Friday, December 24, 2010

No, Mr. Beck, Our Constitution is Not Based on the Book of Deuteronomy

This is a good one from Chris Rodda. It makes an extremely important point on the Donald S. Lutz et al. study that bears repeating. I'll talk more about the Lutz study soon.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Ms. Rodda does not present any direct quotes where Beck [or Barton] claim the Constitution is based on Deuteronomy.

This is not good history, or even good polemic.

Now perhaps one of them said that, Jon, but we have a responsibility to check the facts for ourselves before we pass on such accusations here at American Creation, even via link. At least a disclaimer that we haven't crosschecked the accusation.

The closest I could find is this transcript---which I think is the broadcast in question---with the Deuteronomy discussion appended below. Nowhere is such an extravagant claim of the Constitution for Deuteronomy made.

BECK: Isn't it — isn't it Deuteronomy that is the most quoted —
BECK: — out of any of our founding documents, right?
BECK: It's not Locke. It's nothing. It's Deuteronomy.
BARTON: That's right. Deuteronomy.
The political science professors found that when they looked at all the writings the founders used and relied and quoted, and there were — there were 15,000 writings they used. They found 3,154 quotes, the most quoted source was the Bible — 34 percent of their quotes came out of the Bible. Most quoted book in the Bible is the Book of Deuteronomy.
BECK: Which is basically the Mosaic Law.
BARTON: That's right. That's right. Exactly right.
BECK: So, when we say we're Judeo-Christian, it doesn't mean you have to go to this church or anything else.
BARTON: That's right. These principles.
BECK: This is the law.
BARTON: That's right.

Read more:,2933,590642,00.html#ixzz193xFqOuo

bpabbott said...


In your opinion, what is the point that Beck and Barton are trying to make?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Ben, the point here is that it's Chris Rodda who should be on trial here. If Beck didn't say the Constitution is bbased on Deuteronomy, as her headline clearly accuses, then by her own standards she is wrong, and is a "liar," a word she tends to use freely.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is the question I keep asking, Who watches the watchers?

You know I have no truck for this culture war stuff, and strive mightily to keep it out of American Creation. Ms. Rodda is a polemicist, and she focuses on the errors of her ideological opponents in order to discredit them. Catch Barton in an error, and that means the other 90% of what he gets right is bullshit too. It's a tactic. [Note she never admits what Barton gets right.]

But all that's fine. The problem is that her attacks are taken uncritically as gospel truth by her own partisan readers, and I took this opportunity to point out her own shortcomings in making an honest case. We need the direct quote from Beck alleging the Constitution was based on Deuteronomy, or else she is guilty of the same corner-cutting she accuses Barton of. [And which he is sometimes guilty of. She has him cold on his Aitken Bible stuff. But I make her batting average to be 1 out of 3 in the recent cases I/we have examined, not a great average atall.]

If you recall, I was always at hand to advise the late great OFT when he was overshooting the evidence in claiming all sorts of Biblical origins and covenants for our Founding. It's my goal---and this blog's---to treat goose and gander, the watcher and the watched, with equal skepticism, a safe haven from the advocacy and polemicism that infect the sincere study of religion and the Founding. I do think the "watchers" have been getting a free ride.

Jonathan Rowe said...


You are cordially invited to repost your point without the ad hominem.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I am going to have to scroll thru Barton's YouTube if I have time because I do remember Barton connecting the Constitution with the Lutz study. When they do this, they get nailed for it. The fact that the Lutz study does NOT prove any connection between the US Constitution and Bible quotes is something that the "Christian Nation" side is going to have to concede because there is no getting around it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Fine, get the evidence. That's all I asked for. In not presenting the crucial and necessary evidence, Ms. Rodda did an unsatisfactory job, even for a polemic.

And that was my primary point. If you noticed, I left the door open that Barton or Beck actually made the claim. I don't know.

However, the argument in the transcript I linked is far more sophisticated than this very shallow grenade-throwing. Barton invokes James Wilson, who wrote that

"The law of nature and the law of revelation are both Divine: they flow, though in different channels, from the same adorable source. It is indeed preposterous to separate them from each other."

Now, this opens the door for scripture in the American philosophy of law, and is a valid argument, even if some find it unconvincing. It is by no means a "lie."

But Ms. Rodda's readers at that other blog remain completely unaware of the depth of the Barton/Beck argument, which is why these attacks and polemics are far more heat than light.

And even if you do locate Barton claiming the Constitution for Leviticus [and I haven't seen him do so], the source material for Ms. Rodda's attack was the Glenn Beck show, and she needs to provide a quote from there, and in fact, should already have done so from the very start.


Ben, I hate defending these guys. However, the answer to your question also takes a step back from "Christian Nation," and is contained in the transcript above:

BECK: So, when we say we're Judeo-Christian, it doesn't mean you have to go to this church or anything else.
BARTON: That's right. These principles.
BECK: This is the law.
BARTON: That's right.

Judeo-Christian principles is the claim here, not "Christian Nation." The reason I keep asking for direct quotes is that stuff seems to go haywire between what they said and the paraphrases of their attackers.

I'm asking for the rigor their critics demand from Beck and Barton, and I've found it quite wanting, on everyone's part. The snake eats its tail.

bpabbott said...

It does sound to me like Beck and Barton are implying the founding should be understood sans Locke (reason), and with Deuteronomy (scripture).

There's a false dichotomy in that isn't there? ... one that I think is front and center with regards this debate.

Tom Van Dyke said...

That's not quite what they said. They simply said Deuteronomy was cited more than Locke.

My objection here is epistemological, and I'm simply playing defense attorney, not ally. Proof for the charges has not been offered---no smoking guns, no direct quotes, only contentious paraphrases.

And this is talk show fer crissakes, and a certain shorthand is being used. And I don't agree with everything said, but disagreement doesn't have to be scorched earth, delegitimization and ad hom attack.

bpabbott said...

Re: "a certain shorthand is being used"

I agree. And as I wrote, I see that short-hand as implying the founding should be understood sans Locke (reason), and with Deuteronomy (scripture).

I welcome Chris Rodda's objection to that implication. In the event, this perspective is only by inference and not intentionally implied, then either Beck or Barton can resolve the misunderstanding by expanding upon the short-hand.

Personally, I'd prefer to see Chris leverage the ambiguity of the short-hand into an accommodating perspective. Meaning I'd prefer here to to assert that right reason is under the same divine dominion as scripture. Thus, the perspective of Beck and Barton is proper provided they do not violate the facts, right reason, or scripture.

In short, I think Chris can use the words of Beck and Barton to paint them into a tight corner.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, this is going nowhere, Ben. Neither Beck or Barton said the Constitution is based on Deuteronomy. The charge that they did and is grossly unfair without a direct quote.

You know why there's no quote? Because they didn't say it, that's why. Barton is not the only one who rhetorically overshoots his evidence.

As for the rest, I don't think you and are in substantive disagreement. However, there is no way to make the more complex point

I'd prefer here to to assert that right reason is under the same divine dominion as scripture.

in the grenade-tossing environment of that other blog, or in Chris Rodda's polemic style.

I have no idea if Ms. Rodda is even familiar with the James Wilson argument, or if she's simply ignoring it. Either way, she does her readers and the entire issue a disservice.

To return to the substance in the manner to which we're accustomed, I've asked for but never received any evidence that the Founding era consciously contradicted the Bible via their own positive [man-made] law. The understanding was that no positive law is valid if it violates natural law, and that natural law [discerned by right reason, as you rightly put it] is never in conflict with scripture, because they both flow from the same "adorable" source.

This is the argument Barton is attempting to make, although he does a lousy and rather incoherent job of it. I liken him to OJ Simpson's prosecutors, who threw every bit of evidence they had---strong or weak---against the wall, hoping something would stick. Mr. Barton is equally incompetent at laying out a coherent and convincing thesis.

There's enough incompetence [and bad evidence, like the Aitken thing and the John Adams quote on the Holy Ghost, which was meant sarcastically] in the Barton transcript linked above. But Ms. Rodda has overshot her own evidence, and again, the snake has eaten its tail, the truth being the real casualty of these culture wars.

bpabbott said...

Re: "Neither Beck or Barton said the Constitution is based on Deuteronomy."

While they didn't "literally" say those words, I think it a reasonable inference that this is what they intended to imply. Particularly since our Constitution is the most important of "our founding documents".

Where is Deuteronomy ever quoted in any founding document?

If not the Constitution, what do Barton/Beck qualify as a founding document?

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's your inference, Ben, and that of their enemies, stated baldly as fact.

As a matter of fact, in the transcript, they skate around the Constitution with the [proper] counterargument that religion wqas left to the states.

But if you're determined to hang them, your inferences are plenty enough evidence for you. But I argue a fair minded person requires something far closer to a direct quote.

If this transcript is the broadcast in question, if you were forced to make an indictment from scratch based on their actual quotes, it would silly and sophistic.

There isn't even a decent paraphrase in Ms. Rodda's original condemnation, only her characterization of what was said. That is garbage for anyone who demands rigor, especially the folks who demand so much precision from others.

This is an epistemological argument. I've popped in on our old friend OFT when I think he's overreading into the text. This is just another example on the other side.

It's your opinion that they implied that the Constitution is based on Deuteronomy. This opinion cannot be stated as fact.

As as for the inherent truth in the issue, we've covered that with little disagreement. Funny how much clarity is possible outside the culture wars.

bpabbott said...

Re: "It's your opinion that they implied that the Constitution is based on Deuteronomy. This opinion cannot be stated as fact.

It is my opinion that it is a proper both a inference and the likely intended implication.

I think there is only necessary inference needed to reach my conclusion. Which is that the Constitution is the most important Founding document. The founding documents certainly cannot exclude the Constitution.

It would certainly be profoundly arrogant to assert my opinion is synonymous with the facts ... However, my opinion is a representative explanation of the facts.

Do you have a more likely/reasonable one?

Does anyone have a reference for the 3,154 quotations from the 15,000 sources? Thats about 1 quote for every 3 documents, and only 34% of those are from the Bible (1 quote from every 6 documents). What percentage of those came from Deuteronomy?

What was the context of the quotations, and what were the subjects of sources. Also to what end was the work of the political scientists directed?

Did the quotes form Deuteronomy out number the quotes of Locke?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Maybe I'm "off base", but isn't the real issue whether Constitutional government protects it citizens, as America is an "exceptional nation", "chosen by God", given the law, or whether 'natural rights" that underlie human rights via the DOI is of primary importance. Are the traditionalist or the progressive right in their asessments? Both, aren't they? (And perhaps, I've emphasized the "Christian" aspect of exceptionalism too much here.)

How are we, Ameircans going to view our nation; as an empire, a "special experiement", a social contract, a covenant with and of "God", another nation-state that doesn't have any particular particularity, or What? It makes a difference about what and how Americans view themselves, the nation, and its investments/purpose (or if there is any).

bpabbott said...

Good points Angie.

Tom Van Dyke said...

When the occasion arises, I strenuously object when any claim for a "covenant" is made. Unlike in the Old Testament, God was silent on whether he had a covenant with America, and further, the Constitution does not propose one.

On the other hand, America---even Washington and the less religious like Franklin ["not a sparrow falls," at the Constitutional Convention] felt that God-as-Providence had a purpose and an "invisible hand" [That's Washington, First Inaugural] in creating america. At our best, Americans have believed we should live up to that gift and according to the "natural law," if not the divine law.

I believe Lincoln put it wisely, calling us "an almost chosen people."

[Italics mine.]

What we choose to do with that traditional understanding of America is up to us in 2010, and a matter of no small dispute. We are certainly entitled and able to walk away from that if we choose. All my work here is about determining just what we're walking away from, just so's we knows.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I guess it like "Santa Claus". One can believe in Santa Claus for its power over human imagination. This is what the Traditionalist believes about to its religious origins.

But, if we want to talk about America's exceptional nature as to moral development, then I think we could arrange to have agreement on a broader basis. But, that still doesn't unify what or how America is "obliged" to propagate this form of government to others....

And since America has tried to export its "exceptionalism" across borders which do not necessarily appreciate such attempts at converting their government, should we then still be so sure about our "foreign entanglements" which the Founders warned us against? How are we to "go forward"?

Tom Van Dyke said...

The "natural law" isn't Santa Claus. Even some atheists like Murray Rothbard embrace it.

As for "Providence," all we can say as historians is that pretty close to 100% of the Founders believed in it.

As for the rest, the funny thing is the neo-cons, in believing that all men yearn to "breathe free" and live under a neo-liberal economic system, were not Straussian, they were hegelian. Fukuyama's "The End of History" is under the direct influence of Alexandre Kojeve, the philosophical godfather of the European Union, in other words, a Euroleftist globalist.

Strauss thought such a Universal Homogeneous State was bad for man, and spelled the end of philosophy.

Now, it may turn out that Hegel-Fukuyama-Kojeve prove to be correct, but not just now. Vast numbers of people would prefer to live in a society governed [more or less] by the Quran.

And don't they have a right to choose such a society?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I know we've been "down this road before", and I probably don't know enough yet, to know that I speak ignorantly. BUT...the only way for me to know that I don't know is to share my ignorance, continue to read and pursue knowledge, and find out and rectify where I am ignorant...Ignorance leads to enslavement.

Is our government founded on "natural principles" that govern the universe, or not? and how do we know this? Are there other valid claims to governance of the Universe? Natural law could be known as "Principle", "Providence", or God", and does describe an "ordered society".

Some believe that an "ordered society" is not an internal value, but a social value, does it matter?

Order without liberty does injustice to creativity, just as liberty without order is chaotic and doesn't give a proper environment to "see" and appreciate the creative....I am grateful for our form of government that values both order and liberty!

Didn't Jefferson "fight" for the little guy, as he undercut the elite ruling class to allow for the talented and virtuous to "bring forth their fruit"?

I think Jefferson erred on the side of liberty for fear of a monocracy. I also fear the control of such....and such fear doesn't grant good government its just desserts.

Good government is the epitome of human flourishing, for it allows individuals liberty to "become". This is my personal view, but some believe nowadays that one's culture is internalized such that it doesn't allow for a "universalized" form of government.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Whether one lives under a Universal Homogenous State, or a Theocratic State, both limit liberty. And this is where "order" usurps liberty. Law usurps philosophy. The creative element must be given a "right" under the "order of government", otherwise, we oppress individual conscience (pursuit of happiness), "mind" and heart (liberty), and "life"!

Tom Van Dyke said...

some believe nowadays that one's culture is internalized such that it doesn't allow for a "universalized" form of government.

Well, you just hit your nail on the head, the problem of modernity. Radical individualism is by its nature in tension and conflict with "society."

And in the modern West, we are sold a certain brand of value-free "neutrality" in the name of our god of "tolerance." But this "neutrality" is anything but "neutral":

And of course, today the complaint by traditionalists is that modernists are using the coercive force of government to take control of "society." Such a coercion is what some call a "soft tyranny."

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Strauss' complaint against the UHS is just that---that coerced 'tolerance" and a monolitic bourgoiss liberal democracy/capitalism erases all distinctions, indeed eliminating all concept of good, not-good, and evil in the name of the democratic "general will."

It's a very sophisticated and elegant argument, and ironically expressly directed at the most "liberal" of all, the Euroleft of Kojeve, the End of History of Hegel or Fukuyama. We become obedient, "tolerant," materialistic, bourgeois modern robots--- Men Without Chests according to CS Lewis; The Last Man, according to Nietzsche---soulless hedonists on a "joyless quest for joy."

Pretty heady stuff, but beyond the purview of this blog, except buried deep in the comments sections.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I am NOT arguing for the "right to do ANYTHING", as to the "moral order". But, as you well know, America has gone through a "re-ordering" of morality in regards to slavery, women's rights, and now, the homosexual is in the "limelight". I wrote about my thinking on this; (topic; Choice and Homosexuality).

The issue for me is fidelity in one's social obligations. This is the individual's "commitment of value". And sometimes these conflict and must be prioritized. So, there isn't really any conflict with society and the individual, unless society doesn't value "order" and equality, as to the law. Laws are to protect individual liberties from intrusive government in American understanding.

Society is where social institutions frame or form our realities; family, Church, school, and community. Today's challenge is the "virtual community". Are these "real communities", or an escape from real communities? How do these affect the "human"? Can we understand how the "virtual world" affects the human, when we don't even understand what the "human" really is? And who/what is to give us guidance on what is "human"?

These are questions that must be answered if the future for humans is to granted a special place in the world. If not, the human is only a part/parcel of "nature" and isn't any separate entity to be engaged, considered, or valued above any other aspect of "nature".