Friday, July 15, 2005

More nonsense from Coral Ridge:

Another example of an article of theirs that distorts America's History.

This time their foil is Isaac Kramnick's and R. Laurence Moore's, The Godless Constitution, which by the way is an outstanding book written by two scholars from Cornell University who also happen to be two of the most distinguished scholars of founding era political philosophy.

The article starts off by noting the obvious fact that early colonial settlers were religious folk who explicitly founded colonial orders on the Christian religion. As on of their "scholars" puts it: "The colonists 'didn't come over with John Locke in hand,' said Lutz. 'They came over with the Bible in hand.'" Duh. That's because Locke wasn't born until 1632, years after the early colonial settlements.

And that speaks to the "newness" of the case of America's founding (the novus ordo seclorum). The political science upon which we were founded is oft-referred to as "the new science of man" (a term Michael McConnell used when I saw him speak at Princeton University). The central ideas upon which we were founded had not even been formulated when the colonies were first settled. It's true that the colonial settlers covenanted with the Christian God while founding their colonies; they also covenanted with the King of England under the doctrine of Divine Right of Kings! -- a doctrine explicitly refuted by the Declaration of Independence, America's true birth certificate.

What was unique about America's national founding by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is the way in which it clearly differed from the colonial foundings of the earlier era, which were theocratic "Biblical" foundings. Whereas the colonies explicitly covenanted with the Christian God (along with the "Christian King") in their charters, there was no such thing in the US Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Whereas the colonies mandated religious tests, most of them requiring belief in Protestant Trinitarian Christianity (in which our key founders disbelieved) in order to hold public office, Art. VI of the US Constitution declares, "but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

What about the political principles upon which we were founded? From where did they derive? The articles states:

Dr. Donald S. Lutz, a professor of political philosophy at the University of Houston, conducted a massive groundbreaking study in which he examined some 15,000 documents written during America's founding era. He and his research associate, Dr. Charles Hyneman, found that a third of the quotations in these documents were from the Bible. 'Deuteronomy is cited more than John Locke or anyone else,' said Lutz, who is featured on the upcoming Coral Ridge Hour special, One Nation Under God, which airs July 30 and 31.

If our founding public principles -- those found in the Declaration and the Constitution -- truly did come from the Bible, one would think that these two documents would reference such verses and chapters of scripture. In the earlier colonial era, many of the colonies (Massachusetts being the most notable case) incorporated much of the Bible in their civil codes and explicitly cited verses and chapters of scripture. But there are no such references in the Declaration or the Constitution.

I have no idea about Mr. Lutz's study; it's smells to me like a David Barton/ Paul Cameron schlock concoction, or at the very least it reaches a schlock conclusion. If one wanted ascertain the meaning of the Declaration and Constitution, the first place to look is the text of those documents. Not seeing any references to Christianity or the Bible in there, the next most logical place to look would be the Federalist Papers. So where the Declaration and the Constitution are relatively brief documents -- perhaps they didn't have the space to explain exactly where the principles originate -- the Federalist Papers are quite voluminous; they do explain in great detail from where our foundational principles come and cite sources. And if "political discourse was permeated with Biblical references" as Lutz argues, certainly, we'd see all of those citations to Deuteronomy in there. But guess what? They aren't in there either. They don't cite the Bible at all, but rather Enlightenment philosophers like John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, Cicero. But supposedly, according to Kennedy, et al. we were founded (in a public/governmental sense) on "The Bible" not "The Enlightenment."

No one should deny the cultural influence of the Christian religion and the Bible on this nation. Even today, in our "secular" culture, many of the phrases used in our language derive in some way, back to the Bible. I would imagine that it was even more so back in the founding era. One can also imagine looking back to some of the documents and papers of the founding era and "finding" language that ultimately traces back to the Bible. And then drawing the unwarranted conclusion that our principles of political philosophy derive from the Bible. We see these same folks doing the exact same thing with the phrase "In the Year of Our Lord" in the Constitution (which was the customary way of stating the date back then, and to a large extent still is). That nominal, customary, religious reference in the Constitution magically transforms it into an entire document that was taken right out of the pages of the Bible. As Gary North says in his ebook, which despite its flaws, is closer to the Truth about our founding than what comes from the likes of Kennedy and Barton, "If this is the sole judicial basis of the Christian American national civil covenant, then the case for America as a Christian civil order rests on a very weak reed." Yes, a very weak reed indeed.


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