Monday, January 01, 2007

Why the Founders Needed to Replace the Biblical God with a Different One:

Conversing with Tom Van Dyke about my last post, I asserted that the Founders' God was not the wrathful God of the Bible, or at least that was one of the biblical attributes of God (along with His jealously) that man's reason told the Founders to edit, leaving those passages in the Bible which illustrate God's love and benevolence (the founders tended to describe God as a being of "infinite wisdom, goodness, and power") to remain. Van Dyke challenged this noting that Jefferson, in "Notes on the State of Virginia" wrote the following which shows Jefferson believed in God's wrath:

"And can the liberties of a nation be ever thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are of the gift of God?

"That they [God-given rights] are not to be violated but with his [God's] wrath?

"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature, and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!

"The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us [America/slavers] in such a contest.

Well it figures that if God grants men unalienable liberty and equality rights that the one time He may be wrathful and interventionist is when we violate those rights in our fellow man. Otherwise what meaning does "unalienable" have if the victims have no chance of such rights being enforced by He who decreed them. The problem is the Bible nowhere says that man has unalienable liberty and equality rights. Indeed nowhere does it state that God will bring down His wrath for practicing slavery as the God of the Bible seems quite content with the existence of that institution. The Bible does say, however, that God, in his jealousy, gets angry and wrathful when you worship other gods. And here is how Jefferson in that same book deals with that issue:

"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

That was the offending passage that lead the fundamentalists of the day to brand Jefferson an infidel and a deist.

Van Dyke also writes: "And of course the undoubtedly brilliant Dr. Kraynak is correct in noting the biblical covenant is undemocratic: so are the laws of nature and nature's God." Well, our Founders didn't establish democracy meaning majority rule but liberal democracy, meaning that some rights exist antecedent to majority rule. Notably "liberty" and "equality" rights. But how do such rights become "unalienable," or trumps on majority voting power: They need to be tied to God (or at least doing so helps to finalize the ultimate "trump" or non-negotiability of such rights). That's where the "laws of nature and nature's God" come in.

Van Dyke also linked to an excellent review of Kraynak's book where Kraynak is quoted: "Thus, we must face the disturbing dilemma that modern liberal democracy needs God, but God is not as liberal or as democratic as we would like Him to be." Indeed God plays an important role in the Declaration of Independence; He is necessary for making rights "unalienable." But as we have seen, the Biblical God is not the best one to play such a role. So instead the Founders substituted Him with a more "liberal democratic" God. As Dr. Gregg Frazer put it in his Ph.D. thesis, "[f]or the theistic rationalists, the Christian God -- the God of the Bible -- was inadequate for their political needs. To meet their needs, they constructed a god and a belief system more to their liking."


karenmcl said...


Don't know if you've made any resolutions this year.

I haven't yet - all the better (as I can Now make them UP as I go along...the best kind to keep!)

Jonathan said...

Happy New Year!