Monday, March 31, 2014

The Humanist: "George Washington Never Wrote That Jesus Prayer"

Here. A taste:
But even if the prayer delivered by Commissioner Frazier had been genuine, perhaps thereby having some patriotic or historical significance, it wouldn’t have changed the legal picture. A continuous habit of delivering specifically Christian prayers at government meetings creates a hostile environment for non-Christian citizens, be they believers in other religions or nonbelievers.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How Christian Nationalist Historical Revisionism Harms

Or George Washington's phony prayers strike again. John Fea has the details here. It really harms in the sense that it motivated a public official into civil disobedience with its inherent consequences.

On a personal note, I have nothing against civil disobedience per se; but it's not something to take lightly. Certainly, one should base one's civil disobedience on accurate facts.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

New Book From Hall, Dreisbach, et al.

It's entitled "Faith and the Founders of the American Republic." You can view the book's official website here.

Here is the description:
The role of religion in the founding of America has long been a hotly debated question. Some historians have regarded the views of a few famous founders, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Thomas Paine, as evidence that the founders were deists who advocated the strict separation of church and state. Popular Christian polemicists, on the other hand, have attempted to show that virtually all of the founders were pious Christians in favor of public support for religion. 
As the essays in this volume demonstrate, a diverse array of religious traditions informed the political culture of the American founding. Faith and the Founders of the American Republic includes studies both of minority faiths, such as Islam and Judaism, and of major traditions like Calvinism. It also includes nuanced analysis of specific founders-Quaker John Dickinson, prominent Baptists Isaac Backus and John Leland, and Theistic Rationalist Gouverneur Morris, among others-with attention to their personal histories, faiths, constitutional philosophies, and views on the relationship between religion and the state. 
This volume will be a crucial resource for anyone interested in the place of faith in the founding of the American constitutional republic, from political, religious, historical, and legal perspectives.
Also be sure to check out the outstanding lineup of authors in the Table of Contents.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Newton Against the Trinity

This is an oldie but goody from Brandon at Siris. Newton was the quintessential Enlightenment thinker that America's Founders admired.

But as you can see from the link, Newton's Enlightenment, while heterodox and out of the box in its thinking, was also quite religious, "biblical" even.

A taste:
... Newton identifies a difference in how God and the Lamb are treated by the vision as objects of worship. (1) The Lamb does not sit on the Throne but stands by it; whereas the one on the throne (and who is therefore King over all who are not on the throne, including the Lamb) represents God. (2) In Newton's view, the doxologies that follow the investiture of the Lamb show a gradation, with God being given a "higher degree of worship" than the Lamb, a pattern that he thinks is repeated in Revelation 7.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hal Lindsey Needs to Thank the Old School Unitarians and Universalists

They were apocalyptic. They were also the first who believed history would terminate in universal liberal democracy (i.e., "millennial republicanism").

From the above link:
The late eighteenth century was another age of widespread apocalyptic expectation, when the promise of the American Revolution, followed by the greater and more radical expectations raised by the early years of the French Revolution, revived among a number of English Nonconforming sects the millenarian excitement of Milton and other seventeenth-century predecessors. "Hey for the New Jerusalem! The millennium!" Thomas Holcroft exulted in 1791. [] Preachers such as Richard Price, Joseph Fawcett, and Elhanan Winchester, as well as Joseph Priestley, who was not only a great chemist but a founder of the Unitarian Society, all interpreted the convulsions in France in terms of the prophecies in both the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures. They thus invested the political events of the day with the explosive power of the great Western myth of apocalypse and expanded a local phenomenon into the expectation that humanity, everywhere, was at the threshold of an earthly paradise.
Price, Fawcett, Winchester and Priestley were all theological unitarians and/or universalists.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Elhanan Winchester's Belief In Future Temporary Punishment

Winchester was Benjamin Rush's theological guru. The old school Universalists like Winchester were nonetheless hardcore in their belief in future prospective punishment for the "unsaved." As this source notes:
Among the early Universalists in America the doctrine of a limited term of punishment for the wicked in the future was not questioned. John Murray inherited the doctrine from his spiritual father, James Relly. Elhanan Winchester was of the same mind, and was even ready to suggest a matter of fifty thousand years as a possible limit.
The same source goes on to describe the "official doctrine" of one of the earliest "official" Universalist Churches in America:
As early as 1791, when the Philadelphia Convention was asked to define the position of the Universalist Church upon the question of future punishment, it made answer in this wise: 
"Unbelievers do die in their sins; such will not be purged of their sins or unbelief by death, but necessarily must appear in the next state under all the darkness, fear, and torment and conscious guilt, which is the natural consequence of unbelief in the truth. What may be the duration or degree of this state of unbelief and misery, we know not. But this we know, that it hath one uniform and invariable end; namely, the good of the creature."
That last part -- "the good of the creature" -- is telling. As per the Enlightenment custom, the God of the universalists was not unlike the God of the unitarians in the sense that benevolence was His defining attribute. Eternal punishment doesn't "fit" the "good of the creature" understanding.

Kabala on Miller

James S. Kabala reviews Nicholas P. Miller's, "The Religious Roots of the First Amendment: Dissenting Protestants and the Separation of Church and State." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. 272 pp., $35. A taste:
Miller then uses chapters two through five to trace the development of Protestant-influenced ideas of private judgment and religious freedom in the thought and writings of seven key figures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: John Locke, William Penn, Elisha Williams, Isaac Backus, William Livingston, John Witherspoon, and James Madison. (Williams, today probably the least-known figure of the seven, was a Connecticut legislator and former president of Yale who defended the rights of itinerant preachers during the Great Awakening and later published a broader work entitled Seasonable Plea for Liberty of Conscience.) Miller carefully assembles evidence that each of these figures was genuinely important (decrying the Supreme Court's fondness for citing Roger Williams rather than Penn and Thomas Jefferson rather than Madison) and that each came out of the tradition of dissenting Protestantism rather than of the Enlightenment. For example, he painstakingly documents that William Livingston, author of the essays in the Independent Reflector, was sometimes anti-clerical but never anti-religious.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


Here. A taste:
If Americans remembered George Washington as the sword of the Revolution, in other words, they venerated Jefferson as the pen. The general may have secured independence on the battlefield, but it was the sage of Monticello who (along with Thomas Paine) had justified the Revolution and explained its meaning to posterity. Ever since, Americans across the political spectrum–liberals and conservatives, Christians and secularists, patriots and cynics–have looked to Jefferson to define what the United States stood for at its birth.