Saturday, August 1, 2009

George Washington: The Deliverer?

This post will be the last in my series of posts that seek to answer some questions that Gregg

Frazer asked me about my interpretation of Romans 13. In an attempt to guide this discussion away from the political theologies of Frazer and myself toward a discussion of the political theologies of the framers, other founders, clergy, and common people of that day and those that influenced them, I attempted to put this debate in its larger context of the history of the political theology that shaped this time. Frazer's view of Romans 13 is more or less the same as the Loyalist view back then that came from a long line of theology reasoning. My view is more or less that of Jonathan Mayhew and others that followed the line of reasoning handed down by John Locke and the Scholastics. I hope to continue along those lines of discussing the views of each camp and the origins of their line of reasoning by answering the following historical question that was posed by Frazer during our dialogue:

"You said that Washington or the revolutionaries in general were given a mandate by God to rebel (as per a couple of Old Testament examples) -- can you quote a single American revolutionary claiming to have received direct revelation from God telling him to rebel? Or revelation from God affirming that He raised them up as deliverers?"

To answer this question I have to put it into the context of the overall discussion Frazer and I had for clarity. First, let me state that I never stated that Washington, or any other founder, had received a mandate from God. Frazer, responding to many examples I gave him of people in the Bible, said that just because men sinned and rose up against the government and God used it to dispose a King does not mean God was behind that man's sin. Then I cited the example of Othniel from Judges 3 and the undeniable fact that he did this in the power and blessing of God and was no way in sin doing it contrary to Frazer. Frazer alludes to this story in the wording of the question he posed.

In short, the story is about when the people of God cried out because of the oppressor that God had sent against them, how God heard them, and how He raised up Othniel to deliver them:

"The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel's judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died."

We see this pattern over and over again in the Bible: 1) God's people cry out in their oppression or need 2) God hears them 3) God sends a deliverer 4) He goes to war and the hand of God is with him as he leads the people to freedom.

As I quoted this story to Frazer he told me the difference between this story and the founding was that Washington and company did not have a divine command like Othniel. I replied back by asking him who he was to say whether someone had a divine command to do something or not? He replied back with the question I quoted above.

As part of my response, I would like to revisit the sermon I quoted in my last post by Abraham Keteltas. He stated the following in his sermon named "God Arising and Pleading the Cause of His People":

""God commanded the Israelites, saying, ye shall not oppress one another. Leviticus 25, 14–17. When the ten tribes had revolted from Rehoboam, because of oppression, and when Rehoboam and Judah went out to fight against them to bring them back to subjection, God sent his prophet to Rehoboam and Judah, saying, ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren! 1 Kings 12, 24. God declared to Abraham, I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee. See also 1. Chron. 16, 22, compared with Psalm 105, 15, where Jehovah is represented, saying, touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm: i.e. God’s anointed people, and not kings, because it is said in the preceeding verse, he suffered no man to do them wrong, yea,he reproved kings for their sake."

He is essentially stating that kings and common people alike can be the anointed of God. Thus, if Kings mess with God's people they will be reproved. Not just the other way around. This seems consistent with the concept in the story about Othniel and deliverance quoted above. Let me reiterate the truth or non-truth of the story is not necessarily relevant to the topic at hand. What is most important is the political theology of those at the founding and those who influenced them. In other words, all that matters for our purposes is if the people of the time believed these types of things happened.

With that said, lets look further into Keteltas' sermon as a narrative of some of the thinking at the time and see if it continues to line up with the concept found in the story of Othniel and deliverance:

"Arise O God! Plead thine own Cause.

Psalm 74, Verse 22.

When David, the inspired penman of this psalm, was greatly distressed, unjustly blam’d on account of the Amalekites invading, spoiling, and burning Ziklag; and carrying away captive the women that were therein, and when the people talked of stoning him on that account, we read, that under these afflicting circumstances, he encouraged himself in the Lord his God. I Sam. 30:6. In this respect, the royal Psalmist exemplified in his conduct, the exercise of every believer. They all fly to God for refuge in time of trouble, and expect comfort and relief from his power and grace, from his glorious perfections and precious promises. The language of their hearts, in any deep distress, is that of Asaph,"

The highlights are mine and were done to emphasis his point about what the people of God do when they feel they are in trouble: they go to God in prayer and expect comfort and relief. The town was burning, things seemed bleak, and David was imploring God to "arise and plead His own cause."

To further understand how Keteltas believed David's welfare was God's cause lets continue on with some more of his words:

"In discoursing on these words I shall endeavor by divine assistance,

I. To shew you what we are to understand by the cause of God.

II. What is meant by his arising and pleading this cause; and what encouragement his people have that he will effectually do it."

This seems to speak for itself so lets see what he is talking about here in regards to number 1:

"I add the welfare of the people, who believe and profess the above mentioned system of divine truths, and practice the righteousness just now describ’d, is the cause of God. They are a society of holy and regenerate souls; trusting in the mercy of God through Christ, conforming the temper of their minds and the tenor of their lives, to the nature, will, and perfections of God; they are represented in Scripture, as a kingdom, of which Jesus Christ is the monarch, as a body, of which the son of God is the head: They are described by St. Peter, as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, destined to shew forth the praises of him who called them from darkness to his marvellous light:"

This seems that he is describing the welfare of God's people as the cause of God. Then he gives what looks like an orthodox position on who God's people are.

Now let's see what it means for God to actively plead the cause of these people as part of Keteltas describing part 2 above:

"The Hebrew word here translated plead, may be rendered litigate, strove, contend, fight, but being here connected with cause, it is best translated, by the English word plead, a term very familiar to most of us, which signifies an advocate, lawyer, or patron’s arguing, supplicating, interceeding, contending for his client, and representing his case to the best advantage, espousing or patronizing it, or taking it in his own hands and managing it.

Then he goes on to a concrete example:

"There is a remarkable passage in the ensuing chapter, in which God speaks of the injuries done to his people, as if done to himself; he makes their cause his own, and declares that he will plead it. See Jeremiah 51, 33 &c.

Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with his delicates, he hath cast me out. The violence done to me and to my flesh, be upon Babylon, shall the inhabitant of Zion say; and my blood upon the inhabitants of Chaldea, shall Jerusalem say, therefore thus saith the Lord, behold I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for thee:"

This seems to show that Keteltas believed that the Bible taught crushing and devouring God's people was synonymous with crushing and devouring God. The pleading seems to be God's vengeance against the king of Babylon on behalf of his people and their cause. He explains this further in this quote:

"God pleads his own, and his people’s cause by his providence. The whole history of it, from the creation of the world, is a series of wonderful interpositions in behalf of his elect."

I highlighted "interposition" because it will come up later in regards to God's providence. Keteltas then goes on to list a bunch of examples from the Bible and History that illustrate his point about God intervening on behalf of his people when they are in distress and cry out to him. All of which are consistent with the concept Othniel and deliverance from the story at the beginning of this post. I will quote one as an example:

"Philip the 2d, king of Spain, was on the throne of the most powerful kingdom in the world; he had not only great dominions in Europe, Spain, and Portugal, under his command: but he had the East and West Indies, and the mines of Mexico and Peru. He oppressed the Dutch, and began to abridge their civil and religious liberties; they petitioned for a redress of their grievances; but they were ignominiously styled Geux, that is beggars, and their petitions with the greatest scorn and contempt: whereupon, relying on God, they, although but a handful of men, against a mighty monarchy, rebelled against Spain, under the conduct of the prince of Orange, and at length, after a long, and arduous struggle, were acknowledged by their tyrants, to be free and independent states!"

Now lets keep in mind, my agnostic friends, that the issue at hand is not whether this struggle was ended by Divine Providence or circumstances. It is whether the mindset of the people at that time allowed that Divine Providence was possible. With that said, it seems to definitely be the mindset of Keteltas and others who preached similar sermons. It is also consistent with the concept of the story of Othniel and deliverance that I quoted to Frazer. The only thing that remains to answer his question is whether Washington, or anyone else, thought that they were called and used of God in his "interposition" on behalf of his people.

The following quotes were from non-Christian sites and I checked them against the original document from other sites. The first part of the last story was confirmed by the people who put his papers together at the University of Virginia. The second part about the chief was on numerous websites. One was David Barton's so I cannot be 100 percent about its accuracy. Anyway lets hear from George Washington about God's "interposition" on behalf of the Revolutionaries:

1. "As the Cause of our common Country, calls us both to an active and dangerous Duty, I trust that Divine Providence, which wisely orders the Affairs of Men, will enable us to discharge it with Fidelity and Success." - Letter to Jonathan Trumbull, July 18, 1775

2. "I have often thought how much happier I should have been, if, instead of accepting of a command under such circumstances, I had taken my musket on my shoulder and entered the ranks, or, if I could have justified the measure to posterity and my own conscience, had retired to the back country, and lived in a wigwam. If I shall be able to rise superior to these and many other difficulties, which might be enumerated, I shall most religiously believe, that the finger of Providence is in it, to blind the eyes of our enemies." - Letter to John Hancock, January 14, 1776

3. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. -George Washington's First Inaugural Address

4. The commander-in-chief orders the cessation of hostilities between the United States of America and the king of Great Britain to be publicly proclaimed tomorrow at twelve o'clock,...after which the chaplains with the several brigades will render thanks to almighty God for all his mercies, particularly for his overruling the wrath of man to his own glory, and causing the rage of war to cease among the nations.... -General Orders 1783

And the smoking gun:

5. If such talents as I possess have been called into action by great events, and those events have terminated happily for our country, the glory should be ascribed to the manifest interposition of an overruling Providence. -Letter from George Washington to the Reformed Dutch Church, 1789

This last quote would seem particularily interesting considering he believes he was "called into action" which are words used by Christians that feel draw to a divine purpose. It is also telling the he uses the same word "interposition" as Keteltas does when he is describing Divine intervention in the establishment of America. These sentiments are also very much in line with the concept of the story of Othniel and deliverance above.

This last quote is also intriguing because of how it seems to connect perfectly with this story that talks about a battle during the French and Indian War:

Later that evening, this British officer noticed several bullet holes in

his uniform, yet he was unharmed. A few days later he wrote in a letter

to his brother:

"By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence I have been protected

beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets

through my coat, and two horses shot under me yet escaped unhurt, although

death was leveling my companions on every side of me."

Years later, that same British Officer went back to those same

Pennsylvania woods. That same Chief who had fought against this man heard

he was in the region and came a long way to see him. In a face to face

council, the Chief said:

"Listen! [You] will become the chief of nations, and a people

yet unborn will hail [you] as the founder of a mighty empire. I am come

to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of Heaven, and who

can never die in battle."

The battle on the Monongahela, part of the French and Indian war, was

fought on July 9, 1755 near Fort Duquesne, now the city of Pittsburgh.

The twenty-three year old officer went on to become the commander in chief

of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States. In

all the years that followed in his long career, this man, George

Washington was never once wounded in Battle."

It makes one wonder if Washington was right and that he had been saved by "dispensations of Divine Providence" to "be called in action" as the instrument of " Almighty God" many years later when "overuling the wrath of man" as King George was defeated. In other words, did he believe he was sent and protected by God to help deliver his countrymen from the hands of their oppressor? It seems he does.

To answer Frazer's question, it seems that I can come up with a quote that a Founder felt called to action by Divine providence to overrule the wrath of the King. This, along with the "step by step" establishment of the new nation would seem to be the happy ending that Keteltas seems to imply is the cause of God, and His people, in his sermon. It all seems perfectly consistent with the concept of people praying and crying out to God in their oppression, God hearing their cries, God sending a deliverer, and that deliverer defying all odds to push back the oppressor and liberate the people from Judges 3. It seems like both Washington and Keteltas thought God's invisible hand a more than plausible explanation for the success of the American Revolution.

And lest anyone say "Washington is not the orthodox Christian that Keteltas described as God's cause", how many times did God raise up a deliverer that was not one of his people? Cyrus come to mind anyone? I am not saying Washington was or was not part of "God's Elect" I am saying he does not have to be to be used, or think he was used, as a deliverer. The Frazer/Loyalist absolute stance on Romans 13 as the infallible word of God is looking worse and worse when other stories in the Bible and, despite what he says, HISTORY seem to contradict it. Locke's interpretation of Romans 13 and his political theology that was at the heart of the Declaration of Independence is looking more and more reasonable, from a biblical perspective, by the moment. No satire needed.


King of Ireland said...

Keteltas' sermon can be found at:

Sorry for the omission

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It seems that whatever happens in this world, those that believe in God's Providence, and think that they are "on God's side", believe also, that their enemy is "getting his just desserts", when it comes to "correction". This seems to be the predominant view in the biblical text (OT).

This is a primitive view of retribution and is a lower level of moral development than "doing justly". I think we all, in our worser moments seek to "justify" our actions. Of course, they are justified in our eyes, and there are reasons why we do what we do, but seeking to defend ourselves is futile at times, because everyone comes to the table with their own set of eyes, and understands what the other has done in light of their own agenda, or fears.

Therefore, we should seek to live our lives before our greatest values and not seek to please others, as we can never please everyone. We must seek peace with ourselves in what we do and what we say. And in a free society we should be tolerant of differences of opinion and conviction.

I do appreciate your reasonable "outlay" of all the issues here, as it concerns how one approaches scripture, history and the world.

King of Ireland said...

Angie stated:

"I do appreciate your reasonable "outlay" of all the issues here, as it concerns how one approaches scripture, history and the world."

Thank you. As far as toleration and justice, I think sometimes fighting back is the only just thing to do. I was watching a History Channel program about all the men who tried to kill Hitler. It seems that the only Nazi soldiers that are honored in modern Germany are the 5 that were executed as part of the Valkyrie plot.

As a History teacher, I often compare other tyrants in the past to Hitler so the kids get the idea that these were real people with real lives that were killed. It is not just some footnote. I admire the guts of our Founders and shudder at the prospect that most kids in school now no little or nothing about the ideas they fought for. To live free, one must know and understand, and if it comes to it, defend his or her rights. Understanding implies a study of where these ideas came from.

jimmiraybob said...

Understanding implies a study of where these ideas came from.

Exactly. That is why I would recommend doing a little research into how the Helenistic Greek Stoics struggled with fate and providence and God.

"the common nature and the common reason of nature are fate and providence and Zeus"

(Plutarch, ca. late first century AD) - here and here

Now, I am not saying Washington was or was not part of "Zeus's Elect" I am saying he does not have to be to be used, or think he was used, as a deliverer.

No word yet on if Plutarch used the word "interposition."

King of Ireland said...


One problem with the Zeus idea is that Washington calls him "Almighty God" which is most certainly a Judeo-Christian term.

I will look into the Greek ideas that you mentioned. I have stated before that Calvinism at its strictest seems to be just a fatalistic as any of the more fatalistic philosophies.

I guy had a good point on Ed's blog the other day when he said we should call this a "Humanist Nation" I added that it might be more accurate to call it a "Christian Humanist" nation but I agree with the sentiments because the main thing that changed in this era of history was the belief that man could shape the world around him for the better and that this life mattered.

I have likened it to when Neo-Confucian ideas were introduced in China during the middle ages. The chief thing they countered the establishment Buddhists with was that this world matters and the key to life is to participate in the world. Buddhism teaches that all desire in bad and that the goal is to escape this world to get to Nirvana. Similar to some Christian teachings that label anything fun sin and say all that matters is to get to heaven.

This is one of my chief concerns with Gregg Frazer's point of view that the main goal of Christianity is to convert people and that seeking to influence morality through government is a distraction. It divides things into sacred and secular. It also dismisses the prayers of Jesus to bring heaven to earth.

Was Washington a fatalist that believed Providence was fate and we did not have a choice? Maybe but it does not mean he was not a Christian even if he did.

King of Ireland said...


I might add that he does not have to be a Christian to use Christian ideas either. That is what we our study is the origin and perfection of the ideas.

jimmiraybob said...

My more serious point is that similarity does not denote provenance. I'm not trying to make the case that Washington had Zeus in mind but that he spoke in a very broad manner of providence, Divine Providence, the Almighty, Architect of nations, etc., etc.

His public references would be applauded by pagan as well as Christian alike, in Helenistic Greece, the Roman Empire (pre- and post Christianity) or in 18th century America (colonial or post revolution.)

The christian can certainly hear what they want as well as the more skeptical, the heretical, the apostate, the Baptist, the Pentacostalist and downright non-believer. As has been discussed well here, it is a language of civic religion.

Now, if Washington had said something along the lines of, "Jesus Christ, our true Lord and Savior and the Divine God who guides Providence that thus favors our nation, ....." then things would be a little more settled.

Unfortunately, he remained fairly silent on the issue, which leaves plenty of room for exegesis.

I would have as much if not more legitimate reason and evidence to assign him to the Stoics as to Christianity. But likely he was influenced by the ideas common to both. And, since we're talking the history of ideas I see no reason to stop where Christianity started. (Which of course brings up how much of "Christian thought" is derived from pagan sources. Sources readily available to and known by many of the founders and taught within the universities and colleges of the time.)

All this being said, I couldn't tell you that he wasn't a deeply pious, sorta pious, or not too terribly pious but silent Christian.

It also dismisses the prayers of Jesus to bring heaven to earth.

Am I wrong in thinking that Jesus was an apocalyptic Jew preaching that the individual was to bring God into their heart before the end? How does this translate to physically building heaven on earth?

OT: I saw the infamous Barton this weekend on Mike Huckabee's show on Fox. Still spreadin' the misleading claim that 29 of the DOI signers were trained in seminaries and then, likely thinking that the viewers might not get his drift, he immediately throws in "Bible schools" to help clarify. He threw in a lot of the other mischaracterizations he's so well known for, also. I thought by now someone would have presented him with the facts...oh that's right, they have (thanks Chris Rodda).

I'm not trying to start a fight about Barton again, but this certainly negates the "oh, but he was just a young and innocent and naive historian" defense. He's had time to get it right.

jimmiraybob said...

That is what we our study is the origin and perfection of the ideas.

Oh, now we're talking the origin and perfection of ideas? Well, that certainly is in the eye of the beholder. So, when you teach do you discuss both the origin and the perfection of ideas?

King of Ireland said...

JRB stated:

"Now, if Washington had said something along the lines of, "Jesus Christ, our true Lord and Savior and the Divine God who guides Providence that thus favors our nation, ....." then things would be a little more settled."

I think "Almighty God" in the one quote goes along those lines. I saw one quote where he was praying and used the name of Jesus. One cannot be too sure what is real and what is not. The ones I used I checked pretty thoroughly but others it is hard to do if they are from obscure letters.

As far as Barton. He is a marketer. He spins things and frames the discussion in the terms that favor him. He is actually a very good one. So good in fact, that the quotes he used are all over the place. But Rodda is not a historian either. It seems she works for an organization as well. Why is he a propagandist and she is not?

Anyway, this is off topic but Jon hits on your exact point about the Greeks and Romans and Barton in his post today above this one. We can pick this up on that thread if you want.

King of Ireland said...

JRB stated:

"Oh, now we're talking the origin and perfection of ideas? Well, that certainly is in the eye of the beholder. So, when you teach do you discuss both the origin and the perfection of ideas?"

That is what we have always been talking about here in my mind. Yes, I do teach a lot about ideas and where they came from. Though to only a point in that I try to keep my personal views out of it especially when religion comes up and really want the kids to decide for themselves where they think the ideas came from and evaluate them. It is certainly subjective. History is not math.

jimmiraybob said...

..."Almighty God" which is most certainly a Judeo-Christian term.

Sigh, sadly not.

Chorus: “O Apollo, blest godhead, lord of Thymbra and of Delos, who hauntest thy fane in Lycia, come with all thy archery, appear this night, and by thy guidance save our friend now setting forth, and aid the Dardans' scheme, almighty god whose hands in days of yore upreared Troy's walls!”

-Rhesus by Euripides written 450 B.C.E

This is not an isolated case of pre-Christian pagans evoking an all mighty (or almighty) god. I would have to put some time into a more substantive response but the grass ain't gonna cut itself - time to get to the yard work.

I should point out that the one reason that I keep going back to pre-Christian influences is that these were sources available to and studied by the founders. They were informed as much by pagan thought and by later Christian perfection (often finding the latter disturbing).

jimmiraybob said...

...were sources available to and studied by the founders.

I should have said "in addition to Christian texts and ideas" so as to not imply that Christianity had no influence. I'm not trying to make a case for a pagan or secular nation.

King of Ireland said...

Washington used God they used god. Huge difference. One is monotheistic and the other is poly-theistic. But I do get your overall point. We were definitely influenced by Greek and Roman ideas. Many of them were good ideas. I just cannot see inalienable rights in those cultures that did not believe in equality. To get from Aristotle to the DOI one needs to apply Imagio deo is what I think they called it in Latin. The image of God.

I am open to proof of any Greeks that thought that all men were created equal with unalienable rights.

jimmiraybob said...

That [origin and perfection of ideas] is what we have always been talking about here in my mind.

Is it? I haven't noticed the inclusion of "perfection of ideas" before and am not sure how it fits into the discussion.

jimmiraybob said...

I am open to proof of any Greeks that thought that all men were created equal with unalienable rights.

I'd refer you to my reply at Brayton's place. Or Google.

King of Ireland said...


As far as the perfection of ideas goes it is in Tom's point that Aristotle's ideas without intervention of Aquinas and the whole image of God thing would not have gotten to the Founding mindset of inalienable rights. He took some ideas and added to them and made them better would be the narrative. One is free to disagree with the subjective part of that I suppose. I hope am understanding Tom's point correctly and conveying it correctly but I think you get the idea. I maybe could have used better words to describe what I was saying.

King of Ireland said...

Jrb from Dispatches:

"Most students of human rights trace the origins of the concept to ancient Greece and Rome, where it was closely tied to the doctrines of the Stoics, who held that human conduct should be judged according to, and brought into harmony with, the law of nature. A classic example of this view is given in Sophocles’ play Antigone, in which the title character, upon being reproached by King Creon for defying his command not to bury her slain brother, asserted that she acted in accordance with the immutable laws of the gods.

In part because Stoicism played a key role in its formation and spread, Roman law similarly allowed for the existence of a natural law and with it—pursuant to the jus gentium (“law of nations”)—certain universal rights that extended beyond the rights of citizenship. According to the Roman jurist Ulpian, for example, natural law was that which nature, not the state, assures to all human beings, Roman citizens or not.

It was not until after the Middle Ages, however, that natural law became associated with natural rights. In Greco-Roman and medieval times, doctrines of natural law concerned mainly the duties, rather than the rights, of “Man.” Moreover, as evidenced in the writings of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, these doctrines recognized the legitimacy of slavery and serfdom and, in so doing, excluded perhaps the most important ideas of human rights as they are understood today—freedom (or liberty) and equality."

You left out this part:

"For the idea of human rights qua natural rights to gain general recognition, therefore, certain basic societal changes were necessary, changes of the sort that took place gradually, beginning with the decline of European feudalism from about the 13th century and continuing through the Renaissance to the Peace of Westphalia (1648). During this period, resistance to religious intolerance and political and economic bondage; the evident failure of rulers to meet their obligations under natural law; and the unprecedented commitment to individual expression and worldly experience that was characteristic of the Renaissance all combined to shift the conception of natural law from duties to rights. The teachings of Aquinas and Hugo Grotius on the European continent, and the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Right of 1628, and the English Bill of Rights (1689) in England, were proof of this change. Each testified to the increasingly popular view that human beings are endowed with certain eternal and inalienable rights that never were renounced when humankind “contracted” to enter the social from the primitive state and never diminished by the claim of the “divine right of kings.”

It is confusing about what he means by the writings of Aristotle and Aquinas showed that duties were emphasized over rights. Maybe he means that Aristotles thoughts on this were seen in Aquinas's writings. It must be because he included the time of Aquinas in with the period where these duties turned to rights .

That is where I think you miss that the Greek concept of human rights was missing something that was added between 1200-1700. I think he put it that societal changes were needed. The Magna Carta was for Englishmen. I think the Council of Bergas was the first to have the idea of universal rights.

King of Ireland said...

In other words, JRB, the Greeks were off to a good start but did not quite get there without the Chrisitan influence. Do not get me wrong I see powerful role that the re infusion of these Greek ideas had a changing a dogmatic religious society into what we see in the Renaissance. No doubt about it. I taught this very thing this year.

But, the all men created equal part I do not see with the Greeks or Romans. I also looked at your Hammarabi stuff and see perhaps a God of Noah/Shem/Abraham inflluence depending what time this was. I will have to look it over further.

The Cyrus story is in the Bible. One could make the case that his interaction with the Jews and the scriptures that talked about man being made in the image of God impacted him. I will look it up later but he made some statements in the Bible about God.

Good discussion though. Tom is on vacation but I am sure he has things to add on this subject.

jimmiraybob said...

At Brayton's you asked - Do you have any evidence of Greek thinking that supported Universal Human Rights or inalienable rights? What about from Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism?

Here you said - I am open to proof of any Greeks that thought that all men were created equal with unalienable rights.

I provided evidence that some Greek philosophers were advancing thinking/thought on the nature of universal human rights. I gave examples.

We are the accumulation of ideas. It is no surprise that ideas are modified and evolve and that not all ideas can be instituted in all times. It wasn't until outside pagan ideas started creeping back into Christianity/The Church in the 12th-13th centuries that they were forced to have to start letting these ideas back in. But Christianity/The Church fought this inclusion of secular/pagan influence every bit of the wy until a few enterprising souls such as Aquinas could render it sufficiently compatible to dogma/doctrine. And many a heretic paid the ultimate price.

Meanwhile, as pagan philosophy was seeping into the Church (and more generally into the larger society) the Church was supporting/instituting the inquisitions and witch hunts throughout Christendom (oddly enough concurrently with the Renaissance). Were the inquisitions waged to advance universal human rights? Hardly. It was about dogma, dogma, dogma. Not democracy.

They may have promoted the idea that every baby is born equal in the eyes of God but that certainly didn't extend to the infidel, the heretic, the pagan, or believers in other faiths. At least not so much in practical application.

Within the lifetimes of the founder's fathers and grandfathers, heretics and witches were banned to the wilderness, hung, drowned, pressed and burned on this continent. Heathens were converted or slaughtered...sometimes both.

Improvement indeed; I guess if your definition of improvement doesn't include the rights of individual conscience.

You say it was Christianity which shaped humanity, I say it was humanity that shaped Christianity.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"Hellenized" Judaism was what I understood the Church to be birthed by...Greek philosophy was what upheld the dogma of the Church.

So, the Church "redeemed" "pagan" philosophy. There is not special revelation, as philosophy is about what and how we know what we know...

The Church's power was "enthroned" during the "Middle Ages", therefore, to maintain their power they gave a "reason" for their power, which was deifying Jesus of Nazereth. The deification of Christ was a means of bringing in the numbers of "Loyalists" to the Church, which funded the Church through indulgences....This was what Luther was questioning, as I understand.

So, the Church was not about "human rights", they were about maintaining political power over the minds and hearts of people. There was no "freethinking" allowed in these camps...but perhaps, I need "enlightening", here.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

As far as Judiasm is concerned, I would think that their history of persecution would lend itself to the "defense" of human rights. So, hellenized Judiasm would be a human rights movement. But, there is no difference, really, between the goals of human rights activist, as they all are seeking political deliverance for oppressed people.

King of Ireland said...

Jrb stated:

"You say it was Christianity which shaped humanity, I say it was humanity that shaped Christianity."

I hate the word Christianity because it is so broad and so much harm has been done it that name it all gets a bad wrap. I am more about ideas. I find these ideas in the Bible. I find these ideas in nature as Romans eludes to when it says that God can be known by what is made. I have no problem where someone finds them as long as they do.

Secular Humanism teaches that man can be great. Christian Humanism teaches man can be great through reason and revelation given from God. It goes back to the Garden. We either accept what God says is right or wrong or we take that on ourselves apart from Him. The latter never ends well in my opinion. How long can rights last that are not grounded in something greater than us. They become arbitrary and can be taken away at a whim.

bpabbott said...

Ok, this is a rather pedantic comment ;-) ....

"bad wrap"

should read "bad rep"

as in "reputation"

jimmiraybob said...

I hate the word Christianity because...

Sorry, but Christian influence and Christianity are united at the hip. You can't pick all the good stuff and say that's Christian influence and all the bad stuff and say that's Christianity.

It comes down to what you were asked at Dispatches for which I didn't find a reply: what unique Christian influence was brought to bear that hadn't already been available or couldn't have evolved concurrently outside of Christian influence?

The founders, devout and pious Christian and deist and theistic rationalist all, built a system that would allow the full spectrum of conscientious thought and expression - and we still have it. There is nothing at all abridging the full individual expression of the deepest Christian devotion in this country.

Despite the howling, schools don't teach atheism or secularism over Christianity or Christianity over Islam, or Christianity over secularism or Islam, etc. There is nothing but room in government and society for Christian influence - the influence that comes from people free to be informed and personally convicted.

Where in American government (or the civil regime for that matter) is Christian influence (as opposed to establishment through overt evangelism) denied? Carter (just to name one of thousands in leadership positions in my lifetime) was Christian and he was president, but not sufficiently Christian by some estimates - those who want a far more radical establishment.

Secular Humanism teaches that man can be great.

And it also teaches greatness through reason as well as virtue and morality. It also allows for the individual right of conscience and religious/spiritual expression.

How long can rights last that are not grounded in something greater than us. They become arbitrary and can be taken away at a whim.

As I said earlier, the founders built a system of government resting upon universal principles derived from an extensive empirical survey of what has and hasn't worked throughout recorded time. Secular humanist and Christian and Jew and all peoples of all faiths can find common ground - those ideas/ideals are greater than us. If we allow this neutral system to overtly incorporate religion or religious doctrine/dogma to crowd out free expression and favor one sect or religion over the other then we will start slipping into a tyranny of coercion or an anarchy similar to the religious conflicts of ancient or modern variety.

What in history supports the idea that Christianity is a uniform safeguard to universal rights of conscience and individual choice and expression of religious preference?

bpabbott said...

King: "We either accept what God says is right or wrong or we take that on ourselves apart from Him. The latter never ends well in my opinion. How long can rights last that are not grounded in something greater than us. They become arbitrary and can be taken away at a whim."

King do you argue for belief in God without consideration for whether or not God actually exits?

In any event, I think "right" behavior is that which produces the most constructive result.

The idea that some supernatural force decides the result infers an aribtrariness in my mind.

Even worse, it is my opinion that many politicians claiming to be devout are only pretending. Meaning that natural and destructive forces decide the result because good men let them.

... it would appear the two of use share a common goal but a different perspective regarding where the liabilities lay.

King of Ireland said...

I would use the word biblical which brings in Judeo-Christian which was the topic of the post over there before if went in fifty thousand directions. I essentially agree with what you stated though. They all think I am some big Christian Nation guy. I am not. I so see principles in our founding. The one for sure that is unique to Judeo-Christianity is man made in the image of God. They can say it is crap and not true but it is part of that system of belief though some lost sight of it at times.

My issue with them is that they play down the Christian part and play up the rest. I believe that the Bible had a huge and possibly the greatest influence but that is debatable. Saying that is a nation founded on secular principles alone is ridiculous and this is where Barton is right. There is an omission and bias in academia right now. Maybe it went the other way right after the founding and needed to be brought back into balance but there are some real blind spots out there.

It is just as bad for Barton and co. to downplay the other stuff as Jon's post today points out. I guess we had the conversation on this thread instead but he makes some good points.

King of Ireland said...

Ben stated:

"King do you argue for belief in God without consideration for whether or not God actually exits?

Absolutely not. Never and no way. Everyone has to come to their own conclusions. The whole argument against the King was unalienable rights. I guess would could go the French way and just disregard the biblical arguments and tell the king he has no divine right because there is nothing divine. But that avenue has its own perils I we saw. I do not know these are tough issues. Discussing it is good though.

bpabbott said...

Ok, thanks for clarifying.