Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cross Culture on Peter Lillback's "History"

Here. A taste:

The misuse and misappropriation of the Bible in this country is a rampant problem that orthodox Christians must fight against on a daily basis. So, it is disheartening to see those very people, whose ordained office and status requires them to jealously guard the Word of God, not only allowing it to be misappropriated but committing, or at the very least endorsing, the misuse of the Scriptures.

This month the Providence Forum, a group dedicated to promoting “a Judeo-Christian worldview” and “emphasizing America’s historical Judeo-Christian roots,” published a Philadelphia Faith and Freedom tourist guide and a flashy (if slow) website in order to commemorate Philadelphia’s celebration of National Bible Week. The well-designed guide highlights many of the main tourist attractions, as well as a few off the regular itinerary (including Westminster Theological Seminary, which is headed by Providence Forum President Dr. Peter Lillback!). The guide seeks to show the influence of the Bible in Philadelphia and American history. Each site on the tour has a Bible verse connected with it. Many of the verses used are moral aphorisms, such as the quote attached to the City Tavern from Proverbs 27:17. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (NIV). Many of these connections, however, strain credulity, such as tagging Deuteronomy 28:12 to the Second National Bank, “Thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow” (KJV).

Making out the Bible to be a book of moral sayings is bad enough since that rips the Bible out of its redemptive-historical context and ignores Christ. However, the guide does not stop there, but makes comparisons between the leaders of ancient Israel and George Washington crossing the Delaware:

Washington’s bold and dangerous move reflected his bold and constant trust in God’s providence His [George Washington's] actions reflect the virtues of Joshua 1:8 and Proverbs 3:5-6. Joshua 1:9 declares, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV) Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV).


Did God command George Washington to cross the Delaware? Tying American patriots to Ancient Israel is dangerous business, especially since, according to the Reformed view, Israel is now Christ’s Church and Christ fulfilled the promises made to Israel.

One of the most inappropriate citations comes in the entry on the National Constitution Center:

The U.S. Constitution limits power by dividing government into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. This seems to be anticipated by Isaiah 33:22, which says “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us” (NIV). This passage suggests the three branches of our federal government.”


The American Constitution is “anticipated” by Isaiah! It is not only a historical error and incredibly presumptuous to make such a claim, but it is offensive to any sort of sensible exegesis. The constitution, no matter what the Mormons and some Evangelicals say, is not an infallibly divine document. It is the product of men and a certain historical context.

Throughout the guide, the connection is made between the Christian liberty promised in the Scriptures and the liberties fought for in the American Revolution. In the entry on Fort Mifflin it says that the fort “stands as a silent testimony of the resolve of the American people in the Revolutionary War to stand fast in the liberty that had been bequeathed to them by Penn’s Charter. As Galatians 5:1 says, ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’” (NIV).

It is true that many in the Revolution made this connection between Christian Liberty and Political Liberty. It became common parlance in political sermons at the time. The guide cites one such sermon in the entry of Christ Church which was where the Rev. Jacob Duche preached on Galatians 5:1 which says “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (KJV). “In his message, Duche connected the spiritual liberty Christians have in Jesus Christ with the liberty they should have through a just government.”

The liberty Paul is talking about in this passage is freedom from the condemnation of the Law and sin. It is freedom from divine judgment because of the vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ. Paul is certainly not making any statement about political liberty. After all, it may be true that George Washington was a devout Christian. It may also be true that Benjamin Franklin. who is held up as a model throughout the guide, was a Christian as well (although his deist credentials are pretty strong). But it is also true that King George and many of the British soldiers and Tories claimed to be a Christians and were a members of the same denomination as George Washington. Just because political sermons during Revolution made this assertion does not make it any less of a grievous error....

54 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Just because political sermons during Revolution made this assertion does not make it any less of a grievous error....

What’s the problem here? The idea of God-given liberty had been under development in Christian thought for over 500 years, from the Scholastics following Aquinas to the Reformed tradition following Beza and Peter Martyr Vermigli. It just didn’t drop down one day in America in the 1700s.

What's strange is that there seem to be many on the anti-Beck side who charge historical ignorance but seem unaware of their own theological and historical history.

Cross Culture said...

I do not deny that the idea of God given political liberties has a long tradition in Christianity. My point is that it is shoddy and dangerous exegesis. The idea of the Divine Right of Kings has just as long, if not longer, history. Both views are a fundamental distortion of Christianity, an immanentizing of the eschaton, if you will. While it is certainly appropriate for a historian to point out the history of such views, it is inexcusable for the President of a Reformed seminary to perpetuate them.

Tom Van Dyke said...

That would be your theological view. But this is a history blog, and why Jonathan Rowe would appropriate you here is a mystery. You seem to have no problem with Beck or Lillback on history grounds.

For the record, the explicit formulation of the Divine Right of Kings was a creature of c. 1600s England. The idea was challenged as early as 1150 CE by John of Salisbury in his popular Policraticus

http://www.davekopel.com/Misc/Mags/Policraticus.htm

As a matter of fact, Henry II had to do a public penance for the murder of Salisbury's friend Thomas a Becket. Clearly, the king had no divine right to do whatever he wanted.

This blog has done extensive work on Romans 13 and Divine Right, from Salisbury to the Schoolmen to the Reformed successors of Calvin to Bellarmine vs. Filmer vs. Locke and Sidney. It's actually a long but interesting story and perhaps you'd enjoy it.

It's not that your POV is theologically invalid, only that opposing views are---historically speaking---no less valid.

Welcome.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Cross Culture:

Well said. Lillback doesn't believe in taking off his "theologian" hat and putting on his "historian" hat.

I have no problem with conservative reformed theologians viewing themselves as that first, everything else later, as many of them note as their proper role.

However, if that's the case, they have no business perpetuating these "Christian America" historical theories. If it's inappropriate for ANYONE to be doing this, it's inappropriate for THEM according to their own self professed standards.

Cross Culture said...

Tom:

It is correct that I am making a theological point more than a historical one in my post. But there is also a historical point to be made. Lillback is not doing history qua history. He is using history in service of cultural/political point of view. When you do that, you are no longer a pure historian. Lillback does not look at the messiness Christianizing political liberties creates. It is almost always a wholly positive assessment. He does not look at the religious claims of the British. So while it is bad theology, it is also bad historiography.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom, this is more than just a "history" blog; it's an interdisciplinary blog.

Admittedly, neither you nor I are evangelicals, but I know what THEY think and their self professed standards. They believe in doing interdisciplinary studies, but when the different areas converge, their evangelicalism must always be the lens through which they view things. And that requires calling a spade a spade when examining the American Founding.

Lillback is not just doing "history." He's speaking historically, politically and theologically all at once. He's the one who stepped in this. And that's why I'm bringing this up and bringing Cross Culture in for the "theology."

King of Ireland said...

"Both views are a fundamental distortion of Christianity,"

How is God given rights based on man being made in the image of God a distortion? It goes back to the story of Noah?

King of Ireland said...

"He's the one who stepped in this. And that's why I'm bringing this up and bringing Cross Culture in for the "theology."

Just like you do with Frazer but when you do it you and they bring sotierology into a place it does not need to go.

If they cannot take their "minister hat" off to do the history it is not history.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Dr. Gregg Frazer's method is the same miscegenation of theology and history, as is Mr. Cross Current's, yet you appropriate them approvingly, Jon. What's going on here? You're just adding to the muddle by conflating theology and history, and neither of them coherently.

Frazer and Cross current are entitled to their theological opinions, as are their opponents; determining which is correct is above the pay grade of this blog.

As for Lillback on history, I happen to share your disagreement about Washington's Christianity. However, the point of dispute seems to be whether to give Nellie Custis [sp?], a member of his household who said he was quite devout, any historical weight.

I do not, and neither do the secularists. However, I don't find it 100% certain that she should be denied standing, and so arguments giving her standing aren't necessarily invalid.

As for "social justice," apparently a creature of the 20th century, its validity again is a matter of theology, on which one can only have an opinion. Perhaps Jesus would have wanted a welfare state. I dunno, and neither does any other human being.

King of Ireland said...

"Lillback does not look at the messiness Christianizing political liberties creates"

Explain this.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

Well for one Frazer (and MacArthur above him), according to his own evangelical premises does a much better job at sorting out his evangelical Calvinistic premises from Americanism and American history than do Lillback and Barton.

And secondly, Frazer PURPORTS to be examining late 18th Century American understanding of "Christianity" and showing that, by these standards, none of the "key Founders" including George Washington were provably "Christian."

And no, Frazer is not using his personal four point Calvinism as the baseline for what is late 18th Cen. American Christianity but rather a lowest common denominator among the creeds of the Congregational, Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, Lutheran Churches AND ROMAN CATHOLIC.

It may not be as "separate" from his personal theology as you'd like, but it is significantly separate.

For those interested, they can check out Dr. Frazer's 10 point test in the link below. His work shows the "key Founders" (including GW) provably believed in one, maybe two points of the 10 point test and therefore were not "Christian" even though most of them appropriated that label for their creed.

http://tinyurl.com/nant34

Jonathan Rowe said...

If they cannot take their "minister hat" off to do the history it is not history.

Lillback is more than just a "minister" he is PRESIDENT of leading reformed Calvinistic seminary. He could clarify, but I don't believe he believes in ever taking that hat off.

Cross Culture said...

King: There is a way to do history while keeping the ministers hat on. After all, there is no such thing in history as uninterpreted facts. But my point is that he is doing both shoddy history and shoddy theology. There is this third thing out there (politics, world view, I am not sure what to call it) which is shaping both of them.

As far as messiness goes, I mean that his picture of Civil Religion is one sided. It only looks at the Rebels but not the loyalists. Hart makes the point well about the unintended consequences of Social Justice theology in his posts.

King of Ireland said...

I was gonna ask him if he was a Calvinist(it is that easy to spot one in just a few words) and then I went to his site and my suspicions were confirmed.

This is the beginning of the Frazer debates again just without Frazer. We could just re-post the first round and save time because both men believe the same thing. It is John Mac Arthur's beef with Christians being involved in politics.

None of them have ever answered my question though of why Jesus would pray for heaven to come to earth if he did not want to see it happen?

That would be more interesting than one Evangelical attacking the other over the role the Christian should play in politics. It is like watching re-runs of Seinfeld.

King of Ireland said...

"It only looks at the Rebels but not the loyalists."

I am not following you here.

King of Ireland said...

"And secondly, Frazer PURPORTS to be examining late 18th Century American understanding of "Christianity" and showing that, by these standards, none of the "key Founders" including George Washington were provably "Christian."

What doe this have to do with a study of what POLITICAL ideas influenced the founding? It is a red herring. If the Reformed people want to stay out of politics to focus on thier version of the gospel then they should REALLY do that and leave other Evangelicals that want to engage in politics alone. To even comment is hypocritical in so many ways.

It also does little but give secularists that could care less about the theology of all this a bat to beat their fellow evangelicals with.

Tom Van Dyke said...

If the Reformed people want to stay out of politics to focus on thier version of the gospel then they should REALLY do that and leave other Evangelicals that want to engage in politics alone.

Interesting argument. Or attack "social Gospel" advocates like President Obama with equal ferocity.

CNN didn't seem to have a problem with this:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/08/obama.faith/

Obama said he was pleased that leaders in the evangelical community such as T.D. Jakes and Rick Warren were beginning to discuss social justice issues like AIDS and poverty in ways evangelicals were not doing before.

"I think that's a healthy thing, that we're not putting people in boxes, that everybody is out there trying to figure out how do we live right and how do we create a stronger America," Obama said.

He finished his brief remarks by saying, "We're going to keep on praising together. I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."


Me, I don't have a problem with any of it. Goose, gander, First Amendment, come one, come all.

Jonathan Rowe said...

No King, it's not a red herring. If you want answers, we'll give you them later. Next week I have access to the photocopier at my college where I can upload a page that I have from a Mark Noll book on why each of the five points of Calvinism is in some way in tension with America's Founding political thought.

Cross Culture said...

King: "If the Reformed people want to stay out of politics to focus on thier version of the gospel then they should REALLY do that and leave other Evangelicals that want to engage in politics alone. To even comment is hypocritical in so many ways."

Maybe I just misunderstood you, but do you recognize the irony of what you just said? I can be totally in favor of George Washington's politics and not believe that it is important whether or not he was a Christian. I would never say that Christians or anybody else should avoid politics. I just don't see why we have to fight over whether or not the founders were Christians. In doing so we are attempting to prove that our policy views are God's views. When you start doing that you are making a theological statement. Now, politics will always have a theological element to it since everybody approaches politics as a whole person. But my point is that Lillback's appropriation of the founder's use of Christianity is bad theology.

King of Ireland said...

"Next week I have access to the photocopier at my college where I can upload a page that I have from a Mark Noll book on why each of the five points of Calvinism is in some way in tension with America's Founding political thought."

Calvinism does not equal Christianity.

Cross Culture said...

"Calvinism does not equal Christianity."

But for myself and Peter Lillback it does. And I do not know what your theological convictions are, but I would bet I could find strong theological arguments from your standpoint as well.

King of Ireland said...

" I just don't see why we have to fight over whether or not the founders were Christians."

I agree. More germane is how much the ideas of the country, specifically rights endowed by God, were influenced by Christian thought? This is the historical question.

One we have spent a lot of time on here at AC.

Tom Van Dyke said...

But my point is that Lillback's appropriation of the founder's use of Christianity is bad theology.

I hear the allegation loud and clear, but I don't see the argument, CC. Go for it.

At base, are theological arguments one doesn't agree with necessarily invalid? As for the "social Gospel," I can see how both sides are valid.

King of Ireland said...

"But for myself and Peter Lillback it does. And I do not know what your theological convictions are, but I would bet I could find strong theological arguments from your standpoint as well."

When it comes to political theology there is much diverse thought within Calvinism. I have to ask you as well based on your statement if you think Christianity is just Calvinist? Did I here you right?

King of Ireland said...

"I hear the allegation loud and clear, but I don't see the argument, CC. Go for it."

I bet it comes down to Romans 13.

Cross Culture said...

"I hear the allegation loud and clear, but I don't see the argument, CC. Go for it."

I do not have time to get into a longer discussion of this right now, but I will try to get back to it later. My post touches on this.

I do believe that Calvinism is Christianity (not speaking historically but theologically). That does not mean that non-Calvinists cannot be saved. But that is a discussion that is more at home on my blog than here. So I will not enter into that. Feel free to comment on my blog and I will try to answer more clearly.

Tom Van Dyke said...

As one blog put it, this is "Calvinist "shop talk.

What appears clear is that Lillback isn't just shooting from the hip like some itinerant tent preacher [see below]. He seems accomplished as a Reformed scholar.

The thing is, none of us civilians are qualified to judge whether Rutherford's Lex, Rex is properly Calvinistic and therefore God's will. If Calvinists themselves can't agree, the rest of us are without hope.

But what is clear is that Lillback has standing as a Reformed theologian, both by his post and his obvious scholarship:

Several theological controversies among Reformed theologians revolved around the covenant in later years. These include: i. political resistance to tyranny as in Samuel Rutherford’s Lex Rex (1644); ii. the claim of Arminius and his followers to a conditional election paralleling a conditional covenant; iii. the denial of a pre-fall covenant of works by certain schools of Reformed theology; iv. the denial by the school of Saumur, led by Moses Amyraut, that the Mosaic covenant was to be included in the covenant of grace; v. the covenant as a central point in the New England Puritans’ discussions concerning legalism and antinomianism; as well as, vi. their famous ‘half-way covenant’ that allowed non-professing adults who had been baptised as infants to bring their infants to be baptized.
P. A. Lillback, article: Covenant
New Dictionary of Theology, Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, Leicester, England, 1988
Editors: Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wright

Jonathan Rowe said...

There is no question that Lillback, like Francis Schaeffer before him, has high standing as a scholar of reformed Protestantism.

The problem is, again, like Schaeffer, Lillback is not a bona fide scholar of American religious history. Mark Noll is.

King of Ireland said...

"But that is a discussion that is more at home on my blog than here. So I will not enter into that. Feel free to comment on my blog and I will try to answer more clearly."

I have talked with thousands of Calvinists. I have a pretty good understanding of what you are saying. Dr. Frazer and I have had it out here more than once as well and that cleared up some of my confusions about what strict Calvinists believe. Not my cup of tea but to each his own.

King of Ireland said...

"The problem is, again, like Schaeffer, Lillback is not a bona fide scholar of American religious history. Mark Noll is"

Why does this matter?

D G said...

Tom VD, whatever Lillback's skills as a Reformed scholar, are they in any way on display in Sacred Fire? Was Rutherford trying to prove that Parliament was a Christian body as opposed to Charles I? In other words, Lex Rex is a far cry from Sacred Fire. And I seriously doubt that Rutherford would have been pleased with Washington's profession of faith -- a faith that never mentioned Jesus Christ unless the prayer book did.

You may want to debate where the American founding stands in relation to the British political struggles of the 17th century. I for one do not know how you can miss some kind of continuity. But the final American settlement of disestablishment was nowhere endorsed by Reformed churches. In fact, it took John Witherspoon's communion, the Presbyterians in the U.S. to change finally the overwhelming consensus of Reformed teaching on the magistrate -- that is, the American revisions endorsed religious freedom for all while most Reformed creeds prior to 1787 taught the magistrate had a duty to enforce the "true" religion (read: Reformed).

So Lillback is not on the trajectory of Lex Rex, and George Washington was not doing what Rutherford wanted to happen in the UK.

Jonathan Rowe said...

DG:

That's a good point. While Rutherford might have anticipated some of the Founding ideas on resisting tyrannical magistrates, he, like Calvin, was in no way in line with America's teachings on religious liberty issues.

Tom Van Dyke said...

No disagreement here David. Lillback's credentials in Reformed theology have zero bearing on his work on George Washington. It's his appearance on Glenn Beck that has turned this into more culture war than history.

However, Calvinism is relevant as history in that it was the American Calvinists who largely initiated [and by some accounts fought] the revolution, so much so that King George blamed the Presbyterians.

We've also gone around in many circles about Romans 13, and---again agreeing---the theological issues were indeed addressed in the civil wars in Britain in the 1600s, where one king was deposed and another executed.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/10/american-revolution-vs-bible-and-romans.html

D G said...

Tom, I'm glad for all the credit Presbyterians can get, but how much was the American revolution really a Presbyterian phenomenon? Most historians will talk about the influence of John Locke. Certainly, Jefferson's Declaration is no Calvinist document. Maybe King George couldn't get the English Civil War out of his head (which was a Calvinist enterprise).

Tom Van Dyke said...

David, thx for your interest. We lost our resident Calvinist around here because

a) He credited Calvinism for a bit too much in the American Founding

b) And the Bible [stuff like finding republicanism in the Old Testament, like Isaiah being the source of our 3 branches of gov't]

c) He was a bit intolerant of the "truth claims" of other faiths, namely Mormonism. [Although he recently wrote me he sincerely regrets that breach of our unwritten rules]

Our contributor King of Ireland [Joe Winpisinger] and I, a classicist/Thomist have been filling in, making sure that "Calvinist" [a better term is "Reformed theology," yes? Not Lutheranism] is fairly represented in our discussion of religion and the American Founding.

I think all here agree---atheist to Mormon---that the story of religion and the Founding cannot be properly told without Reformed theology. To ignore it is to miss the English Civil Wars of the 1600s, what might be called the "dry run" for the American Revolution itself.

And why France's own revolution, in overturning Roman Catholicism directly for "Enlightenment" principles, turned into such a terror, and horror.



This is the first thing I grabbed off the Google [again Kopel, sorry] that lays out the theologico-political landscape of the century or so that led up to the American Revolution, and its Presbyterian/Calvinist/Reformed roots. [Still struggling for the proper term or word.]

But those Scotsmen kicked the English king's ass twice in 1600s Britain, then kicked George III's ass in colonial America. He called it a "Presbyterian rebellion."



That's where the rubber met the road, and not one fact or argument I've ever run across about the American Revolution denies or refutes it.

But since I'm a theoretical fellow, I read Peter Martyr [Vermigli], Theodore Beza [Calvin's immediate successor], John Ponet, Mornay's Vindiciae contra Tyrannos, "Calvinists" all. Hugo Grotius...

Because my approach to history isn't marxist, it's that people are moved by ideas and beliefs. The one idea that the American revolution had and fought for and died, outside all the theological blah-blah, was all men are equal and that rights and liberty were endowed upon man by God.

This one simple idea took mankind 1770 years to fight and die for.

But it was a self-evident truth, and there are precious few "self-evident" truths in mankind's history.

In 2010, I'm not sure even that is a "self-evident" truth, or that "self-evident" truth even exists. Everything's just a matter of opinion, y'know?

Cross Culture said...

As an historical exercise it is certainly appropriate to come at the history of the founding without my Reformed Theology hat on. I too operate with the presupposition that ideas move history, with a generous push from socio-economic circumstances. But I think it is hard to argue that the founding was a Calvinist enterprise. The only real Presbyterian Calvinist among the lead Founders was Witherspoon, and in some ways he was more of a product of the Scottish Enlightenment than of John Knox. If there was a Calvinist influence, it was an amputated Calvinism whose body parts were sewn onto enlightenment thinking. At best a form of Civil Religion.

The hoi poli is another story, but it is always tricky to find you what was going through their heads.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Samuel Adams? "The Black Regiment?"

Historian Mark David Hall stopped by the blog here and made a bleg for a single Presbyterian minister born in America who opposed the revolution. So far, nobody's aware of one.

But the real "smoking gun" is in the Calvinist "resistance theory."

http://www.acton.org/publications/randl/rl_article_238.php

The Reformation Roots of Social Contract
by David W. Hall

Contrary to much secular thought, the historic emergence of a social contract that guarantees human liberty stems from the seedbed of Geneva’s Reformation. To be sure, a different social contract, the humanist one, had its cradle in the secular thinking of the Enlightenment. The one I refer to as the social covenant (to distinguish) has resisted tyranny, totalitarianism, and authoritarianism with consistent and irrepressible force; the other has led to oppression, large-scale loss of life, and the general diminution of liberty, both economic and personal.

Following is a brief review of five leading tracts from the Reformation period that had wide and enduring political impact in support of liberty: The Right of Magistrates (1574) by Theodore Beza, The Rights of the Crown of Scotland (1579) by George Buchanan, Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (1579) by Phillipe du Plessis Mornay, Politica (1603) by Johannes Althusius, and Lex, Rex (1644) by Samuel Rutherford



There's more, but if you're unshakable in Whig theory, this benefits neither of us. I came to these same conclusions independently, coupled with the Scholastic tradition from Aquinas to suarez and bellarmine. but the Reformed thinkers picked up the baton in there somewhere, and put "resistance theory" into action.

Jonathan Rowe said...

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2010/04/rev-john-joachim-zubly-on-romans-13.html

I know he wasn't born in America.

This is the thread Dr. Hall stops by.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, I was gonna go back and fix that, but thought it would be a waste of time. There was one, anyway.

Just ran across an interesting factoid---Samuel Adams' original band of Boston Tea Party brigands called themselves "The Solemn League and Covenant," after the original "Solemn League and Covenant" of Scottish Calvinists who opposed the king in 1643.

Whig theory takes a hit, and it's also amusing that it's such an unknown factoid. But not surprising...

D G said...

Not to take issue with my friends, Mark David Hall or David Hall (should they form band, Hall & Hall?), I'm not sure what the point of this work of historical excavation. So, what if the American Revolution was Calvinist? What does that prove? That somehow America was Christian, or that liberals or secularists have no legitimate place in the U.S.? Or does it mean, as Barry Shain might argue, American liberalism is different from its 20th century version? I have no trouble telling the difference between John Adams and FDR. Do I need to know the Calvinist resistance literature to spot that difference?

This is what I don't get. There seems to be an agenda -- that if we get the founding right with its respect for religion, then we'll get X right today. What is the X?

Cross Culture said...

Just a note: Butterfield is opposing the Whig theory of history.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The point is that we can't properly decide where we should go if we don't know where we've been.

And, as you are seeing, there's been a bit of editing in 20th century scholarship about where we've been. I had no idea about the Calvinist/religious roots of the Tea Party/Solemn League and Covenant and I doubt few else here did either.

King of Ireland said...

"This is what I don't get. There seems to be an agenda -- that if we get the founding right with its respect for religion, then we'll get X right today. What is the X?

I agree with Tom. Here is a post I did a while back about the History of the founding and its importance in deciding where we go from here:


http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/12/socrates-alvin-toffler-and-attempting.html

D G said...

Tom Van Dyke, in the interest of discovering the true origins of things, did you know that Calvinist resistance theory drew heavily on Lutheran and Roman Catholic resistance theory? Did you also know that a political philosopher like Quentin Skinner doesn't give Calvinism any more credit for resistance theory than Roman Catholics. In fact, Roman Catholic resistance theory is older and deeper. So one could argue that the American founding goes back to the conflicts between pope and emperor in the Middle Ages. If so, that's historically interesting. But I'm not at all sure what that has to do with contemporary politics.

King of Ireland: I can see the point of appreciating the founders. I do greatly. But I don't think that the current neglect of the founders has a lot to do with their religion or lack of it (does slavery come to mind?). What is much more pressing is their politics. Their ideas about the United States are distant from what we have become as a nation. I myself would prefer an agrarian republic of small size, rather than becoming the global cop that we are. Can anyone remember Washington's warnings about involvement in European wars? But once you make the turn to become a superpower, the ideas of the founders seem pretty remote. That's too bad. But resurrecting their religion (or better their civil religion) will not fix the problem.

King of Ireland said...

"But once you make the turn to become a superpower, the ideas of the founders seem pretty remote. That's too bad. But resurrecting their religion (or better their civil religion) will not fix the problem"

Resurrecting the rationale they used for inalienable rights and a limited government to secure those rights will fix things. I am not so much for the argrarian republic of Jefferson in that I love progress. But I do see the merits of smaller republics. I often wonder if America is just to big. Maybe we need to revisit not only the Federalist Papers but the Anti-Federalist as well.

King of Ireland said...

"So one could argue that the American founding goes back to the conflicts between pope and emperor in the Middle Ages."

Go back and read some of my recent posts. That is on the radar screen as we speak.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Tom Van Dyke, in the interest of discovering the true origins of things, did you know that Calvinist resistance theory drew heavily on Lutheran and Roman Catholic resistance theory? Did you also know that a political philosopher like Quentin Skinner doesn't give Calvinism any more credit for resistance theory than Roman Catholics. In fact, Roman Catholic resistance theory is older and deeper. So one could argue that the American founding goes back to the conflicts between pope and emperor in the Middle Ages. If so, that's historically interesting. But I'm not at all sure what that has to do with contemporary politics.

Yes, David. It all goes back to the Cathoilcs. I'm a Thomist, remember? My boys get all the credit. ;-)

And yes, the Investiture Controversy kicked it all off. 1070 CE.

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

However, the Catholics never got to full-blown revolution. It took the Calvinists to do that, and to put boots on the ground in service of resistance theory. Credit where it's due.

My original rebuttal to you was in your characterizing Lillback, et al. as somehow being inauthentically Christian. that's clearly not so---they're in a long line of Calvinists in good standing.

As to what they has to do with 2010, well, stick around the blog and find out. At base, I think people are making decisions on where we should go from here based on a false understanding of where we've been.

If we got to this reasonably OK nation and society with a heapin' helpin' of religion, mebbe we should reevaluate getting rid of it.

[I ran across Skinner just last week, and listened to a lecture on Hobbes over the internet. Interesting fellow.]

D G said...

Tom, you think Lillback is authentically Christian because he advocates resistance to tyranny? Somehow the politics and the theology have gotten out of whack in your view. The Calvinists (at least in England) were Puritans and they never would have cited Washington's use of the Prayer Book as a sign of authentic Christianity. What is more, the revivalists in America -- like Edwards and Whitefield -- whom Lillback likely admires, were no fans of Prayer Book religion. That was the point of revivalism -- to make religion authentic and not simply to go through the motions of a book of prayer.

So in this case, Lillback may resemble earlier Calvinists in resistance doctrine. He also resembles Lutherans and Roman Catholics. But he does not resemble Calvinists when it comes to the question of his book -- was GW a Christian. Resistance theory is not a good enough criteria for making someone a Christian. Meanwhile, Puritans and revivalist were suspicious of moderate Anglicans whether deistical or not.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Somehow the politics and the theology have gotten out of whack in your view.

Now, now. When you wrote

The misuse and misappropriation of the Bible in this country is a rampant problem that orthodox Christians must fight against on a daily basis. So, it is disheartening to see those very people, whose ordained office and status requires them to jealously guard the Word of God, not only allowing it to be misappropriated but committing, or at the very least endorsing, the misuse of the Scriptures.


'twas your politics and theology mixing.

And I also disagreed with your assertion, except the Isaiah part.

D G said...

Tom, I wrote the first point about mixing and politics. I don't know where your second quotation comes from. I have not referred to Isaiah here or elsewhere.

But instead of trying to attribute inconsistency, why not address the point? Where to the sort of Presbyterians who advocate resistance (Beza, Knox, Rutherford) also go out of their way to defend as orthodox moderate prayer book Anglicans? And where do revivalists like Whitefield or Edwards go out of their way to do what Lillback does? In which case, if Lillback's point about Washington's faith is garbled, his understanding of the founding's politics could be as well.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, we're in a situation that on Law & Order they call "hostile witness." We're not discussing; you're disputing.

You haven't made any case against Lillback, and I'm not particularly interested in defending him. The historical point is that it appears America's Calvinists heavily supported the revolution. The Anglicans were more likely to be the Tories.

And yes, the first English Civil war was started by the Calvinists when the Church of England tried to impose the Book of Common Prayer on them.

If you want your link to Whitefield and today's tea party thing

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,592997,00.html

KIDD: I just wanted to follow up on this issue about Whitefield's political involvement. As the 1760s went on, he did become very overtly involved with crisis between Britain and the colonies.

In fact, he may have been one of the earliest people from Britain to start warning the colonists that there was trouble coming. There are reports that in 1764, he came to America and said there is trouble coming from Britain. And your golden days are at an end, is the quote of what he said. Began warning people ahead of time this was coming.

...

KIDD: So when he goes back to England and his there with his good friend, Franklin. When Franklin testifies before parliament on the colony's behalf because of their protests against the Stamp Act, and Whitefield I think behind the scenes is advocating against the Stamp Act.

By the time we get to Whitefield's passing in 1770, on his last trip to America, he dies in Massachusetts. The funeral sermons by the colonial pastors are saying, he is largely to thank for the repeal of the Stamp Act and they say, he was a true patriot, not just in words but also in actions. So they interpreted him as having a very significant role in the resistance.


Yes, that's "going out of his way to do what Lillback does."

And of course you did reference Isaiah in your original essay:

One of the most inappropriate citations comes in the entry on the National Constitution Center:

The U.S. Constitution limits power by dividing government into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. This seems to be anticipated by Isaiah 33:22, which says “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us” (NIV). This passage suggests the three branches of our federal government.”


So if I read you more closely than you read yourself, you're not going to read what I write very closely. Hostile witness. That's too frustrating, David. Discussion has to be a two-way street.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I answered your Whitefield. I dunno what you want from me, David. I'm not even a Calvinist.

D G said...

Tom, D G refers to Darryl Glenn not to David. D G never referred to Isaiah.

Also, you have not shown that Whitefield tried to prove Franklin's orthodoxy the way that Lillback tries to prove Washington's. How does Kidd's remark about Whitefield having an influence on the Revolution -- something I hardly deny -- have anything to do with Washington's orthodoxy?

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