Thursday, May 28, 2020

Frazer Responds to Van Dyke, Part I

Gregg Frazer responds to Tom Van Dyke's post; it's divided up into two posts and this is the first. His comments are below.

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I’m not speculating that Mayhew was influenced by Locke; he says so.  In his sermon “The Snare Broken,” Mayhew specifically says that he was influenced by Locke because he “seemed rational” (which, in Mayhew's mind, is the highest compliment he could bestow).  For the record, I do mention this in my first book, The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders.  Starting with Elisha Williams (who Mark quotes in his most recent book) in 1741, a lot of preachers cited Locke by name – who among them cited Beza?

As for “Lockean,” I am happy to dilate.  In The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders, I lay out basic Lockean principles and demonstrate how the “patriot” preachers followed and promoted those principles.  They are: a state of nature; equality; consent; the law of self-preservation; popular sovereignty; self-determination; the social contract; rulers accountability to the people; the common interest as the purpose of government; natural rights; political liberty; confidence in the majority; republican government; and resistance to tyranny.

These should all sound familiar because of Locke’s influence that virtually everyone recognizes to one degree or another – most to a great degree.

Yes, Mayhew’s sermon was delivered decades before the immediate rebellion-provoking events.  That allowed his ideas to disseminate broadly and to be, as Adams said, “read by everybody.”  Surely Mr. Van Dyke is not suggesting that someone cannot be influenced by a work written many years before.  That would invalidate this entire website.

The fact that Mayhew – and every other – preacher used a passage from the Bible as a springboard for what he wanted to say does not mean that his source authority is Paul or that the premises are theological.  For Mayhew, revelation (the Bible) was secondary to reason and, in fact, reason determined what counted as revelation.  He believed that God Himself was limited by “the everlasting tables of right reason.”  Mayhew was speaking to a congregation who expected him to speak from/about the Bible.  So he said what he wanted irrespective of what the Bible actually said and then claimed that Paul said what Mayhew wanted to say.  In other words, he would have fit in quite well in 21st-century America.

I did NOT concede that “the prior Reformers ‘influenced’ Locke” and the link doesn’t take one to a place where I supposedly did.

As for Strauss and Straussians, Mr. Van Dyke is much more enthralled with him/them than I.  Truth be told, much too much is made of the singularities of Straussianism.  Either way, I do not identify as a Straussian – and for Mr. Van Dyke and for Mark, self identification is determinative, right?  I listed two Straussians among those who disagree with Mark’s “take” and who’ve had some influence on my views, but I listed FIVE non-Straussians (plus “others”).  My view is not dependent on Strauss or identical with Strauss’s.  In his peer review of my manuscript, Pangle pointed to a couple of things upon which he and I agreed to disagree.

Mr. Van Dyke says: "Gregg doesn't do it [provide argument and evidence somewhere what was uniquely 'Lockean'] here at American Creation among his tens of thousands of words on this topic, and he doesn't do it in his book either. This is the lacuna in his thesis. He may be right about Locke and the Reformed preachers, but he hasn't begun to prove it.”  I actually do prove it with numerous quotes from the “patriot” preachers in chapter three of The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders – including references to whole sections of sermons that are extensive direct quotations from Locke. Some have read the book and could confirm that.  In his much-celebrated Sacred Scripture, Sacred War, James Byrd also concludes that “many” preachers blended “the philosophy of John Locke” with references to the Bible.

4 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

I actually do prove it with numerous quotes from the “patriot” preachers in chapter three of The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders – including references to whole sections of sermons that are extensive direct quotations from Locke.

If you're going to participate in a discussion, Gregg, "read my book" will not do.

You should be anxious to provide our readers [and potential customers] with a taste of your evidence rather than insisting you made your case elsewhere.

You haven't made it here at American Creation in dozens of posts and comments, and you did not remotely make your case in this book

https://www.amazon.com/God-against-Revolution-Loyalist-Political/dp/0700626964

which I own.

And your premise is still questionable regardless: Just because Locke was cited does not mean that those ideas and arguments were not already part of the growing body of Christian/Protestant/"Calvinist" political theology.

Thank you for your lengthy rebuttal but it is unresponsive: You have not corrected or even addressed the core problem with your scholarly method:


The problem exhibited over and over in Gregg's method in this discussion is that he doesn't quote John Locke directly. Gregg asserts in his book God Against the Revolution: The Loyalist Clergy's Case against the American Revolution (American Political Thought) that "Mayhew's premises were Lockean."

The reader should assess this claim for himself. While Jonathan Mayhew is credited for getting the theological ball rolling, it is important to realize that that famous sermon, A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers was given back in 1750, and his source authority is not John Locke, but the apostle Paul. In the text, God is mentioned 27 times, "the apostle" [Paul] 21 times, and the Devil/Satan 5 times. Locke is invoked zero times! Gregg is prudent to say Mayhew's "premises" are Lockean, but the text suggests that the premises are theological.

...

For all his criticism of Hall's use of "Christian," it is nowhere stated exactly what Gregg means by "Lockean," except by implication, non-Biblical. But this will not do: Even among the religious, the purpose of theology is to "tease out" what the Bible means, wants, permits, and bans.

And for the scholar with no sectarian dog in the fight, these are subjective judgments, injudiciable by scholars.




The floor is still yours. Make your case. Show us your Locke! You might get more people to buy your books. ;-)

Tom Van Dyke said...

I lay out basic Lockean principles and demonstrate how the “patriot” preachers followed and promoted those principles. They are: a state of nature; equality; consent; the law of self-preservation; popular sovereignty; self-determination; the social contract; rulers accountability to the people; the common interest as the purpose of government; natural rights; political liberty; confidence in the majority; republican government; and resistance to tyranny.

Almost all--with the exception of "social contract," which was not a Founding principle--may be found in "Calvinist" Resistance theory, that predates the publication of Locke's Two Treatises in 1698.

See

“Whose Rebellion? Reformed Resistance Theory in America, part 1.” Mark David Hall & Sarah A. Morgan Smith. Invited article for Unio cum Christo. 3 (October 2017): 169-184.

https://uniocc.com/archive/Whose-Rebellion-Reformed-Resistance-Theory-in-America-Part-I


“Whose Rebellion? Reformed Resistance Theory in America, part 2.” Mark David Hall & Sarah A. Morgan Smith. Invited article for Unio cum Christo. 4 (April 2018): 171-188.

https://uniocc.com/account/download_journal/6

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