Sunday, September 04, 2011

Rodda and Barton on the Black Robe Regiment:

David Barton has a new feature at Wallbuilders on the Black Robe Regiment. His arch-nemisis Chris Rodda is set to debunk it. Barton is already responsible for the Baboon statistic that 27 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were "ministers" -- a figure which Rodda properly called out. In reality only one signer -- John Witherspoon -- was a minister.

From what I have researched, even though Barton was wrong on ministers and the Declaration, I do see "ministers" as preaching American Founding/DOI ideas before Jefferson and company wrote the DOI.

Barton quotes Alice Baldwin: "There is not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence which had not been discussed by the New England clergy before 1763."

She did say this. And I think her assessment is accurate. But there is more to the story. Gregg Frazer's PhD thesis likewise quotes Baldwin to support HIS thesis: that the political theology of the American Founding was neither Christianity nor Deism, but "theistic rationalism." That those ideas weren't "Christian" but rather something else.

Many of those "New England" clergy referred to were, like Jonathan Mayhew, theological unitarians. And they didn't proof quote the Bible as final trumping authority when asserting the "rights," similar to or the same as those found in the DOI. The Bible was referenced as authority. And so was the book of Nature. These "rational Christian" clergy thought the two needed to work together for ultimate Truth discovery (they were not Sola Scriptura evangelical Protestants).

And as I observe, most of the relevant "rights" came from Nature, not the Bible; though after discovering the rights in Nature, the Bible was then referenced for support. And sometimes those discoveries in Nature (like the right to rebel against tyrants!) were used to interpret or otherwise explain away parts of the Bible that seemed to teach otherwise (like Romans 13).

This was a form of politically and theologically liberal, rationalistic Christianity, if it's accurate to call it "Christian" at all. This nuance is certainly lost on Barton.

Though after the recent news that David Barton thinks Mormons can be Christians, I'm not sure what he endorses as a "test" for "Christianity" or "Christian principles."

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