Saturday, October 06, 2007

Frazer Replies to Knapton II:

Gregg Frazer has replied to Richard Knapton's latest reply. For context, it would help to first read Knapton's reply, then my reply to Knapton, and then Frazer's reply below:

I apologize, again, for responding tardily, but this is the first bloc of time I've had.

First of all, Mr. Knapton, my name is "Frazer."

Second, Mr. Knapton is the first person I've encountered who denies real significance and influence to deism in 18th-century America. In fact, the standard view among scholars is that most of the Founders -- including Jefferson, Franklin, and Washington -- were deists. I'm sure that Jonathan Edwards, who wrote about the danger of deism and John Leland, who wrote a two-volume work on deism in 1764 and Elihu Palmer, who wrote the "bible" of deism in 1801 would all be shocked. As would Peter Gay, Kerry Walters, E.Graham Waring, and other scholars who have written sizable works on its influence.

Third, if, as he says, Mr. Knapton's reference to Locke was not presented as proof to contradict my statement, then he offered no proof and my statement stands.

Fourth, I have not heard of “copy and past.” I have, however, heard of copy and paste -- but my dissertation is in WordPerfect format, so copy and paste will not work in this context.

Fifth, I, too, really dislike "cherry picking" and that is not what I did in presenting the quotes from Adams. The significance I gave to the quotes is precisely what the context demands, although Mr. Knapton's interpretation is quite creative. The point of the letter is to address the BASIS for the beliefs of the various groups. The portion left out in Mr. Knapton's transcription is very illuminating (and important). After identifying the BASIS for the beliefs of the first set of groups ("real or pretended revelation") , Adams addresses a belief of some Greeks [where Mr. Knapton simply puts "About the Greeks"]. There Adams says "On what prophecies they found their belief, I know not" [emphasis, again, on the BASIS for their beliefs]. He then identifies the BASIS for his belief and that of Jefferson IN COMPARISON TO that of the others and proclaims that he and Jefferson's "faith may be supposed by more rational arguments than ANY [my emphasis] of the former." The Christian belief which he mentioned [along with all of the others -- including the Greeks] is, of course, based on revelation. So, he is affirming that his belief places rationality above revelation (of various types -- including the Bible).

I did not launch into this discussion the first time because I thought the quotes clear enough to stand on their own.

Concerning the second quote: since Jonathan Rowe has commented (keenly) on Mr. Knapton's curious, but creative interpretation, I won't add anything except to wonder why one who purports to really dislike cherry picking left out the final sentence of the paragraph in his transcription. There, after saying nice things about the Bible and Christ, he says: "Where is to be found theology more orthodox, or philosophy more profound, than in the introduction to the Shasta [sic]?" The Shastra is a Hindu text! Also, he does not say that his philosophy is "derived from the Bible" -- he says that it "contains more" of his philosophy than all other books. And, in saying that he will further investigate the parts of the Bible which "seem not to be reconciled with his philosophy," he reveals that he does not accept them on the basis of being revelation, but must "investigate" them to see if they can be made to fit within his philosophy -- in other words, his reason trumps revelation.

Finally on this point, I have a PhD in political philosophy and my understanding of Locke was good enough to get me through PhD qualifying exams and several courses with nationally-recognized scholars. The fact that my "understanding" of Locke is different than that of Mr. Knapton perhaps says more about Mr. Knapton's "understanding" than mine.

Sixth, if Mr. Knapton was not suggesting that my term is illegitimate because it didn't exist at the time and was stating, instead, that the concept "simply has no foundation," then we have another case of Mr. Knapton simply declaring my arguments invalid without offering any proof for his claims. I have 440 pages of evidence from the Founders and 18th-century American preachers -- he has offered no evidence except thoughts of English empiricists, his creative interpretation of one of them [Locke], and his assurance that the American Founders believed everything that those British philosophers said. I'll take what the Founders actually said they believed over what Mr. Knapton simply claims they believed and I'll let the observant reader decide for him/her self.

Seventh, Jonathan addressed the "reason" question, so I won't bother except to remind Mr. Knapton and interested readers that there is a distinction between what I, as an evangelical Christian, believe and what the Founders believed. I place revelation above reason and I do not "want to use the term as a magic wand by which whatever you touch truth is revealed." The Founders used it as a basis for discovering and determining truth. If Mr. Knapton has a problem with that idea, he should take it up with the Founders -- not me.

Eighth, in my "vain-glorious rush for acceptance," I was using sarcasm. I apologize if it was not biting enough to be recognized.

Ninth, Mr. Knapton suggests that I need glasses because he says that he did not make a particular claim about what I had said. First, I have glasses already. Second, I referred to HIS comments about my statement in which he changed a key word in the point I made and replaced it with another word IN HIS COMMENTARY ON IT. A little "cut and paste" will show that he did what I said he did: my statement was: “Because virtually all religions promote morality, they believed that most religious traditions are valid and lead to the same God.” His commentary was: "However, they did not see all religious moral codes equal." So, I accused him of defeating a straw man argument because he attacked the idea that the Founders saw "all religious moral codes EQUAL [my emphasis]," but I did not make that argument. I made the argument that they believed that MOST religious traditions are VALID and lead to the same God [my emphases]. So, he changed MOST to ALL and VALID to EQUAL -- and, therefore, did not address my actual point, but rather one of his construction. I did not engage in "miss-quoting" -- or misquoting.

Tenth, contrary to Mr. Knapton's assertion, I do not assume for myself the right to decide who is a Christian and who is not. In fact, to avoid any such notion, I use the creeds, catechisms, and confessions ascribed to by the actual churches in America in the 18th century. As to Arianism, it was not declared heretical by the Catholic Church (in today's sense of the term), but by the ONLY church at the time (before the Protestant Reformation) -- a quite different church than that of the Middle Ages and one that has always been recognized as legitimate by Protestants. Furthermore, IN THE 18TH CENTURY (which is the period we're talking about), BOTH PROTESTANTS AND CATHOLICS CONSIDERED ARIANISM HERETICAL and recognized the Trinity and deity of Christ as A (not THE) central belief of Christianity.

Mr. Knapton then accuses me of saying that the Trinity is "the central tenant of the Christian faith." First, I said nothing about tenants (people who rent property), I talked about tenets (fundamental beliefs). Second, I did NOT say (again) what Mr. Knapton indicates that I said. I said that the Trinity is A central tenet -- I did not say that it is THE central tenet. For those who want to look it up, here's another "cut and paste": [most people can skip the following bracketed part]

[Eighth, Mr. Knapton accuses me of “unintended sophistry” in pointing out that the theistic rationalists did not believe that Jesus was God and he suggests that there was “a strain of Christian thought” which taught that Jesus was subordinate to God. Methinks the sophistry is one the other foot, however. Mr. Knapton refers, apparently, to the Arian or Socinian heresies, which the church had declared to be heresies — and not Christian doctrine — centuries before. On page 10 of my dissertation, I have a chart which outlines the basic core beliefs of the Christian denominations in 18th century America as expressed in their own creeds, confessions, and catechisms. Every Christian denomination in 18th century America affirmed the deity of Christ and the Trinity as basic core Christian beliefs. Mr. Knapton’s suggestion might appeal to groups which came along later and who CLAIMED to be Christians, such as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses; but it doesn’t stand up to 18th century scrutiny. There were, of course, those who denied the deity of Christ and the Trinity (including the theistic rationalists), but they were considered “infidels” by 18th-century Christians.

If Mr. Knapton thinks that Christianity is “all about” Jesus being the savior of the world independent of His being God, then he and I have very different conceptions of what Christianity is “all about” — but, more importantly, he has a very different view than those we are discussing: 18th century American Christians.]

Note that I called the Trinity and the deity of Christ "basic core Christian beliefs" [plural], but did not in any way suggest or indicate that they were THE central beliefs -- but, rather, 2 of the 10.

Furthermore, I would not approach a Buddhist priest for a definition of Christianity -- apparently another difference between Mr. Knapton and myself. And Christians were called "Christians" because it means "little Christs," which is what Christians were recognized as aspiring to be -- followers of Christ (who, by the way, THEY understood to be God). Arianism didn't come along until the 4th century, so there was no reason to highlight the Trinity above other fundamental doctrines. Mr. Knapton's Christianity 101 course is quite different from my (an evangelical Christian) Christianity 101 and also quite different (and this is the point where this discussion is concerned) from the Christianity 101 course of 18th-century Americans.

Eleventh, Mr. Knapton then assured us again that deism and natural religion "died" in the "first half of the 18th-century" (no evidence, just his assurance) and that the idea that God PRIMARILY revealed Himself through nature died at the same time -- with no evidence to support such an astonishing claim -- just his affirmation.

Twelfth, regarding what Jefferson said about his approach to the Bible: I started to write a lengthy refutation of Mr. Knapton's argument on this point, but I'll just leave it to those who can read the earlier quotes from Jefferson making reason the sole judge with a fair and open mind and the following additional Jefferson quotes: "man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous," and "gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck" and "No one sees with greater pleasure than myself the progress of reason in its advances towards RATIONAL Christianity." [my emphasis]

FINALLY, Mr. Knapton sums things up by suggesting that we've "learned" 6 things, but they're not very revealing and suggest that we've wasted a lot of time -- if, indeed, that's all we've "learned."

#1 [deism not significant] is a mere assertion on his part for which he gives no evidence and which flies in the face of the views of 18th-century contemporaries and modern scholarship.

#2 [cherry-picking charge] has been demonstrated in this entry to be false.

#3 [concept of theistic rationalism didn't exist] is another of his assertions without evidence and is circular logic -- using as evidence what you're trying to prove.

#4 [reason not magic wand] is meant as a shot at me, but misses the mark because I don't believe it to begin with -- and is irrelevant to the discussion because no one believes or believed it the way it's written.

#5 [I'm not doctor of divinity] is quite true -- but entirely irrelevant and, to my knowledge, no one has claimed the contrary. So, we've "learned" something that no one had an interest in learning and that many already knew.

#6 [Jefferson's motivation/method] is Mr. Knapton's conclusion which he arrived at (apparently) by completely ignoring the extensive evidence presented from Jefferson's own words concerning the role of reason in determining and evaluating potential revelation. His "un-rationalistic" remark also indicates that Mr. Knapton is under the false impression that there is only one kind/type of rationalism -- a misconception which has been dealt with in previous threads of this discussion. One can't help but wonder how Jefferson came to a "belief" that John 1 was mistranslated, since no sect was teaching such a "belief" and since, according to his own account, he made that determination himself based on his own personal analysis and would have been offended if someone suggested it were merely a "belief" and not a result of rational processes.

I submit that only Mr. Knapton has "learned" his six lessons.

1 comment:

Our Founding Truth said...

Adams says "On what prophecies they found their belief, I know not" [emphasis, again, on the BASIS for their beliefs]. He then identifies the BASIS for his belief and that of Jefferson IN COMPARISON TO that of the others and proclaims that he and Jefferson's "faith may be supposed by more rational arguments than ANY [my emphasis] of the former." The Christian belief which he mentioned [along with all of the others -- including the Greeks] is, of course, based on revelation. So, he is affirming that his belief places rationality above revelation (of various types -- including the Bible).>

Mr. "Frazer", don't know how Mr. Knapton confused your name, oh well.

You say your a Christian, awesome; the fundamentals that go along with that label is another topic, but, if you do think John Adams was a rationalist, it is beyond me. The quotes I've seen show he was a unitarian like Priestley; Adams believed in miracles, only becoming a rationalist after he left office, and renewed his relationship with the infidel Jefferson.

"Thus we are equally obliged to the Supream Being for the Information he has given us of our Duty, whether by the Constitution of our Minds and Bodies or by a supernatural Revelation. For an instance of the latter let us take original sin. Some say that Adams sin was enough to damn the whole human Race, without any actual Crimes committed by any of them. Now this Guiltis brought upon them not by their own rashness and Indiscretion, not by their own Wickedness and Vice, but by the Supream Being. This Guilt brought upon us is a real Injury and Misfortune because it renders us worse than not to be, and therefore making us guilty upon account of Adams Delegation, or Representing all of us, is not in the least diminishing the Injury and Injustice but only changing the mode of conveyance."
John Adams diary August 15, 1756.

The great and almighty Author of nature, who at first established those rules which regulate the World, can as easily Suspend those Laws whenever his providence sees sufficient reason for such suspension. This can be no objection, then, to the miracles of J [Jesus] C [Christ]. Altho' some very thoughtfull, and contemplative men among the heathen, attained a strong persuasion of the great Principles of Religion, yet the far greater number having little time for speculation, gradually sunk in to the grossest Opinions and the grossest Practices.
John Adams diary March 2, 1756

Adams also believed in eternal judgment while forming the nation:

[S]uch compliances [compromises]...of my honor, my conscience, my friends, my country, my God, as the Scriptures inform us must be punished with nothing less than hell-fire, eternal torment; and this is so unequal a price to pay for the honors and emoluments [profits from government]...The duration of future punishment terrifies me. If I could but deceive myself so far as to think eternity a moment only, I could comply and be promoted."
John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1850), Vol II, p. 294, diary entry for February 9, 1772.

"To him who believes in the Existence and Attributes physical and moral of a God, there can be no obscurity or perplexity in defining the Law of Nature to be his wise benign and all powerful Will, discovered by Reason."-- John Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, March 19, 1794. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 377, Library of Congress. Seen in James H. Hutson's, "The Founders on Religion," p. 132.

It does not speak of universalism, but only that God's law can be found from man's conscience, it does not affirm that he believed reason is superior to revelation.

The writings from John Adams indicate he was a Christian Unitarian while helping to form the United States. John Adams believed the Bible was the Word of God, and ONLY the God of Israel is the Law of Nature:

My Religion you know is not exactly conformable to that of the greatest Part of the Christian World. It excludes superstition. But with all the superstition that attends it, I think the Christian the best that is or has been. I would join with those who wish ecclesiastical Tyranny abolished, and the frauds of the Priesthood detested: But in this Country We have little of this. If my feeble Testimony has done any good, rejoice and have my reward.
John Adams to Abigail Adams JAN 28,1799.

Adams believed Christianity the true religion, with superstition obviously the Roman Catholicism he despised. The wickedness of the Romish clergy throughout the centuries is well documented:

"Numberless have been the systems of iniquity The most refined, sublime, extensive, and astonishing constitution of policy that ever was conceived by the mind of man was framed by the Romish clergy for the aggrandizement of their own Order They even persuaded mankind to believe, faithfully and undoubtingly, that God Almighty had entrusted them with the keys of heaven, whose gates they might open and close at pleasure ... with authority to license all sorts of sins and Crimes ... or withholding the rain of heaven and the beams of the sun; with the management of earthquakes, pestilence, and famine; nay, with the mysterious, awful, incomprehensible power of creating out of bread and wine the flesh and blood of God himself.
All these opinions they were enabled to spread and rivet among the people by reducing their minds to a state of sordid ignorance and staring timidity, and by infusing into them a religious horror of letters and knowledge. Thus was human nature chained fast for ages in a cruel, shameful, and deplorable servitude....Of all the nonsense and delusion which had ever passed through the mind of man, none had ever been more extravagant than the notions of absolutions, indelible characters, uninterrupted successions, and the rest of those fantastical ideas, derived from the canon law, which had thrown such a glare of mystery, sanctity, reverence, and right reverend eminence and holiness around the idea of a priest as no mortal could deserve ... the ridiculous fancies of sanctified effluvia from episcopal fingers."
John Adams, "A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law," printed in the Boston Gazette, August 1765

Same with James Madison; he only became a rationalist AFTER he left office, while he helped form the nation, he was a Christian. I do believe Madison lost his salvation.

"To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence.
Memorial and Remonstrance 1785

This miraculous aid is the aid God provided to the early church, as recorded in the Book of Acts. Paul and Peter raising people from the dead, Peter and John healing a lame man, Peter striking dead Ananias and Sapphira with his words, sudden earthquakes, and many other supernatural events like prison locks automatically opening to free the Apostle Paul.

I believe only Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin were definite universalists, Wilson, and Morris, etc. the verdict is out. The others, Jay, S. Adams, Boudinot, etc. were born again Christians.

James J. Goswick