Sunday, July 21, 2013

A much needed break

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

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

17 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/01/2397/

Our Founding Truth said...

I have read the information from "ARISTOTLE, NATURAL LAW, and the FOUNDERS." Since James Wilson believed the Scriptures as the Revelation part tied to the Law of God, Aristotle's opinions take a secondary role if contradicting the Scriptures.

Also, the author of that piece conveniently omitted Adam's' declaration the Revolution was founded on the Scriptures as well.

The "NATURAL LAW and the COLONIAL ROOTS
of AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONALISM
Lee Ward, University of Regina" refers to something I'm looking into. Parliament had the real power, for the King could not give what he did not possess. However, the framers had the issue with the King, because he broke the covenant with God and the people, but, as Rutherford and the Reformers explain, the true power resides in the people.

The radical natural law philosophy combined with revolution has reformed theology as its impetus, as opposed to a secular political understanding the author implies.



Tom Van Dyke said...

Also, the author of that piece conveniently omitted Adam's' declaration the Revolution was founded on the Scriptures as well.

Oh, you should try to write about that.

The "NATURAL LAW and the COLONIAL ROOTS
of AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONALISM
Lee Ward, University of Regina" refers to something I'm looking into. Parliament had the real power, for the King could not give what he did not possess. However, the framers had the issue with the King, because he broke the covenant with God and the people, but, as Rutherford and the Reformers explain, the true power resides in the people.


I think you're getting at the Puritan Revolution of 1640s England. What that has to do with the Framers [of the US Constitution?], I have no idea.

The colonists' revolutionary position was that their charters were granted by the king, in the 1620s or so, before the two english Civil wars that resulted in Parliament, not the King, being sovereign.

Hence, Hamilton argues in 1775's "The Farmer Refuted" and Jefferson in the D of I that Parliament has no authority in America. The D of I indicts the King's offenses, and gives Parliament the back of his hand.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.

"Their" legislature. England's--not "ours," America's.

[There are 2 dozen articles in the above link I posted. They're worth your time.]

Aristotle's opinions take a secondary role if contradicting the Scriptures.

James Wilson--and Aquinas--say that natural law and scripture cannot conflict, for they are both from "the same adorable source," God.

Truth cannot contradict truth.

Our Founding Truth said...

It's one quote, but here it is:

The gallant Struggle in America, is founded in Principles so indisputable, in the moral Law, in the revealed Law of God, in the true Constitution of great Britain..."

--John Adams second "Clarendon" letter as printed in the Boston Gazette, 20, Jan. 1766.

"I think you're getting at the Puritan Revolution of 1640s England. What that has to do with the Framers [of the US Constitution?], I have no idea."

The Constitutional Convention read Rutherford. Madison used Rutherfordian terms "We have heard of the impious doctrine in the Old World, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people." Fed 45. JM got that directly from Lex Rex.

The DOI says the king needs to submit to Law. That is Lex Rex through Calvin. Jefferson even quotes Calvinist theology "all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

"Consent of the governed" is Calvin. "The right of the people to abolish govt" wasn't even thought of until Calvin's disciples promoted it.

The list of grievances that TJ wrote or the congress constructed, is completely Puritan. "That govts are instituted among men" is similar language in the Westminster Confession of Faith and other Puritan treatises on civil govt. Even the word Providence was made vogue by Calvinists.

The King broke our covenant, but the framers, following the Reformers, believed the people assigned authority to the ruler, not vice versa (Fed 45).

The charters were covenants with God as the authority, not the King. James was only the vassal of God and the people, and those covenants were broken by the King.

Wilson's Natural Law was based on the Scriptures, not Aristotle.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Wilson's Natural Law was based on the Scriptures, not Aristotle.

Sigh. After all these years, you still don't get it."A passage from Wilson’s treatise, Of the General Principles of Law and Obligation, is illustrative:

“Why should a few received authors stand up like Hercules’s columns, beyond which there should be no sailing or discovery?” –To Aristotle, more than to any other writer, either ancient or modern, this expostulation is strictly applicable. Hear what the learned Grotius says on this subject. “Among philosophers, Aristotle deservedly holds the chief place, whether you consider his method of treating subjects, or the acuteness of his distinctions, or the weight of his reasons.”[1]

Aristotle was regularly included by the Founders in their lists of reliable and authoritative political philosophers. When asked once what was the philosophy underlying the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson replied that: “All its authority rests … on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c.”[2] John Adams similarly wrote that the principles of the American Revolution “are the principles of Aristotle and Plato, of Livy and Cicero, and Sidney, Harrington, and Locke; the principles of nature and eternal reason; the principles on which the whole government over us now stands.”[3]

Indeed, Aristotle was credited as the original source for many doctrines generally affirmed by the Founders, including the following five:

government should govern for the good of the people, not for the good of those in power;
there is a natural aristocracy, and skilled statecraft arranges things so that this element acquires authority, or, failing that, blends democratic and oligarchic influences in society to approximate to that outcome;
mixed regimes are better than pure regimes, because they are more stable;
the best form of government in nearly all circumstances involves the balancing of aspects of all three pure regimes (kingship, aristocracy, and timocracy);
a pure democracy can easily turn into a tyranny of the majority.
However, the teaching of Aristotle that was most admired by the Founders was his insistence upon the rule of law, especially as stated in a passage from the Politics, where law is said to be reason or intelligence (nous), free from passion, and, as it were, the governance of God.[4] Their imagination in this regard seems to have been captured by several passages that indicate a conception of the institution of the rule of law as akin to the institution of the Kingdom of God. As James Harrington wrote:

But that we may observe a little farther how the Heathen politicians have written, not only out of nature, but as it were out of Scripture: as in the commonwealth of Israel God is said to have been king; so the commonwealth where the law is king, is said by Aristotle to be the kingdom of God. And where by the lusts or passions of men a power is set above that of the law deriving from reason, which is the dictate of God, God in that sense is rejected or depos’d that he should not reign over them, as he was in Israel.[5]"

Etc.

http://www.nlnrac.org/classical/aristotle

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

"Why should a few received authors stand up like Hercules’s columns, beyond which there should be no sailing or discovery?” –To Aristotle, more than to any other writer, either ancient or modern, this expostulation is strictly applicable. Hear what the learned Grotius says on this subject. “Among philosophers, Aristotle deservedly holds the chief place, whether you consider his method of treating subjects, or the acuteness of his distinctions, or the weight of his reasons.”[I]"

Don't sigh tvd. Calvin quotes Aristotle too. If Aristotle's Natural Law is in line with the Bible fine. I'm surprised you didn't get that.

Aristotle did not put these ideas into a republican system like Calvin did. The framers bought only what Aristotle, Livy, Plato and Cicero was selling if it did not contradict the Bible.

Further, what you posted is false, especially number 2 "there is a natural aristocracy, and skilled statecraft arranges things so that this element acquires authority, or, failing that, blends democratic and oligarchic influences in society to approximate to that outcome;"

Nowhere did the framers believe natural aristocracy acquires authority. Govt. is given by God. Aristocracy doesn't arise naturally anyway, despotism is more natural. Does Hobbes come to mind? The framers believed authority is given to the people, to elect representatives for governance.

The framers couched no's 1, 3 and 5in reformation language as I posted, not aristotilian.

Did you even read number 4? The framers rejected that as nonsense.

The website doesn't give the TRUE authority behind the framers' natural law or source the five doctrines the author presupposes.

You posted a not so bright quote that isn't even true "And of course, the Calvinists were fine with burning the heretic Michael Servetus."

Then, you post from a Jesus only quack, who rejects exegesis of the scriptures, denying Paul's words as inspired, making him something other than a Christian. Did you look at the bio before you used it? He quotes modern sources, not once citing Foxes book of martyrs, which is a primary source.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Further, what you posted is false, especially number 2 "there is a natural aristocracy, and skilled statecraft arranges things so that this element acquires authority, or, failing that, blends democratic and oligarchic influences in society to approximate to that outcome;"

Nowhere did the framers believe natural aristocracy acquires authority.


Sorry, I should have formatted better. I didn't write that, the linked article did. And yes, Aristotle did believe in a "natural" aristocracy, as did John Adams. And so did [the Calvinist!] John Winthrop and also Aquinas, the latter two along the lines of

"By nature all men are equal in liberty, but not in other endowments."

This is key to the American system, and you could drag Imago Dei in here if you want, but also why we're not radical egalitarians like the French Revolution or the Commies. And don't go all crazy on the "John Calvin invented the American system" because it's a gross overstatement. You do a lot of good work, but overshooting your evidence brings every word you write, every idea you advance, into disrepute. You saw what they did to Barton.

There's a nice quite way to show Calvin and Calvinism's influence without--see the work of prof. John Witte of Emory Law School--without sounding like a total fundamentalist lunatic stretching Bible verses to laughable breaking points, OK?

For one thing, Calvin's successors like Theodore Beza or Luther's right-hand man, Philipp Melanchthon were quite inheritors of the "Aristotelian-Thomist" tradition. Before that, the West was in the Dark Ages.

See, it worked like this--if you got a concept from Aristotle and ran it through the scriptures via Aquinas and Calvin, ran it back through Montesquieu and Locke and it still made sense--you were onto something!

Then run it through common sense and "wisdom and experience," i.e. the test for any "natural law," and of course the scriptures never lie either.

That's the Scottish Enlightenment, That was the Founding. Theory, practice, theory, practice, back and forth---like mixing a martini.

Then, you post from a Jesus only quack, who rejects exegesis of the scriptures, denying Paul's words as inspired, making him something other than a Christian. Did you look at the bio before you used it? He quotes modern sources, not once citing Foxes book of martyrs, which is a primary source.

Oy. Cool your jets, brother. It's all there, it just doesn't come all at once. You can't just open to Deuteronomy and out comes the Constitution.

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

Forget the format, that link you posted used un-sourced ideas, the majority of which the framers didn't espouse. There's no difference in Adams' view of aristocracy and Calvin's. Calvin, not the conciliar movement, put Imago Dei into a system. Therefore, the proper reference is Sovereignty of God.

"John Calvin invented the American system" because it's a gross overstatement."

Not at all. You won't find the goods on your blog. I have the books on my shelf. Who started the system for universal human rights based on the sovereignty of God, not to be surrendered to the whim of tyranny? John Calvin. Who promoted the covenant idea of govt. into a republican system between God, the magistrates and the people? John Calvin. The broken covenant was the basis for the King's abdication. You can find it in almost every revolutionary sermon.

The founders may have quoted Montesquieu on separation of powers, but he got it from Calvin. That's why he admired him so much, which is the reason the framers quoted him the most.

The books on Calvin's influence are out there and you will be amazed. The colonists were even influenced by his printing ideas that Calvin made into an art form. Calvin also influenced how our churches conduct services by translating church music into the vernacular.

Geneva's welfare system was a model for Western Civilization and its too bad we don't continue what he did.

I don't believe Beza was heavily influenced by Aquinas because Calvin wasn't. Calvin corrected Thomas' view of natural law by showing the federal-covenantal relationship with Adam that Thomas did not do. Also, Beza systematized Thomas's views on sedition. Aquinas wasn't even a republican. He believed the best govt. was monarchy, so there is the reason the framers never quoted him. Calvin is more influenced by John of Salisbury, who was influenced by Augustine, than to Aquinas.

The Enlightenment of Reid and Hutcheson was all about denying biblical inerrancy, which eliminates its influence with the framers because the Deists believed in miracles. If you want to claim it was about the "goodness of man" the framers didn't buy that either.

"It's all there"? Not from the Jesus only guy you linked to. Go read Foxes. I believe he's reporting eye-witness accounts.

Jonathan Rowe said...

It's too bad James Madison never cited Rutherford.

Tom Van Dyke said...


The Enlightenment of Reid and Hutcheson was all about denying biblical inerrancy, which eliminates its influence with the framers because the Deists believed in miracles.
.

No, it was to stand up against the first legit challenges to theism itself.


http://trinities.org/dale/Reid.pdf

"Thomas Reid was a Christian philosopher. He never wavered from his theism or
Christian belief, and a temperate, sincere faith pervades his writing and his biography.
Apparently orthodox in belief,1
 he wasn’t given to theological and ecclesiastical
controversies, but he did have a life­long interest in what we now call philosophy of
religion issues. From 1751 to 1780 Reid’s lectures included the subject of natural
theology, what can be known about God apart from revelation. Reid’s notes for these
lectures are almost entirely lost, but several student transcriptions from his lectures at
Glasgow University (1763­1780) survive."

http://trinities.org/dale/Reid.pdf

Only the fundies try to argue the Bible against those who don't believe in it.

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

Tom,

If I'm not mistaken, Hume, Kant, and Rousseau were theists. So, it's more than that.

Reid, and Hutcheson were not Orthodox. Reid for sure, denied Original Sin. Hutcheson's congregation complained his preaching was not orthodox.

Our Founding Truth said...

What's new Jon?

After what I have read on Calvin and the other reformers, it wouldn't be a surprise to find more sentence similarities of protestant tracts written by JM and other framers. We know JM quoted Calvin and from below I'm not the only one who says he quoted Lex Rex.

"We have heard of the impious doctrine in the Old World, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people."

--Fed 45.

The kicker is Rutherford's words are in the context of the Old World (Israel). JM uses the words in the same context (Old World) as Rutherford. I don't believe that is an accident.

"The assumption is also false, for the people made Saul and David kings...Obj. 2. — God maketh a king only, and the kingly power is in him only, not in the people...
they are but flatterers, and belie the Holy Ghost, who teach that the people do not make the king; for Israel made Saul king at Mizpeh, and Israel made David king at Hebron...The Scripture saith plainly, as we heard before, the people made kings...betwixt the king and the people who made him king"

--Lex Rex

Jonathan Rowe said...

I still don't see Madison citing Rutherford.

Wilson on other hand, did cite Reid. So if you are right about Reid, you are wrong about Wilson.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Federalist 45: "We have heard of the impious doctrine in the Old World, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the New, in another shape that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to the views of political institutions of a different form?"


Good stuff. Dunno about Lex Rex, but I just ran across the same idea in Theodore Beza, Jean Calvin's successor and friend

“peoples were not created for the sake of rulers, but on the contrary the rulers for the sake of the people, even as the guardian is appointed for the ward, not the ward for the guardian, and the shepherd on account of the flock, not the flock on account of the shepherd.”

“On the Right of Magistrates over Their Subjects and the Duty of Subjects Towards their Rulers” [1574]