Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Language of Liberty

The title of a book by JCD Clarke published in 1994.

Unfortunately I can only see the "preview" which means I might have to buy it. It covers a lot of the political-theological subject matter that American Creation has delved into over the years.

The book gets interesting around p. 335 when it discusses the theological heterodoxy of the singers of the DOI.

Likewise with Calvinism, we have Calvin himself teaching, like a proto-Tory, unconditional submission to tyrants, and that lower magistrates who want to check tyrants may do so only within the confines of the extant positive law. But later Calvinists seemed more generous in their understanding of the privilege to resist tyrants. Likewise all the various orthodox Churches had currents within them that wanted to "reform" Protestantism OUT of orthodox Trinitarianism. The New England Congregationalists actually did this and became Unitarian churches. But, again, those currents existed in all the churches, including the Presbyterians.

Unitarian Presbyterianism was much bigger in England (Joseph Priestley was a Presbyterian minister). But it did exist in America. The book on page 353-54 states they haven't determined the degree of "Christological heterodoxy" among the colonial Presbyterians. But it seems unlikely that it didn't get smuggled over into the colonies from Great Britain. And it does mention Rev. Samuel Hemphill as one notable Presbyterian heretic. He was tried for heterodoxy and defended by none other than Ben Franklin in Franklin's classic "Dialog Between Two Presbyterians."

And that tract is a clear explication of the non-Trinitarian "rational Christianity" in which the "key Founders" seemed imbibed.


Brad Hart said...

Interesting post, Jon. I was beginning to wonder how long we would all go without having a blog post.

Not to simplify things but doesn't all this "rational Christianity" harken back to the Great Awakening? It seems that "rational Christianity" was, in many respects, the personalization of religion in general, which is exactly what the GA was all about.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I struggle with talking about political-theological structuring of our government. Why? Because theology speaks of "God", not real world problems, politics, political ideology, or political solutions.

Religion can be viewed as a means for the nation-state to subterfuge other nation-states. This is what the "Christian missionaries" did for eons! And it was called "colonization".
National intersts should be national interests, without combininng religious zealotry into the quadmire of politics and political solutions...or needs.

Jonathan Rowe said...


Re the Great Awakening, yes and no. If the GA is how you describe it, yes. But to many folks GA means the orthodox evangelicalism of Edwards and Whitefield. Well, the "rational Christians" like Mayhew and Chauncy were the theological ENEMIES of Edwards.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Yeah, blogs have to keep moving on they risk death. I won't let that happen here.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

As to our own national needs, America needs to address the human, not religion. Religion calls for vanguarding of "truth claims" that cannot be verified, except through subjective experiences.

Subjective experiences do "come from some unaddressed" human need of the "soul" (whatever that is, "brain"?) but, are not the experience that make for "social unity", today, because the days of revivalistic religious expression was during a pre-modern mind-set in our culture. And this is why the Pentecostal and evangelical churches are growing in the "Southern" hemispere....(as far as I am concerned, the church must protect its interests, so they don't want to investigate, they just want to promote such experience)....