Monday, May 27, 2013

Jeremy Belknap on Watts' Sabellianism

Rev. Jeremy Belknap was a notable Patriotic Preacher.  Isaac Watts influenced him away from orthodox Trinitarianism to Sabellianism (or modalism). Orthodox Trinitarianism, you see, teaches not just that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are God, but that they are three eternally distinct PERSONS, who together are ONE GOD.

Sabellianism believes in the full divinity of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, but denies they are eternally distinct persons.

Anyway we blogged about the story of Belknap on Watts here.  A taste from the mouth of Rev. Belknap:
"With respect to the idea of Personality, as applicable to the Father, Son and Spirit. Dr. Watts differed from many Trinitarians, as he denied (and I think with sufficient reason) that there are in Deity three distinct Infinite Spirits, or really distinct persons, in the common sense of that term, each having a distinct intelligence, volition, power, &c., thinking such a supposition inconsistent with the proper Unity of the Godhead; which is doubtless one of the most obvious and fundamental doctrines of revelation.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

More on Watts on the Trinity

Whatever his exact position, I think it's safe to say he had problems with the orthodox notion of the Trinity.

From this link:
The Arian controversy of his time left its mark on Watts. His hymns contain an entire book of doxologies modelled on the Gloria Patri. But at the conference about the ministers at Exeter held at Salters' Hall (1719) he voted with the minority, who refused to impose acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity on the independent ministers. He did not believe it necessary to salvation; the creed of Constantinople had become to him only a human explication of the mystery of the divine Godhead; and he had himself adopted another explication, which he hoped might heal the breach between Arianism and the faith of the church. He broached this theory in 'The Christian Doctrine of the Trinity' (1722), and supported it in 'Dissertations relating to the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity' (1724-5). He returned to the subject in 'The Glory of Christ as God-Man Unveiled' (1746), and 'Useful and Important Questions concerning Jesus, the Son of God' (1746). His theory, held also by Henry More, Robert Fleming, and Burnet (DORNER,The Person of Christ, div. ii. ii. 329, transl. Clark), was that the human soul of Christ had been created anterior to the creation of the world, and united to the divine principle in the Godhead known as the Sophia or Logos (only a short step from Arianism, and with some affinity to Sabellianism); and that the personality of the Holy Ghost was figurative rather than proper or literal. None of the extant writings of Watts advances further than this; but a very pathetic piece, entitled 'A Solemn Address to the Great and Ever Blessed God' (published in a pamphlet called 'A Faithful Inquiry after the Ancient and Original Doctrine of the Trinity' in 1745, but suppressed by Watts at that time, and published in 1802), shows how deeply his mind was perplexed and troubled. He lays out all the perplexity before God, stating his belief in too very words of Scripture generally, with the plea 'Forbid it, oh! My God, that I should ever be so unhappy as to unglorify my Father, my Saviour, or my Sanctifier. . . . Help me . . . for I am quite tired and weary of these human explainings, so various and uncertain.' Lardner affirmed that in his last years (not more than two years at most, in failing health) Watts passed to the unitarian position, and wrote in defence of it; the papers were, as Lardner owned, unfit for publication, and as such were destroyed by Doddridge and Jennings, the literary trustees. Lardner declared also that the last belief of Watts was 'completely unitarian' (BELSHAMMemoirs of Theophilus Lindsey, pp. 161-4). The testimony, however, of those who were most intimate with Watts to his last hours is entirely silent as to any such change; and his dependence at death on the atonement (which is incompatible with 'complete unitarianism') is emphatically attested (MILNERLife, p. 315).

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Isaac Watts' Unitarianism

A very interesting link here.  A taste:
“In The Glory of Christ as God-Man, Dr. Watts hazarded the opinion that ‘Michael is Jesus Christ, because he is called…the first of the princes, that is, the prime archangel.’4 Watts ‘confirms this sentiment’ that Christ and Michael are the same beings from Revelation 12:7. He continues, ‘Perhaps this Michael, that is Christ the King of the Jews, is the only archangel, or prince and head of all angels.’5 A little later he ventures the opinion that ‘Jesus Christ was that angel who generally appeared in ancient times to the patriarchs and to the Jews.’6 
“According to Watts, God constantly resided in this angel (Christ-Michael) and influenced this angel.7 God has now given this archangel, or prince and head of all angels, dominion and power over all things. ‘This government of Christ is frequently represented as a gift and a reward, and therefore must belong eminently to the inferior nature [of Christ], which alone is capable of rewards and gifts from God.’8 It is because God has exalted Christ to be intercessor that Christ can particularly assist man, and not because Christ can himself ‘bestow effectual succour and relief.’9 In keeping with the spirit of his century Watts proposes to give ‘A rational account how the man Jesus Christ may be vested with such extensive powers.’10 Christ, he declares, does not now know ‘every single thought, word, or action of every particular creature,’ but does know ‘all the greater, more general, and more considerable affairs and transactions of nations, churches, and particular persons.’11 Christ’s human soul is ‘the brightest image or copy of the divine nature that is found among mere creatures.’12 ...
This sounds similar to how the Jehovah's Witnesses view Christ.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

A great article by Thomas Kidd here. Kidd discusses Miroslav Volf’s Allah: A Christian Response. Volf, a Yale Professor, is one of the most prominent Christian academicians.

Volf, like George W. Bush, answers the question affirmatively. Kidd seems not so sure. America's "key Founders" (the first 4 Presidents, Ben Franklin) like Wolf and Bush, answered the question affirmatively.

(As noted many times before, these Founders thought uncoverted Great Spirit worshipping Native Americans worshipped the same God they did. And the Great Spirit, unlike Allah, doesn't even claim to be the God of Abraham.)

I saw Volf speak live last year at the CPS Conference at Gordon College. (Video of said presentation below.)

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


That's the title to a working paper by William Ewald, Professor of Law and Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania and that you may access here. I haven't read it yet. But for those interested, dig in.

Mark David Hall On Key v. Non-Key Founders

I didn't know Mark David Hall, of George Fox University, had a blog (with fellow George Foxers). Check it out here.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Long Before David Barton, We Had American Presbyterians (to conflate the kingdoms)

Read about it from DG Hart here.

Suggestions for Researching James Wilson's Life and Works

Galen L. Fletcher  
Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School 
July 22, 2011
Download here. I found this while googling today.

Atheist Experience on the Christian Nation Question

For their perspective, watch the video below:

James Wilson on Liberal Democratic Theory

That is small l liberal, small d democratic.

Hat tip to Bill Fortenberry for reminding me of this magnificent essay, done in 1774, by James Wilson which contains a passage that pithily summarizes the liberal democratic theory that undergirds the Declaration of Independence.

Wilson noted:

All men are, by nature, equal and free: no one has a right to any authority over another without his consent: all lawful government is founded on the consent of those who are subject to it: such consent was given with a view to ensure and to increase the happiness of the governed, above what they could enjoy in an independent and unconnected state of nature. The consequence is, that the happiness of the society is the first law of every government.c 
This rule is founded on the law of nature: it must control every political maxim: it must regulate the legislature itself.d The people have a right to insist that this rule be observed; and are entitled to demand a moral security that the legislature will observe it. If they have not the first, they are slaves; if they have not the second, they are, every moment, exposed to slavery. For “civil liberty is nothing else but natural liberty, devested of that part which constituted the independence of individuals, by the authority which it confers on sovereigns, attended with a right of insisting upon their making a good use of their authority, and with a moral security that this right will have its effect.”
Liberty and Equality, it should be noted, are the twin pillars of small l liberalism.