Monday, October 02, 2006

A further pause to respond to Mr Rowe's attempted rebuttals


Pardon a further off-focus post, but it is necessary to correct again a mis-impression that the above captioned seems to have, adn has posted not only at EO but also [with additional specious remarks trying to discredit my usage: Judaeo-Christian to denote the biblical [= OT + NT, in a critical synthesis described in say Col 2 and the book of Hebrews] worldview, in his own blog.

It is not without relevance to the main focus of this blog:


5] JR: let me note the converse of the notion that "even our non-Christian Founders like Jefferson were influenced by the Christian worldview." And that is, when it comes to founding principles, even the orthodox Christians like Patrick Henry, John Witherspoon, and John Jay were influenced by Enlightenment rationalism because the Bible and traditional Christianity were not sufficient to give us the ideas upon which our Declaration and Constitution are based.

--> Here, Mr Rowe first fails to recognise the implication of the fact that, ever since Paul at Mars Hill -- as I noted above and long since discussed here, Christians have engaged in critical synthesis of their culture and its ideas, secure in the knowledge that [1] all truth is God's truth, that [2] we serve the God who as LOGOS is REASON HIMSELF, and that [3] through the anchors of the resurrection and our knowing God personally and powerfully in the face of Jesus, we freely engage in reasoning. So, reason and our faith are inextricably intertwined at the very roots -- we need not make reference to any rationalism [which, strictly, begs the question by a priori denying the possibility of revelation, so rationalism and Christian faith are an unsustainable, unwarranted oil-water mix, cf here, here and here], enlightenment or otherwise to be RATIONAL and epistemologically well-warranted.

--> Indeed, Paul was so confident of this, that this is his chain of reasoning in 1 Cor 15:

13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

1CO 15:20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

--> Here, we see a chain of hypothetical reasoning: if then, if then, . . . So, if Christ is not raised from the dead, the Christian faith is futile and a deception for which the apostles will account to God, and which leaves those who are deluded thereby yet in their sins.

--> In short, if the testimony now recorded in the New Testament is false to fact -- as opposed to unpalatable to those resorting to selectively hyperskeptical speculative reasoning and rhetoric -- then the Christian faith is pointless.

--> This is not an enlightenment-influenced half-Christian deist speaking circa C18, it is the leading theologian-philosopher and missionary of the faith of all time, writing in the very Christian Scriptures theselves, in AD 55. This is embrace of rationality, and frank facing of the implications of the logically possible falsehood of the core of the Christian faith. To PAUL, if the statements now recorded in our Bibles are false to fact, then the Christian system collapses ignominiously and spectacularly. Some form of theism and appeal to morality would still be possible [Cf Rom 1 - 2], but not Christian -- Jesus' resurrection-anchored -- theism.

--> Having squarely faced the implications of the abstractly possible falsehood of the central Christian claim, Paul then -- based on morally certain [that is all that matters of fact can properly attain] evidence he addressed in vv 1 - 11 and its implications [cf here] -- directly denies the central supposition on which the chain of skeptical reasoning he lays out rests: 1CO 15:20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

--> That 500+ eyewitnesses anchored fact makes all the difference in the world! And, the resulting resurrection power that has surged through the church -- even in its darkest hours [at those times and places calling us to repentance and reformation or to courage in the face of naturally speaking impossible odds] -- for 20 centuries now, also makes all the difference.

--> So, indeed, a legitimate Christian circa C17 - 19, or 21 or 1 for that matter can assert on the fact-claims in statements of the faith that we find in the Bible, that if they are false to fact, then we freely go with the verdict of fact and associated logic [as opposed to the counsels of selective, worldview level question-begging hyperskepticism]. But --- and what a but! -- in fact, we have decisive evidence and confidence that these core claims are wonderfully, powerfully and fully true.

--> So, onlookers, when you look at claims of Christians being influenced [and having their faith eventually destroyed] by “rationalism,” while this may be so in certain cases, it is utterly immaterial to the core nature of the faith once for all delivered to the saints: we accept, embrace and use reason, fully confident that since God is TRUTH himself and REASON himself, in person, all truth is God's truth. We [should] reject rationalism because it is in praxis a case of selecticvely hyperskeptical worldview-level question-begging, where it rejects the possibility of knowledge by revelation out of hand .

--> Instead we invite Mr Rowe and others to sit with us at the table of comparative difficulties on factual adequacy, coherence [a criterion of rationality!] and explanatory power. Long term onlookers will note how consistently this invitation has been declined or dismissed, or at most initially taken up then abandoned. The link of course comes from an expanded form of a session in a course I taught to Seminary students in the leading Evangelical Seminary in The anglophone Caribbean.

--> On the direct point in question in this thread, we rest our case on the Biblically rooted contribution of Christians and Christian-influenced people on the rise of modern liberty, not on the claim that C18 leaders of America did not [by and large critically!] interact with the C18 enlightenment, but instead with a chain of evidence rooted in the second generation of the reformation, starting with Duplesis Mornay in 1579 and the immediately following 1581 Calvinist Dutch declaration of independence from the Spanish in defence of their liberties and freedom of conscience, as a full read of the Dutch DOI will abundantly confirm. Notice in particular how the below parallels the similar interposition by lower magistrates two centuries later in the American case:

The line of thought in Vindiciae soon had practical fruit, in the Dutch Declaration of Independence from their Spanish overlords. Here, in a Calvinist document and context, we can see several linking ideas that tie the reformation era work Vindiciae to the US Declaration of Independence of 1776, including not only (a) tyranny as forfeiture of the office of government, but also: (b) the concept that liberty comes from God, (c) the use of the allegedly characteristically "deist" term, law of nature -- by Calvinists! -- as a component of the argument [in the century before modern Deism originated!], (d) the concept that Government is based on equity [i.e. justice & fairness], and (e) the concept of a right to reform the structures of government to secure liberty for the revolutionary generation and its posterity. [I add now, as it needs to be put in here, being discussed in other contexts in my notes and links]: (f) the interposition of lower magistrates who also have a duty ro do good and restrain evildoers by thesword if necessary] . . .:
. . . a prince is constituted by God to be ruler of a people, to defend them from oppression and violence as the shepherd his sheep; and whereas God did not create the people slaves to their prince, to obey his commands, whether right or wrong, but rather the prince for the sake of the subjects (without which he could be no prince), to govern them according to equity, to love and support them as a father his children or a shepherd his flock, and even at the hazard of life to defend and preserve them. And when he does not behave thus, but, on the contrary, oppresses them, seeking opportunities to infringe their ancient customs and privileges . . . then he is no longer a prince, but a tyrant, and the subjects are to consider him in no other view . . . This is the only method left for subjects whose humble petitions and remonstrances could never soften their prince or dissuade him from his tyrannical proceedings; and this is what the law of nature dictates for the defense of liberty, which we ought to transmit to posterity, even at the hazard of our lives. . . . . So, having no hope of reconciliation, and finding no other remedy, we have, agreeable to the law of nature in our own defense, and for maintaining the rights, privileges, and liberties of our countrymen, wives, and children, and latest posterity from being enslaved by the Spaniards, been constrained to renounce allegiance to the King of Spain, and pursue such methods as appear to us most likely to secure our ancient liberties and privileges.
--> On the more general point, in his recent Regensburg address, and as I discussed here, [an earlier post in this blog] Pope Benedict XVI spoke plainly:
Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably [. . .] is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death..."

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the [LOGOS]. This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, [. . . ], with logos. Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist.

God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, "transcends" knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos. Consequently, Christian worship is, again to quote Paul - [. . .], worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).

This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history - it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe . . . the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith . . . .

--> The point should be plain enough, and will DV be posted in my blog shortly. I will, DV, comment on it if the thread in Mr Rowe's blog is still open. [Turns out his post dates to yesterday]

6] I assert that the Bible and Christianity had a qualified influence on our Founding. Our key Founding Fathers sought to take from Christianity what was rational and useful and thought they could discard the rest. It was the Bible put through the lens of man's reason, with all of the "unreasonable" parts fit to be cut out.

--> This aptly illustrates my point, and my complaint:

a] First, here Mr Rowe acknowledges all I need to make my own point -- that the biblical faith and those influenced by it materially contributed to the rise of modern liberty, most notably through the US founding. [So, as the linked elaborates adn further links, we are not automatically to be regarded as potentially violent or oppressive enemies of liberty.]

b] He then tries to take away the force of that acknowledgment by insinuating that through their commitment to enlightenment rationalism, the US founders cut out what by implication are the irrational, violence- and oppression- prone teachings of the Biblical Faith once for all delivered unto the saints.

c] Observe very carefully: neither here [i.e. in the thread at EO] nor elsewhere are those alleged or implied dangerous parts ever identified and traced to the New Testament, the specifically Christian scriptures, then shown to be dangers to liberty. [There is a lot in the NT that is a challenge to licence or libertinism, but these are not at all to be conflated or confused with liberty.]

d] Further to this, he nowhere cogently addresses the facts long since adduced, that show the chain of the key steps and ideas in the reasoning in the US DOI, and Constitution as well as other key foundation documents and proclamations and the like: from Vindiciae to the Dutch DOI, to the anglophone writers such as Rutherford and Hooker, to Locke and on to Blackstone and the Colonial thinkers who then influenced or appear in the personages of the US founders. [Recall here, that Jefferson himself claimed no originality in the core points of the US DOI, but to be distilling and focusing the popular feeling and thought on the subject -- which is why it garnered The sort of critical mass of support that it did.] Instead we see the usual red herrings leading out to strawman arguments that can then be triumphalistically burned to declarations of "victory."


I trust this should be clear enough. Sadly, Mr Rowe is deeply misinformed, and needs to address major gaps in his pattern of thought. END

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