An evangelical-fundamentalist commenter reacted to Rev. Charles Chauncy's post on universal salvation as follows:
Chauncy acted like Jefferson, cutting out entire portions of text. What is worse for him, is the words he cut out were words Jesus used.
The only way Chauncy, Rush, or any other universalist can be right, which they aren't, is to go to the Greek, and look up the correct translation of the word "everlasting" in Mat 25:41 and 46:...
He then goes on to explain why the Bible actually teaches eternal damnation for the unsaved.
Chauncy like Jefferson, J. Adams, Franklin (and others) was both theologically unitarian and universalist. However, unlike Jefferson, Adams and Franklin, Chauncy was never, as far yet uncovered, so frank in his admission that the Bible is errant and fallible and that man's reason must sometimes trump what the Bible teaches. Chauncy claimed that the Bible itself, properly understood, vindicates universal salvation.
Something similar could be said of the many unitarian and trinitarian preachers who argued the pro-revolt position of Romans 13. They all held reason/natural law in high regard. They also professed high regard for the scriptures. They also cited pagans from classical antiquity (like Aristotle and Cicero) and sometimes modern non-Christian Enlightenment figures like Voltaire as authority.
Though while they championed a "reasoned" interpretation of the Bible, I have never seen the patriotic preachers so frankly declare the Bible is fallible and man's reason must trump its text when necessary, as Jefferson, J. Adams, and Franklin did. Yet, scholars have neither uncovered nor examined their private letters as meticulously as we have Jefferson's, J. Adams' and Franklin's. There might be some smoking guns yet to be discovered.
As I've noted before, Romans 13 was never too much of a problem for Jefferson as that was part of the Bible that didn't survive his razor. Everything St. Paul said, Jefferson wrote off as "corruption," not divinely inspired.
But again, we must ask, regardless of what the patriotic preachers said they did (i.e., Chauncy claiming that the Bible itself vindicates universal salvation), in point of fact were Chauncy et al. ACTING like Jefferson with his razor when they denied the Trinity, denied eternal damnation and declared a right to revolt against tyrants in the face of Romans 13? Dr. Gregg Frazer seems to think so. And I've witnessed many evangelicals who would LIKE to think America was founded as a "Christian Nation" likewise react this way (i.e., anyone who argues against the trinity or eternal damnation is substituting reason for the Bible's text).
Dr. Frazer categorizes any claim that argues for 1) unitarianism, 2) universal salvation, and 3) a right to revolt against tyrants as "reasoning trumping revelation." So while the many unitarians and universalists of the Founding era as a whole have not left evidence of frank admissions like those we see coming from Jefferson, J. Adams, and Franklin, in their private letters -- that man's reason trumps a fallible Bible -- if we add up all of the figures who asserted 1), 2), and 3) we get lots and lots of "reason trumping revelation" from the Founding era. This is why Gregg terms "theistic rationalism" as the PREVAILING political theology of the American Founding. It doesn't matter WHAT a majority believed in. It matters what prevailed.
His thesis shows lots of Trinitarians like John Witherspoon (and I might add Benjamin Rush; Frazer's thesis deals with Witherspoon, not Rush) as pushing forth this "theistic rationalist" project that was not authentically "Christian." When Witherspoon, for instance, argued salvation, he was an orthodox Calvinist. But when he taught politics to his students at Princeton and argued for a right to revolt, Witherspoon argued Locke, the Scottish Enlightenment, and what man discovers from "reason," not the Bible.
Likewise Rush, an orthodox Trinitarian, like the unitarian Chauncy claimed the Bible vindicated universal salvation. However I've investigated Rush's hermeneutic in detail. It's not proof texting an infallible Bible; rather it's a much more "liberal" or "cafeteria" hermeneutic that abstracts general principles from the "spirit" of the Bible and uses them to supplant prooftexts! In other words, while Rush might CLAIM to argue the Bible, to many who hold to the "orthodox" position on eternal damnation, he's actually uses discoveries of man's reason to supplant what the Bible teaches. Or at least, "orthodox Christians" of today, especially of the evangelical or fundamentalist bent, can in good faith claim this is what Rush, Chauncy, Witherspoon, the key Founders, the patriotic preachers did.
Hopefully this will clarify Dr. Gregg Frazer's assertion that "theistic rationalism" which posits "reason trumps revelation" when the two appear to conflict was the prevailing political theology of the American Founding.