Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Peter Henriques shows up on C-Span

Back on  November 2, 2012 my favorite George Washington author, Peter Henriques, gave a very fine presentation in a Mount Vernon lecture hall.  Recently, C-SPAN released a video recording of the event, George Washington and  American Nationhood, that's well worth watching.

Here's an amusing snippet:
In a Purdue University classroom, they were discussing the qualifications to be President of the United States. And according to the Constitution – it's so exciting to get that Acts of Congress with Washington's Constitution in our hands [here at Mount Vernon] – it is pretty simple. The candidate must be a natural born citizen of at least 35 years of age. However, one girl in the class immediately started in on how unfair was the requirement to be a natural born citizen. In short, her opinion was that this requirement prevented many capable individuals from becoming president. The class was taking it in, but many jaws hit the floor when she wrapped up her argument by stating, “I still can’t understand what makes a natural born citizen any more qualified to lead this country than one born by C-section?" [pause with laughter] They breed and they walk among us.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Demigods of the Constitution

Walk alongside 42 LIFE-SIZE, bronze statues of the FOUNDING FATHERS and relive the moment that launched a government ruled by “We the People.”

One of our commenters finds the description of the Signers of the Constitution as "An Assembly of Demigods" a bit much. But along with Mt. Rushmore and the National Mall, The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia is unmistakably part of the American pantheon.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hillsdale's American Heritage Class Pt 3

I'm admittedly not one for videos, but here's Part Tres of Hillsdale College's American Heritage course, "Enlightenment and Natural Rights," hosted by Terrence Moore [PhD, University of Edinburgh '99].

IMO, where "natural rights" met the Enlightenment is Ground Zero for human history as we know it today: The timethe Founding, the placeAmerica. The classical world met the onrush of the modern, the religious met the secular, the Old World met the New

Planet Earth would never be the same.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

In Honor of James Madison's 262 Birthday

James H. Hutson's classic on James Madison's creed.  A taste:
... The strongest evidence produced by Noonan for Madison's exemplary faith are calculated compliments to Christianity, included in a document written to appeal to evangelical forces during a petition campaign in 1785, and a statement in 1833 in which the aged ex-president lauded Christianity as the "best & purest religion." This last assertion, however, sounds very much like the deistical maxim, frequently indulged by Jefferson, that the "pure" religion of Jesus had been unconscionably corrupted by the apostle Paul and the early church fathers.

The History of Perjury

According to Mental Floss magazine:

Swearing to tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" dates back to English Common Law. Interestingly enough, there were no penalties for perjury until the 1600s; prior to that time, it was believed that the fear of God’s wrath was enough to keep witnesses honest.
An interesting factoid that gives us a sense of how deeply religious people actually were back in the day.  And of how much we've progressed.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

John Ragosta Applauds CIA Director's Oath

March 14, 2013

Bravo for Brennan! by John Ragosta

Right-wing pundits have launched an attack against CIA Director John Brennan because he took the oath of office with a hand on George Washington's copy of the Constitution. Of course, that's not directly the problem; what they are so incensed about is that he didn't use a Bible and that the original version of the Constitution did not include the Bill of Rights. This is thin gruel for such outrage. In fact, Brennan should be applauded.

Continue reading here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mathew Goldstein Answers a Question

Sunday, March 10, 2013 

So help me God "history" from nothing  by Mathew Goldstein

People sometimes ask me who was behind the false claim that George Washington appended "so help me god" to his first presidential inaugural oath. Was it David Barton? The answer is that there were multiple people who shared responsibility for promoting this fiction as fact. It happened over time with a number of milestones. 

Continue reading here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hillsdale College's Online History Course [Part Deux]

Hillsdale College's American Heritage series---The Puritan "Planting." Hillsdale history prof Dr. Mark Kalthoff with National Review’s John J. Miller. Pretty cool.

Online course home is here.

Be there or be square.  [Hell, I'm both!]

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thomas Paine and the American Revolution

My Pen and My Soul Have Ever Gone Together: Thomas Paine and the American Revolution is the title of a book (2006) by Vikki J. VickersWhat follows is a snippet from a Review of the Book by Klara Rukshina:
In Vickers [the author's] opinion, Paine's God differs from the widely spread notion of God during the period of Enlightenment. As she puts it: "Paine's deist God connected with the need for humanitarian philanthropy should not be confused with a theistic God who is completely transcendent, utterly unknowable, and completely independent of His creation. So the principal difficulty with the theistic deity is that there is no incentive to pray or worship God. In contrast, Paine's deist God was knowable, at least to the point of establishing God's benevolent nature. More importantly, Paine's God both watches and judges mankind and has an active role in His creation. Humanitarianism in Paine's system, therefore, was not only logical, but necessary." (p. 123) "He envisioned nations (in particular Great Britain) that took responsibility for the welfare of its citizens." (p. 8)
Incidentally, the source for the phrase, my pen and my soul have ever gone together, comes from The American Crisis, Number II , October 11, 1779  (page 72),  where Paine explains:
What I write is pure nature, and my pen and my soul ever go together. My writings I have always given away, reserving only the expense of printing and paper, and sometimes not even that. I never courted either fame or interest, and my manner of life, to those who know it, will justify what I say.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Thomas Paine's Deism

At American Creation we've spent a great deal of time exploring and arguing over the religion of the "key Founders" who weren't quite bold deists or orthodox Trinitarian Christians.  We should better explore the theology of other Founders.  Like the uber-orthodox, very important Founder Roger Sherman.  Yet, though we've mentioned Thomas Paine, we have not put his theology under the microscope as we have with others.

Thomas Paine boldly self identified as a Deist and described his faith.
Every person, of whatever religious denomination he may be, is a DEIST in the first article of his Creed. Deism, from the Latin word Deus, God, is the belief of a God, and this belief is the first article of every man's creed. 
It is on this article, universally consented to by all mankind, that the Deist builds his church, and here he rests. ...
Paine goes on.  You can read the whole thing.  But "and here he rests" draws a clear stopping line.  His creed really was that simple.  But what Paine noted in the above passage that EVERY PERSON of WHATEVER RELIGION believes in the "deistic minimum" is what the purveyors of natural theology believed.

Deists believed in "natural religion" only.  Some orthodox Christians believe in natural religion (in the tradition of Aquinas et al.); some don't.  But orthodox Christians (obviously) believe in biblical revelation too. Dr. Gregg Frazer's "theistic rationalists" too believed both in natural and revealed religion; but Frazer argues, they made revealed religion the handmaiden to natural religion.

One thing the "theistic rationalists" did often was speak in generic philosophical language of God (they were theological uniters, not dividers).  One of their favorite ways to describe God was as a Being of infinite Wisdom, Goodness, and Power. (I'm surprised such language didn't find its way into the Declaration of Independence).  Now, some orthodox Christians may also describe God using these three descriptors.  In fact, they may have done it first.  But the Deists too comfortably used that language.  At least Thomas Paine did:
Its creed is pure, and sublimely simple. It believes in God, and there it rests.  
It honors reason as the choicest gift of God to man, and the faculty by which he is enabled to contemplate the power, wisdom and goodness of the Creator displayed in the creation; ... [Bold mine.]
As alluded to above, the purveyors of natural religion believed most all, if not all "religious" people worshipped the One True God of Wisdom, Goodness, and Power.  Thomas Paine claimed to worship this God.  The key Founders' language is replete with this exact reference to such God.  John Adams claimed the Hindu Shastra teaches the existence and worship of such God, the very same God he claimed to worship.

Do all world religions really believe in the same One God of Wisdom, Goodness and Power?  Who is this God?

Those are rhetorical questions, above my "pay grade" at the present moment.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hillsdale College's American Heritage Course

To lean forward from our national sport of punking David Barton/Glenn Beck videos, a new challenge---"American Heritage," a free online class on American history and the Founding from conservative Hillsdale College and National Review, featuring accredited scholars and everything.

Some will enjoy, some will hunt for errors; regardless, it's time to put on our big boy panties and move out of the toy department. Score points on Larry Arnn or John J. Miller, and you've accomplished something. Otherwise, you've learned something, so it's win-win all the way.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

On "Theistic Rationalism"

Marcus Tullius Cicero [106 BCE – 43 BCE]:
A human being was endowed by the supreme god with a grand status at the time of its creation. It alone of all types and varieties of animate creatures has a share in reason and thought, which all the others lack. What is there, not just in humans, but in all heaven and earth, more divine than reason? When it has matured and come to perfection, it is properly named wisdom. . . . Reason forms the bond between human and god.
The Romans didn't use capital letters, so we can't know if Cicero would have capitalized "God." [What did he mean by the supreme god?  If they used capital letters, would He get one?]

What we do know is that from Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas [natch!] to John Locke to Thomas Paine, man's reason is believed to be God-given---and when a man uses "right reason," he participates in the divine. God is logical, and doesn't violate his own rules, cannot violate logic. The universe makes sense.  There is a [one] God and it all makes sense if you tap your noodle. Theistic rationalism. The best of the Greek and Roman traditions were Aristotle and Cicero, culminating here in what is called "natural theology."  Not just Aquinas but the early Church---and Paul the Apostle of the epistles---saw Christianity as the fulfillment of not just the Hebrew scriptures, but of the best of Greco-Roman theo-philosophy---of reason itself!

Reason meets revelation, the philosophers shake hands with the scriptures.  What's not to like?

There's nothing wrong with "theistic rationalism" as a descriptive term but it was "natural theology" long before the American Founding, and as we see, it fits Christians and non-Christians as well.  It tells us something, but not enough.  John Locke is more religious---Christian---than Aristotle.

That's all. No big revelation here. And you don't need the "divine revelation" of holy books like the Bible to figure out what "right reason" might be. Aristotle, Cicero and Paine all stipulated the idea that truth---and a natural law---exist without divine revelation [Paine despite it!], i.e., a Bible. The sky is blue. These days not so much, but back in the Founding days, they all agreed it was.

[Whatever "blue" means, but that's another discussion, eh?]

Saturday, March 2, 2013

In God We Don't Trust

From the Introduction of the book, In God We Don't Trust by David Bercot
    In the pages that follow, I will be pointing out many situations in which our forefathers failed to trust in God.  But please don't imagine that I'm some anti-American, left-wing secularist.  I'm very conservative spiritually, economically, and socially.  I believe in the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures.  And I count it a privilege to be an American citizen.
    However, the point is this:  if we cover over and glorify the sins of our forefathers, then we and our children are never going to learn to truly trust in God.  Rather, we'll imagine that so long as we put "In God We Trust" on our coins, we're on the right track.
Check here for a book review by Mike Atnip.

Frazer Speaks On America's Founders @ Grace Community Church

At his church (John MacArthur's church). You can listen to them here.

Reading About the "Hindoos" with John Adams

By Michael J. Altman here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Is This Blog About America's Creation or David Barton?

There's a word for when a person or group becomes disproportionately fixated on one individual at the expense of the wider range of interests and responsibilities to which that person or group should be committed. That word is Obsession. And it's very difficult for me not to look at the American Creation blog these days and feel that many of its writers and contributors have become obsessed with David Barton.

For the record, I don't consider David Barton to be an academic historian or a professional scholar. He is an activist. There's nothing wrong with being an activist. America was founded by activists, and our current President got his start in politics as an activist. I have nothing against activists, so it's not meant to be pejorative when I refer to Mr. Barton as an activist. It's simply an accurate description of his role in American politics. Barton is an activist who speaks about his understanding and interpretation of early American history. And I believe that the American Creation blog should make it clear that Barton is an activist and not an academic scholar. Beyond that, I think this activist has received more attention from our blog than he should.  

I realize that some of you will respond with the usual litany of allegations against Barton's competence, character, etc., etc., and justify your focus on Barton as an attempt to "set the record straight" and/or protect people from being "deceived." If that were true, then I think there would be far fewer posts and articles about Mr. Barton on this blog. A few posts directed specifically at some of Barton's errors and/or major (and quite legitimate) news items related to Barton, such as when Thomas Nelson pulled his book The Jefferson Lies, would be more than sufficient. Perhaps an "Open Letter" post to Barton that lays out comprehensively all the concerns and questions would be appropriate as well. And most certainly an invitation to interview Mr. Barton would be in order. These would be more than sufficient to address the controversies surrounding Mr. Barton. Any more than that is overkill, at best, and obsession, at worst.

Yes, Barton has made some mistakes and he's said and written some things for which he should provide an explanation or retraction. I'm also not a fan of some of his associations, including Glenn Beck. The same criticisms, though, about associations, mistakes, questionable statements, etc. could be said for any number of other activists as well. And frankly it can be said for credentialed historians too. Why the disproportionate focus on Barton? 

How many more "Barton stepped in this mess" and "Barton upset this person" and "Barton told this story" posts must we endure? Most of the contributors to this blog don't like Barton and don't trust Barton. I get it. We all get it. Can we move on? 

There are other personalities in the study of and debate concerning early American history. There is more ground to cover. Let's cover it. Let's move on.

If not....if the contributors to this blog wish to continue to bash Barton (trotting out the latest controversy each week - some weeks, each day), then I propose we rename the blog "The Anti-David Barton Blog" or "The Barton Watchdog Blog" or "The Barton Bashing Blog." Something along those lines. At least then, we'll be more honest and up-front with our readers about the agenda and focus of many of our contributors.