Friday, November 27, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration and the Definition of Christianity

For those unaware, the Manhattan Declaration is a statement of conservative Christian doctrine on present day hot button moral issues. Mainly it is anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality in its sentiments.

It's also a document that was, by its design, limited to orthodox Christians. That is, it's a document of consensus on political/moral issues among traditional Roman Catholics, evangelical Protestants, Anglicans, and capital O Orthodox Christians (in other words Nicene Christians).

Apparently, Chuck Colson informed Hugh Hewitt that the document was more than merely political or moral; it is theological. "Jews, Mormons, and others, were not invited to sign the document...because this is a specifically Christian statement, quoting from the Christian scriptures."

For historic orthodox purposes, the document seems undeniably "Christian." These signatories are likely folks who would agree with the proposition that you are not a "Christian" unless you endorse the Nicene orthodoxy that forms the lowest common denominator among them.

The definition of "Christianity" also reminds me of Dr. Gregg Frazer's 10 point historic definition for late 18th Century America, one that forms a lowest common denominator among the creeds of Christian Churches during said time period (though, there were no capital O Orthodox Christian Churches then and said Church denies original sin which is part of Frazer's 10 point test).

Yet Dr. Frazer's church minister and college President, Dr. John MacArthur, is one of a number of notable evangelicals who refuse to sign said document. I think Dr. Frazer has a similar personal view about Roman Catholics presenting a false gospel. That is, while Roman Catholics are certainly Christians for historic "orthodox" purposes, and even late 18th Century American purposes, to many evangelicals, for personal salvation purposes, they are not "Christians."

This is where the moral, meets the political, meets the historical, meets the personal. Yes, it's complicated.

It's interesting to see how even among those religious conservatives who agree on 1) Nicene orthodoxy, and 2) political-moral issues, their theology and the role it plays in their lives divides them in seemingly irreconcilable ways. See for instance, the comments section in this Uncommon Descent post on the topic.

Here is James White, another notable evangelical who refused to sign this declaration, on the un-ecumenical reasons evangelicals have for not singing this declaration:

There is no question that all believers need to think seriously about the issues raised by this declaration. But what is the only solution to these issues? Is the solution to be found in presenting a unified front that implicitly says "the gospel does not unite us, but that is not important enough to divide us"? I do not think so. What is the only power given to the church to change hearts and minds? United political power? Or the gospel that is trampled under foot by every Roman Catholic priest when he "re-presents" the sacrifice of Christ upon the Roman altar, pretending to be a priest, an "alter Christus"? Am I glad when a Roman clergyman calls abortion murder? Of course. But it exhibits a real confusion, and not a small amount of cowardice, it seems, to stop identifying the man's false gospel and false teaching simply because you are glad to have a few more on the "right" side of a vitally important social issue.


I note, based on my meticulous study of America's Founders and their religious beliefs, that whatever may divide the Christianity of Roman Catholics, evangelicals, and the Orthodox Church (i.e., the signatories of said declaration) they have far more in common with one another than they do with the "Protestant Christianity" of many key American Founders and the philosophers they followed (J. Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, probably Madison, Washington, and many others, and their key philosophical influences, Locke, Newton, Clarke, Milton, Priestley, Price, and Burgh).

Finally James White brings up an interesting point about Martin Luther King. Conservative Christians of the religious right have, of late, invoked his example as does this document. Dr. King certainly was religious, and presented his beliefs as "Christianity." However, under a doctrinal test that excludes Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses as "Christians," it's not clear that Dr. King was a Christian. And it's also not clear that Dr. King, were he alive today, would have endorsed their views on political-moral issues either.

White reproduces the following from Dr. King on orthodox Christian doctrine:

The orthodox attempt to explain the divinity of Jesus in terms of an inherent metaphysical substance within him seems to me quite inadaquate. To say that the Christ, whose example of living we are bid to follow, is divine in an ontological sense is actually harmful and detrimental. To invest this Christ with such supernatural qualities makes the rejoinder: "Oh, well, he had a better chance for that kind of life than we can possible have." In other words, one could easily use this as a means to hide behind behind his failures. So that the orthodox view of the divinity of Christ is in my mind quite readily denied.


White reacts:

So why put forth King as explicitly Christian, but not invite the Jehovah's Witnesses, who would "quite readily deny" the deity of Christ as well? Perhaps a document that identifies Papal actions as explicitly Christian actions can be excused for its inherent self-contradiction.


As a non-Christian observer/scholar of these events, I note all of this for the sake of clarity. Before we move on, realize what we are dealing with.

91 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

What "we" are dealing with?

Well, let me first do the proper tap-dance and clarification for those who came in late---for the zillionth time, Jonathan Rowe and I are friends and remain so, despite our disagreements on this or that. It was Jon who brought me to this blog, we correspond privately, we've gotten together for a beer.

So when I give him both barrels here, it's purely about our formal disagreements on religion and the Founding.

[Uh-oh, Jon's thinking about now...]

Hehe.

In the context of this blog and its study into religion and the Founding, what "we" are dealing with is yet another incursion of sectarianism into what is a secular study.

Christians [like Muslims and Jews], have various sects that charge each other with theological error, often to the point that that call each other "not" Christian or Muslim. Even the Jews have this problem, where the Orthodox do not religiously recognize conversions made under the Reform "tradition."

But to the secular [impartial, no dog in the fight] observer, Jews are Jews and Muslims are Muslims, more or less.

However, Dr. Gregg Frazer doesn't do his socio-history this way when it comes to Christianity, and this remains a bone of contention on this blog as long as his method is invoked.

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn about sectarian squabbles and neither did the Founders. One thing they agreed upon---and what united them---was that they were sick of that stuff. And as far as religion and the Founding, the theologically ambiguous and admittedly problematic case of the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses doesn't apply---those sects weren't even invented yet.

However, analogously, there were Quakers and Bible-believing unitarians: for socio-historical purposes, they're considered Christian, even if opposing preachers and clergymen at the time said that they weren't, on theological grounds.

This point is reinforced by Jon's quote of a clergyman insisting Roman Catholicism is a "false gospel." Theologically speaking, he's entitled to his opinion, but socio-historically speaking, that Roman Catholics might not be Christians is absurd, and his remarks have no place at this [our] table.


___________________

That's not to say I don't find the Manhattan Declaration interesting. I've begun to write on another blog, southernappeal.com, that deals with political/cultural issues from a sectarian and theological viewpoint. But although I might crosspost from here to there, I won't crosspost from there to here, if you follow my meaning. That would foul the proceedings of this theologically diverse and neutral forum.

BTW, you're all going to hell except me.

[Jon, I was mentally working on the Manhattan Forum all day, but from a sectarian perspective. Great minds run on the same track, and that's why we're such good friends. Cheers, dude.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

It's true that I could have posted on part of what I wrote on the other blogs and linked to it. Probably should have. But there is a big spill over and that's why I posted the whole thing.

This study is a broad interdisciplinary -- the political, legal, moral, philosophical, theological, historical -- what the FFs believed in does have some relevance to these issues today and is misused by both sides.

One thing I like about both White and MacArthur, is they recognize appeal to the American Founders authority and attempts to square their theology with Founding political theology won't work. So they just don't do it.

It's astonishing the number of folks who believe personally in a theology like MacArthur's, or White's or even Francis Schaeffer want to claim the Founding. Schaeffer made that error that MacArthur avoids and Noll et al. called Schaeffer out on it.

The MD authors likewise may have made a similar error by including Martin Luther King.

They did limit the definition of Christian to Nicene orthodoxy. It probably would have been better if they wrote a theistic moral document and invited Jews, Mormons and others to sign.

They could have called it "Judeo-Christian." But that still would have led to more interesting issues to explore. We still have a lot of work to do on the term "Judeo-Christian." I get a sense that a lot of orthodox Christians like to use that term given the special place Judaism has as a precedent to Christianity (Jesus was a Jew after all). But they do not mean an LCD between Jews and Christians where doctrines like Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, Hell the whole NT which Jewish people don't believe in become non-negotiable.

Pinky said...

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Jonathon presents a view of the current public situation that was so prominent back in the 1930s and 40s within the more private ranks of protestantism.
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Those ten points Frazer sets down are ten of the Fundamentals that were being promulgated by seminaries and Bible Schools back then. At the time, my family was deeply involved in the workings of early Fundamentalism. And, even though I was a young boy, I was getting the full monty when it came to being educated on what Fundamentalism was all about. The major complaint being that it was an attempt to create a new denomination and thereby those seminaries and Bible Schools were being accused of prosylitizing the youth of the local churches that were sending their children off to be educated. The kids were coming back for Christmas break with new ideas the elders of the churches held in suspicion.
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Jonathan Rowe said...

I think I meant to write "negotiable" as opposed to "non-negotiable."

Re TVD's preferred term "Judeo-Christian" to theistic rationalism, I'll never forget when I explained the difference between "Deism" and "theistic rationalism" to a learned list, but not experts in American Founding theology. One person piped in: They (the theistic rationalists) sound like they were Jews.

King of Ireland said...

Jon,

What they believed about salvation theology aside, they most certainly agreed on the political theology. That is what is important and I do think we all know what we are dealing with enough to move on and begin to answer the two questions I proposed in my last post.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The irony is that Jerry Falwell's original Moral Majority, inspired by Francis Schaeffer, was indeed totally ecumenical and Judeo-Christian.

But I think the Manhattan Declaration has a different purpose, and closer to the Founding-era Protestant proclamations, that the people will not consent to interference with their religious conscience, including imposing laws and rulings that conflict with it.

I think there's plenty in the Founding literature that says laws that conflict the laws of nature and of nature's God are null and void.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Pinky writes: Those ten points Frazer sets down are ten of the Fundamentals that were being promulgated by seminaries and Bible Schools back then...The kids were coming back for Christmas break with new ideas the elders of the churches held in suspicion.

Hehe. I dunno about that, but what you're saying is the fundies lay claim not only to the Founding but Christianity itself.

Which is sort of what I'm saying here too. That and they have no place except at the kiddie table.

Pinky said...

.
Tom, out of respect for you, i want to recommend a great book that has only recently hit the book stores. Next time you get over to Borders or Barnes and Noble, pick up a copy and read the first twenty or so pages. You might blow your own mind.

Here it .is!

I'm sure you'll be impressed.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Hehe, funny, Phil. If there's some ultrafundamentalist cabal trying to turn America into a theocracy, they're doing an awfully shitty job of it.

Pinky said...

.
And, if they exist, they undoubtedly what us to think they're doing a rotten job ov it.
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I know some of these people--personally.
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I know how they think.
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We should never be fooled by their quiet nature.
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They truly believe it is their destiny to rule the world at the right hand of Jesus.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Perhaps. There are still Communists and/or people who want a One World United Nations government, too.

But Hillary Clinton is also somewhat friendly and aligned with the "Family." This Jeff Sharlit is a far lefty [I've read his stuff in Harper's] screaming "The Christians are Coming! The Christians are Coming!" for an anti-religious left that sucks that stuff up.

Similar stuff on the right, like World Net Daily. Oh, well. Everybody's got to make a living.

Tom Van Dyke said...

http://wildhunt.org/blog/2009/11/twh-greatest-hits-interview-with-jeff-sharlet.html

Zzzzzzzz.

Gregg Frazer said...

OK, for the umpteenth time:

The list of beliefs I put forward in my work in this area is taken from the creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the significant denominations in America in the 18th century. If it matches well with what fundamentalist were teaching in the 1930s/40s, that may tell us something about their staying power, but it doesn't have anything to do with what being a Christian entailed 150 years earlier. Nor does the fact that some young people in the 20th century didn't like them.

51 of the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention were affiliated with one of these denominations. Of the 4 who weren't, 2 were Dutch Reformed and 2 were Methodists -- denominations which also affirm all of these beliefs.

As for socio-historical definitions, let me get this straight: in a correct socio-historical definition, anyone who claims to be a Christian IS NECESSARILY a Christian?

And in a correct socio-historical definition OF A RELIGION, theology is insignificant?

If that is the case, then I don't think a correct socio-historical definition is very useful. It wouldn't tell us anything -- except misinformation.

As for "sectarian squabbles," my list was purposely constructed to be (as Jon puts it) a lowest common denominator definition -- the bare bones core beliefs to which every significant Christian denomination in America ascribed. Each denomination would ADD to the list -- that's why they had separate denominations -- but none would SUBTRACT from it. In other words, it was designed to highlight who was NOT a Christian as opposed to who was a Christian.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And in a correct socio-historical definition OF A RELIGION, theology is insignificant?

Not as expansive on dogma as you make it.

That Jesus had a uniquely divine purpose and that the Bible is true is enough of an LCD baseline.

And although Jefferson insisted he was a Christian, even by this baseline, he is clearly not. [He was, however, a Jesusian, but more on that some other time.]

The fact is that the doctrine of the Trinity had nothing to do with the political realities one way or the other, or as I recently put it, with the price of tea in China. Or Boston.

___________________

51 of the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention were affiliated with one of these denominations.

There goes the "key" Founders theory then. Which stinks anyway, taking a handful of elites who hid their unorthodoxies, and calling theirs the theology of the Founding.

Pinky said...

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D.F. writes, "... Nor does the fact that some young people in the 20th century didn't like them."
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It's obvious you weren't around in those days.
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It wasn't that the "young people ... didn't like them"; but, it was the older ones that were opposed to these new Fundamentals as a TEST of faith in order to be accepted as a Christian. They saw it as a new denomination being spawned in the seminaries and Bible schools and their attempt to do away with the separation between established churches. That presented quite a challenge to the schools and they began sending their representatives to the churches to ease the concern.

But, this is a side issue.
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Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

According the "divine mission" of Jesus, LCD, no question the Socinian Priestley and the unitarian J. Adams (it's hard to pin down whether he were Socinian or Arian) passes the test.

Arguably Jefferson does too. For one Jefferson idolized Priestley (even if he didn't agree with Priestley on the Resurrection). Secondly I know of at least one example of Jefferson's private writings where he refers to Jesus as a "Savior."

Jonathan Rowe said...

Actually Tom,

When Gregg writes of those 51/55 I think many of the 51, like Jefferson, for instance, were affiliated with those churches about which he speaks. He's noting that mere affiliation doesn't prove belief in doctrine.

I know ME Bradford was the one who constructed that table of affiliation and TWO of the members he claimed as "Deists" (that is not affiliated with those churches) were in fact affiliated with those churches. They were B. Franklin and J. Wilson, both of whom were affiliated with the Anglican/Presbyterian churches respectively. Likewise those were the two churches Hamilton was affiliated with. But he didn't get such affiliation until his deathbed (that is, those were the two churches ministers from whom he attempted communion at his death).

Guys like G. Morris, Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Wythe, J. Marshall -- they were all formality/nominally affiliated with the Anglicans/Episcopalians, yet whose belief in orthodox Trinitarian doctrine is either rightfully questioned or proven downright false.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The Founders believed the Bible was Holy Writ.

You and Gregg and MacArthur types are the only ones who care about these doctrinal issues about Jesus.

The Founders didn't, because it didn't matter one whit in the real world. They agreed to disagree, and that was not "a right to sin," which is an artful term, but unhelpful.

As the very devout Samuel Adams ["a Calvinist's Calvinist"] writes in
The Rights of the Colonists

The Report of the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting.
November 20, 1772

http://www.constitution.org/bcp/right_col.htm

…the Founding era had developed a theology:

“…it is now generally agreed among Christians that this spirit of toleration, in the fullest extent consistent with the being of civil society, is the chief characteristical mark of the Church. Insomuch that Mr. Locke has asserted and proved, beyond the possibility of contradiction on any solid ground, that such toleration ought to be extended to all whose doctrines are not subversive of society.”

I don't care what Gregg or MacArthur think of this theology, because it's a matter of historical fact---the Founders believed Christianity required religious freedom. And historical fact is all we're considered about in the study of history, not theological truth, which is above our pay grade.

King of Ireland said...

The only theology that is relevant is the political theology. That is what they had to come together on. This whole other thing is a rabbit trail.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Political theology. Yah, that sums it up.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"Political theology. Yah, that sums it up."

I wish it did. But people would rather read a book that calls all Christian's liars and avoid the higher points of this discussion that will lead down the road of finding out what is missing in America. I am afraid it is almost too late and we will have to start over again some day. That is fight for the rights we already have because no one cares to find out where they came from.

Radical Individualism turns into anarchy and is always followed by a Hitler. See the French Revolution.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

I think you are right that a typical "Christian" of the Founding era (and perhaps today) believed in Providence, thought something divinely special about Jesus, and the Bible was revelation (though had doubts about its infalliblity, just as they may have doubted Jesus' divinity).

However, there were and are lots of folks who are very concerned about these doctrinal issues.

It was by being lax on doctrinal discernment issues that figures like Joseph Priestley could argue, if the masses really candidly examined what they believed in, they'd find unitarianism dominated, even if at the moment most were not conscious unitarians.

Jefferson predicted eventually everyone would become unitarians.

Priestley and Jefferson were counting on the lack of concern most folks had in these doctrinal issues when they made statements like this.

Were they right? Did the masses really believe or disbelieve or were agnostic about the Trinity and related orthodox doctrines, while formally being members of those churches? I don't know.

I do know that lots of back then and today assert those doctrines are non-negotiable if you really want to be a "Christian."

Gregg Frazer said...

C'mon, Tom!

Follow your own standard! You keep lecturing us against inserting our own opinions, then you say: "That Jesus had a uniquely divine purpose and that the Bible is true is enough of an LCD baseline." SAYS WHO? You?

At least I'm putting forward a standard determined by the people involved and not my own opinion!

And, speaking of your standard, many of them did NOT believe that "the Bible is true." You say: "The Founders believed the Bible was Holy Writ." How can you make that statement? Some of them did and some of them didn't -- that's why I preface my claims by saying that they apply to certain "key Founders." I never make broad claims such as you've made -- which are patently false, by the way.

Some of them didn't believe in the Bible at all; some didn't believe in the Old Testament; some didn't believe anything outside the Gospels; some didn't believe all that they saw in the Gospels.

As for the toleration quote from Sam Adams, yes they believed in toleration of aberrant doctrines -- BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT THEY CONSIDERED THOSE WHO HELD THEM TO BE "CHRISTIANS!" They believed that Christianity required religious freedom, but that doesn't mean that whatever you do with that religious freedom counts as Christianity itself!!!

Theological truth may not be an historical study, but what the people you're studying BELIEVED was theological truth IS part of historical study.

Finally, just so we're clear: you and King believe that political theology exists in a vacuum and that political theologies are not based on and/or reliant upon beliefs that are not expressly or clearly political in and of themselves -- is that right? So, the Puritans' political theology was not influenced or determined by their belief in original sin, for example?

Jonathan Rowe said...

I think Tom's (and perhaps KOI's)standard is that if one believes at least large parts of the Bible count as God's speaking to man, even if one doubts the infalliblity of the biblical canon, that counts according to their "Holy Writ" standard. So when Ben Franklin wrote,

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.

This is compatible with the TVD's "Holy Writ" standard.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I think you are right that a typical "Christian" of the Founding era (and perhaps today) believed in Providence, thought something divinely special about Jesus, and the Bible was revelation (though had doubts about its infalliblity, just as they may have doubted Jesus' divinity).

Thank you. What remained was what K of I tabs their political theology, and that is our concern.

For there are many [and many more than the "Christian Nationists"] who today believe the Founding was secular, "deistic" at best, and "ceremonial deism" at that. This is nonsense, and the much bigger fish to fry.

I do know that lots of back then and today assert those doctrines are non-negotiable if you really want to be a "Christian."

Yes, and their arguments are theological. Not political, not historical except as academic curiosity. Which brings us to our friend Dr, Frazer [nice to see you, Gregg]. But first, Jon, as to unitarianism, Jefferson was wrong---unitarianism was basically a fad. I have a post in mind about that. As for Priestley basically saying that people don't give a damn about the Trinity either way, that's certainly true of religion in the public square, which I believe is our context for discussing religion and the Founding.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Had to chop this into 2 parts, character limit exceeded. And so, back to business with Dr. Gregg Frazer:

"That Jesus had a uniquely divine purpose and that the Bible is true is enough of an LCD baseline." SAYS WHO? You?

Yes, that's my proposition, and one that John Adams endorsed:

"Neither savage nor civilized man, without a revelation, could ever have discovered or invented it. Ask me not, then, whether I am a Catholic or Protestant, Calvinist or Arminian. As far as they are Christians, I wish to be a fellow-disciple with them all."

Christianity is a revelation, meaning it comes directly from God. And this from one of the least orthodox of all.

At least I'm putting forward a standard determined by the people involved and not my own opinion!

I think your standard is completely valid---theologically. However, this is a history blog, and a socio-history blog if I might be so bold.

As history, it's our task to understand the Founding generation as it understood itself. It understood itself as Christian. Unitarianism as non-Trinitarianism was no secret, but if the Founding generation agreed on one thing, it was that sectarian doctrinal wars were to be left behind in England. [And the unitarianism of the Founding era was argued based on the Bible, not deism or Hume or Voltaire. In fact, the Adams quote rails against that secular part of the Enlightenment:

[Thomas Paine's] billingsgate, stolen from Blount's Oracles of Reason, from Bolingbroke., Voltaire, Berenger, &c., will never discredit Christianity, which will hold its ground in some degree as long as human nature shall have any thing moral or intellectual left in it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Make that 3 parts.

Gregg writes:

You say: "The Founders believed the Bible was Holy Writ." How can you make that statement? Some of them did and some of them didn't -- that's why I preface my claims by saying that they apply to certain "key Founders." I never make broad claims such as you've made -- which are patently false, by the way.

Admittedly a broad statement, but merely condensed for the sake of a comments box: The Founding era believed the Bible was true. True theologically true truth, sent directly from God. Even John Adams admits it in calling Christianity "revelation."

The provable outliers are Jefferson, who clearly did not believe the Bible had a divine origin, and Franklin, who was agnostic toward revelation, but who in his own words, remained open to the possibility.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2008/11/ben-franklin-was-not-deist-ok.html

As for the toleration quote from Sam Adams, yes they believed in toleration of aberrant doctrines -- BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT THEY CONSIDERED THOSE WHO HELD THEM TO BE "CHRISTIANS!" They believed that Christianity required religious freedom, but that doesn't mean that whatever you do with that religious freedom counts as Christianity itself!!!


Dat's a fact. But I don't believe your theology counts as Christianity either. I agree with Jefferson that it's aberrant if not psychotic, and misses the truth of God completely.

But socio-historically, I allow that it can be called Christian, even though you're going to hell, because as we all know, there is no salvation outside the Church, and that means the Roman Catholic Church.

Now, you know I'm tweaking you here, Gregg, but the point is that socio-historically speaking, I'm only willing to draw the line where the Founding era itself drew the line. Understanding it as it understood itself, and in the context of its political theology.

The Founding era, with all its doctrinal variations understood itself as Christian, as Washington noted in his Farewell Address, that "With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles."

Gregg writes:

Theological truth may not be an historical study, but what the people you're studying BELIEVED was theological truth IS part of historical study.

We agree completely on this point, and it's the nub.

Finally, just so we're clear: you and King believe that political theology exists in a vacuum and that political theologies are not based on and/or reliant upon beliefs that are not expressly or clearly political in and of themselves -- is that right? So, the Puritans' political theology was not influenced or determined by their belief in original sin, for example?

Not at all. In fact, the same dynamic goes to the heart of the Aquinas-in-the-Founding argument, that Aquinas can be traced to the Founding through Locke and Sidney, who were [indirectly] influenced by Thomas, and in turn they influenced the Founding.

As to your point, we see even in John Adams the Founding era's suspicion of man's reason as fallen, vulnerable to adulteration by his passions. [And as K of I has noticed, that's just what's happening today. Most anything can be rationalized.]

You & I might agree with Daniel Dreisbach, in his arguments in that Texas thing. Original sin, even if rejected theologically by Franklin, is part of the argument against reason as the final arbiter of truth. Men are corrupt, and so are their self-serving arguments.

And to Jon's last note about Ben Franklin and the theologically puzzling story of Jael, yes. Franklin did not renounce the whole.

King of Ireland said...

Gregg,


See my last few posts for my thoughts to your question above.

King of Ireland said...

Gregg,

You love this give us one post a month?
You comment more than that. I am going to bother til you do.


Personal Note:

Can I email you about how and where I should pursue my Masters? I want to do somethings but am not sure to start.

Brad Hart said...

Squabbles between Christians are sort of like squabbles between NASCAR fans...they will argue ad nauseum on the question of who the best driver is and why, oftentimes coming to blows. But in the end, they are all NASCAR fans.

Such is the case with these debates over Christian orthodoxy (IMHO). You'll hear Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons, etc. point fingers at one another over particular points of doctrine, assuming that they've caught the other in an obvious pickle. Yet, in the end, they all BELIEVE (albeit in different ways) that they can lay claim to the title "Christian." One may be a die-hard Tony Stewart fan, while the other is part of the majority Earnhardt Jr. clan. And then you even have small minority fan bases who get behind the Denny Hamlin's and Joey Logano's of the world.

But in the end, they all like watching cars go around a circle for hours on end while drinking beer!

Gregg Frazer said...

John Adams is all over the map when it comes to what he considered to be "Christianity." At one point, he said that "Deists and Atheists and Protestants WHO BELIEVE NOTHING" were all "united" in the "general principles of Christianity." He went on to say that Hume and VOLTAIRE supported the same principles. He also equated Christianity with the principles of the revolution.

He also said: "I believe ... that all good men are Christians, and I believe there have been, and are, good men in all nations." There is no religious content whatever here.

As for your idiosyncratic definition, the Adams quote you gave says nothing about Jesus or the Bible. So he doesn't "endorse" your definition except in your own mind -- your own view of what his quote means. It speaks of "revelation," but Adams considered all sorts of works -- including the Shastra (Hindu text) and the preamble to the laws of Zaleucus -- to contain "orthodox" theology and even "Christian" theology. And he only counted as "revelation" what his reason told him was revelation; so, essentially, it is his own reason which is his revelation. And he counted philosophy as "the first, the original revelation of the Creator to his creature, man." And he said that the Bible could not supersede philosophy.

As for "a uniquely divine purpose": what purpose? Is it up to each person to decide for himself what Jesus' purpose was? Or did He have an actual, historical and spiritual purpose?

Adams did not believe in Jesus' identity or in His mission as the Bible identifies it -- the atonement.

Re the significance of the deity of Christ: unitarians and trinitarians are so far from being part of the same religion that THEY DON'T EVEN WORSHIP THE SAME GOD!!!!

Here is how Adams summed up his religion: "My religion is founded on the love of God and my neighbor; on the hope of pardon for my offences; upon contrition; upon the duty as well as the necessity of supporting with patience the inevitable evils of life; in the duty of doing no wrong, but all the good I can, to the creation, of which I am but an infinitesimal part." No mention of Jesus or the Bible.

Gregg Frazer said...

Tom,

My point regarding original sin and the Puritans was that you want to exclude some theological doctrines (those inconvenient for your argument) and focus only on "political theology" -- but political theology does not exist in a vacuum and is based on other elements of theology which are not overtly political, but carry critical implications. These other elements are not insignificant because they are the foundation of political theology. How one views the Bible and Jesus, for example, has a critical effect on one's political theology. Political theology cannot properly be isolated and studied sui generis without its context.

And you say that we have to understand the Founding generation as it understood itself. That's what I've done with the list of core non-negotiable doctrines: revealed what Christians of that generation said constituted irreducible Christianity.

Whose word should we take for who is part of a group? Official group members or wanna-bes or outsiders who have ulterior motives for being identified with the group? OK, I say that I'm a Green Bay Packer -- now I expect everyone to include me in a list of Packers?

I don't think we have any obligation to agree with every self-identifying notion that individuals claim. Caligula and Diocletian claimed to BE God -- must we go along with their self-identification and consider them to be God?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I don't like using Adams either---he's all over the map, he's a twit, and most of his writings on religion come after he left public life. I'd love to see the back of this "key" Founders method, which is like looking for a lost object not where you dropped it, but over somewhere where the light is better.

However, "revelation" had a definitive meaning,that it came directly from God. The pagan texts you mention make no claim to be revelation.

And he counted philosophy as "the first, the original revelation of the Creator to his creature, man."

Well, that classic natural law teaching. I guess your Calvinism rejects it, but it's a bulwark of Christian political theology.

Re the significance of the deity of Christ: unitarians and trinitarians are so far from being part of the same religion that THEY DON'T EVEN WORSHIP THE SAME GOD!!!!

Sez you. Compared to any other religion except perhaps Islam, their God is monotheistic, providential, and best conforms to the God of the Bible, not Aristotle's or Paine's.

And in the Founding era, the unitarians used exactly the same Bible as the trinitarianians, both believing that it was the word of God. They just came to different conclusions about what the text meant.

If you wanna blame somebody for that, blame Luther and Calvin, who made radical individualism in interpreting the Bible the core of Protestantism.

Tom Van Dyke said...

revealed what Christians of that generation said constituted irreducible Christianity.

Again, that's a theological view, not a socio-historical one. There were no Unitarian Wars. It was a theological and academic discussion, conducted by the minority who gave a damn.



My point regarding original sin and the Puritans was that you want to exclude some theological doctrines (those inconvenient for your argument) and focus only on "political theology" -- but political theology does not exist in a vacuum and is based on other elements of theology which are not overtly political, but carry critical implications.

We're in absolute agreement here. I simply resist elevating a general disinterest in doctrine itself to the level of a religion, "theistic rationalism," if you will.

You might enjoy Dreisbach on original sin in the Texas arguments.

I think he overplays it, but I'm in fundamental agreement.

http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache%3AsRUdVsTi0YIJ%3Aritter.tea.state.tx.us%2Fteks%2Fsocial%2FDreisbachcurrent.pdf+dreisbach+texas+original+sin&hl=en&gl=us&sig=AHIEtbSY1Dn_Tnxd8YQe1XQ6nkhfjfGkwQ&pli=1

Tom Van Dyke said...

Better:

ritter.tea.state.tx.us/teks/social/Dreisbachcurrent.pdf

Gregg Frazer said...

You say: "The Founding era believed the Bible was true. True theologically true truth, sent directly from God. Even John Adams admits it in calling Christianity 'revelation.'"

First, Adams spoke of Christianity being revelation, not the Bible. He didn't identify the Bible as the source of the revelation (he recognized many sources of revelation and the Bible was not the top of the list).

Second, SOME of the people believing SOME of the Bible is true is not the "era" believing the Bible is true. PARTS of a Tom Clancy novel are true, too, but we wouldn't say that our generation believes Tom Clancy novels are true.

You say: "if the Founding generation agreed on one thing, it was that sectarian doctrinal wars were to be left behind in England." MOST of the POLITICAL leaders agreed on that, but not the whole generation -- your generalization is far too broad again. And, as I've demonstrated, the key leaders (yes, I used "key" again) didn't have a doctrinal dog in the fight, so it was easy and natural for them to take that position.

Re your suggestion that unitarianism was argued based on the Bible and not deism or Hume or Voltaire: I've, of course, never suggested that they argued on the basis of deism or Hume/Voltaire (although Adams says they promote the principles of Christianity as he understands it). They were not deists, but theistic rationalists. But their primary argument was not from the Bible -- it was from their own reason. They thought the Trinity irrational, so they sought arguments against it from various quarters -- including poor/convenient/out-of-context interpretation of the Bible. It was their REASON that taught them unitarianism, though -- not the Bible. This is evidenced by, among other things, Adams's statement that he would not believe in the Trinity if God Himself revealed it to him on Mt. Sinai and that he would prefer to not believe in God at all.

Gregg Frazer said...

You say: "'revelation' had a definitive meaning,that it came directly from God" -- yes, I know, but from what written source? He doesn't stipulate the Bible and he accepts other sources as revelation from God. You specified that he was supporting your statement of belief in the Bible -- but he doesn't (at least in the quote you gave).

As for "The pagan texts you mention make no claim to be revelation": that isn't the point; the point is whether ADAMS considered them to be revelation -- which he apparently did.

If I granted you the notion that philosophy being the original revelation of God to man is a "bulwark of Christian political theology" (which I don't), Adams's claim that the Bible does not supersede philosophy certainly is not Christian teaching. I'd be interested to see which Christian writer said otherwise. Certainly not your buddy Aquinas!

Gregg Frazer said...

To my statement that unitarians and trinitarians do not worship the same God, you say: "sez you." No, sez them! One believes in a God consisting of THREE persons and the other believes in a god who is ONE person. One believes that Jesus Christ is God and must be worshiped and the other believes He's not God and must not be worshiped.

It's not a matter of who they're "close" to in various ways -- it's a matter of Who God IS. He's either the triune God or He's not.

The difference is as distinct as with those who believe in Allah or Zeus.

God is either the biblical three-person God or the rationalist's one-person God -- they cannot be the same or the terms have no meaning.

When you say: "They just came to different conclusions about what the text meant," you're right! They came to different conclusions about Who God is and, therefore, the Gods that they worship. What is wrong about your statement is the notion that they came to their wrong conclusion via study of the Bible. Rather, they studied the Bible to try to find justification for the view that their reason gave them.

And you can't blame the Reformers here, either. Arian preceded them by 1200 years.

Re "that's a theological view, not a socio-historical one": it is an HISTORICAL fact (not theological) that 18th-century Christians held to certain core/irreducible doctrines.

Re "We're in absolute agreement here": then quit distinguishing "political" theology as some distinct, separable entity and quit excluding elements of theology which were foundational from the discussion.

Re "I simply resist elevating a general disinterest in doctrine itself to the level of a religion": me too. That's why my "theistic rationalism" concept is far more involved and comprehensive.

I find it revealing that you persist in creating a caricature of my actual concept. Sometimes you say it is all about Romans 13; now you say it's all about doctrinal disinterestedness. I can't help but think that you feel compelled to caricature and build straw men because you cannot rebut the actual concept.

Gregg Frazer said...

You are right that I am interested in the Dreisbach piece.

Daniel and I are friends and I recommended him as a reliable, balanced source to an interest group that called me from Texas.

If you like Daniel, you should get the book he co-edited which includes a chapter on Hamilton by me. It is "The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life," published by the Univ. of Notre Dame Press.

Pinky said...

.
This thread seems to be wandering just a bit.
.
?
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When a person knows the identity of the true God, they are in the place of being able to define who does and who doesn't worship the true God.
.
Quite impressive if you ask me.
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Has anyone considered the thought of issuing certificate of authentication?
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That would be great.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

The difference is as distinct as with those who believe in Allah or Zeus.

No, you can't get Zeus from the Quran no matter how hard you try.

You can, however, get a non-divine Jesus from the Bible.

As for indifference to doctrine, it's that that distinguishes the Madisons and Washingtons, not any affinity with Jefferson's [here, I'll say it] "theistic rationalism."

Tom Van Dyke said...

When a person knows the identity of the true God, they are in the place of being able to define who does and who doesn't worship the true God.
.
Quite impressive if you ask me.
.
Has anyone considered the thought of issuing certificate of authentication?
.
That would be great.


That was Madison's argument in the Virginia Statute debates, who gets to say who is Christian?

Pinky said...

.
I suppose that is what upsets some people about the Masonic idea of there is but one God.
.

Gregg Frazer said...

Whether or not you can get a non-divine Jesus from the Bible -- which, of course, you can if you ignore or cut out the verses which are clear on the subject -- it doesn't change the fact that those who think Jesus is God and those who don't worship different Gods. For this point, the source doesn't matter; if you want to believe they got it honestly from the Bible, fine. The end result is two different Gods -- just like Zeus and Allah.

As for your suggestion that indifference to doctrine is THE distinguishing feature re Madison and Washington and not theistic rationalism -- that's easy for someone who's never read the chapters on Madison and Washington in the source of the theistic rationalism concept to evaluate the evidence.

I'm glad to see you embrace the term for Jefferson, at least. How about for Adams, since he specifically told Jefferson that he agreed with him on religion?

Gregg Frazer said...

Tom,

Now that you've thrown Adams under the bus with "I don't like using Adams either---he's all over the map, he's a twit," it strikes me that your idiosyncratic definition is back to being simply YOUR OPINION without any "endorsement."

Gregg Frazer said...

Pinky,

I didn't see anyone here defining who does and who doesn't worship the true God. Guess I missed something.

Of course, there is Someone Who can make such definitions and, fortunately, He didn't leave us in the dark.

As for a certificate of authentication, there were several. That's what miracles and signs such as speaking in tongues were. Then there's the definitive one. It was a cross. It was, indeed, great!

Tom Van Dyke said...

...it doesn't change the fact that those who think Jesus is God and those who don't worship different Gods.

Not atall, Gregg, in fact you open the door to what is precisely my point.

Christendom has never held that the Jews worship a different God than Christians, the God of the Bible. Jesus was a Jew, fer crissakes.

The God of Founding-era unitarianism was precisely that God as well. And when Washington or whoever invoked the "Almighty" and divine providence, it was understood he invoked the God of the Jews, Christians, and the Bible. Trinitarianism itself argues there is only One God. You start there; the rest is doctrinal and dogmatic details, in which most people are disinterested.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

Far be it for me to be the language police on this blog, but I think one of the terms you used in your latest response to Gregg, might, in his eyes qualify as taking the Lord's name in vain.

That might chase him away.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Let me also note there are a number of notable orthodox thinkers who, like Gregg, argue Jews and Christians worship different Gods (but they don't all agree).

A question I have for Gregg is -- I know orthodox Christians argue you must interpret the Old Testament in light of the New -- and I also know there are ways to read in Trinitarian thought to the OT -- the question is did the Ancient Mosaic Jews know the God they worshipped was Triune? And if not, what are the implications of worshipping God while being unaware of His Triune nature?

Could unitarians use that defense?

Pinky said...

Here's a clip from Wikipedia regarding the Great I Am. God being that which God is becoming--ever more expanding to be more today that God was yesterday and will be more tomorrow.

I Am that I Am (Hebrew: אהיה אשר אהיה‎, pronounced Ehyeh asher ehyeh [ʔehˈje ʔaˈʃer ʔehˈje]) is a common English translation (King James Bible and others) of the response God used in the Bible when Moses asked for His name (Exodus 3:14). It is one of the most famous verses in the Torah. Hayah means "existed" or "was" in Hebrew; "ehyeh" is the first person singular imperfect form. Ehyeh asher ehyeh is generally interpreted to mean I am that I am, though it more literally translates as "I-shall-be that I-shall-be."

The word Ehyeh is used a total of 43 places in the Old Testament, where it is usually translated as "I will be" -- as is the case for its first occurrence, in Exodus 3:14—or "I shall be," as is the case for its final occurrence in Zechariah 8:8. It stems from the Hebrew conception of monotheism that God exists by himself, the uncreated Creator who does not depend on anything or anyone; therefore I am who I am. Some scholars state the Tetragrammaton itself derives from the same verbal root, but others counter that it may simply sound similar as intended by God, such as Psalm 119 and the Hebrew words "shoqed" (watching) and "shaqed" (almond branch) found in Jeremiah 1:11-12.

.
I understand that to mean that it is impossible to put a limit on the identity of God. It is more than can be imagined.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry, Jon. It was such a good line, I couldn't resist.

Gregg Frazer said...

The god of the unitarians is NOT the God of the Old Testament Jews. They specifically rejected the Old Testament God because He was "wrathful" -- which didn't square with their view of the preeminent attribute of God: "benevolence."

As Pinky suggested (giving it a friendly take), we can only know about God what He chooses to reveal about Himself. Before the coming of Christ, God had not chosen to OVERTLY reveal Himself as triune. The God that they worshiped was triune (and the same God as in the New Testament), of course, but the Jews did not know it because He had not clearly revealed Himself in that way. There were plenty of indications which we can now understand in hindsight, such as "Let US make man in OUR image" (Gen. 1:26) and "man has become like one of US, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:22) and "let US go down and there confuse their language" (Gen. 11:7) and the fact that the word for God in Gen. 1:1 is "Elohim," a plural form of El.

While God doesn't change, His revelation is progressive. So, people who come later have more revelation FOR WHICH THEY ARE ACCOUNTABLE.

There is a huge difference between ignorance of just Who God is because of lack of revelation and WILLFULLY REJECTING that revelation when it is available to you. Unitarians and modern Jews reject God's revelation and affirmation of Christ.

Jesus was, indeed, a Jew ethnically and religiously UNTIL He instituted the New Covenant with His sacrificial death. [The book of Hebrews is all about this]

Gregg Frazer said...

Tom,

By your rules, you CANNOT recognize Jefferson as a theistic rationalist OR as a deist because he identified himself as a "Christian" (something, as far as we know, that neither Madison nor Washington ever did). So, YOU have to call Jefferson a Christian -- and Caligula a god.

Gregg Frazer said...

We also have Jefferson's (most prominent unitarian) own testimony that he did not believe in the same God as did trinitarians. Jon reprinted Jefferson's words in a recent post:

"I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. ... If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his 5. points is not the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world;... It would be more pardonable to believe in no god at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin."

Calvin was trinitarian and the most prominent unitarian declared that he believed in a different god. Once again, the primary issue was "benevolence."

King of Ireland said...

GREG,

WHO IS GOD?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Now, now. I didn't say that, Gregg, In fact I explicitly disqualified Jefferson's claim to be a Christian. He didn't even believe Jesus had divine authority [he even says in several places where Jesus is wrong!] and didn't accept the Bible as Holy Writ.

A universe where God speaks directly to man is a difference in kind than a universe where He doesn't.

The rest of the haggling over the Bible is a disagreement in degree [interpretations, adulterations, etc.].

I'm not playing sophistries here to win a "debate." I don't even like debates now that I've grown up---discussion and joint inquiry is where it's at.

I don't even argue "Christian nation" as much as Christian "principles." The reason for singling out Romans 13, besides its obvious historical relevance, is that a sola scriptura literalism doesn't even permit Christian "principles" to exist---the application of reason to scripture that Locke and Mayhew and the Founding era applied to Romans 13 to allow revolt. [And the seeds of which can be found in Aquinas!]

Now, you argue these "principles" are theologically invalid and therefore inauthentically "Christian," and perhaps they are. But socio-historically speaking, Christian "principles" certainly do exist, and that is our concern.

And the Jews do worship the same God as Christians, socio-historically speaking.

Gregg Frazer said...

Yes, Tom, I know that you disqualified Jefferson's claim to be a Christian -- I'm just pointing out that doing so is inconsistent with your insistence that we only call them what they called themselves; that we must call them "Christians" if that's what they claimed or how they self-identified.

And you're back to your own personal idiosyncratic definition of Christianity, which has been given no supporting evidence.

How can we agree on what are Christian principles if we can't agree on what Christianity is?

Quit with the "socio-historical" thing! You use it only for your own convenience. For example, you tell me that theological beliefs or doctrines do not count "socio-historically" (whatever that means to you) -- THEN you tell me that socio-historically, Jews worship the same God as Christians, which is a theological point!!

By the way, you mentioned above that: "The Founding era, with all its doctrinal variations understood itself as Christian, as Washington noted in his Farewell Address, that 'With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.'"

I think it is necessary to point out that Washington did NOT identify that "same religion" as "Christianity" anywhere. So, it's not an appropriate quote to try to prove that the era understood itself (how can an era understand itself -- what "self?") as "Christian." It affirms that they saw themselves as "religious" -- but not specifically or necessarily as "Christian."

You've unintentionally done what Barton and the Christian America advocates do: quote the word "religion" and replace it in commentary with "Christian."

Gregg Frazer said...

Tom,

What is the definitive authoritative SOURCE for what is legitimate "socio-historically" and which supports your take on it? You never cite such a source, but just keep telling me what counts "socio-historically" and what doesn't. Who says?

Gregg Frazer said...

Pinky,

I ran your WikiPedia clip re Exodus 3:14 and your conclusion from it by a Ph.D. in Hebrew. Here's his response:

"1. Wiki itself is not wrong. They translate God’s declaration as “I shall be” NOT “I shall become” as the person has suggested. The wiki article is correct; your friend’s interpretation of wiki is wrong. The idea actually of “I shall be” is “I am perpetually existing” (past, present, and future – Hebrew does not really emphasize time as much as “how” an action occurs ). Wiki is just providing the 1st year Hebrew student translation of the Hebrew verb (we make our students in first year translate these kind of verbs in future tense as a pedagogical check).

2. Wiki is also correct to state that God exists by Himself, the uncreated Creator who does not depend upon anyone. These ideas are latent in the idea of a transcendent being (which the name YHWH communicates). It means that the essence of God is an exclusive definition. He cannot be equated (NOT likened but equated) with any other created entity. He is ultimately irreducible.

3. Your friend also does not seem to realize that YHWH is the personal name of God given to His people. This means that the transcendent God has now made Himself known. On one hand, we cannot know God exhaustively or equate ourselves with Him; on the other hand, we CAN AND MUST know Him because He is relational God; He gave us His personal name so that we could have a relationship with Him. Cf. Exod 2:25 where God knows His people. That denotes a relational knowing and leads to God revealing His personal name. This actually also sets up for the 10 commandments where God prohibits having other gods or making God into something that He is not (first two commandments). God has made Himself known in particular aspects or attributes. Hence, for your friend to say “I understand that to mean that it is impossible to put a limit on the identity of God…” is wrong. It is wrong because God has generally revealed who He is and it is “doubly” wrong to use YHWH as a basis for such thought because the very name YHWH means the transcendent can be understood!

The Trinitarian God has revealed Himself as such and must be revered as such."

Just trying to help, Pinky.

Pinky said...

.
Where did your friend get his conference of the Phd.?
.

Gregg Frazer said...

Pinky,

What do you mean by "conference of the Ph.D?" I'm not familiar with that term.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Dr. Frazer, I argue my view against yours, is all. I'm sure your thesis captures more nuances that chopping the terms down to a word or two does not permit, "Christian" or "theistic rationalist."

However, it's Thomas Jefferson's theology that's idiosyncratic, and to lump any other Founder's theology in with his misleads. Jonathan Mayhew was a unitarian [non-trinitarian], but also called the Bible infallible, something Jefferson would never do.

Now then,

Are Arians Christian? I say yes. Christian "heretics?" Sure. They're out of the mainstream. Anabaptists? Yes, socio-historically speaking. Even the monophysite Coptic Christians. Yes.

Calvinists?

Hehe. The majority of Christianity is not Calvinist. Socio-historically speaking, though, of course they're Christian, even if we could call their particulars heretical in the grander scheme of Christian theology.

Pastor Bob Cornwall, of the Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Troy, Michigan, who accepts Jesus only as Messiah?

http://pastorbobcornwall.blogspot.com/

Socio-historically speaking, yup.

The Unitarian Universalists? No, but that's another story.

;-)

What is the definitive authoritative SOURCE for what is legitimate "socio-historically"

Hmmm. I disagree with your thesis, not as wrong, but as incomplete. I cannot cede to you the definition of "Christian" in a socio-historical context, and here's why: Of course I know and understand what you mean, but in the larger context of America, which doesn't care about theological nuance, the general impression is that the "key" Founders were some sort of deists and believed in a God out there somewhere but not here, and a God that had no relation to the Bible.

This will not do, for one because it's supremely false perception, and a disservice to the truth of religion and the Founding.

Am I the "authoritative SOURCE" for how we should frame the inquiry into religion and the Founding? I simple argue my take:

That the Founding era acknowledged the same God, the One True God, as the God of the Bible, of Jews and Christians. Dissenting views were in the minority. Therefore, I argue that my view is how the Founding era understood itself. Of course there were exceptions, those troublesome clergy and Holy Rollers that the majority had no time for, and had hoped they left behind in Europe.

Further, that the Bible was to them a unique SOURCE of divine truth, directly from God, not from some Buddha sitting under a tree when "enlightenment" fell upon him, nor did they consider it the fabrication of well-meaning [or evil] men.

When K of I asks, quite to the point, Who is God?, I respond it is the God of the Bible, for the Founding era at least. In this way, they understood themselves as Christian, doctrine and dogma best left to clergymen and other troublemakers.

_______________

And as a personal aside, Gregg, the nature and arguments of my demurral from your thesis and method has taken a very different form from when we first crossed swords [crossed crosses?]. Nothing I've studied hasn't had your thesis in mind. On my end at least, this has always been a discussion and joint inquiry, and has been extremely nourishing.

So thank you, you big lug.

Gregg Frazer said...

If Jefferson's beliefs are idiosyncratic and it's misleading to lump any others with his, why did Adams specifically tell Jefferson that he agreed with him? And why did the other "key Founders" express the same beliefs? Did they not know what they believed?

PLEASE GIVE ME THE CITATION IN WHICH MAYHEW CALLS THE BIBLE "INFALLIBLE!!!!!" That would be an invaluable citation -- akin to finding the Loch Ness monster or a unicorn.

I do know where he said that "our rational faculties being limited, there is ROOM for our being instructed by revelation." And: "It is the proper office of REASON to DETERMINE whether what is proposed to us under the notion of revelation from God, be attended with SUITABLE ATTESTATIONS AND CREDENTIALS, or not. So that ... we may OF OURSELVES JUDGE WHAT IS RIGHT."

There you go declaring what is and is not "socio-historical" again -- without appeal to any authoritative source other than your opinion (though you've many times declared opinion to be irrelevant in the face of history). Forgive me if I ignore such claims.

As for your list of various groups/people and your PERSONAL OPINION as to whether they're Christians, let me return to the HISTORICAL discussion/argument and the topic of this blog: the key Founders who were theistic rationalists did not subscribe to the HISTORICAL definition of Christianity as delineated by their authoritative Christian contemporaries and were, therefore, not Christians. Whether or not others were/are is irrelevant to the discussion.

If you had read my whole argument for theistic rationalism, you'd know that I am just as adamant that the key Founders were not deists as that they were not Christians. In fact, the book I'm working on publishing is entitled "Neither Christian Nor Deist." On this blog, I appear to only be arguing against their Christianity -- but that's because no one is arguing for them being deists.

I agree that the "general impression" as you've described it is "false" and a "disservice to truth" -- but so is the notion that they were Christians trying to create a Christian nation or even Christians building a nation on distinctively Christian principles (whatever those might be).

If your argument is simply that they held to some principles which were not inconsistent with Christianity and some which some Christians held at various times in history -- then we have no quarrel. If you're arguing that they based the American system on distinctively Christian principles or principles which they promoted because they thought them to be Christian or that their primary sources for their principles were Christian sources -- in short, that they INTENDED to create a Christian nation or a nation based on Christian principles -- then we have a disagreement.

As for your broader claims, your "take" is wrong: "the Founding era" did not acknowledge the True God. Some people living during that era did -- and some did not. Those most responsible for the documents upon which the nation is based did not. They believed in a god of their own construction, borrowing what they liked from the Bible, from natural religion, and from their own imagination -- and chucking what they didn't like.

As for their view of the Bible, you're wrong again. They believed that SOME of the Bible -- a very small portion -- was revelation from God, but that most of it was a fabrication of evil or well-meaning men or it was simply a nice collection of ethics and morals and aphorisms useful for almanacs and folksy illustrations.

I'm feeling comfortable simply calling your opinions wrong because that's my opinion and I don't have a phrase such as "socio-historically" invalid to toss around.

King of Ireland said...

Gregg,

I repeat:

Who is God?

Here is a hint:

The only part of the Bible where God describes his own glory is Exodus 34:5-7. If you read that and compare it to the Adams quote that Tom used about God's glory then how can you say that Adams was that off?

Because he may or may not believe or understand a very complex idea of the Trinity? I am starting to doubt that original sin, trinity, hell and some other supposedly key doctrines. I am doing it from a bibilcal bases.

Now I hate to keep bringing this up but I have went places I am fairly sure you will not go to talk about this God we are discussing. I risked my neck more times than you can count. I used to believe much of what you are saying now and no longer do through careful study.

Are you saying I am not a Christian? Not saved? Not a child of God or whatever label you want to put on it.? If you say they are you are saying I am not. Then I have to offer some tickets to the middle of nowhere to teach what you say here and I will teach what I believe(which anyone in Tibet will see as mostly the same by the way) and we will see who pisses themselves first.

I assure you I will not because I have a relationship with God and understand his providence in a real way. I was an atheist at one point and would have never done any of this. I did not want to die. My relationship with Him changed that. So let have a real test of faith.

I would also caution you that some would say your view of God as purposing Hitler to kill millions of Jews for reasons only God knows would be considered heresy and another God by some. I disagree with you but still acknowledge you probably know God and worship the same God I do.

Why all the judgement dude? If it is for real lets go test it where it costs us something. If not tone it down please. It is ok to be passionate but I think it is getting a little insulting to some. You cannot be this sure about some of these obviously debatable things.

For one the quote you use to say that Mayhew was some rationalist says that he wanted to use reason against what some "Propose as revelation" it was the dogmatic propositions and interpretations that he had trouble with. Not God.

So this may be a bit strong but I call um like I see um. If you are doubting my faith then lets test it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

PLEASE GIVE ME THE CITATION IN WHICH MAYHEW CALLS THE BIBLE "INFALLIBLE!!!!!"

Gregg,

This boldness of comment on the part of Mayhew was in harmony with his strong disapproval of creed-making in all its forms. He condemned creeds because they set up "human tests of orthodoxy instead of the infallible word of God, and make other terms of Christian communion than those explicitly pointed out by the Gospel."[22]

From a post by Jonathan Rowe.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/11/george-willis-cooke-on-jonathan-mayhew.html

Surprised me, too, and why this entire blog is worth keeping up with. I realize you are obliged to comment when your name is mentioned, Gregg, but your thesis is always in the background via Jonathan. The entire discussion on this blog has you in it.


Regardless of this quote, the Christian unitarians of the Founding era argued non-trinitarianism based on the Bible, not "reason" alone. This fragment on Mayhew is not the only proof that the non-trinitarians argued from the Bible for their position.

Except John Adams, who did. But neither of us make much of Adams' post-presidential writings. That he "agrees" with Jefferson in his dotage is irrelvant, and I'd like to see the back of John Adams in this discussion, too. He was a twit. [I'm contemplating a post on John Adams as vice-president, where President Washington booted him from the deliberations of the executive branch as Adams was constitutionally the president of the legislative Senate, and how the Senate decreed the president of the Senate was not permitted to speak in their deliberations. Funny story.]

As far as America knew when he was in public life, Adams attended a Congregationalist church every Sunday, if you've read recent posts on this blog more than just this one, Gregg. If anything, the public perception was that he was too religious, although that was the least of his troubles. Basically, Adams was the superfluous man.

__________

Tom Van Dyke said...

Part 2, character limit exceeded, and I would never dishonor the other fellow by dodging:

Now then,


As for your broader claims, your "take" is wrong: "the Founding era" did not acknowledge the True God.

Ah. We could start there, and probably never finish. But it starts at the source, I think. Please permit me to try to restate both your and my positions equitably:

I argue that the Founding understood its God as same as the God of the Bible, the One and True God.

Further, aside from Islam [whose theological truth claims they couldn't evaluate, since they knew little about it], the Bible is the only scripture that claims to come directly from God, breaking the barrier between man and the unknowable God, the God of philosophy, of Aristotle or Thomas Paine.

Even if they believed only part of the Bible came from God's mouth, that fractures the philosophical divide that continues to 2009.

You argue, unless the Founding accepted these 10 doctrinal tenets as well:

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_n6ahLSqrQAg/SdZQ_JkdeHI/AAAAAAAAAFw/86upXVrqDvc/s1600-h/18th+cen+chr.BMP

the Founding era cannot be called "Christian" in even a socio-historical sense.

I see that as gilding the lily. Not only socio-historically, but philosophically as well. Not even the brave theists of our modern age like Francis Collins go anywhere near the Bible.

Jonathan Rowe said...

You can find the quote from which TVD reproduced in Mayhew's seven sermons reproduced here:

http://www.americanunitarian.org/sevensermons.htm

One of the things about which I wonder...we've touched upon this in before. I believe, based on what we've seen, Mayhew thought God's revelation ("The Word of God") was infallible over any human authority. But I wonder if he thought the biblical canon was the infallible Word of God. With all of Mayhew's talk of reason and rationality and private individuals using their reason to test every Truth, whether Mayhew thought man's reason should serve as the ultimate test to determine which parts of the biblical canon were valid, which were interpolations.

I'm not saying this paradigm necessarily correctly applies to Mayhew. I am going to have to read from more of those sermons. But the paradigm does fit with the proof quote that TVD offered.

I think this is how John Adams approached the biblical canon, which, we know, he had concluded was riddled with human interpolations.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, this is getting far afield from my core point, that the unitarians cleaved to the Bible in arguing their non-trinitarianism, applying their reason to scripture.

Further, regardless of whether they accepted part or all of revelation, accepting revelation to any degree is a huge and essential difference from not accepting revelation to any degree.

As for the canon wars, what is Biblical and what isn't, it has a long history in Christianity that folks might find interesting.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deuterocanonical_books

The Founding era may have taken it to a higher degree, but such doubts and controversies were nothing new in Christian history.

Pinky said...

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Years ago, one of my friends was a lawyer whose highest aspiration was to be a lawyer for the Catholic Church arguing doctrine against the Devil's Advocate.
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I'm pretty sure Catholic doctrine is quite well founded---legally.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Here's a Coptic polemic against the Protestant Bible.

http://st-takla.org/pub_Deuterocanon/Deuterocanon-Apocrypha_El-Asfar_El-Kanoneya_El-Tanya__0-index.html

I take no side in this theological battle, but this illustrates the problem of putting various sects of Christianity to theological tests. If Protestantism is sola scriptura, this essay argues Protestants don't even have the right scriptura!

I simply argue that both the Copts and the Protestants are Christian, socio-historically speaking. They all believe the Bible is Holy Writ, even if they disagree on the very contents of the Bible itself.

Gregg Frazer said...

King,

God is the triune, eternal, sovereign creator God of the universe revealed in the Bible as holy, holy, holy, loving, just, gracious, merciful, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, immutable, faithful, jealous, true, and alone worthy of praise. Any notion of God which leaves out any of these attributes is idolatry -- making God to be something that He is not.

There is only one true God, but plenty of false gods. The key Founders were right that there is only one God, but wrong in believing that every/any conception of Him is equally valid and that all roads lead to Him and that God gives everyone the right to decide for himself how to worship God.

Exodus 34 is hardly the only part of the Bible in which God describes His own glory. Try John 1:1-18 or Hebrews 1 (especially vs. 1-3). Or read Isaiah, chapters 40-48, in which God gives a very extensive description of Himself and His attributes. Or how about Ezekiel 39:21-29? You won't like that one because there God describes His glory via His sovereign power and control of history. And Ezekiel 39 actually talks specifically about God's "glory" -- unlike Exodus 34:5-7, which doesn't.

I don't know what quote of Adams you're referencing -- I've looked back through the comments and I don't see one in which Adams addresses God's glory.

I don't "understand" all of the complexities of the Trinity, either. We needn't completely understand (then we'd be God), we simply need to believe -- that's one of the differences between a faith and reason-based religion. If you're doubting the fundamental doctrines you mentioned, IN MY OPINION you are not doing so from a biblical basis.

Not only am I not saying that you're not a Christian, I don't think I've said anything about anyone living today. And, for the most part (except when pressed), I've not made claims on the basis of what I believe. I've been making claims about key Founders who've been dead for 200 years on the basis of standards set by churches at the time they lived -- not on the basis of my own opinion (like Tom's been doing of late).

I haven't said anything one way or the other concerning whether or not you're a Christian.

I have no doubt that some would say that I worship a different God than they -- that's what I've been saying. The only question is which of us is worshiping the True God.

Gregg Frazer said...

King continued,

I don't understand the "judgment" comment. Once again, you accuse me of being judgmental -- where/when? Who have I "judged" and how? Example?

All I've done is lay out what I think the HISTORICAL situation was in the Founding era based on HISTORICAL documents. I haven't "judged" anyone! I've made an HISTORICAL evaluation of people no longer living based on HISTORICAL (or socio-historical) evidence.

I'm asked what I think about the nature of God and Christianity and I answer -- but not personally. If someone feels "insulted," they must be taking my general comments in contending for the faith personally or perhaps the Holy Spirit is convicting someone. When you guys give your opinions, I don't take them as "judging" me -- I consider it an opportunity or responsibility to answer you.

You and others ask me to present and defend what I think is true, so I do so -- but not with personal attacks. Then, because I firmly believe something with which you disagree, you accuse me of being "judgmental." I won't pretend to be unsure or conflicted over matters which I think are abundantly clear.

I am quite sure about the things I've stated (except where I've said otherwise). I am "this sure" because I'm not simply giving my opinion or trying to support what I'd prefer be true -- I'm simply taking what the God of the universe has revealed SERIOUSLY and literally in context. I'm sure because I have supreme confidence in the source.

I do not know exactly which things you mean by "obviously debatable" -- so I can't respond to that comment. Some of what you consider to be debatable I consider to have been settled thousands of years ago.

In the Mayhew quote, he's not just referring to "propositions and interpretations" -- no one claims that those are "revelation" -- they are interpretations or applications OF revelation. When he speaks of those matters, he calls them "erroneous opinions" or "speculations." He's talking about determining what is and is not revelation ITSELF by one's reason. He even argued that God Himself was limited by "the everlasting tables of right reason."

King of Ireland said...

Holy, Holy, Holy. Well all that means is whole. As in complete. God wants us to be whole and complete. You are certain in your INTERPRETATION of the source.
You also seem to reject general revelation.

The judgement thing comes from stating things as emphatically as you do about people that have similar beliefs as some of the founders do.

Tom quoted Adams somewhere in here when he was stating his definition of Christian. I am not saying you are being insulting or trying to insult anyone. I am saying that some may take it that way. Who are you to say what a Christian is or is not emphatically?

I want an Old Testament scripture that emphatically has God saying he is triune. If it is that important to know that then it must have been important for the Jews too? God describers himself a lot. We can be sure if the Bible is true that God is compassionate because it plainly says it. Triune is not a clear certainty.

Gregg Frazer said...

Tom,

The fact that someone USES the Bible to try to support what they think does not make their arguments "based on the Bible." You like to bring up slavery -- the southern slaveowners' support for slavery was not "based on the Bible," but they USED the Bible to support their position that they had already taken for other reasons. You are correct when you say that the unitarians argued "FROM the Bible" -- they certainly did use conveniently selected passages to support what they'd already determined to be true. But that is far from "basing" what they believed ON the Bible.

As for Adams, as I've pointed out several times, he did not just agree with Jefferson's unorthodox views "in his dotage" or "post-presidential." He expressed disbelief in the deity of Jesus and the atonement in his diary in 1756 -- when he was 20 years old! His church turned officially unitarian in 1750.

The public's view of Adams is irrelevant regarding what he said he believed. As I say in my work, they purposely tried to keep the public ignorant of their unorthodoxy -- often going to great lengths to accomplish that. Hopefully, our SOCIO-HISTORICAL study goes beyond denominational titles and uninformed/purposely misled public opinion.

Many people during the Founding era identified their perception of God as the God of the Bible; some did NOT. Some of those who did identify their God as the God of the Bible did not identify with the God of the whole Bible or with the whole God of the Bible and, therefore, not the true God of the Bible.

Every major civilization has constructed their own idea of god/gods and have declared their idea to be the "true god/gods." That does not make any of them "Christian" (and they were wrong).

As for your comment that "accepting revelation to any degree is a huge and essential difference from not accepting revelation to any degree" -- that's exactly right! That's one of the key factors which separated them from being deists -- and part of the evidence for their being theistic rationalists instead of deists. But I don't see how YOU can make that determination because it's based on what they believed and you've declared beliefs to be out of socio-historical bounds in evaluating someone's religion (curiously)!

Gregg Frazer said...

Tom continued:

If believing that the parts of the Bible which you personally consider to be rational came from God, then that fractures your "philosophical divide" -- but into at least 3 pieces, not just 2: Christianity, deism, and theistic rationalism.

I have made no claim concerning naming the Founding era "Christian" or otherwise. If we're looking for the political theology underpinning the Founding era, I contend that it is theistic rationalism.

I make no claim regarding what "the Founding" accepted. My claim is that the key Founders and many of the patriot preachers were not Christians and that they did not intend to create a Christian nation or a nation based on Christian principles and that their guiding principles were not distinctively Christian and were not exclusively or even primarily sourced in Christianity.

Since you've brought up the question: the Founding era might accurately be referred to as "Christendom" -- but not "Christian" (in a socio-historical sense, whatever that means).

As for: "They all believe the Bible is Holy Writ, even if they disagree on the very contents of the Bible itself" -- read that to yourself and tell me what sense it makes!?!? They may both identify a TITLE as "Holy Writ," but they don't both believe the Bible is Holy Writ because one of the two versions (the Coptic) is not the Holy Bible at all. They proclaimed allegiance to different books -- like two different movies which happen to share the same title.

This actually illustrates our fundamental disagreement. You want to count as "Christian" anyone who claims the TITLE or any principle associated with that TITLE or an era in which many people identified with that TITLE. I want to deal with SUBSTANCE

Gregg Frazer said...

King,

"Holy, Holy, Holy. Well all that means is whole. As in complete." No. It isn't. But why did you state it emphatically when I disagree with it? Why be so judgmental?

I do not reject general revelation.

I do not state things emphatically "about PEOPLE THAT have similar beliefs as some of the founders do" -- I state things emphatically about THE FOUNDERS. If someone shares the same belief, I can't help that -- I can't even know that. You state things emphatically -- like your "holy, holy, holy" statement above -- why can't I? Why must I pretend that I'm not convinced of my analysis of the founders? None of you feels the need to hold back what you think just because I don't agree with it.

I know that Tom quoted Adams -- I looked back at all of the postings. But the Adams quote had nothing to do with God's glory. That's why I was confused with your question.

FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME PLUS ONE: I've been stating what 18th-century Christians said Christianity was -- not what I think it is!!!!!!!!

WHEN I've been asked questions about my own view or WHEN Jon has solicited our own personal views, then I -- like you and Tom and others -- have given my view. Now, you ask me who am I to say what is Christian and what is not. Why am I the only one held to this standard? Who are you or Tom to say what is Christian and what is not? At least I'm giving evidence for my view and not simply personal opinions/musings.

Who am I to say what is Christian or not? No one. But God is THE MOST reliable source for that information and all I'm doing is quoting Him. You like quotes when they support your position, but you don't like them when they don't. I can't help that. Just now you appealed to a quote from Adams because you thought it supported your view.

If I quoted Adams and you didn't like what was said, your beef would be with Adams, not with me. Likewise, when I quote God and you don't like it, your beef is with God, not with me. You keep shooting the messenger!

As for the "emphatic" part: when I'm emphatic, it is on the basis of what God clearly says in the Bible. I am emphatic because I am completely confident that God knows what He's talking about and that the Bible is a reliable source for that. You are just as emphatic with your interpretation, but somehow I'm out of line. I don't get it.

As for you wanting an OT verse in which God emphatically says He's triune, there isn't one. I've already explained that God revealed Himself progressively and that people were and are responsible for the amount of revelation available to man. If you can come up with some other sense out of the OT passages I listed above which indicate God's plurality, then your will is doing a good job. And, by the way, it's no accident that God is addressed as "Holy, Holy, Holy" (repeated three times) by the angels (in God's presence) in a number of OT passages.

The OT is not the end of the Bible. Jesus' deity and that of the Holy Spirit are clearly taught in the New Testament. Triune is not a clear certainty TO YOU! Why are you being judgmental towards me by expressing emphatically something I disagree with?

King of Ireland said...

Gregg stated:

"As for the "emphatic" part: when I'm emphatic, it is on the basis of what God clearly says in the Bible. I am emphatic because I am completely confident that God knows what He's talking about and that the Bible is a reliable source for that. You are just as emphatic with your interpretation, but somehow I'm out of line. I don't get it."

You obvioiously do not. But this blurb sums it up. You say you are emphatic about what God clearly says in the Bible and He know;'s what He is talking about. I agree. He does. I just do not think you are his messenger on some of this because you do not know what you are talking about. Why? It is your interpretation just like my is.

The difference is I call it an interpretation. I have said numerous times that things are not black and white. I have said numerous time that what I say is debatable. I UNDERSTAND THAT ALL I SAY IS MY INTERPRETATION AND THAT I AM NOT SPEAKING FOR GOD WHEN I GIVE IT.

You have not figured out that you are no different than me:

We are both giving OPINIONS. That is all. You think things are clear that I think are debatable. That is the rub. One of us is wrong. Not God.

Gregg Frazer said...

King,

We've been through this before. How many times must I say that when I present something for which I don't give a citation, it is, obviously, my opinion. I don't see the need to keep repeating over and over again with each contribution I make that it's my opinion. You don't do that -- why must I? It's obviously my opinion or I wouldn't be saying it. When you say something, I assume that it's your opinion; I don't need you to continually say so -- why can't you do the same?

And even IF I present things as facts that you don't think are factual, why can't you just think and maybe say that I'm wrong and why I'm wrong and that it's not factual -- WHY MUST YOU CALL ME "JUDGMENTAL?" I think you're wrong quite frequently -- but I don't take it personally or accuse you of being judgmental. Making an argument in error does not equal being judgmental. Putting forward something as a fact that is not a fact does not equal being judgmental, either -- it just means you're wrong.

As for interpretation: when I or you draw conclusions from what the Bible says, that's an interpretation. SIMPLY QUOTING THE VERSES IS NOT INTERPRETATION -- IT IS SIMPLY QUOTING. I am not speaking FOR God -- I am QUOTING God; simply repeating what He said. When you quote Mayhew or Adams, are you speaking FOR them as their "messenger" -- or merely quoting them? When you send me quotes from Locke, are you speaking FOR Locke or letting him speak for himself?

We disagree on interpretation of various quotes from Locke to Mayhew to Adams to God -- but simply typing the quote is not an interpretation in and of itself and it's not claiming to speak FOR that person.

I am commanded in Scripture to be ready to give a defense for my faith and the best way I know to do it is by letting God speak for Himself. I can't help the fact that you don't like what the QUOTES SAY or that you don't think God said them or that you don't like my interpretation of them (when I give it). I may not be God's messenger, but the writers of Scripture were and I'm just quoting them!

You are using circular logic to hold me accountable to your hermeneutic (with which I sternly disagree).

You don't believe in interpreting the Bible literally in context. That's your business. But when you expect me to follow your hermeneutic and call me judgmental if I don't -- that's intellectually dishonest and just plain unfair.

I think things are clear that you think are debatable -- FINE, so let's disagree on that and discuss the issues without making personal charges!

Now, no doubt other readers are tired of our squabble, so let's drop personal recriminations and get back to the subjects at hand.

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

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Doug Fraser writes, SIMPLY QUOTING THE VERSES IS NOT INTERPRETATION -- IT IS SIMPLY QUOTING. I am not speaking FOR God -- I am QUOTING God; simply repeating what He said. (My emphasis)
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If I understand what it means to be profane, it is that one takes the authority to speak on behalf of another person without their permission. I always thought that is what the word, blasphemy, means.
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I may be wrong.
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I guess what Doug Fraser means to say is that he is quoting the Bible which he believes is the factual Word of God.
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But, to make the claim to most people that the Bible is God's spoken word could be thought of as preposterous.
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(There was a typo, so I deleted the post. It is here without the type.)

Jonathan Rowe said...

Pinky,

It's "Gregg Frazer" not "Doug Fraser."

bpabbott said...

I had to look it up ... Doug Fraser was an intertesting guy.

Pinky said...

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Whooops!
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Right! Thanks for point my error out to me.

I am so sorry and after three attempts to get it right, I still got it wrong.
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Pretty careless of me.
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Doug, of course, is the UAW guy.
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Gregg Frazer said...

I am fully aware of what "most people" think. I am quite used to being in the minority.

But as I've said before, truth is not determined by majority vote.

I'm not particularly interested in going the way of most people -- especially in spiritual matters. I've been warned against it (Matthew 7:13-14) in that bothersome Bible.

MOST people thought it preposterous that illness was caused by microscopic organisms in our bodies, too or that the Earth revolves around the sun. Now, "most people" know better.

Some day we'll all know the truth about the questions we've been discussing; some of us will be happy to learn the truth and some of us will not.

Gregg Frazer said...

By the way, according to a Hebrew scholar [APPEAL TO AUTHORITY, NOT MY OPINION], "holy" means "separate, consecrated, of a different type." It cannot mean simply "whole" or "complete."

Since it's an attribute of God, I thought it necessary to clarify.

King of Ireland said...

Gregg stated:

I am not speaking FOR God -- I am QUOTING God; simply repeating what He said. When you quote Mayhew or Adams, are you speaking FOR them as their "messenger" -- or merely quoting them? When you send me quotes from Locke, are you speaking FOR Locke or letting him speak for himself?"

Simply repeating what He said is a slippery slope. Their our translation issues. Intended audience issues. Bias issues. All kinds of issues WE ALL bring to the table when reading and trying to convey the message of the Bible.

Let's assume that every word of it is from God. An assumption that I do not even make and I am more or less on your side about the Bible being a message from God. But lets assume you are right. Even then one can not read Romans 13 and be for sure that the first part of the verse you like to quote is the key part of the verse and is black and white.

One would have to look at the second part of the verse and realize that their is at least the possibility that that Mayhew has some more information that needs to be looked at. Then when we look at the fact that it is a letter that is part of at least one, and possibly several, back and forths that give more information that we are not privy to.

One would have to look at the information that one has and look at both sides of it. One would also have to try and look at the intended audience of the letter and perhaps try and piece together a hypothesis of the exchange.

Then on a verse that has that many missing pieces of information I would hope that one would present all possible angles on what it may or may not be saying and the intent behind the words and let people make up their own mind.

If the Bible is true we can be for sure that God loved the world. It is clear. We can be sure that God is love it is clear. He is compassionate that is clear. BUT one still has to look at what compassionate means in the light off justice like you say or it can lose meaning when things are left out.

I think you reading Romans 13 and some other verses leaves out important information. I may be wrong. But at the very least on a verse that is missing some key information I would caution anyone against reading it the way they see it and say they are quoting God.

Pinky stated:

"If I understand what it means to be profane, it is that one takes the authority to speak on behalf of another person without their permission. I always thought that is what the word, blasphemy, means.
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I may be wrong.
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I guess what Doug Fraser means to say is that he is quoting the Bible which he believes is the factual Word of God."

Gregg, I have said the same thing to you many times. Again I am possibly the person most sympathetic to your view of the Bible being God's word. I back you a lot when these theological discussions break out too. But I have to say I agree with Pinky. If it is not as clear as you state it is then it is profane.

Now since I do look at the intentions or heart behind what one is saying as much or even more than what they are saying I am not and have never been accusing you of blashphemy or using the Lord's name in vain. I am just saying watch how it comes across.

I am not attacking you personally. All I was saying is that you are a little black and white. So am I. It comes off as judgemental. I get accused of it all the time. If I offended you I am sorry. I will say you are being too black and white from now on when I see you doing that. You can call me on it too. You have and I do listen.

Intent does matter!

Pinky said...

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For those who aren't but, have or have had intimate relationships with Fundamentalists such behavior as Gregg Fraser is exhibiting comes close to being seen as superstition. In other venues it might well be called superstitious behavior. Do they strive to be such staunch witnesses to the Truth for fear than they might be seen by God as disobedient?
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Is there something wrong in admitting to that fear?
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Gregg Frazer said...

I did not respond to Pinky's comment because I did not think it was directed at me -- and I've gotten in trouble with him before by misunderstanding his intent.

It doesn't apply to me because, as I had just specifically said, I do NOT claim to be speaking for God -- with or without permission. So, his comment must be directed at someone else. Consequently, I also do not feel it is my place to correct his definition of blasphemy.

Pinky's most recent comment is not worthy of response other than to wonder why two regular contributors here feel: a)the need, b)the freedom, and c)the lack of manners, to attack me personally.

I make comments about the subjects of this blog who've been dead for 200 years and I'm accused of being "judgmental" because someone happens to agree with things of which I'm critical. They PERSONALLY attack me BY NAME and ... what?

If you can't refute the argument, go ad hominem.

And certain people accusing me of being profane is beyond absurd to surreal.

Gregg Frazer said...

King,

In your Dec. 5th comment, you forgot to identify what you said as your opinion -- but I can tell.

As for what you said, [MY OPINION FOLLOWS] once again you are arguing on the basis of your hermeneutic -- which I reject as incorrect.

I don't understand how, given your hermeneutic, you can be "sure" that God loved the world or that He's compassionate or anything else -- it's just your interpretation of verses which SEEM TO YOU to be clear. How can you assert such a thing without commenting on every other verse in the Bible and ruminating on what might be missing?

You clearly do not understand my hermeneutic, which I've stated several times: the historical/grammatical method. That is, to interpret the original language (not translation) in the historical context (inc. audience, e.g. Romans living under Nero) as it is written unless there is some contextual reason to believe that it is hyperbole or allegory or poetry (etc.) so that bias is minimized if not eliminated.

In the example you cite, I don't isolate any part of the verse in Romans 13 -- I quoted the whole thing when we were discussing it. What I REFUSED to "quote" was what WAS NOT THERE (i.e. words/concepts added by Mayhew). I do not accept the idea that Mayhew has some "more information" than the writer inspired by God did.

I am also confident that God superintended the writing of His Word such that we don't have to worry or speculate about what might be left out -- He gives us the message He wants us to have and holds us responsible for it -- not for what He MIGHT have said.

I thought you would be happy with my last post concerning Romans 13, since I accepted Locke's interpretation that it was telling the people to be subject to Gentile rulers as well as Jewish rulers. I agree with that because all rulers are either Jews or Gentiles, so Locke agrees that they are being told to be subject to all rulers. Why bring it up again? I thought we had reached a consensus.

Anonymous said...

Who knows, maybe John (Reformedispy) MacArthur is right and the greatest Greek scholars (Google "Famous Rapture Watchers"), who uniformly said that Rev. 3:10 means PRESERVATION THROUGH, were wrong. But John has a conflict. On the one hand, since he knows that all Christian theology and organized churches before 1830 believed the church would be on earth during the tribulation, he would like to be seen as one who stands with the great Reformers. On the other hand, if John has a warehouse of unsold pretrib rapture material, and if he wants to have "security" for his retirement years and hopes that the big California quake won't louse up his plans, he has a decided conflict of interest. Maybe the Lord will have to help strip off the layers of his seared conscience which have grown for years in order to please his parents and his supporters - who knows? One thing is for sure: pretrib is truly a house of cards and is so fragile that if a person removes just one card from the TOP of the pile, the whole thing can collapse. Which is why pretrib teachers don't dare to even suggest they could be wrong on even one little subpoint! Don't you feel sorry for the straitjacket they are in? While you're mulling all this over, Google "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" for a rare behind-the-scenes look at the same 180-year-old fantasy.

Morgan