "on topic". We were talking about government's proper "order", and submission to it via Romans 13 and whether it has evolved to a higher level...

Hitler did use evolutionary theory in a ideological sense. And I think whether one is a ideological Christian, or an ideological Darwinian atheist, one is too far off course, to be balanced.

I think that there is a 'call" out to reform how ethics will be determined...on what basis. We cannot dissolve ethics to power, whether it is man's or God's. And we cannot at the same time dissolve ethics of power. It is right ordered power that is found in good leadership. Those that seek to serve the public good, and not situate themselves for the benefit of themselves. And the public can sanction an individual's desire for leadership in our democratic elections.

This is what the world should be. Men under good government that are allowed individual liberties that sanction individual conscience and yet, maintains the order of society for all to benefit.

J said...

I have not read this work by Locke, and it's not as central a text as the Two Treatises or the ECHU. The Google excepts do not help matters much (the text does not appear on line).

Regardless, Locke as represented in the quotes leans more toward the secular than to the theocratic or dogmatic:

Therefore, sayeth Locke, the "lawful authority" question must be decided by worldly standards, to be "determined by the laws and constitution of their country."

A bit general, but the emphasis on "worldly" does not provide much
assistance to the evangelical looking for support from Locke. These quotes seem to indicate that the message of "A paraphrase and notes on the Epistles of St. Paul..." does not seem incompatible with his democratic (and mostly secular) points from the 2nd Treatise.


Further, Locke asserts "the doctrine of Christianity was the doctrine of liberty," using for his example that Christians were "freed" from observing the "Mosaical" law.


A bit hyperbolic, but Jefferson probably approved (assuming he read this--it was published decades after Locke's death). Liberty is not exactly monarchism (or a state church of whatever sort).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Those that seek to serve the public good, and not situate themselves for the benefit of themselves.

Yes, Plato's Republic says these "Guardians" should run things, so the argument about "how things should be" is at least 2500 years old.

However, James Madison realized that "man as he is" doesn't have the selflessness of the Guardians, and indeed, there are scholars who believe Plato was illustrating how absurd the idea is that they could exist.

As for "social evolution" or eugenics, perhaps that's a leftover from a previous discussion. However, neither Paul nor Calvin nor Locke could possibly hold that Romans 13 requires such cooperation with evil.

Therefore

"Becoming Evil", by James Waller, is a book that I think shows how genocide, and prejuidice in general works and conservative religious communities are very prone to this type of behavior.

seems a gratuitous slam against so-called "conservative religious communities."


As for my "evangelical" view of Locke, I'm not an evangelical, and my view is simply historical---in this essay all I do is explicate what Locke said in his own words. I tried to add no opinion or color at all, and left a link to the original text so that the reader could check for his or herself.

King of Ireland said...

J stated:

"And of course, he consistently opposed the divine right of Kings (which I think is really a questioning of biblical infallibility--)."

Did you read the link? This is the same one I got the quote I used in my post from. His interpretation is the most reasonable one I have heard and it right from the Bible. He even references other parts of Romans. It also goes against what you day here. Being against the Divine Right of Kings is not the same as being anti inerrancy. Though I do think inerrancy is absurd for reasons I stated in other comments either in this post or Jon's the other day.

J said...

Locke does not, per the quoted material, really assent to Paul's demand that we respect political authority just because it is authority. And never did he argue for a Platonic state, even of republican sort (Plato himself was not too fond of democracy, Lockean or otherwise).

So in regards to the question of whether Locke respects Roman 13 or not, I would say you did not demonstrate his respect for Paul's dicta. Locke seems fairly secularist even in this ostensibly theological work, given his remarks that the ""lawful authority question must be decided by worldly standards [and] "determined by the laws and constitution of their country.""" In regards to political foundations, proper authority, and so forth Locke implies we've got no other choice than to rely on that old wh**e Reason (speaking of wh**e's, Miss Ayn Rand read and admired Locke, and she wasn't one to bless any theological authoritays).

King of Ireland said...

J,

You are calling a man secular that actually wrote a comments and paraphase 4 epistles in the Bible? His whole First Treatise was biblical arguments against the Divine Right of Kings. The link goes right to the book. p. 367 is his thoughts about Romans 13.

King of Ireland said...

J,

He is not disagreeing with Paul. He is disagreeing with the way that Loyalists read Paul. Read it carefully. Read the note I quoted on my post. It is an alternate interpretation. A reasonable one based on context I might add.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I will try this again..as my last entry did not post.

I think we must have a way to address things in a way that is not based on a coresspondence view of truth, as we do not know that realm and cannot. But, some seek to and that is fine, but we dare not base our society on ideology.

The pragmatists define the "right" based on what works, which science helps provide in benefitting society, but it can be used in hands that are bent on power and scentific power in hands bent on political power is dangerous, as Hitler has personified. So, how do we do ethics coherently, as we all seek to live coherently.

The RC Church seeks to mandate how we should live but their view is not coherent due to their affirmation of life in the womb, but their limitations upon life after the womb in choices of value.

The evangelical does the same. So, we must affirm both life and liberty without limiting either and that is the basis of individual/civil liberties.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Oh, and the Charity in Truth is the RC Church's view of mandating charity, which limits liberty of individual choice in where, how, why and if...even when in agreement with scientific understanding that charitable service makes people happier.

I do believe that most people do give back to their communities when they are valued and they find the time and means to do so. But, that is the "rub' in today's world which limits choice through the demands upon our time..and the social capital to affirm others as valued members of community...

J said...

No, and again the critical text in regards to authority, legitimate and otherwise, is the 2nd Treatise, not this much later, somewhat obscure, posthumous essay. He consistenly argues for the right to dissent, whether on individual level, or vis a vis assemblies and legislatures. He never blessed the powers-that-be (as Paul does more or less). As usual he avoids any outright criticism of scripture, but his secularism (or implicit secularism) seems fairly clearly indicated by his remark that the authority issue must be settled by "worldly standards [and] "determined by the laws and constitution of their country.""" Secular doesn't mean agnostic or atheist: it means toleration, and his letter regarding Toleration has similar themes, and was hardly a justification of a christian state. He was attacked by puritans for not being orthodox.

Even the Stanford EoP indicates Locke's anti-authoritarianism (whereas Paul seems rather more drawn to authoritarianism):

Much of Locke's work is characterized by opposition to authoritarianism. This opposition is both on the level of the individual person and on the level of institutions such as government and church. For the individual, Locke wants each of us to use reason to search after truth rather than simply accept the opinion of authorities or be subject to superstition. He wants us to proportion assent to propositions to the evidence for them.

Believer might cherry-pick a few pious remarks from Locke (as they can from Hobbes), but taken as a whole, the anti-authoritarianism is fairly evident--nowhere more so than in the 2nd Treatise, which the Framers knew.

Pinky said...

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Are we discussing this topic according to the way things have been in American Creation or are we involved in a discussion about how things should be according to what we might think is best?
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Am I the only one who is getting confused here
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

We are if you mean "American", not if you mean "creation", as that is open to interpretation and creativity.

jimmiraybob said...

Hitler did use evolutionary theory in a ideological sense. And I think whether one is a ideological Christian, or an ideological Darwinian atheist, one is too far off course, to be balanced.

Angie, when saying that Hitler used evolutionary theory to advance his ideological goals you just have to be more specific. If you can't be more specific then please refrain from making such sweeeping and grossly misleading statements.

Hitler misused the conceptual framework of Social Darwinism - a complete mischaraterization of Darwin's hypothesis in Origin of Species, which is a foundation of the modern synthesis of biological evolution theory. Hitler also exploited Christian themes existing in his society. He was more an exploiter for the sake of power than an ideologue.

Biological evolutionary theory is about populations adapting to ecological niches over time through changes in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool through natural selection and/or genetic drift. It is not synonymous with "survival of the fittest" or "survival of the strongest" or the act of breeding populations (of dogs, goats or people). Since critics of biological evolution often conflate Social Darwinism, Evolutionary Theory (often shorthanded as Darwinism), and eugenics in an effort to subvert the teaching of science in favor of more Biblical interpretation, you need to be careful unless that is your intent. George Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Priestly, Franklin, and I all implore you to specify, specify, specify.

You will do well to click on some of the links provided above and familiarize yourself with the differences.

I also have to mention that not all "Dawinists" (those in sync with modern evolutionary theory) are atheists, with quite a number being what might be called Christian Darwinists..... they're often even scientists to boot.

I'm not trying to be unnecessarily harsh but being conversant in these distinctions will help you to advance your argument(s) with greater clarity.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Pinky, I think you're barking up the right tree.

J is apparently unacquainted with the Two Kingdoms theology, which we can find in Augustine and Luther ["my kingdom is not of this world"].

Indeed, Locke specifically says that Paul disassociates the higher message of the Gospel [eternal life] from turning Christianity into a political movement.

So does William Ellery Channing on the ethics of slavery.

But neither Locke nor Channing say that the concerns of this world are of no concern. If you read the link to Channing, he militantly, indeed angrily, objects to anyone defending slavery on Biblical grounds.

Such slavery, we are told, was sanctioned by the Apostle! Such, we are told, he pronounced to be morally right!

and further

For if it had forbidden the EVIL, instead of subverting the PRINCIPLE, if it had proclaimed the unlawfulness of slavery, and taught slaves to RESIST the oppression of their masters, it would instantly have arrayed the two parties in deadly hostility throughout the civilized world; its announcement would have been the signal of servile war; and the very name of the Christian religion would have been forgotten amidst the agitations of universal bloodshed. The fact, under these circumstances, that the Gospel does not forbid slavery, affords no reason to suppose that it does not mean to prohibit it; much less does it afford ground for belief that Jesus Christ intended TO AUTHORIZE IT.

[N.B.---The angry CAPITAL LETTERS are Channing's, not mine.]

As we return to Pinky's observation, unfamiliarity with Christian thought yields many false conclusions, and is partially responsible for the viciousness of today's culture wars and how people talk past each other, Babel in the truest sense.

For example, Ms. VDM, even the critics of the RCChurch admit that its worldview is quite coherent, even as they savage it in disagreement. So too, the Enlightenment and secular humanism didn't just drop in from Mars one day in the 1600s and everything was different. They are part of a larger historical and philosophical context that is literally thousands of years old. We cannot read Locke with full understanding using only the lights of the 21st century.

And let's add, to be fair, that many Christians don't understand their own theological history either, which accounts for a lot of ignorance on that side. One cannot read Locke only by the light of Calvin.

That misses the entire point of Locke, of what became American Protestantism, and which fueled the American Revolution and Founding, which J and the Stanford E of P get right here:

Much of Locke's work is characterized by opposition to authoritarianism. This opposition is both on the level of the individual person and on the level of institutions such as government and church.

Absolutely.

J said...

Oh I am quite aware of it, and of Luther's use of Paul's authoritarianism, (the just shall live by faith, etc.). I think it's amusing, however, how TvD nearly always follows one of my posts with a string of non sequiturs and deceptive tactics. Maybe because he's not too familiar with Locke's 2nd Treatise? Or he wants to avoid the issue of democracy. And as the previous discussions made clear, Locke does tend to value Reason over the claims of revelation.

Jefferson, Madison & Co had little use for the theological tradition, regardless of what Locke may have said on occasion (tho' the above quotes make it quite clear Locke does NOT hold Romans 13 to be some binding maxim).

Really, I'm quite sure Locke's not supportive of Augustine, nor probably even of Luther (who did approve of the message of Romans 13, most likely). I'm not saying St. Augie and Luther's writings are irrelevant as a whole, but in regards to the founding of America mostly negligible (and TJ, like his mentor Locke, had no love for the papacy either).

Angie Van De Merwe said...

TVD

There is no higher "kingdom". That is "pie in the sky". Live "above the frey", as superhuman, or unhuman, without any desire for political freedom or individual choice? That is absurd. We all want our liberty. And liberty is about the political, economic, and the religious.

I re-read my post to make sure I'd written what I thought I had...I did not say the RC church's view was cosistant, as they affirm the life of the fetus, but deny the right to life to adults who want to use birth control, scientist who want to use stem cells, etc.

Therefore, to be consistant, or coherent then, wouldn't one affirm the values of choice, period? Life and liberty depend on affirming both, but how we do that will differ in our choices of value.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

May I also add that Paul's context was written in a time that approved of such things as slavery.

Scriptures are irrelavant in the political context of American democracy, but they are "still alive and well" as it concerns believers "image of themselves" as "chosen by God" and "special envoys" of service for "the Kingdom". And that means for those who have no "self image" and need an "image bearer" to be "out there" for them...Christ is that "image bearer".

America, as was Paul, the benefactor of Greek philosophy.

J said...

I would say the founding of America included judeo-christian aspects (mostly protestant) AND the latin-greek legal and philosophical tradition. The latin-greek influence however was confined to the central figures (usual suspects, Jeff, Madison, Adams, Hamilton etc. As with the Fed. Papers--Jim Madison aka Publius generally puts on the classical latin airs). Out in the sticks it was mostly fire and brimstone believers, I wager.

At the same time there was a rogue element--certainly in the south-- overlooked by both the Right Reason sort of heritage mongers and the biblethumpers-adventurers, Blackbeards and Lafittes, and outlaws of all types played a part in the founding. Or as Sam Johnson said of yankees, "a race of convicts."

Angie Van De Merwe said...

J,
"convicts" then, is a relative term...

Those who think that they can teach another how to be charitable or socially responsible are "convicts" to those who want their independence from such constraints, as this is "stealing" in the eyes of those who value their independence...while those who adhere to the "culture" of "society" or want to train others about philanthropy see the "independent" as "convicts" of society's welfare...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Don't we all value our 'independence" in one sense? That is if we consider ourselves rational and adult beings...

Tom Van Dyke said...

Therefore, to be consistant, or coherent then, wouldn't one affirm the values of choice, period? Life and liberty depend on affirming both, but how we do that will differ in our choices of value.

That's fine, Ms. VDM. You're defending relativism and moral anarchy. Whether a society can survive on such a diet is the question.

J, I'm glad you're acquainted with such things, although your comments to date don't betray that fact. The topic on this blog is "religion and the Founding," and of the original post, Locke and Romans 13.

If you wish to wave our topics away and change the subject to one of your own choice, fine. But do it somewhere else. We're quite aware of how Jefferson felt about things and have discussed them in depth, if you were to examine our archives. But Jefferson kept many or most of his heterodoxies secret from the public, the new American republic, and why he kept them secret is even more probative than what he thought and wrote in secret.

Perhaps you should take Pinky's book recommendation and look at the Founding through new eyes. That's just what he did.

In fact, you don't have to buy it. Here's a free google book preview" of Barry Shain's The Myth of American Individualism: The Protestant Origins of American Political Thought.

If I can put in a commercial for this blog, J---and Angie---we've spent a lot of time together establishing a common vocabulary to discuss "religion and the Founding." It hasn't been easy, and that's what Pinky is saying.

We teach each other, and what makes this blog unique is we don't just exchange prejudices and ignorances and hostilities and childhood traumas. If you want that, go to this blog, God bless and good riddance.

What makes this blog unique is that we do our own research and don't just set Scholar X against Scholar Y. We go back to the original sources and argue from there, because Scholars X and Y---the secular and the "evangelical" tend to skip over stuff, out of genuine ignorance or because it doesn't fit their agenda.

Now we all have agendas and POVs---we're human---but we use facts and argument to put them forth in a positive, affirmative manner. We don't attack the other guy's beliefs and we don't brush aside his best arguments.

For example, I never would have written such a defense of American Protestantism in the Founding before I arrived at this blog. I just didn't know. I learned it here.

So, if you just sit back in your chair, talk and learn, do some research on your own with new eyes, well, we sometimes say "this is a just a blog," but it's a very special blog. Otherwise, it wouldn't get much more than the time of day from me.

[And I guess I'm writing this blog commercial partly because in a few days I'm taking off for my ancestral homeland for a few weeks, and hope y'all will play nice and uphold the standards we've worked so hard to accomplish together around here.

I think King of Ireland (and Samuel Adams) put it best---that the Founding era managed to put aside its minor theological squabbles and hung together instead of separately. If we get one thing out of the Founding, it should be that. If not friends, we're all fellow Americans here.

Which is cool. This blog isn't a battleground, it's an oasis.]

King of Ireland said...

J,

Anti authority or anti tyrant? There is a huge difference.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

TVD
Have a great time on your vacation.

As to "J", I think he added a lot to the conversation, as he not only talked about Romans 13 within of Locke's own understanding, using historical works of his to defend his position.

J was never off topic as far as I am concerned. His was a reasoned response to the topic and not an "idealized view" based on revelation alone. That is so needed in our country, so that our divide can heal and that we can come to resolution over some major issues concerning our country.

J said...

Yeah, TvD, alas you haven't as yet realized Locke doesn't agree with Paul's authoritarianism as represented in Romans 13--even the quoted material makes that clear (as does the central Lockean text on political powers--legitimate, and otherwise--the 2nd Treatise, or the Toleration letter). He doesn't reject it outright, but does circumvent it.

Also note, again, the point on "worldly standards," or the point on Christianity as liberty. None of that would please monarchs or emperors (as Paul does--or Luther, who generally prefers Paul to JC)

Angie--Dr. Johnson's view of Americans as a "race of convicts" shows another side to the AmerRev, sort of Tory-catholic. Not saying I agree or not, but SJ does bring up a few key points--and SJ
ws opposed to the slavers, unlike, say, Locke (Locke did at times argue for abolition, but also helped Shaftesbury with his tobacco biz, which depended on slaves, which Locke said was acceptable).

King of Ireland said...

J stated:

"Yeah, TvD, alas you haven't as yet realized Locke doesn't agree with Paul's authoritarianism as represented in Romans 13"

Are you open to the fact that is may have been the LOYALISTS' Authoritarianism as represented by their interpretation of Romans 13?

As far as the worldly statements about government, they are very consistent with a Christian the believes in the general revelation and the use of reason. I am one for sure and have no problem admitting that the Bible has no proscriptive method for government or what makes is lawful.

J said...

Ah, the Irish spin. Whigs were LOYALISTs, "King", certainly after the protestants (and Locke was a protestant, be sure of that) came back into power. That said, he's more like House of Commons than House of Lords. Actually, I would say in theory he is opposed to a monarch (see 2nd Treatise)--obvious, given his opposition to divine right of kings--except when the king/monarch is bound by law/constitution. Or a....President. Irishmen have generally detested whigs, haven't they (at least the catholic ones have).

The ACsters want to convert Locke into a conservative statist, or christian republican, when he's quite obviously a democrat, and not a pal of royals (whether king, or nobles). Sort of Bill Clinton of 1680 (tho' arguably a bit more hypocritical--and sans a Hillary). That said, he does have faith that legislation (and democracy) will work, or at least will be an improvement on monarchy.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

To put it simplistically, this is always what politics boils down to...the powerful versus the disempowered. Who wins? Those whose rhetoric "wins". A democracy would affirm the "common", whereas, the Republican would affirm the right of "rulers". How can there be an affirmation of both? There can't be rationally, so one must choose.

Interesting that all of the political, religious and ethnic debates turn around the principle of "government" and how does one understand it.

King of Ireland said...

J,

1. I am not Irish. I chose this blog name in honor of the character in Braveheart that called Ireland "his island" and had the balls to fight for freedom from tryrants.

2. In loyalists I meant during the American Revolution which is consistent with the latest threads on this blog.

3. You still have not answered my questions. Anti-Authority is not the same as Anti-tyrant. If you read Locke's comments on Romans 13 he is actually pro lawful authority. If you read a lot of the rest of what he writes it would seem that he was anti-tyrant.

So to claim Locke as a "Secular Enlightenment Figure" based on the fact that he supposedly went against Paul when the evidence clearly indicates that he interpreted Paul differently is wrong. If you have other evidence then provide it but this is a non-starter with someone who understands the Bible.

I do suggest you check out the blog Tom linked. I actually like Ed Brayton. I saw him on a CSPAN show stating, more or less "People that go around telling the state what should be in a biology class should at least be able to pass the test for the class." In other words, if Pastors were not willing to learn about the things they were criticizing they should shut up.

It changed my life listening to him and I have followed his blog ever since. But one think I have begun to challenge people that think like Ed on is telling people what the Bible says when one has not really read it. I mean read it and know it. This is different from believing it. But one should know it before making declarative statements like:

"Individual rights is found no where in the the Bible" or other similar statements.

If the Secularists do not want to take the time to read it enough to pass a class on it then they should not be commenting on it. At best, most of them cling to some so called Bible experts from the Christian camp that agree with them on some things and use them to argue their point. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. I am about to start calling some of them out on this starting with Chris Rodda so you might want to tune in at Dispatches.

I started with a comment on the post about Rodda and Forbes in a cage match.

King of Ireland said...

J,

Liberal and republican at the time of Locke and even the founding Fathers meant nothing like it does today. By the 18th century standard we are all Liberals in the USA. So references to modern politics just confuses things.

Who are the ACsters?

J said...

Where does Locke offer an unqualified blessing of Romans 13? Not in the quoted material (and certainly not in the 2nd Treatise, the main source for Locke's thinking on politics, and separation of church and state).

The ACsters continue to insist upon Locke's authoritarian nature, when it's rather obvious that Locke takes a big picture of the New Testament as affirming Liberty. He does not bless the dogma. He says it's subject to the court of Reason and "worldly standards".

Now, I haven't claimed Locke's not a Christian (at least of protestant sort). Yet taken as a whole, he's tolerant of dissent (one reason for his lenghty epistle on.......Toleration). Secularists such as Voltaire and Jefferson both admired Lockean principles, and they were were not interested in dredging up Augustine, or the endless scholastic debates.

Paul does not affirm Liberty. He insists on obedience.

Pinky said...

.
"Individual rights is found no where in the the Bible" or other similar statements.
.
But, that is---pretty much--what Christianity is all about--individual rights. Jesus taught that each person had direct access to God without the benefit of some sovereign acting as the go between. He taught that God was within a hand's reach of every person. That's an "Individual Right" with double capitals.
.
I see part of what's going down in this thread has to do with one of the Bible's outstanding paradoxes.
.
I have argued for an "open thread" for the purpose of broad discussions that go outside the limits set in the original post of any topic--a meta thread, so to speak.
.

J said...

Who are the ACsters?

Who are they, indeed.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

As you point out, Pinky, yes, scripture can be reasoned in many ways. That is why we have denominations, as their "key verses" are what define them.

Does Jesus preach individual sovereignty...yes, if one believes that Jesus is our ultimate priest, such as the Protestants do.

Does Jesus teach that we are to be "Kingdom" citizens...yes, if one looks at the call of discipleship. Or Paul's view of the Church.

Does Jesus teach obedience to authority...yes, but whose? God's, yes. Man's, yes. Paul also did not obey the Jerusalem authorities, but he taught obedience to authority (don't do as I do, do as I say...) ETC.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

This is the 'call of conscience as to where one will "play out" their life...it is not about absolutizing one scripture, or forming one view and imposing it upon everyone....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

In understanding "moral" development where justice or care reign supreme and "intellectual" development where commitment is of ultimate value because of the paradox to reality and "faith" development's understanding of symbol in representing 'truth'...one could understand scriptures in a developmental way, as to Paul and Jesus.

But, this also is the case for any individual's life, as the "text" is not the epitome of "truth' about life and "all that is". So, one so developed could come to understand themselves in many ways. Each individual must look at the opportunities before them and "make their own story" ring true for them. This is the case of the individual in his/her commitment to "life".

Angie Van De Merwe said...

So, the "moral" cares about the conventional, where the "ethical" cares about the universal.

Tom Van Dyke said...

King, I'm not going to get involved at the sewer over there, but feel free to use this argument if you want to gut it out. I'd admit there are some stinkers in there, but quite a few of the 75 Whereas-es are just fine. It does say on the Jefferson Memorial, in his own words,

"Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"

Rodda's argument is based on finding stinkers, not on the whole. It's sophistic at its heart.

Now, I wouldn't give you 2 cents for Rep. Forbes, just as David Barton becomes an albatross. But Rodda and other Barton-Forbes critics never go near the large majority of things they get right.

And J, I don't think you have any idea what AC thinks, because most of the things you say are already in our archives.

Neither is there a monolithic AC position. We're individuals, although we seldom disagree on the facts, because facts are facts.

And not a single argument here is predicated on Jesus being God or the Messiah, if the Bible is true, or even if God exists at all. We stay at arm's length from that stuff, as it's above our pay grade.

King of Ireland said...

J stated:

"Paul does not affirm Liberty. He insists on obedience."

This is your take on Romans 13? I do not understand. It sounds like liberty means anarchy to you. If this us true then when, according to Locke, it seems(there are other interpretations like Gregg Frazer's) that Paul is speaking about the institution of government in general and more specifically to the Jewish converts in Rome about submitting the the legitimacy of Gentile governments, he is anti-anarchy.

Remember the Founders were no fans at all of mob rule posing as Liberty. Madison wrote about this danger and the need for a stronger central government to ensure against this tendency that he saw in pure democracies throughout history. It is at least part of the reason that a Republican form of government was created.

King of Ireland said...

Tom,

Go read my comments on Dispatches and tell me what you think. I pretty much used the line of reasoning that I have developed from a lot of the stuff I have learned from you and checking out the sources for myself.

The whole frame of this debate needs to change but until someone says, "Hey Rodda even if you win the type of debate you like to get into, it still does not even begin to answer the real questions at hand as to:

1. What is means to be a Judeo-Christian then and now

2. Whether America was or is now

3. If we were when we ceased to become one

I think number three is where you are headed with Jon with your points about modern philosophy. Number three is the real question to me in that if we were founded on some Theological principles that are the foundation for the Philosophical principles we held dear and the Theological ideas are dropped and the philosophy changes we are on different ground. I believe at our own peril.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
King of Ireland said...

Tom,

This quote you used is a summary of all they believed and we have gotten away from at our own peril:

""Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?""

Societies that lose the concept of God in the correct context lose the concept of the inherent worth of the individual simply because he is made in the image of God. In other words, there is good in him. If this is true then TULIP is just as dangerous to this as secularism.

Barton is barking up the wrong tree to bring this truth to light.

J said...

Not quite, King. Madison's fear of Mob rule was the Federalist view, only, and that was written in 1780s or 90s, before he joined Jefferson. It's relevant but hardly Lockean. The Jefferson/ states rights people were Lockeans, in favor of congress/legislation, and opposed the Federalists and judiciary. The Madisonian/Federalist view was the minority view, and not Locke's view either--for that matter, Madison arguably moves away from that, and generally agreed with TJ from 1800 on.

Locke's no Federalist--he's a democrat, and APPROVES of votes, legislation, assemblies, with some contract/constitution. The French Revolutionaries and Rousseau quote Locke verbatim (and omit the theological aspects). Read the 2nd Treatise.

-----

I don't pretend to be a theologian, but my own reading of the New Testament (and old) leads me to believe that a division exists between the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), and the pauline epistles and later books of NT. The gospels are the central teachings of the man known as Jesus, and while there are a few alleged supernatural events (which perplexed the empiricists, even I would say Locke), the message seems primarily ethical and practical, even political at times. The parables regarding usury, the moneylenders, the rich man and the camel and so forth indicate that JC was not a complete conservative. A moralist perhaps--he's not a pagan-- but he does not endorse Caesar or the State, or the financial power of the time. I think Jefferson and framers made use of that "Peoples' Jesus" (as have other democrats across the world)--and Locke did as well. That is the Jesus of good works, the Beatitudes, and of virtue (for both prot.and catholic tradition).

Paul's a different matter. He seems more authoritarian, and approving of the state power (as Romans 13 shows). He's not Christ. There may be wisdom to some of Paul's writing, but he seems fairly ordinary, and conservative (though Paul did live as a pagan--Saul--before his conversion). Luther of course affirms Paul, and Paul's insistence on faith.

I think Luther errors for the most part, and moves Europe in an anti-rationalist direction (Nietzsche called Luther a __________-- something unfit for a PG rated blog). Luther insists that Reason is a Whore, and has little use for virtue or good works; really I think he wants obedient prussian soldiers. That doesn't mean that "catholics are better" but the evangelical movement dispensed with the latin and greek rationalism valued by at least some catholics, or something like that. That anti-rationalism also exists with Calvin, for the most part (though the Reformer himself was sort of a logician, of an odd if not sinister sort).

So the empiricists like Locke were in a difficult situation: they wanted to break with irrationalism, but they have the Calvinist and lutheran tradition working against them (and the catholic dogma as well). However, Locke does in some sense bring back logic--at least of inductive sort (then Bacon and Hobbes had started that)--and politically, Locke's no Lutheran authoritarian (read a bit of Hegel's disparaging remarks on Locke----and you get a sense of what the more prussian sorts of Germans thought of English empiricism as a whole).

King of Ireland said...

J,

I have to go and baby sit my little niece and nephew so I cannot respond in detail but two thoughts:

1. When did Madision change his mind? Or did he take these same thoughts with him as he became anti-Federalist and states rights oriented. I think the shift of the debate was more in the light that they were all Federalists once the thing was ratified with the Bill of Rights and then broke into factions based on just how that Federalism should be played out practically.

2. Go back and read some of my comments in the last few posts about Epistles. I do not disagree with you at first glance of what you wrote. I think we are finding some common ground here.

Tom Van Dyke said...

King, your comments are good over there. You probably scared a few people off just with the idea there's more to the Founding than quote-grabbing, or finding a few Barton-Forbes errors.

See, it's a sophistic tactic, to take 75 arguments, find errors in 5 or 10, and declare victory over the other fellow's argument.

King of Ireland said...

J stated,

"Locke's no Federalist--he's a democrat, and APPROVES of votes, legislation, assemblies, with some contract/constitution. The French Revolutionaries and Rousseau quote Locke verbatim (and omit the theological aspects). Read the 2nd Treatise."

It does not work trying to use 2009 political distinctions in 1776 and it also does not work using political distinctions from the 1800's to describe things in 1689 when Locke was alive. It just confuses things.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Au contraire--the meanings of words have hardly shifted that much. You seem to be assuming, again, a type of calvinist theocracy held, when that was only the case in New England. Even Virginia was full of freethinkers, BEFORE the Revolution. "Republican" in 1800 had the sense of republican in Irish Republican Army, or from the spanish civil war "republicanos". Against the king,more or less. That's not equal to "Reagan republican", but the european definition is still current, and understandable.

Read Voltaire's Candide--hardly some the work of an uptight moralist, and he respected Locke (and Jefferson, however tiresome it may be to hear it, admired the work of Voltaire, and Locke). He's sort of a moderate politically, though with some liberal sensibilities (V. opposed theocracy).

Locke's a bit of a moralist, but the age he lived in was not that puritanical. The court of Charles II was a wild par-tay, and the antics of Charles and his courtiers greatly offended the moralists of the time--including young Dr. Locke I wager, and his pal Newton (Chas. also provided a stipend to his old tutor Hobbes, who Locke did not care for either). Yet even the protestant Locke is no Jon. Edwards. The code of Liberty is hardly strict Calvinism (evidenced even by the few quotes from the obscure work on Paul mentioned in the above post).

I also think there are rightist Lockeans, and secular leftist Lockeans. The rightists focus on the theological aspects (which are not THAT abundant), and perhaps on the property rights.

The secularists focus on the liberal aspects from the Two Treatises, and the empiricism itself (not exactly helpful to theists either). Not only Jefferson and Co follows from Locke's political theories--so do Rousseau, Voltaire, the encyclopedists. Karl Marx at times quoted Locke.

Stay tuned: I intend to write something on the distinction.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You seem to be assuming, again, a type of calvinist theocracy held, when that was only the case in New England.

Nobody said that. Nobody here says that. Please stop.

J said...

Non sequitur. You don't even address the main portion of the above comment--ie. Locke's influence on secular politics, ie American and French revolutions--nor bother to respond to my point on right and left Lockeans.

Really, I'm waiting for a response to my main contention (which I outlined in at least 3 or 4 comments in the above thread) that Locke does NOT approve of Romans 13, which you and King continue to repeat. In brief, Locke says Christianity is Liberty, and that the legitimate authority issue should be decided by "worldly standards". Both points go against Paul's insistence on obedience.

Ergo, I think you are merely chanting dogma--you want to think Locke approves of Paul,and of "inerrancy"--when it's quite evident that Locke wants to suggest (albeit rather indirectly) that Paul's point in Romans 13 is not the real message of the New Testament, which is about liberty (and thus in line with his general democratic politics, NOT with monarchism of whatever sort). Locke nowhere assents to ROmans 13; nor do the founding fathers.

Tom Van Dyke said...

. You don't even address the main portion of the above comment--ie. Locke's influence on secular politics, ie American and French revolutions--nor bother to respond to my point on right and left Lockeans.

Damn right. You're changing the subject. Perhaps your thoughts will be relevant at a later juncture, but they are not relevant now.

Re Romans 13, it's you who are chanting dogma. Locke takes a liberal approach, as did the revolution.

In fact, the literalist approach had been questioned since at least 1150 AD.

http://www.davidkopel.com/Misc/Mags/Policraticus.htm

http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:wx2LkVTvam4J:www.catholicsocialscientists.org/CSSR/Archival/Volume%2520IX/Article--Fastiggi.pdf+suarez+tyrant&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

For some reason, you seem to think everyone just fell off the turnip truck except you. I don't get it.

J said...

Alas, logic's not your strong point. Disputation is not changing the subject. I'm saying you're mistaken. In error. Incorrect. Locke no where gives unqualified praise of Romans 13, or really of Pauline epistles. Indeed he questions Paul's--or Paul-like--authoritarianism, in numerous places. Instead of obedience, he values liberty, at least in principle (especially in the
2nd Treatise of Civ.Govt. If you haven't read a good chunk of that, you don't understand Locke's politics, whatsoever).

Paul's an authoritarian. Locke's not an authoritarian (tho' he was a bit hypocritical at times). And the quotes suggest as much.

J said...

Ah now you've changed YOUR tune, or hint you're changing your tune. Locke does NOT approve of ROmans 13. So the post was more or less mistaken (if not misleading). And Locke therefore does suggest, again, that Reason trumps revelation, that worldly, not Godly standards hold, and that revelation is---not inerrant, taken as a whole.

Tom Van Dyke said...

No. You want to put everybody into a Calvinist box, and if they escape it, you want to claim them for secularism or "reason trumps revelation."

And you make a categorical error---the subject is Romans 13, not the Second Treatise. You certainly are changing the subject by imposing your entire meta-narrative of Locke over the close study of the subject at hand.

This study is not about Locke per se, but of his possible effect on the religious arguments of the Founding era re Romans 13. No more or less. Many Founding era preachers referenced Locke, so we're taking a look at a source document.

Where we're using a microscope, you bring a bazooka. Do not lecture others about logic.

Jonathan Rowe said...

The whole "reason trumps revelation" (or the reverse) hasn't been settled and ain't going away.

Some of the FFs were so crass (J. Adams, Jefferson, others in their personal letters and sometimes public books) to say "reason trumps an errant fallible Bible." Others, like Jonathan Mayhew, James Wilson, when they wrote exhalted "reason" (or sometimes "reason" and the "moral sense") to the highest level while also exhalting revelation.

And then they wrote, claiming such things as "reason and revelation" demonstrate that 1) the Trinity and related orthodox doctrines are false; 2) the doctrine of eternal damnation is false; and 3) neither reason nor revelation teach men ought to submit to tyrannical government, but rather to the contrary.

How one interprets the larger picture depends on a number of things. But, evangelicals and other orthodox Christians who believe the Bible as God's inerrant, infallible Word teaches 1) the Trinity/orthodox doctrine; 2) eternal damnation; conclude that the above mentioned bolded passage, however it presents itself, is "reason trumping revelation" in fact.

Re Romans 13, again, one could claim whatever one wants on how to properly interpret it, but the same literalist who claim the Bible teaches a) orthodox Trinitarian doctrine, and b) eternal damnation, are on stronger ground in claiming it also teaches unlimited submission to government.

The same hermeneutic that claims the Bible does not necessarily teach a) & b) more properly lends itself to such assertions as "rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God."

King of Ireland said...

J stated:

"Locke does NOT approve of Romans 13"

He did not approve of the INTERPRETATION of those that were using it to promulgate the doctrine of Divine Right of Kings. He was not dismissing it he was offering another interpretation.

As far as the whole Calvinist thing I am not understanding you. Not only have I, nor anyone I have read on this blog, never said this I do not believe it.

And yes, the labels of Liberal and Conservative the way they are understood now have little to do with how they were understood at that time. Ask Jon or just go read a few posts as his other blog Positive Liberty. It is such a problem that classical liberals call themselves Libertarian to shed the label of what it means in today's politics.

I am not exactly an expert but I am a History Teacher and have done some pretty extensive reading on this. If you cannot present any evidence of what you are saying is true or why these modern distinctions matter in this discussion then please drop it and stay focused on the topic of the post.

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

"The same hermeneutic that claims the Bible does not necessarily teach a) & b) more properly lends itself to such assertions as "rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.""

Keteltas does not fit into this box. Even if others do it really has no bearing on the study of Political theology. One can be what you call orthodox on salvation issues, like possibly trinitarianism, and liberal on political theology. What we need to look at is the Political theology. I think you fall into the same error at times that Chris Rodda does in that even if you prove Barton and Forbes wrong on some of the quotes it does not prove the whole Christian Nation thesis wrong as far a principles goes.

I tried to ask for a definition on Ed's blog today for Christian Nation and what they think it means compared to what Barton and Providence Foundation types say is a wide gulf. I understand this because I think I understand the arguments of both parties fairly well. They are not talking about the same thing and instead of closing that gap of understanding they strain our a nat and swallow a camel.

The swear up and down that Barton is a theocrat and he is not. He may be OFT and other Theocrats(it seems like he is anyway) but he is not one. They are millions of miles apart but all lumped in one group.

By the way he showed up over there today and destroyed the whole conversation with nonsense.

With all that said, I cannot see why salvation issues should matter in a debate about politcal theology. Do you see a great difference in the political theology of someone like Samuel Adams or Keteltas and say John Locke or John Adams? Is so where?

If the principles argument were proven true, for arguments sake, I know you cringe at what the Religious Right would try and implement based on that. I do too in many ways. Let alone what Theocrats would do. But that is not necessarily relevant to the truth of the History of this.

King of Ireland said...

it should say the Barton "seems" like OFT but he is not

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'm still not entirely cool with what OFT has done and is doing (he's been banned from this site, Positive Liberty AND Dispatches and is getting away with posting there today until Ed catches him) but there is a difference between the way he was a few years ago and the way he is now.

J said...

The category error is your's--you want both authoritarianism, AND anti-authoritarianism/rationalism. You started out by suggesting Locke blessed Paul/Romans 13 word for word, when that is hardly the case (as the quotes referring to "liberty" and "worldly standards" show). Finally one or two slightly skeptical posters show up, and you say, oh well, the bible hasn't been read literally for centuries, that Locke does challenge Paul, etc.

Besides, anyone trying to understand Locke without having read most of the Two Treatises of CivGovt, , or a good chunk of ECHU seem about like someone saying they have mastered spanish after figuring out the present tense of ser y estar. Sophistry of a rather advanced sort.

And really, though you don't like classes, a christian is either protestant or catholic (mormons being a cult, sort of like scientology). And protestantism tends to either calvinist, or lutheran (or one might say Arminian of some sort).

J said...

And yes, the labels of Liberal and Conservative the way they are understood now have little to do with how they were understood at that time.

I was using Democrat and republican (and those terms are close to how they were used 2 or 3 hundred years ago), but the definition of liberal has not shifted that much. Slight alterations, and subtleties, but not wholly different definitions. Conservative tends to be a bit trickier, but the conservative baptist of today is not that different than the conservative baptist of 1650, except perhaps he's monolingual, with a few less IQ points,and has a Ford, instead of like a horse and battle axe.

King of Ireland said...

Jon,

It was OFT from here. He screwed me. I was asking Rodda some questions I have been waiting to ask her for a while just to gauge where she is coming from for myself instead of listening to others and she responded. Then OFT shows up and they all just went nuts and started blasting him.

J,

You not getting it about Locke and Romans 13 dude and it does not seem like you are willing to read the link. So I am done.

J said...

You're not getting it, TvD. Locke doesn't abide by Romans 13, and even your quotes show that. And you simply don't know how to READ. Liberty, and Worldy standards. LOCKE's not agreeing to Paul, whatsoever.
But he had to carefully avoid criticizing scripture.

You don't know what a valid argument is, for that matter. Locke's a democrat. Not a monarchist, and not a royal. He lays the foundation for the LEGISLATURE. Not the king, or judges, or aristocrats. I've taught the ECHU, and sections from the Two Treatises. He's not a theocrat.

And, I suspect you're from the COLDS. Why not admit it ? You don't even sound like the usual sunday schoolers.

Jonathan Rowe said...

J,

You are getting into an interesting dynamic. Some of the FFs in their personal writings went so far as to say "reason trumps revelation." Jefferson, for instance, had no problem with Romans 13 because he dismissed just about everything Paul did as "corruptions."

But arguably there was a more subtle things going on; the thinkers wouldn't "say" reason trumps revelation, but then would determine TRUTH from nature/reason and just go with that and otherwise ignore or explain away conflicting biblical texts. I think we could argue Locke did this. And Dr. Gregg Frazer argues all sorts of unitarian preachers like Jonathan Mayhew and Samuel West did this in their sermons (while, of course, relying on John Locke's authority).

TVD counters -- they are not saying "reason trumps revelation" as a matter of principle, but actually saying the Bible is divinely authoritative. The question then is, is that what they are in fact doing, substituting "reason" for the Bible's revealed text?

King of Ireland said...

"But he had to carefully avoid criticizing scripture."

To criticize an INTERPRETATION that Filmer and other used to justify the Divine Right of Kings is NOT criticizing scripture it is CRITICIZING THAT LINE OF THINKING ABOUT SCRIPTURE.

You keep saying it and I will too.

Jon,

Are you starting to see what happens when Frazer and co. state the things they do and call everyone who disagrees heretics? This is proof. I am starting to agree with you that the History is hard to discuss without hitting on the Theology to clear things like this up.

King of Ireland said...

Jon,

Go read Locke's notes on Romans which is about salvation. He may not be orthodox, see his thoughts on imputation of sin in chapter 5, but he did believe scripture true and used it to answer Filmer. To equate Locke with Jefferson is a stretch. Mayhew? Maybe. But if J would actually listen to what is being said, I think he is on to something:

Locke opened the can of worms for people to come to Jefferson's conclusions. But not all went that far. In fact, from what you have presented Jon very few did. If that is what J is trying to say then fine but saying that Frazer's intepretation is Paul's infallible intent in a non-starter.

Hey check out Ed's blog it is getting started again about Barton.

J said...

"... arguably there [were] more subtle things going on; the thinkers wouldn't "say" reason trumps revelation, but then would determine TRUTH from nature/reason and just go with that and otherwise ignore or explain away conflicting biblical texts. I think we could argue Locke did this.

That was my point, more or less. Locke avoids a direct criticism of the biblical text, including Paul/Romans 13. At the same time, he does suggest that Romans 13 is incorrect, at least in political terms, and not in line with the general message of New Testament, which concerns liberty, and the rest of the mostly democratic ideals Locke that insists upon (at least ostensibly). I mean, one can offer any and all number of metaphorical interpretations, but given Locke's generally anti-monarchist agenda, I think he would oppose Romans 13, at least if read as obedience to a monarch or emperor (which it certainly sounds like). It's unlikely that a political philosopher such as Locke who insists on the right to petition injust/tyrannical govts for grievances (via a vote/ assemblies, legislatures, etc) would still hold a tyrannical regime or kingdom to be ordained by Gott.

Locke does not go as far as FF's of course, but Jefferson takes the next step and rejects any non-democratic and/or monarchistic sections of scripture, including Pauline epistles (and the supernatural bits as well).

Recall also Washington/Adams statements that the USA is not a christian nation, the Tripoli declaration, wording of First Amendment and so forth. The founding documents, then, are based on Reason, not on revelation, christian or otherwise--and that Reason would include something like rational, secular ethics. That's not to say that the FFs reject any and all claims of scriptural revelation (though I think Jeff and others did so), but that no religious-based code or doctrine would have any legal or political power (also noted in Madison's objection to military chaplains of any denomination--a rather neglected point).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Madison lost on the chaplains, including those for congress. That's the neglected point. Madison wasn't the only Founder.

I love how people who hate fundamentalists turn around and say their interpretation of the Bible as the only true one.

Jonathan Rowe said...

J.

For your benefit and the benefit of others I am going to do a front page post reviving a sermon of Rev. Samuel West so we can test what he's really doing. Is he arguing reason trumps a fallible partially inspired Bible? What do we think of his hermeneutic?

bpabbott said...

Regarding the question; Are they substituting "reason" for the Bible's revealed text?

Looking at it from a Lockean perspective, I don't think so.

My understanding is Locke argued that reason is the guardian of revelation and that it must be applied to protect revealed scripture from "corruptions".

In other words, Locke doesn't argue that reason substitutes, but that reason filters claims of revelation in order separate the reasonable claims from the corruptions.

Locke also argues that "Reason [...] as contradistinguished to faith, I take [...] to be the discovery of [...] truths, [...].", and qualifies that reason may only discover truth which is not beyond the discovery of our natural faculties.

In reciprocal fashion, Locke implies that a revelation cannot reasonably contradict truth that is discovered by our natural faculties. Implying that such claims are corruptions.

In this manner revelation relies upon reason and does not hold in in contempt.

On the other hand, if some individual favors an unreasonable claim of a revealed text, that has been discovered by our natural faculties to contradict the text, then reason is viewed as the more reliable manner to discover the truth. It is not the reason is substituted for, or trumps, revelation. Rather the reasonableness of the individual is to be questioned.

King of Ireland said...

J KEEPS STATING WRONGLY:

"he does suggest that Romans 13 is incorrect,"

He suggests that Filmer and Companies INTERPRETATION is incorrect. I said if you keep saying I will keep pointing it out.

Let me try to help you. Let's say that Frazer thinks that the Bible says slavery is ok and uses some scriptures to back that up. If I come back and point out a different way of looking at the scripture that would say that slavery is not ok am I saying he is wrong or the scripture? There is no difference between the scenario I just gave and Locke and Filmer.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"I love how people who hate fundamentalists turn around and say their interpretation of the Bible as the only true one."

This is so ironic. The agreement is only when it serves their purpose. When their ignorance of what the Bible actually says starts to come and make them look stupid they start ridiculing it. Look at Mr. 386 from Ed's blog in the post yesterday for an example of the truly foolish.

Mac Arthur is using these guys to promote his real goal:

Keep Christians focused on Heaven and Hell and not worried about worldly things. Thus, the secularists get all the say when the Christians abdicate.

Tom Van Dyke said...


In other words, Locke doesn't argue that reason substitutes, but that reason filters claims of revelation in order separate the reasonable claims from the corruptions.

Locke also argues that "Reason [...] as contradistinguished to faith, I take [...] to be the discovery of [...] truths, [...].", and qualifies that reason may only discover truth which is not beyond the discovery of our natural faculties.

In reciprocal fashion, Locke implies that a revelation cannot reasonably contradict truth that is discovered by our natural faculties. Implying that such claims are corruptions.

In this manner revelation relies upon reason and does not hold in in contempt.


Wow, Mr. Abbott. Better put than I've managed. And not only were there preacher/theologians like Calvin that "reasonable" men were obliged to reject, but as we arrive at the Founding era, ancient Biblical manuscripts in their original languages started becoming available to the populace, and very many prevailing translations were called into question.

Corruptions abounded, and only reason could begin to sort them out.

Tom Van Dyke said...


Mac Arthur is using these guys to promote his real goal:

Keep Christians focused on Heaven and Hell and not worried about worldly things. Thus, the secularists get all the say when the Christians abdicate.


Yes. As a preacher, his real goal is proper. On the other hand, the Bible says not to hide your light under a bushel basket, faith without good works is in vain, and a bunch of other stuff that says your thoughts can be so heavenly that they're no earthly good.

The fact is, and I've made this point several times in all sorts of fora---always ignored---since this republican democracy makes us all citizen-rulers, we are obliged to a higher civic duty than the Christians hiding in the catacombs.

And no, the Two Kingdoms thing doesn't mean we can go Machiavelli, nor does it mean we can abandon the City of Man for the City of God. Man is a social being: that is the natural law.

King of Ireland said...

"In other words, Locke doesn't argue that reason substitutes, but that reason filters claims of revelation in order separate the reasonable claims from the corruptions"

Exactly!