Monday, July 2, 2012

A Must Listen: Should Christians Have Fought in the US War of Independence?

Here. I witnessed "the panel" that Dr. Gill refers to because I was on it. I was one of the "yes" votes; I'd pick up arms and fight against the British, but since I am not a Christian (at least not in the "orthodox" sense; I am a baptized Catholic) I don't have Romans 13 on my conscience. I am kind of like Jefferson; since I don't believe St. Paul wrote divine revelation with the Holy Spirit -- 3rd Person in the Trinity He -- guiding Paul's pen, it wouldn't be an issue for me. Though I wouldn't go so far as Jefferson did and term Paul's writings "corruption"; I have more respect for St. Paul than Jefferson did.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

The question is a personal one, not a universal one, as tyranny is what trangresses against one's own understanding of "self chosen" values. Therefore, the "Protestant Principle" will apply of the never ending splits over "conscience issues".

Dinesh D'Sousa believes that Obama's father affected his understanding of tyranny, as anti-colonialism, therefore, he is against any power structure that would claim superiority. (There may be other reasons, but this was the reason D'Sousa claimed....)

Human experience is multi-faceted, because it is not just what happens, but how it is percieved that makes for whether a particular issue is considered "tyranny". This is why human choice is so important in society, as it allows for diverse understandings of human experience, and the expression of those views without persecution.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Here is D'Sousa's speech..

Angie Van De Merwe said...

What one was taught about "self", and authority is important, too, in how one interprets tyranny. Co-dependents don't ever identify anything as tyranny, this is why they can tolerate abuse, and be abusive without "conscience".....

"Christian" in our society allows for various views on how one views tyranny/government/authority and whether revolt is called for, or whether reform is more prudent. Tyranny under a "Christian context" is authoritarianism, whether from the State, text or tradition.

Our government is to be a government of laws, and not of men, therefore, authority is limited. Self governance was commended by the Founders...

jimmiraybob said...

Before I read what you've linked to, I have to ask. Did anybody bring up the fact that there were Christians on both the rebel side and the loyalist side - both citing scripture and believing that they upheld a Christian principle? This would seem to bring up a complication with Christian killing Christian for the cause of civil governance.

Jonathan Rowe said...

JRB: Yes of course they mentioned that. The issue is whether the actions of rebellion were authentically Christian or biblical.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

jimmyraybob,as you well now, division over "who was right" also happened during the Civil War, too. And it happens in any "sect" that isn't submissive to the 'proper authorities"....but who/what is the "proper authority", that is the question, isn't it?

Government was to maintain order, while protecting liberty....

Phil Johnson said...



JMS said...

Jon – as you reiterated” “The issue is whether the actions of rebellion were authentically Christian or biblical.”

The simple answer is No! - as articulated brilliantly by Mark Noll (Nathan Hatch and George Marsden) in “The Search for Christian America,” Chapter Four: “What Should Christians Think of the American Revolution?” (pp. 70-102)

Here is a summary of a few key points:

1) The “mixed” intellectual/ideological/theological “heritage” of the Revolution (p. 93). This same point is made in various ways by Frank Lambert, Steven Waldman, Gregg Frazer and many others. Whether ministers (Witherspoon, Samuel Davies, Jonathan Mayhew), orthodox politicians (John Jay, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams), unorthodox politicians (Madison) or unorthodox lawyers (Jefferson, John Adams, John Dickinson), many “currents” or “streams” of ideas ran together in late-18th century America: Protestant (with a growing emphasis on dissenters); radical or “real” Whig (Lockean social compact and natural rights theory, popularized by Cato essays of Trenchard and Gordon) politics, Enlightenment (the Lord Herbert of Cherbury Anglo-American form of Deism-Franklin, Scottish Common Sense philosophy- James Wilson, Unitarianism- Priestley), evangelical (Great Awakening “New Lights” like Baptists Isaac Backus and John Leland) which all added up to:

2) A fundamental distrust of unchecked or arbitrary power (from state or church) which led to “corruption” and tyranny and threatened (English) “liberty” along with the insistence on the consent of the governed, the need for the rule of law, a virtuous citizenry and written constitutions and bills of rights.

As Noll summarizes, “the positive parts of radical Whig theory were not Christian in a direct sense. At their best they include political values compatible with biblical values. They were not in themselves biblical, nor were they drawn from the Bible, nor should they be equated with Christianity.” (p. 92)

As Gregg Frazer notes Locke’s influence on Mayhew” He [Mayhew] applied Lockean presuppositions to the classic biblical text enjoining submission to political authorities (Romans 13), and the result was a justification of rebellion in place of a prohibition on rebellion.” (p. 66)

3) Noll et. al. asks whether the War of Independence qualifies as a Christian “just war,” and answers No. They quote Gordon Wood’s assertion that 18th century American colonists were, “freer, had less inequality, were more prosperous and less burdened with cumbersome feudal restraints than any other part of mankind, and more importantly, they knew it.” (96)

4) In regards to the issue of launching a rebellion in the cause (sacred or otherwise) of liberty, Noll et. al. raise the question of “hypocrisy” in terms of, “how can Christians look favorably on a revolution, supposedly fought for liberty, whose leaders held slaves?” (p. 97) They also raise “the great moral problem of British colonization” of the “Christian destruction of the Indians” which did not abate after independence.

As a historian, I have always been most interested in the reactions from and persecutions of the historic peace churches during the American Revolution: Quakers, Mennonites, Church of the Brethren and the Moravians (see Noll et. al. p. 81 and p. 104 n24). A particular “pet peeve” of mine is Thomas Paine’s over-the-top denunciation of the Quakers for “mingling religion and politics" in the second part of the Appendix added to the second edition of Common Sense. I recommend highly Arthur Mekeel’s book, “The Quakers and the American Revolution.”

Tom Van Dyke said...

JMS, I object strongly to Dr. Noll's arrogation of the Protestant Papacy, decreeing what is "authentically" Christian and what is not!

Further, the passage you cite completely ignores Calvinist Resistance Theory, a major driver of the English Civil wars as well as the main theological backdrop for our own revolution.

American Creation guest historian Mark David Hall:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

You all have an agenda to "spiritualize" or have an "escape clause" rather than affirm the right to politically revolt against tyranny, if you defend Reformed theology, or the "peace denominations"; Mennonites, Quakers, etc.

These believe that "God is in control", or "the world is not my home".

One must always have the right to dissent, because consent is of major importance in a "Representative Government" that is ruled by laws and not by men (or "God (s)).

Phil Johnson said...

heh heh
Thing is, Angie, men create laws and so, men rule government.
And, representative? To an oligarchy? O.K.; but, that's not the intent of our Founding as a sovereign nation.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"St. Paul" has become the established "tradition" of the Church, while Jesus life is the Church's exemplary lifestyle. One represents conservative social values, while the other represents the liberal's progressive agenda.

Yes, Pinky, men rule government and woe be to those that find themselves under arrogant leadership.

Resistance to arrogant leadership is resistance to evil, wouldn't you think? Evil is the control or domination of another person's life and their personal pursuit of happiness. As a principle, resistance is necessary to prevent the arrogant from invasion and expansion of arrogant plans to control and dominate. Though control and domination has been useful for peace....when tribalism becomes enflamed.

Phil Johnson said...

That is an extremely deep subject, Angie. I don't know if everyone can handle such.

Tony Gill said...

You would have been invited into the debate since you gave the "yes" response, but since you said you weren't a Christian, I went with the Christian respondents.

As for the rest of y'all commentators, head on over to the website, take a listen, and then post your comments there or on our Facebook page!


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Why are you being sarcastic? I didn't share anything I thought people would not know, does that mean I need to not post?

I heard once that the Declaration's "nature's God" was the Christian understanding, and the Constitution was the framing of conservative values. On the other hand, liberals tend toward historical or evolutionary development and suppose that things get "better" with change, instead of prudence and suspecting that ALL humans need accountability even in government. The Founders did think that balancing power and limiting government was helpful for the leader, as well as every other citizen. The Founders seemed to not seek out power..unlike today.

Phil Johnson said...

I wasn't being sarcastic. My point is that anythbing that gets beyond the literal often trifles with the minds of some. No sarcasm--Just the facts, m'am, just the facts.

Phil Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Johnson said...

I get to be blunt today for it is my 81st birthday. Anyone else up there yet?

Jonathan Rowe said...


Many thanks.


Jason Pappas said...

Delightful summary (in the link provided) of the debate. I rarely address the questions of the form “should Christians ...” as there are too many strains of religion. I hold that Mayhew put to rest Romans 13.

But let me rhetorically ask: “Should a Christian nation (England) have fought a war to prevent the succession of its disenfranchised colonial empire in America?”

jimmiraybob said...

Re: My previous inquiry

After listening to the whole episode I did not here my specific point addressed. If you have two colonial neighbors, possibly even attending the same church, and one neighbor takes up the cause of liberty (patriot) and one maintains loyalty to the king and Britain (loyalist), and both can find Biblical justification for their position, what is the Biblical perspective regarding one faction marginalizing and/or killing the other; with Christian pitted against Christian. It boggles my mind, and I come at this from a non-theist point of view but trying to understand the Christian POV. How is taking up arms against fellow Christians based on perceptions of civil governance within the purview of Jesus’ ministry? This seems purely secular/worldly behavior, which is consistent with what I believe that Noll, et al., (In Search of a Christian Nation) point out.

Also too, for the record, Mark Hall states that no one today is calling for armed rebellion which is not entirely true. For over three years, from the moment of Obama’s inauguration, allusions to armed rebellion (“Second Amendment solutions”) have become increasingly more frequent, most recently by GOP/Tea Party leaders in at least two states following the Supreme Court ruling on the ACA. Digging a little deeper into these assertions, which always include allegations of tyranny and dictatorship, one often, if not always, finds asserted religious/Christian roots such as references to God, charges of religious persecution, and/or to particular scripture (I’m thinking imprecatory prayer). It’s apparent that many today are trying to recreate the rebellious (Protestant?) passions preceding the American Revolution. Maybe the current historical discussion has more current application than most would think. It’ll be interesting to see the reaction if Jefferson is elec…….uh, I mean if President Obama is re-elected.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

@ JRB, were you speaking "tongue in cheek" about Obama resembling Jefferson, or using your analogy seriously? Obama does resemble Jefferson's "universalistic" emphasis; humanity. But, doesn't that un-do America as a Sovereign nation? or is the analogy being used in a neo-conservative way, a noble lie?

@ Mr. Pappas, isn't your emphasis on Britian being a colonizer, the revolutionaries, and "The Christian Nation" a particular view that presupposes a particular view toward and about "outcomes"? (which also assumes that people did not differ in their views in ages past about and toward society which I don't think is the case.We are all a part of "our age/time/historical situatedness..)

jimmiraybob said...

@ JRB, were you speaking "tongue in cheek" about Obama resembling Jefferson, or using your analogy seriously?

Each were/are denounced from the pulpit as anti-Christ - lots of vitriolic hysteria. However, I don't know if there were calls of armed rebellion against a Jefferson led government.