Friday, April 24, 2020

And Frazer's Final Response to Hall

When I say "final," I mean "this round." I'm sure there will be more rounds between Drs. Mark David Hall and Gregg Frazer here at American Creation and elsewhere. With that, Dr. Frazer's comments are below.

This just gets better and better.  Now I haven’t read the book carefully.

Let me get this straight: because I suggested that it took a lot of time and effort to go to an electronic copy of the book, find, cut, and paste portions – pieced together with commentary – that indicates that I haven’t read the book with care.  And that doesn’t take more time than merely identifying a few page numbers with my many inaccuracies?

Persistent/tireless readers of American Creation know that I’ve written more than 12,000 words on this site about Mark’s book – including page numbers and detailed quotes (which we virtually never get from him in defense of or explanation of what is in the book).  Do you want to see my 14 pages of single-spaced notes – or my notes all over the margins?

I was pointing out that I simply asked Mark for PAGE NUMBERS and/or direct quotes demonstrating that my claims in my review were “inaccurate” and he claimed he didn’t have time. I was encouraged that he now apparently had enough time.  The point of the comment was that – however it was done (obviously most of it was copied), IT TOOK A LOT MORE TIME THAN MERELY LISTING A FEW PAGE NUMBERS OR – if you’re going to cut and paste – cutting and pasting A FEW EXAMPLES OF INACCURACIES ON MY PART.

[this is like the guy who criticized me for saying Jefferson took a pair of scissors to the Gospels because he thinks it was done with a razor]

I noticed you did not comment on the fact that someone we both consider to be a “fair and reasonable” reader did not find any inaccuracies in my review.

Now, to substance: you say that if I had read carefully, I would not have missed your definitions of “Christian” and “founding” – but there are no such definitions IN THE BOOK. 

Re defining “Christian”:

1) there is an endnote sending people somewhere else for a definition unless they happen to have those sources memorized. Even if they do, it still is not IN THE BOOK; at that point it’s in their memory. Telling people that rights can be be found in the Constitution is not a definition of rights

2) if they find it, that definition (which is NOT IN THE BOOK) that you direct readers to, is of “orthodox” Christianity – not Christianity. By continual use of qualifying terms such as “orthodox” and “sincere” and “pious” and “evangelical,” you indicate that orthodox Christianity is not the only kind. You obviously believe that there is more than one kind, or else why the descriptor?  Your declaration that John Adams is not an “orthodox” Christian tells us nothing about whether he’s some other kind of Christian – just as he’s not a female human but is another kind of human. If he’s not a human, one would simply say he’s not a human and not specify a certain type. This especially important when you appeal to him for Christian examples later in the book.

3) You revealed in a post on this website that by “orthodox Christian,” you meant simply “Christian” – but you do not say that IN THE BOOK and I was reviewing THE BOOK, not what was in your mind when you wrote it.  How is a reader supposed to know?  By using qualifying words, doesn’t that tell the reader that such adjectives are necessary because there’s another generic version?

4) If you had stipulated IN THE BOOK that by “Christian” you meant “orthodox” Christian, Jon Rowe would not have given quite the glowing review that he gave and certain other people who have participated in this discussion on this site would have been very critical of your overall thesis especially as it applies to the Constitution (at least if your name was Gregg Frazer). They would have reacted differently. They did not find your absent definition either. Like Jefferson in the DOI, you left people to read their own preference into the book – which is good for sales and positive reviews.

5) I read the book very carefully and didn’t see a definition because it isn’t there – and you still have not shown one IN THE BOOK.  What is the definition – not the location of one?  On what page IN THE BOOK is that definition given?

Re defining “founding”:

1) I was trying to be conciliatory with my “partial correction” comment – trying to meet you halfway on something

2) but saying that your “focus” was on “the late eighteenth century” is hardly an actual definition of “founding.”  That could mean the Declaration of Independence (1776).  It could mean the state constitutions before the Articles of Confederation.  It could mean the Articles of Confederation (1783), the beginning of the actual political state.  It could mean the Constitution (1789).  This is especially true when you use the geographical term “America” instead of the political term “United States.” 

Re my claim that you argue that they were some type of Christian:

1) I’m not referring to the stats of self-identification that you mention. I’m referring to page 17 where you say that “there are good reasons to believe that many of America’s founders were orthodox Christians and there is virtually no evidence to suggest that most (or even many) of them were deists.” Since those are the only two options recognized in the book for founders and no founder is identified as anything other than deist or some kind of Christian, the logical conclusion for a reader who is reading carefully is that you are saying they are Christians.  HERE in this post you say that this claim is dicta, but when it’s said IN THE BOOK (not a court ruling) without any qualification (here’s where qualifying terms are needed), then it is a claim that requires substantiation.

2) Since by your standard endnotes count, on page 19 you say that Carl Richard’s book “helps demonstrate that many founders were orthodox Christians.”  To say it helps demonstrate something indicates that you believe it’s correct. You don’t say “in his mind” they were Christians or “he sees” it that way or even “he claims.”

3) On page 48 you say that “many” were coming to a conclusion “because of … their Christian convictions.”  That means there were many that were Christians, doesn’t it? You don’t merely say that they self-identified as Christians; you say they were Christians. That’s a claim.

4) Speaking of the self-identification stats, I hope you agree with me that self-identification is not particularly reliable.  You mention that Jefferson so identified – but he certainly was not a Christian by the standards of the two creeds you say are the standard.  Likewise John Adams, though you don’t deny that he was a Christian – but you DO deny that he was an orthodox Christian which you say HERE, BUT NOT IN THE BOOK is your standard for any Christian – but you use examples from him later in the book in making your case for Christian influence and …..  These are the confusing tangles that result from a lack of definition.

You say that even if you thought (as if that’s the definitive standard) theistic rationalism was different from deism, “it wouldn’t affect any of [your] book’s arguments.”  In a sense, you are right.  The way the book is written – argument after argument without substantiation – it doesn’t matter whether there is another option besides deism or Christianity – simple unbelief, for example.  Again, what is the point of a chapter proving they weren’t deists, but NOT proving that they were Christians IF a “Christian America” simply means that the founders were influenced by “Christian ideas?”  Deists could have been influenced by Christian ideas, too.  Why is it relevant if not to indicate that since they weren’t deists – and you claim more than once that “many” or “most” of them were Christians – they must have been Christians of some kind.  Another option (say “unbelief”) would require more than simply demonstrating that they weren’t deists.

If there’s no need to support a claim that the founders believed in imago dei with anything more than a quote from a founder that doesn’t mention or have anything to do with imago dei, then there’s no need to account for scholarly, peer reviewed alternatives to the idea that the founders were either deists or some kind of orthodox or unorthodox Christian.

You acknowledge on page 17 that you’re not providing evidence for key claims when you say: “For evidence that the examples of ‘orthodox’ founders listed above were, in fact, orthodox Christians, please refer to the ‘Suggestions for Further Reading’ at the end of this chapter.”

In another really important sense, it does matter whether there’s another option besides deism and Christianity because historians should want to get things right.  Because of that, if you mention theistic rationalism, you have an obligation to do so on its own terms or make it abundantly clear that what you’re saying about it is simply your opinion. Would it be OK for me to categorically state without equivocation in a book that Mark Hall believes that most of the American founders were deists – if that’s my opinion?  We can certainly disagree on matters of opinion, but the FACT is that theistic rationalism is no form of deism – I have it on authority of the one who originated the term.

Theistic rationalism explicitly denies the two fundamental doctrines of deism – including the one you call “critical.” What, exactly, makes it critical if it can be denied and it makes no difference?  Theistic rationalism also does not conform to several other tenets that you identify with deism or most of those identified by other sources, as I explained in another post.  If theistic rationalists did not hold to the beliefs identified as “deism” by the originator of deism, the author of the “bible” of deism, and contemporary observers of deism, why is it appropriate to call it a form of deism?  It doesn’t have a bill, it doesn’t quack, it doesn’t have feathers, and it doesn’t waddle or lay eggs – but it’s an animal, so it’s a form of duck?

You ironically accuse me of not reading your book carefully – did you read mine at all before mischaracterizing the concept it introduces, explains, and demonstrates?

Re your new book:

1) I trust you’ll define “biblical” IN THE BOOK and give evidence that supports that claim.

2) I trust you’ll define “just” IN THE BOOK and give evidence that supports that claim.

3) I trust you’ll present alternate perspectives accurately and engage them on grounds their advocates would recognize.

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