Monday, December 28, 2009

Yep, Another Romans 13 Post

I have watched, over the past several months, my fellow blog brothers debate Romans 13 into the dust. This debate usually follows the same rough outline where one person will enter the ring armed to the teeth with quotes from Locke, Rutherford, Sidney, Mayhew, Calvin, Jefferson, etc., etc., etc. Not soon after, my email inbox will be full of comment notifications, full of anxious rebukings, most of which are, like the original comment itself, delivered with powerful counter-punch material from some of the same sources. Now, it's not that I dislike this back-and-forth debating over this singular (and in my opinion, relatively unimportant) issue. On the contrary. I have found the debate to be both extremely enlightening and quite entertaining. I've admired the abilities and passions of the "key participants" (you know who you are) along with the enormous arsenal of knowledge and understanding they possess.

With that said, I think most of you know where I stand on this issue (and yes, it is likely to get me in trouble with both camps). In a nutshell, I simply do not believe that this was as big of an issue as we make it out to be. Please, don't get me wrong here. I realize that it was a major issue for many people. After all, obeying the will of God is no small sack of potatoes, and I realize that many people believed that salvation (not just worldly freedom) hung in the balance. However, if we take a step back, remove our American Creation lenses (which seem to dwell almost exclusively on religious matters) and look at the grand picture, I believe we can see that the American Revolution was much larger than one simple chapter from the "Good Book" and that war with Britain was going to happen with or without Romans 13.

With all of that said, I am going to try and play along as best I can. Let's assume that I am completely wrong and that the Romans 13/God sanctioning rebellion was not only an issue but THE ISSUE of the American Revolution. Given this new sense of importance I still maintain that the debate surrounding Romans 13 was not that big of a deal for those involved in the American Revolution.

Why you ask? Because the matter had already been resolved...


...At lest for those who established the American republic.

Long before the Founding Fathers arrived on the scene the debate over the Kingship/rule of law had been raging for centuries. As has been pointed out numerous times on this blog, a number of important theologians, thinkers, and civic leaders took up this very cause as their own. Everyone from Locke to Rutherford, Sidney to Montesquieu helped to mold how the founding generation would come to understand the relationship between God and government, government and the people and the people's duty to government.

Much has been made of Romans 13 and rightfully so. St. Paul's message that whoever "resisteth the power [government], resisteth the ordinance of God" would strike the soul of any devout Bible adherent. But there is another Bible chapter to consider; one that inspired a certain Samuel Rutherford to challenge Divine Right kingship. In Deuteronomy 17 we read:
14 When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;

15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.

17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that
he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:

19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them.

20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
For men like Rutherford, this was clear-cut evidence from God himself that the LAW was king, not the other way around.

Algernon Sidney, who Jefferson credited (along with Locke) as being one of the primary sources for the American conceptualization of individual liberty, agreed with Rutherford's interpretation that the rule of law was to be superior to any kingship. To defend his thesis, Sidney appealed to the very laws of nature:
If there be any precept, that by the light of nature we can in matters of this kind look upon as certain, it is, that the government of a people should be given to him that can best perform the duties of it. No man has it for himself, or from himself; but for and from those, who, before he had it, were his equals, that he may do good to them. If there were a man, who in wisdom, valour, justice, and purity, surpassed all others, he might be called a king by nature; because he is best able to bear the weight of so great a charge; and, like a good shepherd, to lead the people to do good . . . Solomon tells us, 'That a wise child is better than an old and foolish king.'


If governments arise from the consent of men, and are instituted by men according to their own inclinations, they did therein seek their own good; for the will is ever drawn by some real good, or the appearance of it. This is that which man seeks by all the regular or irregular motions of his mind. Reason and passion, virtue and vice, do herein concur.... A people therefore that sets up [government does it so]...that it may be well with themselves and their posterity.
Which of course sounds awfully familiar to:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
For Jefferson, who was never a big fan of St. Paul to begin with (you may recall that his version of the Bible contains none of Paul's epistles), Sidney's interpretation of law rang strong and clear as it pierced through the "old school" interpretation of complete submission to God's rulers. In a letter to his chubby little New England buddy John Adams, Jefferson points out just how appealing Sidney's view of government was:
I have lately undertaken to read Algernon Sidney on government...As often as I have read it, and fumbled it over, it now excites fresh admiration that this work has excited so little interest in the literary world. As splendid an edition of it as the art of printing can produce —- as well for the intrinsic merit of the work, as for the proof it brings of the bitter sufferings of the advocates of liberty from that time to this, and to show the slow progress of moral, philosophical, and political illumination in the world —- ought to be now published in America.
Of course skeptics will point out that the American Revolution cannot, in any way, be reconciled with Romans 13 because if Paul admonishes Christians to endure the treacheries of Nero, how can they possibly justify rebellion against a king who simply raised their taxes? Perhaps they are right. There may be no biblical way to justify the American Revolution. I suppose one could cite Biblical examples such as Deuteronomy 17, 1 Kings 11, Daniel's civil disobedience, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's refusal to obey Nebuchadneezar's laws, Moses, etc., but I doubt much of it would stick. Simply put,much of this debate is based off of personal biblical interpretation.

And such was the case with our founders. The moment that Jefferson, Madison, etc. committed to embracing the perspectives of Locke, Sidney, etc. they also committed, perhaps subconscientiously, to rejecting a literal interpretation of Paul's admonition in Romans 13.

But Paul's lesson wasn't completely ignored either. Yes, the framers of the Revolution were not about to let some obscure chapter from the Bible deter them but at the same time, they weren't about to rush into a reckless rebellion either. The trick was knowing when abuses from tyrannical leaders required a response from the people. Again, Algernon Sidney helped to provide the answer:
Those who had wit and learning, with something of ingenuity and modesty, though they believed that nations might possibly make an ill use of their power, and were very desirous to maintain the cause of kings, as far as they could put any good color upon it, yet never denied, that some had suffered justly (which could not be, if there were no power of judging them); animate them to persist in the most flagitious courses, with assurance of perpetual impunity, or engage nations in an inevitable necessity of suffering all manner of outrages. They knew that the actions of those princes, who are not altogether detestable, might be defended by particular reasons drawn from them, or their laws or their country; and would neither undertake the defense of such as were abominable, nor bring princes, to whom they wished well, into the odious extremity of justifying themselves by arguments that favored Caligula and Nero, as well as themselves, and that must be taken for a confession, that they were as bad as could be imagined.


They who are already fallen into all that is odious, and shameful and miserable, cannot justify fear...Let the dangers never be so great, there is the possibility of safety while men have life, hands, arms and courage to use them but that people must surely perish who tamely suffer themselves to be oppressed.
Or in other words, it is completely silly (and contrary to the laws of nature) to endure inept leaders who had demonstrated their incompetence or their ill will towards their subjects. Or as Jefferson put it:
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.


In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
And while this debate is likely to rage on for months (or maybe even years) here on this fair little blog, I remain convinced that the Founders' understanding of kings and law had already been shaped by centuries of European debate on the matter. Men like Locke, Sidney, Rutherford, etc. (along with many before and after them) helped to mold (and perhaps justify) the arguments for Revolution.

But again, it doesn't really matter because war was a' coming regardless of what the Bible said.

And that's a fact, Jack!


jimmiraybob said...

Brad, I agree that the matter of Romans may have occupied some pulpits and probably provided a fair amount of heft in some circles, but there just isn't a pubic record that shows conclusively that it played a significant part in the revolution and subsequent founding at the street level.

The revolution/rebellion was going to happen (and was happening before the DOI) regardless of the religious and even philosophical arguments for or against. Look at the preceding pamphleteering. Look at groups like the Sons of Liberty. How much of the revolutionary fervor was really philosophically or religiously pinned?

Of course, by the time of the DOI, the various representatives (largely known as the founders and mostly lawyers - some of greater and some of lesser learning and religious zeal) were full speed ahead in building as rigorous a philosophical/legal case upon which to base the revolution and the new nation that would result....hopefully. Who was leading who?

Rebellion was driven as much if not more by economic considerations, whether of the individual local merchant or regional colonial interests, as by religious or philosophical arguments*.

A lot of other groups had a vested secular interest in the outcome of the brewing hostilities: the indians, the blacks (free and slave, Christian and Mohammedan), and women come to mind.

What laid the groundwork for revolution/rebellion was as much self interest as patriotic, religious or philosophical passions. It was a very broad constituency that needed to be attended to.

As a nod to KOI's position, It was important that Calvinists (and all other religious sects) have their concerns represented as they are as important a constituency at the time as anyone and wielded considerable organizational capacity. And the religions and religious institutions of the colonies certainly provided a large measure of societal cohesion and a platform for these new fangled ideas including placing sovereignty in the hands of the people.

America was made as much out of the European trends of decentralization of religion, the rise of secularity, and the rise of not just rationalism but rationalism coupled with empirical method - naturalism - that produced immense changes in health, wealth and comfort for what would become "the people." These trends were largely born from 1) the dissemination of knowledge that had been lost to the west for centuries (recovered via trade with the east), 2) the printing press which preceded a general rise in literacy and dissemination of knowledge and competing ideas, 3) an expansion of the role of individual conscience and open inquiry largely freed from religious dogmatic coercion (religious liberty), and 4) individual and collected self interests. In essence, a partial return to pre-Christian Hellenistic society with respect to tolerance of competing beliefs.

This is what allowed coercive government and religious influence to shrink in the west (while the trend is reversed in the east Islamic countries) with the subsequent rise of "a community of free individuals sovereign over a limited state (Goldstone; see also the lead article: Davies)."

These are the larger influences that made the revolution and founding possible irrespective of religious or philosophical doctrinal arguments.

Call it providence, or Providence, if you will.

I thank you for bring some attention to the broader perspective. I think that there are many additional avenues to explore.

*What Paul Revere did not say: "By jove, the matter of Romans 13 has been settled, therefore I will ride tonight and spread the warning in the name of Locke."

King of Ireland said...

Great job Brad this is outstanding.

"or men like Rutherford, this was clear-cut evidence from God himself that the LAW was king, not the other way around."

This is exactly what they believed and that idea made it into the Declaration of Independence. These ideas pre-date anything Enlightenment by centuries. I actually have no problem with the thesis that the Enlightenment helped found America. I just think it should be clear that there was a Christian Enlightenment that I think we see the fruit of in the Founding of America and another kind that essentially threw God out and made reason King.

Reasoned interpretation of scripture to refute ecclesiastical interpretation of scripture is far different from throwing scripture out and substituting reason unaided by revelation.

As far as your last sentence I might in fact agree with you. I read recently in one of the numerous links that people have been citing on this topic when Calvin went to see what had happened to the Hugenots that he endorsed them fighting back. This could be wrong but I think if it is true that it kind of backs up what you are saying that are doctrines change as theory turns into practice and we can either fight or die.

With that said, Romans 13 seems like an initial hurdler for many. I think Morrison makes this extremely clear when he quotes West's sermon and compares it with the Declaration of Independence.

King of Ireland said...

JRB stated:

"As a nod to KOI's position, It was important that Calvinists (and all other religious sects) have their concerns represented as they are as important a constituency at the time as anyone and wielded considerable organizational capacity. And the religions and religious institutions of the colonies certainly provided a large measure of societal cohesion and a platform for these new fangled ideas including placing sovereignty in the hands of the people."

We actually agree more than most people would think. I lived Davies' article too. I think your point about economics considerations leading the way is valid and most of what I learned teaching World History would confirm that. With that said, the Northeast religious faction seems to have always been willing to religious considerations at the forefront. It was basically this crowd that agitated for the end of slavery later on in history.

Could the war been fought without them? I do not think so. Were the eventually going to fight no matter what? Probably yes because most of them had settled views on Romans 13 and resisting tyrants based on what Christian faction that they belonged too. How many actually changed their minds is hard to figure.

After reading what Morrison had to say I think the battle for their support may have been more in making sure that the "Deist" crowd did not take over. This became the battle later when Jefferson the "infidel" was pitted against Adams the "Presbyterian Monarch wanna be". Obviously both camps went to asinine extremes in one of the nastiest campaigns ever but the use of this issue to divide the nation is clearly seen here.

The Big Tent was already becoming undone. I plan on getting the book by Wood that Brad previewed in his other post. I think it will shed light on this.

King of Ireland said...


I think passages like Deuteronomy 17 give a much more clear picture of what the Bible says about government and the rule of Kings. I have also stated many stories or verses that are similar in content and speak loudly on this topic.

The problem is that the Frazer's of the world always state, "Romans 13 is clear so the verses cannot mean what you say it means". That is how Rutherford, Sidney, and Locke end up being called "Theistic Rationalists". He says Romans 13 is not a big part of his thesis. But if one agrees that focusing on the ideas and political theology of the founding era that helped create the Big Tent is more germane than trying to figure out who was and was not a Christian then his view of Romans 13 becomes about all he can stand on as far as political theology.

In short, I would say it is possible that his whole thesis is predicated on an obscure scripture that is in a response to a letter, or several letters that we do not have privy to in order to understand the full context of the dialogue. It is written by and man who says in epistles that he is giving his opinion, changes him mind more than once later in his life in regards to advice he gave(see him telling one group it is better to stay single and then later advising young widows to get re-married), and seems it is possible at other times is just rendering an opinion.

Sounds bad to me. But others can make up their own mind. The fact is that Romans 13 has more than one historically "Christian" interpretation. When Jon starts to allude to that in his posts then this will all go away.

Brad Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad Hart said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. I appreciate your insight.

As for Dr. Frazer's defense of Romans 13, you may be right, KOI. To be honest I just don't know that much about his feelings on the matter. What I do know is that he (and Jon Rowe) argue that if one accepts the traditional principles of orthodox Christianity (particularly the infallibility of the Bible) then one must take Paul's admonition at face value. And on that issue I am in complete a point.

Yes, orthodox Christianity requires the faithful to accept that what the Bible says is the undeniable will of God. I think we all accept that. But as you point out, there was quite a bit of dissent on the matter all the way back to even before the Enlightenment. Now, whether or not these individuals (dissenters, heretics, whatever) can be classified as "Christians" is another matter entirely. I see where Frazer and Rowe are coming from and they have a very valid argument on this matter. My problem with arguing for or against someone's "Theistic Rationalism," "Christianity," "orthodoxy" etc. is that it's a crap shoot at best. I've used my lame-ass NASCAR analogy before but I think it has some practical application here. NASCAR fans may favor one driver/team over another but in the end all the cars go around the same track. Such is the argument to be made for the term "Christian." How and why we label one person a Christian and another a heretic is purely left to individual beliefs. For myself (a Mormon) I believe that all people who believe in Jesus Christ may lay claim to the term "Christian." I don't really give a hoot about the infallibility of scripture, grace v. works, etc. It's all (IMHO) colored bubbles. However, I also recognize that many other Christians (my good friend and co-blogger Pastor Brian Tubbs for example) may see Mormonism as a total heresy. To each their own I guess.

So where does this leave us? Well, it's hard to say. The Greg Frazer's and Jon Rowe's of the world will continue to point to how dissenters of traditional Christian orthodoxy (Locke, etc.) cannot and should not be called "Christians" therefore their works were not "Christian" in nature (at least not in the orthodox sense), while the KOI's and TVD's of the world will say that their points miss the point. From my vantage point it's all colored bubbles, which is why I don't think this issue was that big of a deal to those who did the fighting/founding. They were too busy thinking about the palpable concerns of every day life, not abstract and invisible theological concepts.

Phil Johnson said...

A well put post.
Quite informative and not so biased as some.

King of Ireland said...


I am stating, like Mayhew, that one can use nothing but the Bible and come up with a non-loyalist point of view on the proper interpretation of Romans 13. I think Frazer wants to equate his narrow view of what qualifies as an Orthodox interpretation of Romans 13 with "God said". It is two different interpretations from using the Bible alone.

I plan on doing a post on what Calvin had to say about interposition and the fact that he used one of the same stories I did when I was saying submission and obedience are not unlimited. I disagree with Jon that Frazer's view in Calvin's view.
We all can say anything we want but at some point it has to be back up with facts. It seems that the facts point toward their being more than one "orthodox" point of view on Romans 13.

Jonathan Rowe said...


I'm still going to get to my post where I argue Frazer's view is Calvin's. That said:

I think Frazer wants to equate his narrow view of what qualifies as an Orthodox interpretation of Romans 13 with "God said". It is two different interpretations from using the Bible alone.

This is what evangelical/fundamentalist Christians are paid to do. Take the Bible -- Sola Scriptura --
"determine" what it says and then assert the Bible says X, while their fellow evangelical fundamentalists with equal vehemence assert, the Bible doesn't say X.

It's not right to pick on Gregg/Romans 13 when, in most things (for instance, every single letter of TULIP) this is what fundamentalists do. Sola Scripturaists even do this with matters like the Trinity and eternal damnation. Though, on those two, evangelicals/fundamentalists come to a strong consensus (unlike for instance, with TULIP).

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm still going to get to my post where I argue Frazer's view is Calvin's.

That simply doesn't matter. The Founding era Calvinists rejected Frazer's view, so much so that England called it the "Presbyterian Rebellion."

That is our only theological concern on a history blog.

I can't vouch for this pro-Calvinist website, but it says that 100 years before, James I had said, “Presbytery agreeth with monarchy like God with the Devil.”

It appears the revolutionary spirit was no new thing to Calvinists in 1776.

For what it's worth, at least worth checking out. The Walpole quote on Witherspoon looks legit.

A Hessian captain (one of the 30,000 German mercenaries used by England) wrote in 1778, “Call this war by whatever name you may, only call it not an American rebellion; it is nothing more or less than a Scots-Irish Presbyterian rebellion.” Another monarchist wrote to King George III: “I fix all of the blame for these extraordinary proceedings upon the Presbyterians. They have been the chief and principle instruments in all of these flaming measures. They always do and ever will act against government from that restless and turbulent anti-monarchical spirit which has always distinguished them everywhere.” In a letter from New York dated November 1776, the Earl of Dartmouth was informed by one of his representatives: “Presbyterianism is really at the bottom of this whole conspiracy, has supplied it with Vigour, and will never rest, till something is decided upon it.” John D. Sergeant, a member of the Continental Congress from New Jersey, credited the Scots-Irish with being the main pillar of support for the Revolution in Pennsylvania. A New Englander, not supportive of the Presbyterians, agreed, calling the Scots-Irish “the most God-provoking democrats this side of Hell.” Prime Minister Horace Walpole rose in Parliament to say: “There is no use crying about it. Cousin America has eloped with a Presbyterian parson,” referring to John Witherspoon, president of Princeton University (the “seminary of sedition”), and the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"That simply doesn't matter."

Says who? Not Calvin, surely.

The Founding era Calvinists rejected Frazer's view, so much so that England called it the "Presbyterian Rebellion."

Regardless, this does not prove that a statistical majority of "Calvinists" were Whigs. It could be, but is not yet proven.

Jonathan Rowe said...

The Founding era Calvinists rejected Frazer's view, so much so that England called it the "Presbyterian Rebellion."

Gregg also notes, in his thesis, after Zuckert why so called "American Calvinists," may have sided with the Whigs. And that's because a-biblical Lockean notions were incorporated into the American Puritan pulpit and hence transformed it into a different animal.

Tom Van Dyke said...

That argument is circular, and begs the question. "A-biblical" means disagreeing with literalism. But as illustrated above, the literal truth of the creation story was challenged for 2000 years in Christianity by evidence and reason.

"Abiblicism" is as Christian as Christmas.


Brad Hart said...

J. Rowe writes:

Gregg also notes, in his thesis, after Zuckert why so called "American Calvinists," may have sided with the Whigs. And that's because a-biblical Lockean notions were incorporated into the American Puritan pulpit and hence transformed it into a different animal.

Yeah, that's an important point to remember. Sydney Ahlstrom also mentions this in his book. The influx of unitarian doctrine into the Congregational Church did change things. Ahlstrom also talks about how American Calvinists developed their own interpretation of scripture thanks in part to external political forces that were obviously causing havoc on the continent. In essence, there was not only a political separation from their European brethren but a spiritual as well; one that (as you put it) invoked Lockean ideas.

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

"Gregg also notes, in his thesis, after Zuckert why so called "American Calvinists," may have sided with the Whigs. And that's because a-biblical Lockean notions were incorporated into the American Puritan pulpit and hence transformed it into a different animal."

What is a-biblical about about Lockes interpretation. I posted it and so did Tom. It is a commentary on the Bible not a natural law primer. Mayhew preaches straight from the Bible in his sermon. Brad whole post here shows emphatically that Rutherford and Sidney used arguments the validate this view of Romans 13 from other parts of the Bible.

Romans 13 is an obscure verse, hard to understand, taken from one half of the conversation because it is a letter, and written by a man who changed his mind at times and gave his opinion. This is not a verse to build a doctrine on. Let alone say that your interpretation is the only Christian or biblical one. That is up there with JAY-Z belting out, "I am the new Sinatra" in his song about New York. Bold claims on little or no evidence.

King of Ireland said...

Guys the trinity has nothing to do with political theology. It was a Big Tent. If they got into debates like these in public they would have never unified. These debates were for Church. I have a quote by Locke about the difference between Church and Commonwealth that I am going to post on at some point that illustrates this concept. Let's give them some credit they understood the difference and kept the religious wars in Europe from coming here.

Brad Hart said...

By the way (and I know this is backtracking a bit) but I hope everyone reads what jimmyraybob wrote in the very first comment. Keep it in the back of your mind while we debate this. I am in total agreement with what he says. This whole thing is sort of a side issue and had no real pull in deciding whether or not to rebel against Britain. As I mentioned before, it's one thing to debate abstract theological concepts and it's quite another to take part in the day-to-day struggles that were plaguing colonial America. Were the Sons of Liberty really all that concerned with St. Paul, Mayhew and Romans 13 or were they mad as hell about taxes without representation? Did the gunshots at Lexington, Bunker Hill, the Boston Massacre, etc. have to do with the passions of biblical disagreement or were they the result of angry mobs who wanted vengeance, retribution, representation, fair taxes, etc., etc., etc.?

King of Ireland said...


Samuel Adams started the Sons of Liberty did he not? You think he was concerned about pleasing God and not rebelling? If he was then he was concerned about a dogmatic view of Romans 13 as a believer. As a leader the number one thing that would take pious New Englander's away from his group would be loyalist arguments based on Filmer and dogmatic views of Romans 13.

Was it the whole country no. But this faction was concerned. Adams even states it when he talks so glowingly of Mayhew's sermon. Jefferson and Franklin were going to use Mayhew's phrase in the Great Seal.

Brad Hart said...

I have to disagree, KOI. When did Adams ever scream and shout about Romans 13? As I recall he was all pissed off over the Stamp Act, Declaratory Act, etc. That's what got the Sons of Liberty going. The notion that the founders actually gave more than a passing thought to what Romans 13 had to say about their endeavors just isn't so. Sure, they may have given it a quick glance but that was it. There were more pressing matters at hand.

King of Ireland said...

Adams called Mayhew the dawn of the Revolution or something like that. I am too tired to look it up but I think Tom has quoted it a bunch of times. This entire sermon was about Romans 13. But I get your point that there is more too it. This crap gets to me too. I brought up interposition. Not Romans 13. I would much rather let that go and look at the numerous other passages that Sidney, Locke, Rutherford, and company used. The trouble is anytime someone does that Frazer thesis and thoughts on Romans 13 are repeated telling everyone that these guys were dissidents or heretics based on something they may or may have not believed that has nothing at all to do with the political theology behind ideas like the ones you quoted in this post.

So I am on record as stating I would like to move past it. I think it is clear that there are two historically Christian understandings of the verses that have plenty of orthodox and nonorthodox and both sides. That is all that matters in a history discussion. I think the debate was productive in laying both sides of the issue in a modern context but I think everyone should be clear by now so we can move on.

But if the, what I think,is an obvious historical point is not conceded then it will inevitably come up. Like the David Baron thing it might not be a bad idea as long as it is not all the time.

Phil Johnson said...

I have often talked about the way I learn. It is by expressing my thoughts on any particular subject so I am able to see how they play out. Hopefully, I have said, others give me feedback. Often that feedback is in the form of additional information and expansions that can either give support and growth to the idea or to take it down as not worth much. Maybe others use similar methods.

One of the most recent things I’ve thought has to do with the Health Care Reform work that is under such serious consideration in our society. I know that one of the most important issues surrounding America’s Founding had to do with the rights and prerogatives of the Crown versus the rights and privileges of the Colonists. They didn’t think of it this way; but, that issue was all about what are called Private Rights.

The Crown of England gave himself prerogatives and rights over the Colonists. He was not the government as we think of government as he did not represent the people—he represented his own private person. It’s important to get that fact in mind. The people saw themselves as part of a public group—a communalistic one. They had common bonds that tied them together. They were led by the dual authorities of Crown and Church both of which dictated who they were and what rights and privileges as well as responsibilities that they might have possessed.

The American Revolution was against the differences that existed between the people and those two authorities. History bears that out.

Our early American forefathers didn’t think much about the ideas of what we consider to be rights. Looking back at published work that included references to what we know as rights, we see prerogatives, privileges, and powers. The Crown exercised prerogatives as the top person of wealth, property, and authority. The people exercised privileges bestowed on them by the Crown and their priests.

But, when the Revolution began, the idea of “unalienable rights” was put on the table. Our early American ancestors were not much versed in the idea that they had rights. Government was more patriarchal in its societal scope. The people were like children to the authorities over them. Priests saw themselves as shepherds of their flocks and fathers of their charges. But, this idea of “unalienable rights” blew the people away to speak in a hippy jargon. Suddenly, the thoughts of their rights came to be center course. Her is The Declaration of Rights for the State of Virginia which was Adopted unanimously June 12, 1776, more than a decade preceding America’s Bill of Rights:

Virginia's Declaration of Rights

Read all sixteen sections to know how involved these ideas were in the American Founding.

What struck me this morning was an article on the front page of the N.Y. Times that dealt with what the insurance company lobbyists are trying to pull off in Florida. And, I realized more than ever, that this issue on America’s health care system is a competition between two private interests both of which are accessing the public government to see to their private interests, the public weal, and the public good. The problem is not one of government trying to impose its will on the people; but, it is one in which the people are in an argument with the private interests of big moneyed insurance companies.

Gregg Frazer said...


I can't believe that you wrote what you did in your Dec. 28th, 1:06 pm post.

I've about had my fill of this.

First of all, neither I nor Jon (to my knowledge) has ever called Rutherford, Sidney, or Locke a theistic rationalist!!!! You persist in making statements such as this which are blatantly false sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes to suit your purposes.

I recognize that it is done to discredit my concept because you cannot refute it with facts, but it's still extremely vexing and I can't understand how an intelligent man could be so intellectually dishonest.

I have specific criteria for who is a theistic rationalist and I don't identify anyone as such without evidence to back it up. I certainly don't cavalierly assign the label to random people or anyone 18th-century American Christians would not consider to be Christians.

You also persist in misrepresenting my thesis despite never even reading the dissertation in which it's contained. I say Romans 13 is not a big part of my thesis BECAUSE IT ISN'T -- it's dealt with in about 10 of the 440 pages (in chapters 7 & 8)! What qualifies you to question whether I know what's in my thesis?

You are the one who's made Romans 13 the focus -- not me. All I've done is lay out what I THINK the Bible says; what the church historically believed the Bible says; respond to claims made by you and others; and answer questions from you and others.

By the way, I've never attributed any influence of Romans 13 on the key Founders, either. I've said several times that I don't think the key political figures cared one whit about Romans 13. Romans 13 is important because Mayhew's emasculation of it aided recruitment for the Revolutionary cause and that's it! Jefferson, Adams, Washington, etc. didn't give a rip about it.

Since you've never read my dissertation, how can you question my statement about Romans 13's relative lack of importance in my thesis and how can you conclude that that is all I can stand on regarding political theology? The entire 440-page work is about political theology, while about 10 pages are on Romans 13.

You keep saying you're interested in ideas -- the whole dissertation is about ideas as expressed by the key Founders themselves and the sources which they recognized for their ideas.

You say "it is possible that his whole thesis is predicated on an obscure scripture ..." -- what an absurd comment! You have no idea what you're talking about! YOU ARE SPEAKING COMPLETELY FROM IGNORANCE!

There are other things in this comment section which need to be addressed, but I'm too angry now. Maybe I'll come back in a few days and face more insults and ignorance.