Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Anglican Priest Calling George Washington a Christian

One of George Washington's best friends was the Reverend Jonathan Boucher. He was an Anglican Priest who supported his home country and left for England. Here are his letters to GW. He believed Washington was a Christian, writing after the Revolution:
To resemble Cincinnatus is but small praise: be it yours, Sir, to enjoy the calm repose and holy serenity of a Christian hero; and may " the Lord bless your latter end more than the beginning.""
Boucher tutored GW's stepson and may not have been an evangelical, but believed the essentials nonetheless.

Entertaining all due respect for my ordination vows, I am firm in my resolution, whilst I pray at all, to conform to the unmutilated Liturgy of my Church; and, reverencing the injunctions of an Apostle. I will continue to pray for the King, and all who are in authority under him; and I will do so, not only because I am so commanded, but that, as the Apostle adds, 'we may continue to lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.' Inclination as well as duty confirms me in this purpose. As long as T live, therefore—yes, whilst I have my being, will I, with Zadok the Priest, with Nathan the Prophet, proclaim—' God save the King.'"
 GW's close friendship with Boucher is common knowledge among historians, but it isn't a stretch to say GW was friendly with High Church Anglicans. It was GW who asked Boucher to tutor his stepson. This is more evidence of GW's admiration of the Anglican form of Worship and James Madison's opinion he was orthodox.

Friday, April 11, 2014


From Bill Fortenberry's blog, Mayhew is quoted:
But this is not the only specimen which this writer has given of his candor towards me, with respect to doctrinal points. In his flaming apostrophe ... he accuses me of "attempts to undermine the fundamental principles of their faith" -- "those essential doctrines" -- "the doctrines of grace" -- destroying the fundamental principles of their faith" -- and "undermining the dignity and divinity of the Son of God." -- All these railings and accusations are in page 77. In the next, I am said to "deny and ridicule the doctrine of justification by faith;" -- to "discard the notion of original sin;" -- and to "brand the notion of imputed righteousness with the reproach of nonsense." ... Concerning all which, as they respect myself, I protest before God and the world that they are absolute falsehoods. Nor has he produced a single sentence from any of my writings, to support any one of them; which, he knew, was not in his power.

He has indeed had the confidence to refer in the margin, to some of my sermons, to render his groundless accusations the more plausible; hoping his word would be taken. but whoever will be at the pains to turn to these passages, will find the whole amount of them to be this -- that I explode certain wrong and unscriptural explanations of those doctrines; some of them tending to licentiousness; while I not only allow, but assert and prove the doctrines, in a sober, scriptural sense. What an iniquitous artifice is this, to bring such general charges without quotations; and without making any distinction betwixt the doctrines of Scripture in general, and unscriptural refinements upon them? I appeal to God and the world -- nay, to the conscience of this virulent accuser himself, if it is not such an one as we read of in one of St. Paul's epistles. (I Timothy 4:2)
If Mayhew was an Arian as Gregg Frazer claims, where are the quotes from Mayhew?

Monday, April 7, 2014

John Adams' Supposed Heterodox Theology

     I can't remember I've seen many other secularists trod out this letter except for Jon Rowe on the American Creation blog, so I thought I would give my interpretation of John Adams' 1813 letter to Thomas Jefferson, if only because the context appears so clear. The fact this letter was written when John Adams was retired and not representative of the people makes it irrelevant to the founding, but I'll play along. Here is the entire part of the letter and contains the context.
I have examined all, as well as my narrow sphere, my straitened means, and my busy life would allow me ; and the result is, that the Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more of my little philosophy than all the libraries I have seen; and such parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little philosophy, I postpone for future investigation. Priestley ought to have given us a sketch of the religion and morals of Zoroaster, of Sanchoniathon, of Confucius, and all the founders of religions before Christ, whose superiority would, from such a comparison, have appeared the more transcendent. Priestley ought to have told us that Pythagoras passed twenty years in his travels in India, in Egypt, in Chaldea, perhaps in Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon. He ought to have told us, that in India he conversed with the Brahmins, and read the Shasta, five thousand years old, written in the language of the sacred Sanscrit, with the elegance and sentiments of Plato. Where is to be found theology more orthodox, or philosophy more profound, than in the introduction to the Shasta? "God is one, creator of all, universal sphere, without beginning, without end. God governs all the creation by a general providence, resulting from his eternal designs. Search not the essence and the nature of the Eternal, who is one; your research will be vain and presumptuous. It is enough, that, day by day and night by night, you adore his power, his wisdom, and his goodness, in his works. The Eternal willed, in the fulness of time, to communicate of his essence and of his splendor, to beings capable of perceiving it. They as yet existed not. The Eternal willed, and they were. He created Birma, Vitsnow, and Sib." These doctrines, sublime, if ever there were any sublime, Pythagoras learned in India, and taught them to Zaleucus and his other disciples. He there learned also his metempsychosis; but this never was popular, never made much progress in Greece or Italy, or any other country besides India and Tartary, the region of the grand immortal Lama. And how does this differ from the possessions of demons in Greece and Rome, from the demon of Socrates, from the worship of cows and crocodiles in Egypt and elsewhere? After migrating through various animals, from elephants to serpents, according to their behavior, souls that, at last, behaved well, became men and women, and then, if they were good, they went to Heaven. All ended in Heaven, if they became virtuous. Who can wonder at the widow of Malabar ? Where is the lady who, if her faith were without doubt that she should go to Heaven with her husband on the one hand, or migrate into a toad or a wasp on the other, would not lie down on the pile, and set fire to the fuel ? Modifications and disguises of the metempsychosis had crept into Egypt, and Greece, and Rome, and other countries. Have you read Farmer on the demons and possessions of the New Testament? [bold face mine]
As anyone can see, this quote throws a wrench into Jon's narrative about the founding and a generic god as God of the DOI. Adams says the religion of Christ is superior to all the others. Moving to the other part in bold, Adams quotes the intro to the Shasta? I've never read it, but it's clear Adams is saying this part is just as orthodox as the Bible, which it is, especially if you are a unitarian like Adams. This quote by itself doesn't have anything to do with the equality of Christianity, as he's already said Christ is superior.

As Bill Fortenberry says, "Now, you said that Adams does the "SAME THING" with the Hymn to Zeus that he did to the Hindu Shastra, and I agree. Adams recognized in the Hymn to Zeus a certain agreement with Christian doctrine, and in the Hindu Shastra, he also found certain agreements with Christianity. In the former he discovered an agreement in regards to the devotion that man owes to God, and in the latter he saw agreement in the concept that God is both one and three at the same time." All is well until that last part.

Bill gives the correct context for the below quote:
It has pleased the Providence of the first Cause, the Universal Cause, that Abraham should give religion not only to Hebrews but to Christians and Mahomitans, the greatest part of the modern civilized world.
– John Adams to M.M. Noah, July 31, 1818.
In regards to Adams' letter to M. M. Noah, the comment which you quoted is nothing more than a statement of fact. All three of those religions trace their origin to Abraham. The Christians trace their religion through Christ, the Jewish through Isaac and the Muslims through Ishmael. There is much in the Bible about God's blessing on the nations that are now predominantly Muslim beginning with God's promise to bless Ishmael at Abraham's request in Genesis 17:20. Of course, this does not mean that the Muslim religion is correct, but it does show that the statement made by Adams is accurate.
The Christian nation thesis is again, above reproach to any secular darts thrown its way.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Strong Testimony George Washington was a Christian

GW may not have been an Evangelical, but he affirms several biblical statements, including Eve eating the forbidden fruit, and Pharoah's mandate the Israelites make bricks without straw. The Garden of Eden narrative is interesting in that the Fall pertains directly to Original Sin.
You have our most Ardent Prayers to Almighty God for your happiness & prosperity in this enjoyment of the fruits of your own Labour and of every domestic Bliss; and that after a long Period of extensive usefulness here, you may be prepared for and; receive the glorious reward of eternal Life in the World to come. 
 --Elias Boudinot to General Washington, Jan 11, 1784

Along with fellow Presbyterian William Bradford, Elias Boudinot was one of GW's closest friends. Boudinot was a staunch Evangelical, saved after the Great Awakening. Yet Boudinot believed Washington was saved. This is strong prima facie evidence for GW's faith:

Washington is no more..There has a great man fallen in Israel [America]..It is appointed for all men once to die--but after that the judgment--We have great cause of gratitude & thankfulness, amidst our mourning that God in his Providence has continued him so long a public blessing and that he has ended his days crowned in glory.
--To his brother, Dec 19, 1799.

This is very interesting because it is doubtful Boudinot would claim one of his closest friends was saved unless he knew it. Boudinot remarks what happens to the unrepentant sinner:
What an essential difference there is between the death of a child of God and that of the sinner, who has lived without God in the World. 
--To his Nephew, Nov 27, 1819.
Boudinot's sister Annis, another staunch Presbyterian, and close friend to Washington, believed he was a Christian:

But thy last legacy, renouned chief,
Hack decked thy brow with honors more sublimed,
Twined in thy wreath, the Christian's firm belief,
And nobly owned thy faith to future time.
--Family letters, 1783.

Boudinot's brother married Bradford's sister Rachel.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

New release from Dreisbach and Hall

Their new collaboration is due for release April 1, 2014. Faith and the Founders of the American Republic will hopefully provide more evidence of Calvinist faith from the Founding Fathers. The book has a section on Gouverneur Morris, written by Gregg Frazer. Here is one of Frazer's questionable comments:
Like the Deists, Morris and the other theistic rationalists used generic "God words" rather than specifically Christian terms for God (p. 214).  
Yet, Calvinists used this classical terminology, including Samuel Adams, William Livingston, John Witherspoon and many others. How can this understanding be used to claim someone wasn't orthodox when the orthodox used it? The fact is Morris called himself a Christian.

The problem with many historians like Frazer is the Natural Law tradition. Because many framers referred to Natural Law, scholars believe these men gave a higher respect for reason than they really did. Taken from the Scriptures, John Calvin himself promoted this tradition. Further, Montesquieu and Locke understood the Natural Law tradition from Calvin and the Reformers. Morris rejected the authority of human reason for the Kingship of Christ:
Those who slaughtered their prince and made havoc of each other; those who endeavored to dethrone the King of Heaven and establish the worship of human reason, who placed, as representative on the altar which piety had dedicated to the holy virgin, and fell down and paid to her their adoration, were, at length, compelled to see and to feel, and, in agony, to own that there is a God. I cannot proceed. My heart sickens at the recollection of those horrors which desolated France. [bold face mine] 
--An oration, delivered on Wednesday, June 29, 1814, at the request of a number of citizens of New-York : in celebration of the recent deliverance of Europe from the yoke of military despotism.
A man who believed in total depravity, as Morris did would not exalt man's reason as the rationalists did:
Your history of the two Barons is very amusing ; but when
you take occasion to pity the infirmity of human nature, be-
cause of their attachment to a trivial decoration, you assail
the wisdom of Providence in his moral government of the
. [bold face mine]

--TO JOHN PARISH. February 18th, 1806.
The above quote refers to God's moral authority of the world. This is precisely the statement of Grotius and the Christians who denied the correct biblical atonement for the moral atonement theory Grotius and the Arminians believed.

Another comment made in the book referring to Hamilton says:
Although a consistent spokesman for Enlightened principles in politics (p. 22).
However, Hamilton rejected Enlightenment principles. He believed in Calvin's Total Depravity and rejected any human exaltation by learning:

"Experience is a continual comment on the worthlessness of the human race; and the few exceptions we find have the greater right to be valued in proportion as they are rare."

-To Colonel Richard K. Meade, Albany, August 27, 1782.

Hamilton even mentions the enlightenment with disdain by clarifying man becomes more wicked the more he learns:

"As riches increase and accumulate in few hands; as luxury prevails in society; virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature: It is what, neither the honorable member nor myself can correct. It is a common misfortune, that awaits our state constitution, as well as all others..It is a harsh doctrine, that men grow wicked in proportion as they improve and enlighten their minds. Experience has by no means justified us in the supposition, that there is more virtue in one class of men than in another. Look through the rich and the poor of the community; the learned and the ignorant. Where does virtue predominate? The difference indeed consists, not in the quantity but kind of vices, which are incident to the various classes; and here the advantage of character belongs to the wealthy. Their vices are probably more favorable to the prosperity of the state, than those of the indigent; and partake less of moral depravity. "[bold face mine]

--Alexander Hamilton, New York Ratifying Convention 21 June 1788. Papers 5:36--37, 40--43.

The kicker for rejecting Frazer's opinion is eyewitness testimony from one of Morris's best friends, who was an evangelical and claimed Morris was saved, Oct 28, 1816.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A much needed break

     Having a much needed break from school, I mention an example by a Yale Divinity student of the interesting dynamic in recent discourse within Protestant circles concerning the relationship between Natural Law and Calvinist (Reformed) tradition. There are those within the church who discard Natural Law altogether due to the emergence of secular Natural Law theory, yet in many places the scriptures seem to affirm it (Romans 2, 1 Cor 11, et al.). With this in mind, 17th and 18th century Natural Law philosophers that included Gershom Carmichael, who succeeded Francis Hutcheson as Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow, and Founding Father John Witherspoon, apparently de-emphasized Revelation resulting in the current antagonism among some Christian commentators, which has led to a re-hash in dialogue.

     Did Witherspoon, following Reid et al., depart from Calvin's view that Natural religion should be limited in its scope to duty and judgment in favor of Natural Law as a "source for universal moral knowledge"? The answer is important to Witherspoon's on-going reputation. This narrative has also branched out into the antinomian controversy.

Monday, December 31, 2012

John Locke and the "Governmental Theory" of Atonement

There are many views of the Christian Atonement including the Governmental Theory, perhaps tied to Hugo Grotius, but adhered to by John Locke. The Governmental Theory extends God's forgiveness for sin among other things. There are several different views of the Atonement, the belief of which may not have anything to do with whether someone is saved, but it has to do with Locke's overall faith. This portion of his commentary on Romans proves my point:
But the righteousness of God, that righteousness which he intended, and will accept, and is a righteousness not within the rule and rigour of law, is now made manifest, and confirmed by the testimony of the law and the prophets, which bear witness of this truth, that Jesus is the Messias, and that it is according to his purpose and promise, That the righteousness of God, by faith in Jesus the Messias, is extended to, and bestowed on all who believe in him* , (for there is no difference between them. They have all, both jews and gentiles, sinned, and fail of attaining that glory which God hath appointed for the righteous,) Being made righteous gratis,[without payment] by the favour of God, through the redemption which is by Jesus Christ; Whom God hath set forth to be the propitiatory, or mercy-seat* in his own blood , for the manifestation of his [God’s] righteousness , by passing over§ their transgressions, formerly committed, which he hath borne with hitherto, so as to withhold his hand from casting off the nation of the jews, as their past sins deserved. [bold face mine]
--Romans 3:1-31 Paraphrase

24Redemption signifies deliverance, but not deliverance from every thing, but deliverance from that, to which a man is in subjection, or bondage. Nor does redemption by Jesus Christ import, there was any compensation made to God, by paying what was of equal value, in consideration whereof they were delivered: for that is inconsistent with what St. Paul expressly says here, viz. that sinners are justified by God gratis,[without payment] and of his free bounty. What this redemption is, St. Paul tells us, Eph. i. 7, Col. i. 14, even the forgiveness of sins. But if St. Paul had not been so express in defining what he means by redemption, they yet would be thought to lay too much stress upon the criticism of a word, in the translation, who would thereby force from the word, in the original, a necessary sense, which it is plain it hath not. That redeeming, in the sacred scripture language, signifies not precisly paying an equivalent, is so clear, that nothing can be more. I shall refer my reader to three or four places amongst a great number, Exod. vi. 6, Deut. vii. 8, and xv. 12, and xxiv. 18. But if any one will, from the literal signification of the word in English, persist in it, against St. Paul’s declarations, that it necessarily implies an equivalent price paid, I desire him to consider to whom: and that, if we will strictly adhere to the metaphor, it must be to those, whom the redeemed are in bondage to, and from whom we are redeemed, viz. sin and Satan. If he will not believe his own system for this, let him believe St. Paul’s words, Tit. ii. 14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity.” Nor could the price be paid to God, in strictness of justice (for that is made the argument here;) unless the same person ought, by that strict justice, to have both the thing redeemed, and the price paid for its redemption. For it is to God we are redeemed, by the death of Christ, Rev. v. 9, “Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.” [bold face mine]

He says "unless the same person ought, by that strict justice, to have both the thing redeemed, and the price paid for its redemption." That's precisely what happened. Only God could satisfy the perfect justice His Holiness requires.

Before I make the conclusion, unitarians believe in mercy by forgiveness through a moral example, which is exactly what this theory requires. It's more evidence that Locke believed in God's forgiveness in a unitarian context, rather than the satisfaction by blood as a sacrifice. Does Locke say the same person couldn't both accept the redemption and pay the price for it. Why not? Ironically, he used Biddle's argument in the Adversaria Theologica.

1. How can God satisfy God? If one person satisfies another, then he that satisfies is still unsatisfied, or forgives. Ib. 12.
John xx. 17.
Eph. i. 7.
Heb. i. 8, 9.
First, Locke is buying Biddle's ideas. If any man could answer some of Biddle's questions he would be God. But not this one. God satisfies God because of the Trinity.
God cannot forgive because His very nature is Holiness and Perfect Justice. The Bible says God is just. Therefore, Justice and Holiness is His nature. God cannot act contrary to His nature. God doesn't even have the capacity to forgive or the capacity to be Holy. It violates His nature. He's already inherently Holy and Just. This is what Calvin's Substitutionary Theory is all about. Calvin was a lawyer, which is why he used legal terms to explain this.
Also, God's fellowship with Sin is completely void and impossible. God cannot have fellowship with anything less than His perfect righteousness. He must also deal with every human being with perfect justice, meaning He can't deal unfairly with us or send us to hell without providing a solution for our salvation. Man is entirely without spiritual life or capacity, so no one can work or earn fellowship with God; that is, Propitiation is the Reconciliation in Christ and what satisfies God's Holiness.
Forgiveness in the Scriptures refers not to what God would literally do, but a result from satisfying and Propitiation. John Locke's view on the Governmental Theory of Atonement mirrors his unitarian belief of Salvation.