Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lofton Responds Again:

John Lofton left another comment at Positive Liberty on the child of God, child of the Devil issue. Like Jim Babka, I realize I am not going to make any progress with Mr. Lofton on whether the Bible teaches everyone is a child of God. In fact, I would concede that Mr. Lofton's view is entirely defensible on uber-Calvinistic, fundamentalist grounds (i.e., that uber-fundamentalist Calvinists are properly reading what the Bible says, though I think there are many other sound, hermeneutic approaches).

But I am interested in showing Mr. Lofton that his personal theology is not the "American View," that of the Declaration of Independence. And that he might want to think about changing the name of his website to for instance, "the Calvinist View," or the "Christian Reconstructionist View." The following is a relevant portion of Mr. Lofton's comment:

ROWE: But more importantly, there is a rich history in Christendom of looking to more than just the Bible to discover God’s will.

LOFTON: In “history,” yes. But, not in the Bible itself. God’s Will is discernible only in God’s Word, what God Himself has said.

ROWE: The Roman Catholics, after Aquinas, who ultimately believed the Bible infallible…

LOFTON: Sorry, but if they believed the Bible infallible they would have stuck to the Bible only, as the Bible says we must do. Scripture neither says nor indicates that the Bible is insufficient and that we must go outside of Scripture for anything else.

ROWE: have their natural law tradition that supplements scripture.

LOFTON: However, Scripture says nothing about God’s Word needing anything to “supplement” it.

Now, this seems well within the mainstream of Calvinism. It was Francis Schaeffer's view. It's also Dr. Gregg Frazer's view (and I think John MacArthur's as well). Here is Dr. Frazer on why the natural law is not biblical:

II Corinthians 3:3 has NOTHING to do with natural law. It simply says that the quality of the lives of the people to whom Paul ministered were his letter of commendation -- the affirmation of his ministry.

Romans 2:14-15 refers to God's moral law, not some "law of nature." I challenge [anyone] to find "law of nature" or "Nature's God" in a concordance of the Bible -- you won't find either term because they're not biblical terms.

Gary North has also argued the natural law is not biblical. Yet, Jordan J. Ballor of the Acton Institute (a Thomistic thinktank) makes the orthodox Protestant case for the natural law.

Now, the Declaration of Independence invokes this very natural law, written by God and discovered by reason alone, as the source of its authority. There is argument as to whether what Locke (and America's Founders repeating his ideas) meant by "the laws of nature and nature's God" is the same as what Aquinas and Aristotle meant. Further there is debate as to whether America's Founders, like the Christian natural law thinkers, believed the Bible infallible and the natural law should act as a handmaiden (i.e., a "supplement") for the Bible. OR whether reason should trump and the Bible should supplement the findings of man's reason.

As Dr. Frazer noted:

So, I fully recognize that they lived in an age of “Christendom” and that it had some influence upon them. I also discuss Aquinas – the difference between [theistic rationalism -- what Dr. Frazer argues was the "political theology of the American Founding"] and Aquinas is what they did when reason and revelation appeared to conflict. For Aquinas, reason bowed to revelation and was designed to supplement revelation. For the [theistic rationalists], it was the other way around. Reason was the ultimate standard and revelation was a supplement to it. In fact, they determined what counted as legitimate revelation based on their reason. The key to your [James] Wilson quote (which I include in my dissertation, by the way) is which of the two ways of looking at law takes priority when they appear to conflict. Wilson said: “Reason and conscience can do much; but still they stand in need of support and assistance.” And “the Scriptures support, confirm, and corroborate, but do not supersede the operations of reason and the moral sense.” For Wilson, Scripture will be called upon to support and assist reason – not the reverse. That is the position of [theistic rationalism]. It is the opposite of the position of Aquinas – and Christianity.

Now, we can debate whether Dr. Frazer properly interprets James Wilson an an enlightenment rationalist who believed man's reason should trump scripture when the two may have conflicted (as Jefferson, J. Adams, and Franklin clearly believed). Wilson's position may well have been closer to Aquinas' than Dr. Frazer admits. However, the point is America's Founders turned to this law of nature [that included newly discovered "natural rights," again another concept not found in the Bible, or, some argue, even in the teachings of Aristotle or Aquinas] for their political theology. They may have disagreed on what could trump what, but, they could agree that this natural law discovered by reason that has its antecedents in Aristotle, was brought into Christianity by Aquinas, and then lived on it the works of Protestant thinkers like the Anglican Richard Hooker, whom Jocke Locke quoted, not only existed but would form the basis of their political order. And ultimately it was John Locke's newly discovered "rights teachings" which formed the centerpiece of the Declaration of Independence.

Yet, Mr. Lofton, seems to embrace the Declaration of Independence:

ROWE: However, to the extent that there is an “America View” of political theology represented by the Declaration of Independence and the personal beliefs the most important Founding Fathers, such holds that all human beings are children of God. It’s precisely that view that makes human rights “unalienable” and consequently “universal.” If the non-elect or non-regenerate are “children of the Devil,” Mr. Lofton, I would ask, why should a “Christian” government treat them equally as the Declaration of Independence demands?

LOFTON: Actually, the D of I says nothing about WHY we all have unalienable “rights” other than that we do, they come from God and it’s the role of government to protect such God-given rights. And since a Christian government must obey God’s Word this means that such government is no respecter of persons, meaning all persons (elect/non-elect/saved/unsaved) are under God’s Law. As St. Paul says: Love of neighbor means obeying the law of God re: your neighbor (Romans 13:10) — whether your neighbor is or is not saved..

Since Mr. Lofton rejects the natural law as even a supplement to an infallible Bible, it seems to me that the Declaration should speak very little, if not at all to him and his ideal political world. Thus, he should either give up his affinity for the Declaration of Independence, or rethink his position about the validity of natural law discovered by reason, used to supplement the Bible.

Finally I'll note the most notable Calvinist Founding Father, Dr. John Witherspoon, President of Princeton University, though he did give some fiery Calvinist sermons, when he taught politics at Princeton did not teach Calvin or the Bible but rather turned to Scottish rationalism, and, you got it, the laws of nature, discovered by reason. You can read his Lectures on Moral Philosophy here.


John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

Quick question, please, before I respond. Do you call yourself a Christian? If so, wht kind of church do you attend? Thx.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I am actually a non-Church going philosophically minded agnostic who has an open mind towards "religious" truths.