Thursday, January 16, 2020

Trump Invokes Jefferson

For Religious Freedom Day. This was on January 15, 2020. A taste:
Religious freedom in America, often referred to as our “first freedom,” was a driving force behind some of the earliest defining moments of our American identity.  The desire for religious freedom impelled the Pilgrims to leave their homes in Europe and journey to a distant land, and it is the reason so many others seeking to live out their faith or change their faith have made America their home. 
More than 230 years ago, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which was authored and championed by Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson famously expounded that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”  This statute served as the catalyst for the First Amendment, which enshrined in law our conviction to prevent government interference in religion.  More than 200 years later, thanks to the power of that Amendment, America is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world.
Very nice. Now, I wonder who wrote this for the President. (Not that this is uncommon, from George Washington onwards, Presidents have had speech and other writers.)

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Dialog Continues

There is an interesting dialog going on between, among others, two accomplished scholars -- Drs. Gregg Frazer and Mark David Hall -- in the American Creation comments section. Just how "Christian" was the American founding? And as usual the question of whether it's ever acceptable to "revolt" in the face of Romans 13 (which text prohibits revolt!) remains in the background.

Let me clarify my position on this: From a fideist, and especially "fundamentalist" perspective, the Tory loyalists were correct. But even if one believes in the natural law, that still doesn't necessarily get you around Romans 13's prohibition on revolution.

Many of the Tory loyalist for whom Dr. Frazer argues in his recent book, weren't fideists. They were Anglicans and as such, their theology incorporated Richard Hooker's natural law teachings. One could easily argue that a traditional understanding of the natural law doesn't get you around Romans 13 either.

But I do think you can get a *Christian* case for the American revolution and founding, ONLY if there is a natural right component to it. Or, at least, I have a hard time seeing how you can make an exegetical or sound theological case for such without natural law/natural rights.

What we discover is that you are either reliant on the more modern John Locke's or the scholastics' -- whether Catholic or Protestant -- doctrines of natural right. As Dave Kopel has noted:
A Huguenot using the pen-name Marcus Junius Brutus (the Roman Senator who assassinated Julius Caesar) went further with the 1579 book "Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos" ("Vindication Against Tyrants"). "Vindiciae" was organized like a Catholic Scholastic treatise. Like the other Geneva writers, Brutus owed a great debt to Catholic thought on the subject of Just Revolution.
And for the record, there is much more John Locke in the founding era sermons.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Frazer Reviews Hall

A taste:
Evidential Errors Abound  
Hall argues that Calvinism’s teaching concerning total depravity and sin caused the founders to embrace separation of powers, checks and balances, limited government, and federalism. But the founders actually saw man as an alloy of virtue and vice. Madison said the good and virtuous qualities in man are present “in a higher degree” than man’s bad qualities and that self-government can’t work unless that is true (Federalist #55).  
Hall regularly uses the words “sin” and “sinful” in relation to the founders’ views in this area, but they didn’t use the Christian or Calvinist word “sin,” preferring less judgmental words such as “weakness” and “venality.” The founders didn’t cite the Bible or Calvin when making these arguments and establishing institutions based on them. When not crediting Montesquieu, they cited “history” and “the least fallible guide”: experience.  
In 1744, Elisha Williams based a sermon on the teachings of John Locke, calling him (already by that time) “the celebrated Mr. Lock.” References to Locke are ubiquitous throughout the period. Hall argues Locke wasn’t influential, largely because his work wasn’t printed in America until 1773. But Hall argues the Bible was all-important—despite not being printed in English in America until 1782! It’s not clear why a reference to Locke must come from an edition published in America in order to indicate influence. Hall doesn’t mention that, according to Lutz’s authoritative study, there were more Locke citations than to all Reformed thinkers combined, and that Locke is mentioned in 19 of the 28 pages in Lutz’s chapter on influences.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Review of Gregg Frazer's New Book by Russell Kirk Center

Here is another thoughtful review of Dr. Gregg Frazer's book on loyalists and the American Revolution by the Russell Kirk Center. A taste:
Their methodology deserves notice because it reflected their view of scripture along with a broader set of intellectual assumptions. Boucher deplored Jonathan Mayhew’s Lockean spin on Romans 13 for replacing “unerring standards of right and wrong” with “loose and debauched opinions.” Samuel Seabury condemned those who “have warped and forced particular expressions of the scriptures to make them comport with their own preconceived opinions.” Those rhetorical gambits, he said, deployed scripture to uphold positions that it could not support when seen by “a candid, unprejudiced mind.” 
Scripture enjoined obedience to civil powers, which St. Paul in Romans 13 describes as ordained of God. Other passages of scripture Loyalists invoked backed this view. If even the most vile tyrants like Nero deserved obedience, how could it be just to resist George III? Biblical references to liberty, Boucher insisted, meant freedom from sin rather than political or civil liberty. Indeed, war and the sufferings it brought marked God’s judgment on a sinful people. Loyalists calling their fellow Americans to repent faced resistance as Old Testament prophets had done for calling Israelites to account during their suffering. Eschewing armed resistance for submission to Patriot authorities or flight from their homes and property to safety in British lines, Loyalist clergy practiced what they preached.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Review of Gregg Frazer's New Book

I just ran across this thoughtful review of Gregg Frazer's new book on loyalists and the American revolution. A taste, quoting from Frazer's book:
It is perhaps symbolic, but also instructive, to recognize that ... the motto of resistance theology was the nonbiblical phrase "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God." In contrast, the catchphrase of the Loyalist ministers was "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers" - the direct text of Romans 13:1 (p.38).
Expect more from Frazer and perhaps Mark David Hall later this week. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Throckmorton: "Does Romans 13 Support the Case for Keeping Trump?"

Warren Throckmorton links to an American Creation post on the matter. Back from 2008!

UPDATE: This post at American Creation blog is a nice summary of Calvinist views of Romans 13. Gregg Frazer, Dean of The Master’s University and historian of the founding era wrote to address Calvin’s perspective on political rebellion. In short, without some governmental sanction for resistance (e.g., impeachment), Christians should not rebel. However, impeachment and removal is built in to the Constitution and therefore legitimate. Christians should not appeal to Romans 13 as a reason to oppose impeachment.
My position is that Dr. Frazer's case is an airtight interpretation of Romans 13; but there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Tillman: "A Religious Test in America?"

As usual, Seth Barrett Tillman uncovers some very interesting details in his research. From the abstract:
During 1776, but prior to announcing the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress instructed the state legislatures to call conventions to draft constitutions to regularize their local state governments so that each could be administered in the name of the People and absent royal governors and royal officers. North Carolina heeded the revolutionary call—in 1776, it implemented a new constitution with a bill of rights. One interesting feature of the 1776 North Carolina Constitution was that Article 32 imposed a religious test against non-Protestants. Article 32 stated: 
That no person, who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State. 
This particular provision would remain on the books, and largely unenforced, until North Carolina revisited this issue in the 1835 North Carolina Constitutional Convention (which drafted amendments to the 1776 North Carolina Constitution which were subsequently ratified by the People). Still, in 1809, there was one apparent attempt to enforce the religious test provision. Jacob Henry had qualified for a second, annual term in North Carolina’s lower legislative house: the House of Commons. Henry was Jewish. On December 5, 1809, another member put forward a motion to declare Henry’s seat vacant based on the 1776 North Carolina Constitution’s religious test. The next day, the Commons adjudicated the motion, and it failed. Henry kept his seat.