Thursday, January 31, 2013

Balmer Reviews Kidd's "God of Liberty"

Randall Balmer reviews Thomas Kidd's "God of Liberty" here.

A Debunking of Pseudo-Historian David Barton’s Book on the Second Amendment

By Chris Rodda here. Update: Here it is on Huffpo.

Georgia Legislator Repeats Barton Nonsense

Ed Brayton tells us here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cato on Cato

The Cato Institute was actually named after the figure Cato. Hence it is not, as some wrongly think, C.A.T.O.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Standards For Determining "Christianity" & the Christian Nation Thesis

So I noted recently Bill Fortenberry and Chris Pinto's argument over the Christian Nation thesis. Both (apparently?) share an evangelical-fundamentalist approach to Christianity and use their personal understanding (which they would argue is "God's understanding," strictly derived from the Bible) for determining "Christianity" as it relates to the "Christian Nation" thesis.

Dr. Gregg Frazer likewise shares a similar personal understanding of "Christianity" (which he likewise understands as "God's understanding," etc.).  Yet for the thesis of his book, he uses a late 18th Century American consensus understanding.  It is a 10 point test that forms a lowest common denominator among the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans and Roman Catholics. In short, the sects affiliated with the vast majority of the population of late 18th Cen. America. It is not quite "the Nicene Creed" simpliciter.  But it (as I see it) in some meaningful way resembles the orthodox minimum, "mere Christianity" approach -- an understanding that stretches from St. Athanasius to C.S. Lewis.

There are some differences.  For instance, the capital O Orthodox Church (of the Eastern bent) do not (as far as I understand) accept the doctrine of original sin, which is part of Dr. Frazer's 10 point test.  Yet, they are included in the Nicene minimum.  They aren't included in Dr. Frazer's minimum because (surprise) they had virtually no (or no) presence in late 18th Century America.

Dr. Frazer's personal test for "Christianity" is arguably stricter than his late 18th Century American test.  One has to believe not just Jesus as 2nd Person in the Trinity, but be "born again" and accept "Christ only."  With this, it's still hard to grasp fully how conservative evangelicals view who is or is not a "real Christian" as they themselves disagree.  They split, for instance, on whether Roman Catholics are "real Christians."  (When Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa were still alive, I once observed Pat Robertson, nicely enough, say both of them were going to Heaven.)

As far as Anglicans are concerned, a good deal of them in the late 18th Century could qualify as "real Christians" according to evangelical standards.  Some not.  Some, like Thomas Jefferson, were deistic or unitarian and didn't accept orthodoxy.  Others, though orthodox, didn't consider themselves "born again" but worshipped the Trinity through the Anglican liturgy (39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer).

I don't think, for instance, George Washington was an orthodox Trinitarian Christian.  But were he, it was, as my friend Mary V. Thompson of Mt. Vernon argues, through quietly worshipping Anglican liturgy.  In short, even if he were orthodox, George Washington still was not a "born again, evangelical Christian."

I write this because Bill Fortenberry takes issue with Gregg Frazer's test for late 18th Century American Christianity.  Rather, Fortenberry thinks what he understands as God's definition taught from the pages of the Bible alone should prevail.  Yet, even though he believes the Bible teaches the Virgin Birth, Trinity, an orthodox understanding of the atonement, he doesn't accept belief in these as non-negotiables for determining who is a "Christian."   (He explains his position in more detail here in this comment forum.)

Gregg Frazer responded to me in an email which he gave me permission to publish.  Though he did note, time may forbid him from getting "sucked in" to an extended discussion in the comments:
WSForten has clearly not read – or paid attention to – pages 17 and 18 of my book and phrases such as “For the purposes of this study” and “all of the individuals identified as theistic rationalists in this study were affiliated with one or more of these denominations, as were forty-seven of the fifty-five members of the Constitutional Convention” and “the definition is designed to identify who was not a Christian or who would not be considered Christian by any of the denominations” and “These definitions are designed more to identify who was not a deist or Christian than to identify who was.”

WSForten’s beef is with the 18th-century American Christians, not me. He does suffer from the problem ably demonstrated by OFT – taking individual verses out of context. For example, what does it mean to believe that Jesus is the Christ? That carries a lot of meaning and “baggage” (good baggage) with it and any contemporary reader of John’s epistle would know that in a way that an average contemporary American reader (or 17th-century English reader) would not. For example:

WSForten’s notion that for His atoning sacrifice to be satisfactory, Jesus need not be God, but “only” sinless ignores several critical points – especially #7:

1) The sacrifice must be righteous, not merely innocent (Rom. 5:18-19) – righteousness is the result of obedience (Rom. 6:16); mere innocence (not having yet fallen) is not sufficient

2) An infinite/eternal sacrifice was required to affect all men & all time; only an eternal being could make such a sacrifice (Heb. 9:13-14) – i.e. for those both before & after His incarnation

3) Jesus is the heir to glory, so only He could make us fellow heirs/sons (Gal. 3:16, 29; 4:5-7)

4) His unique intercessory position – as the Son, His proper place is at the right hand of the Father (Rom. 8:33-34; Heb. 8:1 [Christ “has taken His seat”]; Heb. 7:25)

5) God’s expression of His great love for us in sacrificing His own Son (John 3:16; I John 4:10)

6) The sacrifice must be voluntary; there is no justice in condemning the innocent without his volition (Rom. 5:6-7; John 10:17-18)

7) The One Who makes a will must die to release the inheritance/promises (Heb. 9:16-17) – Christ’s death satisfied both covenants because He is God and made both covenants (Jer. 31:31-33; Heb. 8:8). 
No single verse contains all that is necessary to be believed in order to be saved. Individual verses make individual points/claims to particular individuals or in particular contexts. Rom. 10:9-10, for example, doesn't mention belief in the Messiah -- it mentions belief in the resurrection and in the lordship of Jesus. Paul says in I Cor. 15:16-17 that faith is worthless without the resurrection. Earlier in I Cor. 15, he lays out the gospel as he preached it and "by which you are saved" (what one must believe) including the atonement ("Christ died for our sins"), the resurrection, and the need for grace. There he does not mention belief in the Messiah. 
Re the idea that any sinless man could be the sacrifice: later I Cor. 15:45-49 explains that the second Adam/sacrifice/Messiah had to be "a life-giving spirit," "from heaven," and "heavenly" by nature -- no mere man who hadn't yet sinned could fulfill that requirement. There is also the matter of original sin and the fact that no mere man COULD be without sin. 
Re WSForten's notion that some things are actions, not beliefs: one can not or will not do some actions unless one believes something. OFT mentions "repentance" -- a persistent theme in the teaching of Jesus and John the Baptist. One cannot take the action of repenting in the biblical sense without believing that one is a sinner and in need of a savior -- these are other necessary beliefs beyond simple belief that Jesus is the Messiah. 
Re the virgin birth: even Locke's standard requires belief in the virgin birth and the deity of the Christ (although he doesn't recognize it). Locke's rule is that you must believe God's Word/promises. This is where knowing the whole concept/meaning behind "Messiah" is important. Part of God's promise concerning the Messiah was that He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14) and that He would be God (Isa. 9:6). You cannot believe in the biblical Messiah -- God's promised One -- without believing in these elements. You can't make up your own concept of a Messiah and then say that you believe in God's concept of a Messiah. 
Re John 20:30-31: as OFT pointed out, John is specifically speaking about the signs that Jesus did and that he reported. In addition, John does NOT say that you ONLY have to believe that Jesus is the Christ. He simply says that he wrote the record he did so that a reader would believe that Jesus is the Messiah AND that He is the Son of God -- i.e. God. In the verses immediately preceding 30-31 (John 20:24-29), for example, Thomas does not believe in the RESURRECTION/that Jesus defeated death -- that is what he comes to believe. He doesn't mention that Jesus is the Messiah -- but he does affirm that Jesus is God! That is the object of his belief. 
One final point: Satan and his demons believe that Jesus is the Messiah -- are they saved/Christians? They know the facts of Who Jesus is (Matt. 8:29; Luke 8:28; James 2:19). Jesus being the Messiah is simply a matter of fact. What requires faith -- saving faith -- is all that goes with that fact. 
Clarification: re #7 in the reasons that Jesus (specifically) and only Jesus had to be the sacrifice, the Greek word translated "covenant" is the word for "will" (as in last will & testament).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chris Pinto v. Bill Fortenberry

Chris Pinto and Bill Fortenberry (who sometimes posts in blog comments as "WSForten") both, recently have done a great deal of work examining the "Christian nation" question from the perspective of the hardcore evangelical fundamentalist Christianity in which they both believe.

Pinto rejects the Christian nation thesis; Fortenberry accepts it.

Here is a link to Pinto's documentary on Amazon. Here is Fortenberry's response book.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Frazer Responds to Barton

I sent Gregg Frazer David Barton's comments which mention him and Dr. Frazer responds as follows:
Barton says it’s not clear that I “bothered to read” Jefferson’s Lies and that my critique was of a 20-year-old video.  
He does NOT point out that: a) he is still making the same claims as those I critiqued in the “old” video; b) when defending his claims on the radio, he restated the claim – he misstated his own claim while World and even the New York Times got it correct in their articles; and, perhaps most importantly, c) he misses the point that I did not criticize Jefferson’s Lies BECAUSE I had not read it – but he criticized my book on the radio WITHOUT HAVING READ IT!  The fact that I didn’t criticize what I hadn’t read should be an example to him, but somehow it’s a negative.  He feels free to criticize my work without reading it – just lumping it in with others with whom I disagree.

Point/Counterpoint with David Barton at World Magazine

Warren Throckmorton informs us here. Drs. Throckmorton and Coulter's argument is here. Barton's argument is here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration, GW and SHMG

As careful readers of American Creation know, Ray Soller has done Yeoman's work correcting the record on GW & SHMG. Here are two articles -- one by Nina Totenberg, and the other by Cathy Lynn Grossman -- that make note of the corrected record.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Benjamin Rush on Thomas Jefferson's Faith

Rush, who was privy to Jefferson's secrets, thought Jefferson believed in Jesus' divine mission, thus giving the impression that Jefferson was a Socinian.  Elsewhere Jefferson made clear that he believed Jesus was 100% man, not divine at all.  The question then becomes did Jefferson believe Jesus of Nazareth, the man, on a divine mission.  Rush seemed to think so.

Rush also says Jefferson believed in the resurrection. While Jefferson didn't believe in Jesus' past resurrection, he did believe in an afterlife where people would be judged and got their future state of rewards and punishments.  After Priestley, Jefferson was a materialist and didn't believe in an afterlife without a resurrection.

Below is a photoshot from Rush's autobiography speaking on Jefferson's faith.

More From Rodda on Barton's Publisher

Chris Rodda explains more about David Barton's book as it is currently being sold on Amazon.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

James Burgh Explains His Arianism

James Burgh, a British Whig who greatly influenced America's Founders, explained his unitarianism of the Arian variety in Crito, Volume I, here.  A taste [I have added paragraph breaks for clarity]:
.... The orthodox, who think they believe the Messiah to be God, can have no doubt of SATAN's being brought into existence by him. The Socinians, who hold the Messiah to have had no existence till he was born, cannot allow the fact, of Satan's owing either existence, or any material advantage, to the Messiah. The Unitarians can conceive of the Messiah's having been, sano senso*, the maker of this world, and likewise of the angelic orders, both those who have stood and who have fallen.

But neither do all unitarians understand in the same manner the Messiah's making worlds and their inhabitants.  It is certain, that all existence is derived from the one Supreme, to whom existence is natural, and necessary, himself the Fountain of being.  Therefore, whenever the power of making, or creating is ascribed to any subordinate being, it is manifest, the meaning cannot be, the giving of existence. 
It is to be supposed, that none, but Himself, has the power of causing that to be, which does not naturally exist.  And nothing exist naturally, but the supreme, indivisible, unequalled, and all perfect Monad. 
The Scripture writers, having never subscribed the Athanasian creed, though a good sort of clergymen, in their little way, do everywhere represent our illustrious Deliverer as subordinate to the Almighty, whom they style his God and Father.  With submission to our church's "authority[] in matters of faith", I beg leave to propose to the reader's consideration, whether He, whose God the Father[] the Almighty is, can be properly said to be the Almighty; whether the Almighty has a God and Father; or whether the Son of God is the Father of the Son of God. 
If not, then it is easy enough to understand, that the creating, or making of the grand Enemy may signify nothing more, than that the Messiah was he, who originally introduced the whole species of angels, not into existence, but into that advantageous state and contrition, which enabled them to become, in process of time, angels.

Now, it does not, as far as I can perceive, necessarily follow from the Messiah's having been, in the sense here explained, the Maker of Satan (and I own I cannot conceive of his having been so in any higher sense) ....
*Rowe:  I had to transcribe this term.  I'm not sure what it means.

So Burgh apparently believed in a kind of Arianism where Jesus is the firstborn of all creation, higher in power than the highest archangel, but lower than God.  As to the rest, I understand it as Burgh asserting that God the Father (not Jesus) causes all clay to come into existence; but Christ was given a great deal of authority to shape that clay into finished works.