Saturday, December 8, 2018

Frazer on Locke v. Reformed Resisters as a Source

Gregg Frazer who has a new book out has been graciously participating in the comments at American Creation. I found this comment the most illuminating on a dispute that we have been engaged in for probably over a decade now.
"The facts" are that beginning with Elisha Williams in 1744, American preachers cited "the celebrated Lock," and Locke as "the noble Assertor of the Liberties of humane Nature." Peter Whitney cited "the great Mr. Locke" for his ideas; Samuel West (in his sermon that is second to that of Mayhew in terms of influence) identified "Mr. Locke" as the source of his ideas. Samuel Cooper said that the "principles and arguments" he was using were "grounded" in "the immortal writings" of Locke. John Tucker had an extensive quote from "Lock on civil Government" in the crucial part of his best-known sermon. 
[C]an [anyone] identify a single Patriot sermon that cites Calvin or Beza or "justifications of political resistance found within Reformed Protestantism." [A]s always, I'm open to such evidence. In Donald Lutz's acclaimed study of the influences on American Revolutionary thought, there is not a single Reformer in the list, but Locke is 3rd in terms of citations. Dreisbach's chapter on the Revolutionary sermons spends 18 pages on the 16th & 17th century Reformed guys and then 6 pages on actual American preachers -- almost exclusively Mayhew. He includes no citations by Patriot preachers of any of the Reformers he had introduced as the fundamental influences. Dreisbach is, of course, right that Mayhew does not cite Locke AND that he doesn't cite the Reformed guys either.  
So, whose arguments/principles are reflected in Mayhew's sermon? 
Mayhew's entire argument fits and flows perfectly from Lockean presuppositions and principles, but it includes elements completely foreign to the Reformers. Most notable of these is emphasis on a state of nature -- an idea anathema to Reformers who believed in the biblical record of the beginning of man and society as recorded in Genesis. 
Mayhew -- and the other Patriot preachers -- did not speak of "covenants" as did Knox et al, but rather of "contracts." They did not speak of "lesser magistrates" or of "interposition" or any of Beza's creative notions. Their arguments went right down the line of Lockean thought -- which is why Tucker seamlessly included extensive quotes from Locke in the middle of his sermon. Additionally, for his part, Calvin explicitly rejected any notion of rebellion -- as did Luther. So two of the most important and prominent voices of the Reformation were not even available to those who might have wanted to make Reformed arguments.  
Again, as I note in my first book ..., this is a primary reason that Mayhew's sermon was so influential. Those raised in Reformed churches and taught by Calvin to be subject to authority -- even tyrannical authority -- found in Mayhew a plausible excuse to rebel against an authority they found inconvenient or disagreeable. Mayhew's sermon was groundbreaking because it was new to those people -- not because it rehashed what they had already been taught. 
....
I think it's true that reformed resistance under law may well have softened up the congregants in America, making them more amenable to the arguments of Locke. But when we examine the sermons, it's Locke and not Rutherford et al. And, in a nuanced sense, Locke teaches something different from Beza et al. The difference between resistance under law and revolution.

Parts of the Declaration of Independence speak in the language of resistance under law; these are the parts where the Patriots made the claim that what Great Britain was doing violated British law. Other parts of the Declaration are revolutionary; those are the Lockean parts.

This is somewhat complicated. Locke was cited in sermons. These sermons understandably also cited the Bible. In Lutz's above mentioned study, Locke was cited during the period of time when the Bible was constantly being cited (the revolutionary period, the DOI). The later period when the Constitution was being framed and ratified, Lutz notes the biblical references dry up and it was more Enlightenment and other sources.

Yet I've also seen it argued (I think from Robert Kraynak) that references to Locke also start to dry up during the period of the Constitution's framing and ratifying. That those Enlightenment sources are non-Lockean. More Montesquieu than Locke.

24 comments:

joseph waligore said...

Jonathan, I am new to the Reformed Political theory versus Lockean debate, so I do not regard myself as a sophisticated thinker about this subject. I found this dissertation relevant to the question.
Garry Lee Stewart
JUSTIFYING REVOLUTION: THE AMERICAN CLERGY’S ARGUMENT FOR POLITICAL RESISTANCE, 1763-1783

https://digital.library.sbts.edu/bitstream/handle/10392/5336/Steward_sbts_0207D_10371.pdf?sequence=1




Mark Noll, George Marsden, Nathan Hatch, Gregg Frazer, William Reddinger,
Daryl Cornett and others have argued that American religious thought deviated from its
historical roots starting at the American Revolution. They argue that the introduction of
non-Christian political and moral philosophy seeped into the general thinking of the
American clergy of this time, which explains the unique development of an American
variety of evangelicalism. The American clergy’s doctrine of political resistance and
support of resistance to the British are supposedly evidence of this shift toward a new
variety of American Christianity that contains heavily synthesized elements of
Enlightenment thought.
Contrary to this argument, the American clergy’s justification of political
resistance during the American Revolution is not an indication of a shift in clerical
thought. While liberal clergymen like Jonathan Mayhew did support resistance to the
British, the assertion of the right to resist one’s own political authorities in certain
circumstances is not a uniquely liberal or Enlightenment notion. Mayhew’s argument for
political resistance had its immediate roots in the conflict against the claims of Stuart
absolutism in the early eighteenth century. British clergymen like Benjamin Hoadly and
Thomas Bradbury put forth strong arguments in the early eighteenth century against the
so-called doctrine of “passive obedience” and non-resistance thought in order to counter
the lingering Stuart doctrine of the divine right of kings. The biblical and natural law
arguments they used, which were carried on by Mayhew and the subsequent
revolutionary-era clergy in America, had deep roots in the well-developed tradition of
Reformed resistance thought. This tradition dates as far back as the mid-sixteenth
190
century and provided precedent for subsequent clergy in the Reformed Protestant
tradition, which included the majority of Revolutionary-era clergymen in America.
While some historians have tried to posit a sharp distinction between John Locke and the
Reformed tradition on the question of political resistance, or between Anglo and
Continental varieties of Protestant resistance thought, such distinctions fail to hold up
under scrutiny and are alien to how the tradition was received by the Revolutionary-era
clergymen in America.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thank you, Joseph. I cited Dr. Steward's paper as well [mostly to shut down Gregg Frazer's unfair playing of the credentials card].

The key counterargument is that even if Locke was cited as a touchstone, a talisman [and he was], the ideas and arguments themselves did not originate with or were peculiar to Locke. They predate him, and can be traced to existing political theologies, be they scholastic or Reformed, dating back to the 1500s.

The key argument is not whether authority should be obeyed, but whether illegitimate authority must be obeyed. [See the Magdeberg Confession, 1550.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

Oh my.

That links to all 245 pages of the dissertation.

I emailed Dr. Stewart and informed him of this discussion and invited him to participate. That was one or two days ago.

Haven't heard back from him yet.

joseph waligore said...

Tom, I agree with you that "The key counterargument is that even if Locke was cited as a touchstone, a talisman [and he was], the ideas and arguments themselves did not originate with or were peculiar to Locke." I am not sophisticated enough on this question to have a position on this topic, but I find it very intriguing that Quentin Skinner in Volume 2, page 239 of Foundations of Modern Political Thought argues that John Locke's Two Treatises had the same conclusions and very similar arguments to the radical Reformed political tradition.
https://books.google.com/books?id=dyzDnCLWJugC&q=classic+texts#v=snippet&q=classic%20text&f=false

In general I am very sympathetic to the idea that Locke's influence on the eighteenth century is very over-rated because people miss his predecessors.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thx, JW. Having done a lot of reading on pre-Enlightenment sources, I often hear their echoes in the Founding era. Modern readers attribute these ideas and arguments to Locke and the Enlightenment because that's where their familiarity with the relevant material begins, as though Locke and the philosophy of rights and freedoms dropped in from Mars one day in 1688.

And certain Protestants today somehow believe that that the Reformers were unfamiliar [or abjured] "Catholic" thought. But this is nonsense as well [see "Protestant scholasticism"].


"Tho the Schoolmen [Catholic "scholastics"] were corrupt, they were neither stupid nor unlearned: They could not but see that which all Men saw, nor lay more approv'd Foundations, than, That Man is naturally free; That he cannot justly be depriv'd of that Liberty without cause, and that he dos not resign it, or any part of it, unless it be in consideration of a greater good, which he proposes to himself. But if he unjustly imputes the Invention of this to School-Divines, he in some measure repairs his Fault in saying, This has bin foster'd by all succeeding Papists for good Divinity: The Divines of the reformed Churches have entertain'd it, and the Common Peo∣ple every where tenderly embrace it. That is to say, all Christian Divines, whether reform'd or unreform'd, do approve it, and the People every where magnify it, as the height of human Felicity. ---Algernon Sidney, c. 1650, published posthumpously 1698

joseph waligore said...

Jonathan, sorry about the poor link to the Stewart dissertation.
The material I copied is from the conclusion, starting on page
189.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thx, JW. p 187:

"Witherspoon’s justification of political resistance falls squarely within the Reformed resistance tradition. While to modern ears Witherspoon and the American clergy may sound Lockean in their arguments for resistance, it is important to remember that Locke himself was predated in his resistance thought by the Reformed resistance tradition, and the defenders of resistance did not distinguish between Locke and the Reformed theologians on the question of resistance.

As Jeffry Morrison helpfully states,

Witherspoon, like other Reformed Americans, saw himself as the inheritor of a sturdy tradition of Protestant resistance to the divine right of kings and civil tyranny that antedated Locke and Sidney by a century. . . . English, French, Scottish, and Swiss reformers developed a sophisticated body of literature arguing against the divine right of kings and, more important to Witherspoon, articulating a case for resistance to arbitrary or tyrannical government.


It is in this vein of resistance thought that Witherspoon carried forward the doctrine of political resistance with an overall philosophical continuity with his theological predecessors."

Jonathan Rowe said...

JW, no, thanks; I didn't know the whole thing was online and I wish the author success in turning it into a book if it's in the cards for it.

TVD: Yeah Morrison made that case to me when I saw him speak in Princeton. A subsequent time, I actually went out for drinks with him; but he doesn't drink. It was in a group with the late great Paul Sigmund. I talked with Sigmund about Locke's Christianity. Sigmund was fervent that Locke was a Christian. But, he didn't hold Trinitarianism as a prerequisite for Christianity. Rather he agreed Locke was probably some kind of Arian.

Sigmund's test was Locke's: Anyone who believes Jesus as a unique kind of messiah. It could include Arians, Socinians, Modalists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, along with orthodox Trinitarians.

Tom Van Dyke said...


For those of us without a theological dog in the fight, matters such as the Trinity were an internal matter in the vast panoply of Protestant "heresies," one sect thinking the next was heretical. And as we know, in the Founding era, in the Congregational churches of New Enland, Trintarians sat cheek-by-jowl in the same pews [and shared the same pulpits!!] with unitarians.

The historian or sociologist has no standing to decree which were Christian and which were not. They shared the same church!


And to step outside that factoid and keep this on track with my rebuttal of Gregg Frazer's method and fundamental premises, from the other thread:




The fundamental flaw is that Gregg conflates doctrinal beliefs with political theology. Did Trinitarians agree with Mayhew and other theological liberals on the permissibility of revolution?

Of course they did. John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland!

This is why Gregg's thesis rests on faulty ground. Doctrinal liberalism and revolution may have been correlated but are not essentially connected. What Mayhew thought of the Trinity is an academic footnote, not the text.



joseph waligore said...

Gregg Frazer argues that none of the patriot sermons cite Calvin, Beza, Luther, Knox, and says how groundbreaking Jonathan Mayhew's sermons were. In the dissertation of Garry Stewart (link in first comment above) on page 11, stewart says "Mayhew’s arguments for resistance were not original. He merely re- articulated early eighteenth-century views held by many other English-speaking clergy. In developing his own doctrine of resistance, Jonathan Mayhew was dependent upon the writings of Bishop Benjamin Hoadly (1676-1761). A writer in the Boston Evening-Post in 1750 even charged Mayhew with plagiarizing Hoadly’s ideas. Almost fifty years prior to Mayhew’s sermon, Hoadly developed the same arguments that Mayhew used. Mayhew even acknowledged his indebtedness to Hoadly." on page 12 Stewart says "Mayhew sent Hoadly a copy. “You have an undoubted right to a copy of it,” he said, since “the great part of it was stolen from your Lordship’s original.”
So Frazer might be right that the patriot sermons do not mention the very early reformers, but it sure seems that Mayhew was influenced by Hoadly, On page 19-20 of Stewart's dissertation, Hoadly's contemporaries say Hoadly got his arguments from earlier reformers.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Very interesting. Yes, Hoadly is one of those names we have neglected here at AC. A Whig and chief of the "latidudinarian wing" of the Anglican Church. Latitudinarian means "latitude" or doctrinal permissiveness. They included both Calvinists and unitarians.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Excellent evidence re Mayhew's debt to Hoadly, JW. Thx. These ideas did not just drop in from Mars one day.


The conviction amongst these men, that the traditional patterns of
government were being subverted by a commonwealth conspiracy can be best explored in the controversial figure of yet another Churchman, Benjamin Hoadly, who repeatedly attracted the ire of the Tory press in the 1700s and 1710s. Although a turbulent figure on the radical margins
of Whig political affiliations, he was a believing Christian, a conforming minister, and a moderate episcopalian.


Hoadly, as contemporaries complained, had a reputation as a fierce defender of 'revolution politicks' making a link between his defence of civil liberties, the attack upon a resurgent de jure divino conception of society, and true religion. In fighting against the non-juror political
theology, Hoadly was engaging with brother priests: those clergymen who re-invigorated divine right accounts of monarchy and the Church, celebrating the Royal touch, defending the reputation of Charles I as a Royal Martyr in Restoration Day and January 30th sermons, were the butt of Hoadly's writings. Vilifying the Caroline divines who defended an absolutist political theology, Hoadly condemned the 'universal madness of Loyalty (falsely so called)' which caused the people to be 'accounted slaves rather than subjects'. In the 1700s he turned specifically to a consideration of the key scriptural text -Romans 13- attempting to recast the classic Pauline injunction 'to obey the powers that be' into a defence of the legitimacy of the revolution of 1689 by employing the Bucerian reading of the text commonly employed by Calvinist theorists of revolution.

Just as tyrannical magistrates might be removed by popular sovereignty, so the example of Solomon's deposition of Abiathar, legitimated the civil
deprivation of non-juring Bishops. Hoadly's political thought then, engaged directly not only with issues of conscience (defining the limits of obligation), but also with directly ecclesiological matters.



https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/78866250.pdf


The above is a very good assay of the theo-political environment after the Restoration of 1688. Although parliament gained primacy, the idea of de jure divino was hardly dead.

[Interesting that Mayhew even grabbed Hoadly's condemnation of making a martyr out of the executed King Charles I, which IMO fits John Calvin's excusing Daniel's disobedience of the Babyonian king.]

Tom Van Dyke said...

FRAZER: So, whose arguments/principles are reflected in Mayhew's sermon?

Mayhew's entire argument fits and flows perfectly from Lockean presuppositions and principles



WALLIGORE: In developing his own doctrine of resistance, Jonathan Mayhew was dependent upon the writings of Bishop Benjamin Hoadly (1676-1761). A writer in the Boston Evening-Post in 1750 even charged Mayhew with plagiarizing Hoadly’s ideas. Almost fifty years prior to Mayhew’s sermon, Hoadly developed the same arguments that Mayhew used. Mayhew even acknowledged his indebtedness to Hoadly." on page 12 Stewart says "Mayhew sent Hoadly a copy. “You have an undoubted right to a copy of it,” he said, since “the great part of it was stolen from your Lordship’s original.”

On page 19-20 of Stewart's dissertation*, Hoadly's contemporaries say Hoadly got his arguments from earlier reformers.



Well.

_________________________

*Gary L. Steward
JUSTIFYING REVOLUTION: THE AMERICAN CLERGY’S ARGUMENT FOR POLITICAL RESISTANCE, 1763-1783

https://digital.library.sbts.edu/bitstream/handle/10392/5336/Steward_sbts_0207D_10371.pdf?sequence=1


joseph waligore said...

Assuming it is true that Jonathan Mayhew got his arguments from Bishop Hoadly, the question becomes whether Hoadly was influenced by Locke and if so, how much. The article "Latitudinarian Politics and the Shadow of Locke" by Guglielmo Sanna (available by JSTOR if google title) goes into detail on Locke's influence on Hoadly. The bottom line is that while many scholars think Hoadly was just a popularizer of Locke, Sanna thinks Hoadly was not influenced in this earliest political writings by Locke and always maintained some significant disagreements with Locke.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sanna thinks Hoadly was not influenced in this earliest political writings by Locke and always maintained some significant disagreements with Locke.


The "real" Locke is not necessarily the Locke as understood by the gentlemen of the Founding era, who were acquainted with his more exoteric concepts of liberty than his deeper [and perhaps more subversive] agenda. Few read him in full, or as deeply as a genuine scholar would.

I don't disagree with the Straussians [see Zuckert] that Locke is radical in ways that would have disturbed Christians and conservatives, but I also suggest that such folks were not aware of Locke's philosophical project.

When Locke refers to the "judicious [Rev. Richard] Hooker," to the casual reader Locke is agreeing with him, endorsing his rather Thomistic and traditional natural law views. However, the Straussian will tell you Locke is using Hooker as cover for more radical and subversive ideas.

Hence, an analysis of the "real" Locke might truthfully paint him as [esoterically] antithetical to Christian thought, whereas a more surface [exoteric] reading such as the Founders may have taken would have him firmly in the Christian corner, merely perfecting the arguments of hundreds of years of earlier Reformers.

Hoadly could well have read Locke closely, whereas the Founding era preachers could have been reading him exoterically, or in the least using him as cover--a talisman--for their audiences, who would not know the "real" Locke, only the popularized one, the philosopher of liberty, and one with quite a Christian patina.

And as you report,

On page 19-20 of Stewart's dissertation*, Hoadly's contemporaries say Hoadly got his arguments from earlier reformers.


this needs further study, and could be probitive with little more ado. For the moment, Gregg Frazer's bald assertion that

FRAZER: So, whose arguments/principles are reflected in Mayhew's sermon?

Mayhew's entire argument fits and flows perfectly from Lockean presuppositions and principles



is certainly complicated if not disproven by Hoadly.

joseph waligore said...

Tom, from my experience with Frazer, while he is a generally a good researcher about the beliefs of individual American thinkers, he is like most other people who study American religious history and his knowledge of English and European thinkers is very poor. For the book I am writing I am very disappointed in the way he mischaracterizes the beliefs of Joseph Priestley. While I am not yet certain he is mistaken about Mayhew and Locke, it would not surprise me in the least if he is.

Jon Rowe said...

JW: You are free to send us your criticisms of how you disagree with Frazer's characterization of Priestley.

I understand Priestley as a Socinian who thought Jesus a resurrected Messiah. But 100% man, 0% divine in His nature, rather on a divine mission. Further I understand Priestley as holding Original Sin, Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement and plenary inspiration of the Bible as "corruptions of Christianity."

I don't see Priestley as someone who necessarily characterized parts of the canon as error, but rather that not all of the canon constituted "divine witness" or divine inspiration. Parts did. So yeah Priestley believed at least parts of the Bible were special revelation, the other parts perhaps useful recollections and stories, not necessarily something written by the Holy Spirit.

Do you disagree with that characterization?

joseph waligore said...

Jonathan, I disagree with your last sentence. Here is something I have written that explains important background to Priestley's beliefs. Priestley had a much higher opinion of the Old Testament than useful recollections and stories. I had to divide this into two posts.

The best known of the liberal Dissenters were the Unitarians, Christians who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, and often thought Jesus was merely human. Many scholars of American religious history, such as Gregg L. Frazer and Paul Conklin, assert that the religious beliefs of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson mean they were Unitarians. Furthermore these scholars assert these presidents’ mentor was Joseph Priestley, the most important Unitarian theologian. Chapter seven explains in detail how Jefferson and Adams shared the English deists’ emphasis on God’s goodness and total fairness. The scholars who think Priestley was Jefferson and Adams’ mentor also think Priestley shared their emphasis on God’s total goodness. Frazer declares that Priestley stressed God “was, fundamentally, benevolent, . . . [he] rejected biblical accounts of God’s wrath and vengeance.” What Frazer and other scholars do not understand is how much Priestley was situated in the tradition of the liberal Dissenters, and shared their beliefs about the Bible, particularly their belief in the accuracy of the Old Testament. The scholars of American religious history share religion scholar Bruce K. Waltke’s mistaken idea of Priestley’s view of biblical authority. Waltke, in his book on Old Testament theology, claimed Priestley, like French skeptics such as Diderot and Voltaire, had a liberal outlook on the authority of the Bible. According to Waltke, liberals put reason above revelation and so detract from the authority of the Bible by making reason the foundation of theological reflection. For Waltke, this means liberals approach the Bible with the same skepticism they apply to other ancient Near Eastern myths. Waltke asserts liberals consider the Bible stories as the product of human mythopoetic imagination, and so he thought liberals gave no more credence to the Bible’s account of God’s intervention in human affairs than they do to other Near Eastern myths.
Waltke is claiming that anyone who believes in reason must treat the Bible as a myth. But Priestley shared with other liberal Dissenters a belief that reason supported the authority of the Old Testament. Priestley’s views will be discussed in detail in chapter seven when his views are compared to those of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson’s. Priestley’s beliefs on biblical authority were very similar to those of John Taylor, another prominent liberal Dissenter. Taylor was a minister and scholar who eventually taught at Warrington Academy, the most eminent Dissenter college. In fact, when Taylor died in 1761, Priestley replaced him as professor at the academy.

joseph waligore said...

continuation of previous post on Priestley

Taylor believed the Bible was not the fully inspired Word of God. However, he thought the historical parts of the Bible were written by men fully acquainted with the facts; meaning that he accepted the Old Testament accounts as true historical facts of what actually happened before Jesus was born. Taylor believed in the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Flood, and the destruction of the Tower of Babel. To explain how Moses could have a reliable account of far earlier events without being inspired by God, Taylor pointed to the biblical claim that Hebrew patriarchs lived for many hundreds of years. So while there were 1,656 years from the creation to Noah’s Flood, Taylor believed Methuselah lived with Adam for 243 years and received from him an accurate account of creation and the Fall. Methuselah then passed that knowledge on to Noah who also lived many hundreds of years. Eventually other long-lived patriarchs passed the knowledge to each other until it was given to Moses. Taylor reasoned that three people, Methuselah, Shem, and Jacob “were sufficient to hand down the Knowledge and Worship of the true God, from Adam to the time when the Children of Israel went down into Egypt, that is, through the Space of 2238 Years.” Taylor reasoned God let these patriarchs live so long precisely because there was no other way to accurately pass down this knowledge before the invention of writing.
With this belief about the reliability of the Old Testament, Taylor believed a race of impious giants once lived on Earth, as well as the whole world was once covered by Noah’s Flood. More pertinently, he also believed God ordered the total extermination of Israel’s neighbors, the Canaanites, cursed whole peoples, and chastised whole nations with plagues, fires, and locusts. The other liberal Dissenters, including the Unitarians, also believed the Old Testament God performed these actions.

Tom Van Dyke said...


Blogger joseph waligore said...
Tom, from my experience with Frazer, while he is a generally a good researcher about the beliefs of individual American thinkers, he is like most other people who study American religious history and his knowledge of English and European thinkers is very poor. For the book I am writing I am very disappointed in the way he mischaracterizes the beliefs of Joseph Priestley. While I am not yet certain he is mistaken about Mayhew and Locke, it would not surprise me in the least if he is.



I think that many historians overestimate their own understanding of philosophical history. Or theology and its history. It is not the same thing as "history," it is not the same thing as what they have a diploma on their wall for.

I see that your background is in philosophy, with a special interest in world religions. This is germane to this particular discussion more than an education in "history" is. The history of ideas is a subtle one, and as Locke himself said, most of us don't even know the origin of our ideas and beliefs. Frazer's demand that a Founding-era preacher explicitly cite some Reformed theologian of 200 years previous before we posit his influence lacks an understanding of how these things worked.

As for Frazer's version of Priestley, I dunno. Those with their own theological ax to grind seem to have little appreciation of how fluid "Protestantism" was [and is] once the Reformation let the dogma genie out of the bottle.

The Founding era, with discoveries of ancient biblical texts to be retranslated and reinterpreted, added even more fuel to the fire. [Strangely enough, this also often added to fideism, the belief that God somehow was inspiring each new interpreter with His truth. Calvin and especially Luther exhibited little doubt that they were right and 1200 or 1500 years of Church history were wrong.]

Which is why I so oppose Gregg Frazer's attempt to fashion a normative Christianity [specifically Protestant] that specifically excludes the non-Trinitarians. They were ALL heretics to some degree. It is not for the historian to judge. The Visigoths were Arian Christians, but to the historian Christians nonetheless.

The historian needs to cast a wider net to be intelligible—Frazer may require a belief that Jesus was God and died for your sins, but I set the bar much lower, say at believing that God revealed himself to man somewhere in history, be it via a burning bush or telling Noah to prepare for the flood or telling the Israelites to slaughter Canaan. The rest is dogmatic detail, and the Protestant Reformation left the door open for all sorts of demurrals from Christian orthodoxy as of 1516.

joseph waligore said...

Tom, I like your point about "Which is why I so oppose Gregg Frazer's attempt to fashion a normative Christianity [specifically Protestant] that specifically excludes the non-Trinitarians." My concern is that this attempt means that Frazer does not put enough energy and attention to really understand people like Priestley and Charles Chauncy. He just puts them into a box that fits his scheme.

Tom Van Dyke said...

oseph waligore said...
Tom, I like your point about "Which is why I so oppose Gregg Frazer's attempt to fashion a normative Christianity [specifically Protestant] that specifically excludes the non-Trinitarians." My concern is that this attempt means that Frazer does not put enough energy and attention to really understand people like Priestley and Charles Chauncy. He just puts them into a box that fits his scheme.



I don't wan't to dog Gregg, even if he does ad hom others. [Like me, for instance.] Does Gregg understand Priestley, Chauncey and the rest as "they understood themselves?"

Did Priestley see himself as a dissident or merely the first wave of the inevitable Christian future?

I vote the latter, and that that "Christian future" was surely Protestant, unanimous in rejecting the theological authority of the Catholic Church.


Thus Priestley was only as "Christian" as the polls made him out to be.

But on the other hand, after his death, John Calvin's interpretation of Romans 13 was voted down too by his successor "Calvinists."

Frazer does not put enough energy and attention to really understand people like Priestley and Charles Chauncy. He just puts them into a box that fits his scheme.

I don't know if this is true but I have never known Gregg to publicly admit or allow any fact that even slightly contradicts his theory.

This is a very informative thread covering fresh ground on this blog. My compliments to those involved. Welcome, and rock on. I got yer back. ;-)

joseph waligore said...

Tom, it may interest you to know that my background is not in philosophy per se. My background is in the history of ideas. I got a PD. D. in philosophy but all my work was in the history of philosophy and I wrote my dissertation on the Stoics. I do not consider myself a philosopher but someone who works with the history of ideas. In my opinion, this gives me a significant advantage in understanding the deists and Unitarians because I pay much more attention to their historical roots than do other people who study them..

Tom Van Dyke said...

My background is in the history of ideas.

So much the better, re this line of inquiry. What I do know is that many historians wouldn't know Aquinas, the Schoolmen, Beza or Melanchthon if they tripped over them.

And as for the Stoics, etc., catch as catch can.

And what many miss about the heterodox Christians [and even deists of the Christian-Deist sort you study] is that their God DID reveal himself to man and interfere in human history, may be prayed to with good effect, and is the Creator God of monotheism. In almost all cases, he is indistinguishable from Jehovah: He is not some new creation of the Enlightenment. Using doctrinal deviations such as the Trinity to erase this God is to miss the forest for various doctrinal trees.