Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Buzzfeed: "Nearly Every Founding Fathers’ Quote Shared By A Likely Future Congressman Is Fake"

Now that's a bad record.

A taste:
The Thomas Jefferson Foundation said it has “not found this particular statement in his writings” and Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience is the real source of the quotation.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

John Fea: "The Author's Corner with Barry Shain"

Check it out here. A taste:
JF: What led you to write The Declaration of Independence in Historical Context?
BS: I was motivated to write this book, in the main, by three goals: 1) to attempt to adjudicate between radically divergent claims concerning the standing of the Declaration of Independence’s briefly articulated political philosophy in leading the colonies to separate from Great Britain, in shaping American founding constitutional traditions, and in helping form America’s incipient political institutions; 2) to challenge the methodology, frequently encountered in political theory, in which historical documents are selectively chosen and mined to produce favored outcomes; and, 3) to begin a process of re-assessing the place of democratic republicanism in the thinking of those attending America’s first three continental political bodies.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bill Fortenberry on Matthew Stewart, "Nature's God"

Check it out here. A taste:
Thus we see that both Pope and Bolingbroke, the two people that Stewart credits with introducing the phrase “Nature’s God” into English, ...

Book TV: Matthew Stewart, "Nature's God"

Watch a clip below.


Brayton: "More Christian Nation Nonsense"

Check it out here. A taste:
I always laugh when people cite the Puritans and their alleged influence on the founding fathers. The colony they established was a rather brutal theocracy that imprisoned, exiled and sometimes put to death even their fellow Christians if they were the wrong brand. Funny how they trusted themselves with such power.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Frazer Posts @ Fortenberry's

Check out this guest post by Dr. Gregg Frazer at Bill Fortenberry's website. A taste:
If someone merely quotes someone else talking about Christ, that does not tell us anything about what the person doing the quoting believes. If someone is raised in an orthodox environment and only mentions Christ as a young man, but as an adult at the time of the Founding says contrary things, the original quote tells us little about what he believed as “a founder.” If someone reports the subject of a conversation in which someone else mentioned the word “Christ,” that tells us nothing about the views of the reporter – especially when, in his commentary on the event, he expresses heretical views of his own about Jesus. If someone is defending a pastor and reports what the pastor taught, that tells us nothing about the beliefs of the defender. If, in that same situation, the defender uses the language of the judges/jurors to try to favorably influence them, that tells us nothing about the views of the defender. If, in more than 20,000 pages of someone’s writings, there is only one reference to “Jesus” or “Christ” and that is not in the person’s handwriting, but in the handwriting of an aide of his who was a Christian, that tells us little about that person’s belief in Christ. Use of the word “divine” must also be evaluated in context because in 18th century common usage, “divine” also meant simply “preeminently gifted or extraordinarily excellent” (like some people even today refer to symphonies or desserts as “divine” or to Bette Midler as “the divine Miss M”). It was also a common term for a merely human representative of God, such as pastors. When a 21st-century evangelical sees the word “divine,” he/she automatically assumes a reference to God – but not so in the 18th century. This is context. In the case of one of the key founders, quotes given in which he says “Christ” and even expresses belief in Christ actually make my point: he does not do so until after he has a conversion experience and is born again (long after he was a “founder”).
As a general rule, the public statements and pronouncements of politicians sensitive to public approval are not as reliable indicators of true belief as private statements which they did not expect the public to see. Like politicians today, they often had aides who wrote public documents. They wrote their own private correspondence, however, and, depending on the recipient, usually had no reason to hide their true beliefs. On numerous occasions, key founders aware of the heterodoxy they expressed in a letter, instructed the recipients of correspondence to return or to burn the letters to keep them from the public eye. Surely we are all aware of the propensity of politicians to “tickle the ears” of the public in order to become or remain popular – the key founders were no exception; they were not gods or demi-gods, they were merely political men (albeit much better ones than we have today).

Friday, August 08, 2014

William Livingston: "Primitive Christian"

William Livingston represents the truth that one errs when one looks superficially at the denominations America's Founders were associated with to try and determine what their religious convictions were.

The source of this common error is M.E. Bradford who derived the statistic using that formula, that 52 of the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention were "orthodox Christians." I don't blame him too much for it. For him, this seemed to be a minor aside. Rather it was other, later Christian Nationalists who tried to run with the ball and turn it into a "meme."

Livingston was formally associated with the Presbyterians. That means then he was a good Calvinist who believed in TULIP and the Westminster and every other creed and confession associated with them, right?

Well, no.

Livingston, in fact, was a self professed "Primitive Christian," who believed in Jesus as Messiah (with NO evidence of believing in the Trinity) and the Old and New Testament, and nothing else.

There is nothing in Livingston's writings that laud the term "orthodox," in fact, to the contrary. As he wrote, "I believe that the word orthodox, is a hard, equivocal, priestly term, that has caused the effusion of more blood than all the Roman emperors put together."

A good Whig, Livingston hated doctrinal Anglicanism, especially the "Athanasian Creed," which is formally endorsed by not only the Anglicans, but also the Presbyterians (the group he was affiliated with!). This led me to conclude previously, perhaps accurately, Livingston a theological unitarian.

This is how Livingston described his creed:

“Primitive Christianity short and intelligible, modern Christianity voluminous and incomprehensible,” The Independent Reflector, no. XXXI, June 28, 1753.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The term "Primitive Christianity" and its connection to Deism & Unitarianism (and Mormonism & JWism)

If you look closely at the historical record, many of America's Founders speak positively of something known as "Primitive Christianity." I won't provide the quotations (just yet). You can either trust me or look it up yourself.

But what does that term mean? American Creation's Tom Van Dyke might answer Christianity "adulterated by man, i.e., the papists...." There certainly is a strong kernel of truth there, but also a larger picture as I explain below.

I've observed when certain figures -- some of America's Founders and their influences over whose proper religious categorization we argue -- refer positively to something known as "primitive Christianity," they mean they believe Christianity was corrupted by the "church" early on.

Now that's something in which a good evangelical or reformed Protestant can believe? Corruption in the church necessitated the Reformation. Well, not exactly as I will explain below.  Back then "primitive Christianity" was very often (though perhaps not always) a code word for Christian-Deism, Christian-Unitarianism, and today is something a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness would feel comfortable with.

You see, for many, perhaps most of these folks who valued "primitive Christianity," the Church at Nicea was already corrupted. And indeed, these folks think of the Nicene Church as a "Papist" one (and therefore illegitimate). The problem is Anglicans, capital O Orthodox Christians and most reformed and evangelical Protestants wish to claim and feel in communion with the Church at Nicea and the Nicene Creed.

Folks like certain Baptists who believe both in the Trinity but think the Nicene Church was already Roman Catholic are the oddball outliers among Protestant Trintarians. (See the fourth paragraph in this piece written by American Creation's Brian Tubbs, himself a Baptist pastor, on why Baptists might have such disproportionate oddball theology.) The Quakers who believe in the Trinity, but not creeds, likewise qualify as Trinitarians who might endorse the notion that the Nicene Church was corrupt and "real Christianity" was the "primitive" one of the ante-Nicene era.

But it's mainly those who reject the Trinity that are interested in attacking the Council of Nicea. Indeed, notable unitarians blame the doctrine of the Trinity on the "Papism" of Nicea. For instance, John Adams:

"The Trinity was carried in a general council by one vote against a quaternity; the Virgin Mary lost an equality with the Father, Son, and Spirit only by a single suffrage."

 -- To Benjamin Rush, June 12, 1812.

And since the Church around the time of Nicea was the one who selected and finalized the books of the canon (i.e., "the Bible") some of the professors of "primitive Christianity" disregard entire books of "the Bible" and blame it on "Papism," i.e. the Church who wrote the Nicene Creed. (And not just "books" of the Catholic Bible, but of the Protestant Bible as well like the Revelation of St. John.)

It was this same mindset that led Christian-Deists and Unitarians like John Adams to both 1. reject the Trinity, and 2. think "the Bible" was an errant, corrupted book, that nonetheless contained "the Word of God" underneath the error and corruption.

In today's day and age, folks who believe in sacred scripture as the "Word of God," but not the Trinity (i.e., the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses) are ones likely to 1. have an affinity for the "primitive Christianity" of the ante-Nicene era and 2. seek to "restore" the faith to what it was before it got corrupted.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

WSJ: "Book Review: 'Nature's God' by Matthew Stewart & 'Independence' by Thomas P. Slaughter"

From the Wall Street Journal here. A taste:
It's not clear, in any case, why Mr. Stewart thinks we are in danger of forgetting radical influences on the founders. Those connections were marvelously documented in "The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution" (1967), Bernard Bailyn's study of Revolutionary-era pamphlets, in which he revealed the influence of England's 18th-century "commonwealth men"—republican reformers in Parliament during the 1720s, especially John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon—on the American Founders. A generation later, Gordon Wood (Mr. Bailyn's student at Harvard) produced "The Radicalism of the American Revolution" (1991), a study of the social and political effects of the Independence.