Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

08/24/2009 (11:52 am)

Theological Foundations of a Just Rebellion

America, at its roots, is a theological nation, begun by the religiously devoted and founded in perceived obedience to the law of God. The American Revolution was preached into existence from the pulpit, beginning with the Great Awakening in New England. It must be the case, then, either that the preachers who produced the American Revolution believed that rebellion against an unjust ruler was justified biblically and theologically, or that their rebellion was carried out in opposition to their religious convictions.

I find the latter explanation implausible. I do not completely understand the former, though. Although I imagine I can explain their thinking in terms more accurate than could about 98% of my fellow Americans, I am not satisfied that I understand them as well as I ought. I don’t say this out of obsessive desire for perfection, nor some confused intellectual snobbery; I want to know how liberty gets created, and what’s missing when it gets lost.

Consequently, I’m beginning a quest to understand the theological underpinnings of the American Revolution, as reflected in pre-revolutionary writings and general theological thinking. As I noted in my last post, I just borrowed a collection of politically-oriented sermons from the period, and I will proceed to read them for the next several weeks. I also intend to write about what I’m reading as I go, so my readers can share my learning and perhaps come better to understand the reasoning behind the first American Revolution.

The purpose will be ultimately to attempt to restore liberty to the American nation, first by correcting our theological thinking to grasp the essential nature of liberty, and then by directing our energy toward those goals which will most correctly achieve that sort of liberty here.

I do not expect that I will agree with everything that was preached in American during the revolutionary period. However, I do expect that I will learn a great deal about what they thought, and that my own thinking will be improved by theirs, as the level of learning in that culture was orders of magnitude more robust than what we’re taught in 21st century America.

Thus, the quest begins. I will post from time to time my notes from reading particular sermons, under the rubric “TFJR”, for Theological Foundations of a Just Rebellion. I have created an article category “TFJR” in the sidebar under Topical Index; you will be able to obtain an exhaustive display of all articles created under that designation, in reverse chronological order, by clicking on that link. I hope you all enjoy the series, and are enlightened by it.

« « Not Martyrs, But Champions | Main | TFJR: Government the Pillar of the Earth » »

5 Comments »

August 24, 2009 @ 9:51 pm #

“…Either that the preachers who produced the American Revolution believed that rebellion against an unjust ruler was justified biblically and theologically, or that their rebellion was carried out in opposition to their religious convictions.”

Just as happens today, there was a wide variety of different motivations and different kinds of pride going on, paired with a whole lot of Christian devotion.

Either one of your options can be partially true, and even the first one can be mostly true…and yet they could have been mistaken.

It would be good if you could address Norm Geisler’s statement in his Ethics book that the Revolution was not a just war. Was Norm wrong?

August 25, 2009 @ 11:01 am #

I happened across this on another site (link at the bottom) on a fairly unrelated matter. Those ministers you refer to probably were more familiar with the old testament than I am, so perhaps this is one of the basics that influenced them when they considered what government _should_ be.

“Jesus said “Do not judge lest you be judged” (Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37). But He also said, “Judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24; see Deut. 16:18). These are not contradictory statements since the context of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1 tells us what He means by “not judging” and what it means to judge with “righteous judgment.” Jesus was condemning those who judge using two standards of morality, one standard for the judge and another for the accused. You know, like politicians who created a healthcare bill that requires everyone to participate but exempts them. The Bible maintains—in both the Old and New Testaments—that the standard of judgment must be equal for both parties (Num. 15:16). “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it shall be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2).”

Sounds like “All men are equal under the law” to me.

Quote from:

http://www.americanvision.org/article/reba-mcentire-says-dont-judge-homosexuals/

August 25, 2009 @ 11:11 am #

Certainly today, what we are seeing in Congress is a deviation from that standard. The corruption we’re seeing is appalling. As it is being revealed (Thank you Michelle), people are becoming more upset that we seem to be returning to rule by an elite who are above the law instead of self rule by selected members of society.

August 25, 2009 @ 3:03 pm #

It would be good if you could address Norm Geisler’s statement in his Ethics book that the Revolution was not a just war. Was Norm wrong?

I don’t know. I haven’t read Norm’s argument, and I haven’t finished my study, I’m just beginning it. I’ve considered in the past the possibility that the American revolution was not strictly justified by the circumstances, and what that might mean to the development of America as a nation, but I’m not in a position to answer the specific question at this time.

August 25, 2009 @ 4:29 pm #

Cool, Phil! Just wanted to make sure that data got into the mix!

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