Monday, October 15, 2012

"Getting Back to the Constitution": The Truth Part 4



In the comments section of my last post in this series Tom Van Dyke implored me to get away from the preliminaries and bring forth the proof behind what Gary Amos asserts concerning the phrase "Laws of Nature and Nature's God" having a long history within historical Christianity. With no further delay here is the first installment:

Did the drafters depart from the Christian tradition of law in the colonies by using the phrase "laws of nature" in the Declaration? Was this something new and different? Some say yes, meaning that the framers consciously rejected a Christian approach to law and government. The claim is historically false. 
For example, in 1764, twelve years before the Declaration of Independence, James Otis, relied on the law of nature in his famous protest against the legality of the Stamp and Sugar Acts. In 1765, Massachusetts declared: "1. Resolved, That there are certain essential rights of the British Constitution and government which are founded in the law of God and nature, and are the common rights of mankind; Therefore, 2. Resolved, That the the inhabitants of this province are unalienably entitled to those essential rights, in common with all men; and that law of society can, consistent with the law of God and nature, divest them of those rights." In 1774, the First Continental Congress cited the "immutable laws of nature" in their "Declarations and Resolves." And in the years leading up to 1776 , the phrase "laws of nature" was frequently used and widely understood by the occasions.

This easily refutes the first of 5 objections that secularists raise when confronted with the idea that the phrase "Laws of nature and nature's God" has a long history of use in Christian thought. The quote from Otis alone disproves the absurd theory that Jefferson invented a new phrase.

Most people that have looked into this at all will concede that point. The real controversy starts when the discussion of whether Jefferson chose this phrase because it was overtly "deistic" or not? The idea being that he sought out to distance America from its Christian past and wanted to use the Declaration of Independence to make a statement about the freedom of religion. An assertion that I find absurd considering that this phrase has a long history in the Judeo-Christian intellectual tradition.

Amos goes on for a few pages proving the long history of the use of the first half of the term "laws of nature" in Christianity going back to the 11th Century. This is another point that most secularists that have actually looked into this topic will concede as well. The controversy is with the second half of the phrase which some believe refers to the Bible. The Bible being the "laws" of nature's God. Which, if true, would be the smoking gun in regards to the Declaration of Independence being a document heavily influenced by Christian Thought.

We will pick up this discussion in the next post where it will be clearly shown that the second half of this phrase is not a "deistic" invention of the 18th Century. I also believe he makes a compelling case that the second half of this phrase not only refers to the Bible leading up to the time of the Revolution but that there is no reason to believe that Jefferson sought out to change that.

For those that want to get a head start look into the writings of Blackstone and Coke. Both of whom had an influence over the thinking of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Two of the three members of the drafting committee.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this in the comments section below...

20 comments:

Joe Winpisinger said...

Just subscribing to the comments so I do not miss any...

Joe Winpisinger said...

Had to do it from here... Old email is not good. BTW can someone give me Brad's email. I want to be able to post from my new email and change my profile to my Google+ one...

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Joe, frankly you've traced "laws of nature" all the way back to 10 years before Jefferson's use of them, with two citations [James Otis in 1764 and the Massachusetts legislature in 1765], neither of which are specifically "Christian."

The rest is still prologue, the attorney's opening statement: "I will prove that blahblah, etc." Aside from the 2 citations, which are a start, the rest of the essay is promise but no delivery, as was the first.

Let's see "all men are created equal" and rights endowed by the creator in 11th century Christian thought---or at least the thought that leads to fundamental human equality, natural rights and liberty. You've threatened to present such evidence, and it's time to make good on your threat.

;-)

jimmiraybob said...

Amos goes on for a few pages proving the long history of the use of the first half of the term "laws of nature" in Christianity going back to the 11th Century....The controversy is with the second half of the phrase...

Whoa there. If we're examining the provenance of ideas then aren't we compelled to look a little closer and clarify the provenance of this concept/term? By the phrasing of the post it might be construed that Amos is suggesting - or leaving it open for inference - that "laws of nature" is an 11th century Christian innovation or revelation. How would this be supported?

Joe Winpisinger said...

Laws of nature is found in Christianity. The objection being overcome here is that LONANG was an invention of Jefferson. We have to take these one at a time. It might seem a little redundant but these posts go on my site as well and I share them on Facebook. I have to go point by point....

jimmiraybob said...

Joe, you are not answering my question. When you write, "the absurd theory that Jefferson invented a new phrase," I ask whose theory this is. Who is advancing this notion? Wouldn't it have been easier and cheaper to go directly to Jefferson's own words?

"...whether I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection I do not know. I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it. I did not consider it as any part of my charge to invent new ideas altogether, and to offer no sentiment which had ever been expressed before."

- Jefferson to Adams Aug 30 1823

http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=808&chapter=88453&layout=html&Itemid=27

Also unanswered is whether Amos is saying the concept/term LON is an 11th century Christian innovation or revelation. That seems to be the implication. If this is the point being made, implicitly or explicitly, what supports it?

This seems foundational to considering ANG (and nature's god [no capitalization in Jefferson's original draft]). If you want to address this latter point separately fine but I'd like to see if Amos considers "laws of nature" as originating in the 11th century and if so, if it was directly attributable to Christian invention or revelation.

Again, if we're considering the provenance of ideas this has to be dealt with. I'm assuming that Amos does. Maybe not.




Joe Winpisinger said...

Jrb,


You have to stay tuned... I will get to all that. The laws of nature and law of Nature's God is found pretty far back. I am not sure if it was 11th Century. Laws of nature for sure goes back that far. But that is just another way of saying natural law which goes all the back to the Greeks.

A little hint: I do think Amos overplays his hand with little he credits the Romans and Greeks with some of this stuff. I do not see it as equal influence but I see more Greek influence than Amos does.

Jefferson references four people as having been instrumental in the "American Mind" he was trying to capture in the DOI. Two Greek and two Christian. Locke is obviously the main source and his whole rights discourse is what Rothbard would call "Protestant Scholasticism".... Sotierology changed with the Reformation. The Political Theology did not...

Tom is right that some of this is covered ground. But it is good to interject some new voices and Amos does has not being explored much here. Better him than Tierney because that is deep theology that is hard to understand....

Joe Winpisinger said...

I think I covered Jefferson last post... Might have been in the Facebook debates.... Maybe I will veer off and explore the quote above on the one I cited in the comments...

JMS said...

Joe - I agree with Tom and JR - where is the supporting evidence that supports Amos's thesis?

Of course you didn't mean to say two Greek, since Cicero was a Roman.

But just to stir the pot a bit, how about considering Jefferson's final thoughts on the DoI: by citing "monkish ignorance and superstition," to what is he referring?

•“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be -- to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all -- the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form (of government) which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.” (Jefferson to Roger Weightman, June 24, 1826 – Jefferson died died on July 4)

Joe Winpisinger said...

I am in the middle of providing the supporting evidence... I brought up the whole topic of Interposition or Resistance Theory on this blog a while back to much doubt. I made my case and feel it was an effective one.

TVD can back me up on the fact that I do back up what I am saying. These matters are complicated and it takes time. More time now too for me because I have 3 websites the I have to maintain blogs for and will be adding a fourth now that I am getting my Real Estate license back. I am trying to do one post per Sunday....

As far as Jefferson quote my short answer is that Jefferson was for God but against what he felt was oppressive Religion.

My point here is that the most "liberal" and "progressive" founder of them all was still very Conservative in his thinking. That is why the American Revolution did not go the way of the French.

The French Revolution spread throughout most of Europe in the until it was stayed by the Congress of Vienna. But the roots were laid and "Modern Europe" is the result...

Tom Van Dyke said...

For the record, Mr. Winispringer was quite right about the Christian theological concept of the people's "magistrates" being empowered to topple an illegitimate king, in apparent contradiction of Romans 13 and the claimed "divine right of kings"---especially as claimed by kings like James I.

This is at the heart of "Calvinist resistance theory" if I understand it correctly. The individual may not revolt against the king, but "the people" may, if led by legitimate leaders of the people, "magistrates."

Joe Winpisinger said...

Tom,

Which I hope gives me the credibility that I will present a quality argument here. Whether I am right or wrong is a side light to these important matters being discussed in a thorough way.

I promise that the meat of His argument is with LONANG here and that the rest of what he states is, as you would say, a good compass to take us elsewhere.

It was take a few months to go through what he states on LONANG and I might throw a few twists in there myself. Once that is done I think it will give us a proper frame to discuss the whole "Deist Founding" vs. "Christian Founding".

My hope is to replace the term "Theistic Rationalism" with "Protestant Scholastic" in regards to Political Theory. Frazer's frame of discussion is wrong. Personal beliefs that have nothing to do with Political Theory have no place at the table in this discussion.

Yes I AM SHIFTING THE GOALPOSTS BUT ONLY BECAUSE THEY NEED TO BE SHIFTED....

jimmiraybob said...

"My hope is to replace the term "Theistic Rationalism" with "Protestant Scholastic" in regards to Political Theory."

Man, do you have some heavy lifting ahead. The goalposts are about to leave the stadium.

JMS - "Of course you didn't mean to say two Greek, since Cicero was a Roman."

It would have been accurate to say Pagan or heathen since the comparison is with Christian faith. Is that a fair representation of the contrast being set up?

Tom Van Dyke said...

To jimmiraybob and JMS--I would ask that you/we help Joe develop his argument rather than choke it in its crib.

This is the difference between discussion and debate, between cooperative and adversarial discourse.

I'm so sick of debate, hammer and tongs. In the end, everybody remains exactly where they started. We watch too much Law & Order and don't read enough of Plato's dialogues.

Where I think Joe's going is an underlayment of Thomism [which includes Aristotelian and Stoic thought, Greek and Roman], medieval canon law, and then the Reformation's rejection of the theological [magisterial] authority of the Roman church, each opening the door for the efficacy of reason without us handing America's Founding over to a "secular" Enlightenment, a "godless" Constitution, and in 2012, a "naked public square."

For the Scottish Common Sense Enlightenment was the "Enlightenment of the Founders," and the SCSE was friendly not only to theism but to Christianity itself.

Something like that, Joe?

Joe Winpisinger said...

Tom,

That is it in a nutshell. But just like interposition (which I first learned about from Amos) the origin of the ideas that shaped the Declaration of Independence is an untaught History. If offends the close minded and the backlash of, "David Barton like Theocrat" comes out over and over again.

I have learned the hard way that one has to lay out his arguments precisely and slowly. No offense to Greg Frazer but I have not seen him around this blog since him and I debated Romans 13. His thesis is incorrect because it puts the discussion in the wrong frame.

I am out to prove that Protestant Scholastic is a better term than Theistic Rationalist. American was built on ideas not men....

Joe Winpisinger said...

"Man, do you have some heavy lifting ahead. The goalposts are about to leave the stadium."

They need to JRB... American was built on ideas not men. Jefferson himself said he was trying to capture the American Mind in the Declaration of Independence.


Pagan or Heathen is not what I said. Cicero was a Roman but used a lot of Greek thought... Under Natural Law in Romans 1 and 2 a Roman who does by nature what the Law says to do is justified. But this is a red herring because personal beliefs on sotierology are irrelevant.

I am getting ahead of myself but for those that want to say all these ideas came from the Greeks and Romans Cicero quoted Moses in a major writing on the Consent of the governed.

Judeo-Christian thought was not the only factor in the ideas the shape the Declaration of Independence but it was the main factor. Jefferson cited 4 sources. But he was only accused of plagiarizing one which was John Locke. Who was most certainly a Protestant Scholastic...

Joe Winpisinger said...

"Joe, you are not answering my question. When you write, "the absurd theory that Jefferson invented a new phrase," I ask whose theory this is. Who is advancing this notion? Wouldn't it have been easier and cheaper to go directly to Jefferson's own words?"


The simple answer is the Harvard Narrative the TVD has written on several times... That is who is advancing this... I come across it everywhere this is discussed. The vast majority of secularists believe that Jefferson was a Deist and that he purposely chose Deistic language to depart from the Christian Traditions of the founding.

It is absurd to think for one minute that the Congress who needed to build a big tent to have enough support for the war would let him make a Religious Treatise...

What he wrote is totally consistent with Protestant Resistance Theory which is totally consistent with the Catholic Resistance theory before it. The only real question is whether Locke is a classical philosopher or modern? Debatable question but I side that he was classical and that Jefferson was really the American bridge to the modern Liberalism of today.

Meaning that Jefferson was classical but had modern tendencies. I do not see the modern tendencies in the DOI and this is because though it might have been in Jefferson's mind it was no where near part of the American Mind... He cited 4 classical philosophers... Open and shut case...

jimmiraybob said...

"Cicero quoted Moses in a major writing on the Consent of the governed. "

Aside from everything else, this would be interesting. Do you have a citation?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yeah, the Cicero and Moses link would do for a start.

BTW, Alexander Hamilton was echoing Cicero by quoting Blackstone in this statement on natural law:

"There is in fact a true law— namely right reason—which is in accordance with nature, applies to all men, and is unchangeable and eternal. ... It will not lay down one rule at Rome and another at Athens, nor will it be one rule today and another tomorrow. But there will be one law, eternal and unchangeable, binding at all times upon all peoples; and there will be, as it were, one common master and ruler of men, namely God, who is the author of this law, its interpreter and its sponsor. The man who will not obey it will abandon his better self and, in denying the true nature of man, will thereby suffer the severest of penalties, though he has escaped all the other consequences which men call punishment."

"Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed, that the deity, from the relations, we stand in, to himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is, indispensibly, obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever.

This is what is called the law of nature, "which, being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid, derive all their authority, mediately, or immediately, from this original." Blackstone."

jimmiraybob said...

"Cicero quoted Moses in a major writing on the Consent of the governed."

Have we found the citation/link yet?