Saturday, July 9, 2011

1 Peter 2

At American Creation we've done a great deal of discussion on St. Paul's Romans 13. But that's not the only proof text in the Bible that instructs believers to submit to and obey rulers. There is also 1 Peter 2:

13Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

14Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

15For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

16As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

17Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.


When it comes to proof texting the Bible, I don't see how anyone could dispute that the British had the more biblical argument; America's Founders did not "honour the king." What's a more interesting question is how Christendom, even orthodox Christendom, added a natural law that originates in Aristotle to the Bible as, at the very least, a supplement. Without that supplement, you don't get a right to rebel against tyrants.

Some argue that supplementing is a slippery slope to superseding; that might be true. But it is what America's Founders did. You don't get to rebel against a tyrannical King without looking outside the four corners of the Bible to "Nature."

56 comments:

Phil Johnson said...

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I don't have the references right here at hand; but, the Bible was not seen as the revealed and inerrant Word of God during the Founding Era. That interpretation of the Bible was not accepted by the majority of Christian denominations until well into the nineteenth century.
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And, so, I suppose it wasn't all that difficult to pick and choose what Scripture a preacher might use to buttress his argument. There's plenty in Christian thinking to support the American Revolution.
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Phil Johnson said...

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Joe Winpisinger said...

Jon Stated:

"Some argue that supplementing is a slippery slope to superseding; that might be true. But it is what America's Founders did. You don't get to rebel against a tyrannical King without looking outside the four corners of the Bible to "Nature."

This is simply not true. The Bible is full of examples where Men of God with God's blessing took out the King. Interposition was the norm in Christianity not the dissent. Absolutism was a much later church doctrine.

This is where Greg's thesis is bogus in that he narrows the scope of history to fit his own focus. He also put too much emphasis on individuals and what they may or may have not believed when the emphasis should be on where the ideas that launched America and the Modern World came from.

It is only when we know where they ideas came from that we can properly add and subtract from them as we move into a new era of history.

Joe Winpisinger said...

Jon(and AC family)

Maybe it is a good time to hit this one again as the whole Back to the Constitution movement has hit the mainstream and we could get a lot of hits if we use Twitter and Facebook right?

Lot of new contributors here as well that did not get to chime in.

Joe Winpisinger said...

Jon,

Life has taken its toll and I miss our discussions. They have made me a better person for sure.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Joe,

You are just wrong when you say interposition was the norm. And it's not something that Aquinas taught. There were seeds that led to the doctrine in Christendom; but a lot of thinkers like Aquinas gave a lot of twists and turns. Still whatever Aquinas or Lord Acton or John of Salisbury or whomever taught; at least with Roman Catholicism you have to look at what the VATICAN taught as official doctrine to find the dominant position. And it was something closer to the absolutist position of Romans 13, not "interposition."

You have a tendency to oversimplify things and make conclusions that aren't warranted in the record.

Likewise with your biblical examples; what we have is narratives on the one hand verses clear instructions and commands in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 on the other.

Phil Johnson said...

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There were seeds that led to the doctrine in Christendom; but a lot of thinkers like Aquinas gave a lot of twists and turns.
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Exactly.
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And, this points to something I think can be attributed to Aquinas that Philosophy is the handmaiden to Theology. (Or was it Augustine? No matter.)
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It was then; but, now, it is the handmaiden to science.
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Philosophers came up with the ideas that showed the metaphysical the errors of its ideas. And, theologians capitulated with new "twists and turns" in their doctrine.
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Mark in Spokane said...

Jon,

I think this whole debate overlooks a key part of the Founders' legal and moral argument regarding the Revolution. The colonists' argument was not that they had an absolute right to revolt, but that the King had in effect forced them to declare independence by declaring the colonies outside of his protection. The colonists were thus forced by events to first organize for their own defense and then later declare independence. Thus, they weren't rebelling against lawful authority, rather the King and Parliament were the actual rebels, rebelling against what the colonists saw as the rightful constitutional order that had been established by custom and usage in the British Empire.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Mark,

I think that's certainly one way of looking at it. But they declared their independence, not just according to traditional British legal principles that you articulated (and their interpretation thereof was obviously contested by the Tories) but also according to revolutionary natural rights rhetoric.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Even Aquinas [d. 1274] indicated that a "usurper" had no God-given right to govern and be obeyed.

In the D of I:


"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."

BF mine. I would think "usurpations" is used here quite purposefully, not in direct reference to Aquinas, but to the general body of Christian thought that incorporated him.



"Man is bound to obey secular princes in so far as this is required by order of justice. Wherefore if the prince’s authority is not just but usurped, or if he commands what is unjust, his subjects are not bound to obey him, except perhaps accidentally, in order to avoid scandal or danger."

Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Part II-II, Q104 A6 R3

http://www.godrules.net/library/aquinas/278aquinas_d19.htm

Jonathan Rowe said...

Yes "usurpation" is a term of art that was seeded by among others Aquinas.

When I google "Thomas Aquinas" and Romans 13 and read some of the original works, I see something that is NOT the fundamentalist interpretation of Romans 13 (ala Gregg) but also not Interposition via the Calvinist resisters or what is written in the DOI.

It's something very nuanced.

http://www.shadowcouncil.org/wilson/archives/005614.html

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, the "magistrate" argument seems to me to be the identifying feature of Calvinist resistance theory. Still, an illegitimacy of rule needs to be established before they may act. "Usurpation" works, as does "abdication," also mentioned in the D of I. [King James II "abdicated," William & Mary were brought in, 1688.]

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, the "magistrate" argument seems to me to be the identifying feature of Calvinist resistance theory.

And let's welcome back Joe Winpisinger, the "King of Ireland," who spearheaded the Calvinist "magistrate"/"interposition" argument here at AC.

Theologically---Biblically---the American Revolution was only justified under Romans 13 and 1Peter2 if the state legislatures and then the Continental Congress that declared independence held legitimate---meaning "legal"---authority.

The Colonials rejected Parliament's authority all along since they had no representation, no consent of the governed; then they rejected the Crown, which had given them their charters in the first place back in the 1600s, "usurped" and "abdicated."

[BTW, Jon, "usurpations" appears THREE times in the D of I. Good riff!]

Yes, there certainly was a secular angle to the Continental Congress and the D of I's appeal to a "decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

But "natural law" according to Francisco Suarez and Hugo Grotius was mostly on notions of international law, a law of nations.

Y'know, it strikes me that even here and now, the 21st century Jefferson would write a declaration of independence for his country and people just the same way. But there has not been an America, or a Jefferson, before or since.

Thx for the discussion, AC. I do learn something around here every day. I do believe that if a Continental Congress anywhere in this oppressed world issued a document as eloquent as the D of I, that guaranteed the rights of its own citizens as God-given, unanimously passed by its duly elected or appointed magistrates, the conscience of the world would have no choice but to recognize such a government immediately.

Man, did those American revolutionaries do it right, or what? I done just wrote meself speechless speechifying on them. For now at least.

;-)

Jonathan Rowe said...

Heh.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom,
Isn't this the debate today on whether our Constitution has a right to define boundaries around our nation and its citizens, rather than international law????

These are complex issues regarding our lives; economic, legal, "moral", etc....and these will be defined differently depending on one's persuasion about policy,,which is grounded in philosophy. NOT theology! (unless one is attempting to affirm international rights above and beyond a citizen's right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness)...

"Human rights" activists or those concerned with scientific resources might think that the only way to gain political power and clout is to "re-frame", and re-define the "nation-state". I think this is a dangerous road to go down...others suggest that getting the religious to commit to "nation-building" might also serve the interests of the activists or those inclines toward global interests....

Brian Tubbs said...

Jon,

Tom Van Dyke already mentioned what I was going to mention, and that is...what happens when the "ordinances of man" conflict with one another? The American Revolution was not the French Revolution. The colonists were protesting that the king and Parliament had overstepped their legal bounds. That the king and Parliament had violated the "ordinances" under which they themselves were to be subject. That's not simply a natural law argument. It's a constitutional argument, and it was made very forcefully by folks like John Adams.

What's more, as a pastor, I think your biblical exegesis is off. It is possible for someone to "honor" the king while, at the same time, disobeying the king or holding the king accountable. David, for example, fled from King Saul and even raised an army of several hundred followers. True, David did not strike against Saul, saying "Touch not the Lord's anointed." But David did not submit to Saul's authority when he (David) deemed Saul to be engaging in wicked conduct and overstepping his lawful bounds. He honored Saul, though he didn't obey him.

Likewise, the apostle Paul in Acts showed respect to those in civil leadership, even asking to meet with Caesar. But he refused to stop preaching the Gospel of Christ.

I think you're stretching things to say that the Founders were in violation of Romans 13 and I Peter 2. I realize you're not the only one to make that argument, but I still think it's a stretch. It's a lot more complicated than what you're saying.

Phil Johnson said...

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Excellent points and well put, Brian.
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Thanks.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Angie, you continually miss that Christianity is spoken of here as a philosophy that changed the world, not as a theological truth.

There is no doubt that none of this would have happened absent the influence of Christianity. Such a story would not have been credible in ancient Greece or Rome, for example, whose pagan virtues did not notably include compassion, humility, and willingness to forgive. There would be no moral status there to be drawn from identification with the victim. Indeed, such reflections cause one to remember the shocking contrast between the proud glories of the classical world and those of this strange emergent Jewish sect, which believed in an incognito God who came into the world as the least among us, emptied of all majesty, and submitted without resistance to a horrifying and humiliating death. As the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas has insisted, the great moral reversal wrought by Christianity was the indispensable source of most of today’s commonplaces about universal human rights and human dignity, equality, sympathy, compassion, generosity, and much else that the secular world proudly claims for itself.

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/05/the-moral-economy-of-guilt

Jürgen Habermas describes himself as a "functional atheist." Questions of theological truth are above his pay grade, and ours.

jimmiraybob said...

“… in ancient Greece or Rome, for example, whose pagan virtues did not notably include compassion, humility, and willingness to forgive.”

Seriously, there are comments made that earn an eye roll – maybe with a groan – but this is ridiculous. McClay really need to do some serious study. As is, this passes more for the kind of propaganda that is generally disdained when its target is the Roman Catholic Church or the Reformation. Here, to get him started in case he peaks in:

• Pamela Eisenbaum, 2009. Paul Was Not a Christian; The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle. Harper Collins.
• Paula Fredriksen, 2008. Augustine and the Jews. Doubleday.
• Carl J. Richard, 2009. Greeks & Romans Bearing Gifts; How the Ancients Inspired the Founding Fathers. Rowman & Littlefield.
• Carl J. Richard, 2010. Why We’re All Romans; The Roman Contribution to the Western World.* Rowman & Littlefield.
• Gregory Hays, 2002. Marcus Aurelius Meditations. The Modern Library.
• Marcus Tullius Cicero – The Nature of the Gods (De Natura Deorum), or On Duties (De Officiis)(M.T Griffin & E.M. Atkins, 2009 edition is what I have) – much Cicero is readily available on line

It was Plato & Aristotle that first framed the idea of the four Platonic (cardinal) virtues; prudence, courage, temperance and justice. You can’t argue that Christianity didn’t inherit a rich tradition of moral and ethical inquiry.

Quite frankly, without Etruscan, Greek and Roman foundations in art, law, and philosophy and the compassion, empathy and generosity of the sympathetic (toward both Jewish Religion and the rising Christianity) and pious Gentile Pagans, and of course the basic Roman system of civilization, security and highways, Christianity may well have faded into oblivion or remained in desert obscurity. And, if so, we still could have had the founding largely as is.

*first suggested by Jason some time ago - much appreciated.

Tom Van Dyke said...

prudence, courage, temperance and justice

These are self-directed virtues, not other-directed, even including justice in the Greco-Roman concept of "magnanimity," a personal excellence. It's just a different mindset than the Christian one.

the compassion, empathy and generosity of the sympathetic (toward both Jewish Religion and the rising Christianity) and pious Gentile Pagans

Not really. Emperor Julian the Apostate tried to sell Greco-Roman paganism as all these things, but Christianity genuinely had them and paganism didn't. As you know, Julian's attempt to head off the rise of Christianity and preserve paganism vanished with his death.

http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/julian_apostate_galileans_0_intro.htm

Habermas in his own words:

"Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk." (Jürgen Habermas - "Time of Transitions", Polity Press, 2006, pp. 150-151, translation of an interview from 1999).

But yes, certainly Christianity inherited a great tradition of reason and virtue and justice from both the Hellenic and Jewish traditions. But there is also something uniquely Christian in the synthesis.

If Christian thought is the Christianization of the Hellenic, modernity is the secularization of the Christian.

Otherwise, if we wrote Christianity out of the equation, classical philosophy should be the same as the modern. But it sure ain't.

Jason Pappas said...

I’m not sure that the Patriots fit previous theories of opposition to a tyrannical monarch. For a decade from the mid-1660s the offending party is Parliament. In the run-up to the Revolution the King’s support of Parliament’s power leaves no hope for representative colonial government and the King is now the to be opposed.

The second problem I have is the pre-emptive nature of colonial actions. The emphasis was the future imposition of tyranny and the precedents set that allow power to to dangerously reside abroad without representation. This doesn’t seem to fit the Christian (or Classical) opposition to a tyrannical monarch since this power had yet to establish a tyranny.

The DOI charges England with “evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism.” The King is said to act towards “having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny”. This would suggest that tyranny had not yet been established but a preemptive action is required if liberty is not to be lost.

At times the DOI sounds like absolute tyranny has been established (imposing taxes, cutting off trade...). At other times it sounds more like an alarm over the preparations for absolute tyranny (dissolving representative houses, standing armies, questionable judicial conduct). And, of course, Jefferson lists the actual acts of war resulting from the opposition to the above. The causes of war, however, were the loss of power rather than power’s oppressive nature.

Are not the Founders establishing new ground?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom said, "Angie, you continually miss that Christianity is spoken of here as a philosophy that changed the world, not as a theological truth."

No, I don't think so, Tom, as I have said that the Church used philosophy to further their own political ends....

@jimmyraybob, Thanks for a refreshing response...more in line to "real history" and not a "spiritualized history", or a "moralized scientism"....

Jason Pappas said...

Tom: “... if we wrote Christianity out of the equation, classical philosophy should be the same as the modern. But it sure ain't.”

C’mon. Classical philosophy no longer evolved after the rise of Christianity because there were no pagans. To wonder what it would have become is silly.

We can wonder what Christianity would be without Aristotle. Since the schism between Latin and Greek churches was before Aquinas, Orthodoxy gives a good example of Christianity without a strong influence of Aristotle and Cicero. Now perhaps Habermas might want to explain where “the morality of conscience, human rights and democracy” was in Orthodox lands these last 1000 years. Christianity without Classical culture shows no signs of liberality, rights, or dignity.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Now perhaps Habermas might want to explain where “the morality of conscience, human rights and democracy” was in Orthodox lands these last 1000 years. Christianity without Classical culture shows no signs of liberality, rights, or dignity.

I have no problem with that analysis, Jason; it's an exc point. Western Christianity is the synthesis of all the above.

But I see no reason to believe that unChristianized Hellenism would have got anywhere on its own either. The Stoics were on the right path, but that movement died, and I would submit from the lack of force and normativity that religion brings.

But the Eastern orthodox question is an excellent one. I only skimmed this

http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/thema_response.aspx

but it may be of help. The Eastern Church does seem to be far more Plato than Aristotle.

And of course, the Reformation, not only Calvinist resistance theory, but Protestantism's every-man-a-minister approach to sola scriptura [vs. the Roman church's "magisterium," which claims sole authority for Biblical interpretation] gets a strong place in the equation too. The Eastern Church was relatively untroubled by the Reformation.

Good stuff, although I think Habermas' point holds. Islam also had Plato and Aristotle, but made little headway in "rights" as used in the Western liberal sense.

Jason Pappas said...

I was going to include Islam, also. After al-Ghazli Aristotle was largely lost to Islam (certainly Sunni Islam) and Islam stagnated. It’s interesting to note that circa 1920, Russia could largely eliminate the Church and Ataturk could dissolve the Caliphate. I can’t imagine any Western leader trying to suppress religion to such an extent. Could Mussolini close the Vatican if he had wanted? Unimaginable!

In the last 1000 years the Western denominations remain far more intellectually vibrant. They accepted the challenge of philosophy and science. They've grown and adapted as a result.

jimmiraybob said...

Not really. Emperor Julian the Apostate tried to sell Greco-Roman paganism as all these things, but Christianity genuinely had them and paganism didn't.

I don't rely on Julian. The first two books that I listed offer a look at Pagan/Gentile-Jewish relations as Christianity started making inroads into the Roman empire. I might also have included Crossan's and Reed's In Search of Paul to get an idea of Hellenistic Pagan/Gentile influence on Judaism and earl Christianity.

Looking at the culture closer to the bottom, outside the scope of the Emperors and generals, it is easy to find love and compassion and empathy. Why trust Tertullian, he was a dedicated heresiologist and zealous advocate of not just Christianity but of a certain kind of proto-orthodoxy. His descriptions of the Pagans are just as suspect with respect to being propaganda as anything else.

Certainly latter Christianity, when it started melding with classical western thought and philosophy added to the mix. But the first 400-500 years wasn't what I think would be described as steeped in universal love - whether animosities between sects or in persecuting the Jews and Pagans and heretics, which never stopped trough the Middle Ages into the Enlightenment.

And as far as the "resistance theory," much of that resulted from reintroduction of classical philosophy and Roman law and the conflict for authority and power between the barbarian (yet Christianized) kings versus the Holy Roman Empire. And then there were the craftsmen and peasants trying to chisel out a little temporal justice.

Tom Van Dyke said...

JRB, I hear the sound, but not the argument. Pls do offer your own proofs in yr own words. We have time. I'm unfamiliar with agape and "love yr neighbor" as central to Hellenistic thought.

And, facts on the ground, the case of Emperor Julian c. 350 CE is quite germane. Paganism was being squeezed out by Christian love and Christian charity. It was not just "see how they love one another," but unlike the pagans, Julian and the entire empire noticed that the "Galileans" cared for all men regardless of tribal affinity. [And at least the Jews took care of their own.]

The link was not to Tertullian, JRB, which indicates you didn't read it. It's to Emperor Julian himself!

In a letter to one of his priests, he writes:

"We must pay especial attention to this point, and by this means effect a cure. For when it came about that the poor were neglected and overlooked by the priests, then I think the impious Galilaeans observed this fact and devoted themselves to philanthropy. And they have gained ascendancy in the worst of their deeds through the credit they win for such practices. For just as those who entice children with a cake, and by throwing it to them two or three times induce them to follow them, and then, when they are far away from their friends cast them on board a ship and sell them as slaves, and that which for the moment seemed sweet, proves to be bitter for all the rest of their lives—by the same method, I say, the Galilaeans also begin with their so-called love-feast, or hospitality, or service of tables,—for they have many ways of carrying it out and hence call it by many names,—and the result is that they have led very many into atheism..."

"Atheism" being Christianity of course.

Julian again:

“Atheism has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not one single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”

More stuff below. I'm not an expert on this period, but I'm not just making stuff up. Early Christianity even invented the hospital!

http://www.ukapologetics.net/09/goodforculture.htm

Jason Pappas said...

“Paganism was being squeezed out by Christian love and Christian charity.”

Actually paganism was outlawed in the 4th century when Christianity was made the state religion.

The Romans were tolerant and respectful of all religions that reciprocated. They tended to approach new religions by comparing and matching deities. Most religions welcomed this big tent approach and showed respect to the civic gods of the Roman state.

Christianity and Judaism couldn't show such respect. It was this intolerance that made Romans fear Christianity. They turned out to be right. Constantine legalized Christianity early in the 4th century and it become an intolerant state religion by the end of the century. It took until the 17th century for toleration to become a possibility. Freedom of conscience wasn’t a reality until the 18th century. It took 14 centuries to pick-up where Rome left off!

From what I read on our website, it wasn’t until Washington that broad respect was shown for alternative religions. Washington even revived the matching deities in his public stance. Jonathan reminds us of his “Great Spirit” God:
http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2010/09/under-which-god.html

Mark recently reminds us that Washington didn't exhibit mere toleration (grudging acceptance) but warmly embraced other religions such as Catholicism and Judaism.

Washington--more Roman than Christian? Or just ahead of his time?

jimmiraybob said...

Early Christianity even invented the hospital!

Not so much. While I'm not trying to denigrate Christian contributions to expanding health care and charity in the Middle Ages (or earlier in Byzantine culture), these are not somehow unique to Christian culture. There were provisions for dealing with the poor and the sick and injured in institutional ways dating back well before Christ.

I know that Christian apologists want everything good to spring forth from their own loins but that's just not history. A quick Wiki read (see History, Early Examples) gives some hints that can be followed. Just one example:

"Institutions created specifically to care for the ill also appeared early in India. Fa Xian, a Chinese Buddhist monk who travelled across India ca. 400 CE, recorded in his travelogue [7] that

"'The heads of the Vaisya [merchant] families in them [all the kingdoms of north India] establish in the cities houses for dispensing charity and medicine. All the poor and destitute in the country, orphans, widowers, and childless men, maimed people and cripples, and all who are diseased, go to those houses, and are provided with every kind of help, and doctors examine their diseases. They get the food and medicines which their cases require, and are made to feel at ease; and when they are better, they go away of themselves.'"

Jason Pappas said...

While the four cardinal virtues were lifted from Greco-Roman philosophy, Christianity did add a few of their own--if not in their entirety, certainly in their emphasis. Charity became a central duty that became a total demand on the individual. Humility became core ethos. Faith become blind acceptance. I’m not so sure today’s Christians are that Christian.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Jason said, "While the four cardinal virtues were lifted from Greco-Roman philosophy, Christianity did add a few of their own--if not in their entirety, certainly in their emphasis. Charity became a central duty that became a total demand on the individual. Humility became core ethos. Faith become blind acceptance. I’m not so sure today’s Christians are that Christian."

The question is "should" Christians be "more Christian" according to "charity"? And who is to determine what charitable service will be required. And is requiring charitable service considered in line with a "liberty of conscience" stance toward "God", and 'humanity"? Is charity to be considered a "moral duty"? Who says, and why is such authority to be affirmed?

What do you think about his quote; Ludwig von Mises Institute
"Man becomes a social being not in sacrificing his own concerns for the sake of a mythical Moloch, society, but in aiming at an improvement in his own welfare." Ludwig von Mises (1949), Human Action

Tom Van Dyke said...

"XVI That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other."

Virginia Declaration of Rights
"Adopted unanimously June 12, 1776 Virginia Convention of Delegates drafted by Mr. George Mason"

Tom Van Dyke said...

I dunno, JRB, you seem unsympathetic if not downright hostile to the idea of Christianity being a game-changer. In my desperation to find a source you wouldn't dismiss [like Tertullian], I don't think I could have done better than Julian the Apostate!

As for charity in India in 400 CE, that didn't stick too well, did it? Not that that's relevant to my point, since Hinduism isn't part of it. Certainly Buddhism in particular is attuned to human suffering, but the topic was Hellenistic paganism.

And to Jason, we merely note via Emperor Julian how it came about that Christianity became a critical mass to compete with paganism in the first place. It is indeed the philosophical game-changer, which is the point of this whole discussion.

____________

As for libertarianism, Angie, I'm not sure it's a coherent, stand-alone philosophy. It's more a reaction to Leviathan, methinks. Yes, Adam Smith observes an "invisible hand" where economic activity thrives without central planning, but he also says

No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged.

Even the Romans knew that, on empirical, albeit not moral grounds.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom,
Libertarianism is "liberty of conscience", meaning that free societies do not prescribe what, how or where one's conscience is to be defined, except within the boundaries of law. Even law is descriptive in the sense of a "free society" where individuals seek redress of grievances against government.

Paternalistic views are in opposition to libertarian and intuitive personality types...scienctific theories, then determines and makes demands upon others in what is supposed a free society...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

that is in opposition to "free conscience", "free speech", and "freedom of assoication"!

Tom Van Dyke said...

An interesting article on the transformation of the Aristotelian-Thomist view of economic activity into Enlightenment [libertarian?] capitalism, what the author calls

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/05/the-emancipation-of-avarice

I think in the American context, the "Protestant work ethic" fits in there 1620-1780, where industriousness isn't synonymous with acquisitiveness, or with what classical philosophy saw as "avarice."

But there is little doubt that modernity, Hume-Smith style economics, took over immediately after the Revolutionary period, as America unapologetically became a "commercial republic."

Tom Van Dyke said...

that is in opposition to "free conscience", "free speech", and "freedom of assoication"

These points aren't in dispute, Angie, except by you. See George Mason above [I read Madison helped with the conscience bit]. Freedom of conscience is right alongside Christian tolerance ["forbearance"] and Christian charity in the Virginia scheme of 1776, which contains America's Founding principles.

"...all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other."

I just don't know how to make it any clearer than cyberblack and white.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Forbearance of what, Tom? Not the "ruleof law" is it? religious conscience? abuses of power? illegal activity? international law, versys our Constitutional government?

Charity is paternalism, not libertarianism.
Charity is a negotiable in a free society. The Church loves to prey on such subjects, as they make for a 'reason' for religious conscience....Charity undermines industry and pride of ownership...

I will come back later to read the articles you posted...thanks...

Phil Johnson said...

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>I just don't know how to make it any clearer than cyberblack and white.
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Angie appears to be having a problem with the ideas of balance. When some person's liberty comes into a confrontation with another's liberty, there often is a conflict. I don't think Angie gets that. She seems to think liberty is a one sided affair.
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?????
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

"Conflicts" are inevitable in a free society. So, I don't question that liberties are in "conflict". And I don't believe it is a one-sided affair, not at all!!! But, negotiation is the minimum, which requires disclosure to the parties involved as to the conflicts of interests. How can one vote on what is done in secret. This is what happened to the Republicas during the "Obamacare" legislation.

Whenever there is secrecy there is corruption. Therefore, when there is a conflict and negotiation has not been forthcoming, then aren't our courts to settle disputes between parties? This seem reasonable to me, as to boundaries.

As to balance, I don't know, as the sides of the political debate all have pros and cons, don't they? This is where personal liberty regarding one's political position should be allowed in a free society. And different people will understad and think differently on different issues....

jimmiraybob said...

I dunno, JRB, you seem unsympathetic if not downright hostile to the idea of Christianity being a game-changer.


I don't deny that it was a game changer. That would be ridiculous. My interest is how did it change the game and what did it change. I recognize that it has intertwined with western culture since gaining political sway in the late Roman Imperial age. Much of what is attributed to the Church is often uncritical or apologetic rather than analytic. I merely try to keep in mind the fact that Christianity did not bloom independent of a preexisting culture which was built on the ideas of previous cultures.

You often confuse context or questioning as hostility. Too bad.

As for charity in India in 400 CE, that didn't stick too well, did it? Not that that's relevant to my point, since Hinduism isn't part of it. Certainly Buddhism in particular is attuned to human suffering, but the topic was Hellenistic paganism.

As you're a champion of reading what has been offered in the way of supporting links I'm sure that you now realize that the Hindu example was just one example to indicate that Christianity did not, in fact, invent the hospital (as claimed) or the concept of the hospital or medical care if they were pagan and had no compassion. Additional Googling, or even library, research would pop up Hellenistic and Persian examples.

Why would a pre-Christian society lacking in compassion and empathy have any interest in caring for the poor, sick and dispossessed?

As to pre-Christian humility and willingness to forgive, you'll have to do the reading beyond Christian apologetics, to see that these are part of the story. I will be happy to post examples as I come across them but really it's up to you to research if you really have any interest. I provided some leads.

...but Christianity genuinely had them [compassion, empathy and generosity] and paganism didn't.

This merely shows that you have a preference for Christian authority in making these traits genuine, not that the traits did not exist prior to Christianity.

When speaking of Christian love - agape - this has to be balanced with the more brutal facts on the ground. To the extent that Paganism was done in by Christianity, it was largely done by the sword with civil and ecclesiastical cooperation. I would love a world where genuine brotherly love was the rule without it breaking out into sectarian wars over orthodoxy. Speaking of not working out well.

And, I should say for the record, I'm not a fan of Paganism. I'm much more a fan of the system that was gotten under way in this country where a person's right of conscience - to believe as one wishes in a Diety or deities or to not believe - is a fundamental underlying principle. And, someday maybe, although a long shot, I hope that both sides don't demonize the other as enemies to be eradicated at all costs.

Tom Van Dyke said...

People are people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocletianic_Persecution

The question is whether Hellenistic paganism could have developed what Habermas calls "universal egalitarianism." The Stoics made quite a go toward it, but they faded away.

I'm not sure I'm making clear the difference in the cultural/philosophical view of man between the classical and the Christian. The Iliad sees man completely differently than the Bible does.

Or, man writes of himself differently in the Iliad than he does in the Bible, howzzat?

Phil Johnson said...

.
howzzat?
.
Maybe that's where Jesus comes into the picture.
.
But, most Christian denominations make him out to be a buttress to some sort of a Reformed Judaism and not his own man at all.
.
Go figure.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Makes sense, Phil. Jesus as victim, as martyr, as self-offered sacrifice, this doesn't fit into the classical vision of "hero."

The 300 Spartans, mebbe, but they went down fighting. Same with the jihadist. These are visions of greatness to the "natural man."

Jason Pappas said...

'The question is whether Hellenistic paganism could have developed what Habermas calls "universal egalitarianism."

You're probably right since socialism is Christianity secularized. I doubt it would fly in classical times.

The rise of serfdom circa 400AD made everyone poor and needy. Charity and the paternalistic state was clearly appealing. Today socialism still has broad appeal as most prefer paternalism in one form or another.

I often wonder if this nation wasn't a highly improvable creation of a cultural singularity in time and space that lasted a few decades. Now that might be the best argument for a providential conception if I thought that way!

Tom Van Dyke said...

I certainly see the Founding that way, Jason, although I won't assert it was Providence as the Founders did.

But the American founding stands at the edge of the classical-cum-Christian medieval, with easily as much Protestantism as Enlightenment, but before the Enlightenment-as-modernity takes over, as it does in a handful of years in France, where the ancien regime is replaced in one fell swoop [chop!] with the Reign of Terror.

You're probably right since socialism is Christianity secularized.

Mostly true, but "society" is replaced by politics and government, the organic by the artificial. And ironically, the classical scheme, that of the Greeks and Romans, was also politics writ so large that the individual human being dissolved into it.

Socrates must die; he is a threat to the state. Even Socrates knows this, which is why he drinks rather than refuses the hemlock. [Or flees, which would have been quite easy for him.]

There is no difference between the hemlock and the guillotine and the gulag. The state must be preserved!

Jason Pappas said...

I use the general term paternalistic since it encompasses all type of societies that put the state ahead of the individual be they egalitarian or designed to benefit a few. The classical societies were paternalistic but not egalitarian. However, some of the better societies for a period had a strong respect for private property and gave the enfranchised a realm of liberty. The limited fellowship of the enfranchised looked artificial to the Stoics but their ethos never dominated the social thought of the times--certainly not the political policies.

I’m still not sure how to characterized the founders selective use of the best of Western tradition mixed with certain early Enlightenment thought. I find it ironic that the natural rights talk of the DOI, which was meant to be understood by all on both sides of the Atlantic as common ground, was in the process of being abandoned in England and bastardize in France! Utilitarianism replaced rights in England and soon in America, too! The empiricism of the Founders led them to the study of history. The empiricism of John Dewey led him to abandon history in favor of experimentation.

All the words are the same but as usual they mean different things to the Founders. The more I read, the more I believe modern readers have limited means to approach this unique period. We are divided by a common language!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr. Pappas, I could not agree more, on every rich and pithy point. I scarcely know where to start. perhaps at the beginning, then.

I use the general term paternalistic since it encompasses all type of societies that put the state ahead of the individual be they egalitarian or designed to benefit a few. The classical societies were paternalistic but not egalitarian.

This is Plato and the "noble lie." The noble lie is only a lie in its telling, in its pretense to metaphysics, that some men are made of gold, of silver, or of iron/bronze.

"Brave New World" puts it as alphas, betas, and gammas. It's really not a question of breeding, or in the later context, race. Washington, Lincoln, FDR, JFK, perhaps even Bill Clinton, they are gold, their natural talents and the way they developed them. They walk above the room, not in it. Andy Jackson. Ronald Reagan, in later life. Jefferson and Madison, in subtler ways than Washington and in his shadow, but proven gold in the test of time.

John Adams, silver. John Quincy Adams, silver, although with a character of gold. Hamilton, gold, but with a character and temperament made of silver, or not even. Nothing without Washington. Disaster.

Roger Sherman, and many of the Founders who went home rather than stay in government. Gold. John Witherspoon. Gold. Gouverneur Morris would have ended up president of any lesser country. Sam Adams too. James Wilson, the smartest of them all save Madison and perhaps Jefferson [I give the edge to Wilson]. Feet of clay, died hiding from his creditors. But still silver.

Eldridge Gerry, well it takes mediocre men to make a country, too.

Geez, I only did yr first paragraph of pith. The point being that although John Adams floated the idea of benevolent aristocracy with Jefferson---a House of Lords--- Jefferson shot him down quick and bigtime. And although Jefferson hated Plato, Plato's "Guardians" of The Republic were chosen by merit, not aristocratic origin. In fact, Plato even let slip that mebbe women could be "Guardians." [I sometimes think Jefferson didn't read Plato well enough, or mebbe he read him too well...]

Joe Winpisinger said...

"And let's welcome back Joe Winpisinger, the "King of Ireland," who spearheaded the Calvinist "magistrate"/"interposition" argument here at AC"

Going back to teaching soon. Will have more time to spend here. I am going to start posting all I have written here on my new business page. The scope there has broadened to all the factors that influence society. Religion, Education, and Government are 3 big topics I hit on so these posts will most certainly be relevant.

Then I will start back contributing here. I will probably hit back on the history of the ideas of liberty theme and go back to Tierney and start over since I have had such a big lay off.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Brian Tierney da bomb. Or a dud, I dunno. Problem is, so few scholars have even the faintest familiarity with medieval philosophy let alone medieval Latin that they are unequipped to evaluate his work. So they just skip it.

[For those who came in late, it's Tierney's thesis that most of the development of "natural rights" already occurred from 1000-1600 AD in [mostly Catholic] "canon law." Canon law included "ecclesiastical" law, a parallel system of courts to "civil" law and courts, and which had jurisdiction over many of the issues of everyday life: births, deaths, inheritances; property disputes; marriage, adultery; heresy of course, but also drunkenness and other issues of social order.

The Puritans left that split system back in Britain, but it continued there until the 1800s. They even still exist today in a very limited fashion.]

Angie Van De Merwe said...

tom,
the development of law would be an interesting topic to discuss...but how did this influence the founders, who were men of the enlightenment?

there is still an effort and push toward internationalism, as to natural law....natural rights....which is a unversalization of government...are we to suppose that those that have poitical amibitions will not watch "the collective" until an opportune moment....or maybe the empowered are waiting for their chance to seize power from "the mob"...

How is anyone to believe that a global government will work as well as our nation's balance of power and limited government has????? that seems most improable!!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Angie, I think there's a confusion here. Most of Suarez and Grotius' work circa 1600 on "natural law" took the form of international law, a "law of nations." So that's why international law creeps into these discussions.

However, the 20th century movement of international law and of the UN Declaration of [Universal] Rights is kind of a separate issue, although related.

The USA continues to hold to your view, and we keep declining to enter into the international courts scheme and signing all the latest UN "human rights" schemes. I like Justice Scalia in particular snorting at international law being applied in the US, and other justices using European sensibilities as the yardstick for "human rights."

"If there was any thought absolutely foreign to the founders of our country, surely it was the notion that we Americans should be governed the way Europeans are."

"I dare say that few of us here would want our life or liberty subject to the disposition of French or Italian criminal justice—not because those systems are unjust, but because we think ours is better."


"Every aspect of your career broadens your outlook and the insights that you would have. It's good for the Court to have people with varied backgrounds. One of the things I'm concerned about is that in recent years, nobody who has been appointed has come from another bench," Scalia said.

"It's probably not good," he continued. "It's leading us toward the European system. The big differences between our system and the European system are not what I am talking about here. ... The big difference is the nature of the judges."

Calling European judges "the most blinkered bureaucrats," Scalia said that career judges in European systems can develop a sympathy for the government's side of a case, having worked for the government their entire professional lives.

"You contrast that with the Anglo-Saxon system, where in the most important courts the judges not only have not been spending their whole life with their snout in the public trough, they've been suing the government," Scalia said. "They've been defending their clients against the government. (It's) a different mind, a different mindset."

"I worry about our not having people of a lot of different experiences, especially with substantial legal practice," Scalia added. "More and more people practice for a couple years, then they become a minor state court judge and they stay in the judiciary the rest of their career. You can have some people like that, but if our whole judiciary becomes like that, we're going to become European. I may as well move to France."

Heh heh. Our forefathers didn't come to America just to become Europeans!

You should like this one:

http://james-a-watkins.hubpages.com/hub/Conservatives-Defend-the-American-Way

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom,
Thank you for the website...I am basically conservative in my opinion about fiscal issues and the nation-state!!! But, when it comes to social issues, I sometimes err on the progressive side. I am still learning so much, and deciding what seems to be the most imperative for me personally. This work should have been done much earlier than now....but better now than never, I suppose...

Tom Van Dyke said...

Angie, it's fine to "err" on the progressive side, as long as you know it's an error. [j/k]

Seriously, I have my POV, and it comes out during the course of discussing the Founding, but everybody has a POV. The thing I'm most about the Founding and our blog is that we understand them as they understood themselves.

If we want to "progress" away from their values, that's OK---I think we should understand their values first, that's all. That's what studying history is for, the baby and the bathwater and the difference between them.

Nobody, not even "conservatives," wants to go back to 1776 or 1787, slavery, landowners-only voting, or men-only, or whites-only, and a zillion other things. That was all bathwater, and good that we threw it all out.

On the other hand, natural law, divine Providence, our rights rooted in God and human nature, well, mebbe that's a babe we should understand and appreciate before tossing.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

TOM, I don't know how you got that I am Progressive! I am a Conservative, excepting a few social issues. I am NOT an "Internationalist". And maybe my comment on a development of law, or critical analysis of law, gave you the impression I was/am progressive...NO, I am just interested in investigating that issue..concerning how amendments got "their foot in the door"...I am ignorant for the most part concerning history...

I don't think that one has to affirm religion to be humanistic. Nor, do I think that religion is the basis for authority, as it leads to dependency, on some "annointed" figure.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Humanism" has become synonymous with secularism. Man's reason, not God's will, is supreme. It is in open conflict with religion, indeed in conflict with theism, that our rights come from our nature, from God: inherent in our God-given nature, per a "natural law."

This is the part of the Founding and the Declaration that we go round and round about and never reach the center.

The rest, I don't care about, and neither does "freedom of conscience." Whatever happens after we die, whether we go to heaven or hell or just wink out of existence, that's out of our hands, and especially out of any government's hands. John Locke, the Letter Concerning Toleration.

First, because the care of souls is not committed to the civil magistrate, any more than to other men. It is not committed unto him, I say, by God; because it appears not that God has ever given any such authority to one man over another as to compel anyone to his religion. Nor can any such power be vested in the magistrate by the consent of the people, because no man can so far abandon the care of his own salvation as blindly to leave to the choice of any other, whether prince or subject, to prescribe to him what faith or worship he shall embrace. For no man can, if he would, conform his faith to the dictates of another. All the life and power of true religion consist in the inward and full persuasion of the mind; and faith is not faith without believing.