Thursday, November 13, 2008

Frazer Replies to Babka II

Here is Frazer's response to Babka's latest remarks:

Jim, I appreciate the kind words about my dissertation.

I won’t argue with you about which of us knows the Bible better, but methinks you think God is a libertarian because you’re a libertarian and you, therefore, read the Bible through libertarian glasses. Without going into great detail, one significant problem with such a view is that libertarianism is essentially self-centered and self-interested. The Bible, however, teaches believers to be self-sacrificing and self-effacing – to prefer others to self.

Moving beyond that parenthetical comment, it seems to me that you’ve done a fine job of refuting points/arguments THAT I DID NOT MAKE.

Re Rutherford: again, I emphasize Locke because he’s the one emphasized by the Founders and by the Revolution-supporting preachers. I did NOT say that he was the only person who had such ideas (or the first to have certain ideas) or that the Founders read no one else but Locke. I said that they quoted Locke extensively and that they did not quote Rutherford – both of those statements are true. I also said that Rutherford appears to have been relatively obscure in his own day and that he is far more influential today than in his own time. The only examples you gave of Rutherford being cited were “libertarians and gun rights advocates like Dave Kopel” – both 20th/21st century examples which make my point.

In response to “is it reasonable to insist that Locke wasn’t influenced by Rutherford?”: first, I did not INSIST that Locke was not influenced by Rutherford; I a) asked who said it, b) asked if Locke acknowledged a debt to him, and c) said that “we have evidence linking Locke to Shaftesbury and Hooker, but not to Rutherford (as far as I know)” [emphasis added] You gave no such evidence, other than a conjecture that “it’s likely” he had read him and mentioning that “writers on the web” and Wikipedia “suggest that Rutherford was influential on Locke.” First, the conjecture is just that. Second, one can find “writers on the web” who deny the Holocaust and the moon landing and Elvis’s death. Third, the problem with Wikipedia is that ANYONE can submit to it – it’s a useful tool, but hardly authoritative. By the way, even Wikipedia does not suggest that Rutherford influenced Locke; it says that the “theory of limited government and constitutionalism” espoused by Rutherford “laid the foundation for later political philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.” Advancing a theory (along with others) which lays the foundation for someone and personally influencing them are entirely different things – and it says the same for the monarchist Hobbes! As to the suggestion that “it would seem almost certain that a man of letters like Locke would’ve been aware of Lex Rex,” that assumes what you’re trying to prove – which is that it was not obscure, but influential. A man of letters would not necessarily be familiar with an obscure work. Further, as you note, Rutherford’s ideas were not unique to him; so it’s quite possible someone who came later who shares the same views got them from someone else. In sum: I think it is perfectly reasonable to question whether Rutherford influenced Locke – especially in light of the absence of evidence to the contrary. You then say that Witherspoon was “almost certainly, directly influenced by Rutherford.” Do you have any evidence for that besides the fact that they shared the same national heritage? Did Witherspoon ever quote or credit Rutherford?

We could also discuss the extent and nature of Witherspoon’s influence on Madison – which I do in chapters 6 & 7 of my dissertation – but that seemed to be just a “parenthetical note” on your part.

A second argument THAT I DID NOT MAKE which you refute at great length is the idea that everyone who supported the Revolution (or the idea of revolution) was Unitarian and that “Unitarianism was required to get around” Divine Right of Kings. I SAID NO SUCH THING – nor did I imply it. I said (and I quote): “one must move away from Calvin (whether to Arminianism or Unitarianism) in order to support the revolution.” Your extensive quest to show trinitarian support for revolution is interesting, but irrelevant. No one denied that one could be trinitarian and support the Revolution. You then list a number of Calvinists who supported revolution, but I never denied that people identifying themselves as Calvinists supported revolution. I said that Calvin did not and that many churches held Calvin’s view and that that was a hurdle which had to be overcome – hence, the significance of Mayhew’s landmark sermon (which would not have been landmark if Rutherford’s view were the norm).

I also did not say or even imply that Unitarians “had the next largest plurality” after Calvinists – I said nothing about unitarianism as a denomination. I also said nothing about Calvinist denominations in terms of percentages of churches – I spoke about the theology. I said (and I quote again): “Calvin’s view was the majority view in the century leading up to the Revolution.” [emphasis added] One need not be a Calvinist or a member of one of the 1300 Calvinist churches (compared to <900 Baptist/Episcopalian/Anglican churches) to hold Calvin’s view of Romans 13 and against revolution. That view – based on what Romans 13 actually says -- was the majority view throughout the history of the church up to that point. Jonathan Boucher and Samuel Seabury (for example) were prominent Anglican ministers who argued the traditional literal (and biblical) view of Romans 13 and against revolution.

As to the two passages of Scripture: you say here that “we’re on my turf” – I could argue pedigrees of biblical training/degrees/etc., but that would be pointless and schoolyardish. Suffice to say that I’m not unfamiliar with this turf. Regarding I Samuel 8, you suggest that I “wish to miss the point.” With all due respect, I might say the same to you. First, the primary point is that Israel rejected God as their king and that any human regime which follows will inherently be inferior. Second, a warning about kings is not equivalent to support for political liberty. Before this time, Israel was ruled by a series of judges and before that by Moses. All of them, like the first two kings to follow, were appointed by God – not expressions of political liberty. The reason rule by the kings would be worse was that they had rejected God – not because they would lose political liberty. They had no less political liberty under the kings than they did under Moses. In fact, they ended up with more “liberty” (in the libertarian sense) under the kings because the kings abandoned the Law of God which regulated every aspect of their lives! As Jonathan Boucher pointed out, God does not express concern about political liberty in the Bible. God is concerned about spiritual liberty – freedom from the bonds of sin.

Regarding Acts 5:29, I must congratulate the works you mention for originality and creativity in their “interpretation” of this passage, since there is no king involved in the passage and the apostles are, in fact, refusing to obey ecclesiastical authorities! Excuse me for saying so, but I think here you’ve stepped over the “distort or ignore facets of Scripture” line. OK, the apostles didn’t organize a rebellion because it wasn’t their mission (rebellion is not the mission of any believer in Christ) – but I also pointed out that they did not demand any rights or make any appeals to political liberty and that they affirmed the authority of the council and submitted to the prescribed punishment (and, by the way, “rejoiced” about it rather than protesting [vs.41]). You see, they were concerned about the Gospel – not political liberty.

It’s been fun exchanging ideas with you. I hope I’m prepared for my classes on Monday – you’ve caused me to use a lot of my time today on this. :)

Gregg Frazer

1 comment:

Shewmaker said...

Frazer is right concerning Romans 13 but wrong concerning the time period of the Judges.

Regarding the bible's teachings concerning rebellion under the gospel age, the Gospel teaches that the wickedness of Human Authority does not authorize the rebellion of the oppressed. A major text in this matter is I Peter 2:18ff. However, it should also be noted that God will punish the wickedness of the human authority. If England was indeed oppressing the colonies as Samuel Adams and James Otis etc. argued then it was not up to the colonies to revolt but rather to wait upon the wrath of God.

As to the days of the Judges, a careful study of the time period shows that the Judges had the authority to speak in YHWH's name but that they had only limited ability to compel the Israelites to obey YHWH. Most of the obedience which occurred during the days of the Judges seems to have stemmed from the influence of the leadership of the individual judge and not from any police powers given unto the the Judge by YHWH.