Thursday, July 30, 2009

Samuel West, Reason & Revelation

Probably one of the most contentious assertions of Dr. Gregg Frazer' PhD thesis on "theistic rationalism" as the prevailing political theology of the American Founding is the tenet of "theistic rationalism" that holds while some of the Bible is divinely inspired and while reason and revelation by in large agree, all apparent contradictions between the two must be resolved in favor of "reason." Hence, "reason trumps revelation." Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in their private letters say this in no uncertain terms. I think we could probably add Ben Franklin to the list. He promoted "rational Christianity," doubted the Trinity, admired the "unitarian dissenters" in England like Joseph Priestley (considered unitarians "honest" and "rational") and in one letter stated certain things in the Bible are IMPOSSIBLE to have been given by divine inspiration. Likewise the Rev. Joseph Priestley, a key influence on the American Founders, held the "plenary inspiration of the Bible" to be one of the "corruptions of Christianity."

But there was something more subtle going on as well. American unitarian patriotic preachers like Revs. Jonathan Mayhew, Charles Chauncy, and Samuel West, while they purported to hold both reason and revelation in high regard, didn't go around explicitly claiming "reason trumps revelation" (as far as I have read). However, I think one could argue this is what they DID in their hermeneutic approach to the Bible. In their political sermons, they would first assert things like the law of nature as determined by reason is God given and consequently immutable. When posed with theological issues, in particular submission to tyrants, they would look first NOT to the Bible, but rather to nature/reason for the answer. Once nature/reason determined the TRUTH on the matter, they "found" confirmation in the Bible, even if they had to adopt an odd hermeneutic in order to make "reason and revelation" agree. Thus, they may not have said: "The Bible is partially inspired and fallible; reason trumps revelation." But I think one could argued they PROCEEDED as though this were the case.

With that, let's examine one of Rev. Samuel West's sermons on revolution. West, along with fellow unitarians Mayhew, Cooper, Chauncy and others, promoted the revolutionary cause and they were key in securing its success.

From West's Election Day Sermon. First, West makes it clear that discoveries of reason are at least as viable as scripture:

Now, whatever right reason requires as necessary to be done is as much the will and law of God as though it were enjoined us by an immediate revelation from heaven, or commanded in the sacred Scriptures.

Next West asserts scripture or "right revelation" cannot contract "reason" or the "natural law."

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

He then imports wholly a-biblical Lockean “state of nature” teachings -- discoveries "found" in "nature" -- as decisive on the matter:

That we may understand the nature and design of civil government, and discover the foundation of the magistrate’s authority to command, and the duty of subjects to obey, it is necessary to derive civil government from its original, in order to which we must consider what “state all men are naturally in, and that is (as Mr. Locke observes) a state of perfect freedom to order all their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any man.” It is a state wherein all are equal,–no one having a right to control another, or oppose him in what he does, unless it be in his own defence, or in the defence of those that, being injured, stand in need of his assistance.

Had men persevered in a state of moral rectitude, every one would have been disposed to follow the law of nature, and pursue the general good. In such a state, the wisest and most experienced would undoubtedly be chosen to guide and direct those of less wisdom and experience than themselves,–there being nothing else that could afford the least show or appearance of any one’s having the superiority or precedency over another; for the dictates of conscience and the precepts of natural law being uniformly and regularly obeyed, men would only need to be informed what things were most fit and prudent to be done in those cases where their inexperience or want of acquaintance left their minds in doubt what was the wisest and most regular method for them to pursue. In such cases it would be necessary for them to advise with those who were wiser and more experienced than themselves. But these advisers could claim no authority to compel or to use any forcible measures to oblige any one to comply with their direction or advice. There could be no occasion for the exertion of such a power; for every man, being under the government of right reason, would immediately feel himself constrained to comply with everything that appeared reasonable or fit to be done, or that would any way tend to promote the general good. This would have been the happy state of mankind had they closely adhered to the law of nature, and persevered in their primitive state.

Thus we see that a state of nature, though it be a state of perfect freedom, yet is very far from a state of licentiousness….

After establishing the state of nature/man’s reason as the decisive standard to which any truth must conform, West concludes:

The doctrine of nonresistance and unlimited passive obedience to the worst of tyrants could never have found credit among mankind had the voice of reason been hearkened to for a guide, because such a doctrine would immediately have been discerned to be contrary to natural law.

After answering the question using reason and Lockean theories, Samuel West then looks to the scriptures for support, already having his mind made up as to what the final outcome must be. The proof texts are Romans 13 and Titus iii which seem to instruct believers to submit to and obey the civil magistrate even if tyrants:

This account of the nature and design of civil government, which is so clearly suggested to us by the plain principles of common sense and reason, is abundantly confirmed by the sacred Scriptures….in Rom. xiii., the first six verses: “Let every soul be subject to 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; for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For, for this cause pay you tribute also; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.” A very little attention, I apprehend, will be sufficient to show that this text is so far from favoring arbitrary government, that, on the contrary, it strongly holds forth the principles of true liberty. Subjection to the higher powers is enjoined by the apostle because there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God; consequently, to resist the power is to resist the ordinance of God: and he repeatedly declares that the ruler is the minister of God. Now, before we can say whether this text makes for or against the doctrine of unlimited passive obedience, we must find out in what sense the apostle affirms that magistracy is the ordinance of God, and what he intends when he calls the ruler the minister of God.

We see West using “context,” and his a-biblical presumptions to explain away these proof texts. He ends up concluding “that the apostle Paul, instead of being a friend to tyranny and arbitrary government, turns out to be a strong advocate for the just rights of mankind….” Or in other words, Paul really meant we do have a right to revolt against the magistrate, the seemingly opposite of what he said. Do keep in mind that the ruler to whom Paul told believers to obey was not some “godly” ruler, but the pagan psychopath Nero. West addresses that point:

I know it is said that the magistrates were, at the time when the apostle wrote, heathens, and that Nero, that monster of tyranny, was then Emperor of Rome; that therefore the apostle, by enjoining submission to the powers that then were, does require unlimited obedience to be yielded to the worst of tyrants. Now, not to insist upon what has been often observed, viz., that this epistle was written most probably about the beginning of Nero’s reign, at which time he was a very humane and merciful prince, did everything that was generous and benevolent to the public, and showed every act of mercy and tenderness to particulars, and therefore might at that time justly deserve the character of the minister of God for good to the people,– I say, waiving this, we will suppose that this epistle was written after that Nero was become a monster of tyranny and wickedness; it will by no means follow from thence that the apostle meant to enjoin unlimited subjection to such an authority, or that he intended to affirm that such a cruel, despotic authority was the ordinance of God. The plain, obvious sense of his words, as we have already seen, forbids such a construction to be put upon them, for they plainly imply a strong abhorrence and disapprobation of such a character, and clearly prove that Nero, so far forth as he was a tyrant, could not be the minister of God, nor have a right to claim submission from the people; so that this ought, perhaps, rather to be viewed as a severe satire upon Nero, than as enjoining any submission to him.

The first point — the epistle was written during the beginning of Nero’s reign when he was “nicer,” not towards the end when he was a tyrant — strikes me as invoking hair splitting context to reach a desired result.

The second point — if Paul said this when Nero was indeed acting tyrannical, he must not have meant it! — shows West’s willingness disregard scripture which disagrees with reason.

But in any event, the question that I ask is what is Rev. West actually DOING in his interpretation of scripture. Is he substituting his "own" judgment derived from "reason" for what's actually written in scripture. Or is his "reasoned" interpretation of scripture consistent with the idea that the whole of the Bible is inspired (I suppose with parts that the Holy Spirit meant not to be taken seriously, but as satire, where the text of the Bible could mean the opposite of what it apparently on the surface teaches).

75 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...



By pretending, I do believe West is referring to interpretations of scripture that seem to defy reasonableness.

God does not pretend, but preachers do.

However, as we see, a belief that Jesus was the Messiah [held by many or most unitarians even as they believed Jesus wasn't God] cannot be fully substantiated by "reason." Faith is still a necessary part of the equation.

Tom Van Dyke said...

within the bounds of the law of nature...

and further,



Thus we see that a state of nature, though it be a state of perfect freedom, yet is very far from a state of licentiousness…


and further

The doctrine of nonresistance and unlimited passive obedience to the worst of tyrants could never have found credit among mankind had the voice of reason been hearkened to for a guide, because such a doctrine would immediately have been discerned to be contrary to natural law.

Samuel West's presentation of natural law theory here, coupled with the prevailing Founding-era concept that natural law and scripture both flow from "the same adorable source"---that means God---as "key" Founder James Wilson put it, of course goes back at least to the 1200s with Thomas Aquinas. In fact, West's arguments are quite in line with Aquinas and his Catholic philosophical/theological succcessors, Vitoria, Suarez, and Bellarmine.

That would be the Catholic saint Robert Bellarmine, a cardinal of the church, or according to Calvinists, I suppose some sort of "theistic rationalist."

But according to not only Samuel West and his contemporaries in the Founding era, but these Catholic theologians going back as much as 100s of years---and folks like Locke were acquainted with all of them, Bellarmine [1542-1621] in particular---any reading of scripture [say, John Calvin's reading of Romans 13] that defied not only reason but natural law, well, it must be "pretense," bad theology, and an argument made by men, not God.

As to Locke, perhaps our recent squabbles can be reconciled with this thought: As a blog dedicated to religion and the Founding, our concern is not what what the Bible "says," but what the Founding era came to believe it says.

So too, our concern is not precisely what Locke thought [especially under the covers and between the lines], but how the Founders perceived his thought.

Now there are many both today and back then who perceive the Locke-between-the-lines as some hedonist/Hobbesian/nonChristian/secularist who even rejected the Thomist [that's Aquinas] traditional natural law teaching.

I've seen the arguments, and here are some:

http://www.claremont.org/publications/pubid.260/pub_detail.asp

I don't find them convincing, but I do find them interesting, and I do find them entirely valid. Perhaps they're correct. Locke is dead, so we can't ask him.



But it doesn't matter one way or the other for the purpose of studying religion and the Founding. As we see, Samuel West argued Locke while simultaneously arguing traditional [Thomistic] natural law teaching.

And of the controversy as to the "real" John Locke, James Wilson wrote:

"The consequence has been, that the writings of Mr. Locke, one of the most able, most sincere, and most amiable assertors of christianity and true philosophy, have been perverted to purposes, which he would have deprecated and prevented, had he discovered or foreseen them."

Absent contrary evidence [and perhaps it exists, feel free to offer some], Wilson's is the view of Locke held in the Founding era, and that is our concern.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Well what still gets me with West's sermon is that nature/reason determined that men have a right to rebel against tyrants and any "interpretation" of Romans 13 that said otherwise therefore had to be wrong, even if we had to conclude St. Paul was joking. He seems to be putting reason on top of revelation.

Did those medieval theologians do that?

J said...

Well what still gets me with West's sermon is that nature/reason determined that men have a right to rebel against tyrants and any "interpretation" of Romans 13 that said otherwise therefore had to be wrong, even if we had to conclude St. Paul was joking. He seems to be putting reason on top of revelation.

Agreed. West sounds quite Lockean, in a good sense, if a bit naive--unlike say Jefferson. However over-exposed his bon mots may be, Jefferson calls a spade a spade, and calls Paul a theocratic tyrant and has nothing but scorn for the catholic and calvinist clergy (or monotheists as a whole, for that matter) who would demand fealty to the "inerrant" text.


Medieval theologians were generally in the business of defending kings and nobles (along with the papacy), and would probably have agreed with Paul, albeit with some support from Aristotle (hardly a democrat either)--or that's how I read Aquinas and the Dominican Bros gang. :-|

In ways they were rather more sophisticated than the protestant reformers.

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

"in one letter stated certain things in the Bible are IMPOSSIBLE to have been given by divine inspiration."

I have not read this but since interpretations are constantly being equated as the text of the Bible I have to wonder if he thought:

"Certain interpretations of what is said in the Bible could not have been by Divine inspiration"

There is a huge difference. I like the way Ben put it in Tom's post about Locke. Jefferson is one thing but the other preachers have to be weighed one by one. But I think we need to stay with Locke for now in that he had an unquestioned influence on even the three you site on slam dunk "Theistic Rationalist". It is the history of the ideas we are trying to trace and much of it comes from Locke. Where Locke got it may be lead to some answers about American Creation.

We know from the his own words his interpretation of Romans 13 and he uses other parts of the book of Romans to back up his thesis on the verses. Why is someone a "Theistic Rationalist" because reason leads him to Revelation anyway? Why does it matter whether that revelation comes from nature or the Bible?

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"By pretending, I do believe West is referring to interpretations of scripture that seem to defy reasonableness."

I did not read this before I commented. This is exactly what I was saying.

Frazer calls anyone who believes that revelation can come outside of scripture a rationalist. To him Aquinas was a rationalist. I think his dogmatic approach is throwing people off in that they cannot seem to see the difference between disagreeing with an interpretation and saying the Bible is wrong.

It seems that the Frazer/Filmer(I think they think a lot alike as I have read through his Patriarcha) INTERPRETATION has been elevated to being synonymous with God's own words. All based on a passage that it really hard to interpret based on the fact that we only are privy to one side of the dialogue.

King of Ireland said...

"such a doctrine would immediately have been discerned to be contrary to natural law."

I assume these are words from West. If so it illustrates mine and Tom's point in that he is attacking the DOCTRINE as unreasonable not the scriptures used to form the doctrine. Doctrine means teaching. He is questioning the interpretation used to convey their thesis or teaching as some call it in Christian circles.


Tom,

I might disagree a bit with the importance on being how these ideas were perceived. If we do not understand the ideas themselves and where they came from it is hard to have an intelligent discussion about their impact on the Founding.

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

"Well what still gets me with West's sermon is that nature/reason determined that men have a right to rebel against tyrants and any "interpretation" of Romans 13 that said otherwise therefore had to be wrong, even if we had to conclude St. Paul was joking. He seems to be putting reason on top of revelation."

I am sure he:

1. Looked at the text
2. Realized that the Frazer/Filmer interpretation contradicted reason
3. Maybe realized that it contradicted other scriptures
4. Thought about what else it could possibly mean and came to a conclusion

I did this and changed my mind. Maybe he and others of the Founding skipped number three but if the others are anything like Mayhew's sermon then I doubt it because he surely used other Bible stories to back up his point.

A true and strict rationalist would more than likely use History to back up his point not scripture. Or use texts from many different belief systems that pointed to the same conclusion.

I think he is doing the same thing Locke did. He is using reason to test what others claim to be "revelation" in their interpretations. I think he is anti dogma and institution more than anything else.

King of Ireland said...

J stated:

"and would probably have agreed with Paul,"

So they would have agreed that he was telling Jewish converts to respect the institution of government even if it was Gentile? That is what he was saying for sure right? Oh I forgot that is not the right interpretation that we can call Paul's words and make it seem like Locke was saying he was wrong.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Here is the original from Franklin. The context is Franklin complains about PA's state religious test which requires belief in the divine inspiration of the Old and New Testaments. As acting gov. of the state, he eventually helped remove it. One reason for the complaint is that Franklin himself couldn't pass it as he himself believed certain parts of the Bible were impossible to have been given by divine inspiration.

I agreed with you in Sentiments concerning the Old Testament, and thought the Clause in our Constitution, which required the Members of Assembly to declare their belief that the whole of it was given by divine Inspiration, had better have been omitted. That I had opposed the Clause but being overpower’d by Numbers, and fearing might in future times be grafted on [it, I Pre]vailed to have the additional Clause that no [further or more ex]tended Profession of Faith should ever [be exacted. I ob]serv’d to you, too, that the Evil of it was [the less, as no In]habitant, nor any Officer of Government except the Members of Assembly, were oblig’d to make that Declaration. So much for that Letter. To which I may now add, that the[re are] several Things in the old Testament impossible to be given by divine Inspiration, such as the Approbation ascrib’d to the Angel of the Lord, of that abominably wicked and detestable Action of Jael the Wife of Heber the Kenite. If the rest of the Book were like that, I should rather suppose it given by Inspiration from another Quarter, and renounce the whole.

http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp?vol=42&page=146

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

Next West asserts scripture or "right revelation" cannot contract "reason" or the "natural law."

about:

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

As far as I understand it natural law according to Aquinas was "general revelation" if that is true then that is not reason it is revelation. No different from revelation from the Bible. It is knowing the nature of God throught what is made. That is not the same as reason.

He is saying the if someone says they have a revelation from God based on the Bible and it contradicts what nature tells us about God then is should be question. I might even paraphrase to say that if some dogmatic preacher starts calling the teaching based on a tradtion he was indoctrinated into a revelation from God and it defies common sense do not listen to that teaching.

I would say the same thing and this is wise advise. That is if I am understanding what he means by natural law. Or Aquinas for that matter since I am still new to the study of his line of reasoning.

Tom Van Dyke said...


Medieval theologians were generally in the business of defending kings and nobles (along with the papacy), and would probably have agreed with Paul, albeit with some support from Aristotle (hardly a democrat either)--or that's how I read Aquinas and the Dominican Bros gang. :-|


Actually, Mr. "J", you prove here you haven't read them yet. In fact, most of aquinas' successors were Jesuits, not Dominicans.

But that's cool. I didn't know either.

But it was they who gave the intellectual and theological firepower to major Founding influences like Algernon Sidney, who was Locke's contemporary but unlike the cautious Locke, found himself at the end of the King's hangman's noose for his heresies against the Divine Right of Kings:

http://www.constitution.org/as/dcg_102.htm

It's there in black & white, and the American Founders quoted Algernon Sidney often.

"J," I realize these are new concepts and arguments are new to you. They are not part of the prevailing academic narrative, which sets the superstitious Christians against the forces of reason and the Enlightenment, who end up winning and founding our nation.

The true story is far more interesting. Hell, when I started up on all this, I naturally assumed Thomas Aquinas, as a priest and a Catholic, would be totally supportive of the Divine Right of Kings. And I was raised up in Catholicism. Everybody knows that the RCCurch is made up of authoritarian jerks and the sheep who follow them.

Imagine my surprise finding out that Aquinas was among the first in the Western World to put Romans 13 to serious question!

As did his successors---it was the English king James I who publicly burned Francisco Suarez' anti-Divine Right of Kings book, and as we now know, Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, in defense of the Divine Right of Kings, was written in direct opposition to the Catholic cardinal Robert Bellarmine's objections.

The truth is so much more interesting than fiction. This "religion and the Founding" thing is so much more than the exchange of hand grenades.

King of Ireland said...

Franklin stated:

"that the whole of it was given by divine Inspiration"

Now you are right on this. He is saying that the text itself is not inspired. That is a far cry from what West was saying based on other comments I made. You would have to have similar quotes from each Founder or preacher that you would want to call out as stating that reason trumped revelation.

Locke's approach to scripture opens up the door to this type of thinking but one does not have to get there that uses it. In other words, it is one thing to say that Paul was giving his opinion is the Epistles and another to say that whole parts of the Bible should be thrown out.

The former, despite how nervous is makes the inerrancy camp, is obvious in that he says he is giving opinions several times. I think it should be implied numerous others based on context and the fact that he was answering specific concerns to a specific group at a specific time. If someone wants to throw it all out because it is letters that we only privy to one side of the dialogue then I would possibly disagree but cannot say it is unreasonable.

There are different approaches for sure but you cannot lump all these men together without evidence that they should be. I have not seen it yet.

But even if they were all lumped into the same box as far as reason and revelation what does that have to do with them all sharing a common politcally theology and philosophy? Frazer's "Theistic Rationalism" is a Red Herring used brilliantly promote his central thesis:

"This world does not matter since it will burn one day so why bother?"

This is not the thoughts of the Key Founders, lesser known Founders, majority of the clergy, or majority of the commom folk whether they were Christian or not.

He is pimping secularists to do his dirty work and bring disrepute on those Christians that disagree with him. Many whom of which are Evangelicals just like him. It is an internal squabble that others just happen stance into.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"Actually, Mr. "J", you prove here you haven't read them yet. In fact, most of aquinas' successors were Jesuits, not Dominicans."

You sure about this?

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"Everybody knows that the RCCurch is made up of authoritarian jerks and the sheep who follow them"

This was what I thought until I came across Aquinas when I was studied Kant. I think it was Kant. I think Hegel may have read Aquinas as well and been influenced by him.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Franklin: I agreed with you in Sentiments concerning the Old Testament, and thought the Clause in our Constitution, which required the Members of Assembly to declare their belief that the whole of it was given by divine Inspiration, had better have been omitted..

Indeed, most Christians don't understand the "Old Testament" as the Jews understand it. And it's their book first and foremost after all.

If Franklin had had access to the rabbinical tradition, the Mishnah and Talmud, and a learned rabbi to explain the Torah theologically, I suspect his reservations would have been assuaged.

Lack of access to Jews.

I'm pals with a few rabbinically educated Jews, and I can assure y'all that your average Christian would be damned surprised at what the Torah actually means.

For instance, the Chosen People never actually carried out the "genocides ordered by God," of the Canaanites or Amalakites.

That is part---indeed the content---of the theological story. Man---human beings---refuse to slaughter the bad guys down to every man, woman and child, and their animals.

Neither did God allow Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Otherwise, the Torah would have a completely different meaning.

A completely different meaning. Think about it.

These are the nuances---the depth---that the anti-Bible brutes miss, for as K of I notes, they don't know a goddamn thing about the Bible or theology or the Torah or of the "reason" that 1000s of years of rabbinical study offer.

And, worse, they don't give a good goddam. They do not seek understanding; they seek something far less worthy. The "culture wars" can kiss my ass.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Frazer's "Theistic Rationalism" is a Red Herring used brilliantly promote his central thesis:

"This world does not matter since it will burn one day so why bother?"

This is not the thoughts of the Key Founders, lesser known Founders, majority of the clergy, or majority of the commom folk whether they were Christian or not.

He is pimping secularists to do his dirty work and bring disrepute on those Christians that disagree with him.


Dude---Is this a direct Dr. Gregg Frazer quote?



"This world does not matter since it will burn one day so why bother?"


Say it ain't so, Joe, or whatever your real name is.

He is pimping secularists to do his dirty work and bring disrepute on those Christians that disagree with him.

Well, that's a serious charge. Gregg Frazer, the human being, is a friend of this blog, regardless of his POV. Further, King of Ireland, until you shed your pseudonym and stand on equal and honest ground with Gregg Frazer, Ph.D, putting your own good name and reputation on the line as he does, I must insist that you cease and desist. Fair is fair. Even our Ben Abbott, with whom I often disagree and have been disagreeable with, signs his name to whatever he writes.

You have Gregg---the person and as the professional---at a disadvantage as long as you attack him from the shadows, and especially if you attack him on personal grounds, as you do here. That's not right, O King.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And upon further consideration, Ben, I withdraw my previous remark and disagreeableness toward you on a matter I think you'll remember.

You do sign your name to everything you write. In fact, you even put your mugshot up. This is worthy of the highest praise. Even John Locke himself published anonymously, out of fear of the consequences. Ideas are good; manning-up is even better. It's where the abstract rubber meets the road of reality, eh?

So, I hope you'll accept this sincere apology. You're OK by me, mate.

J said...

No, Mr TvD. Aquinas was a Dominican, and the Thomistic tradition has been primarily Dominican. Guess you haven't read him, or his endless praises of Aristotle (including the political bits).

Either way, you and the King are back to your usual tricks: trying to make a writer or thinker (Locke, West, Franklin, framers, etc) who is not fundamentalist appear to be fundamentalist. And you continue to demonstrate you have not read the 2nd Treatise (West appears to have) or ECHU, but got your knowledge of Locke like in the last two weeks via a few quotes from an obscure essay on the New T./Paul/Romans 13 (which still sounds quite close in content to his letter on Toleration, praise of reason, anti-monarchistic points, etc.)

bpabbott said...

Thanks Tom.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"For instance, the Chosen People never actually carried out the "genocides ordered by God," of the Canaanites or Amalakites."

Can you explain this I have never heard that one before.

As far as my statement about Frazer's thesis, it was not a direct quote from him and I should have made that clear. It was late when I wrote that. And yes, the pimping comment was probably below the belt as I went back to look at it. I retract that statement. I do not think he does it on purpose but I do think the result is what I said pimping or non pimping aside.

As far as my real name it is Joe Winpisinger. The blog name was thought out in honor of the character in the Braveheart that called Ireland "his island" and fought against tyranny. When I blogged at Ed's everyone just started calling me "King" and it stuck. But you can call me Joe if you want.

King of Ireland said...

By the way, even though that was not a direct Frazer quote I have heard those exact words from many Evangelicals who focus on the afterlife to the exclusion of this life.

King of Ireland said...

J,

"who is not fundamentalist appear to be fundamentalist."

Who stated this about Locke? I think I stated he might be "orthodox". That is a far cry from "fundamentalist" at least how the terms are used on this blog. As I went back and read his stuff on Romans I am starting to think that he had no non-orthodox views on original sin. These are not obscure writings. I wish we had a paraphrase and notes on Romans from all the people we are talking about so we could get a real good look at their theology.

Many pastors would state that Romans is the "gospel" in a nutshell. One's thoughts about this book are telling. I think you are getting into an "either, or" mentality as far as stating people were either deist or atheist rationalists or fundamentalists. It is far more complicated than that.

Jon Rowe is one of the best people I have read that dispel that notion. I do not always agree with him but most of what I have learned about this was either from him or being challenged by him to dig deeper and read it for myself.

I think many of us come into this study with some preconceived notions and heart felt convictions and want to try to defend them at all cost. Tom is right this is not that type of Blog. It is more like a casual college class/ discussion group.

King of Ireland said...

Compliments of Ben Abbot:

""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"

I think this puts it real well. I do not think Franklin was doing the same thing. Though I agree with Tom that if someone would have sat down with him and explained the OT and how it relates to the NT he might have felt differently. I have learned some things from Jewish non-Christians and Jewish Christians(Messianic Jews) alike that one would never see unless it is pointed out about the OT.

J said...

Locke was a philosopher, not a theologian, and his primary interest was politics (and working out his associationism), not scriptural exegesis. He was protestant, I guess, but not really "orthodox" (--then, really, one might ask whether calvinism, or protestant christianity as a whole is orthodox). Frazer and Co seem to read Locke as a Jonathan Edwards sort of figure, and I don't think he was. More like a Franklin--or Jefferson--but sort of tame, English variety.

Really, I suspect Locke would have defended the Tories in AmerRev-- since you're playing the historical modality game (--or consider the Whig Edmund Burke's fairly conservative views for comparison).

Locke and his boss Shaftesbury supported the protestants, William and Mary, etc. He did not approve of the more hot headed baptist sorts either (Enthusiasts, as he said). Locke's own writings/views aren't as important as what men did with those writings--and Voltaire and his pals were as influenced by Locke as Jefferson was.

Jonathan Rowe said...

You are misreading Frazer. He argues similar to you that Locke was not a real Christian but a rationalist philosopher. Frazer is a fundamentalist Christian but also a Straussian scholar.

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

"The first point — the epistle was written during the beginning of Nero’s reign when he was “nicer,” not towards the end when he was a tyrant — strikes me as invoking hair splitting context to reach a desired result.

The second point — if Paul said this when Nero was indeed acting tyrannical, he must not have meant it! — shows West’s willingness disregard scripture which disagrees with reason.

The first point is exactly right. The persecution did not begin until at least 8 years after Paul wrote Romans. That is according to what I read but it was from several sources. I am open to other evidence if you have it since dating these epistles is not exactly a Science and is hard to do.

Which means you second point is mute if I am right about the dates. I made the same argument in my post about the Founding Political Theology.

Jon,

I would suggest you go and read Romans 2 about God being revealed through things that are made(nature) and how the Gentiles were without the torah by nature followed the things in the Torah. If my understanding of these two verses is correct then it points to a second type of Revelation totally apart from scripture and not in conflict to it.

This became real for me not because some theologian taught it to me or I read Aquinas. It was when I was in Tibet and realized that they had no Bible. At least not one they could remotely understand because it was written in the nobles language. I think all some dialects had was Matthew. Which would make no sense to them without the OT. They have no sense of God as we know it. It is more like Pantheism. I was an advocate of getting Genesis translated before anything else so that they could gain an understanding of the concept of God.

I actually wrote up a Bible study and went through it with two girls that spoke decent English and Chinese. We used the Chinese Bible. They had not idea what we were talking about until we went back to Genesis.

My point:

How are they "without excuse" as the whole preface to the two verses above states if revelation apart from the scriptures is not possible?

I am not sure if this was the understanding of Aquinas because I have not read a lot of him but I think it is. If it is this is what made it to Locke and down the chain to the Founders.

So even if Jefferson ripped the whole NT up if he came to understand who God was through nature and was correct about it he would have the same revelation just a different route. Make sense?

I am not saying he came to the same understanding about salvation issues as more orthodox people. But it seems that his political theology was similar if not the same.

Frazer asked me if any of the Founding Father claimed a revelation from God that they were part of a Moses/Othniel deliverance and if I could find quotes. I am going to do a post on Keteltas sermon I cited in my last post and how it similar he sentiments about the hand of God being with the cause of the Revolution are to Washington. That is if I can trust the quotes.

I am starting to get your point about the Barton thing some. It is hard to know what to trust and one risked looking like an idiot if you pass on a bum quote. Do you have a list of the crap quotes so I can cross reference?

J said...

OK. Then the ACsters are defending Locke in contrast to Frazer. I would say Frazer seems correct (have only read the excerpts of Frazer on this site), but I don't think Locke is quite a Voltaire or Rousseau. He still puts on the appearances of piety in his writing, at least.

That's one reason I don't really admire the man, or his philosophy. He puts forth some powerful arguments, against the monarchy, and in support of freedom, rights, assembly, civility, and so forth, and yet also wrote up a justification of chattel slavery, and of land-seizure for Shaftesbury's company. So another anglo-liberal hypocrite, really (a flaw Jefferson's not entirely free of, either).

King of Ireland said...

J,

If ACsters means the contributors to this blog you then you are missing it. Jon actually agrees with Frazer on these points. It seems that Tom does not from what I have read. I am new to the game but certainly do not agree with Frazer. What makes it cool is that instead of lobbing insults at one another we actually learn from one another. At least I do. I have learned more about this from Jon in one year than all my prior History Education. I am a History teacher too so that is saying something.

Jonathan Rowe said...

J.

Yes we are not monolithic in our views and the site was purposefully started with that mission, to get folks from the secular left, religious right all over and in between involved.

Almost all of us reject the "Christian Nation" idea as put forth by the fundamentalists like D. James Kennedy, where "Christianity" means Trinitarian Christian fundamentalism, that almost all the FFs save Franklin, Jefferson and Paine were these kinds of "Christians" and that the FFs got their ideas for the DOI and Constitution from the Bible. That's the Christian Nation argument at its hardest. There are also softer versions of it with which I still disagree but to which some of the other posters seem sympathetic. And that's where most of our arguing is done.

King of Ireland said...

My point about Jefferson is wrong. It was not well thought out as I am processing a lot of this as I am writing(just the way I learn). General Revelation should not conflict with Special Revelation is what I think Aquinas taught. In other words it should not conflict with scripture and interpretations of scripture that pass themselves off as revelation cannot contradict general revelation. I think reason is used in both get to both personally am unsure how Locke or Aquinas thought on this.

But with that said the question J brings up is a good one?:

What is scripture? I think one could throw the epistles out and be ok. I am not saying I would do it per se but it is a reasonable stance since opinions are given and we are only privy to half the dialogue.

J said...

I'm not missing anything. You are, King. Have you read the cliffsnotes to the 2nd Treatise of CivGovt yet? Or say even the opening to the ECHU? Reading a few quotes from his religious writings or from unitarian ministers doesn't really suffice to understand Locke the philosopher.

Anyway, you're claiming contra-Frazer that Locke is not primarily a rationalist, but still orthodox, when the facts suggest that he WAS indeed a rationalist (ie valued Reason above dogma). Really, I get the sense you think he was a conservative as well, when he's quite the democrat, gives the vote to the disenfranchised, wants to break up aristocratic estates, etc. Locke the person may have been a moralist and bit of a hypocrite, but he's also a favorite source for Rousseau and pals . Rousseau develops the social contract from Locke, and that is hardly conservative. Nearly socialist really.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I don't think Tom and King would claim Locke as orthodox in his Christology (i.e. Trinitarian). I think they do deny he was a "rationalist" in the sense that he believed reason trumped the Bible's text.

King of Ireland said...

J stated:

"Anyway, you're claiming contra-Frazer that Locke is not primarily a rationalist, but still orthodox, when the facts suggest that he WAS indeed a rationalist (ie valued Reason above dogma). "

First, I have never said he was orthodox. Implied he might be in my last post and then went and read his views on Romans. Most Evangelicals/Fundamentalists would agree that Romans is the gospel in a nut shell. In other words, a lot of the doctrines that "orthodox christians", for lack of a better term, base the orthodoxy on come from Romans. Especially original sin and salvation by faith.( that is the Protestants)

With that said, I stated above that upon further reading that Locke had some unorthodox views about original sin at first glance. So I am open to either and basing my research about his theological views based on what he wrote about theology. That seems more reasonable than trying to piece together his views about theology by reading his more philosophical pieces. Do you not?

As far as valuing reason over dogma, read Ben's quote I pasted over to this post. It seems that he valued reasoned intepretation over dogma. This is the huge difference that you are having a hard time grasping. You also keep using political terms as they are understood in the 21st century to describe the 17th and 18th century it makes it hard to follow you points.

If it helps I am politically libertarian much the same as Jon. I am not sure why you seem to think that I am pro-authoritarian or whatever? I am probably somewhat sympathetic to the more moderate views of the Christian Nation theory but nonetheless completely disagree with much of the politics of the Religious Right. I think you are seeing an agenda that is not there from me and it is making it hard to really consider the points I am trying to make.

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

" don't think Tom and King would claim Locke as orthodox in his Christology (i.e. Trinitarian). I think they do deny he was a "rationalist" in the sense that he believed reason trumped the Bible's text."

As far as the Trinitarian I am not sure but your thesis sounds reasonable at first glance. I am going to try an find some scriptures that deal with the Deity of Jesus in the Epistles that Locke's notes are on. I think Phillipians has the one that most Unitarians quote. I am also not sure that all Unitarians deny the deity of Christ. I know some sects today are called "Jesus Only" and deny the Trinity but still think Jesus was divine.

He did have some interesting views on the imputation of sin from Adam to mankind. It looked to me like he was denying original sin. It was hard to tell. This would also possibly point to him being unitarian. Some of his points about the Adam thing were actually really good and seemed like a good explanation for a passage that many have trouble with. I think his Romans 13 insights were some of the best I have read too. Real interesting read for sure.

As for the second part about reason and revelation that is my current view as I understand the terms we are using.

J said...

OK.

I just don't think one can go very far with the theological reading of the AmerRev, anyway. The Framers admire Locke for the rights philosophy, his writing on property, contracts, law, the state, legislation, etc. The theology's a minor point, really, but it's quite evident Locke upholds rationalism--i.e. Reason trumps dogma--though he has to go about it in a sort of convoluted way (Clintonesque, one might say).

King of Ireland said...

J stated:

"Nearly socialist really."

I know all that writing about right to property is some of the best socialist teaching I have read.(sarcasm intended) Come on, to believe that one would have to believe that Marx thought property right was a good thing.

You are all over the map here man. It is confusing things. You do have some good points that get lost in what it seems your agenda is based on the quote above and the your blog site. Set that aside and be open to some new information.

King of Ireland said...

J,

The history of this time is not just the so-called Framers. But even if it was they were influenced by the theological ideas of Locke and others in that it was needed to refute the Divine RIght of Kings from a theological perspective. If they did not care about the theology, or at very least care what enough of the people they need to rally cared about it, then why not just say:

"The Divine Right of Kings is Christian dogma which is all bullshit so we throw it out."

That is what they did in France.

J said...

Ah King, you haven't apparently made it to Locke's labor theory of value, the commons (ie breaking up aristocratic estates), or the social contract itself. He's a Leveller (and Marx in fact quotes Locke at times, mostly on sensationism, ie, denial of innateness).

Levellers were not yet socialists--they hold to some private property rights (as Locke does), but they were in favor of egalitarianism, which the monarchists and tories definitely opposed.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Re the social contract/state of nature. This is something I've mentioned; but we need to mention it further. One reason why the Straussians believe Locke was a Hobbsean is because the idea of state of nature/social contract was first posited by Hobbes. Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, of course, all differed in their particular version of state of nature/social contract; but the concept itself is something that is non-traditionalist and as Strauss argues "wholly alien to the Bible." But so too is the theory of evolution which I think is a good analogy. If one can't make one's understanding of "Christianity" "fit" with evolution, then one probably can't make one's understanding "fit" with "state of nature/social contract," and vice versa.

The founding era preachers, arguably Locke himself, presented "state of nature"/"social contract" as compatible with Christianity. But that would be not unlike a Christian preacher today presenting Darwin's evolution as compatible with Christianity.

It should be no surprise that Frazer as a fundamentalist is a literal 6-day creationist and believes BOTH evolution AND state of nature/social contract as incompatible with the Bible.

J said...

One reason why the Straussians believe Locke was a Hobbsean is because the idea of state of nature/social contract was first posited by Hobbes. Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, of course, all differed in their particular version of state of nature/social contract; but the concept itself is something that is non-traditionalist and as Strauss argues "wholly alien to the Bible."

Interesting, but I'm not entirely sure I would agree with Strauss. I do agree Hobbes' state of nature is not strictly biblical (sounds nearly Darwinian, really), but Locke adds a sort of Beulahland or Edenesque element (really sort of preposterous--one reason I still prefer Hobbes to Locke). The Lockean hypotheticals related to the state of nature are not scriptural per se, but do seem slightly christian, related to a supposed "golden age," etc. All are equal, respect each other's rights, lamb lies down with wolf, etc.(hah). Then I guess one could find support for that in some ancient greek text.

However, both Hobbes and Locke were close to scientists of the time (Dr. Locke was a medical doctor--cauterize it!), and supportive of empirical science, so I don't think they would side with the new world creationist-quacks, but that's the woulda-shoulda game which doesn't go very far.

King of Ireland said...

Jon,

If Genesis is a myth, in the sense of allegorical, as I believe it is(I posted on this at www.theking25.blogspot.com) then no one should have a problem with evolution being possible or in fact true if they look at the evidence. Ed's friend Henry Neufeld writes a lot about this and is quite convincing to the open minded Christian.

J,

If one has a view that God gave man a right to property how is that compatible with the view that says it all should be taken away? Property rights protect the poor from the rich not vice versa. See the Magna Carta and the story behind it. I have a theory about Marx but it would be off topic here. I will post about one day on my own blog. In short, he sought to divide, by his rhetoric, the very two classes that combined to overthrow the aristocracy in France:

The Borgeise(I butchered it I always do) which is the small business man and part of the middle class

and

The Proletariat which is the other part of the middle class that worked for the businesses

The elites got together in 1815 and calmed the storm and put things back to normal. By 1848 another food shortage came and people were back at revolting. As we know many revolutions broke out again. Who comes on the scene and seeks to divide the middle class and call the small business owner that the proletariat guy was depended on for his lively hood the oppressor? Sure takes the spot light off the real oppressors:

The Aristocracy. I wonder who might have been behind Marx? But this is off topic so I will stop at that.

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

" AND state of nature/social contract as incompatible with the Bible."

Why does Frazer feel this way.

J said...

I never claimed Locke denied property rights, King. But in historical terms, giving the property right to the peasants/tenants has been considered leftist. Tenants/serfs did not own the land--they worked it for the lord, baron (or catholic church, perhaps). And they did not even own the produce (wheat, oats, fruit, livestock, )

So it was a long time before men started to argue that the worker/farmer owned the fruit of his own labors. Locke wasn't the first to argue this, but obviously the big estate holders (and royals) were not always supportive of that idea. Rousseau and the french revolutionaries valued Lockean theory because they wanted to break up the estates and vast holdings of church and nobility, and allow the citizens to own and work their own land. They weren't reading Locke for his few thoughts on theological matters, but for his thoughts on politics, property, the law, contracts, rights, etc.

Pinky said...

.
"...the question that I ask is what is Rev. West actually DOING in his interpretation of scripture. Is he substituting his "own" judgment derived from "reason" for what's actually written in scripture.:
.
If the Bible is accepted as an ultimate truth of God's message to humanity, then West's points seem to undermine that assumption. The thought that any statement Paul made must be put in the context of the specific time it was made leaves 99.99% of the population in the dark. If one must know when Paul wrote his comments and if they must be interpreted in the context of any particular time, then the Bible is not valid for all time. And, that supports old Cyrus Scoffield's point that the Bible has different messages for different people who exist in different times.
.
And, that contributes to the confusion that causes so much division in Christian teaching.
.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Again, the "real" Locke [or the "real" Bible] is for today's philosophers and theologians to continue hacking on.

How Locke [or the Bible] was understood by the Founding era is all that is relevant to the historian.

I'm off to Canada for a few weeks. Try not to break all the furniture. It took quite awhile to get it all in the right place.

King of Ireland said...

J stated:

"But in historical terms, giving the property right to the peasants/tenants has been considered leftist."

In the classical Liberal sense yes. By the way, how many of those peasants in the Ukraine got their property. I forgot Stalin killed them all. Marx in no way wanted property right for anyone. He wanted them abolished. This is off topic so I will give you the last word and move on from this. But it has been a good discussion J and I hope you continue to stick around. I think I can learn a lot from you.

King of Ireland said...

Phil,

My exact point. Well put!

bpabbott said...

J wrote: "Reason trumps dogma"

I like that. I've tried to describe Locke's view on that. However, I haven't come up with a simple "slogan".

I don't like the "reason trumps revelation" one. It is correct when that which is claims as revelation is a corruption (dogma), but is improper when reason finds support of the claim.

Perhaps; "Reason is the guardian of revelation, and the enemy of dogma."

In any event, I've enjoyed the discussions over the last week. They've been informative and respectful. I look forward to more from this constructive culture, it is a rare thing among those who discuss religion *and* politics ;-)

King of Ireland said...

Ben stated:

""Reason is the guardian of revelation, and the enemy of dogma."

And thus the enemy of the state built on dogma. Thus the need to think for yourself rather than blindly except church tradition. It keeps getting better. This hit the nail on the head.

secular square said...

I recently came across AC and have find your website interesting and unique. I appreciate the time y’all spend on researching issues related to the founding of our country. I’ve tried to follow the recent controversy on Rom 13, although difficult because the responses seem to be scattered all over the internet. And it seems that the debate has become as much about theology and philosophy as about history. Anyone cannot be a historian, but I guess anyone can be a philosopher, so here goes a couple of comments. First I’ll comment on a side issue of Aquinas and general revelation, as least as I understand him from notes I wrote when I read parts of the Summa a couple of years back. This leads to my second comment on reason and revelation. He makes a distinction between general revelation and natural law. On general revelation, he argues that knowledge begins with the senses. Humans can perceive the world. They then can through reason conclude that God exists as a cause of it. The law of nature is a little more complex. He divides law into three parts: eternal law, natural law, and positive law. Eternal law is that which exists in God as the eternal ruler over all creation. Natural law is that which exists in humans and “is promulgated by the very fact that God instilled it into man’s mind so as to be know by him naturally.” But he does not mean innate ideas or reason. He says natural law exists implicitly in our inclinations as humans. For example, he says humans have the inclination as part of our nature to live in societies. It is implicit then that we do not other human harm, because that would conflict with our ability to live in societies. Finally, positive law is constructed by human reason to make the natural law more explicit.

secular square said...

Philosophy and reasoning should be an open ended process in which questions and reason lead to some tentative conclusions. When God is the subject of philosophy (as in Aristotle), it can be called philosophical theology. It is somewhat limited in scope, however, since it mainly concerns the possibility of the existence of God and perhaps what characteristics a supreme being might possess. Aquinas fused Aristotle to Christianity, he made philosophy a “handmaiden” to religion (little different and more apt analogy than the “guardian“ analogy in the blog comment). And what he did then and what Christians do today might be better called sacred theology or dogmatic theology. They are, in a manner of speaking, abusing the domestic help by forcing reason to submit to the demands of scripture. In other words, this kind of philosophy is no longer an open ended process. Reason cannot be allowed to contradict scripture. It does philosophy a disservice.

This is what West means when he writes that “right reason” cannot contradict revelation. Reason may lead to different conclusions than those allowed by scripture; but “right reason” never can.

Ironically, West does allow his reasoning to reach what I think is its logical end. And his conclusions do seem to contradict scripture. Therefore, he employs a different tact. He applies hermeneutical principles that transmogrify the scriptures so that they conform to reason. Does this not, in general, do scripture a disservice?

King of Ireland said...

Secular Square stated:

"He divides law into three parts: eternal law, natural law, and positive law. Eternal law is that which exists in God as the eternal ruler over all creation. Natural law is that which exists in humans and “is promulgated by the very fact that God instilled it into man’s mind so as to be know by him naturally.”

I have read some papers that reference but have not gotten to this in my reading of Summa. Where is it? Natural law sounds much like conscience. This would go well with Romans 2 about the Gentiles being a law of their own when they do things instinctively that are found in the Torah(I assume this is the positive law he was talking about) without the Torah. When paired with the other verse about God being known through what was made I think we may have Aquinas' source for natural law and general revelation.

I would guess that the former is by reason alone and the other is revelation aided by reason?

King of Ireland said...

Secular Square,

"Ironically, West does allow his reasoning to reach what I think is its logical end. And his conclusions do seem to contradict scripture."

This is where the rubber meats the road and Romans 13 is at center stage. If his reasonings only contradict an alternative interpretation of scripture then Jon's thesis loses steam. If it is found that his interpretation of Romans 13, when taking the whole counsel of the Bible in full context, is as or more reasonable and believable than the other interpretation then Jon's thesis dies.

No one has refuted the reasonableness of Locke's thesis on Romans 13 that I quoted in my last post and until someone does then Jon's thesis lacks legs. Here it is again for those who missed it:

John Locke:

""And St. Paul had taught them, in his epistle, that all Christians were free from Mosaic Law. Hence corrupt and mistaken men, especially Jewish converts, impatient as we have observed of any heathen dominion might be ready to infer that Christians were exempt from subjection to the laws of heathen governments. This he obviates by telling them that all other governments derived the power they had from God as well as that of the Jews, though they had not the whole frame of their government immediately from him as the Jews had."

Sounds plausible to mean and requires no satire at all. If others disagree then I am open to the evidence as to why? I am not saying it is the true interpretation, only, or correct. I am saying it is reasonable and would explain what many people think are some contradictions.

J said...

I don't think Locke's addressing Romans 13 in particular here--or rubber-stamping it-- but referring to Paul's general message--if not the New Testament as a whole.

Locke sounds somewhat critical of Paul (though in his usual tame manner), in that Pauls message of Christianity replacing mosaic Law, or supposed message, led some jewish converts to take advantage of the general message of freedom from the Law. One notes this with some of the dispensationalist sorts of sunday schoolers. Merely attend church and put on appearances of faith, and "all things are possible".

Some believers might take that supposed message of christ --JC obviating mosaic law--to mean they can be Neros---or Hermann Goerings or Dick Cheneys. So Paul, according to Locke, reminds them vis a vis Romans 13 that governments are ordained by Gott, and to be obeyed (hah. a nice piece of propaganda, which I doubt even Locke really believes).

I don't think this should be considered a central point of Locke's philosophy, and again, conservatives are misreading it. King also failed to note that even in his discussion of Romans 13, Locke stresses that christianity was about Liberty (not obedience) and that political power must be assessed in regards to "worldly standards"--Reason again.


Which is to say, Locke wants to avoid a literal rezding of Romans 13. That's good. Paul's the inconsistent one, really. Paul says governments derive their power from God, yet he says the just shall live by faith, not law or works. He tells believers they are above the Law, but that at the same time, the powers-that-be are ordained by God. Paul wants it both ways: obedience to a powers-that-be, and yet faith above works. Caesar vs God again.

Inconsistent, if not nearly a paradox worthy of Paul's later mentioning of the evil Cretans that tell only lies.

King of Ireland said...

J stated:

"I don't think Locke's addressing Romans 13 in particular here--or rubber-stamping it-- but referring to Paul's general message--if not the New Testament as a whole. "

This undoubtedly is addressing Romans 13 because it is a note in his paraphrase of Romans 13. That is not debatable.


J also stated:

"Paul's the inconsistent one, really. Paul says governments derive their power from God, yet he says the just shall live by faith, not law or works."

It should say "J's interpretation of what Paul is saying" You have your view of what he is saying and Locke has another one on Romans 13. To find out what Locke thought Paul meant in the second scripture you would have to go to see. I think it was from Romans so you can easily go to the link Tom provided in his post and look and see.

My challenge stands in regard to the Locke quote to prove it is unreasonable. Remember what I said about Titus 3:1 and how Frazer cannot have it both ways:

If submission is absolute then obedience is absolute.

J said...

Paul may insist on that in Romans 13 (assuming a man named "Paul" existed, and this is his writing, etc.--reliability of the text ALWAYS an issue) .

Locke does not insist on a literal reading of Romans 13, whatsoever. In his major texts (like 2nd Treatise, or Toleration letter) he argues against any sort of theocratic or monarchic despot: indeed, his central political theory of democratic rights stands in direct opposition to the message of Romans 13 (as Jefferson and Co realized as well), as quite a few people (including me) have pointed out numerous times. You're misreading Locke as a theologian when he's a political philosopher---and not a supporter of the monarchy or nobility (which Paul seems to be).

Check the quotes (on Locke Romans 13) regarding Christianity as liberty, and on assessing legitimate power via "worldly standards." Even in this minor essay, he gave a liberal reading of the New Testament, not a monarchic or despotic one.

Anyway, Locke's not the final word on Paul, or the New Testament. Let's not forget that few if any of the major Framers held to "inerrancy", with Jefferson pretty much dismissing Paul altogether (along with the Book of Revelation, the "ravings of a maniac). Or ponder Nietzsche's thoughts on Paul of Tarsus--well, not really appropriate for a phamily-oriented site like AC.

King of Ireland said...

J stated:

"stands in direct opposition to the message of Romans 13"

It should say stands in direct opposition to J's interpretation of what he think Paul, if Paul was real or not, states in Romans 13. You cannot say for sure what the message is you are not God.

J said...

Not really on topic. Locke DOES routinely argue that a prince or authority may be opposed: "force is to be opposed to nothing but an injust and unlawful force." (2nd Treatise Of Civ. Govt, Chapter XVIII, Of Tyranny). Note the emphasis on law. If the prince/sovereign is not bound by law (ie a constitution, consented to by citizens, at least in principle--not theocratic in the least) then the state dissolves.

Locke at times suggests even without great tyranny, a monarchy to which subjects have not consented has no real legal or political authority, and is a type of anarchy.

The Two Treatises of CivGovt. are the KEY Lockean texts in regards to the Framers (and their french allies--at least according to Jeff. and Franklin, Madison (though Madison was not that enamored of Locke)

secular square said...

King's rubber meeting the road

that is the challenge of biblical interpretation, I suppose, comparing scripture with scripture. Additional scriptures can add a nuance to Rom. 13 that does not appear as it stands alone. But they also may be merely evidence of the internal inconsistency of the scriptures. It might depend on one's point of view. But I am still reading your interesting essays.

secular square said...

King:
sorry for the abbreviated comments on Aquinas. In an attempt to answer a question posted earlier I only confused matters.

Aquinas views natural law I think as more to do with humans as rational creatures rather than as a function of conscience. Because man is a rational creature, "there is in man an inclination to good, according to the nature of his reason, which nature is proper to him; thus man has a natural inclination to know the truth about God, and to live in society.And in this respect, whatever pertains to this inclination belings to the natural law; for instance, to shun ignorance, to avoid offending those among who one has to live, and other such things regarding the above inclinations." It sounds more Aristotelian-a rational creature seeking his good.

The positive law is human law which"come from the precepts of natural law . . . for more specific determination of certain matters."

He actually adds a fourth kind of law: divine law, which he divides into old law and new law. (I was running out time during this mornings am post. I work some long and unusual hours in retail. I was not up late commenting; I wss up early).

Aquinas on natural law is found in Part1/part 2(part 2 of part 1) beginning I think a question 90. I do not have the reference for Aquinas on general revelation. You can probably find it at website New Advent. I found it there when my local library stopped allowing me to renew it. Its a long read and interesting; but no fluffy page turner by any means.

King of Ireland said...

Secular Square,

Thanks for the info.

J said...

Locke's not in favor of theocracy. He favors a social contract, which binds a king/sovereign by law. De Cive is not a Kingdom (or aristocratic regime).

I don't pretend to have mastered Aquinas or Aristotle, but Aristotle was no democrat. He might have argued for a senate, controlled mostly by land holders, or the military class, but he defended slavery, and was hardly PC, or Lockean--more like Machiavelli.

Really, even Plato's Republic slightly less tyrannical and macho than Aristotle's imperial politics--think Alex the Great, or Caesar. Aristotle, applied. Perhaps not as brutal as like khans or the mongols--not to say Hitler or Stalin--but not exactly democracy.

Pinky said...

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So, if a graph (like a family tree) could be seen, it would show that the thinking of Americans during the Founding Era was influenced by a variety of original thinkers?
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Quoting Hobbes, Aquinas, Locke, the apostle Paul, Aristotle, Reformed Protestant ministers of the time, and others gives us a general view of the many influences that made America the boiling pot that it is acclaimed to be?
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Are some of us claiming that one influence is much greater than the others? Or is something entirely different being put out here?
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It seems we stagger at this point.

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J said...
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J said...

Does any ACster have a favorable quote of Aquinas or Aristotle from early Americans/framers? Madison, Ham., Jeff., et al probably read the latin and greek klassix, but I don't think they were so supportive of catholic/dominican tradition.

The Federalists, however, often seem nearly platonic in their desire for a strong central govt. which would prevent "factions." The Fed papers at times express Hamilton's crypto-Tory dream of having some perfect President-monarch rule the USA (with the king's financiers, Inns of courts duplicated), instead of all the states-rights hicks and Jeffersonian democrats (and I contend Madison was at first with Hamilton, then moves to the Jeff. faction). Whether or not he blessed Hobbes, Hamilton does not lack a Hobbesian love for the sovereign (though unlike Hobbes, he rarely bothers with the contracting aspects).

That said, the Fed. papers make little or no mention of theological topics.

bpabbott said...

Phil,

I think principle motive of considering the many minds who influenced the founders is to come to a better understanding fow how religion influenced the entire dynamic.

Imagining your tree, I think it is clear that many who populate its branches invested a lot of thought reconciling Christianity with natural law, rights, etc.

This is a perspective that seems (to me) to be lost in the CN debate ... i.e. the excluded middle.

I any event, it is clear that the founders were influenced by earliers great thinkers and many/most of them all by the Bible.

Pinky said...

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"...it is clear that the founders were influenced by earlier great thinkers and many/most of them all by the Bible."
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Well, at least by teachings that originated from the Bible.
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In order for us to be honest in our grasp of American History, it behooves us (puts shoes on our feet) to do what we can to put ourselves in the place of those men who did the grunt work in founding our great society.
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First thing, I think, we must do is to separate the Founding Fathers from the masses of Americans that lived during those trying times.
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From what I've learned, the masses were almost all completely influenced by what their ministers taught them from the pulpit--they had no other place to get any food for their minds whatsoever--except what they might have read in a newspaper or broadside flyer. And, the ministers interpreted what ever it was they read. Period. The ministers proclaimed an intrusiveness on every personal behavior to keep everyone as righteous as could be. They preached the necessity of government being ordained for the purpose of the salvation of every single soul.
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Aside from that, we turn to the Founding Fathers--each of whom we learn about from our studies. But, they are a different breed than the masses and we should never confuse the two classes. They WERE separate and most had as much education as any minister in any pulpit.
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I am heavily influenced in my thinking by present day Fundamentalist Evangelicalism seasoned with Calvinism. A large part of my extended family is intimately involved in the Christian ministry. Does that mean that I am a Fundamentalist Evangelical Reformed Protestant?

Hardly. In fact, the truth be known, I am negatively influenced by that thinking.
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Perhaps many of the Founding Fathers were as negatively influenced. Maybe that's why we have the Bill of Rights? The communalism of the Founding Era was extremely intrusive on everyone's personal life. Maybe the FF saw great danger lurking there?
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Jonathan Rowe said...

J.

They loved Aristotle. They didn't talk about Aquinas at all, probably because of their anti-Roman Catholic bias. When Jefferson listed the 4 sources for the DOI, he listed Aristotle, Cicero, Locke and Sidney.

See my above post on the FFs as Roman republicans. Without Aquinas there probably would have been no classical studies in Christendom. However, it's important to keep in mind that the classical characters were pagans not Christians. America has as much of a pagan foundation as it does a "Judeo-Christian" one.

J said...

I am aware of that--see my material on Pound/Framers/Aristotle on my blog-- but I don't recall (say in bios/writings of Jeff. or Madison) any real substantial discussion of Aristotle, or unqualified approval.

I think Jefferson's more of a republican in the platonic sense, but even when quoting the klassix they are still a bit sceptical of the greeek--and latin--authoritarianism, which Locke was well aware of as well. Neither Aristotle nor Plato were overly fond of democracy.

bpabbott said...

Good points Phil.

Pinky said...

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So, then, can anyone respond to my question regarding the negative influence Christianity might have had on any of the Founders.

Remember, just like today when an atheist could not be elected to high office, in those days anyone not espousing fealty to God could never be accepted as a leader. And, the Founders put this great experiment together--they would have had to have expressed strong support for religion and especially Reformed Protestant Christianity. They were the super leaders who, in unison with each other, turned the world of religious domination on its head.
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Can we see some evidence that any of the FFs saw Christianity as a thread against the future of society?

Pinky said...

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ERATA

The word, thread, is a typo. It should have read, THREAT.

Sorry about that.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"I think Jefferson's more of a republican in the platonic sense,..."

He may have been; but that assumes he/they really didn't understand Plato. They may not have. They hated Plato, loved Aristotle.

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