Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gregg Frazer on Albert Mohler's Show


Michael Heath said...


Great find, thanks!

Gregg Frazer writes, "On the other side are the secularists, the ACLU-types and so forth, who argue for a strict separation, wall of separation, between church and state. They argued that the founders were rank secularists or deists, and that they intended to separate religion from public life, and they have constructed this sort of wall of separation notion, which, by the way, I would argue, is not what the founders believe. And I would argue that both of those sides are wrong; that, in fact, the trust is somewhere in the middle."

I lost a lot of respect for Dr. Frazer with this statement. He's characterizing modern-day secularists like David Barton would, which is a major fallacy of balance error, dependent on a strawman description that secularists are also historically illiterate, which is predominately not true. The fact is there is not a polar opposite between the Christian Nation advocates and secularists.

Secularists largely embrace the fact some founders were more ardent in separation than others and argue accordingly. We recognize the fact religion played a role in nearly all the framers beliefs and attitudes towards governance.

This idea we deny inconvenient facts and misconstrue history to serve our ends is outlier data at best. Revisionism is assuredly not the central premise of the general secularist argument like revisionism is for Christian Nation advocates.

Michael Heath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Heath said...

From my first encounter with Frazer's 'theistic rationalist' I've been an ardent promoter of this term. That's because this short phrase succinctly describes many of the framers and some founders' approach to belief, and their conclusions, without having to expend sentences first qualifying the deistic approach to belief these framers who were theistic rationalists used to come to their conclusions.

But here in this transcript I think he's taking credit beyond his contribution. Albert Mohler's defectively narrow description of deism is unfortunately supported by Dr. Frazer and even expanded upon. Prior to the contribution of Frazer's term, 'theistic rationalists', historians did predominately and correctly define these theistic rationalists as deists. The problem when using deism in this context however was those same historians also had to define deism for their readers as a process deists make to arrive at certain conclusions - which was the original term in the late-17 century. Where most people today think of deism only in terms of one conclusion deists frequently made in the later-19th century, but not so much in the late-18th century.

We know some deists believe in a non-intervening god, that's a conclusion. But the process of deism, practiced by the framers and some founders, was to predominately depend on human reason and observation, which led them to dismiss holy dogma and claims of divine revelation if it didn't meet their reasoned smell test. Frazer is wrong to claim deism is only the conclusion of a non-intervening god. And using this deistic process, not all dogma regarding an intervening god interested in the affairs of man was dismissed but instead accepted; The Jefferson Bible's surviving supernatural elements of an intervening providential god being an exemplary illustration which Frazer also uses to validate Jefferson's belief in a providential intervening god.

So theistic rationalist is largely describing a subset of deism focused on arriving at conclusions, not a particular conclusion popularized mostly after the founders. So to claim historians who described the framers and other key founders as deists as part of a cabal equally wrong like Christian Nation advocates is a misrepresentation of those historians and of Frazer's singular though important contribution. We were not misrepresenting the framers beliefs prior to 'theistic rationalist', we were instead awkwardly defining their beliefs. Dr. Frazer helps immensely in this regard.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I lost a lot of respect for Dr. Frazer with this statement.

But Mr. Heath, Dr. Frazer always speaks well of you!