Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Romans 13 Is Really Beside the Point

In response to my last post Brad Hart left the following comment:

"Here's my question: do you honestly believe that the entire American Revolution hung on religion? Or more specifically on the interpretation of Romans 13? Or could it be that early colonial Americans, like any group of people, got really pissed off at the repeated perceived abuses of the British and were ready to throw down as a result? And didn’t really need too much justification to break out a can of whoop-ass on their European brethren? Bible or no bible, preacher or no preacher, natural law or no natural law, this fight was a’gonna happen. Yes, religion is an important factor, and the purpose of our blog is sound, but let’s not assume that it was the ONLY factor."

As far as Romans 13 goes I think it was important to the people who cared about what God thought. How many people was that?  I have no idea but we do know that the group that worried the King the most was the Presbyterians, the Declaration of Independence was amended to be more attractive to Calvinists, and Adams is quoted as stating that Mayhew's sermon was a key to the Revolution. As I have stated numerous times, it probably was a large and influential faction.

With that stated, this is not the focus of my series of posts on Christian ideas that help shape the founding and what role interpostion/resistance theory had to play in this.  Nor is it to state that religion was the only thing that mattered to the colonists. The focus of these posts is what the founding actually did hang on: the foundations of inalienable rights. This following comment from Tom Van Dyke sums up what I have been trying to get at better than I can:

"As for K of I's key point, my own interest in religion and the Founding comes down to this key point, the origin of the concepts of rights and liberty. It's not just about Aquinas, and I've been very surprised to see the road lead through Calvinism as well, although neither are their final destination, the Founding.

But the question remains, in 2010, just as when Jefferson first asked,

'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?'"
Attempts by modern secularists to separate inalienable rights from their theological roots are not only futile they are historically inaccurate. This is David Barton's larger point that often gets pushed aside with petty arguments on minor points. Shame on those who do it.

13 comments:

Brad Hart said...

Ok, good post. This helps me understand a little better where you are coming from. A couple of small points:

1.) Yes, religion was a very important player in the revolution. Was it the most important? Did most colonists fret over the idea of doing God's will when it came to rebellion against the Mother Land? I don't know. What I do know is that the American Revolution had several major factors that were as diverse as the colonies themselves. My main concern with your debate with Jon was that we not forget that diversity and limit ourselves to only the religious arguments.

2.) The "Inalienable Rights" debate is an interesting one; one that I look forward to following. To be honest, I don't know what I think on it.

3.) I wouldn't call this "David Barton's larger point." Let's not get carried away here. Barton's agenda is not historical. He's only interested in twisting history to fit the Evangelical agenda (the Texas school fiasco should ring a bell here).

King of Ireland said...

Brad stated:

"My main concern with your debate with Jon was that we not forget that diversity and limit ourselves to only the religious arguments."

That is why I linked all this a while back to Gladstone's essay. Jon's post today is a good one. It is more about the "limited state" Gladstone talks about then "free individuals sovereign". Two different arguments. One is about ideas on rights the other is about forms of government to protect them. The latter has more of a diverse range of origins.

"I wouldn't call this "David Barton's larger point." Let's not get carried away here. Barton's agenda is not historical. He's only interested in twisting history to fit the Evangelical agenda (the Texas school fiasco should ring a bell here)."

Some of that I said for affect for the same reason you post about him: It gets people's ears to perk up. But I did not state anything about his agenda. In fact, I do not agree with it. I said his larger point. Which is that the history is tainted. Same point two different agendas.

King of Ireland said...

Brad,

I have learned most of what I know about all this from the debates on this blog. I think it is good for one person to take one side and the other another. Why? It outlines the positions so people can discern truth for themselves. I know that the Frazer debates did not resolve anything but it did give another side to balance things out some.

In fact, Jon has changed my mind a great deal about many things since we have engaged in this debate.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Brad---Exc comment, and homes in on the core point of our joint inquiry into religion and the Founding.

1.) Yes, religion was a very important player in the revolution. Was it the most important? Did most colonists fret over the idea of doing God's will when it came to rebellion against the Mother Land? I don't know.

Perfect, Brad, but at your first point of order, I'd put it 180 degrees the other way---The colonists would not have gone through with the Revolution if they believed God [via Romans 13] disapproved.

They cared what God "thought," and the weird thing is that the Calvinists, the presbyterians, the Romans 13 types, whatever, were the ones who led the Revolution.

Samuel Adams, the Calvinist's Calvinist.

After Britain's first civil war, chopping King Charles'head off in 1649

http://www.historyonthenet.com/Chronology/timelinecivilwar.htm

...the Calvinist/Covenanters/Presbyterians could not have found the American Revolution the least bit theologically troubling.

Yes, some believed that God would disapprove of the American Revolution and fled to Canada; but they were mostly Anglicans---Church of England. Or just fled to Canada because they were pussies.

2.) The "Inalienable Rights" debate is an interesting one; one that I look forward to following. To be honest, I don't know what I think on it.

That's why I'm still here.


3.) I wouldn't call this "David Barton's larger point." Let's not get carried away here. Barton's agenda is not historical. He's only interested in twisting history to fit the Evangelical agenda (the Texas school fiasco should ring a bell here).


Brad, I know you want us to "stay current." The only problem is that when David Barton's name comes up, it poisons the well. What he gets wrong is the only topic.

Which is why I never write about him, never cite him, never link to his website. He's part of the culture wars, not the history of ideas. I think of him as a guy out in the desert unearthing dinosaur bones. He has value in that way, and God bless him for looking and digging. Send it back to the lab for analysis.

Great comment, Brad---you laid the questions out well. Cheers, mate.

King of Ireland said...

Tom,

The problem is that Barton is out there in the back of people's mind. Whenever they hear anything that sounds like him they tune out the rest and start the shit about the quotes and label you as Barton.
I have had it happen to me at Dispatches more than once.

To combat that, the truth needs to get out that his core POINT is actually true. His problem is he is taking one exxagerated version and replacing it with another. I think Brad even had a hard time with the concept I was getting at in these posts because much of it is the same general points that Barton makes and the well is ALREADY poisoned.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I prefer not mention Mr. Barton in any context, is all.

King of Ireland said...

I respect that.

Pinky said...

.
Without reading any of the comments to your article, it seems to me that Romans 13 must have played and important part in dividing the colonists into revolutionaries and Loyalists.
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King of Ireland said...

Pinky,

I think you might be right.

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

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Could be.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

I'd like to see more Loyalist arguments along Romans 13 lines before seeing it that way. I think it was more like simple loyalty to the Mother Country, perhaps with a touch of Anglicanism [Church of England, where the clergy swore loyalty to the head of the Church of England, i.e., the king].

As Jeremy Bangs' recent post and Mark David Hall's comment suggest, the Calvinist

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

was quite a rarity in America, and Dr. Hall blegged for a single non-Anglican preacher born in the New World who opposed the Revolution.

Pinky said...

.
My suggestion was based on the conservative Christian's thinking once the doctrine of infallibility is accepted. If the Bible is the Revealed Word of God, then it is vital that persons do their best to let the Bible be their guide in all things.
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