Thursday, August 28, 2008

Richard Price's Influence, Part I & One-Half

The good and great Jonathan Rowe presents the estimable British parliamentarian as a witness for his thesis. Very smart guy, Mr. Price---at the very birth of the American nation, he advises it of the wonders and dangers of compound interest! [Compound interest makes the world go 'round, you know.]

Now, as Jon warns us about his Part II on Price, and since the question of the Trinity and Jesus-as-God is perhaps the longest-running theological conflict in Christianity, I admit I'm not terribly interested.

By more than a 1000 years, the controversy predates the Founding and even Martin Luther's Reformation c. 1500 CE---so I think the Trinity's impact on the Founding is negligible. Anabaptists were being massacred in Luther's time and backyard over counterscriptural impurities like infant baptism. Massacred with Luther's approval, BTW, when they got too uppity [per Romans 13, I imagine].

What's clear is that many Europeans got on leaky and diseased boats to escape such nonsense to the New World, and there was little enthusiasm for turning the Old World's cudgels upon each other again. On that much, they could agree or couldn't be bothered. [I like the latter explanation.]

Been there, done that. Everybody had an uncle or a grandfather who got cudgeled to death. I'm not aware of any great Trinitarian massacres in the colonies.

Well, if you've come this far, dear reader, pray, tarry a mite longer. Your correspondent's task is almost complete:

Richard Price's was a fine mind, and borderline sycophantic when it came to the new America. No surprise the Founders knew him and tuned him in regularly.

As is our custom around here, let's look at the record and read Richard Price in his own words, the original source. I'd think his "Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution" [with a Borat-like subtitle of "...and The Means of making it a Benefit to the World"] makes for a level starting point for our joint inquiry.

Let's read it. We wouldn't want to take the word of "scholars," after all. Like any of the rest of us, they're not immune to hearing what they want to hear. Best we inquire for ourselves. I might quote from Price's piece, if we get a discussion going.

There's a lot of worthy stuff there. What stood out to me was Divine Providence's hand in the Yankees' victory if not an American "exceptionalism;" a preference for "atheism" over "superstition;" a distaste for Aristotle ["ipse dixit"]; a generic but substantial praise for the significance of Christianity in human history; an objection to government persecuting those who deny the Trinity; and an explicit acknowledgement of a "Messiah who has tasted death for every man."

Those italics seem to be his, BTW. Interesting fellow, this Richard Price.


Jonathan Rowe said...

There's more good stuff to come in part 2 that supports your observations. [Price was quite pro-Christian.]

Very smart guy, Mr. Price---at the very birth of the American nation, he advises it of the wonders and dangers of compound interest!

Well the Bible does condemn usury.

Phil Johnson said...

I'm just now reading this little book,

Jonathan Rowe said...

Let me say reiterate that I appreciate and agree with the content of this post. Indeed Price & Priestley especially and a few others were fascinating figures who don't quite neatly fit into anyone's ideological "box." The more we can learn about them, the better.

Thomas Jefferson may have railed against Calvinism and various orthodox clergymen. And Jefferson may have disagreed with Price and to a lesser extent Priestley on certain theological issues. But he had absolutely no problem with their "religion" when he looked at the overall picture. Indeed, he greatly valued such "rational Christianity" as he saw it.

Eric Alan Isaacson said...

I just want to note that the Rev. Dr. Richard Price also influenced and inspired Mary Wollstonecraft, whose 1792 Vindication of the Rights of Women stands as a landmark of Western intellectual history, and a foundational document of modern feminism.