Monday, August 23, 2010

Post From Dispatches From the Culture Wars on Rights, God, the Bible

Since King of Ireland, my co-blogger at American Creation, and I are discussing the idea of rights/God/the Bible, I thought I'd post parts of post I did when I guest blogged for Ed Brayton's Dispatches From the Culture Wars.

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I think the Acton Institute does a credible job arguing a good scholarly case that religion or Christianity is necessary for human rights.

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I think though, that, based on what the Bible says in its text and the history of the Christian West, groups like the Acton Institute will at best have a half-full argument. The other side will always have a half-empty critique. It's a "selective" reading of both the Bible and the history of the Christian West that supports notions of God given human rights, liberty and equality. And the most notable expositors of unalienable human rights were men like Thomas Jefferson who, though they believed in a rights granting God rejected every single tenet of orthodox Christianity as Jefferson did in his October 31, 1819 letter to William Short, where he listed by name and rejected the following:

The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, &c.


So whatever belief in unalienable rights depends upon, it does not depend upon believing in those things; it is not by virtue of belief in those things that our notions of unalienable human rights derive.

In one of my favorite posts of his, Larry Arnhart explains the "half-empty" critique that skeptics will always be able to raise against traditional Christians who try to argue that the Bible and the orthodox Christian religion are where notions of human rights derive and must rest:

The case of slavery and "universalism" illustrates the problem....[M]any religious traditions have allowed slavery, and the Bible never condemns slavery or calls for its abolition. On the contrary, in the American debate over slavery, Christian defenders of slavery were able to cite specific biblical passages in both the Old Testament and the New Testament supporting slavery. Opponents of slavery had to argue that general doctrines such as the creation of human beings in God's image implicitly denied the justice of slavery. But they could never cite any specific passage of the Bible for their position. Here's a clear case of where the moral teaching of the Bible depends on our coming to it with a prior moral understanding that we then read into the Bible.

Moreover, the "universalism" of the Bible is in doubt. I don't see a universal morality in the Old Testament. Moses ordering the slaughter of the innocent Mideanite women and children, for example, manifests a xenophobia that runs through much of the Old Testament.

Now, of course, the New Testament does seem more inclined to a universal humanitarianism. But the Book of Revelation teaches that at the end of history the saints will destroy the Antichrist and the unbelievers in bloody battle. The bloodiness of this vision has been dramatized throughout the history of Christianity. (See, for example, Tim LaHaye's popular LEFT BEHIND novels.)

....And, of course, there is a continuing controversy over whether the Christian churches in Europe did enough to oppose Hitler. The German Lutheran Church was inclined to interpret the 13th Chapter of Romans as dictating obedience to the authorities. Martin Luther himself was brutal in his expression of anti-Semitism. How would Holloway explain cases like this? Would he say that the true doctrines of biblical religion always require universal love, and therefore any behavior by a biblical believer that violates universal love is based on a misinterpretation of biblical doctrine?

14 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

I see I was somewhat involved in the comments section in your original post at that other blog. Apparently, it was dawning on me what a waste of time it is to try to talk political philosophy or the Bible with people who know nothing about either.

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I think Arnhart's a little brutal on the Bible here, not quite understanding it as it understands itself, which is theologically. The Israelites visiting destruction on other peoples is always because those peoples are wicked, and Israel serves only as an instrument of God's justice. In turn, Israel receives God's justice from other peoples [Babylonian Captivity, for instance].


So too about the bad behavior of some Christians in history, since they were opposed by other Christians.

But the Aquinas-Locke scholar Edward Feser agrees with Arnhart, even to the point that this new science "proves" traditional Thomistic natural law:

Indeed, the political theorist Larry Arnhart, in Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature, argues that Darwinian sociobiology – or evolutionary psychology, as it is often known these days – far from undermining traditional morality, in fact supports the natural law tradition in moral thinking associated with St. Thomas Aquinas, a tradition notoriously conservative in its moral implications (and thus abominated by the cultural Left).

Perhaps, then, "doing what comes naturally" means, ultimately, doing quite the opposite of what the libertines and "back to nature" types recommend. Indeed, perhaps "Back to nature!" itself ought to be the rallying cry of traditionalists – it could, in their mouths, finally be used to say something meaningful and constructive.


http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/feser1.html

King of Ireland said...

"And the most notable expositors of unalienable human rights were men like Thomas Jefferson who, though they believed in a rights granting God rejected every single tenet of orthodox Christianity as Jefferson did in his October 31, 1819 letter to William Short, where he listed by name and rejected the following:"


The Manegoldian Missing Link Jon. Got prove the link or all this stuff is just fluff in regards to political theory. Tierney rightly accuses Villey of the same thing when he states that Ockhams metaphyics was a neccessity for his view of natural rights. Manegold and Amos do the same thing in reverse with the Greeks. Though there are differences in some key things because of the Greek metaphysics you do not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Sotierology is irrelevant here.


"Larry Arnhart explains the "half-empty" critique that skeptics will always be able to raise against traditional Christians who try to argue that the Bible and the orthodox Christian religion are where notions of human rights derive and must rest"

Depends what kind of human rights. The unalienable ones based on Canon and Common law claim rights that liberty and property were part of the person and thus not something you could deprive someone of justly. I only read Tierney up to where google cut him off but it looks like the ideas of natural rights based on natural law through intuitive or innate God given reason came on the scene with Hadrian and the Decretum adn were perfected by later Canonists.

I am not sure what orthodox Christianity has to do with it unless we are going to talk about orthodox political theory.


It seems that the Dominicans one the battle of the justice of owning property and this is the concept that went into Protestantism. Vindicae was written very shortly after the split and by all accounts(I have not read it myself so I reserved judgement) the concepts of natural law, natural rights, and property rights of life liberty and happiness sailed right through even with the split.

A simple response to the slavery thing is, again, love your neighbor as yourself. Just because it happened does not mean God condoned it. Divorce happened and he even gave them laws for it but it is clear he did not condone it. Paul tells slaves if they can get free do it but if not be at peace. He encourages Philemon to treat his escaped slave as a brother.

Any assholes in the South that wrote that the Bible promoted slavery just completely igored the golden rule. Why do people have a hard time with something so simple. Either it contradicts itself, which is not the POV you write from or the other shit is misunderstood.

King of Ireland said...

I left this comment under your other post at One Best Way. Some of it is about the tar baby thing which is old news so I do not want to focus on that part. But this is where I think you might have a historical point though IMO not a biblical one with the freedom of worship being a fairly modern thing. I would have to check back with the Schoolmen but I am not aware of any of them that made freedom or worship an inalienable right or a subjective right for that matter. Locke really did not either because he did not include atheists. Anyway, here is what I left:


"Just because it is easy to form and express does not mean it is foolish. I would also say in this case the fact that it would take a lot to refute might be a sign that it cannot be refuted and gives the person that is willing to play the tar-baby card a pass. Jon’s biblical understanding is lacking and this post proves it. It is the problem when your thesis is so closely tied to the thesis of someone else that hangs on premises that you do not fully undertand enough to refute people that retort it.

The bottom line is that Jon cannot say that taking the imago dei concept and developing a theology of rights violates good methods of interpretation when the people he sites do the same thing with the Trinity, Providence, Original Sin…

He also says that there are no specifics given that would frown upon slavery and freedom to worship. Love your neighbor as yourself is pretty specific and any Christian that reads that and thinks he can enslave another man is just plain stupid. As far as worship goes I think Jon conflates man’s obligation to God and to his fellow man. In the former, man does not have a “right” to worship freely but obviously God gives him the choice to do so or not. In the latter, man would seem to have an obligation to his fellow man to give him this freedom.

Now this is if I was Jon I would focus because:

1. There are places in the Old Testament that requite stoning if someone worships another God that need to be explained. (Most easily so in that they chose the law at the mount rather than relationship with God because they were afraid just like they chose a King instead of relationship with God at the time of Samuel; both times they made bad choices and felt the consequences)

2. There are parts of Christian history that clearly show that this was not a right. Many of the people one can site that promoted the cause of liberty in the Christian world seem to have stopped at freedom of worship.

If there was an innovation at the Enlightenment, and I am not sure on this one, it was the freedom of religion.

This is what an argument that someone that understands the Bible and wants to refute some of the backwardness(though much of what people think the religious right believes about the history is false) of the religious right looks like. The sloppiness above needs to be opposed. Call me what you want"

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

I would also add the story of the hypocrites being asked to throw the first stone at the prostitute in regards to things that were worthy of death under the law that were not worthy of death under grace.

I believe God gives us the freedom to choose so are fellow man should as well personally but there are other interpretations out there.

That is the key Jon to admit that there are other valid interpretations out there. There are other people besides Gregg Frazer including some historically prominent people that have argued similar to the way I do on much of this. It is not like it is something just thrown together by a hack. There is a lot of heft to this POV.

King of Ireland said...

"The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, &c.


So whatever belief in unalienable rights depends upon, it does not depend upon believing in those things; it is not by virtue of belief in those things that our notions of unalienable human rights derive."


You hit the nail on the head here Jon do you realize what you wrote? You basically stated the sotierological questions have no bearing on inalienable rights and thus the basis of a large chunk of Western political thought.

King of Ireland said...

"" But they could never cite any specific passage of the Bible for their position. "

Foolishness. Love your neighbor as yourself is only the most famous passage. This guy must be smoking crack to miss that.

Cross this off your favorite post list this guy is a fool. At least on this.


I went back and read a lot of the comments at Ed's and I see Mr. Heath congradulating Mr. Dogmeat for a comment that is so full of shit that it stinks. I am glad I realized the foolishness of discussing this there too Tom.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, I caught Mr. Heath adding his lame dagger in my back under cover of some nothing who calls himself Mr. "dogmeat." I don't miss much. He would not stab Caesar to his face. Heh heh. Clever man.

And well caught, King. Read carefully. It's all there if you do. Just take your time. "Parse to death?" Hell yes. People say what they want to say, what they have to say. They just hope their opponents are too stupid to catch it and their friends are smart enough to catch it.
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I only read Tierney up to where google cut him off but it looks like the ideas of natural rights based on natural law through intuitive or innate God given reason came on the scene with Hadrian and the Decretum adn were perfected by later Canonists.

Well, Jon, that's more work than you and I have done on Tierney.

I would also say in this case the fact that it would take a lot to refute might be a sign that it cannot be refuted and gives the person that is willing to play the tar-baby card a pass.

I think the Energizer Bunny gets a pass. He is not OFT, arguing the same point over and over. He is not lazy or complacent like your critics at Brayton's sewer.

When challenged, and with each new argument, he brings new evidence. That obliges the listener to reconsider his opposition anew. Fair's fair. True open-mindedness is sincere, and this gentleman has proved himself willing to test his own arguments at all times. Surely he is due his props, that he is an honest man. It is unfair to the truth and to yourself to ignore his objections.
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Paul tells slaves if they can get free do it but if not be at peace.

I'd like to know the source of that one, King. Sounds interesting.

King of Ireland said...

It might sound a bit harsh about Jon but it is not meant to be. I know he is honest and will continue to discuss this stuff and answer questions. Hell I learned more from reading you two disagree than anything else I have read.

Michael Heath is a wind bag. I used to respect him but that dogmeat dude is the one I got into with over there. Smart guy but arrogant as hell. They both are horribly wrong. The dare not fuck with Tierney though.

It is in Cortinthians I think and that is my interpretation that some would dispute read it for yourself and make up your own mind. I think it is chapter 7 or so in the first book when he is talking about marriage and staying the the station you are in.

What most people do not realize is that he told widowers not to marry there and then later told them to do it in another epistle because they were busy bodies. I think his point in the marriage and slavery was that if you were single or a slave do not fret that God was still with you. In other words, even if everyone else despises you God does not.

My take anyway.

Does not matter much though because love your neighbor as yourself sets it all straight. Gratian started his whole treatise on Canon Law with that and called it natural law. They later revised it to come from reason not the gospel but a good start.

King of Ireland said...

"I think the Energizer Bunny gets a pass. He is not OFT, arguing the same point over and over. He is not lazy or complacent like your critics at Brayton's sewer. "


Not even close. Though I like OFT. I like Ed himself I just cannot take the peanut gallery anymore. i actually still read the blog I just do not comment.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Prudent choice. Jon's other blog will likely teach you nothing and learn from you even less. Ed Brayton was once a contributor there and the mindset has not changed. They want to kill you.

Better you contribute here and go back and fix your typos when you have something to say, O Energizer Bunny. It's not "With all do respect," but "DUE." Miss stuff like that and they will just sit there and smirk.

King of Ireland said...

I have always taken these comments section discussions as a conversation much like a text chat. Spelling is not important. Unless, people that think they are smart and really are not want to find ways to discredit you instead of actually answering your arguments.

I got a facebook email for a Dispatches reader in which he said he had lost of lot of respect for the blog because he saw me bringing substantive arguments about the founding and rights that were simply being ignored and they would attack instead.

His words:

"At some point they have to respond to the substance of an argument."


They never did and never will because Barton is an easy target for the lazy who seek to masquerade as erudite. Tierney is another thing.

Pinky said...

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Jon Rowe wrote, Now, of course, the New Testament does seem more inclined to a universal humanitarianism
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I think this comment points to the suspicion that various writings in the New Testament have been contrived to make certain points. There are holes in the teachings of Jesus as presented in the Bible. The same is true--today--of some interpretations of what it means to be a Christian.
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Eventually, as time passes, all of the hullabaloo will be worked out and the populist teachings of Christianity will be exposed for what they are.
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That's what I say; but, so what? I'm just another one of those people we think of as John the Baptist--a voice crying in the wilderness.
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King of Ireland said...

A discussion for another forum Phil. Jon writes from the point of view that the Bible is true. That is the POV we are examining here.