Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gary Amos, Christian Principles, and the Secularist Straw Man

About 9 months ago, I did a post where I quoted Gary Amos as stating that the Declaration of Independence was a document of interposition. The hope of that post was to generate a discussion about how Christian thought had impacted, or not, the birth of our nation. And a discussion we did have: 9 months worth of parsing the words of Aquinas, Hooker, Locke, Calvin, and others "to death". I think it was a job well done by all.

Nonetheless, I think it is time to move forward with some of Amos's other points about the Declaration and the impact that Christian thought had on our founding. Accordingly, I would like to start with what I would call the general Evangelical argument for Christian America. An argument that I feel has been misrepresented by secularists a great deal in that it seems that many set up a straw man to knock down instead of addressing the actual argument being made. This muddies the waters and makes the quest for truth in regards to the founding and religion an elusive endeavor.

All that being stated, I give the floor to Gary Amos to lay out the argument for a Christian America in order to expose the straw man, un-muddy the waters, and bring into the light what Christian America emphatically does not mean despite protestations to the contrary:

"Now for the surprise: Hardly anyone in the colonies fit this description.{that of a Deist} No one who played a key role in the writing of the Declaration or approving it thought this way in 1776, not even Thomas Jefferson.
The "clockmaker God" idea about deism and the founding fathers was invented by teachers in the 1890's and later years to explain the religious ideas of the colonies. A small handful of the French and English philosophers in the mid-1700's had believed this way. Sloppy interpreters of American history too took that obscure European view and pasted it to the history of the American Revolution. As a device to explain the general view of the founders fathers, it is all wet.
For example, John Adams has been called a deist. He helped write the Declaration of Independence and was a key player in the American Revolution. Adams once wrote in his diary that a nation that took the Bible for its law book would be the best of nations. On another occasion he wrote: "The great and almighty author of nature; who at first established the rules which regulate the world, can as easily suspend those laws whenever his providence sees sufficient reason for such suspension. This can be no objection, then, to the miracles of Jesus Christ." Adams sometimes strongly criticized those who had used organized religion as a way to control people politically. But he was far from critical about the principles of Christianity. He thought Christian principles were the heart an the soul of the effort for nationhood and independence:
Who composed that Army of fine young fellows that was then before my Eyes? There were among them, Roman Catholics, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians... Deists and Atheists... Never the less all educated in the general principles of Christianity: and the general principles of English and American liberty... The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, we... the general principles of Christianity.

But did not John Adams, as president, sign the Tripoli Treaty (1797) that said that the government of the United States was not in any sense founded on the Christian religion? Yes he did. But what did he mean? He meant simply that "the Christian religion" as a formal institution was not a part of the American government in the same way that the religious structures of Islam are a part of Islamic governments. From many things that Adams and his contemporaries wrote it is clear that they did not use the word religion to exclude Christian ideas or principles as some do today. True, the founders did not make institutional religion part of the government. But they never thought of excluding Christian principles.
Another example is Thomas Jefferson. He doubted the deity of Christ and the inerracy of scripture. He even railed against the abuses of organized religion, but not against Christian principles. He believed that the moral principles found in the four gospels should be the guide of every man's life. As President, Jefferson read from a collection of these principles nightly. Because he took Christian principles seriously, he was extremely troubled by the immoral practice of slavery, saying: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.... The almighty has no attribute which can side with us."
Jefferson is a notable example of how a man can be influenced by Biblical ideas and Christian principles even though he never confessed Jesus Christ as Lord in the evangelical sense.  Like most of the founders, he was very supportive of Christian principles, even going so far as to call Jesus of Nazareth "our savior" but he could never bring himself to accept the Christ of Christianity: God in the Flesh.
Must a political leader confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to be able to at all accept and act on Biblical principles for government?  Many people seem to think so.  We are told that since Jefferson denied the deity of Christ, he could not have accepted any other truly Biblical ideas.  Every legal and political idea he had must, therefore, have been non-Christian. 
This sort of thinking breaks a number of rules of logic and is out of step with the Bible itself.  It is not remarkable for us to assume that Christians can easily be influenced by non-Christian ideas, but somehow non-Christians cannot be influenced by Christian ideas?  The point is, even if Jefferson had confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, some would still trace his legal and political ideas to deism.  A "born again" Jefferson would not automatically mean that the Declaration contained Christian ideas.
Another more subtle claim lies just beneath the surface of such thinking. If the Declaration can only contain Biblical and Christian ideas as long as Jefferson and others confessed Christ in an evangelical way, then a Christian view of government excludes un-believers.  To have a Christian nation would require all leaders to believe in eternal redemption before they could have the slightest grasp of God's plan for civil justice.  Only Christians would be competant to do anything where civil government is concerned.
Ultimately the church would have to be merged with the state, and Christians would be in charge of the state. Rather than seeing that a government is "Biblical" or "Christian" if its laws and structures agree with what God has said about civil justice and social order, a "Christian" nation would be one where "confessing Christ" becomes the test by which a person's political and legal ideas are approved.  Such a state would be primarily concerned with salvation rather than justice. It would confuse God's redemptive plan with his creation plan." --Defending the Declaration pp. 9-11

There is a lot here but I think his main point that one does not have to be an Evangelical to see the merits of Christian politial ideas is key.  This destroys the straw man that Christian America means a nation run by Evangelical Christians. It most certainly does not mean a return to living under Mosaic law as some think.  It simply means establishing a nation based on the Christian idea of justice as a part of God's "creation plan".  Does anyone deny that this was the goal of most of the founders whether they were Evangelical or not?

46 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Gary T. Amos---here and I'm sure elsewhere---overstates his case at some points and is rhetorically imprecise in others.

Neither is he a credentialed scholar. His opponents will give him the death of 1000 cuts and take you with him. You don't know what you're dealing with here. Gotta learn the game.

King of Ireland said...

"Gary T. Amos---here and I'm sure elsewhere---overstates his case at some points and is rhetorically imprecise in others."

I see the holes in his arguments but that does not mean that he is not right about the bulk of what he says.

King of Ireland said...

"Neither is he a credentialed scholar. His opponents will give him the death of 1000 cuts and take you with him. You don't know what you're dealing with here. Gotta learn the game."

He has a law degree and a degree in theology what is wrong with that? Besides I am not an Evangelical I am just pointing out their argument to clarify the whole discussion. Most people think they are saying something they are not saying.

King of Ireland said...

Here is a link to a balanced and honest review of his book:

http://www.contra-mundum.org/cm/reviews/rs_declaration.pdf

I think the guy is right that he does not look into enough of the Enlightenment influences on Jefferson. But he also says he brings some new things to the table that add to the discussion.

I like him because he uses the right frame of discussion and focuses on what ideas influenced the founding not what people's beliefs were. He is no David Barton no matter how hard people try to lump him with him.

With that stated, I know that these guys use the history as a platform for their political agenda. I part company with them there in that my idea of Christian justice is a whole lot more libertarian than theirs.

The knife that cuts them is usally over their politics so I will avoid those stabs. Though I do understand the game and will get nailed with association by the liars against Jesus who play the same dirty pool that they claim Barton does.

In short, though I do not ascribe to the religious right exaggeration of history and them using it for a political platform I do not agree with, I think Amos is the creme of that crop and should not be dismissed so casually. Dreisbach is good too from the little I have read of him.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I think the review says what I'm saying. Safer to use Amos' primary sources than his arguments.

Or his name---anyone who quotes a teacher at Pat Robertson's Regent Law School is DOA in many forums.

Of the criticisms in the review, I'd say we do a much better job with the thesis around here than Amos. For instance, when we argue Aquinas and natural law, we show how it got from 13th century Catholic Europe to America. {Although one could simply look at Alexander Hamilton's The Farmer Refuted.]

Still, I learned that Coke, whom Jefferson preferred immeasurably to Blackstone, also supported the Christian concept of natural law. That's a good lead.

craig said...

It is quite true about strawman thinking. It's just so hard to discuss this topic without jumping down the road to the implications of a Christian idea of justice as part of God's creation plan and remain true to the explicit justice of the Constitution. It just dawned on me that if Christians are claiming that the Constitution is from God's values then they should have no beef with the rights found in our Constitution. 2 Peter says to honor the king and our king is our Constitution. Our military and politicians swear to uphold it and defend it against all enemies don't they? Washington said several times that a good, strong govt is built on good morals. The Constitution gives us the morals...freedom of speech and religion right out in front. So Christians should be all for gay marriage, the mosque, abortion rights because they should in accordance with the Constitution want to allow freedom to others while their own freedom to worship is protected.

Tom Van Dyke said...

We could play Count the Strawmen in your comment, but what's the use.

King of Ireland said...

"Of the criticisms in the review, I'd say we do a much better job with the thesis around here than Amos. For instance, when we argue Aquinas and natural law, we show how it got from 13th century Catholic Europe to America"

He goes through all this. I could care less if he is associated with Pat Robertson. The trouble with going back to his sources is that he has a degree in theology that most do not have and can explain the stuff. I know a lot about it especially the history and bible stuff but not like him.

When it comes down to it his main point is mine:

The Enlightenment gets credit for a lot of ideas that were long part of Christianity. I think we see he was right about interposition so I think he gets the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong on the rest.

My putting his arguments out there is not neccesarily an endorsement of any it. It is to open up a discussion. I worked with the interposition thing.

In fact, I do disagree with some of what he writes because it is imcomplete. But it is a good reference for discussion much like Frazer has been. Jon does not agree with everything Frazer says but posts it to generate discussion.

King of Ireland said...

Craig stated:

" It just dawned on me that if Christians are claiming that the Constitution is from God's values then they should have no beef with the rights found in our Constitution. "


Not one word was said about the Constitution in this post.

King of Ireland said...

"So Christians should be all for gay marriage, the mosque, abortion rights because they should in accordance with the Constitution want to allow freedom to others while their own freedom to worship is protected."

Some Christians, like me, do feel this way. More straw men I see.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The trouble with going back to his sources is that he has a degree in theology that most do not have and can explain the stuff.

That part is a big deal. Indeed, I notice that on the whole, even theologically adept Protestants and Catholics don't know much about the other, and religion in the Founding was a confluence of both, mostly medieval European scholasticism and Anglo-American Calvinism.

I'm just saying, things being what they are in the culture war, it's better to use Amos as a source but not an authority. Dreisbach or Tierney is safe to use authoritatively.

craig said...

Declaration is important when some want to go back to it's defense of God's law to influence the discussion of the the Constitution but that might be strawmanly.

craig said...

some "feel" that way but as for those that don't, what are the bases and is it only feelings?

King of Ireland said...

"I'm just saying, things being what they are in the culture war, it's better to use Amos as a source but not an authority. "

I am not sure what the difference is? Like I said I am not saying he is right about everything. In fact, I am totally open to him being wrong on Locke and the blank slate. I am quoting him as a reference for discussion. Maybe I need to clarify that before each post.

But he is right about a lot of this stuff though and has insights that others do not because of the Theology thing.

King of Ireland said...

"Declaration is important when some want to go back to it's defense of God's law to influence the discussion of the the Constitution but that might be strawmanly."


Well, if you are asking me I do not think the Bible has that much to say about forms of government. Though I do think a republic is the best way to protect God given rights. What kind of republic? I think it can be different for different cultures and times.

I also commend Madison for his study of forms of government in history that did and did not work. Most of it was from "pagan" sources.

I would suggest reading up more on what we propose here. I do not think any of us that I am aware of are religious right.

Now with that said, this is the trouble with using Amos like Tom said. People just assume you are religious right because you see merit in some of what someone says. I think Amos and I mostly agree on the history. I doubt we have the same politics.

We got to get the history thing right before we can even begin to discuss what Christian justice means today in our society.

In fact, I would state that Robertson, Amos, and Barton opening up the can of worms of the history of ideas that influenced the founding might come back to bite them is the anus. Aquinas for one was far more libertarian than most would think. From some of what I read the later scholastics may have been too.

The trouble is that most of this is lost history and everyone sees Christian political history as despotism when not all of it was. In fact, I am open to the fact that a lot of it was not. But no one knows because very little of the Catholic constitutional republics of Europe have been studied.

I think not even by Madison.

Probably what I will focus on if I ever get to grad school.


How the world would have been different of people would have only listened to Las Casas? Jihad vs. Mc World part 1 did not end up so well. Go read Tom's post on slavery and be sad that the Christianity that despised slavery and believed in the dignity of man did not prevail.

Tom Van Dyke said...

All good points, King. The thing again is how much should churches and religions---or even the individual, based on his religious beliefs---expend their theological capital toward the politics of their timers?

It always seems to me they're damned when they do, damned when they don't. And when they're wrong on politics, they squander their theological capital on the business of the next world, salvation.

_____________

Like I said I am not saying [Gary T. Amos] is right about everything.

But his ideological opponents are ready to pounce on his every error or overstatement. Bring up his name and it's danger, danger, Will Robinson.

best you learn what you can, hit the original sources for yourself to confirm whatever he's saying, and state your arguments in your own words.

This is just experience on the internet and elsewhere, man. The Game.

Nobody quotes Rush Limbaugh except righties to righties. This is a convention across the blahblah universe, and I've studied it. If you quote him, you're DOA even with minds that are still open. Even an "independent" will never say, that Limbaugh makes a lotta sense sometimes. That makes him DOA too.

We fight hard against letting the culture wars into this blog, because if we ever let our well get poisoned, well, it's a poisoned well. What sane man would drink from it?

King of Ireland said...

"best you learn what you can, hit the original sources for yourself to confirm whatever he's saying, and state your arguments in your own words"

I, nor really anyone I have read, have the theological knowledge the Amos has. That is who unique contribution. Tierney makes some similar arguments but with a different focus.


Amos is obviously not the writer that others on these topics are but he brings some unique things to the table in a Protestant country where there is simply a lot of ignorance about Pre Reformation political thought.

A lost history.


I am going to do the posts and just add the proper disclaimers. If people want to lump me in with a group I have a lot of disagreements with by association then so be it. I cannot see us getting to the bottom of this reason vs. revelation thing without dealing with some of his claims. If he is wrong then people should be able to refute him.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Fair enough. I just sent along a blinking yellow, not a red light. Bring the pain.

King of Ireland said...

Thanks for the input. You are right about the culture wars but I think this can be done in a way that avoids it. I really want to no part of it. I am here to test ideas and learn the truth. I think that interposition group study was one of the best things I have ever been apart of.

Hopefully we can do the same with Locke and discersive vs. intuitive reason. I think once the argument is laid out Jon will counter it and then we will go to the primary sources. At least that is what my hope is. But with no frame of reference it is hard to do so.

I am hope the good Dr. Frazer chimes in on this one as he would bring some good insight.

jimmiraybob said...

KOI - An argument that I feel has been misrepresented by secularists a great deal in that it seems that many set up a straw man to knock down instead of addressing the actual argument being made.

TVD - His opponents will give him the death of 1000 cuts and take you with him.

TVD - Safer to use Amos' primary sources than his arguments.

Instead of me doing the cutting, and being in agreement with TVD's second point, maybe you could back up a bit and analyze Amos' first cited quote. Here are some relevent links:

Adam's Letter to Jefferson, June 28, 1813

An excerpt:

"Who composed that army of fine young fellows that was then before my eyes? There were among them Roman Catholics, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists, Horse Protestants and House Protestants, Deists and Atheists; and "Protestans qui ne croyent rien." Very few however of several of these species. Nevertheless, all educated in the GENERAL PRINCIPLES Of Christianity; and the general principles of English and American liberty."

[…]

"The GENERAL PRINCIPLES On which the fathers achieved independence, were [jrb - did this get cut short?] the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young gentlemen could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer.

[…]

"And what were these GENERAL PRINCIPLES? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united; and the GENERAL PRINCIPLES of English and American liberty, in Which all these young men united, and Which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence."

(bolded is Amos' abstract)

Adam's A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States Of America (1787-8)

Is Amos' citation a fair representation of Adam's letter and Adam's understanding of the underlying principles of good government? Or is Amos' abstraction only a limited understanding of what Adam's was saying in an effort to advocate a certain position favored by Amos?

How does this affect his/your argument? Or does it?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Bingo, and why I think we do a better job at AC in addressing the same thesis. Because, at the risk of boring the gentle reader, we print the whole paragraph and never...use...ellipses.

jimmiraybob said...

And to be fair, I'd also question anyone using this Adams "quote" to assert that there were no religious influences on the founding,

"Who composed that army of fine young fellows that was then before my eyes? There were among them ... Deists and Atheists; and "Protestans qui ne croyent rien. [Protestants that believe nothing]" ... Nevertheless, all educated in the general principles ... of English and American liberty.” The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young gentlemen could unite, ... the general principles of English and American liberty, in Which all these young men united, and Which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence."

This does not convey Adams and, at the very least, has one foot in manipulative lie territory if the ommissions aren't explained.

While the ellipse is necessary to keep from reproducing entire works, it is also used for evil, or at least deception. Tom, I'd agree with you on the whole-paragraph thing, but some of these founders, and I'm looking at you Adams and Jefferson, apparently did not believe in generous use of paragraph breaks.:)

Tom Van Dyke said...

I do take the liberty of putting in paragraph breaks. And I will leave off during a paragraph, usually indicated by an ellipse... I occasionally will snip a sentence or two and show that with an ellipse, although never [I hope] in the middle of a sentence.


"Who composed that army of fine young fellows that was then before my eyes? There were among them ... Deists and Atheists; and "Protestans qui ne croyent rien. [Protestants that believe nothing]" ... Nevertheless, all educated in the general principles ... of English and American liberty.”


Heh heh. Bartonian!

King of Ireland said...

JRB,

I was uncomfortable with him paraphrasing the quote for sure. I quoted him unmolested to give the Evangelicals there say. I see the holes in some of his arguments BUT he is right about a lot. I prefer his frame of ideas vs. the Barton beliefs thing.

I will take a close look at what you cited and respond later.



But again I am not advocating everything the guys says.

King of Ireland said...

"Is Amos' citation a fair representation of Adam's letter and Adam's understanding of the underlying principles of good government? Or is Amos' abstraction only a limited understanding of what Adam's was saying in an effort to advocate a certain position favored by Amos?

How does this affect his/your argument? Or does it?"


I am not following you here. Are we talking past politics or present. If it is present then yes I think he and others misunderstand a lot what the sense of Christian justice was then as compared to what the religious right thinks now.

If you are talking historically I think he is right in the general sense.

King of Ireland said...

JRB,

Are you saying he used a bum quote? I have been driving all day and my brain is a little bit dead. Did he add the general principles part?

If so he did not even need to use this quote. Adams quote in the defence when he cites all the resistance writers is a better one anyway.

That is why I posted this thing so we can sift through it. I think he is way more credible than Barton but maybe not.

With that said, I think his overall point is solid.


Barton does this too at times when he uses crap he does not need to to make his point.

The main point here is that he does not think they were all Evangelicals. That is the straw man. He is more concerned where the ideas they used came from.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It occurs to me this is what I'm getting at above: Don't reuse an edited quote. Go back to the original source, and if it needs editing, do the editing yourself, fairly and judiciously. That way you won't get caught off base.

I trust a Dreisbach or a Tierney, who have strong academic reputations to guard, but as the review says, Amos confesses in his book it's a "debater's manual" and that "Amos is upfront in his approach and makes no pretense of being a detached, dispassionate historian."

Which is fine---folks like Gary Amos can be very valuable birddogs toward locating evidence overlooked by the prevailing narrative. But verify the facts independently.

Interesting in the review that Amos

"...relentlessly challenges liberal historians and takes to the woodshed neo-evangelicals who parrot their theories."

The latter sounds to me like John MacArthur and by extension Gregg Frazer, who claim that in their infidelity to orthodoxy, the Founders and the Founders were unChristian.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/06/new-article-from-david-barton-on-romans.html

King of Ireland said...

I am getting you Tom. You are exactly right. I missed what you were saying.

He goes after the Frazer like argument and that is who the book is written to refute. That is why I like using him as a reference point.

But I will do a better job at verifying the quotes if possible and if not putting disclaimer. I ask you guys to hold my feet to the fire too because as JRB stated once we are so high on google searches we are almost like a public record. I do not want to soil the site with bad quotes for sure.

If you google Fukuyama and Liberal Democracy I think we are number 1. That is incredible. He is a major figure in political theory. OFT shows up high too sometimes.

King of Ireland said...

"The latter sounds to me like John MacArthur and by extension Gregg Frazer, who claim that in their infidelity to orthodoxy, the Founders and the Founders were unChristian."


The exact point of my post. He exposes the straw man of them having to be evangelicals for this to be a Christian Nation in the general principle sense.

His frame of discussion is the correct one even if he does not always get things right.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm sure Amos has good evidence to add, evidence that is ignored or simply overlooked by historians without any theological background.

Use him as a compass, but not as a map.

To put in a good word for OFT, his doggedness has birddogged many things I have found interesting and useful. [Heh heh, how's that for mixing metaphors?]

But he's so single-minded as an advocate for his POV that his methodology is unexacting and his rhetoric overreaches. He can see the US Constitution being based on Leviticus where few others can.

http://ourfoundingtruth.blogspot.com/2010/07/yes-chris-rodda-our-constitution-is.html

I think he's a sincere man and not twisting the facts for rhetorical purposes. Consciously, at least. I do not think he's a Liar for Jesus. But sorry, Jim, this blog and its comments section simply functions more cleanly without you.

...as JRB stated once we are so high on google searches we are almost like a public record.

I'm damn proud of what we all have achieved together, contributors and commenters alike, our little community. When errors of fact are made [and even well-respected historians make them], we correct them.

Sometimes it seems like we're just a blog, but we're more than that, we're a resource. And we do an honorable job of keeping it clean.

Because we keep each other honest. It's the American way. ;-)

jimmiraybob said...

Are you saying he used a bum quote?

I'm saying that Amos has manufactured a "quote" by slicing and dicing Adam's letter. He does this to create a false impression of what Adam's actual intended message was. Amos does this to create the image that is advantageous to what he wants to say. In essence, he's manufacturing false testimony.

The slicing and dicing is obviously intentional. But what's the motivation? As TVD points out, "Amos confesses in his book it's a 'debater's manual'...." In a debate the object is to win. In short, Amos' work becomes just an instruction manual on how to win one side of the "culture war." It's biased and certainly not reliable scholarship if the object is to actual form a reasonably accurate understanding of history. This, to be charitable, taints the conclusions.

What exactly is his single most important thesis? If you find it compelling then you should state the thesis and then look for the independent primary or dispassionate secondary sources to defend it. At the very least you should thoroughly vet the "evidence" that Amos presents if you are going to use it. If you don't do it then you're leaving yourself exposed and just begging for a curious and skeptical bystander with a little time on their hands to "attack."

jimmiraybob said...

See Jon Rowe
here
(Saturday, February 23, 2008)
and here (Wednesday, September 19, 2007)
for some perspective on the quote.

My perspective is that if you look at the full quote it says that, "Nevertheless, all educated in the general principles Of Christianity; and the general principles of English and American liberty" and then goes to expand on what he means by the general principles,

"And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united; AND [my emphasis – notice the semi colon separating the two parts] the general principles of English and American liberty, in Which all these young men united, and Which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence."

Adams is saying, 1) that the general principles of Christianity, the ones outside of specific doctrinal disputes, united all of the various Christian sects that were otherwise far from united in their understanding of what Christianity actually was, and 2) that the general principles of English and American liberty united the young men that Adams is responding to; the same general principles, “Which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence." Now, read the whole of Adam’s Defence (Adam's refers Jefferson to the first page of the Defence).

The first point is clearly separated from the second by a semi-colon followed by “and.” Clearly, Adams is making a distinction between the general Christian principles (uniting the sects) and the general principles of English and American liberty. He does not rest the revolution, founding, establishment of the nation on the foundation of general Christian principles alone (which you might assume from the Amos “quote”) but on two distinct realms, with the sacred uniting one part, the sects, and a secular notion of liberty uniting the whole.

jimmiraybob said...

I think that you can see the distinction that I make above in the central theme of William Hogeland's Declaration; that disparate characters form crucial alliances to gain independence.

King of Ireland said...

Jrb stated:

"Adams is saying, 1) that the general principles of Christianity, the ones outside of specific doctrinal disputes, united all of the various Christian sects that were otherwise far from united in their understanding of what Christianity actually was, and 2) that the general principles of English and American liberty united the young men that Adams is responding to; the same general principles, “Which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence." Now, read the whole of Adam’s Defence (Adam's refers Jefferson to the first page of the Defence)."

That is, I think, his exact point. Again he does not believe they were all evangelicals not do them need to be in his mind to unite around the common Chrisitan principles of liberty.

I think you are thinking he is saying more than he is. That was the point of the post. You have to read all of what he says in context about Adams and Jefferson to understand his main point.

In other words the Evangelical or orthodox or not red herring is irrelevant to him. He readily admits that Locke was unorthodox in some of his thoughts as well but maintains, and I agree with him, that this is irrelevant as to where he borrows his political thoughts from.

jimmiraybob said...

And JrB also stated:

"The first point is clearly separated from the second by a semi-colon followed by 'and.' Clearly, Adams is making a distinction between the general Christian principles (uniting the sects) and the general principles of English and American liberty. He does not rest the revolution, founding, establishment of the nation on the foundation of general Christian principles alone (which you might assume from the Amos “quote”) but on two distinct realms, with the sacred uniting one part, the sects, and a secular notion of liberty uniting the whole."

My reading of Adams is that the general principles of Christianity were compatible with and a subset of the overall mobilizing impulse toward independence but not the same as the general principles of English and American liberty that even Deists and Atheists could get enthused enough about to join in the fun. When you say, "Again he [Amos] does not believe they were all evangelicals not do them need to be in his mind to unite around the common Christian principles of liberty" you are speaking to the first half of what Adams was saying; the unifying factor for the Christian sects.

Adams was saying that the common principles of liberty/law transcend Christianity and the Christian sects; the roots of which are to be found in the ancient Greeks and the Romans and the lessons of which are found in history, irrespective of divine authority (hit my Defence link above, pgs 6-7:

" The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature [jrb - separate from divine authority, see preceeding potion of paragraph at link]: and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an æra in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had any interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of heaven, any more than those at work upon ships or houses, or labouring in merchandize or agriculture: it will for ever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."

King of Ireland said...

Jrb,

We have been around this wheel before and am sure we will go around it again, and probably need to until we hash all this out, but in Defence I think Adams makes it clear that he is associating the principles of liberty with Christian Resistance theory writers. Look at who he cites.

But I see your part about the quote and he should have quoted it outright.

I hate to keep bringing up but at some point someone is going to have to refute imago dei and transforming Greek and Roman thoughts on rights.

I know we have been through it before but I only see things that are vaguely similar on the surface but when you look deeper pantheism really has little to do with dignity based on being in the image of a Deity seperate from his Creation.

This is deep theology here but that is why I am referencing a dude with a theology degree. We really need someone that has a expert understanding of Greek and Roman theology to chime in to be truthful and I am not sure too many exist.

I understand what you are getting at but I am not sure how we are going to really get to the bottom of this when most are so ignorant of the theology. Including me and I know an awful lot of it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Even Brian Tierney, who's perhaps the foremost expert on this stuff, says tah much more work needs to be done.

This is pretty virgin territory.

Tom Van Dyke said...

A more thorough outline of Amos's book. Thought it might be of interest or of use.

jimmiraybob said...

At the very least, I've bumped Amos' book to near the top of the "to read" list.

At best I anticipate a comprehensive, informed, rational and articulate response to be finished within a few years. Until then, its fits and starts.

Baby steps.

King of Ireland said...

A response to Amos you mean?

King of Ireland said...

"Even Brian Tierney, who's perhaps the foremost expert on this stuff, says tah much more work needs to be done.

This is pretty virgin territory."


I think he is the expert, the American one for sure, but I suspect that there are some European or Latin American scholars that hit on this or HAVE in the past and we need to dig it up.


But this is for sure a lost history. If I can get myself straight and get settled into teaching again and finally get some Grad school I am going to focus on this. I am just not sure if it is history, theology, or political theory or all 3 I need to specialize in. Maybe just plain old Philosophy.

But it has been three years and nothing has panned out so who knows. Maybe AC was my education to figure out what to pursue formally?

My book would be:

Jihad vs. McWorld I: What If Cortez Would Have Listened?

King of Ireland said...

From Tom's Link:


"The Declaration of Independence cannot be traced to Greek or Stoic philosophy because the Greeks and Stoics thought law and nature opposed each other, had no concept of Biblical creation ex nihilo, and believed that nature and God were the same. Even when the phrase "law of nature" was used, it did not mean the same as in Biblical creation-based Judaism and Christianity"


This is an interesting statement and highlights what I am talking about. I am not sure Christians understand Greek Theology enough to make statements like this.

JRB,

This is what I brought up over at Ed's in that from my limited understanding of Greek Pantheism it is very similar to Buddhism and Hinduiam today. I do know quite a bit about Buddhism from readings and numerous discussions with Tibetan Monks.

With that said, they have no concept of God at all in the Western sense. God is everything and everything is God. That is as far as nature goes. But for human beings that idea is to escape the corrupt material world through the 8 Fold path to Enlightenment. In other words, all desire is bad and the goal of life is to lose our desire.

That is 100 percent opposed to the pursuit of happiness.

Now I am not sure if this aspect was a part of Greek Theology but I know it was part of Gnosticism. I think Augustine was even influence early on by Gnosticism. Some think his view of Man that Calvin borrowed was tainted with Gnostic ideas of all matter being evil.

Not sure how all this connects and do not want to jump to conclusions. I point this out to re emphasis that we really have to understand the theology and philisophy, if there is a difference, of these eras to hash this out.

King of Ireland said...

If the quote from the link it correct though that is lethal to the arguments that Stoicism was instrumental in the founding. But I guess you could make the argument, and Tom does with Islam, that the founders were just as ignorant about other religions as we are today. Probably more becasue they had no real contact with anything but Christians.

I agree with Jon, in premise, that a lot of these ideas got jumbled up and together helped create what we call Western though today. The issue is that the Christian influence seems to perhaps be the most influential and in many circles it is seen as the least.

For sure the Enlightenment did not really add anything that new. We just think it did because of poor scholarship on the history of Christian ideas.

King of Ireland said...

Tierney is right. No one seems to study this stuff.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gene said...

I am very interested in this and doing some investigative research. I contend that the quote you made of Gary Amos, "Sloppy interpreters of American history too took that obscure European view and pasted it to the history of the American Revolution", was not sloppy interpretation, but intentional misrepresentation.

Think about this. You have a nation being founded on Christian principles. The prince of the air, Lucifer, is certainly not going to just let this go by. He is ruling this world and has ever since his fall. Lucifer, the angel of light, the illuminated, is going to invade our system.

=================
The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.

Mount Vernon, October 24, 1798.

Revd Sir: I have your favor of the 17th. instant before me; and my only motive to trouble you with the receipt of this letter, is to explain, and correct a mistake which I perceive the hurry in which I am obliged, often, to write letters, have led you into.

It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.

The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of seperation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a seperation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.

My occupations are such, that but little leisure is allowed me to read News Papers, or Books of any kind; the reading of letters, and preparing answers, absorb much of my time. With respect, etc.

Source: Library of Congress, http://tiny.cc/ixayex

=================
The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.

[Note 7: Of Fredericktown (now Frederick), Md.]

Mount Vernon, September 25, 1798.

Sir: Many apologies are due to you, for my not acknowledging the receipt of your obliging favour of the 22d. Ulto, and for not thanking you, at an earlier period, for the Book8 you had the goodness to send me.

[Note 8: Proofs of a Conspiracy &c, by John Robison.]

I have heard much of the nefarious, and dangerous plan, and doctrines of the Illuminati, but never saw the Book until you were pleased to send it to me.9 The same causes which have prevented my acknowledging the receipt of your letter have prevented my reading the Book, hitherto; namely, the multiplicity of matters which pressed upon me before, and the debilitated state in which I was left after, a severe fever had been removed. And which allows me to add little more now, than thanks for your kind wishes and favourable sentiments, except to correct an error you have run into, of my Presiding over the English lodges in this Country. The fact is, I preside over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice, within the last thirty years. I believe notwithstanding, that none of the Lodges in this Country are contaminated with the principles ascribed to the Society of the Illuminati. With respect I am &c.

[Note 9: In a letter from Snyder (Aug. 22, 1798, which is in the Washington Papers), it is stated that this book "gives a full Account of a Society of Free-Masons, that distinguishes itself by the Name of 'Illuminati,' whose Plan is to overturn all Government and all Religion, even natural."]

Source: Library of Congress: http://tiny.cc/kpayex