Sunday, December 16, 2012

John Locke Contradicting History

Parts of Locke's Adversaria (check Locke's for and against list):

Unitaria.--The Fathers before the Council of Nice speak rather like Arians than orthodox. If any one desire to see undeniable proofs of it, I refer him to the Quaternio of Curciltaus, where he will be fully satisfied. There is scarcely one text alleged to the Trinitarians which is not otherwise expounded by their own writers: you may see a great number of these texts and expositions in a book entitled Scriptura S. Trin. Revelatrix, under the name of St Gallus. There be a multitude of texts that deny those things of Christ which cannot be denied of God, and that affirm such things of him that cannot agree to him if he were a person of God..
Trinity.—The Papists deny that the doctrine of the Trinity can be proved by the Scripture ; see this plainly taught and urged very earnestly by Card. Hosius de Auth. S. Script. 1. iii. p. 53; Gordonius Hunlaeius Contr. Tom. Cont. de Verbo Dei, c. 19; Gretserus and Tanerus in Colloquio Rattisbon. Vega. Possevin. Wiekus. These learned men, especially Bellarmin, and Wiekus after him, have urged all the Scriptures they could, with their utmost industry, find out in this cause, and yet, after all, they acknowledge their insufficiency and obscurity.
Curcillaeus has proved, as well as anything can be proved out of ancient writings, that the doctrine of the Trinity, about the time of the Council of Nice, was of a special union of three persons in the Deity, and not of a numerical, as it is now taught, and has been taught since the chimerical schoolmen were hearkened unto.
Concerning the original of the Trinitarian doctrines, from whom they are derived or by whom they were invented, he that is generally and indeed deservedly confessed to have writ the most learnedly, is Dr Cudworth, in his Intellectual System.
Trinity.—The Divinity of the Holy Spirit was not believed, or, as I think, so much as mentioned, by any in the time of Lactantius, i. e. anno 300..
If you go through his list for and against the Trinity, there's no debate anymore. He quotes the Father of Unitarianism John Biddle, and neglects most of the New Testament that mentions the Trinity. By this work--which was private, and thank God for his sake it was, Locke was actually an amateur theologian (citing uninspired men) if he can be called one. The last sentence of the first paragraph proves Locke denied Christ's Deity. He agrees that this "Curcillaeus has proved..special union of three persons in the Deity." Locke even mocks the Trinity "Concerning the original of the Trinitarian doctrines..or by whom they were invented." Locke was wrong about the Church Fathers and the Trinity, as well as Divinity of the Holy Spirit.

Yet the Church Fathers spoke of the numerical Trinity years before Nicea:
And at the same time the mystery of the oikonomia is safeguarded, for the unity is distributed in a Trinity. Placed in order, the three are the Father, Son, and Spirit. They are three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in being, but in form; not in power, but in kind; of one being, however, and one condition and one power, because he is one God of whom degrees and forms and kinds are taken into account in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
--Tertullian, 216 A.D. Against Praxeas 2
The Father's Word, therefore, knowing the economy and the will of the Father, to wit, that the Father seeks to be worshipped in none other way than this, gave this charge to the disciples after he rose from the dead: "Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Matt 28:19) And by this he showed that whosoever omitted any one of these, failed in glorifying God perfectly. For it is through the Trinity that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son did and the Spirit manifested.
--Hippolytus of Rome, 220 A.D. Against Noetus Ch. 14.
For this cause, yea and for all things, I praise Thee, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, through the eternal and heavenly High-priest, Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, through whom with Him and the Holy Spirit be glory both now [and ever] and for the ages to come. Amen.
--Polycarp of Smyrna, 155 A.D. To Autolycus 2:15











107 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jim, one of my favorite sayings is "Every man has an idea that will not work."

We all like to think that there's some magical mutant strain about us, something that somehow unfailingly--mindfully, mindlessly, or instinctively stumbles onto the truth about things about which all other men are confused.

All of us have some great idea about which we are completely and incontrovertibly wrong.

Einstein was proven wrong by quantum physics; Newton spent much time on cabalism and alchemy, all of which is pure nonsense.

In Locke's case, he wasn't really all that brilliant. But what he was was honest, and humble enough not to publish anything he had his doubts about.

The theological fad springing out of the Enlightenment was indeed unitarianism, Jesus not as God or even the Sacrificial Lamb in terms of dying for our sins.

And John Locke was very much sympathetic to that fad. However, he never came out formally against the orthodox [Pauline] interpretation. Partly because it was heretical in his time and place [Britain 1650-1700], but also because I don't believe he was sure about such a denial of orthodox Christianity.

Good philosophers are cautious--they speak solidly and publish only what they feel certain about. As an example, Locke is quite hard to nail down about "natural law."

The Aristotelian-Stoic-Aquinas tradition is quite unambiguous, but Locke scholars are all over the map whether he even believed in a "natural law."

The Christian[ized] tradition says that it's a law written on the human heart that even the Gentiles occasionally discern [see Paul in Romans 2]

Paul wrote in Romans 2:15 that gentiles who know nothing of Moses or Christ may nonetheless show by their deeds "that the requirements of the Law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them." J. Budziszewski, who teaches in the Departments of Government and Philosophy at the University of Texas, and whose work frequently appears in First Things and other journals, explains that this law is what philosophers call the "natural law." It is the bedrock moral understanding that we can't not know, however hard we try to evade that knowledge, because our consciences bear witness to it.

http://acts18910.blogspot.com/2007/01/romans-214-15-and-natural-law.html

But Locke, as a philosopher, is more interested in defending his Essay on Human Understanding, that says we're born a blank slate.

And he even makes a quite Christian argument that if we were "gnostic" enough to tell right from wrong via natural reason alone, we wouldn't need the Gospels!

I think I'll leave off here. what I was actually getting to was that Locke's unpublished writings about natural law were discovered and published in the 1950s!

The reason he didn't publish them is because they're incoherent. He tried to tackle the subject of natural law, but ran into the impossibility of reconciling natural law with his philosophical work of man being a blank slate!

Somewhere in Locke was an idea that would not work. Frankly, I think that explains him. To his credit. A man's reach should exceed his grasp.

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1952329?uid=3739560&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101508107451

Our Founding Truth said...
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Our Founding Truth said...
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Our Founding Truth said...

The book is closed on Locke. I proved it. Although, someone, somewhere, far from the annals of Google, a Christian wrote about Locke's denial of Christ's Deity and Atonement; but perhaps not.

I think it was Reid and Francis Hutcheson who spearheaded the Enlightenment at University. The evidence those guys rejected the entire book of Hebrews like Locke did is another blog post. I've never seen any information that Hutcheson denied the fundamentals of Christianity, and favored reason over revelation.

Locke denied historical Christianity all along, that's why he was attacked with the pen all those years. One of his best friends was the Socinian Isaac Newton. I've never read Edwards's arguments against Locke pertaining to the Atonement, but I don't need to now.

It probably drove Locke crazy he didn't come out and speak his mind.

It's safe to say Locke denied the entire book of Hebrews. I feel comfortable now claiming he denied biblical inerrancy because he danced around that too.

I tend to think Locke was orthodox on Natural Law because he quoted Hooker. I believe he referenced Romans 2 in his notes on the Epistles.

Locke's faith is important because he had a political influence on the framers of this country, but they rejected Locke's religion. There is not one shred of evidence the framers denied Jesus Christ as High Priest for the final sacrifice of our sins. That's what the entire book is about.

I'm not even sure Locke was correct about Bellarmine and the schoolmen denying the historical position of the Trinity.

Our Founding Truth said...

The faith of Scot Presbyterian's Thomas Reid and Francis Hutcheson is almost as complicated as that of Locke. Many Evangelicals deny the founder of Common Sense Philosophy (Thomas Reid) and Hutcheson, were true Christians, but they were both ordained in the Presbyterian Church.

If the Enlightenment is man's attempt to use reason instead of religion and tradition to further man's prosperity in every sphere of life, I don't see how both those men prescribe to the Enlightenment of Rousseau, and Hume. Rejecting violations of the Laws of Nature (religion) is just what the Enlightenment was all about, yet:

If the teachings are holy and leading to people’s happiness, we rightly believe that their announcer or teacher was filled with the divine spirit in accomplishing the miracles. And so NATURAL THEOLOGY will lead us to the embrace of what is called REVEALED THEOLOGY.

--Francis Hutcheson, Synopsis Metaphysicae Ontologium et Pneumatologiam (Glasgow, 1744), p. 123.

Hutcheson is saying the miraculous is entirely reasonable.

These laws of nature neither restrain the power of the Author of nature, nor bring him under any obligation to do nothing beyond their sphere. He has sometimes acted contrary to them, in the case of miracles..miraculous events, which are contrary to the physical laws of nature… GOD is the cause of them, and to him only are they to be imputed.

--Thomas Reid, Essays on the
Active Powers of Man (Edinburgh, 1788), p. 345.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Although, someone, somewhere, far from the annals of Google, a Christian wrote about Locke's denial of Christ's Deity and Atonement; but perhaps not.

Sure. Many did, back in the day. The story is here.

Push come to shove, Locke was a Socinian. But he never argued it formally--his main argument was that such questions of dogma are unnecessary: of this he was confident.

As for Thomas Reid, I look forward to your explorations of him. This argues that it's Thomas Reid more than Locke who was the true godfather of the American political theology.

http://www.nlnrac.org/american/scottish-enlightenment

"In the twelfth of his Lectures on Law, the lecture on “Natural Rights,” Wilson quotes a passage from Cicero’s Pro Milone, wherein Cicero asserts the existence of a “law which is not written, but inborn.” It is not learned by training, but is rather “snatched” or “imbibed” “from nature herself,” a law “in which we are made.”[2] Wilson cites this to illuminate his own analysis of natural rights.[3] The question he raises is whether rights as such are derivative of civil law or have a standing independent of civil society. The authorities behind the former proposition are many and include both Edmund Burke and William Blackstone.[4] An implication to be drawn from those authorities’ understanding is that rights are legal constructs, grounded in certain social and historical facts. “If this view be a just view of things,” Wilson points out, it would follow that “under civil government,” all of the “natural rights” of individuals “flow from a human establishment, and can be traced to no higher source.”[5]"

wsforten said...

Tom, I am surprised that you would call Locke a Socinian when his book The Reasonableness of Christianity opens with a denial of one of their core doctrines. The Socinians taught that Adam was mortal from the day that he was created and thus that he did not lose immortality by sinning. In contrast, Lock wrote:

This shows, that the state of paradise was a state of immortality, of life without end; which he lost that very day that he eat: his life began from thence to shorten, and waste, and to have an end; and from thence to his actual death

Then, in his Vindication (which was written for the express purpose of denying the charges of Socinianism which had been brought against him), Mr. Locke explained that he had rejected the Socinian view of the atonement. In the second paragraph of that book, he wrote:

I shall leave the socinians themselves to answer his charge against them, and shall examine his proof of my being a socinian. It stands thus, p. 112, “When he” (the author of the Reasonableness of Christianity, &c.) “proceeds to mention the advantages and benefits of Christ’s coming into the world, and appearing in the flesh, he hath not one syllable of his satisfying for us; or, by his death, purchasing life or salvation, or any thing that sounds like it. This, and several other things, show, that he is all over socinianized.” Which in effect is, that because I have not set down all that this author perhaps would have done, therefore I am a socinian. But what if I should say, I set down as much as my argument required, and yet am no socinian? Would he, from my silence and omission, give me the lie, and say I am one? Surmises that may be overturned by a single denial, are poor arguments, and such as some men would be ashamed of: at least, if they are to be permitted to men of this gentleman’s skill and zeal, who knows how to make a good use of conjectures, suspicions, and uncharitable censures in the cause of God; yet even there too (if the cause of God can need such arts) they require a good memory to keep them from recoiling upon the author. He might have taken notice of these words in my book, (page 9 of this vol.) “From this estate of death, Jesus Christ restores all mankind to life.” And a little lower, “The life which Jesus Christ restores to all men.” And p. 109, “He that hath incurred death for his own transgression, cannot lay down his life for another, as our Saviour professes he did.” This, methinks, sounds something like “Christ’s purchasing life for us by his death.” But this reverend gentleman has an answer ready; it was not in the place he would have had it in, it was not where I mention the advantages and benefits of Christ’s coming. And therefore, I not having there one syllable of Christ’s purchasing life and salvation for us by his death, or any thing that sounds like it: this and several other things that might be offered, show that I am “all over socinianized.” A very clear and ingenuous proof, and let him enjoy it.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"The Socinians taught that Adam was mortal from the day that he was created and thus that he did not lose immortality by sinning."

No Socinians aren't wedded to that doctrine. The only doctrine Socinians are wedded to is the idea that Jesus was 100% human, not divine at all in his nature.

Jonathan Rowe said...
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Jonathan Rowe said...

Further, I am not convinced Locke was a Socinian. He may well have been. I seriously doubt Locke was Trinitarian; I think it's far likelier that Locke was a Socinian than a Trinitarian. And he may well have been a type of Arian (I think Locke scholars Paul Sigmund and John Marshall hold to that; this is what I remember Sigmund telling me face to face when I asked him the question. His eyes lit up when I asked him this).

But do keep in mind, Locke faced potential. execution if they could pin Socinianism on him. (I know it was a crime to deny the Trinity in GB up until 1813. The last person executed in GB for heresy was Thomas Aikenhead in 1697.)

Our Founding Truth said...
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Our Founding Truth said...

Tom,

I found a good source on Hutcheson.
http://books.google.com/books?id=bqFCAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

I may have been correct about Hutcheson's views on miracles, but I was probably wrong about him, and perhaps Reid, implying they favored revelation over reason.

Hutcheson kept his personal views secret (including from his students), even though he was head of the Moral Philosophy Dept. at the University of Glasgow, the hotbed of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Reid was the founder of Scottish Common Sense Philosophy, which Witherspoon pushed at Princeton because it aligned with orthodox Christianity.

Jon, I believe you were right about Witherspoon and his teachings on Moral Philosophy. I read a doctoral thesis by an evangelical who claims Witherspoon wasn't entirely orthodox in his lectures, showing some apparent contradictions. This inconsistency is the reason for different views on Witherspoon. He also claims Wilson was more consistent about Christian orthodoxy.

Witherspoon was influenced by Hutcheson for sure, but later in life claimed he never studied Reid. If that's true, Witherspoon could have started Common Sense Philosophy in America.

WS,

Thank you for the quote. Locke was a great writer, and an efficient patronizer. If Locke was not a socinian like Tom believes, he was an Arian for sure; his Adversaria proves it. I could post at least twenty, probably more, texts affirming the Trinity and Deity of Christ from the Old and New Testaments that Locke ignored in his Essay, Vindication and commentaries on the Epistles.

Locke can talk about Christ the Saviour, and "Jesus Christ restores all mankind to life" just like Priestley did, but that isn't what the Scriptures precisely say atones for Sin. It says Blood atones for sin. Starting in Genesis, throughout the Law and Prophets, ending at Christ, the final Sacrifice as High Priest for Sin. Many don't like it, but it is what it is, and Locke ignored it all (including the entire book of Hebrews, affirming Christ's Priesthood), and rejecting the Deity of Christ.

I'm with Jon. I've never heard Socinians believe Adam was created mortal.

wsforten said...

To claim that the denial of the deity of Christ is the only doctrine that Socinians are committed to follow is a gross oversimplification. The best source of information on the tenets of Socinianism is the Racovian Catechism which makes the following statement in the first chapter of the second section:

But wherefore is man obnoxious to death?

On two accounts: -- whereof the first is, that he was originally created mortal; -- that is, was so constituted that he was not only by nature capable of dying, but also, if left to himself, could not but die; though he might, through the divine goodness, be for ever preserved alive.

How does this appear?

First, because he was formed out of the earth: -- secondly, because, as soon as he was created, he had need of food: and thirdly, because he was destined by God to beget children: -- neither of which circumstances can be affirmed of an immortal nature. Besides, if Adam had been created immortal, it would have availed nothing to grant him the tree of life, whose fruit had the power of perpetuating existence. And lastly, who can doubt that his nature was such that he might have been stabbed , or suffocated, or burnt, or crushed to pieces, or in many other ways destroyed?

Jonathan Rowe said...

WS:

That's the thing about these Arian and Socinian "Christians" (and I put that in quotes because I don't have a problem with terming them Christians if they term themselves that, but the orthodox sure do) from the Enlightenment era. They didn't wed themselves to creeds like the orthodox did. Priestley and Jefferson were both Socinians, but were freethinkers. They didn't care about the Racovian Confession.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Jim/OFT,

Well I'm glad we agree on something. Merry Christmas.

wsforten said...

Socinianism is not nearly as difficult to define as it may seem. The Socinians were prolific writers, and much of their writings are available to us today. The most definitive of their works was the Racovian Catechism which cataloged all of their fundamental doctrines. To say that Jefferson was a Socinian who did not care about the Racovian Catechism would be like saying that Michael Jordan was a soccer player who just preferred a smaller goal and the use of his hands.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Mr. Forten,

We've been around long enough to see through the game you are trying to play here.

You are trying to wed the unitarians to a creed. The "orthodox" were wed to creeds; the others were not.

I think what's even more ridiculous about comments I've observed from you is you claim Dr. Frazer's test for defining "Christianity" is arbitrary. His test -- which, by the way, many orthodox argue every word of which is provable with references to the Bible alone -- is a lowest common denominator of creeds held to by late 18th Century Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists and Congregationalists. To suggest that this is an "arbitrary" system for late 18th Cen. America is absurd to say the least.

Jonathan Rowe said...

To quote Max Cady, "I'm sorry your honor, I do agree, that was argumentative."

I'm coming down from stress at work. :).

Our Founding Truth said...
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Our Founding Truth said...

Hey Jon,

Merry Christmas to you too, and also Tom and wsforten.

Mr. Forten,

I have to agree with Jon. TJ wasn't very fond of creeds. Of all people, he could never be held to any creed. He's the epitome of a freethinker.

The orthodox founding fathers would ascribe to a creed if it's biblical, although a few were cautious of those as well; William Livingston comes to mind.

You may be correct about what some of those Socinians believed, however, I had mixed emotions about what John Locke believed until I read his Adversaria Theologica.

Anonymous said...

This is a good job showing that the concept of the Trinity was accepted by Church Fathers and what John Locke really believed.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Exc discussion, gentlemen, and thank you for it. I've learned a lot.

Moi was going to write along Jonathan's lines, that

Push come to shove, Locke was a Socinian

only meant that Locke was interested in neither pushing nor shoving when it came to dogma, but if pushed, would almost certainly come out non-Trinitarian.

OFT has shown that leaning through the "commonplace book---which was only discovered in 1829. But keep in mind that many like Locke were not anti-Trinitarian as much as their reason left them unconvinced. So Locke argues further in the "Reasonableness of Christianity" that such beliefs [such as in the Atonement] are not necessary for salvation.

Therefore, when Locke writes---triumphantly!

And therefore, I not having there one syllable of Christ’s purchasing life and salvation for us by his death, or any thing that sounds like it: this and several other things that might be offered, show that I am “all over socinianized.” A very clear and ingenuous proof, and let him enjoy it.

He isn't arguing against the Atonement, only around it.

To flesh out Jon's argument that the Enlightenment mentality's approach to Christianity was that of using reason to penetrate the Scriptures, that's also the core of the Reformation--the rejection of the Roman church's "magisterium"---the exclusive authority to interpret the Bible. Luther makes "every man a minister" and as we see, Protestantism deviates into hundreds of sects that today numbers of 30,000!

Even as a good Protestant, locke would not accept any "catechism" Locke, stock, and barrel, Papish or Racovian! Hence at the end of his life, the (amateur theologian) Locke tackles the Epistles for himself. Neither Luther or Calvin has more authority than any other man to interpret scripture.

Finally, Mr. Forten, I must agree with Jonathan that where I share your rejection of Gregg Frazer's thesis and method is likewise applicable here, that to try to doctrinally box a Protestant in is a lack of appreciation for what the Reformation was about in the first place.

I ran across a reference to Luther's right-hand man

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philipp_Melanchthon

saying he was unsurprised at Michael Servetus casting doubt on Trinitarian theology. Once Luther let the genie out of the bottle, it was inevitable.
________________
BTW, this is interesting as hell, the whole Servetus thing:

http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/history/8_ch16.htm

Again, thx for the discussion, all. And Jim, I do look forward to learning more on the Reid-Hutcheson-Witherspoon nexus. Reid in particular seems fantastically neglected, the low but solid ground of "common sense" and classical philosophy upon which the Founders built while the Voltaires and Rousseaus [and even Humes] aspired to build on their ashes.

Our Founding Truth said...

Locke writes: ..Christ’s purchasing life and salvation for us by his death.

Locke may be talking around the atonement, but the Adversaria presents an overall unitarian picture(rejecting the Trinity). He's saying, in the above quote, what Jon brought up years ago; that Christ died (was punished) for mankind, obtained mercy from God in His resurrection, whereby we will be resurrected through faith, repentance, virtue, etc. That is the unitarian way.

Why would Locke give an alternative explanation rather than what the Scriptures say takes away our sins if he didn't believe it? Why not just quote the verses?

Since no one can understand the Trinity, it doesn't surprise me that Melanchthon was unsurprised Servetus doubted the Trinity.

wsforten said...

Jonathan,

I think that you are confusing the terms "Socinian" and "unitarian." From my reading of Socinian authors, it seems that the two are similar but not synonymous. All Socinians are unitarians, but not all unitarians are Socinians as you seem to believe. The distinctive differences between these two terms can be seen in the Racovian Catechism which was produced by Faustus Socinius and published in 1605. Have you ever taken the time to read this catechism in order to determine if John Locke was a follower of Socinius?

As for Mr. Frazer's test of Christianity, I denounced his test as arbitrary because it is based solely on human reasoning. Instead of turning to the Scriptures to see what Jesus Christ and His disciples taught as being necessary for one to be a Christian, Mr. Frazer based his test on the mere opinions of a limited selection of sects calling themselves by that name. Nor did he include in his test everything that each of these sects claims is necessary for salvation but rather limited his list solely to those areas in which his selected sects agreed with each other. Thus, his list of doctrines provides us only with those things which Mr. Frazer has arbitrarily decided to be necessary for someone to be a Christian. In order for his list not to be an arbitrary compilation, he would have to have followed the example of Mr. Locke and sought out exactly what Jesus Christ and His disciples taught to be necessary for salvation.

This same principle can be applied to Socinianism. In order for you to claim that Locke, Priestley and Jefferson were all Socinianists, you must be able to demonstrate that their beliefs were consistent with the Racovian Catechism which lays out the fundamental doctrines of that sect.

wsforten said...

Tom,

You are mistaken to conclude that Locke argued for atonement not being necessary for salvation. The quote which you provided was not written in triumph: it was written in sarcasm. This is obvious from the statements preceding it in which Locke pointed out a few specific references that he had made to the atonement. Additionally, Locke stated directly that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in Daniel chapter 9 which passage foretells not only the coming but also the death of the Messiah for the benefit of others. He also wrote that Jesus had "done and suffered all things foretold of the Messiah, and that were to be accomplished and fulfilled by him, according to the scriptures." He also referenced Acts 17:2-4 in which Paul made a similar statement. All of these show that Mr. Locke fully believed in the atonement provided by the death of Christ, but even more direct is the fact that in his Adversaria Theologica, Locke relied on the explanation of the atonement found in Ephesians 1:7 to argue against the doctrine of the trinity.

Tom Van Dyke said...

WS, I believe Locke explains Jesus's suffering and death as a fulfillment of the old Testament prophesies, but skirts the Atonement question. That's my reading, and my reading of his "triumphal" rebuttal, that his skirting the Atonement is taken as a hollow, sophistic victory

A very clear and ingenuous proof, and let him enjoy it.

To OFT, somewhat the same:

Why would Locke give an alternative explanation rather than what the Scriptures say takes away our sins if he didn't believe it? Why not just quote the verses?

Had Locke believed the orthodox version, one would think he'd have stopped skirting the Atonement and give the bishop what he wanted. But Locke didn't.

And yes, the commonplace book [of 40 years before his death, mind you] indicates he rejected orthodoxy. Still, I maintain he was not antiTrinitarian like Jefferson, merely unconcerned about it, because in Locke's philsophy of mind [and religion], he would say that

Since no one can understand the Trinity

he [Locke] could not give assent to what he could not understand. He says this directly somewheres, I believe, perhaps in one of the Vindications. he does not deny the Trinity [like Jefferson and John Adams], but cannot give assent to it either for the same reason. In this way it's charged that he privileges "reason over faith," but it's really more that they must work hand in hand, that the articles of faith are also quite reasonable.



Jonathan Rowe said...

Mr. Forten,

If you read the work I've done over the past 8 or so years (all available online) you'll see I'm well aware of the different kinds of unitarianisms. I usually operate under the assumption that the unitarian genus of the late 18th Cen. breaks down into the Socinian and Arian species. Socinianism is shorthand for belief that Jesus is 100% human, not divine all in his nature, but still a savior on a divine mission. Arianism is shorthand for the notion that Jesus is divine but created by and subordinate to the Father. Locke may well have been an Arian (as most unitarians of that era were like Jonathan Mayhew in America). It's possible though that other species belong in that unitarian genus (I've seen it argued that modalism/sabellianism is a form of unitarianism; though I see it as neither unitarian nor Trinitarian).

Yes I'm aware of the Racovian Confession; and I think the error you make is thinking that the Socinians from the era we study follow the Racovian confession lock, stock and barrel.

If the Enlightenment influenced founding era unitarians were anything, it was anti-creedal. So no, they didn't trade their Nicene Creed for the Racovian confession. They traded the Nicene Creed for no creed and made up their own minds on these issues.

Though if you want to come up with a new name for folks who believed Jesus was 100% human, not divine at all in his nature, but still a Savior on a divine mission, but who didn't care about the exact words of the RC, that's fine with me. We are allowed to come up with new terms that we think better describe a theological dynamic of the past. That's what Dr. Frazer's book is all about.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"As for Mr. Frazer's test of Christianity, I denounced his test as arbitrary because it is based solely on human reasoning."

This assumes that the creeds and confessions of those sects are "based solely on human reasoning."

"Instead of turning to the Scriptures to see what Jesus Christ and His disciples taught as being necessary for one to be a Christian, Mr. Frazer based his test on the mere opinions of a limited selection of sects calling themselves by that name."

I answered this in my above curt remark when I noted "many orthodox argue every word of [these creeds] is provable with references to the Bible alone." Also I beg to differ with your description "limited selection of sects."

These were the Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists. If we break down the %s of the population to see which churches they were formally/nominally associated with, this list compiles the VAST majority of the population of America's Founding era. Granted, it wasn't exhaustive. And the Catholics made the list because their beliefs "fit" into the lowest common denominator for which Frazer argues. The Quakers, who were more of a presence than the Catholics in late 18th America could have thrown a monkey wrench into the thesis.

"Nor did he include in his test everything that each of these sects claims is necessary for salvation but rather limited his list solely to those areas in which his selected sects agreed with each other."

So what? He's trying to come up with a consensus definition.

"Thus, his list of doctrines provides us only with those things which Mr. Frazer has arbitrarily decided to be necessary for someone to be a Christian."

Again, there is nothing arbitrary about it. This is like saying CS Lewis's "Mere Christianity" is arbitrary.

"In order for his list not to be an arbitrary compilation, he would have to have followed the example of Mr. Locke and sought out exactly what Jesus Christ and His disciples taught to be necessary for salvation."

As far as I understand, those creeds from those churches he lists do exactly this. On a personal note, what Gregg Frazer the person living in the 21 Century believes about salvation is a somewhat different issue. But you can talk to him about it yourself. I won't speak for him. But I do know that he believes 4 of 5 of John Calvin's points (he doesn't believe in "L") and believes each of these, again, is proved by the Bible alone.

Tom Van Dyke said...

In fact, non-creedal Christianity becomes what may be one of the first "American religions" [if we cede unitarianism to the English], the Stone Campbell Movement:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restoration_Movement

"The Restoration Movement (also known as the American Restoration Movement or the Stone-Campbell Movement, Campbellites, and Campbellism) is a Christian movement that began on the American frontier during the Second Great Awakening (1790–1870) of the early 19th century. The movement sought to restore the church and "the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament. Members do not identify as Protestant but simply as Christian.


The Restoration Movement developed from several independent efforts to return to apostolic Christianity, but two groups, which independently developed similar approaches to the Christian faith, were particularly important to the development of the movement. The first, led by Barton W. Stone, began at Cane Ridge, Kentucky and called themselves simply "Christians". The second began in western Pennsylvania and Virginia (now West Virginia) and was led by Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell; they used the name "Disciples of Christ". Both groups sought to restore the whole Christian church on the pattern set forth in the New Testament, and both believed that creeds kept Christianity divided. In 1832 they joined in fellowship with a handshake.

Among other things, they were united in the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; that Christians should celebrate the Lord's Supper on the first day of each week; and that baptism of adult believers by immersion in water is a necessary condition for salvation. Because the founders wanted to abandon all denominational labels, they used the biblical names for the followers of Jesus. Both groups promoted a return to the purposes of the 1st-century churches as described in the New Testament. One historian of the movement has argued that it was primarily a unity movement, with the restoration motif playing a subordinate role."

Our Founding Truth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Our Founding Truth said...

WS,

I agree with Tom that Locke skirts the atonement. In addition, I consider Locke's comments on Christ's death or satisfying in a unitarian context, ignoring Christ's Eternal Priesthood found in the Book of Hebrews:

Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people..But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?..Whereupon neither the first testament was established without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

--Hebrews 9:6-7,11-14,18-22

The rest of Hebrews is more of the same. Until we find Locke affirming the Scriptural Blood Atonement, I consider him a unitarian.

John Witherspoon's use of Scottish Common Sense Philosophy at Princeton and Stanley Stanhope Smith after him was an attempt to mesh it with orthodox Christianity, which in turn has many historians claiming Witherspoon was inconsistent in his Lectures on Moral Philosophy.

wsforten said...

Jonathan,

I'm willing to consider the possibility that the Socinians of Locke's time held to different beliefs than the original Socinians. Do you have any documentation from those identifying themselves as such which supports that possibility?

In regards to Mr. Frazer's test of Christianity, the fact that he sought a consensus opinion does not overcome its arbitrariness. Regardless of the consensus, it remains possible that he included in his list of necessary doctrines some point of theology that is not truly necessary to be believed in order for someone to be a Christian, and it is possible that if he had included just one more sect in his consensus, his list would have had one doctrine less and thus been correct. This being the case, there is nothing which prevents the possibility that an even larger consensus would have narrowed his list down to just one or two doctrines which may perhaps have been the only one or two that are truly required for one to believe in order to be a Christian.

This leads us to two questions which must be asked of Mr. Frazer's list. First, we must ask why he was content to only include the vast majority of those calling themselves Christians in his list instead of every sect which claimed that title; and conversely, we must consider why it was that he included such a large majority instead of focusing on a small minority. After all, it is at least as likely that a small minority may have taught the correct doctrine of salvation as it is that the consensus produced by the majority contained all that was necessary to be believed to make one a Christian. This possibility is made even more significant when we consider that Mr. Frazer included sects within his consensus who would have rejected his listing of necessary doctrines as heretical. (The Catholic Church, for example, would have objected to his list because it does not contain the requirement of being baptized and receiving the Eucharist within the auspices of that particular sect.) The insufficiency of Mr. Frazer's reliance on the majority becomes even more apparent when we consider that Jesus taught that the way to destruction is broad whereas the way to life is narrow and that there would be few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

Each of these considerations only serves to reinforce the fact that Mr. Frazer's list is completely arbitrary. There can be no reason for him to have limited his consideration to the majority that he chose other than that he arbitrarily chose to do so. Likewise, there is no logical reason for him to have sought for the true definition of Christianity from as large of a consensus as he did except that he arbitrarily chose to look for it there. He included sects in his consensus who vehemently decried each other as heretical tools of the Devil solely because he arbitrarily chose for them to be included. There is no real reason to value Mr. Frazer's definition of a Christian above that of any other man.

wsforten said...

In order to determine if the founding fathers of America were Christians, it is necessary to utilize a definition which is based on fact rather than the mere whims of a single man. John Locke attempted to provide just such a definition in his Reasonableness of Christianity. Based on the recorded teachings of Jesus Christ and His immediate disciples, Locke defined Christianity as the belief that Jesus is the Messiah which was prophesied throughout the Old Testament, and he defined a Christian as one who accepts that belief and repents of all actions and beliefs which oppose it. According to this definition, many of the founding fathers that Mr. Frazer refuses to accept as Christians would indeed be so.

In order to include additional requirements to the definition of a Christian as Mr. Frazer does, it is necessary to demonstrate that those requirements were taught to be such by Jesus Christ and His disciples. It is not enough to simply find a statement of a particular doctrine within the Scriptures. The Bible teaches that Christians should be honest, that they should pay taxes and that they should give tithes to the church, but none of these things were proclaimed by the Savior to be necessary for salvation. It is quite possible that some of the items of belief which Mr. Frazer included in his list of beliefs necessary in order to make one a Christian were likewise never proclaimed by the Scriptures to be so necessary. Until it can be demonstrated that each of the beliefs in Mr. Frazer's list was specifically taught in the Scriptures as being necessary for salvation, his entire list will remain an arbitrary compilation of mere human reasoning.

wsforten said...

OFT,

This is now the fourth time that you have referred to John Locke rejecting the book of Hebrews. I am perplexed, however, with how to reconcile that claim with the fact that your opening post is a reference to Locke's Adversaria Theologica. Did you fail to notice that Locke referenced the book of Hebrews in that work? In considering the Deity of Christ, Mr. Locke wrote the following:

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.


Locke's reliance on Ephesians 1:7 and a passage from Hebrews in this place allows for only one of two conclusions. Either Locke's Adversaria Theologica is not a reliable source of information on Locke's beliefs, or he accepted the book of Hebrews and he affirmed the "Scriptural Blood Atonement" which was referenced in Ephesians 1:7. Your attempt to rely on Locke's Adversaria while still claiming that Locke rejected both the blood atonement and the book of Hebrews is inconsistent with the facts.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"In order to determine if the founding fathers of America were Christians, it is necessary to utilize a definition which is based on fact rather than the mere whims of a single man."

----

"John Locke attempted to provide just such a definition in his Reasonableness of Christianity."

I don't think you see the irony of these two sentences being back to back.

With that, you keep saying Dr. Frazer's is the arbitrary opinions of one man. I think you totally fail to make your case. Yes, the overall work is one person's novel thesis. But this part over which we argue is more or less based on a consensus understanding of "Christianity" that is strikingly similar to the historic orthodox Christianity that traces from the early Church Fathers who wrote the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds to more contemporary men like CS Lewis's "Mere Christianity" thesis.

As a non-traditional believer who is more or less open mindedly agnostic on theological issues I accept that this movement of "historic orthodoxy" for determining who is a "mere Christian," may be, in the end, wrong. But it's not arbitrary.

I also accept that Locke's test for "Christian" is more generous, in that it would potentially rope in Arians, Socinians, Modalists, Swedenborgs, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons who, like the Trinitarians, believe Jesus is Messiah.

You may (or not) be able to nail the Mormons on the monotheism issue. You may also be able to comb through these sects to see, after they passed the "Jesus is Messiah" prong, if they are kosher on your Locke's repentance issue. Locke may be more ecumenically generous than the "orthodox," but his ecumenical generosity has limits.

[Likewise if you are going to be such a stickler on issues like a. literal monotheism that would exclude Mormons, and b. the repentance issue, after someone, like a Mormon, passes the c. "Jesus is Messiah" prong, you may well be anathematizing John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and other Founders from "Christianity." Ben Franklin for instance, flirted with the idea that the Abrahamic God the Father we worship may well be a created being in charge of our solar system, created by some larger unknowable Providence. I don't think Jefferson or J. Adams believed "repentance" necessary for salvation. They believed good people were saved by their works, even if they didn't understand Jesus was Messiah; the bad temporarily punished, eventually saved.]

But that's the thing: This is just one man's opinion on how to properly interpret the Bible: John Locke's.

On the surface, you seem a traditional biblical believer who seems to have concluded that the non-identifiably orthodox John Locke has unlocked the key to biblical Christianity.

I wish you the best of luck in trying to hit and run with that thesis. I don't think you will be very successful with it, however. In my opinion, John Locke is rightly viewed by a consensus of Locke scholars as someone who was liberal and rationalistic for his day and who wasn't publicly kosher enough for historic orthodox biblical Christianity, a heterodox Enlightenment rationalistic Christian.

I think you, like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, could get in trouble with the forces of religious correctness (the heresy hunters) in Christian right circles if they understood what you really believe.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Re the Enlightenment era Socinians, I'll give you four big names of divines whom I and other more important scholars term "Socinians": Joseph Priestley is probably the most notable. Others include William Bentley, James Freeman, and Theophilus Lindsey. While I have seen them profess admiration for Faustus Socinus, I haven't seen any evidence that they thought it was necessary to follow every word of the Racovian Confession. I have also seen evidence that the "unitarians" and some Trinitarians of this era didn't care at all for creeds and confessions. I have seen some evidence that they positively HATED creeds and confessions.

Maybe later I will do a comprehensive blog post on this. But right now, it's too much work.

[You can look at James H. Hutson's quote book, on pages 79-81 for some of the evidence.]

Most scholars agree that Arianism was more common than Socinianism anyway. That THAT was the form of unitarianism that prevailed in America and Great Britain during this time period.

I also think, reinforcing Tom's above point, some of these Founders weren't sure whether they were Arians or Socinians: They just knew they rejected the Trinity and its cognate doctrines. I've tried to turn over every corner of John Adams' theology. And I know for sure that he was a lifelong fervent unitarian who bitterly mocked the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement. But I'm not sure whether he was Arian or Socinian. Or whether he knew whether he was Arian or Socinian. He just knew he didn't believe in the Trinity, but endorsed a unitarian view of God.

Our Founding Truth said...

WS wrote: 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
.

The problem is Locke wrote this against the Deity of Christ and atonement, not in support of it. Jesus is not unsatisfied due to His Divine nature.

Locke: And p. 109, “He that hath incurred death for his own transgression, cannot lay down his life for another, as our Saviour professes he did.” This, methinks, sounds something like “Christ’s purchasing life for us by his death.”

Again, this is the unitarian way of salvation, not the vicarious atonement of a Priest in the Jewish system. Christ's death did not satisfy, His sinless Blood did.

You write: Locke relied on the explanation of the atonement found in Ephesians 1:7 to argue against the doctrine of the trinity.

How could he argue against the Trinity affirming the unitarian atonement of forgiveness through mercy?


Tom Van Dyke said...

Was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a "Christian?"

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2658033/posts

Does any historian want to say he wasn't? This is my problem with Gregg's thesis, and the whole question, really. Perhaps theologically relevant to some, but not the historian.

"The orthodox attempt to explain the divinity of Jesus in terms of an inherent metaphysical substance within him seems to me quite inadequate. To say that the Christ, whose example of living we are bid to follow, is divine in an ontological sense is actually harmful and detrimental. To invest this Christ with such supernatural qualities makes the rejoinder: "Oh, well, he had a better chance for that kind of life than we can possibly have ..."

So that the orthodox view of the divinity of Christ is in my mind quite readily denied. The significance of the divinity of Christ lies in the fact that his achievement is prophetic and promissory for every other true son of man who is willing to submit his will to the will and spirit of God. Christ was to be only the prototype of one among many brothers. The appearance of such a person, more divine and more human than any other, and in closest unity at once with God and man, is the most significant and hopeful event in human history. This divine quality or this unity with God was not something thrust upon Jesus from above, but it was a definite achievement through the process of moral struggle and self-abnegation."


Our Founding Truth said...

WS,

You write: Until it can be demonstrated that each of the beliefs in Mr. Frazer's list was specifically taught in the Scriptures as being necessary for salvation, his entire list will remain an arbitrary compilation of mere human reasoning.

Is belief in Biblical Inerrancy necessary to be a Christian?

Our Founding Truth said...

King: So that the orthodox view of the divinity of Christ is in my mind quite readily denied. The significance of the divinity of Christ lies in the fact that his achievement is prophetic and promissory for every other true son of man who is willing to submit his will to the will and spirit of God. Christ was to be only the prototype of one among many brothers. The appearance of such a person, more divine and more human than any other, and in closest unity at once with God and man, is the most significant and hopeful event in human history. This divine quality or this unity with God was not something thrust upon Jesus from above, but it was a definite achievement through the process of moral struggle and self-abnegation.

Sounds like King was a Socinian.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I do want to insert here that unitarians had reservations about the Epistles, and didn't necessarily accord Paul the same theological authority as Jesus in the Gospels.

[In fact Luther cut the "deutero-canonical" books of the Catholic Bible--the Reformation put the Bible itself up to scrutiny.]

See also Locke

http://www.teleiosministries.com/pdfs/Misc/understanding-st-paul's-epistles-by-john-locke.pdf

I'm out for a few days. Again, thx for the great discussion, and Merry Christmas.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ooops. Trip cancelled. Here I am again.

This is what I meant by

To flesh out Jon's argument that the Enlightenment mentality's approach to Christianity was that of using reason to penetrate the Scriptures, that's also the core of the Reformation--the rejection of the Roman church's "magisterium"---the exclusive authority to interpret the Bible. Luther makes "every man a minister" ...

Even as a good Protestant, Locke would not accept any "catechism" lock, stock, and barrel, Papish or Racovian! Hence at the end of his life, the (amateur theologian) Locke tackles the Epistles for himself. Neither Luther or Calvin has more authority than any other man to interpret scripture.


Here in Locke's own words, that exact argument:


"For if I blindly and with an Implicit
Faith take the Pope's Interpretation of the Sacred Scripture, without examining whether it
be Christ's Meaning, it is the Pope I believe in, and not in Christ; it is his Authority I rest
upon; it is what he says I embrace: For what it is Christ says, I neither know nor concern
my self. It is the same thing when I set up any other Man in Christ's place, and make him
the Authentic Interpreter of Sacred Scripture to my self. He may possibly understand the
Sacred Scripture as right as any Man, but I shall do well to examine my self whether that
which I do not know, nay (which in the way I take) I can never know, can justify me in
making my self his Disciple, instead of Jesus Christ’s, who of Right is alone and ought to
be my only Lord and Master and it will be no less Sacrilege in me to substitute to my self
any other in his room, to be a Prophet, to me, than to be my King or Priest."

Our Founding Truth said...

I also agree with Jon's argument that reason was the yardstick by which many Enlightenment Philosophers measured the validity of the Scriptures. What else could it be that they used to measure its validity? The fact the general consensus considered the miraculous above reason doesn't explain why so many early 18th century intellectuals rejected the mysteries in the Bible.

Let's not forget there were a few orthodox intellectuals including George Berkeley, who contributed greatly to the educational pursuits during the Enlightenment and influenced Joseph Priestley among others.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Do not credit the Enlightenment for what is the Reformation.

BTW, Locke defends miracles.

A Discourse of Miracles
(London, 1701)

http://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/347jlmir.html

His argument is echoed later by John Adams, that God empowered Moses and Jesus to perform miracles to prove the divine authority of their teachings being God's Word.

Jefferson, Ethan Allan, and Paine dismissed miracles, but few others did. In fact one of my problems with Gregg Frazer's use of "rationalist" to describe the Founders is that "rationalism" is specifically used for the later 19th century German school of Biblical criticism that came to bleed the miracles out of the Bible, as Jefferson did.

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12652a.htm

But this "rationalism" was not a significant factor in America, nor in unitarianism as a movement; unitarianism was fine with miracles. See also

http://www.niu.edu/~jdye/miracles.html

wsforten said...

Jonathan,

I must confess that you are correct. I completely fail to see the irony of claiming that we should develop a definition of Christianity which is based on fact rather than whim and also claiming that John Locke attempted to provide such a definition. Are you claiming that the definition of Christianity should not be based on the actual teachings of Jesus Christ and His immediate disciples or that John Locke did not base his definition on the actual teachings of Christ and His disciples or that a definition of Christianity which is based on those teachings is still whimsical and arbitrary?

If you mean to imply the first of those three, then I would ask you to explain what measure is to be used to determine if a particular definition of Christianity is correct. If you mean to imply the middle option, then I would ask you to show me which statements contained in Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity contradict the teachings of Jesus and His disciples. And if you mean to imply the latter of the three, then I would repeat the question from the first option. How can we determine which definition of Christianity is to be preferred above another?

You have admitted that the definition which Mr. Frazer uses may be an incorrect definition. I agree. You also claim that his definition is a consensus definition to which I also agree. If we were to combine these two points of agreement, we would arrive at the conclusion that it is quite possible for the consensus definition of Christianity to be wrong. This is a point in which we both seem to agree. The question is what should we do with this agreement? Are we to simply shrug off this fact and rely on a potentially flawed definition without ever seeking the truth? If you are content to do so, then that is where our agreement on this point must come to an end.

Let me here point out that I do not believe that "John Locke has unlocked the key to biblical Christianity." The key to biblical Christianity is the Bible, and I agree with Locke only insomuch as he agrees with the Bible. I recognize that there are areas of his Reasonableness of Christianity which are not consistent with the teachings of Scripture, and I am more than willing to decry and reject these portions of his argument. As far as I can tell, however, his method for determining who is and who is not a Christian is consistent with the teachings of the Bible. It is possible that I am mistaken in this conclusion, and if you know of any inconsistency between Locke's definition of a Christian and the definition which we discover from the Scriptures, I would be very appreciative if you would share it.

I am pleased to see you admit that there is a difference between Arians and Socinians in spite of the fact that both groups denied the doctrine of the Trinity, and I would like to learn more of your position on this distinction. What measure do you use to determine whether someone is an Arian as opposed to being a Socinian?

Our Founding Truth said...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Jonathan Rowe said...

WS:

To answer your first question: There's what the Bible, a big thick complicated book, says on its face and there's what interpretative authorities help you understand what the Bible says.

I've long observed debates between and among sects and seen such replies as "that's not what the Bible teaches, that's what the Catholic Church teaches." OR "TULIP is a doctrine of man (John Calvin), not God (the Bible)," with the response, "every single letter of TULIP is provable by Sola Scriptura."

As an open minded agnostic, my stance is to read the Bible for what it says, observe the various plausible and implausible meanings, and understand what different interpretative authorities teach.

Regarding these issues, there are better arguments and poorer arguments. But there is no way, on this side of reality, to determine which of the better arguments are ultimately right. I think that's where faith kicks in. A good Catholic and a good reformed thinker can argue one another off to a Mexican standoff based on facts and logic alone.

I like John Locke a lot. But it seems to me, he was for his time, and to a great extent today a heterodox thinker; so you are opening yourself to the argument: You aren't arguing Bible; you are arguing "John Locke," or the doctrines of man.

Frazer's thesis in his book has the weight of historic orthodox Christianity behind him. It still may be wrong. But to an audience of traditional believers, I think you will seem more open to the "doctrines of man" critique than Frazer.

In terms of which side may have the ultimate truth, that's above my pay-grade at the moment.

And no, I'm not particularly interested right now in arguing how Locke's "The Reasonableness of Christianity" contradicts the Bible. As already noted, I see Locke as a heterodox, liberal thinker. I have no problem with such thinking. I'll let other argue how such thinking offends traditional biblical thinking.

Jonathan Rowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Rowe said...

Re Arians and Socinians. I think the first step is to see what the thinker himself has to say. Some pretty clearly lay their cards on the table. Richard Price was an Arian; Joseph Priestley was a Socinian. They may define themselves as such. Or when describing how Jesus relates to God they may put themselves in a box without naming the box (self identifying as "Socinian" or "Arian"). So if they say Jesus was Messiah on a divine mission, but 100% man, not divine at all in his nature, that's a Socinian. If they say Jesus is not God, but the Son of God. But the Son is still firstborn of creation, created before angels and men. Or in some way indicate that Jesus is divine in his nature, but created by and subordinate to the Father, that's an Arian. In this sense Jesus is lower than God but higher than the highest archangel.

As noted above, some unitarians may not have been sure whether they were Arians or Socinians; they just were sure they didn't believe the Trinity.

wsforten said...

You have twice made the claim that I am a follower of John Locke rather than a follower of the Bible. Setting aside for a moment the error in this claim which I have already pointed out, let me ask you this question. Would you still consider me a follower of John Locke if I rejected everything that he wrote except for a single point?

Jonathan Rowe said...

WS,

You come here on this post about John Locke citing Locke as an authority on how to interpret the bible. You come across as a follower of John Locke as I'm sure Dr. Frazer comes across as a follower of John Calvin. Frazer says he follows the Bible not Calvin and as evidence for that notes that he believes in 4 of 5 of Calvin's points.

Jonathan Rowe said...

As to whether you with your Lockean influenced understanding of particularly disputed biblical texts are ultimately correct or whether Frazer's understandings (his personal faith understanding or the one in his book, which are different) are correct, as someone who is agnostic, I can't say other than there are as many potentially different understandings of the Bible as there are people.


I don't think you've shown anything here to demonstrate based on what the bible says (facts) plus logic that you are right and Frazer is wrong.

Our Founding Truth said...

WS wrote: It is possible that I am mistaken in this conclusion, and if you know of any inconsistency between Locke's definition of a Christian and the definition which we discover from the Scriptures, I would be very appreciative if you would share it.

WS,

In general, determining what the Scriptures actually say is not a simple thing to do or get a consensus on. I'm in seminary right now, so I can possibly get a more exhaustive perspective from Evangelical circles as to what the orthodox view is compared to what Locke wrote. The quote above is inconsistent because Locke skirted some fundamentals of Christianity.

If Locke left out some of these essentials (Deity of Christ, Biblical Inerrancy, Christ's Priesthood) pertaining to the person of Christ, would he still be a Christian? How can Locke be neutral on the essentials if he says that "Jesus as Messiah is all you need to believe to be a Christian?" That isn't neutral. That is dogmatic.

For instance, Greg Forster, who has written a book on Locke,
http://books.google.com/books/about/John_Locke_s_Politics_of_Moral_Consensus.html?id=AFZPLgOzwbcC

says Locke believed in the atonement:

In the Reasonableness, Locke describes Jesus as a “mediator between God and man” (paragraph 233) and says that Jesus’ mission was “laying down his life for others” (paragraph 176). In private papers, he describes Jesus’ death as a “payment” for human sin that “satisfied” God’s justice, “a full and satisfactory ransom for our sins” (quoted by John Higgins-Biddle in the introduction to the 1999 Clarendon edition of the Reasonableness, p. lxxii).
http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2012/08/08/david-bartons-errors/

That is all the words from Locke on the Vicarious Atonement. There was no need to skirt the atonement because it's vital and all over the Scriptures.

Forster says "Locke describes Jesus as a “mediator between God and man” (paragraph 233)." In all honesty, Forster uses the wrong context. Locke says:

Which, in short, is, that Jesus is the only true Messiah, neither is there any other person, but he, given to be a mediator between God and man; in whose name we may ask, and hope for salvation.

Locke is only referring to belief for salvation in general, not the atonement for sin.

Next, Forster writes "Jesus’ mission was “laying down his life for others” (paragraph 176)."

Again, the context is not the atonement but the resurrection:

For this laying down his life for others, our Saviour tells us, John x. 17, “Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.”

Forster then quotes John Higgins-Biddle in the introduction with no sources. Furthermore, never does Locke use any of the terms Forster claims in the Reasonableness, Vindication, or Second Vindication.

wsforten said...

Jonathan (and OFT),

I was under the impression that we were discussing John Locke and the possibility that he might have been a Unitarian or perhaps even a Socinian. I have not contested any claim that he might have been a Unitarian (although I am somewhat doubtful of the value of notes from a commonplace book in determining an author's final position). I have contested the claim that Locke was a Socinian, and I have pointed out two fundamental Socinian doctrines that he rejected. I have also presented the claim that Locke's definition of Christianity is an accurate representation of the biblical doctrine of salvation. In all of this, I focused primarily on the writings of John Locke because I was under the impression that they were the topic of the conversation.

In regards to Gregg Frazer, I have, to this point, discussed his book only insofar as it contrasts with the writings of Mr. Locke. I have pointed out that Locke's approach to defining Christianity is to be preferred over Mr. Frazer's approach for the simple reason that Locke addresses what Jesus and His disciples actually taught whereas Mr. Frazer only concerns himself with what various men think that Jesus and His disciples taught. I was not aware that you were expecting me to provide a biblical refutation of Mr. Frazer's position, but it is simple enough to do so.

Mr. Frazer listed ten doctrines that he claims must be believed in order for someone to be a Christian. This requirement is a direct contradiction of the teachings of the Bible. I John 5:1 states: "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God," and II John 1:7 proclaims: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." In addition, we discover in John 20:31 that the Gospel of John was "written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." Each of these verses presents the fact that there is only a single point of doctrine that must be believed in order for someone to become a Christian. The only required belief for Christianity is the belief that Jesus is the Christ.

Of course, this single point of doctrine has some necessary implications. For example, to believe that Jesus is the Christ is not just an acknowledgement that He was someone special. The name of Christ is a very particular name, for we read in John 1:41: "We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ." Thus, the belief that Jesus is the Christ is the belief that Jesus is the Messiah which is to say that He is the deliverer promised by the God of the Old Testament, and this implies that in order to believe that Jesus is the Christ, it is first necessary to believe in the existence of the God of the Old Testament. This necessity is spelled out for us in Hebrews 11:6 where we read: "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

wsforten said...

This belief that Jesus is the Messiah and the necessarily implied belief in the existence of the God of the Old Testament is the only belief that is ever mentioned in the Scriptures as being necessary for salvation. According to Mr. Frazer, it is also necessary for one to believe in the virgin birth in order to be a Christian, but there is not a single instance recorded in Scripture in which Jesus or any of His disciples ever even mentioned the virgin birth in any public or private discourse. In fact, the virgin birth plays such a minor role that it is completely ignored in two of the four Gospels. I am curious as to whether Mr. Frazer would take that oversight as an admission of heresy by Mark and John, but aside from that, the scarcity of references to the virgin birth demonstrates beyond doubt that it is not necessary for a man to believe this doctrine in order to be a Christian. The only doctrine that is necessary to be believed in order to make one a Christian is that Jesus is the Messiah.

Our Founding Truth said...
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Our Founding Truth said...
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Our Founding Truth said...

WS,

You left out repentance as a condition for your scheme:

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

--Mark 1:14-15

The Bible is to be interpreted in the context of the entire revelation, not out of context piece by piece. That's what you did with 1 Jn 5:1. Yes, Christians are to believe Jesus is the Messiah, but not discard the rest. John records Jesus claiming He is God, calling Himself the self-existent one "I am" using the exact name He gave Moses at the burning bush:

Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him.

--John 5:57-59

The Jews took up stones because Jesus claimed He was God:

Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

--John 10:32-33

By the way, did you know after 1 jn 5:1, he writes what you quoted and then the Trinity:

Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

--1 John 5:5-7.

One of Locke's best friends Isaac Newton, denied those verses. You also write:

Each of these verses presents the fact that there is only a single point of doctrine that must be believed in order for someone to become a Christian.

Jesus instituted communion representing the Atonement.

After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

--1 Corinthians 11:25

As to Frazer's list, it's no doubt better than Locke's.

wsforten said...

OFT,

Repentance is an action not a belief. I agree that it is necessary, and I explained as much to Jonathan in another discussion. That is why he referred to my "repentance issue" in this discussion. The point that I was focusing on was the doctrine which must be believed in order to make one a Christian not the action which must be taken as a result of that belief.

I agree with you that Jesus claimed to be God and that the Bible teaches that He was the second member of the Trinity, but belief in these two doctrines is never mentioned as a requirement for salvation. I accept these two doctrines as true just as much as I accept the doctrine of the virgin birth, but belief in these two is no more a requirement for salvation than that one is. I John 5:7 is simply a state of fact. I agree with the fact being stated, but there is nothing in this passage which indicates that my agreement with it is any more necessary for my salvation than my agreement with the fact that David slew Goliath.

In like manner, I agree with you that Jesus instituted communion, but He did not require participation in it as a necessary component of salvation. He said "This do in remembrance of me" and not "This do for the remission of sins." Do you believe that it is necessary for men to wash each others feet in order to become Christians? This is a practice that Jesus instituted at the same time that He instituted communion, for in John 13:14 we read: "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet." And yet, there is not a single instance in Scripture in which washing someone else's feet is listed as a requirement for salvation, nor is it included in Mr. Frazer's list which you claim to be better than Locke's. Neither is there any passage which states that communion is necessary for someone to become a Christian.

I noticed that you made no mention of the virgin birth. Do you think that the failure of Mark and John to include such an essential belief in their Gospels was a sign of heresy? And what of the failure of Jesus and His disciples to ever once mention His virgin birth in any of their public or private discourses? Does this oversight prevent them from being Christians? And if Jesus and His disciples never mentioned His virgin birth, then what must we conclude about those who believed everything that they taught but had no knowledge of that miracle? Can ignorance of the virgin birth prevent someone from being a Christian who believes every word that Jesus spoke?

Jonathan Rowe said...

WS:

Well you probably will hear from Dr. Frazer in the future where he can speak for himself.

We've covered a lot of these issues over the past years and I think the level of intense scrutiny his work/our work has received is helpful in an iron sharpens iron sense.

With that, his thesis received a damned if you do, damned if you don't level of scrutiny, so let me clarify something that I've already alluded to.

WHAT DR. FRAZER believes about salvation differs from the standard his thesis argues on late 18th Century American "Christianity." He's been accused of using his personal salvation standard as a proxy for determining who is a "Christian" in his thesis.

When this accusation made made, the accusers argued using what he understood as "God's definition" of Christianity was not appropriate for historical study.

But the accusers were wrong. He was doing "history," not PERSONAL SALVATION. In doing history, it makes sense he'd use an historical consensus standard for determining LATE 18th CENTURY CHRISTIANITY.

Frazer uses what he understands as "God's definition" of Christianity for his personal beliefs. Frazer's personal definition (which he believes derives from the pages of the Bible alone) is STRICTER than the test he outlines in his book. That is, folks who may be "Christians" for late 18th Century America purposes (orthodox Catholics and Anglicans) may NOT be "Christians" according to Frazer's understanding of what the Bible teaches because, for instance, they are not "born again" or they otherwise teach doctrines that are deal breakers according to the way he understands the Bible.

Jonathan Rowe said...
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Jonathan Rowe said...

WS,

I also doubt Locke was a Socinian. I think it's likeliest that he was some kind of Arian (like Samuel Clarke; I think Newton may have been too).

But I don't believe you have shown (perhaps you can show me where I missed this) that Locke denied the essential Socinian doctrine (no, not some obscure passage from the Racovian Confession): that Jesus is not at all divine in his nature. What is your evidence that Locke rejected the notion that Jesus, the Messiah, might be 100% man, not divine at all in his nature, but nonetheless, a "Savior" sent from God on a divine mission?

Even if Locke is not a Socinian (which, again, I doubt he was), do you assert his salvation scheme is closed to Socinians who believe Jesus is the Messiah?

Our Founding Truth said...

WS,

We disagree as to your methodology.

Since the Scriptures say not doing the right thing (believing) is sin, if Locke were truly born again, the helper (HS) would convict him to believe who Christ truly is from what He wrote, therefore, even if Locke was neutral, he was not neutral on the essentials of Christianity.

As to the virgin birth, it is clearly taught in Scripture. If someone is made clearly aware of it, there can be no ignorance of it, and God will convict assent to what He wrote.

It appears from historic Christianity, there can be neutrality only on non-essentials not pertaining to the person of Christ; end times, tribulation, etc.

I believe Gregg Frazer would agree.

Our Founding Truth said...

I found this analogy on the atonement and it makes sense to me. Atonement means reconciliation in the Dictionary. If Atonement is how we are reconciled to God, no one can have the reconciliation unless it is accepted. I can be thankful all I want, but I won't ever receive it.

This makes sense because God says salvation is a gift (Rom 6:23, Jn 4). The only way to receive a gift is to accept the gift. If my mom buys me a coat, it's not mine until I accept it.

The Atonement must be accepted or I am not reconciled to God. Further, this is an interesting verse:

"I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins."

--John 8:24.

The King James and New King James, which means the Received Text, has the "he" italicized, which means it's not in the original Greek; the translators added it.

The verse actually reads "unless you believe that I am you shall die in your sins." That's pretty clear to me.

Also, I found a statement by Locke that appears to rule out he was a Socinian, but I'm not sure:

This may serve a little to explain the immortality of the sons of God, who are in this like their Father, made after his image and likeness. But that our Saviour was so, he himself farther declares, John x. 18, where speaking of his life, he says, “No one taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” Which he could not have had, if he had been a mortal man, the son of a man, of the seed of Adam; or else had by any transgression forfeited his life.

--Reasonableness

wsforten said...

That's an excellent quote, OFT, and I agree that it seems to be inconsistent with Socinian doctrine. I was reading Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration yesterday and came across yet another statement which demonstrates that he was not a Socinian:

Would an Israelite that had worshipped Baal upon the command of his king have been in any better condition because somebody had told him that the king ordered nothing in religion upon his own head, nor commanded anything to be done by his subjects in divine worship but what was approved by the counsel of priests, and declared to be of divine right by the doctors of their Church? If the religion of any Church become, therefore, true and saving, because the head of that sect, the prelates and priests, and those of that tribe, do all of them, with all their might, extol and praise it, what religion can ever be accounted erroneous, false, and destructive? I am doubtful concerning the doctrine of the Socinians, I am suspicious of the way of worship practised by the Papists, or Lutherans; will it be ever a jot safer for me to join either unto the one or the other of those Churches, upon the magistrate's command, because he commands nothing in religion but by the authority and counsel of the doctors of that Church?

Regardless of whatever else Locke may or may not have been, it is rather apparent that he was not a Socinian, and I am glad that we have reached somewhat of an agreement on that point.

I must continue to disagree with you, however, on the necessity of believing the virgin birth in order to be a Christian. No, that is not entirely accurate. In this instance, it is you who disagrees with yourself on the necessity of this belief, for you prefaced your statement regarding that necessity with the qualification of "if someone is made clearly aware of it" which, of course, implies that someone may be a Christian without believing in the virgin birth if he has never been made clearly aware of it. If someone may be a Christian and still be ignorant of, and thus not believe in, the virgin birth of Christ, then it is incorrect to claim that belief in the virgin birth is necessary for salvation.

In addition to your own disagreement to your position, I could list the disagreement of the Apostle John who wrote at the close of his Gospel:

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Thus, according to the Apostle John, there were many things that Jesus did which are not recorded in his Gospel but which were done as signs confirming His teachings in the presence of His disciples and which must therefore have been things "pertaining to the person of Christ." Nonetheless, these things were not recorded in John's Gospel because they were not necessary to be believed in order for someone to believe on Jesus and have life through His name. If the things written in John's Gospel are sufficient to cause people to "believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" and to grant life to those who so believe, then nothing which is left out of this Gospel can be said to be necessary to that belief. And yet we find that John's Gospel does not make any mention whatsoever of the virgin birth. Thus we must conclude that either John was a heretic writing a false Gospel, or the belief in the virgin birth of Christ is not necessary in order to make someone a Christian.

wsforten said...

In regards to the atonement, I don't believe that I have ever denied the necessity of that particular belief. There are several places in the Scriptures in which this was taught as a necessary action of the Messiah.

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. - Matthew 16:21

And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. - Mark 8:31

And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought. - Mark 9:12

Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. - Luke 9:22

But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. - Luke 17:25

Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. - Acts 17:3


Thus, I have no contention with the claim that a belief in the atonement is implied in the belief that Jesus is the Messiah and therefore necessary for salvation.

In regards to John 8:24, let me point out that the absence of a personal pronoun in the Greek text is not really that significant. The conjugations of that language were such that personal pronouns were often implied rather than expressly written. An excellent example of this can be seen in verses 44-47 of that same chapter of John.

Jonathan Rowe said...
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Jonathan Rowe said...

It also depends on the kind of "Atonement" to which we refer. Arians, like Jonathan Mayhew (and perhaps/probably Locke) rejected the Trinity and Incarnation. Mayhew believed in an UNORTHODOX understanding of the atonement. He didn't believe an Infinite God (2nd Person in the Trinity) sacrificed Himself to satisfy the justice of God (the 1st Person in the Trinity).

If you don't believe Jesus an Incarnate God, it stands to reason that you can't believe in the orthodox understanding of the Atonement.

The orthodox believe in order to properly satisfy God's justice Jesus must be an Incarnate God.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Locke may have rejected a view of the Atonement that some Socinians hold and endorsed an unorthodox Arian view of the Atonement. But I still don't think belief in Atonement necessarily goes with claims that Jesus is Messiah or that Locke endorsed the notion that you have to put your faith in some kind of "work" that Jesus the Messiah did on the cross for salvation.

There is a view of Jesus associated with some unitarians that Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the man, but not the "Christ" saved man through his perfect moral example. And as it were all good people are "Christians," even if they didn't consciously understand themselves as Christians.

I'm not sure how this fits with Locke; but it sure fits with Priestley and Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin.

Our Founding Truth said...

WS,

There is a contention with your and Locke's position. You assume Locke accepted the gift, but you don't know, unless you can present words of that acceptance. If the Atonement is not believed in, according to the Bible, you aren't reconciled to God from sin. And Locke never affirmed the reconciliation, by accepting the gift of salvation, nor did he affirm the Deity of Christ, and possibly Biblical Inerrancy.

I'm through and fully convinced on this point.

As to the Virgin Birth, It is taught in Scripture, with God working differently in every person and in various times. God will eventually convict a Christian of that fact.



Our Founding Truth said...

Jon,

I agree with you about the nature of God Locke adhered to. The evidence points to Locke's rejecting the Trinity, writing other people invented the Trinity after Nicea, which is not true.

This means he was influenced by the unitarians because he obviously ignored Tertullian et al,.

WS can always assume, or claim Locke was neutral about the nature of God, but not the gift of salvation.

Jonathan Rowe said...

It's interesting that our discussion of Locke's theology tracks not only Locke's argument with Edwards but also what more important and distinguished scholars have argued.

I found this to be helpful:

http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/35102-vindications-of-the-reasonableness-of-christianity/

This is what I get out of our long discussion:

1. Locke likeliest was an Arian.
2. As it were Locke may have rejected both Trinitarian and Socinian doctrine.
3. Whatever his differences with Trinitarians and Socinians, Locke's very minimal "Jesus is Messiah" standard excludes NEITHER from the "Christian" label.

wsforten said...

Jonathan,

There may very well be many Christians who think that Jesus could only satisfy God if He were God, but I am not aware of any passage of Scripture which teaches as much. The only thing that the Bible teaches was necessary in order for Christ to sacrifice Himself in our place was that He be without any sin of His own, for as Locke correctly noted, “he that hath incurred death for his own transgression, cannot lay down his life for another, as our Saviour professes he did.” The necessity of Christ's sinlessness was foreshadowed in the temple sacrifices of ancient Israel, and it is the focus of the ninth chapter of Hebrews where we read:

For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

This doctrine is reinforced throughout the New Testament in passages such as:

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. - II Corinthians 5:21

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. - I Peter 1:19-19

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. - I Peter 2:22

And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. - I John 3:5


Thus we see that Christ's sinlessness was necessary in order for Him to sacrifice Himself for our sins. It does not necessarily follow from this, however, that Jesus had to be God incarnate in order to be such a sacrifice. I am fully persuaded that He is God, but I do not see anywhere in the Scriptures that teaches this to be a necessary requirement of Him becoming our sacrifice.

You also mentioned the possibility that Jesus could have been the Messiah, a man, but not the "Christ." This is an improper understanding of the word "Christ," for, as I have already mentioned, the Bible tells us directly that the name "Christ" is simply a Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. There is no distinction between the two. Therefore, when Jesus and His disciples taught that "Christ must needs have suffered," they were teaching that this was a necessary component of the role of the Messiah. I realize that there are some who teach differently, but they do so contrary to the Scriptures.

That Locke had a scriptural view of the atonement can be seen in the quotes that I provided in my first post as well as the one which OFT has most recently provided.

wsforten said...

OFT,

I must admit to some confusion. I was under the impression that you were defending Mr. Frazer's claim that belief in the virgin birth is necessary in order for someone to become a Christian, but your most recent statement contradicts that position, for you wrote that "God will eventually convict a Christian of that fact." If it is true that God will eventually convict a Christian of the fact of the virgin birth, then a belief in the virgin birth cannot be a pre-requisite for becoming a Christian.

I am also curious as to how this eventual conviction is to take place. Are you claiming that at some undefined time after a man has become a Christian, God will instantaneously insert into this man's mind an unswerving conviction of a truth to which he had not previously assented? Or perhaps you mean to imply that God will eventually confront him with this truth and show him from the Scriptures that it is correct. If you mean the former, then I beg of you to pray of God that He would implant such an unswerving conviction in my mind of the truth of your statement. If you meant the latter, then I ask you to explain what would become of a Christian who upon being shown Isaiah 7:14 did not believe that passage to be a prophecy concerning Jesus until after he had read both Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:27.

Would this Christian cease to be a Christian during the interim? And what if he were to die after reading Matthew but before reading Luke and being thereby convinced? Would he die as a Christian or as a heathen? And what if, after reading all three passages, he remained unconvinced until he verified that the Hebrew word "almah" actually referred to a virgin and not just to a young woman as is often taught? Would he cease to be a Christian during this time of study?

But aside from all of this, the fact still remains that you have been unable to present a single passage of Scripture to prove that the belief in the virgin birth is necessary in order to make one a Christian. Nor have you answered any of my questions in regards to the absence of this doctrine from the Gospels of Mark and John and the teachings of Jesus and His disciples. Were Mark and John and Jesus and His other disciples heretics for not including this doctrine in their discourses?

Jonathan Rowe said...

"That Locke had a scriptural view of the atonement" is an entirely debatable proposition.

wsforten said...

That is very possible Jonathan, but I confess that I cannot respond to a debate that has not been initiated. Would you mind pointing out exactly how John Locke's view of the atonement differed from that presented in Scripture?

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'll let others argue the proposition that if you don't have an orthodox view of the Atonement, you don't have a "scriptural" view of said doctrine.

My position, as noted above, is there is no *one* right way to interpret scripture (unless one gives a particular magisterial authority the "right" to have the final say on said matters); though there are sounder and less sound understandings.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"You also mentioned the possibility that Jesus could have been the Messiah, a man, but not the 'Christ.' This is an improper understanding of the word 'Christ,' for, as I have already mentioned, the Bible tells us directly that the name 'Christ' is simply a Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah."

This may well be. I was thinking of unitarians (of the Socinian variety; though they may not speak for all or even most Socinians) who stress Jesus' humanness by referring to him as "Jesus of Nazareth" (as Franklin and Jefferson did!).

They believed Jesus a "Savior" -- who saved man through his perfect moral example.

Whether this even qualifies as an "Atonement" is debatable. I did see one source terming this concept "THE EXAMPLE THEORY OF THE ATONEMENT."

However, Joseph Priestley who believed this and who profoundly influenced Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin, rejected the concept of "Atonement," terming it one of his "Corruptions of Christianity." (The others being Original Sin, the Trinity, the Incarnation and Plenary Inspiration of Scripture.)

Tom Van Dyke said...

You may enjoy this. 1825, Samuel Barrett:

http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/100-scriptural-arguments-for-the-unitarian-faith

Dr. Frazer is an interested observer, and I can join him in that the sects that didn't recognize his 10 rules for Christianity aren't orthodox or normative.

However, as disinterested observer, to me unitarianism is just one more sect of Christianity, specifically Protestantism, and the theological hairsplitting is just another intramural battle between its 30,000+ [!] sects.

Our Founding Truth said...

WS,

I didn't comment on the virgin birth until you mentioned it. It is impossible for a true believer to reject the virgin birth found in Scripture. The below is from the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, of which I agree:

Matthew tells us that before Mary and Joseph “came together,” Mary “was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” [Matthew 1:18] This, Matthew explains, fulfilled what Isaiah promised: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name ‘Immanuel,’ which translated means ‘God with Us’.” [Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14]

Luke provides even greater detail, revealing that Mary was visited by an angel who explained that she, though a virgin, would bear the divine child: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child shall be called the Son of God.” [Luke 1:35]

Even if the Virgin Birth was taught by only one biblical passage, that would be sufficient to obligate all Christians to the belief. We have no right to weigh the relative truthfulness of biblical teachings by their repetition in Scripture. We cannot claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God and then turn around and cast suspicion on its teaching
.
http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/12/22/must-we-believe-the-virgin-birth-4/

He also states If Jesus was not born of a virgin, who was His father? There is no answer that will leave the Gospel intact. The Virgin Birth explains how Christ could be both God and man, how He was without sin, and that the entire work of salvation is God’s gracious act. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, He had a human father. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, the Bible teaches a lie.

If there is no virgin birth, there is no incarnation. God could not have taken on human form without being sinless. If Jesus had a natural birth, he was not sinless, therefore He had a sin nature, and could not be the Savior. Only through the virgin birth could Jesus retain His Deity.

Then, if someone believes in the resurrection they would believe the virgin birth, given they are both supernatural events; Jesus raising Himself from the Dead because He is Deity. The virgin birth is the means by which Jesus could have two natures. Without the virgin birth, there is no Christianity, and we are all doomed because of our sin.

"There may very well be many Christians who think that Jesus could only satisfy God if He were God, but I am not aware of any passage of Scripture which teaches as much."

The Bible teaches Jesus is God, equal to the Father and Holy Spirit:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

--Philippians 2;5-8

Further, the Bible says God is just, meaning He is perfect justice. God's justice must judge sin by propitiation.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon,

Mr. Perry of Oxford, from the link you provided, attests to my not so lofty opinion of Locke as a theologian, in addition to what I found going over our correspondence.

Earlier, I posted this from the President of the SBTS:

Luke provides even greater detail, revealing that Mary was visited by an angel who explained that she, though a virgin, would bear the divine child: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child shall be called the Son of God.” [Luke 1:35]

Then I looked up Luke 1:35:

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Yes WS, Jesus Christ is the Son of God because of the Virgin Birth.

wsforten said...

Jonathan,

Is there only one right way to interpret your statement that

Joseph Priestley who believed this and who profoundly influenced Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin, rejected the concept of "Atonement," terming it one of his "Corruptions of Christianity."

Or am I free to interpret this statement as I wish? Would it be correct, for example, for me to interpret your statement to mean that Joseph Priestley was fully orthodox and had no influence whatsoever on the founding fathers of America? I sincerely hope that you would answer in the negative, but if that is the case, then it stands to reason that if there is one right way to interpret what you wrote, then there is a very high probability that there is only one right way to interpret what has been written by other men.

It is possible that I might not understand what you wrote and thus may not be able to immediately determine your meaning, but my lack of understanding does not make your meaning itself any more or less uncertain. In such a case, my goal should be to increase my understanding through a comparative study of your statement with other things that you have written. You would think me very petty indeed if I were to dismiss your claim as unintelligible to all men for no other reason than that I am not personally capable of grasping its real meaning. There remains one right way to interpret your words in spite of my failure to grasp it, and the same is true of the Scriptures.

In fact, even in your boast of agnosticism, you have not been able to completely avoid this conclusion, for you write that "there are sounder and less sound understandings." This admission that some understandings are more sound than others is an admission that there exists a truly sound or proper understanding by which all other understandings are to measured. Those which come closer to that proper understanding are to be considered as being more and those which are further from it to be considered less sound. If there were no one right way to interpret Scripture, then all understandings of it would be equally valid, and it would be impossible to say which of them is more or less sound.

Thus your claim of agnosticism basically amounts to nothing more than an admission of ignorance. For what is agnosticism if not the absence of knowledge? You recognize that there is a truly sound and proper understanding of Scriptures; you are simply ignorant of which understanding is that true and proper one. I would think that one of your occupation would recognize that the solution to ignorance is to continue searching for the truth and not to simply dismiss the perplexity as unsolvable.

wsforten said...

OFT,

I find your persistent avoidance of my question to be extremely intriguing, and I confess that I am not likely to be able to move on in our discussion until I am able to resolve that intrigue. If you would be so kind as to indulge me with an answer, I would be immensely grateful. I will repeat the question for your convenience.

The Apostle John claimed that his Gospel contained all the information that was necessary to be believed in order for one to become a Christian. John's Gospel does not contain any information on the virgin birth. Therefore, the Apostle John taught that a belief in the virgin birth was not necessary in order for one to be a Christian. Was he right or was he wrong in that conclusion?

Jonathan Rowe said...

WS:

Now that was a truly ridiculous comment directed against me.

Okay I admit, there is a one right understanding of scripture and Monica Dennington has it. The unitarians and Trinitarians are both wrong. God is a Heptagon. Revelation 1:4; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 5:6.

Seriously though, the problem with your comparison is that the passage of mine you used is simple and short, while the Bible is thick and complicated. The Bible is a book with thousands of apparent contradicts and passage upon passage which need to be harmonized and synthesized if to smooth out the apparent contradictions.

A good hermeneutic can smooth out the apparent contradictions; but the problem is we are left with thousands (the number of sects) of seemingly contradictionless understandings of the Bible that contradict one another.

And this assumes that the Bible should be read to not contradict itself (a big assumption).

Every single letter of Calvin's TULIP is debatable on these grounds. As is your claim "that Jesus instituted communion, but He did not require participation in it as a necessary component of salvation. He said 'This do in remembrance of me' and not 'This do for the remission of sins.'"

Jesus also said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you."

I never said the Bible has no meaning or it's all relative. Rather, there are potentially thousands of ways to interpret the Bible each of which may seem internally contradiction-less, but each of which contradict one another, with no way, based on facts and logic, to determine which one is "right."

In order for your argument to prevail you'd have to show either a. you are somehow anointed by God as the final arbiter; or b. your understanding of the Bible is error-less while everyone else's (who disagrees with you) errs.

You can show neither.

Our Founding Truth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Our Founding Truth said...

WS,

The Apostle John claimed that his Gospel contained all the information that was necessary to be believed in order for one to become a Christian. John's Gospel does not contain any information on the virgin birth. Therefore, the Apostle John taught that a belief in the virgin birth was not necessary in order for one to be a Christian. Was he right or was he wrong in that conclusion?

John is not wrong, and John doesn't write what you say. All Scripture is inspired, not just the Gospel of John.

wsforten said...

John wrote:

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

In other words, John did not include everything about Jesus in his Gospel, but he wrote that which he thought to be sufficient to for his readers to believe that Jesus is the Christ and thereby obtain life. Is there anything else that John could have meant by these words?

Our Founding Truth said...

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

John 20:30-31

First of all, the context is signs or miracles. Second, "these are written" referring to what miracles are written in the book. Your error is limiting the verses to the book of John. It only became a book many years later that includes all the inspired writings. Luke writes the same thing in chapter 1.

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