Sunday, March 6, 2011

Future Blogging Ideas

I'm pretty busy at work (the way I like it). I don't view blogging as work; it's fun. I have no kids and I have to find something to do with my idle time. Plus writing -- getting yourself focused on the moment -- is a good way to get your mind involved in a project that helps pass the time.

But I am busy with work so I don't know how quickly my output will occur. A good blog has a new post every day. I think American Creation COULD have this if the other posters participated more; but I understand we all have busy lives.

So let me give some ideas on themes I'm going to explore in the near future and PERHAPS other co-bloggers and readers can help me RESEARCH the material beforehand.

1. I'm looking for a sermon. I know it exists in the library at Princeton (perhaps it exists at the David Library in Washington's Crossing as well). But I'd like to get it online. It is entitled "The Distinct Claims of Government and Religion, Considered in a Sermon Preached Before the Honourable House of Burgesses, at Williamsburg, in Virginia." It is by one Rev. Samuel Henley, an Anglican. It may have influenced Jefferson and Madison's "Virginia view" on religion & government. Rev. Henley was friends with Bishop James Madison who was a like-minded Whig with his namesake cousin and Jefferson. Rev. Henley was also tried for heresy and may have been a theological unitarian.

2. I want to explore more Timothy Dwight's "The Triumph of Infidelity." Dwight was President of Yale during the Founding Era and was more of an evangelical-fundamentalist kind of orthodox Christian. He was obviously an enemy of Thomas Paine, the French Revolution and that kind of "hard infidelity" that was strict deism. He was also an enemy of the unitarians, the softer infidelity that oft-presented itself under the auspices of "Christianity." Such "soft infidelity" thought of itself as "rational Christianity" and was very often unitarian and universalist in its theology. It's my contention that if the "key Founders" (the first 4 or 5 Presidents, Ben Franklin and some others) were "infidels," it was of this kind. Dwight explicitly takes on Rev. Charles Chauncy as one of these "soft infidels" masquerading as a "Christian." Again, the key Founders, as I see it, were more men of Chauncy's religion, not Dwight's.

3. I want to continue to explore the theological unitarianism and universalism of the philosophers and divines who influenced America's Founders. Men like Isaac Newton, Samuel Clarke, John Milton. I've given little attention to John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon and would like to do more with them.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

One could probably prove somewhat whatever they want, couldn't they? Isn't history a matter of who one studies and their positions, beliefs, etc.? It is not a uniform subject esp. when it comes to American ideas, which was an "open forum"....

Estase said...

Hi Jonathan!
Keep up the good work! We're not all as cynical and strangely angry as Angie is.

bpabbott said...


I don't recall inferring anger from your posts, and I assume that is not the case here.

However, I can see how your comment might be confused for what was not intended. I assume your just expressing a random thought regarding history?

bpabbott said...

Regarding ideas for the blog, I expect the success of the American experiment is as much to do with the objective merits of liberty as it does the spiritual ones.

Does anyone recall any founders discussing the benefits of liberty in creating wealth and prosperity? ... essentially the economic benefits of free-enterprise.

It is a difficult concept/subject to parse, as the term "economics" was not yet in use. In fact, the field of modern economics was born of late 1770's, with Adam Smith often associated as its parent.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thank you, bpabbott. No, I am beyond MOST of my anger.
I was expressing that there are diverse people that had differing ideas about "how" (the Federalist question), who ("God" or men), what (the nation, the state or the individual) and where (what are our boundaries to be in the world, in our nation-state, or the State) and why (Providence, industry, liberty, justice, etc.)....

I have enjoyed all the posts. Some of them I would have enjoyed more, if I had known more at the time of posting, but I remember them, and sometime go back to them.

I am STILL seeking to learn about the great ideas that began this country!

Angie Van De Merwe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angie Van De Merwe said...

BTW, I am NOT suggesting that ANYTHING that someone says makes for truth concerning history, such as the suggestion that the Holocost didn't happen!

Jonathan Rowe said...



Tom Van Dyke said...

Jon, if you're going to do this, precision of your wording is essential.

We have general readers in addition to our experts.

What was Rev. Samuel Henley's "trial for heresy" for, and by whom?

His church---as he was a clergyman---or by his government?

BTW, in the First Great Awakening circa 1750, women and "negroes" were permitted to preach, to give witness to their Christian faith. Proto-unitarian and theological intellectual Charles Chauncey was scandalized, that such unschooled and unsophisticated humans were permitted the pulpit.

Per your Rev. Samuel Henley, the internet offers:

Colonial women were sometimes admired for their intelligence. For example, Fithian was much impressed with Frances Carter’s breadth of interests and the well-informed nature of her conversation. For instance, on a Sunday when the weather kept everyone from church, Fithian and Frances Carter engaged in a lengthy conversation on religious matters, including the different denominations of Protestants.

In 1773 the vestry of Bruton Parish asked Anne Nicholas and her sister Mary Ambler to testify to what they knew about the Rev. Samuel Henley’s orthodoxy; their testimony about his religious opinions contributed to vestry’s rejection of Henley’s bid for the Bruton pulpit.

As noted earlier, there is another side to this coin. For every man who admired an accomplished woman for her breadth of knowledge, there were others who felt very differently. The rejected Rev. Samuel Henley wrote that women had no business commenting on questions of theology that had bewildered men in all ages of the Church.

Before you make heroes or victims of figures like Rev. Samuel Hanley, a little digging is required, and careful wording as well.

Jon, I like your proposals for the blog, but I'd rather we just close our doors and let our principled and well-researched archives live on rather than relax our standards.

We have accomplished something of worth together, we American Creation bloggers and commenters too. We turn up at the top of google searches on Religion and the Founding all the time.

The Rev. Samuel Hanley was not the cool guy he appears to be upon closer inspection. In fact he left America in 1775, never to return.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Revs. Henley and Chauncy had warts? They may have been racist and sexist? Who woulda guess? I wonder who else, of the Founding Era, had such prejudices? Certainly no one else we admire?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I'd like to know his relative importance in the scheme of things, and also the nature of his "trial for heresy." This is needed context.

Jonathan Rowe said...

You are jumping the gun. We haven't gotten there yet. So far, I think his greatest potential importance, what I noted in the original post, was that he may have influenced Jefferson's and Madison's "Virginia view" on Church and State. There were orthodox Baptists -- Leland and Backus -- who likewise promoted the VA view. We may have a heterodox Anglican who did so in 1773.