Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Mystery Hid From Ages and Generations, Part II

For part I, see here. The original pamphlet is here. This is Charles Chauncy's argument for universal salvation. Chauncy believed both reason and revelation proved universal salvation and that the Trinity was false. He was a founding era Christian-unitarian universalist. He was also a key influence on the American Founding. Chauncy's "Christianity" not Jonathan Edwards' arguably was the political-theological motivator behind the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

On with Part II:

These supposed doctrines of revelation have so long been received for important truths, not by the vulgar only, but by persons venerable for their learning and piety, whose business it has been to enquire into things of this nature, that it may seem to many an affection of novelty, if not an argument of something worse, so much as to call them in question. Multitudes, having been taught, from their early childhood, the doctrine of eternal torments, and, what is commonly connected with it, the final, misery of the greatest part of mankind, are become insensibly and strangely prepossessed in favor of these tenets, however shocking to unprejudiced minds; insomuch that it would be no wonder, if they should determine, at once, without examination, that an essay intended to prove, that the scheme of redemption concerns the human race universally, and will, in its final result, inflate them all, without distinction or limitation, in perfect blessedness, must needs be an heretical undertaking, the very proposal of which ought to be rejected, as carrying along with it its own confutation.

But yet, there are some, it may be hoped, who are not so far under the government of prejudice, but that they can suspend their censures, at lead, till they have deliberately read what may be offered from the books themselves, containing the revelations of God, in support of the hypothesis, that all men shall finally be happy. And should it be found capable of being fully confirmed by solid proofs, from these books, none who regard their authority, as sacred, should withhold their assent. To be sure, they ought not to do so, as being influenced thereto by an undue attachment to their spiritual leaders, however renowned for knowledge, or judgment, or exemplary virtue: For they are certainly fallible, and may therefore be mistaken.

And this, I am deeply sensible, is the truth with respect to myself. I know I am liable to err, in common with other men. Nay, I pretend not but I may have been betrayed, in the present case, into an apprehension of that as true, which is really false through the undue prevalence of some undiscerned wrong bias or other. For which reason, instead of finding fault with any, into whose hands these papers may fall, for reading them with caution, I would seriously advise them to do so lest they should be deceived with the mere appearance appearance of truth: Only, they ought so take care that they do not so mix prejudice and jealousy with their caution, as to prevent a fair and impartial enquiry. All I desire is, that, if the proofs here offered should appear to any, upon a thorough examination, to be justly conclusive, they would honestly yield to conviction. If they should perceive no strength in them, or not strength sufficient to support the cause that is rested on them, I think, they would act commendably, and becoming their character as men and Christians, if they should still adhere to their former sentiments. Every man must judge for himself: though, if his judgment is wisely and reasonably formed, it will be the effect of apparent evidence, upon an honest and full enquiry.

That I may proceed, in the illustration of this subject, without perplexity, I shall begin with mentioning a few things, in a preliminary way, tending to prevent a misconception of my meaning, when I affirm, that all men shall be finally happy. It will then be natural to exhibit the proper arguments in support of this affirmation: Which, having confirmed by direct proofs, I shall endeavour further to strengthen by particularly going over, and invalidating the contrary evidence. [Italics in original.]

9 comments:

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

"Chauncy's "Christianity" not Jonathan Edwards' arguably was the political-theological motivator behind the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. "

Chauncy's view of the theology and doctrine concerning salvation issues has absolutely nothing to do with his support or non-support of the political theology that was behind the revolution. It is two distinctly different topics.

To prove this thesis you would have to describe the political theology of that era, Chauncy's views, and Edward's views and see where they differ. Instead of quoting Chauncy's views on salvation(red herring) you might have been better off outlining Chauncy's political theology and showing where he differed from Edwards. Then both would have to be sifted in regards to how their views fit in with main stream political theology of the time.

I am starting to see why you take the angle that you do. We both know Barton wants to prove Christian influence as an excuse to push his 2009 political agenda. He wants the broad view of History and the narrow view of current politics. In other words, he will broaden the definiton of Christian and Christian ideas to claim history for his ideas. He wants to narrow these definitions in the present to promote his view of morality today.

I think, at best, you can stale mate him. The reason is that the one thing that is for sure is that the entire founding era had a different view of morality than we do today. I do not think this is in dispute. This is essentially what he wants to bring back. Or at least he says that. Maybe he is using it as cover to push his evangelism into the Public Schools. I am open to that.

The bigger problem for you guys is that by trying to take him out, you are going to lose overall war. You can show that not all of the Founders or the preachers of their day were evangelical or whatever.
What you cannot show is that most or all were not. In the end, it does not matter because the point is to see what political philosophy shaped the era and:

1. If theology played a role in that era?
2. How much of a role?
3. Where those theological ideas came from?

In other words, were the ideas behind the Declaration Christian or not? That is the whole shooting match. You contend they are not but the book by Gary Amos I have read gives compelling evidence they were. If Jefferson penned the Christian argument for replacing a tyrant it is irrelevant if he was on or not. It is the ideas we are after not the religious persuasions of the people using them.

I am starting the school year and coaching and will be busy the next few months, but I am going to begin to slowly unveil the argument of Amos in some posts. He will be much harder to take on than Barton.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Chauncy's view of the theology and doctrine concerning salvation issues has absolutely nothing to do with his support or non-support of the political theology that was behind the revolution. It is two distinctly different topics.

Well that's the issue that's in dispute. Gregg's theory is that 1) denying the Trinity; 2) accepting universal salvation; and 3) believing in a right to revolt against tyrants in the face of Romans 13 are all part and parcel of a more man-centered, naturalistic and rationalistic theology where "reason" takes the place of a more literal interpretation of the Bible.

Not everyone fits neatly in the box. Benjamin Rush for instance was a Trinitarian and a Universalist and I've examined his hermeneutic method and it was a more liberal, less fundamentalist than what passes for "orthodoxy."

Witherspoon, likewise was an evangelical Calvinist. But he was also a natural law/Scottish Enlightenment rationalist. And it was from the latter part of Witherspoon's personality that he supported a right to revolt against tyrants.

These are the claims that Gregg makes and while I understand why you and others might dispute them, his entire 450+ page thesis makes for a pretty airtight thesis.

One thing I've learned on these threads, blogging and arguing over the past 5 years (it's been one big lesson in philosophy) is that it's a hell of a lot easier for smart, philosophically minded people to knock down theses than to build them up.

Just about everyone's thesis is going to be subject to some kind of attack.

On the matter at hand, with Aristotle as the genus and "nature" and "reason" as the tools, it's really easy for what the medievals like Aquinas did to morph with what the more modern Enlightenment folks did. The difference being one is more authentically "traditional" and "Christian" while the other is not.

Separating the two, when they use the same terminology ("nature/reason") can be a daunting task.

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

"Well that's the issue that's in dispute. Gregg's theory is that 1) denying the Trinity; 2) accepting universal salvation; and 3) believing in a right to revolt against tyrants in the face of Romans 13 are all part and parcel of a more man-centered, naturalistic and rationalistic theology where "reason" takes the place of a more literal interpretation of the Bible."

That is the exact problem. For political theology purposes 1 and 2 have nothing to do with 3. The whole rationalist or not argument, if one goes back and reads the history of all this, is a "Christian" one. It is two different camps within Christianity. Some like Greg think that certain Puritans that advocated classical education were "rationalists" that opened the door to "deism" in their pursuits. It is the whole faith and reason argument of Aquinas that is becoming popular again today.

Besides I feel that I have shown that alternative interpretations of Romans 13 using sola scriptura are possible; at the very least. In fact, I think Locke's interpretation is more reasonable than Frazer's in that it is consistent with the whole frame of argument in Romans 13. Both are valid and reasonable people can disagree. But as I stated this is a historically "Christian" debate about what ideas count as Christian and which ones do not. This debate did not start with Frazer nor even those of the Founding era.

Another thing Frazer leaves out is that the Aquinas
stream of Christianity believed that their were two different kinds of knowledge:

1. Intuitive Knowledge
2. Discursive Knowledge

The "reasoning" based on number 1 is what one must use to check all revelation that claims it is from God. According to this stream of thought, that is well within "historical Christianity", number 1 above is given to man from God at Creation. It is also tied to the "law of nature" half of "laws of Nature and Nature's God" from the Declaration.

In other words, Locke never said that discursive reason(what man can learn on his own apart from God) is not affected by the fall or trumps revelation. Locke and company may have a different understanding of what revelation is and how one obtains it from Frazer and company but there stream in no less Christian than the stream Frazer comes from. Where Edward's stand is unknown at the moment from anything I have read on this blog.

But I am willing to bet that anyone classically trained at any of the Ivy's was schooled in this view of epistemology. I have a gut feeling it was pretty common at that time. This would include Madison and others that were trained at these universities. Some may well have been true deist type rationalists that were more affected by the enlightenment than anything to do with Christianity.

Nonetheless, even those, used arguably Christian political theology to make their case for independence. "Arguably" is placed where it is for a reason in that last sentence because that is where the argument or debate is not in whether those men were Christians themselves. I believe this is the frame that this debate needs to move to in order to find the truth about America's founding.

I also believe one will find if that is done then it becomes part of the Historically Christian debate that really had little to do with the enlightenment. Or at very least, much much less than the French Revolution. The old faith vs. reason false dilemma needs to die.

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

"Witherspoon, likewise was an evangelical Calvinist. But he was also a natural law/Scottish Enlightenment rationalist. And it was from the latter part of Witherspoon's personality that he supported a right to revolt against tyrants."

He is a good example of people that came out of the political theology movement I was referring to in my last comment. I think it entirely possible that him and someone like Madison had the same political theology while being in disagreement over doctrines in regards to salvation issues.

Brad Hart said...

Hey Jon, where are you finding all your sources on Chauncy? I'd love to get my hands on some of his writings but I can't seem to track them down...not even on Google books.

King of Ireland said...

My last comment about Madison should be obvious because according to what I read, Witherspoon was a personal mentor to him.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Brad,

It's actually just simple googling that find these works.

Brad Hart said...

Thanks, Jon. I don't know too much about Chauncy and his contemporaries, but your posts have peaked my interest. I'd like to dive in head first and get a feel.

Pinky said...

.
All those people were inundated with the idea of man's fallen state.
.
They had heard it (like Chauncey sez) since the earliest days of their childhood.
.
What can we expect from them?