The following is the second part of my last post but also is in response to Jon Rowe's great post about some of my thoughts about Christianity:
When I first started commenting on Ed Brayton's blog people blasted me hard because some of what I was saying sounded like Conservative Christianity. Once they realized I was different it stopped. Why do so many like Ed Brayton and Jon Rowe rail against the Christian Right? They feel that many of the backwards people that are associated with it are trying to derail progress toward the next step in creating a modern world. I think they now see that some of us "Christians" are with them. I think what many of them fail to see is that there were many "Rational Christians" at the time of the Founding that fought the good fight for progress in their day. Those that fail to see this want to label the American Revolution as a "secular" event. I think they do this at their, and possibly our, own peril.
For the record, I do think it is important to understand what a "Christian" is, or was, to see the impact Christianity had, or did not have, on bringing us into the modern world. But I think the real questions that will put this "Christian Nation" debate into its proper frame are:
Which Christian ideas, if any, helped bring us into the modern world?
Which Christian ideas, if any, helped try to derail us from progressing toward the modern world?
I think that these ideas can be broken down into two general different views of God. One is the "Augustine view" and the other I like to call the "Locke view".
I think the Augustinian influenced Christian ideas are based on a view of God as not being concerned with the material world, sees man as totally depraved, and arbitrarily decides who goes to heaven and hell. Those whose ideas are shaped by that view will usually tell people that God really wants us humans to very little here because "His Kingdom is not of this world." I think the the Locke influenced Christian ideas are based on a view of God as being concerned with the material world and emphasizing the value of man, even though we are tainted by sin, because man is made in His image. Those whose ideas are shaped by this view of God usually tell people that God cares about the here and now just as much as heaven or hell because, "Jesus asked the Father to bring heaven to earth."
It was the same thing when Neo-Confucians took over China from the Buddhists. It had become a "Dark Age" because so many of the Buddhists became convinced that the material world was evil and the key to life was to escape it. The Neo-Confucians(I read most of this is a HS textbook so this is a broad but I think true statement) said that this world did matter and the key to happiness is to participate in it. This shift in thinking gradually led to a "golden age" in China that was written about by Marco Polo.
I think we see the same shift of thought that leads to a "golden age" in Western Civilization during the Enlightenment. If one looks at the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment I think the biggest thing that changed was hope that man could create a better world and be "happy". For some it was a secular world. For others this meant God's "Millenial Kingdom" coming to earth. Marx spoke of a Utopia. Modern "New Agers" are looking for a "New Age". Hitler was trying to take man to our next evolution. I think we also see the effects of this shift in thought much earlier in both the French and American Revolution. Jefferson wrote about this strange idea of the "pursuit of happiness" that found no place in the world of the "Divine Right of Kings" where all that mattered was obeying him to "please" God.
With that said, I think the Enlighenment was a Christian influenced movement if we are going to say Locke started it. I think it produced the two Revolutions mentioned above. One was a secular and perhaps atheist Revolution. The other was Christian in my view. One threw out Locke's theology(See my post from July on Locke) from what I have read. The other seems to me to have kept it.
Whether if we American's kept Locke's political theology is true or not is going to be my thesis as I pursue my master's degree. That is, if the Declaration of Independence was a Christian interposition based on a thread of theology that went from the Scholastics to Hooker(I think it was Hooker)during the English Civil War to Locke and then to the Founders. To do this I will have to research if the Founders were educated in this political theology, understood it, and applied it to the DOI.
I think Gary Amos makes a good case that the ideas behind the Declaration were part of the thread of Christianity I am talking about. What I think he is missing is if the Founders were educated in this political theology. We know that Madison was educated along these lines but he did not really have that much to do with writing the DOI. I guess I am going to find out about the rest as I study this.
In response to the whole discussion about what I like to call "salvation theology", I am not to sure what this has to do with the political theology used to found the nation. I think David Barton got us all of on the wrong track as far as a frame for this discussion. I understand that Jon wants to make sure that Barton does not distort the History to win his modern political battle. I think Jon does a good job at that. But I also think it is time for the frame of this discussion to shift away from Barton and his "lies" and toward the road TVD has been trying to take it for a while. I am convinced it is the right road. I think the central figure is John Locke and his political theology.
For those who are interested in a theological discussion more about salvation, I wrote a blog post Titled "The Myth of Genesis One" on my blog at www.theking25.blogspot.com about the creation story in Genesis being a allegory that those interested can read it if they want to. Since Jon brought it up, I will say here that if I am right about Genesis then all bets are off about dogmatic views of original sin and evolution. Arguments for eternal damnation start to weaken as well. Nonetheless, as Tom has stated many times, this is a History blog. The only reason to bring the theology up is how it relates to the History. But, as I have stated too, History only matters if it can relate to the issues we all struggle through in the here and now.
So, yes I am trying revive Locke's theological case for Libertarian thought. This is because I do believe in a Millenial Reign of Christ. I am not sure what it will look like but I think "liberal democracy" will have a whole lot to do with it. The problem is that what our government is spreading in the name of "liberal democracy" is nothing more than old European statism and it is slowly taking us on our way back to the "serfdom" we were in before the birth of the Modern World that Cato Unbound has been analyzing the origins of and was the subject of the original post by Jon in this exchange. (See Jon's post on Kuzinski's essay below for the link to join the discussion) (Also see Hayek's book titled "The Road to Serfdom")
This return to "serfdom" was exactly the thing that the Revolutionaries in France and America fought to keep from happening. One group threw out the baby with the bathwater and rejected God in the process. That movement fizzled out and ended with the Congress of Vienna. Oh and lest we forget, the European Statism that was re-established at the Congress of Vienna was based on the Augustinian authoritarian view of God that lead to the doctrine of the "Divine Right of Kings". Those jerks were counting on one thing to keep their collectivist civilization alive:
That all the "serfs" would listen to the Gregg Frazer(I am not saying he supports the Divine Right of Kings because I know he does not I just want people to know why I debate his so hard on this issue) like dogmatic views of Romans 13 and fear burning in hell so much that we would all sit and take it. Not me! How about you? But, Braytonites, as we fight back lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater and blame God for fools that use his name to enslave people.
Lets also keep in mind the two questions I posed to try and re-frame this debate. I challege all the "Cultural Warriors" to come up with answers for these questions:
1. Which Christian Ideas, if any, helped bring us into the modern world?
2. Which Christian Ideas, if any, tried to derail us from progressing toward a modern world?
If the level of discussion is going to be raised where I think it needs to go it is going to take more than reading one book and calling David Barton a "liar" to do this. Dr. Frazer feel free to jump into this if you want as well and help us define what are and are not "Christian Ideas". More to come.....