Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kraynak: Christianity vs. Modernity

By Robert P. Hunt


The following is a small excerpt from this essay:

"Nowhere is Kraynak’s effort to baptize classical political philosophy more evident than in his treatment of Plato's and Cicero’s defense of a "mixed regime." The ancients understood "the advantages of a mixed regime in promoting a stable and balanced order that combines freedom and virtue in the citizen body with feelings of filial affection and piety for the foremost ruler" (Kraynak, 236). "The only point [at which a worldview inspired by the New Testament supplied an "important amendment"] that is missing in the classical philosophers is a proper distinction between the spiritual and temporal realms that the Greeks and Romans (and non-Christian cultures in general) were unable to grasp in all its implications" (Kraynak, 236-37).
The Greeks and Romans were unable to grasp the implications of a proper distinction between spiritual and temporal realms because they made no such distinction in the first place. Christianity has done more than merely construct a second-tier "amendment" of supernatural ends over a foundational tier accessible to unaided human reason. Christianity has, in the words of John Courtney Murray, "destroy[ed] the classical view of society as a single homogenous structure, within which the political power stood forth as the representative of society in its religious and in its political aspects."Moreover, it has "freed man from nature by teaching him that he has an immortal soul, which is related to matter but not immersed in it or enslaved to its laws....It has taught him his uniqueness, his own individual worth, the dignity of his own person, the equality of all men, the unity of the human race." This conception of man’s personal spiritual dignity does not sit atop the classical conception of man as a rational animal. Rather, it transforms that conception with the light of its radiance into something other than "Platonic" or "Aristotelian" Christianity. And in freeing man from nature, it has rendered the most fundamental of classical "regime questions" (What is the best political regime?) largely irrelevant since no "regime" short of the Kingdom of God in its fullness can satisfy man’s thirst for heaven. In fact, the very effort to answer such a question in political terms may be indicative of the fact that one has applied categories of analysis more characteristic of a resident of the earthly city.
At other points, Kraynak’s acknowledgedly Christian commitments seem to be subordinated to a view of human nature and of the role and purpose of the state that is more overtly Platonic. For example, Kraynak decries "the replacement of a culture that aspires to spiritual, philosophical, artistic, and heroic greatness with one dedicated to mundane pursuits and the tastes of ordinary people" (Kraynak, 26-27). This aristocratic distinction between a "high" culture of aspirational greatness and a "low" culture of "ordinary" tastes leads Kraynak to argue that Jesus Christ himself distinguished between "higher" and "lower" human beings. By distinguishing between innocent and guilty human beings, Kraynak argues, "Jesus’ very words require us to distinguish between higher and lower human beings and imply that fundamental human rights can be negated in order to satisfy the demands of divine justice" (Kraynak, 174)." (Bold face is mine)

I found this essay by googling Robert Kraynak after he was cited by Jon Rowe in the comments section of this post.  I found it germane in light of Dr. Hall's post on the Constitution and federalism and the ensuing discussion about various views on human nature and how it ties into Federalist 51. Accordingly, the bold faced part of this excerpt shows two distinct views of Human nature.   The former is what many who have been influenced by Augustian thinking deem as being tainted by rationalism but is nonetheless historically Christian.

52 comments:

King of Ireland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
King of Ireland said...

I found this comment by Jon on Volck Conspiracy:

"Oh I’d love to see Bruce Feiler deal with Robert Kraynak on how the American Founding distorted the orthodox of the Moses/Exodus story.

To the biblical literalist that tale is not, or is not supposed to be about political liberty or rebellion, but spiritual liberty and submission to authority. Though if one adopts a more loose, liberal or cafeteria biblical hermeneutic (as Jefferson, Franklin and America’s patriotic preachers did) you could get political liberty and rebellion out of the story (i.e., only by revising or rewriting it).

Nowhere in Exodus did Moses rebel or even disobey an order by Pharoah."


It is not cafeteria Christianity. One does not have to rewrite the Bible. They were politically liberated. Interjecting the spirtual liberation is reading into the text something that is not there.

You can make a case that this was an earthly example of a heavenly principle but one most certainly cannot throw out the earthly aspects and the fact that this was a political liberation.

Deposing a King is not rebellion according to Aquinas and he is as orthodox as anyone. This is a valid historically Christian view.

King of Ireland said...

I might also add that the quoted Mr. Murray in this essay is putting forth the idea of dignity of the human being based on imago dei. Precisely what the Augustians diminish. In another part of the essay that I will bring out I think Hunt correctly points out the Kraynak misses a lot of constitutional rights talk in Medevil Christianity.

Like we see in the Constitution of Aragon.

Tom Van Dyke said...

For those keeping scholarly score, Hunt says Kraynak is basically repeating the thesis of [Father] Ernest Fortin.

Fortin was a student of, and actually a personal friend of...wait for it...Leo Strauss!

Hunt's essay highlights my problem with Strauss himself---in setting modern philosophy against classical philosophy, he misses the Christian medievals [Aquinas, the Schoolmen].

And, I would add, that the Catholic-minded also miss the Calvinists that have been featured lately by Mark David Hall.

The thing is, as a European, Strauss legitimately tells the story of liberal democracy without "Christian thought"---the Europeans went directly to a Kantian/French Enlightenment scheme of "rights talk."

The [Anglo-]American experience was different, and indeed unique. In fact, our contemporary ideological wars are precisely about this point---America's left completely echoes the worldview and underlying philosophy of the European left. Britain has gone over to the European---"modern"---view. The last question is whether America will follow.

King of Ireland said...

"Hunt's essay highlights my problem with Strauss himself---in setting modern philosophy against classical philosophy, he misses the Christian medievals [Aquinas, the Schoolmen]."

I am starting to see that. You should read this whole thing he goes into the whole Plato/Aristotle/Kant thing. Helped me see the big picture much better.

Frazer and Hall have convinced me that I need to focus on political theory not law. I hope to get some grad education in it. My problem is that I do not understand enough of the history of philosophy to get into the tall weeds of schools of thought that affect politics.

Essays like this help to fill in those holes.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The thing is, the historians don't know philosophy and vice-versa. Further, neither quite get theology. No wonder, then, that medieval Christian thought [and Reformed Theology] are the hole in the donut.

Just ran across

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


tonight elsewhere. He hits the nail on the head here:

Christianity has done more than merely construct a second-tier "amendment" of supernatural ends over a foundational tier accessible to unaided human reason. Christianity has, in the words of John Courtney Murray, "destroy[ed] the classical view of society as a single homogenous structure, within which the political power stood forth as the representative of society in its religious and in its political aspects.

Moreover, it has "freed man from nature by teaching him that he has an immortal soul, which is related to matter but not immersed in it or enslaved to its laws....It has taught him his uniqueness, his own individual worth, the dignity of his own person, the equality of all men, the unity of the human race."


Locke makes a similar claim in Reasonableness about the necessity of the Gospel for man. Regardless of the question of whether the Gospel has a divine origin, Murray argues, to me persuasively, that Christianity offers a unique view of man, his place in the universe, and relation to fellow man that is neither classical nor modern. On a political level, it finds its fulfillment in the American Founding that is neither Athens or Paris.

(Fr. Murray's view of pluralism per the Anglo-American model eventually won out in the Second Vatican Council, a "tolerance" like Locke with a Thomistic view of the limits of "legislating morality," that sometimes the cure [social disorder] can be worse than the disease.)

King of Ireland said...

That part from Murray is in the excerpt I quoted from the essay. He does hit the nail on the head. If you check the link to "two views on human nature" it goes to a post I did way back on Lockean and Augustian views of God and man's nature(imago dei, sinful nature vs. total depravity and all)

Funny that Dr. Hall's post took us back there. I think it was the first I did on trying to reframe the discussion away from soteriology.

I think this is where the rubber meets the road in regards to the Enligtenment. If it has a totally rosy picture of man than it is not the founding. They seemed to be split between sinful yet intrinsically valuable and capable of good and total depravity and capable of no good apart from salvation. Both solidly in the historically Christian camp for centuries.

If men were angels they would not need God! Powerful statement.

King of Ireland said...

"(Fr. Murray's view of pluralism per the Anglo-American model eventually won out in the Second Vatican Council, a "tolerance" like Locke with a Thomistic view of the limits of "legislating morality," that sometimes the cure [social disorder] can be worse than the disease.)"

We will get to more of this for sure.


I looked back and my first post was a year ago Friday. I went back and read it. It was horrible. So much so I went and edited it. I finally feel like I am getting this stuff. This blog is awesome.

I went and tried it out and JRB is right we come up top 5 or 10 on most searches that have anything to do with the founding and religion. Often 2 or 3. We beat Amazon quite frequently.

I am hoping that we can attract more scholars like Hall and Frazer. I have been courting Lillback on Facebook too. I think we are on to something here and America needs this dialogue.

Hell one of the top talk show hosts in the nation has a founders Friday now!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I think you set up false dichotomies. What is true is true, as there is no "spiritual truth" that can be called truth in the real sense of meaning.

Such terms as heaven and soul are symbols. But, what are the meanings of such terms?

If political liberty is what Moses, as a myth is about, then that is "truth", but don't spiritualize it, by sanctioning "God".

People need proper government, which act in the stead of "god" (whether one believes in God or not, is not the point). Proper government means that not just the structure of government, but the leaders are deemed virtuous. And virtue does not dismiss others and their "voices", as it listens, compromises, comes to terms, etc..Today's political climate is polarized such that many cannot listen, compromise, or come to terms.

Pinky said...

.
Fortin was a student of, and actually a personal friend of...wait for it...Leo Strauss!
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Thanks, Tom. I didn't know that.
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But, as I was reading the main post here, I kept thinking, "This guy is a straussian."
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So, I was probably correct?
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The idea that a liberal democracy is such a bad thing comes right straight out of some platonic philosophy about the two sides of humanity--one lower and one higher.

".„Schauen Sie die Zuchtlosigkeit in der heutigen amerikanischen Gesellschaft an. Erinnert es Sie von frühem Deutschland vom zwanzigstem Jahrhundert nicht“?
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Isn't a "liberal democracy" understood as a "state of nature"? And the "state of nature" is understood to need "correction" by both the Calvanist types, and scientists types by those that seek to make distinctions about man's nature and who is qualified to rule?

Then, how one is to "correct" man's nature will become the question to be answered.

Some enthusiasts would like religious experience, while the Calvinist believed in an ordering by law, and the Enlightenment was by the structuring of government.

The ones who favored law were predisposed to biblical law, and its theological framing, while the Enlightenment was more interested in education as the "correction". And the enthusiasts or revivalists would think that only through a personal encounter with God, could one overcome "sin"...

Pinky said...

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Hey, Angie!
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Click on the words, Liberal Democracy, in your post and see what you get.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
Wouldn't you correlate the Enlightenment thinkers with libertarianism?
What about Republicanism, being the environment to host Christian/Calvinistic thinking?
And wouldn't Democratic ideals be more Catholic/natural law types?

It is the emphasis I am thinking is important.
The Enlightenment; liberty
The Calvinist; Providence/election

The Catholic; natural rights/law/humanitarian concern

All are incorporated in our understanding as Americans.

Pinky said...

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Hey, Angie.
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I see these concepts and their origins as being so confusing that it is--for all practical concerns--just about impossible to nail them down to a couple of sources let alone to anchor them to any single beginning. As human beings we are a pretty resourceful lot.
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At some point, we have to move on with the realization that a variety of forces are impinging on where we are at now. It's like a river with a hundred tributaries. Which one is responsible for the flow?
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But, I have a good idea about what is causing the current set of rapids. We are in the white waters of Strauss here and now.
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There are those who know this is, at least partially, true.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Modernity is a challenge to those who think that there is "special revelation" or some higher kind of understanding.

The Catholics are more open than Calvinists to science/nature, in general, because theirs is a faith based on an understanding of nature being "inhabited by God". Their communion table is "sacred" as the "body and blood" become the reality of Christ. The earth is God's and is his footstool. But, Catholics would be more interested in making a distinction about their faith in theology.


But, Lutherans would understand symbolism, so their faith is undefined by any type of speech, because it is the act that inhabits thier faith. Nominalist are "secularist" in practicality. Communion isn't "sacred" or "holy", it is the act of taking the communion in faith that makes for its "revelational" function. Lutherans tend to understand their faith in more individualized way, as faith is personal.

The Calvinist/sectarian types would see the need for "communion" as a "way of life"....and faith is lived within a "faith community"...

The Enlightenment sees the "state of nature not as fallen, but deprived (like the Catholic), so education is important to further human flourishing.

(some of the aforementioned analysis is gleaned from Clarence Bence, a Church History professor at Indiana Wesleyan University)

Pinky said...

.
Of course.
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But, that ALL gets tossed out with Strauss and all that counts is getting control of the society in the most effective was as is possible by the virtuous few who are worthy to lead. Thank you very much.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Straussophobia is so 2003.

The rest of this discussion has degenerated into a reductionism, where generic terms are used in place of the actual ideas of the time. Such generalizations prohibit getting at the real facts. For instance, "modernity" opposes not only "special revelation" [scripture], but the existence of God as a Providential reality, and even a rejection of the existence of a natural law, where "the good" is objective concept and not merely a creature of opinion.

One can be a "Thomist" like Murray Rothbard and believe in a "natural law" as objective good, and still be an atheist, as Rothbard was.
King also hits on the key point of the various philosophical views of man, as basically good or basically flawed. The extremes here are "the perfectibility of man" [modern] and "total depravity" [Calvin's Calvinism].

However, the view of the Founding era was natural law, which held that although flawed, man is capable of gravitating toward the good.

Pinky said...

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Straussophobia is so 2003.
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As long as the present day Republican Party is around and as long as it stays associated with the so-called religious right, the straussians are with us and doing what they can do to interpret history according to their interests and to take control of our society.
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Don't kid yourself and don't let any pro straussian kid you either.
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Pinky said...

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OK, Tom. You can go to Amazon.Com and collect your commission. I ordered Smith's book.
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What I read agrees with what I have lerned in the past.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

You might as well be talking about the Illuminati or the Rothschilds.

Besides injecting contemporary politics [and hate and paranoia, etc.], I object to the brutal use of terms here. Once you apply a term to a thinker [Calvinist, "Enlightenment," Straussian], you put them into a box, as if there's complete agreement and predictability about their thinking.

However, Ernest Fortin, for all his respect and friendship for Strauss, isn't Strauss. Neither is Kraynak Strauss even though he shares a pedogological lineage. Neither am I a "Straussian," even as I find him valuable for his critique of modernity and his method of reading texts closely, rather than resorting to putting people in boxes.

Besa, Vermigli, Ponet and Mornay---and Samuel Adams!---are Calvinists, but they are not Calvin.

Pinky said...

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So, why do you think I spend so much effort on Strauss, Tom?
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Do you think I don't think he makes some very important and valid points?
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Just because I find fault in some of his conclusions doesn't mean I don't respect him.
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You were off base when I tagged in, so I'm home safe.
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Score one for my team.
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:<)
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Smith is good. The problem with associating thinkers with contemporary politics is that even Plato is Politically Uncorrect. [Indeed, some people call him a fascist.]

Strauss' disappointment with "liberal democracy" is becaiuse of his European view---he was forced to flee Nazism in the 1930s because the Weimar republic was took weak and feckless to oppose the rise of Hitler and protect Germany's Jews from him. that's why I have a problem with Strauss, because he misses America and the influence of Aquinas and Reformed Theology [Protestant] in providing the theologico-political underpinnings of American "liberal democracy."

However, if you figure America out of Strauss' equation and look only at European liberal democracy---the product of modernity and Kant---his criticism is much easier to take.

Pinky said...

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Straussian ideas impinge on what is going on in our look-see at America's Founding as long as our ideas are allowed to come down on us in our study. Strauss is, more or less, our contemporary.
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The river analogy with its white water rapids applies as I gave it.
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America is in a mess and some interpretations being given here, buttress what Strauss wanted to see come into play.
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If we cannot be objective about our own places, what's the use of discussing anything?
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Tom Van Dyke said...

If we cannot be objective about our own places, what's the use of discussing anything?

We can't be objective, that's the point, and why we try very hard to keep contemporary politics off this blog.

I've participated on a Strauss list for 3 or 4 years, and whenever the discussion turns to current issues, it turns into complete nonsense and a complete waste of cyberink.

And this is among "Straussians," mind you. Contrary to popular belief, there are leftist, anti-capitalist Straussians; there are atheist Straussians; polytheistic Straussians, and everything in between.

Fr. Fortin is a perfect example---near the end of his career somebody jokes Strauss' classroom was full of priests!

Not bad for a guy who was culturally Jewish and questionably even a theist.

Pinky said...

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This thread seems to have deteriorated by the takes on something I posted.
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Sorry about that; but, at the time, I was sure my post was appropriate. Anyway, Tom has declared it exhausted.
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In any event, Tom brings up a good point about our not being able to be objective.
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Tom, are you saying it is in the rules of this site not to be so, or are you saying that people just can't truly be objective?
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If it is in the rules for us to be entirely subjective, that should be made plain to all bloggers.
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The original post does smack of straussian thinking.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

I have only read tid-bits about Strauss and Spinoza, but if Spinoza was considered the father of the Enlightenment/modernity, and Strauss affirmed some of Spinoza's philosophy, then how is Strauss anti-modern?

Pinky said...

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I'm working through a book that critiques Strauss.
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As I go through, I'm trying to do it justice with a review.
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Here is a link which would be a better place for questions than this American Creation site.
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http://americansociety-today.blogspot.com/
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Good. Take Shadia Drury there.


.
Tom, are you saying it is in the rules of this site not to be so, or are you saying that people just can't truly be objective?


What I'm saying is that current events send all sense out the window. There are thousands [millions] of blogs for that out there, and several cable channels. AC has a different approach.

eli said...

Tom,

I spent the last few weeks chewing on the first few pages of NRH again. I think it bears directly on this conversation. I'm going to throw my understanding of what Strauss is saying out there. I may be off, or making an unjustified leap.

As I understand it, Strauss does not "miss" Aquinas, if by "miss" you specifically mean "neglect". Strauss does not neglect Christianity - he believes Christianity was a stage in the progression toward modernity.

Look again at the bold quote from King's original post:

[Christianity] has "freed man from nature by teaching him that he has an immortal soul, which is related to matter but not immersed in it or enslaved to its laws....It has taught him his uniqueness, his own individual worth, the dignity of his own person, the equality of all men, the unity of the human race."

Aspects of this Christian idea were obviously motivators for the French revolution. Here is a paraphrase of Strauss's comments on the French Revolution from chapter one of NRH:

* a particular natural right doctrine prepared the cataclysm of the French revolution. (Strauss doesn't specify what this doctrine is, but it hardly seem a stretch to say it included ideas about equality and dignity.)

* this is not surprising, because the recognition of any universal principles has "necessarily a revolutionary, disturbing, unsettling effect ... the recognition of universal principles forces man to judge the established order ... in the light of the natural or rational order; and what is actual here and now is more likely than not to fall short of the universal and unchangeable norm"

This of course doesn't mean that Strauss is saying Christian ideas inevitably cause political upheaval, or that Strauss equated the French revolution with Christianity (obviously, duh). What it does mean is that there are two Christian responses to political problems:

1. See them as irrelevant or unworthy of attention, or something to be complacently suffered, ala Romans 13: (Again, from King's post: "And in freeing man from nature, it has rendered the most fundamental of classical "regime questions" (What is the best political regime?) largely irrelevant since no "regime" short of the Kingdom of God in its fullness can satisfy man’s thirst for heaven.")

2. Demand that God's order be implemented on earth, ala the various Hebrew messiahs being crucified by the Romans. Contra Jon, I think this is the overwhelming biblical -- if not Christian -- stance. Political liberation is promised by God and the prophets over and over, as compared to one lousy Pauline paragraph.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Strauss argues the 2nd explicitly---that "natural law" [Aquinas] is inextricably bound with not only "natural theology" but the Bible itself.

See the end of the "Classic Natural Right" section. For Sytraussian cabalsits, note that Aquinas appears at the end of "classic" rather than the beginning of the following "modern" natural right section.

"It has taught him his uniqueness, his own individual worth, the dignity of his own person, the equality of all men, the unity of the human race."

Aspects of this Christian idea were obviously motivators for the French revolution.


However, the difference is these assertions are no longer grounded in man's nature as a creature of God, but in assertions made by man himself about himself [even if in the "state of nature."]. This is explicitly "modern," and why [upon deep reading] Locke scholars say Locke agrees and is therefore himself modern.

I simply argue that, historically speaking, the American Founders didn't read Locke as the radical modernist that Strauss [and many others, including Ed Feser] say he was after you peel back the "judicious" Richard Hooker happy-talk.

but again, my problem with Strauss and many other modern scholars is that dismiss all Locke's God-talk as a diversion from his true radical purpose, and secondly, do not consider Christianity on its own terms and content, only as "religion" as a generic socio-political category where one size fits all, Jesus or Zeus.

I've not done any work on Christopher Dawson, a well-regarded albeit "Christian" philosopher, but I think he nails it here in defining Christianity in terms of its own claim on the history of history:

Dawson set out for himself the task of explaining the twofold nature of Christian history: while the Christian faith embodies eternal values and the teachings of God, it nevertheless transforms utterly the cultures it contacts. When the Christian faith enters into a culture, as when it first burst upon an over civilized and jaded Rome, it begins a spiritual regeneration that affects not only the material, external culture, but the interior constitution of its members. In an essay entitled “The Christian View of History,” Dawson wrote:

For the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation is not simply a theophany — a revelation of God to Man; it is a new creation — the introduction of a new spiritual principle which gradually leavens and transforms human nature into something new. The history of the human race hinges on this unique divine event which gives meaning to the whole historical process.

This new, world-transforming history overthrows its rivals, whether the Greek idea of an endless series of repeating cycles or the spiritless homogeneity of the “postmodern” era.


http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0001.html

I submit, as Dawson does here, that Christianity is a "third thing" between classical and modern, and so is America. To date, anyway.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"However, the view of the Founding era was natural law, which held that although flawed, man is capable of gravitating toward the good."

I would add imago dei to this and man's inherent worth. The biggest question I have between all the "moderates"(not total depravity nor perfectability) is how man accesses the good?


I went back and read an old post about the reason vs. revelation thing with OFT in it. It looks like Locke thinks natural law is reason in one sense and then God's grace is needed to follow it in as well. I doubt he contradicted himself so I am suspicious that he is mis-read.

I also have to say that the credit for bringing the nature of man angle into clear focus is Dr. Hall. I have been trying to hit on this theme since way back but he outlined the frame of discussion in a clear and precise manner.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"However, the difference is these assertions are no longer grounded in man's nature as a creature of God, but in assertions made by man himself about himself [even if in the "state of nature."]. This is explicitly "modern," and why [upon deep reading] Locke scholars say Locke agrees and is therefore himself modern."

Unless I am missing something this is absurd to say about someone who believed that man needed redemption. Rejecting original sin is not where close to saying the man is inherently good or as you say believing in the perfectability of man. People miss Locke because they have no clue how to evalute his theology.

Most focus on any and everything but his commentaries on the Bible. Despite a few small differences I can see little between what he writes and the numerous modern commentaries I have read.

King of Ireland said...

Good stuff gentlemen. This is deep and meaningful discussion. I think I am going to do some more posts of short excerpts from this essay. Problem is I started near the end and it may have been better to go point by point.

Maybe not though considering that this part compliments Dr. Hall's last post and may well be the foundation to build upon in this discussion.

Any thoughts? Or anyone want to do a post on other aspects of this essay. It seems that you guys know more about the philosophical aspects at play here. I tend to focus on the theology to the detriment of the philosophical angles.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Strauss' reading method would say all contradictions are only apparent contradictions. Since Locke would have to hide his unorthodoxies, if he speaks of "grace" approvingly, it's probably as cover for a more radical idea.

I haven't done much work on "grace," although it was a huge theological split between Luther and Calvin against Romanism and Aquinas and reason.

However, this look at Locke and grace seems promising, and we see even the Puritans starting to loosen up from man being completely helpless unless God converts them ["Elect" in Calvinism]---moving away from "total depravity" toward Arminianism or semi-Pelagianism, that at least man can "prepare" for grace [and thereby faith and sola fide] by good living and...reason.

I think that's where the Founding consensus ended up, that man was neither totally good [Rousseau's "noble savage"] nor bad [Calvin], and re education, certainly with Aristotle and Aquinas that virtue is a habit. There are tons of Founding quotes from Benjamin Rush and others about the need to habitate virtue among the young, usually via religion.

I still think linking Madison and "total depravity" is way overplayed, a bum argument.

King of Ireland said...

"Strauss' reading method would say all contradictions are only apparent contradictions. Since Locke would have to hide his unorthodoxies, if he speaks of "grace" approvingly, it's probably as cover for a more radical idea."

Locke was a damn good theologian. I do not think you can fake his depth. This argument is absurd to anyone who has studied both the Bible and numerous commentaries from many different streams about it.

I was shocked to my core to read his commentary on Romans. I had always been taught he was a deist and I think some textbooks imply he was an atheist. They certainly do not bring out his theological side. Talk about revisonist.

King of Ireland said...

"I still think linking Madison and "total depravity" is way overplayed, a bum argument."

Thats what happens when you ignore the centrist view of human nature. The Enlightenment guys seem to emphasis his view of what man was capable of. This is why the Federalist Papers seem to contradict themselves when they actually bring this tension into a good balance.

King of Ireland said...

I skimmed through the link on Locke. Looks promising.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yeah, I never hear about Locke's commentaries on the Epistles, although they took up the last part of his life.

However, that Locke was still a theological/philosophical radical should not be dismissed out of hand. There are many scholars familiar with his every word who have come to that conclusion, and from all across the culture war spectrum.

On the other hand, I'm not sure they're entirely correct, either. Locke's argument for man's need of the Gospel is quite elegant, and less "reasonable" and more religious than Thomism's natural law view of Romans 2.

However, I'm still unclear as to whether Locke accepts Paul the Apostle's view that there's a "law written on the human heart." That would be "rationalist," not fundamentalist.

You see the problem. Perhaps the link to Locke and "grace" will help.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

history of history??? That looks like a "transcendental view of history". There is no such thing!

Locke was a rationalist, wasn't he? He believed in government as a moral ordering of the world, a social contract, where the government protected from the indiscretions of others.

Man in the state of nature is free but not protected. And only by giving consent to the government is the man morally accountable.

King of Ireland said...

"However, I'm still unclear as to whether Locke accepts Paul the Apostle's view that there's a "law written on the human heart." That would be "rationalist," not fundamentalist."

He skips over this verse in Romans in the notes portion where he comments. But his paraphrase is very similar to the biblical text that he uses. Which is also very similar to most I have seen.

Hard to tell.

King of Ireland said...

"On the other hand, I'm not sure they're entirely correct, either. Locke's argument for man's need of the Gospel is quite elegant, and less "reasonable" and more religious than Thomism's natural law view of Romans 2."

Can you elabortate on this. I am still missing the difference here. Amos goes through it and disagrees with the others that he was any different than Aquinas. I read through it about 15 times and still did not understand it. I think I would now but I cannot find the book.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Locke uses the cannibals of Peru to argue that man doesn't make his way to some sort of reasonableness, rationality, natural law, or even decency. Hence, the Gospel was needed.

It's my opinion Locke was simply defending his thesis from Essay concerning Human Understanding that man is born a black slate.

I'm not surprised to learn he passed over the one relevant portion of Romans 2 on which Thomistic [and Pauline] natural law is built.

That's significant as hell, whether the reader is you, me or Leo Strauss. Reading closely is da bomb, man, and Strauss would say what they don't say---when clearly it would be expected---is even more important than what they do.

But King, I'm sorry I dragged us a bit into the scholarly tall weeds of what the "true" Locke is saying. It's just that your work has been solid, and it's unnecessary to open yourself up to the swine by asserting "Locke thought x."

Locke is slippery or at least ambiguous enough that Locke scholars themselves are still battling over what he thought.

Far more defensible is to use the writings of the Founders to assert, "The Founders understood Locke as saying x."

Tom Van Dyke said...

And so, let's illustrate:

history of history??? That looks like a "transcendental view of history". There is no such thing!

The Founders didn't think so. They believed in divine providence, especially directed toward something special about America.

By mentioning Christopher Dawson, I was adding a new dimension and argument to the usual [false?] dichotomy between classical and modern. Philosophers and historians alike are mostly unfamiliar with Aquinas or the post-Calvin thinkers---if those thinkers had an influence, most people would be unaware of it.

Even reading Locke without a familiarity with the prevalent Christian thought of the times---and the Bible---could lead a Locke scholar to miss very very important stuff, and consider him some mere and pale "theistic rationalist."

If Christianity was in the air they breathed, then the forensic philosophical historian must be knowledgeable about it.

Locke was a rationalist, wasn't he? He believed in government as a moral ordering of the world

That would be the modern view of the French Revolution and onward, that man is the measure of all things, Rousseau's "general will." But is that Locke? Or more importantly, how the Founders understood Locke?

Definitely not. The moral order precedes government; it is pre-political.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote:

Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed, that the deity, from the relations, we stand in, to himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is, indispensibly, obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever.

This is what is called the law of nature, "which, being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid, derive all their authority, mediately, or immediately, from this original." ---Blackstone.



You or I might not like that, or find it ridiculous, but the topic here is religion and the Founding, remember, not religion and OUR opinions.

By "law of nature" here, Hamilton is speaking of traditional Christian [Thomistic, i.e., Aquinas] natural law theory, not Thomas Hobbes', which Hamilton attacks in the paragraphs before this quote. Hobbes' view was that the natural state of man is war, and that life is [famously] "nasty, brutish and short."

a social contract, where the government protected from the indiscretions of others.

Governments are instituted among men, that's true, and in that way they are social contract. But "social contract" as understood in the modern sense, as legality?

A modern libertarian could quote-mine Hamilton here, quoting Blackstone,

"Hence it follows, that the first and primary end of human laws, is to maintain and regulate these absolute rights of individuals."

But as we see, the laws of men are subject to the "natural law," that "No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this."

Basically, the argument about the Founders' political theology here is that liberty is God-given, but its exercise was subject to the "natural law," which is eternal, not just the creation of men.

It's a good question that can be discussed by respecting the parameters outlined by the original post about Kraynak and John Courtney Murray.

Joe Winpisinger said...

"Far more defensible is to use the writings of the Founders to assert, "The Founders understood Locke as saying x."

Possibly so. But I am very interested as to why all of his Christian aspects are ignored? Even if some of the things you state are true he is far more Christian than Enlightenment.

I guess what you make be saying is that for political purposes the founders saw little difference between Locke resistance theory and Reformed resistance theory?

Tom Van Dyke said...

On resistance theory, probably none. The counterargument, remember, is that the Enlightenment hijacked Christian interpretation of the Bible.

As for the rest, you'd have to read Locke scholars who argue his unorthodoxies, such as not honoring your parents if they're jerks, or that marriage need not be lifelong, or even that he departs from Christian metaphysics.

If you hang your hat too much on Locke-as-Christian, you'll get your feet cut out from under you, if I may mix a metaphor. Best to stick with the incontrovertible truth, that the Founders read him as Christian.

King of Ireland said...

"The counterargument, remember, is that the Enlightenment hijacked Christian interpretation of the Bible."

I guess the Enlightenment must have started in the 1300's with Aquinas then? :)

King of Ireland said...

"As for the rest, you'd have to read Locke scholars who argue his unorthodoxies, such as not honoring your parents if they're jerks, or that marriage need not be lifelong, or even that he departs from Christian metaphysics."

All I am really interested in is his political theology. In this I see little difference between him and Aquinas.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"The counterargument, remember, is that the Enlightenment hijacked Christian interpretation of the Bible."

I guess the Enlightenment must have started in the 1300's with Aquinas then?


Well, that's the countercounterargument. :-)

All I am really interested in is his political theology. In this I see little difference between him and Aquinas.

Well, I'm not well-read enough in either to make that claim, nor have I seen scholars who've spent years poring over their works make that claim either.

There are commonalities, but Locke goes much further.

I also think this line undermines the very good work you did on Calvinism/Romans 13/interposition via "magistrates."

Locke don't need no stinkin' magistrates, I don't think.

King of Ireland said...

""Locke don't need no stinkin' magistrates, I don't think."

If true then I think your right. Personally, I have put a lot of thought into it and I see the wisdom of the lower magistrate thing. If not then all you have is anarchy and perpetual rebellion.

I just went through a court case where the judge flat out stated that the Supreme Court was wrong and found me guilty. I think I disagree(initial reading of the case law) but at least I got my day in court. Most countries you do not get that.

I think this is where some libertarians go too far. Fascinating stuff when you get down to it. I love this stuff. Challenges my intellect and critical thinking skills.

I must say that though I disagree with Frazer, the dialogue I had with him and the soul searching I had to do on some of my views on resistance changed my mind on a few things for sure.

Tom Van Dyke said...

If true then I think your right. Personally, I have put a lot of thought into it and I see the wisdom of the lower magistrate thing. If not then all you have is anarchy and perpetual rebellion.

I did some work on the purely Catholic tradition: Aquinas, de Vitoria, Bellarmine. Well, actually, someone else did it.

The unifying theme is indeed that anarchy is a greater evil than tyranny. The Catholics are starting to get there vs. tyranny, but---and hey, I'm a Thomist, etc.---it's in the Reformed tradition, the Presbyterians, Calvinists, Congregationalists, Puritans, that it all comes down. That's what I've learned here over the past year. Thomism, even via Hooker, doesn't quite get us there. Hooker defends the Church of England and the King, remember.

Your work on interposition and magistrates was bigtime good, Joe, and I was skeptical at first. But it resolved the Romans 13 problem for the religious types, even via Calvin and Calvinism---all you have to do is look at how many Revolutionary tracts rejected the authority of parliament [including the D of I!] as legitimate. "Taxation without representation" wasn't just a whining about "fairness," it was a theological claim that parliament held no cosmic [Romans 13] legitimacy.

[Didn't the argument appear in one of those sermons....?]

The only legitimate authority was the state legislatures, then the Continental Congress. The people [via their magistrates, parliament] versus the King, just as it had been 100 years before, in the English civil wars.

Game on.

You've done real well, and not in small part from your understanding of the Calvinist mindset. You could feel it where others cannot, and your research, based on being able to feel it, has really peeled back the veil.

Every word I read in the Founding literature, even in the Declaration, echoes a desire---a need---to be right with God and Romans 13 on this revolution thing.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions...

Congress added that part to Jefferson's text.

So, there's no need to go into the tall weeds of scholarly dispute about the "real" Locke. By the time people figured out Locke's radicalism [or heterodoxy] in that teeny tiny time between 1776 and the French Rights of Man in 1789, the world had moved on to more radical shit like Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, the Jacobins, and the French Revolution.

Locke, Rutherford, Hooker, Aquinas---Christianity---all in the rearview mirror, man. The Modern Age had begun.

King of Ireland said...

""The only legitimate authority was the state legislatures, then the Continental Congress. The people [via their magistrates, parliament] versus the King, just as it had been 100 years before, in the English civil wars."

Amos claims, and I believe he is right, that they were arguing their rights as English men until it was declared that they were not English men and had no rights. Then they changed strategy and started to argue from interposition logic.

I think Adams had more to do with any of this than Jefferson as far as the process. We have evidence that he was highly sympathetic to the arguments in Vindicae.

I think we look at the DOI as something that came out of thin air and the work of one man. What we ignore is the process that led up to it and the dramatic shift in legal reasoning.


"The Catholics are starting to get there vs. tyranny, but---and hey, I'm a Thomist, etc.---it's in the Reformed tradition, the Presbyterians, Calvinists, Congregationalists, Puritans, that it all comes down. That's what I've learned here over the past year. Thomism, even via Hooker, doesn't quite get us there. Hooker defends the Church of England and the King, remember."

Aquinas was certainly ok with desposing kings for tyranny. Look at the quote I from the site you found that compares Aquinas and Bellarmine to the DOI. I would also add that just because Hooker defends the King it does not mean that he did not think he could be deposed for tyranny.

Bellarmine even brings up the word democracy!

King of Ireland said...

"So, there's no need to go into the tall weeds of scholarly dispute about the "real" Locke."

So what you are saying is that the read Locke and Witherspoon, in regards to political theory, in much the same way? I think I already asked that up top and you answered it.

Really if you take out all the sotierological stuff Frazer's argument hangs on Romans 13 and it has been proven undeniably that resistance theory was part of orthodox Christianity for a long time.

What I would like to see it a study of the medevil governments to see if divine right held any sway at all. Since we are a Protestant nation, almost all of our history tends to want to start there.

A man named Eliot did a work on Spain that showed a representative government in Aragon and eluded to the same in many parts of Italy. I am willing to bet there were more.

A lost history if you will.