Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why The Trinity?

"I acknowledge myself a unitarian -- Believing that the Father alone, is the supreme God, and that Jesus Christ derived his Being, and all his powers and honors from the Father."

"There is not any reasoning which can convince me, contrary to my senses, that three is one, and one three."

-- Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, May 5, 1816.

Tom Van Dyke emails me suggesting I/we need to better explain why the Trinity and its absence (part of a conspicuous top down paradigm by the "key Founders," who themselves disproportionately disbelieved in the Trinity) from the political-theological landscape of the American Founding makes a difference at all. As the Abigail Adams' above quote illustrates there were (or probably were) a lot more prominent Christian minded unitarians who believed Jesus the Son of God (though not God the Son) and Savior of the World, than cold Deists who believed Jesus either a fraud at worst or (like Thomas Paine) a nice guy at best. Even Thomas Jefferson called Jesus "our Savior" (though 100% man, not God at all) and idolized another Socinian Unitarian, Joseph Priestley, who, unlike Jefferson believed in the Resurrection (as did John Adams).

In a sense Van Dyke's assertion that as long as you have Providence, Jesus as Savior (not necessarily as 2nd Person in the Trinity) and large parts of the Bible as God's Holy Writ (not necessarily the infallibility of the Biblical canon) that's "Christian" enough for a meaningful historical-political-theological understanding of America's Founding reflects a classical unitarian mindset. It was unitarians like Richard Price who argued exactly that and "orthodox" like Timothy Dwight who argued unless you had the Trinity, you didn't have "Christianity."

Okay: The difference between Jesus as God the Son, 2nd Person in the Trinity and Jesus as Son of God, Savior of Mankind.

Theologically this is the difference between orthodox Christianity on the one hand and Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnessism, and any other heterodox, non-Trinitarian creed that presents itself as "Christianity" on the other.

[I stress Mormons, JWs when discussing classical unitarianism because the term "Unitarian" to our modern ears connotes the modern Unitarian Universalist Church. God love them, but, they -- or at least many of them -- seem far less religious or theistic than the unitarians and Unitarians of the Founding era. I respect the arguments of UUs that they are the heirs to America's Founding era political theology; however it could be that more devoutly religious heretics like Mormons, JWs, and mainline Christian denominations who are "iffy" on the Trinity are the true heirs to the theology of a Jefferson, J. Adams, Washington, etc.]

Are the differences between these creeds meaningful? Perhaps not to an anti-religious atheist. To a Christopher Hitchens, they are all irrational religious nuts. However to most of my "orthodox" friends, the difference between their creed and that of the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses or any Trinity denier is profound. Non-Trinitarians are "not Christians" and engage in soul damning heresies (to Roman Catholics, rejecting the Trinity is a potential SDH; to reformed/evangelicals, rejecting the Trinity is an actual SDH).

Further, if you are not a Trinitarian, you are not "regenerate," don't have the Holy Spirit (third person in the Trinity) in you. Of course God uses non-regenerate, non-Spirit filled men (as the orthodox should view America's key Founders) to accomplish His will. But that adds to the mystery of why God would choose non-Spirit filled men like Washington, J. Adams and Jefferson to accomplish His will in Founding America and arguably use sinful means (violating Romans 13) to do so.

So we've seen the Trinity as a matter of profound importance in personal theology, but what about politics? To even ask that question illustrates the political-theological problem that has long plagued Western-Christendom.

Christians believe all authority -- including the political -- ultimately ascends upwards to God. Thus it's important to understand who this God is and what are His attributes? Does the buck stop at a triune God, a unitary God, Allah or Ganesh? Are they all one and the same?

Further, some argue all politics ultimately have religious underpinnings. Someone once said "politics is theology applied." Hence, the inevitable existence of "political-theology."

Some questions that we, as a polity, need to answer: Is it important that America, as a polity, makes supplications to God? And if so, are we making public-political supplications to the actual God that exists or some man made false god? Are all gods man made and false? Can one supplicate to the God of the Bible while ignoring His Triune nature? Does the Bible in fact teach God has a Triune nature? Do Jews and Christians worship the same God? If so, why not Muslims?

Again, note, America's Founders commonly made supplications to Providence but almost NEVER to the Triune God. As Justice Scalia accurately summarized it in the most recent Supreme Court Ten Commandments case:

All of the actions of Washington and the First Congress upon which I have relied, virtually all Thanksgiving Proclamations throughout our history, and all the other examples of our Government’s favoring religion that I have cited, have invoked God, but not Jesus Christ.


This is not necessarily the Christian God (though if it were, one would expect Christ regularly to be invoked, which He is not)....

Further, what does God require in worldly politics? One traditional Calvinist notion demands that political bodies make a covenant to God, that is the Triune God of the Bible. This is what many American colonies did, but what America's Founders (1776-1791) purposefully DID NOT do. Instead of a covenant to the Triune God of the Bible, America's Founders replaced it with an homage to the Creator/Nature's God/Providence/Supreme Judge of the World in the DOI and with Art. VI. Cl. 3 in the US Constitution. Hence America's Founding political theology is not Trinitarian, arguably not "Christian."

Another authentic expression of orthodox Trinitarian political theology is that Romans 13 gives guidelines for rulers, but ultimately demands submission to government no matter WHO is in power, even if pagan tyrants. This was Calvin's position. Arguably this was St. Paul's position when he told believers to submit to the pagan psychopath Nero. Thus revolt -- whether to Clinton, Obama, Reagan, GW or GHW Bush, Stalin or Hitler -- is forbidden. But godly rulers, once in power, are free to enact biblically influenced laws, for instance the burning of heretics at the stake.

Like the Roman Catholic Church before him, John Calvin had heretics, or at least one prominent heretic -- the unitarian Michael Servetus -- burned at the stake for publicly denying the Trinity. This was an expression of authentic Trinitarian Christian political theology. Calvin's logic was irresistible: Heretics engage in soul damning heresies. When they proselytize, they lead others to engage in SDHs. Consequently, their public execution is justified in order to dissuade others from soul damning error.

But, if the Trinity really doesn't matter -- as America's key Founders (and apparently Tom Van Dyke) saw it -- then why not grant religious liberty to everyone while paying homage to "religion" in general and "Christianity" (broadly defined, sans the orthodox Trinitarian doctrines) in particular?

THAT'S where the ignoring of the Trinity in America's Founding politics mattered. We could not get religious liberty until we removed the Trinity and cognate orthodox doctrines from politics. And on a personal note, I'm glad America's Founders did this.

Finally, I am not an orthodox Christian so I ask any of my orthodox and non-orthodox readers and commenters to likewise chime in and explain why orthodoxy/the Trinity makes a difference in theology and in politics.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Unfortunately, Jon, the theology you present as normative "Christianity" is mostly an ultraorthodox Calvinism, and unnecessary sectarian intrusion on the study of history.

That sovereignty rests with the people goes back to pre-Reformation days, and is not an Enlightenment innovation.

And this theological emphasis on the Holy Spirit completely overlooks the real dynamic and theology of the Founding, that of natural law.

Do not credit to Locke that which was already there in Christian thought, or in practical wisdom.

The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 ended the ruinous religious wars of Europe, and religious tolerance as a practical matter predates Locke's A Letter Concerning Toleration, published in 1689. [Still, he writes, 'Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist'.]

King of Ireland said...


Calvin in no way says submission is absolute. Go back and read what he said about Othniel. Romans 13 having limits is not a "unitarian" idea. Saying brings unnecessary tensions between these who have no tensions as far as political theology goes. In fact it can go against the peaceful assimilation that most secularists say they want. The political theology of the founding was inclusive not exclusive. Maybe Fraser and Mac Arthur have a problem with this because it put some emphasis on making the world around us better at the expense of focusing on "heavenly" matters. I think one can become so heavenly minded he is no earthly good. I also feel that they take their modern view of what they perceive is wrong in Christianity and takes that assumption into the study of the History. That why it starts with the wrong question.

What does the Try it have to do with political theology?

King of Ireland said...

The last question should say trinity not try. Still trying to type on my phone.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

What does the Trinity have to do with political theology?
Well, the Trinity was understood differently in the Eastern and WEstern churches, as to the holy spirit,,,and since the trinity was a doctrine that was developed by the church, it was a means to a political end...that is the purpose of the trinity...the Westerm church used it to deify Jesus of Nazereth...whereas the Eastern church used it as a moral modelling or perfection of man...made in god's image...which also absolutizes a particular moral model...

Jonathan Rowe said...


It looks like you are itching for a round three on Calvin, interposition and Romans 13. We've already done two meticulous rounds of debate with Jim Babka, Gregg Frazer and others.

This might be a good idea. There is another blogger I may invite to join us (he'll be on your side) for round three.

King of Ireland said...

Jim makes a lot of sense. To make my case I do not really need Calvin. All the people adams quotes in "Defense" had essentially the same arguments. Adams clearly states that the ideas of the earlier writers were seen in Locke. It really does not matter how we see like to support my argument. It matters how Adams and company saw Locke. But I will post some of the writings from different eras to compare. If one reads "The Doctrine of 98" ideas it shows that jefferson believed in interposition too. But since I would like to go for the slam dunk we can stay on Calvin for a while. No one has refuted what I stated about Calvin using the same story of Othniel

King of Ireland said...

I still want to know how Locke is a rebel and Calvin is in submission? Fraser's thesis cannot stand and the trinity is irrelevant to political theology. Interposition is just the tip of the ice berg as far the origin of ideas in the Declaration. The Harvard Narrative is starting to crack. With that all said Jon I do think it is important philosophically and theologically to talk about the two different views of God. I just am not sure that this blog is the place for that to happen. I think it has a great deal to do with the split of the Libertarian movement though. Cato keeps touching on this topic but from a distance. I find it fascinating that the whole Federalism thing and Interposition tie together. Nation-States are dying and true Liberal democracies with them. The key to curbing that tide is found in Madison's arguments in the Federalist Papers.

By the way Romans was written many years before Hero started persecuting Christians. Fraser never gave much of coherent response to my challenge to him on what would have been his best argument on Romans 13.

King of Ireland said...

Should say Nero not hero this spell check changes things

Tom Van Dyke said...

Besides the Harvard Narrative, there is also the Protestant Narrative, particularly Calvinist, which cuts out Aquinas, Suarez, Bellarmine, and natural law, all of which can be found in Anglicanism/Episcopalianism.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It was stated in you interposition entry:
"As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and a due acknowledgment of the governing providence of a Supreme Being and of the accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of hearts and righteous distributer of rewards and punishments are conducive equally to the happiness and rectitude of individuals and to the well-being of communities"

I say:
If this is held to be true, then, no one is a judge or arbitrator of another human being. Only God can judge the motives and intents of hearts. The law judges the actions of people.

The 2nd statement:
"as it is also most reasonable in itself that men who are made capable of social acts and relations, who owe their improvements to the social state, and who derive their enjoyments from it, should, as a society, make their acknowledgments of dependence and obligation to Him who hath endowed them with these capacities and elevated them in the scale of existence by these distinctions" …

I say:
If this is true, then individuals are accountable to God as to their stewardship or their chioce of action.

The 4th and 5th statement:
"as, moreover, the most precious interests of the people of the United States are still held in jeopardy by the hostile designs and insidious acts of a foreign nation, …
as well as by the dissemination among them of those principles, subversive of the foundations of all religious, moral, and social obligations, that have produced incalculable mischief and misery in other countries"

I say:
Since this was not only true in the Founding era, and has continued to be so, America has to be defensive in their stance toward protecting freedom/liberty.

As the other "principles" are not applicable to all in our Nation today, as all do not adhere to a personal Creator. Therefore, we cannot demand their allegience in regards to religious convictions, or conscience....

King of Ireland said...


I posted that proclamation for one phrase. That phrase clearly showed that Romans 13 was part of the National dialogue 29 years later. The rest is not germane to this discussion but was added to bring the highlighted statement into full context.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Angie highlights the problem, but seems to think that's the solution.

bpabbott said...

I've avoided the interposition topic, but as there is little else being discussed, I decided to look it up.

My expectation was to encounter a lot of theology ... no surprise to anyone else, I did not.

Jon Roland makes the concept of interposition very clear in his essay on The Doctrine of '98.

"[...] the doctrine of interposition — that the states had the power to declare unconstitutional a federal act which violated the Constitution, and forbid, as an official act of the state, the enforcement of the offending act within the territory of that state. It was argued by some that the Constitution was a compact of states, rather than a legislative act of the people, and as such each member state retained the power to withdraw from the compact if it were violated, either partially, by nullification of an offending act, or entirely, by secession."

Do I understand correctly that one side of the discussion asserts that the founder's (collectively) were not orthodox (Calvinist) Christians because they supported defiance of tyranny?

King, you're skeptical of the positon above, correct? Do you have an assertion of your own, or are you just skeptical of the assertion?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Sorry, I missed your point. I was trying to answer the question of blog title and connect it to your other post,KOI, I suppose...

Religion has no place in the public square as a "collective" ability to determing another citizen's life, as it concerns personal moral value. Calvin is far from reasonable in this sense.

Although I do not believe that naturalism is any less fearful as to resources, this is where the radical left is. And this is why we have the culture wars today. People do not seem to understand that their reality is also a "creation".

Even Ph.D.'s have their specialities in which they frame their understanding. And this is why there seems no consensus about the 'social and political worlds...unless the politically correct are given a stage in which to tout their opinions and frame them as "truth", such as global warming. Truth, then is the politicalization of reality.

Fortunately, we do have recourse in our courts, if one tries to implement their "form" of understanding upon another. The problem is really then how much recourse in our courts are allowed when it comes to two different types of religious understanding or conscience?

Would the courts be tied to "non-interference' when it comes to such religious challenges? What if it concerns one's job situation? Civil rights has traditionally been able to win against religious discrimination, haven't they? and if civil rights do trump religious conviction, then where is "freedom of religion", then?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Church doctrine is formed to maintain the Greeks understood "god" as leaders, such as Caesar. And Jesus was submissive to His Father's will (leader's will)...therefore I cease to be a Christian.

Christians can still frame their view as "leadership training", but why use God? The military does a good job and is for a greater practical cause in seeking justice.

bpabbott said...

Angie, nice comments this morning.

Your thoughts on leadership remind me of a comment a Russian friend made soon after visiting the US for the 1st time.

When asked if taken advantage of the religious priviledges since leaving Russia, he responded (I'll paraphrase); Religion isn't new to Russians, we lived with it everyday. We called it Communism.

My friend appears to have been expressing a similar sentiment :-)

--- warning: begin OT comment ---

Regarding global warming, it is a factual phenomenon. What is still being worked out is understanding the physical mechanics behind the increases in temperature (i.e. how can we model the changes in climate).

However, that science does not yet have a good model for climate changes does not imply there is controversy regarding changes to the Earth's climate (global warming).

This is similar to weather models. Science is still not very good at modeling hurricanes, but there is no controversy regarding the existence and effect of hurricanes

In my opinion, public debate and skepticism is good. But, in this example, misdirected. We seem to be split between the deniers and the conservationists. For me its like choosing between being chauffeured by a blind driver or walking.

I'd like to see the focus would shift from the specific causes and toward general solutions.

--- warning: end OT comment ---

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Although I do believe that we must look at practical problems and try to find a solution, I do not think that we know everything we should to determine whether the material realm is limited and in what way.

Science is always finding new ways of understanding and "fixing" the problem...and we just cannot know how other aspects of reality shape things. That is what is fascinating about some of the "new physics"...Some (Einstein) reject it outright because the theories seem so far from our understanding and bring an absurdity to "meaning"...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Oops, and I understand what you mean by Communism...I didn't mean to suggest that the military has the "answer" to political problems...I meant that they are a good resource for leadership undestanding and training.

Our courts and the rule of law is what forms our understanding of good government and practical living.

So, in this sense, the Founders established a secular state, within a religious "frame". We, in the West have experienced the re-birth of understanding, as it were. But, do politicians need the religious frame to speak to Americans today? Yes, in some segments, I think they do.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

But, I am still interested in understanding how natural law "frames" the issues concerning our foundations of inalienable rights...

King of Ireland said...


You are getting ahead of me but the idea of a covenant or compact is an idea right out of the Bible. You see it in Adams balanced view of Romans 13. People used the idea of a social contract long before Locke did and took their arguments right from the Bible. Since people take Locke's philosophy all the time and ignore the philosophy your above modern definition does not surprise me for its lack of theology. We skipped over Tom's post by Novak and need to return to it.

King of Ireland said...


One side would say that a lot of the theological stances in the realm of politics were tainted by enlightenment thinking that said it was ok to resist tyranny. My argument is that the founders did not throw out the Bible and a Christian understanding of natural law

Tom Van Dyke said...

The thing about the Novak article is that it's a summary of Tocqueville, who as an outsider observing the immediate post-Founding era, arguably understood America than it did itself.

As for this discussion, again it's getting far afield and into opinion.

However, if you want to compare communism and religion, fine. But dig below the surface pejoratives and look at the content---

Communism is, of course, a purely materialistic philosophy. There is no higher right-and-wrong, no higher "good" than the material. However, it's also utilitarian, and the practical result is that it may be unjust, as long as the greatest good is done for the greatest number.

Religion, by contrast, the Judeo-Christian principle specifically, is imago Dei, and therefore the dignity of the human person, each individual.

Two very different visions of man and philosophy of government.

As for churches and their doctrine, the Founding quite clearly put doctrine into the private sphere, and if you read the Voltaire, as a practical matter is was necessary to maintain peace.

However, the principles like imago Dei and human dignity are quite in America's fabric. Or at least used to be.

Now, to get back to Tocqueville, the "little platoons" [Burke's term] that compose the larger society are its building blocks, families and communities. This is what "federalism" was about is the term "subsidiarity" is also used---that the more local the "control" is, the more responsive it is to the individual.

Contrast this to communism and other comprehensive schemes [all of which come under the rubrics of "universal health care" or worldwide anti-climate change regimes]---"man" becomes a concept, "all humanity." The only "just" regime is that that does the greatest good for the greatest number.

The individual vanishes; that is not "justice" atall.

King of Ireland said...


Not only that but local distinctions that allow cultures to survive like the Nation-State begin to disappear as well. This is where the concepts found in books like "the Clash of Civilizations" and "Jihad vs. McWorld" become fascinating as the modern workd hits the tribal world. I am for Unity in Diversity and Madison's and Voltaire's arguments are key. I am going to read Federalism 10 and 51 again with the new found clarity that our discussions have given me. I think Phil is on to something but is not presenting it as clear as it needs to be in his public and private posts. There is a huge difference in being equal and the same. Marx's collectivist approach promotes the latter. It was Aristocratic Statism disguised as "Progressivism". The same thing goes on today. HayeK was right.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Which is it, now? You tried to persuade that the individual was not important before...NOW< you are saying that the individual is all that matters, therefore, political ideologies don't matter? that is ludacrous...

What I do in my body is a political understanding. And politics is what drives the world of ideas. There is no God, other than human being who try to understand and form society. This is what we do in maintaining social order. But, maintaining social order cannot be corercive or opressive of individuals who might differ as to their thinking on what forms the "best society". These are the things that make for the public discussion and must not be informed by "one side" alone.

Everything that one does in free societies is a voluntary service in meeting the needs of one's family and serving in that chosen profession in service to society. These are not imposed from the outside, but a matter of passion, choice and societal need.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I meant to say that ideas drive the political...

Tom Van Dyke said...

You're describing Hobbes' "state of nature," if not anarchy, Angie. But if men were angels [or even reasonable devils], we wouldn't need laws in the first place.

Hamilton's "The Farmer Refuted" covered this ground over two centuries ago.

You are the Farmer. What you do in your body isn't political understanding atall.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, King, I agree that Phil is onto something via Barry Shain. I think that's perhaps why we haven't heard from Phil lately---he's working on it.

I'm thinking that the modern [non-Founding] argument is of two extremes, oppressive communitarianism and radical individualism, excluding the true middle, that of man as a social being in the context of family and community, proportions that are comprehensible. Ancient philosophers proposed that the ideal size for a polis was [as I recall] 15,000.

Anything bigger and man becomes an abstraction, and the individual disappears into a sea of faceless "humanity."

"I love mankind. It's people I can't stand."---Linus Van Pelt

bpabbott said...


I agree with your comparison of religion and communism.

My Russian friend was equating the authorities of religion and communism, not the pursuits themselves.

I apologize for not making the context more clear.

bpabbott said...


Re: "My argument is that the founders did not throw out the Bible and a Christian understanding of natural law."

I agree completely ... hmmm, has anyone expressed an opinion otherwise?

I thought the bone being picked over what what it means to be Christian, and that there is one camp that favors an orthodox definition, and one that favors the opinion of the individual.

I must admit that it has occurred to me that it is more complex that that, because I don't see where you fit in that dichotomy.

King of Ireland said...

Ben stated:

"I thought the bone being picked over what what it means to be Christian,"

That is Frazer, Barton, and Jon's world that I left a long time ago. Yes, Jon and Frazer seem to think that the Founding political philosophy was based on Enlightenment natural law and had very little to do with the Bible. That is the whole rub in this discussion.

Most do not know enough about the theological complexness to even know what we are talking about. That is why time hates it when this comes up. But it is important to know where these ideas came from.

If we do not know the origins of Interposition and what was going on when these ideas first came about how can we make sure that history does not repeat itself?

bpabbott said...


I'll be more direct :-)

What exactly is your position? I have a good understanding of Jon and Gregg's thoughts, and am appreciating Tom's more all the time.

But what is it you are asserting?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Cheers, Ben. If I may speak for both of us, let me say that you and I have been "fire and ice" around here, self-identified Thomist and atheist, yet we've taught each other to drop the culture war and speak person to person, idea to idea, cooperating toward the truth instead of digging in.

That's all I've ever wanted from this blog or writing on the internet.

If I can state Joe's own quest for the truth succinctly, it's that hassling over doctrine and dogma wasn't of interest to the Founders, and it's not his, and it's not this blog's.

2009 is relativistic if not nihilistic. 1776 and 1987 were neither, and they built a damn good republic based on some objective principles, and the best we can do is try to point ourselves in the right direction, north as opposed to south.

What's north and what's south, we need to keep discussing. First we must agree there is a north and south and not a whatever direction.

That's Square One, I believe. Agreeing there is a Square One atall. Mebbe I get greedy sometimes. Beats Square Zero...

King of Ireland said...


I think Tom the poet hit it pretty good. My position is evolving but it is safe to say I think Christian ideas had a lot more to do with the founding than most people think.

Though I am not one that would say that the Bible and Christianity have an exclusive domain on all the good ideas either. I think one of the best things that ever happened to Christianity was Aquinas letting the Greek mind have a place through his incorporation of Aristotle.

More specifically, I am saying that a lot of the ideas in the Declaration of Independence are Christian ideas. I think these ideas are rooted in the main two principles of Toqueville that Tom cited in Novak's article. I hope to return to it some day.

If that does not clear it up please feel free to ask more questions.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"state of nature" can assert this position if they are evolutionists or orthodox Christians. Both, then, think that there must be "regulations" or laws that prevent men from doing what they "want" (survival of the fittest/"sin"). One would view co-operation as a necessary "balance" to survival of the fittest, while the other would view the law as a need to balance self-assertion at the expense of another, which would disrespect boundaries.

I don't disagree that society need laws to functions effectively, but what laws must do is not circumvent another's liberty, as it pertains to their own choices of personal value. This is a matter of justice, and impartiality when it comes to differences of values.

Christians disagree as to what constitutes "sin", and evolutionists would disagree as to which material/natural "need" is most important to protect or prevent.

"State of nature" to a Christian who wants a particular type of person or conviction from another, is limiting another's difference of value. Virtue is understood within a certain frame of values. And this is why virtue cannot be the end or goal...

Christians traditionally have been passive in their acceptance of "whatever" because they believed that God ordained and intervened in history...and evangelicals go as far as to personalize God's intervention. This is really a naive way to think about the world, I think.

I think it limits choice when one frames the world in limited ways of family and local politics. Christians I have known have loved to present themselves as authorities in these areas, because of their need to be in "control" and "righteous" in regards to their public image. I find that there is more hidden pain, and shame that anyone admits, because of the "culture of image". This is a sorry state of affairs, when it comes to being human in the world and needing a friend, not a judge, or evaluator of your performance..

One must identify with the local area to want to become involved deeply in the community and make it "better". One chooses where one wants to live, because of certain values that the community holds.

I am trying to follow you guys, as you give me enough "to eat". Thanks for the continued discussion. I am sitting on the side-lines, listening and pondering your thoughts. And thanks for the example of accepting differences of opinion. I think this is so important to/within our culture.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I think one of the best things that ever happened to Christianity was Aquinas letting the Greek mind have a place through his incorporation of Aristotle.

Well, this is an idea that I've run across quite recently, not so much from "historians," but those interested in the "history of ideas."

Aquinas [1250 AD or so] didn't make Aristotle "safe" for Christianity ["Christianizing" him] as much as making reason [logos?] once again safe for Christianity to embrace.

God-given reason. "Right" reason. Why the Middle Ages took us out of the Dark Ages.

"Reason" was not a creation of the Enlightenment. It had been around for a long long time. This is the error of the "Harvard Narrative," and even worse, of today's evangelical/fundamentalist "Protestant Narrative"---that faith and reason are irreconcilable enemies.

The Founding didn't think so.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...

If they were enemies, the Founding could never have taken place.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Because I DO NOT want to be indoctrinated, I am protective of "accepting" what anyone says at face value, like I used to do.

It would be helpful for me if you all would compare and contrast your particular view, as you have in the past, with another view.

As all truth is God's truth, I don't see special revelation standing. And the Harvard narrative is one way to view reality. There is no particular "God view". There are only political and philosophical views.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Just read The Farmer Refuted, Angie, and take Hamilton's advice on what you need to do for homework. Surely you know I linked it caring for you, little dove.

Christians I have known have loved to present themselves as authorities in these areas, because of their need to be in "control" and "righteous" in regards to their public image.

I have no doubt this is true. The only problem with Christianity is "Christians." The Founders agreed. Get past it. They did.

bpabbott said...


It appears to me that what you refer to as Christian refers to all that all admirable principles, embraced by at some point by the Christian world, which are consistent with the faith … or is it broader than that? Are all admirable principles, embraced by at some point by the Christian world, which are not incompatible with the faith, to be included?

bpabbott said...


Perhaps there would have been less fire and ice had I bothered to familiarize myself with the perspectives of a Thomist?

Better late than never ;-)

It appears to be expected that discussions between a Thomist and Atheist would be frustrating to say the least.

From Wikipedia's article on Thomism; Church cannot be understood scientifically without the basic philosophical underpinnings of Aquinas' major thesis:

"The capital theses in the philosophy of St. Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the whole science of natural and divine things is based; if such principles are once removed or in any way impaired, it must necessarily follow that students of the sacred sciences will ultimately fail to perceive so much as the meaning of the words in which the dogmas of divine revelation are proposed by the magistracy of the Church."

Which I take to mean that if an individual does not accept particular assertions of the Church that the Church's teachings cannot be properly understood.

In any event, those of us who have stuck it out have developed a manner of discussion that avoids the promotion of personal theological postions or world-views. It is a valuable habit ... one that was practiced by the founders, I think! :-)

King of Ireland said...


I think it is the admirable and the un-admirable as well. Divine Right of Kings was a Christian idea too. Yes, I do think the Christian faith should incorporate all ideas that are compatible with the faith. I think many people would say that I just think my list is a lot longer because I look at Romans 1 and 2 and believe that there is a natural law the is discoverable apart from the Bible.

bpabbott said...


I agree Christianity should incorporate all good things within the Christian world ... Actually, I think Christianity should incorporate those from outsize as well :-)

However, some care should be taken not to imply that the incorporations were originally Christian.

A liberal qualification of what is Christian;

(1) Sounds disingenuous for the sake of patronizing Christianity.
(2) Dilutes the value of what it means to be Christian.
(3) May infer to the reader, a promotion of Christian theology, via this blog.

For those reasons, I favor at least two qualifications. First, what is originally Christian (orthodox?). And, second, what has been incorporated into Christendom.

My concerns are in the context of what we qualify as Christian.

What I think more interesting, and more pertinent, is an examination of what the founders qualified as Christian. Further, I'd like to understand the basis/motive for their qualification, as well as how those things influenced the founders and the founding.

King of Ireland said...

Ben stated:

"However, some care should be taken not to imply that the incorporations were originally Christian.

A liberal qualification of what is Christian;

(1) Sounds disingenuous for the sake of patronizing Christianity.
(2) Dilutes the value of what it means to be Christian.
(3) May infer to the reader, a promotion of Christian theology, via this blog.

For those reasons, I favor at least two qualifications. First, what is originally Christian (orthodox?). And, second, what has been incorporated into Christendom."

That is the Socratic Dialogue centered around the two general questions I have been asking should help us discuss. We will all agree? Probably not, but it will frame the discussion properly thus allowing for more people to chime in and sharpen the debate.

I am not sure if anyone that spouts off on these issues has looked enough at the primary documents to really say anything. That includes the PHD's. I read what they say and then go and check the documents for myself and see that most of them are biased. I think it comes from the pressure to publish something. It does not matter if it is crap just get it out there and the more controversial the better.

I talked all night with a guy that had been a visiting professor at Oxford one night over wine and he told me what he had to go through to get his PHD was far more rigorous than these guys now. He said that they had to publish their thesis in all the cities newspapers or something like that and anyone could come and ask a question.

Well the brightest of them all got tripped up with a question from some lay person and no one could believe it. The best of them all had to go back and do three more years to change his thesis. The professor who told me this added that it was the best thing to happen to the person and for all of them because the were more diligent not to get sloppy.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

WHY are we going back to theological reflection? As there is no "special revelation", then there should not be an attempt to speculate. The Founders may have used natural law, but that was then, we have much more complex issues confronting the nation and these regard national security, which conflict with human rights in regards to other nationalities. We cannot ignore the dangers to our society when those that deem their view of "God" is absolute. The discussion should remain on prgamatic soil, otherwise, we will continue to disagree and not come to any consensus.

The background of Christianity was formed within a tribalistic mentality such as Islam. I don't want to go there, and yes, I am prejuidiced. Religion prejuidices one, as well....

Moral philosophy is what the Founders talked about not theology. They "used" God for their own ends of forming society under a moral order. I want to understand that frame of the philosophical/ethical.

The Church used philosophy to formulate their theology, which used "logos" (incarnation) and "nomos" to form their 'understanding of Christ's life and his mission. There will always be various understandings of how that is understood.

But, I am no Christ, nor should anyone else presume upon anotehr to be on a "divine mission". The ones who believe this are deluded, as there is no "divine mission".

Angie Van De Merwe said...

And wouldn't one think that ethics had been "undone", as it concerns life and liberty if Christ's life was implemented as "THE" universal life into an individual's reality?

Understanding one's life within the "Hebrew" context would be forcing the virtuous life of Christ, which I imagine would be "good" for Christian purposes...using the model to form the life of doing something in the world without consent or volition.

But, it would be a tragic loss of liberty and life of the individual. This is oppressive, it seems to me. And "behaving" as Christ brought much disentigration to my personality and sense of self. This view of spirituality need to die for the sake of human it is NOT the Imageo Dei