Friday, March 25, 2011

Would Bryan Fischer Consider Joseph Story a "Christian"?

No. And arguably the theological system to which Joseph Story refers reproduced below is not necessarily "Christianity" as Fischer understands the concept. See Ed Brayton's link.

Fischer wrote:

The First Amendment was written by the Founders to protect the free exercise of Christianity. They were making no effort to give special protections to Islam.

Fischer misunderstands Story's quotation:

"Probably at the time of the adoption of the constitution, and of the amendment to it, now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation...

"The real object of the amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government."

And Story's quotation, while interesting, is not determinative; the text of the Constitution is. And the text protects "religion" NOT "Christianity" only.

But we have to wonder what theological system Joseph Story even speaks of when he invokes "Christianity." Story himself, like many other elites during his time, seemed to believe in biblical unitarian-universalism and considered that true "Christianity." And, accordingly to such theology, Islam is a valid path to God.

Here is Story on what he DIDN'T believe about Christianity:


Washington, March 6th, 1824.

...The Unitarians are universally steadfast, sincere, and earnest Christians.

They all believe in the divine mission of Christ, the credibility and authenticity of the Bible, the miracles wrought by our Saviour and his apostles, and the efficacy of his precepts to lead men to salvation....They differ among themselves as to the nature of our Saviour, but they all agree that he was the special messenger of God, and that what he taught is of Divine authority. In truth, they principally differ from other Christians in disbelieving the Trinity, for they think Christ was not God, but in the Scripture language “the Son of God.”

And here is testimony from Story's brother, speaking to and through Story's son:

After my continued absence from home for four or five years, we met again, your father being now about eighteen years old, and renewed our former affection towards each other. At this time we were, from a similarity of sentiment, drawn more closely together. I allude particularly to our religious opinions. We frequently discussed the subject of the divinity and the humanity of Christ, and we both agreed in believing in his humanity. Thus you see that your father and myself were early Unitarians, long before the doctrine was preached among us by any one, unless I except Dr. Bentley of Salem.

In other words, Story was a Socinian Unitarian, believing Jesus was 100% human and not divine at all. And here is what Story thought on salvation:

This faith he retained during his whole life, and was ever ardent in his advocacy of the views of Liberal Christians. He was several times President of the American Unitarian Association, and was in the habit of attending its meetings and joining in its discussions. No man, however, was ever more free from a spirit of bigotry and proselytism. He gladly allowed every one freedom of belief, and claimed only that it should be a genuine conviction and not a mere theologic opinion, considering the true faith of every man to be the necessary exponent of his nature, and honoring a religious life more than a formal creed. He admitted within the pale of salvation Mahommedan and Christian, Catholic and Infidel. He believed that whatever is sincere and honest is recognized of God; — that as the views of any sect are but human opinion, susceptible of error on every side, it behooves all men to be on their guard against arrogance of belief; — and that in the sight of God it is not the truth or falsity of our views, but the spirit in which we believe, which alone is of vital consequence. [Bold mine.]


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Jon, you being a lawyer, might be able to answer my question, which i have posed on another blog.

If precedent is established concerning "family law", then is a woman that wants to leave Islam protected? (I'm remembering a story about a Christian teen that converted from Islam and left her family for another one in Fla. Her family appealed to the courts. The courts decided that she needed to go back to her family.)At what age would a girl/woman be allowed to leave their family and its faith?

And what about the view that Islam doesn't allow proselytism? How does that work in a pluralist society?

Does the right of the Chicago teacher to leave her job for several weeks for a trek to Mecca have a right to do so? Irregardless of the needs of her school? The DOJ is defending her right to practice her religion.

It seems that special priviledge would have to be granted to Shiria law, because it is not liberal. What does this do to our system of justice?

Where can we draw our lines in the sand about religious oppression, when it concerns such religious law? I'm imagining nowhere, as the Westboro Baptist Church has illlustrated so illustriously!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Would it be effective to spell out religious liberty is a value of religous conscience, and NOT religious GROUPs??? Then the individuals would be protected to develop and decide on their own, even away from faith claims, which is what we want in a free society, isn't it?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

You have heard that Westboro Baptist church is going to 'protest" at Elizabeth Taylor's funeral, too? (I suppose it is because she was an AIDS activists! These really believe that our nation is "under God's judgment", and that any thing to do with gays, or AIDS is abominable!!! Thanks to Romans 1!

jimmiraybob said...

Angie, correct me if I'm wrong, but you do have you're own blog, no?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Are you suggesting I shouldn't ask these questions? but on my own blog?

Jonathan Rowe said...


I think maybe what we should do is open a once a week OPEN discussion forum here at American Creation where we can have discussions that are not entirely on point.

Also, FYI, WorldMagBlog has great open threads where these issues can be discussed. There are MANY among others evangelicals waiting and eager to discuss these issues. Have you ever tried them out?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I am not evangelical. I used to be.
Sorry that this discussion was "off", as I was connecting "evangelicalism"'s faith's family values to legal problems that seem "in line" with Islams...and might be problematic for future liberty...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I recognize that our country cannot distintify itself from plural faith claims, but I am arguing for the individual to be of primary importance in their ability to define their faith in free assoication. That way, liberty is preserved.

Social animals, yes, are nurtured and defined by social groups, but in human development, there comes a time of choosing whether a partiuclar social group still is an important personal value. This was my is that to be allowed under Shairia...if we allow "group definiton" about faith claims...