Saturday, September 3, 2016

Livingston Cribbed Trenchard & Gordon

The appendix to this collection of Livingston's writings aptly notes this. "Primitive Christianity" was a concept en vogue during the American Founding and in Great Britain among the dissenters who influenced America's Founding.

Primitive Christianity appeals to among others Quakers, Unitarians, Christian-Deists, and more. Like all of the variants of "Christianity," it sees itself as the one authentically representing the teachings of Jesus and his followers. However it believes that by the time the Nicene Creed was written the faith had already been corrupted. It blames the Nicene Creed on Roman Catholicism.

The Catholic Church of course, would gladly take credit for the Nicene Creed. But the vast majority of "orthodox" Protestantism believes in that creed, feels in communion with the church who wrote it, and no, does not believe Catholics should be credited for it.

Primitive Christianity is radically individualistic, anti-creedal, and anti-clerical. It's not necessarily theologically unitarian, but the method obviously lends support to such. Trenchard and Gordon define and defend the concept of Primitive Christianity in great length here. We see, among other things, the Roman Catholic Church is the chief villain. High Church Anglicanism isn't much better. And the entire clerical class of all Christian churches is tarred.

Here is a passage where they claim to be agnostic on the Trinity, and declare the question to be irrelevant to the expression of the faith:
Since ’tis agreed amongst all our present Sects of Christians, that the Saviour of the World is the Son of God, descended from Heaven to teach Virtue and Goodness to Men, and to die for our Redemption; how are we concerned in the Scholastic Notions of the Trinity? Will the Scripture be more regarded, or the Precepts of it be better observed, if the Three Persons are believed to be Three Divine distinct Spirits and Minds, who are so many real subsisting Persons? Whether the Son and Holy-Ghost are Omnipotent of themselves, or are subordinate, and dependent on the Father? Or, if they are independent, whether their Union consist in a mutual Consciousness of one another’s Thoughts and Designs, or in any thing else? Whether they are Three Attributes [96] of God, viz. Goodness, Wisdom and Power? Or Three internal Acts, viz. Creation, Redemption and Sanctification? Or Two internal Acts of the One subsisting Person of the Father; that is to say, the Father understanding and willing himself and his own Perfections? Or Three internal Relations, namely, the Divine Substance and Godhead confidered as Unbegotten, Begotten, and Proceeding? Or Three Names of God ascribed to him in Holy Scripture, as he is Father of all Things, as he did inhabit in an extraordinary Manner in the Man Jesus Christ, and as he effected every thing by his Spirit, or his Energy and Power? Or lastly, Whether the Three Persons are only Three Beings, but what sort of Beings we neither know, nor ought to pretend to know? which I take to be the Trinity of the Mob, as well as of some other wiser Heads.
And here they are on the Quakers and why their example demonstrates that Great Britain didn't need an established Church:
Now it seems to me, that the Toleration or Liberty of Conscience granted by Law in England, gives us an Opportunity of examining this Matter, beyond what can be done in Popish or other Countries, where no such Toleration is allowed. We have a numerous Sect, or People among us, distinguished by the Name of Quakers, who have no Spiritual Officers, with any Wages, Hire, or Salary, whose peculiar Business it is to Teach; but every Man among them does freely of himself, and gratis, communicate his Knowledge, both publicly and privately, according to his Ability, whenever he judges it proper so to do: And therefore we may easily make a Comparison in the Case, between the Wisdom and Virtue of the common People of the National Church, and the Wisdom and Virtue of the Quakers, (who have no Quality or Gentry among them; but consist of Tradesmen, Artificers, Farmers, Servants, and Labourers) and thereby make a [182] just Judgment, whether the Two Millions per Annum are well or ill bestowed.
They make an interesting argument which you can read for yourself: Because the Quakers all read the Bible for themselves as opposed to relying on the Priestcraft to read, interpret and spoon-feed it to them (and what they are getting spoon-fed distorts the Bible), the Quakers not only end up understanding the Bible better but have their literacy rates improved over that of the vast majority of ordinary folks sitting in the pews of the Church of England.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Sounds like Hobbes. The State owns the Church.

The first Principles of our Protestant Church are the Principles of the Reformation; namely, the spiritual Supremacy of the Crown; the Right of the Laity to judge for themselves; the forming of all Ecclesiastical Polity by the Legislature; and, consequently, the creating of Clergymen by the Civil Authority; a Power forgot by too many of the Clergy, and remembred, against their Wills, by the Laity. Whoever would maintain the Reformation, must maintain these Principles; or embrace Popery, if he desert them.

The spiritual Supremacy of the Crown? Ecclesial Polity controlled by the legislature?

Ecch. Give me Popery!

Jonathan Rowe said...

I think they are describing the "Protestantism" of the Church of England, the high church version of which they hated. The "low church" latitudinarian version permitted Christian-Deism, Unitarianism, and "half Quakerism" which is what I think T&G were, before Livingston was.

Tom Van Dyke said...

They hated Rome most, yes. I didn't pore over it but weren't they praising those things I excerpted as a cure for popery? Instead of the Church bossing around the king [which it had done for 500 years going back to Henry I]

Henry VIII turned the tables. If Trenchard & Gordon were indeed Hobbesian authoritarians rather than Lockean republicans

state control of religion is necessary and proper.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I don't think that's what T&G stood for. I'm trying to read the larger context.

We know that in England as elsewhere in Europe where everyone had religious establishments of the Christian variety, there was a power sharing agreement between Church & State.

They're accusing the high Church forces within England of being too uppity and claiming to have power that supersedes that of the state (Kings, Lords, and Commons). They're trying to straighten them out by pointing to the foundations of the Anglican Church and why they broke away from Rome.

Though I think their ideal place is with the dissenters and ultimately disestablishment.

Tom Van Dyke said...

If you read the link, this is far from certain. It's quite a fascinating piece, that T&G's more Lockean pieces were reprinted in colonial America but not the less republican sentiments.

We're back to what I posit about Locke himself, that the "true" Locke [or the true T&G] is of no concern, only what the Americans made of them.

The point is, intellectual historians till are not certain what the Americans made of them, and the conventional wisdom about T&G is under challenge when you compare what was printed in the colonies vs. their entire corpus as printed in Britain.

Back to this topic, in emphasizing Henry I-VIII, I skipped over

the forming of all Ecclesiastical Polity by the Legislature; and, consequently, the creating of Clergymen by the Civil Authority

which puts Parliament in charge of the Church, again putting it at odds with the American principle of separation.