Sunday, December 30, 2012

Who is the publisher of David Barton’s “The Jefferson Lies?” Amazon listing raises questions.

That's the title of THIS STORY.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

John Perry on Vindications of the Reasonableness of Christianity

John Perry from University of Oxford reviews John Locke, Vindications of the Reasonableness of Christianity, Victor Nuovo (ed.), Oxford University Press, 2012.  A taste:
 Rather than a general defense of the Reasonableness, both Vindications are targeted more narrowly at the Presbyterian John Edwards, who had accused Locke of being "all over Socinianized." (As the Reasonableness was published anonymously, Edwards could not at first be sure of its author, though he knew the rumors that it was Locke.) Their disagreement largely revolves around a relatively narrow concern: what to make of Locke's claim that the only necessary belief is that Jesus is the Messiah. (As he had written in Reasonableness, chapter five: "So that all that was to be believed for justification, was no more but this single proposition, that 'Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, or the Messiah.'") 
According to Edwards, this excludes all sorts of important doctrines, such as the Trinity and the atonement. Locke rejects this, though with a rather scattered shotgun blast. He identifies places that his text had implied something like the atonement; he points out that even those incapable of understanding complex theology can yet be saved and so the absolute doctrinal minimum must be quite low; and he argues that the doctrinal criteria were meant to function as membership criteria. That is, believing Jesus to be the Messiah is what it takes to become a Christian, but not all that a Christian must believe and do, just as a citizenship oath might make me an Englishman but would not be all that I must do to obey English law. 
The problem in wading through all of this is that most of the substance is lost in quibbles about who said what where. Put bluntly, Edwards' and Locke's quarrel is long, boring, and repetitive. (The Second Vindication alone is a grueling 90,000 words; far longer than the Reasonableness itself. Such tedium was an unfortunate feature of Locke's other rebuttals. The three sequels to the Letter concerning Toleration are equally dull.)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Some Christmas Season Barton Bashing

What would American Creation be without some obligatory David Barton bashing. The first is from Ed Brayton noting that Barton continues to falsely assert that America's Framers quoted the Bible in the US Constitution. (They didn't even quote the Bible in the Federalist Papers OR, when debating the Constitution's provisions, at the Constitutional Convention. Yes, I know Ben Franklin quoted the Bible there during his failed bid for prayer when they reached an impasse.)

Next is from Chris Rodda on how Barton misrepresents Thomas Jefferson's view of Isaac Newton.

And finally, criticism of Barton for his claim that the 2nd Amendment is "biblical."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Unitarian Christmas

Numerous articles and blogs have noted the strong case to doubt Christmas' authentically "Christian" origins. Christ probably wasn't born on Dec. 25. The Puritans banned the holiday because it wasn't authentically Christian. And many of its rituals trace to the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice or Saturnalia.

The modern understanding of Christmas is also significantly influenced by Charles Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol."

Charles Dickens, you see, was a Unitarian Christian. And "A Christmas Carol" preaches a decidedly (19th Century) Unitarian message on Christmas. To Unitarians, "Christianity" was all about good works and good will, NOT God's grace through Christ's atonement. And "A Christmas Carol" hardly ever mentions Jesus at all, but is about good works and good will.

Now, orthodox Christians likewise appreciate good works and good will. But that is secondary to God's grace through the shed blood of Jesus Christ -- God the Son Incarnate. And "A Christmas Carol" celebrates this message that the orthodox could consider at best secondary or incidental, not the central theme of the Christian religion.

That said, have a Merry Unitarian Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

OFT on John Locke and the Trinity

"Our Founding Truth" uncovers some interesting things here. Check out the comments.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

First Freedom on PBS

Get the details here.

Frank Pastore RIP

I was unaware that he was hurt in an accident until today. I express my sincere condolences to the Pastore family. I didn't know much about Pastore. I listened to a few of his shows and read a few of his columns. I did find out that he had a graduate degree (Masters, apparently) in political science from the Claremont Graduate School. One of his fellow students at the time was none other than friend of the site, Dr. Gregg Frazer. You can listen to Frazer discussing his book on Pastore's show here.

Christmas in 1776

By Thomas Kidd here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Saturnalia!

Ilya Somin wish us one here.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Schlueter On Sustainable Liberalism

One of the things I find extremely helpful in this article by Nathan Schlueter in The Public Discourse is its discussion on the various forms of "liberalism." When we speak of "liberalism" it helps to know what exactly it is we are discussing.

A taste:
Social contract liberalism grows out of the Anglo-Enlightenment tradition, and is associated with Hobbes, Locke, and more recently Robert Nozick. It attempts to deduce justified political authority from a set of universal, abstract premises: All men are by nature free and equal and possess inalienable rights, and the consent of the governed therefore is required for political authority to be just. 
Classical liberalism grows out of the Scottish Enlightenment tradition, and includes thinkers such as Montesquieu, Adam Smith, David Hume, Francis Hutcheson, and, more recently, F. A. Hayek. Classical liberalism is more sensitive than contract liberalism to the fact that human beings are by nature social, historical, and dependent animals, and it illuminates the ways in which emergent, spontaneous orders are forms of knowledge that cannot be achieved by centralized direction. Classical liberals therefore show how liberty, community, and tradition can be complementary, and how political authority can be justified as a necessary means of solving coordination problems in a given society. 
... Although the roots of modern liberalism can be found in the writings of Kant, Hegel, and J. S. Mill, its most influential American expositor is John Rawls. Rawls ingeniously (and, it must be said, not always coherently) combines both contractarian and classical liberalism into a comprehensive philosophical system that is indebted to both forms of liberalism, even as it departs markedly from them. 
There is no need to reiterate the problems with modern liberalism. The point here is to set in relief what is distinctive about natural law liberalism. According to Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence is not simply a translation of Lockean social contract theory. “All of its authority,” he wrote in a letter to Henry Lee, “rests on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c." Locke is there, but so is Aristotle. 
We have here a clue to what is great about American liberalism: It does not rest upon the writings of a single theorist, but draws from the best thought of the western tradition of right, classical, medieval, and modern, in a way that is still genuinely liberal. Elements of both social contract theory and classical liberalism are there, but their foundations rest upon the metaphysical realism and ethical framework of the pre-modern tradition (Aristotle and Cicero).

Judge Posner on Amar's New Book

I'm not sure if Judge Posner is right.  But he is a brilliant mind whose work is always worth taking seriously.  And the argument he makes explores the political-theological concerns we study at American Creation.  A taste:
THE CONSTITUTION of the United States has its passionate votaries—none more so than Akhil Reed Amar of Yale Law School—as does the Bible. But both sets of worshippers face the embarrassment of having to treat an old, and therefore dated, document as authoritative. Neither set’s members are willing to say that because it is old, and therefore dated, it is not authoritative. Some say it is old but not dated; they are the constitutional and Biblical literalists. But most of the worshippers admit, though not always out loud, that their holy book is dated and must therefore be updated (without altering the text) so as to preserve its authority. They use various techniques for updating. One is misinterpretation. Another is loose interpretation, which can be thought a form of realism. Amar, who is merely dismissive of conservative textualists and originalists, is harshly and unfairly critical of realist judges such as Oliver Wendell Holmes and realist professors such as David Strauss, lest he be confused with them.
Amar’s method of updating, which is also the one the Catholic Church applies to the Bible, is supplementation from equally authoritative sources. The Church believes that a Pope receives divine inspirations that enable him to proclaim dogmas that are infallible and thus have equal authority with the Bible. Jesus Christ’s mother does not play a prominent role in the New Testament, but she became a focus of Catholic veneration, and in 1854 the Pope proclaimed the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception (that is, that she had been born without original sin). This and other extra-Biblical Catholic dogmas, such as the Nicene Creed, which proclaimed the consubstantiality of the Son and the Father, form a kind of parallel Bible, equal in authority to the written one, which reached its modern form in the third century C.E. 
This is the line taken by Amar. Alongside the written Constitution is an unwritten constitution. They are consubstantial. The Constitution, like the teachings of the Catholic Church, is a composite of a founding document and a variety of supplementary practices and declarations (many of course in writing also). No matter how wild Amar’s constitutional views may seem, he claims that they are in this two-in-one constitution; that he did not put them there. 
Actually, despite the book’s title, it is not two in one—it is twelve in one. There is not just one unwritten constitution, in Amar’s reckoning; there are eleven of them. There is an “implicit” constitution, a “lived” constitution, a “Warrented” constitution (the reference is to Earl Warren), a “doctrinal” constitution, a “symbolic” constitution, a “feminist” constitution, a “Georgian” constitution (the reference is to George Washington), an “institutional” constitution, a “partisan” constitution (the reference is to political parties, which are not mentioned in the written Constitution), a “conscientious” constitution (which, for example, permits judges and jurors to ignore valid law), and an “unfinished” constitution that Amar is busy finishing. All these unwritten constitutions, in Amar’s view, are authoritative. And miraculously, when correctly interpreted, they all cohere, both with each other and with the written Constitution. The sum of the twelve constitutions is the Constitution.
One is tempted to say that this is preposterous, and leave it at that. But it is an attempt to respond to the felt need of professors of constitutional law, and of judges who rule on constitutional cases (particularly Supreme Court justices), to find, or at least to assert, an objective basis for constitutional decisions. On the eve of the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act—a time of liberal panic—Amar was quoted as saying that if the Court invalidated the act “then yes, it’s disheartening to me, because my life was a fraud. Here I was, in my silly little office, thinking law mattered, and it really didn’t. What mattered was politics, money, party, and party loyalty.” But the constitutional “law” that matters to Amar is not what other lawyers understand law to be. It is a palimpsest of twelve constitutions, only one of which is real.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Monday, December 03, 2012

Roger Williams Code is Cracked!

Paul Harvey tells us about it here.

So I guess Leo Strauss was right about dissidents needing to send esoteric messages.

Who is the real Thomas Jefferson?

By Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg at Salon here.

Kirk Cameron vs. Paul Finkelman on Jefferson and Slavery

Warren Throckmorton tells us about it here.

Boston 1775 on the Jefferson Controversy

Here, here and here. (Hat tip: John Fea.)