Monday, June 30, 2014

Research On Religion: "Mark David Hall on Religious Minorities in the U.S. Founding"

Mark David Hall always has something usefully informative to say on the matter. From Tony Gills' excellent podcast here, discussing, among other things, this book by Dr. Hall, et al.


Bill Fortenberry said...

I listened to this at work yesterday, and I thought that Dr. Hall did an excellent job. His comments about the use of the Bible by the founders were especially refreshing. There are very few historians who are able to recognize biblical references without explicit citations.

His comments on Paine's use of Scripture in Common Sense reminded me that Paine did not write his famous pamphlet on his own. Rather, he wrote it at the request of Benjamin Rush whose Christian faith was very well known. I suspect that the difference between Common Sense and The Age of Reason is due in large part to Dr. Rush's influence.

Here is Dr. Rush's statement regarding Common Sense:

At this time I called upon Mr. Paine, and suggested to him the propriety of preparing our citizens for a perpetual separation of our country from Great Britain, by means of a work of such length, as would obviate all the objections to it. He seized the idea with avidity, and immediately began his famous pamphlet in favour of that measure. He read the sheets to me at my house, as he composed them. When he had finished them, I advised him to put them into the hands of Dr. Franklin, Samuel Adams, and the late Judge Wilson; assuring him at the same time, that they held the same opinion that he had defended.

Later, in the same letter, Dr. Rush also wrote:

I did not see Mr. Paine when he passed thro Philadelphia a few years ago. His principles avowed in his "Age of Reason" were so offensive to me that I did not wish to renew my intercourse with him.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I like Dr. Hall's work a lot. Though I'm not big on the "Lutz" study and biblical citations angle.

True, yes, the Bible has greatly impacted how we speak the English language. As did Shakespeare and pagan sources.

If you aren't citing versus and chapter of scripture as authority, then the Bible probably really isn't used in an authoritative sense. It's like saying "Thursdays" gives some kind of special authority to Thor after whom it is named.

Bill Fortenberry said...

Come now, Jon. Didn't you see my comment a few days ago? I quoted Isaac Watts on the divinity of Christ as saying:

Since the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was so very glorious a Person in his own Nature, one who was with God, and was God, one who had all the Fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily, there was such an abounding Merit in his perfect Obedience to the Law of God for four and thirty Years together, his voluntary Submission to so many Sorrows and Sufferings in his Life and afterwards his enduring Death it self, which was the express Penalty threatned for Sin; I say, there was such a superabundant Value and Merit in these Undertakings, arising from the Dignity of his Person and Character, that these Labours, and these Sufferings, did not only procure absolute and certain Salvation for the Elect, according to the Will and Appointment of the Father, but they may justly be called sufficient in their own Nature, to have obtain'd actual Salvation for all Mankind.

Perhaps you didn't realize it, but the entire bolded portion is from the Bible. The first part is from John 1:1.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The second part is from Colossians 2:9.

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Watts quoted both of these passages without any citation. He expected his readers to recognize the words of Scripture and give them the appropriate weight. I'd that's a far more authoritative use of Scripture than you are suggesting.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Well as I sip coffee in my vine and fig tree, I feel no need to answer your response. Perhaps later I'll be back to fight the good fight.

Bill Fortenberry said...

Let me throw in another example here just because it illustrates the point so well. In a letter to Hezekiah Niles on February 13, 1818, John Adams wrote:

But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. While the king, and all in authority under him, were believed to govern in justice and mercy, according to the laws and constitution derived to them from the God of nature and transmitted to them by their ancestors, they thought themselves bound to pray for the king and queen and all the royal family, and all in authority under them, as ministers ordained of God for their good; but when they saw those powers renouncing all the principles of authority, and bent upon the destruction of all the securities of their lives, liberties, and properties, they thought it their duty to pray for the continental congress and all the thirteen State congresses.

Did you notice Adams' reference to the Bible in that statement? The phrase: "they thought themselves bound to pray for the king and queen and all the royal family, and all in authority under them" is a reference to I Timothy 2:1-2 which states:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority.

And the phrase, "as ministers ordained of God for their good" is a reference to Romans 13:4,

For he is the minister of God to thee for good