Sunday, January 10, 2010

John M. Murrin ON on the Founders, Original Sin, Reason & Revelation

NOTE: A correction and retraction is in order. I wrote a post entitled "Mark Noll on the Founders, Original Sin, Reason & Revelation," found here, here and here.

A commenter noted "[a] closer inspection of the book reveals that John M. Murrin is actually the writer, not Noll. Noll edited this book."

It was an interesting post. A taste (QUOTING MYSELF):

Pages 31-32 in his 1990 book "Religion and American Politics" contain some interesting analysis. First he notes the Constitution was the 18th century equivalent of a "secular humanist text." Next he notes the delegates were not an orthodox group of men in any doctrinal sense. Noll states perhaps only ONE, Richard Bassett of Delaware, was a "born again Christian." Though Sherman "may" have been. Further, Noll notes Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison, Wilson, and G. Morris gave no sign of belief in "original sin" at this phase in their life.

Noll then describes, using Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart as examples, how the Founders were actually closer to secular humanists than modern evangelicals (on a personal note, I'd say they were somewhere in between; they were "theistic humanists").

7 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

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

[And a little Peter Abelard for Mr. Hart.]

Noll then describes, using Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart as examples, how the Founders were actually closer to secular humanists than modern evangelicals...

Well, in addition to the "Harvard Narrative" that credits the Enlightenment for all good things, there's a "Calvinist Narrative" too, where all good things mysteriously match up with the teachings of John Calvin.

Joe Winpisinger said...

What is humanism? I think it was a Christian idea long before an enlightenment one.

bpabbott said...

King, I think you're stretching at bit, no?

Humanism places supernatural authority in to back of the bus.

I think it true that the roots of humanism originated from Christian thought, prior to what we call the enlightenment, but that is very different than claiming humanism is a Christian idea ... which sounds rather self refuting to me.

jimmiraybob said...

What is humanism? I think it was a Christian idea long before an enlightenment one.

If you look at the etimology of the word humanism there's

this - along with humanist used in a variety of philosophical and theological senses 16c.-18c., especially ones imitating L. humanitas "education befitting a cultivated man." Main modern sense traces to c.1860; as a pragmatic system of thought, defined 1907 by co-founder F.C.S. Schiller as: "The perception that the philosophical problem concerns human beings striving to comprehend a world of human experience by the resources of human minds." Humanist is from Fr. humaniste, from It. umanista, coined by It. poet Lodovicio Ariosto (1474-1533) "student of human affairs or human nature."

and this:

The term "humanism" is ambiguous. Around 1806 humanismus was used to describe the classical curriculum offered by German schools, and by 1836 "humanism" was borrowed into English in this sense. In 1856, the great German historian and philologist Georg Voigt used humanism to describe Renaissance Humanism, the movement that flourished in the Italian Renaissance to revive classical learning, a use which won wide acceptance among historians in many nations, especially Italy.[11] This historical and literary use of the word "humanist" derives from the 15th century Italian term umanista, meaning a teacher or scholar of Classical Greek and Latin literature and the ethical philosophy behind it.

In the mid-eighteenth century, however, a different use of the term "humanism" began to emerge. In 1765, the author of an anonymous article in a French Enlightenment periodical spoke of "The general love of humanity . . . a virtue hitherto quite nameless among us, and which we will venture to call ‘humanism’, for the time has come to create a word for such a beautiful and necessary thing.”[12] The latter part of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries saw the creation of numerous grass-roots "philanthropic" and benevolent societies dedicated to human betterment and the spreading of knowledge (some Christian, some not). After the French Revolution the idea that human virtue could be created by human reason alone independently from traditional religious institutions, attributed by opponents of the Revolution to Enlightenment philosophes such as Rousseau, was violently attacked by influential religious and political conservatives, such as Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre, as a deification or idolatry of man.[13] Humanism began to acquire a negative sense. The Oxford English Dictionary records the use of the word "humanism" by an English clergyman in 1812 to indicate those who believe in the "mere humanity" (as opposed to the divine nature) of Christ, i.e., Unitarians and Deists.[14] In this polarized atmosphere, in which established ecclesiastical bodies tended to circle the wagons and reflexively oppose political and social reforms like extending the franchise, universal schooling, and the like, liberal reformers and radicals embraced the idea of Humanism as an alternative religion of humanity.


And then there are the ancient Greek philosophers. And then there are other non-western traditions. Starting history at 1200 CE and confining it to a very narrow Christianity v. Enlightenment contest misses a lot and leads to statements like, "atheists (or insert non- or incorrect-Christian) have no claim on the American founding heritage" - which is a paraphrase of a comment numerous posts ago. Selective history and memory in order to get to the "truth" one desires doesn't get to historical accuracy. Pick a goal.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Did anyone read the link to "Christian humanism?"

Starting history at 1200 CE and confining it to a very narrow Christianity v. Enlightenment contest misses a lot and leads to statements like, "atheists (or insert non- or incorrect-Christian) have no claim on the American founding heritage" - which is a paraphrase of a comment numerous posts ago.

Yeah, a paraphrase from another planet. What I said was the modern anti-theistic movement's goal of driving monotheism out in favor of "neutrality" has no claim on the Founding principles, and the voluminous archives of this blog stand as ample proof of that.

jimmiraybob said...

TVD - you did not make the comment that I paraphrase. I hereby reclaim my place on this planet.

Tom Van Dyke said...

That's a relief. Welcome back.