Friday, May 14, 2010

Interesting "Christian Nation" Debate

The following is a debate between Herb Silverman (a distinguished mathematics professor and self-proclaimed atheist) and E. Ray Moore (pastor, theologian and passionate advocate for the Christian Nation thesis), held at USC just a few months ago. And though both of these men are not professional historians, their debate is still interesting to watch, since they address many of the issues that we have discussed ad nauseum at this blog. It also illustrates some of the typical ignorance of many "enlightened" thinkers on both sides. Moore spews the typical conservative rhetoric that America was once a great "Christian" nation but has lost its way, and that the only way to return to our former greatness is to recognize the "obvious" Christianity of our founders. Silverman, on the other hand, exhibits the time-honored tradition of the left of exclusively referencing Madison, Jefferson, Franklin and Paine (founders who fit his agenda) while conveniently ignoring the scores of other founders who would cringe at the notion of a completely secular America. Regardless of these obviously biased mindsets, this debate is still interesting to watch:

Part 1: Moore's opening statement:


-Moore reveals his stunning ignorance of the Holy Trinity Church v. United States case. Justice David Brewer's opinion was dicta, not part of the holding, and it had no relevance at all to the legal issue. This case had nothing...NOTHING to do with America's "Christian" heritage.

Part 2: Moore's Opening Statement (cont.) and Silverman's Opening Statement:


-Silverman, of course, only mentions the select few founders (Jefferson, Madison, Franklin) who fit with his view of "secular" founders. He never mentions the other founders who were quite religious.

Part 3: Silverman's Opening Statement (cont.):


Part 4: Moore's Rebuttal:


Part 5: Silverman's Rebuttal:

-Silverman brings up the important point that not all "Christianity" is the same. If America is a "Christian" nation, which brand of Christianity are we talking about?

Part 6: Moore and Silverman's Cross Examinations:


Part 7: Q & A:


Part 8: Moore's Closing Statement:


Part 9: Silverman's Closing Statement:


Your thoughts...

81 comments:

Brad Hart said...

In the end, I think Silverman kicked Moore's ass...but that's just me.

Tom Van Dyke said...

If it's all the same to you, Brad, I'm gonna pass on this one. Sounds like two one-armed fighters hopping on one foot.

Shame on a major university even sponsoring such a circus. [And by your account, such a mismatch.]

bpabbott said...

I'll have to watch this tonight.

For the moment I'll note that Silverman has a great advantage in being expert in the mathematical rigors surrounding objective proofs, axioms, theories, laws, etc.

I expect Moore will need some Providence in order to hold his own ;-)

Brad Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad Hart said...

To be honest, if you have followed this blog you are probably not going to learn anything new from this debate. They beat to death the same traditional tidbits that one would expect from a debate like this (i.e. Trinity Church v. U.S., Treaty of Tripoli, Danbury Baptist letter, etc.). This is interesting only in the sense that it illustrates how far we have come here at AC. Perhaps I sound conceded, but I think we've left such mundane debates in the past. Yes, it's good to revisit them from time to time (one of the reasons I posted this here), and it's interesting to see how even educated people can succumb to the nonsense of both sides of this debate. But fortunately, AC is on to bigger and better things...

At least that is my hope.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Cheers, Brad, and cheers to all those here gathered!

jimmiraybob said...

The DOI as the nation's charter?

jimmiraybob said...

The DOI as our birth certificate?

More like a "we're expecting and hope that you can share in our joy" announcement.

jimmiraybob said...

The Subscription Clause* incorporates the DOI into the Constitution?

*Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names.

Discussion?

King of Ireland said...

Put me to sleep in the first five minutes.

Jonathan Rowe said...

JRB: Yup that's a "Christian Nation" talking point. It's how they try to get out of the "Godless Constitution." Not very convincingly in my eyes.

Brad Hart said...

Yeah, it's a pretty lame way of saying that the Constitution speaks of God.

It's pretty clear that Moore was not well prepared to defend this position. I think he got clobbered.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, what I believe JRB's saying is that according to this clause in the Constitution, the USA starts with the Declaration in 1776, not with the Constitution itself in 1787, and therefore the D of I is part of American republic.

"Godless Constitution" arguments would date the USA only from 1787, enabling the Declaration and the proclamations of the Continental Congress to be disregarded.

It's a legalistic point, but the "Godless" argument is legalistic anyway, and so this is a rebuttal to it. [I believe Jon's pointed out that Bork and others disregard the Declaration as well. Mr. Lincoln did not.]

Tom Van Dyke said...

In other words, not the same ol' [weak] "In the Year of Our Lord" argument...

bpabbott said...

It is unfortunate that Moore was so completely lacking in his understanding.

Silverman's greatest error is in not understanding that our nation was founded upon a Godless constitution for the purpose of protecting and perserving the liberty and religion of the people.

The "secular" Constitution was ratified (in part) because it protected religion, and religious diversity, not because it was an affront to religion.

sigh ... it would be much more interesting if *I* were to debate Silverman, and Brad were to take on Moore ;-)

Ray Soller said...

Contrary to Moore's claim, any attempt to tie the birth of Jesus to 1 A.D. of our current calendar is an historical impossibility, and the actual date is most likely related to the starting date of the corrected Julian Calendar, which was necessary, because beginning with 45 B.C. Lepidus as Pontif Maximus had mistakenly inserted leap days once every three years where the "first" and "fourth" year of a "four-year" cycle were thought of as being the same, instead of once every four years. The mistake was probably recognized early on, but Augustus had to wait until the death of Lepidus in 12 B.C. before making any correction. We don't know for a fact, but 1 A.D. turns out to be a workable date for the several imperial corrections to have taken place. It wasn't until 525 that Dionysius Exiguus, who as a by-product to his Easter table computations, assigned the Year One as the beginning of the Christian calendar. As a result, December 25, 1 B.C., the date for the winter solstice of that year, was assigned to be the standard date for the birth of Jesus.

jimmiraybob said...

Actually, what I believe JRB's saying is ...

These were assertions made by Mr. Moore in the 5th part. I view the DOI as a statement and justification of intent - a pre-birth announcement so to speak. I view the Articles of Confederation as an agreement to confederate during the troubles, the revolutionary period. At any time during this period, colonies largely viewed them selves as sovereign governing authorities and acted in their own interests often to the detriment of the confederation and at any point from 1776 to 1783 the nation might not have been delivered.

At any time prior to the ratification and implementation of the Constitution, had the experiment failed, I don't think that we would be discussing the founding and loss of a nation but the failed rebellion of disloyal colonial usurpers.

The United States of America, as a constitutional republic didn't happen until it was constituted - at which point the principles, organization and function of our current system was set forth. As a political entity, that is where I see the beginning of the USofA.

Of course societal and cultural America (colonial/British Subject, interim revolutionary/rebellious British Subject*, post Constitutional American Citizen) crossed all these political/legal boundaries.

The Articles of Confederation make no change of citizenship status for the colonists.

If the Christian Nationists want to bif up their position they might change their rhetoric to defending the colonies as part of the Christian Nation of Britain prior to 1789, certainly before 1776.

At least IMHO on a Friday* night.

*To clarify in case you watched the videos (at least up to #6) :)- The name Friday comes from the Old English frīgedæg, meaning the "day of Frige", translating Latin dies Veneris. The same holds for Frīatag in Old High German, Freitag in Modern German and Vrijdag in Dutch.

The expected cognate name in Old Norse would be *friggjar-dagr. However, the name of Friday in Old Norse is frjá-dagr instead, indicating a loan of the weekday names from Low German.[3] The modern Scandinavian form is Fredag in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.

The word for Friday in most Romance languages is derived from Latin dies Veneris, "day of Venus" (a translation of Greek Aphrodites hemera) such as vendredi in French, venerdì in Italian, viernes in Spanish, divendres in Catalan, vennari in Corsican, and vineri in Romanian. This is also reflected in the p-Celtic Welsh language as dydd Gwener. An exception is Portuguese, also a Romance language, which uses the word sexta-feira, meaning "sixth day of liturgical celebration", derived from the Latin "feria sexta" used in religious texts where it was not allowed to consecrate days to pagan gods.

jimmiraybob said...

British Subject* - this first asterisk was meant to reference "The Articles of Confederation make no change of citizenship status for the colonists."

Tom Van Dyke said...

The United States of America, as a constitutional republic didn't happen until it was constituted - at which point the principles, organization and function of our current system was set forth. As a political entity, that is where I see the beginning of the USofA.

Oh, JRB, and there I was I thinking you were allowing that the Constitution---by the very clause you bolded, acknowledged that the United States of America started with the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

I guess not.

But if you look at the Founding era, I believe you'll find that July 4 was considered America's birthday, not some "pregnancy announcement" as you intimated.

Certainly John Quincy Adams of the immediate post-Founding period thought so.

http://economicthinking.blogspot.com/2007/07/john-quincy-adams-july-4-speech.html

I leave the rest to you guys. I'm surprised any of you sat through Roy Moore, a former minor government functionary, arguing anything. It's such a minor point and parsing that me, I don't give much of a damn. But I thought it argues well against what JRB was really arguing afterall, the "Godless" thing, even if Moore [apparently] argued it poorly.

Me, I argue against the "Godless Constitution" thesis simply on the unimpeachable grounds that even Thomas Jefferson admitted---that under federalism, religion was left to the states.

Is there some memory hole on this blog, or is the internet malfunctioning? Do I have to dig out the quote yet again?

Oh, well. Must be that "epistemic closure" thing.

________________

Ray, you seem to be on about the "Year of Our Lord" thing, a point Brad properly identifies as lame.

BTW, you emailed me for a link to Jefferson's letter to Livingston, 1825 [which I courteously sent, although you never thanked me for the courtesy], presumably asking me to send you a rope to hang me with, re my post

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2010/05/joseph-j-ellis-when-historians-attack.html

Please do let me know how that all came out, privately or publicly. If you ever want a reply from me again.

;-[D>

jimmiraybob said...

Oh, JRB, and there I was I thinking you were allowing that the Constitution---by the very clause you bolded, acknowledged that the United States of America started with the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

I guess not.


As always I hate to disappoint, but....

As I read it, "...of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth." acknowledges 12 years of independence - following the DOI - but does not establish the political entity that we are today as the result of the Constitution (1789). It was a retrospective statement. At the time of the DOI I don't recall anyone stating that a new nation had been established - a done deal. Certainly Washington and the army would have been surprised to know that they were not fighting a revolution for independence but a war as a sovereign nation.

Under the AOC*, the style of confederacy was dubbed "The United States of America" but no change in citizenry status was established - the United States was in effect the united British colonies in rebellion against the mother country. Those in rebellion were still technically British citizens although developing a sense of identity as a separate nation.

My point would be that it wasn't until the Constitution was finally ratified that we had a legal and binding document officially establishing us as citizens of a sovereign nation - the USofA as we know it. It gave us the form and organization of the government we currently enjoy and established them/us as citizens of the new nation.

Adams aside, I think that I recall this point being debated at the time.

I understand the effort to conflate the two in order to get theistic-like language into our founding "two-part charter document" but even this is weak as the language of the DOI** reads as deistic, theistic as well as pagan. As Silverman points out and as has been pointed out at AC numerous times, if the founders/framers had intended a Christian/Hebraic republic they would have used the specific language necessary to make that clear - for Thor's sake, they were accomplished lawyers.

*Article I. The Stile of this Confederacy shall be "The United States of America."

**I should point out, as I've said before, that I do agree that the Jefferson draft DOI language was changed in a way to appeal to Christian, and specifically Reform, sensibilities as this was an important constituency to win over. Furthermore, I don't think that this was mere cynicism but a genuine appeal. As Pinky noted in earlier comments, the Romans 13 argument was as likely as not to make as many loyalists as rebels and the revolution needed everyone they could persuade.

Tom Van Dyke said...

At the time of the DOI I don't recall anyone stating that a new nation had been established - a done deal.

It was Declared. Your own quote, JRB, from the US Constitution itself, dates the United States of America from 1776.

I was actually unfamiliar with this particular argument, and have never used it in American Creation's exploration of religion and the Founding. It's a small point, and a legalistic one and I wouldn't argue it as definitive. And if pressed---and you are pressing me, JRB---I return to my "legalistic" counterargument that religion was left to the states by the Constitution, which has far more backing in the Founding literature, including from Jefferson hisself.

"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the General Government. It must then rest with the states, as far as it can be in any human authority." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808. ME 11:428

JRB, you're wearin' me out, brother. This "epistemic closure" is looking for a Gordian Knot solution.

King of Ireland said...

"I understand the effort to conflate the two in order to get theistic-like language into our founding "two-part charter document" but even this is weak as the language of the DOI** reads as deistic, theistic as well as pagan."

What language is deistic? Where is your proof? I also think it a stretch to state that America was not a nation at 1776. A Confederacy is a legitimate form of government. Madison wrote a lot about whether they work or not and the proper size but it was a study of forms of government.

jimmiraybob said...

TVD - JRB, you're wearin' me out, brother.

Hey, exercise is good. :) My point (a response to the video), and one that I'll flush out a little later, is that there is no bright line of nationhood on the ground at the time - 1775-1776ish and that following the struggle for separation from British authority and independence; the DOI specifically references "That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States. And that "...as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to..."

At the time of the DOI the states were still developing their understanding of common interests beyond separation from Britain and still forming a sense of common identity.

And a hat tip to Mark in Spokane's earlier reference to Pauline Meier's American Scripture that identifies "...more than ninety such declarations [of independence] that were issued [independently] throughout the Thirteen Colonies from April to July 1776."

And I don't think that it's particularly controversial to state that the deal wasn't done until 1783 after a long and precarious war for independence.

Retroactively I have no problem with the 4th of July, 1776 being celebrated as the birth of the nation, I'm just sayin' that in actuality it ain't all that simple.

KOI - What language is deistic? Where is your proof?

I was making reference to the general claim that the DOI and the US Constitution are one document (a claim made by Mr. Moore) and the claim that the phases "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," "...endowed by their Creator...," "Supreme Judge of the world," and "protection of Divine Providence" are specifically Christian references.

Mr. Silverman makes a rebuttal and I was just emphasizing that the language is ambiguous, without specific Christian reference such as to Jesus, Christ Yaweh, etc., and that the language is similar to what a deist or even a devout pagan would be comfortable.

As to the deism part I don't think that I'm saying anything that hasn't been discussed here before. As to the devout pagan part all I can say is that the more I read of 1st century Rome and the relationship of the pagans, Jews and early Christians, the more that I realize that there's a shared sense of the divine (and a trend toward monotheism) that allowed Paul to be a successful apostle to the Gentiles...the pagans.

Brad Hart said...

KOI writes:

What language is deistic? Where is your proof? I also think it a stretch to state that America was not a nation at 1776.

The language was clearly neutral in the DOI, no doubt about it. I think it's a stretch to call it 100% Deistic or Christian. It was neither, rather it was Jeffersonian.

As for America being a nation at 1776, let's be careful here. I'm not so sure that we can identify any landmark moment (DOI, Constitution) as being the moment when we became a cohesive nation. And the British certainly didn't see us as such. For me, this hearkens back to Benedict Anderson's "Imagined Communities." When and how a nation becomes a nation is hard to figure out, especially in the case of the United States.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Brad, according to JRB's bold face, it's 1776, according to the Constitution itself.

Joe Winpisinger said...

"I was making reference to the general claim that the DOI and the US Constitution are one document (a claim made by Mr. Moore) and the claim that the phases "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," "...endowed by their Creator...," "Supreme Judge of the world," and "protection of Divine Providence" are specifically Christian references."

Law's of Nature and Nature's God has a long use in Christianity that goes back to pre-Aquinas. Creator is neutral but the concept they based alienable rights on, if they borrowed it from Locke, is uniquely Christian as I have shown in Locke's use of the workmanship of God argument. It has been stated more than once here that the last two God references were addded by the Congress to appeal to the Calvinists and are phrases that Jonathan Edward's repeatedly used.

If these terms or concepts of rights grounded in the man being the workmanship of are found in deism then I want to see the proof. We know they were a part of Christian, sorry, Judeo-Christian thinking.

Joe Winpisinger said...

This discussion is the same idea I brought up in the post no one read because Beck's name was in it. I basically asked if right to a jury trial which is a natural extension of inalienable rights should be deprived to non-citizens? In other words, does some people reading of the Constitution violate the ideals of the DOI and is that a problem. That is a much more interesting thought experiment than much of what these to zombies have to say about all this minutiae.

bpabbott said...

Re: "Law's of Nature and Nature's God has a long use in Christianity that goes back to pre-Aquinas. Creator is neutral but the concept they based alienable rights on, if they borrowed it from Locke, is uniquely Christian [...]"

*If* it is given that the term "nature's God" has a long use in Christianity, it wouild be erroneous to conclude that "natrue's God" is uniquely the Christian God.

There is a great of deal of Christian doctrine that requires more of God than does nature.

Re: "If these terms or concepts of rights grounded in the man being the workmanship of are found in deism then I want to see the proof.

I think there is a false dichotomy afoot. The terms of the DOI needn't be uniquely Christian or Diest. There are amble well reasoned arguements to disqualify America's founding as being *uniquely* Christian or *uniquely* Diest.

Our nation's founding was both well reasoned and religiously motived. Neither the reasons or religious motivations were unique to any doctrine or ideology.

The fouding cast a wide net. It was in inclusive event where (I think) liberty was central.

Joe Winpisinger said...

If there main goal was to build as case for inalienable rights based on man being the workmanship of God(which is a consistent theme in all the writers Adams cites in his defence of Constitutions) then why would they use Deistic language in a predominantly Christian nation? In other words, one has to ascertain what the ultimate goal of the document to really understand the intent of the language used in it.

Pinky said...

.
Didn't I read this from Tom?

If it's all the same to you, Brad, I'm gonna pass on this one. Sounds like two one-armed fighters hopping on one foot.
.
heh heh heh
.
I think it's great that this debate was sponsored. It's good to get this kind of stuff on top of the table.
.

Brad Hart said...

Joe writes:

If there main goal was to build as case for inalienable rights based on man being the workmanship of God(which is a consistent theme in all the writers Adams cites in his defence of Constitutions) then why would they use Deistic language in a predominantly Christian nation?

Because Jefferson wasn't a devout Christian. Why wouldn't they use this wordage?

Joe Winpisinger said...

Brad,

He tried to get away with not using it that is the entire point. Most of the God talk was added. Remember Tom's post on Paine where he used a lot of the same language to appeal to the Christians? These were the legal arguments of the day.

Is there a Deist case for inalienable rights grounded in man being the workmanship of God?

Brad Hart said...

I'm just not seeing it, Joe. Why in the world would intentionally neutral language be added in the first place? If this language was later added, and one wanted to convey a Christian perspective, why not come out and say it? Why the hidden meanings? "Nature's God" and "Providence" don't exactly scream aloud "Jesus" or the cross. They come off as being more all-encompassing.

Tom Van Dyke said...

true, but it was the style.

See Samuel Adams, a very orthodox calvinist, and his use of many euphemisims for God here:

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/american-independence-speech-by-samuel-adams-august-1-1776.html

He does mention "Christ" once, but only in a passing attack on Papism [and not necessarily as Jesus as divine], and not in connection with the Revolution itself.

Brad Hart said...

I'm not trying to say that the DOI isn't religious in its wordage. Clearly it is. But I fail to see how we can call it a Christian document. If, as you guys point out, the religious language was added later, that proves that sincere and deliberate thought was taken when considering which words to use. And since the language is clearly neutral, I have to conclude that this was their intent.

But let's also remember that they didn't mean to EXCLUDE Christianity either. The language is such that any religion can lay claim...including Christianity. But to say that "Providence" and "Nature's God" is clearly Christian "God talk" seems to take things a bit too far. I guess this is why I cringe at Mr. Moore's commentary that the DOI illustrates the Christianity of the founding. Let's give the founders a little more credit here, fellas. These were some smart cats (smarter than us) and I think they knew what the hell they were doing. This is why, in my opinion, the language of the DOI is neutral. They wanted to ensure that nobody got the shaft.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's not "neutral" atall, unless you want to argue they were talking about a different Almighty than the one in the Bible. Perhaps Jefferson had some private reservations, but not one man in a hundred understood this Supreme Judge of the World as being a different Deity or Sovereign [Sam Adams used the latter terms].

At some point, the skeptical side has to assume some burden of proof.

Is Moore's "Christian" too strong, if that requires Jesus being divine? Sure, but it's still closer to the truth than any "Godless" argument, especially since the Founders made it a point not to drag Jesus in atall. The Almighty, The Deity, The Sovereign, the Supreme Judge of the World suffices.

Joe Winpisinger said...

"Why the hidden meanings? "Nature's God" and "Providence" don't exactly scream aloud "Jesus" or the cross. They come off as being more all-encompassing."

The political theology of the inalienable rights based on man being the workmanship of God has nothing to do with the salvation message of Jesus on the cross. That is bringing the church into the state or vice versa.

Joe Winpisinger said...

"But I fail to see how we can call it a Christian document"

I would never say that. I think you are missing me again. Go back and read my post on Locke and Ponet. I agree with Jon right off the bat that there are numerous influenes on the founding. My contention is that he claims as Enlightenment thought many ideas that are historically Judeo-Christian.

With that said the DOI is a document of political theory that has a heavy dose of historically Judeo-Christian language and ideas in it. Big difference from being a Christian document.

Joe Winpisinger said...

My Previous Comment:

"If there main goal was to build as case for inalienable rights based on man being the workmanship of God(which is a consistent theme in all the writers Adams cites in his defence of Constitutions) then why would they use Deistic language in a predominantly Christian nation? In other words, one has to ascertain what the ultimate goal of the document to really understand the intent of the language used in it"

Seems to jive with this:

"And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?"

--Thomas Jefferson

Brad Hart said...

Fair enough, Joe. That makes more sense.

TVD writes:

"It's not "neutral" atall, unless you want to argue they were talking about a different Almighty than the one in the Bible. Perhaps Jefferson had some private reservations, but not one man in a hundred understood this Supreme Judge of the World as being a different Deity or Sovereign."

Then why not just come out and say it? Why use such care with your wordage? "Supreme Judge" instead of "Jesus Christ" or "Savior of Mankind" has a very different feel.

Also, I never called the DOI a "godless document." As I stated before, it's clearly saturated with religious references...but they are not exclusively CHRISTIAN references.

All goes back to my overall feeling that America is a RELIGIOUS nation but not a CHRISTIAN one.

jimmiraybob said...

KOI - one thing to keep in mind is that I wasn't making the case that the language that I cited was deistic or intended to be deistic, only that someone who was a deist would feel as comfortable with the language as could a Christian, whether Presbyterian, Baptist, or Catholic. The language can also appeal to the Jew or the Hindu. I assume that the language is also amenable to the Mormon. The DOI is not a barrier to faith which is explicitly in line with the concept of not hindering the rights of conscience and the free exercise of religion found in the later Constitution.

The god/God language in the DOI was deliberately ambiguous and intentionally neutral. Those drafting and adding to the document were specifically selected, at least in part, for their writing ability - their skills as word smiths.

You get hung up on thinking that words are intrinsically Christian or deist or enlightenment as in an earlier comment regarding the phrase "self-evident" where you say, "I am glad Tom brought up 'self evident.' It seems Hooker was using an Enlightenment word long before the Enlightenment?! The plot thickens..."

From Wiki: In epistemology (theory of knowledge), a self-evident proposition is one that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof.

The term self-evident, in whatever language it is uttered, has been around since at least the ancient Greeks and the formulation of logic and mathematics.

Brad Hart said...

JRB writes:

one thing to keep in mind is that I wasn't making the case that the language that I cited was deistic or intended to be deistic, only that someone who was a deist would feel as comfortable with the language as could a Christian, whether Presbyterian, Baptist, or Catholic. The language can also appeal to the Jew or the Hindu. I assume that the language is also amenable to the Mormon.

That's exactly what I was trying to get at. Thanks for being a better word smith than I, JRB. And yes, Mormons are cool with the language in the DOI.

You get hung up on thinking that words are intrinsically Christian or deist or enlightenment ...

I agree. Sometimes we get too hung up on semantics and miss the bigger picture here. Trying to ascertain if "Nature's God" is inherently and exclusively a Christian idea is sort of like when Pres. Clinton asked, "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is."

jimmiraybob said...

I'd also point out that the founders/framers had a broader constituency to appeal to than the American Reform-minded. There were our northern provincial neighbors (now Canada), indigenous Americans, the English, Europeans and, in general, the "opinions of mankind" as they submitted their case "to a candid world."

jimmiraybob said...

...like when Pres. Clinton asked, "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is."

I cringe in agreement.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Again, some burden of proof and an affirmative argument is required to advance that the Almighty was other than the one in the Bible.

Jews don't recognize Jesus as divine, but very few argue they worship a different Almighty than Christians. Even tho they were small in number, the very presence of Jews in the United States made it prudent to avoid the question of Jesus. [Altho the continental Congress invoked him a few times.]

_____

The "self-evident" thing was in reference to a story that Franklin suggested "self-evident," presumably referring to this passage from Locke or something similar [or from the original by Hooker himself]:

"Sec. 5. This equality of men by nature, the judicious Hooker looks upon as so evident in itself, and beyond all question, that he makes it the foundation of that obligation to mutual love amongst men, on which he builds the duties they owe one another, and from whence he derives the great maxims of justice and charity."

[2nd treatise, chap 2]

Brad Hart said...

Again, some burden of proof and an affirmative argument is required to advance that the Almighty was other than the one in the Bible.

Says who? Why can't the DOI appeal to other faiths? Especially the non-Christian ones? And what is so wrong with the notion that this is precisely what the founders wanted when writing it?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Because you're shifting all burden of proof. Show us a single passage from anybody in the Founding who suggests the Almighty is different than the one in the Bible.

You can say anything if you shift the burden of proof, and make no affirmative arguments. Skepticism always wins.

You have the private writings of Jefferson perhaps, the public trashing of the Bible by Paine in the 1790s [which got him trashed] and very little else.

This is a straight epistemological question. You're taking all ambiguity and claiming it for skepticism. That's not proper.

As for the reality of the issues, the Founders were under the imprssion that Islam would feel pretty much the same as the Judeo-Christian tradition [although in real life, the majority of Islam isn't quite there yet. The Hindoos, too, but as we know, the concept of karma permits fundamental inequality between human beings.

Buddhism doesn't even have a "Deity," an Almighty, as envisioned by Judeo-Christianity. Native American religions are often pantheistic or animistic.

http://are.as.wvu.edu/ruvolo.htm

Nor had any of those religions come up with God-given rights as understood by the Founders. Some still haven't.

Brad Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad Hart said...

I agree with you that most of the founders saw Christianity as being superior to other world religions for the preservation of republican government (in fact, I am working on a post where Montesquieu says as much) but this doesn't mean that the DOI cannot appeal to those of other faiths, and that this was the goal in sight for the founders when writing the document.

This whole "burden of proof" crap doesn't interest me because, in the end, your angle is as skeptical as any other. Sure, maybe the founders were specifically thinking of Jesus when they wrote "Nature's God" but maybe they were also being careful with the words they chose (as JRB points out), so as to appeal to people of all faiths. After all, they were creating a nation where "all men are created equal."

Or did that "creation" only apply to the Jesus camp? Maybe my "burden of proof" is too skeptical. I dunno.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I don't think they were thinking of Jesus atall---they were speaking of the Creator. Jesus is unnecessary to the equation, and afterall Franklin was sitting there too, who was agnostic on the Bible.

But my point isn't about their intention so much, but about the reality---had Jefferson and Franklin actually known the theologies of other religions, they'd have been surprised how closely their own conceptions of the Almighty conformed to the uniquely [Judeo-]Christian concept of God, and the Christian political theology of God-given rights.

So certainly, there intention was to shed sectarianism and make American principles universal principles. However, each had rejected strict Deism or a "God" of philosophy---where God is remote and not providential. And other religions don't match up with their idea of God or Christian "rights" political theology.

And by way of illustration, no doubt they saw Jews as being compatible with this theology [even if Jefferson was a bit hostile to Judaism on a theological level].

II. JEWS.

1. Their system was Deism; that is, the belief of one only God. But their ideas of him and of his attributes were degrading and injurious.

2. Their Ethics were not only imperfect, but often irreconcilable with the sound dictates of reason and morality, as they respect intercourse with those around us; and repulsive and anti-social, as respecting other nations. They needed reformation, therefore, in an eminent degree.

III. JESUS.

In this state of things among the Jews, Jesus appeared. His parentage was obscure; his condition poor; his education null; his natural endowments great; his life correct and innocent: he was meek, benevolent, patient, firm, disinterested, and of the sublimest eloquence. The disadvantages under which his doctrines appear are remarkable.

...

1. He corrected the Deism of the Jews, confirming them in their belief of one only God, and giving them juster notions of his attributes and government.

2. His moral doctrines, relating to kindred and friends, were more pure and perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers, and greatly more so than those of the Jews; and they went far beyond both in inculcating universal philanthropy, not only to kindred and friends, to neighbors and countrymen, but to all mankind, gathering all into one family, under the bonds of love, charity, peace, common wants and common aids. A development of this head will evince the peculiar superiority of the system of Jesus over all others.

Joe Winpisinger said...

Jrb stated:

"one thing to keep in mind is that I wasn't making the case that the language that I cited was deistic or intended to be deistic, only that someone who was a deist would feel as comfortable with the language as could a Christian, whether Presbyterian, Baptist, or Catholic. The language can also appeal to the Jew or the Hindu. I assume that the language is also amenable to the Mormon. The DOI is not a barrier to faith which is explicitly in line with the concept of not hindering the rights of conscience and the free exercise of religion found in the later Constitution."

I would have to mull this over and really think it through but at first glance I think I can agree in principle.

Joe Winpisinger said...

Tom stated:

"I don't think they were thinking of Jesus atall---they were speaking of the Creator. Jesus is unnecessary to the equation"

This point gets passed over all the time. Barton has really poisoned the well here I agree now Tom. People are so used to listening to shit they assume rational people are saying things they are not.


All Western political thought(including ones the stuff I hate like divine right of kings and the like too) up to that point had some tie in with general Judeo-Christian political theology. There is a burden of proof on those that seek to prove some divergence. The same arguments were used a few generations before in England and Adams references them.

If there is the huge break then prove it. It is easy enough to see in France 20 or so years later. I would also like to see the Native American, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Deist argument for inalienable rights grounded in the theory of man being the workmanship of God.

I started this a while back to much skepticism and I think have proven the Judeo-Christian root of the most foundational verse of the DOI and the fact that its form is very much in line with Christian resistance theory/interpositon. If it is wrong prove it wrong with contrary evidence. The burden of proof has shifted.

Aquinas influenced Hooker and was cited by him. Hooker influenced Locke and was cited by him. Locke influenced Jefferson and company who wrote the DOI and was cited by them. The most foundational phrase of the DOI mirrors the exact argument that Locke gets from Hooker and then expounds on as the basis for inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property. Jefferson changed one word.

I know there was some evolution here and there is a debate to be had about the reason and revelation. I also understand that some of the Calvinists and Reformed Theology types had a dark view of the nature of man that was not common in the School Men or Locke and others.

But come on gentlemen. There is more similarities than differences. I will use Jon's term: show me the money.

Pinky said...

.
Again, some burden of proof and an affirmative argument is required to advance that the Almighty was other than the one in the Bible.
.

Whatever else may be true, human beings are fallible.

Even our best choices are fallible and we see that is true in our history--personal as well as in
the greater society.

But, nature is consistent. Pure water always freezes at sea level when the temperature is at
thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit--it never fails. There is always an equal reaction for every action.
It is easy to observe how nature works in a consistent manner without deviation. But, if the
variables are deviated, then so are the results. Formulas are discovered that allow us to test our findings in nature and, as long as they are repeated faithfully, they always work out exactly the same every time and without fail. Scientists have discovered the laws of nature enough to be able to put rockets into space and to design and build the devices that allow us to communicate as we do here using our computers. There is not such thing as spontaneous combustion; but, explosions take place as a result of certain substances coming together under certain circumstances and reacting in a consistently predictable way. Scientific discovery is the way we learn about the laws of nature. Often enough, some scientist will come up with a theory that appears to work and there
will be those who claim that it is the final truth. But, other scientists will already be working to
show that it is not the final truth of the matter. That's the way science works--it is a pursuit of
truth about nature filled with doubt.

There are persons involved in the "social sciences" that believe human society can be understood
using the principles that apply in the natural sciences. I surmise some of our Founding Fathers
were such. There is a subject known as political science in which individuals work at the
discovery of formulas that govern the way people react and respond to various forces in society.
And, there is the science of economics in which persons develop economic formulas in attempts
to understand economy. Nature appears to be all pervasive--at work in every nook and cranny of
existence so that what is true in one situation can be shown to be true in every other situation in
which the variables are exactly the same. And, there is the rub, for how is it possible to make
sure in human society that the variables can be so tightly controlled as they can in a laboratory
experiment? They can't; so, experts like Carl Rove work using the law of averages.

I know it isn't all that exciting; but, there are different fields of mathematics, the study and
mastery of which can open doors to us that are almost unimaginable to our fallibility. Go to this
link to read just a little on the subject:
http://www.wikihow.com/Understand-the-Different-Areas-of-Mathematics . I think it was Thomas Jefferson who claimed that learning calculus was a necessity for learning to make our best decisions in life.

My point reflects on what the Founding Fathers meant when they used the terms, Law of Nature,
and, Nature's God.

Conservatives tend to look to the past for information and knowledge about how government
should work.

Liberals tend to look to experimentation to see if things can't be made to work better. Our
Founding was made by liberal politicians.
.
I don't see how a single post can make a final argument that "Nature's God" is not the finite God of the Bible; but, that it rules over everything in existence.
.
Any person who believes the Bible in the Revealed Word of God cannot be convinced to any other perception that what the Bible puts forth.
.

jimmiraybob said...

Pinky - Liberals tend to look to experimentation to see if things can't be made to work better. Our
Founding was made by liberal politicians.


A number of the founders that provided considerable intellectual heft to the revolution and establishment of the republic spoke in scientific terms such as "experiment" and "political science" and, of course, openly championed science (specifically here I'm thinking Washington).

Indeed, they were well versed in the methods of the science of their time and recognized the fruit of the scientific process which relied upon observation, hypothesis and testing.

The biggest element of the scientific method is data collection and analysis and presentation. You have to build the understanding of the problem before you can design the best experiments. And in political science you have to look to the past and the models that have already been tried. You then you have to evaluate your findings and present your conclusions.

Look at the huge amount of historical research done and presented in defense of proposing a constitutional republic. Look at the presentations such as Hamilton, Madison and Jay's Federalist Papers or Adam's Defence of the Constitutions of the United States. Everywhere the case was being made by looking to the past in order to design the most durable experiment for the future.

Underlying the range of philosophical arguments of the day was a pragmatic concern for what had worked best in the past.

Pinky said...

.
I don't think it is possible to make the case that "Nature's God" is a different god than the God of the Bible in even a discussion thread let alone a single post. The reason? It is because there has been such a long established ideology regarding Biblical infallibility. So, it will take time to show that the Laws of Nature and Nature's Gods are not Biblical in origin or intention.
.
Thanks for you thoughtful reply, JRB.
.

jimmiraybob said...

Because you're shifting all burden of proof. Show us a single passage from anybody in the Founding who suggests the Almighty is different than the one in the Bible.

But they weren't writing the document for themselves. They were appealing to the opinions of mankind and submitting their argument to a candid world. They were not producing a theological document for internal use. And they were writing to the future as much as they were writing to their present. If they wanted to be specific they were more than capable of writing "The Almighty Jehovah and our Lord Jesus Christ" but didn't.

Since they were writing for the world and to the future you'd think they'd want to be as explicit as possible so as to avoid confusion. They sure spent a heck of a lot of effort lining up the specific charges.

Pinky said...

It appears to me that you are precisely correct in your response to Because you're shifting all burden of proof. Show us a single passage from anybody in the Founding who suggests the Almighty is different than the one in the Bible., JRB.
.
The strategy of forcing proof to be found in any single passage exemplifies what it means to build a straw man.
.

bpabbott said...

Re: "If there main goal was to build as case for inalienable rights based on man being the workmanship of God (which is a consistent theme in all the writers Adams cites in his defense of Constitutions) then why would they use Deistic language in a predominantly Christian nation?"

It is true that Adam's included language in his Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America that may be viewed as either patronizing the Christians and/or to support the Christian religion. For example, in the preface;

"The experiment is made, and has completely succeeded: it can no longer be called in question, whether authority in magistrates, and obedience of citizens, can be grounded on reason, morality, and the Christian religion, without the monkery of priests, or the knavery of politicians."

However, I think it entirely improper to conclude that the language indicates our Nation was intended to be hostile toward religious opinion that some may describe as non-Christian.

I thought it clear a significant theme of the founding was the objection to human authority over religion. Consider the words of Adams and Jefferson on this subject (the Jefferson quote is of a later time, but give's good context to the DoI).

The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses […] Thirteen governments thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone without a pretence of miracle or mystery and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind The experiment is made and has completely succeeded.
-- John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88)

May it [the Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day [July 4th] forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them….
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C Weightman, June 24, 1826, Jefferson's last letter, declining, due to ill health, an invitation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of that document; Jefferson died ten days later, the very day ot the 50th anniversary of the Declaration's signing (John Adams died a few hours later, not knowing that Jefferson had also died)

--- continued below ---

bpabbott said...

--- continued from above ---

I don't see anything in these quotes that is hostile to religion. However, I do see the opinion that human authority over religion is harmful to religion and to liberty.

The founding of our nation is hostile (imo) to any suggestion of human authority over religion, and/or any human religious authority over the lives of men. The simple statement that the DoI speaks for the Christian God, and not of other divine perspectives, is a subtle, but direct, affront to this point. The suggestion that the DoI does not speak for any of the multitude of Christian perspectives is also a direct affront to this point.

Regarding the term "Nature's God" in the DoI, it is (imo) intended to represent the true God and his true character. It is not a statement of what his character is, what his character is not, what doctrine is of his origin, or what doctrine is not of his origin.

Pinky said...

.
This phrase, "...the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God..." puts these two "things" together in a way that each one depends on the other.
.
There is no similar phrase that I know of that puts the God of the Bible and any other "thing" together in any of the Founding documents.
.
Therefore, it seems only natural to me to see that Deism has won the day as in the Masonic denominator, Supreme Architect of the Universe.
.

bpabbott said...

(1) "Again, some burden of proof and an affirmative argument is required to advance that the Almighty was other than the one in the Bible."

(2) "Says who? Why can't the DOI appeal to other faiths? Especially the non-Christian ones? And what is so wrong with the notion that this is precisely what the founders wanted when writing it?"

(3) "Because you're shifting all burden of proof. Show us a single passage from anybody in the Founding who suggests the Almighty is different than the one in the Bible."

I think this is some conflation in these remarks. The term "Nature's God" describes the God of *all* religions … but in the absence of all their religious doctrines, special revelations, etc.

Pragmatically, the Christian view of religion and the Deist view differ most significantly in the degree to which Nature's God has is interested in a personal relationship with his creations. This means that these perspectives of the divine share a creator but disagree on their opinion of his character and personality.

Re: "Nor had any of those religions come up with God-given rights as understood by the Founders. Some still haven't."

I think this respects a different point. I think it obvious that the dominant religious motivations of the foundering quality as Christian. However, I also think it obvious that the founders had no desire to continue the traditions of religious entitlements and/or persecutions.

bpabbott said...

Re: Therefore, it seems only natural to me to see that Deism has won the day as in the Masonic denominator, Supreme Architect of the Universe.

I think that depends upon how Deism is understood.

If the God of Deism is viewed as a detached creator who moved on to other interests then I think this violates neutrality by implying a specific religious doctrine.

i.e. God of Deism = God of Nature + ambivalence toward his creations?

If so, (imo) such an definition implies a subjective constraint on God's character in the same manner Christian doctrine does.

Pinky said...

.
This particular claim is very interesting to me: Nor had any of those religions come up with God-given rights as understood by the Founders. Some still haven't.
.
That's bull roar. Human beings live in nature and there it is recognized that there exists certain rights which cannot be taken away from us.
.
Nature is NOT a religion--plain and simple. However, it includes all that exists, that which is yet to be discovered, and that which is yet to exist.
.
Science is the human effort to grasp an understanding of what nature holds and provides for understanding. Some religions claim to possess the absolute truth of all existence and, within their following, do not tolerate meaningful deviance.
.
These two realms--nature and religion--are distinctive and separate from each other.
.
One has been found out to some degree and remains yet to be discovered and the other is conjecture on the part of its followers that profess absolute claims their ideology over rules all other ideas and thinking whatsoever--world without end.
.
One will live on eternally and the other has been winding down and losing its footing for some time now.
.
Too bad. It could have provided a great deal of good for humanity had it not been founded on such absolutist thinking.
.
Anyone ever watch Bill Maher's Religiosity? Go here: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/culture/film/042/article/the-religiosity-of-unbelief/?cHash=efdb4106d8
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

.
Again, some burden of proof and an affirmative argument is required to advance that the Almighty was other than the one in the Bible.


Try again, fellows.

Pinky said...

.
No. That's it for my part.
.
Unless you have some fresh (as opposed to tired and all worn out) argument, it's over with.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Hehe. My arguments are fresh as a daisy, because no one's touched them. ;-)

Pinky said...

.
So, YOU say, Thomas, so YOU say.
.
Let's see who those are that line up behind you.
.

bpabbott said...

Re: "Again, some burden of proof and an affirmative argument is required to advance that the Almighty was other than the one in the Bible,"

and Re: "My arguments are fresh as a daisy, because no one's touched them."

Tom, you're insisting that the burden of proof lies upon a negative assertion.

Do I understand your position to be that the positive assertion that "Nature's God" is synonymous with the Biblical God, in exclusion to all other divine perspectives, has either met its burden of proof or that it suffers no such burden?

... and how is either consistent with your prior comment; "[...] certainly, [the] intention was to shed sectarianism and make American principles universal principles"? ... did you imply that "universal" only applies to Christianity, or did you really mean "universal"?

Tom Van Dyke said...

I meant that Jefferson and Franklin probably intended it to be universal, but after you do some comparative theology [which they did not], their God is uniquely [Judeo-]Christian anyway.

And of course, what I'm saying is both sides of this question carry some burden of proof. I've met mine, via Sam Adams, and the rather uncontroversial assertion that not one man in a hundred would view the Supreme Judge of the World as any anything but the same God as the Bible's.

bpabbott said...

Re: "their God is uniquely [Judeo-]Christian anyway."

I think it correct to conclude that Jefferson's and Franklin's view of the divine has much more in common with Christianity than with the perspective of other organized religions, but don't see how any amount of comparative theology can bring us to the conclusion that "Nature's God" is uniquely the [Judeo-]Christian God.

There were Christian doctrines which each resistent (to say the least) to accept.

I think it more likely that the Jefferson and Franklin saw the [Judeo-]Christian God is another corrupted attempt by men to associate character and doctrine with God, and that when the corruptions are removed we'd be left with Nature's God.

Hence ...

Nature's God = Protestant God - (Protestant corruptions)

Nature's God = Catholic God - (Catholic corruptions)

Nature's God = Jewish God - (Jewish corruptions)

Nature's God = foobar God - (foobar corruptions)

Note; I don't think the founders had any prejudice for religion by any name. Rather they had a distaste for the various corruptions which all religions suffer from.

I see strong parallels between Locke's use of reason to protect religion from corruptions (reason by individuals and organizations) and the founder's application of religious liberty to protect religion from secular and religious authority (liberty of individuals and organizations).

Tom Van Dyke said...

I don't disagree, Ben. But again we're back to Franklin and especially Jefferson. Once again. Always. Jefferson ad infinitum, ad nauseum, who even by his own words was "a sect to himself," and revealed mostly in his private letters.

The fact is that Thomas Paine's God was far too Deist for the Founding era. The general term "religious" tells us far too little.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And, Ben, permit me to add this from David Bentley Hart's Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies---


"Skepticism and atheism are, at least in their highest manifestations, noble, precious, and even necessary traditions, and even the most fervent of believers should acknowledge that both are often inspired by a profound moral alarm at evil and suffering, at the corruption of religious institutions, at psychological terrorism, at injustices either prompted or abetted by religious doctrines, at arid dogmatisms and inane fideisms, and at worldly power wielded in the name of otherworldly goods. In the best kinds of unbelief, there is something of the moral grandeur of the prophets—a deep and admirable abhorrence of those vicious idolatries that enslave minds and justify our worst cruelties."


All the points and currents of thought that Hart describes above were present at the Founding, and not just in Jefferson.

However, that is not the end point. Skepticism alone [or even Paine's rather vanilla God] was insufficient for the Founding and its view of man and God.

bpabbott said...

Re: "[...] we're back to Franklin and especially Jefferson."

I don't agree. The central issue isn't any individuals religious perspective or preference. The central issue is the congruence of preserving religious liberty and protecting religion from corruptions.

Each man embraces these concepts for his own reasons. There is no need to be concerned with the theological details of any individual's religious opinions.

This is a theme (imo) that united the founding effort.

Regarding Hart's comment, I think it appropriate to drop the word "Atheism". Atheism can be, and often is, forged from skepticism, but it is not necessarilly so (I think the same can be true of religion, btw).

Skepticism of the religious doctrines of religious institutions was a uniting theme for the Protestants of the thirteen colonies. They all acknowledged the threats to religious liberty that plagued Europe and feared such a tradition might gain momentum in the new Nation.

Recognizing that my use of skepticism is directed toward the doctrines asserted by human authority, and not directed toward the divine, I remain fixed in my opinion that this was a theme which united the founding.

Tom Van Dyke said...

We seem to agree. Since Jesus is not the Creator who endows rights, he is unnecessary in the discussion. Jesus' entire role in the Christian narrative is about salvation, the concerns of the next world. The political theology of the Founding is about this world.

Hart used "atheism" since he was disputing the "New Atheists" like Hitchens and Dawkins. I could have deleted it.

However, I was using "skepticism" epistemologically, that both sides of this debate need to bring evidence from the Founding for their positions. Otherwise, it's not a debate or a discussion, it's me presenting evidence to those who already have an "epistemological closure." In other words, a waste of both our time: they won't engage my arguments and have no affirmative arguments of their own for me to engage. I'm done dealing with this "Immovable Object" tactic on the internet; life is too short.

Brad Hart said...

"Burden of proof" "deism" "Christianity" "Nature's God," etc., etc., etc.

Round and round the semantics Merry-go-Round we go!

I still think we are complicating the obvious here. The DOI was/is clearly religious. Is it Christian? Of course it is. but it also can fit with virtually every other creed out there. And what is so wrong with suggesting that this is what the founders intended? Let's quit talking past one another here. The DOI isn't an all or nothing bet here where either the secularists or the Christian zealots are exclusively right.

bpabbott said...

Re: "The DOI isn't an all or nothing bet here where either the secularists or the Christian zealots are exclusively right."

Its more of an all and everything where secularists and Christian zealots are inclusively permitted to believe they are right ;-)

Tom Van Dyke said...

but it also can fit with virtually every other creed out there.

I do think that was their dream, although they actually knew little of other religions. But I resist simply taking a "one-size-fits-all" approach to man's religions.

Western political philosophy as seen through one pair of Muslim eyes. He's very well-read, Plato through Burke and Kant and Lincoln and whathaveyou:

http://muslim-canada.org/ch19hakim.html

It's really worth a skim, very wise and honest. Still, he reaches a roadblock at the very end re sharia:

One vital question remains to be answered which arises necessarily out of the relation of Islam to democracy and that is: 'How far is an Islamic society free to make laws for itself if a comprehensive code is already prescribed?'

Unlike Islam, Christianity does not offer itself as a comprehensive code for daily life, leaving a lot of wiggle room. That's all I mean about examining each faith system for its unique content, instead of a blanket term of "religion."

Tom Van Dyke said...

No Christian zealots here, just us chickens. I'm just positing they may be right for the wrong stated reasons. Montesquieu, similarly. By the time Christian political theology arrived at the Founding [with no small contribution from Protestantism, and I say that as a Thomist], it was quite congenial to republicanism. Other faiths are still scrambling.

Joe Winpisinger said...

"We seem to agree. Since Jesus is not the Creator who endows rights, he is unnecessary in the discussion. Jesus' entire role in the Christian narrative is about salvation, the concerns of the next world. The political theology of the Founding is about this world."

We both have stated this 2 times in this thread now and no one has acknowledged it or countered it. We started with someone stating that the language was Deist and Christian to it seems it really was Christian but was compatible with other views of God to now it seems it was Christian and meant not to offend.

Sumpreme JUDGE of the Universe is not meant to offend the Deist who thinks God could care less? It would confuse the Buddhist that has zero concept of God(I know this from missionary experience of trying to explain it) same for the Hindu it is more of an impersonal force that arbitrarily gets angry and the was no knowing why or when? Not to mention the fact that Hinduism is a poly theistic religion. I think that one could go with Islam in the absract. But that falls down with any talk of rights. That notion could be terribly offensive to the strict Muslim that thinks that Sharia is the only way to go.

I could go on and on. I have had 1000's and 1000's of conversations with all different kinds of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists... about their religion and Christianity. I have also read entensively about all of these religions.

I will say that some tribal religions that worship a Great Spirit-like Creator would not be offended and much of what they believe could go with this type of language.

Also once we get make it clear that Jesus has nothing to do with all this it is good to know that God has numerous different names in the Old Testament. Look it up. This was the lingo of the day and totally an appropriate way to describe the rights granting God of the Bible.

The secularist has to understand the theology to get on the playing field just as much as the pastor has to understand the history or the biology. There is a rank hypocrisy among the culture warriors in this vain. They do not want pastors who cannot pass the biology test saying what should be taught. I do not want Scientists that cannot pass the theology test saying what should be taught either.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Jesus' entire role in the Christian narrative is about salvation, the concerns of the next world. The political theology of the Founding is about this world."

We both have stated this 2 times in this thread now and no one has acknowledged it or countered it.

Yeah. And also the "comparative theology" part. Time to move on after 70+ comments. Anyone who has anything intelligent to add can pick it up in Brad's Montesquieu thread.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2010/05/montesquieu-on-religion-in-republic.html

I'll throw my previous comment and the link to the Islamic philosopher's excellent piece there too.

Brad Hart said...

We both have stated this 2 times in this thread now and no one has acknowledged it or countered it. We started with someone stating that the language was Deist and Christian to it seems it really was Christian but was compatible with other views of God to now it seems it was Christian and meant not to offend.

Whoo-dee-doo! That's not what we're getting at here, Joe. The DOI was an all-inclusive document. This is why everyone can lay claim to it...including those terrible secularists. Again, I think we're getting too hung up on semantics. It's a document with religious verbage...case closed for me. I care very little about the hidden, obscure links to Christianity, Islam, the god of the Bible, Qur'an or Green Eggs and Ham. Bottom line: it's a stretch to say that the DOI proves anything, other than America's desire to separate from Britain. It certainly isn't conclusive evidence that America is a "Christian Nation" and any attempts to use it as such (as demonstrated in the video debate) is nonsense.

I'm with Tom. We've beaten this to death. Let's chat on another thread.