Thursday, May 28, 2020

Frazer Replies to Hall and Van Dyke's ...

Respective comments from 5/23 (Mark David Hall) and 5/24 (Tom Van Dyke), under Gregg Frazer's post from 5/22. Frazer's response is below:


Mark: I do not understand what the following sentences mean. If you’re willing, please explain: “It would be silly to say that they are obviously influenced by Gandhi because Scripture doesn't require pacifism. Yet that is exactly what Gregg does with Locke and active resistance.”

Mark is willing to cut and paste some material from his and Sarah’s article, but not any quotes supporting the repeated claims that Calvin embraced active resistance (violence/taking up arms) or that he ever spoke of “inferior magistrates.”  I suspect the reason is that there aren’t any such quotes.  I’ve never seen any (and I read the articles – though a while ago).  [This is familiar. He was willing to cut and paste some material from his book, but not anything to demonstrate the many “inaccuracies” he claimed were in my original review – other than the “unfair” “lumping”].

As for being “informed by their understanding of Scripture,” did I say they weren’t?  The issue is how they came to that understanding and the problem is a chicken and the egg problem.  They had a preferred view and read that view in light of their own contemporary circumstances into Scripture, then declared that was the meaning of Scripture.  Knox illustrates this well.  That is eisegesis.  Exegesis starts with a text in the original language and works to find what it means in its own historical and literary context – the same way we fairly study a political philosopher or any other writer if we really want to know what they meant.  It is the same way Mark wants his books to be interpreted.

I again wonder why Mr. Van Dyke is not jumping down Mark’s throat for again conflating “Reformed” tradition with “Calvinist” tradition?  Luther’s views are, of course, not very relevant to the “Calvinist” tradition (except that he and Calvin agreed on this), but he was a fairly significant Reformer – was he not?  Hasn’t Mark been claiming it is “Reformed” tradition (although he does keep switching back and forth)?  Didn’t Luther have a fairly significant role in the whole Reformation thing?

Re: “The question is, where did America's founders get the idea that tyrants may biblically and justly be resisted? The answer is the Calvinist tradition of political reflection. Locke affirmed this tradition, but didn't invent it.”

  1. If they got the ideas from Reformers, why didn’t they cite them?  And now that you’re calling it “Calvinist” in this case, why did they not cite Calvin?
  2. Why did they cite Locke instead?
  3. Where/when did Locke “affirm” the “Reformed tradition?”  Where did he cite Beza or Ponet or the others?
  4. Locke began with the “state of nature” – from which Reformer did he get that idea?

Locke’s argument is very different from that of the Reformed guys.  Locke does not appeal to “inferior magistrates” or construct a faux argument supposedly from Romans 13.  Locke’s argument is contractarian.  Interestingly, when the “patriot” preachers made their case, they: a) cited Locke; b) made the contractarian argument; and c) did not make a “lesser magistrate” argument.  You don’t need to check my chapter on the “patriot” preachers; see if you can find the “lesser magistrate” argument in James Byrd’s celebrated Sacred Scripture, Sacred War.  His index does not include Beza or Ponet; it includes three multi-page references to Mayhew. Since his book is about the Revolution, he also does not mention Calvin.

As for Locke, Byrd says of Stephen Johnson (a Connecticut preacher in a Calvinist church): “He and many other preachers typically blended constitutional arguments and the philosophy of John Locke and others with biblical exhortations to liberty (30).”  There were unspecified “others” (might include the Reformed guys, but not important enough to be mentioned), but Locke is the indispensable one.  Like me, Byrd has read the actual sermons.

Mr. Van Dyke is quite astute to suggest that the authority of Calvin was “hijacked” by later Reformers.  That is my very point and I appreciate finally getting him on my side for something.  I am pleased to affirm that he is also right that the revolutionaries (though he says “Founders”) did not carefully “por(e) over every word and phrase.”  They actually took a lot of sources grossly out of context (Blackstone and the Bible being the prime examples) in search of anything useful to make their case.  That is important to note because they clearly couldn’t find any quotes from Calvin that could even be massaged and molded into usable arguments for rebellion.  They would have jumped at them in order to win over the large portion of the population that, as Mark notes, was Calvinist. [Again, this is why Calvin matters to the overall discussion – beyond Mr. Hart’s questions]  Mark exceeds the “patriots” in his creativity.  As Mr. Van Dyke suggests, they did not spend “excruciating hours poring over the Institutes with a biblical faithfulness and fortitude” – because there was nothing useful in Calvin for their side of the argument.

Calvin matters because his views were a hurdle that had to be overcome by “patriot” preachers and they overcame it with a boost from Locke.

Mr. Van Dyke: please do me the courtesy of not basing arguments against my positions on posts from other people.  My argument here is not based on whether Calvin or Beza is right theologically or biblically. [that part of my argument was simply to help Mr. Hart]  My argument is that to the extent that “patriots” were influenced in favor of rebellion by religious arguments, they were not so influenced by Calvin, but mostly by Mayhew and Locke adapted to religion, with a few perhaps somewhat influenced by a few “Reformers.”

Yes, “it was Beza and the rest who … defined the ‘Reformed tradition’” as you and Mark are defining it. I’ve never said – in fact, I’ve denied – that Calvin defined that “tradition” of rebelling against authority.  That does not make Calvin insignificant from a historical perspective; it just means his historical significance on this question is different.  He represents the “losing” side, as you put it – but doesn’t the losing side deserve attention historically?  And isn’t it important to understand why the “winners” (e.g. Mayhew) were necessary in the first place?  The winners write history, but the winners are not always right or worthy of imitation.  Those are at least two reasons why historians also study – or should study – the losers.  There’s that whole thing about history repeating itself as a result of ignorance.

And, Mr. Van Dyke, why do you repeatedly make this “accept his theology” argument with regard to me, but not with regard to Mark?  He has told us that in his book he used a very specific and narrow definition of Christianity – one to which you do not subscribe and which does not encapsulate all of the other types/branches of “Christianity.”  As I’ve repeatedly reminded you, in my professional writing, I do not use my own personal definition of Christianity, but the definition used by the 18th-century American churches – the people we’re actually talking about.  Why do you let Mark get away with what you accuse me of doing?

From your perspective, doesn’t his definition cause you to disagree with his entire thesis?  You don’t believe that American was founded as an “orthodox” Christian nation based on conservative Reformed theology, including belief in the deity of Jesus – do you?   Why don’t you say so?

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

I again wonder why Mr. Van Dyke is not jumping down Mark’s throat for again conflating “Reformed” tradition with “Calvinist” tradition? Luther’s views are, of course, not very relevant to the “Calvinist” tradition (except that he and Calvin agreed on this), but he was a fairly significant Reformer – was he not? Hasn’t Mark been claiming it is “Reformed” tradition (although he does keep switching back and forth)? Didn’t Luther have a fairly significant role in the whole Reformation thing?

Gregg, I wish you would respond to what I actually write, instead of what I did not. Asked and answered for the third time now:

"‡Gregg objects:

I find it interesting that despite Mark’s (and Mr. Van Dyke’s) repeated insistence that the proper identification is not “Calvinist,” but “Reformed/Reformers”, Mark uses the terms interchangeably – not just in these posts, but also in his book on Sherman (e.g. pgs. 26, 27, 29 etc.). It is interesting that Mr. Van Dyke doesn’t “call” Mark on it.

Previously asked and answered in a previous comments section. I wrote

The proper term is "Reformed," but when read without context, it means little on its face. [Just as Gregg Frazer's trademark "theistic rationalism" means little without Gregg there to explain what he means by it.]

When we say "Calvinist" the meaning is clear even if it's a bit inaccurate.

So yes, I do not object when Mark Hall uses the terms interchangeably. I have asked Gregg to show us the Founders citing Calvin directly. I take his silence to be agreement that they did not. He is technically correct here, but for historical purposes re the American Founding, Gregg is making a distinction without a difference. To the general reader, "Calvinist" is far more helpful. Indeed, "Reformer" is a more generic term that applies to numerous non-Calvinist figures such as Luther, Zwingli, Melanchthon, Tyndale, etc."