A group blog to promote discussion, debate and insight into the history, particularly religious, of America's founding. Any observations, questions, or comments relating to the blog's theme are welcomed.
You've got the wrong order there, Jon. You should have claimed that Mormonism is more consistent American political theory than Christianity rather than saying that American political theory is consistent with Mormonism. You've got the cart before the horse. The book of Mormon was not published until 1830, more than 40 years after the Constitution was written; and from their very beginning, Mormons have always taught that the Constitution was directly inspired by God. It is no wonder, therefore, that the doctrines of Mormonism appear to be consistent with American political thought. The teachings of the Mormon church were specifically crafted to incorporate "Americanism" into their religion.On the other hand, the similarities which I have documented between the political ideology of our founding documents and the Bible cannot be the result of Christians crafting their religion after the pattern of America. On the contrary, I have shown that the opposite is very likely to have occurred, namely that the political philosophy of our founders was influenced by nearly two millennia of Christian doctrine.
Well, what I see is that there were certain things about the theistic religion of Americanism that, yes, predated Mormonism, that are not properly part of traditional orthodox biblical Christianity; even if some orthodox biblical Christians believed it. Being orthodox in A-F, doesn't necessarily mean you are orthodox in G.So, for example, E. Boudinat who was orthodox, also believed that the American Indians were the Lost Tribes of Israel, an idea that has nothing to do with traditional orthodox biblical Christianity.This eccentric notion is also something Mormonism incorporated into its theology. It's properly part of Americanist theology AND Mormonism, but not of traditional orthodox biblical Christianity. I could go on. Ben Franklin's idea of the created personal Jehovah that rules our solar system; Jefferson's, Priestley's, and Locke's materialism with its consequent notion that God the Father is a material being, and so on.
wsforten - " On the contrary, I have shown that the opposite is very likely to have occurred, namely that the political philosophy of our founders was influenced by nearly two millennia of Christian doctrine."At best you've made a dubious and debatable and inconclusive argument. What you conveniently leave out is the debt due to the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and statesmen that built, through their writings, the basic foundation of political theory of Medieval and modern science of government - as the founders would refer to it.The Christian doctrines that you speak of, when it comes to earthly politics and government, owe as much to Aristotle and Cicero and Polybius and Epictetus and company and to the Stoic concepts of natural law and cosmopolitanism - as well as imported barbarian customs, such as the Germanic election and disposition of kings - as to any Christian scriptural exegesis alone. And no, Christianity did not subsume the earlier pagan works and thus exclude them from consideration in their own right. This would be a negation of actual historical fact where finding, interpreting, analyzing, commenting upon, distributing and incorporating the essence of the original writings (as much as was possible) was and remains an industry unto itself - see the life and careers of Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) and Poggio Bracciolini as examples.That there may be some strained and contestable similarity between the early Hebrew deity-based, divine-command, tribal system and their adoption of ancient near east (ANE) treaty format in some parts of their scripture and the form of republican government being considered by the framers fails to acknowledge the vast references preceding and during the American founding and Constitutional framing to original ancient Greek and Roman sources.Without Aristotle and Cicero (and company) we'd still be choosing sides between kings, princes, rogue theologians and bishops and using the sword to decide the victor.
Without Aristotle and Cicero (and company) we'd still be choosing sides between kings, princes, rogue theologians and bishops and using the sword to decide the victor. Not so fast."Puritanism was not merely a religious doctrine, but it corresponded in many points with the most absolute democratic and republican theories. It was this tendency which had aroused its most dangerous adversaries. Persecuted by the government of the mother country, and disgusted by the habits of a society which the rigor of their own principles condemned, the Puritans went forth to seek some rude and unfrequented part of the world, where they could live according to their own opinions, and worship God in freedom."---Tocquevillehttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2012/08/puritans-the-original-republicans/
The Puritans. Interesting.OK, I’ll start with Calvin – I am just a casual observer and have only skimmed his Institutes of the Christian Religion, so I did a little searching this afternoon and came across an article at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy that started(1),“One can scarcely imagine a figure with a greater reputation for disapproval of philosophy than John Calvin. The French expatriate penned some of the most vitriolic diatribes against philosophy and its role in scholastic theology ever written. Thus, in one way, this reputation is rather well-earned, and an article upon Calvin in an encyclopedia of philosophy can be rather brief.”This seems to sum up my cursory take based on skimming the Institutes. But then I read on,“However, in another way, Calvin’s consideration, knowledge, and use of philosophy in his own work refutes the obscurantist representation left by a surface-level reading. A closer reading of Calvin’s great work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion, along with his commentaries and treatises demonstrates that instead of denying the importance of philosophy, Calvin generally seeks to set philosophy in what he regards as its proper place.”His education was in classical philosophy and the law (in the humanist style of the time) prior to his conversion and apparent shunning of the Roman Catholic Church and the Scholasticism of his time.A little more from the article:“Given Calvin’s occasional antipathy for philosophers, it is all too tempting to dismiss him as someone who knew very little philosophy, striking out at that which he did not know. However tempting that may be, it simply is untrue. In the Institutes, his treatises, and the commentaries, Calvin continually demonstrates a familiarity with both general and specific philosophical knowledge which seems to have been gained through his own study of their writings. What seems most significant about Calvin’s use of philosophy is that in general, he refuses to accept a philosophical system. Instead, he considers philosophy as the history of human wisdom’s attempt to search out answers to the questions of human existence. Thus, philosophers and their theories become paradigms for consideration, rather than structures for the organization of thought.“Hence, Calvin’s effort at using philosophy must be understood as part of his humanism, rather than a tool of the coherence of systematization of his thought. Calvin placed logic in the curriculum of the Genevan Academy. He could illustrate faith with the four-fold causality of Aristotle. He can use the thoughts of the philosophers as aids to training the mind, and believed that not many pastors, and certainly no doctor of the church could be ignorant of philosophy. However, that respect lived in constant tension with his irritation at the efforts of philosophy (and philosophers) at exceeding their proper place.”Even as an avid theologian and scripturalist he was educated in and informed by and engaged with basic precepts of classical philosophy (and he does cite Aristotle and Cicero, among others, in his works). I believe that this is also true of the Pilgrims - an emphasis on education, even the classical literature. Was it Lori Stokes that used to comment here that was involved with the study of the Pilgrims & Puritans? It's a shame she's not still engaging here.I read somewhere that Calvin leaned toward democracy and mixed government. If true, regardless of how many scriptural verses he cites to make the case, he was still engaged in classical Greek and Roman political theory and language.
No offence to the venerable Tocqueville, but if the Puritans on these shores can be said to have practiced a democratic republican government it was by the narrowest of margins and did not allow for much dissent. And, of course, there's the whole theocracy/theonomy thingy, which is not the exact model for the republican government outlined in the Constitution. Much to the chagrin of some.
jimmiraybob said...The Puritans. Interesting.OK, I’ll start with Calvin – I am just a casual observer and have only skimmed his Institutes of the Christian Religion"Calvinism" is actually a vulgar shorthand for what is formally called "Reformed theology." Indeed all the theological work done on Reformed Resistance Theory is from Calvin's successors, http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2013/06/mark-david-hall-responds-to-dghart.htmlwho in turn were the major influence on the Puritans, both in the Puritan Revolution of 1640s England as well as on our own new england.Glad we can clear that up.Now then, what Tocqueville and Kidd are talking about is that in Protestantism rejecting the papacy and magisterium, they came up with various other structures of church government. If the Roman Catholic church is a monarchy [it sort of is], Presbyterianism/Puritanism was a republic.Where both political and church governments up to that time were monachal [king vs. pope], the New Order featured monarchy in neither. This was a big deal, and what Tocqueville [a Frenchman] found uniquely "republican" about the Puritans of the 1600s.
"Calvinism" is actually a vulgar shorthand for what is formally called "Reformed theology." Indeed all the theological work done on Reformed Resistance Theory is from Calvin's successors, .... who in turn were the major influence on the Puritans, both in the Puritan Revolution of 1640s England as well as on our own new england.Technically, I didn't mention the vulgar "Calvinism."While I check your link, I do hope you'll be so kind as to call Dr. Dreisbach and give him the news that the Puritans were not really that into Calvin.
Wait a minute, are you saying that Beza wasn't influenced by Calvin?
While I check your link, I do hope you'll be so kind as to call Dr. Dreisbach and give him the news that the Puritans were not really that into Calvin.July 4, 2013 at 8:18 PM jimmiraybob said...Wait a minute, are you saying that Beza wasn't influenced by Calvin?Yeah, get back to me after you get up to speed. It's all very interesting. Theodore Beza actually got the ball rolling.
So I should reformulate my understanding? When the Puritans hit the N. American continent Calvin was out and Beza and the Boys were in?
jimmiraybob said...So I should reformulate my understanding? When the Puritans hit the N. American continent Calvin was out and Beza and the Boys were in?As with most black and white questions, the answer is yes and no.http://www.davekopel.com/religion/calvinism.htm
Post a Comment