Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thomas Jefferson, James Wilson, Laws of Nature and Revelation:

James Wilson wrote a great deal of what he thought about law, life, religion and philosophy in his public Works. Yet, perhaps because they were public lectures, he leaves some hard questions unanswered (he doesn't address orthodox religious doctrine at all, or whether he believes the Bible inerrant). He praises both "reason" and the "senses" on the one hand and revealed truth on the other as both necessary for determining the ultimate nature of reality. Accordingly, both, by in large, agree and should work together. But both streams have their limits.

In Volume I of Works, Wilson says such things as:

[H]ow shall we, in particular instances, learn the dictates of our duty, and make, with accuracy, the proper distinction between right and wrong; in other words, how shall we, in particular cases, discover the will of God? We discover it by our conscience, by our reason, and by the Holy Scriptures. The law of nature and the law of revelation are both divine: they flow, though in different channels, from the same adorable source. It is, indeed, preposterous to separate them from each other. The object of both is ― to discover the will of God ― and both are necessary for the accomplishment of that end.


Reason, say they, is the first rule of man, the first principle of morality, and the immediate cause of all primitive obligation. But man being necessarily dependent on his Creator, who has formed him with wisdom and design, and who, in creating him, has proposed some particular ends; the will of God is another rule of human actions, another principle of morality, obligation, and duty. On this distinction, the kinds of obligation, external and internal, are founded. These two principles must be united, in order to form a complete system of morality, really founded on the nature and state of man. As a rational being, he is subject to reason: as a creature of God, to his supreme will. Thus, reason and the divine will are perfectly reconciled, are naturally connected, and are strengthened by their junction.85


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.


But whoever expects to find, in [Scripture], particular directions for every moral doubt which arises, expects more than he will find. They generally presuppose a knowledge of the principles of morality; and are employed not so much in teaching new rules on this subject, as in enforcing the practice of those already known, by a greater certainty, and by new sanctions. They present the warmest recommendations and the strongest inducements in favour of virtue: they exhibit the most powerful dissuasives from vice. But the origin, the nature, and the extent of the several rights and duties they do not explain; nor do they specify in what instances one right or duty is entitled to preference over another. They are addressed to rational and moral agents, capable of previously knowing the rights of men, and the tendencies of actions; of approving what is good, and of disapproving what is evil.


These considerations show, that the scriptures support, confirm, and corroborate, but do not supercede the operations of reason and the moral sense. The information with regard to our duties and obligations, drawn from these different sources, ought not to run in unconnected and diminished channels: it should flow in one united stream, which, by its combined force and just direction, will impel us uniformly and effectually towards our greatest good.

From these passages in Works, I get the sense that Wilson believed in both reason and revelation. I don't get the sense that Wilson believed the Bible inerrant or infallible, but nonetheless believed large parts of the biblical canon are God speaking to man. In Gregg Frazer's PhD thesis, he views Wilson's quote -- "[t]his revelation is contained in the holy scriptures" -- as compatible with what he terms theistic rationalism, that "some" revelation is legitimate, but that the Bible is not inerrant or infallible.

Frazer reads "[t]his revelation is contained in the Holy Scriptures," as suggesting man's reason must examine the good book to see which parts of it "contain" genuine revelation. I think that's a fair reading of a somewhat broadly worded assertion.

And then we have the following from Wilson:

The law of nature is immutable; not by the effect of an arbitrary disposition, but because it has its foundation in the nature, constitution, and mutual relations of men and things. While these continue to be the same, it must continue to be the same also. This immutability of nature's laws has nothing in it repugnant to the supreme power of an all-perfect Being. Since he himself is the author of our constitution; he cannot but command or forbid such things as are necessarily agreeable or disagreeable to this very constitution. He is under the glorious necessity of not contradicting himself. This necessity, far from limiting or diminishing his perfections, adds to their external character, and points out their excellency.

Now that passage is compatible with the idea that the Bible is inspired in *some* sense. I don't see it as compatible with the idea of an inerrant, infallible Bible, talking snakes, 6-day creation, and so on.

In his letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787, Jefferson addresses the problems with an immutable law of nature on the one hand and the text of the Bible on the other:

Read the Bible, then as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature, you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy & Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor, in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature, does not weigh against them. But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong, as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature, in the case he relates. For example, in the book of Joshua, we are told, the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus, we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, &c. But it is said, that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine, therefore, candidly, what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand, you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis, as the earth does, should have stopped, should not, by that sudden stoppage, have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time gave resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth's motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities? You will next read the New Testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions: 1, of those who say he was begotten by God, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven; and 2, of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, and was punished capitally for sedition, by being gibbeted, according to the Roman law, which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile, or death in fureĆ¢. See this law in the Digest Lib. 48. tit. 19. §. 28. 3. & Lipsius Lib 2. de cruce. cap. 2. These questions are examined in the books I have mentioned under the head of religion, & several others. They will assist you in your inquiries, but keep your reason firmly on the watch in reading them all.

Now, I understand many orthodox Trinitarian Christians have struggled to reconcile real science on the one hand and the biblical record on the other. They might not necessarily turn into Jeffersons, cutting out most of the Bible as false. But they do seem to embrace more metaphorical explanations, including, most notably, of the Adam and Eve story in Genesis. They don't believe that the Earth actually stood still for several hours or that Lot's wife actually turned into salt. They also accept Darwin's theory of evolution and attempt to reconcile it with the Bible. Those are the kinds of "rational Christians" who better reconcile what James Wilson wrote in Works with their faith. It seems to me those who take a more literal view of the Creation story -- young earth, 6 day creationists -- should be much less receptive to James Wilson's ditherings in Works.
Peter Lillback Interview Post-Glenn Beck:

Dr. Lillback is interviewed by Stacy Harp, a fellow conservative evangelical who interviewed him four years ago after the book first came out.

One purpose of the interview is to answer criticisms. I've listened to the show; I'm not going to dissect it.
John Adams' Partially Inspired Bible:

From his letter to Jefferson Nov. 15, 1813.

This is a very interesting letter. In the beginning Adams doubts we have the right version of the Ten Commandments. He states the Bible contains "error or amendment." Then he praises Jefferson's Bible where Jefferson cut out what he saw as error. Here is the larger context of the quote. I have emphasized Adams claiming his desire to make his own "Adams' Bible."

I admire your employment in selecting the philosophy and divinity of Jesus, and separating it from all mixtures. If I had eyes and nerves I would go through both Testaments and mark all that I understand. To examine the Mishna, Gemara, Cabbala, Jezirah, Sohar, Cosri and Talmud of the Hebrews would require the life of Methuselah, and after all his 969 years would be wasted to very little purpose. The daemon of hierarchical despotism has been at work both with the Mishna and Gemara. In 1238 a French Jew made a discovery to the Pope (Gregory 9th) of the heresies of the Talmud. The Pope sent thirty-five articles of error to the Archbishops of France, requiring them to seize the hooks of the Jews and burn all that contained any errors. He wrote in the same terms to the kings of France, England, Arragon, Castile, Leon, Navarre and Portugal. In consequence of this order, twenty cartloads of Hebrew books were burnt in France ; and how many times twenty cartloads were destroyed in the other kingdoms ? The Talmud of Babylon and that of Jerusalem were composed from 120 to 500 years after the destruction of Jerusalem.

If Lightfoot derived light from what escaped from Gregory's fury, in explaining many passages in the New Testament, by comparing the expressions of the Mishna with those of the Apostles and Evangelists, how many proofs of the corruptions of Christianity might we find in the passages burnt?

I do think, after reading Adams in great detail, his partially inspired Bible would be much thicker than Jefferson's. However, he still believed that the biblical canon contained more than a nominal amount of "error or amendment" that man's reason should edit.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

No, Mr. Beck, Jefferson Did Not Date His Documents "In the Year of Our Lord Christ"

By Chris Rodda. Check it out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Christianity's Transformational Limits:

Apparently Christianity can turn gay men straight (that is, not just give you the power to stop having relations with members of the same sex, but also of the desires). But what it cannot do is remove the desires of formerly gay men to wear ascots that accentuate your effete mannerisms.

Obama A Muslim?

Maybe John Adams was Muslim too.

At WorldNetDaily, Pieder Beeli, in an article entitled Obama's faith: Christianity or Islam? writes:

Central tenet of the faith

When speaking of the origins of Islam, why does Obama use the word "revealed"? In his Cairo speech, Obama said, "I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed [emphasis added]." One does not expect a Christian to suggest that God revealed Islam to Muhammad for the simple reason that if God did such, then Christianity is wrong.

Why would not Obama instead choose to say, "when Islam was invented" or "fabricated – or at least use the more equipoise "when Islam began…"?

I find this especially telling in that I have not been able to find Obama use the term "revealed" to speak of God's doings in a Judeo-Christian context. For example, I have not heard Obama affirm the central Christian tenet, "The love of God was revealed to us on the cross of Jesus Christ."

Taking score so far, concerning the depictions of the origins of Islam and Christianity (Obama's professed faith), the score is Islam +1, Christianity 0.

Foundational book

Similarly, when referring to the foundational book of Islam, why does Obama regularly and forcefully append the word "holy"? Obama calls the Quran, "the holy Quran." Again, one does not expect a Christian to suggest that the Quran is holy, because the Quran and the Bible contradict each other. If the Quran is holy, it should also be true – and if the Quran is true, then the Bible is incorrect.

Let's ignore for a moment the falsehood that Obama has never affirmed his belief in Jesus dying on the cross; he has. There is no question that Obama doesn't endorse the kind of Christianity that holds either Christianity is true or Islam is true; the two contradict one another. In that sense he is no different than the first five American Presidents; they didn't believe in that kind of "Christianity" either. And like Obama, they considered themselves "Christians" not Deists or Muslims.

As John Adams put it:

"It has pleased the Providence of the first Cause, the Universal Cause, that Abraham should give religion not only to Hebrews but to Christians and Mahomitans, the greatest part of the modern civilized world."

-- John Adams to M.M. Noah, July 31, 1818.

So Obama doesn't seem "Christian" enough to satisfy certain kinds of "Christians." But is he really "Muslim" enough to satisfy the kinds of "Muslims" we are afraid of? Puleeze. This "Muslim" just got in trouble with religious conservatives for affirming families on Fathers Day headed by two fathers. Some "Muslim." If only the entire Muslim world were "those" kinds of "Muslims."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Providence Forum Blog:

Peter Lillback's Providence Forum has a new blog. Check it out here. American Creation's own King of Ireland made the first post, here.

Very nice.

Monday, June 21, 2010


An anonymous commenter wrote to me:

The universalist heresy? Seriously? Which branch of Christianity do you belong? Obviously one heretical to universialist Christianity.

The person responded to my assertion:

Even some of the more identifiably "orthodox Christians" like Benjamin Rush (who believed in the Universalist heresy) and John Jay (whose rejection of creeds led him to doubt the Trinity) are problematic.

Personally I have no problem with theological universalism, that is the notion that everyone will eventually be saved. Indeed, if I were to convert to "Christianity" it would probably be towards such a creed. I term universalism a heresy for two reasons. One, the "Church" officially declared it a heresy and it remained throughout late 18th Century America.

Now, today in America, in "looser times," where the majority of believers perhaps are universalists, I understand the term "heresy" to describe universalism is arguably inappropriate. Yet, often the folks with whom I communicate on these matters possess an orthodox faith that terms universalism a "heresy."

And that's the second reason: It often helps to talk in the language of an audience when speaking to folks. They are more likely to be receptive to what you have to say. This is something I learned from George Washington and the other Founders. This is the "be all things to all people" approach.

So when I do biblical exegesis, people often mistake me as an evangelical or an orthodox Christian. Though, if you read me carefully, I NEVER claim to be one.

Let me also note when you dismiss someone's arguments based on something about their origin you engage in a logical fallacy known as poisoning the well, or the genetic fallacy. Whether I am a Mormon, an evangelical Christian or an atheist matters nothing regarding the CONTENT of the argument.

There may be times when its appropriate to write off an opinion based on the source as a short cut (though it's still technically a logical fallacy) and that's when the source has a track record of spouting nonsense. For instance, if I quoted an argument from Lyndon LaRouche, it's probably going to be some kind of deranged nonsense. Or he might be saying "the sky is blue." It's still the content not the source that has to be dealt with.

Still I would caution against categorizing your intellectual adversaries as constant nonsense producers. I.e. "you are just saying that because you are a religious wacko and you are all full of it." Or "you are saying that because you have a homo agenda." Those kinds of comments reflect shallow logically fallacious thinking.

One thing that may be preventing me from converting to a particular form of Christianity (like Christian universalism or Quakerism) is my desire to be objective in the way I present the historical facts. (Though I don't think it would change the way I analyze things, perhaps the way I phrase things though.)

That is if I personally embraced universalism as "Christian" or Trinity denial, for instance, as well, I might have a hard time terming these "heresies."

Are they so properly termed?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The One Best Way (No Really):

Positive Liberty recently disbanded because of unforeseen technical issues that we could not, for whatever reason, resolve. But the good news is the band is getting back together at The One Best Way (No Really). Please check us out and support our relaunch.

Like Positive Liberty this will be an anything goes blog with the baseline that we are all libertarians.
Jason Kuznicki in the Washington Examiner:

My ex-coblogger at now defunct Positive Liberty, but soon to be co-blogger at The One Best Way.

A taste:

I don't mean to put down moms or dads. It's great that people of both sexes usually take childrearing seriously. They should. The traditional family is great. It's a slur to say that gays and lesbians hate the traditional family. Most of us grew up in traditional families, after all, and we still love our parents and siblings, and they usually love us. What we don't love, though, is the way that the traditional family is used as a weapon to attack our own, less-traditional families.

All of this brings up a strange inconsistency to the opponents of same-sex marriage. Their ends -- every child gets a mom and a dad -- are strangely mismatched to their means -- prohibit same-sex marriage. It's sort of like banning bad moustaches to stop pornography. Perhaps there's some vague association, but that's about it.

Andrew Sullivan also noticed

Friday, June 18, 2010

Email to Conservative Evangelical on David Barton:

WorldNetDaily has an article entitled "Twisting the Constitution to kill God" (Book exposes agenda to redefine America's founding document) that promotes David Barton's work. A taste followed by my email to the author:

This kind of madness makes no rational sense, unless one considers that many members of the courts, including the highest, are simply not Christians. They count on the silence of the majority of Americans, who work and pay taxes every day and do not have time to check these things. Fortunately, David Barton does.


In Chapter 16 of this phenomenal book, Barton also examines the notorious "Revisionists," those who paint over the canvas of history, to present their own versions of it. Think Uncle Joe Stalin having (dead) political rivals airbrushed from official photos.

Barton points out a key strategy of these Revisionists: "Ignoring those aspects of American heritage which they deem to be politically incorrect and overemphasizing those portions which they find acceptable."

Pay close attention to the last half of that sentence. That is the diabolical nature in a nutshell, is it not? This is called political spin, and it has proven to be very effective in undermining American culture.

Barton also points out that the Revisionists blatantly lie when necessary.

The author cites the case of Robert Ingersoll, a lecturer of the late 19th century, who stated: "Our forefathers retired God from politics. … The Declaration of Independence announces the sublime truth that all power comes from the people. This was a denial, and the first denial of a nation, of the infamous dogma that God confers the right upon one man to govern others. … Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world."

There are so many falsehoods in that one statement, one wonders where to start. But notice that Ingersoll's bias drove the multiple lies in his statement.

By the way, it is interesting to note that thinkers like Ingersoll were aided in the propagation of their false views by such Europeans as Herbert Spencer and Friedrich Delitzsch, who were operating at the same time and who promoted their evolutionary views on society – the reinterpretation of the Constitution is handled in the same manner.

In Chapter 14, "Identifying the Spirit of the Constitution," Barton makes use of several fascinating charts, tracking the moral decline of the last several generations of Americans. This data even speaks to seemingly more benign subjects, such as SAT scores since 1954. Over a period of 40 years, there was a dramatic decline in scores, and Barton clearly makes the case in "Original Intent" that a multitude of factors affect the overall culture of a nation that drifts from its roots.

My email to the author:


I would caution you against getting swept up in Barton. In addition to having no academic bona fides, most conservative academics don't cite him because they know he is tainted. Folks like Daniel Dreisbach, Philip Hamburger, Robert Bork, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and others give conservative Christians enough scholarly ammo without having to turn to Barton.

What do you think of Barton's work being promoted by the Mormon Glenn Beck? Do you think Mormons are "Christians"? You said something about most folks not getting it because they aren't "Christians." Barton tries to sell the founding as "Christian" in a way that would meet the minimum requirements for evangelicals.

The problem is, even though they weren't "Deists," there are many Founding Fathers and ministers that Barton tries to sell as "Christian" who were not orthodox Trinitarians. They may meet a Christian minimum test that Mormons or emergent church members could pass, but are not "Christians" to evangelicals. In addition to Jefferson and Franklin, we also have J. Adams (and Abigail and JQA throughout various parts of his life), Madison (likely), Washington (likely), Marshall, J. Story, and many others.

Even some of the more identifiably "orthodox Christians" like Benjamin Rush (who believed in the Universalist heresy) and John Jay (whose rejection of creeds led him to doubt the Trinity) are problematic.


Jon Rowe
Mark Noll on Calvinism & The American Founding Updated:

Thanks to Ben Abbott for saving and "rotating" the photocopied pages from Mark Noll's book and an anonymous helper for typing out the respective passage therefrom. The document is embedded with the passage reproduced below:

Mark Noll on Calvinism & the American Revolution Rotated

There were, moreover, influences from Whig ideology in the construction of the American denominational system. Political Whigs took it for granted that the people were capable of constructing their own political and social institutions. The idea of the social contract which influenced so much of the eighteenth-century political theory presupposed this capacity as one of the unquestioned axioms. Although they were departing radically from earlier ecclesiastical patterns, American Christians under the influence of the Whig thought also acted as if the creation, organization and maintenance of church groups were human rights as intrinsic as the formation and direction of political institutions. In the Old World the church had been considered something given by God and regulated by his properly consecrated ministers. Except for a small dissenting fringe, European Christians into the nineteenth century did not entertain the idea that they were capable of creating churches and charting their courses. In America a different cast of mind prevailed, it was assumed that Christians had not only the right but also the duty to create ecclesiastical institutions as their own conscience demanded. This assumption produced both healthy and unhealthy effects: while it released the energy of countless creative individuals for the widest possible variety of Christian expression, it also tended to make the churches unduly subject to the writings of their creators. The stability and continuity, if also stagnation, which attended the Old World idea of the church gave way to the energetic competitiveness, if also eccentricity, of the churches of the New World. The peculiar shape of denominational life in America owed much to the ideology of freedom championed so successfully in the Revolutionary period.

The ideas of the Revolution touched American theology no less than ecclesiology. The crass identification of Patriotism and Christianity was later extrapolated into the facile identification of America as a Christian country and United States citizens as Christians by cultural birthright. This identification, however, has not affected theological life in America as much as a subtler and more pervasive phenomenon - the basic shift away from a Calvinistic orientation in orientation in theology. Where the identification of all American citizens as Christian believers falls apart upon even superficial analysis, the movement away from Calvinism presents a more complicated picture. The influence of liberation thought on States, but the extent of its impact, as well as the exact role of the Revolution in exercising that influence, deserves closer attention.

A convenient way of describing the general shift in American theology over the last half of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries is to examine the fate of the standard "five points" of Calvinism when confronted with principles of the American Revolution. The first of the Calvinistic points, "total depravity," did not stand up well to the belief that individuals were inherently capable of shaping their own destinies. The earlier Puritans taught that human sinfulness prevented unconverted person from performing any truly good deeds, including the act of turning from sin to God. Christians in the youthful United States continued to talk about the evil effects of sin, but they did not think that human evil deprived men of the power to determine their own religion of political destinies.

The concept of "unconditional election" also seemed also seemed to deny that men were fully capable of determining the course of their own lives. In the dominant colonial churches, the Calvinist teaching of election had maintained that it was God alone who, by an act of his sovereign will, called certain individuals to salvation. But the establishment of a relationship with God was God's doing and not an individual's, it made a mockery of the conviction that each man had the inalienable right to secure happiness as a result of his own effort.

Perhaps, in a later post, I'll type out the reasons (which you can read from the document) why the remaining three points of Calvinism, LIP, were in tension with the ideals of the American Founding.

Update: The helper typed the rest:

The anti-democratic tendency of the doctrine of election emerged even more clearly in the idea of a "limited atonement." The Calvinist belief that the efficacy of Christ's death and resurrection was restricted to those whom God elected to salvation. But since Americans believed that all [pg 172] men were created equal in political matters, it was difficult to believe that God would arbitrarily limit the efforts of the work of Christ to only a few. The egalitarian strain emerging from the Revolution could make no sense of such a wanton infringement of natural rights.

Further, the concept of "irresistible grace" seemed inimical to the Whig conviction that irresistible power was evil. To say as the Edwardsean Calvinists did, that people became Christians apart from the self-determined of their own wills seemed dangerously close to asserting that God exercised the kind of irresponsible power against which the colonies had rebelled.

The last of the Calvinistic principles, the "perseverance of the saints," was usually retained by American Christians, but for a new reason. A believer was sustained in the faith not as a result of God's power but because of the continuing effect of his own choice for God. The believer possessed the sure hope of eternal life as due right in consequence of his own decision to become a Christian.

Individual believers and various denominations participated in movement away from Calvinism in different degrees. Indeed, the Calvinistic orientation persisted for a considerable time among some of the groups, such as the Presbyterians, who most ardently supported Whig thought. On the other hand, the denominations which grew most rapidly in the post-Revolutionary period, Baptists and Methodists, expressed their theology to greater or lesser degree in the new forms. The influence of the Whig ideology was certainly not the only impetus hastening the decline of Calvinism in America, but it played one of important roles in the process. The attention which the Revolution had called to the concept of freedom altered the definition of this idea that had prevailed in the largely Calvinistic colonies. Freedom in the Revolutionary generation came to mean primarily freedom from something -- from tyranny, oppression, and the arbitrary exercise of power. Freedom in the earlier Calvinistic sense of the word had implied freedom for something -- for fulfillment and hope, found only in being overmastered by God. The change was subtle, and it was obscured due to the fact that the single word "freedom" was used to express two related, but also contrasting ideas. The crisis atmosphere of the Revolutionary period further obscured the two senses of "freedom" and greatly facilitated the process in the American churches by which the Whig idea of liberty came to replace the Calvinistic concept.

Just as it has been important to keep in mind the different Christian responses to the Revolution, so it is necessary to remember that these generalizations concerning the impact of the Revolution on later American religious history did not apply equally to all groups of Christians. In particular, minority groups outside of the English Puritan tradition were insulated from some of the ecclesiastical and theological language and ecclesiastical practices of the Old World naturally tended to participate less actively in the trends and innovations characteristic of the American religious landscape. Even in the domain of the religious minorities, however, the Revolutionary period witnessed patterns that have marked later American history.

The majority religious and cultural viewpoint -- in the Revolutionary period, the mixture of libertarianism and Christianity -- exerted weighty pressure on minority viewpoints to conform. While the Continental Congress and individual colonial legislatures did make provision for certain deviations from the majority policy, the pacifists and Loyalists were pressured culturally to conform to the Patriotic Whig position. Throughout American history a similar pressure, occasionally official and more often unofficial, has continued to encourage the assimilation of minority religious perspectives into the prevailing majority pattern. ...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Atmosphere When A Unitarian Minister Must Read a Trinitarian Creed:

From the book on James Freeman:

Soon after this time, Mr. Freeman began to feel scruples concerning those parts of the service which expressed or implied a belief in the doctrine of the Trinity. As he said, long after, "There was a certain concealment practiced before about the Trinity. Fisher (of Salem) has a singular way of satisfying his conscience. He was asked how he could read the Athanasian creed when he did not believe it. He replied, 'I read it, as if I did not believe it.' These are poor shifts. Mr. Pyle being directed by his Bishop to read it did so, saying, 'I am directed to read this, which is said to have been the creed of St. Athanasius, but God forbid that it should be yours or mine.' Another man had set it to a hunting tune and sang it. These, I think, would hardly satisfy the conscience of a truth-loving man." Nothing could have been more remote from his own character.

To the growing clearness in Mr. Freeman's opinions on this doctrine, various circumstances probably contributed. First, it was in the very air of the times and the place, as is shown by the way that similar opinions spread in Boston a little later. And then, the favorite authors whose writings he was reading, — particularly Dr. Priestley, of whom he was a life-long admirer, — were strongly anti-trinitarian. ...
Noll on the American Revolution and Calvinism:

In Christians in the American Revolution, Mark Noll of Notre Dame explains how the American Founding became inimical to ALL FIVE POINTS of Calvinism.

[Update: See here.]
Discover Magazine on the Ten Commandments as Basis For American Law:

They give the Decalogue a 3.5/10 as a basis for American civil law.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dialog About King's Chapel's Unitarian Reformation:

In America, Unitarianism evolved chiefly out of the New England Congregational Churches. Yet, theological unitarianism existed among members of probably all churches. The first "officially" Unitarian Church in America -- King's Chapel, in 1786 -- was originally Anglican.

And so it is that dynamic lead to a very illuminating correspondence among James Freeman, the man who spearheaded KC's unitarian reform and America's first Episcopalian Bishops.

Bishop Seabury (aka, the infamous "Farmer" of Hamilton's Farmer Refuted) refused to ordain Freeman because of his unitarianism and thereby cut him off from the Anglican communion.

Originally it was the unitarians who were more ecumenical. They thought they could get rid of Trinitarian dogma in church liturgy and unitarians and Trinitarians could "get along" under the lowest common denominator between them. But the Trinitarians insisted the Trinity central to "real Christianity" and consequently, non-negotiable.

This entire book is worth a read. But I am going to reproduce a passage where Rev. Freeman records his meeting with Bishop Seabury, Oct. 31, 1786 [paragraph breaks added]:

My visit to Bishop Seabury terminated as I expected. Before I waited upon him, he gave out that he never would ordain me, but it was necessary to ask the question. He being in Boston last March, a committee of our church waited upon him, and requested him to ordain me, without insisting upon any other conditions than a declaration of faith in the Holy Scriptures. He replied, that, as the case was unusual, it was necessary for him to consult his presbyters, — the Episcopal clergy in Connecticut.

Accordingly, about the beginning of June, I rode to Stratford, where a convention was holding, carrying with me several letters of recommendation. I waited upon the Bishop's presbyters, and delivered my letters. They professed themselves satisfied with the testimonials which they contained of my moral character, &c, but added that they could not recommend me to the Bishop for ordination upon the terms proposed by my church.

For a man to subscribe the Scriptures, they said, was nothing; for it could never be determined from that what his creed was. Hereticks professed to believe them not less than the orthodox, and made use of them in support of their peculiar opinions. If I would subscribe to such a declaration as that I could conscientiously read the whole of the Book of Common Prayer, they would cheerfully recommend me. I answered that I could not conscientiously subscribe a declaration of that kind.

"Why not?" — "Because there are some parts of the Book of Common Prayer which I do not approve." — "What parts?" — "The prayers to the Son and the Holy Spirit." — "You do not then believe the doctrine of the Trinity?" — "No." — "This appears to us very strange. We can think of no texts which countenance your opinion. We should be glad to hear you mention some." — "It would ill become me, Gentlemen, to dispute with persons of your learning and abilities. But if you will give me leave, I will repeat two passages which appear to me decisive: There is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. There is but one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ. In both these passages Jesus Christ is plainly distinguished from God, and in the last, God is expressly declared to be the Father." To this they made no other reply than an "Ah!" which echoed round the room.

"But are not all the attributes of the Father," said one, "attributed to the Son in the Scriptures? Is not omnipotence for instance?" "It is true," I answered, "that our Saviour says of Himself, All power is given unto me, in Heaven and Earth. You will please to observe here that the power is said to be given. It is a derived power. It is not self-existent and unoriginated, like that of the Father." — "But is not the Son omniscient? Does he not know the hearts of men?" — "Yes, He knows them by virtue of that intelligence which he derives from the Father; but, by a like communication, did Peter know the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira."

After some more conversation of the same kind, they told me that it could not possibly be that the Christian world should have been idolaters for seventeen hundred years, as they must be according to my opinions. In answer to this, I said that whether they had been idolaters or not I would not determine, but that it was full as probable that they should be idolaters for seventeen hundred years as that they should be Roman Catholicks for twelve hundred. They then proceeded to find fault with some part of the new Liturgy.

"We observe that you have converted the absolution into a prayer. Do you mean by that to deny the power of the Priesthood to absolve the people, and that God has committed to it the power of remitting sins?" — "I meant neither to deny nor to affirm it. The absolution appeared exceptionable to some persons, for which reason it was changed into a prayer, which could be exceptionable to nobody." — "But you must be sensible, Mr. Freeman, that Christ instituted an order of priesthood, and that to them he committed the power of absolving sins. Whose soever sins ye remit they are remmitted unto him, and whose soever sins ye retain they are retained." To this I made no reply than a return of their own emphatic Ah!

Upon the whole, finding me an incorrigible heretick, they dismissed me without granting my request. They treated me, however, with great candor and politeness, begging me to go home, to read, to alter my opinions, and then to return and receive the ordination which they wished to procure me from the Bishop. I left them and proceeded to New York. When there I waited on Mr. Provost, rector of the Episcopal Church, who is elected to go to England to be consecrated a Bishop. I found him a liberal man, and that he approved of the alterations which had been made at the Chapel. Of him I hope to obtain ordination, which I am convinced he will cheerfully confer, unless prevented by the bigotry of some of his clergy.

The Episcopal ministers in New York, and in the Southern States, are not such high churchmen as those in Connecticut. The latter approach very near to Roman Catholicks, or at least equal Bishop Land and his followers. Should Provost refuse to ordain me, I shall then endeavor to effect a plan which I have long had in my head, which is to be ordained by the Congregational ministers of this town, or to preach and administer the ordinances without any ordination.

The last scheme I most approve; for I am fully convinced that he who has devoted his time to the study of divinity, and can find a congregation who are willing to hear him, is, to all intents, a minister of the gospel; and that, though imposition of hands, either of bishops or presbyters, be necessary to constitute him priest in the eye of the law, in some countries, yet that, in the eye of heaven, he has not less of the indellible character than a bishop or a patriarch. Our manly ancestors, who, however wrong they might be in some particulars, were in general sensible and judicious men, were of this opinion. One of the articles of the Cambridge platform is, That the call of the congregation only constitutes a man a minister, and that imposition of hands by bishops or elders is a mere form, which is by no means essential. The same sentiments are adopted by the most rational clergy in the present day, who give up the necessity of Ordination as indefensible, and ridicule the doctrine of the uninterrupted succession as a mere chimera. I am happy to find many of my hearers join with me in opinion upon this subject.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Timothy Dwight on the Unbridgeable Gulf Between Unitarians and Trinitarians:

Dwight argued they worshipped different gods.

Should it be said in opposition to the observations, which I have made concerning the intelligibleness of the Scriptures, that my antagonists will grant, that the Scriptures are thus plain, in points of essential importance to our duty and salvation ; but need not be supposed to be so in mere speculative opinions: I answer, that no doctrine is of more importance, whether speculative or practical, than that, which teaches the character of Christ; except that, which teaches the existence and perfections of God. If Christ be a creature; all the worship, and all other regard, rendered to him as the Creator, is unquestionably mere Idolatry: the sin, which of all sins is the most strongly threatened, and reproved, in the Scriptures. If Christ is God; then a denial that he is God, is all that is meant by impiety. It is a denial of his primary and essential Character; of the Attributes, which in this character belong to him; of the Relations, which he sustains to the Universe, and will for ever sustain; of the actions, which he has performed, and will perform throughout eternity; and of the essential glory, which he had with the Father before ever the world was. Man is a being, made up of an animal body and a rational mind. Should I deny, that a particular person possessed a rational mind; would it not be justly said, that I denied him to be a man, and refused to acknowledge his primary and most essential character? If Christ is God-man; and I deny him to be God ; do I not, at least as entirely, deny his primary and most essential character? In other words, do I not plainly deny the Lord that bought me? It is evidently impossible for him, who makes this denial, to render to Christ those regards ; that confidence, love, reverence, and obedience; which a man, who believed Christ to be God, would feel himself indispensably bound to render. Indeed, were it possible, he would necessarily, and in the very act of rendering them, condemn himself as guilty of Idolatry. On the other hand, he, who believes Christ to be God, cannot refuse to render them, without condemning himself as guilty, and without being actually guilty, of the plainest and grossest impiety ; because he withholds from the true God, the homage and obedience, due to his character. The Unitarians censure the system of the Trinitarians as being idolatrous, and them as being Idolaters. If the Unitarian scheme is true, the censure is just. We, on the other hand, and with equal justice, if our scheme is true, declare them to be guilty of direct and gross impiety; because they worship not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; the Jehovah of the Scriptures; the Jehovah Aleim, who is one Jehovah ; but another and very different God.

The admission of the Deity of Christ, therefore, if he really be God, is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity; mistakes about which are altogether dangerous and dreadful....

So this is how, according to Timothy Dwight's logic, orthodox Trinitarian Christians OUGHT to view the God of the American Founding, the God of the Declaration of Independence. The God of the American Founding is not necessarily or identifiably Trinitarian. The biblical God is necessarily and identifiably Trinitarian. Therefore, the God of the American Founding is not necessarily or identifiably the God of the Bible.

Unitarians, though perhaps not a majority of the FFs, did play disproportionate roles during the American Founding. Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin wrote the Declaration, for instance. Even though they did not (and could not) publicly declare the God of the American Founding as non-Triune, the lack of identifiably Trinitarian attributes of the God of America's Founding civil religion (for which I DO see the unitarians as responsible) arguably makes that God implicitly unitarian (and hence, according to Trinitarians, not the God of the Bible).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Locke's Creed:

I found the following from 1996 -- Paul Sigmund, of Princeton, reviewing John Marshall, of Johns Hopkins on John Locke. The significance of the review is both Sigmund and Marshall are preeminent Locke scholars. I have had the good fortune to meet and chat with Dr. Sigmund. What I am going to reproduce from the review is what I discussed with him. Locke's Christology means nothing to the overwhelming majority of folks. So when I asked Dr. Sigmund whether he thought Locke believed in the Arian or Socinian heresies, he seemed genuinely happy to meet another relatively rare fellow traveler who takes an interest in such matters.

With that, here is the passage:

For theologians, the most interesting parts of the book are those that examine Locke's beliefs on original sin, the atonement, and the divinity of Christ. Locke always claimed to be a member of the Church of England. He believed that the Scriptures were divinely inspired, wrote a commentary on the Pauline epistles, and received the sacrament at his residence when he could no longer attend church services. Yet as early as 1680 he wrote in his journal that a just God could not condemn men for sins they had not committed, and he repeatedly questioned the doctrine of original sin. Locke believed that Christ died not to atone for Adam's sin, but to show us the way to eternal life. In turn, this undermined one of the arguments for the divinity of Christ, that an infinite satisfaction was required to atone for an offense to an infinite being. Locke never explicitly denied Christ's divinity, but M. assembles evidence, such as Locke's commentaries on the opening of the Gospel of John, which seem to amount to such a denial. Locke insisted he was not a "Socinian," i.e. Unitarian, but associated with Unitarians and read many Socinian books. He was sympathetic with the latitudinarian wing of Anglicanism but, according to M., parted company with them on the question of the Trinity.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

George Washington's REAL Prayerbook:

This is one piece of evidence Peter Lillback harps on to try and prove GW's orthodox Christianity. These were not "prayers written in GW's hand" like the debunked Daily Sacrifice supposedly was. Rather, it is the standard Anglican Prayer book (I believe the 1769 version was the most recently revised edition when GW wrote the following). From INVOICE OF GOODS TO BE SHIPD BY ROBERT CARY & CO. FOR THE USE OF GEO. WASHINGTON, POTOMACK RIVER, VIRGINIA, VIZ. July 18, 1771.

A Prayr. Book with the new Version of Psalms and good plain type, covd. with red Moroco., to be 7 Inchs. long 4� wide, and as thin as possible for the greatr. ease of caryg. in the Pocket.

Lillback's argument is this proves GW was an orthodox Christian because the contents of the prayer book taught orthodox Christianity. But James H. Hutson's page from the Library of Congress illustrates the problem with such reductive conclusions:

The American Revolution inflicted deeper wounds on the Church of England in America than on any other denomination because the King of England was the head of the church. Anglican priests, at their ordination, swore allegiance to the King. The Book of Common Prayer offered prayers for the monarch, beseeching God "to be his defender and keeper, giving him victory over all his enemies," who in 1776 were American soldiers as well as friends and neighbors of American Anglicans. Loyalty to the church and to its head could be construed as treason to the American cause. Patriotic American Anglicans, loathe to discard so fundamental a component of their faith as The Book of Common Prayer, revised it to conform to the political realities.

That is, the contents of the Book of Common Prayer were Tory and High Church (demanding loyalty to the Crown). It's really strange that so many Anglicans turned out to be Whigs. They rebelled against, not only England, but what their church taught. One wonders why there wasn't a massive exodus among them to other churches. And the answer is they valued their attachment to Anglicanism for social reasons. There were, at least in high places, more than a nominal number of deistic and unitarian minded Anglicans who were part of the church for club membership reasons but didn't believe in its official doctrines.

Friday, June 11, 2010

No, Mr. Beck, John Adams Did Not Think Governments Must be Administered by the Holy Ghost:

Chris Rodda on Barton's claim, picked up by Beck here (Update: and here).

One paragraph of Rodda's I want to focus on:

On Beck's show, Barton also incorporated his other lie about this letter, claiming that this was the letter that magically reunited Jefferson and Adams, who had been on the outs since Jefferson got elected president in 1800. Why does Barton do this? Because it allows him to combine two completely unrelated parts of Adams's letter into a claim that it was really God, working through his "prophet" Benjamin Rush, who restored the friendship between Adams and Jefferson.

This kind of sentiment might speak to Mormons, like Glenn Beck. But, traditional "orthodox" Christianity has no authentic position on whose side God was on during the American Founding. The outcome doesn't prove anything. Yes, according to orthodox Christian belief, God wills all outcomes, the good and the bad, Stalin, Hilter and Mao, along with America.

One could try to reason the God of the Bible would be on the more "Christian" or "Judeo-Christian" side (i.e., God would favor the Christian West verses the Godless Communists). But the American Founding involved two "Christian" sides fighting one another. And there's really no settled answer as to which side was more "biblical." There were "orthodox" and nominal, deistic and unitarian minded "Christians" on both sides. Whether America even had the "biblical" permission to do what it did on a Romans 13 basis has been hotly disputed by Christians of good faith on both sides (no need to rehash that here).

And so I've heard that many contemporary evangelicals and "orthodox" Christians of non-American descent are utterly puzzled by the attempts of certain American evangelicals and other "orthodox Christians" to seemingly incorporate the historical events of the American Founding into orthodox Christian theology.

The context of the letter, in addition to Barton's inadequacies that Ms. Rodda outlined, doesn't bode well for orthodox Christians who wish to view the founding as "godly." We have, "prophets," supposedly, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Rush? Adams and Jefferson, especially at this point in their lives, bitterly rejected and mocked the Trinity and cognate orthodox doctrines. And Rush, though a Trinitarian, was a liberal Universalist who believed everyone would be saved eventually.

Yet, Mormonism, because of when and where it was founded, unlike orthodox Christianity, does teach the American Founding as some kind of divinely inspired event, and the Founding Fathers as quasi-prophets. And the unitarianism of Jefferson and Adams and universalism of Rush is no big deal to the non-orthodox Trinitarian Mormons.

In short, with all of this Glenn Beck stuff, Barton may be doing Mormonism a favor, but he does no favors for the orthodox Christianity in which he purports to believe.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Without A Creed:

Pages 79-81 of James H. Hutson's fine book of quotations list the Founding Fathers' view of creeds. Every quote he reproduces is negative towards the traditional orthodox creeds. And that includes those from Benjamin Rush and John Jay who are closer to orthodox Christian than are the "key Founders."

This is, my readers know, one reason I see Peter Lillback's case for George Washington's "orthodoxy" seriously flawed. Because Lillback can't prove GW's Trinitarianism from his own words he has to look at GW's church's creeds and confessions, to which GW at times took oaths. Yet, those creeds and confessions were tainted with Toryism which we know GW rejected. The larger reality is many Founders, including many who were more identifiably "orthodox Christians," couldn't care one whit about their church's creeds and confessions.

Now, like some of today's evangelicals, they could be orthodox without a creed on the basis that "the Bible teaches this." I don't need no stinkin' creed to prove the Trinity, etc.; it's in the Bible. That line of thought ignores the centrality that creeds played in establishing and maintaining orthodox Trinitarian doctrine.

And "orthodox without a creed" also permits "Christian Americanists" to glean from particular churches' teachings that which they value -- what they see as "biblical" -- and discard the rest. For instance, evangelicals generally don't value the residual Roman Catholic rituals contained in the creeds of the Anglican Church.

That's fine if you can prove with their own words that such a Founder believed in orthodox doctrine from their reading of Sola Scriptura. Or perhaps a Founder explained exactly what it was about their church's creed(s) that they valued, what they thought should be changed.

But, at this level of scrutiny, we lose the ability to use creeds and official doctrines of churches as "shorthand" for what a Founder believed. Without relying on official Anglican doctrine, there is no case for GW's orthodoxy. George Washington mentioned the words "Jesus Christ" only ONCE in all of his 20,000 pages of officially recorded words. And that was in a public address written by an aid.

Or what about John Jay, who is generally conceded as one of the more traditional Christian Founding Fathers? He too was a lifelong Anglican-Episcopalian.

But on the matter of creeds he wrote:

"In forming and settling my belief relative to the doctrines of Christianity, I adopted no articles from creeds, but such only as, on careful examination, I found to be confirmed by the Bible."

But such Sola Scriptura without creeds led Jay to doubt the Trinity. From the same letter to Samuel Miller, Feb. 18, 1822, Jay writes:

"It appeared to me that the Trinity was a Fact fully revealed and substantiated, but that the quo modo was incomprehensible by human Ingenuity. According to sundry Creeds, the divine Being whom we denominate the second Person in the Trinity had before all worlds been so generated or begotten by the first Person in the Trinity, as to be his coeval, coequal and coeternal Son. For proof of this I searched the Scriptures diligently -- but without Success. I therefore consider the Position of being at least of questionable Orthodoxy."

Bible minus creeds may lead some folks to orthodox Trinitarianism. But, without question, such risks a quasi-Quakerism where one becomes wishy-washy on orthodox Trinitarian doctrine.

(The Quakers distinguished themselves as "Bible believing Christians" who had no creed; they also, during the Founding era, were wishy-washy on the Trinity and did NOT hold it central to their form of Christianity.)

John Jay is exhibit A.

Monday, June 07, 2010

George Washington Wouldn't Have Had a Problem with "The Shack":

From what I've read about it. I'm basing my views on the "orthodox" criticisms of this book. From the link:

For those who are unaware, it is critical to realize that William Paul Young espouses the heretical teaching known as Universal Reconciliation (condemned by the church since 533). This accounts for his heterodox views (e.g., faulty views of the Trinity, Biblical revelation, Christology, eternal punishment, etc…).

Every single above listed "heresy" was embraced by many "key American Founders" and the theologians and philosophers they followed.

I'm not sure if GW embraced "universal reconciliation"; I suspect he did. One thing we do know is he had absolutely no problem with those who did.

This is the link to the book's official website.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

George Washington's "Gods":

Boston 1775 has the 411. The post, I think, illustrates the perils of reading George Washington's (and other "Founders'") God terms too literally when looking to "find" a particular meaning in them. Using Peter Lillback's method, this letter of Washington's would positively prove that he was a polytheist.
Chris Rodda: No, Mr. Beck, Congress Did Not Print a Bible for the Use of Schools:

See here.
Darryl G. Hart On If George Washington Is Orthodox, What About Barack Obama?

Here. Outstanding post. Barack Obama's words are far far more explicitly "orthodox Christian" than George Washington's were. If we do a Lillback to Obama, we could make him look like a conservative evangelical.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Gregg Frazer on Lillback's Sacred Fire:

Dr. Frazer has written a review on parts of "George Washington's Sacred Fire." He emailed me:

I received my copy of Lillback’s book in the mail today. Obviously, it will take some time to do it justice, BUT: I turned to the chapters on communion to get a glimpse of his argument in that area. I am profoundly UNimpressed. It seems to me to be much smoke and not much “sacred fire.”

His arguments are supposition based on 3rd & 4th hand accounts decades after the fact. So-and-so’s grandson told of what his mother told him of what his grandmother told her 50 years after the fact. And then Lillback says they had no motivation to make it up – no motivation? Has he missed the whole hagiography associated with GW and the mythologization? Is he not familiar with (for example) post-election poll results which show that thousands more people report voting for the winner than the number who actually did? Or people remembering non-existent personal contact with people with whom they went to college – once that person becomes famous? His argument for oral history is actually (unbeknownst to him) hurt by his reference to Homer and Herodotus. No historian of ancient Greece considers Homer’s accounts to be historically reliable – especially in details – but as myth. Likewise, even Herodotus warned: “my duty is to report all that is said; but I am not obliged to believe it all alike – a remark which may be understood to apply to my whole history.” Herodotus used much oral history, as Lillback suggests, but he understood the profound limits of its value – which Lillback apparenty does not (unless it’s Boller using it).

Dr. Abercrombie & Bishop White are the ones who had no motive to “sully” the reputation of the Father of the Country – and they wrote 1st-hand accounts at the time. Nelly Custis had no motive to sully the reputation of her beloved “grandfather.”

As to references to a “bitter cup”: there are plenty of other allusions which might be apt for that time and culture. Especially, a reference to TEA, which was often referred to as a bitter cup. Lillback desperately wants the reference to be to communion – and it would be such a reference for him (and therefore reasonable to him), so it must be that. But, even if the reference is to the communion cup, that says nothing about whether he partook or not – only that he was familiar with that cultual allusion (which ANYONE would have been in that culture/time). I may refer to doing surgery or to a sports metaphor for a sport I do not play or many other cultural allusions – but that says nothing of whether I’ve done surgery or played the sport. In particular, I’ve used war metaphors hundreds of times, but I’ve never been in the military!

Finally, almost all of the footnotes (if one can find them and read them in pt. 2 font) are to secondary sources and 19th-century sources – often those of the hagiographers to which I referred above! One gets the impression that he would consider Parson Weems to be a reliable source!

There’s also a significant amount of circular logic. To wit: we may not have any real evidence of GW taking communion or giving a reasonable explanation for why he didn’t; but, from what we’ve already supposed and imagined about his piety – doesn’t this creative idea sound plausible? And, if it’s plausible and fits with what we’ve already decided (without demonstrating), then it must be true. He falls victim to that of which he accuses Boller, in particular.

At first blush, it appears to me to be argument by intimidation: “I bet I have more pages and more footnotes than you.” The issue is quality, though, not quantity. So far I don’t see much of that.
My Review of Lillback's "George Washington's Sacred Fire," For Religion in American History:


Update: I reproduced the review for Amazon here.