Saturday, October 31, 2009


Kansas DVD breaks the billboard charts at #5. I've been following their career for a long time; there's been a noticeable increase in their popularity since Guitar Hero. There's no doubt Guitar Hero had a big spillover affect on their increased population at concerts and popularity.

The DVD is great (as was their concert I saw a few weeks ago with the Trenton Symphony Orchestra). Their prog rock genre lends itself to the orchestration. Their current violinist David Ragsdale is a phenom and truly shines with the orchestral backing. Steve Morse, who recorded two albums with them, makes a guest return (their performance of "Musicatto" is about as good as prog rock gets) as does original writer Kerry Livgren. And on the bonus track, you see Kansas jamming on one of their tunes with BOTH Morse AND Livgren.

Buy it, among other places, here.

Preview Steve Morse with Kansas playing Musicatto before YouTube takes it down:

Reformation Day & The Founders:

"On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Palace church, marking the start of the Protestant Reformation in Germany," as this website notes.

Evangelicals and Roman Catholics still split on a number of issues, like justification. This document that attempted to bring Lutherans and Roman Catholics together claims that it "does not resolve the classic question whether such grace is God’s undeserved favor (Lutheran) or whether it is a spiritual power poured or ‘infused’ into the soul that enables one to love God and merit salvation (Roman Catholic).”

What I find ironic is, whatever their differences the Christian theology shared by Roman Catholics and evangelicals is far closer to one another than either are to the religion of the so called "key Founders."

For instance, here is Ben Franklin on justification, which is so different than the view of evangelicals and Roman Catholics that it makes their views look like differences without distinction:

Faith is recommended as a Means of producing Morality: Our Saviour was a Teacher of Morality or Virtue, and they that were deficient and desired to be taught, ought first to believe in him as an able and faithful Teacher. Thus Faith would be a Means of producing Morality, and Morality of Salvation. But that from such Faith alone Salvation may be expected, appears to me to be neither a Christian Doctrine nor a reasonable one….Morality or Virtue is the End, Faith only a Means to obtain that End: And if the End be obtained, it is no matter by what Means.

– “Dialogue between Two Presbyterians,” April 10, 1735.

Though George Washington was less specific when he discussed his views on the afterlife, there is not a SHRED OF EVIDENCE that George Washington held to a salvation scheme that was any more "Christian" than Franklin’s. Indeed, if anything Washington's view on the afterlife was LESS Christian.

As GW put it on the death of a loved one, suggesting she merited salvation through her good works, “She is now no more! But she must be happy, because her virtue has a claim to it.”

No orthodox Christian would state that someone’s “virtue” or works gives them a “claim” to eternal happiness.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book: “The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life”:

Gregg Frazer emailed me about this book published by University of Notre Dame Press and edited by Daniel Dreisbach, Mark Hall, and Jeffry Morrison. Dr. Frazer has a chapter, one that reflects his views, on Hamilton entitled, “Alexander Hamilton: Theistic Rationalist.” Other scholars are from Stanford, Virginia, Cal Berkeley, American Univ., and other prominent institutions.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Frazer Responds to "Joel Mark":

I've watched Gregg Frazer debate other evangelicals on Romans 13, in particular two of my evangelical co-bloggers, Jim Babka at Positive Liberty and "King of Ireland" at American Creation. While I've learned from their debates, I, a non-Christian observer, notice some arguing from different premises. I get the impression that they believe in different kinds of orthodox Christianity, though all three ARE "orthodox" in their Christology. I would term Babka and KOI "moderate" evangelicals, who hold some beliefs that the more fundamentalist types (like Dr. Frazer) deem heretical. Both Babka and KOI, for instance, believe in Darwin's evolution. And KOI has explicitly stated Genesis was an allegory and

that some of the verses used to prove an eternal judgement in a lake of fire are interpolations of the royalty of the time using religion to scare people into submission.

I have no proof other than the fact that the major religions of the world seem to have spread when the elite of that culture excepted it. I am suspicious that they pervert it to their own ends. I am afraid that Christianity may not be an exception.

Note, I have no problem with this kind of Christianity and were I to convert it would probably be to that kind as opposed to strict fundamentalist, verse and chapter citation that reads Genesis as a literal tale and believes Darwin's evolution false. However, if those are the premises to which one holds, Gregg's understanding of Romans 13 is the more authentic expression of evangelical-fundamentalism. Again, it's ironic that David Barton appeals to so many evangelical-fundamentalist, strict verse and chapter quoters.

So when I observe Gregg debating them, as opposed to the more moderate theological types, I see them playing by the same (or a more similar) set of rules. And Gregg always does an effective job refuting them on strict, Sola Scriptura fundamentalist grounds.

For instance, on this thread, an evangelical-fundamentalist Rev. named "Joel Mark" tried to justify political rebellion on biblical grounds when he commented:

The simplistic platitude that rebellion against authority IS rebellion against God applies in some cases and not others. It’s not that simple in Scripture or in real life.

The church herself does not have as her main mission political rebellion or activism. Using the church for political reballion as if that is her main mission is wrong-headed. But Christians are legal citizens too and they have a right to participate in dissent and/or rebellion, in many various forms–depending on the context. Where one draws the line between dissent and rebellion is a subjective call. But a right understadnig of scripture does not lead to a mandate for some sweeping ban on all social or political dissent or rebellion on all believers in all circumstances.

Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt was more than dissent. It was a rebellion, a godly and just rebellion and God called Moses to lead it.

David respected Saul’s office as king but when David was de-throned, he allowed a civil war to dethrone his own son and get his throne back.

Jesus, on some occasions, rebelled against political, civic and religious aauthorities and they had the politica authority to have him killed unjustly for it.

The apostle Peter refused to submit to the command of the Sanhedrin to shut up.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer rose in rebellion against Hitler (even to articipate in an effort to assassinate him) and he did so rightly and bravely as a faithful man of God.

Martin Luther King, Jr, was a Christian who rebelled against laws and was in the right to do so.

There are Mao’s, Stalins, Hitlers and others in this world and God’s Word did not give Christians some free pass not to care or act on that concern to deal with such tyrannies.

I think that Christians have a legitimate option and even a responsibility in some cases to dissent and/or rebel in some ways against exploitative racism, oppression, tyranny, political deception, and injustice. In fact, unbelievers and others are harshly critical of Christians when they may fail to rise in the name of earthly justice.

While the earthly fate others is an acute concern for Christians, it is still not our main mission in the end to seek earthly justice. Our main mission remains the same: calling sinners to repentance and forgiveness of sins through Christ. Our ultimate citizenship is still in heaven. But the Bible allows for the role of the soldier (in fact it treats it honorably) and even the role of those in legitimate dissent of abusive authority.

It does not change my point to say that God sent the plagues. God clearly used Moses in the rebellious and defiant process of delivering the Israelites from political slavery and tyranny.

One of my points had to do with David and Absalom, not necessarily David and Saul.

I have read and studied all those biblical accounts for myself and it strains them too thin, in my view, to deprive them of their plain meaning in order to fit them into an agenda that calls for some universal legalistic ban on all Christians from any political rebellion or defiance or perhaps even dissent in all cases.


Jesus lived in a theocratic culture and when he defied authorities in the Temple, quite rebelliously, he was defying the ruling authorities of his time and culture sure enough.

With Jesus as our model, we see that there are times and circumstances for total submission to governing authorities and there are times for total defiance. He did not operate on some over-arching ban or mandate. He applied principles of God’s will to the need of the moment faithfully.


Jon wrote; “This deals with disobedience NOT submission.”

I see no moral or consequential discinction here. This seems to be a false dichotomy. To dosobey is to refuse to submit and to refuse to submit is to disobey–total compatibility.

Jon wrote; “The one time Christians are permitted to disobey civil authorities is when need to avoid committing a sin to do so.”

This is always the reason we would ever be permitted to disobey civil authorities.

Accepting the punishment may well be our fate for not submitting or not obeying civil authorities, but that does not speak to the notion of whether Christians should or should not do it in the first place.

And what follows is Gregg's rebuttal on strict biblical grounds to every single point Joel Mark makes:

Joel Mark has conflated and confused a number of different terms and activities. He is quite right that Scripture does not mandate a sweeping ban on “dissent” – but quite wrong in suggesting that it does not ban “rebellion.” The initial problem, of course, is the suggestion that the two are the same thing or even in the same category.

By definition, “dissent” is disagreement; a “difference of opinion.” “Rebellion” is “open, armed, and usually unsuccessful defiance or resistance to an established government.”

In the American situation, King George had no problem with “dissent” – but he fought a war to put down “rebellion.” On the other side, one wonders why the Americans went to the expense and insecurity of rebellion if they could achieve the same by dissent. If they’re the same, they would have the same result, right? We have different words for them because they’re quite different. The U.S. Constitution says that the writ of habeas corpus may be suspended in times of “rebellion.” We continually have people expressing dissent (picketing, Tea Parties, etc.) – does anyone suggest that habeas corpus should be perpetually suspended? Did Lincoln send the Union army into the South when the southerners expressed dissent or to put down rebellion when they took violent action against Sumter?

How, exactly, is obeying an order from pharaoh “rebellion?” In Exodus 12:31, pharaoh commanded Moses to take the people and leave. Moses obeyed that order. There was no rebellion whatsoever. What swords were drawn? Who organized a rebellious army? Which verse talks of an Israelite army fighting its way out of Egypt? For that matter, what did Moses do besides speak the word of God to pharaoh and throw down his staff? God handled whatever coercion was necessary – as He always does when He wants a ruler’s authority over a people to end. The only One Who took action against pharaoh was God – and God outranked pharaoh in authority.

David was the king – Absalom’s false claim did not change that. David is identified as the king throughout the account. So, David did not rebel against authority – he defended his authority against rebellion.

JESUS NEVER REBELLED against ANY authority. He rebuked them and warned them and chided them – but he never attempted to overthrow them or even challenged their authority. If He had, they would have had REAL charges to bring against Him at his “trial” – instead of paying men to lie. Joel Mark’s statement is curious: he says that Jesus rebelled and then says that they killed him “unjustly” for it. If he were a rebel, His execution would have been just!

Peter and the apostles did, indeed, refuse to stop preaching the gospel – that’s “disobedience,” not rebellion. Disobedience targets a law; rebellion targets the authority behind law. We may have to disobey a law if it requires us to disobey God (Acts 5:29); but we are never to resist authority (Rom. 13:2).

To be in subjection is to recognize the legitimacy of the authority over you (it is legit whether or not you recognize it); to obey is to do what they say in a specific instance. One can disobey a particular command (because it requires disobedience to God) and yet remain in subjection by maintaining respect for the authority behind the law. It usually means taking the punishment (Daniel, Shadrach et al, the apostles).

Re Mao, Stalin, Hitler, et al: the emperor when Paul told the Romans to be in subjection to authority without exception – was NERO! He was so bad a ruler that a branch of theology says that he was THE ANTICHRIST. We are, of course, free to care and to act on that concern – but we are not free to disobey God in doing so. The most powerful action we could take is to PRAY to the sovereign God of the universe. Unless you know someone stronger? (Isaiah 14:26-27)

Unbelievers may well be critical of Christians refusing to take actions of which they approve, but God does not. Many first century Christians were martyred for that very reason; and Daniel went into the lion’s den; Shadrach et al went into the furnace. Our testimony to unbelievers is, in fact, tied up in our faithful subjection to authority, according to I Peter 2:12-15. We must not disobey God in order to gain the approval of unbelievers. We may certainly “rise in the name of earthly justice” in various ways – but rebelling against authority is not one of them.
John Adams Addresses A Nation of Christians & more on what is "Christianity"?:

For perspective, my American Creation co-blogger Tom Van Dyke reproduced a public address John Adams made as President. Adams said in 1797:

"I feel it to be my duty to add, if a veneration for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service, can enable me in any degree to comply with your wishes, it shall be my strenuous endeavor that this sagacious injunction of the two Houses shall not be without effect."

This hits upon an important point; the "key Founding Fathers," in their public addresses, especially as their role as the first four Presidents of the United States, did their best not to ruffle the feathers of "the orthodox" or any powerful, socially viable branch of Christianity. Indeed the internal theory of their Founding politics demanded "consent" of the governed, many (perhaps the majority) of whom were "orthodox."

Jefferson too. In his second inaugural he stated:

I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with his providence, and our riper years with his wisdom and power; and to whose goodness I ask you to join with me in supplications, that he will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures, that whatsoever they do, shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations.

I think this and John Adams' above sentiments were sincere; however both are consistent with unitarianism or what has been termed "theistic rationalism." These same first four Presidents could turn around while addressing unconverted Native Americans and speak as though their "Great Spirit" God was the same one that Jews, Christians, Muslims and Unitarians worshipped.

If there is an incompatibility between orthodox Christianity and the American Founding Presidential political theology, it's that the latter is too ecumenical. Orthodox Christianity is not eccumenical; it believes Christ the only way to God. Evangelicals and Roman Catholics can gather together over their shared belief in Nicene orthodoxy; but the America's Founding political theology went further.

I noted this on an evangelical thread (I choose this thread because the smartest, most well educated evangelicals tend to comment there AND the blog has high standards for civility) where I pose a question that most folks there have trouble answering. I noted the "key Founders" tended to present their theological opinions under the auspices of "Christianity" and greatly respected CERTAIN tenets about "Christianity." But...the million $$ question:

“What is Christianity without original sin, trinity, incarnation, atonement, eternal damnation and infallibility of the Bible?” Whatever it calls itself, is it still "Christianity" or some "other" theological system?

I don't think there is a clear cut answer; the answer depends on one's premises or definitions.

The irony is -- and I'm all about playing up delicious philosophic irony -- those who most loudly and popularly defend the "Christian Nation" idea have a tight definition of "Christianity" and are likeliest to term such a theology as "not Christian." In other words, they evaluate what is a "Christian" as it relates to "their beliefs on doctrines of salvation." Gregg Frazer doesn't even do this when he constructs a definition of late 18th Century "Christianity" that excludes what the first four Presidents believed. Gregg forms a 10 point lowest common denominator among the creeds of the largest "Christian" sects in 18th Century America. And this includes Roman Catholics and Anglicans who would not pass the "born again"/salvation standard of evangelicals.

In other words, while it's still a tight test, Dr. Frazer's is a rung lower (or broader) than the evangelical/salvation test for Christianity.

This is a point evangelicals need to understand. When they hear folks like David Barton claim George Washington was a "Christian," they hear in their minds a "born again" or "regenerate" Christian.

Some folks believe this to the point of delusion. I was shocked once debating a seemingly intelligent evangelical blogger who claimed that while St. Augustine probably wasn't a "Christian," George Washington was. What nonsense.

Again -- delicious irony -- the "Protestant Christianity" of orthodox evangelicals of both today and the Founding era is, despite whatever differences they might have, theologically CLOSER to Roman Catholicism than what George Washington or John Locke PROVABLY believed. After all, Roman Catholics believe in the Nicene Creed, some might even say, they WROTE the creed and constructed the biblical canon. And neither Washington nor Locke provably believed "in the Trinity, the deity of Christ, original sin, the atonement, or justification by faith." Roman Catholics believe in all of these things.

My million dollar question remains. I'm interested in the different answers and defenses thereto.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

John Adams Calls Christianity "the most bloody religion that ever existed":

Yes, he did, in this letter here to F. A. VANDERKEMP, 27 December, 1816. However it helps to read his entire thoughts in context. Adams' thoughts on Christianity were qualified in a half full half empty sense. Adams thought Christianity was both the best and worst religion in the world. And he believed this in large part, because, he thought himself a "Christian" (though one who disbelieved in original sin, trinity, incarnation, atonement, eternal damnation and infallibility of the Bible).

The following is the ENTIRE letter, so readers can examine the context in full:

I do declare that I can write Greek better than you do, though I cannot say, so well as you can if you will. I can make nothing but pothooks and trammels of the frontispiece of your amiable letter of the 15th. If you had quoted your authority, I might have found it.

Jesus is benevolence personified, an example for all men. Dupuis has made no alteration in my opinions of the Christian religion, in its primitive purity and simplicity, which I have entertained for more than sixty years. It is the religion of reason, equity, and love; it is the religion of the head and of the heart.

It would be idle for me to write observations upon Dupuis. I must fill thirteen volumes. If I was twenty-five years old, and had the necessary books and leisure, I would write an answer to Dupuis; but when, or where, or how should I get it printed? Dupuis can be answered, to the honor and advantage of the Christian religion as I understand it. To this end I must study astrology as well as astronomy, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Persian, and Sanscrit.

But to leave Dupuis to be answered or reviewed in Edinburgh or London, I must inquire into the attributes given by the ancient nations to their divinities; gods with stars and new moons in their foreheads or on their shoulders; gods with heads of dogs, horns of oxen, bulls, cows, calves, rams, sheep, or lambs; gods with the bodies of horses; gods with the tails of fishes; gods with the tails of dragons and serpents; gods with the feet of goats. The bull of Mithra; the dog of Anubis; the serpent of Esculapius!!!!

Is man the most irrational beast of the forest? Never did bullock, or sheep, or snake imagine himself a god. What, then, can all this wild theory mean? Can it be any thing but allegory founded in astrology? Your Manilius would inform you as well as Dupuis.

The Hebrew unity of Jehovah, the prohibition of all similitudes, appears to me the greatest wonder of antiquity. How could that nation preserve its creed among the monstrous theologies of all the other nations of the earth? Revelation, you will say, and especial Providence; and I will not contradict you, for I cannot say with Dupuis that a revelation is impossible or improbable.

Christianity, you will say, was a fresh revelation. I will not deny this. As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed? How has it happened that all the fine arts, architecture, painting, sculpture, statuary, music, poetry, and oratory, have been prostituted, from the creation of the world, to the sordid and detestable purposes of superstition and fraud?

The eighteenth century had the honor to discover that Ocellus of Lucania, Timæus of Locris, Aristotle, Tacitus, Quintilian, and Pliny, were in the right. The philosophy of Frederic, Catharine, Buffon, De la Lande, Diderot, d’Alembert, Condorcet, d’Holbach, and Dupuis, appears to me to be no more nor less than the philosophy of those ancient men of science and letters, whose speculations came principally from India, Egypt, Chaldea, and Phœnicia. A consolatory discovery, to be sure! Let it once be revealed or demonstrated that there is no future state, and my advice to every man, woman, and child would be, as our existence would be in our own power, to take opium. For, I am certain, there is nothing in this world worth living for but hope, and every hope will fail us, if the last hope, that of a future state, is extinguished.

I know how to sympathize with a wounded leg, having been laid up with one for two or three months, and I have felt the delightful attentions of a daughter. May you have the felicity to celebrate as many more lustres of Madam Vanderkemp as human nature can bear.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gregg Frazer's latest Response to King Of Ireland:

KOI, a co-blogger of mine at American Creation, a K-12 educator, and a moderate evangelical, challenged Dr. Frazer to this and Gregg rose to the occasion. I thought what Gregg gave me demanded more than just one post, where I should separate it into sections. But, since it reads well as one long argument, I decided to reproduce it that way. The argument is about whether rebelling against governing authorities is EVER consistent with Romans 13 in particular and the Bible in general. Here it is:


Let me preface my response to the King of Ireland with a few remarks to the general audience. First, as far as I can tell, the message of Romans 13 (one way or the other) was not at all important to the leaders of the American Revolution – they never discussed it or even referenced it.

Second, it was VERY important to many of the common people whose support and participation were necessary to make the Revolution successful. In particular, in New England -- the birthplace and hotbed of the Revolution – congregants in the overwhelmingly Calvinist churches had been taught for 150 years that rebellion/revolution/resistance to authority was wrong and sinful. This is what made Mayhew’s work so important and made him so prominent – he provided a hurdle over this primary stumbling block in the way of recruitment for the Revolutionary cause.

Third, by the time of the Revolution, many ministers in those New England churches – who had been trained in seminaries teaching Enlightenment rationalism and who had been heavily influenced by Locke – had politicized the pulpit and turned it into a platform for liberal democratic thought.

So, interpretation and application of Romans 13 mattered not at all to the leaders in a theoretical sense – but it mattered a great deal in a practical sense. The churches became the greatest recruiting offices for the Revolutionary forces in New England, in particular. If Mayhew and West had not come up with their creative interpretation of Romans 13 to overturn the meaning understood for 1600 years, the Revolution might have failed for lack of supporters.

Now, to respond to the King of Ireland:

With all due respect, King, I would submit – and will try to demonstrate – that while you answered questions, you did not answer the questions that I asked. Rather, you re-framed them to suit your purposes and to make them more convenient to answer from your position. Likewise, while you responded fairly effectively to certain arguments, they were straw man arguments – not arguments that I actually made.

According to Romans 13:1, all governing authorities – those which exist – get their authority from God. Jesus affirms this in John 19:11. We are all to submit to those in authority over us – not to all authorities, but to all those who have authority where we are. So, although its authority comes from God, I have no obligation to submit to the Chinese government’s authority unless I’m in China. Then I’m in their sphere of authority and I must submit. So, regarding the ubiquitous Aztec question: if Monte is attacking, but hasn’t established control, then you submit to the tribal leader – as the one with authority in your sphere. If Monte has conquered and established control, then he is the supreme authority and you must submit to him. If there is a conflict between higher and lower magistrates, then I Peter 2:11 seems to indicate that you should submit to the higher authority.

The difficult question is what to do during time of transition between an authority going out of existence and one coming into control of a region. In that circumstance, a Christian would have Christian liberty to decide – after much study and prayer – what God would have him do. As soon as the new regime is instituted, he must submit to it, however. No, Monte is not an authority just because he claims it; he is an authority if he exerts or wields authority according to the system by which the society is organized – in reality, not according to a particular group’s desires or wishes or preferences.

You say that Locke is right and that consent is the key to legitimate authority and that man “should only consent if it secures him the greatest amount of liberty.” On what basis do you make that claim? – certainly not Romans 13, which says nothing about consent or liberty. You might rightly make that claim philosophically, but not biblically.

I find it intriguing that you say on the one hand that not all those who “claim” authority are legitimate authorities, but then you suggest that nations of people who “claim” sovereignty must be, in fact, sovereign. I’ve agreed with you that not all who claim authority have authority – likewise, however, not all who claim sovereignty have sovereignty, either.

You then say that your “issue” with me is that I “assume judgment due to some perceived evil of the conquered people.” Here’s one of the straw man arguments you attribute to me that I’ve never made: I do not assume judgment as the reason that a people is attacked or conquered. Scripture is quite clear that, in a fallen world, war is the norm and not necessarily indicative of special judgment by God. What I have said is that we all – me included – are worthy of judgment by God and that every nation commits evil and is worthy of judgment. So, if a people are conquered, they are worthy of judgment, but it need not be special judgment; it may simply be God’s plan that one nation rises and another falls without it being a special case of judgment. You keep talking about assuming judgment, but I don’t do it – you do.

Regarding my question whether you question the legitimacy of the governments of the United States, Germany, and Japan: I did not ask you whether a Navajo should question the legitimacy of the U.S. government or how you would advise such a person. I asked you whether you question it. I wasn’t interested in a theoretical or philosophical response, but a real, practical, personal response – do you refuse to pledge allegiance because you don’t think the American government is legitimate? Are you involved in organized resistance against the illegitimate U.S. government? Do you refuse to pay taxes? Do you think these three governments are illegitimate because they were established by those with the “bigger guns?”

The fact that you could not answer the question without re-framing it to better suit your position indicates that you do, in fact, recognize the legitimacy of the U.S. government. If you don’t resist the U.S. government and if you do, in practice and in reality, accept its legitimacy (and that of the German & Japanese governments), then you agree with me that being established by the “bigger guns” does not necessarily make a regime illegitimate.

You ask me on what I base my view that the fact that authorities emerge proves their legitimacy. It’s very simple: Romans 13:1 says that “those which exist are established by God” – a universal and clear statement of fact which I accept as fact. I accept that God knows more about what’s legitimate than do I and I take His Word for it.

Straw man alert: You ask why I would assume that it’s “God’s will for the U.S. to use “bigger guns” to rape a people of their culture and amputate their spirit.” Very simply: I don’t make such an assumption. I never assume what God’s will is. I’ve never said such a thing was God’s will. What I have said is that it is God’s plan – and I assume that because the Bible teaches very clearly that God has a plan for nations and whatever happens is part of that plan. God’s will is not always done – because he allows sinful men to act on their evil nature. But God’s plan cannot be thwarted (Isaiah 14:26-27; Jeremiah 27:5-7; and numerous other passages) and He has a plan for history and the rise and fall of nations. You don’t like that fact, but I can’t help it – I didn’t write it, God did.

You accuse me (again) of “disdain for the ‘pagan’ Navajo that has no interest in God.” I have said numerous times – and I don’t know how to say it any clearer – that we are all (me included) deserving of judgment and none of us (me included) seeks for God, according to Romans 3. I have no more disdain for the Navajo than I do for myself – it’s not a matter of disdain, it is a matter of recognizing the nature of man.

You say “Just because something happens does not mean God intended it to be that way.” Here’s where we just fundamentally disagree. I’m wondering: a) who you know who is stronger than God and can thwart His plan and b) why you’d be interested in believing in a God Who doesn’t know everything and is not all-powerful.

Perhaps the most common straw man you’ve built against me is the notion that I support or advocate “Divine Right of Kings.” You continually talk about it as if I’d ever expressed support for such a notion – which I have not. It makes a comfortable re-framing of my position – but it doesn’t touch my actual position. To put it as clearly as I know how: I support/advocate “Divine Right of Everyone in Authority.” The authority needn’t be a king – it could be a president, a legislature, a state legislature, a governor, a mayor, a city councilman, a police officer, an employer, a church elder, a parent, yes, even an Aztec tribal leader! I’ve expressed support for the divine legitimacy of the American government, of Pilate, of the current German & Japanese governments, of Cortes, and the tribal leader – none of whom are kings or headed by kings. Your simplistic depiction of my position is designed, no doubt, to elicit unthinking support because the concept of Divine Right of Kings is universally assailed in American circles. But it is not my position.

Regarding your comparison between the Saul/David situation and the Othniel situation and your conclusion that it is as “simple” as God saying He wouldn’t listen to Israel when they cried out for deliverance from Saul: if these were the only two passages in Scripture, that “simple” explanation might fly as representative of the Old Testament record. But they’re not the only passages and uprooting them from the context of the rest of the Old Testament record can lead to faulty views such as this. For example, there are plenty of tyrants in the history of Israel after Saul who are not removed despite pleas from the people. If it’s as “simple” as you’ve made it, God should have interceded on behalf of all of the others. Also, God does not only recognize kings of Israel (His people) who’ve gone through a special anointing ceremony to be His “anointed.” Romans 13 says that all rulers are “ministers of God” and “servants of God.” And God refers to pagan civil rulers as His “servants,” His “shepherds,” and His “anointed” (see e.g. Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10; Isaiah 44:28; 45:1). So, what applied to David re Saul applies to all civil rulers AS FAR AS TAKING OUR OWN INITIATIVE IS CONCERNED. GOD may remove a ruler or even raise up a deliverer to remove a ruler or use the sinful rebellion of people to remove a ruler – but we have no authority or permission to do so on our own initiative. It isn’t up to us to decide, but rather God. You talk of having “a time to have the Spirit come upon you” -- as if that were up to you to generate. As if you were in control of the Spirit of God!!! God can send His Spirit; God can raise up a deliverer; God can determine that it’s time for a tyrant to fall – but that doesn’t mean we can or that we can simply decide that we are such deliverers!

You say that “’appointed’ authority can come under judgment themselves and their former slaves can even be the ones to take them out.” True. What is NOT true is the notion that WE get to decide when that time has arrived or that, contrary to clear command from God, we can do it our own way on our own timetable. You ask why the Declaration of Independence can’t be an example of this – BECAUSE THERE WAS NO REVELATION TO THE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARIES TO TRUMP THE BIBLICAL COMMAND NOT TO REBEL. God did not reveal to them that this was an Othniel situation and He did not reveal to them that He had appointed an Othniel to deliver them! Othniel didn’t decide on his own – He received revelation from God.

Re your creative exploitation of Ecclesiastes 3: first, “a time for war” does not equal a time for rebellion or revolution, as you imply on occasion. War is a quite different entity than revolution, which may/may not be accompanied by war. To say there is a time for “war” tells us nothing about “revolution.” Second, you suggest, by the way that you refer to it, that God declaring that there is a time for each of the things listed indicates that they are good things or things of which God approves. That is not necessarily the case. So, even if there were a “time for revolution,” that would not necessarily make it a good or acceptable thing. And, the sense in which it would be good would be when God decides – not someone without the authority to do so – namely, us. Third, I notice that you conveniently leave out the first sentence of verse one: “There is an appointed time for everything.” That speaks of God’s control – of God’s plan. God has appointed times for events – they do not happen randomly or outside of His plan. That’s my view – not yours.

You say kings were not God’s original intent. I don’t see the relevance of the point, but if you mean that they weren’t part of God’s original plan, Deuteronomy 17:14-15 says differently – I’ll take God’s Word for it. Whether they were or not is irrelevant, though. Once they are governing authorities, they must be submitted to. Your example of Moses and the judges is not relevant because they were not “rulers” in the sense of making laws/commands or executing them. God made the laws and Moses executed them. The judges were just that: judges. Period. I don’t see the point of your example of the apostles appointing elders, either. The Greek word for “appointed” is cheirotoneo, which means to stretch out the hand and appoint/pick. Even IF it meant to elect, it’s the apostles who did the “electing,” not the people. Also, that’s simply ONE WAY TO COME INTO AUTHORITY – NOT THE ONLY WAY!

Re what you say about I Peter 2: here’s another straw man. I never said that humans do not establish governments in the sense of creating governmental institutions – quite the contrary. I specifically referred to the term “human institution” in my discussion of this passage. Man establishes governing institutions; God establishes/ordains the “authority” which those leaders wield. AND how about looking at the point of the passage instead of picking a word and making a trivial point?

As for my belief that it’s pointless to try to prevent God’s plan from happening: If you think you’re the answer to God’s question: “For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” Go ahead, knock yourself out. Give it your best shot. Just don’t claim a biblical right to do it.

Another straw man: you say that I “do not leave room that evil empires can and have been used of the devil to do his work on earth.” Quite the contrary! I’m constantly reminding people entering the political arena that they should lower their expectations because Scripture identifies Satan as the “ruler of this world system.” BUT SATAN IS NOT AUTONOMOUS – he does what he does with the permission of God and within confines set by God. Read Job 1:8-12 and Job 2:3-6. God is quite ingenious if you think about it. He allows Satan to pursue his evil plans in this world by influencing governments – all the while God is restraining evil by the function of those governments! In fact, while we’re identifying Satan’s evil ploys, convincing men to rebel against God-ordained authority is one of his favorites.

While I John 3:8 says that Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, that doesn’t tell us anything unless we know what those works are. The rest of Scripture – including Romans 13 – tells us that resisting authority is one of those evil works for which practitioners will “receive condemnation.” Even IF this were supportive of rebellion, it says that CHRIST came to destroy the works of the devil – not us. So, again, it would be God – not us. [The verse is a specific reference to Christ’s work on the Cross, anyway.] Rebellion has destroyed plenty of lives, too! Wasn’t the Reign of Terror unpleasant enough for you? Arguably, many more people were unjustly murdered by the French revolutionaries than were ever killed by the monarchy.

Straw man alert! You say that you believe in the Trinity and in the right to revolt and that others 200 years ago might have, as well. You follow that insight with: “Is there a possible false dilemma here?” One problem: I NEVER CREATED SUCH A CONNECTION! I never said that one could not – or that they did not – believe in both the Trinity and in the right to revolt! I never even intimated such an absurd idea. Of course many believed in both the Trinity and a right to revolt. Like other people in this discussion, you’re suggesting that I’ve elevated belief in the proper interpretation of Romans 13 to a fundamental doctrine of Christianity – I have done no such thing. Of course someone could be right on the Trinity and wrong on submission to authority. I’m contending for a proper view of Scripture, but I’ve never said that human beings cannot be inconsistent in their reading of it – quite the contrary; I’ve said the exact opposite. So if there’s a false dilemma, you created it – not me.

The mere reprinting of Mayhew’s argument in your post does not make it any more accurate or correct than it was when he first made it. Mayhew says: “Rulers are, by their office, bound to consult the public welfare and the good of society: therefore you are bound to pay them tribute, to honor, and to submit to them, even when they destroy the public welfare ….” BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT ROMANS 13 SAYS! It never says that rulers are “bound to consult the public welfare and the good of society” – I defy you to show me where it does. It says that rulers ARE ministers of God (vs. 4) and that they ARE servants of God (vs. 6) – not that they should be or should try to be or aspire to be or are “bound” to be. All rulers and all governments restrain evil; although, being human beings and/or human-made institutions, some are better at it than others. Not a single government in history has been a perfect minister of God or servant of God – not a single ruler has been, either. But they’re all ministers/servants of God. And, as for the reasons to be subject, Romans 13 actually delineates four reasons, the first of which is because they all get their authority from God (vs. 1). But the reasons Mayhew lists refer to them BEING MINSTERS/SERVANTS OF GOD – not to them being “bound to consult the public welfare and the good of society,” which is never said.

So, there is an absurdity here, but it’s not an absurdity on Paul’s part (God’s part, really, since His Spirit inspired Paul) – it’s on the part of Mayhew.

I am very familiar with Abraham Keteltas’s God Arising and Pleading His People’s Cause – it’s hardly a reliable source. You talk about “extreme” positions? Keteltas argues in that sermon that Jesus came to earth and died on the Cross for the American cause!!! I keep a marker on that page of the sermon – for whenever I need a chuckle. As for his comments about who’s “anointed” in I Chron. 16 and Psalm 105 – both verses refer to prophets, not to the common people. [For those who want the technical, they are examples of parallelism in Hebrew, in which the same thing is said twice for emphasis – a common Hebrew technique.]

Re the Nero issue:

The flexibility of people holding your position on Romans 13 (especially as it applies to the American situation) never ceases to amaze me. In one sentence, you can justify a revolution against a “tyrant” for imposing a $1 per year tax to pay for a war which protected those people; in the next, you can with a straight face assert that a Roman emperor who drained every Roman of every cent to build extragant palaces for himself was not a tyrant. In one sentence, you can demand CONSENT as the only legitimate basis for government; in the next you can defend a Roman emperor as legitimate and not meeting the standard of tyranny that, of course, an English king met. While Nero had not yet begun specifically persecuting the Christians, he was hardly elected and hardly “consulted the public welfare and the good of society” by your and Mayhew’s standard!

You must remember that Paul wrote Romans UNDER THE INSPIRATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. God knew what Nero was going to do – and inspired Paul to write to those people how they must conduct themselves not just for that day, but when the persecution came. If it was just Paul’s opinion or limited by Paul’s finite understanding, then I wouldn’t give it any more weight than my own thoughts or those of a “wise” man. But it was GOD’s Word to those people – and it wasn’t bound by time constraints because God isn’t bound by time constraints. Paul did not say: “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities until they start doing mean and nasty things.” There are no qualifiers – despite Mayhew’s penchant for adding them. So, no, Nero had not yet begun burning Christians alive or feeding them to animals or nailing them to crosses, but the God Who inspired Paul’s writing knew he was going to.

WHEN HE DID BEGIN persecuting the Christians, it was so vile, wicked, and merciless that an entire branch of theology still today regards Nero as the Anti-Christ – THE WORST and most wicked ruler of all time.

I’m glad you refer to yours as the “the Lockean style of theological reasoning,” because it will help others reading along to recognize reading the Bible conveniently in support of a pre-determined agenda – rather than honestly on its own terms. Locke was hardly a theologian.

Re Titus 3:1, let me get this straight: if two words are used together in the same sentence, then every attribute of one of the words must be applied to the other???? If Paul tells readers to be subject to authorities and to be obedient in one passage, and in another entirely different book he says that subjection, but not obedience, is absolute, then obedience must also be absolute in the original passage? Frankly, I don’t know how to respond to such lack of logic. If I speak of God and man in the same sentence, then I must be saying that man has all of the same attributes as God? If I tell my daughter, knowing she isn’t old enough to drive: “do not murder anyone and do not drive a car” – then the universality of the first instruction necessarily applies to the second despite the context and I’m telling her she can NEVER drive a car? Again, you snatch things out of the air without regard to context for the purposes of your argument – Titus 3:1 was not written in a vacuum! He was writing to people who were familiar with the principle of Acts 5:29 AND with the fact that Paul was writing from prison (consistent with subjection, but not obedience)!

Re Locke’s creative attempt to minimize the universality of Romans 13: I give you credit for digging up an explanation. I think it’s interesting that you make it the view of Mayhew and Keteltas, too – although they say no such thing. The primary problem with Locke’s view – aside from the fact that it comes from Locke, hardly the most reliable source on the Bible – is that ROMANS 13 SIMPLY DOES NOT SAY WHAT LOCKE SAYS IT “MIGHT.” Romans 13 says nothing about differentiating Jewish rule from Gentile rule – that’s not an issue at all. If that were God’s message, one would think He could express it a little clearer – like actually saying that. In Romans 1-11, Paul lays out the theology behind being a Christian – how one becomes a Christian and what it means to be a Christian. Some of it is addressed to Jewish converts and some of it is not. It is addressed to Christians – all of them. Then, starting in chapter 12, he says that given our position as Christians, we need to think about things differently. In chapter 12 & 13, he explains HOW we are to think with “transformed” and “renewed” minds in a practical sense as Christians – not as Jews or Gentiles. It’s not an ethnic matter; it’s a spiritual matter.

As for your application comments, I would suggest that “some of the doctrines least friendly to liberty were constructed on the shaky foundation of theological interpretations that” are designed to appeal conveniently to whatever people want to hear or whatever they prefer. Communism, for example, is based on the notion that men are basically good. Sounds nice and reasonable, doesn’t it? Again, you’re mistreating a passage and taking it out of context when you say that Paul “is telling people it is better not to get married in one letter and in a later letter telling widows to get married if they are going to be busy bodies.” In I Corinthians 7:8, Paul says: “I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I” – but he doesn’t say it in a vacuum! In the previous verse (7), he says concerning his own unmarried status and the married people he was talking about in verses 2-6: “However, each has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.” So, for those with the gift of celibacy, being unmarried is a good thing – but he’s not telling everyone that it’s better to be unmarried. Quite the contrary; in verse 9 he says that those who feel sexual passion should marry. I don’t know what other passage you referred to, but it doesn’t matter since this one doesn’t say what you reported.

You say that we should “look beyond the surface of what the text seems to indicate” – this is the problem. Try looking AT what the text seems to indicate some time before replacing it with something you prefer.

As for your three “most important points”: the philosophical ideas to which you refer are NOT “taken from the text of the Bible,” but from creative, out-of-context interpretations which amount to re-writing the Bible (i.e. a different “text” entirely)

a) if it is wrong to state that these preachers’s ideas were shaped more by Enlightenment thought than Christian theology, then why did they cite Locke and other Enlightenment sources more than they cited Scripture or Christian sources?
b) have you actually read their sermons (aside from Keteltas)?
c) have you investigated their course of study in seminary to see what they were taught?

In your quote from Barton, we can see the cleverness or the ignorance of Barton – he says that “the TOPIC of civil disobedience and resistance to governing authorities had been a SUBJECT of serious THEOLOGICAL INQUIRIES for centuries before the Enlightenment. This was especially true during the Reformation, when THE SUBJECT was DIRECTLY ADDRESSED by theologians such as” Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli and others. Notice how he did NOT say that Calvin and Luther ADVOCATED resistance to governing authorities. He said the topic was discussed and “addressed” – but he didn’t say what their position was. He is either saying this in a way to imply that they supported resistance because he’s ignorant of the facts or he’s deviously saying it to imply that conclusion even though he knows it’s not true. Either way: CALVIN AND LUTHER DO NOT SUPPORT RESISTANCE TO GOVERNING AUTHORITIES – as I’ve shown numerous times on this blog.

Straw man alert! I have NEVER said or suggested that “they are all theistic rationalists,” as you say here. Quite the contrary (again): I’ve said all along that there were Christians and deists (and even a few atheists) among the Founders. For the record, Locke is not orthodox in his doctrines of salvation or almost anything else. For example, he doesn’t believe in the Trinity, the deity of Christ, original sin, the atonement, or justification by faith. And (straw man again) neither I nor anyone who shares my view concerning theistic rationalism (e.g. Jon) has EVER labeled “everyone a theistic rationalist that disagrees with the loyalist/Frazer line of reasoning.” In fact, as I’ve now repeated dozens of times, one’s position on Romans 13 is NOT one of the criteria in determining a theistic rationalist at all.

Re my question of whether we have any revelation from God affirming that He raised up Washington or any other American revolutionary as a deliverer or whether Washington or any other American revolutionary even claimed to receive direct revelation from God telling him to rebel: I give you credit for digging up a number of interesting quotes – but none of them answers the question that I actually asked. I did NOT ask whether they thought God was on their side or whether they thought they were doing what God would want done. I asked for revelation from God that they were doing His bidding or evidence from them that they claimed to receive revelation from God instructing them to be deliverers for Him. Obviously, they believed God was on their side – so did the British. So has virtually every combatant in world history. Hitler thought God was on his side and so did the Japanese when they bombed Pearl Harbor. The Romans and Egyptians cut out the middle man and deified their rulers to make sure they had God on their side.

I know that Washington believed in an active, intervening (“interposing” if you prefer) God – that’s one of my proofs that he wasn’t a deist. It is a quite different thing than believing that God spoke to him and told him to be a deliverer, however. I believe in an active, invervening God Who controls events, too – but I’ve never received any special revelation from Him except the Bible. The “called into action” quote is nice, but he says he was called into action “by great events” – not by God!

The story about Washington being immune to bullets is entertaining, but parts of it are problematic historically (sourced in Mason Weems’s hagiography of Washington which also reports that, on his death, angels came and bore away his body through the ceiling). But let’s say it’s true. All it proves is that: a) Washington did not die, b) Washington believed that God had specially spared him, c) it was not God’s plan that Washington die then. The same exact conclusions can be drawn from the attempt to assassinate Hitler: a) he did not die, b) he believed that God specially spared him, c) it was not God’s plan that Hitler die then. IT IS NOT REVELATION AND IT IS NOT EVIDENCE THAT WASHINGTON RECEIVED ANY REVELATION OR CLAIMED TO HAVE RECEIVED ANY REVELATION. It isn’t even evidence of any special relationship between Washington and God – unless Hitler had a similarly special relationship. [LET ME BE CLEAR: I AM NOT CLAIMING THAT HITLER HAD A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD OR THAT IT’S A GOOD THING HE SURVIVED OR ANYTHING OTHER THAN whatever applies to Washington here similarly applies to Hitler]

Whether Washington or Keteltas thought God was blessing their cause or not is irrelevant to the actual question that I asked. I understand why you’ve re-framed it – as you have all of the questions – because it cannot be favorably answered from your position.

Finally, HISTORY does not at all contradict my view of Romans 13 – nor can it. My view does not say that everyone will be subject; it doesn’t say that revolutions won’t happen; it doesn’t say that God won’t use special deliverers; and it doesn’t say that God won’t use the sinful actions of people to accomplish His plan. So, how could history contradict my view?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Elizabeth Clare Prophet (RIP), a "Christian"?

Elizabeth Clare Prophet passed away a few days ago at 70. She was in the last stages of Alzheimer's.

I know her son Sean, now an atheist, through Facebook and the blogsphere. It was through him on Facebook that I learned she died.

My American Creation co-blogger Brad Hart once cited her in a footnote as someone who believed in the "Christian Nation" idea (of course as SHE understood the term "Christian"); Mormons too have their own Mormon-Christian Nation idea.

Ms. Prophet considered herself a "Christian," and I think a number of other things, Muslim, Buddhist, someone who channeled the Ascended Masters including Jesus Christ himself. You could literally take courses at her University with Jesus, St. Germain, etc., all channeled through her of course.

Ms. Prophet's eccentric religious teachings are relevant to my studies on the American Founding and religion because of the disputed definition of "what's a Christian" and how it relates to whether America was founded to be a "Christian Nation" in a political-theological sense. If "historic Christianity" = orthodoxy, i.e., the lowest common denominator among reformed/evangelicals, Roman Catholics and capital O Orthodox Christians, then Ms. Prophet and her followers were not "Christians."

If, on the other hand, "Christian" means self defining as one, complete with the idea that Jesus was the Son of God (though not necessarily God the Son), "Messiah," "Savior" of some sort, then Elizabeth Clare Prophet gets to be a "Christian" along with the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and many other more heterodox, eccentric sects.

You can listen to Ms. Prophet speak about Jesus here:

BTW: She had a kind of neat teaching, if I understand it right, that all human beings through Karma and Reincarnation could one day become God. Not "Gods" plural, but God singular, using the same logic that Trinitarianism does. Many Hindus teach something similar about many gods really being one God. Instead of there being three distinct persons in the Godhead, there were potentially limitless numbers. That's the Hindu spin on monotheism. All of their deities are just different manifestations of one God. Ms. Prophet taught human beings became one with God (i.e., part of the Godhead) once they achieved "Ascended Master" status, as Jesus did, as her late husband Mark Prophet did (his Ascended Master name is Lanello). And as I'm sure many of her devout followers will now claim she has done.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Goodbye Captain Lou:

I will miss you.

Sorry I can't help it; that's just how I feel. I am a Generation Xer who grew up watching him in the "WWF" (before it was the WWE) and before they admitted wrestling was "sports entertainment" (i.e., "fake").

Some notable moments:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Joseph Priestley on the Swedenborgs:

You can read Priestley's collection of letters to the Swedenborgs here. I'm not the first person to find these. A book in 2007 nicely sums up their contents.

Here is what Priestley writes on page two of the book:

We view with equal horror the doctrine of the trinity, consisting of three persons in one God, as equally absurd and blasphemous; constituting, in fact, three gods. For such you agree with me in thinking that three persons, each possessed of every attribute of divinity, must necessarily be, and that this doctrine is as contrary to the uniform sense of scripture, as it is repugnant to reason and the plainest common sense, though sanctioned by the most solemn decrees of councils from that of Nice to that of Trent, and by the united force of all the civil powers, in most unnatural alliance with the church of Christ.

We also agree in reprobating the whole system which has now obtained the name of calvinism, though it originated with Austin, and has been introduced into all the established creeds; a system which represents the whole human race as so fatally injured by the sin of Adam, that they retain no natural power of doing the will of God; so that had none of them been exempted from the sentence of condemnation by an arbitrary decree, they must all have been doomed to the pains of hell for ever;...

The Swedenborgians were neither unitarians nor trinitarians but believed (if I understand them right) the Trinity existed in ONE person -- Jesus Christ (that is they believed in some form of the modalist heresy). They believed in other odd doctrines that merited them the label "heretic" (just as with Priestley).
James Wilson on Christianity:

I've had some interesting debates on James Wilson & Religion. I think one problem is the key FFs, of which Wilson was one, could be notoriously vague and philosophical in their public addresses that invoked religion. They speak of Providence, God, and Christianity in abstract terms that permitted the "orthodox" to read in what they wished (as "Christian Nationalists" continue to do to this day). And consequently the "orthodox" consented to the FFs republican project. Indeed the internal theory of liberal democracy/constitutional republicanism DEMANDS such consent or else we have a "Crisis of the House Divided" as Harry Jaffa once put it.

So their private letters often shed light on what the key FFs were really getting at. And thus far, few if any of James Wilson's have been published (as far as I know and I've looked very carefully into the record).

But we have James Wilson's vast "public works" to examine. We see Enlightenment, particularly of the Scottish kind, Locke, and natural law in there. While he doesn't cite Thomas, he sounds like him at times, and no doubt got Thomism through the Anglican and Protestant branches of the natural law.

Wilson speaks highly of "Christianity" in an abstract sense. However, it doesn't sound like "the orthodox" understanding of Christianity. Rather Wilson speaks nothing of "Grace," but substitutes "Nature" for it. Christianity becomes a generic moralizing creed whose purpose is to support the findings of "reason" and the "moral sense." After having something positive to say about Christianity, Wilson collapses it into the natural law/what's discovered by "reason" and the "senses."

It could be that Wilson was privately orthodox, that orthodox notions of "grace" really have nothing to do with public law anyway; so why should he discuss it. However I still don't think an orthodox Christian who believed the Bible the infallible Word of God would write something like the following:

III. Reason and conscience can do much; but still they stand in need of support and assistance. They are useful and excellent monitors; but, at some times, their admonitions are not sufficiently clear; at other times, they are not sufficiently powerful; at all times, their influence is not sufficiently extensive. Great and sublime truths, indeed, would appear to a few; but the world, at large, would be dark and ignorant. The mass of mankind would resemble a chaos, in which a few sparks, that would diffuse a glimmering light, would serve only to show, in a more striking manner, the thick darkness with which they are surrounded. Their weakness is strengthened, their darkness is illuminated, their influence is enlarged by that heaven-descended science, which has brought life and immortality to light. In compassion to the imperfection of our internal powers, our all-gracious Creator, Preserver, and Ruler has been pleased to discover and enforce his laws, by a revelation given to us immediately and directly from himself. This revelation is contained in the holy scriptures. The moral precepts delivered in the sacred oracles form a part of the law of nature, are of the same origin, and of the same obligation, operating universally and perpetually.

On some important subjects, those in particular, which relate to the Deity, to Providence, and to a future state, our natural knowledge is greatly improved, refined, and exalted by that which is revealed.

Got that? The purpose of revelation is to "improve[],refine[], and exalt[]," what man already knows from "reason" and "conscience" (or as he put it elsewhere, the "moral sense").

Even though Wilson doesn't mention the Trinity, what he wrote does implicitly relate to unitarianism is one important sense. People who made claims like Wilson's (that "reason" is the first revelation of God to man; scripture (or parts thereof), the second revelation, supports and clarifies what man discovers first from reason) also said it was CLEAR that reason teaches 1+1+1=3 not 1 and therefore, this was one of those CLEAR discoveries of "reason" that the Bible couldn't supersede.

As Wilson put it:

These considerations show, that the scriptures support, confirm, and corroborate, but do not supercede the operations of reason and the moral sense.

Or as John Adams put it, reacting to John Disney’s thoughts:

D[isney]: The union of all Christians is anticipated, as it has been demonstrated to be the doctrine of Christ, his apostles and evangelists, as also of Moses and the prophets. Nor is it less the language of the religion of nature than of revelation . . .

A[dams]: The human understanding is the first revelation from its maker. From God; from Heaven. Can prophecies, can miracles repeal, annul or contradict that original revelation? Can God himself prove that three are one and one three? The supposition is destructive of the foundation of all human knowledge, and of all distinction between truth and falsehood. [Click the link for the primary source.]

In other words, while reason and revelation are both necessary, when nature/reason -- God's first revelation to man -- CLEARLY answers a question, you have to go with it, regardless of what you might think the Bible teaches. And on the Trinity, the answer was clear: It is, according to Adams and those who, like Wilson, followed this rationalistic method, a false doctrine.

This is why I would bet if James Wilson's private letters discussing the Trinity were found, he would deny the Trinity.

I'll keep looking for those letters.
My Letter To WND on Pat Boone's Latest Article:

I'll reproduce the relevant part. You can read Boone's article here.

Regarding the Founding Fathers, Boone is as ignorant as the secular leftist with whom he corresponds. He doesn't realize he partakes in his own "Christian Nation" errors just as his correspondent engages in "secular left" errors.

First, Boone claims that Jefferson "averred that he consulted no other source for his Declaration...." Boone refers either to "specific Christian churches" or Blackstone; I can't tell based on the way Boone wrote the passage. But, it doesn't matter, because Jefferson sourced NEITHER for the ideas of the DOI. Rather, in a letter to Richard Henry Lee, May 8, 1825, Jefferson lists "Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c. ..." Not the Bible, not the Christian churches and not Blackstone.

Further Blackstone's influence on the Founding was qualified. The FFs had a love/hate relationship with him and for good reason. He was authoritative on common law issues; but on the overarching issues, he was an English Tory who believed in absolute parliamentary supremacy and thought the American Revolution violated such. In other words, 1776 was precisely an anti-Blackstonian movement. No wonder the FFs could hate him as they loved him.

Re whether the FFs were "Christians" or "Deists," this creates a false dichotomy. Yes, all of the notable FFs, including the supposed "Deists" like Jefferson, Franklin and Wilson were in some way affiliated with Christian Churches. In other words they were "Christian" by association or club membership. And they tended to identify as "Christians" as well (as Jefferson did). However these "Christian" men are also on record, in their private letters, denying virtually every single tenet of orthodoxy that defines "Christianity" to a Pat Boone or a Joe Farah. I'm speaking of original sin, the trinity, incarnation, atonement, eternal damnation, infallibility of the Bible and so on.

Perhaps Pat Boone can answer whether one can be a "Christian" and deny these things. And lest you think it was just Jefferson and Franklin who believed this way, I'll close with good old conservative "Christian" John Adams, mocking Christ's Incarnation and Deity.

"An incarnate God!!! An eternal, self-existent, omnipresent omniscient Author of this stupendous Universe, suffering on a Cross!!! My Soul starts with horror, at the Idea, and it has stupified the Christian World. It has been the Source of almost all of the Corruptions of Christianity.”

-- John Adams to John Quincy Adams, March 28, 1816


Jon Rowe
Yardley, PA

Now, let me anticipate some criticism. First, instead of "Jefferson and Franklin," as the Deists or "not Christians" I have Jefferson, Franklin and J. Adams. Not exactly. I have smoking gun quotations from those three. However, it's not at all clear that Washington, Madison, G. Morris, Hamilton before his deathbed were "Christians" in the way that Pat Boone understands the term or disbelieved in the fundamentals as put forth by Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin (i.e., there is an active personal God, Jesus was something special, but not the 2nd Person in the Trinity, that men are justified through works not grace).

Second, the fact that I am discussing an article written by Pat Boone at all. A bit strawmanish? Yes, I admit it is. However, he and I both share an interest in this subject matter. WND is widely read. Boone (like Chuck Norris) is a semi-celebrity.

And as a long time fan of rock and roll, I have a score to settle with a man who nearly ruined the genre before the Beatles emerged to save it.

That dude has no musical soul whatsoever. There is a video of him singing Tutti Fruitti somewhere where he snaps his fingers on the one and three (we were shown it in our "History Of Rock" class at Berklee College of Music). I'll try to find it.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death:

Patrick Henry did indeed say this (there is an "unconfirmed quotation" of Henry's that begins with "it cannot be emphasized..." that Henry did NOT say).

Henry was (most scholars agree) an orthodox Trinitarian Christian, indeed one who believed in a pretty close connection between Church & State (Jefferson and Madison fought against HIS assessment bill to fund teachers of the Christian religion in VA).

However, the Bible really doesn’t stand for the proposition of “give me political liberty or give me death,” but rather “give me spiritual liberty or give me death.” Political liberty is alien to the Bible. The “liberty” to which the Bible speaks is freedom in Christ (or from the bondage of sin). St. Paul was clear that one could be a chattel slave qua chattel save and “free” in this sense.

The line “give me liberty or give me death” was lifted from Joseph Addison’s play Cato, about a noble pagan figure from antiquity who committed suicide rather than submit to the tyranny of Caesar.

Where I am going with this? Christian Nationalists often claim that the overwhelming majority of FFs were “Christians” and even the “non-Christians” like Franklin and Jefferson were influenced by a “Christian worldview.” And no doubt, there is a kernel of truth there. Many of the FFs were orthodox Christians and Franklin and Jefferson were indeed influenced by Christianity.

However the converse is true as well: Many of the “orthodox Christians” like Patrick Henry were influenced by an Enlightenment and noble pagan-Greco-Roman worldview.

You can read more about the background of the play Cato here and also learn more about how the play influenced other FFs.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Me At 19:

I don't think I was 100% sober.

Fred Phelps Explains:

Why Billy Graham is the RIGHT kind of Christian.

I believe God sent Fred Phelps to this Earth to show people how NOT to be a Christian and this includes almost every word of THIS SERMON.
Dixie Dregs on Don Kirshner:

"Punk Sandwich." Why I spend so much time surfing YouTube.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Frat Files:

Should I be flattered? Do you think this qualifies as "fair use" under copyright law? Could I sue for $$? Perhaps there's something wrong with me, but this makes me laugh.

The original post got links from Andrew Sullivan, PZ Myers and others. Perhaps that's why it made it to "frat files."