Thursday, May 01, 2008

National Day of Prayer & Roy Moore In Denial:

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Here is the groups website, complete with the mythical picture of George Washington, on his knees praying at Valley Forge (Washington was a man of prayer, but didn't pray on his knees; the reason why I say it's mythical is because scholars have debunked that the incident ever occurred). I don't know much about this group. To the extent that it is a private organization I don't care about what it does or how it prays. However to the extent that this group is endorsed by government, it should be praying in generic monotheistic prayers only because that, not Christian theology, is what America is founded on.

The first four Presidents, Ben Franklin and Abe Lincoln never publicly prayed in Jesus' name (neither do we have records in their private writings doing so). Further, they believed in natural religion, which holds all good men of all religions (regardless of whether they are "Judeo-Christian") worship the same God. It was this natural religion that gave "all good men" access to the Deity that was key to forming America's public theology.

In his column Roy Moore recognizes that generic prayers are not consistent with orthodox Christian theology.

Sadly, too many judges today like to call prayer and other civil acknowledgments of God mere "ceremonial deism," a historic relic that has no "religious" significance. In fact, in cases involving public prayer in courts and legislative bodies, only those traditions that have decades or more of history behind them tend to survive legal challenge. Unfortunately, that means that only empty, generic references to God are allowed.

Jesus called such lip service "hypocrisy" when the Pharisees exalted their man-made traditions above the true worship of God.

"Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias (Isaiah) prophesy of you, saying, 'This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.' (Matt. 15:7-9)"

Accordingly, Moore is in a state of denial or ignorance about America's Founders' actual political theology. "The founders prayed because they believed in a real God who could actually meet their needs." Moore cites George Washington, Ben Franklin and Abe Lincoln as figures to support his thesis. Presumably he believes they invoked the "real God." As mentioned none of them publicly (or do the records show privately) prayed in Jesus name. All systematically used generic philosophical titles for God. Moore is confused by the fact that they could also use biblical allusion when speaking to Christian audiences. As Moore recounted:

Benjamin Franklin, remembering these daily prayers, reminded the Constitutional Convention 13 years later of the need for "imploring the assistance of heaven" lest their proceedings fare "no better than the Builders of Babel."

The problem is Moore and the Christian America crowd interpret the use of biblical allusion such as Franklin's to mean they believed in the one true Biblical God, whose way is exclusive. Wrong. Franklin was, like the other key Founders, a theological unitarian who believed all good men worshipped the same God. As such they could speak in biblical allusion one minute and then turn around and speak as if Muslims and unconverted Native Americans worshipped the same God they did. This may not be "ceremonial deism" as the secularists articulate it. But it arguably nonetheless qualifies as the kind of generic religion that the Bible criticizes. And it is what America's public institutions are founded on, like it or not.


Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

I'd like to send a copy of this post to every bible-thumping member of the relogious right I can find. Not that it would make much of a difference, of course.

mroberts said...

Your post is absurd. Most of the Founders were Englishman, and England was predominantly Christian. There was maybe 1 Muslim in America at the time, if that, and it was desired that Native Americans be converted to Christianity. To think that these men referred to a general god of all religions of the world when they wrote the Declaration is ridiculous. William Blackstone, heavily influential in the Founding Era, identifies the source of natural law to be HOLY SCRIPTURE, the Bible.

Jonathan said...

Heh. Glad my post got you excited Mroberts. READ my link re: unconverted Native Americans and see the primary sources where they speak of "The Great Spirit" as the same God they worship. GW et al. prayed to the Great Spirit, a God who, unlike Allah, doesn't even claim to be the God of the Bible. He approved of converting Natives to Christianity because it helped to better assimilate and civilize them and they all probably thought Christianity contained better morals. They DIDN'T, however, believe the Natives' religion to be false, Christianity true.

Blackstone is not the chief source of America's Founding. And you misread him in any event. He clearly explains that NATURAL law is what man discovers through reason, REVEALED law is holy scripture. But then he notes reason and revelation will always agree because they come from the same source. Though, even according to Blackstone (who valued revelation over reason) natural law was NOT shorthand for Holy Scripture, but for what man discovers through reason.

It doesn't matter if there were virtually no Muslims in America. They still believed in principle Muslims worshipped the same God they did and I have quotations to prove this if you'd like to see them.

Jonathan said...

And btw Mroberts, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration, and he along with Franklin and J. Adams, comprised a majority of the drafting board. And these three make clear that all religions worship the same "Nature's God," and they specify Islam by name. As a Christian you may think America's Founding political theology to be "ridiculous," but you can take that up with them.