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.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

David Barton: Where is the evidence?

A question Warren Throckmorton asks here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Richard Beeman on the Founding Fathers

John Fea links here.

Spiritual hunches vs. math: How not to predict the outcome of an election

By Warren Throckmorton here. A taste:
On another note, David Barton compares his partnership with Mormon Glenn Beck to the George Whitefield revivals before the Revolutionary War. Somehow I can’t see Whitefield partnering with the heterodox beliefs which characterize the LDS church.  While he was kind in his criticisms, Whitefield clearly and publicly confronted what  he considered to be error (e.g., this letter to John Wesley).

Friday, November 09, 2012

.@FreeRepublicUSA Begs Queen Elizabeth II To Take Them Back

Here. Queen Elizabeth responds: "Well you should not have violated Romans 13 back then. Serves you right you rebel heretics."

Church Affiliation Colonial and Now -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Here.  A taste:
So how were things in the good old days? A consensus questioned by a few serious scholars—Patricia Bonomi among them—is that fewer than 20 percent of the colonial citizens were active in churches. Change came after 1776, so that, in one common estimate, church participation jumped from 17 percent to 34 percent between 1776 and 1850. A better past, more illuminating for comparison in present concerns, is between the early 1960s, when participation crested, and today.
I'll have to check the footnotes; but I do seem to remember more than one authority claiming this may be a lowball. The truth usually lies somewhere in between. On the one hand the Christian Nation notion that virtually every American citizen at the time was an orthodox Trinitarian, church active Protestant is bogus. There were plenty of nominal, unchurched men more likely to be in a tavern on a Saturday night than in a Church on Sunday. But the exact numbers? What constituted a statistical majority? Not sure.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Jacob Duché the Swedenborg

I was perusing through Benjamin Rush's Autobiography at the library where I work and this caught me. Christian nationalists like to parade Duché as the heroic patriotic Christian minister of the American Revolution. But they usually leave out the part where this Benedict Arnold of the American Civil Religion switched sides and urged George Washington to surrender to the British. After he was ruined he experimented with Christian mysticism and then eventually settled on Swedenborgianism.

Here is Reverend William White on  Duché's spiritual journey:
A remarkably fine voice and graceful action helped to render him very popular as a preacher. His disposition also was amiable. The greatest infirmity attending him was a tendency to change his religious sentiment. A few years after his ministerial settlement he took to the mysticism of Jacob Behmen and William Law. From this he became detached for a time; and his preaching, which was more zealous than either before or after, seemed to me to border on Calvinism; though, probably, he was not aware of, or designed, it. In this interval my personal intercourse with him began; and hav1ng one day asked of him the loan of Law's works, then much talked of, I received a refusal; the reason given being the danger he had formerly been in from reading these books. He relapsed, however, to the theory of the mystics, and continued in it until the troubles which drove him from his native country. In England he became a convert to the opinions of Baron Swedenborg; and in these he continued until his decease.
Some "orthodox" consider Swedenborgianism not "Christian" because it denies "the Trinity and the Holy Spirit, the vicarious atonement, and reject[s] Acts and the Pauline epistles ...."  Here is another source that views Swedenborgianism as a non-Christian religion.  George Washington, on the other hand, seemed to have no problem with the Swedenborgs.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Timeliness of Mitt's Mormonism

From ANN ALTHOUSE: “It’s fascinating — isn’t it? — how little anti-Mormon material has been spread about in this election. The only notable person who seems to be going there is Andrew Sullivan.”

I'd like to think I didn't engage in any anti-Mormonism during this term. Here is an op-ed I wrote about Mitt's Mormonism and I stand by it.

A taste:
Hmm... Mitt Romney, as a Mormon, claims to be a "Christian" and accepts Jesus as the divine, resurrected Savior of mankind. So what is the problem? Space forbids me to detail all of the problems evangelicals have with Mormonism. But, at base, Mormonism denies historic orthodoxy as found in doctrines like the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds; to disbelieve in orthodox Trinitarianism, as it were, is to disbelieve in "Mere Christianity" as CS Lewis termed it. After the late Walter Martin, conservative evangelicals often term non-Trinitarian religionists, like the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others, as "cults."

Though the term "cults" was not used during the American Founding era to describe non-Trinitarians, the "orthodox" then (especially clergy) did regard these "heretics" as not "Christian."


Most know that Thomas Jefferson, who served two terms as third President, was not an orthodox Trinitarian Christian. He did, interestingly, think of himself as a "Christian" while denying every single tenet of historic orthodoxy.

Fewer know that John Adams too, failed, and to quote history professor John Fea's masterful new book on the Christian Nation controversy, "fail[ed] miserably" the test for Christian orthodoxy. Adams, who identified as a "unitarian" his entire adult life, bitterly mocked the doctrines of the Trinity, which he termed a "sacerdotal imposture[]," and the Incarnation, which he said "stupified the Christian World."

And it's not as though George Washington and James Madison, respectively, the first and fourth American Presidents, the "father of America" and the "architect of the Constitution," were paragons of Christian orthodoxy. While not as overtly unitarian as the second and third American Presidents, Washington and Madison, from their own words, offer little to demonstrate their belief in Christian orthodoxy.

Indeed, Washington's own orthodox minister, the Reverend James Abercrombie, claimed Washington's systematic avoidance of communion meant he was not a "real Christian" because his actions "disregard[ed] an ordinance so solemnly enjoined by the divine Author of our holy religion, and considered as a channel of divine grace."

And well respected orthodox Episcopalian, William Meade, third Bishop of Virginia, well acquainted with Madison, claimed the fourth President's "political associations with those of infidel principles, of whom there were many in his day, if they did not actually change" his youthful, conventionally religious spirit, "subjected him to the general suspicion of it." (One prominent unitarian contemporary of James Madison, George Ticknor, founder of the Boston Public Library, claims Madison personally professed unitarianism to him during a dinner conversation.)

In all likelihood, the first American President who might pass [the] orthodox test for Christianity was seventh President Andrew Jackson!

The early American Presidents were not perfect, but they well led the newly formed nation. Their example shows little connection between belief in orthodox Trinitarian doctrine and Presidential leadership acumen.

Please keep that in mind when considering how Mitt Romney's Mormonism might impact his qualifications for the American Presidency.
When I was at the CPS Conference last spring a very prominent researcher who sometimes reads American Creation asked why did we discuss Mormonism on a regular basis.  My answer was twofold.  One:  It's current; we may have a Mormon President.  The second answer was, "who holds the baton to the political theology of the American Founding?"  The above mentioned key Founders were the theistic liberals of their day.  The theological liberals of today are Unitarian Universalists and the liberal Christian churches (Obama's and the mainline churches).  Do they hold the baton?  Perhaps.  But I leave it an open question.  Perhaps the heretical conservative sects like the Mormons hold the baton.  Mormonism certainly seems more authentically "American" a creed than orthodox Christianity.  Though, one major difference I observe is Mormonism isn't as rationalistic as the key Founders' creed.

Under God” Pledge Case to be Reviewed by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

That is the title to this article. A taste:
Washington, DC, Oct. 26, 2012) —The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has agreed to hear the appeal from a humanist family challenging a state law that requires daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag in public schools. The plaintiffs claim daily classroom affirmation that the nation is “under God” violates state constitutional prohibitions against religious discrimination.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Newdow at the State Level

This is interesting.  I'd like to know more about the legal arguments involved.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

John Fea Explains the Middle Ground...

To a more secular oriented critic.  A taste:
Third, Fischer chides me for juxtaposing "providence" with "deism," as if a deist could not believe in providence.  I think she is correct here. A deist could believe in providence--in fact, most of them did.  As I have been speaking about the book to various audiences, I have realized that my discussion of "providence" as it relates to deism is not nuanced enough.

Yet I am not sure I agree with Fischer's characterization of my argument here.  She seems to think that I am arguing that if a founding father was not a deist, then he must have been a Christian who supported the creation of a uniquely Christian nation.  I think a sort of middle intellectual/religious ground is possible here.  For example, one could be a theist and still reject the core doctrines of traditional Christianity (such as the Trinity, the resurrection, the inspiration of the Bible, etc...).  Gregg Frazer has called this position "theistic rationalism."

Moreover, Fischer makes a logical mistake here.  She assumes that if a given founding father was a Christian, then he must have also wanted to promote a uniquely Christian nation.  I try to avoid this fallacy in my book, but Fischer wants to suggest that my attempt to paint the founders as non-deists automatically means that I will answer the question in the title of my book in the affirmative.

David Rittenhouse: Rational Christian-Theistic Rationalist-Unitarian

If you are familiar with Philadelphia, you know Rittenhouse Square is (probably) the most affluent part of town.  It was named after David Rittenhouse, not a "key Founder" but one of the all but forgotten names from America's Founding era.

Rittenhouse was mentioned in Timothy Dwight's Triumph of Infidelity as one of those "infidels" who presented his system under the auspices of "Christianity" but in reality was too man centered/humanistic to qualify as "real Christianity."

But anyway here is a passage from an old book where Rittenhouse's widow describes his creed:
[D]ated August 20th 1797. "'That you were sufficiently authorized to assert what you did respecting Mr. Rittenhouse's religious principles, I now add my testimony to what you have said, for well I know the great truths of religion engaged much of his attention, and indeed were interwoven with almost every important concern of his life. I do not recollect, if in any of the conversations I have had with you, I informed you, what I now do, that Dr. Price's opinions respecting Christianity were more in unison with his own, than any others of the divines; that Dr. Price's sermons was the last book he requested me to read to him, and that the last morning of his life, he reminded me that I had not finished one of the Doctor's discourses , which I had began the proceeding evening."
The Dr. Price referred to is the Arian heretic, "rational Christian," Richard Price.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic

Oxford University Press just released Mark David Hall's book on Roger Sherman -- "Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic" -- destined to be a classic on Sherman. I am grateful that Mark thanked me in the acknowledgements.

Look for more on this book in the near future at American Creation.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ed Brayton Debates Thomas Jefferson's Religion

Here.  This illustrates the damage David Barton does when he tries to salvage some kind of traditional Christianity out of Thomas Jefferson.  Dinesh D’Souza (currently controversial) is mentioned.

Buried in the comments Michael Heath offers a valuable observation on paradigms:
* I reject the notion that theistic rationalists, Christians, and deists are all distinct non-overlapping sets. Instead I find Jefferson easily and obviously fits into all three sets. One merely has to understand the continuum of beliefs in Christianity, the definition of deism starting with the late-19th 18 century – particularly the definition as it relates to the process of deism – not confine the word to one popular conclusion, and the process and conclusions theistic rationalists use.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Left's David Barton?

Howard Zinn apparently has a new rival and his name is Henry Wiencek. See John Fea here and here.

For the record, I like Thomas Jefferson a lot, mainly for his ideas and ideals. I recognize the man was flawed and don't believe in whitewashing history. The way I understand Jefferson and slavery: According to his ideals, Jefferson was against slavery. The law did not, as David Barton intimates, prevent Jefferson from freeing his slaves. The bottom line is Jefferson got himself into trouble with his spendthrift ways and THAT'S why he didn't end up freeing his slaves.

[James Wilson, btw, had some serious issues with debt as well.]

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Monday, October 08, 2012

Throckmorton on Barton's Use of Adams' "General Principles of Christianity" Quote

See Warren Throckmorton's remarks here. This was in a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson in 1813. This was John Adams at his most heterodox. Out of context, the quotation sounds like something that supports the Christian Nation thesis. Understood in context, however, Adams doesn't refer to what Barton et al. understand as "biblical Christianity," but rather some other very heterodox theological system, what Gregg Frazer has termed "theistic rationalism." It's a system that unites the "orthodox" with Universalists, Unitarians (Arians, Socinians, Priestleyans) and even "Deists and Atheists, and Protestants 'qui ne croyent rien.'" (That means "Protestants who believe in nothing.")

Thomas Kidd on Gregg Frazer's Book

A very fair review. Here.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Another Thomas Kidd Review of David Aikman’s One Nation Without God?

This is especially good as it discusses the phony Patrick Henry quotation I've seen endlessly repeated.  A taste:
Patrick Henry once said, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!" Or at least many evangelicals believe Henry said that. It is actually a line from a 1956 magazine article commenting on Henry's faith, but popular Christian writers subsequently attributed the quote to Henry himself. The misquote stuck. Even though countless websites have debunked it, this bogus statement still routinely appears everywhere from Twitter to Facebook to books on America's founding, including presidential aspirant Newt Gingrich's A Nation Like No Other. And Gingrich has a Ph.D. in history! 
The eager reception of spurious quotes about our Christian origins is telling. It illustrates the fact that religion's role in the founding is among the most controversial historical debates in America today. Into that debate enters David Aikman's One Nation Without God? The Battle for Christianity in an Age of Unbelief (Baker). ...

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Patrick Deneen Misunderstands Allan Bloom

This misunderstands Bloom.  The criticisms would be more apt if they were directed towards Harry Jaffa and the West Coast Straussians.

Some thoughts.  Dr. Deneen writes:
"... Bloom himself was not an admirer or supporter of the multiplicity of cultures. Indeed, he was suspicious and even hostile to the claims of culture upon the shaping of human character and belief—including religious belief. He was not a conservative in the Burkean sense; that is, someone apt to respect the inheritances of tradition and custom as a repository of past wisdom and experience. Rather, he was at his core a liberal: someone who believes that the only benefit of our cultural formation was that it constituted a 'cave' from which ambitious and rebellious youth could be encouraged to pursue a life of philosophy."
I think we have to define "ambitious and rebellious youth" here.  Bloom thought "philosophy" -- especially what he regarded as that containing the esoteric truths which he taught his "circle" -- was a calling for an elite few.  Not even the typical Cornell or University of Chicago student; but an elite selected from those schools whom he deemed worthy.  An elite of the elite (perhaps Dr. Deneen was not elite enough for Bloom).  Moreover, he thought the "cave" needed vibrant cultures that taught useful fictions to sustain it. So for the 99% of the population who weren't his philosophic proteges, he supported Burkean fictions of the cave.  This is why Straussians support the religious conservatives whose faiths they don't share.  It's for the effect, yes.  But they still support the politics.

Deneen continues:
"Bloom’s argument became a major touchstone in the development of 'neoconservatism,' a label that became associated with many fellow students of Strauss but which, ironically, explicitly rested on rejection of the claims of culture, tradition, and custom—the main impulses of Burkean conservatism. Bloom continuously invoked the natural-rights teachings of the Declaration and Constitution as necessary correctives to the purported dangers of left multiculturalism: rather than endorsing the supposed inheritance of various cultures, he commended the universalistic claims of liberal democracy, which ought to trump any identification with particular culture and creed. The citizen who emerged from the State of Nature, shorn of any specific cultural, religious, or ancestral limitation, was the political analogue for the philosopher who emerged from the Cave. Not everyone could become a philosopher, Bloom insisted, but everyone could be a liberal citizen, and ought rightly to be liberated from the limitations of place and culture—if for no other reason, to make them more tolerant of the radical philosophers in their midst."
This is where the criticism might be more apt if directed against Harry Jaffa and the West Coast Straussians.  They defend the timeless truths of the natural rights of the Declaration of Independence in an almost fanatical sense and claim to believe in the objective truth of natural rights.  Though, they would note, the "right" kinds of traditions and religion are compatible with DOI's essences.  And it's all compatible with social conservatism.  Bloom and the East Coast Straussians understood a fanatical natural rights ideology leads to social liberalism.  So they sought a balance between the claims of natural rights and the claims of religion, tradition and culture.  They understood that reason and revelation were at base in conflict (and as secret atheists and nihilists didn't believe in the objective claims of either).  But they did NOT see "liberal" citizens as to be liberated from their "prejudices" by a fanatical natural rights ideology.  Rather, they wanted these "gentlemen" to believe devoutly in the basics of their religions' claims to revealed truths AND, as good Americans, in the natural rights of the Declaration of Independence without, I think, truly appreciating the tension between the Truth claims of reason and of revelation.  "Christianity" and "natural rights" are in conflict.  But the "gentlemen" in the military who thought of themselves as "good Christians" and "good Americans" need not really appreciate the two things as incompatible.  After Nietzsche, they believed tension, chaos, conflict, irony could be liberating and value creating and sustaining forces.  They also believed war gave man his utmost meaning.  Hence, you had folks who secretly didn't believe in the objective truths of natural rights/liberal democracy supporting going to war to defend those noble fictions.  I don't want to seem too cynical about them.  The Straussians really do believe liberal democracy and its natural rights claims led to a better life for the masses than illiberal systems.  After Churchill, they thought those who defend liberal democracy need not flatter it.

David Aikman’s One Nation Without God?

Thomas Kidd reviews here.

"The Bucknellian" on John Fea's Book

John Fea details.  The original is here.  My older middle brother graduated from Bucknell.  I know one thing about that school:  It is EXPENSIVE.


This is a very critical piece by Wayne Everett Orgar.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ye Will Say I Am No Christian

Bruce Braden is the editor of “Ye Will Say I Am No Christian: The Thomas Jefferson/John Adams Correspondence on Religion, Morals, and Values." He posted a video where he reads Adams' letter to Jefferson where Adams claims he wouldn't believe in the Trinity if God Himself told him it were true.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rodda on Barton and Jefferson-Scottish Common Sense

David Barton, in "The Jefferson Lies," claimed Thomas Jefferson was imbibed in Scottish Common Sense philosophy (also known as Scottish Common Sense Enlightenment).  Chris Rodda disagrees.  Interestingly, Garry Wills argued something similar (though Wills said David Hume influenced Jefferson and I doubt Barton would admit the "bad" Hume could influence the "good" Jefferson even if it were true).   The recently departed Ronald Hamowy, who was the preeminent expert on the Scottish Enlightenment, disagreed with Wills in this devastating attack.

At least two very important founders, by the way, were unquestionably strongly influenced by SCSE: John Witherspoon and James Wilson.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Akhil Amar and Justice Thomas

I admit I haven't yet watched this video; but I can't wait to savor it.

Also see these two posts (one and two) by Ilya Somin on whether blacks were part of "We The People."  It's often said that, if you looked at what America's Founders did, "rights" belonged to white propertied Protestant males.  Not exactly (it's complicated).  Viewed through the lens of "states' rights," the states did different things.  Blacks, women, non-Protestants had "rights" in some states, not others.

Justice Thomas' point is interesting.  The Constitution unmoored from the Declaration gives us a pro-slavery Founding.  Read together, we get an anti-slavery Founding.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Get Well Warren Throckmorton

He had a heart attack.  He's been doing such outstanding work over the past year on the American Founding and religion.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Akhil Amar on Constitutional Gender Equality

Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, he find it in the 14th Amendment.  A taste:
Two hundred and twenty-five years ago this week - right here in Philadelphia, "where it all began" - America's Founding Fathers went public with a proposed Constitution promising more democracy than the world had ever seen. Even so, in September 1787, "We the People" basically meant "We the Men." This year, the fate of this manly constitutional project rests more than ever in the hands of women. 
More women than men will cast votes in November. Just for fun, imagine that women were to vote as a unified bloc. Virtually every election in America at every level of government - both candidate elections and issue elections - would be decided by the female vote. More plausibly, note that in any election in which men are closely divided, the candidate or issue position decisively favored by women will prevail. 
For this remarkable turn of events, we must credit not just the Founding Fathers but also their amending daughters, granddaughters, and so on, who have rewritten the Constitution in both word and deed. 
The gender-bending of the Philadelphia Constitution began in earnest after the Civil War with the 14th Amendment, which promises "equal protection" to all - not merely racial equal protection but more generally. The amendment also proudly affirms that all homegrown Americans are "born" with equal civil rights. Just as a child born black or brown enjoys the same civil rights as a child born white, so, too, those born female are equal in civil rights to those born male.

What does the term "equal protection" mean?  I've seen some impressive originalist scholarship that argues both the due process and equal protection clauses were meant to be entirely procedural, not substantive.  That is, properly understood, there is not even a substantive right to be free from government racial discrimination under "equal protection" principles.  Rather, it's a command to the executive branch of government that no individual or group of individuals be excluded from whatever general laws are on the books.  And as written, these clauses do speak of "persons" and "citizens" and don't even mention race.   To use a reduction ad absurdum, even the worst individuals you could imagine -- rapists and pedophiles -- are entitled to procedural equal protection.  We could imagine someone accused of these horrific crimes being singled out by a mob and the police standing by and letting the mob have their way with them.  That would be a denial of equal protection and due process rights to rapists and pedophiles.

(And yes, something like that was done to blacks in Jim Crow, although in a much more sophisticated way; they got access to police calls and their days in court, where the arresting officers and judges on the bench were sympathetic to or sometimes the same hooded Klansmen who violated them; hence no real access to an impartial police force or day in court.)

Yet, there clearly was some substantive right to equality the 14th Amendment intended for racial groups.  And arguably all substantive rights -- including equality rights -- were meant to derive from the privileges or immunities clause.

That's one narrative I think entirely defensible.  I also think originalist scholars can convincingly argue for substantive rights to liberty and equality through the due process and equal protection clauses, respectively (see for instance Timothy Sandefur's work on substantive due process).

Yet, if you gut the privileges or immunities clause (ala Slaughterhouses) those substantive liberty and equality rights will pop up elsewhere as in a game of whack a mole.  And the mole will pop its head from those parts of the text most similar to the rights being asserted.  Hence a substantive right to "liberty" where the term "liberty" appears in the due process clause and a substantive right to "equality" where the term "equal" appears in the "equal protection" clause.

What I am getting at:  The text of the Constitution can do a lot of things and I consider myself a textualist, meaning, viable constitutional law must read the text for what it is in a logically coherent way.  But the text isn't enough; we need more.  We need some kind of theory to undergird and supplement it.  Hence, Akhil Amar's work on an "Unwritten Constitution."

Myron Magnet on William Livingston

Here.  William Livingston is one of those 2nd tier Founders about whom we should be more aware.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Akhil Amar Guest Blogging At Volokh

Law law professor Akhil Amar is guest blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy.  And he's taking on the Conspirators.  He is arguably America's preeminent professor of constitutional law; therefore, his stuff is worth a careful read.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Democrats' Platform

Guest post by Michael Meyerson for American Creation here.

Ronald Hamowy, RIP

Ron edited Cato's Encyclopedia of Libertarianism for which I was honored to write the entry on George Washington. He wonderfully edited my piece making it read much better than as originally written. Ron was an expert on, among other things, the Scottish Enlightenment. You can read more about him here.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Another Evangelical Calls Out David Barton

Warren Throckmorton tells us about it here.  A taste from the original piece:
I am afraid I must put this shortly. It is well nigh impossible to cram four years of reading and discussion into a paragraph. I had been deluded by historical exaggerations about a “Christian nation” and a “Biblically-based” Founding. The truth was much messier: in colonial America, the Enlightenment skepticism met with Dissenter Protestantism (plus magisterial Anglicanism and even some Catholicism thrown in). Various liberalisms embodied in the moderate Whig and radical Jacobin strutted about the world revolutionary stage. From a larger, longer perspective: what is a “Christian nation” anyway and how does it apply to America? Wasn’t the Holy Roman Empire a Christian nation which was blessed by the undivided church and in constant communion with the Pope? What about Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire or Canterbury and England, in which the monarch heads the church? The “Christian principle of religious freedom” can be more accurately described as the “Baptist principle of religious freedom.” It was a more recent development that found wide acceptance in a pluralistic confederation of states. Thinkers like Richard John Neuhaus thought America could be Christian, but only in a certain sense. This is left open for debate.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

David Barton’s U.S. Capitol Tour: Did Congress Print the First Bible in English for the Use of Schools?

By Warren Throckmorton here.

Endowed By Our Creator

By Michael I. Meyerson.  I have the book.  From what I've read of it, it's good.  You may read more about it here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Joseph Priestley As A Baseline

Since Thomas Jefferson's religious views are in the news, perhaps we should appreciate Joseph Priestley's theology as a possible baseline for judging Jefferson's.  Jefferson was a self proclaimed "sect" unto himself.  And he was bigheaded. So he disagreed with Priestley on a few things.  As we will see below, Priestley believed in the Resurrection and Jefferson did not.  Yet out of all of the "authorities" out there for whom Jefferson professed respect, Priestley got Jefferson's highest regards.

I observe non-sequiturs regarding Jefferson's writings, particularly the Jefferson Bible.  Let us assume that Jefferson believed in the divine inspiration of what made it into his cut up Bible.  Then what?  I think it proves that he wasn't a strict deist.  

But what was he and what does it prove?  Let me give an example of a non-sequitur I observed Glenn Beck make to David Barton on this.  They were marveling over the fact that Jefferson apparently left in supernatural passages, not consistent with strict deism.  Beck said something along the lines of (and Barton nodded his head), if TJ believed in Jesus' miracles, then he believed in his divinity.

That is a non-sequitur.

Joseph Priestley did not believe in Jesus' divinity, but believed in his miracles, resurrection and the divinity of Jesus mission.  Priestley thought 1. original sin, 2. trinity, 3. incarnation, 4. atonement, and 5. the plenary inspiration of scripture were false "corruptions" of true Christianity ("rational Christianity").  I (mistakenly?) thought Priestley believed in the virgin birth.  Maybe he did at one point.  I thought I read something from Priestley that argued for the compatibility of both the virgin birth AND Jesus 100% human, 0% divine nature.  The logic went something like this: those who argue for a divine Jesus say the virgin birth necessarily means Jesus is divine. No.  That is a non-sequitur.  Why?  Jesus was sent to be a second Adam to correct the first's errors. And the first Adam also was of divine origin but was 100% human, 0% divine.

That is just a paraphrase of what I remember.  I will have to read up on where I got it from and the context.  And that's because when Joseph Priestley proselytized his Socinian rational Christianity to the Jews, he made it quite clear that he disbelieved in the Virgin Birth along with the Trinity, etc.  As he wrote to them [paragraphs added for clarity]:
You expect that your Messiah will be lineally descended from David, and therefore you cannot be reconciled to the idea of Jesus being that Messiah, because Christians say that he had no human father; so that according to your rules of genealogy, he could not be said to be the son of David. But it is no where said that the person who is characterized by the title of Messiah, should be descended from David, but only that prince under whom you are to enjoy. 
However, the history of the miraculous conception of Jesus does not appear to me to be sufficiently authenticated.  The evidence of it is by no means the same with that of his public life, his miracles, his death and resurrection, which are all that the truth of Christianity requires, (and of which there were many witnesses,) and the original Gospel of Matthew, received by your countrymen, did not contain it. 
Your sacred books, as well as ours, being written by men, neither of them can be expected to be, entirely free from mistakes, or exempt from interpolations. Yours, as you must acknowledge, have, in a course of time, suffered in these respects. But it is sufficient for us both, that the great events, on which every thing that is of importance to our religion depends, are true. As to any thing that is not necessarily connected with such events, and therefore is not supported by their evidence, we should think ourselves at liberty to receive or reject it, according to its separate evidence.  
Myself, and many other Christians, are no believers in the miraculous conception of Jesus, but are of opinion, that he was the legitimate son of Joseph, who was of the family of David; and such seems to have been the opinion of the great body of Jewish Christians, who had more opportunity of informing themselves concerning the fact than the Gentiles had. But we are not less firm believers in all the public transactions of the life of Jesus, in his miracles, his death, and his resurrection ; and consequently, in his divine mission. With respect to his supposed miraculous conception, and other articles relating to Christianity, but not essential to it, do you examine and judge for yourselves.
So there you go:  You could disbelieve in 1. original sin, 2. trinity, 3. incarnation, 4. atonement, 5. virgin birth, and 6. the infallibility of the Bible, BUT STILL believe in Jesus' miracles, resurrection, and the divinity of his mission.  That's what Jefferson's theological mentor believed.  Though, as noted, Jefferson did not, like Priestley, believe in Jesus' resurrection.  

Keep these things in mind when interpreting the Jefferson Bible.

Triumph of infidelity Rightly Attended An Electronic Edition

By Rev. Timothy Dwight, here.  It's a satirical poem.  It's the kind of thing that you have to read very carefully to understand.  As far as I understand it, the work attacks not just the "deists" but also the "soft infidels" like Rev. Charles Chauncy whose understanding of reason and revelation led him to deny both the Trinity and eternal damnation.  This is important because "the key Founders" -- without question, Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin, and probably Washington and Madison -- believed in a theological system that was closest to Chauncy's, not Dwight's, and not that of the "hard deists."  Was it a form of "soft infidelity?"  Or was it a kinder, gentler form of "Christianity"?  I won't judge; I'll just throw the issue out there.

Anyway here is a passage from the poem:

There stood the infidel of modern breed,      
Blest vegetation of infernal seed,      
Alike no Deist, and no Christian, he;      
But from all principle, all virtue, free.      

To him all things the same, as good or evil;      
Jehovah, Jove, the Lama, or the Devil;      
Mohammed's braying, or Isaiah's lays;      
The Indian's powaws, or the Christian's praise.      
With him all natural desires are good; .
His thirst for stews; the Mohawk's thirst for blood:      
Made, not to know, or love, the all beauteous mind;      
Or wing thro' heaven his path to bliss refin'd:      
But his dear self, choice Dagon! to adore;      
To dress, to game, to swear, to drink, to whore; .
To race his steeds; or cheat, when others run;      
Pit tortur'd cocks, and swear 'tis glorious fun:      
His soul not cloath'd with attributes divine;      
But a nice watch-spring to that grand machine,      
That work more nice than Rittenhouse can plan, .
The body; man's chief part; himself, the man;      
Man, that illustrious brute of noblest shape,      
A swine unbristled, and an untail'd ape:      
To couple, eat, and die–his glorious doom–      
The oyster's church-yard, and the capon's tomb.

That is Dwight describing the "rational Christianity" of the American Founding, what Gregg Frazer terms "theistic rationalism."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

John Adams Promotes Rational Christianity

In his letter to Jefferson 29 May 1818.  As he writes:
As Holly is a diamond of a superior water, it would be crushed to powder by mountainous oppression in any other country. Even in this he is a light shining in a dark place. His system is founded in the hopes of mankind, but they delight more in their fears. When will man have juster notions of the universal, eternal cause? Then will rational Christianity prevail. I regret Holly’s misfortune in not finding you, [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] account, to whom an interview with [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] a lasting gratification. 
Waterhouse’s pen, [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] on with too much fluency. I have not [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] activity, memory, or promptitude and [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] which he ascribes to me. I can [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] of the letters I receive, and those only [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] [Editor: Illegible word] pen.
I should check my Cappon Ed. to see what those Illegible words are.  I suspect Adams was very drunk and slurring his pen.

Update:  Here is a readable version.

Thomas Jefferson Promotes Rational Christianity

In a very anti-Trinitarian context. It was to Timothy Pickering February 27, 1821. As Jefferson writes:
I thank you for Mr. Channing's discourse, which you have been so kind as to forward me. It is not yet at hand, but is doubtless on its way. I had received it through another channel, and read it with high satisfaction. No one sees with greater pleasure than myself the progress of reason in its advances towards rational Christianity. When we shall have done away the incomprehensible jargon of the Trinitarian arithmetic, that three are one, and one is three; when we shall have knocked down the artificial scaffolding, reared to mask from view the simple structure of Jesus; when, in short, we shall have unlearned everything which has been taught since His day, and got back to the pure and simple doctrines He inculcated, we shall then be truly and worthily His disciples; and my opinion is that if nothing had ever been added to what flowed purely from His lips, the whole world would at this day have been Christian.

Ben Franklin Promotes Rational Christianity

The rational Christians/unitarians of the Founding era seemed of two minds on the Trinity.  They vacillated between thinking the doctrine "unimportant" and a harmful irrationality.  If the Trinity is unimportant, all we need to believe is Jesus is Messiah, then we can get along and worship together (and unitarians and Trinitarians got along in Founding era churches precisely by ignoring the Trinity and focusing on common ground).  But if it's a harmful irrationality, then it must be purged.  Likewise if the Trinity is central to Christianity, then unitarianism must be purged.

With that, when Ben Franklin promoted "rational Christianity" in his 1772 letter to the Arian Richard Price, it was done in the context of promoting unitarianism.  As Franklin wrote:
If he had come to town, and preach'd here sometimes, I fancy Sir John P. would now and then have been one of his hearers; for he likes his theology as well as his philosophy. Sir John has ask'd me if I knew where he could go to hear a preacher of rational Christianity. I told him I knew several of them, but did not know where their churches were in town; out of town, I mention' d yours at Newington, and offer 'd to go with him. He agreed to it, but said we should first let you know our intention.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Jefferson Mentions Rational Christians and Deists

This is Thomas Jefferson's letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Monticello, September 23, 1800 where he notes his views on Christianity would not displease "the rational Christians" and "Deists."
I promised you a letter on Christianity, which I have not forgotten. On the contrary, it is because I have reflected on it, that I find much more time necessary for it than I can at present dispose of. I have a view of the subject which ought to displease neither the rational Christian nor Deists, and would reconcile many to a character they have too hastily rejected.
This reminds me of Locke in the sense that he purportedly wrote his "Reasonableness of Christianity" to convince the "Deists" that "Christianity" (as Locke understood the faith) was rational.

Lockean Rational Christianity

I'm going to revisit this post by Dr. Greg Forster that explains Locke's "rational Christianity." This post which criticizes David Barton also contains an important summary of how Locke viewed Christianity. As Dr. Forster writes:
Locke was (and still is) welcomed as an ally by theological rationalists. The Reasonableness was (and still is) attacked by theological conservatives; Locke wrote his two “vindications” of the Reasonableness in response to the conservative John Edwards, who attacked Locke’s theology as rationalistic in a book entitled Socinianism Unmasked. 
... Locke fought hard for the position that people could be saved in Jesus while denying the Incarnation, the Trinity and the Atonement. In Locke’s time that would have been a reference to Socinians and deists. Supporting this “latitudinarian” view of salvation was one of the primary motives of the Reasonableness, and it was on these grounds Edwards and others accused Locke of being a Socinian rationalist. Many interpretations of these facts are possible; Locke was certainly not a deist, and I believe there’s a strong case to be made that the charges of Socinianism and rationalism were overblown and that Locke does not deserve to be called a “forerunner of deism.” However, his influence was crucial to normalizing the presence of deism in Anglican theological discourse and the eventual admission of deists to Anglican membership. ... [I]n our time as in Locke’s time, it’s generally the conservative Christians who attack Locke’s theology and the liberals, rationalists, and secularists who defend it.
Viewing Founding era political theology as Lockean rational Christianity may be an alternative to Dr. Gregg Frazer's "theistic rationalism." Other notable scholars before Frazer used the term "rational Christianity" in this sense, which Frazer rejects because a theological system -- even if it purports to be "Christianity" -- that rejects Jesus as 2nd Person in the Trinity is not "Christianity." That begs the question whether it's fair to limit the definition of "Christianity" to the "orthodox." Though, that is what orthodox theologians -- from St. Athanasias to CS Lewis -- have traditionally done. It may be possible to categorize all 5 key Founders as "rational Christians" under Locke's more generous test for what it means to be "Christian."

New Kidd Article on Barton-Jefferson

Here.  A taste:
Meanwhile, let's look at one of the key points in contention. Most historians prior to Barton described Thomas Jefferson as a life-long religious skeptic, but Barton writes in The Jefferson Lies that there "never was a time when [Jefferson] was anti-Jesus or when he rejected Christianity." Barton states that for much of Jefferson's adult life his faith was "nothing less than orthodox."

The Jefferson Lies commends Daniel Dreisbach, an American University professor, calling him one of the few Jefferson scholars who employs a "sound historical approach," so I asked Dreisbach whether he agreed with Barton. Dreisbach replied that he has a "very hard time" accepting the notion that Jefferson was ever an orthodox Christian, or that Jefferson ever embraced Christianity's "transcendent claims."

Barton told me that he does not necessarily disagree with Dreisbach. The Jefferson Lies states that by 1813, when Jefferson was 70, he had rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. Barton said he mainly wants to emphasize that Jefferson was no atheist or secularist.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Akhil Amar's New Article

It's very good.  It actually mentions David Barton (because his controversy is current).  It also stresses something about the attestation clause (In The Year of Our Lord) that I had not, until recently, been aware of. When confronted with the notion that this is God in the Constitution, I would usually note, it's just the way of customarily stating the date, not a statement of constitutional principle.  But even more, it wasn't even written or ratified by the framers.  As Amar writes:

As it turns out—though this fact has until now not been widely understood—the “our Lord” clause is not part of the official legal Constitution. The official Constitution’s text ends just before these extra words of attestation—extra words that in fact were not ratified by various state conventions in 1787-88.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Boykin Expands on Barton Lie

From Ed Brayton here.

David Barton Tells Glenn Beck a More Obvious Lie to Refute the Refutation of a Less Obvious Lie

From Chris Rodda here.

David Barton on Glenn Beck TV

It's here. I'm going to try to watch it (not sure if I can get through the whole thing).

No Surprise Here

On who is going to publish Barton's Baboon.

More Barton Links

Here are a bunch of them: First Jason Kerr; second The Daily News; third The Daily Beast, fourth and finally, TMP Muckraker.

Question on Jefferson and His Slaves

I sometimes so hyperfocus on the religion issue regarding America's Founders that I miss others. But I won't shooting my mouth off as though I am an expert in those areas only to have someone call out my errors. So someone please correct my understanding if I am wrong. My understanding of Jefferson and freeing his slaves is I think he desired to free his slaves like other founders did, but the problem was his spendthrift nature. He left his estate such debt problems that he ended up not being able to afford to free his slaves.

Is that a fair assessment?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Blaze's New Article on Barton v. Throckmorton

It is surprisingly fair towards Throckmorton. Despite Barton's connection with Glenn Beck, they don't seem to be unquestionably buying what Barton sells.

Fea's Patheos Article on the Barton Affair

Here. It is must read.

NYT on the Barton Debacle

Here. (See if you can spot the NYT's error in the context of citing Gregg Frazer's point.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Another Rodda Response to Rick Green


Throckmorton Responds to Green

Warren Throckmorton Responds to Rick Green here.

David Barton Responds At The Blaze


Chris Rodda's New Video Series

She just uploaded them to YouTube. It's her debunking of Barton's "The Jefferson Lies." Here is part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, and part 8.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rick Green Addresses Chris Rodda

Green is David Barton's 2nd in command. She finally got his attention here.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

NPR on the David Barton Controversy


First Things/Forster on Barton on Locke

Greg Forster takes down David Barton's understanding of Locke. Note Forster is not only a conservative Christian but also, contra Strauss, very sympathetic to the notion that John Locke's ideas are NOT subversive of but rather compatible with traditional Christianity.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Bob Allen on Pastors' Boycott of Barton


Kidd @ World on The David Barton Controversy

By Thomas Kidd here. A taste:
Jay W. Richards, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, and author with James Robison of Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late, spoke alongside Barton at Christian conferences as recently as last month. Richards says in recent months he has grown increasingly troubled about Barton’s writings, so he asked 10 conservative Christian professors to assess Barton’s work.

Their response was negative. Some examples: Glenn Moots of Northwood University wrote that Barton in The Jefferson Lies is so eager to portray Jefferson as sympathetic to Christianity that he misses or omits obvious signs that Jefferson stood outside “orthodox, creedal, confessional Christianity.” A second professor, Glenn Sunshine of Central Connecticut State University, said that Barton’s characterization of Jefferson’s religious views is “unsupportable.” A third, Gregg Frazer of The Master’s College, evaluated Barton’s video America’s Godly Heritage and found many of its factual claims dubious, such as a statement that “52 of the 55 delegates at the Constitutional Convention were ‘orthodox, evangelical Christians.’” Barton told me he found that number in M.E. Bradford’s A Worthy Company.

Barton has received support from Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and other political leaders. He questions how many of his new critics have actually read his work, especially The Jefferson Lies. Barton concedes that Jefferson doubted some traditional Christian doctrines, but argues that these doubts did not emerge until the last couple of decades of his life. He says that all of his books, including his latest, are fully documented with footnotes, and that critics who look at the original sources he is using often change their minds.

A full-scale, newly published critique of Barton is coming from Professors Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter of Grove City College, a largely conservative Christian school in Pennsylvania. Their book Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President (Salem Grove Press), argues that Barton “is guilty of taking statements and actions out of context and simplifying historical circumstances.” For example, they charge that Barton, in explaining why Jefferson did not free his slaves, “seriously misrepresents or misunderstands (or both) the legal environment related to slavery.”

When Calvin and Qutb Went Smashing

By Philip Jenkins here.

David Barton’s Capitol Tour: Did Thomas Jefferson Spend Federal Funds to Evangelize the Kaskaskia Indians?

From Warren Throckmorton here.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

When Did Jefferson Become Anti-Trinitarian

I see Thomas Jefferson's July 25 1788 letter to Derieux as expressing unitarian sentiments, and claiming to have done so his entire adult life. Still, perhaps it isn't a smoking gun of anti-Trinitarianism (as Tom Van Dyke suggests). Yet, I think such smoking guns exist well before David Barton's claim of 1813. For instance, Jefferson's April 21, 1803 (while he was President!) letter to Benjamin Rush where Jefferson discusses his Syllabus. In the letter to Rush, Jefferson states:
To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.
As I read the passage, Jefferson seems clearly to say that Jesus never claimed to be anything other than human. That is anti-Trinitarian. Likewise "Corruptions of Christianity" was termed by Jefferson's mentor, Joseph Priestley who defined those corruptions as Original Sin, Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, and Plenary Inspiration of the Bible. Immediately after Jefferson sent his Syllabus to Rush, he then sent a copy to Priestley, with a note. Jefferson does tell Priestley there may be "a point or two in which [they] differ." Indeed, Jefferson later explicitly rejected the Virgin birth and Resurrection, both of which Priestley believed. Jefferson says to Priestley his Syllabus "omits" the question of Jesus' divinity. The Syllabus itself claims the issue of Jesus being a member of the Godhead is "foreign" to the view expressed in the Syllabus. The overall context of these communications seems firmly unitarian. Though I see the quotation to Rush that Jesus never claimed anything other than "human excellence" as anti-Trinitarian.

Barton Should Not Be Copied, Only Scorned

Ed Brayton takes on some secular leftist for engaging in errors like David Barton does, but for the other side.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Ed Brayton on the Fake Quotes that Live On

Here. Ed and I have been doing this for over 8 years and these fake quotes still persist.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Throckmorton on Barton's Response

Warren Throckmorton has a new response to Barton's recent attack on his critics. I agree with Throckmorton that Barton misrepresents when Jefferson became heterodox. As Dr. Throckmorton writes:
The primary question of fact Barton addresses is Jefferson’s faith. He says Jefferson was unorthodox in the last 15 years of his life. Jefferson was unorthodox as an older man but he began his skepticism of the Trinity before 1788 (he died in 1826), if we can believe his letter to J. P. Derieux — a letter that Barton does not cite in The Jefferson Lies.

Whatever Happened to Hell? . . . A Response

By George W. Sarris here. This post could have been written by me. It wasn't; but I do take credit, however, for helping to spread the Benjamin Rush quotation in the post all over the Internet.

Friday, July 27, 2012

V&V Q&A with Drs. Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter on “Getting Jefferson Right”


The Blaze Series on David Barton

The Blaze is associated with Glenn Beck who has associated himself with David Barton. So we are dealing with something that is trying to rehabilitate Barton's reputation. Here is part 1 which explores the criticisms. And here is part 2 where Barton goes on the attack.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Elhanan Winchester on the Universal Reconciliation

Elhanan Winchester was specifically mentioned by Benjamin Rush as key in his conversion to theological universalism. The following is the text -- The Universal Restoration -- which makes what EW saw as the biblical case for the notion that all men will eventually be saved.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monday, July 02, 2012

A Must Listen: Should Christians Have Fought in the US War of Independence?

Here. I witnessed "the panel" that Dr. Gill refers to because I was on it. I was one of the "yes" votes; I'd pick up arms and fight against the British, but since I am not a Christian (at least not in the "orthodox" sense; I am a baptized Catholic) I don't have Romans 13 on my conscience. I am kind of like Jefferson; since I don't believe St. Paul wrote divine revelation with the Holy Spirit -- 3rd Person in the Trinity He -- guiding Paul's pen, it wouldn't be an issue for me. Though I wouldn't go so far as Jefferson did and term Paul's writings "corruption"; I have more respect for St. Paul than Jefferson did.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Religion and the Constitution: The Triumph of Practical Politics

By Martin Marty here. A taste:
Northwestern University law professor Stephen Presser has said that "at first blush, it would appear that none but the truly weird would find these two new volumes ... compulsive late-night page-turners." But I joined him in the company of the weird by marking all the references that could be construed as religious. I began at the outer limits with what I call the "sacral penumbra" of nondescript and rather noncommittal incidental references. (These do not include the more frequent and clear references in the sustained arguments discussed later in this essay.) My marker found three favorites: at least 30 "Heavens," as in "merciful Heaven," and 15 or 20 "blessings of heaven"; there were 15 usually casual "sacreds," as in "sacred liberties." God comes up often, but almost never in biblical terms; "God," we remember, was generic for deists and theists, philosophers and believers alike. In one instance in this collection, one John Smilie quotes the Declaration of Independence on the Creator. Beyond that, in these two lengthy volumes there are about 20 references to God, while the Almighty and the Creator make single cameo appearances. We read at least seven times of Providence; the Supremes are here four times, as in Supreme Being and Supreme Ruler of the Universe; Lord, as in "O Lord!" or "the Year of Our Lord," turns up six times, and there is a Sovereign Ruler of Events, one Grace, two Governors (of the World and the Universe),two Nature's Gods, and, for good measure, one Goddess of Liberty. Whether the general absence of the biblical God is intentional or reflects the habits of the Enlightenment, it is significant.