Monday, June 27, 2011

The Relevance of Early Unitarian Presidents:

I don't think I'm the first person to note this relevance AND I don't think this is the first time I've noted this. Tom Van Dyke lays down the gauntlet. Well I answer his challenge with, from what I understand, an answer with which he entirely agrees and, from what I remember, that he's given before.

But let me try to explain it in a way different from what I have before:

America's Founding era political-theological landscape, good Protestants they were, was quite fractured and divided. Trinitarianism, though associated with the essentials of "Christianity" by some back then (and today, think of CS Lewis' "Mere Christianity"), became a part of the disputed definition of "Christianity," not an essential doctrine of the "general Christianity" that may have united them. The unitarians by that time had been keeping their mouths shut on those doctrines whenever they mentioned God; they got used to speaking in more generally theistic terms so as not to offend their unitarian private convictions or the convictions of the orthodox. In short they were the ones, out of personal necessity, who got really good at lowering the common denominator of God talk. They even realized lowering the denominator of God talk and combining it with a natural theology with which all "reasonable" men could agree enabled them to communicate metaphysical-theological truths with, among others unconverted Native Americans and even Muslims.

In short, the unitarians made for the best neutral referees among bitterly divided sectarian dogmatists and were most suited for uniting a country divided by theological dogma. We know that J. Adams and Jefferson turned out to be self conscious unitarians. And George Washington and James Madison were closeted about their Christological opinions and systematically spoke in more generally theistic uniting God terms. I wonder why.

And so we have John Adams' 1798 Thanksgiving Proclaiming that sounded Trinitarian on its surface, but may have also been consistent with pious unitarian consciences (most of whom believed God is Father, Jesus, though not fully God, was Redeemer, and also found some way to explain the existence of the Holy Spirit without believing in the Trinity).

John Adams regretted that because...surprise surprise, it was too sectarian. Its Trinitarian sounding surface was too easily mistaken for Presbyterianism. And sectarian power at the top was a slippery slope towards persecution. At least, that's how John Adams saw it. John Adams' June 12. 1812 letter to Benjamin Rush explains this AND the letter is also the source of Adams' Trinity mocking quote ("The Trinity was carried in a general Council by one vote against a Quaternity...") that I have oft-quoted.

Adams comes off as a ninny, perhaps half drunk, paranoid about religious persecution. But it was that paranoia about NOT sounding sectarian that helped unite the American Founding era under a more general God. I'll let you read the entire letter for its context. Here's a BIG taste:

The next paragraph requires a graver answer. But a Volume would not suffice. Take a hint. I have lived among Infidel Philosophers more than half a Century, and been engaged in continued disputes with them. This has compelled me to spend more time in reading Universal History but especially Ecclesiastical History, than has been for my Interest or Comfort. While the Result has been an increasing Love for Christianity, as I understand it, a growing Jealousy of the Priesthood has accompanied it all the way. Levites, Magi, Faquirs, Mandarines, Mufti, Druids, Popes; Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Bernardines, Jacobins, Dominicans, Westleys, the Prophet of Wabash, or Tippecanoe, Nimrod Hughs, Christopher McPherson, and even Priestly and Price, even Dr. Ewing, Dr. Rogers and Dr. Dwight have conspired together to rivet to my soul the Duty and Necessity of Tolleration.

These general assemblies of Presbyterian Divines are general Councils in embrio. We shall have Creeds and Confessions, Church discipline and Excommunication. We shall have, the civil Government overawed and become a Tool. We shall have Armies and their Commanders under the orders of Monks. We shall have Hermits, commanding Napoleons, I agree with you, there is a Germ of Religion in human nature so strong that whenever; an order of Men can persuade the People by, flattery or Terror, that they can have salvation at their disposal, there can be no end to fraud Violence or Usurpation. Ecumenical Councils produce Ecumenical Bishops and both subservient Armies, Emperors and Kings.

The National Fast recommended by me turned me out of office. It was connected with the general assembly of the Presbyterian church, which I had no concern in. That assembly has alarmed and alienated Quakers, Anabaptists, Mennonists, Moravians, Swedenborgians, Methodists, Catholicks, protestant Episcopalians, Arians, Socinians, Armenians, &c,&c,&c, Atheists and Deists might be added. A general Suspicion prevailed that the Presbyterian Church was ambitious and aimed at an Establishment as a National Church. I was represented as a Presbyterian and at the head of this political and ecclesiastical Project. The secret whispers ran through them [all the sects] "Let us have Jefferson, Madison, Burr, any body, whether they be Philosophers, Deists, or even Atheists, rather than a Presbyterian President" This principle is at the bottom of the unpopularity of national Fasts and Thanksgiving. Nothing is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with Religion. This wild Letter, I very much fear, contains seeds of an Ecclesiastical History of the U.S. for a Century to come.

Okay. Now get ready for the CONTEXT of John Adams' The Trinity prevailed by one vote against a Quaternity quote. The context is close tie breaking elections illustrating the nature of groups of men to divide themselves, intractably.

The similitude between 1773 and 1774, and 1811 and 1812 is obvious. It is now said by the Tories that we were unanimous in 1774. Nothing can be farther from the Truth. We were more divided in 74 than we are now. The Majorities in Congress in 74 on all the essential points and Principles of the Declaration of Rights, were only one, two or three. Indeed all the great critical questions about Men and Measures from 1774 to 1778 were decided by the vote of a single state, and that vote was often decided by a single Individual. Jumble and Chaos as this Nation appears at this moment, I never knew it better united. It is always so. The History of the World is nothing but a narrative of such divisions. The Stuarts abdicated or were turned out and William came in by one or two votes. I was turned out by the votes of S. Carolina not fairly obtained. Jefferson came in by one vote, after 37 Tryals between him and Burr. Our expedition against Cape Breton and consequent Conquest of Louisburg in 1745 which gave peace to the World was carried in our House of Representatives of Massachusetts by one single vote. The abolition of old Tenor in 1750 was decided by one vote. What is more awful than all. The Trinity was carried in a general Council by one vote against a Quaternity: the Virgin Mary lost an equality with the Father, Son and Spirit only by a single suffrage. All the great affairs of the world temporal and spiritual, as far as Men are concerned in the discussion and decision of them are determined by small Majorities. The Repulsion in human nature is stronger than the Attraction. Division, Separation are inevitable.

Adams then starts in with a diva-like discussion of "Boudoirs." Adams seems self consciously aware of his "feminine side" in this letter. That's probably when the alcohol fully kicked in.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Barton Responds to Pinto:

Chris Pinto is a conservative evangelical who disbelieves in David Barton's Christian Nation historical mythology. Conservative evangelicals (Barton, Pinto, et al.) tend to believe Sola Scriptura unquestionably teaches orthodox Trinitarian doctrine and they fairly strictly interpret the term "Christian" accordingly.

So it shouldn't surprise given the unitarianism in which many "key Founders" and their intellectual influences believed, orthodox Christians, especially of the evangelical bent, would doubt America's "Christian heritage" once they discovered the facts David Barton doesn't give them.

David Barton attempts to respond to Pinto in this article. Barton admits there that he usually ignores his critics; but, what Barton doesn't note, he may have a thing for Pinto given Worldview Weekend used to promote Barton's work, but now promotes Pinto's.

At issue is whether, in this letter, John Adams is mocking or praising the Christian concept of the "Holy Spirit." I am convinced by Chris Rodda's analysis that Adams didn't mean what Barton thinks he does. Granted John Adams' context can be difficult to understand.

I'm not going to dissect Barton's latest response, just offer some observations. Yes, John Adams 1. was a devoutly religious "Protestant"; 2. disbelieved in the doctrine of divine right of kings; and 3. was quite suspicious of, indeed downright bigoted towards Roman Catholicism. Barton more or less raises these points to try to put Adams' letter in context.

1-3 are areas that Barton and J. Adams have in common (though Barton is not bigoted towards Roman Catholics, rather just disagrees with them). (And I don't think "biblical Christianity" sees the doctrine of divine right of Kings as a "heresy" as Barton claims; at least it's no more heretical than the notion that the Bible teaches the concept of a "republic." No. A Kingdom might not be the government the Bible demands; but a "Kingdom" is clearly a more biblically discussed and endorsed form of government than a "republic." The Bible speaks of a "Kingdom" not a "republic" of Heaven.) This is done to mislead Barton's Christian reader into thinking J. Adams believed in the same kind of "Christianity" that they do. And of course such a "Christianity" would not mock the Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person in the Trinity.

Barton as I read this article doesn't squarely address Chris Pinto's claims, but rather tries to overwhelm the reader with logically fallacious irrelevancies. First he tries to poison the well by grouping Pinto with "liberals and atheists." And then Barton engages in a long discussion of five strawmen that he accuses Pinto of making: "Modernism, Minimalism, and Deconstructionism (the other two of the five are Poststructuralism and Academic Collectivism...)."

Let me solidify my case for the notion that Barton's article confuses and deceives his evangelical Christian readers into thinking J. Adams was a "Christian" according to their standards:

Chris Pinto, in his analysis of Adams letter, has managed to ignore more than a millennia of church and world history in his unreasonable attempt to brand John Adams a heretic and blasphemer of the Holy Spirit. And adding insult to his malpractice injury, he also ignored more than thirty volumes of Adams’ published writings, containing hundreds of positive letters and repeated favorable references to religion and Christianity. Thus, Pinto’s claim about Adams’ irreligion is directly refuted not only by the context of the letter itself but also by the powerful evidence of the lifelong proven faith and character of John Adams.

But, whatever we conclude of the letter in question, John Adams was a heretic and a blasphemer according to Barton's professed creed. Barton then cites "scores of other quotes by John Adams," to "contrast them with the anti-religious image that Pinto wrongly attempts to draw of Adams." (Bold mine.) Well yes, let's look at some of Adams' other "quotes" to see how wrong Pinto's assessment of John Adams' faith is:

"If I understand the Doctrine, it is, that if God the first second or third or all three together are united with or in a Man, the whole Animal becomes a God and his Mother is the Mother of God.

"It grieves me: it shocks me to write in this stile upon a subject the most adorable that any finite Intelligence can contemplate or embrace: but if ever Mankind are to be superior to the Brutes, sacerdotal Impostures must be exposed."

-- John Adams to Francis van der Kemp, October 23, 1816.

"The Trinity was carried in a general council by one vote against a quaternity; the Virgin Mary lost an equality with the Father, Son, and Spirit only by a single suffrage."

-- John Adams to Benjamin Rush, June 12, 1812.


"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.

There John Adams -- a unitarian his entire adult life -- bitterly mocks the Trinity and the Incarnation. This is the "proven faith" of John Adams. How does Barton deal with this for his readers? He doesn't. He's deceptive.
Jonathan Mayhew's Problem with the Orthodox:

Small "o" orthodox that is.

Staring on page 89 of this collection published in 1767 Mayhew responds to an orthodox critic who writes him out of "Christianity" for denying certain "essentials" of the Christian faith, notably the Trinity. To such "orthodox" Mayhew's "unitarian Christianity" is no better than Deism and perhaps a mask for secret Deism. Mayhew writes that his critic

accuses me of "attempts to undermine the fundamental principles of their faith"—"those essential doctrines"—"the doctrines of grace"—"destroying the fundamental principles of their faith"—and "undermining the dignity and divinity of the Son of God."—All these railing accusations are in page 77. In the next, I am said to "deny and ridicule the doctrine of justification by faith;"—to "discard the notion of original sin"—and to "brand the notion of imputed righteousness with the reproach of nonsense."—And he insults the said reverend gentlemen, as not having "the courage to rise up in defence of the Lord Jesus Christ and the truth of his gospel" in opposition to me.

These were not easy charges to deal with at the time. Mayhew tries to put in context what he really said, that all he really did was deny the Trinity.

The book discusses how high a regard Mayhew really holds for the divine inspiration of the biblical canon. Something about whether the Song of Solomon belongs in the canon and Mayhew's willingness to mess with the orthodox position. As he writes:

But he goes still further; intimating his suspicions that I am a deist, p. 79.—"The Dr.'s reflection upon the Song of Solomon is sufficient to show how easy it is for him to discard the sacred canon of scripture itself: Or perhaps," &c. But he dared not to cite that refleclion, as he calls it. The most that can be fairly and logically inferred from it, is, that I supposed there was near as much reason for admitting the Wisdom as the Song of Solomon into the canon;—a very harmless supposition, even tho' it should be a mistake; and which does not imply the latter to be admitted without reason.

Something very helpful: The orthodox, especially of the evangelical Protestant bent, tend to see orthodox doctrines as clearly taught in scripture. Therefore someone who claims to disbelieve in the Trinity and eternal damnation is elevating his own reason over the Bible regardless of how he might represent his position. Though the Christian-unitarian-universalists did claim biblical support for these positions. As Mayhew writes:

He had before intimated, p. 76, that there was ground to "suspect that I deceive myself, when I profess a regard for—divine revelation"—Behold his candor! He also makes a great outcry, because I somewhere said, that certain passages of Scripture seemed "at first view" to countenance the doctrine of annihilation.

Even though Mayhew was an Arian, not a Socinian, he got flak for referring to Socinus in a positive manner:

There are some more particular insinuations and assertions here, and in other parts of this defamatory pamphlet, in order to shew how widely I differ from our good forefathers. It is intimated that I am a Socinian: "Whatever their notions of liberty—amounted to, they certainly had no great opinion of the 'learned Socinus.'" Here this censor alludes to a passage in one of my sermons on Christian Sobriety, p. 57. in which I speak of Socinus under that character, learned. Will this candid man then allow none to be even learned, unless they are Athanasians?

As has been mentioned before, the orthodox almost put the kibosh on Mayhew's ordination as minister by refusing to attend. Mayhew just it out waited until he could find enough ministers willing to ordain him.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Therapy of Mindfulness:

I'm interested in but skeptical of the practice of psychiatry. They've made some big errors in the past and continue to do so. The answers to happiness and unlearning "mental disorders" I have found, not in this practice of medical science, but in philosophy: "Mindfulness," which is associated with Eastern or New Age thought, but may well be authentically Western, Judeo-Christian and "biblical" even.

From the New York Times:

Dr. Linehan’s own emerging approach to treatment — now called dialectical behavior therapy, or D.B.T. — would also have to include day-to-day skills. A commitment means very little, after all, if people do not have the tools to carry it out. She borrowed some of these from other behavioral therapies and added elements, like opposite action, in which patients act opposite to the way they feel when an emotion is inappropriate; and mindfulness meditation, a Zen technique in which people focus on their breath and observe their emotions come and go without acting on them. (Mindfulness is now a staple of many kinds of psychotherapy.)

Ultimately there is a way to train your mind that is analogous to training your muscles. The problem is so many folks are unaware; it's like not knowing how to lift weights to get your body stronger or how to run to improve your cardiovascular health.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jonathan Mayhew on the Common Law:

I've been doing some careful reading of Rev. Jonathan Mayhew -- an enormously influential ("key" if you will) Patriotic Preacher. See for instance, this book of his original writings. JM was a Congregational minister, a "liberal" Christian of his era, but to the orthodox he was no "Christian" at all. He was a Christian-unitarian-universalist or what Dr. Gregg Frazer has termed a "theistic rationalist."

On page 35 of the aforementioned book Mayhew discusses the common law in the context of its religious component. Mayhew does NOT want (obviously speaking) Anglicanism incorporated in the common law, even though Anglicanism was part and parcel of "the law of England."

Claims about Christianity and the common law abound. One claim is that the common law is derived from Christianity and that claim is clearly false. As Mayhew accurately notes (as Jefferson would later -- this was published in 1764) the common law had its origin in heathen nations and was a "complete" system long before the reformation. JM's opponent attempted to argue that the Anglican establishment was smuggled into the American colonies via the common law-law of England or whatever de jure/de facto system of British rule that controlled in the colonies at that time.

It will not, I conclude, be asserted, that all the laws of England, without exception, or of Great Britain, are, as such, binding on the colonies. In order to their being so, it must, I humbly conceive, plainly appear from the language of them, or from their very nature, that they were formally designed for all the King's subjects, as well those in the colonies as those in England. Many of the laws of England are in their own nature local, so that they cannot possibly be obeyed out of England. And I am informed by those that are learned in the laws, and in the customs and usages of the colonies, that it is a clear, indisputable point, that there are many English statutes, in other cases, which are not binding on the colonies. So that jt seems to be only the common law at most, and those statutes that are made in affirmation or explanation of it, that English subjects carry with them when they emigrate, emigrate into colonies, so as to be bound by them. And I conclude, it will not be said that the church of England is established by common law, which had its origin among heathen nations; and was compleat as a system long before the reformation.

Whether common law that is pagan in its origin later incorporated Christianity is a more difficult question.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Jonathan Mayhew, Universalist:

The good Rev. and "key" Patriot Preacher was not only a "unitarian" but also, it seems a "universalist."

From his 1762 Thanksgiving Sermon:

"The consideration of God's goodness and mercy, particularly as manifested in the Scriptures, in the redemption of the world by Christ, naturally suggests very pleasing hopes, and a glorious prospect, with reference to the conclusion, or final result of that most wonderful interposition of grace. It cannot be denied, that ever since the apostacy of our first parents, there have been, and still are, some things of a dark and gloomy appearance, when considered by themselves. So much folly, superstition and wickedness there is, 'in this present evil world.' But when we consider the declared end of Christ's manifestation in the flesh, to give his life a ransom for all, and to destroy the works of the devil; when we consider the numerous prophecies respecting the destruction of sin and death, and the future glory of Christ's kingdom on earth; when we consider, that he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet, the last of which is death; and until he hath subdued all things to himself; when we reflect, that according to the apostle Paul, where sin has abounded, grace does much more abound; and that the same creature (or creation,) which was originally made subject to vanity, is to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God; when we consider the parallel which is instituted and carried on by the same apostle, betwixt the first and second Adam, in his epistle to the Romans; and his express assertion in another, that "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive; but every man in his own order;" in a word, when we duly consider that there is a certain restitution of all things, spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began; when we duly consider these things, I say, light and comfort rise out of darkness and sorrow.

And we may, without the least presumption, conclude in general, that, in the revolution of ages, something far more grand, important and glorious, than any thing which is vulgarly imagined, shall actually be the result of Christ's coming down from heaven to die on a cross, of his resurrection from the dead, and of his being crowned with glory and honor, as Lord both of the dead and the living. The word of God, and his mercy, endure forever ; nor will he leave any thing which is truly his work, unfinished. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth,' saith the Lord, 'so are my ways higher than your ways; and my thoughts than your thoughts— My word, that goeth forth out of my mouth, shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please; and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I send it.'"

"To conclude then ; let us all, young men and maidens, old men and children, love and honor, extol and obey the God and Father of all, whose tender mercies are over all his works; and who has been so gracious and bountiful to ourselves in particular. If we sincerely do thus, as becometh the children of the Highest, we shall, in due time, partake of his goodness, in a far more glorious manner and measure than we can in the earthly house of this tabernacle. We shall doubtless also have a far more clear, distinct and perfect knowledge, than we can possibly have at present, of what is intended in some apparently grand and sublime, yet difficult passages in the sacred oracles; particularly that of John the Divine, with which I close: 'And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto Him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever." Rev. v. 13."

Now this sounds "Christian." But Rev. Mayhew 1. denied the Trinity; 2. as we just saw, denied eternal damnation; and 3. believed men were saved by their works, following Christ's perfect moral example. (The bad -- those that didn't earn immediate salvation at death -- would be punished temporarily but eventually reconciled to Christ). Whether it's "Christian" or not is above my "pay-grade" as a co-blogger would put it. But it DOES help to know what the Founding era unitarian-universalists believed.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gad Hitchcock High Arian:

This will be the last in this week's series of notable unitarian patriotic preachers from America's Founding era. They were disproportionately Arian as opposed to Socinian (Socinians were sometimes termed "humanitarians").

From this source:

Dr. Hitchcock proved himself a man of talent, sociable, friendly, hospitable, though somewhat eccentric, and very witty. "Be merry and wise" was his advice to the young on occasions of joy. In belief he was a high Arian and liberal. His funeral services consisted of only a prayer, by his request. His pastorate extended over a period of fifty-five years. He died Aug. 8, 18o3, after an indisposition of four years, when the parish honored his memory by the following vote: "That the parish procure a pair of Tombstones for the Rev. Gad Hitchcock."

And from this source:

During the Revolutionary War, he was a warm friend to the American cause, and, in several instances, officiated as Chaplain. On these occasions, he not only attended diligently to the appropriate duties of his office, but proved to the soldiers that he was not disposed to screen himself from the dangers that he encouraged them to encounter. At a subsequent period, he was a member of the Convention that framed the Constitution of Massachusetts.

In 1787 he was honoured with the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Harvard College....


As to his religious opinions, I suppose there is no doubt that, through his whole ministry, he was a High Arian, and a constant preacher of the doctrines in that age termed liberal; but, if now living, probably he would be standing midway between what is called Orthodoxy and Modern Liberality.

And finally one of his notable patriotic sermons.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Simeon Howard Got Jonathan Mayhew's Church...And His Wife:

I just noticed this. I knew Rev. Howard got Rev. Mayhew's church, but not his widow too. See here:

Dr. Howard was first married in December, 1771, to the widow of Dr. Mayhew, his predecessor. She died in April, 1777, at the age of fortyfour. His second wife was the daughter of his early friend, Dr. Gay, of Hingham. He left one son, Dr. John Clarke Howard, sometimes called "the beloved physician," who was graduated at Harvard College in 1790, and died in 1810, aged thirty-eight years.

Dr. Howard, in his religious opinions, was probably always an Arian. ...

Here is one of Rev. Howard's political sermons where he substitutes political liberty for spiritual liberty and arguably inserts non-biblical rationalist principles that supersede the Bible's text into the pulpit.

Thursday, June 09, 2011


One of the many unitarian patriotic preachers of whom you've probably never heard.

See this book, pp. 55-64.

Here is DANIEL EMERSON on the good Reverend:

During the Revolution, Mr. Cummings showed himself an earnest friend of his country's Independence. Fully convinced that the cause of the Colonies was a righteous cause, and that it was the duty of every man, whatever might be his profession or relations, to aid it to the extent of his ability, he laboured, both in the pulpit and out of it, to diffuse the patriotic spirit, and strengthen the hands of those on whom the direction cf the public concerns more immediately devolved. In 1783, the memorable year that witnessed the close of the War, he preached the Annual Sermon before the Legislature,—a sermon characterized by the most enlightened, patriotic views. The town of Billerica testified their high appreciation of his knowledge and good judgment in civil matters, by appointing him a delegate to the Convention which framed the Constitution of Massachusetts.

Here is THE REV. JOSEPH RICHARDSON on the man:

In his theological views he was an Arminian, and I suppose an Arian also; though he seldom dwelt much on points of controversy in the pulpit. I think he had no sympathy with any system that does not recognize the mediation ot Christ as the grand feature of the Christian economy. He exercised great kindliness of feeling towards those commonly called orthodox, and was on terms of exchange with a number of them till near the close of his active ministry.

And here is THE REV. ARIEL ABBOT, D. D. on him:

I cannot say much of him as a Preacher from actual knowledge, my opportunities for hearing him having bean very limited, but I am safe in saying that his pulpit performances were much above the average standard of his day. His manner was simple, earnest and effective. His sermons were generally practical but argumentative, nor did he hesitate at all, on what he deemed suitable occasions, to state clearly his views of Christian doctrine. Some of his published sermons bear marks of a mind, trained not only to vigorous but profound thought. In his religious opinions he was decidedly an Arminian, and, as I have always understood, an Arian. He regarded Calvinism, in all its forms, with no inconsiderable aversion. I remember to have heard him speak of Edwards' Treatise on the Will, as being, in his opinion, nothing better than fatalism; and he added, with his characteristic earnestness, that, if he were an Atheist, he should want no better arguments than that work supplied, to sustain his atheistical theory.


The theological controversy of Dr. Cummings' day related, I suppose, more especially to the subject of Moral Agency. In this controversy, he was prominent among those divines who maintained the Arminian view of the subject. He examined Edwards on the Will with great care, and wrote a Review of it, which he highly valued, containing condemnatory strictures. A few years after he was ordained, he became dissatisfied with the Trinitarian views in which he had been educated; and, having procured Waterland, and whatever other standard authors were within his reach, he spent a good part of a year in a critical examination of the subject. Not being satisfied with the result, he betook himself to the diligent study of the sacred records; and he finally rested in the conclusion that the revealed doctrine is that there is one God, the Father, and one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. He bad no fondness for any human theory whatever on the subject of the union of the Father and Son; though he certainly was not a Humanitarian.
Samuel West's Universalism:

See here:

He was educated not only a Trinitarian but a Calvinist. He abjured his Calvinism at an early period, but what his particular views of the Trinity were, I cannot say with confidence; though he always ranked with the liberal party. He was also a decided Restorationist. Witness the following extract from his autobiography — " The final cause or ultimate design of all the laws by which God governs the system of nature, is the happiness of his creatures; and if individual evil is produced by the uniform operation of those laws, it is and must be conducive to the good of the whole. Nay, I am persuaded that the sufferings of every individual will eventually conduce to the advancement of its happiness, and that the greatest sufferings, and those which endure the longest, are designed, and will in the end terminate in proportionate happiness."

Friday, June 03, 2011

Peter Marshall RIP:

I didn't know he passed. His death wasn't well publicized. (John Fea, hat tip.) He was, like the late D. James Kennedy, a key figure in Christian Nationalist history revisionism.

Dr. Gregg Frazer, in his PhD thesis, was quite harsh on Peter Marshall's historical revisionism contained in "The Light and the Glory." Dr. Frazer wrote of that book:

It became the classic text of [the "Christian America"] camp. Its historiography is abominable; it is a collection of speculations, suppositions, personal musings, and "insights" with little or no proof or documentation for extraordinary claims. PhD thesis, p. 38.

I once debated a Christian Americanist who, without me knowing, maintained correspondence with Marshall. When he cited Marshall's book for authority, I cited Frazer. And he unilaterally sent to Marshall Dr. Frazer's criticisms of him (I want to note I didn't egg him on or encourage this). Understandably upset, Marshall emailed back an angry response which I didn't reproduce for civility's sake. Since he's dead, I'll reproduce it now.

I believe in, though I don't always live up to this ideal, respecting the privacy of the living and treating them civilly, that is not subjecting them to harsh criticism that may hurt their feelings. I try to avoid the personal ad hominem. Once folks are dead, they belong to history. And yeah, I understand they may have family and loved ones with feelings too. And that conflicts me somewhat. If they are long dead -- like the Founding Fathers -- they are totally fair game. But I feel now the time is right to report Marshall's response to Frazer's criticism.

This links to Peter Marshall's response after being emailed with the short quotation from Gregg Frazer criticizing him.

"Well, it’s nothing but an attack of flying garbage – no specific references, nothing but personal slams – typical of people who disagree with the ideas and conclusions, but have nothing with which to refute them. We stand by the historical accuracy of the book. You’ll be interested to know that there is a major revision of the book coming out early next year, published by Baker, who published the original edition. We added material (Roanoke, Jamestown is completely rewritten, added Samuel Adams, more on Patrick Henry, more on Washington’s Christian faith – and corrected a few minor historical errors: removed supposed Washington prayers (they were not in his handwriting), changed a few dates we had gotten wrong, added an appendix on Washington’s Christianity, and another on the Christianity of a number of Founding Fathers). Most importantly, we edited the entire book and focused our points more clearly, making it clear that we were not in any way promoting a “my country, right or wrong” philosophy. I’m not surprised this guy is a John MacArthur disciple. I’m not a fan of his – I have serious problems with some of his theology – he’s not nearly as Biblically orthodox as he thinks he is. And he’s always been wrong about the Founding Fathers – still maintains in the face of plenteous evidence to the contrary that they were all Deists, which is simply spouting the secularist baloney that he must have swallowed in college. But that’s neither here nor there. A major point for you to remember is that we are interested in what the truth is – if we had found that the Pilgrims were hypocrites, or the Founding Fathers were Deists, we would either have said so, or would not have written the book we did. As a historian, I reject totally any attempts to shoe-horn historical evidence to fit one’s thesis – that has no moral integrity whatsoever, and I refuse to ever indulge in it, despite Frazer’s ignorant accusations".

Update: Dr. Frazer responds:

Interesting. He clearly knew nothing about my work (e.g. claiming that I maintain that they were all deists), but felt free to criticize it – at least my criticisms were based on having read his book. He also, apparently, did not have much confidence in his ability to communicate, since he declared me to be in ignorance, despite having read his book. Amazingly, he was, in his view, in a position to attack my work without having read it – perhaps the ignorance label was misplaced? It is also interesting that, having blasted me for criticizing the historiography of the book, he proceeded to explain all of the changes that he found to be necessary in the new edition – including factual errors and the removal of supposed prayers of Washington which he was forced to admit were not genuine. Finally, his recourse to an ad hominem attack which was, as he admitted, “neither here nor there” is also telling. For the record, I am not a “John MacArthur disciple” – I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. While I am a member of his church and agree with him on all of the fundamental issues, I disagree with John on more than one issue and base my views on the Bible, not John.

I must agree that my little blurb in the dissertation gave “no specific references” – but my purpose was not to review his book, but merely to comment on its place in the literature of the Christian America movement. I do not agree that I made “personal slams” as I criticized the book and its historiography, but I can see how he would take it that way.