Thursday, July 16, 2009

Conquering Tyrants: A Work of the Devil?

This post is substantially shorter than the book I posted last time. I apologize in that I had no idea how much space what I wrote would take up. Nonetheless, I am going to stay with my theme of attempting to prove that the Declaration of Independence was not rebellion against God, the Bible seems to allow for resistance to tyranny in certain circumstances, and that a proper understanding of Romans 13 played a huge role in the American founding.

I intend to continue to accomplish this task within the framework of answering some questions from Dr. Gregg Frazer. Hopefully, this will lay the ground work for a rebuttal to Jon Rowe's and Ed Brayton's assertion that the subject of political liberty and inalienable rights are foreign to the Bible. Nonetheless, before we get there the idea that the "Divine Right of Kings" is sanctioned by the Bible needs to be exposed for the fraud that it is.

This is second part of my response to the first question that Gregg Frazer asked me in regards to my comments on several posts here at American Creation. The first part went into a more philosophical answer to his question. This part will be based solely on the Bible. Both are part of an overall discussion on the proper interpretation of Romans 13 and its application to the American Revolution.

Dr. Frazer stated:

"The United States and the current governments of Japan and Germany were established as a result of wars--established by those with "bigger guns." The U.S. expanded itself by wiping out Indian tribes and taking over the land on which they lived. Do you question the legitimacy of these governments? If not, why is my position unreasonable in this regard?"

A continuance of my response:

Let me start by stating that since I have already answered that I do, in fact, question the legitimacy of government established through tyranny all that remains is to see if my view is one of a "Theistic Rationalist" who trumps the literal text of the Bible with my use of "reason" or not? Could it actually be possible that the Bible backs up what I am saying?

Perhaps the place to start would be with the favorite story of most self appointed church tyrants to stifle discussion: Saul and David. It does speak of the phrase, "Do not touch my anointed" right? I was wondering if we can we simplify and just refer to it as not touching God's "appointed"? This would seem to align with your interpretation of Romans 13 for sure. Until we look a little deeper into the story that is.

God's "appointed" man for the Israelites was King Saul. Why did God appoint him?:

"So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to
such as all the other nations have."

Why did they want a king?:

Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they
have rejected, but they have rejected me as King.'"
"And the LORD told him:'

Essentially, the people of Israel were rejecting God just as they had done off and on since they had left Egypt. So to teach them a lesson about watching out for what they ask for God gave them their request. However, it came with a strong warning about what was going to happen:

"This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he
will assign to be commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves."

The end of having a king was that they would become slaves. The worst part is that God told them that when they cried out to Him He would not answer to help them. So, that is how Saul became king of Israel.

So what about David? Well, he was raised up to replace Saul when Saul had offended God to the point where God felt the need to bring judgement upon him. So cutting to the chase, one would need to ask why he does not go and kill Saul and take over since Saul was no longer in God's favor because of his tyranny? The clear answer is that he has an understanding that Saul is God's appointed leader to Israel to bring judgement upon them. When does this judgement end? When God says it does. It seems clear that that is the reason as to why David does not kill him.

One might ask, how is this any different than the example I gave about Othniel in Judges 3? It says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him... and he went to war against the invading tyrant. From what we know, this occurred because the people had cried out to God, he heard them, sent them a deliverer, and set them free. The question is: Why did God not do the sme for the people who cried out about Saul? I would say it is because He said he was not going to listen when they insisted on having a King! So, Is the story of David proof of some dogmatic order to never revolt? The story of Othniel revolting against the conqueror with the clear aid of God would seem to say no.

The fact is that these were two cases with two different set of circumstances. The people had turned away from God, an oppressor was sent to get their attention, and in one case a deliverer was sent after 8 years and took the tyrant out and in another case it took much longer as the replacement King had to wait until God took the tyrant out. Why? In my opinion, in the case of Saul the people of that generation who asked for a king probably had to die off just the same way that the unfaithful generation in the desert had to. This is debatable but is most certainly possible. Either way, the people were warned that God was not going to listen and they would become slaves. To revolt would be a revolt against the clear will of God.

Another example would be when the people rose up to fight against the Babylonians. God told them not to revolt because he had sent them as judgement. They tried to fight back but nothing  seemed to work. I feel that this was the same reason that Daniel and the Hebrew boys submitted but disobeyed as well.(An argument that you say I did not address but have now numerous times) They knew that God had sent them to live under the oppressors and knew exactly how long it would be. Jeremiah told them ahead of time. At a different time King Hezekiah held out in 2 Kings 18-20 because God told him that the oppressor was going to fall. As I have stated several times: There is a time for everything under the sun according to Solomon in Ecclesiates.

In other words, the oppressor can certainly be God's "appointed" instrument to judge evil right in line with Romans 13. Equally true, though, is that this "appointed" authority can come under judgement themselves and their former slaves can even be the ones to take them out. We see this time and time again. My question is: Why can't the Declaration of Independence be an example of this?

I guess your contention is that God deposes these rulers so we should never fight back. I will call that the David model: Just sit and wait on God. My contention is that there is a time to do that but there is also a time to have the Spirit come upon you like Othniel and Jehu and you become the instrument of God in deposing corrupt authority. I believe that these latter examples were representative of someone doing good to overcome evil.(Romans) Perhaps they were also destroying the works of the devil(1st John) as Mayhew seems to argue.

With that said, the last thing to address in response to your question is whether kings were God's original intent? I would say no. He told Moses to let the people pick elders to judge. God used this model right up until the point that they asked for a King. This would seem to point to some sort of consent being associated with "appointed authority." This is supported by another scripture that states that the apostles appointed elders. Appointed, from the original Greek, in this context was a word that was used to elect people in Greek Assemblies. That is according to Vines.

Finally, you mentioned 1 Peter 2 in support of your view of Romans 13. The word that was instituted in regards to authority means created in this passage. By whom you might ask? It is humans according to the context. In fact, the root word talks about states. Man created states would seem to be what he was talking about. Man created implies some role for man in establishing government. This seems to cut through your, "God does it all and all is his will" mantra. It seems to point to some sort of human involvement.

So there we have it. I hope I answered your question thoroughly and clearly. In short, no I do not think just because someone has "bigger guns" and conquers someone without their consent that that is evidence of them being "God's appointed authority." I think this line of reasoning is fatalistic hyper-Calvinism that teachers that everything that happens is God's will so why bother trying to stop it? I have also shown evidence from the Bible that I feel backs this claim up.

I do disagree a bit with Mayhew in that he does not seem to leave room that evil empires can and have been used of God as judgement upon a people and that when this is clear the people should not revolt against God's discipline. A tyrant is not necessarily a work of the devil as he seems to conclude.(As the story of Saul proves) I disagree with you as well in that you do not leave room that evil empires can and have been used of the devil to do his work on earth. The former should be submitted too out of respect for the sovereignty of God the latter should be resisted. Why?:

"The reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the Devil"
1 John 3:8:

The outcome of the doctrine of the "Divine Right of Kings" and how it was used to destroy innocent people's lives is a work of the devil in my opinion. It was in Mayhew's as well.


Tom Van Dyke said...

King, I'm not really a fan of these Biblical/theological discussions, and hope we get past them soon. I think Dr. Frazer's [and the Tory loyalism] arguments are theologically/Biblically valid.

Why does David kill the Amalekite who slew King Saul?

"13 And David said to the young man who told him, “Where are you from?” And he answered,” I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite. “ 14 Then David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy the LORD'S anointed?” 15 And David called one of the young men and said, “Go, cut him down.” So he struck him and he died. 16 And David said to him, “Your blood is on your head, for your mouth has testified against you, saying, 'I have killed the LORD'S anointed.'“"

King of Ireland said...

"Why does David kill the Amalekite who slew King Saul?"

Good question. It does not really say that God told David to kill him. He did not kill Saul anyway. It was a stray arrow that killed him this guy just wanted to take credit for it and David killed him. It turns it was an act of God that killed Saul. But I think that is the exception with oppressive tyrants. The rule is a deliverer being raised up.

But like I said there are numerous other situations where it clearly states that God sent an oppressor and that someone rose up and slew that person as a deliverer. It said more than a few times in Judges that this person was sent by God as a response to the cry of the people.

I think Frazer needs to explain those 5 to 10 instances away before he asks about David and the three Hebrew boys who knew for sure that it was God's judgement that the governments over them were oppressing their people. In the Hebrew boys case they knew it was going to be 70 years. Daniel as well.

King of Ireland said...

As far as these theological discussions, Jon opened the doors every time he quotes Frazer's interpretation of Romans 13 and implies that this type of reading implies that the Bible has nothing to do with the Declaration of Independence, rights, and political liberty.

If Frazer is wrong and this is not a correct intrepretation, or only one of many possible valid ones, then that open ups the door to begin to make an argument for the Christian influence on the Declaration of Independence, rights, and political liberty.

The core of the Declaration was written to dispel the notion of the Divine Right of Kings. It seems that secularists market this as:

The Enlightenment idea trumped the religious idea. When the truth is more like the more modern religious/philosophical/political idea trumped the archaic religious/political idea. Philosophy mades it way back in there but I agree with you it was more Aquinas like than modern.

To dispel the notion that the Bible(God) has nothing to say about liberty and rights, dispels their whole modernist argument in my mind. I think we agree on much of this. How would you go about attacking that argument without getting into a theological discussion? I think it is unavoidable and sheds great light on what was discussed at the founding.

Though I think we can get bogged down in it and lose sight of the larger goal of these discussions.

King of Ireland said...

As I went back and read the passage you quoted it would seem that David may have killed him because he was a foreigner who killed the King of Israel. It would make sense to me in that he asked him where he was from before killing him. Just a thought.

A better question is why he does not kill Joab for killing King Absalom? Absalom took power and was ruling. According to Frazer's way of looking at this he had to have been established by God because he was in "authority". Joab killed him and David let him live. It was even his own son.

For every one example that would seem to support the literal reading I can give 3 or 4 that do not. At best, it should be an open question in that we can not say either way for sure. Though I would say the evidence is against Frazer. Valid maybe, more than likely incorrect, iron clad no chance. That is why when he goes around stating that this is iron clad it is ridiculous.

Barton is more credible to me on Romans 13 than Frazer as far as what I have read from both men.

Tom Van Dyke said...

King, I make the argument based on medieval Christian philosophy via natural law. MCP believed NL was compatible with scripture. That was Rev. Jonathan Mayhew's argument in the sermon that "triggered" the revolution, that natural law could not require obedience to tyrants, and therefore the traditional Romans 13 reading of submitting to tyrants must be the wrong interpretation.

Proponents of giving the Enlightenment all the credit don't know much about MCP or NL, and are surprised and usually speechless.

That said, some very unique things happened in England in the 1600s [the Glorious Revolution] and America in the 1700s, whose fully-formed notions of liberty were without human precedent. One might credit the Enlightenment influence of interpreting scripture, but since MCP was getting there long before the Enlightenment and without its help, your formulation of

When the truth is more like the more modern religious/philosophical/political idea trumped the archaic religious/political idea

has legs.

I think arguing the Bible is a dead end.

a) I don't see the evidence and
b) I don't see the evidence.

I've heard the evidence, but I don't think it passes muster for

a) someone who doesn't believe in the Bible, and
b) someone like Dr. Frazer, who believes in the Bible very much, and with little leeway for interpretation.

And by my own reading, I disagree with your conclusion: David had the Amalekite killed for killing God's anointed. The passage says so directly. And David himself, who was not an alien, refused to kill Saul when he had the chance for the same reason.

Gregg Frazer [and the loyalists'] arguments aren't wrong, at least for the purposes of socio-history. Only God knows the correct interpretation of scripture [if He exists], and we cannot answer for Him around here in either case.

Actually, the people you most want to convince chuckle at these intramural battles.

Plus, these theological discussions of what we call "truth claims" are completely off-topic. The socio-history is that the revolutionaries disregarded the traditional interpretation of Romans 13. When Dr. Frazer claims that makes them notChristian [and in fairness, a number of other things like disbelief in the Trinity], I make the same objection. He's entitled to say that, I'm entitled to disagree.

My counterargument is that if a person believes that God revealed Himself directly to man, and the Bible alone [not other holy books too] contains the results, socio-historically speaking, that makes that person recognizably [Judeo-]Christian. That's why I focused on Romans 13 as a correct starting point. Even those revolutionaries who rejected Calvin's [and Gregg's] Romans 13 still believed it was Divine Writ. They just interpreted it differently, and BTW, so did the medieval Christian theologians, like Aquinas, Suarez and Bellarmine, who can fairly be called "Christian." They opened the door to revolt and even regicide, although their positions didn't get as far as the American revolution's.

And that's my report. You might poke through some of my old posts to fill in some details and view some evidence I offered.

King of Ireland said...

I see your point. I have said for years that you cannot point to the Bible as proof for anything if the person you are trying to convince does not believe it is true. Much less to someone who has either never seen it or has no concept of God in a Western sense.

With that said, it seems that the more strict secular camp that seeks to downplay any Christian/God involvement in does it by using Romans 13 and the same few passages Frazer uses to say that liberty, rights and all are not concepts found in the Bible. If one were to show them where it is with convicing evidence they would not continue to make this claim. Whether they ever accept the Bible as truth is non-material.

As far as the whole David thing even if he did kill him for killing God's anointed it does not back Frazer's thesis in anyway. This man did not kill him. If he did maybe he would have been wrong since he knew it was God's anointed vessel to judge Israel.

BUT of it is always wrong why are their so many examples of people raising up and killing rulers that were at times even being sent by God with his blessing and power? How does it explain David not questioning Joab? In fact, the David and Absalom case proves my exact point. David was God anointed and Absalom took over. Was he then God's annoited?

I went back and looked at Frazer's answers to me and he says in this case that we have to wait and see who wins. This is my exact point: If both claim authority and only one is legitimate then it is impossible for ALL authority to be established by God. Both were authority so one must have been illegitimate.

Anyway, I am with you on the natural law thing. But those who want to label everyone,"liars for Jesus" should not make claims about what the Bible says or does not say when they do not understand it. They should just state that it does not matter because it is not true. Then we could move on and look at God being understood by what is known through natural law.

I am going to answer two questions as one in my next post about the difference between rebellion and disobedience and if we have to submit to tyrants. Then I am going to get to the best question he asked me:

If there any evidence that the Founders thought that they had a divine mission to deliver America from the tyranny of the King of England like some of the Old Testament characters. This will lead into a more historical focus.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"That was Rev. Jonathan Mayhew's argument in the sermon that "triggered" the revolution, that natural law could not require obedience to tyrants, and therefore the traditional Romans 13 reading of submitting to tyrants must be the wrong interpretation."

This is my same argument. It does not pass the common sense test. That is except when God is judging someone through tyranny. That is if one believes that those parts of the Bible are true. My view splits Mayhew's and Frazer's. Though I am more on the Mayhew side.

Did Samuel Adams or any "orthodox" Christian write about Romans 13? It would be interesting so see what someone who believed in the judgement of God through tyranny and the inalienable rights of man had to say. I need to start reading up on this. I took some Early American History in college but it was a long time ago. I also have never looked at this angle other than a few Christian books I read on it that I think are somewhat off now.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"I don't see the evidence and
b) I don't see the evidence."

You lost me here. Evidence for what? That a non-literal approach to Romans 13 is the correct one? Or what? One moment you seem to back Frazer's reading and the next Mayhew's. I am confused.

Are you trying to say that they are both valid and both Christian and that this is all that matters in regards to the discussion of the founding?

Anyway, thanks for the responses they were real good questions that made me think. I know you get tired of this but Jon quotes Frazer as the sole authority on the Bible(not literally of course) and I think it is good for someone to challenge that at to show that at very least there are other ways to look at it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

What I'm saying is that you can't get from the Bible to the Founding except through medieval philosophy and natural law theory. The evidence for an American-style republic in the Bible is simply not there.

However, natural law theory leading to God-given rights and then an American-style republic can be said to be in harmony with the scriptures, and that I believe was the Founding-era theological argument.

As for you and Dr. Frazer, I simply repeat that none of us can speak for God, and so cannot claim to have the only "correct" reading of Romans 13. In fact this was the argument for Protestantism that you'll find in Elisha Williams' famous "Rights of Protestants" piece, that no earthly theological "authority" can prevail over the individual religious conscience.

Williams' Protestantism, this rejection of authority, was certainly a driving spirit of the revolutionary age, and apparently more forceful than Calvinism itself, since they rejected Calvin's Romans 13 for an interpretation of their own.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"The evidence for an American-style republic in the Bible is simply not there."

I would agree. I think I have stated that. My argument is for rights and liberty. The form of government could take many different forms. It is the same with church government structures in the Bible it gives some principles but does not really say one way or the other.

I am not saying the I am emphatically correct about Romans 13. I do think the evidence is in my favor. There are a few scriptures that would seem to back up the literal interpretation but many more that do not. But it is not black and white.

I am trying to give a different view than Frazer's since he is quoted so often here. It would be like an agnostic Tory back then telling Samuel Adams that he was wrong because God said and basing this on what John Calvin taught. Adams has an obligation to give the other side and try and set the record straight.

The thing is the agnostic Tory could care less about Romans 13, God, or the Bible. He really just believes that loyalty to the king is the best form of government. He is using Calvin to try and stop Adams. This is what the extreme secularists do with Frazer.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"However, natural law theory leading to God-given rights and then an American-style republic can be said to be in harmony with the scriptures, and that I believe was the Founding-era theological argument."

What is the difference between this and the first paragraph of your comment:

"What I'm saying is that you can't get from the Bible to the Founding except through medieval philosophy and natural law theory. The evidence for an American-style republic in the Bible is simply not there."

I think you are right but I am not totally grasping the concept here. It seems you are saying the medieval philosophy and natural law theory are the most reasonable worldview that one can take from the Bible and other information we have about God and his purposes on earth?

Tom Van Dyke said...

...other information [besides the Bible] we have about God and his purposes on earth?

That is natural law theory in a nutshell, if we include human reason.


It's a tricky concept, and in fact, a well-respected modern legal scholar called natural law theory "chasing ghosts."

Even though only a few would argue that the Founding wasn't predicated on natural law theory, it's a dead letter today. [Our friend Phil Johnson calls that "progress."]

Only the Catholic Clarence Thomas references natural law theory atall these days, and even the [very Catholic] Antonin Scalia admits its limitations:

So in those days, any common-law decision of one state would readily cite common-law decisions of other states, because all the judges were engaged in the enterprise of figuring out the meaning of what Holmes called "the brooding omnipresence in the sky" of the common law. Well, I think we've replaced that with the law of human rights. Which is a moral law, and surely there must be a right and a wrong answer to these moral questions -- whether there's a right to an abortion, whether there's a right to homosexual conduct, what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and so on -- surely there is a right and wrong moral answer. And I believe there is, but the only thing is, I'm not sure what that right answer is. Or at least, I am for myself, but I'm not sure it's the same as what you think.

The "brooding omnipresence in the sky" is of course natural law. As much as Scalia's portrayed as a bonehead absolutist, that's not his judicial philosophy atall atall.

But to return to the topic of our blog, religion and the Founding, you write

It seems you are saying the medieval philosophy and natural law theory are the most reasonable worldview that one can take from the Bible and other information we have about God and his purposes on earth?

The Founding believed something like that, although I wouldn't give medieval ["Catholic"] philosophy all the credit. They just got the ball rolling before and without the Enlightenment. Some very heavy philosophical/theological/political/violent! shit went down in Britain's Glorious Revolution of the 1600s [which killed one king and exiled another] and the growing of the seeds of revolution in colonial America in the 1700s that led to Cornwallis' surrender.

It was the pivotal time in human history to date, and why I focus my studies on it. In between the ancient Greeks & Romans, the Bible, Augustine and Aquinas---with Luther, Calvin, Locke and Hume as the Reformation and the Enlightenment met in the crucible of those times---and as contrasted with modernity, Phil Johnson's [and Angie's] "progress"'s all there, in 1700-1800 America.

The world was never the same.

I love this blog and being part of it, everybody. Theologico-philosophico-historico, I think we're Ground Zero.

King of Ireland said...

I am starting to get your point. I think we agree for the most part. The crazy thing is that I am a supposed "Protestant" and you are seemingly a Catholic. That is intriging in and of itself.

Jonathan Rowe said...


You should understand that Gregg is not the only authority that I could or do turn to on this issue. Also included are his own pastor John MacArthur, a dozen or so very famous contemporary theologians, hundreds if not thousands of minor figure contemporary theologians, Calvin, Luther, and the dominant Roman Catholic sources, including medieval ones. TVD is correct that some notable medieval Roman Catholic sources started to intimate the other way. However, we must understand they were "dissidents," and indeed the importance of DISSENT in America's Founding history and in America itself. One could look to Plessy v. Ferguson as a landmark civil rights case ONLY IF ONE LOOKED TO THE DISSENT. That's exactly what TVD does when he looks to the Roman Catholic sources for these ideas. It was Algernon Sidney getting his head chopped off by those in DOMINANT MAJORITY power in Christendom that founds our nation.

Jonathan Rowe said...

With that, I also agree with TVD that on Sola Scriptura grounds (i.e., the Bible without natural law) Dr. Frazer's case is so airtight that it is unanswerable. I don't think you did or that ANYONE CAN answer the following from Dr. Frazer without some kind of natural law supplement that goes outside of the four corners of the Bible:

You want to know the difference between disobedience and resistance. To be in subjection/submission is to recognize the legitimacy of the authority over you to recognize that they have rightful power over you to command you or make laws concerning you. To disobey is to refuse to comply with a particular law/command because it requires you to disobey God. To resist is to challenge the authoritys legitimacy, strike at it and attempt to deny and remove it.

Shadrach, Meschach, and Obednego disobeyed, but did not resist. They recognized the kings authority and went into the fiery furnace they didnt fight back or organize a rebellion. Daniel disobeyed, but did not resist; he took the punishment and went into the lions den. To resist is to fight back to deny the legitimacy of the authority.

When one disobeys a particular law but remains in subjection, one says that the law itself cannot be obeyed in contradiction to Gods command, but that the ruler (given authority by God) is not illegitimate and that his authority cannot be abrogated by making an unjust law.

You ask why, if disobedience is sometimes permitted, resistance is not also permitted. The answer is that Gods Word allows the one (under only one specific condition [Acts 5:29]), but explicitly disallows the other [Romans 13:2]. They are different things, so why should one necessitate the other?

As for the Jews under Hitler situation, Ive addressed this numerous times, but Ill try again:

Hitler had authority from God, as do all in authority. He sometimes used it for good (lowest crime rate in the world in 1930s) and often used it for great evil (massacring Jews and other well-known examples). ALL GOVERNMENTS DO THIS BECAUSE ALL ARE RUN BY FALLEN HUMAN BEINGS. The level of evil to which they rise varies, of course. The U.S. government today, for example, supports the murder of millions of unborn children and numerous other violations of Gods law. None of this makes the government illegitimate, removes its authority, or negates what Romans 13 clearly says.

[If governments that do evil are illegitmate, then there has never been a legitimate government in world history and Romans 13:1 is exactly the opposite of truth]

Believers living in Nazi Germany should do the same as believers living under any regime: submit to authority (without exception) and obey UNLESS/UNTIL the government asks you to disobey God. Then (and only then) you must disobey that particular law, but remain in subjection (as per Daniel, Shadrach et al, the apostles, etc.).

In the particular case: the government commands that you participate in murdering people to remain obedient to God, you must disobey that command but taking the next step to resistance and rebellion is not an option. You must remain in subjection (as per the believers to whom Paul was writing living under NERO!).

If you want to fight against the evil of Hitler, leave the country to get out from under his authority, become a U.S. citizen and return in war under the authority of the United States government.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Partial agreement, Mr. Rowe. Algernon Sidney's [and Locke's] side WON with the end of the Glorious Revolution and the Restoration of William and Mary to the throne in 1689, albeit under the condition that they accepted the authority of Parliament. "Dissent" doesn't accurately describe it. They got their way.

And let us recall that the "Anglican" mind is quite Catholic---Rev. Richard Hooker, for instance, was a thorough Thomist. The Church of England was NOT a product of Luther and/or Calvin: it was Catholicism with a change in management.

We tend to lump Anglican Protestantism in with Luther & Calvin, but indeed the Calvinists often accused the Anglicans of being crypto-papists.

And since Catholic thought rejected sola scriptura, we can hardly consign it to the bin labeled "dissent." It was Luther and Calvin who restored that literalist reading of Romans 13. [Luther was ready to be ruled by the Muslims if the Turks had made it past the Gates of Vienna, as we all agree, as an acceptance of God's punishment and justice.]

But that reading was eventually rejected, via Anglican/Thomist natural law arguments [which Algernon Sidney used] or by the newer generations of Protestants [like Elisha Williams] who in effect said, if we reject the Catholic Church's authority to interpret scripture, we sure as hell aren't going to recognize John Calvin's.

One thing for sure, American Protestantism accepted only two authorities: the Bible and the individual conscience when it came to interpreting it. Their hostility to both papism and Protestant clergy in general was all of the same fabric.

Indeed, we see the hard-core Calvinists [Puritans, etc.] of the 1600s mutate into 1700s "Congregationalists," a far less authoritarian theological/ecclesiastical system. Quite Protestant, quite American.

King of Ireland said...

Jon quoted Frazer stating:

"To resist is to challenge the authoritys legitimacy, strike at it and attempt to deny and remove it."


"f you want to fight against the evil of Hitler, leave the country to get out from under his authority, become a U.S. citizen and return in war under the authority of the United States government."

According to this I am under his authority until I become a United States citizen. The very act of leaving Germany to seek to return to overthrow Hitler is treason if you are a German citizen. So the entire time that one is seeking U.S. citizenship he is committing treason and thus violating Frazer's interpretation of Romans 13.


I know it is a lot but if you go back and read all of what I have responded to him, you will see that he gives about three examples of his view:

1. David and Saul
2. Daniel and the Lions Den
3. The three Hebrew boys

ALL of these situations were when God had instituted an authority as judgement over his people. Tyranny was their punishment if you will. In the case of David he knew three things:

1. God had established Saul
2. It was punishment for asking for a King
3. That when it turned bad God was not going to listen to the cry of the people and send a deliver.

Daniel and the Hebrew boys knew 3 things:

1. God had sent Babylon to punish Isreal
2. The time was this was 70 years
3. That they were not to fight back. They knew this because of examples of the people that tried to fight back when Jeremiah told them not to.

With that stated I have given numerous other examples where people did fight back and resist and did it with God's blessing. This is in fact the rule and Frazer's examples are the exception. The most glaring of these is the story in Judges 3 where Othiel rises up with the power of God(God's backing) and takes out the very guy that God sent to oppress them for disobedience.

Do you, Frazer or Tom want to comment on the numerous examples of God sending deliverers to resist the existing authority? If God makes them legitimate according to Frazer, then would He not make them illegitimate when He sends a deliverer? In fact, is not the fact that the deliverer succeeds often the evidence that the legitimacy of the previous admin is over?

In fact, most Kings that were that fell out of favor with God did so when they became tyrants. I answered Frazer on why the people in his three examples did not openly rebel. I might be wrong but I think I make a good case. He has not responded to one of my examples yet. He ignores it and goes on.

King of Ireland said...

Tom Stated:

"It was Luther and Calvin who restored that literalist reading of Romans 13. [Luther was ready to be ruled by the Muslims if the Turks had made it past the Gates of Vienna, as we all agree, as an acceptance of God's punishment and justice.]

Yes, except that Luther never did anything the authorities told him to do. He was a hypocrite. Or I will grant that if Frazer has a point about the (disodedience vs. submission thing and he might) this might be an example of someone who refused to cooperate but did acknowledge the authority.

King of Ireland said...

Luther would be a good reference frame to answer the next two questions I am going to address from Frazer.

2) If Romans 13 does not mandate subjection to wicked, ungodly, tyrannical rulers -- what sense did it make to the addressees of the letter? What sense did it make to those for whom the letter was written and to whom it was sent -- Christians living under Nero?


7) You have not responded to my EVIDENCE for the difference between "subjection" and "obedience." I gave you the Greek meanings of the terms and showed you how they are consciously separated in Titus 3:1. You just keep saying they're the same thing -- do you have any EVIDENCE to support your view? 

Well, that should be enough for now.

I think number 7 must be addressed before number 2. The scripture he says shows the difference is titus 3:1 and is says that you to submit and obey. I will get into this more but from a common sense perspective if he reads this the same as Romans 13 with no exceptions then this actually would say that to disobey is wrong with no exceptions.

If there are no exceptions to the submission then there are no exceptions to the obedience. He destroys his whole case for Romans 13 by using Titus 3:1 for support. If it is aboslute then both are absolute whether they mean different things or not. I looked them up and they seem to not have that much of a different meaning as well.

Rebellion and disobedience are both: NON SUBMISSION if the meanings are similiar and obedience is just as absolute is they are different words. Either way this guy's logic is off and his arguments are full of holes. That is just at first glance.

King of Ireland said...


If you have other to quote then I would do that. I have asked this man some good questions and countered many of his arguments. You stated I am wrong and quote him. The quote is full of the examples he always uses and would work with someone who does not know the Bible. What you nor he has addressed is the numerous examples I have given that would seem to point out that rebellion against tyrants is permitted at times. Does anyone plan to do that?

If not then please stop quoting him and saying he has an airtight argument against all who say he is wrong. It that is so then state why in detail. You have to back statements like these up.

It comes off like this at times:

All Trinitarians that think America is a Christian Nation(whatever that means are wrong) are wrong. My evidence is that they want to use the Bible as their life reference and it tells them that individual rights and rebellion againsts tyrants is non-sense. Thus, they cannot believe the Bible and that the Declaration of Independence was a good thing. My evidence for this claim is the only smart Trinitarian out their and anyone who argues against his case about Romans 13 is wrong. If someone argues against my thesis I will quote him as the authority but not address their objections to his thesis. "

This is a ridiculous exaggeration I know but it does come off that way at times. I am sure the Tories and the Revolutionaries did the same thing 200 years ago too. The North and the South both tried to use the Bible for and against their cause. That is why it is dangerous to use someone else's interpretation for your cause. Unless you agree with it and can argue it on your own against someone informed on the topic.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Dr. Frazer's primary argument is that this can't have been a Christian nation because the "top" half-dozen Founders didn't accept the Trinity and the Atonement, and no real Christian rejects that.

However, his secondary argument seems to be that no real Christian could accept the D of I, or revolution contra Romans 13.

This line of argument suits secular opponents of the Christian Nation thesis just fine, and so they employ it.

My own counterargument is even if one interpreted Romans 13 as permitting rebellion again tyrants, or that the Bible doesn't explicitly command belief in the Trinity [see The 100 Scriptural Arguments for the Unitarian Faith], as long as the Founding era largely accepted the Bible in some fashion as the unique word of God, as Holy Writ, then it was recognizably [Judeo-]Christian for socio-historical purposes.

That's it in a nutshell, and why my counterargument starts with Romans 13 and not the Trinity, where Gregg and Jonathan prefer to start.

As to whether Judges 3 justifies revolution, such stuff is an intramural Bible battle, and not of interest to socio-history. If George Washington had claimed to be sent from God to deliver the Americans from the British, you'd have a better case.

But I'm confident that the Biblical arguments were hashed and rehashed to a much deeper degree during Britain's Civil War of the 1600s, which culminated in the end of the Glorious Revolution and the crowning of William and Mary under the authority of parliament.

Locke's First Treatise was in refutation of Sir Robert Filmer's defense of the Divine Right of Kings, Patriarcha and that's a good place to start.

I've been meaning to get to it, but socio-historically speaking I'm a lot less interested in the exchange of Biblical arguments than in who won.

[Locke won, as did the unfortunately dead Algernon Sidney, who used many of the same papists' natural law arguments.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

However, his secondary argument seems to be that no real Christian could accept the D of I, or revolution contra Romans 13.

Not exactly; he understand that real Christians (those who believe in the orthodox fundamentals) did accept the DOI. But I think his point was they were either misled, ignorant or made an error.

Romans 13 isn't one of the central tenets that define Christianity. Again, the Bible is a big complicated book and most smart Christians aren't spiritually "discerned" in EVERYTHING it says.

I'll give you a case in point: The keynote speaker at the James Madison Programs' natural law/religious liberty conference -- a leading young Roman Catholic natural law scholar who has co-authored with Robert P. George gave a lecture on the natural right to conscience relating to certain government actions that require one to violate his conscience. I think it dealt mainly in the context of government health care workers who are asked to perform abortions or do things that would destroy a fertilized egg.

I asked him how his vision squared with Romans 13. His response was, "what does that passage in the Bible say again?"

King of Ireland said...

I see no takers, including Frazer, that want to refute my examples of rebellion against authorities that clearly had the blessing of God?

Tom stated:

"If George Washington had claimed to be sent from God to deliver the Americans from the British, you'd have a better case."

I do not think it has to be that specific. You state all the time that the key founder argument has weaknesses because it ignores the thoughts of the people at the time. With that said, I do plan to study up and see if there were some who were for the Declaration because they saw it as a Moses or Othiel type answer for a deliverer. If I was a betting man I would be there is. I also bet if I find the quotes Frazer will say they are not "Christians". A nice out for him if proven wrong.

That is question 3 he asked me about finding someone who felt a divine assignment to help deliver the people from tyranny. I do remember reading some Washington quotes about his but it was in a Peter Marshall type book so I do not trust it.

What is an intramural Bible battle? I also am not personally as worried about who won out as I am about what the truth behind what they believed is. My greatest pet peeve is people that run around citing other peoples arguments that do not even understand the arguments. Religious Righters do it all the time.

Tom Van Dyke said...

My counterargument rests on expanding "wrong" views of scripture from Romans 13 even to the Trinity. As long as the Bible is seen as unique Divine Writ, that's socio-historically recognizably [Judeo]-Christian. I can't state it any clearer. I'd likewise point out to Christians who want to push that envelope that Trinitarianism played no part in the Founding principles except as an intramural bone of contention between various Christians [often fueled by those troublemakers, the clergy]. A footnote to our history.

As for the rising encroachment by government on the individual conscience on "[pro-]life" issues, I imagine I'll get to it as that envelope gets pushed in the coming days. It's on my radar, and will become the cutting edge of religion-state issues if trends continue.

By my religio-political barometer, it doesn't matter if one's religious conscience is informed by sola scriptura or by right reason and natural law. It all counts.

Tom Van Dyke said...

What is an intramural Bible battle? I also am not personally as worried about who won out as I am about what the truth behind what they believed is.

By that I mean that anyone who doesn't accept the Bible doesn't care, because to them, none of it is "truth." Therefore, such discussions are not only academic, they're moot.

I'm not interested in excluding such folks from the discussion and indeed it's not a discussion without them, so anything that excludes them I consider irrelevant. This is a history blog, and for our purposes, a secular one. We can speak of how the Founders understood the Bible, but not whether those understandings were true or false.

We cannot even speak meaningfully of whether or not God exists, only of the Founders' perception of Him.

So the reason you're getting no takers is that only you and folks like Gregg Frazer care one way or the other.

King of Ireland said...


By the way I can give you Frazer's argument about how Othiel in Judges 3 is different. He will state that he had a divine command from God to rebel. What he cannot refute it that David, Daniel, and the three Hebrew boys had a Divine command from God not to rebel. Thus, illustrating my point that there is a time and a season for everything under the sun.

As far as your example of the expert that did not know what Romans 13 said, I think this is a good example of what I have found with church people. They are given things to believe as kids and never really question. Some do go on to do research at a high level and become experts. But they become experts on their doctrine not the overall counsel of the Bible.

Someone like me can never see it the first 26 years of life and have no assumptions that hinder me. This allows me to tackle for truth. I learned what I learned by reading it everyday for about 8 years. I wrote pamplets and books. I also took what I knew into the real world and talked to regular people that challenged me and asked good questions. When I got stumped I did not whine and run away like almost all the rest I knew. I would go back and look at it and either change my mind or strengthen my argument. I find that I know more than almost any pastor I talk with as far as the breadth of the Bible. I know that sounds arrogant but it is actually sad to me and something I am embarrassed about as a Christian.

I think I was able to do this because I had not tradition to be loyal to . I wanted to seek truth. I was just telling someone today that most people on Ed's site that discuss these matters seem to be from fundie families, have rejected it, and are so bitter they cannot see a good argument from someone like David Barton even if it is good. They are blind. One guy even tried to equate Palin with Hitler and gave her passing off a Barton quote mistakenly as evidence of this.

Real blind spots. I was telling the same person that since you have no ax to grind either way you are more objective and truth seeking. It is obvious. I think that is the difference between you and Ed personally. He was born into it and seems to have an ax to grind with them. It hurts him though in that he paints everything blue and loses people that might otherwise agree with him.

In short, I would depend on Frazer less. He does not know as much as he thinks. When I called him on it he got mad and ran away. I hate to keep harping on it but it is the idealist in me that was hoping I could have an intelligent debate with a traditional Christian that did not get mad when confronted and run away. This is not the first time this has happened and I am not the first person it has happened to. It is the rule. I am hoping to find the exception.

Until I do three scholars will be on the Liberal side of the Texas school board's choice to Social Studies standards and 3 pastors will be on the conservative side. This makes me an idiot before I even speak because I get associated with them.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Put another way, King, if you have Founder X making Biblical Argument Y for liberty or rebellion, that's relevant. But to uncover Biblical Argument Y in 2009 isn't "religion and the Founding," the expressed purpose of this blog.

BTW, Locke's First Treatise is a rebuttal of Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, which rebuts Robert Cardinal Bellarmine's De Laicis. That's an interesting chain, and highly relevant. I think you'd find plenty of raw meat in exploring it.

Jonathan Rowe said...


You've said a lot and I don't have the time right now to reply to everything. I'll try to slowly digest it. From my perspective I hover between a) believing Frazer's interpretation is just the right literal interpretation of the Bible, and b) seeing Frazer's interpretation as not unlike TULIP. Those who believe in TULIP will make unequivocal assertions like "the Bible teaches TULIP." But I know non-Calvinist fundamentalists who will react with assertions like every single letter in TULIP is NOT taught by the Bible.

Even Frazer believes in TULI not TULIP.

That's one of my issues with accepting the Bible as absolute, inerrant TRUTH. There are hundreds if not thousands of apparent contradictions in the Bible. But a smart man yielding a hermeneutic like Frazer can iron them all out and make the Bible seem without contradiction. But then we are left with hundreds if not thousands of "interpretations" of the contradictionless Bible that contradict one another.

And that's not even to speak of the notion that maybe some parts of the Bible really are NOT divinely inspired, but contain errors or just the opinions of men.

So what the Hell is a non-believer like me supposed to believe? It's only my soul that is on the line.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"So the reason you're getting no takers is that only you and folks like Gregg Frazer care one way or the other."

It is History in that you have to have an understanding of the ideas to discuss them. If someone wanted to start a blog on the Industrial Revolution in America and the subject of socialism came up would it not be important to know what the founder of socialism actually wrote?

In other words, some group could come along now and say that Labor Unions were the key to establishing the leisure time for modern workers. Someone else could come along say they were all a bunch of socialist Marxists and disptute that thesis. They say nothing about the thesis they just try to label them Marxists.

Unfortunately, to even get to talk about the actual thesis you spend a lot of time trying to refute the Marxist label. The only way to do it is to go back and see what Marx taught and where the Unions applied it or not. Once that matter is settled then those who were frightened away by the Marx label can actually listen to the merit of the Thesis that Labor Unions helped bring about the leisure time for the modern worker.

I see your point maybe it is just better to say that Socialism has nothing to do with it and move on supporting the Thesis.

What I do think this proves is that some of the secular types that want to say things like:

The Bible has no concept of individual rights

should think twice before saying it if they do not have a clue what he Bible actually says. They are no better than Barton or the guy who wants to tell the school system what to teach in Biology class that does not understand the Biology textbook. If they cannot back it up then it should not be said. Quoting Frazer and others is not knowing for yourself. How would one who does not understand(proven by the fact that they tune out when the deeper and complex issues inherent in a discussion like this come up) know if Frazer is right or not?

Do you suggest I drop answering his questions except for the one about whether any of the Founders sensed a divine commission to deliver the people from a tyrant? I do not want to leave people out either but I want them to know that Frazer is not the only person who knows the Bible and his theory is not the only one in Christendom. If you read this blog and Ed's enough one may come to that conclusion.

Tom Van Dyke said...

If I have TULIP right, Jon, you were damned before you were born. You're just here to take up space, I guess, sort of like a puppy or a tree.

King of Ireland said...


I think you did what I did:

Read it for yourself and come to your own conclusions. The contradictions I think are easily explained by the scripture that states that there is a time and a season for everything under the sun.

I believe in absolute truth as a abstract concept. I believe in morals. I am also humble enough to understand I cannot know either perfectly. I think the fundie tends to substitute his church doctrine as absolute truth. It turns people.

Anyway, great discussion. I need to process all this too.

King of Ireland said...


You have Tulip right!

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"Put another way, King, if you have Founder X making Biblical Argument Y for liberty or rebellion, that's relevant. But to uncover Biblical Argument Y in 2009 isn't "religion and the Founding," the expressed purpose of this blog."

I have seen you state that before the others. I also noticed when I began to read the older posts that you are the only one whoever says it. I am not saying you are wrong but this who discussion months back started about Mayhew's sermon. I reference that in almost every post I have made or Jon has linked. Frazer is saying he is wrong and not a Christian I am saying he is mostly right and is more than likely a Christian. That is the whole context.

Are you saying I should find some sermons simliar to Mayhew and dissect them and use them to prove the point I am trying to make? I can go for that.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, King, I think one can argue Christianity as the true source of "humanism" and human rights and liberty and all that other stuff. It can be done for 1776 or for 2009 by looking at the 2000-year body of Christian thought.

But you can't prove American/Western liberal-constitutional-republican-democracy sola scriptura, no way. You can't even convince folks who believe the Bible is inerrantly true of that. You can't convince Ed Brayton, who's infinitely more fair-minded than his jackal pack.

You can't even convince me, and I'm a receptive audience. I've seen the arguments and I think they suck.

You need to bring some heavyweight firepower to the dance, like Jacques Maritain, not to quote him authoritatively, but to find some giants to stand on the shoulders of, and go from there.

This discussion has been developing since the dawn of man, 6000 years ago or so.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Are you saying I should find some sermons similar to Mayhew and dissect them and use them to prove the point I am trying to make? I can go for that.

Absolutely I am. In fact, exploring the Aquinas-Bellarmine-Filmer-Locke-Elisha Williams/Jonathan Mayhew nexus would teach me and all of us something, and would make a strong point. And I don't think you can make a convincing case for Christianity without it.

Because TULIP---if you & I have it right---is a drag. I tend to think of Jonathan Rowe as a person, not a tree or a puppy.

I'm not finding my education in TULIP very esthetically agreeable, I admit, and am beginning to appreciate some of the Brayton crowd's hostility to Christianity if by that we mean TULIP. Jonathan Rowe is as cute as a puppy, but surely there's more to him than that. I'd like to see him in heaven, and would be sorely disappointed if I didn't.

Thx, King. I'm certainly learning from this. I guess that's why we all hang out here together.

King of Ireland said...

"But you can't prove American/Western liberal-constitutional-republican-democracy sola scriptura, no way. "

I think you guys are so used to the Barton's and others like him and their claims you guys think everyone thinks that way. I stated on this thread about 20 comments back that I do not believe this and think it it is not true.

Last week on the Barton and Providence Foundation thread I said that that was one of the stretches in their otherwise benign teaching as far as Biblical principles being integrated into society. I stated before that I see very little proscriptive info in the Bible on church government let alone civil.

I believe that this is to attempt to cut down on the dogmatic institutions that become stale when the forget about the principles they were instituted on and deify their particular choose for form and structure. I could be wrong but it seems plausible to me. It takes us into yours and Jon's posts from today.

I think the socratic method is working. I think we are headed down the right track and asking some real good questions. Your post was pure brilliance. I really mean that. You said so much with so few words. It really spoke to me. I cannot say that has happened that often. I am still not clear on all you are talking about but it is getting clearer.

King of Ireland said...

"I'm not finding my education in TULIP very esthetically agreeable, I admit, and am beginning to appreciate some of the Brayton crowd's hostility to Christianity if by that we mean TULIP. Jonathan Rowe is as cute as a puppy, but surely there's more to him than that. I'd like to see him in heaven, and would be sorely disappointed if I didn't."

This is a vital study if one wants to understand the stream of Christianity to came over from Europe into New England. They were all Calvinists. To convince them that one should stand up and resist he government was a minor miracle. Not so much because of Romans 13 but more because they were so fatalistic about life. If everything is decided before Creation then why bother trying to do anything to stop evil? Is is destined to get you right?

Since NE is where the Revolution started this was a major hurdle. I think one could make a case that TJ had to right the DOI the way he did to induce them. It is perhaps the greatest philosophical/theological(God does not want us to sit back and take this) argument against tyranny by supposed divine sanction of all time. I have no proof to offer of this but I think it likely was a neccesity.

I am going to try and read up on the things you suggested. I will finish up with Frazer because I said I would(I hate it that many tune out too because it is like to scientist talking using science jargon and know one even knows what they are talking about) and then maybe do some posts on that line of reasoning.

I am so excited. I set out to understand this stuff two years ago and feel I have made great progress answering some of the questions I came into this study with. The problem is that it only opens up more questions. I want to go grad or law school but I am starting to wonder if learning it on my own might be better?

Jonathan Rowe said...

Jonathan Rowe is as cute as a puppy, but surely there's more to him than that. I'd like to see him in heaven, and would be sorely disappointed if I didn't.

Aw shucks. You make me blush. :)

Tom Van Dyke said...

I think the socratic method is working.

So do I, especially since lately we're not butting heads around here over shallow points, and just reciting our roles in the culture war script, lobbing hand grenades in each other's general direction. Oy. Don't think for a moment that I'm not learning something either every day here meself. Socratic dialogues on the internet are rare if not impossible, but we're somehow managing it.

But I will say that Jonathan Rowe & I have been having a Socratic dialogue for years publicly on the internet, and it was he who brought me here to this blog so we could continue it. And although he's a cute puppy and a strong tree, any heaven without his sorry ass in it wouldn't be any kind of heaven for me. That's just a fact.

King of Ireland said...

Jon is a great dude. I really like Ed Brayton too. I do not always agree with him but I like him. I know I named him a few times here but I know he is way more level headed then the Braytonites. They trashed Jon one day over nothing. Some of them are outright nasty at times. But if Ed thinks you are reasonable he will call them off. He did it for me more than once because he saw I was sincere.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I checked Ed's record and found him willing to leave room for religious belief, although not very much. But he's OK with me.

But I meself would not run a blog with a comments section that permitted such hate and anger and dehumanization of each other. It would embarrass me.

And Ed, if you ever read this, that's straightup and I'd say it to your face. But that's also why I'm not a successful blogger and you are. You have the right approach to this, not me.

King of Ireland said...

It is a little one sided for sure but he has some good points most of the time. My life goal is to see Frazer go on Ed's blog and try and prove TULIP. I would pay good money to see that!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, you can't "prove" theology to anyone, especially if they're hostile to it. It's like tryin' to tell a stranger 'bout-a rock-n-roll.

King of Ireland said...

I should have said defend instead of prove. That is what I meant.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Same goes, unless it's an intramural Bible battle. But I doubt Ed would engage on those terms.