Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lets Stay On Topic

I appreciate all the Jon Rowe wrote in response to my last post but I think much of it is getting us off topic. The topic is whether the Declaration of Independence was a document of interpositon or not. Jon Rowe stated his case that it was not and called his main witness, John Calvin. My last post clearly shows that Calvin is not a reliable witness in this case because his own words contradict themselves.

Jon's response to this was:

"KOI claims the Othniel example a contradiction in Calvin's writings. Personally, I don't see it. Calvin teaches God sometimes raises up individuals to deliver from tyranny. AND that sometimes the means those individuals use is righteous, sometimes sinful. Likewise, this accords with Gregg Frazer's understanding that, yes, it was God's will that the American Revolution resulted as it did. But that George Washington et al. used SINFUL MEANS to accomplish that end. Indeed, Frazer and Calvin both teach God sometimes uses the sinful means of man to accomplish his will. I can't tell from Calvin's context whether he thought Othniel was one righteously raised up or rather God using "the fury of [a man] who ha[d] other thoughts and other aims," to accomplish His ends. But in any event, there is no apparent contradiction."

First things first. It is abudantly clear in Calvin's text that Othniel was "righteously" raised up.  Here is Calvin again:

"At one time he raises up manifest avengers from among his own servants and gives them his command to punish accursed tyranny and deliver his people from calamity when they are unjustly oppressed; at another time he employs, for this purpose, the fury of men who have other thoughts and other aims. Thus he rescued his people Israel from the tyranny of Pharaoh by Moses; from the violence of Chusa, king of Syria, by Othniel; and from other bondage by other kings or judges. Thus he tamed the pride of Tyre by the Egyptians; the insolence of the Egyptians by the Assyrians; the ferocity of the Assyrians by the Chaldeans; the confidence of Babylon by the Medes and Persians"

Jon does a great job with studying the history associated with the founding and religion. But I have cautioned him more than once to make sure he reads and understands the biblical stories that are mentioned for himself and not just read what other's write about it. If you know the stories that Calvin cites here it is clear that Othniel is paired up with Moses as those who were "commanded to punish tyranny." The other stories below were of one pagan power against another and illustrate the ill intent of a group or individual being used of God to bring about His will that Frazer talks about.  This is clear and undisputable if one understands these stories from the bible.

With that stated, if Calvin acknowledges that Othniel's actions "to punish tyranny" were valid he thus endorses the taking up of arms against a standing king in one breath and in the next limits one's actions against a tyrant king to what Frazer states is something akin to our modern impeachment. His biblical example does not mesh with his historical examples. It is that simple. All the rest of the talk about hermeneutics and revelation is just smoke and mirrors.  The simple fact is that Mr. Rowe's chief witness has been discredited and thus his case against the Declaration of Independence being a document of interposition should be dismissed.  That is unless he has other witnesses.

As for me, I call John Ponet to the stand...


Jonathan Rowe said...


I think you make a mistake of knocking down a strawman by illogically assuming that Gregg relies on Calvin's authority for his position and if you can find a contradiction in Calvin, you contradict Gregg.

That is false.

What I cautioned you in the above post there is 1) what the Bible says regardless; 2) Gregg's understanding of it; 3) Calvin's understanding of it; 4) my understanding of it; and 5) your understanding of it.

Gregg doesn't need Calvin to make his case even though they see things very similarly.

Re Othniel and Romans 13. The bottom line is Romans 13, on its face is categorical. And Othniel lived in an era when God was still giving revelation when he is not today.

We know that God raised Othniel up because the Bible gives us special revelation. There is no special revelation that God raised anyone in the post biblical canon era up.

Therefore, Gregg could argue that Othniel is like Cain and Abel having brother sister incest marriage: A special exception by God, whereas the absolute rule against rebellion (like bro-sis incest) remains.

King of Ireland said...

Either Othniel's actions were acceptable to God or they were not. If they were then Romans 13 cannot mean what Greg says it does. Period. All the rest of this is smoke and mirrors.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Wrong. Either brother sister incest is acceptable to God or it is not. If Cain and Able had it then so should everyone else.

That's where your logic leads.

King of Ireland said...

"I think you make a mistake of knocking down a strawman by illogically assuming that Gregg relies on Calvin's authority for his position and if you can find a contradiction in Calvin, you contradict Gregg."

Calvin did contradict himself and is not a reliable source on interpostion. If you have another source use it.

King of Ireland said...

Gregg is the one who cited Calvin as an authority on interposition to Babka. When you cite a bad source you lose credibility. If it goes for Barton is goes for all.

Cain and Abel is a oral history myth in my opinion. There is no contradiction for me at all. It really has nothing to do with interpositon though.

King of Ireland said...

Lets stay on Othniel here. I understand your point and I agree that biblical literalists have to do mental gymnastics to smooth over contradictions. But it is there reading of the Bible that produces the contradictions not the bible.

For example, if one takes a view of Hebrew history much the same as Greek History(from my limited and probably somewhat flawed study of this) at the time then the story of Othniel could very well be:

1. A pure myth that teaches a moral

2. An exaggerated myth version of a real event that took place

If that is true then Othniel could very well have organized the Hebrew government as judge and done some sort of interposition. Probably did in my view because it seems the wise thing to do to avoid anarchy.

But when you take everything literal and depend on traditonal denomonational or church teaching then one can miss a lot. I think this is what Adams, Jefferson, and others were trying to say. Obviously Jefferson took it further than most but I think you get my point.

I get yours too. But the Othniel thing is really simple. There is one hard to read expert in a hard to understand book of the Bible. That we only have one half of the conversation at best. This excerpt is throw up as the definitive teaching on submission to authority in the Bible when numerous stories contradict Frazer's version.

Regardless, the DOI was well within the theological realm of both Catholic and Protestant resistance theory/interpostion teaching that far pre-dated the Enlightenment.

Did you check to see if Calvin coined the term interposition? You may very well be right. I am not sure.

King of Ireland said...

it should say excerpt not expert above.

Also, I restate my first objection to Frazer's view on this whole Othniel thing:

It requires us to believe that God promotes rebellion or that it is not rebellion when God says to do it. The former does not say much about the character of God if that is what Frazer believes. God sets up all these rules and then lets people break them sometimes but he never tells us why? No wonder church attendance is down that is ridiculous.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, then, you gotta call Ponet to the stand. And hit the link I sent to Vermigili, too. And here's the Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos in English from Google books, too.

Get to work, dudes, because this narrowing the discussion down to John Calvin and leafing through a few passages of the King James Version is really starting to get on my nerves, OK? And I'm not pointing fingers at you, King, but this is like reading a book with a vocabulary of only a hundred words over and over again.

See Spot Run can only tell us so much about biology, kinesiology or the English language.

Unless we investigate the Reformed thinkers and theology that followed, we do a disservice to the Bible, Christianity, Protestantism and Calvinism itself. The vocabulary has to expand, because, frankly, it's constipated. Just KJV and Jean Calvin's Institutes, which this discussion has been limited to? Even the Calvinists themselves weren't such fundamentalists with constricted sphincters: Vermigli. Christopher Goodman. Theodore Beza, John Calvin's successor. Pierre Viret. The Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos. Fran├žois Hotman, whoever the hell he was, but he was somebody, too.

Jean Calvin wasn't Jesus, he wasn't God, he wasn't the Bible. He wasn't even a Pope, fer crissakes. That's at the heart of Protestantism. There's much further research to be done into Calvinism and the Founding beyond this ongoing AC debate, and hey, I'm no Calvinist. I have no dog in this theological fight.

I'm only interested in the socio-history part, and I think that's the stated purpose of this blog, too.

The next thing I want to hear about Othniel is somebody from the Founding era talking about him, or talking about somebody who was talking about Othniel.

The concept of "human dignity" goes back to the 1200s, and that's what America is built on, rights endowed by man's creator. Me, I think the rest is dross.

God sets up all these rules and then lets people break them sometimes but he never tells us why?

Actually, Joe, I was just reading through Vermigli today, and he addressed that.


I do my homework. I might be the only one who finds it all---or any of this---interesting.

Dudes, I'm just begging for some "A" game here. You guys started all this. If we have any other readers on this Calvin stuff [doubtful], they're begging too.

King of Ireland said...


Agreed. But I do think it was important to show a contradiction in Calvin so Frazer can stop going back to him and ignoring the rest of Calvinism and other writers.

As far as the rest, it essentially is over Romans 13 and has already been hashed out. I am not sure why Jon keeps bringing it up.

I will say though that anything to do with Calvin is germane to the founding. With that stated, when i saw that one of his main examples that gives some light into his position on Romans 13 and resistance theory was one of the same ones I gave Frazer I thought it interesting enough to point that out.

I think I am going to start with Vindicae because it supposedly lays out the whole convenant/social contract theory from the Old Testament. It is also something it seems Jon Adams was heavily influenced by.

The funny thing about the Calvin thing is that he laid out his arguments on this topic much the same way I did when debating Frazer. Him and I have more common ground than I thought. Going back and reading him for myself showed me that.

I also have to caution you that a great deal of the problem in this thing is people that are not at all familar with the bible and theology that is germane to this topic and need to be set straight for socio-historic discussion to take place.

Case in point the social contract which seems to have been a part of Christianity long before anyone knew what an enlightenment was. But if people do not understand the theology behind that and the relevant biblical passages then ships sail past each other.

There is a fine line between having a theological argument that is unproductive and clarifying positions that are similar to the ones at the founding for context. Ignorance causes people to label Barton at times because they really have no idea what he is saying because they are biblically illiterate.

It is a book of history.

King of Ireland said...

Vindicae is bookmarked thanks for the link