Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Biblical Covenant is Undemocratic (or Unrepublican)

Robert P. Kraynak's Christian Faith and Modern Democracy is another book (there are many) written by a conservative Christian (he's a Catholic) that debunks the "Christian Nation" thesis.

Dr. Gregg Frazer heavily relies on this work in his Ph.D. thesis. The following quotes from Dr. Frazer's thesis quoting Kraynak's book:

First, as Kraynak pointed out, "the biblical covenant is undemocratic: God is not bound by the covenant and keeps His promises solely out of His own divine self-limitation." Second, "(t)he element of voluntary consent is missing from the covenant with Israel....There is nothing voluntary or consensual about the biblical covenant; and the most severe punishments are threatened by God for disobedience." Third, "insofar as the covenant with Israel sanctions specific forms of government, the main ones are illiberal and undemocratic;" including patriarchy, theocracy, and kingships established by divine right. Fourth, "the Bible shows that God delivers the people from slavery in Egypt and supports national liberation, not for the purpose of enjoying their political and economic rights, but for the purpose of putting on the yoke of the law in the polity of Moses." Fifth, "the content of the divine law revealed to Moses consists, in the first place, of the Ten Commandments rather than the Ten Bill of Rights, commanding duties to God, family, and neighbors rather than establishing protections for personal freedom." Finally, the combination of judicial, civil, ceremonial, and dietary laws imposed on the people "regulate all aspects of religious, personal, and social life." The history of Israel, therefore, had to be radically rewritten to provide support for the demands of political liberty and for republican self-government.

-- Kraynak, 46-49 quoted in Frazer, "The Political Theology of the American Founding," Ph.D. dissertation, 18-19.


Tom Van Dyke said...

"There is nothing voluntary or consensual about the biblical covenant..."

I believe Dr. Kraynak misses the point here. The "Old" Covenant is with the people of Israel. The "New" Covenant of Jesus Christ is with all men, and requires a voluntary commitment of faith to vest.

Anonymous said...

Tom, first, how do we know that "Jesus Christ" ever existed, and secondly, even if we suppose that such a person did exist, how do we know that the historical Jesus meant to establish a "New Covenant"?

Jonathan Rowe said...


You may have a point; but if you look at the larger context Kraynak and Frazer aimed to debunk common but specific use of Old Testament Israel by the Founding era Whigs and show how they "read in" political liberty to the biblical record as it wasn't there.

They did something similar to Greco-Roman history as well.

And you've also seen John Adams & co. reading Judeo-Christian Providentialism into non-biblical religions.

So I guess they don't call it "Whig history" for nuthin'.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ah, Jon. You wrote Kraynak debunks the "Christian Nation" thesis, I thought you meant the contemporary one. I don't see a lot of Israel in it, although you're more familiar with it than I.

Ripple, I think the actual truth claims of Christianity are not at issue on this blog, nor should they be.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Oh yeah Barton et al. love to quote how even Jefferson and Franklin looked to biblical Israel as a model for the American republic. There is a half truth; they did indeed use Israel as an example of liberation from tyranny. But Kraynak and Frazer point out that their use wasn't exactly a valid interpretation of history.