Friday, December 25, 2009

Samuel West, Calvinism, and the Big Tent

With Thanks to Jonathan Rowe For Editorial Suggestions.

Following up on my last post, I further examine Jeffry H. Morrison's paper entitled, "Political Theology in the Declaration of Independence."

Let's focus more on the sermon by Samuel West that Morrison discusses in his paper. In the passage reproduced below, Morrison adds brackets to West's sermon with "corresponding phrases" from the Declaration of Independence to illustrate how strikingly similar the wording of two documents is. Honestly reading West's sermon in this way shatters the myth that the Declaration of Independence's God words are exclusively Deistic/Enlightenment references. Here is West with Morrison's brackets:

"The great Creator ["their Creator"], having designed the human race for society, has made us dependent on one another for happiness ["the pursuit of Happiness"]. He has so constituted us that it becomes both our duty and interest to seek the public good; and that we may be the more firmly engaged to promote each other's welfare, the Deity has endowed us ["endowed by their Creator"] with tender and social affections . . . . The Deity has also invested us with moral powers and faculties, by which we are enabled to discern the difference between right and wrong, truth ["self-evident" truths] and falsehood, good and evil . . . . This proves that, in what is commonly called a state of nature, we are the subjects of the divine law ["Laws of Nature and of Nature's God"] and government; that the Deity is our supreme magistrate, who has written his law in our hearts [again, "self-evident" truths], and will reward or punish us according as we obey or disobey his commands ["the Supreme Judge of the World"]."

The Declaration of Independence was written shortly after this sermon. Would John Calvin, himself, have been comforable in the "big tent" of American Founding political theology that sought to depose tyrants like Calvin's disciples (Rutherford, et al.) did? More on that later...

No comments: