Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Language of Liberty:

The title of a book by JCD Clarke published in 1994.

Unfortunately I can only see the "preview" which means I might have to buy it. It covers a lot of the political-theological subject matter that American Creation has delved into over the years.

The book gets interesting around p. 335 when it discusses the theological heterodoxy of the singers of the DOI.

Likewise with Calvinism, we have Calvin himself teaching, like a proto-Tory, unconditional submission to tyrants, and that lower magistrates who want to check tyrants may do so only within the confines of the extant positive law. But later Calvinists seemed more generous in their understanding of the privilege to resist tyrants. Likewise all the various orthodox Churches had currents within them that wanted to "reform" Protestantism OUT of orthodox Trinitarianism. The New England Congregationalists actually did this and became Unitarian churches. But, again, those currents existed in all the churches, including the Presbyterians.

Unitarian Presbyterianism was much bigger in England (Joseph Priestley was a Presbyterian minister). But it did exist in America. The book on page 353-54 states they haven't determined the degree of "Christological heterodoxy" among the colonial Presbyterians. But it seems unlikely that it didn't get smuggled over into the colonies from Great Britain. And it does mention Rev. Samuel Hemphill as one notable Presbyterian heretic. He was tried for heterodoxy and defended by none other than Ben Franklin in Franklin's classic "Dialog Between Two Presbyterians."

And that tract is a clear explication of the non-Trinitarian "rational Christianity" in which the "key Founders" seemed imbibed.

1 comment:

craig2 said...

I know that the last chapter of Calvin's Institutes teaches the total submission of Romans 13 (Paul's sentiments are also in Peter's 2nd epistle where he says "Honor the king." What apparently confuses people is that in one of his sermons on Romans he says that "rebellion" [my quotes] is okay if led by the middle magistrates such as we see in the American Revolution. But, the Institutes were continuously reedited by Calvin and the last version was almost surely published well after the sermon in question. So, in my opinion, Calvin's position in the Institutes better encapsulates his thoughts on the matter. Payne's Common Sense 2nd ed.'s reply to the Quakers effectively crushes their Tory/submissive stance on a revolution however. So, imho, it's not really Calvinism that fueled the Revolution which is why I think that enlightenment and rationalism were more influetial. The fact that churches apparently did not oppose the idea and in fact supported it must have benefited the cause, but I haven't seen a sound Biblical argument in favor of revolution/rebellion.