Wednesday, October 24, 2007

David Barton's Myths Strike Mike Huckabee:

Huckabee claimed that the majority of the signers of the Declaration were clergymen. This site notes:

Only one of the 56 was an active clergyman, and that was John Witherspoon. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). A few more of the signers were former clergymen, though it's a little unclear just how many. The conservative Heritage Foundation said two other signers were former clergymen. The religion web site Adherents.com said four signers of the declaration were current or former full-time preachers. But everyone agrees only Witherspoon was an active minister when he signed the Declaration of Independence.


The site notes the reason for the confusion:

One issue that may contribute to the confusion about which signers had a history in the clergy is that during the time the Declaration was written, people who studied at universities often received doctorates of divinity, a common degree designation, even if they were not working clergy, said Mary Jenkins of the Independence National Historical Park.


Barton is the one who most notably asserts something along the lines of 27 signers of the Declaration of Independence had "seminary" degrees. The reality is, they had degrees from places like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton which were originally founded with orthodox Christian missions.

Something the Christian Nation crowd doesn't tell us about these "Christian" colleges is during the time the founders (and the ministers they followed) were educated, those colleges became hotbeds of "infidelity" and even the seminary schools trained their ministers in "infidel" principles. The result was Harvard trained ministers like Jonathan Mayhew, Samuel West, and Charles Chauncy embraced theological unitarianism, universalism and rationalism and, in so doing, arguably ceased being "Christian," (or at least "Christian" as defined by its historic orthodoxy). These men also delivered the most notable and influential pro-revolutionary sermons from the pulpit. And even Witherspoon, who was an orthodox Christian, when he argued for Revolution from the pulpit, left his orthodox Christianity at the church door and instead turned to Locke, the Scottish Enlightenment and rationalism, because the Bible/orthodox Christianity could not provide a sufficient basis to justify revolt while those a-biblical sources could and did.

6 comments:

Our Founding Truth said...

Something the Christian Nation crowd doesn't tell us about these "Christian" colleges, is during the time the founders (and the ministers they followed) were educated, those colleges became hotbeds of "infidelity," and even the seminary schools trained their ministers in "infidel" principles. The result was Harvard trained ministers like Jonathan Mayhew, Samuel West, and Charles Chauncy embraced theological unitarianism, universalism and rationalism and, in so doing, arguably ceased being "Christian," (or at least "Christian" as defined by its historic orthodoxy).>

Amazing how you claim ALL the colleges, but only list Harvard and William and Mary; what about the others? Yale didn't teach infidel principles, either did King's College, or Princeton. That's a far cry from ALL colleges.
Until you post the curriculum's of the other seminaries, you have nothing; a couple of guys who went to Haavard, William and Mary, etc. who already were, or became infidels, is weak to say the least. You need to prove the other curriculums taught infidelity, which you can't.

Also, to lump in ALL the "key founders" line, is disengenious to say the least.

Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin are not ALL the framers.

It would be interesting to see the curriculum for King's and Princeton.

Jonathan said...

Yale didn't teach "infidelity," but the college was a hotbed of infidelity among the student body during the founding era.

I take Yale, Harvard, William and Mary, etc. to be representative of elite colleges during the founding era. The students there were imbibed in infidel principles. Orthodox Christians still existed there and had more institutional power than the "infidels." Though, there were different results in the degree to which the orthodox handled the infidels.

Ezra Stiles was President of Yale during the Founding era. He was an orthodox Christian, but supported the French Revolution and was friendly with the infidels. When Timothy Dwight took over after Stiles, he was horrified by the conditions of orthodoxy there (which resulted probably because of Stiles' indifference) and effectively "dealt" with it. At Harvard, the infidels took over the institution as of 1805.

Jonathan said...

Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin are not ALL the framers."

I assume that Washington, Madison, G. Morris, Wilson, and Hamilton before his son's death in 1801, possessed the same religious creed as the other three. If they didn't, they left no clear track record of being orthodox Christians (with the exception of Hamilton towards the end of his life).

Chris said...

Signers of the Declaration of Independence

1. The signers religious work was diverse and included service in both church and para-church ministries (This is also true and reflective of the signers of the Constitution
and those at the Constitutional Convention.) While many were trained for the ministry, not all ultimately pursued the ministry as their career vocation. Nevertheless, they were
early trained in, inclined to, and studied in that profession.

2. *At the time that the signers attended these schools, all of the colleges listed below described themselves as religious seminaries of learning for the religious instruction of youth. While these schools today no longer retain that religious nature, a perusal of both the curriculum and learning objectives at that time would today characterize them as religious seminaries, colleges, or Bible schools. (For example, according to Yale in 1754: "The original end and design of colleges was to instruct, educate, and train up persons for the work of the ministry. . . . [C]olleges are societies of ministers, for training up persons for the work of the ministry." Thomas Clap, A.M. President of Yale-College, The Religious Constitution of Colleges, Especially of Yale-College in New-Haven (New-London: T. Green, 1754), pp. 1, 4; similar declarations are also found in the writings of Harvard, Princeton, William & Mary, et. al.)

3. Founder State School Minister/Ministry
Adams, John Massachusetts Harvard* Studied for ministry; became an attorney.
Adams, Samuel Massachusetts Harvard*
Braxton, Carter Virginia William and Mary*
Carroll, Charles Maryland Personally built and endowed a house of worship in his area.
Ellery, William Harvard*
Gerry, Elbridge Rhode Island Harvard*
Hall, Lyman Georgia Yale* Clergyman; ordained in September 1749; pastored a church in Bridgeport, Connecticut until later in life when he
later in life when he decided to pursue a career in medicine.
Hancock, John Massachusetts Harvard*
Hewes, Joseph Princeton*
Hooper, William North Carolina Harvard*
Hopkinson, Francis New Jersey College of Philadelphia Helped to organize the Protestant Episcopal Church; music director; chior leader; responsible for the first purely American
first purely American hymnbook, which took the 150 Psalms and set them to music.
Jefferson, Thomas Virginia William and Mary*
Livingston, Philip New York Yale*
McKean, Thomas Delaware Became an attorney and judge but never stopped preaching the Gospel, even in the courtroom. For example, when a
example, when a defendant was sentenced to death, he would deliver a salvation sermon.
Morris, Lewis New York Yale*
Paine, Robert Treat Massachusetts Harvard* Pastor; military chaplain.
Rush, Benjamin Pennsylvania Princeton* Founder of first Bible Society in America; founder of the Sunday School movement in America;
helped found the AME denomination and helped build its first church.
Sherman, Roger Connecticut Theologian; personally wrote the doctrinal creed for his church.
Stockton, Richard New Jersey Princeton*
Thomson, Charles Pennsylvania (Secretary of Congress) Produced Thomson's Bible - the first translation of the Greek Septuagint English.
into English
Williams, William Connecticut Harvard* Studied theology; served as lay preacher.
Witherspoon, John New Jersey University of Edinbugh Pastor; seminary president.
Wolcott, Oliver Connecticut Yale*
Wythe, George Virginia William and Mary*

Jonathan said...

Chris,

I really don't see what the point is. Even if you can find some kernel of truth in Barton's 27 signers of the Declaration held seminary degrees, it's nonetheless one big nonsequitur. Meaning, so what?

Among those you listed are John Adams and Jefferson, both of whom were on the drafting board of the Declaration with Jefferson its author. And both were theological unitarians (believed Jesus wasn't God), universalists (believed all would be saved), and rationalists (believed man's reason superseded revelation and determined which revelations were legitimately from God), as were the ministers they followed like Mayhew, Chauncy, and West, who really did hold seminary degrees from Harvard. They certainly weren't orthodox evangelical Christians like Huckabee or Barton. And as theological unitarians, arguably they weren't "Christians" at all.

Gene Robinson and John Shelby Spong hold seminary degrees too.

Our Founding Truth said...

I take Yale, Harvard, William and Mary, etc. to be representative of elite colleges during the founding era. The students there were imbibed in infidel principles.>>

I agree with you on the latter two colleges, but the curriculum at Yale did not teach infidel principles.

I assume that Washington, Madison, G. Morris, Wilson, and Hamilton before his son's death in 1801, possessed the same religious creed as the other three.>

The evidence is Hamilton, Madison, and Wilson, were not rationalists while forming the nation, Hamilton believed in the Gospel, Madison believed in miracles, and Wilson believed in the wrath and justice of God:

In 1824, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (in a decision subsequently invoked authoritatively and endorsed by the U. S. Supreme Court ) reaffirmed that the civil laws against blasphemy were derived from divine law: The true principles of natural religion are part of the common law; the essential principles of revealed religion are part of the common law; so that a person vilifying, subverting or ridiculing them may be prosecuted at common law.The court then noted that its State's laws against blasphemy had been drawn up by James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution and original Justice on the U. S. Supreme Court:

The late Judge Wilson, of the Supreme Court of the United States, Professor of Law in the College in Philadelphia, was appointed in 1791, unanimously by the House of Representatives of this State to “revise and digest the laws of this commonwealth. . . . ” He had just risen from his seat in the Convention which formed the Constitution of the United States, and of this State; and it is well known that for our present form of government we are greatly indebted to his exertions and influence. With his fresh recollection of both constitutions, in his course of Lectures (3d vol. of his works, 112), he states that profaneness and blasphemy are offences punishable by fine and imprisonment, and that Christianity is part of the common law. It is vain to object that the law is obsolete; this is not so; it has seldom been called into operation because this, like some other offences, has been rare. It has been retained in our recollection of laws now in force, made by the direction of the legislature, and it has not been a dead letter. http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=101

I don't know about Morris; you neglect the others, which I will not.

The point Chris is making is it doesn't matter what Harvard taught, it didn't have the effect you wanted; so you can't even use your rationale to say their curriculums changed them. Your post would have meaning if it changed all their creeds; it did not.

I really don't see what the point is. Even if you can find some kernel of truth in Barton's 27 signers of the Declaration held seminary degrees, it's nonetheless one big nonsequitur. Meaning, so what?>

It does matter because they held to orthodox views, as my next blog will show, those men were considered clergy.