Thursday, June 11, 2009

The "Old Lights" and Rebellion

What the Scriptures "actually say" pertaining to Romans 13, may or may not be consistent with Natural Law, thus, did the Founding Fathers have the right to rebel against Great Britain? Inasmuch the literal reading of Romans 13 is inconsistent with the American Revolution, as it could be; along with the Founding Fathers, the Heterodox, Elite, 18th Century Christian Preachers, are an important dynamic within Founding American Political Thought. Regardless of the correct biblical exegegis; righteous rebellion from Natural Law, espoused by Thomas Aquinas to the Founding Fathers, has a strong historical tradition.

In my last post, I overlooked Founding Father John Jay's defense of the Natural Law tradition of Romans 13, by ignoring the correct context of of John 18:36, which Mr. Jay apparently missed:

"My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." [bold face mine]

Mr. Jay understood a right to rebellion by Jesus' disciples (the people), granted that universal right for any nation, was couched in Natural Law. But Jesus' Kingdom is not of this world, until the start of the Millennial Age. Jesus' Kingdom has been called by God. It appears the text says "Every" governing authority is granted by God. If the right to rebel against any authority has support in Romans 13, it's in the Greek rendering of the word "resist." That word, refers only to "standing against." It is never used in the New Testament for fighting. If fighting against governing authorities is granted by God to the people, why didn't Paul use a different word? That point, however, may be incidental, as the text seems to imply the people should submit to every authority they are under.

The "Old Lights" referring to New England Preachers of the liberal bent, include: Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766), Charles Chauncy (1705-1787), Simeon Howard (1733-1804), Samuel Cooper (1725-1783), Ebenezer Gay (1696-1787) and Samuel West (1730-1807). West, was a member of the committee which framed the Constitution of Massachusetts, and member of the Mass. Convention which ratified the U.S. Constitution in 1788. These men are interesting characters, in that most of their theological reasoning discarded sixteen-hundred years of Church tradition for the freedom to interpret the Scriptures in their own way. This is all fine and dandy involving the incidentals of Christianity. These men owe our respect for their involvement in the Revolutionary cause; risking their lives, and promoting freedom of conscience to all men.

These men ranged from Arians to Socinians, having denied the Trinity as unreasonable, they rejected seemingly Calvinist principles promoted by Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Davies et. al. in the Great Awakening. Having free reign to interpret the Scriptures, and rejecting Church Creeds, led these men to deny the fundamentals of Christian Theology. The departure of fundamentals did not start at rejecting inerrancy, but rejecting the Deity of Jesus Christ, which led to rejecting Christ's Vicarious Blood Atonement for Sin. To them, only God can forgive sin, and Jesus was not God, negating Jesus' capacity for blood atonement. Scripturally, they rejected the atonement, looking to God's forgiveness through character. Amazingly, they discarded the entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament, along with God's promise of a final sacrifice for sin. A little leaven leavens the whole lump, which begs the question, "How much virtue does it take to outweigh one sin?"

This exaltation of character over, or even to partner, the free gift of grace, took them off track in God's plan of Salvation. Character is not a part of salvation, but is an evidence of salvation. Character is an evidence, not a requirement. These "Old Lights" mixed grace and works, perhaps due to their emphasis on Natural Law.

They preached in Congregational Churches limited to the Boston area of Massachusetts, before the Unitarian split in the early 19th Century. A good question to these men is how did they get around taking communion? If membership required adherance to Church ordinances, how did Samuel Cooper for instance, get around not taking communion when he adminstered it at Brattle Street Church in Boston? Brattle Street Church was Baptist that eventually became First Baptist Church. His congregation was seemingly more secretive in its Unitarianism than Jonathan Mayhew's Church, with past communion members such as: John Hancock, and Samuel Adams.

A small group of Elite Founding Fathers embraced the psuedo-arminianism of the Unitarian Preachers, some of these men included: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Massachusetts men: John Adams, his son John Quincy, William Cushing, James Bowdoin, and Paul Revere. The division in Unitarian theology did not happen until the 19th Century, with William Ellery Channing. The key to unlock the religious views of the Founding Fathers is tied to their position on atonement-depravity. The pseudo-arminians viewed man as good, the Calvinists or nominal Calvinists viewed man as depraved.

Whatever theological beliefs they had, they were instrumental, along with the Orthodox Preachers, in arousing fervor for revolution against Great Britain. These Old Light preachers are an important element in the American Revolution.

If righteous rebellion is not correct biblical exegesis as some commentators insist, the American Revolution was un-biblical, no matter its inclusion into Natural Law. If the Revolution was un-biblical, does an incidental in Christian theology affect the Christian Nation Thesis?

21 comments:

Jonathan Rowe said...

This could have been written a little clearer (though your writing is improving). Overall, this is a good post.

Anonymous said...

Good comment.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I think if the founding fathers were Christians, they should have trusted in God to deliver them, instead of fighting King George.

Our Founding Truth said...

I think if the founding fathers were Christians, they should have trusted in God to deliver them, instead of fighting King George.>

The Founding Fathers called themselves Christians, and most I believe, were Orthodox, however, I don't believe an interpretation of Romans 13 determines who a Christian is.

Removing Tyrants from power was a part of Natural Law, that went back years before the Reformation. I am beginning to see the Calvinist position of Romans 13. David Barton, and his Wallbuilders, has written a new post on Romans 13, using II Samuel, and Nehemiah 4-8. Nehemiah did not fight against THE authority, and he was specifically called by God.

I'd like to see some other Biblical support from the "Old Lights" and 18th Century Preachers.

Our Founding Truth said...

Yeah, writing involves patience, which I need more of. If I am correct, The Old Lights, and elites that embraced their theology, understood salvation from a place of character, not Grace based on atonement. Jesus' deity therefore, is a peripheral issue.

After reading Romans 5, and Hebrews 9, how did the elites reject the atonement by inerrancy? It's not there. Anyone have an idea?

mroberts said...

Interesting comments. I still think that we have the right to overthrow unjust governments as stated in the Declaration. "Standing against" as you mentioned does not mean standing against and taking a beating. You can stand against a bully and let him beat you into the ground. Standing against requires defending oneself, even if that means injuring or killing the one hurting you. It is absolutely biblical to defend oneself - and one's natural rights - against violation. Those in government are equals, not superiors. Therefore there is no law anywhere that says they have to be granted special exceptions to the rules of justice. All people, whether kings or subjects, are bound by the same laws of justice.

Our Founding Truth said...

A professor that teaches with John MacArthur has some good biblical reasoning I haven't been able to defend, and what the text says is what I'm concerned with.

"First, note that he changed from "submission" to "obedience!" Second, does Paul ever distinguish between tyrannical and non-tyrannical regimes in the text? Between oppressive and non-oppressive? Does Paul recognize ANY "different characters" of rulers? Or does he speak of ALL of them uniformly? Read what Paul says in the translation Mayhew had and (sometimes) quoted from.

Mayhew then says "that civil rulers, as they are SUPPOSED to fulfill the pleasure of God, are the ordinance of God" -- is that what Paul, in fact, says? Or does Paul say of civil rulers that "he IS a minister of God to thee for good" [vs. 4] and that they "ARE God's ministers?" [vs. 6]

Does Paul limit which rulers/governments are the ordinance of God, or does he say "there is NO power BUT OF GOD; the powers that BE are ordained of God?" [vs. 1]...Disobedience is not submission." So what's the point...You are right: disobedience is not submission -- neither is obedience. Disobedience in conjunction with recognition of the authority behind the command IS submission, however. Likewise, obedience to a command followed by assassination or rebellion is not submission. Obedience or disobedience is response to a command; submission or subjection is response to an authority behind a command. Paul wrote Romans 13 from jail!....It says: "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities." That's what I say. "For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God." That's what I say. "Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God." That's what I say. Speaking of authority, it says: "it is a minister of God to you for good." That's what I say. "It is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil." That's what I say. "Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake." That's what I say. "For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing." That's what I say...My version" is not what the Bible directly says in every passage because some, in context, are meant to be taken figuratively, some are poetry, some are anthropomorphisms, some require a lot of explanation and cross-referencing, etc. In the case of Romans 13, though (which is what I specified), "my version" is directly what it says. None of these problems exist. It is one of the passages which is crystal clear exactly as written and requires no explanation -- like "thou shalt not murder" and "thou shalt not steal."

Frazer does have some views I disagree with, such as this:

"As for my assertion that the ministers were trained in Enlightenment rationalism in the seminaries -- that's a historical fact. I did not say that someone COULDN'T have gotten"

Maybe at William and Mary, and Harvard until orthodox President's got there, but not Princeton, Rutgers, Penn, Columbia, and Yale.

This is a portion of what I got, and I seem to agree with it. What do you think? There also is a debate about who had the Majority viewpoint in the American Church; Natural Law Theory, or Calvinism.

mroberts said...

.Disobedience is not submission." So what's the point...You are right: disobedience is not submission -- neither is obedience. Disobedience in conjunction with recognition of the authority behind the command IS submission, however.

This seems entirely contradictory to me. Disobedience is disobedience, regardless if the authority is recognized. God doesn't distinguish between disobedience without recognition of his authority and disobedience with recognition of his authority. Disobedience is disobedience, regardless. Disobedience of God's commands is a sinful rebellion against him.

I would argue that the intentional refusal to abide by the commands of an authority IS rebellion. In that sense, the apostles rebelled against the Roman authorities by preaching Christ when they were told not to. This was entirely justified because they made the decision to obey God instead of human authority. When God's commands are at odds with human commands, we have to make the decision to obey God's commands, even if it means we are in rebellion against human authority.

Our Founding Truth said...

I would argue that the intentional refusal to abide by the commands of an authority IS rebellion. In that sense, the apostles rebelled against the Roman authorities by preaching Christ when they were told not to. This was entirely justified because they made the decision to obey God instead of human authority. When God's commands are at odds with human commands, we have to make the decision to obey God's commands, even if it means we are in rebellion against human authority.

No doubt Peter and John disobeyed the command of the authority over them in Acts 5:29, however they did submit to the punishment, meaning they were still subject to the authority, as Titus 3 says.

So, in that sense Peter and John disobeyed God's command, committing rebellion. But, I don't think that can be rebellion, nor do I think they disobeyed the Lord for obvious reasons. Rebellion must be overthrowing the established authority, such as if Peter and John led a revolt to defeat Rome.

The text appears to say "all" authorities are established by God, however Aquinas and Calvin both seem to allow for another country(authority), or a part of the same authority to overthrow that particular authority, since it is ordained of God as well.

When I first thought of this, I thought allowing Hitler to stay in power was crazy, but the scripture says "all" not just tyrannical governments. Apparently it is consistent with scripture for the military officers who tried to kill Hitler, since they were part of the authority, in the movie, Valkyrie, or by defeat by another country.

I'll post the rest in a bit.

Our Founding Truth said...

Disobedience or obedience is different from submission. This is the distinction I understood from the difference of those words in the text.

We submit to the authorities, although we can disobey their commands and still submit under them as Peter and John did.

Is there a distinction in the terms? There are many cases in Scripture where the faithful disobeyed yet yielded to their authority, i.e., Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Obendigo, et. al.

Our Founding Truth said...

Here is some of what Frazer said on American Creation. I didn't know Aquinas and Calvin were in alignment on this, but it doesn't surprise me.

"I'm going to suggest to you that Aquinas agrees with Calvin and me regarding Romans 13. This is, of course, consistent with the testimony of those experts I've cited -- without acknowledgment -- who say that Calvin's view was the majority view for 1500 years leading up to the Revolution.

In his discussion of "tyrants" and what to do about them [chapter six of "On Kingship," Book One], Aquinas says that actions against tyrants should arise from "public authority" -- not "private initiative." He then gives three ways a tyrant can be removed.

1) "if BY RIGHT a certain community is ENTITLED to provide itself with a king, it is not unjust that the installed king be deposed by that same community or that his power be curtailed if the royal power is abused tyrannically." He follows that with historical examples similar to Calvin's.

2) "If, however, BY RIGHT some superior authority is ENTITLED to provide a king for a community, the remedy for the iniquity of the tyrant MUST BE AWAITED FROM THAT PARTY." [followed by examples]

3) If neither of those situations exist, then "we must turn to the king of all, God .... For He has such power that He can turn the cruel heart of a tyrant to gentleness. ... The tyrant whom He indeed judges worthy of conversion He can remove from our midst or reduce them to a state of weakness. ... Nor is His hand weakened so that He cannot free His people from tyranny. ... But that the people should merit that such a benefit come from God, it must stop sinning, because it is by divine permission that the impious receive their rule, as a punishment for sin ...."

So, for Aquinas -- as for Calvin -- IF there is some PUBLIC AUTHORITY within the system which allows for the removal of a tyrant, then that is OK. It must be done by someone with the RIGHT to do so within the system -- someone ENTITLED to do so. But revolution is not an option.

He doesn't specifically mention Romans 13, but he does base some of what he says on the parallel passage I've pointed to: I Peter 2. He says that "it has seemed to some" that a tyrant can be killed "for the liberation of the community .... But this does not conform to apostolic teachings. Peter teaches us that we ought to be reverently submissive NOT ONLY TO GOOD AND GENTLE RULERS BUT EVEN TO OVERBEARING ONES."

What do you think?

mroberts said...

2) "If, however, BY RIGHT some superior authority is ENTITLED to provide a king for a community, the remedy for the iniquity of the tyrant MUST BE AWAITED FROM THAT PARTY." [followed by examples]

Yes, but what superior authority is there that is entitled to provide a king? The only one I can think of is God, and the only case where he provided a king was with Saul.

Our Founding Truth said...

"If, however, BY RIGHT some superior authority is ENTITLED to provide a king for a community, the remedy for the iniquity of the tyrant MUST BE AWAITED FROM THAT PARTY." [followed by examples]

Yes, but what superior authority is there that is entitled to provide a king? The only one I can think of is God, and the only case where he provided a king was with Saul
.

From what Calvin said, if it is a King, it seems to come from the authority itself, such as the Nazi Officers trying to overthrow Hitler. From what I gather from the text, Aquinas, and Calvin, the people aren't to rebel, which is what the United States did.

I haven't seen any scriptures that allow the contrary. Do you know of any?

Anonymous said...

Good brief and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you on your information.

Anonymous said...

Easily I acquiesce in but I think the post should secure more info then it has.

Anonymous said...

good morning people. I'm really into shoes and I was looking as far as something that meticulous brand. The prices for the boots were around 310 dollars on every page. But for all I bring about this locate selling them for half price. I exceptionally love those [url=http://www.shoesempire.com]prada sneakers[/url]. I will probably order those. what do you think?

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

Anonymous said...

hi people. I'm honestly into shoes and I have been searching for the sake of that meticulous brand. The prices due to the fact that the velcros are around 180 dollars on every site. But definitively I base this location selling them for half price. I really like these [url=http://www.shoesempire.com]gucci sneakers[/url]. I will probably purchase them. what do you think?

Anonymous said...

good afternoon bros. I'm actually into shoes and I was looking allowing for regarding that exact brand. The prices for the boots were around 350 dollars on every page. But definitively I set this location selling them someone is concerned half price. I absolutely want those [url=http://www.shoesempire.com]gucci sneakers[/url]. I will probably purchase these. what can you tell me about these?

Anonymous said...

good morning people. I'm honestly into shoes and I was digging as far as something that meticulous brand. The prices for the velcros were approximately 350 pounds on every site. But finally I set this locate selling them for half price. I absolutely love these [url=http://www.shoesempire.com]gucci sneakers[/url]. I will absolutely order those. what can you tell me about these?