Friday, August 20, 2010

Brief Reply to King of Ireland on the Bible & Rights

My estimable co-blogger King of Ireland has taken issue with my claim (along with Ed Brayton, Gregg Frazer, Robert Kraynak and others) that the Bible nowhere speaks to the concept of unalienable rights, especially an unalienable right to religious and political liberty.

I think the problem between us is one of semantics, that is we need to clarify concepts and premises underlying our claims. There is a certain "literal" interpretation of the Bible which looks at what the text says on its face and cites verses and chapters of scripture as specific prooftexts. The specific/literal approach, one many evangelicals are fond of following. In that sense, the Bible does not speak to unalienable rights, political or religious liberty. I've read the parts that supposedly do from cover to cover. It's an open and shut case. I'm hesitant to argue the issue further with the good King, because he can be, what Gary North has termed a "tar baby" when someone disagrees with him on an issue about which he is passionate.

After reading every single word that he and Gregg Frazer wrote on Romans 13 and rebellion this passage from North's article comes to mind:

Now, he expects you to refute him. No, he demands that you refute him. Can you refute him to his satisfaction? It would have been easier for the Pope to have persuaded Luther that he had it all wrong.


Now, if one takes a DIFFERENT interpretive approach on the Bible, I suppose you can get the concept of unalienable rights to political liberty and otherwise. It's where you take a general principle from the text -- indeed it then helps to supplement that general principle with natural law as discovered by man's reason -- and then draw specific conclusions therefrom.

In King's case it's the general principle that all humans are created in the image of God (Imago Dei) and therefore, possess inherent dignity. Note that general idea says nothing in the specific sense of unalienable rights, a right to worship freely, a right to be free from chattel slavery. But take that principle, throw in a some Aristotelian natural law as discovered by reason as a supplement. Come to your conclusions and then use that as an interpretive premise to overcome all of the many verses and chapters of the Bible which suggest that men in fact do not have a "right" to worship freely and to be free from chattel slavery and viola you have your preferred outcomes.

Me, I'm going to keep on stating the Bible does not teach the concept of unalienable rights, to political or religious liberty. And I think, at the very least, conservative evangelicals should agree with me.

42 comments:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

While conservative and evangelical believers should agree with you, so should those that affirm the Founders "in their time" and "understanding", as each of them held to slavery as an acceptable and practical solution to real world roles and needs....

The real world needs those that serve "in their places" of servitude to produce the "outcomes" of the visionary leaders....The difference in yesterday's world and today's is one of chattel slavery, where there was no choice about one's roles or place.

Today, in the West, one has a right to pursue their own interests and those interests might underwrite another's vision. If not, there are other places of service.

So, it has little to do with "God", but everything to do with the value of liberty and individuality.

Pinky said...

.
Today, in the West, one has a right to pursue their own interests
.
Yupper. In fact, that's a pretty good definition of liberal democracy.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

So, it has little to do with "God", but everything to do with the value of liberty and individuality.

Actually, many "liberal democracies" abridge rights all the time. You can't torture animals; in many European nations, there is no absolute right of free speech like in America. The list goes on.

The term

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

is quite a broad brush. Check the entry on the printer in Canada.

[I did find it amusing that "liberal democracy" is credited solely to the Enlightenment on Wiki.]
___________________

Tom Van Dyke said...

The specific/literal approach, one many evangelicals are fond of following. In that sense, the Bible does not speak to unalienable rights, political or religious liberty.

"Fundamentalists" is a more accurate term here, I think. They do not represent normative Christianity.

Even sola scriptura types like Luther and Calvin couldn't get around the necessity of theology. Luther kept the Eucharist; Calvin's TULIP is rejected by non-Calvinists.

Normative Christianity, both at the Founding era and today, accept and endorse liberty as a theological necessity.

Even Jonathan Edwards

Edwards understood the Micah 4:4 passage ("wherein every man shall sit under ... his own fig tree") as referring to political liberty and "not understood only in a mystical and spiritual sense."

Source.

So apparently Micah 4:4 needs to be taken into account.

As for black chattel slavery, that wasn't normative either in Christendom until the opening of the New World. It can easily be argued it was a backsliding or a perversion of the Bible and Christian theology. [Even if Edwards himself defended it.] There is also the complication of "dispensationalism," which frees Christians from Mosaic Law, hence pounding the Torah in defense of slavery isn't necessarily "authentic" Biblicism.

But that's pretty tall Protestant weeds for an old altar boy like meself.

http://www.endtimes.org/dispens.html

I've been meaning to get into Edwards lately. If anybody has an old essay or something, pls post it. In the meantime, the Brothers Judd review George Marsden's "Jonathan Edwards: A Life"

http://brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/1321

King of Ireland said...

"The specific/literal approach, one many evangelicals are fond of following. In that sense, the Bible does not speak to unalienable rights, political or religious liberty. I've read the parts that supposedly do from cover to cover. It's an open and shut case."


Tom already hit on this too but I would have to ask, from the Frazer persective where the Trinity is literally in the bible.


Jon,

I respect that you do not want to debate this anymore and are free to say whatever you want but you are oversimplfying all this. The word original sin is not literally in the Bible either. It is not so much a literal approach as a dogmatic approach.

As far as my preconcieved conclusions I did not used to believe you could find rights in the Bible either. I changed my mind with presented with good evidence.

I would also caution you to narrowing down the rights thing to freedom of worship and slavery. We have discussed both of these to death and I do not think anyone is going to change you mind any quicker than anyone is going to change mine.

I would also urge not to pour over the words of your prefered scholars or my arguments with them. I would look at the primary source which is the Bible itself.

King of Ireland said...

In King's case it's the general principle that all humans are created in the image of God (Imago Dei) and therefore, possess inherent dignity. Note that general idea says nothing in the specific sense of unalienable rights, a right to worship freely, a right to be free from chattel slavery. But take that principle, throw in a some Aristotelian natural law as discovered by reason as a supplement. Come to your conclusions and then use that as an interpretive premise to overcome all of the many verses and chapters of the Bible which suggest that men in fact do not have a "right" to worship freely and to be free from chattel slavery and viola you have your preferred outcomes."


Love your neighbor as yourself? Pretty specific Jon. Slavery is a violation of this. No Greek though needed.

King of Ireland said...

"Now, he expects you to refute him. No, he demands that you refute him. Can you refute him to his satisfaction? It would have been easier for the Pope to have persuaded Luther that he had it all wrong."


Not really, I already changed my mind about this in the last 3 years so I guess it is not that hard to get me to do that. This does not address the issue Jon.

King of Ireland said...

Jon,

I read the tar baby thing. Come on dude low blow.

craig said...

Mic 4:4 just one verse. A metaphorical verse like that is not all that convincing and reminds me how the dominionists usee FF quotes. The context is found in 4:1 "in the last days." Matthew Henry says, "They shall sit safely, and none shall disturb them; they shall sit securely, and shall not disturb themselves, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, enjoying the fruit of them, and needing no other shelter than the leaves of them. None shall make them afraid; not only there shall be nothing that is likely to frighten them, but they shall not be disposed to fear. under the dominion of Christ, as that of Solomon, there shall be abundance of peace. Though his followers have trouble in the world, in him they enjoy great tranquillity. If this seems unlikely, yet we may depend upon it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it, and no word of his shall fall to the ground; what he has spoken by his word he will do by his providence and grace. He that is the Lord of hosts will be the God of peace; and those may well be easy whom the Lord of hosts, of all hosts, undertakes the protection of."

The strongest scriptural arguments are based on at least one passage from each gospel, Paul, Peter, John, Hebrews, James and Acts helps too. Old Testament verses are a bit tougher to apply since Israel was a theocracy.

What is Micah trying to convey in that chapter? The coming calamity "Zion shall be plowed as a field.”

Tom Van Dyke said...

I just ran across Micah 4:4 in a quick look at Edwards, whom I haven't studied. It was meant as an addition to discussion that's been going on for years now around here, and also indicates that liberty was seen at least by the very Calvinist Jonathan Edwards as Biblically normative. There is more at the linked source.

There's a link to a sense of "millennialism" that many of the American Calvinists felt was at work in the Founding of America. It's a nuanced discussion and cannot be addressed in a comments section grenade-toss.

Brad Hart said...

I'm with Jon. This is getting old. I've given my opinion in a past post regarding the Romans 13 fiasco that has infected American Creation to an even worse degree than David Barton:

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/12/yep-another-romans-13-post.html

The "Imago Dei" horseshit needs to go away...PLEASE! It's killing the blog.

King of Ireland said...

Brad,

Jon is the one that kept bringing Romans 13 up. Go back and look. Frazer answered all my questions and I have not bothered him about since.

I think my last 10 posts have been about Leo Strauss and nothing about imago dei.

My last post closed the door on the who resistance theory thing and attempts to open the door to Locke's thoughts on the blank slate and what type of reason he was refering too.

None of which really has anything to do with imago dei at all. I think the post he is refering to was written well over a month ago.

Brad Hart said...

Then I am glad its over.

King of Ireland said...

I would also wonder why you think the Romans 13 thing poisoned the blog considering if you look back I think that topic has the most comments of any on this blog.


I agree that it ran its course a long while back but it really has not come up since then at all.


I agree with Tom, that part of what this blog does is to parse things to "death". At times things can get to be a little much and I understand that.


Calling me a tar baby pretty much ended the production nature of that discussion anyway.

It is basically implying you do not have to answer the other person because they are beneath you if you really want to get down to it. At least that is the tactic.

I do not think Jon was saying I always do it but when I am passionate and I get that but nonetheless it is a low blow.

King of Ireland said...

"Then I am glad its over."

It was until Jon brought it up to begin with. I did a brief post to respond since I was accused of being a tar baby but I actually do agree it is time to move on from that topic. That is why I hit on the Strauss stuff for a while.

jimmiraybob said...

My last post closed the door on the who[le] resistance theory thing...

Closed the door? As in case closed? Nothing more to be said? What was the final score?

King of Ireland said...

"My last post closed the door on the who[le] resistance theory thing...

Closed the door? As in case closed? Nothing more to be said? What was the final score?"


No, to 9 months of disussion that I think ran its course. At least for a while to freshen up the topics here. I guess I am agreeing with Brad I just do not understand why this is all coming up now many weeks after the last time it was brought up?

King of Ireland said...

"What was the final score?"

Let people decide for themselves. But I do think it was a good discussion and quite timely with all the nullfication and secession talk coming up again to go back to the origins of the theory.

But the horse is dead for now I agree. I am sure it will come up again at some point and I am sure imago dei will as well. But on to something new like Locke's blank slate and if it really was a break with the past.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"Edwards understood the Micah 4:4 passage ("wherein every man shall sit under ... his own fig tree") as referring to political liberty and "not understood only in a mystical and spiritual sense."


You got it right the Puritians were very concerned about the Millenial reign. Go to my post on the Tibetan Lamb and I have a link to the book:


The Puritian Hope


I would say it is required reading for anyone that wants to understand the religious aspects of the founding.


The verse in Micah ties in with many others but including the one I referenced in that same post about Lion lying down with lamb.


The biggest verse is from Habakuk about the glory of God covering the earth as waters covered the sea. A lot of people think universal just government is the root of this in that the glory of God is most accurately seen when it is reflected in santified man.

But this can get off into a place we do not really want to go too if we are not careful.


But good point. And Edwards was a strict Calvinist on soteriological issues for sure.

Side point but I can see the merits in using sola scriptura for sotierology and natural law for society. Or should I say merit is the idea that that was their approach.

bpabbott said...

Re: Love your neighbor as yourself? Pretty specific Jon. Slavery is a violation of this.

Joe, what you mention is a compelling implication.

But what of the explicit mentions of slavery?

I see no explicit condemnation of slavery, and on the whole the Bible (imo) supports it. As I'd expect, given the time period it was written in.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I haven't exhaustively studied the slavery issue, mostly because it's used as a cudgel beat Christianity and the Bible with by people who won't be persuaded by any evidence or argument anyway.

But I believe that website, Ben, is a bit unnuanced. Slavery as it existed in the New World is not how it existed among Jews and Christians in the Old World, and neither was it race-based with all that "sons of Noah" nonsense.

One must separate the "innovations" of the New World from the normative understanding of the Bible.

Neither did slavery exist in Christian Europe before the New World. Early explorers came back with slaves from Africa and elsewhere; Europe wasn't buying.

Neither is there an intelligent answer to King's simple argument that holding slaves is not loving your neighbor as yourself. for some reason, those unsympathetic to Christianity expect Christians to be too stupid to ask themselves that simple question.

Further, in St. paul's times, Christianity was not the regnant political theology. As William Ellery Channing argued [following Locke, I believe], for Christianity to disrupt the prevailing social order with an explicit war on slavery would have defeated Jesus' purpose, to prepare man for the Next World.

Tom Van Dyke said...

v

Yes, the first quote was from an Edwards biographer, not me. However there was a confluence between "Puritan Hope," all the jazz about America being a "New Israel," as well as an Enlightenment belief in human progress. [Although "the perfectibility of man" doesn't seem to be the majority view of the Founding era.]

Indeed, that the Founding was an act of Providence and not a work of man seems to me to be a fairly undeniable consensus.

[This is not to say the Constitution was seen as a divinely inspired document. There seems to be quite a consensus that they saw that as the work of men.]

King of Ireland said...

"Neither is there an intelligent answer to King's simple argument that holding slaves is not loving your neighbor as yourself. for some reason, those unsympathetic to Christianity expect Christians to be too stupid to ask themselves that simple question"


The only argument they have is to say that the Bible contradicts itself.

From the point of view of this post, which is from one that believes the Bible is true, one has to wonder if the very words that sum up all the law where slavery was supposedly promoted by God contradict their notions about much harder and nuanced passages in the Old Testament?

In other words, commone sense would seem to dictate that God was not in favor of slavery is he was telling people not to do things they would not want down to the in honor of their love for Him. Right?

How about this one as well:

The Law gave guidelines for divorce. But Jesus came later and said that divorce was not God's original intent and that they should not be leaving the wives of their youth. There are some nuances as to whether adultery counts and some other things but it is clear that God did not intend it but gave guidelines because shit happens and you gotta deal with it.

It is almost like he said, "I do not want you to get divorce but I know you will so here is the most just way to do it."

You can easily apply that to slavery as well. Again, that is if you come from the POV that Jon writes from that believes the Bible is true.

Jon just skips over all these more than reasonable discussions that have been a debate in Christianity since its inception and crowns the Fundie POV the biblical one.

If it is then the Enlightenment wins the day. Trouble is someone shows up here who knows the stuff as good or better than Frazer and the others he cites and will not let him get away with that crap.

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

I might add that if I do not want my neighbor taking away my right to worship as I please I may not want to do it to him. Yes, Tom it is pretty simple. All the rest is smoke and mirrors Culture Wars BS.

King of Ireland said...

"Further, in St. paul's times, Christianity was not the regnant political theology. As William Ellery Channing argued [following Locke, I believe], for Christianity to disrupt the prevailing social order with an explicit war on slavery would have defeated Jesus' purpose, to prepare man for the Next World."

After seeing how Christians live in places like Tibet where you can get killed for it I understand this a lot better now. For a Tibetan Christian to war against China as his first priority for independence would be stupid and snuff out the little tiny church that is there.

I think it was the same in Jesus time too. Why snuff the thing out before it even gets started by doing a John Brown and storming the gates of the empire? Anyone think John Brown used wisdom and did what was best for his cause?

Jesus did take on the Pharisees and Jews but that was local power where you had a fighting chance because the Romans stayed out of it most of the time.

And yes, Tom, he primary message was salvation. But it does not say he died so we can die. It it says he died so that we could live. Abundantly that is.

I could go on for hours with all this because you have to study it understand it. Almost no one does and that is why we have all this confusion.

Brad Hart said...

Zzzzzzzzzzzz...

Perhaps we should change the name of this blog to fit the discussions:

AMERICAN ,Imago Dei, "Christian-y", quasi-biblically based (though not inspired because Romans 13 shows that resistance to leaders is against God...or is it?), David Barton is an idiot, CREATION BLOG."

Has a nice ring to it.

Like the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of the people who actually did the fighting/leading during the Revolution, I too think that these matters are of little consequence. The war was a'coming and no stupid Christian/theological/biblical/Imago Dei/secular/(U)unitarian/Theistic Rationalist/fundamentalist/non-trinitarian/whatever else we can conjure up excuse was going to stand in their way.

The American Revolution was like Baskin Robbins: 31 flavors for everyone.

King of Ireland said...

Make your case Brad. Just saying it don't make it so.

King of Ireland said...

Of course you have to understand that Romans 13 had nothing to do with this discussion at all until you brought it up TWICE right? Are we to allow you to make your statement with no evidence presented to back it up and not question it?

It is starting to seem as if you do want to discusss Romans 13 and resistance theory but possibly only your views on it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The war was a'coming and no stupid Christian/theological/biblical/Imago Dei/secular/(U)unitarian/Theistic Rationalist/fundamentalist/non-trinitarian/whatever else we can conjure up excuse was going to stand in their way.

Likely so. But the American revolution was quite different from the French one, and that constellation of factors is probably why.

Brad Hart said...

From KOI:

Make your case Brad. Just saying it don't make it so.

I think my case is proven through common sense. No need to dissect anything on this one. It should be obvious to anyone who studies the American Revolution that war was inevitable...with or without all the religious stuff.

From TVD:

Likely so. But the American revolution was quite different from the French one, and that constellation of factors is probably why.

Touche, Tom. Very touche. In fact, I think Gordon Wood basically says the same thing in Radicalism of the American Revolution

King of Ireland said...

Brad,

Maybe so. But "its common sense" is not an argument.

King of Ireland said...

If you are right, and let say you probably are, there is a just war and not just war for those that cared what God thought about it. I think one can make a credible argument that if they did not feel that had to go through all the legal hurdles war would have happened much sooner.


It is like the divorcer analogy I gave. Sometimes it is just going to happen but there is a right way to do it if it is inevitable.

Any casual reading of the Christian West shows repeated examples, both Protestant and Catholic, of common and canon law arguments for just war being very prominent. Look at the origins of the Magna Carta.

We cared, at least to some degree about the right way to go about deposing a king. France did not. Look at the difference. Thus the need for the temperance of resistance theory.

I think that is what is Tom is trying to say in his comment as well.

Anyway, on to other things.

King of Ireland said...

"Touche, Tom. Very touche."

Maybe Brad is starting to agree that the things he hates to be discussed might actually be relevant? Or maybe he was missing the point of why it was being brought up.

craig said...

r u 4 real?

King of Ireland said...

about what?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Any casual reading of the Christian West shows repeated examples, both Protestant and Catholic, of common and canon law arguments for just war being very prominent. Look at the origins of the Magna Carta.

We cared, at least to some degree about the right way to go about deposing a king. France did not. Look at the difference. Thus the need for the temperance of resistance theory.

I think that is what is Tom is trying to say in his comment as well.

Anyway, on to other things.


I think we all agreed on something that's not unimportant. Common ground on which to proceed. It's good to take yes for an answer. Wise, prudent, and a lot of other things.

Friendly.

Brad Hart said...

KOI writes:

But "its common sense" is not an argument.

It is if its blatantly obvious...and let's not complicate the obvious. That's what Congress is for! =)

Maybe Brad is starting to agree that the things he hates to be discussed might actually be relevant? Or maybe he was missing the point of why it was being brought up.

Just recognizing that Tom is right about the French Revolution v. the American Revolution...that's it. Again, let's not complicate the obvious.

King of Ireland said...

"Just recognizing that Tom is right about the French Revolution v. the American Revolution...that's it. Again, let's not complicate the obvious."


That is the number theme that both Tom and I have been hitting on. How the American Revolution was different from the French and thus not modern in the Strauss sense of the word.


I think I see what your issue is. You think things get to complicated at times and it becomes boring for readers when we parse the text to death.

Fine line but I see where you are coming from. I would retort that we have to guard the other way that we do no not oversimply things.

Even if war was inevitable, and i still think there are ways to research it and prove it(in regard to your claim that no relgion was going to stop them), there is a just way to do it and an unjust way.

Christian thought, or certain streams of it, believe if war is looming their is a right way to go about it that will not lead to anarchy and then worse oppression.

It is not just the French Revolution. You can look at the History of Latin America too.

In fact, you can make a solid case that many times the wanna be dictator will promote excessive licientiousness in society knowing it will lead to anarchy as to then have grounds to clamp down and oppress the people.

King of Ireland said...

Anyway, I agree I think we found some common ground to proceed with like Tom stated. I just think we need to watch what we call horseshit and tar babies. That does not add to anything.

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